Dogs, Type, Ghosts, Cuttlefish, Priests

A Dog’s Life

Episode: “Kaiser Racing Team Hangs On” | Podcast: Iditapod | 16m23s

Report from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, in which solo “mushers” cover the 1,000-mile course from Anchorage to Nome with their 14-dog teams in under 10 days. The 2019 champion, Peter Kaiser, crossed the finish line just 12 minutes ahead of his nearest rival and receives $50,000 and a pickup truck as his prize. The podcast is made by Alaska Public Media and exhibits many classic features of the best local radio: tongue-tied interviews with spectators, plenty of presumed knowledge and a strong sense of community. The reporters also do a good job of capturing the atmosphere at the finish line (16m23s)


Type Cast

Episode: “The Perfect Renaissance Man” | Podcast: Kerning Cultures | 24m20s

Profile of the Lebanese-American architect Nasri Khattar, who in the 1930s began trying to alter how Arabic script works to make it more compatible with printing and typing. His new simplified writing system, which he called “Unified Arabic”, was a lifelong obsession for him. He drew the new characters by hand and hustled constantly alongside his day job to convince others of the system’s benefits. For a while, it seemed to be working — IBM were on board, and it looked as if some Middle Eastern governments were too. But somehow it never took off. A gently told story of creativity and frustration (24m20s)


Most Haunted

Episode: “Known For” | Podcast: Short Cuts | 29m07s

Three short documentaries about places or individuals known solely for one thing. The first is the best of the trio, in which the host finds out that he is not from Britain’s “most haunted” village as he previously thought and reflects how this loss changes his conception of his birthplace. His exploration of the topic includes amusing excerpts from interviews with other people similarly invested in their town’s single achievement, from “Europe’s largest bus station” to “the birthplace of gingerbread”. The whole piece brilliantly captures the dreary horror of growing up in pre-internet suburban or rural Britain (29m07s)


All At Sea

Episode: “The Amazing Life and Death of the Ocean's Greatest Camouflage Expert” | Podcast: Look At Me | 25m30s

Introduction to sepia apama, the Australian giant cuttlefish. The first half of this episode sees the two Australian hosts trade facts and jokes back and forth, which is enjoyable but not exceptional. It’s in the second section that the show earns greater attention, via an interview with a terminal cancer patient who had an extraordinary cuttlefish encounter while diving. The creature in question was near the end of its life and, as is the habit of the species, seemed to choose her as its “mate” to die with. She followed it to a submerged grassy bank and, for a second, considered turning off her oxygen (25m30s)


In The Family

Episode: “The Very Image” | Podcast: Family Secrets | 45m29s

Grown man is told that his father is not his father, and that he was the product of a secret affair his mother had with a Roman Catholic priest. This interview looks back at that pivotal moment in his life and then explores his decades-long attempt to secure some acknowledgement or apology from the Church for how his parents were treated. He follows his real father’s trail across the country from seminary to church, often being told things that are then denied after the authorities discover what he really wants. A tragic personal tale, but also a case study in the abuse of institutional power (45m29s)