Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Podcast Roundup

I have a long, daily commute, so I work on getting as many regular podcasts as possible.  Occasionally I list the latest finds and post them here in case someone out there might like them too.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour- This is quite simply one of the best podcasts available right now.  No matter what other podcast uploads, if there is a new TAH, I bump it to the top of my playlist.  They are recorded live and they are shows in the style of old timey radio shows.  They are hilarious, but they are also incredibly well written.  Some of the best are Sparks Nevada, which mashes up westerns and space, and Beyond Belief, which is about a society page couple who have adventures in the paranormal.  I cannot recommend this show highly enough.  It is hilarious and gloriously clever.

Stuff You Should Know- I am really late to this party.  They've been doing this podcast for years and I've only just now discovered it.  Which provides me with a trove of 300 some past episodes to listen to!  This is a show where two guys explain a subject for laypeople.  The topics tend toward the sort of idle questions that impress people if you have an answer ready at hand (some recents: do you stay conscious after decapitation? What is parkour? What is molecular gastronomy? How do people get drawn into cults?)  I am regularly surprised by how often the information covered in their podcasts come up in the course of my daily life.  Truly no knowledge is useless.  It is also a bit on the informal side which aids in digestion and, ideally, inspires more in-depth exploration on the information raised.

And then I learned that there is a whole Stuff You Should Know world of podcasts.  One of the better, along with the original, is Stuff To Blow Your Mind.  The distinction seems to be more of an exclusively science focused podcast.  There is also Stuff You Missed in History which I like, but they tend to be short.  I avoid short podcasts on my commute because it requires pushing buttons while driving.  25-60 minutes are what I look for.  There is also Stuff Your Mom Never Told You which I have next on my queue and Tech Stuff.  There may be others.

Motley Fool Money-  This podcast is four guys, one imagines sitting around a table, speaking excitedly about a topic.  One sees this format of show with sports or politics.  In this case, it is the week's business news and the state of specific stocks.  They have a section in the middle in which they interview someone, usually someone with a book coming out.  The Achilles Heel of this podcast is a very short shelf life (it comes out Friday and, I would imagine, is dated by 8:05 am Monday morning), so I listen to it as soon as it comes out.  I would also add that while they are not purposely difficult in their terminology, they don't tend to slow down to explain concepts so one is called upon to keep in mentally.  The effect is a bit like a morning jog.  They are transparent enough to tell you up front that people on the show may have a vested interest in some of the stocks mentioned.  But really, aside from publicly funded news sources that don't rely on advertisers, that is no different from any other news source save for the honesty.

NPR's Planet Money-  Another business news podcast which does take some pains to put the cookies on a lower shelf and, for example, explain the IMF in terms that someone who has only just heard of such a thing can understand.  I want to emphasize my conviction that this is something sorely needed in modern journalism.  So often I meet, for example, someone who claims to hate the Federal Reserve because their favorite television or radio entertainment show told them to, but then gets spotty when pressed to explain exactly what the Federal Reserve actually does.  However, I would hasten to add that this podcast is not simply a sixth-grade economics refresher course.  It very much attempts to explain the current global business climate and, albeit very conservatively, to forecast a bit.


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