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MetaPod

Author: Wendy Morrill and Kevin May

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MetaPod unpacks the web's most interesting podcasts and the stories behind them. Presented by Wendy Morrill and Kevin May, each episode of MetaPod features an in-depth interview with a different podcast host or creator.
23 Episodes
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“Nina Gilden Seavey was twelve in May 1970, when an Air Force building in St. Louis burned to the ground. Her dad represented a young man arrested in connection with the fire: Howard Mechanic. Facing serious federal time, Howard fled and became one of the longest-running fugitives in U.S. history. As an adult, Nina picked up the trail. My Fugitive asks: Whatever happened to Howard Mechanic?”Just the story of the disappearance of Vietnam War protester Howard Mechanic is an intriguing one, worthy of any podcast.After his arrest and conviction for an obscure offence within the Civil Obedience Act, Mechanic went on the run for the next 28 years.He settled in Scottsdale, Arizona, but eventually gave himself up to the authorities when a local reporter became suspicious about his candidacy for public office in the area. He was pardoned in January 2001 by the outgoing President Bill Clinton.But My Fugitive is much more than the Mechanic saga, with Nina Gilden Seavey cleverly weaving in her personal connection to the case (her father was Mechanic’s lawyer in St. Louis) and investigating connections in the city to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.What emerges is a fascinating yet unsettling look at the behaviour of government agencies (namely, the Federal Bureau of Investigation) during that period of huge civil unrest in the U.S.In this episode of MetaPod, we speak with Gilden Seavey about her tireless work to uncover the truth about Mechanic and the FBI, how the U.S. used a combination of surveillance and the Dark Arts of domestic espionage to thwart the efforts of the anti-war movement and what it means for today’s society.
The Apology Line podcast tells the unsettling stories of a secular confessional telephone line.The Apology Line project invited the public to call a telephone line and leave anonymous apologies for wrongdoings on an answering machine. The project was started by artist Allan Bridge, anonymously, in the early 1980s in New York City. Allan ran the project for more than a decade and also published a magazine companion to the telephone line.Questions about morality and the criminal mind intrigued Allan and drove his work. Before the Apology project, Allan created an interactive art piece called Crime Time. Crime Time replicated the act of stealing. A user could either get away with the act or be caught with one’s hand, literally, in the act.This interactive art was reportedly Allan’s way of coming to terms with his own shoplifting. Later, his purpose for the Apology project was “to provide a way for criminals and wrongdoers to apologize for their misdeeds in the hope that this will help them turn over a new leaf.”In this episode of MetaPod, we talk to Marissa Bridge, widow of Allan Bridge and narrator of The Apology Line. Marissa talks to us in detail about the podcast and the original Apology Line project. As a result, we learn that the original project had far greater scope and insight on human behaviour than the podcast.Marissa also recounts life in Manhattan in the 1980s and the historical context of the Apology project. She speaks candidly to us about her life with Allan and the callers whose apologies occupied much of their time together.
Twenty Thousand Hertz tells “the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds.”Are you conscious of sound – especially sounds that you hear all the time?“Our brains are very good at filtering out – especially things we hear a lot,” explains Dallas Taylor, sound designer and host of the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast. “Sound is something that generally we have a hard time making conscious – but it’s very easy to.”The Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast is an enjoyable way to become more aware of sound. Dallas and the podcast team devote a great deal of care and craft to each episode. As a result, listeners will gain an appreciation for sound, as well as the people and devices behind those sounds. Whether it’s a microphone, dinosaurs, a drum machine, or a corporate jingle, you’re sure to learn something interesting on Twenty Thousand Hertz.“I hope that we start to really understand how sound can have a hugely negative influence on our life and how it can have a hugely positive influence,” says Dallas. “If you ever want to become conscious, just say ‘I want to become conscious about sound, right now’ and you can start to hear things that your brain filters out all the time.”In this episode of MetaPod, Dallas Taylor explains the work of sound designers in enhancing emotion, plus his own emotional objectives for the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast. Dallas shares the backstories of several episode of the podcast, explaining how he chooses topics for the show.He also reveals two significant moments in the show’s history to date (thank you, Bose and thank you, Roman Mars). We also discuss the changing relationship between humans and the sonic environment. Finally, MetaPod host Kevin May quizzes Dallas on some of the sounds in his personal life.
