I’ve both added and dropped some podcasts since last time around. Where I’m listing the same podcast as last year I may use the same description as in the past with slight (or no) variation.
Giant Beastcast – The East Coast Giant Bomb crew. This podcast is more about video game culture and news stories. It spends a lot less time on the “what you’ve been playing” section. I’ve actually grown to enjoy this one way more than the Bombcast because of the focus on the cultural and news aspects.
Radiolab – Heard about them because sometimes their stories are used on This American Life. Radiolab is a lot like TAL except with a much bigger focus on sound effects. It is, in a way, the descendent of the old radio shows of the 30s and 40s. (Approx 30-45 min)
Marketplace – This is a really good economics show. They talk about news that happened that day as well as stories that have been pre-prepared. This podcast has really helped me to understand the recession and why it happened as well as whether it is getting any better. (Approx 30 min long)
Codebreaker: A tech podcast. Season 1 asked the question “Is it Evil?” of various technologies.
On the Media – Although not always perfect and although it leans a little more left than moderate, On the Media is a good podcast about media issues. Examples include: truth in advertising, misleading news stories on the cable networks, debunking PR-speak from the White House, and other media literacy items. I tend to enjoy it nearly all the time and it’s a good balance to news on both sides of the spectrum, calling out CNN as often as Fox News. (Approx 1 hour long)
Fresh Air – Fresh Air is one of NPR’s most famous shows. It is similar in topic scope as Talk of the Nation, but without any listener call-in. Also, it tends to have a heavier focus on cultural topics (books, movies, etc). Terry Gross has been hosting Fresh Air for decades and is a master at interviewing her guests. Every once in a while there is a guest host or the interview is conducted by a specialist in that industry. (Approx 1 hour)
Freakonomics – Essentially an audio, episodic version of the eponymous book. If you enjoyed the insights of the book, you’ll really enjoy this podcast. (Approx 30 min)
The Infinite Monkey Cage – a BBC radio show about science. A panel of scientists (and one media star who is interested in science) talk about a topic. The only bummer is that the shows are quite infrequent. Something like 4 weekly episodes per quarter (Approx 30 min)
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – if you’re a history buff you really need to be listening to this podcast. Dan’s well-researched podcast presents bits of history you never heard of in ways you never thought of it. He does a great job of making ancient societies relate-able. The only bad thing is that there is a long gap between episodes due to the research involved. (Varies. Approx 1.5 – 4 hrs)
The Dollop – A very funny and very profane look at American history. The premise: The host tells a story of American history to the other guy, who doesn’t know ahead of time what the story’s about. It’s a premise that leads to some great reactions from the person not in the know (usually Gareth, but sometimes they do a Reverse Dollop). Also, listening to this podcast is a great reminder that the past is full of some really messed up people and situations.
WTF with Marc Maron – This is a pretty solid podcast which mostly consists of Marc Maron interviewing comedians. As with any interview-based show, the episodes are hit or miss, although more often than not they are really good. Occasionally he does a live show in which he’s still interviewing people, but with 4-6 per episode it’s much less in-depth. And, since it has an audience, the guest is performing more than being open. The only irritating thing is that Marc starts off each episode with a rant/listener email reading. Most of the time this is neither interesting nor funny. Clearly the reason people are tuning is is to hear the interviews or they’d take up a minority of the show instead of the bulk of the show. So I wish he’d do his rant at the end of the episode so that those of us who just want to hear a great interview with a comedian we like can easily skip the monologue. (Approx 1.5 hours long)
Science Fiction Short Stories
There isn’t much to differentiate these two podcasts. They both feature great selections of short stories. I added them to my podcatcher to get a dose of fiction among the more non-fiction podcasts I usually listen to. Also, there’s something great about short-form fiction where you have to build the world AND tell the story in a very concise way. The main difference between the two podcasts is that Clarkesworld has pretty much just one narrator who’s quite incredible. Escape Pod tends to have a group of narrators. Most of them are great – every once in a while there’s a less than stellar one. Clarkesworld tends to end the story with the narrator’s interpretation and Escape Pod tends to end with reader comments from a few episodes ago. (varies. 15 min to 45 min)
How Did This Get Made – Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas (plus the occasional guest) watch movies from the last few decades that will probably be in the future’s version of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. The movies are often incredibly baffling and full of strange plot points. One of the best parts of the show is “Second Opinions” where Paul goes to Amazon.com to get 5 Star ratings for the movie they just spent about an hour lambasting. Every other episode is a mini episode that previews the next show, has a section called “Corrections and Omissions”, and Qs and As. The first two sections are great. The last one varies depending on the quality of the questions and answers. It can be pretty funny, but sometimes I just skip it. (Approx 1 hr)
