May 21st, 2017
At the request of our friend Katie, who visited this weekend, I'm going to discuss the podcasts that I've been following for the last few years. She is curious about what I've been hearing and why I like them.
For starters, long before I owned a smart phone I followed the Reduced Shakespeare Company Podcast; I had first seen them at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Southern California many years ago, and when I found out about the weekly release I would listen to it each Monday. The topics are for the most part theater-related, though not always. There's over 500 recordings, approximately fifteen minutes each.
What finally brought me to using the smart phone was a two-fold issue. First, Alton Brown started a podcast, which later became rather intermittent; secondly, KPCC which is my local NPR station began having what seemed to me to be constant money requests which led to me rarely hearing the news but instead nothing but begging on the radio, so I started hunting for other podcasts to listen to. Brown's work was called The Alton Browncast. It deals to a great degree with cooking, touching on other topics in a lesser fashion. He seems to go back to it when his schedule opens up a bit.
When I started looking for podcasts to try, nearly everyone had nothing but good things to say about The History of Rome podcast, and so I gave it a try. I've long since finished the whole run from the mythology of the city's start until the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 400s. The quality is excellent, the podcaster is engaging and it's well worth giving it a listen. He's since started the Revolutions podcast in which he deals in detail with a variety of revolutions which so far include the American, the French, the Haitian, the South American, the French in the 1830s, and the Belgian. Excellent work, once again.
From there I added the Global News Podcast by the BBC, updated thirteen times each week, it addresses the news of the day.
Next one is The History of Byzantium; its originator wanted to pick up where The History of Rome left off but dealing with the remaining Eastern Empire and he's doing a good job of it.
The British History Podcast goes into a lot of detail; there's been nearly 250 items and he's still in the Dark Ages.
Then there's The History of WWII Podcast. I'm not fond of the caster's voice, but he gives good quality reports. He's a bit shy of 200 casts but the US still isn't in the war. Not too much longer, though.
Then I picked up Mission Long: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast which has two guys discussing each episode or movie of Star Trek and seeing if they hold up to time. They are in the 230s of podcasts and are closing in on the end of ST:TNG. They include some special podcasts where they interview a variety of individuals who were important to the show. I've tried a number of Star Trek podcasts over time, and I like this one best.
The China History Podcast is done by a guy who works with companies who work in China; he's learned the language and clearly he's fascinated by the country. He's shy of 200 episodes but he deals in pretty good detail with the subject at hand.
Then there's The History of English Podcast which helps explain how English got the way it is. He's barely into Middle English in over 90 episodes.
History of Japan is next. Shy of 200 episodes, he clearly explains a lot about Japanese history and culture.
My wife hates the voice of the reader of History of the Crusades, but she does a good job of explaining the events and background. She's finished the Crusades in the Holy Land as well as the Albigensian Crusade and is now working on the Baltic.
History of Pirates Podcast is rather intermittent and he jumps around. Some fun, not as deep as I might like.
The Born Yesterday Podcast appears to be defunct though it's still available without trouble from iTunes and it deals with a pretty wide variety of interesting topics, such as the Secret History of Monopoly (as in the game).
WARTIME: A History Series is done by an author, mostly to stimulate sales of his writings, but he has interesting things to say about empires and he covers areas that my own learning didn't cover well. Although not recently updated, I know that the cast isn't dead.
Aussie Waves Podcast started talking about the various waves of immigration into Australia, but it's turned into a cast about various topics in Australian history and the caster is pretty good.
The History of England's reader has a puckish sense of humor and he keeps the discussion light and accessible. He's up to Henry VIII in 214 episodes so far.
The Podcast History Of Our World tried to start in the very beginning of our planet and carry forward from there but there's been no additional podcasts for over six months; he left off at the Kingdom of Rome, which predated the Republic.
Gamers Behaving Badly appears to be dead; it was a fairly funny work which followed a D&D game.
The Podcast of Doom is a strange piece of work in which the caster deals with disaster analysis; the history of an event, what went wrong and what's been done since to try to deal with it. A very good podcast; he posts occasionally.
A Brief History of Food seems gone as well, short pieces of background for various recipes.
The Hidden History of Los Angeles posts occasionally but when they do it's very good. Intimate little details about LA, its history, and its neighborhoods.
Damn Interesting is. They don't post all that often but when they do it's good.
Imaginary Worlds goes into some detail about exactly that. For example, the most recent post talks in some detail about Twin Peaks from the point of view of the folks who lived in the town used in the original show, as well as the history of some folks in a town called Twin Peaks and its parallels to the show. As a first-class geek I find this podcast delightful.
Then there's another moribund podcast, In the Company of Nerds, which spun off the TV show King of the Nerds. They would have two folks interviewing a third; it was pretty solid, but when the TV series was cut, the podcast fell apart.
Talking History: The Italian Unification worked it way practically up to the point of the final events and then stopped cold. Apparently the casters were swamped by life. It may come back. Their style was mildly off-putting but the information was fresh and interesting.
You Must Remember This is one of the best podcasts I listen to. The caster is taking several weeks hiatus at this time, but will be back. The podcast deals with the history of the first century of Hollywood and she doesn't hold back on the details. Terrific work, that's all I can say.
