My favorite podcasts of 2012, Part 1

I hardly listen to the radio anymore, because I listen to audiobooks and podcasts instead. My car has a cassette player in it so I use one of those cassette adapters to connect my iPhone to the car's stereo system.

I use a $1.99 iOS app called Downcast to subscribe to and listen to my podcasts. (Before that I was using an app called Pocket Casts, but it seems to have a bug in it that prevents me from pausing a podcast and playing it again later. Other people rave about Pocket Casts, however, so don't rule it out if you're in the market for a podcast player).

Here are the podcasts I enjoy the most:

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. Jesse used to have a podcast called The Sound of Young America. Bullseye is similar, in that Jesse interviews musicians, comedians, directors, and other interesting folks in the realm of popular culture. Jesse only interviews people that he admires and knows about, so his questions elicit interesting responses from his guests.

The Ihnatko Almanac. Described as "a weekly discussion that mostly focuses on the Clickable Arts: the movies, music, books, comics, articles, and other bits of entertainment and news that Andy and Dan [Benjamin] have been reaching through a mouse click recently." That's true, but the real joy of this podcast is listening to Andy Ihnatko's lively and insightful near-rants about why some things are good and why other things stink. Cohost Dan Benjamin does a great job winding Andy up and letting him rip!

The Joe Rogan Experience. I don't know much about Joe Rogan. I understand he is a standup comic, a mixed martial arts fighter, and a reality TV show host. None of those things interest me greatly, but Joe's guests are often unusual people and Joe does a great job of getting into their minds. He has interviewed 4-Hour Chef author Tim Ferris, biohacker Dave Asprey, software mogul and fugitive John McAfee, convicted steroid distributor Victor Conte, ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna, and many others. He's up to episode #304. Sometimes the episodes run 3 hours long.

Latest in Paleo I've been following a modified Paleo style regimen for a couple of years. I avoid gluten grains, sugar, and industrial seed oils. I eat vegetables, butter, olive oil, coconut oil, fish, grass fed beef, eggs, and some sweet potatoes. About the same time I started doing Paleo, Angelo Coppola began producing his Latest in Paleo podcast. This well-made show examines current news stories regarding health, diet, and fitness. It's one of my favorite podcasts, and I listen to it as soon as it shows up on my player.

Stay tuned for My Favorite Podcasts of 2012, Part Two! Also, feel free to write about your favorite podcasts in the comments section.


  1. Ditto on Bullseye. I had been a longtime listener to The Sound of Young America, Jessie’s prior show. I’m always impressed by his very thoughtful interview style.  Other good podcasts?  Gweek comes to mind!  (I’m also glad to hear I’m not the only one using a cassette audio input adaptor-ha)

    1. In 1981, at age fourteen, he became a practitioner of Kenpo Karate before transitioning to Taekwondo. He eventually gained a 2nd dan black belt. A four-time state champion in Massachusetts, in 1987 he was the USA Taekwondo U.S. Open Champion. In 1996, he began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Jean Jacques Machado, eventually earning his black belt. In addition, he holds a black belt in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu under Eddie Bravo. He also practiced and competed in kickboxing.

      1. He doesn’t fight now, it’s true – but that’s because he could never pass the required drug tests.

  2. In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg
    The History of Rome (recently wrapped, but oh so worth it)
    We Hate Movies
    The Nerdist
    Comedy Bang Bang (especially anything featuring Paul F. Tompkins)

    1. Seconding History of Rome.  I’m only about 20% through it, but am thoroughly enjoying it.  Along the same lines (though more a summary of the podcasters book) is “Norman Centuries” and “12 Byzantine Rulers”.  

  3. It’s probably too cliche to mention The Nerdist podcast, but I really enjoy it. They have had some really good guests. The Maria Bamford episode was really good. The Tom Hanks one was good as well.

    I also enjoy The JV Club podcast (also a part of the Nerdist network).

    1. Media deconstruction and crack pottery. It’s somewhat an acquired taste but I love it.

  4. I’ve been listing to Risk!, Kevin Allison’s frequently ribald storytelling podcast, quite a bit lately since it joined the Maximum Fun family.  

    I don’t tend to listen to much music but I really enjoy Sound Opinions from WBEZ in Chicago.  They cover both contemporary music and music from the past.

    Live Wire and Wits are both good examples of modern variety shows that are trying to find their way to the NPR/PRI radio audiences but are available as podcasts too.  

  5. I used to listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast, because when he’s lucid, he’s great. But the guy is clearly drug damaged. When he goes onto extended rants that sound like the approachable tough guy at the gym giving folks basic advice—on dieting & how to fight—it gets me sick.

    I also generally like the subjects Jesse Thorn picks & some of the interviews, but when the guy crosses the line & decides he’s a “comedian” and then does a stupefyingly bad skit or joke… I can’t even listen. 

    I like listening to the “Boing Boing” podcast as well as Garrison Keillor’s daily short-bite podcast “The Writer’s Almanac” and the stuff the 2600 Magazine folks put out like “Off the Wall” as well as “Off the Hook.”

