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.

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.

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.

What I Am Listening To: Books

podcast iconI guess I am an aural learner because I do listen to a lot of podcasts and listen rather than read books. It is also part of my multi-tasking life – perhaps not always a good thing – as I often listen while doing something else. That’s particularly true on my walks, in the car, and while working in the garden.

There are many podcast apps for your phone, but you can listen to them on a tablet or computer too. Apple Podcasts lost the top spot in 2020 in the United States to Spotify, which has 25 percent of podcast listeners aged 18 or above. I still use Stitcher which I have been using for years.

I have listened to audiobooks for a very long time and listened to them on audiocassettes, then CDs and used Audible for a year. Those cassettes and CDs were borrowed from the library but Audible was a subscription and it got pricey. Then I discovered that my town library participates in Hoopla, Overdrive and Libby which allows me to borrow things for free as I had done physically from my library earlier. I use Hoopla the most and from it, I can borrow books as audiobooks and as print for my screen and also movies and music. It is a great service. Like my library, those free library services allow you to borrow/download items for a period (typically 2 weeks) after which they are returned and disappear from your device.

You can search for all these apps in your app store or online. And once you’re using the app, you can search for podcast programs related to books.

Here are a few on my devices:

By the Book – Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg follow the rules of a self-help book and review their success or failure.

The Book Review – Pamela Paul and the editors at The New York Times Book Review talk about the top books of the time and things literary.

I also listen to a lot of author interviews. You can find them by searching for the author’s name. They often appear on shows that interview a range of people including actors, directors, experts, and authors. I’ll be posting a rather long list of the interview programs I listen to in a future post.

stitcher screen

Walking in the Woods with Alan Arkin

log benches

On one of my woods walks this week, I listened to an episode of the ID10T Podcast hosted by Chris Hardwick interviewing Alan Arkin.  Most people know Arkin as an actor and particularly for comedic roles in work like The Kominsky Method, Argo, Little Miss Sunshine, Slums of Beverly Hills, Glengarry Glen Ross, The In-Laws, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and Catch -22. He has 111 acting credits alone on IMDB.

Hardwick’s excellent long-form interviews frequently take you to places in guests’ lives that you knew nothing about, rather than the usual celebrity talk show fare.

In this podcast, Arkin talks a lot about his meditation practice of 50 years, why he abandoned therapy and Freud, and also his acting life starting out in Second City improvisation.

Arkin also has a new book, Out of My Mind, to add to his shelf of non-fiction and children’s books. Despite its title, it is not about insanity or focused on the actor’s life.

Like many people, and certainly myself, after an existential crisis in his 30s, he began a spiritual journey to find something to believe in.  This led him to the study of Eastern philosophy. This short memoir (which he subtitles “Not Quite a Memoir) talks more in-depth about his spiritual experiences, reincarnation, how meditation helps him, and how that search for meaning often ends in self-discovery.

I think you should read the book and listen to the podcast, but here are a few takeaways that I literally wrote down in my notebook in the woods while I was listening.

  • Comedy, meditation, and life are much the same thing.
  • He’s been practicing meditation for 50 years and he’s not there yet because you can’t get “there.”
  • A Freudian therapist told him the high he felt when he was “in the zone” acting was called “regression in the service of the ego.”
  • Don’t worship what brings you into the zone – meditation, basketball, running, whatever. The goal is to be able to be in that zone all the time.
  • Samādhi is a state of meditative consciousness that is commonly called “the zone.”  In the yogic and Buddhist traditions, it is a meditative absorption or trance, attained by the practice of dhyāna.
  • Talking about acting “practices.” Arkin aligned with the Stanislavsky method which he seems to connect to Buddhism, while he rejected the Actor’s Studio method, which might be more like American Zen.
  • All the laughter and all the applause does not equal love.

I liked Arkin’s story about realizing that when you meet someone and ask who they are you might get an answer such as “I am an actor, or a teacher, or a lawyer or a carpenter.” They are defining themself by what they do. You are not what you do.

