The Alphabet Mafia
The CIA, FBI, and DEA walk into a bar....Also podcasts on the ultimate medical gaslighting, how to adult when it comes to friendship and finding new music, and was Leonardo da Vinci super overrated?
Welcome to Hurt Your Brain #186, the place to get podcasts and links that will make you think.
There is nothing more satisfying than going on a long road trip and catching up on so many podcasts. I still have an endless queue, but it’s the podcast equivalent to mopping all the floors, doing the dishes, and putting away all the laundry.
Before moving on to the main section, I have a few quick hits. Some of my favorite shows all had very recommendation worthy episodes so I’ll drop them right here.
Roundup of hits: Planet Money’s new summer school is all about getting that fake podcast MBA and the first episode is great. Unexplainable put out one of the best explainer episodes on AI and why creators don’t understand it. 99 Percent Invisible’s most recent episode is about these little evangelical fire and brimstone comic books called Chick Tracts that have been produced in the 100’s of millions that I had never heard of and it’s all fascinating. Radiolab had a classic science focused episode about how scientists studying tree rings unlocked some hidden levers of human history.
Now on to some more in-depth recommendations that will hopefully put some new things on your radar.
The Big Idea: “Alphabet Boys reveals the secret investigations of the FBI, CIA, DEA, ATF, and other alphabet agencies.” What a great name and intriguing concept. This is the first episode of season two.
Story of season two: “An international weapons deal to arm rebels in Colombia tangles up the DEA, the CIA, and the FBI in the same case. But who’s the good guy? And who’s the bad guy? This spy story is not at all what it seems.”
I’ve listened to the five episodes out so far, and this complicated tale is told expertly by journalist Trevor Aaronson with a treasure trove of actual secretly recorded conversation. Everything centers around a man named Flaviu, who thought he was helping the CIA thwart an arms deal and ends up arrested in the process.
How great is that artwork for season two?
The Big Idea: A nurse at the Yale Fertility Center stole fentanyl by replacing it with saline over a period of months and several dozen women undergoing egg retrieval faced the invasive procedure with no pain meds (unbeknownst to them).
This is the first episode of a five part series from The New York Times and Serial Productions. I’ve listened to the first three and so far it’s very well told (if not sometimes difficult to listen to).
The best part of how this unfolds is that it will make you think. This is much more than a tale of a criminal nurse who got caught and the hellish stories of the victims. There are layers of institutional responsibility, gaslighting, tribalism, privilege and race, and many things that add nuance to the narrative.
The Big Idea: Just a nice discussion on how to approach friendship as an adult. It will make you think through some things in your own life in a good way.
“I know it might seem strange to suggest we don’t know how to talk to our friends and need a podcast to tell us how. But actually, there are a lot of common misunderstandings and conflicts in friendship that often go unspoken.”
The Big Idea: One of my favorite science podcasts takes a look at why da Vinci might have been a very talented two hit wonder who wasted a massive amount of potential. He rarely finished things he started and had more ideas than he had execution. Who knew we would end up having a few things in common after all?
The Big Idea: A nice reading of a Terry Pratchet short story that is silly but has some great things to say on change and relevance.
I have a few Pratchett books in my Kindle that I’m placing a high priority on. I’ve never read his work, but I’m thinking this story was a nice taste of his playful takes on fantasy tropes.
The Big Idea: This episode of PJ Vogt’s new podcast is possibly the most called out I’ve ever felt by a simple title. A pretty interesting discussion here around how to enjoy music in your 30’s and beyond.
OTHER LINKS TO MAKE YOU THINK
The Most Misunderstood Concept in Physics. If watching a 25 minute explainer on entropy with high production values sounds like a good time (of course it does!), you will enjoy this from the Veritasium YouTube channel. Any mention of entropy and I like to recommend the very short and very memorable short story from Isaac Asimov, The Last Question.
Solve that problem! A too-close-to-home game show.
Because I can’t help it, yes I’m on Threads. But I have no idea what to do with social media anymore so I’ve mostly been doing nothing anywhere. Either way no matter where they are, more visuals to come soon.
Alright that’s all for today. Please like or comment (or reply) if you want to share any comments. See you next time.
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