Logic Control: Radio Free Radio

Recently got a new in-dash radio to replace the original 1999 tape deck in my 4Runner. It connects to my phone via bluetooth and lets me play whatever my phone can play through the speakers. I know, you’ve had this for years, but I take a while to come around some time…

The 4Runner also has a motorized antenna. When you turn the radio on it goes up with a little motorized hum. It’s as cool as it is useless since I quit listening to over the air radio. Here are a few things I enjoy not ever hearing anymore.

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  1. Wedding announcements from people I’ve never heard of.
  2. Commercials
  3. Taylor Swift
  4. Beheading/rape/torture/bombing etc on National Atrocities Radio
  5. Disk Jockeys (what a crazy sounding term that is now!)

Why kill the radio and listen to podcasts?

  1. Because you want to listen to what you want when you want. DUH
  2. Because your iphone doesn’t tune FM
  3. Because when you get out and go into the store and come out and turn the car on you have not missed anything
  4. You don’t really need INSTANT news. Chances are you’ll see it on buzz book first anyway

Podcast Apps

I use Stitcher for iPhone. It’s probably available for androids, I don’t know. It works pretty well, though occasionally I get stuck on some feed where I hear podcasts I’m not subscribed to. I find that annoying. There might be better options out there I don’t know. The Apple Podcast app isn’t a better option as you have to download rather than stream. Stitcher is streaming, though you can save for offline if you need to.

Our Favorite Podcasts

So we listen to Pandora Radio, Apple Music Radio and various Podcasts on Stitcher. Here are a few of our favorites.

Science

This Week In Science

A weekly discussion of science news. Usually each of the three hosts brings a set of items relating to published science or current events relating to various science topics. It’s real, college level science, yet my 5 year old son is able to listen and pick out certain bits of info that he finds interesting. Particularly in the “Blair’s Animal Corner” segment. It’s a good podcast and will make you smarter.

Star Talk Radio

This is a weekly radioish show done by astrophysicist Neil Degrasse-Tyson. He usually has a comedian as a co-host. Sometimes Eugene Merman, though it’s mostly Chuck Nice lately. It’s a good show with some college level science discussion. Usually fairly measured and thoughtfull. My favorite format is when Neil records an interview with a scientist or cultural icon, then discusses it with other guests and plays clips from the interview. Recently they did this with an interview with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and discussed it with a jesuit priest and a comedian. Very interesting. My only criticism is that Dr. Tyson is really enthusiastic and tends at time to be a bit interrupty.

Radiolab

Radiolab is an exquisitely produced podcast on topics vaguely related to the intersection of science, technology and society. They are human interest stories. And they are stories in the literary sense not the news sense. They are rich, deep and moving. If they put out an hour a day I would listen every day. It’s one of two podcasts I’ll list here that could easily replace every other form of entertainment for me. It is so well done, I don’t notice I’m not getting visuals. The sound effects and timing of the production is really that good. I was going to try to link to my favorite episode, but I can’t. Just start listening to the backlog. Take a road trip if you need to. NOTE: some are not appropriate for kids, but many are. They will let you know when you should turn if off…

Freakonomics

The podcast about the hidden side of everything. It’s an economists perspective on common life topics. Things like the economics of news stories and being a news junky, Healthcare and the function of the World Bank. The main reason I listen to this podcast is that it takes assumptions about how the world works and subjects them to scientific analysis and economic principals to see if they make sense or if there is a better way to think about things. I’ve learned in recent years that the way we think about things is influenced by a lot of impressions, intuitions and mistaken assumptions. (see my Book Haul video where I talk about You Are Not So Smart by David MacRainey).

Human Interest

This American Life

Top of the list and top of every list is This American Life. This is the gold standard of what makes a good radio show and a good podcast. It’s thoughtful stories about human beings in America. The last one was about the state of the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans 10 years after Katrina. They did 2 recent episodes about modern day school desegregation and it’s affects on students and communities. Well produced, well told stories. Funny, moving, thought provoking. It’s literally the best thing that’s ever been broadcast in english. There have been a lot of times when an episode ended and I said, no THAT was the best. Currently the best is The Radio Drama that includes a 14 minute mini-broadway musical production of a story of a drug sting in a high school and a dramatic re-enactment of a story of two brother’s loss of their mother. I know. I know. Trust me, it’s amazing. Second best would be Regrets, particularly act 3, a story of a father struggling to know what’s best for his children. They did a collaboration with songwriter Stephen  Merritt (also featured in The Radio Drama Episode). Merritt scored the stories and sang direct quotes from them. The effect of his interpretation is stunning. Really amazing.

This one isn’t always good for kids, or of interest to kids. If it talks about non-kid subjects, the do warn you. I don’t believe that kids need to be talked down to, and I certainly don’t believe kids need to understand everything they hear. Hearing stuff like this will help them learn language, help them understand people and interactions and the greater context of the world they live in. But that’s just like, my opinion man.

99% Invisible

This is a podcast about the intersection of design and human beings. From how green lawns and the drought affect communities and individuals, to the history of the “awareness” ribbon, Roman Mars discusses how the design of things springs from and relates to the humans that create and live with it. Hard to explain, but trust me. Usually good for kids, but on the boring side, though my and my boy did catch up on the backlog on a road trip once.

The Moth

The Moth podcast is true stories told live without notes. They are recorded at live events from all over the country. It’s performance storytelling. And it’s very very good.

Other

To fill up the time I have available to listen, which isn’t much here are the rest of the podcast I regularly listen to:

What other podcasts should we be listening to?

Let me know in the comments.

-Mike

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