Friday Fives – podcast edition

Do you listen to podcasts? If not, why not.

Oh man, this is great.  I did not pick these question, but this is my wheelhouse.  I am crazy for Podcasts.  Yes, I listen to podcasts daily.  Many.  I think we will attack that more below.

What are your favorite podcasts?

Adam Carolla, Car Talk, This American Life, Fitzdog Radio, WTF, Stuff you Should Know, Mohr Stories.  I listen to all of these every week.  Generally speaking, which ones I listen to depend on the guests.  Except This American Life.  They don’t have guests, and I NEVER miss that show.  It is the best hour of radio and storytelling imaginable.  And, these are all free.  And uncensored.

Any podcasts to ignore?

Sure, probably thousands.  At this point, Podcasts are like magazines.  You can find one for any interest.  Anyone on earth with a computer and an internet connection can have their own podcast.  Do you like knitting blankets for only calico cats using Peruvian wool, but a Persian weave?  Yeah, I bet there is a podcast for that.  Don’t ask me how I know… just trust me.

For the most part, all the podcasts mentioned above are entertainment.  If you are looking for thinky, cerebral stuff, try ‘RadioLab‘.  These guys are great, it’s just a little too dry for my tastes.  Another great one?  Ted talks.   Do you know about Ted talks?  Well, click here and learn.  They too have an awesome and free podcasts of these talks.

Will the podcast world take over radio?

For me, it absolutely has.  I gave up on rock radio about ten years ago.  I just couldn’t listen to the same shit over and over again.  So, I listened to my cd’s or books on tape.   Once podcasts came around, I was hooked.  I have a 35 minute drive each way to work.  This is valuable time.  Too valuable to spend listening to music, even though I have a seriously bad ass stereo system.

Two years ago, I busted my radio antenna and still haven’t fixed it.  You get content completely uncensored by any corporations.  Would you like a podcast about a guy who says “fuck my dog” over and over again for an hour every week?  That probably exists, and it’s legal.

Who/What subject would make a good podcast?

Interesting people talking freely.  It is that simple, and that is what is most compelling to me.  Would you like to have Adam Carolla and Seth McFarland chatting in your living room?  Telling jokes and downing booze?  Discussing just whatever comes to mind?  That is a podcast.  It makes my drive super enjoyable.  I don’t know why I love good conversation so much, but I really do value it.  It isn’t just that it is uncensored… it is the length of time.  You can’t get to know someone from 3 minutes on Conan.  Listening to them for an hour, though, gives you a much better feel for these people.

If you told 16 year old me “Hey, when you are 40, you will have a big ass truck with an amazing stereo system.  You will have access to every piece of music you own in that truck.  You will also drive a few hundred miles a week.  Also, you will only use this amazing stereo to listen to talk radio.” – well I would be an upset 16 year old.

Should I listen to a podcast?  What’s so great?

The beauty of podcasts is not just the entertainment, which is considerable, it is that I learn at the same time.  Not too mention, they are free and easy.  Here is how easy.  If you are Apple, use iTunes, if you are Android use any free app.  The podcasts are delivered to your phone automatically, and updated automatically.  You don’t have to do anything.  You can also see who the guest is on each show.  For Carolla, This American Life, and Car Talk, I listen regardless.  For Jay Mohr (Mohr Stories), Greg Fitzsimmons (Fitzdog radio) and Mark Maron (WTF) I only listen if I am interested in the guest.

There are other notable ones, too.  Just about every NPR show is available via podcast.  Sound boring?  Then you are dumb.  How about Teri Gross chatting with Tom Waits for an hour.  Anything better than that?  No sir.

NPR (national public radio) calls these ‘driveway moments’.  It means you are listening to a piece on your drive home.  You get home, but the story isn’t over.  It is so compelling you sit in your driveway to finish the story.  It is a very real phenomenon for aging rockers like myself who listen to talk radio on their $1200 radio.

Well, the podcast is even better… because you can simply pause the story until you are back in the car.  You don’t even need the internet to listen to the podcasts.  You need it to get them, but you can download them at home and have them queued up to listen to on your next drive, even if you won’t be in cell phone coverage.

