Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

Review: You Feel It Just Below The Ribs

Monday, November 29th, 2021

You Feel It Just Below The Ribs is a novel set in the Within The Wires world. As I mentioned in my Anthropecene Reviewed review, I tend to prefer podcasts when I have the choice, but I was so impressed by their pre-released excerpt that I ordered the novel. Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson claim that you don’t need to know anything about the podcast to enjoy the book, and I think that’s probably true. That said, I recommend Within The Wires wholeheartedly; also there’s a lot of Feel It that seems targeted at existing fans. You’ll understand it either way, but how much you enjoy it will depend on how much you like world-building.

While there is a lot of continuity service and world-building in Feel It, there’s plenty of style and substance independent of it. The world is an alternate history of the 20th Century, which lets the authors riff on the nature of human relations, families, and the societies they build. I think they’re very insightful about the world and use the medium effectively in entertaining and provoking thought in the same work.

The balance concerns between entertainment and provocation is possible because they write very effectively. One of the features that drew me into Within The Wires was their ability to creep up on an emotional bombshell while keeping me oblivious to what’s coming and then to drop that bomb in a short, casual phrase. This comes through it Feel It.

The other salient point is that all the Within The Wires stories are framed as found audio and they indulge their writing ability to give each season its own texture. They continue this strategy here, constructing a found autobiography annotated by the academic publisher. That publisher has its own agenda, and the reader is never fully trusting of the text.

Strongly Recommended.

Review: The Anthropcene Reviewed

Sunday, November 28th, 2021

I fell in love with John Green’s Anthropecene Reviewed as a podcast. The podcast is a compelling combination of detailed exploration of seemingly incidental societal artifacts and revealing brave personal essay. This is obviously not for everyone. I loved the writing, research, and perspective he brings to these topics along with the boldness of revealing himself. I like his writing style and delivery as well.

The book is a pretty close transcription of these essays. The advantage is that if podcasts aren’t for you, you can still get to his writing. I personally prefer hearing him read, but you may enjoy reading these in the bathroom.

Either is Strongly Recommended.

Listening List 2019

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

I listen to a lot of podcasts and I thought I was pretty regular in making recommendations. Evidently not. Here’s my current list with comments:

