Friday, January 20, 2017

Looking for a Non-Political Diversion? Try Listening to these True Story Podcasts

by Nomad 

Headphones Watercolor

In honor of the "coronation, I've decided to offer my readers an alternative, a diversion from what will be, for many of us, a spectacle very difficult to watch. Here are three true story podcast episodes that you might find interesting.

Pleasures of Podcasts

Blogging can be hard work.
A lot like digging ditches in the Texas sun. In August. Some days my shoulders ache from toting that barge and lifting that bale. You just can't imagine.
Okay, it's not really all that hard. And to be honest, my reward is watching the lively chat that I am privileged to host on this blog.  

Of course, there are times in writing a blog article when the spirit is willing but the eyes feel like burning globes of fire. At such moments, it's time to take a break from all things Internet. 
But how?
By reading? No, that's clearly not a solution.
By sleeping? Perhaps but then my mind is still active- at least, as active as it will ever be. I need a shot of mental stimulation while keeping my eyes closed.
That doesn't leave a lot of options.

This is why listening to podcasts make so much sense for me. Maybe you too.
There are literally tens of thousands of podcasts available online. If you aren't familiar with the format, it's kind of like a radio program that you have control over. You can pause it or listen to it as many times as you like.
When you subscribe to a podcast feed, (and it is best to subscribe to more than one) you will receive a new show regularly, every week or so.

The subjects are practically limitless and can be loaded onto whatever device you wish, (phone, tablet) making them more portable than your laptop. Many podcasts are not discrete episodes but run as a season-long series.
But it's no problem if you have missed the previous installments, though. In that case, you can download all episodes and binge on a full season. (That's great if you are traveling and you don't feel like toting a book around.)

Unlike humans, not all podcasts are created equal and some of them are unbearable to sit through. As a rule, I cannot tolerate the kind of podcast where two people are sharing their opinions about politics a la the Howard Stern format.

I am a sucker for a true tale or a real-life mystery with a lot of twists. For that reason, I tend to lean more to story-telling types of podcasts like This American Life or Serial
(I'm assuming you've heard of those two shows since they have got a lot of attention over the years. If not, TAL is a great introduction to the world of podcasting.)

That said, there are many many other podcasts that are worth your attention and are nice alternatives when your eyes feel strained. I have a short list for you to consider.

Reply All

I might have mentioned Reply All in the past. I can't remember. Hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, the general theme of this weekly podcast program is straightforward: the ways the Internet shapes lives. 
Yawning yet?

Sure, in the wrong hands, this subject could be too technical, too tiresome to sit still and listen to. Actually, that's not the case with Reply All. 
The stress is on the human interest side of technology. With that in mind, the producers search high and low to find the most interesting stories without diving into all of the jargon and nerdish specifics. Moreover, the presentation is relaxed, conversational yet professional. 

Don't take my word for it. This particular podcast called "Quit Already is from last month. The story shines a light on Lucia, a fifty-three-year-old grandmother in Guatemala who unexpectedly turns a Facebook rant into a nationwide demonstration against corruption. 
Eventually, as things spun out of control, this self-effacing woman could only sit back and watch as events took their course.

I found the story extremely inspiring and I hope you will too.


Another podcast I stumbled across the other day is Heavyweight.
A UKGuardian story about this podcast describes the theme of the show like this: it's about the stories of "ordinary people who have a feeling that life should have taken a different turn somewhere."

Like This American Life, the Heavyweight "hook" comes in the insight that Jonathan Goldstein, the show's reporter, adds to the story.
Goldstein’s understated style leaves the listener wondering if the whole thing’s a tongue-in-cheek invention or a very clever form of psychology. Or both.
But it doesn’t matter because it’s so enthralling.
This featured episode, called "Julia," deals with a story of calculated bullying by a gang of mean girls years ago and the long-term subtle effects it has had on the victim. The fact that, at one key moment, the victim could not find the strength to confront her tormentors is a memory that has plagued her for years. The most painful part, it seems, is the not knowing.

Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year. That can make schools into a pretty hellish place to be and an impossible place to be educated. It's no surprising that approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying. But what is a shocker is that 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% of the time.

If you never been bullied or never known anybody who has been bullied, this should be required listening.

Mystery Show

Finally,  the name of this popular podcast is really all you need to know about the theme. Each week, the ever-charming Starlee Kine played podcast detective, resolving mysteries by request.

Featured here is one of the most popular episodes called "Belt Buckle" in which Kine tracks down the elusive owner of a unique accessory. Along the way, she discovers a kind of larger-than-life guy who changed lives.

Sadly, the show lasted only one season with the Gimlet Media closing down production earlier last year. Kine gave this one-sided explanation:

In April, Gimlet let me go. This came without warning while I was in the midst of working on the second season. I’d been having trouble figuring out the new season — second seasons can be tricky — and so I’d gone away, to work on an episode. I didn’t make as much progress as I had hoped, but the season was starting to take shape. The day I returned, Alex told me the show was unsustainable. I was out. I lost my staff, my salary, my benefits, my budget and my email address. Mystery Show is the only show this has happened to at Gimlet. Just a few months prior, iTunes voted it Best Podcast of the Year.
Nevertheless, despite this management decision, Season one of Mystery Show continues to win new listeners. For fans of the show, that decision was a mystery that left many of them wondering.
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From time to time, I will be featuring other podcasts episodes that you might enjoy.  Have a good day or as good as day as you can manage under the circumstances.