Jokes, Blood, Spirits, Time, Sap

Joke’s On You

Episode: “Susan Calman” | Podcast: The Comedian’s Comedian | 59m10s

Scottish comedian is interviewed by another stand-up about her career and writing process live on stage. She is now successful but has suffered from life-long depression and feels that her mental health struggles both help and hinder her jokes. Unusually, she believes there can be no cure or improvement for her condition; rather she fatalistically thinks she is stuck with her problems forever. Her self-doubt is absolute — “for some people, the glass is half full, for others it’s half empty, I don’t believe I deserve a glass at all” — and yet she is warm, funny and fascinating. A moving conversation full of contradictions (59m10s)


Time Out

Episode: “Fall Back, Spring Forward” | Podcast: Retropod | 2m59s

It’s the season of clock adjustments, as in the northern hemisphere different countries shift forwards for spring to their “summer” time zones. In the US, the first two decades of daylight savings time after the First World War caused chaos, with all levels of government and private enterprise able to set their clocks however suited them best. “In office buildings, it could be 4pm on one floor and 5pm on another,” the host explains, and so confusion reigned. Eventually, central government had to seize control of the clock again and the drastically-named “Committee for Time Uniformity” restored order (2m59s)


Blood Feud

Episode: “A Star Is Born” | Podcast: The Dropout | 45m26s

Third part of a documentary about the rise and fall of the blood-testing startup Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes. She was a media darling, the billionaire Stanford dropout who built a Steve Jobs-style myth around herself and claimed to have invented technology that could run advanced medical tests with a tiny drop of blood. The whole series is worth hearing, but this episode stands out for its focus on the patients who used this now-debunked technology rather than the Silicon Valley power players. As a result of faulty Theranos results, people received false cancer diagnoses and other life-altering news (45m26s)


Drink Up

Episode: “Pulque En América” | Podcast: ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest? | 9m07s

Exploration of the part drink plays in narratives of immigration and integration. Pulque, a Mexican alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of agave plants, now has new meaning for displaced Mexican communities in America’s Midwest. In Mexico, the drink has a long tradition of association with revolution. Yet it’s also now popular with trendy young white Americans, unaware of its origins. This story is told bilingually but avoids imposing English translations on Spanish-speaking interviewees. Instead, the two languages co-exist equally in a format that is still comprehensible to all (9m07s)


Dividing Lines

Episode: “The White Sangoma” | Podcast: First Person | 30m46s

Unsettling interview with a white Afrikaans woman who believes she is called to be a “sangoma”, a spiritual healer in the tribal customs of South Africa. She leaves her suburban life to train in this practice, getting “close to the earth” by fetching wood and water by hand. She is convinced that she is on the right path, yet what she is doing is controversial in a country still affected by the deep racial divisions of apartheid. Can a white person experience a vocation in a historically black spiritual tradition, or is this her way of trying to belong in a nation where the white minority is no longer dominant? (30m46s)