PODCASTS: Funny & Thinky Content Recommendations

MORE PODCASTS TO RECOMMEND!!! This time it’s all about funny stuff; thinky stuff; and stuff that’s both funny and thinky. Strap yourself in.

As before, the titles of the shows link to iTunes but put the names into Stitcher or whatever you use for podcasts and you’ll probably find them easily.

NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour is awesome and I’m not sure if it’s a radio-platform one as well or not. Things in the role of ‘pop culture’ are now mainstream, and it behooves us to stop poo-pooing Super Hero Movies as being ‘fluff'; especially as Kenneth Branagh directed Anthony Hopkins in one of them. They talk about music, movies, TV shows, books, comic books, and general popular culture topics such as why aren’t there more women in tech? or why aren’t there more ‘voices of colour’ on NPR? Thoughtful stuff and often surprisingly deep for someone who thinks very little of the potential for covering ‘pop culture.’ Give it a try.

CBC Radio’s “Under the Influence” [click to embiggen]

CBC Radio’s “Under the Influence” [click to embiggen]

CBC Radio One’s Under the Influence is all about the advertising world and its effect upon us as consumers, which is a bit of a closed-loop of us influencing it influencing us influencing it… Like ouroboros, really. I’ve loved this since it debuted as a summer replacement over a decade ago. It’s a look at marketing with societal geography and economics thrown together. It’s certainly not trying to train you how to be advertising person; but it could be said to be training you how to better understand what advertising is trying doing to do to you, and how to understand what you are doing to influence that.

Granted, not everyone loves the format…

Hey, to each their own, right?

It’s weekly, it should be wrapping up its season shortly, and has a bunch of supporting images and video on the CBC site supporting each episode as well.

NPR’s “Radiolab” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “Radiolab” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s Radiolab (from WNYC) is thinky and informative and entertaining. News-ish, but not ‘current events,’ if you see what I mean. In a way, they’re providing the background behind the news of a month or more ago. For instance, there was an episode explaining about the life and pillorying of ‘Patient Zero,’ “Typhoid” Mary Mallon [and here’s the iTunes-based podcast of that episode]. Most of it at the outset was about her, how typhoid spread, and how she was dealt with; but then the episode veers off to find Patient Zero (the first one to carry the disease, yet typically one who shows no symptoms) of our modern day plague: AIDS/HIV. Medicine, the humanities (including sociology, geographical economics, and philosophy), and social justice all in one. I’ve found some fascinating stuff in their programming, and you can probably find some as well. Even the episodes that don’t immediately call to you will turn out to be good, at least in my experience.

MaximumFun.org’s “Judge John Hodgman” [click to embiggen]

MaximumFun.org’s “Judge John Hodgman” [click to embiggen]

The Judge John Hodgman podcast featuring Judge John Hodgman (part of the Maximumfun.org group of shows) is best exemplified by the recent episode “The Puck Stops Here,” so start there if you’ve never heard this one before. There have been a few in the last month or so which aren’t all that typical, as they’ve been a live show, and a couple where they were dealing with eMail. The usual format is simple: people come before His Honor [sic] John Hodgman in order to have someone arbitrate a dispute with someone else. One case involved someone who wanted to turn a room in their house into a sort of shrine to the Disney film Frozen; another show involved a rule where one person wanted to insist guests remove their shoes upon entering their home. This may not strike you as ‘hilarious comedy material,’ but trust me, it is. Amid the humour and satire is some solid, useful advice for living life in a better, more compassionate way. Mostly it’s damned funny, and more than a little nerdy on regular basis.

I may very well have finally earned my smoking jacket.

Guaranteed to make you lean over your desk trying to hide the fact you’re snorting with uncontrolled glee. Subscribe to the weekly updates, grab some of the old ones when you’re looking for an hour of great stuff, and donate during the annual MaximumFun Drive if you feel so moved to support the on-going costs of this totally free podcast only programme (I’m dead broke, otherwise I totally would).

NPR’s “TED Radio Hour” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “TED Radio Hour” [click to embiggen]

Say what you will about the exclusivity of the TED Talks given to The Great and The Good; some of them are pretty cool, especially those which challenge common wisdom on a particular topic. NPR’s TED Radio Hour packages together bits of three or four, plus some one-on-one interviews with the lecturer, all with a common linking theme.

