Arts & Leisure

Sarah’s picks: The world of podcasts

The new reality of self-isolating and social distancing is difficult, but it’s a great opportunity to expose yourself to something new. What do you do when you’re self- isolating and have already gone through all your binge-worthy shows? What can keep you from checking your Instagram feed or the latest CDC reports? How about podcasts? You can listen to them while you do something else — clean the house, shovel snow, paint a picture, cook a meal, and be entertained at the same time.
Here are 10 podcasts, old and new, that my family has been turning to lately. Check them out to make sure they’re age appropriate before playing them for your children.
Greater Boston: If you have ever lived in and around Boston or been a regular rider on the T’s Red Line, this audio drama podcast will entertain you for hours. Production quality is great, and you can tell that the creators are having an absolute ball. Multiple narrators, accompanying music, and a storyline that capers into a paranormal magazine and the establishment of Red Line subway as its own city are the highlights of this story about the three Stematis siblings.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text: This podcast consists of two Harvard Divinity School graduates going through all of the Harry Potter books chapter by chapter. In the creators’ own words, “On this podcast, we ask: What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts? Each week, we explore a central theme through which to explore the characters and context … We’ll engage in traditional forms of sacred reading to unearth the hidden gifts within even the most mundane sentences.” For the generation that grew up with Harry, this podcast is a different twist on the Potter universe, with thought-provoking insights.

Rex Factor: Become an expert on the kings and queens of England with this podcast by two fairly irreverent Brits, Graham and Ally, who give us a dose of royal history along with fun “rex facts” and points for things like “battleyness” and “scandal.” They have also done the same with the Kings and Queens of Scotland, king and queen consorts, and a special Game of Thrones episode. It’s a quirky look at British history. If you’re looking for authoritative andacademicdiscussions,thisisn’t it, but if you’re looking for fun and entertainment — with a solid grounding in facts — definitely check it out.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: For history buffs who like their history long-winded but pretty fascinating, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is one to check out. Particularly fascinating is the episode “Thor’s Angels,” where he connects the Dark Ages in Europe to modern-day biker gangs. These podcasts can run up to four hours a piece, and Carlin has a very particular way a talking through his ideas. His focus is generally on military topics, such as the four-part series on Genghis Khan and the Mongol hoards and the multipart series “Blueprint for Armageddon,” which explores the lead up to and execution of World War I.

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness: If you like Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, his podcast will keep you entertained and informed. Van Ness, in his inimitable way, talks with guests about things that make him curious. This can range from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic to the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims to “How are the turtles doing?” The turtle episode is worth a listen if for no other reason than the contrast between Van Ness’s over-the-top ebullience and his guest’s low-key monotone. Also recommended is the episode where he interviews “Great British Baking Show” winner Nancy Birtwistle.
Personal Best: This podcast out of a Canada is a different twist on self-improvement. Rob Norman and Andrew Norton host this self- help podcast for those who loathe self-help. In each episode someone who cannot seem to change a habit they are unhappy with puts themself at Norman and Norton’s mercy. The duo come up with exercises to help. Try their first episode: “Robin is a chronic snoozer. She’s constantly late for work, sleeping in for upwards of two hours. She’s also been keeping an elaborate secret since high school.”

Mobituaries: Mo Rocca, of CBS and NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” fame, wrote a book of obituaries for people or things that intrigued him. This podcast does the same. In it Rocca recalls the histories of celebrities, unsung heroes and rascals alike. If you’re curious about the death of Thomas Paine (yes, that Thomas Paine), Billy Carter or two beloved oak trees on the campus of Auburn University, this is the podcast for you.
1619: Creator Nikole Hannah- Jones was in Middlebury recently to talk about the New York Times’s 1619 project. The podcast, in five episodes, re-examines the legacy of slavery in the United States for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia. It’s a powerful look at the legacy of slavery in the U.S., telling stories we all need to hear.
Reply All: Reply All is an American podcast from Gimlet Media, hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. The show features stories about how people shape the internet, and how the internet shapes people. In one episode, Goldman agreed to let Vogt hack his phone, giving him 24/7 uninterrupted surveillance over his life. The episode goes on to explore everything you can learn about someone who completely surrenders their privacy.

On the Media: Produced by WNYC, On The Media is an hour-long weekly radio program, hosted by Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone, covering journalism, technology, and First Amendment issues. In the latest episode, “Bracing for Impact,” the podcast turns to people who have spent years readying themselves for societal collapse: doomsday preppers. It also examines how a different disaster — Hurricane Katrina — revealed inconsistencies in how we care for one another in times of crisis.
There are thousands more podcasts out there. If you don’t want to be overwhelmed, many media outlets provide lists of their top choices. The New York Times published a list this week. The Atlantic also has a list. Any number of favorites can be found by googling “Top podcasts of 2019,” for example. And they can be found on many platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and other streaming services. Other podcasts that are worth checking out include “Limetown,” ‘The Truth,” “99% Invisible,” and almost every popular NPR program.

While COVID-19 renders the Community Calendar moot, we are looking to provide you with fun things to do. If you have particular favorite podcasts, or other ways to keepbusy, the Addison Independent would love to hear about it. Where are your favorite walks, what songs do you sing at home, is there an at-home craft you can share with others? Next week we’ll have a list of games (board, cards, role-playing orotherwise) that folks can play. Send us your favorites to calendar@ or [email protected].


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