One of the sure fire signals that you hate your job is having the incessant urge to find ways to pass the time by doing anything other than the task for which you are paid. Not wanting to fall into the time sucking trap of Facebook games, I decided on checking out the podcast app on my phone when I decided I needed a change from my usual routine of listening to DMX’s “Where the Hood At?” on repeat for eight solid hours. After spending most of my workdays filling my earholes with pretty much whatever was on offer on iTunes, I feel like I’m qualified to make a few suggestions to prospective listeners. It’s a public service I’m providing you guys… That, and I felt like writing something that required very little research.
Sword and Scale
In the wake of Serial, I got hooked on true crime stories. Although, most of the podcasts available on iTunes fell short of what I was hoping for. I listened to that many lacklustre Serial knockoffs I was ready to call it quits altogether and do something drastic like work or talk to my family. Luckily, I came across Sword and Scale, which had previously eluded me due to masturbation related blindness. From the very first episode I knew I was on to a winner and binge-listened the entire library of fifty episodes within a week. The host Mike Boudet, has the keen ability of picking out the most interesting and sometimes shocking criminal cases, and doesn’t shy away from filling you in on the nitty gritty details. While the subject matter can be disturbing and often tough to listen to, (I’m looking at you, episode 20!) it’s no less gripping and is incredibly well produced.
Episode 30 – H. H. Holmes
You probably feel like you know all there could be to know about one of the world’s most prolific serial murderers, but this episode weaves between the well-trodden narratives and some interesting theories regarding Holmes’ historical murder monopoly. It’s a truly outstanding episode that shows that Sword and Scale can provide fresh intrigue to even the most rehashed cases.
Science is terrifying. Quarks, quasars and other scarily complex sounding words can make learning about the inner workings of life, earth and the universe around us a daunting prospect. And rightfully so, this is important stuff and should be strictly reserved as the conversational domain of educated individuals with inch thick glasses and those tweed jackets with the stupid leather patches on the elbows. “But wait!” Radiolab said. “Were taking back science to the people! Get out of here! And take your bow-tie and old timey tobacco pipe with you! We’ll see you in hell!” Or something like that.
Radiolab manages to explore complex and shrouded subjects without confounding their audience. The easy going nature of the hosts, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich allows them to examine cumbersome topics in a relatively simple way, meaning even the most scientifically uninitiated person can walk away from an episode with a greater understanding than they ever thought possible. It’s important to note that despite their relaxed approach to complicated science, it never feels dumbed down or alienating.
With the ever present threat of new and exotic diseases that cheerfully give the finger to the prosperity of our species, a new media panic is never too far away. Patient Zero digs into the origin stories of mankind’s most deadly ailments. The overall theme and use of music in Patient Zero makes it a truly haunting episode.
Plumbing the Death Star
As a species, we consume hours and hours of entertainment. I’d bet that the majority of people spend a good portion of each day dreaming about being transplanted into the lives of their favourite movie or T.V. show characters. Does that sound like you? Well, if it does, you’re an idiot! Because the guys behind Plumbing the Death Star spend a great deal of time painstakingly dissecting the fictional universes of our heroes, often discovering that the implications of living in said universes are all kinds of terrifying. The hosts Jackson, Joel and other Joel, pride themselves on asking the most important questions, like; whether the camera panned away while Truman was jackin’ it? What the fuck did those asshole Hogwarts kids did when school was over? Whether Batman’s parents would’ve approved of his life choices? And just why the fuck is Hawkeye an Avenger anyways?
Why Haven’t We Done A Versus Episode?
All well-adjusted grown-ups know exactly why their favourite hero could kick your hero’s ass. We’ve had this shit theorised since the big-wheel days back on the playground. Ironman vs Batman, Superman vs Goku, Sonic vs Mario, in a world where crossovers couldn’t provide the clean cut answers we so desperately wanted, we had to invigilate these fantasy match ups ourselves. This episode deals with precisely none of that, opting instead to delve into the most hilariously insane fantasy showdowns imaginable.
I know, I know. “How could you include Undisclosed on your list and not have Serial?”
Well, dude that lives in my head, I’ll tell you. While I, and millions of others thought Serial was amazing, it kind of felt redundant to include it. Everybody who knows what a podcast is knows that Serial kicked ass, and I didn’t want to insincerely recycle the same thoughts and criticisms. And while the This American Life spinoff was the ground-breaking behemoth that opened up podcasting to the world outside of intolerable hipsters, I’m going to have to give it a pass. Now shut up a second, and let me talk about something that spawned from it.
Millions of Serial fans were left scratching their heads for a conclusion after Sarah Koenig threw her hands up in the air and declared “Fuck if I know!” at the end of the final episode. “Did he do it? What about Jay’s lies? Was the Nisha call really a butt-dial? How did anyone pull off a murder when the majority of the people involved seem too baked to function?” All valid questions left hanging like a proverbial ballsack in the underpants of our minds. Then, along came Team Undisclosed. Spearheaded by legal Avengers, Rabia Chaudry (Adnan’s friend who bought Adnan’s Case to Sarah Koenig’s attention in the first place), super-sleuth lawyer, Susan Simpson and legal mega-mind, Colin Miller. The trio dig deep into the available evidence, as well as uncovering new and potentially exculpatory evidence that was completely missed by the Serial team. What makes this podcast great is the fact that even if the production feels somewhat lacking in the first few episodes, it doesn’t detract from the earth shattering de-pantsing the team is dishing out to the Prosecution. They could record this podcast in a busy subway if they wanted to, or release it completely unedited, leaving in audible belches, coughs and farts while they share a huge bag of chips. The reason this podcast is successful isn’t because it has the narrative genius or production values of Serial, it’s because of the heaping, wading pool sized scoops of fresh information it slaps in front of us every week.
