Monday, March 05, 2012

Podcast of the week

"It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes

I'm in the car a lot. Honestly, a ridiculous amount of time. And I've ran the course on sports talk radio. You can only listen to local sports meatballs complaining about stuff they have absolutely no knowledge of for so long. Ideally, I'd listen to NPR all the time but a lot of the shows I like aren't on when I'm driving around. So, for the last year I've been on a huge podcast listening kick. My car stereo has an auxiliary port so that I can plug my Blackberry into it. Plus, I've gotten in the habit of walking 3 or 4 miles each night, so I'll put a bunch of podcasts on the Blackberry and tool around the neighborhood in bliss.

Since I don't have near the amount of time I'd like to read, I've found listening to the podcasts gives me an opportunity to still learn and keep up on films, music, history, science, philosophy, etc. This week, I'm just going to the give you the general sites for the podcasts that I most often download. But, in future weeks (and every week, I hope), I will highlight 3 or 4 specific podcasts that I've listened to that I thought might be of interest to my few readers.

Anyway, here we go:

Filmspotting -- Put on by a couple of Chicago film geeks, these podcasts are frequently over an hour long. They review new movies, but maybe not the blockbusters that most other reviewers waste time on. These are actual good movies that may not get pub from mainstream reviewers. Plus, their shows have themed topics, such as Top 5 Action Thespians, which I just listened to a couple of days ago. Michael Phillips makes frequent appearances as do many indie filmmakers. While they get into a bit of film theory, it's not necessarily all high-brow and a casual film watcher can still get something out of it.

The Naked Scientists -- I like listening to this with my son. It's a British show that explores current science topics in-depth, often interviewing leading scientists. But, it doesn't get too overly technical, so is good for an audience of all ages. Plus, they bring some humor into it.

Nerdist - Hosted by comedian Chris Hardwick. Very irreverent and often off-color, but Hardwick has channelled many years in the entertainment business and his natural inquisitiveness and nerdiness into relationships with a lot of science and sci-fi talent. This is just a sampling of the guests on his podcasts in the past year: Conan O'Brien, David Tennant (Doctor Who), J.J. Abrams, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the cast of Big Bang Theory, Sir Patrick Stewart, etc.

NPR's Fresh Air -- This is probably my favorite NPR show. Terry Gross is arguably the best interviewer in any medium and has been doing it for over 30 years. She'll interview people from just about any area: politicians, actors, scientists, authors, etc.

NPR's All Songs Considered -- I'm relatively new to this podcast but have been very impressed. As their website says, "All Songs Considered is a great place to discover new music that doesn't get a lot of airplay anywhere else.". They will focus on a specific genre each broadcast and give some play to musicians that you may not have heard of but that are fantastic. One week it might be electonic music, another week punk, and yet another week might be themed.

Philosophy Bites -- If you like philosophy, this is really good. They highlight a specific philosophical concept on each podcast and will talk to a philosopher well-versed in that particular topic. The shows are not too long, frequently about 15 minutes. A few topics from the last year: meaning of life, moral relativism, atheism, Hume on design, humanism, free will. Good stuff.

NPR's Science Friday -- If you listen to NPR, most of you will know what this is. Ira Flatow has hosted this couple hour program on current science topics on every Friday (obviously) for as long as I can remember. I was lucky enough to see Ira Flatow in person a few years back at one of the ASU Origins Symposiums that I attended. He's very knowledgeable and understands the relevance and for science and reason in our everyday lives.

Sierra Club Radio - As you would guess, this highlights current environment topics, often speaking with authors and activists. About a half long episodes.

Sound on Sight - Another in-depth movie analysis program of about an hour an episode.

Star Talk Radio -- One of my favorites. This is hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. I believe he is one of the best science popularizers out there and a tireless advocate for science education and space exploration.

These are just a few of the podcasts available. There are zillions of other smart people making great podcasts. All of these can be found through Itunes or the pages I linked to above. Itunes is probably the best place for searching for podcasts of a specific topic.

The best stuff, the most informative talk, the most intelligent insights ... are not on your TV's. What you see on most television is what someone is paying for you to see or that is trying to sell something. Obviously reading books is probably the best way of getting information, but sometimes that verbal interaction between smart people is great way of learning. And I still want to be learning even when I can't be sitting down reading a book. Listening to something of substance makes me feel like that dead time in a car wasn't a complete waste of my time.

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen." -- Ernest Hemingway


wunelle said...

Most excellent! I too have taken to relying more on audio sources of news and info than I used to, and especially audiobooks.

I totally agree about Terry Gross. What a collection of probing, fascinating interviews she has collected over the many years she's been at this (I wish they would stop referring to Dave Davies as a "Fresh Air contributor" and just let dude be a host).

I heard one Nerdist podcast with Adam Savage that was fabulous. I haven't tried any others. I should.

There's such a wealth of information available to us.

dbackdad said...

I agree about Dave Davies.

I do need to listen to some audiobooks. That would certainly help my consumption of newer books.

wunelle said...

Speaking of the Naked Scientists, I heard a Diane Rehm interview with Marine Biologist Helen Scales talking about her love of seahorses. On the strength of her voice alone she could be on my List. An amazing voice, as much because of her knowledge and passion and compassion as the mellifluous tones.

(Diane Rehm, much as I love her, is another matter: I keep waiting for her to keel over on the air. She just sounds ancient, even if her grasp of issues is quite unimpaired.)