FROM THE DESK OF: Deo
You don’t need me to tell you about Serial. You’re probably way over it by now. But there are still a lot of great podcasts out there, and over the last year, they’ve really blown up. Here is what Ira Glass said:
“When This American Life went on the air in 1995, it took us four years to get to a million listeners. In 2014, our spinoff Serial got there in four weeks. NPR’s show Invisibilia got there even faster: over two million listeners per episode in four weeks. And as people continue to find these shows on the Internet, the numbers just keep climbing.”
Last summer, I downloaded the podcast app, Player FM (it’s free and with no ads!) just so I could listen to This American Life. After a few awesome episodes, I wanted to know what other podcasts were out there. So I subscribed to all the best ones.
Since then, I’ve become pretty addicted to podcasts (because I need something to listen to while I’m on the train. Or at work. Or eating. Or sleeping).
Let me categorize and tell you about my favorites!
We’re all hardwired to seek stories. In some ways, podcasts are more powerful than television or movies: hearing stories, without accompanied images, allows our brain to imagine the worlds ourselves. An entire audience, listening to the same story, will have visualized different details—making each persons experience of the story uniquely their own. Listen to these and you’ll remember them like you were there:
“The Living Room” by Love+Radio
I listened to this one while on a redeye flight. I don’t remember anything else about that flight except this story.
“Greetings From Coney Island” by Love+Radio
Love+Radio really knows how to tell some poignant, touching stories. In this one, a woman named Rachel receives mysterious postcards from 1938 that tell of a love story from the past. Simultaneously, she goes through her own in the present.
“Fameishness” by The Moth
Remember Steve Burns from the kids show Blues Clues? Well one of his fans was a stripper and they went on a date!
“Horsemeat” by The Moth
Rachel Dratch from SNL got asked out “movie-style”, but then bad stuff happened to her before her date. When she finally goes on said date, she realizes the guy has some serious red flags.
“Humiliating” by RISK!
RISK! makes me want to take a storytelling class. This episode has three stories about mortification.
Journalism + Science + Culture
“How to Become Batman” by Invisibilia
This one blew my mind the most. It’s about a blind guy who can see by using echolocation. With his tongue, he clicks and clicks and uses the reflected sound to form images in the visual areas of his brain. He can literally see the world (except its in black and white). Listen and find out how he got to be this way.
“Entanglement” by Invisibilia
This episode is about a woman who has mirror-touch synesthesia, a condition where just by looking at someone, she can physically feel what they’re feeling.
“Episode 604 – Terry Gross” by WTF with Marc Maron
Terry Gross is “the most effective and beautiful interviewer of people on the planet.” Personally, she is one of my heroes. She asks all the right questions, the kind that get people to share their most intimate thoughts. Here, Marc Maron does to her what she normally does to other people. As a supplement, read this NY Times piece.
“Longform #159: Ira Glass” by Longform
Ira Glass is host and executive producer of This American Life. Enough said.
“Gay Talese” by Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin
Et tu, Alec? Apparently! And he’s a pretty good interviewer. Here, he talks to Gay Talese about his 1966 profile of Frank Sinatra entitled Frank Sinatra Has a Cold. It’s about how all of Frank Sinatra’s confidence comes from his voice—so when he gets a cold and can’t sing, everything around him descends into a downward spiral of chaos.
“Ep. 45 Nassim Taleb: Why You Should Embrace Uncertainty” by James Altucher
Nasseem Taleb wrote Antifragile, which is a book about things that gain from disorder. I think Taleb is one of the most brilliant people alive, and here, he talks about how to use variability as a way to become antifragile.
“Decoding Science and Politics with Bill Clinton” by StarTalk Radio
A lot of good points made by Bill Clinton and Neil Degrasse Tyson on how politics and science intersect. Bill Clinton presided over the era that really took science to a new level and he increased the funding for so many scientific agencies to the point that Neil nicknamed him “scientist in chief”.
“Aziz Ansari & Alan Yang” by Fresh Air With Terry Gross
Terry talks to Aziz and Alan about their Netflix show Master of None. Since it’s Terry, of course she asks the best questions.
“The Scariest Navy SEAL Imaginable… And What He Taught Me” by The Tim Ferriss Show
Tim Ferriss is a prolific productivity hacker. He’s fluent in over a dozen languages, various forms of martial arts, is a master chef, a human guinea pig, and was even a tango world champion. He likes to pick the brain of people who are the best in their field. Here, he talks to Jocko Willink who has some amazing things to say about the dichotomy of leadership.
“Wrath of the Khans” by Hardcore History with Dan Carlin
If you’re a big history buff like me, this podcast will be incredible. Dan Carlin is a master storyteller, has read all the best historians, and makes history really come alive like nobody else can. The Mongols were so brilliant in their tactics, and so brutal in their conquests, that they massacred entire world regions and killed somewhere between 40 to 80 million people! There are hypothetical debates on what would happen if the Mongols reached Europe. Well, it turns out they did (they made it to Poland). In the few battles they had with the European armies, the Mongols completely smashed them to the point that they started toying with them. Had they continued their plan to keep advancing west (they had to turn back for political reasons), they would have leveled all of Europe. This is a 4 part series totaling 512 minutes, but if you’re into this stuff, it’s totally worth the listen. Plus, it makes for watching Marco Polo on Netflix so much better.
“The Planet Money Workout” by Planet Money
Today’s gyms are designed so that you sign up (and pay an annual amount) but don’t actually go. I chose my gym because it has a swimming pool but I haven’t swam in months. I’m going to tell myself it is the gym’s fault and definitely not my will power. Damn you gym!
“Why Do We Really Follow the News?” by Freakonomics
The guys from Freakonomics cover a lot of diverse topics that normal economists wouldn’t think of. Here, they ask the question of why we really follow the news. The points they make are especially relevant now that this Donald Trump guy is all over the headlines.
“This Is Your Brain on Bugs: How Gut Bacteria Affect Mental Health” by Primal Blueprint
This podcast is all about the health benefits of being paleo (or in my case “faileo”). There’s a vast neural network located along your intestinal lining called the enteric nervous system, and it relays and sends neurotransmitters (like serotonin and GABA) to your brain. About 90% of these neurotransmitters are cultivated from your gut, which means, what you eat is directly responsible for your emotions, your mood, how you feel, how you think, and how you perform. The gut bacteria (probiotics) comprise and affect these neurotransmitters. The studies listed on this episode (and there are a lot) changed my life and are the reason I started eating yogurt, kimchi, pickles, and all kinds of fermented foods. I even tried Japanese natto once (don’t do it, it’s gross).
“Farts and Procreation – Comedy Bang Bang #120” by Comedy Bang Bang
I took an improv class last month and it was both terrifying and exhilarating. I have a whole new respect for people who can do it. This podcast brings in the best comics and they just do hilarious improv for like 90 minutes. I’ve often had to stop playing it when I’m on the train because I end up looking like a crazy person when I laugh out loud in front of everyone. This is an old episode, but it has the writers from Parks and Rec: Harris Wittels, Adam Scott, and Chelsea Peretti.
“Just In the Nick of Time” by Call Chelsea Peretti
The first five minutes are an accurate description of my personality.
The Internet and Other Drugs
“Shine On You Crazy Goldman” by Reply All
Reply All is a podcast about the internet, but really it’s a podcast about people. In this episode, the host investigates tripsit.me and follows his curiosity on the effect of psychedelics to the point where he actually tries acid… while at work! This episode reminds of that time I… umm… uhh… never mind.
That’s it for now, but we should do this again sometime!
Smell ya later.