Podcasts I Have Known

I've been a podcast fan for about a year now, listening to them mainly in my car with my iPod shuffle plugged into the sound system through a cassette adapter normally used to hook up Discman CD players. In fact, I hardly ever use my iPod for music anymore. I've sampled a variety of podcasts and settled on several that I really enjoy and would like to recommend.

Most of the podcasts I listen to (and I probably listen regularly to about fifteen) deal with the same subjects as the MediaLog: movies and TV, the entertainment industry, pop culture. Several of these are podcasts of radio programs from National Public Radio affiliate KCRW out of Santa Monica, California. "The Treatment," hosted by film critic Elvis Mitchell, is a half-hour interview program featuring a single film director (although on occasion the show will feature a writer or a directing or writing team). The interviewee is usually one that has a film or is about to have a film in current release, but the range of subjects discussed is hardly limited to their current project. I've been amazed how much I have learned from and enjoyed the interviews, even those with directors I had previously known little about.

"The Business," hosted by Claude Brodesser, is a more wide-ranging show that deals with all aspects of the entertainment industry through news capsules ("The Hollywood News Caravan") and several brief segments per episode (many of which are interviews). The "Caravan" is an irreverent, sometimes tongue-in-cheek summary of entertainment news, while the program segments always treat an intriguing range of media topics. The other KCRW podcast I listen to is called "Martini Shot" and is a four-minute comic commentary by TV writer Rob Long. Long draws on his lengthy industry experience (he started as a writer on "Cheers") to craft witty, incisive, and usually insightful jabs at the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the entertainment industry and its denizens.

The national network of NPR is also the source of a wide variety of podcasts and the one that I listen to regularly is simply called "NPR Movies." It's nothing more than a weekly compilation of all movie-related segments from NPR programs such as "Day to Day," "All Things Considered," "Talk of the Nation," and "Fresh Air," and as a result runs longer or shorter from week to week depending on how many such segments there have been. But it's a great way for movie aficionados to get all the stories without having to listen to hours of radio each week.

Apart from public radio, another great source of podcasts is the online magazine "Slate." They have a daily podcast that is a reading of one of their feature stories, the subject of which can range from current politics to cultural topics. The length of each of these podcasts is generally in the five- to seven-minute range. "Slate" also has two other podcast features: "The Slate Gabfest," which is a weekly half-hour political roundtable featuring "Slate" correspondents; and, the "Explainer," in which commentator June Thomas (with a delightful British accent) offers a daily four-minute explanation of some detail of a current news story (recent "Explainer"s, for example, include explanations of whether or not Ken Lay died from stress, how you can head-butt like World Cup soccer player Zinedane Zidane, and the composition of the Israeli-missile-induced smoke over Beirut).

The public radio and "Slate" podcasts are simply adaptations of texts created for other media. One podcast created exclusively for iPod listeners is Robert Berry's "retroCRUSH" (although it is the companion to his website of the same name). "retroCRUSH" the website is a popculture/retro compendium of articles, links, and images with an irreverent tone. Berry's approximately-thirty-minute, approximately-weekly podcast features discussions of pop culture minutiae, occasional retro celebrity interviews (Bob Newhart or the woman who played Nellie Olsen on TV's "Little House on the Prairie," e.g.), viewer mail (voice mail and read e-mails), song excerpts from TV shows or commercials, and even Berry (sometimes with friends) doing commentaries while driving home in his car from somewhere. Sometimes profane, sometimes profound, "retroCRUSH" is worth a try (URL is simply www.retrocrush.com).

Each of the podcasts I have discussed can be found on iTunes in the podcast section by doing a simple title search.

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