May 30, 2023

Podcasts Essentials for the Commute

Posted on July 20, 2010 by in Radio

Thousands of hours of quality podcast programming on virtually every subject matter awaits your commute

Podcast fanatic Raven Starkly lays it down for the rest of us

You’re sitting on the train staring at the seat in front of you so bored that time itself stands still. You’ve read all the advertisement banners for the third time and you still have 20 minutes to go before Grand Central. Across from you is a middle aged man with earphones and he’s smiling. What sort of sick head banger music is he listening to? He’s not. He’s listening to an ironic podcast about a car plant that might have saved the U.S. car industry if only Detroit had been quicker to learn its lessons. And he’s happy.

You can be that guy on the train using your time alone to listen, learn, and laugh. There are thousands of hours of quality podcast programming on virtually every subject matter. Here’s the 411 to get you started.

A podcast is just a fancy name for audio that you download from the internet and listen to whenever you want. For the most part, the best podcasts are segments that were originally produced for the radio and later made available for on the internet. You subscribe to a podcast “feed” and new episodes are automatically sent to you.

You’ll want two things to get started. You’ll want some sort of listening device. Some people use their blackberry phones, their iphones or ipods & shuffles. Some people listen on their computers. I use a shuffle because I listen to podcasts while I’m driving alone. Next you will want some sort of software to help you download and manage all the podcasts that you will subscribe to. People use Juice, iPodder or iTunes. I recommend iTunes because it’s free, popular and probably already installed on your computer if you have an ipod, ipad, or iphone.

Here are podcasts that I recommend:

Before there was Marilyn Monroe, there was Sophie Tucker. Known as The Last of the Red Hot Mamas, millions worshiped her. How come you never heard of her? Stuff You Missed in History Class host Katie Lambert will bring you up to speed.

Stuff You Missed in History Class
The charming co-hosts, Katie Lambert and her college friend Sarah Dowdey, talk about obscure moments in history. They might bring you up to date about Blackbeard, King Porus vs Alexander the Great, or Mary Stuart and Elizabeth the first. Each show is about 20 minutes long and brought to you by

To The Best of Our Knowledge
A thematic one hour show in three or four acts offers a mid-western liberal perspective on topics like authenticity, arts education, and autism.

The Moth
Real life stories told (without notes) in front of a live audience. Sometimes you get stories from people like Malcolm Gladwell, Spalding Gray, or Ethan Hawke. At other times, you get stories from regular people whom you do not know. It’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. You could end up laughing so hard that you herniate or you might end up in cathartic tears. Each story is 5 to 20 minutes long. Some stories are funny, some are shocking, and some are extremely touching. All of them are real.

Chimp and Human Hugging

This American Life Episode called Parent Trap - parents setting accidental traps for their children, including a RadioLab story segment about a chimp raised twice—once as a human child, and again as a chimp

This American Life
The quintessential podcast — A show so popular that it’s already crossed the main stream. Host Ira Glass weaves together several stories produced by correspondents and reporters based on a common theme. Over 400 hours of programing exists on topics like True Urban Legends (Can a rat crawl through your plumbing and end up in your toilet? Can your cell phone give you a brain tumor?), Stories about one person single-handedly taking charge of a situation gone wrong, and Stories of people who try simple mind games on others, and then find themselves way in over their heads.

An hour long show about science features topics like the science of deception, the science of parasites, and great mistakes that ended up being break-throughs in science. Fans must suffer through occasionally overproduced episodes with layered audio indulgences and waiting for infrequent new episodes with bated breath.

On The Media
Informative, cutting edge explorations about the ethics and changes in media, this podcast might cover how MP3s effected the music industry one week and the ethics of photoshoping magazine covers or news photos the next week. A frequent reoccuring theme is the struggles and changes in the newspaper medium.

Please Please Explain
Lenord Lopate grills experts in various fields to get them to explain complicated things like lying, your cable bill, or art restoration. You can also download other Lopate segments that focus on New York City, new books, and under reported political discussions.

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