Friday, March 2, 2018

Peas in a Pod(cast)

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Here at Jungle Red, we've given recommendations on movies, books (many, many times!) TV shows and even websites. But one big aspect of today's culture we haven't dished on - podcasts. Not ones we've been in, or how to be an effective guest, but the ones we enjoy listening to at home, in the car, or downloaded on our phones.
I'm late to the podcast game, despite having many friends suggest this or that wonderful show. I tend to be a devoted MPBN listener in my car, either tuned to NPR or classical music, and I've never enjoyed listening to things streaming over my laptop - the speakers aren't the best, and unless I'm sitting right in front of it, the sound quality leaves much to be desired. Nor do I tend to download media onto my phone - in part because it's a super cheap-o one originally meant for pay-as-you-go, and it's got less memory than I do (which is saying something, these days.)
What got me started with podcasts? My friend Alexa. My brother and sister gifted us with an Echo when Ross was ill - it was the perfect thing for someone who was often too tired to get up. Ross could listen to news, sports and music without leaving his bed, and he and I together started following The Fall of Rome (2016-2017), an amazingly detailed and lively show by Patrick Wyman.

Alexa now lives in the kitchen, where she entertains me while I'm cooking and cleaning. By the late afternoon/early evening, I don't WANT to hear the news; it's usually too depressing. But I love something stimulating to focus on while doing mindless chores. Podcasts fit the bill perfectly. I've always loved history, so a lot of what I've listened to falls under that umbrella. After learning about the fall of Rome, I went back and have been working my way through The History of Rome (2007-2012) by Mike Duncan, which won several awards as an educational podcast. I've continued with both these podcasters as they've moved into new series; Duncan is
currently podcasting Revolutions, digging into the events and results of major revolutions in modernity, and Wyman with Tides of History, covering the period that saw the end of Antiquity and the start of the Medieval period. I'm loving the way Wyman, a recent PhD in history, is incorporating some of the newest scholarship in the field, including the effects of climate change on the ancient world. Don't be scared away if you're not an academic type - these podcasts are very accessible, with lots of humor and 2000-year-old gossip.

I've also started streaming podcasts of several of my favorite Public Radio programs, Freakonomics and TED Radio Hour. The former takes one interesting question or issue and explores it in depth - sometimes over the course of a short series, sometimes in a single hour. Recent episodes include "Not Your Grandmother's IMF," "Why is the Live-Event Ticket Market So Screwed Up?" and "Nurses to the Rescue!" TED Radio hour is -- well, everyone's heard of TED talks, right? The podcast takes three or four presentations on complimentary topics, interviews the speakers, and excerpts relevant parts of the speeches, saving you, the listener, from having to watch three or four hours of video to get the same information. Love it.

How about you, Reds? Do you follow podcasts? If not, why not?


INGRID THOFT: I’m not well informed when it comes to podcasts, mostly because there never seems to be a good time to listen to them.  I listen to music when I exercise, and I worry that I won’t be able to focus enough when I’m cleaning up around the house.  I wonder, do I need to give a podcast my full attention?

My curiosity has been piqued by a recommendation to listen to “Someone Knows Something,” which is produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Company.  It discusses unsolved crimes, which sounds intriguing.  I've also heard good things about "Thinking Sideways," another entry in the unsolved crimes category.  



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I was addicted to Serial. ADDICTED. But let me say--every time I tried to find it, it was a huge pain. Somehow my brain can't figure out what podcasts are, so I can never find them.  So Julia, are you saying Alexa will play them?  Ingrid, how do you play them? I know they're all the rage.

JENN McKINLAY: I'm later to the party than you, Julia. I don't listen to podcasts. Much like Hank, I have no idea how to find them and like Ingrid, I listen to music when I workout or walk my dogs. I do love NPR when I drive, so maybe podcasting my favorite programs will be my gateway to podcasts. Okay, I just downloaded the Podcast App onto my phone. I will endeavor to move more with the times!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Julia, I'm late to the party, too, although we were in the first wave of Alexa adopters. I had no idea I could listen to podcasts! But how do you find things you might want to listen to? Is there a Podcast Central? Even if you can just say, "Alexa, play --- podcast," I have to know what to ask for. (Are these really dumb questions???)  I tend to listen to my Flash Briefing, music, and audio books, but it would be lovely to use that chore time to learn some interesting new things.

JULIA: Okay, so this is what I use, and it's working GREAT.  AnyPod. Go to your Alexa control on Amazon, or open the Alexa app on your phone. Select SKILLS (you have to open the hamburger to find it on the phone app) > ANYPOD > ENABLE.

