Russia If You’re Listening (ABC) Matt Bevan’s third series on Putin, Trump and Russia has come to a close. In Episode 8 “How Russia’s rotten gas got Trump into Trouble”, he backtracks to explain how Ukraine used the nuclear weapons that were left on its soil after the breakup of the Soviet Union to negotiate gas supplies from Russia and cold hard cash from the United States. In Episode 9, the final one, “Putin’s greatest victory- a conspiracy theory so good it got Trump impeached” he looks at Trump’s support of Putin’s accusation that Ukraine is the baddie here, and how it benefits no one but Russia. And how deliciously ironic that our Australian Matt Bevan should have a name so similar to Matt Bevin, the republican governor of Kentucky who is making some very questionable pardons.
Earshot (ABC) This podcast from August 20189 has been rattling round on the phone for a while. Naponi’s story: Loving a man with schizophrenia tells the story of a Sudanese woman now living in Toowoomba, whose husband has been committed to a psychiatric facility for the last fourteen years. After a long history of domestic violence against Naponi, her husband was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but this is rejected by many of the male elders in the Sudanese community, who accuse her of using domestic violence as a way of getting rid of him. Australian law, witchcraft and domestic violence all come together in a confronting case.
Torn Curtain: The Secret History of the Cold War (ABC) During summer, the ABC saves money by recycling programs from the previous year’s broadcasting. They dug quite a bit deeper than that in Torn Curtain, which was originally broadcast in 2006 as part of the still-missed Hindsight. The fact that it’s now fourteen years old doesn’t matter: it’s a fantastic program. How could I know so little about my own century? I found Episode 2 Science, Spies and Australia’s bid for the bomb to be absolutely fascinating. Much of the material has been available only in the last twenty years or so. It tells the story of Tom Kaiser, a Melbourne PhD student in London (very good paper on him by Phillip Deery here), who was a member of the Communist Party and fell under the scrutiny of Australian authorities who wanted to prove their ‘diligence’ so that Australia would be included in Britain’s plans for nuclear weapons. Episode 5 The Nuclear War we nearly had in 1983 was excellent too, about the build up of nuclear weapons in Western Germany and the horrifying potential for inadvertent nuclear war that they provoked. It’s really worth listening to the whole five episodes. How did I not know these things?
99% Invisible While in the Christmas mood, I listened to Episode 334 from December 2018. Called Christmas with the Allusionist, it’s a cross-promotion of the Allusionist podcast program, a podcast about language. This episode has two stories. The first is about an events manager in Birmingham England who decided to promote Winterval (a portmanteau of Winter and Festival), a 40 day event of which Christmas was a part, only to be accused of “Political Correctness Gone Mad”. The second part was about a re-creation of a ‘Dickensian’ village and the effect of Dickens in shaping our consciousness of Christmas ‘tradition’.