Monday, November 30, 2015

Have You Heard Of This Podcast Thing All The Kids Are Into?

I've never been into podcasts.  Don't get me wrong - I love the idea of podcasts.  It's hands free entertainment that allows you to move about and still be stimulated/engaged.  But it just never caught on.  I feel the judgments of millions of white bread folks like me when I say that "Serial" did nothing for me.  I walked away after an episode and a half.  Marc Maron's "WTF" podcast boasted some amazing guests, but I got so sick of listening to him interrupt his guests and dwell on his own neurosis that I couldn't make it through more than one.  He reminded me too much of fucking Richard Lewis, who drove me nuts with all his yammering.  Other podcasts had lousy production or a lack of energy - both traits are major deal breakers for me, even if the content is allegedly good.  Hell, I can't even tell you what those podcasts were because I only listened to them for a few seconds.  There was one podcast I thought was pretty good - the Kinsey Institute's podcast - but they're very short.  By the time you get settled in, they're over.  I stopped looking into podcasts after awhile.  It seemed like a genre that only hipsters and librarians could get into.  No offense to either of those crowds.  It's like the audio version of whatever introspective, sci-fi TV show that is popular at the moment:  it always seems pretty cool, but it just felt like after awhile you try too hard to like it.

I decided to give podcasts another shot when I agreed to help my brother move from his house in Florida back to Indiana.  I would be following the box truck he was driving in his car, a 2009 Chevy Malibu with a really kick ass stereo that would allow me to play audio from my phone or a USB drive.  After doing some Googling and soliciting input from co-workers, I found some great podcasts.  They were funny, thought provoking and entertaining - all critical things to keep me awake on a 21 hour trip with an average speed of 50 mph.  Here's what I listened to:

  • Hardcore History With Dan Carlin.  I've been listening to the "Blueprint For Armageddon" episodes, which are about World War I.  They are extremely detailed - I'm on episode two, and I've been listening to it for almost six hours already.  The sources Carlin uses are vivid, fleshing out a topic that can be pretty unwieldy and dry.  The motivations and action become clearer, and it's quite easy to draw parallels from W.W. I to what is going on today.  There are some things about this podcast I don't like - the episodes are way too long, and how Carlin pronounces the word "again" is distracting as hell.  I'm beginning to see that Carlin is a bit of a war fetishist.  War fetishism seems to be all that passes for "history" these days, and that really bums me out.  I'm willing to give him a little bit of a pass because at least he gives some attention to the human suffering of the war.  But so far, I've found his coverage to be a little one dimensional, yet still entertaining.  Definitely worth a listen.
  • How Did This Get Made?  "How Did This Get Made" looks at how shitty movies and TV shows - I mean exceptionally shitty movies and shows - ever made it out of the script writing phase, let alone the production phase.  Like "Mystery Science Theater 3000", HDTGM turns utterly forgettable, pathetic movies like "Tango and Cash" and a live action He-Man (starring Dolph Lundgren and Courtney Cox) into fodder for brilliant humor. 
  • WTF With Marc Maron.  Yep, he still interrupts.  He still yammers and puts words in his guests' mouths.  But I'll level with you:  Maron is easy for me to relate to.  He's a very likable dude.  He's honest about his own shortcomings without seeming whiny or self indulgent.  (Thus making him different than fucking Richard Lewis.)  He seems to genuinely like his guests, and it shows.  He is appreciative of their time and really seems interested  in what his guests have to say.  And damn if he doesn't get the best guests out there.  I mean, for God's sake, he interviewed Obama in his garage.  I listened to the interview with Elvis Costello as well as his "double header" interview with Richard Thompson and Lemmy Kilmister.  And if you were wondering, Lemmy is as cool as is public persona seems.  I've changed my mind about his podcast.
  • Because I have family reading this - quite possibly impressionable nieces and nephews - the other podcast I listened to shall remain unnamed.  It was a live contest that featured erotic fan fiction.  The winner of the contest was determined by the crowd.  Calling it "erotic fan fiction" was a little misleading - it was more like prepared stand up that contestants read.  It was really just dark, hilarious, sexual stories about people in the news.  Unless you've got pretty thick skin, this will probably be pretty offensive to you.  I found it pretty funny though.
There you go.  Check these podcasts out.  It'll show you that someone's doing podcasts right.


  1. My hands-down favorite podcast is 99% Invisible - it's focused primarily on design, architecture & engineering. The host, Roman Mars, has a hypnotic voice and I have listened to every episode.

    1. Good tip, Sharri - I'll check into it!