Podcasts of the Week Ending November 3

Household Name :: Sears: There Was More For Your Life

The story of the demise of the legendary store, Sears.  Turns out it is owned by an Ayn Rand devotee whose investments make a profit when stores close.  Go figure!

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Seriously Seeking Sasquatch

You won’t find anything about Sasquatch, a.k.a. Bigfoot, at the Smithsonian museums, but you will find the skeleton a scientist who dedicated his life to researching Bigfoot. Find out why in this podcast.

30 for 30 :: Six Who Sat

The story of the women who fought for equality to participate in running events in the 1970s.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Theater of the Mind

The history of radio dramas from the War of the Worlds to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to NPR’s foray into adapting Star Wars.


Podcasts of the Week Ending September 22

Last Seen :: 81 Minutes

The first part of this special series on the Isabella Gardner Museum art heist focuses on what the thieves did during the incredible amount of time they had to roam about the museum.

This American Life :: Let Me Count the Ways

From the Muslim Ban to Family Separation, we are all very aware of the means the current administration is crushing immigration to the U.S., but this episode uncovers many other ways that the fascist regime is using to force their agenda into the American norms.

99% Invisible :: Billboard Boys

A contest involving men camping out on a billboard to promote a local radio station in Allentown, PA turns into a dystopian display of the deleterious effects of Reagan Era capitalism on everyday Americans.

Risk! :: The Mayor of Mitchell Gardens

A rabbi and stand-up comedian, Danny Lobell, tells stories of the people he got to know – the good and the bad – while working in a senior home.

More or Less :: DNA – Are You More Chimp or Neanderthal?

Unravelling DNA and what it tells us about our ancient ancestors and modern cousins.

Book Review: Out on the wire by Jessica Abel

Author: Jessica Abel
Title: Out on the wire : the storytelling secrets of the new masters of radio 
Publication Info: New York : Broadway Books, 2015.

I received this as a free book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

Out on the Wire is a comic book about the production of NPR radio shows and podcasts, or perhaps the nerdiest thing I’ve ever read.  Through the graphic art medium, Abel details her interviews, observations, and storytelling processes of the creators of This American Life, The Moth, Radiolab, Planet Money, and Snap JudgmentFor lack of a better term, these programs are called “narrative journalism” and storytelling is central to all of these shows.  I’m a big fan of all of these podcasts and it is fun to see comic representations of the faces behind the voices (not to mention learning how to spell Chana Joffe-Walt). Abel’s approach is an effective way of using art to create a documentary.

Recommended booksFeynman by Jim Ottaviani, Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.
Rating: *** 1/2

The Podcast Revolution?

I’ve been surprised about the recent declarations that podcasts are the next big thing ever since the success of “Serial” (discussed at length in the latest podcast episode of To The Best of Our Knowledge).  Mainly this is because I’ve been listening to podcasts obsessively for the past ten years.  And I don’t mean this in a hipster “I did it before it was cool” way, I just assumed that lots of people were already listening to podcasts, even before I discovered them.

Anyhow, if you happen to be new to podcasts, here is my updated list of favorite podcasts.  (Ironically, I listened to the first episode of “Serial” and wasn’t interested in the rest of the series.  Maybe I’ll check out the next series).

Feel free to share your favorite podcasts in the comments.

Related posts:

RetroMusic: Shriek of the Week Playlist

I recently signed up with Rdio, a music streaming social network that provides access to a boatload of music for a monthly fee.  I’ve enjoyed being able to listen to a lot of new discoveries and digging up old favorites.  For example, I listened to Prince and the Revolution’s “Around the World in a Day” for the first time in at least 25 years.  That was a new album around the time we moved to a new house in 1985, and while all my other tapes were packed in a box, that one had just arrived in the mail so I ended up listening to it over and over.  It’s surprising how many of the songs seemed completely unfamiliar despite that.

