Wednesday, June 21, 2017



In a little over a week, the family will pile into the Family Truckster and go on vacation.  As I explained it to the kids, they’re going to have a good time whether they like it or not.  The trip will involve several five-plus hour days of driving as we make our way from one stop to the next.  That’s a lot of windshield time, which means it’s time to crowdsource some ideas for podcasts to listen to on the way.  

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll lead with some of my favorites.  

Marketplace and Marketplace Tech.  Although the ads have been getting longer and more intrusive lately, these are still two evergreen faves.  They’re news shows about business, the economy, and (in the latter case) technology, but they’re much lighter than the description makes them sound.  I considered it a career highlight a few years ago when I was interviewed for a segment, and a brief clip of my voice made it on the air.  Over time, you start to pick up on the personas of some of the reporters; nobody does an aural smirk like Amy Scott.  They recently added CNET alum Molly Wood, who fits the show eerily well.  She and Kai Ryssdal even started a spinoff podcast called Make Me Smart that gives their banter some breathing room.

The Pollsters.  This one is for the poli sci nerd in me.  It’s a more-or-less weekly show by a pair of pollsters with different political affiliations.  Margie, the Democrat, has a bit of Janeane Garofalo or Daria in her delivery; Kristen, the Republican, is typically more chipper.  It rarely falls into sparring territory, though; they seem to genuinely like each other, and they share a taste for testing hypotheses against data.  (They drop words like “crosstabs” into conversation, assuming that listeners know what it means.) The combination of humor, civility, and empiricism grows on you.

This American Life.  Well, yeah.

Death, Sex, and Money.  The host, Anna Sale, has three great strengths.  She can sniff out a story from an unlikely corner, she gets interviewees to open up as well as anybody, and she has the best laugh in the business.  Her recent interview with Alec Baldwin actually made him seem likable, which takes some doing.  Bonus points for her jaw-dropping interview with former senator Alan Simpson a couple of years ago.  

Reveal.  Despite inconsistent audio, the stories are often excellent.  It’s investigative journalism from the bottom up.

The Dollop.  It’s an American history podcast in which one comedian does a play-by-play of some obscure moment or person in history while the other riffs on it.  Except when they have guests, or both start laughing, or Gareth forgets to be funny for a few minutes and just keeps repeating “right.”  It’s a sort of audio Mystery Science Theater, but based on real events.  The quality of the episodes varies, but the one about Sylvester Graham (featuring guest Patton Oswalt) is great fun, and the one about baseball legend Bill Veeck and disco demolition night at Comiskey Park had me laughing out loud as I drove.  The language can be a bit salty, so it’s not kid-friendly, but the better episodes are worth it.

Higher Ed Happy Hour.  I don’t especially care to listen to people drinking, but the conversations are often quite good.  Kevin Carey and Libby Nelson come off as good sports, and the guests are often quite smart.  I’ve got this one on my “career goals” list, too.

Comedy Bang Bang.  This one is not family friendly.  It’s set up as an interview show, but it follows the cardinal rule of comedy improv: “yes, and.”  Given its length - well over an hour for most episodes - “yes, and” can lead pretty far afield.  Paul F. Tompkins’ occasional impression of Andrew Lloyd Webber is a highlight, and anytime they get Jessica St. Clair’s “Marissa Wompler” is more than worthwhile.  (“Womp it up!”)  

The Dana Gould Hour.  It’s usually much more than an hour, and it comes out when it comes out, but it’s often brilliant.  Gould is a comedian who used to write for The Simpsons, and if you follow the podcast long enough, you get to know him weirdly well.  He’s obsessed with the Planet of the Apes movies, Kolchak the Night Stalker, and anything on Boston tv in the 1960’s and 70’s.  He’s a terrible interviewer, but his guests are good sports, and it’s frequently funny.  “Two Guys from Boston” is a great recurring bit that could easily be its own show.

And an honorable mention from the audiobook world goes to anything by P.G. Wodehouse.  His stuff can seem stilted on the page, but when read out loud, it’s perfect.  He once referred to his books as musical comedy without music, and there’s truth to that, but just listen for the use of language.  His politics were obtuse and the plots insubstantial, but who cares -- he played the language like a maestro.  Listen with writer’s ears.  

Wise and worldly readers, what would you suggest?  Heard any good podcasts lately?

I'm a fan of Freakonomics, though the last two or three episodes weren't of interest, but there's plenty of back catalog to work with. I like RadioLab and The West Wing podcast as well.
You might enjoy the CBC radio series "Under the Influence"

The NPR politics podcast balances informative and entertaining well.
The British History podcast is exactly what it says on the tin. I am about a year into the back catalog, and coming out of the Dark Ages.
I am very fond of Jay and Miles X-plain the X-Men, but that might not be your flavor of nerd.
First thought: Those poor kids.

Second thought: Driver needs his mind on the road, not on a podcast.

Third thought: Five hours is not a long drive. Unless dad is listening to podcasts. (Those poor kids.)

Very first thought: Get SiriusXM for the duration of the trip. You can probably buy it and then cancel when the trip is over. Pick your decade, or prog rock, or just go with the new Beatles channel, or even conspiracy talk radio. Whatever. Radical thought: maybe let the kids pick what they want to hear! That last option will certainly keep you awake and alert.