Due to the mainstream media, you’ve probably heard about the talks given by Famous People, but there’s also some really smart and entertaining talks given by mathematicians examining dating statistics, people who have shows about people working jobs you wouldn’t want to have, how drummers keep their rhythm patterns, and what scares us and possibly why. Really: there’s more context to the talks themselves than you might get from the videos, and this is a way to get a taste of what the TED Talks’ content is by way of a guiding hand.

Weekly, just under an hour, and worth trying it if you’ve only seen the lectures.

NPR’s “This American Life” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “This American Life” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s This American Life is a bit of an evergreen, or even gold standard of radio story telling / reporting. That the podcast of it is popular is dead obvious. They divide things into sections with one story or report in each section which they call an ‘act,’ and the allusion to theatre is apt, given the style they use. If you’ve listened to long-ish documentary reports on the news that have a somewhat editorial slant (ie: not actually documentaries), then this is what sort of thing you should expect. Real little slices of life, told by those in the middle of the story, all of them linked with a common-ish theme. An excellent podcast to start with if you have never heard a podcast-style show before.

NPR’s “How to Do Everything” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “How to Do Everything” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s How to Do Everything is funny, but always informative and sometimes a bit inspirational at the same time. ‘How to save a calf from a death by frostbite’ is just as likely a part of the content as ‘can I be part-man, part cheetah; no really, can I?’ The answer to the cheetah question is ‘yes, but it’s really neither ethical nor likely without tons of unsuccessful testing [cf. ‘ethical’ concern]. As for the calf: hot tub or Jacuzzi™.

If you want to, you can write into them and ask “how do I _____?” Someone wrote in and asked “why does my accidentally spilling cold water in the deep fryer help to loosen the scorched batter at the bottom?” which resulted in an interview with a woman who explained the physics involved in various liquids’ density and temperature’s influence on them (who then discussed her work consulting with the writers of Breaking Bad, which was fun). Weekly, always less than 30 minutes, typically about 15 or so. Funny but educational.

Warren Ellis’s “SpektrModule” [click to embiggen]

Warren Ellis’s “SpektrModule” [click to embiggen]

One of my personal favourites, Warren Ellis’ SpektrModule has been called “quiet music for sleepy people” by its creator, but officially describes itself as this:

This is an ambient / haunted music podcast curated by Warren Ellis, who is a writer from England

It used to be that his music recommendations tended to something akin to the sound made by someone using a circular saw on a sheet of corrugated metal, sitting in an empty cavern; whilst the Norse God Thor yodelled and smashed open large glaciers with both his forehead and Mjölnir; and a walrus made love enthusiastically with a moose [EG: Jumbling Towers’ 2008 album Classy Entertainment; which isn’t as bad as I recall it to be, now that I listen to it again]. These days, he’s more into ambient, soothing, ‘sleepy music’ in the style of Brian Eno in his experimental mode (Ambient I: Music for Airports; Discreet Music; Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks; Music for the White Cube; The Pearl, etc.). It gets released whenever Mr. Ellis feels like mixing one together, and typically runs just under an hour. You’re guaranteed to hear nothing you’ve ever hear of (unless you happen to live next door to him), and is great for putting on when you need to relax and focus on peace and serenity.


UPDATE: It would seem to be that there’s a point in mentioning The Great and The Good when promoting one’s blog posting. Behold.

His Honor John Hodgeman approves [click to embiggen]

His Honor John Hodgeman approves [click to embiggen]

Warren Ellis of 'Bloody England' promotes [click to embiggen]

Warren Ellis of ‘Bloody England’ promotes [click to embiggen]

So that’s quite heartwarming, actually! Thank you, gentlemen, both.

  

PODCASTS: More Recommendations

First, this post has nothing to do with CBC Radio One’s show On the Coast.

Except that sentence.

As with the earlier post recommending various podcasts, all the links for them take you to the iTunes releases, but if you plonk the titles of these shows into Stitcher or whatever you listen to podcasts on, you should be able to find them.