On that same nostalgia vibe, I also payed tribute to one of my favorite New York area radio stations of my youth, which was known as 92.7 WDRE-FM when I listened to it, but was also known as WLIR.  This was the “left of the dial” radio station that played Post-Punk, New Wave, Modern Rock, Alternative Music, whatever moniker you wanted to slap on it (oddly, the term “alternative” became most popular around the time that R.E.M and Nirvana lead the music into the mainstream in the early 90s).

One of the features of WDRE was a contest for the best new song of the week called the “Shriek of the Week.”  Apparently, during the WLIR days there was the rhymeless “Screamer of the Week” that did the same thing.  There is a list of all the Screamers & Shrieks from 1980 to 1996 here: http://www.advancedspecialties.net/wlir.htm

I made a Rdio playlist of the Screamer/Shriek of the week covering my junior high and high school days from 1985-1991.  Rdio had many, but not all, the songs from the list and sadly it seemed to be the quirky one hit wonders that didn’t make it to the playlist.  Still it’s a good playlist that gives one the sense of those exciting days of the 80s and early 90s, if one can excuse a little too much exuberance for artists such as The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Erasure, U2 and Morrisey who seemed to have entire albums elected as Shrieks over the course of several weeks.


If you are on Rdio and have the time and energy to populate the rest of the list, have at it.  I may go back and fill in the earlier days of the 1980s.  I feel it may be too sad to go forward in the 1990s and watch the musical erosion, especially when you get to the third week of June 1994 when alternative music officially jumped the shark.

Oh, and apparently WLIR lives on as an internet station with some of the original DJs.



Dead Podcasts

I recently updated my podcasts page to reflect what I’m currently listening to.

I’m a big fan of podcasts, and some of my favorites were either designed to end at a certain point, or their creators just moved on to something else.

Here’s my necrology of great podcasts that are no longer updated, but worth seeking out the back episodes:

  • Folkways Collection – 24 1-hour episodes exploring the collection of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
  • A History of the World in 100 Objects – the BBC and British Museum partnered on this historical exploration
  • Provoke Radio – a Jesuit-sponsored program about faith & social justice (sadly this one seems to be gone for good)
  • Rare Frequency – WZBC radio program dedicated to experimental, electronic, improv, noise, avant-pop, and other unusual music.  The radio show may still be on but the podcast hasn’t been updated in over a year.
  • Tales from the “Liberry” – hilarious adaptations of true stories from the author’s years working in a small-town library.
  • The Tone Generation – early history of electronic music.
  • Widely Ranging Interests – two funny guys talk about a variety of topics, seemingly off the cuff but often tied together by the end.

What are you favorite podcasts, dead or alive?  Let me know in the comments.

Related posts:



RadioLab Listening Party @ MOS

Last night I attend a special even at the Museum of Science, a listening party for the public radio show RadioLab.  For the uninitiated, RadioLab is a show produced by WNYC in New York that ask questions and tell stories centered on an idea, usually related to science.  If you like This American Life, I’d say RadioLab is even better than This American Life.  If you don’t like This American Life, well RadioLab is still better than This American Life.  If you want to find out for sure you can listen to episodes on the website, download podcasts, or tune into WBUR or WGBH to listen on the radio.

The show is hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the former of which was on hand last night to greet the chic geeks who gathered together in the museum’s planetarium.  Because that’s how cool this event was, it took place in the planetarium!  Appropriately the episode Space played while the stars danced on the dome above our heads.  At appropriate times photos and images appeared on the planetarium appropriate to the story.  But not too much.  This was time to sit back, reflect on the stars, and ponder the curiosities of space.  I admit there were times I felt weepy, especially about the Challenger disaster.  I also think that it would be cool to get a copy of the Voyager Golden Record.

After the show, Abumrad took questions mainly dealing with the unique sound of RadioLab where voices, music, and sound effects are layered and repeated.  The audience thinks these effects are cool and enhance learning although Abumrad admitted that a lot of people find it annoying.  Then there was a reception in the Blue Wing with chocolate fondue which was so good I went back several times.  I also took a gander at the beautiful & disturbing Manufactured Landscapes exhibit of photographs byEdward Burtynsky.