With AnyPod, you can select any episode you want to play (unlike Alexa, who can only give you the most recent.) For a series like my history podcasts or Hank's Serial, AnyPod will pick right up where you left off listening last time, so you don't have to keep track. You can "rewind" forward and backwards to rehear something you missed or to skip a boring part. You can skip whole episodes. You can also subscribe and unsubscribe, but I haven't tried that yet.

Its only flaw is that when you first turn it on ("Alexa. AnyPod.") you have to listen to its little spiel about how to ask for an episode. Then, as an example, it always says, "For instance, 'Play The Dr. Laura Program.'" As if. I'd love to know how much her producers paid for that plug.

How about you, dear readers? Any pods (pun intended) you can suggest for the rest of us?

45 comments:

  1. This whole podcast thing sounds quite interesting, but we are later to the party than everyone else . . . we have absolutely no idea of how to go about finding a podcast and we have no Alexa to search out podcasts for us. We do, however, listen to NPR . . . .

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    1. Joan, I found several of the ones I listen to by Googling "best history podcasts." Substitute "history" for your interest. Everyone I've looked as has a website of some kind where you can simply click and play - the reason I use Alexa is that her speaker is much better than my laptop's.

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    2. Thanks! That certainly sounds doable and I'm sure I'll find something wonderful . . . .

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  2. I listen to almost no podcasts but my early-30s son and his fiance do all the time. If I miss a Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on the weekend I do listen on the podcast, and I have a wireless speaker that will play it from my phone. No Alexa in the house, but can I share something fun?

    I'm writing a new series where the protag has an African Gray parrot as a pet. I discovered on Youtube that parrots like to tell Alexa what to put on the shopping list. It's hilarious. "Strawberry. Strawberry. Hello. Tim. Strawberry." You can hear the owner cracking up in the background. That went straight into a scene I wrote yesterday, smiling all the way. Now to work it into the crime story...

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    1. Whoops, that's Jim. I changed my Google account name and the world is a bit off kilter today.

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  3. I used to listen to a lot of podcasts, particularly for sci-fi shows. I listened to one for Babylon 5 (The Babylon Podcast) and one for Farscape (The Scapecast) and two different ones for the show Firefly (The Signal and Firefly Talk). I even got mentioned in four episodes of The Signal.

    For music podcasts I listen to a couple of podcasts by Celtic musician Marc Gunn. Those were called The Irish & Celtic Music podcast and The Pub Songs podcast.

    Nowadays I don't have the time to listen to podcasts as much so I'm mainly listening to the Tuning Into Sci-Fi TV podcast. There's a podcast called The West Wing Weekly, which looks at the TV show The West Wing that I keep meaning to get to but haven't yet.

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    1. Jay, I'm a HUGE Babylon 5 fan, and I had no idea there was a podcast! Finding out has just made my day.

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    2. Julia, I'm glad I made your day but here's the bad news for you, the podcast has been over for a number of years, or as they say in the podcast world...podfaded.

      But it ran for 7 years at babylonpodcast.com

      And I'm stoked to learn that you love The Five Year Novel For Television series as well! I loved the series, the movies, the one off movie spinoff attempt and the sequel series. I also read the novels that were published including one that series creator J. Michael Straczynski considers official canon.

      And though a lot of the cast has passed beyond the rim now, I've met: J. Michael Straczynski, Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Bill Mumy, Tracy Scoggins and Stephen Austin (he played the Pak'Ma'Ra ambassador from Season 2 onward) at conventions.

      I remember watching "Sleeping In Light" in my living room with my parents and wearing my official B5 baseball hat and being so incredibly moved by that final episode.

      I also got the books, the comic books and some of the action figures as well.

      I wish I'd been able to meet Andreas Katsulas (Ambassador G'Kar) and still hope to meet Peter Jurasik (Londo Mollari) someday.

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    3. Darn it, I had a big reply here to Julia about Babylon 5 and now it has disappeared on me.

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    4. Found it in the spam folder and returned it to its rightful place! If I didn't know better, I'd say our spam filter has a crush on you, Jay.

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    5. Just my luck Julia. Thanks for finding it.

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  4. I really enjoyed Deadly Manners, which is a podcast modeled on old golden age mystery radio plays. It’s set at a country mansion in the early ‘50s, where the guests at a fancy dinner are trapped by a blizzard - and then someone starts bumping them off. Kristen Bell, Anna Chlumsky, and I think Levar Buryon are among the cast. It was so much fun to listen to!

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    1. That sounds like fun, Lorri! I'm adding "Deadly Manners" to my podcast list.