The content ranges dramatically.  For example, Carolla’s show (the most downloaded podcast officially per Guinness book) is very formatted.  He has intros, guests, bits, a news segment… it is just like a one hour talk show, but with no commercials and no editors and no standards and practices legal team telling you not to do rape jokes.

Where do I begin?

Car Talk is just what it sounds like.  It is a radio call in show where two brilliant and hilarious old Italian guys diagnose car problems over the phone.  They have been on the air on NPR for 20 years, but recently the technology made it also available to podcasts.  I can’t say enough good things about Car Talk.  You learn a ton about cars, and it is incredibly entertaining.

For a starter kit, do this.  Find this episode of “This American Life”.  This specific favorite of mine is called ‘the greatest answering machine message of all time’.  That is a hell of a teaser, isn’t it?  Well, it pays off.  This was a legendary voice mail that circulated around a college campus for years.  This was back when they were on those micro-cassettes.  So, the staff hears the story.  They track down the message for us, and play it.  It really is that great.  Then, because they are all journalists at This American Life, they track down all the principal figures in the story.  Who left the message, who it was left for, and the story about it.

It makes the best 20 minutes of radio you can imagine. Though the link shows the program is an hour, you only need to listen to the first 20 minutes. Here is a link.

Sorry, that got too long and rambly.  As you can see, though, I am very passionate about podcasts.  So, when I got these questions from my editor this afternoon, I got all bubbly.

* in closing, Podcasts are being threatened.  There is a group of patent trolls who are extorting all the big podcasters and demanding a cut.  A group of businessmen bought some obsolete patent about sequencing radio programs, or something like that.  They wrote Adam Carolla a letter demanding 3 million bucks.  Carolla, quite wonderfully, told them to suck it.  Now he is raising funds for all his legal defense.  This is literally to protect the future of all podcasts.  You can help here.

** I don’t point out I have a $1200 stereo to tell you I am better than you and have nicer stuff (even though I am, and I do :)) – I point it out because since all I do is listen to variations on talk radio, any $40 stereo from Wal Mart would do the trick.  My subwoofer gets no work out these days, it’s quite sad.


Friday Fives – book edition

Last week was movies. This week its books.

1. What was the last book that you absolutely could not put down until you finished it? 

for this, I have to reference this.  I am such a book nut that I archive everything I read.  I started doing this years ago, noting down books as I read them.  Now that I have probably a hundred catalogued, I find it a very useful resource.  Plus, allow me cop to the fact that it is a bit pretentious.  It sounds like something Sting would do.  To me, Sting sets the bar for pretension.  But, it is practical.  I read a lot, about a book a month.  This helps me keep it straight in my mind, and go back to find authors that I loved.

Now, back to the question.  The last book that just rocked my world was an audiobook… so that could constitute cheating.  It was ‘Lamb’.  This was the most amazing book.  I believe it is one of the best and most important and amazing books ever written.  Note (again, Sting alert here) I have a degree in Literature, so I know of what I speak.  Lamb was amazing, life changing!  I put it up there with Alice in Wonderland.  If you are a reader here, then you know my devotion to that book.  If you are not a reader here, what are you doing reading here, huh?  You got some esplainin’ to do.

Allow me to tell you a tiny bit more about Lamb that might shed light on the truly religious experience it had on me.  When I listened to it, I was driving by myself across the desert on Christmas day.  I had not slept in 4 days, so I was literally loopy.  Also, I am a recovering Catholic.  This means I believe in Jesus and most of his story, up until he died.  I do believe there was a Jesus.  I do believe he was a leader, and I do believe he was murdered for that.  I don’t believe he came back to life.

I didn’t mean to be listening to the fictionalized story of Christ on Christmas day.  Nor did I mean to be driving through the desert by myself whacked on sleep deprivation when I did.  Those are all just amazing co-incidences that made it a very seriously powerful experience for me.  You must read that book.  Religious or not.  It is incredibly thoughtful.  it is not satire, or humor.  It is at least as accurate as the Bible, and I am dead serious about that.  Both were written by men who were nowhere around when it happened.  At least Moore cops to it.

There you have it.  I have officially not written that much about a book (besides Alice in Wonderland) since college.

