Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Podcast Picks

When it comes to new forms of technology, I tend to be a little slow on the uptake.

But this year I discovered the amazing world of podcasts, and since then my life and commute haven't been the same. 
What is a Podcast?

My friend Jessica was always referring to interesting little tidbits she had picked up from various podcasts, and eventually I asked her, "What IS a podcast? How do you access them? Which ones are good? Where do I start?"

If you haven't yet been introduced to this extra-special form of addiction, here's the deal:
A podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player. It's typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

Thus began my love affair...

My 10 Favorite Podcasts

1. Serial
This was the very first podcast I ever listened to, and it has remained by far my #1 favorite. Serial unfolds one true story over the course of a whole season, following the plot and characters wherever they lead, through many surprising twists and turns. Season 1 investigated the murder of Hae Min Lee, an 18-year-old high school student in Baltimore, Maryland allegedly murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. Syed was convicted and given a life sentence despite pleading his innocence. Serial brought massive new attention to the case, including a court decision allowing Syed to appeal his conviction. I am waiting on pins and needles to see if Adnan will be freed from prison, because I, for one, think he is innocent.

2. Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed
In the wake of Serial, tons of new evidence and information has been discovered and uncovered thanks to the investigations of attorneys Susan Simpson, Colin Miller, and the Adnan Syed Legal Trust. Undisclosed examines and explores the case in greater detail, from an investigatory perspective instead of a narrative one. Definitely don't dive into this one unless you've already put in the time listening to Serial first.

3. Truth & Justice with Bob Ruff
This podcast is a listener-driven show devoted to the pursuit of truth and justice. So far the host, Bob Ruff, is investigating the Hae Min Lee murder case, hence why I find this particular podcast appealing. Bob is a Fire Chief and uses his experience investigating arsons to find the truth, and he has proved to be very effective in finding new details in the case.

4. This American Life
This weekly public radio show is one of the most popular ones out there. Each week's show has a theme, explored in several "acts." Primarily a journalistic non-fiction program, it has also featured essays, memoirs, field recordings, short fiction, and found footage. The content varies widely by episode, and the mood of the show ranges from gloomy to ironic, from thought-provoking to humorous. I've yet to listen to an episode that I didn't love.

5. Love + Radio
This podcast features intimate and otherworldly-produced interviews with an eclectic range of subjects, from the seedy to the sublime. It's featured some really emotionally complicated stories and portraits of people that I've found super fascinating.

6. Matt Walsh - TheBlaze
Matt describes himself as a "professional truth sayer." He is a young, outspoken conservative Christian covered in tattoos, and surprisingly I often find myself nodding along to his outspoken tirades about current events and social issues.

7. TED Radio Hour
This podcast is a journey through fascinating ideas: astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, new ways to think and create. The episodes are based on talks given by riveting speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, and each show is centered on a common theme such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections. I always feel inspired after listening to this one.

8. The Longest Shortest Time
This is the only podcast I listen to that's focused on parenting. It features a variety of stories about all different kinds of parents, kids, and experiences from all walks of life. And you don't have to be a parent to love this podcast and the people it features. I recommend listening to one of my favorite episodes, "The Accidental Gay Parents," which is sure to have anyone with a heart in tears.   

9. Radiolab
This one features an investigation told through sounds and stories, and is centered around one big idea. Information sounds like music and science and culture collide, and the show is designed for listeners who demand skepticism, but appreciate wonder.

10. Invisibilia
"Invisibilia" is Latin for "all the invisible things," and the podcast is about the invisible forces that control human behavior: ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. I absolutely love listening to the co-hosts, Lulu Miller and Alix Speigel, as they interweave narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.

How to Listen to Podcasts

To subscribe to a podcast, use iTunes or the Podcast application on your smart phone and click "subscribe" on the page for that podcast... it's as simple as that! iTunes will then automatically check each day for new episodes. You can also stream an individual episode by clicking its episode number in the episode list.

Serial is what originally sucked me in, so of course I recommend starting there. This American Life is also a great place to begin. Or just start browsing the Top Charts in your app and see what appeals to you. There are literally bazillions of podcasts available; truly something for everyone.
Podcasts are such a great way to pass the time during a boring commute, difficult workout, house cleaning frenzy, or just a dull afternoon.

But beware... once you start you won't be able to stop!

What are your favorite Podcasts?

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  1. I haven't jumped on the podcast trainer but Thomas has been listening to quite a few the past year or so on his daily commute and road trips when I get sucked into my phone. He always has lots of tidbits to share too. If Ellie wasn't always in the car with me I have a feeling I'd be on the podcast train too!

  2. I've heard of so many of these and have been meaning to check them out! Definitely look up "Snap Judgement." They describe themselves as "storytelling with a beat." They essentially take real stories from real people around a particular episode them and mix their storytelling with sound in a way that has you visualizing the story and being right there with the storyteller. They've had some weird stories (an American woman who woke up one day with a foreign accent) and heart wrenching stories (illegal hunting protected wolves) and stories you just want to know more about (a Mariachi band that got kidnapped to play at a drug lord's event). I would recommend starting with "The Mercenary". It's one massive story (whereas the other podcasts are broken into several stories in one podcast) but it is SO good. Happy podcasting!

    1. Oh, I am definitely going to look up Snap Judgment, it sounds awesome! Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. hey Sarah - love podcasts too most of yours would also be in my top 10.
    Serial was SO good wasn't it? Big fan of TAL too. & Invisiblia ... c'mon new eps please, 6 was such a tease.

    There's also a great podcast from BBC radio in the UK called Soul music. It focuses on one song and tells stories about how the song has impacted their life. so interesting.
    the moth podcast is great for live storytelling.

    1. Serial was amazing! I can't wait for the new season to start. Did you listen to this week's episode of TAL? I loved the story about the 90-year-old grandma and her boyfriend... so sweet! I'll have to check out Soul Music and the Moth for sure, thanks for the tip!

  4. I listen to podcasts on my commute and it's been a game changer. Makes my commute enjoyable! I love The Longest Shortest Time but they just got canceled. The Accidental Gay Parents is one of my favorite episodes/series. I also love NPR's Ted Radio Hour. I learn so much! If you love books, listen to Book Riot and All the Books. Oh, and Serial was pretty awesome.

  5. I'm late to the game too, but can totally see the benefit to listening to podcasts. Taking notes and thinking this is my push to start listening to them.

  6. even brain pickings is talking about podcasts this week. https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/05/18/favorite-podcasts/

  7. I listened to Serial, and I'm currently listening to Undisclosed, as well. I have finally decided that I don't think Adnon is guilty either. I cannot wrap my head around how a jury convicted him based on the lack of evidence and the lack of credibility of the "star witness."

  8. I need to listen to Undisclosed!! All of the events in Serial took place 30 minutes from my house and 10 minutes from my office- yikes! Such is life in Baltimore ;) Love this list!


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