There's a Podcast for That - 2 of 2

Ornament in snow 12172016If you're anywhere in the northeastern United States today, you've either raced to the grocery store to stock up before tomorrow's storm, or seen news coverage of people doing so.  Maybe you were one of the people in the extra long lines at the gas station, or one of the kids desperately trying to get on that website that predicts the likelihood of snow days.  What I want to know is whether or not you've downloaded enough podcasts to keep you entertained in case the power goes out, or to keep you moving while doing all that shoveling.  

In case you have any doubt, here's the second half of my There's a Podcast for That list.  

Social Studies (for lack of a more vague title)

  • How to be a Girl - Procast from NPR. A mother of a transgender child (in elementary school) talks openly about the struggles and joys of their life.
  • The Longest Shortest Time - Procast.  If you have children or spend time around children, you'll probably find something of interest here.  
  • Ear Hustle - Procast from Public Radio Exchange.  You'd think a podcast made in prison by prisoners would be bleak, but Ear Hustle is anything but.  You get to know some of the inmates as people, not the crimes they committed.  It's fascinating and really entertaining.
  • Death, Sex & Money - Procast.  Thoughtful stories about taboo subjects we all have to face sometime.  The host is terrific at asking the tough questions without a trace of sensationalism.  Not surprisingly, this show comes from the talented people at WNYC.
  • The Guilty Feminist - Take a female, feminist, stand-up comedian, put her in front of an audience with guests and see what painfully funny truths are revealed.
  • Only Human - Procast. This podcast from WNYC is billed as a health podcast, but not in the way you'd expect.  There are no stories about the best cardio workout or what superfood to eat this month.  Instead there are stories about climate change denial, the history of Vicks, and what you pass when you shake hands.  It's about being human.  
  • Rough Translation - Procast from NPR.  The journalists look at how issues that are in the news here in the US, are also making news elsewhere in the world.  For example, what does fake news mean if you live in the Ukraine?  

Science and Technology

  • Radiolab -  Procast from WNYC.  I used to time letting my students out of class to ensure I could be in my car at 9 when this radio show began.  That was of course before I knew about podcasts.  This is a show for people who are interested in science but aren't necessarily scientists.  The co-hosts clearly enjoy each other and they ask the questions that everyday schmoes like me would want to know.  One of the hosts was awarded a MacArthur Grant (aka "genius grant") for the way he innovates with sound.  You've got to experience it to understand.
  • Reply All - Procast from Gimlet Media.  Officially the show is about all things related to the internet: memes, twitter wars, hacking etc.  In short, it does not sound like something I'd have any interest in, but the guys who host it are clearly old friends.  The way the pick on each other cracks me up, and when they bring on their boss to explain a tweet to him, it's so much fun.  
  • Note to Self: Procast from WNYC.  This is a show all about what happens when humans interact with technology.  Even though it's a show by radio professionals, the host is willing to share her insecurities and bad habits.  There's been an emphasis on data safety recently which I haven't found as engaging, but go check out some of the older episodes.  
  • Invisibilia: Procast from NPR.  Each episode takes a look at something unseen that affects our lives.  This is science based, so there are no ghosts or paranormal stories, which is fine with me.  Reality is full of strange and wonderful things.


  • Black Sheep - Procast from Radio New Zealand.  I'm not exactly sure how I stumbled on this show, but I love it.  I probably hoped it had to do with knitting; it doesn't.  The host devotes each episode to "the shady, controversial and sometimes downright villainous characters of New Zealand history."  Given how little New Zealand history  is taught in the USA, every person, every incident is completely new to me.  It's fascinating.
  • Uncivil - Procast from Gimlet Media.  In response to the division and unrest in our nation today, Gimlet created a show to look at untold stories of the Civil War.  It's fascinating.


  • Every Little Thing - Procast from Gimlet Media.  A couple years ago Gimlet introduced a show called Surprisingly Awesome.  In it one host would try to convince the other that something seemingly boring ("concrete" for example) was actually incredible.  I thought it was a great idea but the show went through some growing pains as they played with the format and the hosting.  Eventually they found a version of that original premise that worked, complete with a new host and a new name for the show.  Don't miss the episode on flamingos.
  • The New Yorker Radio Hour - Procast from WNYC.  The editor of The New Yorker hosts.  The content is so varied that I'm having a hard time describing it.  What I can say is that while I've never enjoyed reading The New Yorker, I really enjoy the podcast.
  • Fresh Air with Terry Gross -  Procast from WHYY.  A classic interview show.  Being able to listen to the podcast means never missing the beginning of an interview or sitting in the car in the parking lot to catch the end of one again.
  • This American Life - Procast from WBEZ.  This was the second podcast I discovered.  It has been the soundtrack of countless roadtrips.  It is a classic.  One day I'm sure it will be an episode in Studio 360's American Icon series.


There's a Podcast for That - 1 of 2

Foggy horse

Over and over this December, as friends and family came together, the topic of podcasts kept coming up.  Favorite shows were shared, their titles jotted down, friends talked over one another in their excitement at loving the same show, and more than one tutorial in what they are, how to get them and how to listen to them was given.  If you're new to podcasts, they're audio programs available for free from the internet.  Some are simply radio programs made available for you to listen to when you want to.  Many are made by professionals, such as public radio stations or their former employees (think Gimlet), to be podcasts.  These are sometimes called "procasts" because they are made by pros. 

