Podcasting

podcast mic
I read that there are currently over two million podcasts and over 48 million podcast episodes out in the world. Those numbers are incredible on their own, but when you realize that just 4 years ago, there were “only” a little more than half a million podcasts, the growth is astonishing. Those numbers might make you think that the podcast market is saturated, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I started doing a podcast last year and added another little fish to that big podcast pond. It is a podcast of some of the small poems I post on another site, Writing the Day. I thought there might be some interest by those readers to hear me read the poems and talk sometimes about what inspired them.

Not only are the poems small, but so are the podcasts. Some are under a minute. A few are a few minutes in length when there is some explanation I want to include. You might think that short episodes would have some appeal in these busy time but I don’t think so. I would think the same about short stories, but novels (end especially long ones) are definitely more popular. All those multi-hour true crime podcasts seem to be at the top of lists.

I fell behind on the podcasting. I started with the newest poems but I plan this year to go back and record some of the older ones that continue to get readers. There are about 800 poems there so I’ve got more than enough content. If only I had more than enough time.

Currently, they are available on Spotify (which has been the most popular option), but you can also find them on Google PodcastsPocket Casts, and RadioPublic.

You can find the poems and the story of how that project got started at WRITING THE DAY. It would be great if you stopped by and read a few poems and really great if you went to one of those podcast places and gave a listen.

Caffeine and Consciousness

coffee tea

Like a number of things, coffee, or rather caffeine, seems to be good for you and then bad for you depending on what year we are in.

Currently, caffeine “contributes much more to your health than it takes away.” Says who? Says food, drink and psychedelics writer Michael Pollan.  Caffeine has been shown to improve focus and memory, and even your ability to learn. Did you pull some caffeine-fueled late-night study sessions in college? Did it work?

Caffeine doesn’t help most people sleep. I avoid it after 3 pm but my wife can have an espresso before bedtime and sleep the same.

I don’t know if I’m so much a caffeine fan as I am a coffee and tea fan. I even like herbal teas (no caffeine and technically not tea but tisanes) and decaf drinks. But considering that caffeine keeps me awake at night, I suppose that my morning coffee must do the opposite. I do know that when I tried going decaffeinated I experienced severe headaches for a week. Withdrawal from cold turkey.

I have read a half dozen books by Pollan and written about him before. He is a good, serious and interesting writer. Pollan wrote Caffeine: How coffee and tea created the modern world as an audiobook. It’s not that the Enlightenment occurred because of coffee but “Isaac Newton was a big coffee fan… and Voltaire apparently had 72 cups a day,” writes Pollan.

Ah, the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, and the Industrial Revolution. Big things that owe something to the coffee house. These places appeared London around 1650.

Coffee houses quickly found their clientele which gathered around interests, like literature, and professions, like writers, poets, philosophers and scientists. There was even one dedicated to selling stocks. Eventually, that one became the London Stock Exchange.

Sober and civil drinking – pub – changed the way people thought and worked. Well, alcohol was safer than most drinking water. But boiling water had benefits then too.

Pollan has also written This Is Your Mind on Plants which is a broader look at how we rely on plants. They give us sustenance, beauty, medicine, fragrance, flavor, fiber. But the book’s focus is on how they change our consciousness. Plants can stimulate or calm. They can temporarily tweak our consciousness or completely alter it.

We don’t think of caffeine as a drug. We don’t consider daily users as addicts. Well, it is legal, socially acceptable and readily available. Pollan wants people to rethink that. Drug or medicine? You can make a drink from the leaves of a tea plant and that’s fine. Make a drink from the seed head of an opium poppy and you break a federal law. In This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan goes deep into three plant drugs – opium, caffeine, and mescaline.

It probably seems odd to you to group caffeine in with opium and mescaline. It seemed odd to me considering those first London coffee houses were almost the opposite of the pubs and opium smokers. And those philosophers like Kant, Voltaire and Kierkegaard weren’t just having a cup with breakfast. They were mainlining their caffeine and it seemed to work.

I’m writing this at 6 pm. No caffeine since 1 pm. I wonder what I would have written after several 16 once dark roasts at 11 am.

Listen to Michael Pollan talk about how he gave up caffeine entirely for three months while working on his audiobook, Caffeine, and he says “I recommend it. I had some great sleeps.” But he also had an unexpected loss of confidence and lack of focus as he went through withdrawal.

What I Am Listening To: Interviews

I started posting some lists on an earlier version of this blog That was called Evenings in Paradelle) about programs that I enjoy listening to on the radio, online, back then on my mp3 player or phone. “Podcast” was not the common term then. (The term appears in 2004.)

On this blog, I have done podcast lists. I think there may be more podcasts that I classify as interviews than any other category.  I have done other posts about What I Am Listening podcast lists on music, film and TV, poetry, books, and news. Some of those earlier shows are interviews around a topic, such as movies, but today’s list is shows that have a range of guests interviewed.

