Amber Mac is my guest this week on the Cool Tools podcast

My guest this week on the Cool Tools podcast is Amber Mac. Amber is the co-host of the award-winning podcast series, The AI Effect, the author of two bestselling business books. She's also the President of AmberMac Media, and a former host on G4TechTV and TWiT.

See the show notes here.

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"Obscure" podcasts worth checking out

On Facebook, my friend Joseph Pred asked his pals to recommend their favorite "obscure" podcasts, "Feel free to share even if it’s on a niche topic or something weird. I like weird." He got some great responses, so I asked everyone if it was cool to share with you all. Here's some of what they offered up:

Joseph himself recommends: Damn Interesting "...Besides having fascinating stories has fantastic sound design."

Todd E. recommends several: Blank Check with Griffin & David "A podcast about auteur directors who are given a blank check for their movies. Sometimes great art is made and sometimes the check 'bounces.' They tend to do a director's entire filmography, one episode per movie."

WEDWay Radio "A great historical Disneyland podcast. The format has recently changed but the back catalogue of episodes are fantastic."

American Hysteria "A fantastic new podcast about public panics."

The Sweep Spot "another Disney-themed podcast done by two former custodial cast members. They have a slightly unpolished 'aw shucks' vibe that I like and talk in-depth about the behind-the-scenes cast member culture."

CTP (who is a magician) recommends: "Obscure? Two friends of mine do one called Shezam" and the co-hosts "get way better at it as they go."

Co-hosts and professional magicians, Carisa Hendrix and Kayla Drescher attempted to finally answer the question… “What is it like to be a woman in magic?” But since the answer is too long, and too important, they made a podcast! Shezam is not only a podcast, but a full resource for the magic community to empower women to empower themselves.

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A small city mayor explains why safe drug injection sites are so effective

In my experience, people either immediately recognize the name of Harris Wittels, or they don’t at all. And that’s precisely what makes the comedian and former Parks & Rec writer’s death from addiction in 2015 that much more tragic.

4 years later, Wittels’ sister, Stephanie Wittels Wachs, has launched a new podcast series called “The Last Day” that explores the ongoing opioid epidemic in-depth and with astounding empathy. While many people have been affected by this problem, the solutions aren’t so readily apparent. Or, if they are, there are still stigmas around them that make it difficult to enact them on a larger enough scale.

In the 7th episode of the podcast, Wittels Wachs speaks with Svante Myrick, the 32-year-old politician who just won his third term as mayor of Ithaca, New York. Myrick speaks passionately and candidly about his own family’s history with addiction, and also about the potential benefits of safe injection sites—supervised spaces where people can go and freely use the drugs to which they are addicted. The idea is understandably controversial, particularly if you subscribe to the negative stereotypical assumptions about drug users. But, as Myrick explains, these safe injection sites have been shown to reduce deaths as well as crime.

If this sounds contradictory to you, well, then, I would suggest you listen to the podcast episode:

7: 20,000 Fewer Funerals

I’ll be honest: I’m not being completely objective here. My friend Matt overdosed and died in 2016. My wife also runs a professional theatre company in Ithaca, where Svante is mayor—and in 2018, I wrote a play about opioid recovery that was devised in collaboration with people in the Ithaca area who were transitioning out of prison and rehabilitation programs. Read the rest

New podcast: Dolly Parton's America

It's hard to find someone who doesn't love Dolly Parton. Now, a recently-launched podcast goes deep into the beloved country legend's life and times to examine why she appeals to the masses. Dolly Parton's America follows her journey through her early scrappy days surviving on mustard-and-ketchup "soup," to being discovered, to creating Dollywood and that's just in the first three episodes (there will be a total of nine). Good stuff!

It's hosted by Jad Abumrad, creator of Radiolab and More Perfect, who interviews Dolly herself.

Everything's coming up Dolly: This podcast isn't the only thing happening in the Dollyverse. Over on Netflix, a new series called Dolly Parton's Heartstrings begins airing November 22. Plus, she's got a new Christmas ornament. Read the rest

Examining the generational loss of ancient Halloween traditions

Halloween, like many modern American holidays, is a kind of mashup of different cultural traditional traditions rooted in the autumnal harvest, and some kind of celebration or connection with the spirit world. You see it in Mexico with Dia de los Muertos; and in pre-Christian Ireland, it was Oíche Shamhna ("Shamna" being the genitive form of "Samhain," which is pronounced kind of like "SOW-un," and actually just means "November").

