Sunday, January 10, 2010

Very Special Podcast Recommendation Bulletin

As a change of pace I have decided that I shall share with you my recommendations in the order of podcast, which I spend equal time listening to as music. In fact unless I showering, sleeping or at work I am listening to something at all times. The feeling of being entertained or educated throughout all the days tasks is something rather comforting. However, my younger brother, the fool that he can be in such matters, doesn't spend time listening to podcast. To remedy this ghastly affliction as it may be present in others I am going to list my favorite podcast and links thereto. Many of these are NPR shows and all are found through the iTunes music store free of charge. Extremely roughly ranked:

1. Radiolab - This show is absolutely astonishing. Produced by WNYC, a NPR station in New York City. The premise of the show is that they cover something that seems so unreasonably large that it could not possibly have a show made about it such as numbers, sleep, mortality and space. The show is broadcast on some NPR stations across the United States and likely on the CBC as well, but to get them all podcast are the best way, plus there are shorts that are only released this way available. The show was created by Jad Abumrad and co-hosted by Robert Krulwich. The contrast between their philosophies and worldviews create for some great listening. Furthermore, Mr. Adumrad is fantastic with audio and the show is filled with sound effects that keep me enthralled and the information is genuinely entertaining and interesting. I can't even count how many conversations I have had based on a report or story from Radiolab.

2. Stuff You Should Know - This is found only in podcast form and is part of a batch of produced shows. Hosted by Josh Clark and Charles Bryant it is hilarious and informative. Be warned though if they cover a topic you're too familiar with (say your favorite hobby or field of study) they haven't the time to go into as much detail as you'd like which always leaves you wanting to write in asking why the skipped such and such. The banter and jokes between the co-hosts is truly the foundation of the show. These men have wonderful charisma in their discussion of any topic that even things you'd normally couldn't care less about will find their way onto your queue.

3. PRI's The World: from BBC/PRI/WGBH - Best international news show on the radio. What makes it even better are that there is a shit ton of podcasts that aren't aired on the radio that accompany it. These range in focus including history, language, economics, science and the most popular of all, technology. The main broadcast itself is still my favorite and despite the mostly distressing affairs that happen constantly throughout the world it always ends with a 'global hit' segment featuring music from all over the planet. Some of this music is good enough for me to seek out and download based on the short preview provided.

4. NPR's Planet Money Podcast - An economics podcast, which to those of you who are unconcerned about the field might be turned off by. I haven't the time or energy to explain to you why everyone requires a working knowledge of economics, but if you realize this is necessary this podcast is amazing. They break that shit down. Analysis of current economic trends and situations in a relatively brief podcast that one can enjoy on the way to work or class. Even though it is produced by a radio broadcaster it isn't played on air, but sometimes they appear on other shows.

5. The Classic Tales Podcast - Sometimes literature is what I'm looking for. This is a perfect conduit for a yearning for short stories, especially if you don't mind them being dated. All taken from public domain Classic Tales is a free podcast wherein the narrator B.J. Harrison reads selections from authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, E.M. Forester, and H.P. Lovecraft. Of course you'll have to sift through and find the ones that appeal to your particular tastes in authorship. However, the narration is superb regardless of the story.

6. Comedy Death-Ray Radio - This is a spin-off of the Comedy Death-Ray shows that are preformed in Los Angeles at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. The show was the idea of two former writers from Mr. Show, Scott Aukerman and B.J. Porter. The radio show is hosted by Mr. Aukerman and features comedians that do the regular show and/or his friends. It appears on Indie 103.1, which used to be a terrestrial station but now is solely on the internet. The dub themselves "alternative" comedy and one of the most common features is someone impersonating a celebrity or playing a character of their own design without stop for entire segments or entire broadcasts. Some of these are amazing and it might take a few minutes of listening for it to get really funny but hang in there. Only down side are the comedy song Mr. Aukerman insists on playing, which I'm sure gives them a necessary break for planning the next bit but the songs normally suck. Nice thing about a podcast is that they can be fast-forwarded through.

7. WireTap - Hailing from Canada's excellent CBC radio, WireTap is an offbeat comedy show. The show is arrange largely around conservations or self reflections of the host Jonathon Goldstein. These are commonly telephone conversations that the audience is intended to feel as if their listing in on, hence the show's title. These are embarrassing, awkward, revealing and most importantly humorous. The first section of the show is sometimes short stories or essays from various authors, nearly always outstanding. Mr. Goldstein's parents and friends as portrayed on the show are very amusing. Strange and unique, the show is kinda like A Paire Home Companion done by a nervous Canadian writer without folk music.

8. On Point with Tom Ashbrook - This show is how I keep in touch with the everyday life. It's produced by WBUR in Boston and distributed by NPR. It is really the only thing I listen to regularly that covers national news and current issues in the United States. I can't say I listen to every show, sometimes I just don't care about the topic. The allure of the show is twofold though, Tom Ashbrook's impeccable skill and a host and journalist as well as the best example of a call-in show on the radio. Most call-in shows like Talk of the Nation are frequently ill-managed as soon as calls start coming in, but Mr. Ashbrook keep it all in order spectacularly. More than just the callers the show has amazing guests, sometimes several at a time, on many topics. One of the better parts is the Friday re-occurring "Week in the News" that rounds up the recent headlines.

9. BBC World Service: Documentaries - I love me some documentaries. The BBC has the world's largest news gathering operation. The World Service as the international branch thereof, broadcasting in English 24 hours a day has time and resources to produce frequent and stunning documentaries. Interesting topics covered are crime (war, international, and localized), economics, politics, history, environmental concerns, etc. Naturally picking and choosing based on individual tastes is necessary. The amount of them and the diversity makes it very hard for me to imagine there isn't something for everyone.

10. Tech Stuff - Another podcast from but with a specific focus that the free-roving Stuff You Should Know lacks. Being digital music listeners and readers of blogs you are already fairly tech savvy, and I'm not computer programmer or even able to built my own PC from parts and I understand most all of what they say. I suppose if you're a rather intense tech enthusiast the show might come off a bit elementary, but to the average computer user it is excellent and entertaining. The hosts Chris Pollette and Jonathan Strickland make a good pair and their dichotomy propels the show. They do discuss a range like games, phones and operating systems which keeps the show from being repetitive. A feature shared by this and their co-workers' show Stuff You Should Know is the reading of listener mail. This fosters are nice community feel in both of the shows that is really fun.

1 comment:

  1. The podcast thread is interesting. If you're interested in comics at all check out:
    They have a weekly podcast & video show I frequent often. New comics have gotten too expensive, but I still like to keep up.

    I'm also a bit NPR fan, so like Terry Gross Fresh Air, and Science Friday, etc. Found on NPR's website.