  • 1A (Weekly news roundup): Weekly commentary on political and international news reported in mainline US media. The host Joshua Johnson brings both an interesting perspective and an interesting set of commenters to it. Johnson is leaving, so this is on the bubble.
  • 99% Invisible: Roman Mars orchestrates this discussion of the good and bad design that shapes and has shaped our world. It’s a Radiotopia production. I usually learn something and always enjoy it.
  • A Way With Words: These folks do an excellent podcast about language origins, evolution, and usage. I like that they are descriptiveist and inclusive, which is to say they document English as it’s used including dialects often considered ungrammatical and lowbrow. They’re both professional linguists as well. Great fun.
  • Historcial Blindness: Nathaniel Lloyd conducts this tour through the fortean and unusual areas of history with a skeptic’s eye. His delivery can be a little dry, but I find the content is more than captivating.
  • Awesome Etiquette: I’ve talked up these folks before, and I will again. They advocate for and apply a version of etiquette based on three principles of quality human relations. Their family business is the Emily Post publishing and training endeavors, so they have the chops to tell you which fork to use and why, but that’s rarely the focus. One of my favorites.
  • Baseball Tonight Podcast: I love the rhythms of a baseball play-by-play radio broadcast. Buster Olney and company keep those rhythms in this daily MLB summary. Good for baseball fans.
  • Bombshell: These folks are my favorite accessible foreign policy experts. I always learn something when I listen to them and I never get bored. In foreign policy, that’s an unbelievable combination. Check them out if you care about foreign policy.
  • Code Switch: This is an NPR podcast about race in America. The hosts and reporters bring broad perspectives and great reporting skills to the beat. It’s often informative both about the issues the report on and on the constraints of reporting on them for a large news outlet. High variability, but generally very strong.
  • Conversations With People Who Hate Me: Dylan Marron calls people who left him nasty comments on his social media accounts and talks through how that came to happen. This is not an ambush, but a collaboration between both folks on the line. In addition, one can easily find Dylan himself grating. He strikes me as what stereotypical conservatives think a stereotypical liberal sounds like. I think he’s more interesting than that, but your mileage may vary.
  • Desert Oracle Radio: Key Layne remains a fascinating and poetic preacher of the weird and marginalized who strikes a unique balance the mystical and the skeptical. Listen to two and you’ll know if it’s for you. It’s for me.
  • Dolly Parton’s America: Jad Abumrad and some of the other talented folks at WNYC and RadioLab talk about and with country star and current media darling Dolly Parton. They do an excellent job both illuminating her as a person and as a lens to look at America. Limited series, and worth it.
  • Deep State Radio: Another foreign policy podcast. The flagship is intended to be a cocktail party atmosphere where experts are chatting. I generally find it a bit more staged and biased than that aspiration. It’s largely redeemed in my ears by regulars Rosa Brooks and Kori Schake who often rise above the politics of the day to re-enforce the key principles behind internationalism.
  • Art And Ideas: The Getty Museum puts this regular discussion with the Getty conservation and museum staff. Most are driven by exhibitions that at the Getty, but I find them informative. If you’re near the Getty these may well draw you up to see those shows. As a guilty pleasure I enjoy listening to host Jim Cuno as he grows as an interviewer and host.
  • Golic and Wingo: ESPN’s flagship sports talk podcast. I listen to keep up enough to converse. It is fun as a radio show as well, in a Disney/ESPN kind of way. Mike Golic, Jr. and the Sorry In Advance podcast are high points for me.
  • Good Christian Fun: A look at faith and spirituality through the lens of evangelical-targeted media (music, movies, etc). I’ve learned a lot about Evangelical culture and niche media as well as hearing from some extremely talented rising entertainers. As interesting as all that is, it works because the hosts – Kevin T. Porter and Caroline Ely – are honest, enthusiastic, open, and bold. It’s a strong flavor and it won’t appeal to everyone. I won’t miss an episode.
  • Here Be Monsters: This is one of my favorites. The hosts peer into frightening and unknown themes. Surprising, intimate, and often harrowing.
  • History Is Sexy: Emma Southon and Jenina Matthewson ramble through history with a decidedly feminist perspective. They both bring a dry wit and easygoing tone to the proceedings. As I say it’s a ramble and probably not for everyone,
  • I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats: This remains the podcast I’ve talked about earlier. Two creative and charismatic people chatting about making commercial art. And also, Mountain Goats!
  • LA Podcast: A regular podcast on Los Angeles issues – mostly housing and transit issues, though city council and law enforcement corruption gets plenty of time as well. They’re biased and outspoken, but I’ve learned a ton.
  • Make Me Smart: A sampler of technology and economic issues hosted by charismatic and intelligent folks – Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood. There are moments where I think their coverage has gaps, but it has the feel of a long running exploration and that often fills them. I find it enlightening to hear how intelligent, interested, laypeople see these issues. And I learn about issues I’m unaware of too.
  • Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone: Um. Yeah. I can’t endorse this but I can’t stop listening. Good luck.
  • Opposing Bases: This is a discursive and informative aviation podcast from a pair of current air traffic controllers. It’s a strong flavor and a niche topic.
  • Planet Money: NPR’s economics podcast continues to evolve and inform. Good for anyone who has any interest in it.
  • RadioLab: Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich look at science and the world through their unique lens. I’ve sent them money just because they make me want to argue with them.
  • More Perfect: One more from Abumrad and company. Supreme Court cases and a constitutional amendment album.
  • Recording Artists: Another Getty podcast. Archival interviews of woman artists from the 20th Century interspersed with modern commentary. Extremely strong.
  • Reply All: “This is a show about the Internet.” It’s about much more than that. Best of breed.
  • ScienceVs: Remarkably kooky and balanced assessment of scientific research around modern issues. The host, Wendy Zuckerman, is particularly fun. The show does seem to be casting around, but she remains a draw.
  • The Allusionist: Language and usage podcast. Helen Zoltzman’s excellent take on language and surrounding issues. I learn a lot from it and I’m consistently entertained.
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed: John Green reviews random things on a 5-star scale. Really an excuse for diverting and thought provoking spoken word essays.
  • The Art of Process: Aimee Mann and Ted Leo interview creators about the structure of their creation process. Rambling and interesting.
  • The Indicator: More NPR economics. 10-minute bites. Hits more than it misses, but doing 10 minutes every day means some will miss.
  • The Kitchen Sisters Present: I started listening to this because they did a sequence on people who collect and preserve … things. All kinds of odd things. They tell other interesting stories as well.
  • The Memory Palace: Nate DiMeo’s poetic reflections on history. Delicious snacks of history and langauge.
  • The Nod: This is billed as a podcast about Black culture, but I find that the best episodes are driven by the hosts’ – Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings – interactions and personal obsessions. They are winning and engaging.
  • The Truth: Mostly fairly short form audio fiction with (more or less) a Twilight Zone/twist ending kind of bent. I can only give it “diverting,” but I keep it in the list.
  • This American Life: Still worth it.
  • Throughline: One of my new obsessions. Well articulated and researched history that bears directly on modern issues – as all history does. The hosts – bring a fresh perspective to every story. Even when I know a bunch of the basic background of the events they cover, I learn something.
  • Tides Of History: Historian Patrick Wyman presents Roman and Middle Ages history with a solid narrative framing. He does a great job explaining the societal systems that form history and the scientific systems that let us understand them. Great stuff.
  • Uncontrolled Airspace: Rambling general aviation podcast. The hosts know a ton and have an easy chemistry. The presentation meanders quite a bit and not for everyone.
  • Up First: Daily capsules from Morning Edition.
  • Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me: Still worth it.
  • Welcome To Night Vale: Still worth it. Mostly.
  • Within The Wires: Far and away my favorite fiction podcast. An intricate and moving story about an alternate history told through found audio. I can’t really explain it beyond that. Try a season.
  • You Must Remember This: Karina Longworth’s quite brilliant take on Hollywood history and how it reflects American values. I’m not a Hollywood fan and I always learn something.

Fair warning, I financially support some of these folks, though I don’t make any money from that.

Updated to include the disclaimer and The Truth summary.

Praise to the Cast

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

“That’s the impossible middle ground we’ve established for ourselves,” (or something like it) is how Kevin Porter, who hosts the Good Christian Fun podcast with Caroline Ely, describes their work.  The conceit is that the hosts and some guests review items from Christian-targeted pop culture and toss out their impressions.  Along the way they talk about their relationship to American Evangelical Christianity.  Both of them grew up attached to the Church in different ways though – as they freely admit – neither has the resume to be talking about any of professionally.

That’s the aspect I find charming about it.

Both are young socially liberal folks who care about their religion.  They freely and deeply share their doubts and moments of affirmation.  And some appalling popular culture.

It reaffirms my faith in people to hear personable, openly religious people who care about justice and decency.  If you feel like you need a dose of that now and again, come check it out.