    While “Off the Hook” is the classic hacker radio show, “Off the Wall” is another show Emmanuel Goldstein does that is more freeform & less tech obsessed.

    While Garrison Keillor is mainstream, the short bites of creativity on “The Writer’s Almanac” really touch me.  He’ll basically list important dates in the world as far as writers & writing goes & then read a short poem. These have definitely brightened my day & have exposed me to a world of modern poets that I would have never heard of.  This one sticks in my head from recently, titled Desire by George Bilgere:

    The slim, suntanned legs
    of the woman in front of me in the checkout line
    fill me with yearning
    to provide her with health insurance
    and a sporty little car with personalized plates.

    Read the rest of it here.

    1. How can Rogan be drug damaged? Weed is a medicine, not a drug. I have listened to him for the past 200 episodes or so and he never comes across, to my ears anyway, as anything even remotely “drug damaged”

      It’s 2013….keep up! :-)

      1. In a sociology of religion class, prof told us that “cult” is more of an insult than a useful classification. He said classifying groups into “new religious movement” (the preferred neutral term) versus “cult” (the negative terms) was akin to distinguishing flowers from weeds. ;) Each gardener lists the ones he likes as “flowers” and the ones he doesn’t like as “weeds”. No value really added with those classifications, except that it expresses the gardener’s opinion. 

        Medicine vs drug would be almost as silly, except medicines can obviously be drugs and vice versa. The word “drug” doesn’t necessarily mean an abused substance or harmful substance. You might as well have written, “Weed is [good and acceptable in my opinion], not [bad].”

        1. Cult is a perfectly useful word to describe a system of beliefs and practices.  It’s only insulting because it’s been used by members of the dominant religion to deride less powerful ones.  Like how Christianity has ‘beliefs’ and Hinduism has ‘mythology’. Fuck them and the cross they rode in on.

          1. I’m not usually a fan of euphemisms either, but sometimes people shut down conversation until you start using their preferred euphemism. Sociologists probably had a hard time interviewing or gathering data from cultists until they agreed to use gentler terms like “new religious movement.” I’m not a sociologist or a fan of religion, until somebody develops that empathy-machine-based religion from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

            I hope this doesn’t undercut my comparison or comments about “medicine vs drug.” There’s negative connotation to “drug”, but the raw word doesn’t exclusively mean an abused substance like Noctilucent Studios implied.

      2. How can Rogan be drug damaged? Weed is a medicine, not a drug.

        ??? You made two broad assumptions there. I never criticized his marijuana use. And yes, “weed” (aka: marijuana) is a drug. So is aspirin, caffeine & other simple daily items.

        My “drug addled” comment comes from the fact he comes off to me like every other person I have ever met who did steroids & stimulants as part of their “exercise” regimen. The first person I met who behaved that way was a neighborhood kid I knew in high school when I was about 15.  I know the type.  Rogan fits the persona.

        But like I said, when he’s lucid—aka: not OCD rambling—he’s  good. It’s the rest of the time, I can’t listen.  So I stopped listening.

  6. The Human Bible and The Bible Geek are two podcasts by Dr. Robert M. Price, a New Testament scholar and Lovecraft scholar. Skeptical but not anti-theist.

    Too Much Information with Benjamin Walker has great interviews, sometimes lapses into fiction or gonzo journalism in a way that is somehow forgivable.

    On the Media is like a funny Journalism 101 class, constantly pointing out working journalists who could use a refresher. Not afraid to ask serious questions that will make their subjects squirm or push back. (Worst theme music ever, but worth listening to in spite of that.)

    BackStory with the American History Guys.

    Skeptiles. Cold-blooded, scaly, barbed, funny.

  7. Any recommendations for a good / the best way to get podcasts for Android? I had an iPhone and have used to subscribing via iTunes… what’s the best app on the other side?

    1. Google Listen is a decent podcatcher if you never try to use the search function. It does a great job of automatically downloading new podcasts (over the air or via wifi depending on how you have it configured) without having to be synced.  It uses Google Reader to store the RSS feeds so you can also add podcasts and listen from your other computers too.  Unfortunately it isn’t being maintained/upgraded any more but it still works great for me.  

  8. Idle Thumbs is the best video games podcast I’ve ever listened to.  Surprisingly interesting, though it does border on pretentious at times.

  9. Where are all the podcasting women?  So far all of the podcasts mentioned in Mark’s post and these comments are hosted or created by men.  Also, most of the interview formatted podcasts are usually interviewing men.

    We need to have and hear women’s voices.

    I used to listen to the Nerdist podcast but had to stop because of the rampant sexism.  The odd time that they do have a lady comic on the show, Chris – the host – usually tells a story about how they almost dated but didn’t and always asks the female guests ‘would you date a comic?’ or ‘who do you usually date?’.  The (mostly) male guests never get asked about their dating preferences and can always talk about their creative work.

    Lets get more women podcasting!

  10. One of our fans told us about Bullseye with Jesse Thorn and they were right, I am now hooked. Glad his podast was shared with us.

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