April 24, 2017

Horse 2263 - Have I Heard S-Town Yet?

In the grand tradition of Betteridge's Rule Of Headlines, the answer to that question is "No". No, I have not heard S-Town and if it is anything like Serial where despite weeks of questioning of all of the people involved, it still achieved nothing, then I don't want to listen to D either.
This isn't to say that you won't find it enjoyable. People like what they like and don't like what they don't like. If you like S-Town then that's cool; it's just that I've already been bitten by these producers.
I still love podcasts though.

As one small particle who moves through this conurbation of Sydney as it breathes in and out, I have a lot of time on my hands. A lot of it is spent tapping away at my tablet and yet more of it is spent standing up with my eyes closed and listening to podcasts. I've been listening to podcasts for a long time now. I'm probably mistaken but I suspect that the name podcast was first coined by the great and powerful BBC who back in 2003, saw this new fangled MP3 thing as a way of making shows that had been on regular broadcast radio available to either listen to again or save for later listening and to me that was and still is important.

For me it meant that the staples of the Friday Night Comedy slot, which include The News Quiz, The Now Show and Dead Ringers would now be available for me to listen to in the car on Monday morning; as would the Monday night shows of Just A Minute, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, The 99p Challenge and The Unbelievable Truth would be available later on in the week. To this day, my Saturday mornings are still filled with the Friday night comedy show from BBC Radio 4 and then NPR's Planet Money before I sweep the house and pull out enough cat hair day week to build a new cat.

I tried to build a top ten list of the podcasts that I listen to but that's weird. These ten been selected because of their interestingness instead.

NPR Politics Podcast (http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510310/npr-politics-podcast)
As the title suggests, it is a weekly or sometimes more than weekly podcast which looks at the political news in America. During the 2016 Presidential Election, this was one of the only news sources that bothered to explain the long game of politics rather than just the "he said/she said" cut and thrust of politics. NPR has always had to tread very carefully when it comes to reporting on politics and like PBS it often comes across as the only sane one in the room. With correspondents who walk the floors of Congress and the White House, this is a show packed with wonks.

99% Invisible (http://99percentinvisible.org)
Roman Mars came from the world of public radio and those sensibilities are obvious. This podcast about architecture and design is obviously made by someone who started in public radio and found a way to get out of the time constrained box. A piece which might have filled up four minutes on All Things Considered, will now be spun out to 22 and be given enough time for the story to be told. If you want a story about sinister looking Family Court buildings, the buildings that used to be Pizza Huts, those grass verges which exist in freeway overpasses or something about "the fancy shape", this is where you'll find those and more like them.

Hello Internet (http://www.hellointernet.fm)
Brady Haran and CGP Grey are both professional YouTubers and the first dozen are sort of about working in the industry but that notion quickly feel by the wayside and what is left is a classic "two dudes talking" podcast. This podcast is often about Brady the optimist and explorer who wants to make and create new stuff and Grey the pragmatist who wants to make the perfectly crafted thing despite not really having the skills of a filmmaker. You very quickly get the impression that here are two friends who are good mates but who should never be allowed to go on a road trip of anything longer than three days because it would end in the death of one of the protagonists.

NPR Car Talk (http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510208/car-talk)
Tom and Ray Magliozzi are two mechanics who answer people's questions about their cars and car repairs. There have been phone in radio shows in the past but none as joyous as this because neither Tom or Ray had really any idea about how to do a radio show. If you were the producer of a radio show, you'd have fired these guys for their unprofessionalism as they laughed and guffawed their way across the airwaves and yet that's why the show is so utterly brilliant.

CBC The Irrelevant Show (http://www.cbc.ca/radio/irrelevantshow)
American humour tends to lie more in the
use of sharp witticisms or perhaps the incisive put down and this is almost certainly due to the fact that it is people groups on the outer who define comedy in America. British comedy plays more with the use of language, the surreal and the clash of class, where having someone tear themselves down is far funnier than being dragged down. Canadian humour as embodied in The Irrelevant Show steals from both traditions. This sketch show has its stock and trade in the theatre of the absurd.

Dear Hank And John (https://soundcloud.com/dearhankandjohn)
The brothers Hank and John Green are hosts of various things on YouTube including Crash Course, SciShow and their own channel Vlogbrothers. This podcast is self described as answering people's questions, giving dubious advice and giving you all the news from AFC Wimbledon (which is a third tier, English football club) and Mars (which is a cold, dead rock in space). As with all Agony Aunt style columns in the newspaper, this podcast is a fourth wall mail slot program.

We Got This (http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/we-got-this)
Imagine the most intractable dilemma that you can think of and then imagine an hour of discussion of trying to resolve it. Which is the best Muppet? Who is the best President? Pirates or Ninjas? These questions and many more like them, are the basis of this podcast.
Which is the best? How should you do this? People of the world, you know what you need to do. Subscribe to this show and don't worry everyone, they've got this.

ABC RN - The Minefield (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/theminefield/)
If you thought that you knew something about how intelligent Waleed Aly from Channel 10's The Project is, then you've only really scratched the surface. He and Scott Stephens discuss moral and ethical questions which arise from the news and other issues floating around. This is a show which does the work of philosophy and asks what is the nature, goodness or fitness of the things they are discussing. Whether it be the nature of free speech, the fitness of democracy, the ontology of governance or a myriad of other things, The Minefield is probably the most intelligent half hour of radio which is currently being produced in Australia.

Judge John Hodgeman (http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/judge-john-hodgman)
John Hodgeman is perhaps best known as either the PC from the Mac v PC adverts, or perhaps as an eccentric millionaire on late night television. In his role as judge of a fake internet court, he decides the fate of people's problems. Want to know if you're allowed to install a hot tub in the backyard? Are beanbags or daybeds  actual furniture? If you are 16 years old, are you allowed to have a motorbike? Is a hotdog a sandwich? The decisions in all of these cases have been handed down by Judge John Hodgeman and the universe has wrapped itself around accordingly.

Presidential (http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/business/presidential-podcast/)
The Washington Post's Lillian Cunningham set out on the mission of producing 44 episodes looking at the lives of each of the Presidents and seeing what if anything could be learned about leadership. She looked at things like style and tone and inadvertently also touched on the grander story of American history. This series was recorded in 2016 in the run up to the election and although it has finished, it does lend itself to making comparisons of presidents past and the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

There are of course far more podcasts that I listen to like The Partial Historians which is about Roman history, More Perfect which is about the US Supreme Court, The Party Room on Australian politics, The Great Detectives Podcast and Radiolab which is about almost everything. It's been asked of me on a few occasions why I don't do a podcast of my own and the reason put simply is that I don't know anyone who'd be up for making the sort of program that I'd want to produce. With only one voice, shows like The Memory Palace or Le Show are possible but the writing needs to be exceptionally tight.
I haven't heard S-Town but if you have some other suggestions for me to listen to, then please drop a comment in the box below. I'm sure that the trained monkeys that operate the internet will deliver it to me in double quick time.

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