Decoder Ring “takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.”The mullet isn’t just a peculiar haircut from the 1980s, (strangely) loved by hipsters in the 2020s – it has a backstory all of its own, from sports stars to soft metal bands. The same goes for why clowns are feared more often than they’re enjoyed, or why some television shows have a “laugh track”.Cultural phenomenon don’t just get thrust into the mainstream overnight (although some do, admittedly) as they are often the result of years of slow evolution, twisting and shaping here and there.That’s where the popular Slate podcast Decoder Ring comes in. In each episode, host Willa Paskin unravels the origins of a different mystery and breaks down its impact on society and culture.In this episode of MetaPod, Willa tells us about her favourite mysteries on the show. She explains how one slice of contemporary or historical significance might make the cut and why others will not.MetaPod co-host Wendy Morrill also sends a barrage of quick-fire A or B questions at our guest. Fellow host Kevin May admits he’s never heard the phrase “business at the front, party at the back” in relation to the mullet.
“On a long weekend in the summer of 2002, Lisa Marie Young went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. That night Lisa got into a red Jaguar with a young man from a prominent local family and was never seen again.”A mysterious and hardly straightforward case, Island Crime tells the story of a young woman who went missing on a celebratory evening surrounded by friends.Lisa Marie Young was an energetic and bright 21-year-old from Vancouver Island. Her disappearance on June 30, 2002 was initially played down by local authorities. Police deemed the case as that of a young woman who may have been partying too hard and failed to get in touch with family afterwards.However, those who had been with Lisa on that night knew something was wrong. In the absence of an official search for Lisa by the police, the community initiated their own. Almost immediately, speculation concentrated on the driver of a distinctive red Jaguar. Some of the darker elements of the local Nanaimo scene came into view too.Lisa would have turned 40-years old this week.Island Crime host Laura Palmer originally set out to pay tribute to Lisa Marie. A former producer for CBC, Laura uncovered many new leads and witnesses while investigating for the Island Crime podcast. As a result, the mystery of Lisa’s disappearance continues to unravel.In our episode this week, Laura details her work on the case and the impact of the investigation on Lisa Marie’s family and First Nation community. We also discuss issues surrounding institutionalised bias against indigenous Canadians.
How do songs and albums achieve success on the charts and become lasting memories, for better or worse, in popular culture? Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst, looks at both culture and commerce to arrive at answers.The answers, along with plenty of trivia, song clips, unexpected stories and entertaining cultural analysis form the Hit Parade podcast.“I’m always looking for the best stories,” explained Chris. “For ways to make the audience go, ‘oh yeah… I’ve experienced that… that’s the song about the such and such with the so and so’.”In this episode of MetaPod, Chris Molanphy makes the case that the music charts still matter. He also outlines the key developments that have shaped the evolution of the Billboard charts up to the streaming era.We discuss with Chris how he uncovers chart phenomena and conceives topics for episodes of Hit Parade. Plus, Kevin and Wendy quiz Chris on some of his favourite music-related picks, which leads to Chris revealing a cherished item from his clothes closet.