Final thought: A fun and geeky road game is to look up the hazardous materials identification numbers on the trucks you pass and see what they are carrying. Put those smart phones to work! And it can be, uh, interesting. Another is to give each person a single wild card to play on a billboard for whatever tourist trap or local restaurant or park happens to catch someone's eye, and stop there. Another is to search AM or FM for a local ethnic language station (Cajun, Mexican, Cuban, Navajo, Chinese) if you are in a suitable area. Even if nothing is found, it will keep one kid busy with a hand on the search button.
The kitchen sisters make some good stuff. I also like Criminal, but it may not be suitable for your kids. Radio lab is good and so is Science Friday and the TED radio hour from NPR
Two BBC podcasts you might like:

In Our Time: eclectic topics, insightful discussion. (1 hour episodes)

50 Things: series on 50 ideas that built the modern economy. (15 minute episodes)
If you're willing to head towards radio shows rather than podcasts and willing to spend some money then "Cabin Pressure" is family friendly and very funny. It's English, so you have to mentally translate rugby to football/gridiron but a bit of a culture change is a good thing.

It's about a one plane charter company and the interactions (and word games) among the pilots, crew and owner. Benedict Cumberbatch is probably the most well known performer in it but Stephanie Cole and Roger Allam are both well respected actors on the English side of the Atlantic.

It's split across four series and here is the link page for series 1 -

"Sawbones", medical history by a husband-wife comedian-doctor team. In my household, it's beloved by both The Wife (me) who finds The Husband's Paul F Tompkins podcasts insufferable and The Husband who gets bored with my Stuff You Missed In History Class.
Planet Money is great. Their episodes are short and they cover business/economics territory in an interesting and accessible way for people whose eyes glaze over when they hear the words 'business' or 'economics.'

More Perfect (a spinoff show from Radiolab) is a great podcast about the Supreme Court.

Revisionist History just started its second season, and put out some terrific episodes last year.

What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law is a new podcast from Roman Mars, who hosts 99% Invisible (also a great podcast), that is only a couple of episodes deep but is well worth checking out.
Since you mentioned The Dollop, I'm going to join Susan in recommending Sawbones. It has the same structure as The Dollop, except it focuses on medical history and tries to be more family-friendly.
A recent episode of The Dollop, "The Magicians," was particularly good. Dave and Gary --
excuse me, I mean Gareth -- are at their best when the story is both insane and relatively low-stakes. "The Magicians" fits the bill.

I'll second "In Our Time." Melvyn Bragg picks a topic from history, science, philosophy, or the like, then drags in four academics to talk about it. He's a good interviewer and the academics are usually worth listening to.

"99% Invisible" has 20-30 minute episodes covering aspects of life that generally get overlooked. Usually interesting, sometimes very much so. Family friendly. A similar podcast, "Surprisingly Awesome," started strong then faded to crap, though the first few episodes are worthwhile.

Lemme think...there have to be more...
To match your original intent, Science Friday and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.
LOL at CCPhysicist's suggestion of looking up the HazMat numbers of trucks you see. I may try that on a drive soon.

I was surprised that Planet Money had not made the cut. Didn't they quote you once on "It's Raining Men"?

I enjoy listening to Innovation Hub (list of podcasts). The show started with technology, and now it focuses more broadly on innovations. Here's a show related to Rochester via the Polaroid/Kodak lawsuit.

Another favorite while driving is the Splendid Table (direct podcast link)

One thing I try sometimes -- especially at night in the middle of nowhere -- is what I call "AM radio roulette". Start at the low end of the dial, click up station by station, and see what far-off stations you can tune in.

@The Poor Kids, I anticipate that they will use headphones on their own devices, and perhaps they have similar requests on their own blogs ...
I'll play. The Moth radio hour. I almost think of them like extended StoryCorps segments crossed with TED talks. Pretty gripping, and accessible to all ages.

Happy trails!
While I'm not a particular fan of the podcast and strongly un-recommend it for a car ride with the kids, "My Favorite Murder" has the best tagline of any podcast: "Stay sexy, don't get murdered." Indeed.

For an unusual topic, try "Saga Thing." Two medievalists go through the Icelandic family sagas. This is a lot more entertaining than it sounds, as the Icelandic family sagas are bugnuts. Sex, violence, zombies, lawsuits, monsters, duels, and fights over whale carcasses abound. After summarizing the saga (not briefly, either) they get into "best bloodshed," "notable witticisms," "best nickname," and so forth. Icelanders were amazing with nicknames. A personal favorite was "Halfdan the Open-Handed-but-Stingy-with-Meat" from Hrafnkel’s saga.

I love Note to self, Manoush is great at telling the stories and the insight, with some very practical advice on top of it.
We honestly want to serve you the simplest matters with 100 percentage satisfactions. It is extraordinarily exhausting to say as soon as exactly must be forced to money your test.
نقوم في شركتنا بتنظيف الكنب و الشقق و الموكيت بافضل الوسائل الممكن حيث اننا نعمل علي توفير افضل خدمات نظافة
شركة تنظيف كنب بالرياض
تنظيف الكنب
تنظيف كنب بالرياض
شركة تنظيف شقق بالرياض
تنظيف شقق بالرياض
شركة تنظيف موكيت بالرياض
شركة تنظيف سجاد بالرياض

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