So What Podcasts Have I Liked? A Bunch Of Small Reviews.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 14.472% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

A while back, I did a secret test of you folks.  I wrote an entry saying, “It’s funny, I know nothing about how to listen to podcasts, or even where to download them.  This is like starting over technologically.”
And I waited.
Sure enough, people treated this observation as though I had desperately, urgently, requested a list of the finest podcasts in the land.  The comment threads were filled with, “Well, I like” and “You should listen to…” as people flooded me with ZOMG NIGHTVALE WHY ARE YOU NOT LISTENING NOW.
This is not necessarily a bad thing.  But it’s just proof that people are a high-pressure hose of barely-repressed recommendations, just looking for the vaguest excuse to spray your face sopping with whatever they like.  And people aren’t particularly picky about their recommendations, generally, as witness last night when I said, “So what short (20 minutes or less) podcasts can you recommend?” and a third of the responses were basically “FUCK YOU, FERRETT, MY FAVORITE PODCAST IS HALF AN HOUR AND I KNOW IT BUT I’M GOING TO RECOMMEND IT DESPITE IT COMPLETELY NOT MATCHING YOUR CRITERIA.  ALSO, NIGHTVALE.”
But as it turns out, I like short podcasts.  The longer ones tend to ramble on forever, and I’d rather have people thinking carefully about what they have to say for fifteen minutes rather than hearing ninety minutes of guys saying anything that comes to mind.  The two-hour ones have been like listening Saturday Night Live renditions of NPR, where erring and umming people never have to cut away to commercials.
What Have I Enjoyed Thus Far?
Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.  Yes, I know, I said I like short podcasts, but Ken and Robin are very good about giving everything in short chunks, switching discussions just as they threaten to become redundant… and of the three episodes I’ve listened to, only one segment (“What would have happened if Lovecraft had lived?”) utterly failed to connect.  They talk about GMing techniques and history in interesting ways, and they’re both pretty good conversationalists, so I’m happy to listen.
Writing Excuses.  The thing about this podcast is that it’s utterly noninformative to me.  The podcast is directed at an audience that’s usually discovering their style, and so I don’t think I’ve heard the gang say one thing yet that I haven’t gone, “Oh, yeah, I knew that.”  But a) it’s nice to have one’s biases concerned, and b) Mary, Howard, Dan, and Brandon are all so entertaining that I could listen to them debate about the Dewey Decimal system.  Plus, it’s short.  And they recommend some interesting books.
The Dissolve.  The Dissolve has taken the place of Roger Ebert in my “movie reviewers I trust” pantheon, and listening to them discuss movies is entertaining – especially since Tasha Robinson and Scott Tobias disagree eruditely and entertainingly.
A Prairie Home Companion.  Garrison Keillor used to be good, I swear.  These rambling tales he tells these days are mere shadows of the great days when he used to structure stories as fine as The Pontoon Boat.  But his voice is oddly soothing, and his voice has that fine radio erraticness of Paul Harvey – an instrument well-polished over the years, eclectic and unique and filled with strange pauses designed to draw you in and/or irritate you.  So listening to him is wonderful.
Numenera: The Signal.  I’m in the air on this one, because I love the trope – a Jack Who Tells Tales broadcasts dire warnings of the bizarre things in Numenera.  But the delivery sounds almost too polished for me, like a news announcer, and the weirdness is often not weird enough.  But it’s a delightful quick-blast, perfect for filling the bits between other longer podcasts.
Podcasts I Am Lukewarm About:
Podcastle.  This is part of that whole “long commitment” thing, wherein I usually love the tales but it’s hard to listen to them in twenty-minute dog-walking/cardio workout chunks.  And since these are stories, splitting them up into arbitrary segments is usually yucky.  One suspects I’ll have a long drive some day, and then I will absolutely adore this.
Welcome to Nightvale.  I’ll listen to more of it, I’m sure, but the first two episodes seemed weird for the sake of weird – that William Burroughs trick where I liked Naked Lunch but could turn to any page and get mostly the same experience.  I’m told some storylines develop, and this is very well done, but I’m not pulled to it yet.
Podcasts On My List That I Have Yet To Listen To:
99% Invisible, The Nerdist, The Dinner Party, SF Signal
Podcasts I Should Try:
Yes, you should recommend podcasts you think I’ve overlooked – not that I can stop you anyway.  (INSERT SMILEYFACE.)  But in general, I like weirdly close-focus topical things that are short; the “here’s an overview of everything ever” just bores the crap out of me.  I’d love to have a short Magic podcast that’s not Mark Rosewater (who I read the transcripts of instead), but they all seem to ramble on and on.
(And a special thanks to Vengeful Cynic, Ravenofdreams, and Peter C. Hayward for recommending Downcast, which has been an invaluable app purchase for this whole podcasting thing.  My timing on podcasting couldn’t be better, since the gym I’m in for my cardiac rehab has zero internet.)

1 Comment

  1. Jens Müller
    Nov 4, 2013

    I’m not sure if they are technically podcasts, but there are quite a few BBC radio things available in podcast form, and some of them are quite brilliant.
    I’d recommend A History of the World in 100 Objects (if you’re at all interested in historical topics, that is), they discuss historical topics using an exhibit fro the British Museum as an example or starting point for the discussion and each episode is only about 15 mins. Shakespeare’s Restless World is also very good, about the same length per episode and like A History of the World its presented by British Museum dirctor Neil MacGregor.
    The Infinite Monkey Cage is a probably a bit too long given your preferences (usually about 40mins, sometimes a bit shorter), but it’s really good (scientific themes with Brian Cox as one of the moderators, but with a comic twist thanks to Robin Ince with really excellent panel guests like Stephen Fry, Alan Moore, Patrick Stewart or Mark Gatiss) and I don’t think listening to it in two parts would be a problem in any way.

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