2. Do you have a difficult to read author/book that you really want to read/finish?

I did.  There have been many books I meant to finish.  Many books that felt embarrassed that I had not read or finished.  Finally, though, I realized life is too short to read boring books.  Here is an example – Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote ‘100 years of solitude‘.  It has been regarded by about every scholar as one of the greatest books ever written.  Entire college courses are taught on this book.  So, being as though I am a lit guy, I should read it.  I should know it.  I tried.  I really did.  a bunch of times.  Here is my educated literary analysis – holy fuck is it boring.  See, it is 500 pages.  So, your first 60 pages are just about setting the scene and introducing characters.  I couldn’t get past page 25 ever.  So, this book is shelved.  I am not even going to try anymore.

There is a really great article/infographic about this very topic.  Btw, full Sting disclosure here.  As much as I truly enjoy talking about books, I did not pick these questions.  These came from my editor, who is my close buddy who turned me on to blogging ten years ago.

3. If you had to pick a genre that your read as a favorite, what is it? 

non-fiction memoirs, and neurology.  I am a freelance neurologist.  Go ahead, google it.  Just kidding, you can’t.  I just made it up.  Ok, that was a little Stingy.  Allow me to explain that reference.  Sting put out a movie of him playing lute and discussing literature with guys with bears and tweed coats.  Doing those things doesn’t make you a douche, but putting out a movie of you doing those things sure does.

4. If you had to help someone who “doesn’t get into reading” what would you suggest to them to light their fire?

start light.  Comedians often write great and super funny books.  Here is one I read fairly recently.  it is really enjoyable, and super fluffy.  Also, I strongly recommend Alice in Wonderland.  it is not too long, amazingly well written, and totally absurd.  Here is an even better one.  This book, Animal Farm, is super entertaining, and incredibly thoughtful.  it is also so short you can read it one night.  Classes have been taught about this book, too.  Hell, Pink Floyd made an album about it.

5. What are you reading right now?

Nothing, actually.  I just finished this last week, and am in between books.  I am pretty sure I am going to get a couple books on Russian history.  For now, though, I am on brain vacation and just reading my magazines (Rolling Stone, Playboy, Popular Mechanics, and Psychology Today).  Both of the Russian history books are over 400 pages each.  I am a bit intimidated to get into something that thick and thinky, but it is a fascinating tale.  Like, if you asked anyone on Earth who the worst person in history is, most would agree Hitler.  Lemme tell you, when it comes to body count, no one comes CLOSE to Stalin.  Stalin makes Hitler look like a youth league volunteer for charity by comparison.

I go back and forth between really thinky stuff, and fluffy memoirs.  Oooh oooh!  I just thought of another great book you should read.  Adam Carolla has a couple terrific memoirs out.  I am a big fan of Carolla’s podcast, and listen almost daily.  Start with this one, and then do this one.

* since we are talking about books, and Alice in Wonderland, I have an update.  I finally scored the holy grail of books.  This is the book I have been wanting for 25 years.  It is scarce, and believed by many to have never even existed.  Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Ralph Steadman.  I haven’t even cracked it open yet.  I have too much on my plate to really lose myself in it like I want to.

Friday Fives – a true random edition of fives


1.  Name five celebrities you admire?

Zach Galifinakis, Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Adam Carolla, Anthony Bourdain, and Ozzy.  Why?  I find them funny, talented, and trustworthy.  I would never expect anyone of them to say anything that wasn’t 100% to their beliefs and philosophies.

Can I be more specific?  let’s talk about Dave Mustaine from Megadeth.  Dave recently said, in Europe on tour, that the Batman theater shootings were orchestrated by President Obama to launch gun control.  What kind of fucking stupidity is that? I get that he hates the President.  He gets to, that is why America is great.  Lord knows I hated Bush with a profound depth.  But, that statement is just mean to all the people who suffered that.  Does he really believe that?  Or, was that just an excuse for him to address the fact that he doesn’t trust Democrats on gun control.  I lost SO much respect for Mustaine when I heard that.  I had precious little already, but that was about the end of it.