CBC News Network's "Power and Politics" [click to embiggen]

CBC News Network’s “Power and Politics” [click to embiggen]

Every weekday on CBC News Network, Power & Politics with Evan Solomon runs for two-hours including commercials. They don’t issue a video-format podcast of the show, but they do release an audio-only version. This is basically the single best way to be as up-to-date with national issues and Canadian politics. It’s also the single-best way to become infuriated with the horse-shit passing for standards of responsible behaviour on Capital Hill now.

Some of you may think the following is exaggerated, but I swear it’s more toned-down and simplified than reality:

Evan Solomon: Let me ask you this straightforward ‘yes or no’ question, which is clearly phrased and to the point.

Any Elected Person of Any Party or Appointed Ministry Official Spokesperson: Thank you for that question about a topic every single Canadian cares about, and which I will now completely ignore as I repeat all the stock phrases and policy statements that I’ve spent the last hour being coached on, most of which consist of saying what an idiot another party’s leader is, and how not one single candidate of theirs should ever hold public office due to reckless endangerment of the economy / public safety / federal purse-strings in general [choose one or more]. None of this has even the remotest connection to the matter you’ve just asked, but I wasn’t listening anyway.

Seriously, this is what we get in the halls on Parliament Hill. Over and over. Every single day. Without fail.

How about starting with ‘yes,’ or ‘no,’ and then explaining why? Is that so impossible?

Every single party is just as bad at directly answering, except for the Green Party’s Elisabeth May who seems to not only have an ability to listen but also respond appropriately to the interviewer. If there was ever a convincing reason for me giving that party my support, and for the citizens’ increasing feeling of cynicism and powerlessness with the electoral system, this is it.

My blood pressure probably increases twenty points every time I listen to this, but the discussions they have with the political analysts and reporters like Kady O’Malley are excellent. Hearing the interviews that make your blood boil will help to give the broader context of the analysis the panels give you.

CBC Radio's "As it Happens" [click to embiggen]

CBC Radio’s “As it Happens” [click to embiggen]

Every weekday on CBC Radio One, As it Happens runs. This show has been around for as long as I’ve listened to CBC radio, and hearing the late Barbara Frum interview people taught me much about how to think intelligently and look at the world’s events with an informed and inquisitive mind. Currently involving Carol Off (interviewing) and Jeff Douglas (announcing and occasional editorial rants), this provides national and international news by speaking to the people directly involved in the event, or at the very least able to offer details from the area.

Sometimes there’s science; sometimes issues specific to a particular province, or US state, or city; sometimes there’s interviews with people who stuff and mount mice in dioramas using themes from popular movie musicals. There are always puns, and it’s always excellent. The podcast includes all the material from the show, and is often available before it’s broadcast on the West Coast. I always hear it the next day, right after listening to Power & Politics.

CBC Radio's "The House" [click to embiggen]

CBC Radio’s “The House” [click to embiggen]

If you still need Canadian political news after a week of listening to people not answer questions, there’s CBC Radio One’s The House.

Hosted by Evan Solomon, you amazingly do not get a bunch of repeated material from Power & Politics, instead you hear fresh interviews with Ministers and others, plus analysis from intelligent people. All of them discuss the important issues of the last week and try to make sense of them in a meaningful way. That’s not always entirely possible, but they give it their best. Good as a supplement to Power & Politics, or as a fifty minute replacement of it if you’re not all that addicted to knowing how Her Majesty‘s federal, bicameral, legislative branch of Canada works.

CBC's "The National" ~ At Issue [click to embiggen]

CBC’s “The National” ~ At Issue [click to embiggen]

A weekly analysis of national issues can be found through the “At Issue” section of Thursday evening’s The National on CBC Television. They issue it in a video format, but the link I’ve provided takes you to the audio-only version. Typically it’s about fifteen minutes or so, and involves one (sometimes two or three) topics of import from that week’s political news and looks at what it means and what sort of effect it may have in the week to come. The discussion is always measured, intelligent, and informed. You may not always agree with particular commentators, but their points are always well-thought.

CBC Radio's "The 180" [click to embiggen]

CBC Radio’s “The 180″ [click to embiggen]

Once a week, CBC Radio One’s The 180 looks at people who have done an about-face on an issue and taken a stand that either seems surprising for them or anyone. Sometimes the topics have two people on either sides of the issue, but more than not you get a topic being looked into across a couple of episodes, sometimes due to listener’s comments or reaction to an interview the week before. If the ideas of what if economists started a political party or shooting wild animals is entirely defensible or if basic food is tax exempt we shouldn’t tax tampons piqué your interest, then this is a show to listen to once a week for just under an hour.

