Listening to podcasts quickly became part of my daily routine after I discovered the phenomenon last fall. I wrote about a few of the podcasts I’d found, and then settled into a groove listening to these new, increasingly familiar voices during my morning and afternoon commute. Recently though, I’ve made a concerted effort to seek out some new podcasts.
Evil Genius vs. God
Dave’s audio essay “Why I Don’t Believe in God” on Evil Genius is easily the most emotionally intense podcast I’ve ever listened to. He laid it all out in a subdued, musicless podcast, beginning with his pre-teen and teen years as a born-again Christian, continuing with his slowly-growing disillusionment with the faith, and leading to his eventual conversion to atheism.
It culminated with a story so personal, so deeply human, that I just sat there, shell-shocked and numbed, as the podcast came to a close and I rolled down the exit ramp of I-287. Not all of his podcasts are like that–most aren’t–but this one, well, it deserves to be held up as an example of what this medium is capable of.
The first new podcast I picked up was the MacCast, which I found surfing through the iPodder.net directory. It’s a daily round up of Apple news, covering everything from product rumors to lawsuits to new software. The reader feedback portion of the show is particularly good. Readers submit questions or problems to host Adam Christianson, who then answers the question, or asks his audience for help. Many times, a member of the audience will have the answer, and send it in via an audio clip.
What I like most about this podcast is its length; it runs about 20-30 minutes (it’s tended towards 30 lately) which is far shorter than the traditional Mac internet radio shows. It lets me get my weekly Mac fix, but also leaves time to listen to another podcast during my hour-long commute.
A Different Kind of Commute
Speaking of commutes Michael Wolf’s lasts about a half hour, as he travels from his Washington home to his job as a PR rep in Microsoft’s Xbox division. I know this, because he records his Driving Decompressions podcast about twice a week as he’s driving. I’ve especially enjoyed this since my Jeep Wrangler was knocked out of commission after getting rear-ended on the way home from work. I’ve been stuck driving my wife’s car, but at least I can still get that old familiar engine start-up sound as Mike turns over his own Wrangler.
The podcast itself is a fun listen and I’m amazed how clearly he speaks and how organized his show is, given that he’s recording it on an iPod while commuting. His insights into the gaming industry can be fascinating; on the one hand, he was once a writer for PC Gamer, and on the other, well, he works for freaking Xbox! What fanboy wouldn’t be fascinated?
One day I went looking for comic book-inspired podcasts, and I found one in the form of Neal Gorman’s Comicology. During each half-hour long podcast Neal talks about independent and mainstream comic books, discussing what he’s reading, what he likes and–most importantly–why he likes it. I’m a long-time comic book fan, but for one reason or another, I’ve rarely read columns about (or reviews of) comic books. Comicology fills that void nicely.
Listening to Comicology led me to Geek Fu Action Grip, by Mur Lafferty. It’s notable for a few reasons. First, it’s by a woman, which seems to be something of a rarity in the geekier portions of podcast land (or at least, in the podcasts I’ve been listening too The Girl on Tech is the only other geek woman podcast I’ve found.).
She’s a self-avowed geek, with a geek husband and–hopefully–a geek kid. She talks about all manner of fandom, from comic books to movies, in a podcast that starts off with a freeform chat, and ends with pre-written essay. I like the mix of spontaneous and prepared content, and some of her essays–like the one on fandom — had me laughing out loud. Others, like the one talking about how she overcame her fear of getting hit in the nose while sparring during martial arts, were inspiring.
Another podcast that Comicology turned me on to is Digital Strips, a weekly podcast hosted by two comics-loving geeks. Digital Strips focuses entirely on web-based comics, including one-panel comics, multi-panel strips, and graphic novels. Each episode has a round up of news and reviews dealing with web comics (and there’s a heck of a lot of them!) as well as two “weekly picks” that highlight comics they particularly enjoyed. There’s also a segment in which readers submit their own recommendations for comics. The podcast has turned me on to several new strips and web sites, earning it a permanent place in my iPod lineup.
Same Dragon, Different Roar
The Dragon Page is a long-running science fiction and fantasy radio show (well, actually two shows) and started podcasting a few months ago. Recently though, one of their shows was dropped by the real-world station that had been broadcasting it, and this in turn to the creation of a new, podcast-only show; The Dragon Page: Wingin’ It.
I hate to say it, because I suspect the guys would probably rather be on the air, but I think this shake up was good for them. The new podcast is far more laid-back and conversational than their old radio show, and it’s a real pleasure to listen to. They sound a lot less like professional radio men, and a lot more like a couple of geeks chatting up their particular obsessions. The fact that they ate a bucket of KFC during a podcast only added to the show’s atmosphere. I’m not a big fan of listening to other people eat, but they weren’t obnoxious about it, and it reinforced the mental picture of some guys hanging out and having fun. With any luck, this new show will be picked up for broadcast, but if not, it’ll always have a home on my iPod.
Off the Island
There are two podcasts I tried, but that I’m not going to be sticking with. Free Talk Live is a libertarian-themed broadcast radio program that recently began offering its show as a podcast. The daily podcasts are 2 hours long, the Saturday show is three hours. That’s a heck of a lot of content to listen to for a podcast, and I personally prefer something in the 30-40 minute range. That’s one strike against it; I’d much rather see an edited version of their offering, rather than the full two-hour show every download (that said, they do offer the show as two two-hour files, but still, it’s longer than I’d like). The show’s also been at the center of a controversy regarding how they approached their ranking on PodcastAlley, but since I can’t speak authoritatively on that, I’ll reserve judgment. It’s really the length of the show that’s causing me to drop it.
Another podcast I tried and dropped was Next Gen Games. The content on this show–which focused on video games–was fine, but I had a terrible time making out the host’s voice. It’s a combination of low-levels and a British accent (which normally I have no trouble understanding). I’ve kept it on my work feed, but it’s just not something I can easily listen to in the Wrangler’s noisy interior.