The Listener: Country, Tesla, Toaster, Grenfell, Lincoln
A weekly selection of podcasts from The Browser
Roundtable discussion about Transnistria, a tiny strip of land on the border between Ukraine and Moldova. Described here as “the last remnant of the Soviet Union in Europe”, Transnistria is not recognised as a country by most of the world’s nations, yet mostly operates as one in practical terms, with a GDP, a system of government and trading partners. This strange geopolitical anomaly has ended up as a crucial counterweight and buffer zone in regional disputes, although one pessimistic speaker here says that generally “everybody loses except Moscow” (51m23s)
Instalment from a six part series about Tesla, Elon Musk’s headline-grabbing venture best known for its electric cars. This episode focuses on the production problems that have plagued the company since the launch of its more family friendly, affordable car — the Model 3 — in 2016. It was incredibly popular right from the start, but Tesla has struggled to make enough cars to keep pace with demand. This problem has caused knock on financial problems for the company and dented its cool reputation. This well-made series is a little too deferential to Musk, I think, but still very informative (57m32s)
Interview podcast that uses guests’ Amazon order histories to access who they are. This episode features Geoff Lloyd, a UK radio DJ and self-confessed socially awkward person. Lloyd first bought something from Amazon in 2003, and is mostly endearingly baffled by the items that show up in his list. He also confesses to the bad habit of “trying to impose my taste on other people” by buying them films or books he recommends and shipping them straight to their address. Plus, this is the first time on the show that someone has, in fact, bought the eponymous toaster (48m01s)
Podcast following the major inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, a disaster in which 72 people were killed when flames engulfed the 24 storey west London tower block. This show publishes every day that the inquiry sits, as well as providing intermittent analysis of its reports as they are produced. Here, the reporters use the tragic story of the family in Flat 142 to explain how both central command and the firefighters on the ground failed residents. Tough listening, but I think this is a vital and worthwhile project that makes a huge public inquiry accessible (24m46s)
Drama set in 1865 around the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The series as a whole follows Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as he organises the manhunt for Lincoln’s killer while also trying to preserve his former boss’s political legacy in the face of great opposition from new president Andrew Johnson. The whole thing is well worth a listen, being well acted and appropriately scored with epic orchestral music. I like this episode in particular, in which Stanton unravels John Wilkes Booth’s political connections, including with DC society belle Lucy Hale, who was also involved with Lincoln’s son Robert (30m37s)
Bonus Pick: a new podcast from the Browser, Taste, is out now. In the first episode, Browser Publisher Uri Bram interviews Browser Editor Robert Cottrell about taste when it comes to reading and writing.
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