  • WTF with Marc Maron – is one of the best-known interview podcasts. Marc is very good at interviewing and has a variety of guests (including President Barack Obama). I will confess that I sometimes fast-forward through his intros when he’s updating standup gigs he has upcoming and listen for his guitar riff intro to the actual interview. But it’s all good and get gets unusual guest and gets to unusual places with them. He started this show in his garage and even now in a new place it has a garage band feel to it.
  • Here’s the Thing – Hosted by Alec Baldwin, these interviews go wide with authors, actors, musicians, journalists, and anyone that interests him. He is a very good interviewer.
  • Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend – Conan interviews a variety of celebrities assisted by Sona Movsesian, and producer, Matt Gourley.
  • The Treatment – began as film interviews but also guests from other fields like art, entertainment and pop culture. It is hosted by Elvis Mitchell.
  • In Our Time – comes from the BBC and host Melvyn Bragg gathers a few experts (often academics) to discuss a wide range of topics in the history of ideas.  It goes from Shakespeare’s Sonnets, to Longitude, the Late Devonian extinction, or the Rosetta Stone. Sound lofty but it is quite accessible.
  • ID1OT – The name looks like “idiot” but it’s not. Host Chris Hardwick started this show under the title Nerdist. He does long-form interviews with all kinds of folks, though entertainment is the broad label for the guests. Examples: Matt Damon, Billy Crystal, John Cleese, Molly Tuttle, Dr. Jane Goodall and Linda and Drew Scott.
  • Armchair Expert – This weekly podcast is hosted by actors Dax Shepard and Monica Padman and they interview celebrities, journalists, and academics. Even if the guest is known for one thing – like acting – the interview almost always goes in unlikely places. Dax started in 2018 with his wife, actress Kristen Bell, as the first guest.
  • Clear and Vivid – Hosted by actor Alan Alda but more in the area that comes from his 14 years as host of Scientific American Frontiers. Alda is also a visiting professor at Stony Brook University in NY and the founder of the University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. The show focuses on how to communicate in many fields from science to acting.
  • The Movies That Made Me – is a movies podcast but the interviews led by film encyclopedias Josh Olson and Joe Dante are ith a variety of filmmakers and entertainers but often go beyond movies.
  • The similarly titled podcast Movies That Changed My Life is hosted by IMDN guy Ian de Borja also interviews folks in the biz but about other people’s films that had an impact on their life and work.
  • Bad to the Dad – interviews dads about being dads from all their different life experiences. Coach Randy and Adam Shandler are the hosts.
  • Literally! with Rob Lowe – Rob surprised me as a really good interviewer who gets some unusual answers from guests in sports, music, culture, TV and movies, like John Fogerty, Jimmy Kimmel, Mark Cuban, Charles Barkley and Demi Moore.
  • The Three Questions with Andy Richter is supposedly based on three questions he has for guests but it goes far from those three (sometimes Andy almost forgets to ask them!)
  • Sunday Sitdown with Willie Geist is an audio version of interviews he does with a very wide variety of guests on TV’s Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist.
  • Radiolab has been around in some form and with several hosts since 2002. It is dee-dive journalism. The topics are so wide-ranging that I can’t think of a label for them.
  • I started listening to Open Source with Christopher Lydon for his conversations on arts and ideas. Like most of these shows, I pick and choose episodes that interest me and download them for later. It is now impossible to keep up with all the episodes of almost any podcast.
  • The Carson Podcast – is definitely around a topic – The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson – and host Mark Malkoff knows a lot about Johnny and learns more by interviewing people who worked on the show and appeared on the show.
  • Next Question with Katie Couric – is hosted by this very likeable, seasoned interviewer and the guests are not just celebrities. So you’ll hear Dr. Fauci, Hillary Clinton and a variety of journalists and authors, along with entertainers.
  • In Bed with Nick and Megan – as in married couple Offerman and Mullally. They supposedly conduct their interviews from bed, though it may be figurative bed intimacy. The show seems to have ended or paused in September 2020, but like almost all the shows listed here there are deep archives to sift through and download.

The Moon Hoax of 1835

Yesterday, I wrote about how our Moon is wobbling and it is affecting coastal flooding. It might have sounded like a hoax, but it is true. However, there was a big Moon hoax that started on August 25, 1835. The Sun newspaper in New York City printed a series of articles describing scientific findings about the Moon. They said the information came from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The information was recounted by Dr. Andrew Grant, a colleague of the famous astronomer Sir John Herschel.

The articles described the flora and fauna of the moon, the beings that lived there and the temples where they lived. Those lunar folks were said to “average four feet in height, were covered, except on the face, with short and glossy copper-colored hair, and had wings composed of a thin membrane, without hair, lying snugly on their backs.”  All of this information was seen by an observatory at the Cape of Good Hope.

Of course, it was all a lie. No Dr. Grant, no observatory, no beings. But people believed this. Surprising? Well, people believed Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast about a hundred years later and thought aliens had landed in New Jersey. You don’t expect to read satire or find hoaxes in a newspaper or hear them on radio. People today sometimes see a tweet or link to a story from the satiric The Onion and react or pass it on as true.

