Podcastaway: Saved from Tedium

I haven’t posted in a while, I’ve been busy helping a friend the past three weeks.  While at work, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts. Since my current living situation doesn’t include cable, I’m ecstatic to have time to listen to news broadcasts, and if I run out of those I listen to educational or entertaining podcasts.

Since graduating, I more acutely feel the want for continued intellectual stimulation. The podcasts have helped me gain an appreciation for mundane tasks like going to the gym or cleaning. I’m trying to lose as much weight as possible before Otakon, and having interesting things to listen to make it easier for me to spend a few hours at the gym. Otherwise, I’d break out in hives or spontaneously combust or have to listen to the muscle heads’ conversations. I’m shivering just thinking about it.

On the other hand, some of the ‘casts I’ve tried really suck. If a program leans too much on the entertainment factor, or if I don’t get half of their references, I’m sure to lose interest. The same goes for podcasts aimed to specific audiences or with pushy hosts.  So, I thought I’d catalogue my thoughts on the different podcasts I’ve been listening to below.

The Good:

  1. Startalk — This podcast is awesome because of Neil Degrasse Tyson. Published once or twice a week, this show features interviews between Tyson and figureheads of pop culture or science interspersed with discussion about said interview. Think of it like listening in on a book club for experts in their field. My favorite so far has been the episode in which Tyson and the gang discuss social media and Tyson interviews Twitter’s co-founder.
  2. The Rachel Maddow Show — This is simply the audio version of her newscast. I like Rachel because she gives historical background and context to many of her stories. Furthermore, her professorial tone and approach to information gives her show a factual rather than emotional lean. Recently, she’s covered events of the 2016 presidential race while giving more tangentially relevant information than any other major news program I’ve seen.
  3. The Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert– These podcasts regularly make me laugh out loud. Stephen talks with those associated with this show as they rib each other with their past accomplishments (like Strangers with Candy) and discuss the hardships associated with starting anew. The episodes only last about a half hour and it’s always well worth the listen. They just started this series, so the sooner you subscribe, the sooner you can learn the importance of the rule of three people, or the man sized cabinet. Unlike all of the other podcasts on my list, Stephen has fictional sponsors whose catch phrases are reminiscent of those fake pharmaceutical companies on the Colbert Report.
  4. TED talks — These podcasts are interesting because they hit the main topics of many TED talks in one show, without giving me the impression that they cut out information. I prefer listening to the individual talks because they provide more information and I retain more from longer lectures, however I can’t listen to these videos without draining my batteries. I think of the podcast as a sampler plate of things I might go back and listen to in full, later.
  5. Point of Inquiry: This podcast is published by the Center for Inquiry, and the topics range from politics to celebrity culture and beyond. From what I’ve heard, many of the guests have recently published books and come on the show to discuss their research. The host is dynamic compared to the other educational podcasts I’ve listened to; this one is both the most informative and the least pedantic of the genre.

The O.K.

  1. WTF — This is Mark Maron’s podcast, and it’s entertaining. I haven’t learned anything from them, and I don’t laugh out loud, but his sardonic attitude makes them worth listening to. Maron brings celebrities into his show and they talk about Hollywood and anything else that pops into their minds. One could learn how to hold an engaging conversation from Maron. So far, I have only vaguely recognized the guests, but I fully take responsibility for shirking my entertainment news duties. Maron is funny, but I can’t listen to more than one hour of him a day.
  2. Stuff You Should Know — This podcast is done by the How Stuff Works people. The information is good, but because the people don’t have credentials, it feels like hearing news second hand. The hosts are pleasant, but not funny. Most of the shows stop at interesting, and I don’t really remember the details days later. Some are more engaging leave me feeling as if I learned something important. I’ll look at their other shows, like Fw: Thinking in hopes of finding something a little more interesting
  3. The Great Courses (The Torch) — Not so great. I like the idea, but these courses are usually split between two totally unrelated topics, and don’t allow for interplay between the two — which would be much more interesting. The host isn’t dynamic, and so far I haven’t been blown away by any of these demi-lectures. I might just unsubscribe from this and find a new lecture series. I’ll give it one more go to see if I might change my mind.
  4. New Yorker — I just subscribed to these casts, so I don’t feel fully prepared to give them an accurate review. I’ve started reading the magazine, and I love the content. Their podcasts are broken up into different categories: Fiction, Movie of the Week, Political Science, and Out Loud. The last is a discussion of current and pertinent events, the rest are fairly self-explanatory.

The Bad

  1.  Art of Charm — This show is like an advertisement for pills to cure male baldness. The tone of the show, and really the point of the show, is to take advantage of insecure men and make them pay to attend their boot camp in order to learn to “crush it in love and life and business.” Yes, they actually say “crush it.” Most of the topics are vaguely interesting to me, but the host interjects and interrupts the guests with bro talk. For example, the only very interesting podcast featured the author of “Come as You Are” a book about human sexuality. The host piped in with sophomoric asides like “total bro, am I right?” or “The ladies are confusing”. or “That’s never happened to me.” I bought the book, but his tone was a total turn off. This podcast actually makes me fear for the future of society.

That’s about it! Let me know if there are any other podcasts I should listen to in the comments, or if you disagree with my thoughts.

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