Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I must be old because I listen to podcasts instead of music.

If you see me at the gym, or on my bike, I will probably have headphones in my ears. You might expect I'm listening to the Allman Brothers, or Coltrane, or Lady Gaga, but I'm probably not (DEFINITELY NOT Lady Gaga!). I'm probably listening to a podcast of some kind. I have found a bunch of podcasts that are either entertaining, informative, or both, and I thought I would share them with you.

Let's start with the NPR stuff. Chances are you are already familiar with "This American Life", "Car Talk", and "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me". I used to try to plan my weekends around listening to "Car Talk", but now I don't have to. You can download the latest show from each of these on the Monday following the weekend.

As if having NPR podcasts on my MP3 is not geeky enough, I listen to several real nerdfests. The authors of "Freakonomics" have turned their books into a multi-media empire. About once a month they do an hour-long show, and have shorter pieces in between. But they can't come close in econ-geekiness to "Econtalk". Each week George Mason U. economist Russ Roberts hosts a chat with another economist. Despite being a Hayek-utopian, Roberts is a great host, in that he makes sure that his guests speak in a language anyone can understand, and when he disagrees with them he does so politely and asks them to explain themselves like a gentleman. He is the anti-Bill O'Reilly.

The geekdom does not end there. English economist Tim Harford does a podcast called "More or Less", where he actually looks at the numbers behind things that people believe are true. And for real science, as opposed the the dismal kind, I enjoy "Radiolab". Their work often appears on various NPR shows, but you can find hour-long shows about science and discovery, along with "shorts" on an irregular basis from these wise guys.

If you asked questions at Sunday School that made the teacher squirm, you might be interested in "Free Thought Radio", from the fine people at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who are devoted to the separation of church and state. A more entertaining Athiest, and a newcomer to podcasting is Penn Jilette, of Penn and Teller, who does a show each Sunday called "Penn's Sunday School". And the great Harry Shearer of Spinal Tap and The Simpsons fame, does a show called "Le Show" each Sunday. He's not an Athiest, or if he is he doesn't say, but he does ask a lot of difficult questions about stuff going on in the world.

Finally, there is "WTF with Marc Maron". Maron usually interviews other comedians. Since becoming a professional comedian is a really hard route to take in life, his guests usually have some very funny, or maybe horrifying, stories about their lives to tell, and do so in an amusing way.

There you have some suggestions of ways to be entertained and informed when your hands and eyes are occupied. Check them out. And let me know if I'm missing anything good. I'm going out in the yard to pull dandelions and listen to Econtalk.

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