Cultural roundup

A round up of some podcasts, a film and a TV series by Simon Pearson.

Finding a good podcast to listen to can be a bit like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. I often find myself scrolling for hours trying to find something worth listening to. Believe me, there is a goldilocks zone of podcast listening, not too many adverts, and an ok jingle, a presenter or two that know when to shut up and let their guest speaker answer, and please don’t stretch it out longer than absolutely necessary. But when a podcast hits that zone, it can be almost as good as a book (I said almost!) both informative and entertaining.

I hope you will find some of my suggestions worthy of a listen, after all, I have done the hard bit, sorting the so-called wheat from the chaff (apologies for the farm-related idioms)

Guerrilla History (podcast)

Guerilla History is a weekly podcast hosted by immunobiologist Henry Hakamaki, Professor Adnan Husain, historian and Director of the School of Religion at Queens University, and Revolutionary Left Radio’s Breht O’Shea. This is a radical history podcast in which guest speakers (authors/academics) use the struggles of the past to frame the struggles of the present.

In a recent episode, the presenters spoke to Professor August Nimitz about his book, The Ballot, The Streets, or Both? From Marx and Engels to Lenin and the October Revolution in which the important area of electoralism was discussed.

Doomsday Watch with Arthur Snell (podcast)

Doomsday Watch is a new podcast hosted by former diplomat and head of the government Prevent programme Arthur Snell. While not pitched as a ‘radical left’ podcast it does claim to cover stories that the mass media are not talking about. It’s the establishment view, but please don’t let that put you off, it’s a well-produced podcast with an engaging host and expert analysis. Listen out for Fergal Sharkey in episode 5 ‘Hydropocalypse Now’ who it turns out knows a lot about water, who knew? But start at episode 1 ‘America’s Next Civil War’ which examines the crisis of American democracy after the insurrection of January 6.

Miss Marx (film)

Miss Marx a 2020 release written and directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli offers a slightly different take on the period drama biopic. This is obvious from the opening credits which zing along with a track by the Downtown Boys. The film opens with Eleanor Marx (played by Romola Garai) performing a eulogy at the grave of father Karl, we then follow Eleanor through love and campaigning to her untimely death at 43 years of age. Death haunts Eleanor and even though director Nicchiarelli livens up proceedings with a punk rock score, this film is as dour as the age it is set in. It is a film about relationships, the one between Eleanor and Edward Aveling being central to the story. It’s not a Marxist history documentary, this is Nicchairelli’s vision on screen and the film should be praised for that. This is not a BBC costume drama and for that reason alone, I did enjoy it (even though that feels the wrong word)

Oh, and the Downtown Boys singing L’Internationale is one version you will not forget in a hurry.

Dopesick (tv series)

Dopesick is a new series on Disney+ and is based on the book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy. The series creators (Beth Macy does have writing credit and Barry Levinson directs two episodes) have packed the screen with stars, from Michael Keaton to Peter Sarsgaard and Will Poulter. Michael Stuhlbarg plays Richard Sackler (in a softly spoken, serial killer type way), one of the Sackler family, creator of OxyCotin and villain of the piece. This is an important story, big pharma meets zero ethics and an opioid addiction set in the rust belt. In what may have worked as a tight two and half hour indie film falls apart as a series, and already feels too long and I’m already five episodes down! However, the series does show how far big pharma will go to push their product, who needs dealers when company reps and doctors can do such a great job! Patients getting hooked on your drug, the solution just keep on increasing the size of the pill and best of all ‘pseudo addiction’ which means the patient isn’t addicted just hasn’t been prescribed the correct dose to manage their pain away, brilliant. But, and there is always a but, this is just like the kind of series you would stumble across on the Hallmark channel, a little overacted and sentimental for this reviewer.

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Simon Pearson is on the Editorial Board of the Anti*Capitalist Resistance and is a Midlands-based political activist.

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