Wednesday, March 12, 2014
A few health issues kept me away from the computer today so I slept and read and listened to podcasts. Which ones, you ask (or even if you didn't, you can tell I'm about to list them)? Here are some, in no particular order:
A Way with Words
Word nerds unite! Hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett intersperse trivia, games, and book recommendations between listener questions about word origins and general language problems. This isn't your boring high school English class. Many moments are either laugh-out-loud funny, enlightening, or both. As my brother also likes this podcast, it often spurs discussions between us. If you like to read, are a blogger, or just like to learn interesting things, A Way with Words is fabulous.
Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!
One of many National Public Radio (NPR) shows I follow via podcast, this has to be the funniest. Forty-nine minutes once-a-week has never seemed to pass faster than when one listens to this hilarious topical news quiz featuring writers, comedians, and others trying to win points toward bragging rights at the end of the show. Callers can win a custom voicemail/answering machine message from the judge/scorekeeper, Carl Kasell, a legendary broadcaster. My favorite bits usually include comedian Paula Poundstone on one of her rants about studies or her unique takes on food.
Yes, lots of my favorite podcasts are from NPR, but they also share another trait – excellence. The reporters of Planet Money effectively explain micro economics and macro economics plus every kind of economics in between with wit and imagination. A recent series of shows traced how T-shirts are made from growing the cotton to why shirts discarded in America are recycled in African markets. Very entertaining and it really made me think.
Like a few other 'casts, I don't listen to every episode of The Incomparable. For one, each episode can go on for two or more hours and I don't always get to listen for long periods so one episode can take a few days to get through. But if you are a geek for just about anything – comic books, movies, television, Science Fiction-Fantasy-Horror, or just about anything in pop culture, this free-wheeling podcast should be of interest. For the most part, a rotating cast of close friends (mostly from the tech industry, it seems) meet up with host Jason Snell for what amounts to a barely-focused discussion on the episode's topic. For example, a few consecutive episodes featured a complete game of Dungeons & Dragons played from start to finish – almost 12 hours. The one I'm listening to now is a "competition" where the panelists take turns picking board games and telling stories about them toward some sort of unmentioned prize (probably bragging rights). Not sure how anyone wins, but this "draft" format, as they call it, is frequently employed to provide a loose thread to the show in different episodes.
There was a time I'd watch or listen to quite a few shows on the TWiT network, but the only one I've stuck with over the years is Macbreak Weekly. Even before we had Macs in the house, it was a favorite podcast for me and my brother. Too often it becomes mired in inane sidetracks (popularly known as "ratholes") or the host, Leo Laporte, seems to think it is more important for him to talk endlessly, even cutting off others, rather than let the panelists speak, but generally I like the show.
Ask Me Another
Yet another game show from NPR, Ask Me Another, features music by Internet legend Jonathan Coulton and is hosted by a very funny comedian, Ophria Eisenberg. The show elevates bar trivia by requiring high-level erudition on literature, movies, poetry, music, and so many more topics. The quizzes usually have pun-tastic themes and often employ Coulton singing something. Contestants are people from the audience and some sort of quirky guest star, often authors and actors. The big prize for the end game is supplied by the celebrity and at least one show-themed Rubik's Cube is given away each week.
There are others that I listen to, as well, but this list is pretty much the cream. Drop a comment listing your favorites and maybe I'll give them a spin.