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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Things to Do in the Slowpocalypse, Part II: The Audio Version - Podcasts

Coming back to the topic of ways to fiddle while the world (metaphorically, at least so far) burns, here's some of the audio delights I will be enjoying in the coming weeks.  Actually, I've been enjoying many of these for a while now, as my dayjob involves spending a lot of time staring at spreadsheets and moving around theoretical numbers.   Having something interesting to plug into my ears often makes the days pass a little more lightly.
This one's turning out to be quite lengthy, so I'm going to break it up into a couple of posts.

Podcasts have become both a lifeline and a daily routine for me.  The first thing I do every morning is to refresh my podcast feed and download the latest episode of any of the two dozen or so shows I listen to.  Whatever your interest may be, I can almost guarantee that there is a podcast out there to go along with it.
Some of the best of the current crop (in my opinion) are:

True Crime Podcasts - I'm lumping these together because I have several in my feed right now, but that does not mean that they're all of a type.  Casefile is a wonderful show with an anonymous Australian narrator who does deep dives into unusual and often unheard-of cases.  Invisible Choir attempts to take an empathic approach to often grisly events that you may not heard of (caution:  definitely NOT for the faint of heart).  On the other hand, My Favorite Murder is considered a comedy podcast, and is often funny even though they cover some heavy material.  Meanwhile, Serial Killers is much more polished and covers exactly what it says on the tin.  For a more unusual spin, Most Notorious covers famous historical crimes, and recently has done a couple of timely episodes on the 1918 Spanish Flu and other infectious diseases.

A bonus item for this section is Last Podcast on the Left...this also take a humorous slant on the true crime, conspiracy theory and other weirdness it covers.  It's a bit less mature, but fun to listen to.  Unfortunately, I recently had to drop this one because they have gone Spotify-exclusive and I can't get their episodes in my podcatcher of choice.

Fiction - There is a lot of good fiction being written for podcasts, and a lot of great older fiction being recorded.  Foremost among them for me are the shows from the Nightvale Presents network, which brings you such shows as the Welcome to Nightvale (think H. P. Lovecraft meets Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and The Orbiting Human Circus (think Neil Gaiman meets Jacques Tati).  Following close on their heels are the shows from Escape Artists (Escape Pod and Pseudopod are the ones I enjoy), which present horror and science fiction from some of the top names writing today.
Also no slouch in this domain is the District of Wonders network, home of Starship Sofa and Far Fetched Fables.  The former is a top-notch sci-fi podcast, while the latter presents fantasy fiction.  I'm a Patreon supporter of the former, but not so keen on the latter, but that's just because fantasy is not really my cup of tea. To each their own.

Nonfiction - I don't spend all my time in true crime and genre fiction.  I occasionally like to learn things, and when I do, I turn to shows like Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, a fantastic "boots on the ground" view of major historical events.  Dan doesn't release his episodes very often, but when he does, he makes it worth the wait, with 3 and 4 hour shows that make for a long and very enjoyable listen.
Much shorter in length, but no less interesting, are the companion shows "Stuff You Missed in History Class" and "Stuff You Should Know".  The former is bite-sized chunks of history covering topics wider than the military history that seems to be the mainstay of so much historical writing, while the latter provides regular shows covering a wide range of topics, from scientific discoveries, to famous people to every day things that you may never have thought to question regarding origin or process.

General geekery - This is where the list gets peculiar and particular to me.  Your interests may vary, but for me, I like shows that dig into the history and analysis of topics that I enjoy.  One of the foremost of these is The Cromcast, an analysis of the work of Robert E. Howard and his contemporaries.  Given that I publish Ian McDonald's "Bruno the Bandit", this one's a natural for me.  Closely related is The Lovecraft Geek, hosted by eminent Lovecraft scholar Robert M. Price.  I can't fail to include Hypnogoria podcast.  Jim Moon's weekly reviews or readings of works by Lovecraft, M. R. James, Adam Nevill, and many related horror films and their creators are worth waiting for, and one of the audio highlights of my weekend.
At quite a tangent to them are The Tim Ferriss Show and WTF.  Both shows feature interviews with fascinating and successful people in a variety of fields.  The former examines the formula for their success, while the latter tries to get into their history and personality.  Both shows get rather long, but for the right subject can be worth the time spent.

Of course, even in the unlikely possibility that none of these catches your interest, you can always "roll your own" when it comes to podcasts, using the web service Fourble.  This service turns lists of mp3s into custom rss feeds that you can then plug into your podcatcher and have new "episodes" delivered on a schedule that you define. I find it especially great for listening to the many audio offerings available at archive.org, and have rolled custom podcast feeds for Ronnie Corbett's "When the Dog Dies", BBC's "Weird Tales" show and the classic weird literature show "The Black Mass".  Of course, their list of publicly available podcasts is quite extensive, and would probably make for a lifetime of listening on its own.

For all this, my preferred method of listening is the PocketCasts app, available for both Android and iOS.  Disregarding the aforementioned Spotify exclusive shows, this is the best and easiest-to-use app for discovering, subscribing and managing your podcasts and episodes.
If you're looking for a relaxing way to spend time while sitting out some isolation time, it's an equally entertaining and edifying experience to sit back, close your eyes and enjoy a good podcast.  Or six.  Or ten.  Or whatever it takes to get you ready to take on the world again.

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