Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Favorite Podcasts

I'm addicted to podcasts. Here I list the gems I've found that I think would be interesting to a broad audience. All can be found on iTunes. Post your favorites please. I'm always looking for something interesting to listen to on a long run or during the commute.

In no particular order...


EconTalk: This is a weekly podcast by former GMU professor and now full-time Hoover fellow Russ Roberts. In each episode Russ interviews a guest, usually another economist but also authors, historians, scientists, and others, for an hour on a particular topic. The range of discussion is wide. A recent sampling includes podcasts on the TARP, Bailouts, Tax Reform, Knowledge, Philosophy, Science, Education, Sports, and more. I always learn something new and critical thinking is employed always. You do not need to be an economist to understand this show and it is a great way to highlight what discussions and controversies are taking place in the field. Who was Keynes? Who was Hayek? Why do these guys still matter today?

PBS NewsHour: Still the gold standard of journalism but to watch the entire show can be a terrible bore. Through iTunes you can download only the news items you care about in two to five min bites. I usually never miss the ten minute Friday political discussion between Jim Lehrer-David Brooks-Mark Shield. It's about the most amicable conversation in existence between center-left and center-right politicos.

NPR Planet Money: Very creative 15-20 minute podcast about all kinds of economic issues. Funny stories, interesting content, and much lighter than EconTalk. Covers more ground but in less depth.

This American Life: Also known as TAL this is the best of the best. An hour long episode every week.. Ira Glass and his deep pool of talented producers and reporters reinvented radio programming, a medium that was declared dead decades ago. Every week's episode is usually 2-3 of stories not directly related but centered around a common  theme. If you have never even heard of TAL but are interested start here or here. You won't be disappointed. Non-political.

Radiolab: Somewhat similar to TAL in that each week's hour-long episode is centered around "One Big Idea" as Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad (the co-hosts) call it. The difference is that this podcast is dedicated to science. Highly entertaining and also non-political. These guys present science in a very interesting and accessible form. 

99% Invisible: Hosted by Roman Mars and made famous by a mention on Radiolab. This brief podcast lasts between 5-15min and refers to itself as "A tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world."
One of my favorite episodes so far was on the infamous Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Staff picks here.

Law Talk with Epstein and Yoo: Professors Richard Epstein (NYU/Chicago) and John Yoo (UC-Berkeley) tackle the legal issues of the day from a conservative judicial perspective. Completely political but very entertaining. They'll tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Obamacare, presidential authorities, collective bargaining, immigration and more.

Uncommon Knowledge: A weekly interview (audio or video) by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institute. Recent guests include Thomas Sowell, Charles Murray, Condi Rice, and Charles Hill. Very well produced podcast with a conservative/libertarian/free-market slant with respect to the guests and topics.

I cannot vouch completely for the following two podcasts but they seem promising so far.....

Design Matters: A weekly interview by Debbie Millman of a notable person working on design, engineering, computer science, web, music, visual arts.
The two I've listed to and thought were awesome are:
Roman Mars (see 99% Invisible above)
Maria Popova of the website www.brainpickings.org

Philosophy Bites: 15-20mins on topics in philosophy and philosophers. I am undecided if this will have a permanent home in my iPhone rotation but it has not disappointed yet.
Some of the few I've listened to and enjoyed so far.....
Rae Langton on Hate Speech (I appreciated the treatment of the topic but vehemently disagree with her ideas on how to deal with it)
Martha Nussbaum on the Value of the Humanities
Michael Sandel on Justice


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