An episode of The Irish Passport podcast takes a close look at the roots of those Gaelic traditions, and the kind of generation loss that happened when it was exported to the United States, and then re-imported back to Ireland. The result is kind of fun-house-mirror reflection of itself—modern Irish imitating a mutated American imitation of older Irish traditions. You'll also get to learn a bit about how the faeryfolk in Ireland, the Aos Sídhe, still play an active role in modern real estate development in the Republic (yes really).

Just below the surface of modern Ireland, a parallel world exists with its roots in pre-Christian belief. Irish fairies aren’t like Tinkerbell—they’re more like a supernatural mafia. So be careful what you say, because as the story goes, they’re probably listening. Tim talks to one of Ireland’s last seanchaí or story-teller historians, who once managed to get a highway diverted to prevent the felling of a fairy bush. We also hear about modern traditions from the streets of Galway as the Celtic New Year Samhain festival is underway.

You can download the mp3, or find the episode on iTunes/Stitcher/Google Play/Spotify/etc. Read the rest

The colonialism behind fantasy's vaguely Irish Elves

Motherfoclóir is a delightful podcast about language and linguistics as they relate to Ireland ("foclóir" being the Irish word for "dictionary," and thus completely unrelated to that homophonic English-language word you're surely thinking of, c'mon). While that might seem like a niche topic outside of the Emerald Isle herself, a recent episode tackled something that's surely on everyone's mind: those fantastical pointy-eared aristocrats known only as elves.

Specifically, it's a conversation with Irish writer Orla Ní Dhúill, whose blog about elves, Irishness, and colonialism gained a lot of traction among fantasy fans across the globe.

Growing up as a nerdy Irish-American kid, I always understood there to be something vaguely Gael-ish about elves. Even though I didn't know why. Even though I knew it didn't make sense. Even though I knew that Tolkien himself was not particularly fond of the Irish (the language, at least, if not the people). Was it because they used an cló gaelach, the insular font so often associated with Irish Gaelic? Even in my later adolescence, as I wasted my measly weekend job wages on Warhammer 40K, I couldn't help but notice the inherent Irishness in the names and terms of the mystical Eldar alien race who are basically space elves anyway (spoiler: it turns out the Eldar language is, in fact, mostly just bastardized lines from Irish Gaelic proverbs).

The podcast episode is full of insightful exchanges on language and colonialism between Ní Dhúill and host Peader Kavanagh. You can listen below, or on your preferred podcasting platform. Read the rest

Podcast: Occupy Gotham

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay Occupy Gotham, published in Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman, commemorating the 1000th issue of Batman comics. It's an essay about the serious hard problem of trusting billionaires to solve your problems, given the likelihood that billionaires are the cause of your problems.

A thousand issues have gone by, nearly 80 years have passed, and Batman still hasn't cleaned up Gotham. If the formal definition of insanity it trying the same thing and expecting a different outcome, then Bruce Wayne belongs in a group therapy session in Arkham Asylum. Seriously, get that guy some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy before he gets into some *serious* trouble.

As Upton Sinclair wrote in his limited run of *Batman: Class War*[1], "It's impossible to get a man to understand something when his paycheck depends on his not understanding it."

Gotham is a city riven by inequality. In 1939, that prospect had a very different valence than it has in 2018. Back in 1939, the wealth of the world's elites had been seriously eroded, first by the Great War, then by the Great Crash and the interwar Great Depression, and what was left of those vast fortunes was being incinerated on the bonfire of WWII. Billionaire plutocrats were a curious relic of a nostalgic time before the intrinsic instability of extreme wealth inequality plunged the world into conflict.

MP3

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'Everything is Alive' podcast interviews a bar of soap and other inanimate objects

I've only scratched the surface of former NPR producer Ian Chillag's podcast Everything is Alive but I'm already tickled by it. The premise: serious interviews with inanimate objects.

So far, Louis (a can of cola), Maeve (a lamppost), Dennis (a pillow), Tar (a bar of soap), Ana (an elevator), and Paul (a tooth), have had their time in the limelight. Listen in here.

(Waxy) Read the rest

Seth Godin's Akimbo podcast is definitely worth a listen

I generally don't listen to podcasts. It's not that I don't want to, it's that it's difficult for me because a) I'm not good at multi-tasking (listening and writing do not go hand in hand) and b) I don't have a commute. But I do make exceptions, especially when a podcast has been recommended to me.