With Serial only just scratching the surface of this case, and the Baltimore homicide detectives seemingly unable to detect shit stuck to a blanket, it appears Adnan’s best hope for freedom lies with Team Undisclosed.
And maybe his actual lawyer… But he doesn’t have a podcast.
With the way this show unfolds, it’s hard to pinpoint a specific episode. Each new instalment brings something new and interesting to the table. If I were to choose a strongest episode, I’d have to pick episode 5: Autoptēs. It was the point where we as an audience got a comprehensive insight to the key pieces of evidence in the case, and solidified my personal opinions regarding Adnan’s involvement. So if you’re still itching for answers, Undisclosed is the only place you can hope to find any.
I Was There Too
If I were a betting man, I’d wager that all four of you reading this have your favourite TV or movie scene memorised to such a degree that you’d be able to pull off a verbatim re-enactment without so much as glancing at a script. Our favourite movies the ones that contain iconic moments that stick with you long after your first viewing, and maybe even shape the person you become. People feel a certain intimacy with these instances of classic cinema, priding themselves on their encyclopaedic knowledge of the behind the scenes workings of their most treasured scenes. But how much do we really know? How much of our knowledge comes from unsourced trivia articles written by some dipshit like… well, me?
Matt Gourley’s podcast I Was There Too, brings a fresh perspective on cinema’s most poignant scenes by interviewing the people that played a role in making them happen.
Pulp Fiction with Phil LaMarr.
Pulp Fiction is likely to go down in history as one of the greatest movies ever made. If you don’t agree with me, then that’s fine, you have the right to your own opinion and I respect that. But you’re wrong and I hate you. Personal preferences aside, it’s undeniable that Pulp Fiction is an important piece of cinema, and who better to reveal the inner workings of such a master piece than the guy who accidentally had his face blown off by John Travolta? In this interview, Phil LaMarr touches upon the fan speculation surrounding the mysterious briefcase, the original fate of his character and having the fear of God put into him by Samuel L. Jackson. So if you have a hard-on for movies as big as mine, or a teensy little boner of interest, the fascinating revelations consistently offered up by I Was There Too makes it well worth hitting the subscribe button.
The Cracked Podcast
This is where my podcast obsession began. I’ve been reading Cracked.com for a long time now. It’s informative, entertaining and always hilarious articles made it a staple of my lunch breaks and the reason for more than a few missed deadlines. So I was delighted to find that I could get my Cracked fix in podcast form, foregoing all that nerdish reading and substituting it with a format that allowed me to actually get some work done in the process. Having narrowly escaped being fired and the associated homelessness that comes with being the type of guy that takes 4 hour lunch breaks, I made sure to incorporate the Cracked Podcast into my workday to avoid being caught reading about the 5 Creepy Things You Learn Cleaning Up The Scene Of A Murder on company time.
First and foremost, Cracked is a humour site. So it’s befitting that the podcast falls within those parameters, which it does to great success. The back and forth discussions between the host Jack O’Brien and whichever members of the editorial staff have been coerced into making a guest appearance, never fail to deliver on the funny. The thing that makes this podcast stand above all others for me is the way the implications of the subject matter evolves throughout the discussion. Seemingly innocuous topics have a habit of taking on powerful societal significance. For a comedy podcast, it’s surprisingly insightful and often borders on the philosophical. Much like its parent site, the Cracked Podcast deconstructs pop-culture, debunks widely believed misconceptions, and plunges head first into thought experiments so mind-blowing you’ll be scooping up wads of grey-matter for weeks.
Why Your Brain Is Sabotaging You
Considering this podcast is my own personal favourite, I wanted to pick an episode that I feel showcases everything I love about it. Why Your Brain Is Sabotaging You is an episode that revolves around the reasons that people fail when they set out to accomplish their goals. This for me, is one of those episodes that not only makes you laugh, but also draws your attention to the way you think about your own life, which for a podcast spawned from a site with an obsession for dick jokes, is a pretty nifty accomplishment.
HOLY SHIT! BONUS PODCAST!
I kissed Cracked’s ass a lot back there, but it’s not like it doesn’t deserve it. As hilariously thought provoking as it may be, it’s nice to get a fix of the more opinionated side of the internet’s golden child. Cracked columnist and stand-up joke teller Adam Tod Brown, hosts Unpopular Opinion, a podcast dedicated to defending the inflammatory opinions he uses as the foundation of his weekly column, The People Versus Adam Tod Brown. Every week he’s joined by the funniest comics in the business (and by that I mean mostly Jeff May) and the Mayor of Podcast City, Brett Rader to discuss why everybody else is wrong about everything.
Difficult Jobs Everyone Thinks They Can Do.
You’re no idiot. You can do stuff. Anyone with half a brain can take pictures of celebrities, write a pop song or work at a zoo. I mean, shovelling shit and cleaning poop off the glass of the chimp enclosure is hardly rocket science, right? Well, ATB is here to show you what an ignorant bastard you truly are! Comic Annie Lederman, Cracked royalty Jason Pargin aka David Wong, Cracked video producer Breandan Carter and Podcast Juggernaut Brett Rader join the discussion to point out the stumbling blocks of those seemingly un-fuck-up-able jobs that you’ll be glad you don’t have.