Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On Podcasts

Back in August I finally got with it and bought an iPod Touch (my first eh, portable music player since I got a "walkman" when I was in about third grade). Since I generally don't listen to all that much music while I'm walking/traveling/&c. I just hadn't seen any particular need for such a thing, but after playing around with the iPod Touch and seeing all the different things it could do (including the very useful wifi capability) I decided to take the plunge. I figured I'd probably use it more for podcasts than for music, and I've found that to be the case: I put out the word on Twitter and asked folks to recommend their favorites, and started listening.

I've been surprised at how much I enjoy these. I'm not entirely caught up on them (I don't often have spare hours when I can just sit and listen, and I don't travel all that much) but I listen when I can, and I've been impressed at the high quality and value of these. Good stuff!

Here's an annotated list of what I ended up with, organized roughly by type:


- "A Prairie Home Companion" - Garrison Keillor's always-amusing "News from Lake Wobegon" segment from his weekly show.

- "Car Talk" - I don't know anything about cars, but I absolutely love this weekly call-in car repair show. Good puzzler, too.

- "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" NPR's weekly and must-listen humorous take on the news. One of my favorite things to listen to.


- "Bill Moyers Journal" - a podcast version of Moyers' weekly television show, which usually is fascinating. Recent segments I've enjoyed include Rory Stewart on the state of things in Afghanistan and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the new president of Dartmouth, on public health policy.

- "The Economist" - short periodic segments by reporters and editors from The Economist. My favorite of these is "The Week Ahead," in which reporters look ahead to upcoming events (of the sort that aren't usually covered on the network news).

- "New Yorker Political Scene" - a short weekly discussion with New Yorker editors and reporters on the political climate of the week. Fairly formal.

- "Slate's Political Gabfest" - Slate writers John Dickerson, Emily Bazelon and David Plotz discuss the week's political happenings. Informal, and very funny.

- "On Point with Tom Ashbrook" - WBUR's daily news/panel/call-in show. This one is uneven; it can be very good, depending on the topic, but sometimes I don't end up listening if I don't think I'll be interested.

- "On the Media" - NPR's weekly examination of media coverage.


- "In Our Time" - a weekly show with BBC4's Melvyn Bragg, in which he and a panel of experts discuss a historical event or topic. Recent shows include "Leibniz vs. Newton," "The Death of Elizabeth I," and "St. Thomas Aquinas."


- "WNYC's Radio Lab" - Nicely-produced and thought-provoking segments organized around a theme. The show on "Parasites" from a couple weeks ago was disgusting, but intriguing and really well done.


- "The Writer's Almanac" - Keillor's daily compilation of anniversaries and literary bon-mots of note, including a poem.

- "This American Life" - Chicago Public Radio's weekly series of radio essays. Another of those uneven ones, but usually very good.

- "To the Best of Our Knowledge" - I saved my favorite for last. This weekly show from Wisconsin Public Radio and hosted by Jim Fleming, is consistently the one I enjoy the most. The topics and guests are always of interest, and production quality is just tops. The "Libraries" show from late August (featuring Maryanne Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, Geraldine Brooks, Alberto Manguel, and editor Susan Hirschmann) is just one example of the really excellent program.

What am I missing? Anything good out there that I should add to the mix?


AbbotOfUnreason said...

Wow, I think you stole my iPod. I already have all those.

AbbotOfUnreason said...

Oh, except for that last one. I'm going to add that now. Thanks for the tip.

Fletch said...

Looks like a great list, and I know that my iPod can get overwhelmed with too many podcasts on occasion, but I would suggest Ideas from CBC Radio (Science-y), The Moth (short stories), NPR's Planet Money (economy/current events), and Seminars about Long Term Thinking by the Long Now Foundation (lectures on a variety of issues with long-term impact).

Lincoln Mullen said...

Thanks for the helpful list. Here are a few history podcasts that might interest you:

Digital Campus: "A biweekly discussion of how digital media and technology are affecting learning, teaching, and scholarship at colleges, universities, libraries, and museums."

New Books in History: "New Books in History features discussions with historians about their work, and particularly their new books. The program is hosted by Marshall Poe."

BackStory: "BackStory is a brand-new public radio program that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. On each show, renowned U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths."