The Year in Review, Day 22
It’s the 22nd day of a 23-day celebration, revisiting some of 2023’s best podcast episodes and writing! Today’s theme: my other podcast, Enthusiasts!
Catch up on the past 21 days of this year-in-review project here!
“Maureen Ryan on TV’s Evolution, The Writers Strike, and ‘A Call for Change in Hollywood’”: A conversation with Maureen “Mo” Ryan, author of Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood. Mo describes what it has been like to watch streaming change everything about TV show creation, to witness multiple writers strikes over the years, to see Hollywood enable concerning behaviors and attitudes, and to envision what a better culture could look like after real systemic change.
“The Wizard of Oz”: How did an FBI sting operation lead to retrieving Dorothy’s stolen ruby slippers? How did Oz fan clubs go from the homes of teenagers to massive, globally-attended festivities? Overall, what has led both thieves and hardcore The Wizard of Oz fans to deem the story valuable, in every meaning of the word? Since earnest fans have kept fan clubs, newsletters, and conventions going to this day, and a money-motivated memorabilia market also remains alive and well, both types of people interested in The Wizard of Oz play a role in cementing the story’s legacy. This episode describes how and why that happened.
“Astroworld: The Investigation”: This past summer, a grand jury decided not to pursue criminal charges against anyone affiliated with the 2021 Astroworld Tragedy. Since then, over 1,200 pages from the crowd-crush investigation have been made public: 911 calls, interviews, emails, text exchanges, and more. The documents form a timeline that starts months before the Travis-Scott-hosted event, goes through the minute details of what unfolded that tragic night, and describes the varied reactions afterwards from the companies and people fearing legal consequences. I poured over these documents, and in this two-part episode, I share the most revealing excerpts from them: insights into who should have stopped the show the second the first medical emergency started, why it took so long to stop the concert, what red flags were raised during the festival construction process, what theories the investigators ruled out, and so much more.
“Pras Michel, AI, and an Unusual Trial”: As strange as Fugees member Pras Michel’s corruption trial was, featuring everything from a fugitive accomplice to Leonardo DiCaprio’s testimony, the news that came out after the verdict was even stranger: Pras Michel’s lawyer used artificial intelligence to draft his closing argument. In addition to this, Pras’s motion for a retrial includes damning descriptions of his former lawyer’s behavior that range from a preoccupation with legal troubles of his own to showing extreme ignorance towards basic legal statutes. Pras further argues that his defense was weak enough that he deserves a new trial because his lawyer has a financial interest in the AI company whose program he used, a clear conflict of interest. This episode digs into the contents of both Pras’s superseding indictment and motion for a retrial. Together, they tell two surprising stories, one about a years-long illegal lobbying effort spanning multiple presidential administrations and one about a lawyer who was in over his head, took ideas from AI, and raised questions about whether AI can or should be relied on at all in the legal realm.
“Knowledge Fight 101”: Alex Jones and the show InfoWars have played a massive role in spreading conspiracy theories, radicalizing right-wingers, and fostering an apocalyptic mentality. No one understands Alex’s beliefs, persuasive tactics, and sources of misinformation quite like Dan and Jordan. They host a podcast called Knowledge Fight, on which they react to Alex’s most bizarre tangents, fact-check his most inaccurate claims, and provide context for his most misleading remarks. In this episode, I talk to Dan about what makes Alex such a unique character, how much of Alex’s act is sincere versus clout-chasing, and how Alex’s supporter base has evolved. Tune in for Alex’s backstory and a serious assessment of his intentions and impact, then stay for the bizarre asides about the company he keeps!
Thanks for reading, listening, and subscribing!