November’s Top 10 Podcast Episodes

Back again for another month of podcast recommendations and personal favorites! I listen to a lot throughout the month, collecting the most interesting, funny, informative, or unusual to share in this post!

Without further ado, here are my top 10 podcast episodes for November of 2014!

We Have Concerns: One for the Books

We Have Concerns is a science/comedy podcast that focuses on submitted news items and is hosted by Anthony Carboni and Jeff Cannata.

I enjoyed this episode because it covered a wide range of topics on the subject of reading, forms of reading, attention spans, and the publishing industry. I also appreciated Cannata’s admission that he’s a slow reader, because I also feel that I am. Overall the conversation was restrained in just the right way to where points were made without decrying the next generation or predicting the downfall of the written word. Especially interesting was the mention of how we commonly read content online, using the “F”-shape reading technique. (Read line, scan for what you want rapidly downward.)

Indoor Kids: Troy Baker Returns!

The Indoor Kids is a video game podcast hosted by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon. Troy Baker, the guest, is a video game voice actor and motion captur…ee? He has starred in several of the greatest games of 2013 and possibly 2014, including The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, and now Shadow of Mordor.

The discussion hops from the major releases recently or upcoming, and Baker gives a lot of interesting info about the creation of a Lord of the Rings game, including the attention to detail and the lengthy process to ensure accuracy. Baker is a delightful and wonderful guest, full of fun anecdotes and currently at the top of the video game VO/mocap world. Give it a listen!

Global Public Square: November 2nd

Global Public Square, or GPS, is a CNN show on Sundays that I listen to in audio form during the week. It covers international news, politics, and economics. Unfortunately there isn’t an easy link to the full audio, but I linked to the most interesting segment (I feel) which has video and a transcript. You can find the full audio by using a podcasting app or searching iTunes.

Most of these segments were really good. I really enjoyed Sam Harris’ discussion with Zakaria on Islam. While it was still under the time constraints of television, it was civilized, pointed, and productive. Other segments included a discussion on the West being involved in fighting ISIS and the challenges of new tech ventures hitting against government (Uber, Lyft, AirBNB). 40 minutes a week to keep a pulse on the world is an easy choice for me.

Freakonomics: Why Do People Keep Having Children?

Freakonomics is a podcast for the analytical, for those acutely concerned with accuracy, reliability, and truth. …And those who can stand lots of statistics and citing of research and papers! The show is like the books, covering anything and everything that has good information to back it.

This episode is about… well… what the title says. The show starts by opening with many plausible explanations for why people have children. It then moves to an interview with an expert on Indonesia who studied fertility rates in the wake of a huge natural flooding disaster. The central question: do people have fewer children because of sadness and devastation, or more children to rebuild their community and family? Other interesting data correlates the introduction of television to fertility rates. Fascinating episode!

Consilience: Radio Waves

Consilience is a podcast run by two Georgia Tech faculty: a professor and a librarian. They often talk about the intersection between the sciences and the humanities. This episode, however, is an old one, possibly the first under the moniker of Consilience (then again, maybe not). It was recorded in 2011 while Georgia Tech’s radio station, WREK 91.1, was installing their new maximally-allowed-by-FCC-regulations 100 KW tower.

The show covers a number of topics. I enjoyed the section on radar and radio basics, from frequency to wavelength to the meaning of “AM” (Amplitude Modulation) and “FM” (Frequency Modulation). I learned (and had reaffirmed) a lot about the radio stations and technology I take for granted all the time. Honestly, I’ve forgotten the other subjects they chatted about, since I was so much more interested in this trip back in time to when I was finishing my Master’s at GT.

Planet Money 583: Cow Noir

Planet Money is normally an economics podcast, but this episode deviated significantly from that usual format into some wonderfully delightful territory. Two New York City reporters step into Oklahoma and hitch a ride with a local sheriff to find some cow-nappers.