The rotten thing, in this case, is that I can't remember who to thank for recommending Seth Godin's podcast to me. I took two trips to SoCal in the past two weeks, one by car and one by train, and got hooked on Akimbo. I listened to as much of it as I could while watching the beautiful state of California fly by me.

It's about how to change culture and it's terrific.

Akimbo is an ancient word, from the bend in the river or the bend in an archer's bow. It's become a symbol for strength, a posture of possibility, the idea that when we stand tall, arms bent, looking right at it, we can make a difference.

Akimbo's a podcast about our culture and about how we can change it. About seeing what's happening and choosing to do something.

The culture is real, but it can be changed. You can bend it.

Now, I think of Seth Godin as a marketing guy, and he is. But this podcast is something more. It goes beyond that. I guess what I'm saying is that I think it would be interesting to non-marketing folks. . Read the rest

Bubble, a new dystopian podcast sitcom!

The Maximum Fun podcast network (home to such shows as Judge John Hodgman (previously), Oh No Ross and Carrie (previously), and Sawbones) has just launched its most ambitious project to date: a science fiction sitcom about life in a domed city in a monster-haunted wasteland called Bubble, and it's hilarious. Read the rest

Podcast: Learn the hilarious stories behind the weird and quirky products of Archie McPhee

Want to know the stories behind finger hands, Handerpants (underpants for hands), and some of the other great novelty products from Seattle-based novelty giant Archie McPhee? I'm going to guess that you do. Let me point you to their new podcast Less Talk, More Monkey on iTunes and Google Play. It's hosted by my buddies-in-pop-culture Shana Danger, David Wahl, and Scott Heff.

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L.A. stories: New podcast looks at the real Los Angeles

Often when people think of Hollywood and Los Angeles, they perceive it to be glitzy and glamorous. The bubble is thick, but what is L.A. life really like?

In KCRW's new podcast Welcome to L.A., host David Weinberg bursts that bubble to examine what's really going on in (native-or-not) Angeleno culture.

He writes:

Since the first boosters marketed Los Angeles as a Paradise by the Sea people have been rolling into town with big dreams. And the city has crushed a lot of those dreams. In this series I explore a few of the many L.A.s that exist between the Pacific and the Mojave. And you’ll meet a lot of fascinating characters along the way.

A judge who throughout her career had been told to just keep her mouth shut. But she refused. And because of that she became a star.

The former voice of Ronald McDonald. He considers himself a sexual healer now. He convinces straight men in the military to have sex with him on camera and then sells those videos online.

A musician who spent his inheritance to put up a giant billboard of his face on Sunset Boulevard which was all part of a long game strategy to completely redesign the city of Los Angeles.

I'm your host David Weinberg and in Welcome to L.A. I take you into the corners of the city that L.A. noir fiction writers know. The seedy motels, the yachts, the broken down RVs and the mansions of the successful.

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Podcast asks: "What would you say to the one who got away?"

I've just learned of a lovely new podcast. It's called "The One Who Got Away" and this is what it's all about:

We all have a lost love, a forgotten romance, a missed connection. If you had the chance, what would you say to the one who got away?

The One Who Got Away is a new podcast by Oliver Blank, featuring you. In 2014, with the help of New York Times best-selling author John Green and PBS Digital's The Art Assignment, Oliver put a phone-number out into the wild that asked callers one simple question: “What would you say to the one who got away?”

Four years later, over three thousand people from all over the world have called the number and left their own messages for the one who got away. This short question taps into something all of us share: we all have someone or something that got away from us. These deeply moving messages reveal the spectrum and commonality of human emotion. The resentment of rejected lovers. Sweet streams of consciousness remembering an old friend. Playful anecdotes capturing a moment lost in time and preserved in memory.

The show is available on all major podcast providers, including iTunes, Google Play Music and Stitcher, listen and subscribe via www.theonewhogotaway.com.

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A new podcast hopes to solve an infamous unsolved death in Norway's Isdalen Valley

In November, 1970, just outside the Norwegian town of Bergen, two kids found the partially burnt remains of a woman's body. Surrounding the woman's remains were a number of objects: some bottles of water, a rubber boot and a burnt newspaper. All of the labels had been removed from the woman's clothing. Why the woman – known in Norway as the Isdal Woman, named for the remote valley that she was found in – died or who she was has been a mystery for close to 50 years.

