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The best podcasts for the week of May 18, 2019: Personal Best and more

The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing other things: 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 two into the vast ocean of podcasts, we’ll find you something worth listening to. This week, we’ve got podcasts about a secret in Selma, silly and sweet self-help, and lessons in manhood.

News podcast

White Lies

White Lies Podcast

Why should I listen? No matter how hard you try, you can’t hide from history.       

How many episodes are there and how long are they? It’s a seven-episode series, each lasting around 50 minutes.      

Describe it in one word: Dredging.

An advertising campaign for Selma, Alabama, “From Civil War to Civil Rights,” captures they city’s complicated legacy. In 2000, the same year it elected James Perkins Jr., its first African-American mayor, it erected a statue to an early member of the Ku Klux Klan. The statue was meant to send a message, said Joanne Bland, co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum, in the first episode of White Lies.

In the podcast, Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley, two Alabama natives, travel to Selma to uncover information about the 1965 murder of Reverend James Reeb. The Unitarian minister was in Selma to participate in a march. He and two others were beaten by a group of white men. Reeb succumbed to his head injury. Three men were tried and acquitted for his death, which remains unsolved. As the hosts try to track down answers, they’re met with a lot of resistance, misinformation, and hostility.  

Comedy podcast

Personal Best

Personal Best Podcast

Why should I listen? It’s a warm, funny podcast about people wanting to be better.       

How many episodes are there and how long are they? In the first season, there were nine episodes between half an hour and 40 minutes. Season two will have eight episodes.      

Describe it in one word: Zany.

One time I was at the airport getting plane snacks when the cashiers told me they were asking everyone whether they believed in aliens. It was clearly a way to help them pass the time, but it turns out asking interesting questions might also be a good way for you to break the ice with your neighborhood checkout person, with whom you interact regularly.

At least, that’s some of the advice Andrew Norton and Rob Norman dole out in Personal Best. As the name suggests, it’s about achieving a level of satisfaction for yourself with some issue that often seems minor but can actually be quite profound. Their suggestions are often bizarre — like a haunted house that’s supposed to help a woman stop hitting the snooze button. In season two, Norton and Norman ask a wilderness survivalist to help a woman who wants to become a better conversationalist. More often than not, their unconventional approaches often yield some success.  

Culture podcast

Man Up

Man Up Podcast

Why should I listen? You might unlearn something.       

How many episodes are there and how long are they? The first two episodes are under 25 minutes.      

Describe it in one word: Introspective.

There’s an episode of Seinfeld where George and Jerry have to explain what a wedgie is to Elaine. She responds that boys are “sick” and girls just “tease someone ‘til they develop an eating disorder.” In other words, boys’ scars are physical; girls’ scars are emotional.  

For Ayman Ismail, though, he still finds himself emotionally affected by the things he learned in childhood, the ones that taught him to “be a man,” as Donny Osmond would sing. In the first episode of Man Up, Ismail talks with a boxer, Eric Kelly, whose fight outside the ring cost him a promising career. In episode two, Jessica Valladolid explains how her middle-school years watching porn with her guy friends led her to teaching sex education. Now she attempts to undo some of the negative impressions and associations porn creates. These are frank discussions, and Ismail admits the stories can sometimes be embarrassing or upsetting.

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