Aural Pleasure: Podcasts

My holiday weekend has drawn to a close, and I am back in the blog-mines blasting for the highest quality blog-ore to process for your reading pleasure.  It was Thanksgiving here in Canada, and so I took the time to hang out with friends and reflect on things I am thankful for: friends, family and the varied world of geekdom.

I also spent a great deal of my four-day weekend catching up on a backlog of podcasts.  While the number of podcasts I follow certainly don’t number anywhere near the number of blogs or webcomics I have in queue, I still have quite a few that I enjoy; leave them for a while and they start to pile up.  So I listened to much web-talk goodness and managed to whittle my unheard podcast stack down into low double digits.

Hours and hours of uninterrupted podcast listening is a treat I don’t often get these days.  Back in the Old Days(TM), before this magical series of tubes connecting everyone through their computers, I listened to radio a lot.  Some of my favourite memories growing up are just the time I spent in my room, the radio on in the background as I plotted and planned my next D&D (or Gamma World or Star Frontiers or…) game.  Living in Fort McMurray there were only two reliable radio stations: the CBC, and the local FM station, which played pretty much everything because it was the only station in town.  That local radio station was directly responsible for my varied musical tastes; when the soundtrack of my day could include a Hank Williams Sr. tune followed by Def Leppard followed by The Carpenters, one learns to be accepting and patient.

But the CBC was responsible for my love of spoken word shows (and classical music, probably the one thing the FM station didn’t play).  The music was just a pleasant addition to my game planning, but it was the documentaries, docu-dramas and interviews that made me stop and really listen.  And to be honest, given how much I was smitten with the imaginary worlds I was futzing around in, provided a necessary reminder that a) a real world waited outside my bedroom door, and b) that world was just as interesting, most days, as Greyhawk or post-apocalyptic earth.

Flash forward to today, and I listen to podcasts for very similar reasons.  It can be very easy to allow oneself to develop a very narrow focus, to wallow in one’s own opinions and ideas.  For me, podcasts are a way to broaden that focus and not only hear about things I may not have otherwise, but also to remind myself that I am connected to a larger community of geeks.

Because yes, as you would expect the majority of my listening is geek and gaming podcasts.  There are exceptions; I have listened to The Unknown Studio, a podcast recorded by my friends Scott and Adam right here in Edmonton, since the first episode.  And while they are both geeks the podcast itself is not geek-themed.  Instead, it focuses on topics and goings-on in my home-city of Edmonton, and does it in a smart and entertaining manner.

But the majority of my aural pleasure comes from nerdy podcasts, I won’t lie.  For your edification, here are some of my favourites:

The Nerdist – I’m sure most of you will be most familiar with this one. And if you are one of the Under-Rock dwellers that has never heard of The Nerdist, I suggest you crawl out and get familiar.  Chris Hardwick (arguably the busiest nerd in media), along with his cohorts Matt and Jonah, bring a great mix of interviews, live-shows (either his stage shows or panels from cons) and just them talking for an hour.  I’m actually torn between which episodes I enjoy more, but the banter episodes make me feel like I’m listening to a conversation with friends so they probably squeak out ahead.  And if you want a broad exposure to nerd culture, this is probably the best podcast out there.

Fear the Boot – Fear the Boot has the distinction of being the podcast I have listened to the longest.  And though the name wouldn’t give it away, it is a really fine tabletop gaming podcast.  Hosted variably by Dan, John, Pat and Wayne, this is another podcast with the format I love: guys just sitting around talking about gaming.  Imagine sitting around with your buddies and shooting the shit about gaming, that is this podcast.  The topics covered are interesting to both players and GMs, and they also feature great interviews with game industry insiders.  The thing I love most about Fear the Boot (and what I look for in other podcasts) is these guys really love what they talk about.  They are up to episode 246 (not including special episodes), and every show still contains a contagious level of enthusiasm.  If you game, this is your show; clap it to your breast with hoops of steel!

Crazy Sexy Geeks – Lest you begin to think I’ll only listen to the fellas, may I present Crazy Sexy Geeks.  I listened to one episode because of a recommendation on Twitter, and then spent a goodly chunk of that day catching up on the back-eps.  Smart and friendly, CSG features Jill Pantozzi and Alan Kistler catching us up on the latest news in nerd culture.  With episodes coming in between 30-40 minutes, CSG is one of the few podcasts that I would like to see run a little longer; for the geek dating advice I would love another 20 minutes alone.  I love the podcast so much, I am willing to ignore the sometimes tinny sound quality. (To understand how big a concession that is, you need to know that I used to be theatre sound tech; bad sound quality is like ground glass in my brain)  Worth every second, definitely a must-listen!

Ed and Red’s As-Yet-Unnamed Podcast– Another of my podcasts that is not specifically geek-themed, though you will be hard-pressed to keep Liana (the aforementioned Red) from talking nerdy for long.  Similar to The Unknown Studio, Ed and Red’s focuses attention on topics of interest to Torontonians, also covers general social issues that catch their eye, as well as the occasional bit of nerdery.  They are only up to episode six, and part of the…er, charm of these early episodes is listening to the format growing pains of Ed the Sock.  But these two are always entertaining together, and if you are a fan of smart, funny conversation you will enjoy what you hear.  If you aren’t a fan of that…what are you doing here?

Scotch & Comics – Maybe it’s premature to put this on my favourites list, since the first episode only dropped yesterday.  But I enjoy talking with my buddy Devon and we don’t get to do it as often as I’d like, so his podcast is going to keep the Devon-monkey off my back.  But besides my personal issues, you should listen to Scotch & Comics because it is genuine and entertaining, and Devon is really smart about comics.  More than that, he can communicate that smart in a way that makes his comic reading (and yes, scotch drinking) interesting and accessible.  If you love comics and/or scotch, do yourself a favour and get in on the ground floor of this podcast.

That’s all from me.  So what podcasts do you listen to?  Got anything to recommend to me and my tens of readers?  The comments are just a few keystrokes away…

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