Saturday, August 18, 2007

The So-Called Review: My Podcasts

This is the first in an occasional series of posts about any darn thing I decide to review about.

The Blogfather, Eric Zorn, recently asked which podcasts I listen to regularly. I subscribe to about 40 podcasts, so it took a little winnowing to make a reasonably sized list. But these were my provisional, final recommendations to EZ and I figured I'd pass them along to you, dear reader.

My three favorite daily podcasts:
1. WAMU's The Diane Rehm Show - Diane Rehm's show is the apex of public service public broadcasting -- like Odyssey on steroids. I hate caller's questions -- I'm talking to you Talk of the Nation -- but this program actually makes them an asset. And Friday's two hour(!) weekly news round up is as good as news analysis gets. I aspire to one day be as good at something as Ms. Rehm is at public radio.

2. Democracy Now! - The Revolution will not be televised. Well, actually it is televised, but only on the satellite dish systems. But I have found no better and stronger voice from the Left.

DN! does have some annoying leftist excesses -- e.g. always calling police "the cops", waaaay too much Cornell West -- but I can count on Amy Goodman's top-of-the-podcast Headlines to give me real news I won't find elsewhere. And it's new news, not just lefty blogger commentary on the news or stories I have read or heard elsewhere in the corporate press.

In addition, the main stories are never duplicative of corporate press. For example: This October, the Federal Communications Commission will open a one-week window, during which nonprofit community groups in the can file applications for their own noncommercial broadcast license. I sure didn't hear about that on WMAQ or WGN... or even 'BEZ.

The downsides are 1) an incredibly slooooow download time and 2) post-Headlines features that are sometimes not of interest to me. See e.g. West, Cornell.

3. KCRW's To The Point - The best public radio daily magazine podcast I've found. Warren Olney's program starts with a timely live interview regarding breaking news. It then shifts to the main story, generally a round table discussion of a hot news topic, e.g. food safety, role of China, the Dems collapse on wire tapping.

Like questions from listeners -- booooo! -- I despise round table discussions with more than three participants. Most hosts simply cannot juggle all of the points of view and personalities of the participants, but Mr. Olney does a damn fine job of balancing as many as six "experts" on his program. He then closes the show with a lighter story.

Not every segment of every program is a winner, but he lets you know whats coming up front and you can listen or not accordingly.

And how are you going to beat John Coltrane's Love Supreme as a theme song? You're not.

Posthumous Award: Radio Open Source - Chris Lydon and Mary McGrath's late, lamented program was one of the highlights of my radio listening life. It didn't matter what the topic was, Open Source almost always hit a home run. Who knew that I would find an hour about Japanese baseball fascinating? Not me. The show was damn near perfect and, apparently, too beautiful to live.

If you doubt me, you can download mp3s of every show from it's all too brief life here:

My three favorite weekly podcasts:
1. WNYC's On the Media
2. WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio's Sound Opinions
3. WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio's This American Life

These three programs are available over the air on Chicago Public Radio, 91.5 WBEZ, so you are probably familiar with them. If you aren't, just go subscribe to them right now.

Seriously, right now.

Go on, we'll wait...

My three favorite weekly podcasts not available on WBEZ:
1. BBC's In Our Time - It's like auditing a different humanities class every week. The very best podcast on the internet.
2. KCRW's Left, Right and Center - A personality-driven weekly news round up. Fortunately, I enjoy the personalities of Robert Scheer (Left), Tony Blankley (Right), Matt Miller (Center) and Ariana Huffington (Other).
3. New York Times Book Review - Usually good, sometimes really good. At 24 minutes it never overstays its welcome.

Irregularly cast podcasts:
1. Cory Doctorow's Craphound - Right now this podcast is at a nadir -- Cory's is reading Bruce Sterling's classic The Hacker Crackdown -- but his talks and interviews about copyright and cultural citizenship in the 21st century are cutting edge and accessible.
2. BBC Documentary Archive - I like radio documentaries. So sue me.
3. On Words with John Ciardi - The late John Ciardi teaches history, geography, ethnology and sociology in five minute etymology lessons. Pretty cool to geeks like me.

If you have any suggestions, feel free to put them in the comments.

Update Mr. Zorn has posted his podcasting column and listed the top podcasts of some of his e-mail correspondents.

No comments:


Blog Archive