Podcasts: a sampler of favorite episodes, collected in September 2015
Fresh Air, "Photojournalist Lynsey Addario": In some ways, Lynsey Addario and Terry Gross have my two dream jobs, so I might be biased on this one. However, this interview captures the genius of Gross' program in extraordinary fashion. They discuss war, writing, photography, kidnapping, family, and other equally compelling topics. What I love so much about this episode is the fact that neither woman focuses much on the fact that Addario works as a woman in a war zone. For the two journalists, nothing could be more natural which is, in my opinion, feminism at its best. Additionally, I have added to my bucket list "make a short film on Addario's life."
Invisibilia, "Fearless": First of all, Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel are some of the most creative people making media today (and, now my esteemed friend Mickey works on Invisibilia so I'm sure Season 2 will be even better). This is my favorite Invisibilia episode purely because I have always found fear really fascinating. I particularly like the segment where they discuss the evolution of the way Americans consider children and safety, and how disconnected that attitude is from real crime rates. Also they talk about fear of snakes, which is a matter very close to my heart.
Love + Radio, "The Living Room": This episode is riveting for voyeurs, exhibitionists, and the average Joe who finds people interesting. I will give no other summary because none is needed. This is truly one of my favorite episodes of any podcast, primarily because it is so visual, enabling you to watch what is happening, as if by a screen. It captures the unique way that podcasts, despite their form, can be some of the most powerful visual scene-makers. Also, it is simultaneously plotless and full of deeply complex plot which, in my opinion, is the paradox that Love + Radio does best.
The Moth, "Fathers": The Moth is live, unscripted story-telling for an audience. Its podcast episodes are generally random collections of stories (see below), but for Father's Day 2015 they were put together around the theme of fatherhood. They run the gamut from the simple to the life-and-death, but the last one in particular knocked the wind out of me.
The Moth, "Oreos, Heaven, and America's Most Wanted": This more quintessential Moth episode has some of my favorite story-tellers I have heard to-date. If you're interested in raising children, comedy, addiction, cookies, death, grandmothers, America's Most Wanted, or renters, this is a good choice.
Oh Boy!, "Leandra Medine": First of all, this is the most charming, humble, and generally lovely debut episode of a podcast that I know of. Oh Boy! is a new Man Repeller production, and has the same intelligence and lack of pretension as the original site. The premise is simple: interviews with creative, intelligent women on their work and their lives. Strangely, it's easy to forget how nice it is to just listen to interesting people talk. In case you haven't heard of her, Medine founded Man Repeller, and should probably be everyone's role model/dream girl.
Radiolab, "Tell-Tale Heart": I often have a hard time with Radiolab because it tends to deal with the scientific or systematic story rather than the human, which is what appeals to me more. But this episode gets at the heart (pun intended) of why we should care about science, why we should care about what's happening under our skin. Also, Oliver Sacks had the rare gift of complete ingenuity disguised in the body of a normal, very friendly person; his life's-end reflection manages to be uplifting and heart-breaking (pun, once again, intended) all at the same time.
Serial, "The Alibi": If for some reason you've been living under a rock and haven't listened to Serial yet, you should drop everything and do that now. In fact, I have spent so long beating people over the head for stubbornly refusing to listen that even including the show in this list feels positively trite. I had this wonderful routine a year ago; I was living in Europe, and Serial episodes would come out Thursdays at around midday (to coincide with about 7am EST). I would wake up, take the metro to class, surreptitiously connect to the school's unreliable WiFi under the table, pray that the episode would download in its entirety while I was in lecture, listen to Sarah Koenig on my ride home, and finish the episode while nibbling on my end-of-school-day snack. Strangely, the whole season still feels very sweet and nostalgic to me, despite its less-than-sweet subject matter. It is one of those very rare obsessions that deserves its hype.
This American Life, "Fiasco!": This 1997 episode is the one instance that I can remember of a podcast making me laugh so hard that I had to sit down on a curb in public and bury my head in my hands to regain my composure. It's very possible some of my college peers thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I have since played it for many friends expressing general skepticism about podcasts as a viable form of entertainment. When I told my podcast-averse younger sister that I was putting together this collection, she said, "but wait, you're including that fiasco one you played for me, right!?" The first story is my favorite, although the third is nearly as good.
This American Life, "The Psychopath Test": People throw around the word "psychopath" often. However, until listening to this episode, I hadn't realized that very few of us really know what it means. This examines the test that can be used to determine if someone is a true psychopath, and features a rare glimpse into the TAL staff dynamic. They go into a prison and into a corporation to check out potential psychopaths and it's just fascinating, trust me. Also, listen to this before, during, or after listening to Serial (above).
WTF with Marc Maron, "Louis C.K.": This might be one of the most famous podcast episodes of all time, with good reason. Quick backstory: Marc and Louis were very close friends for most of their lives, and several years ago had a bit of a falling out. This episode is their first time having a conversation since whatever happened happened (neither of them seem to be entirely sure what that was...). It's a long conversation that is, at its core, about friendship and the many contortions thereof. Also, it's very funny. Not to shamelessly sneak another episode in here, but Maron's interview with President Obama is almost as good: very little political plugging and very much charming conversation.