He further retells a section from his earlier book where he imagines an alien approaching him.
“Who are you?” asks the alien.
“I’m an actor.”
“What is an actor?” the alien asks.
“You pretend to be another human.”
“But you are a human. Don’t they like you just being yourself?”
“Not so much,” replies Arkin.

Alan Arkin wrote in that earlier memoir, An Improvised Life,  that knew he was going to be an actor from the age of five. “Every film I saw, every play, every piece of music fed an unquenchable need to turn myself into something other than what I was.” But we are all improvising every day. We need to be better at it and have a practice to follow that can help us.

What I Am Listening To: News

stitcherThe top podcasts on my favorites list (using Stitcher) are not my favorite podcasts. They are the shorter news podcasts where I start the day of listening. My news podcasts increase in length as I listen (in order) to ones that delve deeper into stories.

Here are the titles of what I’m listening to these days as “news.”

You can find them in Stitcher, iTunes or whatever you use to subscribe to podcasts.

You can find many of these on the web too, but subscribing is the much better way to listen since they just appear automatically. If you’re new to podcasts, just think of these apps and subscribing as the audio version of a DVR.

NPR News – NPR has lots of podcasts, but I start with this short hourly one that gets you updated in about 4 minutes.

Up First – also NPR but with more details. Their suggested news stories to start the day.

The Writer’s Almanac – You might not think of this one from Garrison Keillor as news, but the items from the past are often oddly relevant to today. Plus starting my day with having a poem read to me is a balm to the harsh news that makes up the standard news broadcasts. Okay, full disclosure: though I was already listening to this for years (including when it was a radio program that I had to catch at just the right time), Garrison did read three of my poems earlier this year. (see bottom of post)

The Slowdown with poet and former Poet Laureate of the U.S. is another slice of poetry on my breakfast plate. She introduces a poem with a brief personal connection to the pom or its content.

If you don’t have 5 minutes for some poetry, then you probably won’t understand why William Carlos Williams wrote that “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.”

The Newsworthy is hosted by a remarkably upbeat Erica Mandy who posts at 4a.m while I’m dreaming about the day to come. In 10 minutes, she gives you the big stories of the day and I really like that on her website, thenewsworthy.com,  she gives you the sources if you want to dig deeper into a story. Even the NY Times or Washington Post doesn’t give you links to sources.

The longest podcast on my news slate is The Daily from The New York Times which is a very popular podcast that goes deep on one story using the resources of the newspaper.

I still live a bit in the tech world, but I don’t have the patience for most tech podcasts that run 30, 60, 90+ minutes.

I have an interest in some aspects of the business world, but it’s not my world, so my choices are ones that are understandable to the outsider.

Tech News Briefing is from the Wall Street Journal and is typically about one current issue of tech. Though it has a business slant, the news applies to all of us.

Marketplace Tech is hosted by Molly Wood and this daily show looks at how tech influences our lives. Tech + business + the digital world.

Numbers by Barrons is about 2 minutes long and focuses on some numbers that relate to what’s happening in economics and finance and “navigate the markets.”

Business Story of the Day – is another NPR podcast short that selects one story from their business coverage.

NPR also has its own podcast app – NPR One where you select from their content and then some algorithm picks additional content you should enjoy.

Make Me Smart with Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood is one of the longer ones on this list but it’s a weekly podcast so it comes out to less than 10 minutes a day.  They have good chemistry and nice engagement with their audience and focus more on a theme than a story. It’s business (each of them does other business podcasts) but not “of the day” – more of “of the times.”

Environment is another NPR short podcast taking one story from the current news that relates to environmental issues.

My final recommendation is not really news, but, like the almanac, it’s a good short daily listen.  Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is like a podcast version of those calendars people used to have on their desk. It gives you the meanings and more importantly the etymology and uses of a word that you may not be familiar with – or have been misusing.

Three of my poems were featured on The Writer’s Almanac earlier this year. A text version of each poem is also posted online. One is a serious poem, “Shame,” and two have the tongue in the cheek, at least partially – “Who Shows Up at My Poetry Reading” and “Somewhat Optimistic Horoscopes.”