Imagine years of academic research distilled down to a 45-minute conversation. The conversation is easy to understand and offers new ways to look at things. It’s unimposing, yet applicable to your own life. It’s also calming to listen to. That is roughly what you can expect from a podcast called Hidden Brain.Hosted by Shankar Vedantam, a social science correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) in the USA, Hidden Brain draws on social science and storytelling to examine everyday social dynamics. It aims to “connect the ivory tower with the public square”. Its team is guided by the principles of “scientific and journalistic rigor” and “deep empathy” for listeners and contributors. As a result, listeners gain new perspectives on culture and society.“We’re almost sort of wincingly earnest as a team and as a show, laughs Tara Boyle, the executive producer of the show. “I like that about us. I think there needs to be more space in the world for vulnerabilities.”The show started out as a podcast in 2015 and later spun off a radio programme for NPR stations. In late 2020, the show spawned an independent production company.In this episode of MetaPod, we talk to Tara Boyle, Executive Producer of Hidden Brain. Tara shares the origin story of the podcast and explains Shankar Vedantam’s skill in bringing together a wide range of research topics into accessible discussions about society, culture and self. Tara also discusses how listener feedback and suggestions are incorporated into the show. Plus, she reveals some of the most popular aspects of the show according to its global base of listeners.
Danny Robins doesn’t believe in ghosts, however, he thinks that we need them.The Battersea Poltergeist is the story of a haunting in south London that started in 1956. At the centre of the decades-long drama is the Hitchings family, its teenage daughter Shirley and a noisy ghost known as “Donald”.At first the family is spooked by loud sounds and moving household objects. Then more threatening acts start to occur. Scrawled messages on the wall, flying pots and pans and a fire – all of it unexplainable. The podcast blends documentary, expert commentary and drama to recount and analyse the happenings that tormented the Hitchings family at 63 Wycliffe Road.In this episode of MetaPod, we talk to Danny from his shed about ghosts and “bringing the dead to life” through the use of dramatisations in the podcast. We also discuss his experiences listening to people tell their own ghost stories, including Shirley Hitchings.Danny also talks about the community of believers and sceptics that has formed on social media since the podcast started, both camps trying to understand what happened to Shirley and her family during those years.
Murder cases that take nearly four decades to solve are rare and usually reserved for when there is no idea as to the identity of the perpetrator.The brutal killings of Peta Frampton and Chris Farmer in Latin America in 1978 should have seen the suspect Silas Duane Boston arrested and convicted quickly – especially as there were two witnesses: his sons.But a case such as this doesn’t get a podcast – the BBC’s Paradise – devoted to the tale if things are straightforward. Far from it, in fact.Boston’s sons were young and scared of their father, only coming forward decades later. Law enforcement agencies, armed with snippets of information about the disappearance of Peta and Chris, did not put the pieces together for years.BBC journalists Dan Maudsley and Stephen Nolan tell the story of Chris and Peta, Silas and his sons, and the investigation – uncovering many new details and discoveries along the way.Their journey takes them to a crime convention, lawyer and police offices in the US, the homes of Chris and Peta’s family members in England and a trip to the region where the murders took place, including a graveyard as Dan and Chris’s sister search for the graves of the victims.Listeners will soon realise that Dan’s work on the Paradise case is not over, as he explains in this episode of MetaPod.
When did music first come into your life? Who was there and how did you feel? Where did that moment or period of time lead to?These are some of the questions answered by guests of the Lost And Sound podcast, hosted by Paul Hanford. The podcast features a far-flung list of guests yet hones in on innovation and creative process.Listeners will discover personal conversations with well and lesser-known artists from various genres of music, all of whom speak to their individual influences and creativity.In this episode of MetaPod, Paul talks about the evolution of the Lost And Sound podcast and its backdrop, the city of Berlin.Paul also explains his interest in the human, rather than technical, aspects of music and how those feed the identity of people and places. We also learn about when music first came into Paul’s life. Did we mention that Paul might be the only DJ that moved to Berlin to stop being a DJ?
