Who doesn’t love a good portmanteau? One of my favorites was coined by Ben Hammersley of the BBC in 2004 – podcast. I’m pretty sure that I was quite late to the whole podcast explosion, but for the last two and a half years or so, I’ve been a fairly diehard fan. They’re great to listen to at the supermarket, on the subway, on airplanes, at Thanksgiving dinner, etc. Sure, they constitute one more digital affront to interpersonal communication on a human level, but really, that’s probably why I like them so much. Sometimes, I don’t want to be approached on the street (I’m looking at you Greenpeace!), or any of the other public places where people feel it’s appropriate to talk to strangers (didn’t you people have parents who taught you better?). Sometimes, I just want to get from point A to point B without having to talk to anyone and earbuds are a perfect signal to the world that I’m not available for giving directions, saving the whales, or any other form of verbal interaction. So, this all makes for great spawning ground for the devouring of podcasts, and nowadays, my commute to work feels languid and lacking without someone talking about something I never knew I needed to know about directly into my ears. In this entry, I’m going to share some of my favorite podcasts at the moment, and I hope that you’ll share some of your favorites with me in the comments section.
In the number one spot comes the lecture series offered by the Art Institute of Chicago aptly named, Art Institute of Chicago Lectures. To be perfectly honest, this may be a bit of a niche podcast, but as I’m a full-fledged art geek and I happen to live far from Chicago at the moment, this hits the spot in the most perfect way. I used to live in Chicago and attended lectures at the Art Institute on occasion, I always found them to be both informative and approachable. Sometimes people can be a bit put off by the art world and its seemingly unintelligible langue and impenetrable mystique of pretentious cool, but I have always found the lectures series by the AIC very welcoming and inclusive. This podcast is really nothing special, as it is a literal audio recording of the on-site lecture series, but it does what is intended and for those who are nowhere near the treasure trove that is the AIC, it’s a whole new and non-threatening way to learn about art from one of the world’s premier institutions. Of course there are other cultural institutions that offer the same kind of thing, but there’s something about the midwestern, pared down style of this podcast that really satisfies. If you’re an art geek, you really should be listening to the more than 11 years worth of lectures available here!
Next, I’m not really a horror junky. I scare pretty easily, and don’t find anything invigorating about being frightened at all. Needless to say, unless something is pretty exceptional, I’m probably not going to like it if the content is scary. Lore, the brainchild of Aaron Mahnke, is terrifying not because of gory and bloody imagery, but more so because all of the stories told on this podcast are true, real life, mysterious, and spooky facts! Mahnke’s voice is smooth and consistent and he never puts on haunted mansion voices to make the content chilling, but knowing that what he’s saying is the truth, and that these things really happened…is beyond petrifying. And, I’m not the only one who thinks so, this crafty storyteller is in talks to bring Lore to the small screen, and there’s a book series out, too! He’s even doing a national tour of the USA telling these too hair-raising to be true tales. A big congratulations to this podcast and to the narrator himself! This one is really a gem and I encourage anyone who has a penchant for the dark, the mysterious, or the horrific, to stop by and have a listen, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Finally, and this one has been getting lots of press recently due to the unconventional love-life of its host (not to mention his stunningly good looks), Nico Tortorella’s The Love Bomb. Look, if you’re having trouble keeping up with the fast-changing world of sexuality and gender in the 21st century, I suggest you stop by The Love Bomb as they dissect and examine the ins and outs of what love means for all of us living as progressive and evolving humans at the early stages of this millennium. Honestly, I could do without the Def Poetry style intros whereby the host creates what sounds like a free association poem about whomever his guest for that episode is (the guest list, which includes folks from both within and outside of Hollywood, is impressive). I’m not a big fan of spoken word poetry, preferring to just read it for myself and find my own cadence with the poem. Really though, this podcast is enlightening and also fun, at times even irreverent. The host is bravely open and telling concerning his own exploration of love, and it is this unapologetic openness that, I think, encourages his guests to be equally open, to ask the questions we’re all thinking, and to answer with candor and genuine interest. I really like where this podcast is going and look forward to it hanging around and seeing just where it meanders and what it becomes. I’m sure that with the host’s star appeal burning bright at the moment, the format for The Love Bomb will change and probably grow into something bigger and therefore more commercially minded, but for now I’m just enjoying this refreshing exploration of 21st century sexuality. Just as a final note, a tiny critique; the host mentions having done ayahuasca in Peru…a lot. I guess it was a pretty eye-opening experience for him, perhaps even life changing, but I think we all get the point and I, for one, am over it.
Some honorable mentions: This American Life, I didn’t include this above because I reckoned that everyone already knows and loves it…and why shouldn’t they!? By The Bi, an American couple in Australia who are doing their part to increase bi visibility, The Sewers of Paris, because it’s gay, hilarious, and often oddly informative, Occult of Personality, for lovers of the occult, Freemasonry, Kabbalah, etc., and a newbie, Very Bad Words, which is just what it sounds like – a podcast about bad words. This fresher brings linguists and other language specialist together to examine “bad language” and it’s really fucking great!
Are you even listening!? 😉