This week’s audio highlights include a review of “Exposed: The Ashley Madison Hack”, an exploration of social housing in “Making Sense of Social Housing”, and “Ian Hislop’s Oldest Jokes”.
Uncovered: The Breach of Ashley Madison (Vespucci) | Audible
Understanding Affordable Housing | Tortoise
“Ian Hislop’s Oldest Jokes” is a program on Radio 4 that can be accessed on BBC Sounds.
Revised: Uncovered: The Ashley Madison Breach, a podcast series produced by Vespucci, immediately caught my attention. Ashley Madison, a dating website created in 2002 for individuals seeking extramarital affairs, was targeted by hackers in 2015. The incident garnered widespread media attention as the unknown perpetrators leaked the personal information, including private messages, of millions of users. As a big news story, it was a perfect topic for a podcast.
The show Exposed, presented by Canadian actor Sophie Nélisse, begins strongly. We are introduced to a couple who cheated on their spouses after meeting on Ashley Madison. We hear from tech experts who communicated with the hackers during that time, and we learn about the motivations of Ashley Madison’s founder. There is some interesting and surprising information revealed, particularly concerning the number of subscribers and the authenticity of female accounts (hint: there were not many).
Somewhere in the fourth episode, things take a turn for the worse. We are introduced to a few other members of Ashley Madison, but the focus remains on the initial couple. The hackers and founders seem to vanish without explanation. The story of “Paul”, a veteran who turned to the site after becoming paralyzed, is quickly brushed aside compared to the main couple. The reasons behind the hackers’ decision to expose users and target Avid Life Media’s leaders are never fully revealed. An awkward comparison is made between asking for forgiveness as an adulterer and Ashley Madison’s rebranding after the hack, but it falls short.
In summary, Exposed loses momentum (ho ho). Additionally, the plot is oddly moralistic. “I know what you’re thinking,” Nélisse says, but I wasn’t actually thinking that. This preachy attitude may be due to the show being North American, but it becomes annoying very quickly. While it may sound obvious, if this series wants to keep us interested in a long-term, six-episode commitment, it needs to provide more intense and seductive scenes.
Housing is a topic that is often discussed in audio documentaries, although it may not be considered a particularly exciting one. However, it is a topic that continues to be relevant. Even though it is only January, I have already written about two programs focused on the issue of housing: “Fixing Britain with Louise Casey” on Radio 4 and “The Documentary: Ending Homelessness the Finnish Way” on the World Service. Recently, Tortoise has released a three-part series called “Making Sense of Social Housing,” which provides a comprehensive overview of how and why our current housing situation has developed. The main issue at hand is the “right to buy” legislation introduced by Thatcher in the 1980s, which allowed council house and housing association tenants to purchase their rented homes at a discounted price. However, when these houses were sold (over two million in total!), much of the proceeds went to the central government instead of being reinvested into building more homes. As a result, there was a significant decrease in available social housing. According to reporter Jeevan Vasagar, “more than 40 years later, we are still dealing with the consequences.” A housing association worker also agrees, stating that there were no plans in place to replace the lost housing.
Currently, we are facing difficulties. A rental agent has informed us that they receive 800 applicants for every available rental property. We have received a message from Jake, who lost his eyesight at 49 and has been living in temporary housing (first a bedsit and now a hotel) for a few months. He requires a guide dog but is unable to get one as he does not have a permanent home for the dog to become familiar with. He is in a tough situation. Similarly, a family is also struggling as they cannot reach their landlord and are living in a house with water leaking from the walls. To lift our spirits, we learn about a new collaboration between Crisis and Lloyds Banking Group that aims to create one million new homes for social use. It’s worth noting that this series was produced “with the assistance of Lloyds Bank”.
What this means is that Lloyds will have paid Tortoise a certain amount to make this series. Independent audio production houses often make podcasts for corporate sponsors; it’s an important income stream for them, alongside adverts and paid-for listener subscriptions. The results can be iffy – a sponsor might push their own podcasting ideas or script – but this one is pretty good. One interviewee, who runs an ethical letting agency, Homes for Good, in Glasgow, is perhaps given a couple of minutes too much airtime in episode two. (She’s setting up a similar letting agency in London “as a joint venture with Crisis, supported by Lloyds Banking Group”.) But this is nitpicking really. This is an interesting, optimistic show, and at least Lloyds is bothering to put its money where the government won’t. Saved by the bank, who’d have thought it.
On Radio 4, Ian Hislop hosts a cheerful 10-part series in the 15-minute weekday lunchtime slot called “Ian Hislop’s Oldest Jokes.” Hislop’s lively personality adds an enjoyable touch to the search for the oldest jokes, showcasing evidence of British humor throughout history. He begins with Latin and Chaucer, playfully challenging dry academics with his enthusiastic laughter and love for fun. The first episode, focusing on puns, may seem uninteresting (the first pun being the famous one about the Angles), but the following two episodes, centered on double entendres and jokes about drunkenness, are a delight to listen to. Here’s an example from the former: “A strange object hangs by a man’s thigh… in the front it is pierced, it is firm and rigid… he plans to greet with the head of this hanging object that familiar opening, which is the same size and has been filled many times before…” “Not exactly subtle,” giggles Hislop. (It’s a key!)