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  5. My son gave me an Echo for Christmas and I really didn't think I would do much with it. I love the question of the day and I like hearing about this day in history but I haven't done much else with it.
    As for podcasts I often listen to ones from Masterpiece Theatre on my desktop. I'll be looking into some of those other suggestions.

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  6. I really have to step it up. My kitchen floor-mopping music is the Doors, "Light My Fire." And this week, when I'm puttering around the kitchen in the late afternoon, Corelli concerti.

    Podcasts on long drives sound ideal. It sure beats listening to the complete Ring Cycle.

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  7. I listen to a couple of podcasts on my iPad, as I don't have Alexa at my house. (The border collies would learn how to order freeze dried fish treats while I'm at work.) Being an NPR nerd, I listen to "Fresh Air" and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" when I'm working in the kitchen or when I'm in the sewing room, planning a new quilt. I love them.

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    1. I love those shows, too, and Morning Edition with Steve Inskeep. No, Alexa for me either as the Hub and Hooligans would spend hours asking it rude questions. Sheesh!

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  8. When I have the time, I enjoy Wine & Crime, Crime Writers On..., and S-Town.

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  9. Hallie and I are at Sleuthfest— both as featured authors! It is completely fabulous, and we are having a great time . Thanks for all this good info! I will try out Alexa when I get home…

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    1. It's a good thing you're in Florida - Massachusetts is evidently going to get hammered by wind and rain today, if the MPBN forecast is correct.

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    2. As one of of the Massachusetts contingent here on JRW, I can confirm that we are getting slapped around by Mother Nature today. It's windy and rainy here right now, but it is supposed to get worse as the day progresses.

      The positive side of this is that even though I'm at work, I'm all alone because everyone else called out or had the day off already.

      So that means I can sort of slack today. I plan on finishing the newest Carlene O'Connor mystery and starting on a certain Maddie Day's Flipped For Murder after that.

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  10. I've tried listening to a couple of podcasts while doing other things, and that doesn't work at all. I think my ability to divide my attention is just about gone. If I'm going to listen to one, I'll have to think of it as a TV show or something and not do other things at the same time. I'm noting these suggestions.

    As to Alexa, I would worry about what information she collects all the time. Plus, there's the opportunity for confusion. Just ask Jeff.

    Beezus: Alexa, but me some (garbled) from Whole Foods.
    Alexa: Okay, buying Whole Foods.
    Beezus: $h!t.

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    1. Jim, I'm with you about dividing attentions. I listen to podcasts while at my computer. I can't listen to them while doing other things.

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  11. I love listening to podcasts in the car, on long walks, doing chores. I listen through my phone, or a Bluetooth speaker using the podcast app. One of my favorites is “How I Built This”. Guy Raz interviews the creators of some of the worlds best known companies as well as start ups. Also lots of NPR. Another vote for “Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me” and NPR “Politics”. Though lately you might want to skip the politics and go for laughter.

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  12. So many great recommendations, I can't wait to check them out :)

    Our favorite is a CBC radio podcast by Stuart McLean - Stories From the Vinyl Cafe. He was a very gifted story teller and each time we listen (car, gym, living room) we're riveted, even with old familiar stories. On one trip home to VT from RI we found ourselves almost in ME having missed the turn onto 93 (in MA!) even though we'd driven that route every few months for 15 years.

    We listen the old fashioned way: download onto a CD or now a phone with more memory. Alexa and her creepy counterparts are not allowed. I know many who love her but, it's like the equivalent of a grown up elf-on-the-shelf to me. :)

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  13. Thanks for all the recommendations and most esp for the How-To - the only podcasts I do is download a bunch of episodes of This American Life to my iPhone before I travel, and listen on the plane. Otherwise ... is this awful to admit? I hate earbuds or earphones and I cannot wear them walking around because I break things.

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  14. (Julia, I give Clare Fergusson a fangirl shoutout over on Bolo Books today!)

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  15. "You have to open the hamburger".

    Okay. LOL

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  16. I haven't gotten into podcasts yet, but I'm intrigued by all those that are available. We use Alexa mostly for listening to music, NPR, our local classical stations. And She keeps me safe at home. Since the last leg/knee surgery, my balance is pure crap, and I have a tendency to tip over backwards. My great fear is that I will fall and break something major. So we have three Dots in addition to our Echo. Do you know you can call a telephone via Alexa? If, for instance, I topple over in the basement while doing the laundry, I can call anyone in my contact list. No, I can't call 911, but then you can't do that with one of those "I Fell and Can't Get Up" buttons, either. And they cost 30-40 bucks a month. Just carrying my phone isn't good enough as I would have to be able to get to a pocket with a broken arm or it could fly across the room. A few weeks ago Julie was trying to call me from work. I had the phone on charge and vibrate, so I didn't hear it. All of a sudden she started speaking to me over the Echo! Never mind that it scared the crap out of me, hearing an unembodied voice coming for the end table.

