Church, War, Pens, Songs, Tests

Praise The Lord

Episode: “The Movement” | Podcast: Startup | 36m21s

First of a series about “church planting”, the movement within evangelical Christianity that sees faith-based entrepreneurs start new, mostly unconventional, churches to attract non-believers. Parallels with Silicon Valley are ubiquitous. Church planters are as self-mythologising and image-obsessed as any tech startup founder. It’s an entire industry with, as the host puts it, “investors and incubators and growth metrics but. . . for Jesus”. The mission is old but the techniques are new — the star of this episode, a young black pastor from Chicago’s South Side, is a great preacher but is also skilled at email marketing (36m21s)


Taking The Biscuit

Episode: “Six Easy Steps to Nuclear War” | Podcast: Today, Explained | 21m03s

Eye-opening explanation of exactly how the United States would launch a nuclear strike. The system has remained unchanged for decades and is still utterly analogue. The president is tailed at all times by a military aide carrying “the football”, a briefcase containing the instructions for different attack scenarios. A small piece of laminated paper referred to as “the biscuit” contains the president’s personal verification code for giving the verbal attack order to missile control. He is supposed to have it on his person at all times, except numerous past commanders in chief have misplaced theirs (21m03s)


Pen To Paper

Episode: “A Very Peculiar Scale” | Podcast: The Pen Addict | 73m03s

Two passionate pen fans discuss their disappointment, at length, with a “100 Best Pens” list in a magazine. There are some strong contenders in the top ten, they concede, but also several rogue entries that are either poor value for money or give too much ink bleed-through on quality paper to be considered for such an accolade. They also update listeners on news about the specialist pen industry and describe their current writing tools of choice. Most of the technical discussion of makes and models is impenetrable to the uninitiated, but there’s still something hypnotic about their pen-based fervour (73m03s)


Songs Of Love

Episode: “Neil Hannon” | Podcast: Sodajerker on Songwriting | 55m40s

Northern Irish singer-songwriter, known for novelty hits like “National Express” and the theme tune to the TV comedy Father Ted, discusses his creative process. He’s self-effacing about the comfortable living he has carved out as an eccentric, offbeat artist in a highly competitive music business. He’s also fanatical about his instruments, especially vintage synthesisers. The hosts, songwriters themselves, are in awe of Hannon’s seemingly effortless output, yet bewildered as to why he has channeled his considerable talent for hooks and riffs into obscure albums about cricket and the Emperor Napoleon (55m40s)


Back To School

Episode: “Too Many Asians?” | Podcast: Earshot | 28m22s

Investigation into why Australia’s selective high schools for the academically gifted are dominated by Asian students. Frequently the children of recent immigrants from South or East Asia, these high achievers often receive special coaching. They pass the entrance tests in greater numbers than white Australian students, a trend that has lead to an uncomfortably racialised debate about education and attainment. The cultural stereotypes revealed here are surprising (far beyond just “tiger mother”) and the piece exposes Australia’s deeper structural divisions, which stem from its skills-based immigration policy (28m22s)