The iPod (and later iPhone) hasn’t just put thousands of songs in our pockets. Over the last five to ten years podcasts have become so common that mainstream media uses them as news sources, and every major news carrier and sports/entertainment network offers a wide variety of the time-shifted audio shows micro-targeted to its most engaged viewers. Whether it’s true crime drama, a deep dive into your preferred political views, self-help/meditation, or self-education, you’re sure to find a podcast covering any topic you desire. Hundreds are available to download from the iTunes Store and other non-Apple directories. I’ve been listening to the news on the way to-and-from work for the last few years, but now that I have a Car-Play interfaced vehicle, I decided last year to delve into podcasts.
Here is a quick review of what I’m listening to in the car.
The West Wing Weekly - If you know me, you know that this 1998 drama is my MOST. FAVORITE. SHOW. EVER. You know how hard core Trekkies want to live in a world with Kirk and Spock? I want to live in world surrounded by CJ, Josh, Toby and Donna. Hosted by new media enthusiast Hrishikesh Hirway and The West Wing cast member Joshua Malina, each episode of this podcast takes an in-depth look at a single episode (in order) of Aaron Sorkin’s landmark political drama.
Guests include cast members, show writers (Sorkin himself many times), directors, and other Hollywood insiders to discuss production challenges of the show. In episodes with deep political plots, policy experts and former politicians visit to discuss the accuracy of that episode's maneuvering and actions. Listeners also get a large dose of inside Hollywood, as we learn how casting decisions are made, budgets are reconciled, and how show runners juggle dramatic license and story arc with network executive decision-making and programing consideration. If you are a fan of The West Wing, this podcast is a must-listen, and nice way to relive those oh-so-civil days of the early 'aughts.
Presidential - Notice a theme here? This podcast produced by The Washington Post and hosted by WAPO reporter Lillian Cunningham presents a human and personal profile of each man who has occupied America’s highest office. While lacking in detail surrounding the actual election of each chief executive, Cunningham looks at the major life-events that fed and informed presidential decisions, talks about the influence of presidential wives and close friends, and paints a picture of the contemporaneous political landscape.
In a departure from your standard presidential profile, Cunningham also asks each guest expert how a blind date with that president might turn out. Punctuated with different musical interpretations of Hail to the Chief (the solo fiddle version is quite poignant) each episode presents a new little-known fact about the more well known presidents, while presenting a wealth of meta about lesser-know commanders-in-chief. Presidential historians interviewed for these episodes include Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Jon Meacham and Bob Woodward.
Notes in Spanish - They say that stating something publicly is the best way to be held accountable. I’ve shared with a few friends that one of my goals (not a resolution mind you) for 2019 was to learn Spanish. So with this blog post, I’m sharing that goal in a more public manner. One shouldn’t have to dig deep to learn a foreign language these days. Various apps, you tube videos, and yes, even podcasts are available online for free.. Based on App Store ratings, I downloaded Duolingo on my phone, and chose Notes in Spanish for listening and language ear-training.
Hosts Ben, a transplanted Englishman living in Spain, and Madrid-born espousa Marina, start each episode by sharing the nature and topic of the episodes conversation, grammar and language tips, and phrases to be used. They then have a short conversation completely in Spanish, followed by a recap of phrases and words used in English. Conversations focus on everyday topics, such as family gatherings, cities they have lived in, and vacations destinations. Total beginners may be a bit overwhelmed at first, but repeating episodes engages more recognition upon each listen. Episodes are an easily digestible 15-20 minutes long, and presented in an easy conversational manner.