The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing other things: Washing dishes, going for a run, coloring, and especially, driving. But there are so many podcasts these days that it’s simply impossible to keep up. There are new ones debuting all the time, and it’s hard to know whether they deserve a spot in your feed.
Every week, we highlight new and returning podcasts we couldn’t put down. Whether you’re looking for the latest and greatest or you’re just dipping your toe into the vast ocean of podcasts, we’ll find you something worth listening to. This week, we’ve got podcasts about a brave town, escape via tunnel, NYC schools, Dolly Parton, and asteroids.
If you’re looking for something Halloween-y, check out our roundup of scary (and not-so-scary) podcasts.
City of Refuge
In a 17th-century brick-and-stone building in Oslo, you’ll find the Norwegian resistance museum. Its exhibits depict not only overt acts of sabotage, like assisting in the destruction of German warships, but underground actions as well — like the 5,000 men and women who published underground papers full of news obtained from banned radios.
There were similar resistance movements in France, many of which are more well-known than those in Norway. But City of Refuge takes an intensive look at a tiny town, Chambon-sur-Lignon, that has a remarkable but somewhat less familiar history. Host Bryan Farrell recounts how a pastor and his wife, André and Magda Trocmé, led the town’s efforts to hide thousands of Jewish refugees during World War II. At considerable danger to themselves, the citizens helped many of them flee to neutral Switzerland.
In the book Captive Witness, teen sleuth Nancy Drew has to slip behind the Iron Curtain to help a group of children escape. As a kid, I pictured a sturdy rod stretching across the sky, holding a very long, heavy set of drapes.
A very real boundary was quickly erected in August 1961, dividing Berlin. In some cases, families and friends found themselves on opposite sides. As the wall became more impenetrable, those seeking to flee East Germany had to think of new ways to escape. Joachim Neumann made a run for it, but once safely in the West, he decided to go back for his family. He and a few other engineering students decided to build a tunnel. Helena Merriman tells their story.
Chicago Public Schools teachers went on strike this week, demanding smaller class sizes, as well as budgets for a nurse, librarian, and social worker in each building. It’s a city that has tried to deal with “broken” schools by simply closing them, then opening new ones — even as student populations decline.
New York City has its own under-enrolled schools. Bed-Stuy is undergoing gentrification, and District 16 is feeling the effects. In School Colors, community organizer and journalist Mark Winston Griffith and teacher Max Freedman untangle the complexities that shaped the fates of Brooklyn schools. Throughout the 1960s, a number of strikes took place as people of color tried to get some control over their children’s education.
Dolly Parton’s America
There is, evidently, some argument as to whether or not Dolly Parton’s Hard Candy Christmas is a Christmas song. Maybe because, per the lyrics, it’s only “like” a Hard Candy Christmas. By that logic, though, Low’s Just Like Christmas is also not a Christmas song, but both are on my Spotify holiday mix and there they shall remain.
Dolly Parton having a Christmas song that’s not a Christmas song is just so Dolly. As Jad Abumrad says in the first episode of his new podcast, she seems to transcend the divisiveness that’s gripped the U.S. and can bring together a multitude of people that may not agree about much else beyond a love of the singer. It’s a nine-episode journey, so the podcast will devote more than half of what Ken Burns spent on decades of country music just on Dolly.
On a Mission
If you’ve ever played a rousing game of Meteorite/Meteor-wrong (just me?), then you know that asteroids, meteors, and meteorites are easy to mix up. Asteroids are rocks that are too small to be a planet, meteors are bodies that enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up (they’re commonly called shooting stars), and meteorites survive the trip to actually reach the ground.
Season 2 of NASA’s On a Mission podcast is all about asteroids. In the first episode, Leslie Mullen heads up Mount Lemmon to the Catalina Sky Survey. There, astronomers like Richard Kowalski keep watch for asteroids. He’s been the first to notice some before they hit the Earth. In 2008, one hit Sudan. A KLM flight witnessed the glow as the meteorite sailed through the atmosphere before landing in the Nubian Desert.
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