I’ve been at Iron Warrior for a long time, and spent a good chunk of that time writing podcast reviews. As my final academic term draws to a close, I figured it would be nice to look back on all the podcasts I reviewed and ask: where are they now?
But first, the Ra-Tan Lines column itself probably deserves some explanation. In Spring 2016, Editor-In-Chief Bryan Mailloux and Assistant Editor Donovan Maudsley were looking for new columns to add to the Iron Warrior. I was unsure about writing a column until they suggested the name “Ra-Tan Lines”, at which point I enthusiastically agreed. Lacking a more interesting topic to write about in every issue, I decided that Ra-Tan Lines would be a series of podcast reviews.
When Donovan Maudsley became Editor-In-Chief himself in Winter 2017, many returning staff writers decided to continue their columns, including me. I stuck around and Ra-Tan Lines did too, until today, the hopefully-satisfying conclusion to this hopefully-satisfying series of articles.
Alright, enough preamble. I’ll be briefly revisiting every podcast I reviewed, in the order I reviewed them. I’ll provide links to the podcast site and my review. Word of warning: this is going to be a long, long listicle: there’s no real reason to read every paragraph in order.
Revisiting Every Ra-Tan Lines Review
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History (site, review) continues to update and continues to be one of the best podcasts ever. Carlin has almost completed an especially brutal series about Imperial Japan during World War Two: Supernova in the East. Five out of six of the episodes are complete, so this is a great time to binge: the Supernova finale could drop any moment now! There is also now a Hardcore History Addendum podcast for interviews and other extras.
The intro music for Freakonomics Radio (site, review) sounds really weird when sped up. The podcast still seems to be updating regularly and covering a wide range of topics: their most recent episodes were about healthcare in the US but earlier in the year Freakonomics asked Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished? and explained How to Be Better at Death.
In the most recent episode of Hello From the Magic Tavern (site, review), the main cast were somewhere other than the tavern, which is great! It’s still pretty funny, and there’s also been multiple paywalled spin-off series.
However the hosts of Hello Internet are still continuing their other projects. For example, Cortex (site, review) is still a podcast where CGP Grey and Mike Hurley discuss actionable email, iPad “fleets”, file workflows, and other productivity-related stuff. I ended my original review by saying “I am not exactly shaking with anticipation” and that statement still stands.
I am going to admit, I forgot about The Story Collider (site, review). It wasn’t that The Story Collider was bad in an absolute sense, I just had fewer commutes and thus, less time for podcasts. The stories they tell are still extremely short: two stories for each 30-ish minute episode. However there has been a major change in format: multi-episode series with the same vaguely-defined “theme”.
Morph Club (site, review) ended two years ago. They completed their goal of reviewing every Animorphs book and some of the (terrible) TV episodes as well. There are many more Animorphs review podcasts to choose from now. That said, Morph Club’s review of the terrible Alternamorph choose-your-own adventure is a must for any fan of Animorphs (“Anifan”? “Fanimorph”? “Fandalite”?).
My Brother, My Brother and Me, also called MBMBaM (site, review) is still being updated, but the McElroys are apparently having a tough time finding good jokes while self-isolating. A recent episode literally opened with advice on applying drywall. Luckily the brothers moved on to discussing a bizarre Krispy Kreme promotion wherein customers can get a free donut every day if they have a valid vaccine card. The podcast still sounds fine at high speed.
The heavenly voice of Roman Mars still graces our sinful world in 99% Invisible (site, review). It continues to be a less theory-focused, more empathetic interview podcast than Freakonomics Radio. Recent topics covered by “99pi” include the jazz “Real Book”, snake antivenom and megaplexes. In December 2020, they had an interesting miniseries about homelessness.
Here’s a little anecdote about Table Reads (site, review): it was suggested to me by the Fall 2017 Editor-in-Chief, Gabrielle Klemt. However there were actually multiple podcasts whose names were variations on Table Reads, and I listened to the wrong one! To be clear, the Table Reads I’m talking about is the one that discussed a Spider-Man script from 1993 written by James Cameron, wherein Doc Ock’s robotic arms were called “Waldos”. My review failed to mention that Patrick Duffy was actually a new co-host in late 2017: he has since been replaced by a bunch of other co-hosts. The podcast feed seems to end in September 2020: from their social media feeds it’s unclear why. During that eventful year Table Reads read The Star Wars, one of George Lucas’ early drafts of Star Wars. They also started reading a Bill & Ted reboot.
The Truth (site, review) still seems to be updating regularly. The Truth’s audio storytelling is still as engaging and disturbing as ever. Unfortunately it seems their short-lived Songonauts spin-off has been discontinued for good. The Truth has new mini-series though, this time on their main feed.
