In the past few months I’ve started listening to podcasts. Like so many things technological, I arrive late to the party. I know podcasts have been around for a while. I was aware of they existed. I just didn’t listen to any.
My first ventures into this particular niche of the media had been unimpressive. I heard people, usually in groups of two or three, talking to, at, and over each other. Often they were trying to be humorous. Occasionally they would be successful, more often, not. But even when the chat was amusing it felt isolating. It didn’t feel like a more intimate form or broadcast communication. It was more like sitting at the kids table watching the adults having a good time. In any case, I never found much benefit for the time invested in listening.
Enter National Public Radio. NPR has a variety of podcasts. I started listening to Fresh Air. I’ve always loved Terry Gross’ radio interview program but find I am rarely in the car to hear it anymore. And the only time I listen to radio is while in the car.
By listening to Fresh Air, I became aware of other NPR podcasts. All Songs Considered and NPR Books have made it to the “My Podcasts” section of my iPhone. There are many more yet to explore. My current favorite of the NPR podcasts is Pop Culture Happy Hour, a weekly conversation among four NPR writers about what is going on in the world of popular culture. This can include anything from graphic novels to grand opera, from indie music to the Tony Awards, and from reality T.V. to popular fiction.
The universe of podcasts is not limited to NPR, of course. Harper’s Other Dad introduced me to The Writer’s Almanac. At first the idea of listening to it seemed lazy, it shows up in my email every day so Protestant Work Ethic would dictate that I should just read it. But the podcast contains more content than the email feed. Also, I was hearing it every morning at 5:30 AM anyway.
“My Podcasts” also includes “Grammar Girl; Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing“. She focuses on specific topics in grammar and linguistics. Sometimes the topics are practical tips like when to use semicolons rather than commas or the difference between further and farther. Other times the information falls into the category I like to call; ‘Fun Things to Know and Tell’; interesting factoids about language like why Canadians pronounce some diphthongs differently from Americans, or why we describe the color of pumpkins as ‘orange’ but people with hair that same color are called ‘red-heads’. Grammar Girl podcasts are usually only 6 – 7 minutes long.
I enjoy hearing stories so “My Podcasts” also includes Selected Shorts and This American Life. I recently started listening to a story-telling podcast called Risk – True Tales Boldly Told. This podcast is definitely NSFW as many of the stories contain mature content and language but I am enjoying it.
Another podcast I listen to regularly is Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast. This one is absolutely NSFW (!!) but for those, like myself, who have enjoyed Mr. Savage’s columns and books, the podcast is interesting and entertaining.
The humor-based podcasts come and go quickly from my list. I like the distraction of humor when it is done well but I am pretty quick-on-the-trigger with my delete key if I conclude it is just a couple of guys making each other laugh.
Exploring the universe of podcasts is a little like surfing the internet at the speed of rust. I’ll read about a podcast or hear someone mention one and make a note to check it out. By the time I get around to finding it, downloading a few and listening to them days, if not weeks, can go by. But the ones I enjoy can change me behavior. This morning I was going to stop for a bagel after dropping Harper’s Other Dad off at work. Then I saw this week’s edition of Pop Culture Happy Hour had downloaded. I opted for a diet Coke at a drive-through window instead so I could stay in my car and listen. I didn’t need those carbs anyway.
I continue to explore. If anyone has any ‘fav’ podcasts, please let me know.