Sunday 7 February 2016

PODCAST REVIEW: Alternative thinking

Ever felt like the odd one out? As if you're the one whose views and opinions are wholly at odds with the people around you?
That's the position the guest on Lea Thau's show Strangers found herself in – a liberal in a community of Republicans, but the outcome was very different from what you might expect.
The anonymous guest is a teacher who was going through the process of trying to secure tenure at a US school and in her daytime job, she found herself surrounded by people of a generally similar outlook on life, but felt utterly isolated and unvalued. Where others were acknowledged by their titles, such as professor, she was always referred to by her first name, making her feel as if she wasn't taken seriously. More than that, there's an emphasis on publishing work in that environment, which is something she struggled with.
She found her escape, strangely, in a computer game, an online strategy game where she found herself part of a community who, for the first time, valued her. Except this was a community with a heavily right-wing leaning, and the guest found it amazing how accepted she was despite her opposing political beliefs.
The host handles this well, even as all her own expectations of where the story is going are confounded. She thinks this is going to be a story of someone disappearing down the rabbit hole because of gaming, losing connection with the real world and finding her work foundering. But that's not what happens. Instead, the guest reveals how the acceptance helped her, how she published in respected outlets, and how, in turn, she found herself finding the acceptance she discovered in the game eventually in the real world.
The show focuses on the political divide – but there's something more here, about how we set aside such beliefs when we make a personal connection, and what is of more value to us as people.

The Thinking Atheist

The idea of two different belief sets rubbing against one another can be found in The Thinking Atheist podcast too – but in a very interesting way.
Host Seth Andrews is a former Christian broadcaster and believer for 30 years – but now he has become host of a regular show from an atheist perspective.
He says he “escaped the bonds of superstitious thinking to embrace the more satisfying explanations that science provides”.
His most recent show looks at religious exemption with regard to medical treatment – and he cites cases of children denied medical treatment because parents turned to faith and not doctors.
Along with guest Rita Swan, of Child Inc, they host a compelling discussion of what should be done in these cases – and how children can be protected. As a debate, though, it feels as if there's only one side represented and while I wholeheartedly agree with their stance, I wanted to hear the other voices in the discussion, I wanted to hear the full width of views. The cases they highlighted couldn't possibly have a justification – but still, it felt like hearing only one side of the story.
It's a good show, though, full of challenging ideas – and occasional diversions through other provocative ideas.

The Truth

Lastly, a bit of whimsy – The Truth is just a good bit of fun. They describe themselves as making “movies for your ears: short stories that are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, and always intriguing.”
The shows are short and sweet – the latest lasting just half an hour and containing two different stories, one reimagining dating as a video game and the other titled The Big Prawn about a girl's obsession with... yes... a big prawn. Light and fun, it's the ideal kind of show to listen to while you cook dinner. Just steer clear of the prawns.

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