The Unmade Podcast (site, review) is the podcast featuring Hello Internet “vice host” Brady Haran, and his friend Tim. They are still releasing episodes regularly, but with one relatively recent twist in the format. After discussing podcast ideas they don’t plan to make, the hosts sometimes share covers of the Sofa Shop jingle. The Sofa Shop was a shop in Adelaide, Australia which had a catchy advertising jingle at some point; as the podcast has progressed, so too has the hosts’ obsession with this niche music clip. They even interviewed the musicians involved. Meanwhile, fans have escalated the effort involved in covering the jingle. After exhausting a few dozen musical genres, well-connected fans have now started playing The Sofa Shop jingle on giant bells contained in architectural landmarks, such as the University of Florida Century Tower.
On 5 April 2021, Robot or Not? (site, review) discussed the variety of pickles and relishes that exist in the world. Yes, that’s right, to quote the episode description: “Not all pickles are pickles, and not all relish is pickle relish.” The second most recent episode discussed the difference between pots and pans. Need I say more?
Ologies by Alie Ward (site, review) has continued updating well into 2021. Earlier in the year they apparently had an interview with Steven Levitt from Freakonomics. That’s right, a crossover more ambitious than Avengers: Infinity War.
History on Fire by Daniele Bolelli (site, review) is still a regularly updating podcast, and still behind the Luminary paywall. There are sometimes freebies on the old, non-Luminary feed. For example in 2020 there was a free episode where 6 history podcasters joined forces to talk about “ripples” in history. That’s right, another crossover more ambitious than Avengers: Infinity War.
It’s been over a year and a half since I reviewed The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps (site, review), but their main feed is still getting through the Renaissance. Their secondary feed is still discussing “Africana” philosophy, but has at least made it to the 20th century. To be absolutely clear the project has been updating regularly this whole time, but Peter Adamson takes his commitment to avoid gaps very seriously.
The Extremities Podcast (site, review buried in this PDF) seems to have been on hiatus since exactly 1 January 2020. The podcast involved traveling to remote settlements, so a hiatus during a global pandemic makes perfect sense.
The most recent episode of The Anthropocene Reviewed (site, review buried in this PDF) was released in September 2020. Can you guess the topic? 5 stars out of 5 if you guessed plague, 4 stars if you guessed that The Anthropocene Reviewed discussed itself. The self-review is the one that explains why the podcast is on hiatus. In my own review of The Anthropocene Reviewed I claimed that the star ratings were “a 2-star practice in a 4-star podcast”, and I stand by that. Oh, there’s a book apparently.
I haven’t kept up with the Office Ladies podcast (site, review), and was pleasantly surprised to learn that they are still on track. It looks like they’re currently re-watching season 4 of The Office. Coincidentally, I recently re-watched Did I Stutter? (season 4 episode 16 of The Office), so it might be a good point for me to tune in to Office Ladies.
Revolutions by Mike Duncan (site, review) was on break longer than initially predicted: Mike Duncan had some serious medical issues to attend to. He provided an explanation on Christmas 2020, and Revolutions resumed at the start of 2021. The podcast is currently covering the events between 1905 and 1917 in Russia. Mike Duncan’s History of Rome is, of course, complete.
The situation surrounding Common Sense with Dan Carlin (site, review) is pretty interesting though: there were two new episodes, which is two more than I expected. In a pre-election episode, longtime third-party advocate Dan Carlin actually said he was voting for Joe Biden and encouraged others to do the same. Spoiler: it wasn’t because he actually liked Biden. Interestingly this was the first time Carlin voted for a Democrat or Republican since 1992. Another episode was released days after the riot of the US Capitol.
There is only one other podcast reviewed in Ra-Tan Lines: Dead Ideas. The review will go up at roughly the same time as this article.
If you’ve read this far, there are also some “Ra-Tan Lines adjacent” articles that might be of interest to you. In 2019 we had a Point, Counter-Point regarding paid podcasts. Also, although I enjoyed Til Death Do Us Blart, I never reviewed it because it was already reviewed by Donovan in 2017.
I was clearly biased in the podcasts I reviewed. For instance, I wrote about a lot of history and general knowledge podcasts, but entirely avoided mentioning music podcasts! Music podcasts are obviously a great use of the medium, but it’s hard for me to judge them since I honestly don’t know much about music. I have sometimes listened to Song Exploder but don’t have enough to say about it for a review.
I also only reviewed two technology podcasts. There are plenty of tech podcasts out there which are more interesting than Cortex and provide more to chew on than Welcome to Macintosh. Perhaps by listening to more tech podcasts, I could learn to be more productive during study and work. On the other hand, as an ECE student I already spend so much time dealing with tech stuff. Even a lot of my time at Iron Warrior has been spent on tech stuff.
Podcasts are an opportunity to listen beyond that, to hear about the vast swathes of the human experience unrelated to the daily grind. I really enjoyed discovering and writing about the world of podcasts, and I hope that you did too. I’d like to thank all the former Editors-In-Chief, Staff Writers and Copy-Editors at the Iron Warrior for supporting me in my journey.