When the universe ends
A stunning, soundscaped audio essay about our place in the universe, and other podcasts and links that will make you think.
Welcome to Hurt Your Brain, the place to get podcasts and links that will make you think.
Hey there! It’s edition # 174, and my second one on Substack. As promised, I’ve also revived firstname.lastname@example.org, so for any podcasters, please email me there with any pitches (or say hello on Twitter). And please remember I lost/never saw anything that was sent to me late mid-December all the way until last week.
Alright, some great recommendations this week. Let’s jump right in.
Meditative Story: Our tiny meaningful lives in the vast universe, by Michelle Thaler
The Big Idea: Find a comfy spot, put some headphones on, and listen to this. It’s a beautiful personal essay from astronomer Michelle Thaler on our place in the universe, with a stunning soundscape laid underneath. A few mindfulness prompts are inserted here and there as well. It all works and makes for an altogether powerful listening experience that is my favorite of the new year so far.
You don’t need to be into meditation (I’m not) in order to be super into this. If you like calming, reflective, philosophical, poetic, existential type stuff, this is very much for you.
An immediate entry into my 1x speed club.
The show posts transcripts on their site, but this episode is not up yet.
There are just so many interesting shows with interesting formats I had no idea existed. Thanks to Calen for sending this my way.
”I am vast.” “When the universe began, I was holding your hand. And when the universe ends, I’ll be holding your hand.” Very powerful readings in the context of the piece.
Filter Stories: Plant Genetics
The Big Idea: A truly interesting overview on the wild world of coffee tree genetics, and a sobering look of how climate change is rapidly impacting the coffee trade.
This fits within a six part series from Filter Stories about the science of coffee, but this episodes works well as a high quality standalone audio documentary.
There are around 130 different species of coffee trees (each completely different looking), but over 99% of all coffee beans come from only two.
Unexpected tie-in to The Last of Us: There is a fungus called coffee leaf rust that is increasing with variations in temperatures caused by climate change. It’s eerie to learn about this shortly after watching the excellent cold open in HBO’s The Last of Us premiere.
Death, Sex & Money: Why the Creators of “Everything Everywhere All At Once Treat Their Partnership Like a Marriage
The Big Idea: I’m endlessly fascinated by the creative process, and the collaboration and history of the Daniels (the two directors) is inspiring. And of course, Anna Sale never disappoints with her questions.
If Books Could Kill: The Secret
The Big Idea: The Secret is the biggest victim blaming book of all time, and this episode is a take down that made me very happy.
The Secret was a sensation when it came out and I remember hating it so much when I read it. The message of the book as I remember it years later is basically: “Oh you're poor? Think rich thoughts and stop thinking poor thoughts!” “Oh you have cancer? Silly you, it’s all your unhealthy thinking that caused it!” It’s one thing to promote positive thinking, but The Secret ratchets that up to a truly harmful level by making it into pseudoscience.
Digital Folklore: The Internet is The New Woods (Monsters, Ostension, & Moral Panics)
The Big Idea: A great new show about the cultural impact of folklore from the internet age. This first episode addresses the phenomenon and origin of slender man, as well as the ridiculous moral panic of Momo (remember that?).
This is non-fiction, but it’s all wrapped around great interviews/editing/production and a non-traditional format that keeps it from feeling like just another discussion show.
At one point they talk to a producer for WBUR who says they purposefully consume scary things before bed in the hopes of generating terrifying nightmares. Excuse me?!
Remember, You Are Space. Some more thoughts on the excellent Pale Blue Pod podcast that I recommended a few editions ago. I was inspired to create the visual at the top of this email originally after listening to this episode, but I felt it also worked well for the Meditative Stories recommended above.
Was excited to see that the latest Podcast Brunch Club playlist is about movies. Solid list, and the Twenty Thousand Hertz episode, A Thousand Words was my favorite, and highly recommended.
Why we all need subtitles now: Full justification for your subtitle habit from an excellent video from Vox.
Why Brad Pitt’s Eating Matters. This is kind of a hilariously serious breakdown of Brad Pitt’s constant eating in movies.
For fun: Dear fellow kids who put their homework in their backpack without a folder, how are you, where are u now.
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Now I’m off to watch The Last of Us. Very hyped for the second episode.
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