Monday, January 6, 2014

Recommended Podcasts

Yesterday's blog post was made at the end of a long day driving through rain, which is the most exhausting way to drive. I'm surprised I managed to write anything even marginally coherent.

That said, while I mentioned that listening to podcasts as a good way to stay alert while driving, I completely failed to mention which ones I tend to listen to. So, here are my favorite podcasts to listen to while driving:

  • This American Life: Without a doubt the most consistently engaging podcast I listen to. It's the only podcast I listen to outside of my car. I've even taken to imitating much of the format for the Fangamer Podcast. It's at times educational, hilarious, frightening, and heart-rending, and it's all of those things because it's a show about people, and people are all of those things. Just today I heard the story of a reporter who watched a couple of policemen harass a black man riding a bike down the street with a white kid in New York at around midnight, another story about guys who go to great lengths to mess with Nigerian email scammers, and another story about a man who implemented a (so far successful) plan to help children in Harlem escape poverty by educating not only the children but the parents as well. The episodes are almost always so timeless that you can start listening with almost any episode, new or old. If you need a place to begin, though, Episode #361 "Fear of Sleep" is definitely a good one.
  • WTF with Marc Maron: This is Marc Maron's show, in which he brings on one person or another (usually a stand up comic, actor, or musician) and chats with them for an hour and a half. If you're not familiar with Marc, he's a stand up comedian. Watch his special on Netflix. At first I found the intro segments (which are recorded some time after the core interview) somewhat off-putting, since it usually involves Marc briefly mentioning his guest, plugging his sponsors, and complaining about/coming to terms with his life. However, as  get to know him more through the interviews and introductions, I find myself enjoying these parts as well or, at least, taking an interest in Marc's well-being. The interviews, on the other hand, are always engaging, even if I'm unfamiliar with the guest's work. If you're going to start listening, I'd recommend looking through the episodes for an interview with someone you recognize (and you will find someone you recognize) and giving the show a shot.
  • Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me: This "NPR new quiz" show is fairly consistently funny and somewhat educational, if you consider the news educational. More importantly, though, it's engaging in a way that most other podcasts aren't: it's participatory. Kind of. It's kind of exciting to know the answer to a question or to try and puzzle out which story is true in the Bluff the Listener game. (By the way, I recently listened to an episode in which Paula Poundstone was telling the truth in the Bluff the Listener game! Weird!) The show is incredibly dorky, and that's one of the reasons I like it. For best results, stick to recent episodes, since the show is completely tied to recent events.
  • Fresh Air: Another NPR program, though I'm much more choosy about which stories I download for this one. On iTunes you can expect multiple "episodes" each day, ranging from just a few minutes in length to nearly an hour long. It's too much to keep up with, so I only download long interviews that interest me.
  • Radio Lab: For entertaining education. I still haven't listened to many of these podcasts, though. They don't seem to update with any real regularity. The ones I've listened to have been intriguing, though.
  • News From Lake Wobegon: First, I just wish you could download the entirety of A Prairie Home Companion. I enjoy the hell out of that show, but I can almost never catch the whole thing. In fact, I don't think I've caught an entire show since I was a security guard several years ago. Anyway, in this ~15 minute podcast Garrison Keillor gives you his weekly update on what's been going on in "his hometown," Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. As it turns out, there's just something fascinating and charming about the lives of seemingly regular folk in a small, mid-western town.
That's basically all of the podcasts I listen to. This variety (mostly from public radio) has been more than enough to keep me occupied ever since my very first big road trip, back in 2008. Other podcasts have come and gone, and some of these in my current list are fairly new. However, I think these will be plenty for me for a while.

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