In early 2015, my friend Cecile and I were recovering from our Serial addiction. It was the podcast that turned us – like the rest of the Western world – onto this stupid ‘Podcast’ app we had on our phone. Later I’d discover a wealth of older hits such as History of Rome and watch the growth of new shows and new networks. But in those weeks after the last episode of Sarah Koenig’s masterpiece, Cecile and I just dipped our toes into the water and told each other about our what we were listening to. These are the emails that kickstarted Podcast Pals.
Serial is over and there is a huge void in our lives. I’ve been looking for new podcasts to fill the gap. I guess you’ve done the same? I’ll be in touch when I’ve found something.
I started listening to StartUp (am home alone and too tired to do anything else after a day at work) and really got into it. Not as gripping as Serial, but I just listened to five episodes and enjoyed it. It’s about a guy from This American Life, Alex Blumberg, starting his own podcasting business.
Like Serial, it is good story-telling and I think there is a lot to learn from the way these people structure their stories. I also like how goofy and emotional Blumberg is. Not sure how much I believe in his business at this stage, but I would definitely sign up to listen to more of his stories.
Why are you tired? You just sit around and read Twitter all day. You’re paid to do what most folks do for free.
StartUp is fun – easy to listen to and fascinating to hear him fumbling around trying to start his business. Because of your post, I just realised that Alex Blumberg and Ira Glass are two different people. I guess they just merged in my mind somehow.
You might enjoy some episodes of Love+Radio. I wouldn’t say it’s very bingeable, but the episode descriptions always intrigue me. Example: I just downloaded one called ‘The Superchat‘. The notes say, ‘A couple months ago, a friend handed Julia a scrap of paper with a phone number on it. One night, bored and maybe a little tipsy, she called it up. This is who she met.’
If that doesn’t make you want to go and listen…
(It’s wild. I went from bored to laughing to tuning out to spluttering my tea all over our new rug. I laughed out loud about 7 times. The end is… unexpected.)
Other episodes: ‘Aftermath‘ – you might learn something about storytelling from the construction of the first few minutes, though once I knew the ‘secret’ I got progressively less interested. And it’s dark.
Then ‘Jack and Ellen‘ was amazing – mind-blowing just to speculate how they got Ellen to talk about what she did. Quite overproduced though – the audio effects started to grate.
But the first Love and Radio show I listened to is still my fave so far – it’s called Dirty Balloons. It’s about a woman who made money doing ‘balloon porn’ – you’ll have to listen if you want to know what that is! The best bit is that the guy who hired her has a mortal fear of …. balloons … so he can’t stand watching it, filming it, etc. And that’s the career he chose. People.
I was going to skip blog-writing today because I was too tired (again) after a long day at work – no I do not spend my days reading Twitter, SIGH – but then I listened to this Invisibilia episode and liked it so much I wanted you to listen to it too immediately.
It’s the latest This American Life spinoff, and it looks at the invisible forces that shape human behavior, like beliefs and assumptions and emotions.
How to Become Batman is the third episode. I’d listened to the first two ones and wasn’t completely sold. The first episode, The Secret History of Thoughts, had an interesting case study in it: a guy who became completely paralysed as a child and was imprisoned in his head for several years before people around him realised he was completely conscious. He later learned to use a computer to communicate but for several years he was stuck in his head alone watching the world around him without any ability to tell people he was there. So he trained himself to control his negative thoughts – ‘you’re worthless’, ‘you’ll never be able to do anything’, ‘no one cares about you’ – and gradually found a way to move his hand slightly and signal people around him he was conscious. If this guy could take control of his negative thoughts, I should be able to do it too… But the show is an hour long and I didn’t find all of its parts equally insightful. Some parts were a bit boring, repetitive and the dynamic between the two co-hosts irritating at times.
The second episode was about fear and again had this amazing case study of a woman who does not feel fear at all. Ever. You’ll have to listen to the show to find out more about it I guess, but again, the rest of the show did not entertain me as much. There was a long segment about snakes and the way they move and why it’s scary. I’m not that scared of snakes so maybe it didn’t appeal to me as much. But it could be useful for you as I seem to remember you are terrified of snakes, no?
Anyway, this leads me to the third episode which I enjoyed completely and thoroughly. There were still little bits of the show that did not work for me, like when the hosts screamed ‘you might not need eyes to see’ from a rooftop several times, but the content was so good I didn’t mind that much. The episode looks at how our expectations and pre-conceptions shape what we and other people can do. They follow this amazing guy who’s blind but learned to locate himself by clicking his tongue against his palate. He can even ride a bike! Again, it’s a case of how an extreme example can inspire normal people like us to question our thoughts, beliefs and emotions.
So, are you going to listen to it?
PS, thanks for the Love+Radio recommendation. I will definitely give it a go.
I have to admit listening to Invisibilia was low on my list of priorities in life. Somewhere below ‘get my back waxed’ and a little bit above ‘lose all my possessions in a house fire’. Why? First, its name seems like a rip-off of another podcast (which I plan to tell you about in future) and second, I heard a preview and while it was fascinating, it somehow irritated me. (You mentioned some possible causes in your last mail – I think you nailed it.)
Anyway, I’ve just listened to Invisibilia Episode 1 and totally agree with you – it’s amazing and annoying in equal measure. Example: just as my jaw is hitting the floor at some insight into the human condition, the host says, “Jack says he still has the thoughts.” Then we hear Jack say, “I still have the thoughts.” Gah! What was the thinking behind that? But for every moment that jars, there are three or four that are thought-provoking, astonishing, or moving. Good ratio. I can live with that.
So yes, I’ll listen to the next episode about fear, and yes I do have screamy dreams about snakes. Curious: I don’t think I’ve ever been within 20 metres of a snake in my whole life. It must be some deep race memory. Oh, maybe the Invisibilia people explain it in the podcast?
I might write again later – I have another show for you to try out.
That last line referred to The Thrilling Adventure Hour, which I wrote about next.