Category Archives: Things I Love

Podcasts I love: Driveway Moments

Is your brain embiggened from last time when we talked about 60-Second Science? Good, good. Glad to hear it. Take good care of your brain, and it'll take good care of you.

Today, we're turning to one of my favorite old media broadcasters, who have done an outstanding job embracing new media: National Public Radio. NPR offers a huge selection of podcasts, including powerhouses like This American Life[1] and Fresh Air,[2] but since everyone in the universe know about those, today I will share something that never fails to entertain, inform, or inspire me, and is rarely longer than 5 or 6 minutes: NPR's Driveway Moments.

This ingeniously-named podcast is chosen by listeners from NPR stories that are so compelling, they stay in the driveway when they get home and listen to them until they're over.

Some of them are inspiring. Some of them are funny. Some of them are so sad it's hard to listen to them. All of them are incredibly awesome, and make me grateful that NPR embraced podcasting as long ago as they did.

Way back in podcasting's early days, I gushed about the technology and its implications to a good friend of mine who has enjoyed a very long and very successful career in radio. He was unmoved, and figured that, like blogging, "a thousand flowers will bloom, and we'll be left with 999 weeds." He has since changed his tune.

At the time, I thought he was missing the point, but he was correct in a certain sense: radio isn't easy, and not everyone can find success as a broadcaster or producer. I don't know how many podcasts from the early days are still around, and if any of podcasting's early breakout stars are now laughing at us from their private yachts, but the point is, they were there at the beginning, and they helped prove to the world that this on-demand style of radio was viable. Without those pioneers, I don't think the list I'm doing this week would exist. The next time you listen to one of your favorite podcasts, honestly ask yourself: would I make this appointment listening? All the podcasts I'm talking about this week — and they represent just a small percentage of all the ones I listen to — are wonderful, but I wouldn't be able to stop everything I'm doing to listen to them if they weren't available when it was convenient to me. This, I believe, is the future of radio, and even television.

Next time: …i did not know that.

[1] Did you know that I'm a writer because of This American Life? It's true, and is a story I should tell one day. Perhaps on a podcast of my own.

[2] Just in case anyone from either one of these shows sees this: I dream of one day earning the chance to be on your program.

Podcasts I love: 60-Second Science

Last time on Podcasts I Love, I showed you Pseudopod, a terrifically entertaining horror podcast that updates once a week.

Now, it's time for something completely different: 60-Second Science, from Scientific American.

Every day, the geniuses at Scientific American spend just one minute sharing something cool and interesting from the scientific world. Their stories are all over the place, too, from planetary science to neuroscience to genetics.

One of the things I love about the podcasting medium — and new media in general — is how there aren't any rules about content and length, so on the same day that I listen to a 40 minute horror story from Pseudopod, I can also get a 60-second lesson about the Triceratops, on the same device, delivered in the same way.

Next time: this is worth the wait.

Podcasts I love: Pseudopod

Here's something that you probably don't know about me: Ever since I was a kid listening to KROQ on my Walkman[1] I've wanted to have my own radio show. The idea of playing music for and talking to people across the airwaves remains a dream of mine, and it's why I occasionally do my own Radio Free Burrito podcasts.

I remember when Podcasting was just getting started, back in those 8-bit days when we all thought that our digital watches were a pretty neat idea. I remember feeling really excited about the opportunity to create my own radio show, and gleeful that I lived in the future where that sort of thing was possible.

I don't produce nearly as many podcasts as I want to, but I listen to a bunch, and every day this week I'm going to share one of my favorites with you.

Today's entry is something I love, that probably wouldn't be able to exist in any other medium at any other time: Pseudopod.

Pseudopod "brings you the best short horror in audio form, to take with you anywhere" and it's pretty damn awesome. Every week, they release a new short story, entirely for free. The stories hit way more often than they miss (and that's really just because of personal tastes; the readers are all fantastic and the writing is always very, very good) and they range from short, 10-minute distractions to 45-minute journeys to Places Man Was Not Meant To Go.

Some of the stories are very disturbing — this is horror, after all — but I have yet to hear one that's gory for gore's sake, or disturbing for the sake of being disturbing. Some of them, like Clockwork, aren't even scary; they're just cool.

One of my all-time favorites was released last August. It's considered flash, so it's just 8 minutes long, but not a single moment is wasted in a story called Scarecrow, that was unexpectedly powerful and moving. Now that I think of it, that was the story that convinced me to add a Pseudopod subscription to iTunes, so maybe it's a good place for you to start if you're curious.

As I said above, I don't think Pseudopod could exist at any other time, and it showcases something I love about Podcasting, blogging, and other forms of new media: while Pseudopod would have a very hard time drawing enough listeners in one geographic location to maintain a not-in-the-middle-of-the-night slot on old terrestrial radio (not because it's not good, but just because there aren't that many people who want to listen to this sort of thing in a major market like Los Angeles, I'd guess) there are certainly enough people scattered across the planet to make up a huge audience that can support them and make their efforts worthwhile.

Yes, it's pretty awesome to live in the future.

Next time: embiggen your brain in just a minute.

[1] Imagine an iPod that plays cassette tapes and radio stations cloaked in static and you'll have a pretty good idea of what it was, kids.