It was a good night.  It’s great to live in a town with museums, culture, intelligence and events and people that bring them all together.

My Favorite Podcasts

Not so long ago, I was under the impression that I would never need a mp3 player. After all, who needs to have 1000+ songs at once? After I received an iPod as a gift my opinion swiftly changed, and found that listening to a shuffle of a 1000+ songs was a good way to discover the depth of my music collection and make new discoveries. Another thing I never thought I’d like is podcasts, but once I tried them I was hooked. So with no further ado…

My Favorite Podcasts

Battlestar Galactica — show producer Ron Moore offers commentary for each episode. It’s meant to be listened to synchronized with watching the episode but I can’t listen to someone talking over people talking so I generally listen to the podcast after watching the episode (usually while watching the dishes).
Busted Halo — A (usually) weekly show answering questions from young adults on Catholicism as well as Church Search and Day By Day an intriguing almanac. The show has lost some of it’s luster now that Fr. Dave is not a regular, but it’s still a fun listen.
Colonial Williamsburg Past & Present — Lloyd Dobyns (who I used to watch on the NBC Overnight news show with Linda Ellerbee) interviews historical interpreters for the behind the scenes story from Colonial Williamsburg.
Folkways Collection — This series of 24 one-hour programs explores the remarkable collection of music, spoken word, and sound recordings that make up Folkways Records (now at the Smithsonian as Smithsonian Folkways Recordings).
Pray As You Go — a daily prayer session, designed for use on portable MP3 players, to help you pray whilst travelling to and from work, study, etc.
Provoke Radio — a social justice show from a faith perspective.

Rare Frequency
— — a radio show, podcast, and website devoted to experimental, electronic, improv, noise, and quasi-pop music, with the occasional non sequitur thrown in for good measure.
Science Talk — Join host Steve Mirsky each week as he explores the latest developments in science and technology through interviews with leading scientists and journalists.
Soccer Shout — Phil and Tony talk about English football several days a week. Like Car Talk it is fun to listen to even if you’re not really interested in the topic just because the host are so funny.

Public Radio Broadcasts on Podcast

Most of the podcasts I listen to regularly are actually public radio shows that I never have the presence of mind to listen to on the radio.

All Songs Considered
Global Hit
NPR Shuffle

Only a Game
Present at the Creation
This American Life
Travel With Rick Steves
Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
WBUR Here and Now
World Cafe

Writer’s Almanac

New Blogs

Since I’m already in metapost mode, here are some new additions to the blogroll.

Commute By Bike is another resource for folks like myself who go to work on two wheels.
Information about volunteering in Greater Boston is available from BostonCares.
Reviews of movies, especially those on screen at the Brattle Theatre at Wuzzon?
Cool articles for the independent traveler on Brave New Traveler.
Finally, two new Catholic blogs: LAMLand and Martha, Martha

Favorite Search Terms

Here are more of my favorite search terms which somehow led to Panorama of the Mountains.

why dogs lick human toes
primal thumb fear
who was killed in the movie the departed (I posted the answer in a comment)
pictures of ancient eygyptian glass (4 times!)
mets search engine cultural artifacts

How to feel old

Step 1: Read the Pitchfork Media Top 50 Albums of 2006
Step 2: Count the number of albums you’ve listened too and/or own.
Step 3: Count the number of artists you’ve actually heard of.

If you’re like me, the results of this exercise will make you feel incredibly old. I own exactly two albums from this list and have heard of only nine of the artists.

In all seriousness, I don’t really know how to keep up with current music. At least not without spending a lot of money buying all these album’s on recommendation of Pitchfork, or NPR or whomever. Or subscribing to satellite radio which I am loathe to do. And music played on terrestrial radio is either the same classic rock/oldies I’ve heard a million times before, or dreck.

What a pickle!