27 Jun 2017

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I've recently decided that I like listening to stuff when I'm walking/biking/driving. And since a) I don't pay to subscribe to any music streaming services (nor is my private collection very impressive), and b) the speakers in my car are so crappy that playing almost any kind of music on it is an insult to the music, I've been listening to podcasts.

I had gone without listening to things for so long that I had a couple years of backlog of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me to catch up on, which kept me golden for a while, but then I ran out, and started seeking more. I feel like I've struck out way more than I've hit gold, so this post is mostly here to ask for suggestions.

What I like: humor, storytelling, brevity, segments I can start and finish in a typical day's commute (~20-25 minutes one way), nothing too deep as my attention isn't 100% on it at any point and my listening is the first things to go if my brain is preoccupied.

What I don't like: People having a lengthy, unedited conversation. Too much pop culture references that doesn't include me. The wrong kind of humor.

What I've tried:

Wait Wait Don't Tell Me
My favorite podcast that I've listened to for many many years and compare all others to. I like the personalities, I like the humor, I like that it is strictly edited and consistently timed, I like that no single segment in it is very long (even Not My Job is rarely more than 10-15 minutes).

The Moth
My next favorite. The stories are captivating and interesting and emotional and not too long. Just right for a small listening break in my day. The character list is ever changing, but they are basically all people who are picked for being good at storytelling, which is important. If I needed to I could probably just go back into the archives and listen to all of them.

This American Life
Pretty good show by those hipster know-it-alls who talk about how fascinating ordinary people are. I like when humans are shown in detail and made to be complex and sympathetic and Ira Glass does a good job at that. I remember listening to it years ago in the car when I'd flip to NPR and it would be on by chance, and generally enjoyed it then, so I looked it up now. Not much has changed, but it's all new.

Hello Internet
This one breaks all my rules for what I think I should like and yet I kinda do. My older son introduced me to it as something he enjoyed, and we got through a couple episodes on a college commute trip. It is, basically, just two dudes chatting, which I would expect to be bored by, and yet somehow I'm not. I suspect it has to do with the fact that hosts CGP Gray and Brady Haran are both successful YouTubers, and know the art of editing. But I also appreciate that the two of them, even though they seem to have very different personalities with occasionally wildly opposing opinions, obviously get along very well, and their comfort with each other somehow comes across in their shows.

The Ezra Klein Show
I started this because I've read a lot of Ezra Klein interviews and articles that I've liked. I admire his brain and his interviews tend to be with people who are passionate and articulate in ways I want to hear more of. But the interviews are on the long side, and I always find my brain wandering a little. I would probably appreciate these interviews a lot more by spending 10 minutes reading them than an hour listening to them.

Welcome to Night Vale
The premise sounded really good to me, a lot of my friends are in love with it, and I enjoyed it some. I listened to the first 10 episodes to really try to get into it, and while it has some nifty bits, it's just not as appealing to me as I'd hoped. It's non-contiguous enough that while I realize I don't -have- to listen to them all in order, it throws in a few ongoing storylines here and there so that skipping around doesn't seem to make sense. On the upside, each episode is fairly short, so I may go back and try more eventually.

No Dumb Questions
Downloaded because I like Destin Sandlin's work on Smarter Every Day. Unfortunately the one ep I listened to was basically a really long conversation between three people, probably only about 25% of which I found particularly interesting. On the upside, I discovered Emily Graslie and The Brain Scoop, which is vaguely interesting, but I don't think the rest is worthwhile to do it again.

Dear Hank and John
I like the Vlog brothers's personalities and most of their videos that I've seen. And I liked Paper Towns. Unfortunately, like John's books, this show is really aimed towards a much younger audience than me, and although I gave it a few episodes, I found their focus on answering internet questions to be pretty irrelevant to me.

The Daily Show Podcast Without John Stewart
I love the Daily Show, I like the correspondents, I like the editing. This was fun. But there were only 20 episodes, and then it stopped.

Stuff You Should Know
I downloaded this one because it was rated highly and is hosted by writers at HowStuffWorks, which sounded interesting. But it's basically another hour of two people having a conversation and usually not about things that I cared about (or agreed with).

2 Dope Queens
I like both Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson and yet their conversations and joking around just didn't amuse me.

My Brother, My Brother, and Me
Answering inane questions from random listeners or Yahoo (bzzt). An hour of conversation between people I don't know and don't particularly find funny (bzzt). Not going back here.


So, dear Readers. Given these descriptions (or not), what podcasts do you like and you would recommend to me? Heck, I'm even interested in some that feature music, as my headphones are pretty decent.

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