Easy Listening

I started writing this blog post months ago, but as you know, I’ve been busy! So the radio change was a while back, now. Incidentally, I’ve been using the Stitcher app on my phone to listen to podcasts, and I’ve been so busy with podcasts that I haven’t listened to an audio book in a while now.

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I don’t know if the rest of you noticed, but one of our local radio stations, 101.3 “The Jockey,” got bought and switched to a “Christian Contemporary” format. Umm, no thank you.

When it comes to radio stations I am not particularly brand-loyal. When I’m at home, I’m usually listening to Pandora. In the car, I have 12 FM pre-sets, and besides WAMC, I generally just keep switching stations until there’s a song I like. In fact, I tend to be pretty passive, so if one of the girls is riding shotgun, I’m basically listening to whatever song she likes. Which is okay with me. I like a little pop, anyway, and I’m always curious about their favorite music, and even if I disliked something that they liked, well, it’s not worth using my Mom Powers on something so trivial.

So it took a few passes before I even realized that there was a switch. At first I thought that there was a single Christian song that had somehow climbed the charts. Honestly, it was kind of freaking me out. I’m just coming off re-reading and then binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale, and that, along with the recent political climate, has got me jumpy. Every time I’d accidentally stumble on an earnest white guy singing about Jesus I’d give an involuntary shudder of fear that we’re transitioning into the Republic of Gilead.

Anyway, I ended up asking for a replacement radio station, and I don’t know how i had missed that there’s another NPR station, WEXT 97.7. With a bunch of alternative and oldies stuff, it’s a happy addition to my pre-sets. In my opinion, at least. The other day M was switching along the dial and landed on it and said, “Oh, Mom, you’ve got to do something about these pre-sets!” Oh, well. You can’t please everybody, all the time. And it’s tough to please your 15-year-old daughter pretty much ever, unless you’re offering up a hot meal or a new pair of leggings.

Anyway, while I was soliciting radio ideas someone mentioned podcasts, which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to talk about one of my more recent great loves, Stitcher. I like podcasts particularly for neighborhood walks and household drudgery. It makes me feel like I’m productive because it feels like multi-tasking. And then sometimes it motivates me to walk more or clean more because I want to keep listening.

I was looking at my list of favorite podcasts, and they basically fall into three categories: the basic, podcast 101s that are classics for a reason; the political podcasts that get me all riled up; and the women who enlighten and/or entertain me.

Podcasts 101

  • This American Life. Well, of course. If you listen to any podcasts at all, or even if you just listen to the radio, you know this podcast, in which Ira Glass et. al. tell stories that relate to a theme. I love it, and I love that they offer up a list of favorites for people just getting started. But I have to confess that I didn’t like the S Town spin off at all.
  • The Moth. True stories told live. Even though this is a curated list of stories from events around the world, my enjoyment level varies wildly with this one. Some are “meh,” but there are a ton of real gems. One of our favorite Savannah Book Festival authors got his start telling stories for The Moth. More recently, J and I love-love-loved the first two stories in this episode, which we listened to while driving up to summer camp.
  • Radiolab. Like This American Life, but science-y. This one’s also a love-hate. Some are fascinating and entirely perspective-changing, while others just don’t connect with me and I bail out early. In my opinion they can overuse sound effects to a sometimes-distracting degree. But it’s nice to have an enjoyable way to feel like you’re getting smarter.
  • The Daily. From the New York Times, it’s a capsule of daily news that occasionally focuses on a specific topic. I wasn’t even listening to it until my friend suggested it on my Facebook post, but I like it.

Political podcasts that rile me up

  • The Rachel Maddow Show. This is just an audio of her tv show, but man, is she fun. She does a lot of storytelling-type context and interviews with reporters from breaking stories, asking follow-up questions with avid curiosity. She delivers the news in this dramatic way which I know drives some people crazy, but I find it vastly entertaining. Recently this guy did a hilarious and spot-on impression of Rachel Maddow by spoofing how she’d retell Green Eggs & Ham.
  •  Pod Save America.  This is a bunch of guys who used to work in the Obama administration who spend a great deal of time mocking the current administration while promoting Democratic candidates, as well as slightly too much time ad-libbing their way through  commercial breaks. I find them mostly entertaining.  Originally Cute W was the fan of this one, but I think that he may have taken a break from it because he was getting too riled up. They are so popular that they have a bunch of spin-off podcasts as well, but I haven’t really ventured into those much.
  • Reveal. For each episode, host Al Letson goes in depth on a specific topic (like wildfire management or women in prison). The topics tend to be just the sort of thing that gets a bleeding heart liberal like me all riled up. He also often interviews people with strongly opposing views, which can lead to pretty energetic debates.

Women who enlighten and/or entertain me

  • The History Chicks. Oh, I really, really love the History Chicks! The hosts, Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider, generally devote each podcast to a woman from history. They each do a ton of research on their own, and then they retell the woman’s story together. They are very chatty and empathetic and opinionated, and after they’ve gone through the woman’s life story, they tell you about other great sources of information, plus they post tons of images and interesting stuff, which I always mean to look at, but then I don’t actually get around to it.

  • Inflection Point. The tagline for this NPR podcast is “How women rise up,” and the host, Lauren Schiller, usually spends each podcast interviewing a particular woman expert on some topic related to feminism, so it ranges from discussing a book or art to professional advice to raising girls. I feel like I always gain some new insight and even inspiration with this podcast, and I just plain like the host.
  • Katie Couric. I’ve always liked Katie Couric, and in this podcast she partners with Brian Goldsmith, a political journalist, to interview someone interesting for each episode. It’s often someone famous, sometimes not, but it’s pretty much always interesting. Katie is smart and playful, and in each podcast she almost always finds a reason to launch into song. The only drawback is that when I try to catch up on old episodes it’s sometimes a bummer, like when they’re looking forward to when the 2016 election will be over. That’s not her fault, though.
  • 2 Dope Queens. This podcast is fun and funny, with guest comedians who join the hosts, Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams. Of course I came to this podcast because of fangirling Jessica Williams from The Daily Show, but I keep listening because it allows me to pretend that I am much younger, cooler, and in touch with pop culture than I actually am.
  • Death, Sex, and Money. The whole point of this podcast is talking about topics that people don’t talk about, and the topics can be pretty heavy. Host Anna Sales usually interviews someone who’s either an expert on something or has a really good story but sometimes they’ll gather together people calling in about a particular subject. She’s a very empathetic interviewer, and the topics she covers are often things it wouldn’t occur to me to be curious about until I start listening and find it really fascinating.

Those are some of my favorites. . . how about you?


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