The Bugle – Jon Oliver (from The Daily Show) and some other guy talk about the news. In a way, it’s like a How Did This Get Made for news. Also similar to The Daily Show in the incredulity of what people in the news are doing. (Approx 30 min)
Uh, Yeah Dude – tagline: “America through the eyes of two American Americans” If you like My Brother, My Brother, and Me, you’ll probably like this podcast’s style. They talk about both important news and cultural news and generally make fun of it. I call the commentary smart dumb commentary, it’s like Seth Rogan movies – the characters are providing smart insight through dumb commentary. (Approx 1 hour)
Political Gabfest (from Slate) – This has taken the role that Talk of the Nation’s Wednesday slot left vacant when the show went off the air. They talk about politics (usually swinging heavily left or sometimes libertarian while ToTN was more neutral) and I get a dose of what everyone’s talking about in politics. (Approximatly 1 hour)
Common Sense with Dan Carlin – If you like the attention Dan puts towards Hardcore History, then you’ll probably love this take on the news. Usually Dan takes one (max 2) topics from the news and by the time he’s done with it, I’ve seen 2-3 different points of view. Sometimes there’s a clearly right point of view (the sky is blue), but other times each side has valid points and neither one has the complete high ground. Dan is a complex creature, like many of us. On some topics he’s more likely to agree with Dems, other time Republicans, and sometimes neither. Other times he agrees with their Platonic Ideal Version, but not their RealPolitik version. Either way, I’m always overjoyed when it shows up – which is somewhere between biweekly and monthly. (Approximately 45 minutes)
FiveThirtyEight Elections – a great, wonky podcast from the guys that brought you the most accurate election predictions. Has continued beyond the elections due to the odd circumstances of the new administration.
Sword and Laser – A fantasy and sci-fi book club. They interview up-and-coming authors and discuss the book club’s monthly book. Also cover news and upcoming new releases. (Varies. Approx 30 min)
Rocket Talk (Tor.com) – The host speaks with one or two Science Fiction and Fantasy authors about various things: their latest book, trends in the genres, publishing trends, etc. Sometimes a great show and sometimes I skip it halfway through. (Approximately 45 min)
Give Me Fiction – A pretty hilarious (to my sense of humor) super short story podcast. It’s recorded live (which often spices up comedy) and seems to skew Gen X/Millenial in its humor. (Varies, but usually under 15 minutes)
Talkin’ Toons with Rob Paulsen – The great voice actor behind two Ninja Turtles, Pinky, Yakko, and many, many other cartoon characters interviews other voice actors. It’s like WTF, but without the annoying self-reflection 10-15 minutes that I always skip on Maron’s podcast. If you enjoy voice acting nerdom or want a place to start, check this out. It’s recorded in front of an audience which is often great, but once in a while leads them on tangents that take away from their great anecdotes. (Approximately 1 hour)
Boars, Gore, and Swords: A Game of Throne Podcast – two comedians (and sometimes some friends) discuss each episode of A Game of Thrones and each chapter of the books. While it’s primarily funny, it does sometimes lead me to some deeper insights into each episode.
The i Word: An Image Comics Podcast – different writers and artists working on a comic for Image Comics are interviewed about their comic as well as something unrelated to comics that they’re really into.
The Allusionist – a podcast about words, where they come from, and how we use them
You Are Not So Smart – the host, who wrote an eponymous book, tackles topics of self-delusion. Examples include placebos, alternative medicine, and conspiracy theories. (Approximately 45 min)
Probably Science – some comedians who used to work in the science and tech fields bring on other comedians (of various levels of scientific knowledge) to discuss pop science and where the articles might be misleading.
99% Invisible – Similar in scope to the NPR podcast Invisibilia, this one was there first. It explores the things that are in the background of life. Examples include architectural details we often miss or stories that tell how regions came to be. Production is similar in sonic greatness to RadioLab. (Approx 15 min)
Tell Me Something I don’t Know – a gameshow from the guys behind Freakonomics. Learn some new facts in a fun and often funny way.
GoodMuslimBadMuslim – a window into what it’s like to be a Muslim in modern America.
Politically Reactive – W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu discuss politics with some jokes and some interviews with people mostly on the left, but sometimes on the right. They are respectful and always provide context to what’s being said.
More Perfect – Explores Supreme Court rulings and how they affect America.
Song Exploder – they pick a song and a member from that band explains how they put it together. They usually look at each layer of the track – vocals, drums, guitar, etc and talk about why each decision was made. Can range from interesting to revealing.