Then there are the shows made in home studios by people who have a passion to share.  These can be harder to find in the post Serial (incredibly addictive procast that introduced podcasts to a new audience) world.  iTunes algorithms emphasize shows with the most downloads, and procasts have greater name recognition so they get downloaded more, but podcasts by the people for the people are out there and some are absolutely wonderful.  One of the exciting things about podcasts made by individuals is that the listeners can become a community, sometimes calling in to leave voice messages that become part of the show.

I've been listening to podcasts for a long time, at least 10 years.  I discovered my first, in of all places, a knitting magazine.  Cast On was a knitting magazine for your ears, complete with the equivalent of letters from the editor, essays, interviews and show and tell.  Though Brenda has moved on to other ventures, you can still find Cast On online.  In fact I think I'm going to relisten to them from the beginning to celebrate the start of a new year.  

If you'd like a new year's resolution that will be a joy to keep, how about resolving to discover the world of podcasts?  Or if you already listen, resolve to try some new ones.  You can listen to them in the car; we listen to them on road trips. I listen to them while I walk.  They help me walk farther without getting board, and unlike music which I'm likely to turn up louder than I should, with podcasts I can still hear approaching cars, bird songs etc.  Podcasts are great company for boring chores (raking, folding laundry, doing dishes, cleaning rabbit pens).  Depending on the content, they are great for falling asleep to.  They give your mind something pleasant to focus on (no obsessing over to do lists), without the blue light that TVs and computers emit which keep us awake.  Many podcast players have timers so they shut off after a certain amount of time.  My iPod (a tiny square barely larger than a postage stamp) has replaced my childhood stuffed animals as my must have for falling asleep. 

Here are some of my favorite podcast.  I hope you'll share yours in the comments section.  

Crafty and Creative

  • Cast On - (see above) 
  • CraftLit - Crafty chat followed by chapters from a classic book, with the benefit of all the insight, context and vocabulary help that a great English teacher brings to the discussion.  Anne of Green Gables will be starting later in January.  I can't wait to see what Heather's research adds to this book I think I know inside and out.
  • CraftSanity- A newspaper reporter started interviewing local artists as a way to bring her two loves together.  Since then she's started a magazine and other endeavors to encourage everyone to tap into their creative side.
  • Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert - Yes that, Elizabeth Gilbert.  After writing about creativity in Big Magic, she started this podcast where she talks with someone who is feeling stuck in a creative endeavor.  She gives them advice and then discussed their situation with a professional in their field (or a related one) and gets their advice.

Language, Literature and the Like

  • CraftLit (see above)
  • The Allusionist - A funny and informative podcast about language.  It's a gem.
  • The World In Words - Procast from Public Radio International.  It's produced right here in Boston.  It focuses on the intersection between language and culture.
  • A Way with Words - Procast.  A call in show where people ask linguists their questions about language.  Episodes are short and light.
  • Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson - Procast from Public Radio International (formally from WNYC).  Kurt interviews people from across pop-culture and the arts.  I highly recommend the Icon episodes in which he delves deep into a work, think The Great Gatsby or Uncle Tom's Cabin. 
  • Levar Burton Reads - If you grew up on Reading Rainbow, you have to listen to Levar read short stories for adults.
  • Audio Dime Museum: Carnivale - This comes from a group called Just a Story.  It's an experiment in telling a serialized story as if you are in it.  You have to try it to see what I mean.
  • 99% Invisible with Roman Mars - Each episode focuses on one story related to design.  That could mean anything from flags to creating the friendliest airport in the world.  The stories are all about how design affects our lives, usually without us noticing.  If Roman ever gets tired of this gig, he could easily make a living in voice over work.

Happiness and Better Living

  • Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Procast. Gretchen has written award winning books that make happiness and habit research accessible to non-science folks.  She is full of tips on knowing yourself better and applying the research to your own life.  She and her cohost sister Elizabeth Craft are wonderfully honest and funny as they discuss the ideas and their own attempts at implementing them.  A great podcast for anyone in the "new year, new me" mindset.
  • Happier in Hollywood - Procast. A spinoff of the Happier podcast, this show is hosted by Elizabeth Craft and her writing partner Sarah Fain.  They've been friends since high school and are now screenwriters in Hollywood.  Their show is full of tips for improving your work life, told through the lens of working in Hollywood.  I listen to this and Happier a lot while crafting.  
  • By the Book - Procast. Two friends pick a self-help book and live by its rules completely for two weeks, then report back.  Their husbands get sucked into the experiments too.  If you've ever read a self-help book you'll love this.  They are painfully honest about their experience.  
  • 10% Happier - Procast. You'll probably recognize the host Dan Harris from Good Morning America.  After suffering a panic attack on national television, he set about changing his life.  Along with facing addiction issues, he took up meditation.  In this podcast he interviews people from all walks of life who meditate.  It's informative, honest and often funny.
  • The Hilarious World of Depression - Procast from American Public Media.  It started with the host (who suffers from depression) interviewing comedians who also live with the disease.  The interviews have branched out a bit to include folks like author John Green of The Fault in our Stars fame.   The show is entertaining, informative and poignant, showing through real life stories that there's no more reason for mental illness to be stigmatized than there is for asthma.  
  • On Being with Krista Tippet -  Procast.  The award winning, beloved radio show is made available for you to listen to whenever you want to.  Krista interviews scientists, theologians, artists and activists about the meaning of life and other big questions.
  • The RobCast - Rob Bell is a little hard to describe.  He went to seminary but found the constraints of any particular religion too restricting.  He explores life, the Bible and God from a Christian perspective while being open to what other faiths and traditions have to teach us.  His energy and excitement is contagious.  I learned about him through Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast.