Listen Log: VIRAL TIME

Carl Zimmer, “Viral Time” at the The Long Now Foundation

This one changed the way I think about the world a few different times. Viruses are crazy. There’s 4 trillion in you, they mutate and replicate at unfathomable speeds, yet they’re unfathomably old. Oh, and they’re affecting global climate. And—could be a way for us to (geo-)engineer the climate. Hack, cough, sneeze. Did you know the etymology of influenza relates to sickness being thought to be influenced by astral forces?

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Fannie, Freddie, and a financial Frankenstein

Planet Money #243: The Frankenstein Podcast (web | iTunes)

Confirming my suspicions about mortgages, and explaining what the hell Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are/were in the process. Memorable:

the NINJA loan […] stands for No-Income-No-Job-or-Assets… you don’t have those things, but here, take half a million dollars, go buy a house!

but the real “Frankenstein” here is the more conservative, common loan American homeownership has been based on.

photo credit:

I can't win a game, I can only lose it

Radiolab Presents: The Loneliness of the Goalkeeper (WNYC’s Radiolab, web | iTunes)

Story by Hardeep Singh Kohli, originally for the BBC.

I was a goalkeeper in my youth (although we said “goalie,” a lesser word), and this story rings true to me, especially this line from former Arsenal keeper Bob Wilson:

The other ten guys can make numerous mistakes in a game, even the star striker, he can miss five, six, eight chances in a game, and score a winning goal in the 89th minute of a match, and he goes home the hero. In the reverse situation, is the goalkeeper, this lonely individual […] for 89 minutes you do the reverse, you play brilliantly, and in the 90th minute you make a positional error, or the ball moves, swerves and dips, and it looks as if it’s your fault.

A great dive into the morality play that is sport.

Image of Gary Sprake, who features in the story. Source: Allsport Hulton Deutsch/Allsport,

Ghost Just Dropped By To Say Boo

Tough Room 2011 (This American Life #426, web | iTunes)

Act 1 of this episode is really awesome: a look into the weekly writers/editors meetings at The Onion. It’s great to hear some of the contributors talking about their craft, including notably Todd Hanson and Megan Ganz. Some stellar lines that never made it into the paper:

Cardinal Teaches Pope to Make Church By Interlocking His Fingers

Infertile Woman Treats Frog-Shaped Humidifier as Human Child

Biologist Realizes He’s Been Studying Cadbury Egg

This one hurts:

Man Evidently Thinks Those Sideburns Make Him Look Cool

You guys would tell me if I didn’t look cool, right?

Image source: The Onion,,2188/

Chris Hedges, shattering illusions

Chris Hedges: “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (WGBH Forum Network, web | iTunes)

This lecture feels somewhat like a followup to a Derrick Jensen talk I listened to a few weeks ago (and which sparked some great conversations between Hill and I, and apparently some of his blog audience). But I was actually led to this talk by an article shared by my father, which addressed the deterioration of public/political discourse in our nation, particularly the lack of framing arguments based on evidence. Nice to see The Nation finding its way into my folks’ paper, btw.

On to the topic at hand: Hedges addresses the same topic as Jensen, but where Jensen speaks as a radical environmental activist, Hedges speaks as a war correspondent and (later?) Harvard Divinity scholar. In any case, another very strong argument, and one that rings true, that we are on a terrible path toward disintegration and collapse:

How will we cope with our decline? Will we cling to the absurd dreams of an imperial superpower and the fantasies of a glorious tomorrow, or will we responsibly face our stark new limitations?

Will we heed those who are sober and rational, those who speak of a new simplicity and humility, and an age of imperial as well as material decline, or will we follow the demagogues and charlatans who rise up in moments of crisis and panic?

WIll we radically transform our society to one that protects the ordinary citizen and fosters the common good, that defies the corporate state, that dismantles empire, or will we employ the brutality and technology of our internal security and surveillance apparatus to crush dissent and drive us into a new Dark Age?

Social and political reform never comes from accommodating the power structure, it comes from frightening it.

See also: “2011: Brave New Dystopia

Egypt's military: "peace-loving softies"?

Egypt’s Military, Inc. (Planet Money, web | iTunes)

I’ve been out of town, so this is a bit less timely than I was hoping for, but it’s still a great addition to whatever other Egypt news coverage you’ve been hearing. The Planet Money team goes into depth on a crucial piece of context, which explains some of the power dynamics at work in the current revolution, particularly:

…the military has been so incredibly peaceful—you think of the situation of a repressive regime, people out on the streets protesting, the military coming out in force, in tanks. You figure, I know how this story ends: gunshots, bloodshed like in Tiananmen Square or Iran or Myanmar, but in Egypt it’s been sort of the opposite. There’s been nothing like that brutal repression we’ve seen in other places.

Why is this? Find out in the podcast.

Image source: Mona Sosh, Wikimedia Commons,

Live From the Egyptian Revolution

Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous Live from Egypt: The Rebellion Grows Stronger (web | iTunes)

Democracy is for people to choose for themselves, and the Egyptian people want to choose for themselves. That’s all they’re asking. They’re very politically aware. They’re aware of the U.S. support for the Mubarak regime for the last 30 years. I’ve had protesters come up to me—people come up to me holding up tear gas canisters, fired tear gas canisters, showing me the “Made in U.S.A.” sign, showing me how, you know, the weapons used against them were made in the U.S. They realize this. And all they ask for—you know, this isn’t a big anti-American rally. You don’t see burning of American flags or anything like that. All they ask for is to be left alone to be able to decide for themselves.