Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Few Favourites: Relaxed podcasts to learn from

The obsession begins...
I am an anxious person masquerading as someone who is laid back. Only those close to me see that my toe starts tapping within the twenty minutes of having to catch the bus mark and the weird stress faces I make when forced to do something unproductive when there are deadlines. Living in a house where CBC was always on, I grew up with serious sounding jingles as a means of telling time. (As It Happens meant supper soon!) In fact, my early meanderings of the Internet were mostly spent seeking clips of Peter Gzowski’s wonderful voice in its hey day, before he became a guest on other up and comer’s shows and eventually passed away.

Some like music, but I’ve found conversation has always had more rhythm. I seldom listen to podcasts for information but more for the one excellent story that I can decide whether to further research at a more appropriate time. From Bill Simmons to Ira Glass I have a whole slew of characters for putting on make up to, working to, washing vegetables to, and eventually drifting to sleep. Radio is the best kind of passive, not requiring the attention that an episode of anything on Netflix does. Podcasts can be consumed without so much attention on the screen.

What I listen to every day is too long a list for one post, but these are my perfect part geeky part transcendental experience that will inform you while making you feel. Podcasts are merging art and science in ways I haven’t seen other mediums try to succeed. If you enjoy dreamy synth pop but want a story, all of these are for you.  Although none of the following have anything to do with these actions, all of these podcasts use their voice, their editing, and their stories to evoke emotions in me akin to spending time looking at antiques with no deadline, eating a slightly tart frozen yogurt on a hot day, looking at sepia photographs and, for a reason I don’t understand, the colour orange. It can be tempting to relegate sound based to a lesser form of television, but the artistry in these pieces proves that no, it’s just different.

This I Believe

The 1951 radio show was revived as a podcast in the early aughties. When reading about it’s history, I learned that much of it’s appeal lay in that it “stressed individual belief rather than religious dogma” which adds a different element to it when I listen to the brief, plain segments of people speaking passionately about something that they believe.

Length: roughly 5 minute an episode once a week 
A park ranger talks about building community from within.


Radiolab tells science like stories, frequently by telling the stories of people who work with the sciences. The perfect “NPR mad professor” characters, Robert & Jad present an array of philosophy, anthropology, physics, and lately legal stories in a quirky, otherworldly way.  

Length: either 15-20 minutes or an hour, 2-3 times a month 
‘Ally’s Choice’: A white woman calls herself a negro in a small town, but one of her daughters decided not to.
‘Killing babies, saving the world’: Don’t let the name deter you; this is a fascinating look at ethics and evolution.

The Memory Palace

Spoken like a novel, The Memory Palace is haunting but not in a spooky way. Mini moments of forgotten Americana are given a tone that can only be described as Sofia Coppola’s aesthetic made aural combined with your family’s matriarch or patriarch’s attention to detail. I hesitate to use the word favourite, but….

Length: 5-10 minutes once a month
The Sisters Fox: Sisters convince everyone they can contact the dead with so many twists that will make you gasp.
The Messrs. Craft: A slave dies on a plantation that she owns. In between she dresses in drag to escape across the country and so much more.

99% Invisible

Imagine if they told fairy tales about urban planning and design. They do, his name is Roman Mars, and 99% Insivible will make you acutely aware of your surroundings.

Length: 20 minutes, once a week
Heyoon: The movie Stand by Me only with art instead of dead bodies
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: Dispelling the myths of public housing
Elegy for the WTC: A look at the world trade centres you definitely haven't heard before.

The Moth

Performers tell their stories. Some are good, some are bad, some are campy, some are inspiring. When they are good, they are very, very good. When they are bad, they are the people who think they are legally entitled to a cronut or some crazy New York crap like that.

Please note that my two favourites for this show are possibly by favourite 40 minutes of anything ever. Both stories make me nostalgic for things I don't understand.

Length: 20 minutes once a week
Stars on the Ceiling: An ode to the resourceful women in our lives who make things okay when everything goes wrong
The Case of Curious Codes: A woman escapes her abusive husband, becomes an author at 70, and finds romance through code breaking. You will cry.

Maybe coming soon:
Badass female podcasts / Reporting to make you feel things / Sports with humour or Why Grantland is the best and nothing will ever compare...


bobb said...

Radiolab has long been a favorite of mine

Rebecca Jane said...

I will have to check some of these out! My favourite podcast is the one from Relevant Magazine. It makes me laugh, makes me think and also helps me discover awesome new music.