Let me be clear: everything you might think about cowboys, sheriffs, Oklahoma, and the South/Southwest is present in this audible delectable. The sheriff has catchphrase similes about animals that make varying degrees of sense but roll right off the tongue. The cow-nappers are just a couple of young folks who agree to be interviewed and are very remorseful for their actions. There’s an auctioneer. There are COWS.

Goodness gracious roosters on Sundee y’all have to hear this lovely little story.

On The Media: Midterm Myths, Emotional Algorithms, and More

On The Media covers… media coverage. It’s meta, but it’s critical, insightful, and intelligent. This episode had two major topics I found very interesting and useful. The first section was a long treatment of the various explanations being offered for the results of the midterm elections earlier this month. One by one an analyst knocks down arguments or couches them in smaller contexts. It’s great.

Secondly, they cover the complex and varying history of the falling of the Berlin Wall. Apparently at the time, it was not so surely good news. People feared another rise of Germany; people weren’t sure this was the end of the Cold War. Immediately and in anniversaries to come, coverage was with mixed emotions and concern. Only after the European Union was born and with time behind us did the tone shift to certain triumph, with an emphasis on a certain Reagan demand of Mr. Gorbachev.

Serial 8: The Deal with Jay

Serial has been wonderful since it began. It’s a little hard to pick out a standout episode, though, since they’re all so inter-connected and slowly evolving. This one includes the first encounter with Jay, one of the grandest mysteries and centerpieces of this story.

The podcast is non-fiction, covering the murder of a teenager in the 90s and asking whether the person convicted, Adnan, really did it. It’s thorough, it’s compelling, and it’s grown well beyond its initial audience. This series has become one of the most popular podcasts out there, doing what the Wii did for video gaming: tons of people who’ve never heard a podcast are not regularly listening. Welcome!

This American Life: The Leap

This American Life is the quintessential podcast and radio show for storytelling (and sometimes investigative reporting). Episodes center around a theme and feature compelling people with moving situations and tales.

This episode had three stories, on vastly different subjects, but all very compelling. A bus driver takes a new direction and drives from the city to the coast. Some reporters ask diverse people for their opinions on time travel. A woman who has gone through AA for the first time questions if she’s actually an alcoholic. Every bit is fascinating.

Reply All #1: An App Sends A Stranger To Say “I Love You”

Reply All is the reincarnation of one of my favorite podcasts from this year, TLDR. That show went on hiatus when the cohosts left the On The Media crew, and many fans of the show wondered what would come next. Turns out they jumped ship to the untamed oceans of the start-up world, working with Alex Blumberg on his new business: Gimlet Media.

This episode is a delightful return to form with its intimate, personal story about a person who uses a literal middle man through an app to get across her message to someone she loves. It weaves this human tale through an exploration of the app and service itself, mixing tech and narrative in the same way that made TLDR so appealing. I look forward to more.

Honorary mentions:

We Have Concerns: Dress For Succession

WHC is just so funny, and it’s even better when what Anthony is positing is extremely relatable and backed by real science and psychology. In this episode, he pulls from concepts like decision fatigue to promote the idea of having society-wide uniforms. As usual, his proposal is as ridiculous as it is compelling.

Topics 49: Topicon

I thought Topics, the improvisational “educational” podcast by Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter, was over. But as I looked online to confirm this, it turned out that the show started up again! Its return episode, about a conference that didn’t exist, was delightful. The show’s primary conceit is being an extremely bland and superficial teaching tool that the hosts are constantly making fun of in the most subtle of ways.

Reasonably Sound 9: On The Road with Mike Rugnetta

Mike Rugnetta, host of the PBS Idea Channel on YouTube, is wonderful. He rapidly crams in tons of fascinating information into each Idea Channel episode while being accessible and entertaining. In his recently-started podcast that I just started listening to, he continues this thoughtful tour of the world through sound. In this episode in particular he records the sounds and thoughts he has while driving, waiting in an airport, on an airplane, and finally at his hotel. It’s simple yet so thought-provoking. Other episodes seem to be a bit more scripted.

Thanks for reading! I don’t listen to every podcast out there by any stretch, so please let me know of your favorites recently! Maybe I should subscribe myself.

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