Sunday, April 12, 2015

Top Ten Podcasts (Part One)

Dear Hashtag,

Here's the first few of my top ten podcasts, 10-7. But first!

Current Stats:
Total Number of Episodes downloaded:18
Total Playtime of downloaded episodes: 11:40:37
Total Number of Podcasts Subscribed: 93
Total Number of Unlistened Episodes: 8101
Estimated Time of Unlistened Episodes: 31 Weeks, 1 Day, 23 Hours, 39 Minutes, and 32 Seconds
Podcast I'm in the middle of: Radiolab

And now, #10: The Sporkful

Billed as being "Not for foodies, it's for eaters," this podcast takes the tradition food show, chops it up and makes guacamole out of it. The host, Dan Pashman, interviews his guest (typically only one, but occasionally a panel) about one specific kind of food, from chicken wings or guacamole to Matzoh or Chocolate. Whatever he's discussing, Dan asks the hard questions, like whether it is more important to have bite consistency or bite variety, how good the mouth-feel is, and how to solve tortilla breakage or matzoh snapping. Whether you care for the food or not, Dan's light attitude and serious agenda makes this a fun and educational podcast.

Just don't listen if you're skipping lunch, because trust me, you'll regret it.

Mom, you don't have to worry about language on this one. 

Next up, #9: Ask Me Another

Produced by NPR and WNYC, this show is hosted by the marvelous Ophira Eisenburg, in front of a live audience in Brooklyn (most of the time. Every now and then they hit the road). For the bulk of the show, two competitors square off against each other for trivia, word games, and puzzles. There's a guest, who she interviews very briefly and then torments with a quiz segment, and a final round, where all the previous round winners compete, spelling bee style, for the title of Champion.

All of this is fun, light, and interesting, but my absolute favorite part is that they have a house musician, and 90% of the time it is Jonathan Coulton. I've liked this guy for a long time; he has a silly, folksy style that is pretty funny, and a lot of his music is free (all the ones on that page with smiley faces). Some day I'll buy all his albums... but he makes this podcast. He typically places a couple of musical interludes, and there is usually one music segment where the questions are sung (and often the answers too). While some musical purists would be appalled at his butchery of the Beatles, YMCA, or songs about different cities all over the country, I find them to be hilarious and unquestionably the best part of an already great show. If you like trivia or quiz shows AT ALL, this podcast is for you.

Mom, this show was made for radio, so you should be fine with the language here. 

Number 8: Shake, Rattle and Roleplay

This is my top RPG podcast, for a few reasons: the episodes are relatively short, they talk about food, and they have tips and advice that is helpful no matter what game you're playing. Billed as "High Trust, High Drama" role play, they have great advice on world building, character creation, props, acting, and in every episode: food. Any podcast that spends this much time on ways to feed a horde of hungry gamers is a podcast I enjoy. Ultimately, this podcast has only one real downside, and it will probably result in this being taken out of my top ten in short order: not enough episodes. A tragic but inevitable end, pod-fading is a serious issue sometimes, and this podcast seems to have fallen victim to it.

Mom, the language on this one can get a little salty, but I doubt you're interested anyway. 

And finally (for today) #7: Lexicon Valley

This podcast is all about language, well, the English Language, and all the various idiosyncrasies, bizarre histories, and grammatical histrionics involved therein. Primarily involving spoken English, they cover topics ranging from the history of profanity to 'R' dropping accents. The two hosts are clearly friends and they both often take the position of devil's advocate in order to show both sides of an argument. They interview linguists and historians, primarily, in order to gain a fuller understanding of any given issue. Sometimes they do shows which are related to current events, but generally they just cover whatever linguistic quirk catches their attention that week.

Mom, the language on this podcast varies widely from one episode to the next, but if an episode does contain strong language, they put a warning at the beginning of the podcast AND in the show notes.

So there you go. I'll post soon with more of my top ten!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why I listen to Podcasts (and you should too)

Dear Hashtag,

This is the first in a series of discussion on podcasts, including why I listen to them, my methods for listening to them, and my favorite podcasts, along with reviews, if I get that far. My current subscription list for podcasts is nearing 100, and I generally manage to get through the entire list about once a week or so, which is a lot of listening time, so I feel comfortable declaring myself an expert as a podcast listener. To start, here are my stats.

Current Stats:

Total Number of Episodes downloaded: 12
Total Playtime of downloaded episodes: 7:55:38
Total Number of Podcasts Subscribed: 91 (80 with episodes available)
Total Number of Unlistened Episodes: 8022
Estimated Time of Unlistened Episodes: 12139 Hours. Or 1 Year, 20 Weeks, and 19 Hours.
Podcast I'm in the middle of: The Tome Show

3 Reasons Why I Listen to Podcasts:

#3. Podcasts act as white noise. Particularly at work, podcasts allow me to ignore the office distractions, the pointless conversations, and the general noise and hubbub of the cubicle farm. When I'm doing something mundane, a good intellectual podcast helps pass the time without me getting bored and wandering facebook for the sixth time that hour. When I'm doing something that takes significantly more brain power, a music podcast or a topic I'm more familiar with helps me concentrate and focus on the task at hand.

#2. Podcasts make the commute go faster. While I try to read on the bus itself, I listen to podcasts on the walk to the train station, or from the bus stop to work, or down to the grocery store. In these moments I tend to prefer story oriented podcasts, or the stuff that is harder to concentrate on at work, like history podcasts or the faster moving trivia shows.

#1. Podcasts Educate! Podcasts Inform! Podcasts Entertain! Podcasts are, well, just plain awesome. Podcasts have all the advantages of radio, with a few extra to boot. They can be as long or short as the podcaster desires. They can be as foul-mouthed as they want, and can discuss topics which would never get past the censorship boards. They generally have far fewer ads, with most having one or two sponsors (although I can't even begin to explain how tired I am of hearing about Audible).

So that's why I listen to podcasts. Soon I'll have my top ten up, and then I'll probably start doing specific genres and discussing the podcasts I listen to within those genres. Mixed in with those I'll talk about the methods I use, the crazy ways I organize things, a full list of my current subscriptions, and more. If it lasts long enough, I'll start doing reviews of individual podcasts.

Thanks for reading,