Entries in media (2)
The only thing I like better than reading Skymall in the bath and doing aerobics to old episodes of The Daily Show is listening to podcasts while jogging very slowly. I listen to a lot of podcasts that stretch across the vast reaches of my varying interests. In other words, I subscribe to the approximately ten podcasts that everyone else who went to a liberal arts college and "buys local" subscribes to. Nevertheless, I know how easy it is to get behind on these kinds of things, so you might have missed some auditory gems of the past year, no matter how often you may masturbate to Ira Glass's voice. So I thought to kick off the season of lists, I'd start with a list of the top six episodes of podcasts that ruled my world this year.
6. On The Media: Google - I don't like Bob Garfield or Brooke Gladstone. I find their voices irritating and their reporting extremely slanted and argumentative. However, they have spent over 10 years doing a show on something that ignites me more than anything else -- the new media landscape. This episode is particularly good and thorough, with a lot of new information on Google. It's like a Festivus treasure trove for nerdy atheists.
5. Radiolab: Sleepless in South Sudan - This is one of two episodes of Radiolab that came out within two weeks of each other that completely changed my life. It's just one story, achingly sad and beautiful, about life and death and the way love impacts us in invisible ways. I listened to this one week out of a break-up, and it meant a lot to me.
4. This American Life: Thugs, Act II - This act in particular reminds me so much of what we do as teachers, particularly in low-income communities. It's the kind of story that really upsets you... you don't leave it feeling satisfied or pleased with the outcome. But that's the honesty that makes this act something truly unique and special, and helps us to think more realistically and urgently about the work we all do in this world.
3. How To Do Everything: How to Read CAPTCHAs - This is my favorite podcast of 2011. It's probably a lot of people's favorite. It's smart and funny and delightfully short, and it breaks a lot of rules, but not so many that it's crass or unlistenable. This particular episode is not only very funny, but it's also useful. I learned a lot about CAPTCHAs. My brain swelled with joy when I listened to this.
2. This American Life: Middle School - The most engrossing episode of the year (actually, you know, this is almost of tied with the Kid Politics episode... but this one is just a little more joyful and less calculated). This episode is very anecdotal, so if you're more of the statistical, historical TAL listener, skip this one... however, if you want a lovely little casserole that delightfully explores the richness of being a middle schooler, play this RIGHT NOW. How easy it is to forget... and to remember again.
1. Radiolab: Loops - There are not enough positive adjectives in the world to apply to the "Loops" episode of Radiolab. To start, it's gorgeously edited (as a title like "loops" necessarily lends itself to in this digital auditory age). Beyond that, the pieces here are deeply thought-provoking and brilliantly executed. This should be treated like a terribly expensive 10-course meal at a restaurant you can barely afford: slowly, carefully, and single-mindedly digested. The latter parts of this are the best -- the section about a whale's decomposing body may be the most striking thing I've heard in my life. You just have to... listen.
For the record, I subscribe to the following podcasts. Some of them (like The Moth) are great shows that didn't have any particularly life-changing episodes this season. So I offer them up (with five-word descriptions) to be subscribed to, if you are in want of something new to eat up your time.
1. The Moth: Sometimes interesting stories from humans.
2. This American Life: If you don't know already...
3. Wait Wait Don't Tell Me: Cocky weekly NPR news quiz.
4. For The Birds: Unintentionally hilarious avian news items.
5. The New York Times Popcast: Beautifully reported mainstream music reviews.
6. Radiolab: Science for hipsters and loners.
7. Stuff You Should Know: Comical Wikipedia histories of miscellany.
8. Lifehacker: Video DIY bits and tips.
9. On The Media: Old people discuss new journalism.
10. Thrilling Adventure Hour: New old-timey adventure stories.
There are others, too. But we all have to start somewhere.