Tuesday, May 10, 2016

there is a world inside the world that you see: meet my favorite podcasts

Last year, we drove to California . . . in a minivan . . . with three children who were three and under.  Yes, we're insane.

Soon I'll blog about some of the lessons we learned, but this is a post about something different: audio entertainment.

I've been a music guy since I joined a children's choir in second grade.  When I hear a piece performed with the right inflection, the hair stands up on the back of my neck.  Music, unfortunately, isn't enough to get you through a 32-ish-hour road trip.

Thankfully, after we arrived, Lindsey's brother introduced us to his podcast.  I know we're about 1,000 years late to the podcast revolution, but this was our gateway drug.  People will talk to you - about intelligent things - for free.  You're not resigned to sports talk on AM (barf) or political shock jocks (double barf) anymore.  Just download some episodes on your phone, and set the autopilot for Omaha (I wish).

Since last summer, I've become a bit of a podcast junkie.  I'm sure some will laugh at my pedestrian tastes, but for others, let me introduce you to my favorites.

Martyr Made

This is Lindsey's brother Darryl's podcast.  It's a beautiful, narrative telling of the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict.  You might think you know about Israel and Palestine, but if you're like anything like me, you're dead wrong.

You know how when family members tell you about something, you have to try it/watch/listen and smile while valiantly suppressing your gag reflex?  This is nothing like that.

I always knew that Darryl was smart, but I didn't know if it was in a Beautiful Mind, little bit loco kind of way, or a "I'm about to drop some knowledge" kind of way.  Turns out, it's definitely the latter.

To be honest, I thought that it was going to be a little bit strange having my brother-in-law's husky baritone narrate our journey home.  I was incredibly, and pleasantly, surprised to find myself angry that we had to stop for gas and food.  I had no idea that I was deeply interested in this conflict, but with the right teacher, I am.


Radiolab is my favorite podcast.  (Sorry, Darryl, don't beat me up.)

I used to wonder how people ever sat around listening to the radio before there was TV.  Now, I'm starting to think they were on to something.

This is storytelling at its finest.  The little audio flourishes, background music, and even pregnant moments of silence are all superbly crafted.  Episodes are a satisfying length for my commute or workout, and the payoff of the stories is often surprisingly emotional.

Start with:
The Cathedral (on loan from another of my favorite podcasts)
23 Weeks 6 Days - parents, have tissues ready.  You've been warned!

I also liked:
K-poparazzi - you think you're not interested in Korean pop, but be prepared to get sucked in.
Smile My Ass - the history of Candid Camera you never thought you cared about.

As a bonus:
Hard Knock Life - a charming Valentine's Day story about beetles, with a guest appearance by the phenomenal Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The West Wing Weekly

Started by The West Wing superfan Hrishikesh Hirway and co-hosted by The West Wing late-comer Joshua Malina, this podcast discusses every episode of The West Wing, starting from the beginning.

I love their hip-hop update of the theme from The West Wing.  I love reminiscing about the episodes of my favorite show ever.  I love the guest appearances from show contributors such as Dule Hill.

This is a nice audience, but if you haven't seen and loved The West Wing, stop reading this and go watch it or else we're not friends anymore.

Start at:
The Beginning

This American Life

I'm pretty sure this is the most popular podcast in America, so I'm barely going to say anything about it.  Just listen.  It's great.

One of my favorites:
My Damn Mind

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At first blush, it seems like a podcast on the Internet about the Internet is going to be sterile, self-serving, and dull.  Instead, it's human, interesting, and sometimes poignant.  They first aired "The Cathedral," mentioned above under Radiolab, which is reason enough why you should give them a try.

This podcast is newest on my rotation, so it's hard to offer solid recommendations of where to start.  The most recent episode, about e-mails people have been putting off (some for years) is a pretty good reflection on what they do: Episode 63 - 1000 Brimes.


I'm still discovering new podcasts, including a few that I'm trying out but not invested in yet.  Also, Christian podcasts (sermons, etc.) deserve their own post, since the ones I listen to are very different in nature.

Have I missed any brilliant ones with great storytelling?  Please share your favorites!

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