It seems I’ve done a lot of discovery since the last update, so here’s what I’ve been entertaining and educating myself with.
Helen Zaltzman from Answer Me This talks about the English language. Quirks of words and phrases, where sayings came from, invented languages, colloquialisms and slang, history and evolution, you name it. Good stuff for word nerds.
One of the most recent I’ve added. It’s American, but our cultures and such are sufficiently intertwined that it’s all relevant. The hosts are two African-American women, and they do make fun of white people and white culture fairly often. But honestly, it’s entirely deserved, and it’s funny. They recently had a section that was kind of like a spoof of Canadian Heritage Moments, but it was a satirical look at moments and “facts” from Black history. Hilarious. Just as hilarious was the guy they got on who did comparable ones from white history. It’s not all goofing off, though. Combined with all of this there’s a lot of discussion of race and related issues, gender, socioeconomics, straight up pop culture (it is from Buzzfeed…) and some really great interviews from people like Valerie Jarrett, Anil Dash, and Hannibal Burress. You never quite know what you’re going to get, which makes it more fun.
I started listening to this one because Paul Bae of You Suck, Sir is one of the producers. It’s been alright, but I think I’m getting close to done with it. It’s about investigations of the paranormal, a bit X-Files-y. The idea being a serialized investigation of an unsolved case each episode, but they got away from that pretty quickly. The dialogue is also a bit rough sometimes, and they go way over the top with the soundscaping for suspense and drama.
Another quite recent addition, but I love how you’re never sure which focus you’re going to get. The last episode I listened to was an interview with Lucinda Williams, so come on, right? Basically the idea is that they focus on those three things you’re never supposed to talk about, and then delve into them with interesting people who have plenty to say.
History, folklore, and stories woven together — one per episode. Aaron Mahnke has a bit of a Shatner thing going with how he talks, but you get used to it. The stories are true… with a hint of mystery and plenty of the unexplained. But Mahnke does a good job of weaving in myth, folklore, the supernatural, and other relevant things to give richness and context to the stories. And they never entirely wrap up tidily. Hmm…
A bit similar to Freakonomics… but not really. All manner of finance-related topics covered from a variety of angles. The recent episode on the anatomy of a scam was fascinating and heartbreaking. It went deep into phone scams: how they work, who they target, etc., and included actually audio from companies that’ve been busted. Great investigative work. But then there are others like the one about “delicious cake futures” that’re just hilarious. Again, you never know what you’re going to get, but always fascinating and fun.
“A show about the Internet”. Which it is, but another one where they get into all kinds of things. Definitely one for internets geeks like myself. The most recent one I listened to was about why this couple’s house in Atlanta was ground zero for lost phone “find your phone” signals, resulting in strangers knocking at their door at all hours. Insane and so interesting. There’s also a segment called “Yes, Yes, No” where they break down some weird tidbit or meme and explain what it means and where it came from. Even if you think you’re pretty savvy, it’s an awesome leap down the rabbit hole of online culture, and surprisingly often they reveal a lot more depth than you’d expect.
Another round of serious geekery. Mythbusters‘ Adam Savage and friends just… talk about stuff. Projects they’re working on, particularly Adam’s, geeking out over… things. Things they like, things they’ve made, things other people made that they wish they had… There’s a definite maker bent and a geek pop culture bent. Like The Martian has gotten a lot of love over the past while. But they talk about everything from billiards to camping, and it goes along with the Tested show as well. For science!
This one I’ve been listening to for years, but it previously got lumped in with the other How Stuff Works podcasts that I’ve listened to, so time to break it out. Cristen and Caroline cover all things female, gender, feminist, political, historical, pop culture, health — you name it. They dig into intimate issues and sing the praises of unknown historical heroines, and never flinch. Good stuff.
Like the above, have been listening for years, so time to give it its due. It is an American podcast, so there’s plenty of US history on offer, but they do cover plenty of other countries, time periods, and types of history. Everything from fashion, to art, to great dynasties, to titillating scandals, to amazing characters, to disasters (both ancient and modern-ish). Also, Holly, one of the hosts, has a bit of an obsession with Queen Victoria… They’ll look at new books on various topics and have had some excellent author interviews as well.
A few more that I’ve recently come across and will be checking out…