Wednesday, May 23, 2012

These are the Podcasts I Listen To

"'Silent' and 'listen' are spelled with the same letters."

Author Unknown

Wow, I can't believe I didn't notice this piece of lame-ass superficial profundity before now.

Etymologically, the word "podcast" is a neologistic portmanteau of "iPod" and "broadcast". It is an episodic audio or video production of what is basically people talking about stuff, which other people download and listen to on their computers or portable audio devices. I am a voracious consumer of this form of media. When I'm driving, shopping, or waiting for something - which must make up hours of pointlessly wasted time in my daily life - I would plug myself into my MP3 player and listen to one (and I always have a couple to a dozen episodes of my favourite podcasts locked and loaded at any given time). I am frequently amazed that not many more people have picked up the habit. I mean, whatever it is that your sphere of interest envelops, there's a podcast out there for you. It sure beats the merde out of what we hear on Malaysian radio stations these days which consists exclusively of endless loops of seven or eight current chart hits, inoffensive vanilla content, and stupid DJ banters that I'm convinced are cyanide to brain cells.

In another one of my random lists of stuff I dig, I present to you - in alphabetical order - my nine current favourite podcasts,

Winterfellas Diredonkey
And their sigil is the Dire Donkey.

It's no secret that I love George R. R. Martin's seven-book-epic, A Song of Ice and Fire and its HBO TV adaptation that's named after the first book, A Game of Thrones - and not just because it's full of gratuitous chesticles. While looking for a decent podcast which reviews the telly series, I happily stumbled onto Cast of Thrones which is indulgently bloated at almost 2 hours per episode and features a panel of geeks who love Westeros as much as I do. Their gimmick is this: four of the five hosts, Nick Bristow, Jennifer Cheek,  Michael 'Thrifty Nerd' DiMauro and Tim Lanning have read all or most of the books. The fifth, Mike Dao, is what the other hosts consider to be a "social experiment" because he is not allowed to read the books past the point where the TV show had progressed story-wise and so is able to offer a virginal perspective to the discussions. Also, they play a game called "Stump Mike Dao" where they basically ask Mike questions about how he would predict the story would go and then gleefully make fun of how wrong he gets it.

This podcast is not as tightly-formatted or well-produced as most of the others I listen to but what it lacks in those departments it more than makes up for it in funny (the laugh-out-loud variety). I'm still relatively new to this podcast so I haven't check out their entire catalogue yet, but I saw they have interviewed the actors who played Loras Tyrell and Hodor, and also runs a mini-sidecast called the Spoilercast in which they discuss book five, A Dance with Dragons. Goody.

Caustic Soda
Note the melty-face guy.

The closest description I can offer you on what this podcast is about is that it's a weekly hour of horrible, disgusting, gruesome, macabre trivia on a random subject discussed between its three hosts - Joe Fulgham, Kevin Leeson and Toren Atkinson - and usually a fourth guest who is an expert on said subject. Their list of featured topics thus far includes cancer, shark attacks, axes, shit (literally), being buried alive, leprosy, Hitler and a two-parter on sex, and they managed to make it all hilarious. If you are a fan of grotesquery and enjoy indulging in your inner sociopath, you are going to love this.

Caustic Soda was nominated in the 2011 Podcast Awards in the Best Produced category (probably because there isn't an award for grossness) and the quality shows. They even recorded their own theme songs which are "caustic" versions of The Muppet Show intro music and Mr Roger's It's Such a Good Feeling, and they are catchy as hell. This podcast is the only reason why I look forward to Mondays.

George Hrab
"That is what my podcast is called."

This podcast has nothing to do with geology. Let's just get that out of the way first.

The Geologic Podcast is one of the few one man acts out there that actually isn't boring or lame. George Hrab is the sharply dressed man behind it and he is... many things. He is a solo indie musician, the drummer for the Philadelphia Funk Authority, an atheist and sceptic, and the emcee of a couple recent Amaz!ng Meetings (TAM), which is the biggest yearly convention of science, scepticism and critical thinking in the world.

His podcast is an audio variety show with a few cycling segments. There's the staple Ask George where he answers listener questions, usually about music. There's also the Religious Moron(s) of the Week where he laments the hypocrisy and bigotry of religious people in the news. The only other semi-regular voice on the podcast is his mother, who he invites to the mic occasionally to recite rap songs in Geo's Mom Reads Jay-Z Lyrics. In between these segments, he peppers the podcast with funny asides, stories about his gigs and general nonsense. He also does accents in Dr. Damian Handzy's Facts That’ll Fuck Y’up, Minoishe Interroberg’s To Make with the Good English and Rupert McClanahan's Indestructible Bastards. If all of these sound like they would appeal to you, you should probably give him a try.

Science Sort Of Banner
Their mascot is a brachiolope.

Science... sort of is weekly podcast hosted by paleontology Masters student Ryan and his fellow working scientist friends (which includes another paleontologist, a couple of physicists, a parasitologist and an aerospace engineer). It starts off with a science segment which was then followed by What We've Been Drinking where they discuss about the alcoholic beverages they are imbibing while recording. Next, they move one to Trailer Trash Talk where they review film trailers before discussing more science afterwards. Finally, they cap off their show with listener feedback. If you know me, you'd realise that this podcast has almost everything I enjoy - and that's science, booze and movies. Science... sort of has a much less formal (i.e. stuffy) tone compared to most science podcasts I've came across and that's just how I like it. I like my science stuffed liberally with banter and baloney.

