Friday, November 19, 2010

Podcast Roundup!

It's been years since I've assembled a post like this, but occasionally I like to write a post of podcasts I listen to, perhaps to effect the outcome of directing some reader toward something they would like but did not previously know existed.  And, as I so often find is the case with posts of lists, most of you will not read more than two sentences of the exposition before the list, so we may as well dive right in.

The Splendid Table: A podcast for epicureans.  Excellent food and drink resource, often with recipes, usually linking to the interactive website.  You will learn wonderful things about food with this podcast.

WGBH Classical Performances:  Simply put, WGBH brings highly talented classical musicians into their studio and records them playing a piece, often with a bit of exposition on the piece.  This is very often my "drive home" podcast.

Judge John Hodgman:  It may not surprise you to learn that I am not terribly interested in comedy in general.  However, two (arguably three) "comedy" podcasts have made it onto my list although this one is a bit of hybrid.  The podcast takes an argument, allows the two sides to present their case, and John Hodgman makes a decision that they half-jokingly agree to adhere to.  What strikes me is not only the brightness of the creators of the podcast, but the remarkable brightness of the "litigants" on the show.  Topic so far have included "Is chili a soup or stew?" "Are machine guns robots?" and "Does handsoap belong in a kitchen sink dispenser?"

Fresh Air: Which doesn't really need my publicity as it's already one of the most downloaded podcasts in the history of everything.  I don't always download this one because it is daily, but the quality of interviews on this show is beyond anything anyone else is doing.  Usually at least once a week they'll have a guest on an episode that I feel I absolutely need to download.  I don't think I've ever been disappointed either.

 Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!: This is NPR's weekly news quiz show.  It is a highly entertaining presentation of the week's news.  Very clever and I always come away a bit more informed.

Orland Evangelical Free Church:  Our church podcasts our pastor's weekly sermons.  Given my work schedule, I often listen to it in the car instead of in the pew.  The website seems to be down at the moment I'm writing this, but it is on iTunes as well.

Smiley and West:  This is a new one and one of my favorites.  Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West have a weekly radio show where they offer commentary on bits of the week's news, have a segment devoted to allowing a listener who disagrees with something they said to voice their point of view, and then a long interview segment with a public figure who doesn't necessarily have something to promote at the moment.

The Pod F. Tompkast: As I've said, I don't think of myself as a jokey guy and I usually can't stomach what passes for comedy these days.  Paul F. Tompkins, however, is close as I've found to my sense of humor in a contemporary comedian.  I think his podcast is excellent and surprisingly charming.  If you do check in on this one, it's newer and only has four monthly episodes so far.  But they are episodic, so you will probably want to start with #1.

This American Life: I think that This American Life is simply the best thing on the radio right now.  The stories they tell are always fantastic.

Radiolab:  Although Radiolab is a very close second.  They produce fewer episodes, but are of such great quality that one finds oneself listening to them many times over.  They take a big topic like Sleep or Time or Mortality or Stress or Animal Minds or Race or Cities (etc.) and devote an hour to exploring the meaning of the topic and, often, recent scientific breakthroughs in our understanding of them.

There you go.  Those are the podcasts I download and listen to.  I also often download lectures from iTunes U (currently working through a Yale course on John Milton) and audiobooks from Librivox which run the gamut from excellent to unlistenable.  But, needless to say, everything mentioned at this post are available to everyone with a computer absolutely free.

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