Three is the magic number (for podcasts)

Here’s another edition of my irregular feature of spotlighting good podcasts I’ve listened to recently:

  1. Writing the World is a recent episode of the Wisconsin Public Radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge. It features interviews with several prominent and award-winning authors about their craft. What struck me is that while we often talk about a writer having a voice, due to the nature of their medium we rarely hear their actual voices. Toni Morrison’s voice is beautiful while V.S. Naipaul sounds insufferably pompous. Amy Tan is heartbreaking when she impersonates her mother speaking to ghosts. Other writers interviewed include Sherman Alexie, Alice Walker, and Orhan Pamuk.
  2. Pop Music– RadioLab is quickly becoming my favorite radio show podcast and this episode focuses on music getting stuck in our heads (WARNING: If you’re like me, listening to this podcast will leave “Downtown” stuck in your head for days!). Some people are unfortunate enough to get full-orchestrated and loud songs playing in their heads to their detriment (the work of Oliver Sacks is cited in this segment). Song writers on the other hand want to get music in their heads (and then into other people’s heads). While I’m unusual in my generation in that I am not exceedingly nostalgic for School House Rock (in fact I hated it when I was a kid), the interview with the songwriter who created them is pretty interesting. Finally, there’s the story of Ahmad Zahir, the “Afghan Elvis” who welded Western music to local tradition to become a pop sensation.
  3. Can Science Save the Banana? – I love bananas. In fact, I read a book about bananas called Bananas: An American History by Virginia Scott Jenkins. From this Scientific American podcast, I learned that in our grandparents’ generation, people were able to eat a larger, more tasty type of banana which is now extinct due to a fungus. Worse, the banana we’re familiar with now, the Cavendish, is now also suffering from the blight and may be wiped out in the next decade. Genetic engineering and/or switching American tastes to the red banana may be our only options. I’ll have to keep up on the banana news from the Banana Book Blog ( by Dan Koeppel.