So, did I burn my Megadeth albums?  no.  Megadeth is awesome.  Plus, anyone who expects deep wisdom from a guy who named himself ‘Megadeth’ needs to pick up a newspaper now and again.  If I want decent and proper right wing bantering, I have Uncle Ted.  Though I disagree with him on nearly everything, he is always well informed and passionate and articulate.  Also, Uncle Ted rocks.  There is simply nothing on earth cooler than this riff.  FACT.  I don’t care if he eats puppies for lunch, he is a great rock star.  Plus, it would not surprise me if Uncle Ted did eat puppies for lunch.

 2.  Name five celebrities you don’t care for?

 Jim Carrey.  Wanna know why?  A few years ago, In Living Color was doing a big reunion.   10 years, or 20 years… something big.  Every star was there, except Jim Carrey.  That show, 100%, made Jim Carrey.  Jim Carrey owes absolutely everything to that show, and to Keenan Ivory Wayans.  He said he was doing a movie or something.  I simply do not believe that he couldn’t make it if he tried.  He is probably getting 20 million a movie.  So, he should have hired a jet to take him back for 8 hours for the re-union.  See, with that show, Jim Carrey gets a jet.  Without that show, Jim Carrey drives a Jetta.

Listen, I am not saying Jim Carrey isn’t wicked talented, or doesn’t deserve his fame.  Not at all, see below.  I am saying Keenan gave him the break that got him started.

PLUS… along with his super hot and super crazy girlfriend, Jim Carrey has convinced parents not to immunize against measles.  They very incorrectly believe, and teach, that there is a correlation between measles vaccines and the rise in autism.  They are wrong, and I know that for a fact. The rise in autism cases does not, and should not, represent a rise in autism.  The rise in autism cases is changes made between the release of DSM 3 and DSM4 which changed the categorization of childhood behavior.  Before the DSM 4, you may have been a moody kid, or a sad kid, or a funny kid, or a chatty kid.  After DSM4, those were all moved to be labeled as ‘Autism’.  Something very very similar happened with ADD/ADHD.  When I was a kid, you were just called a ‘spaz’, but they didn’t’ medicate you for that.  Hot topic for me, as I am reading about this as we speak.

On the upside, though, dude is a remarkable actor.  He also makes gutsy choices.  He did a 2 hour ode to homosexual love called “I love you Phillip Morris“.  The movie studios were so afraid to back a movie about gay love that they pulled the plug and it went straight to video.  Plus, we can all agree he killed it in ‘Man on the Moon’.  He was more Andy Kaufman than Andy Kaufman ever was.

So… what about Ted Nugent?  Is he on my list here, for people I “don’t care for”?  Nope, not at all.  he is a decent and thoughtful guy who just has wildly different philosophies than I do regarding guns in our culture.  That by no means makes him an enemy of mine.

3.  Name five songs that you can’t live with out?

Angel, Jimi Hendrix

(the acoustic version, not that schlock from First Rays of the New Rising Sun that got shit out 30 years after he died.)  Since we are talking about Jimi, I have to acknowledge the ‘trinity’ of awesomeness:  Little Wing, Castles Made of Sand, and Wind Cries Mary.  To teach myself guitar, I taught myself those songs, because they were the toughest, and most beautiful.  I can still play the shit out of those songs on guitar.  Learning those taught me technique that was useful, and specific to Hendrix… like how he used his thumb

Allman Brothers – Whipping Post

Smashing Pumpkins – Mayonnaise

Grateful Dead – Scarlett>Fire jam – 5.7.77

Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna

Ten Years Gone – Led Zeppelin

Seek and Destroy – Metallica

Parachutes – Pearl Jam

4.  Name your top five favorite books?

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll*

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S Thompson

Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller

On the Road – Jack Keroac

Steppenwolfe – Herman Hesse

Lamb; the Gospel According to Biff – Christopher Moore*

*you can find more thorough musings from me on these books over on this page, where I catalogue every book I am reading over the last several years

 5.  Name your top five favorite breakfast cereals?

fruit loops, apple jacks, frosted mini wheats, and bacon.  I know bacon isn’t a cereal, but bacon is delicious and yummy and easy to cook, and certainly not worse for me than those sugar shots listed above