I ran across Containers while mining podcasts for a client interested in being booked on shows that focused on corporate sustainability. The description, an eight-part audio documentary about how global trade has transformed the economy and ourselves, piqued my interest because I have never, in a life history that includes five years of postgraduate education in film and a year of work at a film nonprofit, heard such a dreadfully boring description.
Because of the head-slammingly bland iTunes write up, I didn’t pitch this podcast to our client. In fact, I only listened to prove that that the rumored rift between writers and salesmen is a fallacy. Four well-spent hours later, I can tell you definitively that the biggest problem with the show is that it serves as concrete evidence that your logline is just as important as your story. Containers is awesome.
Alexis Madrigal, deputy editor at Atlantic Magazine, takes us inside a shipyard, and inside the lives of the people who exist at the shipyard. In the show, we hear from:
- Philipino sailors who crew a freighter.
- Ship’s captains, from tugboats, all the way up to cargo ships.
- The rank and file of a green coffee warehouse.
- A west Oakland community activist who pushed through effective clean air legislation after being alarmed by youth asthma rates in her marginalized, dock adjacent community.
- The robotics firms sending those longshoremen to the unemployment office.
With references to, and audio from, Season Two of The Wire, Madrigal acknowledges that his podcast is not an audio version of McPhee’s Uncommon Carriers. However, the decision to focus on how shipyards transform people, instead of how they transform economies, was a good one.
Ultimately, Madrigal hits paydirt by weaving the lives of the people who control the earliest stages of our consumer good supply chain into a loosely intertwined net. His tight focus on the human element of the logistics and fulfillment industry gives us a MACRO view of how technological innovations have combined with supply-side economics to allow consumerism to spin out of control.
Beyond forcing you to ponder consumer economics on a massive scale, Madrigal’s voice is pleasant, his stories are engaging, the show is coherently edited, and beautifully mastered. Aside from the boring description, Containers is, on all accounts, a win.
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