Friday, December 31, 2010

9 Podcasts well worth your time (or at least mine)

So, this year I really started to become super interested in listening to good podcasts.  I am a Ranger and so I spend a lot of time by myself, driving and hiking and boating and whatnot and I get lonely and need some type of human companionship. So, instead of creating little people out of rocks and sticks and making clothing for them from dried up leaves and designer mushroom shoes, I listened to music.  Even that wasn't enough and eventually I needed some other type of human contact than getting yelled at by the Indian woman behind the counter at the gas station for using the bathroom without buying anything in the store.  So, I decided to give in and listen to podcasts. 

I had been resistant to listen to podcasts, that was obviously what hipster ipod owners did.  I was much cooler with my Sony Walkman mp3 player (which are no longer in peace sony walkman), and I was intimidated by such tight pants and utter and total disregard for almost all things, so like many other people I decided I was too good for podcasts.

Finally, after making friends with a squirrel that I later saw get hit by a car the next day, I decided I needed some type of interaction and since I wasn't getting a partner any time soon (we rangers work solo, the whole "lone ranger" thing, you know?) and I didn't really want to look for a new job.  So, the interactions I chose?  Podcasts and audiobooks.  People telling me about other people.  So, lots of interactions, right?  I wouldn't need my dead squirrel buddy or highly classy mushroom shod minions to keep me company anymore as I patrolled the long days and afternoons of the mighty watershed.

Now, there are a lot of really boring podcasts out there.  Or maybe they are interesting and I'm just not smart enough to enjoy them, or maybe I don't have the attention span, I don't know.  Either way?  Boring.  With a capital B.  Here's my list of podcasts I really enjoyed this year and I think you should give a try.  Because they are awesome.  And, just so you know, these are in no particular order, they just are. 

1.  RadioLab
Radiolab is a science and philosophy based podcast on NPR (don't get scared by NPR, this is good stuff!) hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.  Early episodes of the show were hosted only by Jad and you can definitely tell that Robert really has some excellent chemistry with Jad and was an incredibly positive addition to the show.  It's hard to describe what makes radiolab the most interesting and cool podcast ever, much less the most interesting and cool science podcast.  I know, you say, I don't want to listen to a science based podcast, that's for nerds and it will be Boring with a capital B. 

It's not. Wikipedia says this about Radiolab:
Each hour-long episode, through stories, interviews, and thought experiments usually deals with a specific topic and investigates it from several different angles. Utilizing sound design (not a common practice in modern radio programming), rapid dialog edits and sound effects are used to build a soundscape constructing an expository conversation, and usually feature brief, seemingly unscripted tangents.
If you've never listened to Radiolab it really is hard something that will convince you exactly why you should.  It's captivating and intriguing and often times moving.  Mixed with music and sound effects it really brings the topics to life and causes you to really feel included and involved in the program. 

2.  The Bugle
The bugle is a cross Atlantic comedy referred to in show as an "audio newspaper for a visual world" show featuring John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman, two British comedians, one in America (usually working on the Daily Show with John Stuwart) and the other in London.  The podcasts are formulaic in nature and follow the flow as if you were reading a newspaper.  Most often the topics include current relevent news that has been going on during the prior week. 

They are funny and fast paced, often have inside jokes that are not so obscure that after just a few podcasts you won't also think they are funny, and somehow make listening to the news an entertaining event. 

3.  Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
Wait wait don't tell me is an hour long quiz show on NPR which often features comedians and celebrities as players and encourages listeners to call in and participate.  Generally the loosely run quiz show questions are based on current events and the game is played for points earned by the celebrity guest stars, referred to as "panelists" with the help of the listeners.  With iconic NPR voices such as Carl Castle and Peter Sagal the show is often upbeat and quirky clever. This is yet another great way to actually listen to the news and learn things without feeling that you are listening to the news and learning things.  Some of the more frequently used panelists are Mo Rocca, Paula Poundstone, Amy Dickenson and P.J. O'Rourke. 

4.  Stuff Mom Never Told You
Now, wait, if you have a penis you don't have to skip over this one just because the topic is mostly women oriented.  This podcast from  investigates all things female and maybe you could learn a thing or two?  Either way, this podcast varies in length of time but often runs about 20 minutes or so and features Molly and Cristin who will lead you into a whole world of questions about stuff that your mother probably never told you.  This podcast does talk a lot about sex and periods and women's beauty products but is also known ask and answer questions about a variety of topics including the impacts of female superheros on little girls, feet binding, why bad boys are so appealing and whether or not men can go through menopause. 

5.  Stuff You Missed in History Class
I think you will notice a trend with these few podcasts in the middle.  SYMHC podcast is another podcast from and though I already mentioned one podcast from this website, this website is a powerhouse of super interesting podcasts.  Normally I'm not super interested in history but some how these ladies at this podcast find some of the most interesting historical topics out there and tell them in a way that would shame most high school history teachers (no offense intended).  Featuring topics such as 'who was the real Sherlock Holmes' and 'a Jewish pirate's life for me' I guarantee there will be something there to keep you captivated and interested.

6.  Stuff You Should Know
 Yet another podcast, what can I say, they know what they are doing there when it comes to interesting podcasts.  Pretty much this podcast tells you, well, stuff you should know.  From how castles were built to how Hanukkah is celebrated these guys talk about all the stuff you need to know but never thought you needed to know.  

7.  Snap Judgement
Snap Judgment is just like radiolab but with less science and more real life stories from people.  But with the music and the sound effects and stuff.  I really just found this one yesterday but I've listened to about four of them so far and I'm in love with this podcast.  Seriously.  It's kind of like This American Life but not so long on just one story, there are usually four or five stories in any one hour episode. The episodes are topic oriented just like RadioLab, too.  The episode themes range from the serious and moving, such as harm to self and death to light-hearted and seemingly mundane like Libraries but all episodes end up being engaging and entertaining.

8.  Film Sack
Film Sack is like hanging out with your friends and talking about movies that maybe aren't the greatest but are fun to watch, especially with a group of people.  From Xardox to Waterworld this show always picks movies that are available on instant watch so anyone who would like to watch the movie before they listen to the podcast is able to do so.  Then a panal of four guys sits around and pretty much just talk about the movies, they make twitter post recaps of the movies, they have the filmsack checklist which contains such items as boobies, black guy dies first, kids named billy, bobby or tommy and more.  The show is pretty formulaic which I think is a good thing, it keeps the show on track and structured unlike some other movie podcasts I've listened to which, without structure, ends up just being a rant on a film that ends up losing my attention.

9.  Comedy Death Ray Radio
I also recently found this show.  It's an hour long comedy show that often guest hosts comedians such as Aziz Ansari (from Human Giant and Parks and Recreation) and Thomas Lennon (Lt. Dangle from Reno 911).  This show doesn't have much of a format that I can tell, it's mostly just the host Scott Aukeman and his guest stars hanging out.  It's pretty funny and random and always good for a laugh or two. 

Well, that's my list.  Hopefully I've successfully conveyed what I like about these podcasts and what makes them worthwhile to check out.  I'm not saying you'll like every one of these podcasts but there's probably a good chance you'll like at least one of them, right?  Right. 

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