Sunday, September 18, 2011

Podcast Roundup!

Here is yet another look at some of the exciting podcasts I have recently discovered. As usual, all of the podcasts mentioned are available on iTunes:

APM's Dinner Party Download- The Dinner Party Download is the pinnacle of slick, hip, and urban American Public Media.  I, myself, am about as urban as they come.  I recall a recent dinner party where three of the other gentlemen were remarking on the trend of survivalism, which is to say people going into the wilderness with nothing but a mustache cup and a compass, and remarking that I think I would shrivel up and die after two days without my French Press coffee maker.

But I digress.  The Dinner Party Download claims to be a guide for people to "win" their next dinner party.  The format starts with an "icebreaker" (in other words, a joke), small talk (an offbeat or interesting news story from the preceding week which probably did not get the attention of most), cocktails (which takes a "This Date In History" event and applies a drink recipe to it), and a short interview with a famous person or something like that.  It ends with an eclectic song to listen to on the way to or on the way back from the party. 

My only issue with the podcast previously (I understand that it's très gauche to complain about free entertainment, so don't take this too seriously) was the length.  Having a long commute, there is a slight annoyance in listening to a podcast less than 20 minutes.  However, I am given to understand that they intend to expand the podcast to closer to an hour starting with the next installment.  So, this is a great time to jump onboard.

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg- My recent discovery of this program was like tapping into an ocean.  It has years of backlog and it is an intense experience.  One way I've described it is that it is to Stuff You Should Know what a steak dinner with mashed potatoes and asparagus is to a Payday candy bar (both will give you protein, but one is far more nourishing.)

In essence, Melvyn has assembled a panel of some of the smartest humans on the planet to talk about a subject.  They will talk about anything in the human experience.  They will talk about things like Abelard and Heloise or Sparta or rhetoric or happiness and what function it serves and so forth.  It really is like an autodidact graduate degree.  Along with that, you have to pay VERY close attention to what they are talking about because they do not slow down and the labyrinthine lines of conversation often lead away from the topic.  Bragg has a sort of genius for being able to discern when this has happened and shepherd the talk back to the question at hand. 

I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough.  I will spend a very long time catching up on it, but those who know me probably realize that I like the sensation of being hit by a tidal wave, not knowing where it shall take me. 

The White House audio-  Some may consider this sort of a cheat, but it has recently come to my attention that one of the most prolific podcasters on iTunes is President Obama.  The White House podcasts not only every speech given by the president (which is a daily occurance) but also every cultural event held at the White House (I recently downloaded a whole Blind Boys of Alabama concert from this source.) 

While having mixed feelings about our current president (as I've had for all previous presidents), so often I have found in life that one gets a fuller and more accurate picture of information by going to the source.  We get so much of our news from highly edited, often highly opinionated sources.  I like to hear the man speak for himself.

Also, I find the daily download painting a very different picture of my nation than the one so often presented me.  First of all, a ridiculous amount of the president's job is public speaking.  Second, in the midst of the soundbites about "passing this jobs bill," we miss the president decorating a soldier who showed tremendous courage in the course of duty.  I feel that this skewed focus robs me of some of my awareness of the beauty of America. 

Time simply does not permit me to listen to every speech that Mr. Obama makes, especially with Melvyn Bragg turning my head.  But I find this to be a valuable and informative resource, a glimpse into the inner workings of our government, and, I would add, yet another service of our government available for our use.

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