Tip: It's pronounced "Slashfilm".

My go-to blog for all things film industry related is /Film and the /Filmcast is its official podcast. It has the distinction of being the first ever podcast I listened to and it's hosted by Dave Chen, Devindra Hardawar and Adam Quigley - with a few rotating guest hosts from other film and geek sites, or from within the industry. Notable guest hosts include directors Rian Johnson, Vincenzo Natali and Kevin Smith, and character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. I also occasionally listen to other movie podcasts like Filmspotting and The Flop House, but I always return to Dave and co. because I felt that I am most attuned to their level of discussion. They have struck a very comfortable and relatable balance between highbrow and low, between arthouse and mainstream, if you ask me. The occasional host-to-host combat really makes for great entertainment as well.

Their main show is split into three acts; the What We've Been Watching segment, the splashiest film news featured on their mother blog, and an in-depth review of a film (or two) currently playing in theatres. Apart from that, they also have an occasional After Dark show where they continue recording after the regular show is wrapped up to talk about random topics related to films, filmmaking or the film industry.

There are times when I would go out and see a movie just so I can listen to an episode of the /Filmcast. True story.

The Bugle
Two British guys and a podcast.

I thank Rewarp from The Stray World blog for drawing my attention to The Bugle which is a satirical news and political podcast hosted by British comedian Andy Zaltzman and English comedic actor John Oliver of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart fame (though I knew him as Professor Ian Duncan from the best television series in the world forever, Community). Every week, the two get together to lampoon global news stories, but mostly UK and US news items. There is a good chance of pun storms, spontaneous bursting into songs, and the ripest bullshit from either side of the Pond.

Okay, this is not their usual logo - but it totally should be.

If you ask me what's the biggest influence in my sceptical and empirical worldview, I'd name The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe in a heartbeat - it pretty much taught me how to think and that changed my life forever.

The SGU is hosted by, Dr Steven Novella, clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine along with his two brothers, Jay and Bob (no relation), Evan Bernstein and the Skepchick herself, Rebecca Watson, and it's a weekly 80-minute podcast on all things scientific and pseudoscientific i.e. alternative medicine, ghosts, psychic powers, cryptozoology, conspiracy theories and other assorted claptrap. Like all the other podcasts I enjoy, the SGU is conversational and lighthearted while making no compromise on content. The middle of the show is usually mounted with an interview with a who's who in science and scepticism and past (often recurring) guests includes James Randi, Adam Savage from Mythbusters, George Hrab, Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer, psychologist Richard Wiseman, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, and Jimmy Carter, the former 39th president of the United States.

At the end of every episode, the Rogues (as the SGU hosts call themselves) would play a game called Science or Fiction where Steve would present his panel of sceptics with three news items, two real and one fictitious; and using their knowledge and critical thinking, they are suppose to sniff out the fake.

My other favourite segment is Name That Logical Fallacy where Steve reads an argument, usually from an opponent of science and supporter of pseudoscience, and the Rogues are invited to point out the flaws in it. Hey, it's my idea of fun, alright?

Tobolowsky Files
You have permission to call him Tobo.

Two things you should know about this one - it's the only podcast to have ever succeeded at making me tear up every other episode, and it's my favourite. I've already written an entire review of this podcast last year so I think I have said enough. Incidentally, The Tobolowsky Files is also hosted by David Chen from the /Filmcast.

Weekly Weinersmith
They are still working on the "weekly" part.

This is a sister podcast affiliated with Science...  sort of, and it's kind of a spinoff of the latter. Kelly Weinersmith is a PhD student in parasitology and apart from being a regular fixture of Science... sort of panel of hosts, she also co-hosts The Weekly Weinersmith with her husband, Zack Weinersmith (who you might recognise as the writer and artist of the hit webcomic, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal).

It's a much more compact show compared to Science... sort of in which the Weinersmiths would discuss an interesting scientific paper or two, or interview someone within the scientific community for insights on a particular subject every week (the length of said "week" varies, of course). Besides that, the two would also speak briefly about what they are doing professionally at the beginning of each episode. SMBC fans might want to check this out.

P.S. I just noticed that three out of nine podcasts I've listed here have that one-chick-with-a-bunch-of-dudes lineup. I wonder if that's some kind of special winning formula.

Podcast junkie,
k0k s3n w4i


synical said...

The only one in your list that I'm already listening to is The Bugle. Podcasts are a great way to kill time. My own list is too long for a blog post.

Marilyn said...

You should check out more women podcasters, just to mix it up. Try Skeptically Speaking or the Token Skeptic.

Anonymous said...

Is this gonna be your last blog? C'mon, all your fans are waiting for the next installment in the life & times of koksinwai, one of the few true-blue Malaysians who write what the other 99% bitch verbally. And 2/3 of which say yes tuan yes datoh yes tan sri to Najib at the last General erectshun.

k0k s3n w4i said...

synical: any choice suggestions then? i'm always on the lookout for new ones to check out.

Marilyn: well, i didn't start listening to any of the podcasts i listen to because they are male-run. i listened to them because they came highly recommended and rated. should i listen to a podcast just because women hosts them? what do these ones you mentioned have (content-wise) that other podcasts don't?

Anonymous: it's "sen".

synical said...

Can't go wrong with the most of what's on top in the iTunes podcast directory. Here's my list, you're welcome to look if you're so inclined:

Admittedly a bit mainstream, but I don't have time and energy to listen to everything.