Zips up coat (it is Glasgow afterall), closes and locks front door, puts headphones in and turns on a podcast.
Pretty much 9 out of 10 times this is my routine when I leave the flat or when I’m out and about . My siblings like to say that I have a questionable taste in music and my knowledge of music in general is relatively potty, so one could ‘blame’ that on my podcast enthusiasm. While this may be detrimental to my usefulness in the music section of a pub quiz or give off the vibes of living under a rock I would be hard pressed to give them up. [side note: that sentence sort of makes me sound addicted, which I can assure you I’m not].
My interest in podcasts started in my first year of uni, around the beginning of the second semester. I can’t quite remember the initial spark but it was more than likely from my dad who is also a avid podcast listener. I think he was telling me about a story he had heard on ‘The Moth’, which was a podcast I had occasionally listened to before moving but after that chat I made a more conscious effort to listen to that particular to it on a regular basis.
The Moth in a nutshell is real stories told by real people to a live audience. The stories range in length but usually it’s between 5 and 10 or so minutes. For the radio hour podcast it is a curated programme on a theme, such as this episode on the ‘kindness of strangers’.
You never know what you are going to get, each story is different. I’m always surprised by the variety of experiences, things, topics, encounters and voices. Because of the Moth I ended up semi randomly seeing this Irish comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe festival last summer, and it was probably the best show I saw that day [ and no it wasn’t just because he was Irish, I’m not that biased]. I was there because earlier on that summer I was listening to an episode that was recorded in Dublin, and he was on it telling a story about his stammer. The way he crafted his story was super, had me chuckling as I walked to work. So when I was going through the Festival programme and the name of his show was there I made sure to go, and it was not a decision that I regretted.
From that chat with Dad, it then became a regular thing we’d chat about during his calls when he was driving home after work. Initially he was giving me suggestions of other shows that he had found or enjoyed but now I also do send a few his way.
All of the shows that I regularly listen to each have something unique about them. These are some of the ones that Dad introduced me to:
- This American life: 129 Cars
- Sound engineering, and an incredible range of topics. This particular episode is my favourite, it follows a car dealership trying to reach its monthly sales quota. It genuinely had me on the edge of my seat!
- Radio Labs: Colors
- Sort of science and technology based. This episode looks at how different creatures perceive colour. Whats cool about this episode is how they use a choir in order to help transpose the rainbow from visual to audio. They also recently released a follow up episode
- Rough Translation: Anna In Somalia
- RT takes issues and topics being discussed in an American context and looks at the same issue in a different context. It ranges from a Chinese woman using an American surrogate, Yoga and Om in India, to a dating coach for refugees. I think one of the most thought provoking episodes is Anna in Somalia which is based in a prison.
My own findings include:
- 99% Invisible:
- It looks at the world of design, which is relatively hidden to us if you aren’t really looking for it. I think most of us will notice when something is poorly designed but not always when the object or thing functions. This show isn’t just limited to print or object design, it covers architecture, audio, comics, clothing, film and so much more.Also the presenter, Roman Mars, has a lovey smooth voice.
- Ear Hustle:
- I dip in and out of this, sort of heavy topics. Its produced by a prisoner in the states, where he interviews other guys who are incarcerated and looks at the various aspects of prison life. Its part of the Radiotopia umbrella that highlights worthwhile podcasts and shows.
- The Heart
- These are all relatively short. Sort of relationship(y) but not really. Worth just exploring yourself, a wee surprise. Its a double whammy as its both a Radiotopia and PRX (The Moth)
- A Piece of Work
- This was actually one of the first shows I ‘found’ myself, it a collaboration between comedian Abbi Jacobson and MOMA. The different episodes explore various Art History themes and periods. Disclaimer, not a major fan of some of the music choices, and her voice isn’t as great as Roman Mars but the content is good if you want a wee shot of interesting facts.
There is a TON of amazing podcasts out there, but those are some of my favourites. My general rule of thumb is anything by WNYC, PRX, Radiotopia will be good. This side of the Atlantic there is a few BBC Radio 4 and the Guardian ones that are grand.
I think I listen to podcasts for a few different reasons beyond the fact that they are interesting and that it’s nice to learn something random as you go about our day. I like the company as I go from A to B, they are friendly voices, I feel sort of connected in some way to the presenters. Podcasts are also now a way for me to connect with my Dad, as we will chat about the different episodes that we will have listened to. These chats are more interesting than just getting an update on how things are at home, or how the weather is. They are also a welcome distraction. I can get lost in the world of that episode for a while and not have to think about uni, work, or whatever else is on my list of things to do.
So the next time you have your headphones in, do check out some of these shows either with the above links, or spotify, or apple podcast or where ever you can find podcasts.