Aural Stimulation

I’ve got a commute of half an hour to work, a reasonable amount of time (especially considering the hour on the subway each way to get to my last job, in Boston), but still time that I prefer to fill with something constructive, or at least entertaining. The radio can offer some charms, if the station out of the University of New Hampshire is on a good tear or there’s some NPR on, but ultimately it’s unreliable. That’s where my GPS, also known as Authority, comes in– not for directions but for her mp3 capacity.

Back in the days when I was heading up here from Somerville every other weekend to visit Jane (a routine almost a year in the past, if you can believe it), I developed a regular stable of podcasts to load onto Authority for the trip up and back, some two and a half hours total. I’d start off with MPR’s Grammar Grater, then ease into NPR’s It’s All Politics as I approached 95N. Then it’d be time for Radiolab, WNYC’s excellent science program, and on the way back I’d dive into This American Life. Bringing up the rear (and often carrying forward into the next set of trips’ listening) would be the Slate Culture Gabfest, and a show about RPGs, Active Time Babble. There were others that cropped up from time to time, such as the programs that Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinaire, would do with different Seattle radio stations, and Book Tour, broadcasts of author talks from the Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C., both of which abruptly stopped for such a long time that I gave them up for dead.  (Grammar Grater fell into that category a while back as well.)

Now I’ve been reviving some of the old podcast traditions, with my good friends Ron Elving and Ken Rudin keeping me up to date on politics, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich doing the same with science, and Ira Glass and his team filling me in on just about everything else, but these excellent programs only fill up so much time, and there’s five hours to kill each week.  I’d like for my listening to be more focused— to give me information that I could put to use in one of my current writing/editing projects.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear about your recommendations for the best podcasts out there in the following areas:  technology (where our personal devices are headed), history (17th-century baroque and proto-American would be especially helpful), the military (standard practices and lingo), and Northwestern life (Seattle, Portland, etc.).  Ones that can clearly explain economics and architecture would also be good, though the latter probably would suffer from a purely audio format.  I can be drawn in by pretty much any compellingly explained information and explored quandaries, I suppose, and that’s always useful, but I’m constantly pouring this stuff into my head– I could really use some filtering!

Much appreciate your input, and I hope that if you aren’t already tuning into the podcasts that I mentioned, you’ll check them out.  Quality stuff.  Except when Steve Metcalf is being a little too bitchy about some book or movie not sufficiently rarefied for his taste.

Author: Jeff Deck

Author and administrator of this site.