Podcasts for 2013

From the lofty age of 24 I can safely declare that my taste in music has fossilised into only liking music produced in “my era”, which is to say the late 90’s to the late 00’s. This presents a problem to an ipod owner like myself because, well, there wasn’t that much good stuff in that period. So what should I listen to instead?

The answer is podcasts! As a 21st century person in need of constant stimulation, I listen to podcasts quite a lot, and so I am often surprised by how few people know what they are. The word is a portmanteau of ‘pod’ and ‘broadcast’, and that more or less explains what they are: broadcasts that you can listen to on your ipod.

With the definition out of the way, here are some podcast recommendations for 2013:

Start the Week presented by Andrew Marr. Each week Marr mediates a discussion between four guests from the arts, academia or public life, usually centred around a particular theme: the last three have focused on “Political Writing”, “Family Secrets”, and “the Human Voice”. Ever the genial host, Marr delicately enforces a tone of civility, which means that though there are rarely any fireworks, each guest is able to air his or her opinion. And because the guests are of a high quality – Shirley Williams, Salman Rushdie, and Niall Ferguson, to name some recent examples – their views are worth hearing.

The Slate Political Gabfest. Slate is an American online magazine edited by David Plotz, who hosts the Gabfest alongside regular guests legal journalist Emily Bazelon and politics reporter John Dickerson. Together they discuss three of the week’s major political topics from a mostly liberal perspective. The have great repartee, with the witty and provocative Plotz often playing devil’s advocate to elicit the views of his fellow podcasters. Dickerson knows all their there is to know about contemporary politics in the US, and Bazelon brings a legal perspective, something that most other news sources rarely do.

Great Lives with Matthew Parris. Each week a celebrity guest picks a historical figure whom they believe has led a ‘great life’, and they discuss that figure with Parris and usually a specialist academic. What makes the show so special is Parris. I fear I might be in love with the man, who, as a Daily Telegraph journalist recently wrote, exists to show liberals they don’t “have a monopoly on reason, intelligence and loveliness”. His soft, gentle voice does more to de-stress than the most soothing of warm baths, also prompting the guests to be more revealing that they might otherwise be.

Bloggingheads.tv is a website featuring discussions conducted by journalists, writers, and academics via webcam, or “diavlogues” as the website’s founder Robert Wright christened the format, thereby conceiving one of the digital age’s uglier neologisms. These diavlogues or also available in podcasts form. A wide range of subjects are discussed, from science to philosophy, politics to culture; and the an impressive number of prominent journalists take part. There are normally a couple of shows produced every day, and though you won’t be interested in each one, over the week there is plenty of decent material.


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