Our Fake History is also very good, though not quite as good as the previously described podcast. The topic is what is and isn't true in history and the caster deals with telling what we know and what we don't. Very good.
Killing Time is a military history podcast, but it's been three months since the last post so it may be gone. Still, the thirteen casts posted are pretty good.
The Dork Forest is pretty variable in quality. The interviewer is a stand-up comic and she spends a fair amount of time pushing her wares, then she takes about an hour to talk to various people about their various hobbies in various levels of dorkiness. I find myself cutting out casts that deal with hobbies in which I have no interest, seems to be like two out of three that I dump. However, when the topic interests me, she's not bad as an interviewer. YMMV.
Valiant: Stories of Heroes is pretty limited; there's only a couple of "heroes" discussed. They weren't bad but there isn't much here. Last posting was a year ago, I think it's dead.
99% Invisible is another wonderful podcast which in this case deals with design and what goes into it. There's way over 200 casts and they do a great job of explaining what goes into design. Marvelous stuff!
The Context was also a very good piece of work, giving all the background that you never get from news sources because it takes too long to explain it all. There's eight of them, last posted March of 2016, and worth hearing. I keep hoping for more.
Great Battles of History is another short-lived podcast that appears to be gone. However, the handful or so of podcasts talk about little-known battles and did a fairly good job of discussing them.
The History of Exploration is a pretty new podcast and it's going into the folks who have explored the world around them, what they did and how they passed it on. Heavily detailed.
The Secret Cabinet is done by a translator who gets these from the original German and then posts oddities. Strange history.
The Brazil Culture and History Podcast presents Brazil, a topic that most US classrooms never address. There's a dozen posts, but it's been a year plus since the last post. I really thought that I'd learned some things from them, so I hope it will return.
Revisionist History is another one that I await patiently, though it may be gone. It looks at various topics in history in a different way and I find it very thought-provoking. Bravo!
People's Democratic Republic of Podcast is a spin-off from a podcast called The Eastern Border which I liked but it runs very, very long and I didn't like it enough to invest that may hours in it. The latter podcast teaches about Russian and Soviet history as well as Eastern Europe especially in the effects that Russia had on the other countries of the region. The former podcast is supposed to look at an individual democratic nation and see how they work. Thus far they've discussed Israel and Canada and that is all. I await further developments.
The Land of Desire: French History and Culture is a fairly lighthearted podcast which has dabbled in French topics. I think the caster has been taking the pieces and giving them the proper amount of time and I think I've learned things from it. This is an active podcast at present.
A History of Oil seems moribund; it goes into the politics and business history of oil's discovery and use. I found some of the casts thoughtful and useful in understanding what is going on now.
The Sorting Podcast is a light romp done by a friend in which he sorts characters from one genre into Hogwarts Houses in discussion with another person. Fun; it's nice to revisit some characters from literature and motion pictures and work out where they would fit.
The History of Organized Crime...not bad enough to dump, not good enough to recommend.
Remarkable Lives, Tragic Deaths is active and they bring in voice actors to stand in for the famous folks that they are discussing. Solid work, worthy of listening.
Cocktail History Podcast hasn't had anything posted for four months; they deal with the background of various drinks. I like it, but it may be gone.
Africa: A History is pretty straightforward, but it's been offline for six months. Only a few casts posted.
Gastropod is very good, and remains active. They go into the science of food in some detail. Excellent stuff.
Slate Presents Lexicon Valley, I'm way behind on them but they go into the background of words and grammar. I like it; they are still active but I'm still more than fifty casts behind the present.
Wait, wait...Don't Tell Me isn't so much a podcast as it is the radio show being re-released. This is an NPR gameshow that I used to hear when I drove to work on weekends.
The Sporkful advertises itself as a podcast not for foodies but for eaters. Well, I think it's fair to say I'm a foodie, but I still like this podcast. Still active.
80 Days: An Exploration Podcast has three Irish fellows Skypeing from three places on Earth discussing a country, city, island or whatever that people might now know much about and going into their history and what have you. Each post thus far is over an hour, but some of these places deserve a closer look. I like 'em.
Shots of History is for those who imbibe. I'm still behind, but they've spent several very short podcasts on absinthe.
Decode the News is very new and very, very good, breaking down the news to see what they are and aren't doing and what journalism has become. Recommended.
I am presently listening to the first podcast of The Dangerous History Podcast and I don't know if I would suggest following it. I need more exposure first.
I have downloaded podcasts from each of the following but have yet to listen to any of them and can't recommend or reject them: Ben Franklin's World: A Podcast About Early American History; Libertarian's On Fire; The Whiskey Rebellion; The Feast; The Complete Guide to Everything; Judge John Hodgman; History of Southeast Asia.
I have listened to many more podcasts; some have clearly died and I dropped them from my list even though they were fine, while others I tried for one or three or twenty episodes and finally gave them up.
I am open to trying others as time permits; I still keep up with active casts. Please feel free to suggest others to me and why you think they're good.
There you go, Katie!
I consider KPCC my "local" PBS station too, but when they go on begathons, I swich to KCRW, and I use the NPR app on my smart phone since it's much better audio quality.