Norwegian journalist Marit Higraff and BBC documentary maker Neil McCarthy are working to shed light on the Isdal Woman's very, very cold case. Working together, they've produced a new podcast called Death in Ice Valley. The first episode is available to download or stream, right now.

During the course of the podcast, Higraff and McCarthy will talk to those that investigated the crime back in the day, as well as forensic experts and anyone else they feel might propel them towards the answer of who the Isdal Woman was and why she died. But they're not stopping there. Listeners of the podcast are invited to talk to one another and the podcast's producers about the case on social media, in the hope that a breakthrough for the case could be crowdsourced.

I listened to the first episode yesterday. It starts slow, as many BBC radio productions often do. But the questions that the pair of journalists raise surrounding the Isdal Woman's death and what they uncovered, even in the first episode, has compelled me to continue with the series to see how things turn out. Read the rest

Dopey, a podcast on the 'dark comedy of drug addiction'

A few years back I wrote about Dave, one of the hosts of Dopey podcast. It was before Dopey though. Back then, he was working on another project that caught my fancy. It was good but can't tell you about it because he's gone anonymous for this one.

I can tell you about Dopey though, in Dave's words:

The show is about all things addiction related; using, crazy stories, consequences, and of course recovery. The format is basically a hang out between me, and my podcasting partner Chris. Between the two of us we’ve been to a million detoxes, rehabs and jail as well as used every substance under the sun besides angel dust. Our show is the first ever media platform to deal with addiction in a new way, a funny way, a way that doesn’t shame addicts for destroying their lives. Instead, Dopey celebrates the absurd life of an addict, the horrible mistakes, and the crushing defeats. We also champion recovery and sobriety without pandering or ever being overly sanctimonious.

Since they started just two years ago, they've gained a dedicated audience (known as "Dopey Nation") who downloads their show 40K times a month.

Dave writes, "Many of our listeners who have gotten clean have offered some gratitude to Dopey, saying it helped point them in the right direction. Others have said if two idiots like you guys could get clean, then anyone can."

Dr. Drew Pinsky will be a guest on their show this Saturday to talk about the opioid epidemic "raging through our country." Read the rest

A podcast where a straight white man listens to people from different walks of life

Straight White Guy Listening is an experimental five-part mini-documentary and podcast series where host Graham High (the straight white guy) interviews folks who are different from himself.

These earnest and conversational interviews explore contemporary topics with an emphasis on empathy. The host refrains from defensive commentary and, instead, actively listens, creating a space for the guests to explain their point of view without reproach. The show’s goal is to both create a platform for disenfranchised voices and to explore the act of listening.

In the first episode, Graham starts by going to San Francisco to learn about active listening skills from Dr. Kelsey Crowe, an empathy expert and co-author of There is No Good Card For This.

With his new skills, Graham heads to Sacramento to talk with Konnor, transgender man of color:

Full podcasts can be found here: episode 1, episode 2. And, of course, more are coming. Read the rest

TED Chief Chris Anderson on the neuroscience of memes and the future of TED

Before Chris Anderson bought it in 2001, the TED conference was like a hip indie band only the in-crowd knew about. It was cool, small, had incredible buzz, and always sold out its small-ish venue. An unabashedly for-profit jam, TED had never posted a video online (it was too early for that), and happened once a year in Monterrey, California.

What a difference a decade and a half makes. TED videos are now viewed 2.5 billion times per year, and volunteer-organized TEDx events – many of them far larger than the main conference – take place somewhere on our planet ten times a day. And TED no longer funnels earnings to an owner, but pours every dime earned by its cash cow of a main conference into spreading ideas, free of charge, to anyone and everyone on Earth.

Chris has strategized, managed, and overseen TED’s extreme makeover. We discuss it, Chris’s remarkable personal story, how evolution wired humans to transmit ideas via charismatic oratory, and much more in this week’s edition of the After On podcast. You can hear it by searching “After On” in your favorite podcast app, or by clicking right here:

Links to interviews with other thinkers, founders, and scientists can be found here, with topics including Fermi’s Paradox, quantum computing, drones, the dangers of superintelligence, synthetic biology, consciousness & neuroscience, augmented reality, and more.

Though I’ve known Chris for decades and have spent hundreds of hours in conversation with him, I learned quite a bit from this interview. Read the rest

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