Arts and Culture

Podcast Binging

A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast (which one was it?!). Before the podcast started the host recommended two other shows. One was the first fictional podcast, called Homecoming, about a caseworker (Catherine Keener), her boss (David Schwimmer) and her patient, a soldier hoping to return to civilian life (Oscar Isaac), at an experimental psychiatric facility for Iraq war veterans.

homecoming
Psychological thriller featuring Catherine Keener, David Schwimmer and Oscar Isaac

The host pitched Homecoming as binge-worthy listening, which I haven’t really experienced in podcast form yet. (Yes yes, I listened to season one of Serial and it was good but the hype was so massive by the time I got there that I wasn’t able to find my own eagerness, instead I just felt a pressure-y rush to know what was happening).  I was curious, and I adore Catherine Keener’s voice (who doesn’t?) so I decided to give it a listen.

IT IS ADDICTING AND 100% BINGE-WORTHY! I listened to the 6-part series in a day and half, walking to and from yoga classes and the subway. I found it really refreshing to listen to fictional storytelling. It made me think about the qualities of storytelling that gave me such a sense for these characters  – their motivation, their history,even their body language – just from their voices (and the foley).  It also addresses issues like power dynamics in the work place. One poignant moment at the end of the show, the producers discuss this, talking about how bosses can create power plays by always seeming busier and harder to reach than their employees. Like picking up the phone in loud places with bad service, or abruptly jumping off the call because something urgent came up. That assessment felt so validating because frankly, it described my old boss’s behavior exactly. Those nuances of power that can be very hard to put your finger on, especially in a male-boss, female-employee setup.

Homecoming also asks how we gauge “goodness,” and analyze memory. This is definitely a story about memory – why we remember and how we can forget in order to survive.  I recommend it, and I’m eager to see how fictional podcasts will start multiplying in the months to come.

The other recommendation was StartUp’s series on the controversial American Apparel founder and former-CEO, Dov Charney. Whoa, dog. This is engaging, to say the least. I’ve been binge-listening – even on the treadmill! That is saying something.

american-apparel-fires-ceo-dov-charney
Dov Charney, courtesy of UPI.com

I haven’t finished it yet, I just wrapped up Part 5 (I think there are 7 total parts).

Dov Charney is a colorful and charismatic character which makes this podcast come to life immediately. The themes of entrepreneurship, disrupting traditional business practices, employee relationships and the personality types that can lead people to manic success (and manic failure), plus all the juicy tidbits in between, makes this extremely addicting. The story is of a company that started with an altruistic mission of fair wages for the disenfranchised – on American soil – which then devolved into a sexualized work environment silencing the very people who were originally uplifted by the company’s goal.

I grew up with those American Apparel ads, they bought the back cover of the magazine I worked at for ten years, and I shopped there. Hearing the back story to a brand that was always shrouded in mystery has been an extremely satisfying ride so far. Definitely recommended.

Podcasts are quenching my thirst for good entertainment and energizing my brain without making me feel like a sloth, sitting in front of the TV with nonstop Netflix.

 

 

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