    The other thing we use Alexa for is the grocery list. All I say is "add whatever" She doesn't run out to Wegman's and buy it for me, but the list appears on our phones. I can revise and correct it at will, and Julie has it with her when she goes shopping. I do use it to set reminders, like "dentist at ten am Thursday" I know there are tons of other applications I haven't discovered yet.

    Oh wait, one more. By saying "Alexa drop in", I can talk to someone, say in the kitchen, from my bedroom. We use this one all the time. It seems much nicer than shouting from one of our four levels to the other.

    As for collecting information, that ship sailed years ago for anyone with any sort of an internet connection, period. If the federal government wants to come after me for anything, then they have very little else to do. Better they should concentrate on real problems.

    BTW, we have 16 inches of snow so far, still coming down, and 30-40 mph winds. I see our ploughman is back for the second time today, keeping our driveway clear while piling three feet of snow up against the side door, where we go in and out! Mush y'all

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    1. Ann, I didn't know about "drop in." Going to try that!

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    2. You have to name to dot. We gave ours room names like kitchen, bedroom, etc

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  17. I've tried to get into podcasts, but I just can't. I concentrate too much on the words when driving and that's...not good in traffic. My attention wanders when I'm not driving. The only one I've managed to stay semi-current with is one from a friar at my alma mater who does reflections.

    For a relative youngster I think I'm hopeless. =)

    Mary/Liz

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  18. Julia, this is such fun. Thanks for the "How to," too. Yesterday I just Googled "Best podcasts on cooking" and came up with ten to try. And then I just said, "Alexa, play---" and she did. But now I'm going to check out Anypod.

    Of course this still hasn't solved the problem of finding the time to listen. I think I need a Timeturner...

    Oh, and has everyone seen the Dailies video "If Hal 9000 was Alexa"? Hysterical! If you go to The Dailies on FB it's in the favorites.

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  19. Because of my voice tremor, none of my electronic devices recognize one daggoned thing I say to them, including dictation software. It's SO frustrating, and would end badly, I think, if I tried to use one of these contraptions.

    I'd be the one with massive debt from trying to buy Whole Foods.

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  20. The only thing I use my podcast app for is listening to my brother's sermons each week. And the ones from my own church if I'm not there in person for whatever reason.

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  21. One of the things I most love about this blog is its uncanny timeliness to my life. I've been thinking about something, and it shows up here. You read my mind. Hahaha!

    My son has recently started a podcast called Know Buddy. He has a philosophy degree and a great radio voice, so he has combined the two into a philosophy oriented podcast. At present there are three videos. The first is his reading of Plato's Euthyphro, the second is a discussion of it, and the third is his reading of Plato's Apology. These three programs are about Socrates, and I have to say that I'm learning a lot. My son is also interested in radio theater, which I love.

    As a result of my son's recent involvement, I've begun looking around at other podcasts, and one of the ones I plan on re-visiting from some years back is the author John Green's Vlog Brothers, with his brother on a wide range of topics. The crime ones you all have mentioned sound intriguing, too.

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  22. I realized I was already listening to one podcast, Milk Street Radio (from the cooking magazine by Christopher Kimball) then today I've been listening to The Splendid Table on Anypod. But it occurs to me that there's something very retro about all this. Most of these shows are weekly broadcasts, so I'm imagining us all sitting around our pre-TV/computer/smartphone radios and listening to our weekly updates. It's very cozy.

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    1. It is very cozy! My husband loves America's Test Kitchen so I'll be passing your suggestion along. Thank you for sharing it!

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  23. My favorite podcasts are the story-telling podcasts. Here are four: Criminal, The Memory Palace, Modern Love, and Israel Story. (Israel Story is the English version of a podcast which is a knockoff of This American Life. I listen to all of these on Google Play Music where you can go back and listen to all of the previous episodes, binging if you wish.

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  24. You gals are persuading me to be more adventurous with Alexa. We do have an Amazon Fire Stick now, and love being able to simply say, "Miss Fisher Mysteries," or "Absentia" and have it immediately appear on screen without a search! As far as podcasts go, I'm afraid I'm only familiar with the ones I have guested on, like Authors on the Air, Horses in the Morning, and The Pia Lindstrom Show.I know a number of good podcasts are available on Sirius Radio, but I lean toward music, not people talking.

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