Saturday, November 19, 2011

Podcasts

I go through phases where I listen to lots of podcasts followed by periods where I lose interest and listen to very few.  This pattern has been exacerbated by the fact that my iTunes has crashed at least three times in the last year and every time it crashes it loses my entire list of podcasts that I subscribe to.  So then I have to start over and end up deciding to not re-subscribe to ones that I’ve lost interest in and looking for new ones.

About three months ago I went through that process again and I find that I really like my current list of podcasts. My mom asked me to explain how she can find NPR podcasts and listen to them.  And AndiF recommended some of her favorite podcasts in comments to my last post.  So it seems like a good time to talk podcasts.

My very favorite podcast, one that I listened to consistently for a couple of years, is the Slate Audio Book Club.  It is exactly what it says it is, a group of people sitting around talking about a book they read.  There are usually three people and they are usually Slate editors or contributors but sometimes there is a guest.  It is usually on only once a month and sometimes they take off the summers. It is exactly the kind of reading discussion group that I’ve always wanted to be in.  They spend an hour talking about the book in an organized way with one of them taking the role of leader.  I admit I’m not particularly wild about the people who have been in the group the last few months because they tend (and I KNOW this is prejudice on my part) to have heavy East Coast accents and they interrupt each other a lot.  But even though I find their voices grating, I still love to listen to it.  And I find it very annoying that I can’t find a single other podcast that uses the exact same format.  Most podcasts that call themselves “bookclubs” are really author interviews. 

The podcast that I’ve recently become hooked on is the Nerdist Writers Panel which is, again, exactly what it sounds like.  A podcast panel of writers of television programs (and sometimes movies) that nerds like.  You know, shows like Buffy, Terriers, Star Trek, etc.  Actually, I lie.  It also features writers from lots of shows that are loved by the general public.  It is a long podcast, usually at least an hour and sometimes an hour and a half, so it is good for listening to on the treadmill.  It is taped in front of a live audience (who all seem to be aspiring television writers) so there is a period for audience questions.  I think the podcast is at its best when the moderator encourages the panel to interact with each other and question each other but even when they are just answering his questions it is still a fascinating glimpse into the writers rooms.

Another long time favorite podcast is the Firewall and Iceberg Podcast which is a one hour weekly podcast featuring television critics Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg, both of whom now write for Hitfix.com.   I don’t know how I found this podcast, but I found it before Alan Sepinwall moved to Hitfix so it was a while ago.  Half the time I haven’t watched the shows they talk about but it doesn’t seem to matter to me.  I like their discussion because it’s a real back and forth where they don’t always agree with each other but they clearly respect each other.  And they are funny (although not as funny as they sometimes think they are).   It sort of reminds me of the kind of radio shows that would have been on college radio stations back in the day but without the call-in feature.  It also sort of reminds me of an updated version of Siskel and Ebert, but without any “clips” to hear.  Again, it is usually at least an hour so it’s good to listen to while on the treadmill.   

A similar podcast is the Talking TV Podcast with critics Maureen Ryan and Ryan McGee.  I don’t listen to this one all the time, even though I really like to read Maureen Ryan.  The podcast sometimes bores me, probably because the two critics don’t seem to disagree strongly with each other enough.  But I do listen to it occasionally.

Over the years I’ve subscribed to lots of different book related podcasts.  The one I always come back to is the Guardian Books Podcast which is moderated by Claire Armitage.  She usually has guests which often include authors.  They talk about new books and old books and other literary news.  It’s usually on once a week which is quite manageable.

Lately I’ve been listening to The Book Show, which is an Australian radio show.   I find the down under point of view interesting but I sometimes get bored when they are talking about books that don’t seem to be available here.  It is also a daily podcast which should be a good thing because there is always one available for listening.  For some reason, though, I find the list of un-listened-to podcasts very stressful.  I’m on the fence about continuing to listen to it but every time I think I will unsubscribe, up pops a really good episode.

I’ve recently been listening to BBC4’s Books and Authors Podcast which features half hour shows that run on BBC4 about books and authors.  My favorite of the shows is “A Good Read” where the moderator and her two guests each recommend  one book and they all discuss the three recommended books.  They must, of course, coordinate in advance, so that they’ve all three read all three books by the time the discussion takes place.  One thing I like is that the guests aren’t afraid to say that they didn’t really care for a book that was selected by one of the other guests.  It’s the closest thing I can find to Slate’s Audio Book Club but they talk about three books in a 1/2 hour so it moves too fast to really be the same thing.

I’ve also recently become hooked on BBC4’s Front Row podcast which sometimes features discussion about books but more often is a discussion of theater and sometimes movies.  I started listening to it a few months ago and now find myself really wanting to go to London for a week of theater.

At this point I’m not really overtly looking for any new podcasts but of course I’m always open to good ones.