Copies of the The Sun sold out and the series was getting reprinted all over the country and the world. The man behind all this was Richard Adams Locke, an editor at The Sun.  He claimed for a while that he hadn’t intended for anyone to believe the tales and that when he wanted to go public with the hoax  but the owner of the paper wouldn’t do it and it was many years before this ridiculous fake news was fully debunked. I suspect people had sopped believing it long before that, but who knows for sure.Edgar Allen Poe claimed the idea was plagiarized from a satire he’d written just a few weeks earlier about a man who made his way to the moon by hot air balloon.


You can listen to a two-part podcast about the Moon hoax here

Part 2

What I Am Listening To: Film and TV

I have posted a few times about What I Am Listening To and the posts are not about music. They are podcast lists. At this point, I have so many podcasts in my app that I have started to do separate posts occasionally about podcasts around a genre or topic.

Here are the movie podcasts I am currently listening to and would recommend if you are a film fan. Since streaming has made the line between films and TV in more of a soft focus, buth appear in these programs. You should be able to find them on any podcast app (I use Stitcher) and some are available on websites if you’re not a mobile listener.

I don’t listen to every episode of most podcasts and I pick and choose people or films that I most interest me.

  1. THE BUSINESS – weekly about the business of show business; news and interviews, hosted by Kim Masters from The Hollywood Reporter.
  2. THE TREATMENT – the very well informed Elvis Mitchell does in-depth interviews with film and TV folks and sometimes with art and pop culture figures.
  3. MALTIN ON MOVIES   “Maltin” is film critic Leonard Maltin, well-known critic, accompanied by his daughter Jessie talking movies with very well known and not so well known people passionate about movies.
  4. UNSPOOLED – this series started with looking at each of the American Film Institute’s 100 Best American films. Hosted by critic Amy Nicholson and actor Paul Scheer, they have moved through those 100 and continue with a variety of others, including ones they would have put on the list given the chance.
  5. YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS – a storytelling series about the first hundred years of the movies created and hosted by Karina Longworth. Each “season” takes on a theme about some aspect of Hollywood history and is carefully researched with voice actors often taking on the roles of some of the story’s characters.
  6. FLASHBACK FLICKS: RETRO MOVIE PODCAST – Ricky and Grayson dig deep and goofily into movie they grew up with, like The Shining, Harry and the Hendersons, King of Comedy, Back to the Future and Ghostbusters.
  7. SLATE’S SPOILER SPECIALS  – the hosts (regularly Dana Stevens) spoil movies – or at least review them with no qualms about giving away spoilers. They cover movies with an occasional TV show or series.
  8. THE MOVIES THAT MADE ME – filmmakers and entertainers talk about movies that inspired them with hosts Josh Olson and director Joe Dante who (like many hosts of these podcasts) know a lot more about movies than most of us ever will know.  You can get the podcasts on their interesting website Trailers from Hell that looks at some B (and a few A) movie trailers. I put two of those on this post.
  9. MOVIE THERAPY – I followed Kristen Meinzer and Rafer Guzman ever since their first movie podcast, MOVIE DATE. In this latest incarnation, they take on problems from listeners and give movie/TV recommendations for what ails folks. Fun and funny and good recommendations.

You can also find many actors and directors talking films on general interview podcasts which I will describe in another post.

What I Am Listening To: Poetry

podcast iconIn this “What I Am Listening To,” I focus on poetry podcasts. I listen to all of these on the Stitcher app but I suspect that they are also available on other apps.

The Writer’s Almanac – I have been starting my day with The Writer’s Almanac daily podcast of poetry and historical interest pieces, usually of literary significance. Each day’s offering is five minutes long and contains “on this day in history” information as well as host Garrison Keillor reading an accessible poem. Disclaimer: Several of my poems have been featured on the show.

Poetry Unbound  – An immersive reading of a single poem, guided by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Unhurried, contemplative, and energizing. New episodes on Monday and Friday, about 15 minutes each. Anchor your life with poetry.

The New Yorker: Poetry – Readings and conversation with The New Yorker’s poetry editor, Kevin Young. Guest poets select a favorite poem from the magazine by another poet and one of their own.

Poetry Spoken Here – An almost weekly poetry podcast that features interviews with poets, reviews of poetry books, examinations of individual poems, and investigations of themes in poetry.

Poetry from Studio 47 – a weekly radio broadcast that airs on NPR affiliate, South Dakota Public Broadcasting. The show highlights poetry from the Midwest, the Great Plains, and beyond. Each episode is roughly five minutes long.

Bookworm – This is an intellectual, accessible, and provocative collection of literary conversations. The host, Michael Silverblatt, is superb. He’s the reader any author would love to have. The show mostly features novelists but the huge archive contains poets too.

The Slowdown – This podcast seems to have ended but the archive is full shows with poet Tracy K. Smith delivering a different way to see the world with a close, personal reading of a poem.

Writing the Day – Personal plug. I have been writing poems on my website Writing the Day since 2014. I started recently adding a podcast version of poems – my reading and sometimes some explication. These are short (under two minutes) episodes. Currently available online on Anchor and with or without an app on Spotify. and on Google PodcastsPocket Casts, and RadioPublic.