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Dear Apples,

I am thinking about starting a podcast.  What I have now is a list of ideas, a vision, a loose game plan, and a compilation of links to recommended podcasting microphones. There are a bunch of loopholes to work through, but I do hope to push this pipe dream out into the world soon-ish.  I’ll give you more information when (and if) I set up shop a bit.

Podcasts are the salve for my humdrum days lately.  I listen to one or two (depending on the podcast length) every day on my morning walk, and C and I will listen to one if we have a long drive.  The voices are soothing, like an adult version of being read a bedtime story, and the content holds my full attention.  It’s common to hear people say that they are very visual, or that they are visual learners.  I happen to be very audio-oriented.  Is there a less cumbersome way to say that?

I love how podcasts are bringing back the art of listening. For awhile, it seemed like listening was entirely out-trumped by the advent of visual noise: TV, video games, social media.  But there is something about learning how to listen without being able to interrupt and without distraction.  It forces you to slow down and think and imagine and hear another side of the story or be receptive to a new perspective.   Listening makes us wiser people, in the same way that reading opens us up to the world.

Podcasts are one amazing anecdote to the decline in the sort of traditional radio culture that had families tuning in together after dinner or kids waiting by the radio on Saturday for their favorite show to come on.  Podcasting is a new phenomenon that is already growing in leaps and bounds, and it’s doing a pretty good job so far.

In the interest of promoting my interests, here is a list of current and longstanding favorites, as well as a few that I’m looking forward to listening to for the first time:

  1. On Being: Krista Tippett’s melodic interviewing style gleans the sort of thoughtful, profound ideas out of the people she interviews that delve into the deeper meaning of life. These conversations are a good way to start the day.  The content is rich and spiritual and always offers a broader perspective.  Some of my favorite past shows are interviews with Jean Vanier, Marie Howe, Dana Boyd, and Fr Greg Boyle.
  2. RadioLab: This was the very first podcast I started listening to, first on the afternoon radio along with Fresh Air and All Songs Considered, and then through iTunes on my phone.  It covers all manner of topics on science, history, and random curiosities in the most entertaining and funny way.  I imagine kids would love it too.  From the archives, I’ve really enjoyed the episodes Bliss, Parasites, American Football, and Are You Sure.  But really, they’re all good.
  3. This American Life: Another classic podcast that is a popular favorite.  Ira Glass puts an enormous amount of work into this and makes it seem effortless.  In most episodes, he takes a topic and breaks it down into three acts, or stories.  Some past favorites include Father’s Day 2011 (hilarious), Reunited and It Feels So Good, and 218: Act V.
  4. The New York Public Library Podcast: This one has interviews with a whole slew of favorite living authors.  They feature so many amazing people. This is actually a new podcast for me, so I don’t have shows to recommend, but I can’t wait to listen to interviews with Toni Morrison, Joan Didion, Azar Nafisi, Cheryl Strayed, Patti Smith, Neil Gaiman and Maira Kalman.
  5. All Songs Considered: This is where you can find all the best music.  The regular hosts, Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton (although there are many others as well) have such a funny dynamic. It’s easy to tell that they really enjoy working together (they’re constantly making fun of each other but they can’t hide the fact that they are complete softies at heart) and they both have a passion and respect for all types of music.  The show is very generous and open-minded in the way it discusses all sorts of artists, which is something I really appreciate.  The hosts don’t come across as music snobs; they’re just super obsessed with music in the best way.  My favorite shows are the yearly round-ups.  Towards the end of each year, they throw together the year’s best albums, the year in music, favorite songs, and favorite new artists.  They also do great themed episodes, like the annual holiday mixes, Songs That Make Us Cry, The Worst Songs of All Time or Remembering Mom and Dad’s Record Collection.
  6. Dear Sugar: Basically free therapy sessions over the radio.  People write in with hard life questions, and Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond give them food for thought.
  7. Pop Culture Happy Hour: I have yet to listen to this podcast, but I hear it’s a pretty fun one.
  8. Magic Lessons: This is a new one that Elizabeth Gilbert created to accompany her new book Big Magic.  Whether you loved or hated Eat Pray Love, it’s obvious that this arena of creativity coaching is one that Elizabeth Gilbert is super passionate about.  She offers good practical advice to artists who need a push in the right direction, and so far they all seem to be taking big steps forward with their work.  In Episode 12, which I’ve saved to listen to again when I have a chance, she has a very worthwhile conversation with Brene Brown.

Ok I think that’s enough for now.  I could add a bunch more (Death, Sex and Money with Anna Sale, Freakanomics, Joy the Baker Podcast, The Moth, Serial–which produced many obsessed listeners, The Simple Show with Tsh Oxenreider) but I’ll stop here for now and see whether or not I can feasibly put together a show of my own.