When I am working on a new project or just trying to get in a good working groove at the day job, I like to turn on my favorite talk shows. Something about listening to people talk and tell stories takes me to a super concentrated and mellow state, more so than music. And since Fridays are my days to work form home, I thought it would be appropriate to share my top five podcasts:
1. My very, very favorite podcast is Radiolab. I discovered this podcast back in 2006 (at which point I listened to all the archives in about a week). I am not sure which day(s) the hour-long show airs on the radio, but you can find all of the episodes on their site, as well as "shorts" and other scientific goodies. Each show is and exploration into scientific mysteries and I find the voices of hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich absolutely mesmerizing. In addition to the fascinating content in each episode, the overall production is great, with looping of voices, sounds, and music, making for a theatrical listening experience. I check the website every day for updates and new shorts, and when a brand-spanking-new full length show is out, I get a little giddy.
2. Coming in at a close second is This American Life. With a combination of political, scientific, social, and current events programming, there really is something for everyone. Host Ira Glass opens with a personal story and then introduces me to several contributors who share their own experiences and stories, mostly with a journalistic approach. Some are funny, some are sad, and some are just plain shocking. If the most current show is not for me, then I just head over the the vast collection of show archives and cherry-pick what I want to hear (the show dates all the way back to 1995!).
3. The Story is another great show. In each episode, host Dick Gordon interviews someone that has experienced something challenging in their life. While this show can lean a bit on the super-serious side, I find the content to be absolutely fascinating and feel like I know a little bit more about how the world operates afterward. The show has a very intimate feel. It's just you, Dick, and the guest (the first time I heard this show, I was driving on a dark, quiet night--I was hooked).
4. Once a week, I like to hop over to the Snap Judgement podcast. With a similar topic format to This American Life, I find several story gems (some are even produced by T.A.L. contributors). However, this show is a little different. Glen Washington (who, having grown up in a religious cult-like atmosphere, has his own interesting life stories to share) is like a story disc jockey, taking me through each episode with hip hop music and a bit of soul-filled attitude. The format ranges from stand-up comedy to ghost stories to slam-style poetry, with a fair amount of touching tales in between.
5. Fresh Air with Terri Gross is another one of my go-to podcasts. Terri has an incredible voice and a beautiful laugh (you know those people that make you feel like a million bucks when they laugh?). She interviews celebrities and public figures and is not afraid to ask the tough questions. The format ranges from analyzing current events to interviewing the actors in blockbuster films.
Okay, so I know I said five, but if that is still not enough for you, check out these other gems:
6. Tell Me More with Michel Martin (for when you want unbiased reporting from a strong soothing voice)
7. On Point with Tom Ashbrook (for when you want to get multiple points of view on current events--also, Tom is so damn cheerful, even when angry folks call in)
8. Science Friday with Ira Flatow (for when you want to dork out on science-y stuff)