I listen to a ton of podcasts – literally, one metric ton[i]. Between my subway commute, walking the dog, and not watching practically any television, podcasts are how I consume arts, culture, and keep my brain occupied while I’m washing the dishes.
Here are some trusted favorites I turn to when I want to change my perspective or seek out some creative inspiration.
Science and I went our separate ways about sixteen years ago on the day when I made the shocking discovery that a chicken is not actually a mammal. So it is quite a coup that veteran broadcasters Robert Krulwich and Jab Abumrad have made me care about science again with their Peabody award-winning program Radiolab.
How did they do it?
A one-two sucker punch of narrative storytelling and excellent sound design. Hour-long episodes explore questions like “What can machines tell us about being human?” and “How does evolution account for altruistic behavior?” You also won’t want to miss the “Shorts” – mini episodes released in between longer ones. One recent short explored the implications X-Men action figures and U.S. Tarrif law may have on how we understand the concept of “human.”
For me, the main lesson of Radiolab is how a well-told story can express even the most complicated and abstract ideas.
99% Invisible, a show produced by Roman Mars, has nothing to do with that other famous 99%. This program focuses on design and architecture, and draws its title from the idea that good design is 99% invisible.
The goal of each exploration is to awaken your senses to the man-made world around you. Design and architecture are widely interpreted here. You will find stories about why the Teddy Bear took off while the Billy Possum was a flop, why we totally forget how to use a steering wheel once we close our eyes, and how a circle with a line through it saved thousands of lives.
Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
At the beginning of this year, Jesse Thorn rebranded his popular podcast and public radio program The Sound of Young America to Bullseye with Jesse Thorn.
I miss the old rocket ship logo, but love how the new format has breathed new life into this great arts and culture interview show. With pop culture commentators from across the blogosphere, Bullseye has often pointed me towards my next favorite thing, but Jesse’s interviews with artists and entertainers are the centerpiece of the program.
As someone who is called upon to be creative in some capacity every day, I enjoy hearing where others find inspiration, how they developed their voice, and what led them on the path to their current career. I also love listening to the stories about how sticking out like a maypole influenced Aisha Tyler’s comedy, what Lawrence Wechsler sees, or doesn’t see, in the faces of computer-generated characters on film, and where the tension comes from in Roz Chast’s iconic New Yorker cartoons.
[i] No, not literally.