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.

Speak!!!!