If you were into the spacey fringes of 90s alternative music that only got played on college radio stations, you’ll probably know a band or two mentioned in this week’s episode. If you’re wondering what happened to those bands, there’s a good chance that our guest Ryan Anderson knows.Ryan was part of the psychedelic synth pop/rock band Füxa which hailed from Michigan’s space rock scene of the mid-1990s. During that time, Ryan also compiled the zine Masstransfer. The DIY publication covered bands of the space rock and related genres. Ryan’s commitment to independent music and the DIY spirit remains but is actualised in a modern format – a podcast called Sonixcursions.In this episode of MetaPod, we talk to Ryan Anderson about the origin and evolution of the mid-90s space rock scene of the Detroit, Michigan area. We also discuss changes in music formats since the 90s and how he chooses bands to feature on the Sonixcursions podcast.“It’s kind of like a whole resurgence and rediscovery of this music from the mid-90s. A lot of it only exists on 7-inch or possibly even cassette tape,” Ryan told us.We also discuss the role of Big Tech platforms like Spotify in music discovery and distribution. Plus, Ryan mentions some of the current projects by musicians of the mid-90s that he’s kept up with and tells us about his new e-book, Masstransfer: A Zinethology.
Most people can name a famous attraction or historical event in Berlin. Many can tell you a musician or artist that spent time in the city. When it comes to city politics, local business and garbage in Berlin, Radio Spätkauf picks up where the others left off.Hosted by four international residents of Berlin, Radio Spaetkauf presents facts and opinions on local issues with entertaining cultural insight. The show is produced for podcast and live audience and calls listeners to action on local issues. Bello Collective has recognised the podcast for its examination of the Berlin Brandenburg Airport project, aptly titled “How to Fuck Up An Airport”.You don’t need to live in Berlin to enjoy Radio Spaetkauf. Listeners from other international cities will recognise common themes of urban life. The hosts provide irreverent, analytical twists on each topic, resulting in a show with local and international flair.“What’s going on right now with Covid in Germany or Berlin ends up in the international press, but local elections don’t,” explains Daniel Stern, one of the show’s hosts. “That’s one of the times when I really feel like we’re doing our job and something valuable.”In this episode of MetaPod, we learn about current affairs in Berlin and how the Radio Spätkauf team performs with a sense of humour and wonder. We also hear about expat life and two pressing issues for the city, the housing crisis and notorious Berlin Brandenburg Airport.Daniel also reveals to MetaPod a few of the hot topics of life in Berlin, like trash sorting and abandoned bike locks. Wendy suggests an episode that explores the German art of sandwich lettuce.
The Bomb explores the scientific and political events that led to the development of the atomic bomb. The story focusses on scientist Leo Szilard and his role in the discovery of nuclear fission. The Bomb follows Szilard, a Hungarian exile, to his work in Berlin, London, New York and Chicago. The story also highlights his attempts to stop the use of nuclear energy in warfare.Emily Strasser is the narrator of The Bomb. Her personal connection to the development of the atomic bomb if familial in nature; Emily’s grandfather was a chemist on the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was a secret US government initiative during World War II to develop an atomic weapon before the Germans did the same.Emily has researched and written about nuclear arms. Her work also considers the powerful effects of state regimes of secrecy, institutional structures and individual choice and action. Her personal journey to come to terms with her grandfather’s work along with her passion for meaningful change make her more than just a narrator. Listeners can expect to be asked to do more than think.In this episode of MetaPod, we talk to Emily about what it was like to work with the BBC on The Bomb. We also hear her personal stories and opinions on the threats and choices that we face today, such as climate change and cyber warfare.
The Bear Brook story begins in the mid-80s with a startling discovery. Two unidentified bodies, stuffed inside of barrels in the woods of a small town in New Hampshire. Not far off in the woods, known as Bear Brook State Park, another disturbing discovery is made fifteen years later. Two more unidentified bodies in a barrel. By 2017, advances in DNA testing together with genetic genealogy bring a serial killer and a number of victims into view.Produced by New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR), award-winning Bear Brook tells the story of how the serial killer known as “The Chameleon” and his victims were identified via new forensic techniques.Hosted by investigative reporter Jason Moon, the podcast explores the application of DNA testing in criminal investigations. The podcast also examines the ramifications of DNA testing on identity, privacy and the criminal justice system.In this episode of MetaPod, Jason Moon talks to us about the unique characteristics of the case. He also discusses how the NHPR team avoided the pitfalls of the “true crime” genre and the original music that he composed for the podcast. We also touch on the importance of local and long-form journalism in the changing landscape of media and public radio.
