A new podcast for me this year, and for everyone, is Pod Save America, the podcast created by former speechwriters in President Obama’s administration. It acts as a tonic or a resistance in the Trump era. It seems to be a successful rallying cry so far for people who are disillusioned at the current government. It is one of the most popular podcasts now. They are even taking the show on the road. It is released twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, which is a little too much for me. I enjoy the Monday ones the best, probably because the hosts are Jon Lovett and Tommy Vietor, in addition to Jon Favreau, who I think do a better job than for the Thursday show when it is just Favreau and Dan Pfieffer. Favreau is usually in the role of setting things up, kind of the straight man, so it is stronger when there are two people playing off him instead of one (and Pfeiffer does have a hesitating way of speaking that isn’t great for audio). Also, as the show develops further, they have to find a way of better integrating the guest interviews with the introductory news punditry round-up: too often they steal the thunder from their guests, and so why listen to their guests?
You can find the podcast here: https://crooked.com/podcast-series/pod-save-america/
Of note from this past year is the Nov. 4, 2017, live episode from Washington, D.C., and the interview with former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. The episode includes one of the most amazing moments in my podcast year: the crowd reaction—its unrestrained roar of approval— to Yates. It is a pure, cathartic celebration of one of the heroes of the resistance, a person who says she was just doing her job, and who I hadn’t heard speak in front of a crowd before.
Here’s the Nov. 4 episode. Sally Yates comes on at the 1 hour and 2 minute mark:
The only podcast that I always listen to as soon as it comes out is Slate’s weekly Political Gabfest with David Plotz, John Dickerson and Emily Bazelon. They have been at it for 10 years and offer some of the best political analysis out there, especially Bazelon’s legal analysis. Though sometimes Plotz can play the devil’s advocate a little too hard and Dickerson too often strikes what he might call a middle-of-the-road stand (though others might call it the false-equivalency blind spot of mainstream media), together all three of them balance each other out with their sometimes but not always good natured checks. Check it out here: http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/gabfest.html
There are two other podcasts I’ve been listening to more regularly, though not right away. They are both Panoply productions (like Political Gabfest):
- Imaginary Worlds with Eric Molinsky offers well-reported and thoughtful takes and various happenings in the greater world of speculative fiction and reality. Recent topics have been the politics in the Expanse novels; the fear of robots and trying to predict the workplaces of the future; military sci-fi and where it stands today; and the story behind the making of Disney’s Haunted Mansion. Check it out here: https://www.imaginaryworldspodcast.org/
- Lexicon Valley with John H. McWhorter is a very nerdy exploration of language, with show tunes. Some topics of note in the past year include contractions, the history of the word “no,” the development of similar words for mama and papa in languages across the world, the role chance plays in the development of language, and an argument against the ongoing devotion to Strunk and Whites “The Elements of Style.” While McWhorters delivery can take a while to get used to—he sometimes speeds through arguments because he’s probably made them already on previous episodes on the podcast or in his role as a linguistics professor—the content is rich and rewarding, and his selections of examples from the history of musicals is always interesting. Check it out here: http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/lexicon_valley.html
Some of the other podcasts I routinely check out include HBR Ideacast, the podcast of the Harvard Business Review; Book Riot’s All the Books; NPR’s Fresh Air; On Being with Krista Tippett; Slate’s The Gist with Mike Pesca; the New York Times’ Still Processing; the New York Times’ Book Review; Poetry Magazine Podcast; and WTF with Marc Maron.
What do you listen to?