February 24, 2012

F5 #4: Pod people

Welcome to the last installation of Four February Fridays of Fabulous Frivolity (F5 for 2012. I'm going to do something just a little different from the norm this week: rather than blab on about my personal favourite stuff, I'm going to list and recommend a few of my favourite podcasts. And, finally, I'll close this year's series by revealing my one great weakness.

I lamented a few weeks ago that I've evolved from a primarily literary person, to a primarily visual person when it comes taking in information and entertainment: fewer books, more movies. (I'm watching one as I write this, in fact.) Then, I bought my favourite toy in 2007: a 4 GB iPod Nano—which I still have and am in no hurry to upgrade—and my tastes evolved from print to video to audio, as I discovered the wonders of podcasting. I had already started listening to several podcasts, but it was the ability to take them on the go that really opened up the medium for me.

I am subscribed to a good number of podcasts—about 120 at last count. I don't listen regularly to all of them (I don't think there are enough hours, frankly), but I do keep my eye open for interesting episodes or topics. There are some of which I'm a faithful, regular listener—and here are my top 5, in no particular order (including a link to the RSS feed so you can subscribe in your favourite podcatcher):

  • The Briefing: Albert Mohler's daily (Monday–Friday) commentary on the news. This is the first thing I put on my iPod, and usually the first thing I listen to when I step out the door. (RSS) Mohler is always insightful. He also has another, semi-regular podcast, Thinking in Public, in which he interviews authors and academics on topics of theological or cultural interest—usually, in my experience, historians, as Mohler loves history. I've put a few good books on my reading list thanks to this podcast. (RSS)
  • The Dividing Line: James White's twice-weekly webcast. I try to listen live when I can, but for those times when I can't, the episodes are podcasted. James tackles current events and theological issues, from a Reformed Baptist perspective: most frequently in recent years, he's dealt with theological issues pertaining to Islam. My favourite episodes are "Radio Free Geneva," in which James provides a Reformed response to particularly egregious misinterpretations of Calvinist theology. (RSS)
  • Skeptoid: Brian Dunning takes on a different piece of pseudoscience, conspiracy theory, or just plain craziness every Tuesday, bringing a good dose of research, science, reason, and sanity to the silliness. (RSS)
  • Going Linux: I'm a Linux user (since 2007), and Larry and Tom's top-rated tech podcast gives a great introduction to Linux topics. The program is geared somewhat toward new users, but is almost always useful to more experienced users as well. They do three podcasts per month: one for user experience topics, one to answer feedback, and one to cover Larry's appearances on the Computer America radio program. (RSS)

  • And, finally, Decoder Ring Theatre: I love old-time radio, and so do Gregg Taylor and friends—so much so, in fact, that they decided to do some themselves. The podcast features two series: the Red Panda Adventures, about the Toronto-based masked superhero who is a sort of cross between Batman and the Shadow; and Black Jack Justice, a hardboiled detective series. I started listening for the former, but the latter really grew on me, as Taylor's writing shows a real flair for snappy dialogue.


And finally, for the last time, my one weakness

I used to attend a weekly Bible study near Ottawa's Chinatown, and since I was coming directly from work on the other side of town, I'd grab takeout for dinner from one of the seemingly dozens of Chinese restaurants in the neighbourhood. I developed a habit—more of a shibboleth, really—of ordering hot and sour soup as a way of evaluating each establishment. There's just something ineffably good about that combination of thickened, spicy broth with mushrooms, chicken, and tofu. Plus, it's easy to make, and strangely warming, especially on days like today when there are six inches of snow on the ground.

And, that's it for another February. See you next year!