Friday, January 8, 2010

Recommendation of Several Podcasts

I wanted to take a different tack today and recommend several podcasts that I listen to a lot. For the uninitiated, a podcast is basically a series of digital media files that you download and can listen to on the computer or your MP3 player. There are many different kinds of podcasts. I basically find many of them to be like radio shows, but only much more varied and eclectic. You can find podcasts dealing with just about anything. I never really knew how great they were until I got an iPod.

Anyway, there are several podcasts that I listen to, but a few really stand out. One is the Kunstlercast, which is a weekly program featuring James Howard Kunstler, author of "The Long Emergency" (which introduced me to peak oil, as I had just blogged yesterday and many other times). He and the host, Duncan Crary, talk every week about suburban sprawl and its many harmful effects on America, only one of which is the tremendous amounts of energy that are necessary to keep this system going. Some of the topics discussed can be dry (to me, anyway, like the history of urban design and architecture), but it's often very eye-opening. If you are going to listen to one program, make it "The Demise of Happy Motoring", which is only a month or so old.

Another guy, by the name of Dan Carlin, does two podcasts that I really enjoy: Common Sense and Hardcore History. The former is a talk show largely dealing with politics, but in a refreshingly independent format. It seems that so many of the talk shows in the mainstream media are fronted by what basically amount to cartoon characters, in that you have the "right guy" (like Hannity or Limbaugh) or the "left guy" (like Keith Olbermann) who do not deviate from the right or left position on any issue. Carlin points out these things in a brash but informed way, while subjecting all sides to pointed criticism, most of all the two-party system that dominates our politics. His other show (the more popular of the two) is Hardcore History, in which he takes a major historical event or a period of history that was monumental and discusses it in depth. It's very interesting though, it's like listening to a really informed and exciting college professor (actually, a few of them were the ones who made me interested in history to begin with). I really, really recommend a series of Hardcore History shows he recently produced called "Ghosts of the Ostfront", about the Eastern Front in World War II. Unlike most of the history shows and books out there that document the history of WWII from the U.S. Side, this was truly a battle of "evil vs. evil", as Carlin states on the show. It's in four parts (around 90 minutes each), so you should really listen to it while you're driving or on a rainy afternoon.

The message boards for these podcasts are very active, so I highly recommend those as well.

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