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.
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 descendant 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. (Approx 30 min long)
Codebreaker: A tech podcast. Season 1 asked the question “Is it Evil?” of various technologies. still on my feed, but hasn’t release a new episode in 27 months.
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 tends to have a heavy 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)
Hardcore History Addendum – Meant to bridge the gap between Hardcore History episodes, it focuses on interviews and smaller topics.
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.
History Unplugged – I found this podcast when I was looking for Dan Carlin’s new podcast that’s supposed to bridge the gap between Hardcore History episodes. I enjoy his question and answer episodes. (20 minutes) Still on my feed, but it’s been 7 months since the last episode
Tides of History – I liken this podcast to the other side of Hardcore History. Dan Carlin tends to focus on the big movers and shakers in history. So far, in Tides of History he’s focused a lot on the experience of the common man (or woman) in the time period he’s exploring. Very entertaining and, unlike Hardcore History, it’s not on a George RR Martin update pace. (Usually 20-40 minutes)
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. 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)
Conan o’Brien Needs a Friend – It’s kind of like WTF, but much, much jokier.
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)
Voyage to the Stars – an improv serialized science fiction story about a group of misfits piloting a sentient ship. They have a plot they’re working towards, but all the dialog in each scene is improvised.
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 most times I just skip it. (Approx 1 hr)
Unspooled – Paul Scheer’s serious movie podcast. He teams up with Amy Nicholson to talk about movies from the AFI Top 100 best American movies list. It’s pretty neat to hear them really dissect these movies and they usually have an interview with someone involved in the movie.
Twinsies – Andy Wood from Probably Science and another guy who might just mention that he has a film degree from Arizona State talk about two movies that came out around the same time and are almost the same movie – at least superficially. For example Antz v A Bug’s Life or The Illusionist v The Prestige. Good for film/pop culture nerds. (approximately 45 minutes)
The Bugle – Andy Zaltzman and another comedian (it’s a rotational chair since John Olive left a few years ago) make fun of 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)
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) still on my feed, but it’s been 10 months since the last episode
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 Trump administration.
What Trump can teach us about Con Law – Hosted by Roman Mars of 99% Invisible and Elizabeth Joh, a constitutional law professor, it explores issues of constitutional law around statements, executive orders, etc that Trump has made. Very informative and explains a lot about how certain things that affect other politicians don’t affect the present. (15 minutes)
Give Me Fiction – note: I’m still subscribed to this podcast, but it’s been 34 months since the last episode. 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. (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. As they’ve gotten closer to the end of the published books and the final season, they’ve branched out to include a lot of “What You Should Be Watching” episode where they cover different movies and TV shows. They’ve introduced me to a lot of shows that I’ve ended up really loving, like Counterpart.
The Allusionist – a podcast about words, where they come from, and how we use them
Nancy – A WNYC podcast about LGBT culture. It’s fascinating for me to hear about a culture I’ve absolutely no experience with and the differences in the life experiences of the hosts and their guests. Also interesting having Kathy Tu as a co-host because the bits of LGBT culture I’ve seen before were from a white perspective and she provides an asian perspective on the LGBT experience. (15 minutes)
Imaginary Worlds – a look at what makes science fiction and fantasy so enjoyable whether as books, film, or music.
Decoder Ring – they take a look at a cultural mystery or meme and where it came from and how it’s affecting culture. Examples include: Truck Nutz, Sad Jennifer Aniston, The Incunabula Papers, and Clown Panic.
SciFi Diner Podcast – I discovered them when I went to Farpoint this year. They talk about SFF stuff. So far from the episodes I’ve heard, it’s mostly about SFF movies.
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) I’m still subscribed to the feed, but it’s been 9 months since the last episode
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.
Star Talk Radio – Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s official podcast feed. Some episodes are a show hosted by him in which he either interviews a guest or answers listener questions. Others are Chuck Nice and another guy talking about the science of sports.
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)
GoodMuslimBadMuslim – a window into what it’s like to be a Muslim in modern America.
Politically Reactive – note: I’m still subscribed to this podcast, but it’s been 12 months since the last episode. 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.
Business Wars – focuses on business rivalries like Netflix v Blockbuster, Nike v Adidas, or Marvel v DC. Usually 4-6 episodes per topic and a reasonably deep dive into the subjects.
Milk Street – a cooking podcast that goes along with Chris Kimball’s new enterpise, Milk Street. They interview a chef or two, have a question and answer section, and go over a recipe.(Approximately an hour)
Proof – a short podcast by the folks at America’s Test kitchen that looks at various food culture stories. Previous episodes include Fair Foods, Bowls, and Ketchup. (usually about 15-20 minutes)
Serious Eats – Ed Levine interviews a chef about their life and about food.