Friday, November 09, 2007

Public Radio Podcasts

Some thoughts on podcasts that I like:

Val suggested I try listening to Radio Lab. Good call, Val! This is now my favorite radio show (sorry Wait, Wait and TAL)! Each hour presents stories on scientific ideas. They do a great job of explaining experiments and the conclusions. The production is also really creative and slick. Some of it involves using audio tricks to "illustrate" the experiments or ideas, but they also have a wonderful use of overlapping voices. The latter is hard to describe, or explain why it's good, but check it out, it sounds very casual and conversational but they manage to pack a lot of information in, and emphasize the important information in the conversation.

Anyway, some favorite episodes: "Musical Language" has some great stuff about perfect pitch, and baby talk and what it means to have musical style. "Sleep" includes amazing experiments on "half-sleeping" animals and a funny piece about Tetris and dreaming. "Memory and Forgetting" will change the way you think about, well, thinking. I think this is the one that got me hooked. The series only produces five shows a year, and has been on for three years, so there's time to catch up (as I'm still doing).


This American Life recently re-aired the worst show I've ever heard from them. It was "Mapping" and it's about ten years old. Starts out with promise, but the premise is pretty loose and the stories are a bit choppy and are especially ethereal. Although I do love the guy who was eating his way down Pico Blvd.

On the plus side, I heard "Act V" for the first time. It's a story about a prison drama group that is performing Hamlet in parts (because they are not allowed to congregate in large groups for more than 45 minutes or something like that). These guys really relate to the struggle with revenge killing and guilt. A great pitch for the idea of the Humanities as essential to moral education.

Oh and you have to hear Starlee Kline on "Break-up" trying to compose a song about her relationship and getting help from no other than... Phil Collins.

3 comments:

pc said...

Jonathan Gold, who did the Pico Blvd taste map, writes restaurant reviews for LA Weekly. He recently won the Pulitzer. He reviews a lot of restaurants that local people eat at, including the local immigrant community, places that are never, ever reviewed and that you wouldn't know about if you weren't a local.

Baldwin said...

I LOVE RadioLab. Did you hear Ira Glass gave them a plug, on TAL, and called them the best new show on radio?

There was even a RadioLab parody on another public radio science show--I think it was Star Date. The announcer said, "...it's very complicated. To make it simpler, let's explain it like the guys on Radio Lab..." followed by a sequence of wacky sound effects and a fake Jai & fake Robert doing their Abbott & Costello-ish dialogue:
"The sun is far."
"Far?"
"Far."
"How far?"
"Really far."
"Really far?"
"Really far."
"Wow. Far."
Outtro to more wacky sound effects. It was funny, but I also detected a hint of sour grapes.

This American Life has its occasional flat shows, but you gotta hand it to them for doing years of consistently outstanding work.

How did you like the TV version?

jc said...

Did you hear the latest Radio Lab podcast? It's a talk they gave about how they produce Radio Lab, and among the other insights is that Robert and Jad really do have very different personalities with Jad basically calling Robert hyperactive and Robert complaining that Jad and his (my) generation are too ironic and don't show any passion.

I do love me my TAL, and the latest broadcast, Harold, is one of my favorites. I'll comment about the tv show soon.