Bugle, The ~ The Bugle (an Audio Newspaper for a Visual World) [click to embiggen]

Bugle, The ~ The Bugle (an Audio Newspaper for a Visual World) [click to embiggen]

Fridays, the brains behind the web-site TheBuglePodcast.com release a podcast called The Bugle.

Quite how they made the decision to do it that way, I don’t know, as it seems more than a little confusing, but… well, they’re English, so it probably makes sense in the let’s mess with the Colonials’ minds sort of way they are wont to do.

Typically, the half-hour is made-up of American, UK, and international news items, but focuses on one topic in detail for a majority of the show. Occasionally there are references to “footie” and cricket, as the hosts are both British: comedians Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver.

Funny. Very very funny. Also occasionally rude.

Due to Zaltzman living in London, England and Oliver in New York City, there have been occasional shows which may have been recorded when one of them has had a couple of drinks, what with the time differences and all (late at night New York is quite early in the morning in London, you see). There have been at least two episodes where Zaltzman was in the Antipodes, Oliver was in NYC, and their technician co-coordinating the recording was in London; thus creating truly trans-global, dual-hemisphere, intercontinental satire spanning the earth’s day. The sun never sets on The Bugle‘s mighty hosts, it seems [the pointless use of technology which was seemingly improbable only a generation ago simply to make dick jokes has been commented upon by the hosts, so keep that in mind].

NPR's "Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!" [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” [click to embiggen]

An additional show I’ll simply mention in passing is Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, a marvellous quiz-style look at the week’s news in the USA. If you’ve ever heard “Quinn’s Quiz” on a Thursday episode of On the Coast, then much of this will be comfortably familiar. It runs under an hour, and always has some Great Person interviewed and who participates in one of the quizzes. Get this now, you’ll thank me later.

Oh, damn. I mentioned On the Coast again. Sorry.

  
Book: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis [W.W. Norton & Company, February 2011; ISBN 9780393078190]

Podcasts from On the Coast Tease More than Satisfy

I don’t think so much of myself that a comment such as here’s what I want to have on this blog has the least bit of influence over anything the Great and the Good do in this — or, indeed any — city. I have mentioned ad naseum my taking to listening to podcasts whilst working, and my yearning for hearing the CBC RADIO one programme On the Coast with Stephen Quinn. They have the occasional podcast show-up in the iTunes feed, but they could stand some improvement.

In this post here, I mentioned that their supply was too infrequent for my desires; and their content might be declared ‘piffle,’ in that they were very heavily lifestyle stories. Actual ‘news’ wasn’t there at all. That’s odd, as the show does a fair bit to cover topics of up-to-the-minute interest of the citizens of ‘Metro Vancouver’ (as the marketing boffins like to call the Greater Vancouver region).

What I bemoan is the lack of supplying content such as this:

Christy Clark: 4 Years as the B.C. Liberal Party Leader
http://www.cbc.ca/1.2974828

See, that is some righteous content! You get Charlie Smith, editor of The Georgia Straight; Alise Mills, former B.C. Liberal Party strategist, issues management and political consultant; and Bill Tieleman, former NDP strategist, columnist with 24 Hours and the Tyee; all discussing the specifics of the province’s fortunes, or lack thereof, under the leadership of our current Premier for the past four years. Budget, labour relations, leadership skills, mistakes made, ‘family first’ policies, and whether the citizenry has taken to her or not; all are covered. This is the sort of useful material any thinking person wants to hear and contemplate when they have fifteen minutes and forty-five seconds to spend intelligently. Whither the province?

That is the sort of thing that should be shoved at us in a podcast.

Sadly, that is something that’s not shoved at us in a podcast.

The CBC web-site is the only place to find that, possibly as a way of getting people to see those adverts that we’re all blocking using AdBlock Plus in our browsers. Here’s what we get instead:

On the Coast podcast feed [iTunes]

On the Coast podcast feed [iTunes]

Great! They’ve finally got a clue and are up-dating every day or so with decent content! Hey, maybe the story about ‘Alcohol Concerns’ could be great! You are forgiven to think this to yourself. You are entirely normal to even overlook the fact that “Supervised Safe Injection Expansion” piece is only 29 seconds long, as the recent ruling by the… wait, what?

Yes, that’s right, those bottom two are only just long enough to let you hear the network promo to sign-up for eMailed newsletters for your favourite shows — a technique to inform people which, technologically speaking, went out with buggies and button-shoes — and then the file is done. Indeed, the nine minute file for “Alcohol Concerns” does exactly the same thing, and the measurement is misleading.

Wednesday, the following was posted by the host of the show:

Huzzah! Finally the guy who has the portfolio that includes transit, highways, ferries, and a plethora of stuff that people all froth at the mouth about, is actually going to be interviewed; something which is all too rare. This should be great! After all, he’s also the brains behind the policy I ranted about in this tweet:

If that interview with Minister Todd Stone makes it into a podcast, and one that I can actually play, I’ll be stunned. In the meantime, here’s a link to the entire episode lasting two hours, twenty-six minutes, and thirteen seconds. Chances are Minister Stone is somewhere in there around the one hour mark. There’s no easy way to fast-forward through the show to where you want (although you can grab the little circle and slide it over a bunch, but it’ll take an epoch to buffer).

I’m going to buy a cheap radio. London Drugs, you can thank the daft people responsible for CBC podcasts for some of your inventory moving.

  
Mood: irritated
Music: Glenn Gould (1955 Performance & Zenph Re-Performance), Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations [yes, I recognize that brands me as a stuck-up sticky-beak; fuck off]
Book: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis [W.W. Norton & Company, February 2011; ISBN 9780393078190]

More Podcasts with More Content from On the Coast, please!

According to NPR, this is the year of the podcast. Here are a couple of paragraphs from a Washingtonian article by Andrew Beaujon:

Last month, for example, WBUR General Manager Charles Kravetz told ‘New York Times’ reporter David Carr public radio’s audience growth is “off slightly, probably in part because people are listening to on-demand programming on podcasts.” In other words, there’s no guarantee a listener will switch on their local NPR affiliate station after an episode of ‘Serial’ or the ‘TED Radio Hour’ finishes on their iPhone.

“I think what we’re learning in public radio is there’s mutual interdependence,” he says. The ‘TED Radio Hour’ has a larger digital audience than it does on terrestrial radio, and wouldn’t be sustainable if it were “just supporting itself off its radio underwriting revenue.” Listeners attracted to the deeper storytelling they encounter on flagship podcasts like ‘TED‘ may lead them to the network’s news products, Nuzum says.

So… what’s the public broadcaster CBC doing about that? After all, they’re dealing with the same concerns about  getting people to tune in and/or engage with the programmes as NPR is. Plus CBC has recently stated they’re promoting the web as a delivery platform for programming, with audio podcasts a perfectly obvious fit.

”On the Coast” from CBC Radio Vancouver

”On the Coast” from CBC Radio Vancouver

As discussed a few weeks ago, I’m listening to an array of podcasts at work instead of CBC’s On the Coast with Stephen Quinn. As much as I’d like to, I can’t afford to listen to the show as it broadcasts via the CBC Radio app, as my mobile data plan wouldn’t support the stream’s requirements.

Thus, I’ve been making do with the podcast version of On the Coast, but I’ve found it very lacking: it updates about once every fortnight, and only delivers one article of marginal interest lasting eight minutes.

What we get now is one short item of seemingly little importance, or at the very least is of the well, that was interesting to hear about, but it hasn’t informed me much variety. The past five episodes have been as follows:

  1. Lang Lang PuSh Festival show explores piano ownership and worship in China
    An unusual show at the PuSh Festival on Thursday night takes a close look at China’s most famous pianist, Lang Lang, and his influence on Chinese culture.
    7 minutes — February 8th, 2015
  2. PuSH Festival Dance gets local non-professionals learning moves
    Montreal choreographer Sylvain Emard uses amateur Vancouver dancers for his community dance project, Le Grand Continental.
    7 minutes — January 22nd, 2015
  3. More people trying poi for a mental and physical challenge
    An ancient traditional Maori dance that became a popular performance art at music festivals, is now becoming popular for people looking for a fun and challenging activity. You can now learn how to play poi in Vancouver.
    7 minutes — January 18th, 2015
  4. Farmed fish, cauliflower top food trends for 2015
    If you like cauliflower you’re in luck – the brassica will likely be heavily featured on menus this year, along with Israeli food, farmed salmon and lots of other vegetables. On the Coast food columnist Anya Levykh explains.
    8 minutes — January 5th, 2015
  5. Community helps family after fire
    The Edwards-Cyrus family gets a huge hand and big donations from the community, in time for Christmas.
    7 minutes — December 11th, 2014

Having the collected journalistic talents and story-telling skills of the team responsible for three hours of broadcasting each and every weekday distilled into 36 minutes of podcasts with only one segment being of anything but ‘lifestyle content’ is deplorable. Given it covers just short of two full months of broadcasting, the matter is deplorable. Whoever is responsible for selecting these pieces is either choosing things by what is of the least contentious nature (IE: ‘safest’ or ‘won’t potentially get anyone sending us eMail about the content’), or they’re determined to ensure no one bothers to remain subscribed to the feed due to its spotty frequency of output and lack of worthwhile, thought provoking, informative content. No matter what the guiding approach is, it’s certainly far from representative of the programme’s content.

This is very disappointing, as I miss hearing local stories about politics and current events in my city. At the very least what I would like to hear is one newsy item or a compilation of several reports & interviews on the same subject of major importance to the local citizenry each week. Frankly, I would really love to hear one every single day, as surely there’s one interview or item on each show that is either the most important or the topic of the most interest to people from that day’s broadcast? How tough would it be to ‘tear out’ one section from the broadcast and shove it at the CBC servers for dissemination to the masses before leaving at the end of each day?

Quite justifiably, reaction to my views above would be shut your pie-hole and buy a little radio for $20 at London Drugs, whiny boy! Sure, I could do that, you bet.

But here’s the thing that confuses me the most.

Someone is being paid to decide what goes into the podcast every so often. They should be paid, don’t misunderstand me. Plus someone should be controlling what goes into the podcast if they’re going to do it at all.

However, if they’re going to decide what will go into the podcast, as well as when it will be made available, shouldn’t it be useful and actually interesting material? You know: if you’re going to do something at all, isn’t wisest to ensure it is the best that it can be, rather than just some uninformative, place-holder, homogeneously neutral content; the audio equivalent of Lorem Ipsum? Apologies to those responsible for the pieces cited above; you know you’ve done better work than this, however.

Doing something in a half-hearted manner is not better than doing nothing at all.

I know the local CBC personnel can do better and I urge them — or those who decide these things — to strive for the excellence which is within their grasp, and that they are rightly recognized the world over for achieving.

NEXT POST: there are a dozen more podcasts I can recommend, and will.

  
Mood: uninformed and unsatisfied
Music: Nick Drake's Pink Moon (25 February 1972, Island Records)

Why I’m Not Listening to On the Coast Anymore

”On the Coast” from CBC Radio Vancouver

“On the Coast” from CBC Radio Vancouver

First off, I actually am listening to CBC Vancouver’s On the Coast, just not on the radio. I’m listening to it via their podcast [see image], because listening to them at the job would require either an actual radio, or an ‘all you can eat’ data plan for my mobile phone that I cannot afford; and I don’t get home until 5:45 pm at the earliest. So, it’s their podcast that means once a week or so I get to hear about ten minutes of their show and that’s all. As a result, I make do with listening to oodles of podcasts loaded on my iPhone. Sorry about the click bait.

The noise cancelling headphones I used to use have suddenly developed a super-crackley loose connection that makes me willing to gouge out my ear canals instead of using them (so I wisely have set them aside until they get replaced). Previously I had been listening to music (and “live tweeting” as I worked my way through the careers of people like David Bowie and The Beatles, including information relevant to the albums), but the headphones I’m using now are Apple’s earPods and aren’t all that great for music so I’m going with the simpler sound demands of the human voice: podcasts.

A bunch of them I think enough of to actually babble about here, and if you’ve not heard of Any of them I recommend you check them out for yourself.

