November’s Top 10 Podcast Episodes

This post is pretty late, well into December, but please enjoy.

This American Life – The Heart Wants What It Wants

This heartbreaking episode has one big, long act about a service/scam where a man would write letters as if he were an attractive woman to men around the country, for a fee. The exchange is a farce if you take just one step back, but many men found fulfillment in receiving these letters and imagining themselves in relationships with these women. It culminates in gatherings and later legal activity that involve the men actually meeting the models from the pictures with the letters and coming to some painful realizations.

(In another story a #BlackLivesMatter protester has a crush on a police officer arresting her!)

We Have Concerns – Shock to the Belief System

I enjoyed this We Have Concerns episode because the hosts spoke at length about beliefs systems they see as harmful and pushed on some points (anti-science views or religious views) that I hadn’t heard them express before. The news item about a study examining the effects of shutting off parts of people’s brains and seeing changes in their beliefs sparked this conversation and was fascinating in itself.

SPONTANEANATION – Storage Room In Back Of Hot Dog Stand

This improv comedy podcast is frequently a treat, and a hot dog stand going out of business and a family needing a new place to go is a story with a surprisingly ability to have a narrative arc, which doesn’t always happen when the jokes start flying.

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Surprisingly Awesome – Free Throws

Surprisingly Awesome is the newest Gimlet show, and this episode is the one that captured me more than the first one. What begins as a simple dive into how free throws have more depth than the average person might appreciate ends on a surprisingly touching moment between a father and his child!

Reply All – Shine on You Crazy Goldman

A host and producer of Reply All, after a lot of discussion, go on a mini acid trip during a work week. I’ve never done drugs, so I intimately understood the amount of care and attention that went into undertaking this endeavor. It’s enlightening, stressful, funny, and maybe slightly related to the Internet.

99% Invisible – Fountain Drinks

I didn’t know there was this much history to water fountains, but of course there is. When they were first introduced, it was surely a revolutionary idea that changed our perception of what people were entitled to in a city, country, or the world. How it evolved, and especially became more sanitary, is equally fascinating. I enjoyed listening to this while walking on a sidewalk, another understood norm of infrastructure.

Nerdist – Emily V. Gordon

The first of three great Nerdist interviews in November! This episode with former therapist, producer, author, Jane of all trades Emily Gordon was really fun. Gordon is funny and shared a lot of herself that I never knew before, even after listening to The Indoor Kids for years. Her experiences of being a therapist actually helped me understand my own partner better in vividly learning how challenging and draining the profession can be. Also they talk about masturbation at the end, which really rounds out the whole thing.

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Freakonomics – Should Everyone Be in a Rock Band?

This Freakonomics episode is a little different, in that it follows a former member of Tom Petty’s band as he describes not only his experiences and Petty’s, but also the realization that the rock star life isn’t what it seems. That concept seems cliche, but it’s explored in a way that wisely asks the title question: is the experience the narrator/author of this story had foundational to living a fulfilling life afterward?

Nerdist – Daniel Craig

I’ve never heard Craig interviewed before, so this is another example of a pleasant experience hearing from the man who is more well-known as a single character. He’s really fun and vastly more approachable than James Bond appears to be. This was a real treat of an episode, especially because Matt Mira gets to nerd out on him from his deep fanboyism of Bond.

We Have Concerns – What Concerns Brock Wilbur

One more We Have Concerns episode really caught my attention. This one is an interview with a friend of the hosts who volunteers as an escort for Planned Parenthood. He’s a funny guy who recounts his experiences in a way that highlights the need for this kind of help while still having fun with the ridiculous nature of the situation. Carboni and Cannata shared this episode last month in the wake of the Planned Parenthood shooting, which made it all the more important.

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Honorable mentions:

Surprisingly Awesome – Concrete

A brand new podcast premiered, so it’s worth emphasizing the great episodes that came from it in its early life. Back in August I put a 99% Invisible episode on my list for its dive into brutalist architecture, which is based on concrete. It turns out, however, that there’s a lot more to learn about this fascinating, ubiquitous substance. The earliest uses we can find point to a kind of religious appreciation, as well as a symbol of power to be able to transform and shape material. It will be the marker of our presence on Earth for centuries once we’re gone. Cheaper mixtures can be held responsible for building collapses and a portion of Haiti’s devastation since the earthquake there. Concrete is heavy stuff, man.

Nerdist – Daniel Radcliffe

Yes. Three Nerdist episodes, and two about British dudes. Deal with it. Radcliffe is a wonderful person who is delightful to listen to because he is remarkably normal despite being a superstar from childhood age. He’s funny and great and I’m so glad that’s the case.

Hardcore History – Kings of Kings

I finally got bit by the Hardcore History bug, and while this episode came out in late October, it deserves mentioning for those that have never tried the show. The episodes are infrequent and massively long, but the host, Dan Carlin, captures you with his vivid tales of people living thousands of years ago, sprinkling evocative anecdotes and using modern cultural references to ground the “characters” in your mind. I’m officially a fan and am working my way through the history of Genghis Khan now.

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If you have favorites from November, or want to share something you’re listening to right now, let me know!

One thought on “November’s Top 10 Podcast Episodes

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