Mark Thomas, during normal times, is a stand-up comedian, activist and writer. But 2020 changed everything for him (as it did the rest of us).He returned home, to live with his mum again, during the first lockdown of the pandemic in the UK. Such a set of circumstances would be like gold dust to a joke-hungry comic but Mark took the opportunity to do something more.In Mark Thomas’s Lockdown Check-up he charts the experiences of his mum and NHS healthcare workers on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic. From his bedroom, which he describes as having “the facilities of a monk’s cell with the charm of a panic room,” Mark calls healthcare professionals across England to discuss their work caring for patients under exceptional circumstances.From the lack of PPE to grappling with the rigid hierarchy of the medical professional, to communication and coping, the conversations seem to carry some therapeutic value for both parties. “I’ve always found the act of creating something incredibly therapeutic,” says Mark.In this episode of MetaPod, Mark talks to us about what he learned from his conversations with NHS staff and living with his mum during the pandemic.Honest and heartwarming, but also raw and troubling, Mark recounts the emotions and working conditions that his conversations revealed. He also discusses states of mind and ideal environments for creating and receiving information. You’ll discover his ideal surroundings for creativity include a bit of Vincent Price. Mark also admits how many f-bombs he was asked to cut from the final podcast.
“A Sonic Hug is a thought-provoking podcast series where you’ll hear from people from different walks of life who deal, experience and battle mental health issues. “Halina Rifai founded A Sonic Hug as a “mental health safe space” – a project with various initiatives, including a podcast that sheds light on mental health issues as people experience them. A Sonic Hug the podcast is presented and produced by Halina.Halina’s interview style gives the guest full space to present and reflect on their topic of choice. As a result, this allows the guest and listener to both benefit from open reflection on personal experience. Unmediated by an interviewer, the honest and open style can feel intensely confronting, at moments. You may feel as though you are the spectator of a confession that would not normally be yours to witness.However, A Sonic Hug provides more than a privileged vantage point from which to listen. Halina summarises with care and precision key points raised by the guest. As a result, this leaves listeners with practical take-aways for the issues at hand and the guest with positive affirmation of their achievements – a sonic hug, so to speak.In this episode of MetaPod, we talk to Halina Rifai about two foundations of A Sonic Hug, Scotland and the music industry, and how the podcast is expanding its reach.
A co-production of Dutch broadcasters VPRO and Radio 2, Weird Hit Wonder is a podcast featuring unusual Dutch hit songs from the 1990s. Music journalist and presenter Atze de Vrieze speaks with the artists and industry influencers associated with each song to uncover the cultural context and secrets behind each hit.The podcast features five songs that achieved some level of commercial success in The Netherlands during the 1990s. Weird Hit Wonder demonstrates that weirdness has no boundaries when it comes to the musical genre. There’s something for everyone whether it’s the pulsing electro “gabber” trash of “Alles Naar de Klote,” the dorky, clap-alongs of “One Day Fly” and “Mooi Man” or the bouncy “bubbling” of “Meisje (Zo Lelijk als de Nacht)”.Beyond the Dutch borders, Atze is interested in the stories behind odd international hits like “Barbie Girl” by Aqua or “Cotton Eye Joe” by Rednex. A unique sound and sense humour are important criteria for “weird” hits, but equally important are the historical context and deeper layers that form hits. Weird hits are also songs that you wouldn’t play at your funeral, according to Atze. “I will not play “Barbie Girl at my funeral – of course I won’t”.In this episode of MetaPod, we talk and laugh with Atze about the songs of the Weird Hit Wonder podcast and other popular one-off hits from around the world. We also discuss how nostalgia and the total availability of music since the Internet have led to a re-evaluation of music from the 80s and 90s.Furthermore, we talk about manufactured pop, music critics and COVID-induced creativity. There’s even a bit of Depeche Mode and Anton Corbijn.
