Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Casting Call

As your kids must know, as my family knows, as my good friends know, and as my coworkers know, I am addicted to podcasts. I listen to podcasts while I commute to and from work, running around while tutoring, and pretty much any time I spend in my car.

This is a grown-up post, not only because I have no idea which of my podcasts are safe for kids, but more-so, because most of the material on these podcasts would go over most kids' heads. But I wanted to post them, just in case anyone out there is a podcast listener. If you're not, but like me, you spend much time in your car, I would suggest you go out and buy yourself a little iPod used only for podcasts. They are wonderful.

Here is the best of the bunch, according to yours truly:

Freakonomics: Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt bring us the "hidden side of everything:". Everything from the underside of education to the origin of AIDS is explored in this incredible weekly podcast. It makes you think in ways that you had never even thought of.
Highly recommended episodes:
  • The No-Tipping Point: Where the producers explore a restaurant in New York that has done away with tipping in favor of higher prices for the food served. A very interesting look at the service industry. 
  • Failure Is Your Friend: The reasons you should welcome failure. Anyone who attended my Meet-the-Teacher Night should understand why I recommend this one. 
Radiolab: Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich host this one, which is one of the best podcasts/NPR/WNYC programs of the past decade. They take a strictly scientific look at many issues and non-issues of the day. They really dig into things like fear, success, and placebos.
Highly recommended episodes:
  • Emergence: This one really made me think. It's all about how communities form all the way from the human level down to the cellular level. It makes me wonder about the cosmic level. It's a really interesting episode. 
  • 23 Weeks, Six Days: At first, I didn't listen to this one all the way through. A friend of mine, who is a fellow listener, told me to go ahead and finish it. I am incredibly glad I did. This is the story of a couple who had a baby, the baby died, and they decided to make a video game to deal with the whole process. You can understand why I didn't want to finish it. You won't believe how sincere I am in how much I am glad I finally did until you listen to it all the way through. It will break your heart, and it will be absolutely worth it.
  • Seneca, Nebraska: This is an incredible episode that will also tear you in two. It's about a small town that is torn between remaining a community or unincorporating and becoming 'not-a-community'. You won't believe how much this episode will mess you up until you hear both sides duke it out with you left in the middle.
The Sporkful: Dan Pashman proves every week that this podcast is "not for foodies; it's for eaters." The reason I include this podcast in my list is not only because it's incredibly listenable and always fun, but because in the past year, it has done more to improve race relations than so many podcasts on that very theme. There is an entire series of episodes called "Who Is This Restaurant For?" that addresses this idea better than almost anything I have ever seen or heard. After you listen to that one, listen to the series called "Other People's Food". After you're done listening to that series, listen to any of the other episodes. Seriously, you won't be sorry.

The Vinyl Cafe: I have listened to this one for many years, but every week, Stuart McLean proves himself to be the Garrison Keillor of Canada. Honestly, when I first heard about Dave and Morley (and their kids, Sam and Stephanie) and their business running a record store, I thought someone had robbed my brain of the Jed and Mona Ferguson (and their kids, Ben and Betsy) and their business in running a driving range in my GCLs. I like listening to a like-minded guy talking about a family living in a small town and how "stories about nothing" can be some of the best.

A Way With Words: This is a podcast about words and how we use them. Martha Barnett and Grant Barrett join us every week with a very entertaining podcast about word origins, grammar, and word usage that is way more interesting than it sounds. This one comes highly recommended from this teacher, and I have to say that it often comes with a lesson that I will tell my class about during the week that I hear it. I love hearing word origins, and this one is really good about sharing the Germanic, Latin, and Greek roots (and much more!) that make our language what it is. I love that this duo is so open-minded with language instead of being prudish about the proper use of words.

Stuff You Should Know: This one is hosted by Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark, and each episode, they take a purely scientific look into things you probably didn't realize you had ever wondered about. Recently, we have heard about things like port-a-potties, computer addiction, horoscopes (you can guess where they landed on that one), flea circuses, advertising to children, and Kitty Genovese. This one is incredibly informative, and the archives are so packed with information that this teacher learns a great amount every time I get a new one in my queue.

I actually have many more. But those will have to wait for another post, probably at the start of summer. I realize I'm reaching a precious few, but just in case you are a listener, I wanted to put this out there for you.

Happy break!

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