Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Top Podcasts

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine listed his top five favorite podcasts and why he liked them; and since I spend a goodly portion of my day listening to a number of different podcasts, I thought it would be interesting to do the same. I also thought about expanding the "top 5" to a "top 10", since I listen to a lot of podcasts - like, 34 different podcasts - but I decided against it. That would be giving me too much leniency. So, my top 5:

1) MPR 89.3 The Current: Musicheads - Hosted by Bill DeVille, this once weekly podcast takes a couple of different colleagues of Bill's, and they discuss the music they have been playing on the radio recently - and see, as the podcast continually reminds me - if its working for them. I found a new love (David Safar), and I find a lot of really cool bands through Musicheads. I especially like a lot of the bands that cross-pollinate on the second podcast on the list, that being:

2) All Songs Considered: I love All Songs Considered; I especially love the range of topics Bob Boilen covers on the show. A couple of weeks ago, he discussed the White Album turning 40; what it meant then, what it means now, and what it represented for the Beatles as a band and as individual members. Bob Boilen also introduced me to The Fireman, Paul McCartney's newest project; I learned about the book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. I heard Erik Satie on All Songs Considered; I heard of Blitzen Trapper on ASC (and then heard about him again on Musicheads), and I heard about Conor Oberst's solo project on ASC. It makes Wednesday more than just a hump day for my week; it is the day my favorite podcasts come out.

3) Talk of the Nation: Every day, for two or so hours, I listen to Neal Conan talk about what's going on in the nation. Wednesday is the day of the political junkie (though I hear it on Thursday), and Science Friday actually breaks down science in a way that I can almost understand. Aside from the sometimes cringe-worthy phone calls (and that one time Mike Huckabee was one), Talk of the Nation brings experts together to discuss the day's issues. Which is good.

4) Planet Money: No economic jargon here; Planet Money breaks down the economic themes of the day in about 20 minutes or so. They bring up interesting points - like the banker who has loans with the Amish. And they manage to be upbeatly depressing. Which is a good talent to have in today's economic climate.

5) Addicted to Race: This last spot was hard to decide upon. This American Life? The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe? Philosophy Bites? But I decided on Addicted to Race because I think that Carmen Van Kerckhove manages to not only discuss issues that I have very little expertise in (unlike being skeptical or American or reproductive health or philosophical musings), but frames those issues in an inclusive way. She discusses questions I have either never fully been able to articulate or that had never occurred to me at all. And that, aside from the sometimes not-work appropriate convos that derive from a frank and earnest discussion of those questions, puts her Addicted to Race firmly on the list. Because I'm not just listening to someone I automatically and almost blindly agree with, but am learning and reconsidering my own views and positions. And that is incredibly important while one goes through the mind-numbing work of putting an insurance binder together; even if it means listening to the iPod with the headphones on.

As an aside, a majority of my podcasts come from non-profit media organizations. I'm highlighting them here because NPR and Chicago Public Radio (the station that produces This American Life) have also been hit hard by these current economic conditions. So, if you listen to NPR frequently or semi-frequently or happen to have a few bucks laying around and want to get rid of them and lack the imagination necessary to otherwise do so, think about donating to some nonprofit media organization like NPR or CPTV. These are places we can go and chill and find something that interests us. For my friend, it is Car Talk. For me, it was Sesame Street, Mr Rogers' Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow, This Old House, and bass fishing (don't ask about that last one). Now, it is four out of my five podcasts and UConn Women's College Basketball. They get government funding, but that isn't really enough to keep them chugging. So, if you have fond memories of public broadcasting or would like the opportunity to make them in the future, think about it. And if that doesn't convince you, please consider donating just to make the contribution drives stop. They alternately make me feel guilty or irritated when I hear them, depending upon whether or not it is near pay day and if I'm wrestling with the automatic mail opener thing.

No comments: