WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PODCASTS?

IMAGE // VIA Tim Witt

I’m not sure I’ve made it fully, abundantly clear yet on this blog about what a big-time podcast junkie I am.

But while driving around the other day, bopping away to some quality “Talk of the Nation,” I thought: “man, it would be so great if I had, like, a list somewhere of all of my favorite podcasts.” And then I realized: Hey, I could make that list. I could make it on my blog.

Then I got the idea to include you guys in the discussion, since whenever we talk about books it always devolves into a nerdy bookworm party and I totally love it. So I’m hoping that will happen here today. If you guys have any podcast suggestions, tell me about them in comments, cool?

I really could listen to smart people talk about television, movies, books, New York Times “think pieces” etc. all day long. In fact, it’s a dream of mine to have an Austin-centric show based on that very concept…but you knew that already! Until that happens, here are the podcasts I listen to for my regular culture fix:

*SLATE CULTURE GABFEST: Three regulars from Slate.com — deputy editor Julia Turner, film critic Dana Stevens, and critic-at-large Stephen Metcalf — take up three weekly pop topics, ranging anywhere from the new TV show Nashville to the future of bookstores to Beyonce’s dance moves, and discuss/debate their opinions in an intelligent, insightful way. The show reminds me of my whackier literature grad school classes, like “The Theory of Punk Rock” or “The Dialetics of Female Clothing.” Comes out on iTunes each Wednesday.

*SLATE DOUBLE X GABFEST: Slate.com’s feminist podcast. It’s very similar to the Culture Gabfest, in that there are three smart hosts who tackle three cultural topics, but the lens here is women’s issues: Yahoo.com’s CEO Marissa Mayer working through her maternity leave, for example. Comes out bi-weekly on Thursdays.

*NPR’s TALK OF THE NATION: NPR’s daily call-in news show led by the affable Neal Conan. I used to listen to this all the time when I lived in California, but starting January 2013 we’ll get it on KUT here in Austin, too. Until then it’s available as an NPR podcast. Each Wednesday is politics-centric, but the show also features some kookier culture topics too, like how Max Brooks’ zombie novel appeared on tons of college campus’s required reading lists this year — including that of St. Edwards.

*WHYY’s FRESH AIR: Nobody does it better than Terry Gross. Daily one-on-one interviews with celebrities, bestselling authors, string theorists, musicians, etc. Terry does a good job of keeping her guest roster fairly high/low-brow, so one week you might get the new director of the American School of Ballet, the next week you’ll get Jimmy Fallon (one of my favorite “Fresh Air” interviews of all time).

*NEW YORKER’S POLITICAL SCENE: I’ll probably listen to this less now that the election is over, but The New Yorker gathers staff writers each Friday to talk politics. They are all opinionated and fabulous, even though they try to be extremely objective and serious.

When I first got an iPhone and discovered podcasts, “Stuff You Should Know” from HowStuffWorks.com was like the first podcast I ever listened to, and every day I’d come home repeating facts to Ross like a little parrot: “Did you know that the most common age for newly diagnosed schizophrenics is late 20s?” “DID YOU KNOW that the first crime scene photo ever taken was for a Jack the Ripper photo?” “DID YOU KNOW that color blindness is more common in males than females??” (I took the “Stuff You Should Know” message a little too seriously.)

More about that show below, but since finding it, I’ve discovered other cool science/history podcasts that will appeal to the fact-hungry among you:

*STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW from HowStuffWorks.com: From Stockholm Syndrome to out of body experiences to lying to the mob, 30-something co-hosts Josh and Chuck break down, step by step, how…stuff…works. In 2011, Josh and Chuck (whose last names escape me for some reason — probably because they so seem like those two dudes who lived down the dorm hallway from you in college, always watching Groundhog Day and philosophizing over a communal bowl of Doritos) came to SXSW, and I hope they repeat that again sometime.

*WNYC’S RADIOLAB: Equal parts science and culture, this highly-produced show is co-hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, who go out and interview sharp folks (mostly scientists) about that week’s given subject: The rhythm of cities, how animal minds work, how we perceive color, etc. I recently found out that Jad used to be a music composer, which explains why Radiolab has such richly textured audio — I honestly found it distracting at first but now I like it.

*BIG IDEAS from TVO (which is like Ontario’s NPR): Lectures from brilliant people. Stellar seismology, the future of oil, stretching your muscles. It’s like listening to a TED talk.

Sometimes when I go on walks or take naps, I like to listen to the soothing sounds of some little Buddhist either guiding me in meditation or talking to me about the concept of loving kindness. I also like dorky anatomy podcasts that explain how your body works. Here are the best of those:

*ZENCAST: I have recommended this podcast to so many people. Simple, hour-long Buddhist lectures on various topics, like letting go, mindfulness, dignity, seeing things as they are. My favorite speaker of the bunch is Gil Fronsdale. Discovering this podcast was in all seriousness a life-changer for me.

*MEDITATION OASIS: Short, 5-to-20 minute meditations with various focal points: There’s a meditation for anger, a meditation for anxiety, a meditation for creativity. Mary Maddux, who leads the meditations, has the most calming voice ever.

*SCHOOLYOGA INSTITUTE‘S YOGA ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY: I just discovered this one and totally love it! It’s simply a (semi-quality) recording of 11 lectures SYI did on yoga and how it affects your body: Musculature adaptation, personal nutrition, etc. I realize we’re getting into extreme geek territory here but if you’re into this stuff, then whoa. It’s good.

Comedy has gotten more confessional, more monologue-oriented these days, and at the same time, memoirs from regular folks keep popping up all over bookstores. I think this may just be the Internet echoing back our own voyeuristic tendencies to us, and how it’s only been in the last decade or so that we can indulge those tendencies properly. As a result we’re developing a new respect for nonfiction storytellers, so here are some of the best resources for them:

*THIS AMERICAN LIFE: The crème de la crème of creative nonfiction on air, mixing quirky slices-of-life tales with serious, investigative journalism.

*SNAP JUDGMENT: Led by sweet Glynn Washington, this weekly show is a lot like This American Life, but with groovier music and a thematic thread linking all the stories: a time when a person had to make a “snap judgment.”

*THE MOTH: A 15 year-old nonprofit based in New York (but held in other cities as well), featuring live storytellers on stage delivering sometimes funny, sometimes shocking monologues — their own.

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So those are my faves! My friend / ninja blog programmer Kyla Roma posted a kickass list herself of cool podcasts, including some especially good ones for entrepreneurs, cooks/bakers/foodies, and and beauty lovers. (Kyla’s blog is pretty fantastic in general.)

What podcasts do you listen to?