Endless Thread is a show for “Reddit connoisseurs, skeptics, and the rest of us“.Endless Thread is a podcast produced by WBUR in Boston, Massachusetts and Reddit. Co-hosts Amory Sivertson and Ben Brock Johnson explore the online communities of Reddit, searching for mysteries to solve and stories to tell.Started in 2018, Amory and Ben sift through “the weird, the wonderful, and even the scary stuff” on Reddit “the front page of the internet”. They connect with guests, listeners and each other with humour and respect while highlighting very personal, yet universal human emotions.You’ll find stories related to grief, generosity, activism, guilt and shame, as well as investigations into cultural phenomena like all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants and dad jokesIn this episode of MetaPod, Amory and Ben talk to us about their search for engaging stories on the Internet, the social value of online communities and finding hope in humanity in even the darkest corners of the Internet.We also discuss the awakening of big tech platforms like Reddit and Twitter, action and non-action to stop hate speech and misinformation on such platforms and the violent siege on Capitol Hill in January 2021.
“The Town That Didn’t Stare is a podcast documentary about Britain’s Twin Peaks: East Grinstead, the home of alternative religions and spirituality in the UK.”Over six episodes, writer and producer Nick Hilton explores how East Grinstead became a “figure of national curiosity” in England. The culprits? The Mormons, Scientologists, Guinea Pigs, prime meridian and maybe even Led Zeppelin.Located in the South East of England, East Grinstead has an unusual history for a small town. It is home to a surprising array of religious groups and is perhaps best known for its association with Scientology. L Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology set up residence and international headquarters there in 1967.During World War II, an innovative medical institution was founded in the town. Directed by Sir Archibald McIndoe, the centre specialised in reconstructive surgery and other experimental treatments for RAF burn victims. It became known as The Guinea Pig Club.Nick pursues an explanation for East Grinstead’s status as a “hot spot of alternative thought” through interviews with Jon Ronson, Ian Sellar, Itiel Dror, John Sweeney and others. The Town That Didn’t Stare is an informative and entertaining podcast that is also a serious and humorous listen.In this episode of MetaPod, Nick Hilton talks to us about influences on the The Town That Didn’t Stare. These include Jon Ronson‘s The Butterfly Effect, Kevin Roose‘s Rabbit Hole podcast and the soundtrack of Stranger Things. We also discuss the state of play for independent podcast producers, podcast marketing and the role of influencers in podcasting.⁠
"Death In Ice Valley is about an investigation into one of the world's most intriguing true crime stories - the mystery of the Isdal woman."The Isdal woman is the name given to the severely burned body of a woman found in the Isdalen Valley near Bergen, Norway in November 1970. To this day, the identity of the Isdal woman remains unknown.Many questions about the case, which was investigated by the Bergen police, remain unanswered. Theories lean toward stories of international espionage and a Cold War spy - yet decades have passed and the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Isdal Woman and the official investigation are complex and unresolved.50 years on and the case (a well-known mystery in Norway) caught the attention of a global audience, thanks to Death In Ice Valley - a production of Norwegian public broadcaster NRK and the BBC World Service, jointly presented by Marit Higraff and Neil McCarthy.Together, investigative journalist Marit and Neil, a radio documentarian, take listeners along the trail of known sites of the mystery while also pursuing new paths related to clues that emerge from their own investigation and those suggested by amateur web sleuths on social media.The pair track down former-police officers involved in the initial investigation and find themselves uncovering new lines inquiry, including the use of cutting-edge forensic techniques.The podcast features wonderfully effective "immersive sound design" by Phil Channel, an award-winning composer and sound designer for film, television and radio.Marit joins us from her home in Oslo, Norway, for this episode of MetaPod.
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