A lot of my podcast listening in April was on the road or while playing games. It’s funny that I’m already associating the video game The Talos Principle with the podcast Wham Bam Pow because of how much those overlapped!
At the beginning of this month I also failed to but ultimately succeeded in installing a new stereo in my car! My old car cassette adapter system for playing podcasts through my iPod would always overheat in these coming hot spring and summer months. Now I don’t have to worry at all with a direct aux cable! Year after year of frustration about this has finally come to an end.
I’m happy to present to you my top list of podcasts for April of 2015:
Planet Money is almost always on these monthly lists because of the wide range of topics they cover! Despite being a podcast about money and the economy, each week the hosts dive into another interesting corner that somehow comes back to dollars. This episode was very different. Two of the hosts get up on stage and perform “economist jokes” to see how funny they actually are. They bring in an actual economist to “translate”. Some of them are actually decent. Most… are not. But bombing can be just as funny sometimes.
I am still on that WBP kick, loving every episode that comes out of this movie review show. Last month I watched two old films that I’d been meaning to see just because of the incentive of hearing the fun conversation about it between the hosts. This month they did a review of Tank Girl, which is a ridiculous, bonkers movie that has a cult following despite being a huge bomb. It was a very interesting conversation on the show as the hosts navigated the highs and lows of this flop and explained the story behind its production and reception. I find this show so refreshing because two of the hosts are queer women, and their perspectives on films like this are something I appreciate so much in a largely-male-dominated action/sci-fi film review scene.
This episode of the atheism show The Non Prophets had Tracie Harris on, which is always a good sign. The hosts had some great discussions on a variety of social issues centering on religion. The topic that made me want to put it on this list was on all the “religious freedom” acts being put up for votes in various states (including Georgia). Tracie made some fantastic points that really evolved my understanding of the “gay wedding cake baking” issue, for example. In short, there’s a difference between being asked to bake a cake versus being asked to write a certain message or sing at a same-sex wedding. The former is refusing a kind of “common good” based on who you’re selling to; the latter cases go beyond providing a good, and so providers can be selective. This was an important distinction that bettered my understanding of the debate.
This live episode of the Cracked podcast was very entertaining. Each host had a kind of crackpot theory about the wild implications of certain films, be it in their endings or in the universe they create. From the top Toy Story is mentioned, specifically the second one, while the host imagines what life as a nearly-immortal toy would be like, rotting away in a landfill, always awake. I enjoyed the grounded nature of these dystopian re-imaginings, as well as how self-aware they were that a lot of these were kid movies that aren’t meant to be analyzed in this way. The live aspect of the show was actually great in this one, because the audience suggestions were totally good.
We Have Concerns has become a show I look forward to listening to each week. Anthony and Jeff are really funny and yet still deliver science news in a clear and honest way. I love how they can riff on weird conclusions and possibilities while always going back to the reality of the news item they’re talking about. This episode features a lot of spider talk, specifically about how the speed (and motion control) of spiders is largely determined by temperature. They round off the conversation with a return to a previous episode’s joke about the deadly robot spider boss: x71!
StartUp is back! The show’s first season was about the starting of Gimlet Media, the company putting out the podcast itself, but this next season is about three women who are starting a dating site! I’m excited from what I hear in this first episode. Back to back they showcase the extreme highs and extreme lows of starting a business, especially in the tech world. I’m also happy that they picked a company run by women, which is a nice change of pace. All in all, I’m glad I get to look forward to this series and this story again.
On The Media is a news show often about the news itself: where was coverage good or bad; what did people miss. The show often tries to fill in those cracks and covers plenty of news itself. I loved this episode because it almost entirely focused on science. A segment on Dr. Oz properly lambastes him for his behavior on his show (promoting pseudoscience and naturopathy that doesn’t work, but calling them “miracles”). A portion on the 25th anniversary of the Hubble space telescope discusses how its images have changed the public’s perception of outer space, as well as science fiction. (Thinking of space photos as “landscapes” really opened up my mind.) A critique of the Food Babe and a story on opening up clinical trial records for public scrutiny round out this great show.
I saw Middleditch live in Atlanta this month, which was a real treat. He’s been on the podcast If I Were You plenty of times, but it was nice to hear him in another environment, talking about his past and what he’s working on. The Nerdist hosts and Middleditch make for a fun time, tossing out purposefully terrible impressions, talking about playing games on the streaming service Twitch, and messing around with Siri.
I also saw Kumail Nanjiani at the same show this month! He and Emily Gordon often have on fun guests to chat about either their work or what’s happening in the video game world. This episode was with Professor Shyguy, a kind of video game rapper and songwriter who I’ve seen at DragonCon a few times. I really enjoyed some of the songs he played and the explanations for their origins. He enjoys the chiptune musical variety, playing music that sounds like it came out of an NES, which it sometimes does. He was a different kind of guest, so this was an enjoyable episode.
Rounding out the top ten this month is an episode of Freakonomics that felt like a meeting of two remarkably similar people that I’d never seen cross paths before. Stephen Dubner is the host of the podcast and co-author of the books of similar names. Nate Silver gained notoriety during the past few elections when he used statistical analysis to predict the outcomes to high accuracy. His website, fivethirtyeight.com, in large part also covers sports, another statistics-driven industry. I loved this episode because it was the intersection of two worlds with the same kind of data- and reality-driven ideologies, one that I also subscribe to.
Another WBP entry for this month! Bound is the Wachowskis’ directorial debut, and I had no idea until after I had watched it for this podcast episode. It’s a fantastic film that the hosts also loved, and I’m glad I was encouraged to see it through their passionate plea to do so. I like that WBP has become a vehicle for me to enjoy films I’ve been meaning to see, or ones I didn’t even know about.
What I said before about Planet Money still applies here. Last month they had an episode about Magic: The Gathering. This month there’s one about Temple Run and the decisions the developers of that game made to require playtime or money to allow players to be a woman. It’s an interesting decision to have to make when developing and pricing a game! At least in this small case, it’s a happy ending, too.
This Indoor Kids episode was notable to me for two reasons. The first is that the hosts and guest discussed some of the overarching conflicts in the gaming world right now with regards to GamerGate (without mentioning it by name). They talk about how fun diversity in the media we consume can be, and this perfectly ties into the guest’s position in the comic book world. Comics are having a similar realization with the popularity of the Pakistani Ms. Marvel, a black Spider-Man, a woman Thor, and more. Duggan was a great, thoughtful guest, as well!
Listen to anything cool this month? I’d love to hear about it in the comments or on your social media of choice!