“Serial” from NPR

“Serial” from NPR

The first, Serial, was the buzz of the entire world¹ at the end of last year. It was/is about the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and the subsequent trials of Adnan Syed who was found guilty by the second jury to consider the matter, the 1st time the matter ended in a mistrial. He claims to be innocent not merely because it didn’t happen the way it is claimed to have, but it didn’t happen at all. Everyone’s got their idea in reaction to the details of the case, including me² [SPOILER ALERT: reading the footnote will reveal a fair few things and/or ruin your own unadulterated opinion of the case if you have not heard all twelve of the episodes], but the real fascinating part is the minutiae of the case being gone through at the time of the original investigation as well as hearing so many versions of the same story from so few people. Additionally, should the wheels of justice spin equally, no matter the end result, or not, and who really knows what ever happened ever? Do you know exactly what you did six weeks ago today (seriously, try to remember right now and try to avoid saying something like well, I probably was _______, but it was a normal day so I don’t really recall if you think you can). Intelligent crime reporting that isn’t really Crime Reporting. They’re coming back with a new season sometime this year, with a whole new story which hasn’t been revealed. Great stuff.

“Invisibilia” from NPR

“Invisibilia” from NPR

Next, Invisibilia, is the one everyone’s buzzing about now³, from the people who formative in creating This American Life and Radiolab. It’s ‘science without the science,’ or ‘science that focuses on the sociological impact of things you don’t think have any. It’s not your high school physics class, nor is it a watered down version of the latest findings of cool technical research; it’s about how scientific things have no… um… it tells you about things you’ve never noticed before that have no… It’s… oh for pity’s sake; JUST LISTEN TO IT AND IMPROVE YOURSELF, ALREADY, OKAY?!

“The Invisible Hand” from CBC Radio

“The Invisible Hand” from CBC Radio

Then there’s one from several years ago called The Invisible Hand, (which is sadly no longer available). Having listened to it at least twice now since it originally aired, then having heard a bunch of episodes of NPR’s Planet Money, I really do not understand why The Invisible Hand wasn’t renewed. I know it got a shit-load of criticism of the “how dare you shove economics at me, you bunch of Capitalistic Pig-Swine!” variety, but that sort of narrow-minded, knee-jerk, low-rent, ‘protect me from questioning anything I already think is right or wrong’ reactionism is exactly what’s wrong with the world today.

“Planet Money” from NPR

“Planet Money” from NPR

Frankly, if people want something to be irate about, NPR’s Planet Money should cause a good number of seizures: they’re investing money on the New York Stock Market right now, and they’re actually investing on the basis the stock market will go down! They’re betting that America will fail! They’re not making any money with this strategy, obviously, they’re illustrating how ‘sorting shorting a stock’ works in practice. However, imagine a CBC programme trying anything close to this as a way of explaining how stuff works: people would shit themselves! Personally, I love the fact the people at the show are doing it, as it totally clarifies things, and the notion of getting people to understand how that there Economy stuff works is exactly what this show does and the CBC’s 12-week summer experiment actually did. For some unfathomable reason, we’re happy to let the ‘experts‘ do it for us instead, which strikes me as being damned dangerous.

I wish The Invisible Hand had continued, as I really enjoy where they were going philosophically: questioning pre-conceived notions of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ about the economy–even challenging what the economy is for that matter–is both an intelligent and interesting way into any topic, especially this one. The fact it was able to do so without shoving ‘egg-heads’ at the listener made it all the more appealing to me. The economy doesn’t need to be as complicated as it is made out to be, unless you’re dealing with the really big stuff that the Governor of the Bank of Canada explains to people (with the hopes that some experts actually understand what he’s said, with the usual result of ‘no, no they didn’t‘).

There’s a bunch more podcasts I am listening to, but those will do as recommendations for now.

 


  1. …if your world is full of white liberal people and is limited to North America.
  2. First off, Adnan did it. Maybe it was an accident, maybe not, who knows. The State Prosecutor’s case shouldn’t have seen the light of day, never mind the Jury in the courtroom, it’s so much of a joke; there are holes you could drive several buildings through. The right guy was found guilty, just not at all in the right way. The real mystery here is this: there’s way more that happened that day which probably involved Jay, more than likely all of this un-known stuff took place sometime between 1:30 and 8:00pm when the cell phone seems to have moved all over Hell’s half-acre, and neither Adnan nor Jay are talking about it. I predict revelations about this eventually, but everyone in society will have forgotten by that time and no longer care.
  3. op. cit.