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Follow Friday: For your listening pleasure

My job requires me to drive quite a bit on a daily basis. My time in the car on a given day can range from 60 minutes to almost three hours. I don't mind the driving but I definitely need something to occupy my time. I've tried books on tape (or CD) and I find them distracting. I really just need to READ if I'm going to enjoy a book. I do, however, love listening to podcasts. If you haven't jumped on the podcast bandwagon, this week's Follow Friday is for you! 

First of all, if you've never heard of podcasts, they're basically radio shows archived and available for download on iTunes or on various websites. Many podcasts are archived editions of radio shows heard elsewhere. Some have never hit the radio waves but are produced by everyone from celebrities to your average Joe or Jane with a microphone and some basic sound editing equipment. The best thing about subscribing to a podcast in iTunes is that new episodes will download automatically to your computer so each time you plug in your iPod, you have a whole new set of stories to listen to.

Here are a few of my favorites:
1. This American Life: This weekly radio show that comes from Public Radio International is hosted by adorable uber-geek Ira Glass. If you've never heard this show, I encourage you to check out their website and find an archived episode that appeals to a topic of interest as soon as possible. The basic concept of the show is that each week, they pick a topic and present a variety of stories around that topic. These stories range from in-depth journalism to first-person narratives to comedic anecdotes or creative interpretations. They've discussed issues as serious as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and as (seemingly) inane as The Prom. It's, by far, my favorite media/news show in existence right now.

2. Fresh Air with Terry Gross: This daily show has been a staple on public radio for decades. Like This American Life, Terry conducts thoughtful interviews with people across a variety of topics. She discusses pop culture such as tv shows, movies, and books but she also discusses current events on a domestic and global scale such as the real meaning (and causes) of the debt crisis, issues around immigration reform, and the science, ethics, and issues behind genetic modification of our food.  I don't listen to every Fresh Air episode but I love the option of subscribing to the podcast because I can pick and choose my interview topics with ease. 

3. If you are a pop culture enthusiast (and particularly a lover of movies and television) you need to subscribe to KCRW's weekly show The Treatment, hosted by Elvis Mitchell. Mitchell is a film critic and his interviews with actors, producers, directors, and screenwriters give insight into the creative process that you rarely find in press junkets, mainstream media, or other entertainment news. It's kind of like Inside the Actor's Studio for the radio set. 

4. I've already given plugs on this blog to Hey! That's My Hummus! so my plug here should be superfluous. You're already listening to them based on my previous recommendation, right? their podcast now. You'll enjoy it. That is all.

5. Finally, for a podcast that can stand up to even the shortest of commutes, I give you The Writer's Almanac. Many of you may already know Garrison Keillor from his weekly radio show, A Prairie Home Companion. What you may not know is that Keillor also has a daily radio "moment" of 5 minute where he cites some fascinating trivia for the day (milestones, birthdays, etc.) and reads a poem. Some of the poems are classic, like Shakespearean sonnets; others are modern. Some poems are funny and quirky; others are sentimental and sad. In the Richmond area, Writer's Almanac airs at 5:50 AM on our public radio station. We actually set our alarm for 5:30 each day so that we can hear the show as we prepare to greet the day. I'm rarely fully awake when I hear it (and I admit that some mornings I sleep through it) but the podcast can offer a nice refresher.

Here's the best part of these recommendations: most podcasts are FREE. If you do, however, subscribe to many of the podcasts produced by public radio affiliates (like those mentioned here) I strongly encourage you to make some kind of financial contribution to either your local public radio station or to the stations that host your favorite show. It is often expensive to bring the podcast format to the public given bandwidth specifications and other technical issues that I do not understand. I just know that it's a good thing to support public radio if it's something that brings joy to your life. 

PS: Speaking of supporting public radio, if you are in the Richmond area, try to catch the sponsorship plugs on WCVE (88.9 FM) tomorrow (July 9th). You will hear a special tribute to a special little girl

Happy listening.


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