On the fifth day of Gheorghemas big Gheorghe gave to me:
Five podcasts for listening
Four posts zman meant to write but never did
Three French Hens
Two in-state rivalries
And a dork with a split personal-ity
We have entered what many are calling The Golden Age of Podcasting. This is odd, because the technology and the means of distribution for podcasting have been around for quite a while. All you need is a microphone, a laptop, and a method of streaming an mp3 over the internet. Simple stuff. So why the increase in popularity? There are an abundance of hypotheses. The boom could be because podcasts are just getting better. It might be because of Serial. Or perhaps because podcasts are so cheap to make. And they can reach a niche audience. Commercials and product placement are more effective on podcasts than they are on the radio. It may be technology: cars and phones work well together now, so people don't have to listen to the radio or SiriusXM. There are apps to pull in all you favorites, and you can subscribe on iTunes. So there are a plethora of reasons, Jefe . . . a plethora.
In other words, it's a fantastic time to walk the dog (that's when I do the bulk of my podcast listening-- my commute is only a few minutes).
Here are five podcasts for listening. These are all good shows, but I've selected specific episodes, curated for the niche audience of Gheorghe:The Blog. Each one gets the Official Dave Seal of Approval. Enjoy.
1. Planet Money Episode 667: Auditing ISIS
I love Planet Money. It's short, informative, and entertaining, and it makes me feel smart. It's rarely over my head, but I always learn something new.
"Auditing ISIS" goes above and beyond the normal episode-- and it doesn't have all that much to do with economics. It's more about how terrorists think and operate. The Planet Money team analyzes a municipal budget that was smuggled out of ISIS territory. One month of detailed expenditures, disbursements, and collections from the ISIS controlled Deir ez-Zour province of Syria.
You'll learn how ISIS spends its money-- mainly paying their fighters, and how ISIS fighters spend their money-- mainly on hamburgers and chocolate and Ferraris. You'll learn how ISIS makes its money-- oil smuggling and black market antiquities and "licensed" confiscations (the ISIS term for looting). You'll also hear the firsthand account of one man's experience living in this economic nightmare.
2. Radiolab American Football
I'm guessing that neither of the nerdy hosts of Radiolab (Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich) can throw a spiral, but they do a great job on this comprehensive, funny, controversial, and historically informative episode on American Football. They visit the brutal ghosts of football past-- including Pop Warner and the undersized Carlisle Indians-- and then return to present controversies and future speculation. Highlights include an interview with a Georgia football mom who is firmly on both sides of the concussion issue and her gigantic and talented eight year old son, who decided to spurn the sport in favor of soccer, because he felt like a bully when he ran over opposing players, and wishes he could do some "synchronized swimming." His mom's reaction to this revelation is priceless.
"La Mancha Screwjob" is another fantastic Radiolab with a sporting theme: the episode uses professional wrestling to discuss reality, illusion, and the fascinating meta-reality that lies somewhere between the two.
3. 99% Invisible Game Over
This is the closest thing to live audio from an actual apocalypse. The fact that it's not exactly that makes it even better.
I am also to partial to The Modern Moloch-- which is an account of how automobile lobbyists won the battle in America and heavily influenced the design of our cities so that they favor the automobile and punish the pedestrian. Zman will hate this one.
4. This American Life Petty Tyrant
This American Life can be hit or miss for me . . . and most of the time it's a miss, but this episode is fantastic. It's the story of a public school maintenance man from Schenectady, NY whose ruthless rise to power rivals Richard III . . . and once he gains total control, his reign is fearful and intimidating, and his fall is appropriately epic.
5. The Test The Moral of the Story (No Napping on the Job)
The most important podcast on this list is obviously The Test. Whitney guest stars on this episode, and I am also partial to Stacey Demands (More) Numbers and all the other "number sense" episodes.
Once you listen to all the episodes of The Test twice, then you might want to check out season two of Serial. The first episode is compelling on many levels and promises the same slow drip of information as the first season, some of it dredged from the past, some of it culled from recent events, and some of it ongoing.