Invasion of the Pod People: my personal history with podcasts (plus, a few 2021 recommendations)

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What is a podcast?

According to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, a podcast is “a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet.” The word “podcast” itself is a portmanteau of the words “iPod” and “broadcast.”

According to Merriam-Webster, once again, a portmanteau is “a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (as smog from smoke and fog).” So, now you know, and knowing is half the battle. I’m not looking up “morpheme.”

This was the opening to a post I published on WordPress way back in 2015, titled “I Am a Pod Person”. One of my earliest posts, when I was still loosening up some of those mental writing muscles that had grown stiff from disuse. My writer’s voice was just as pompous and didactic as it is now, but not quite as conversational and casual.

I can hear my voice in the final sentence above, but there’s nothing but Merriam-Webster definitions up to that point. I was also assuming that my intended audience didn’t know what a podcast was, which was probably a mistake.

In my defense, this was because I had only recently learned what a podcast was myself back when I wrote the first post. I’ve known for some time that I tend to run ten years behind the technology curve; I should never assume everyone knows as little as I do.

I had heard the word podcast before. I assumed that it was related to the iPod.

The first iPod was introduced in 2001. My best guess is that I purchased my first one sometime around 2011 or ’12. I know I was still working for the Target Corporation at the time I bought it. I left Target in 2014.

But, I never listened to podcasts on my iPod, just music.

The first time I remember getting curious about podcasts was when I was watching the series Maron on Netflix. Marc Maron was conducting podcast interviews in his garage. This was his podcast WTF, which I did begin listening to later.

Eventually, I inherited my wife’s iPhone 6 when she upgraded to a newer model.

This was my first “smart” phone. I had a cell phone before this—also one of Sharon’s hand-me-downs—but it was a flip phone. When I sent a text, I had to use the analog numeral keys to find the letters. Everyone always thought I was angry because my texts were terse and slow to arrive.

On the iPhone 6, I “discovered” the podcast app. This led to Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist podcast (before Hardwick was briefly swept up in the #MeToo movement) and Kevin Smith’s SModcast Podcast Network, with entertaining podcasts such as Hollywood Babble-On, I Sell Comics!, and Fatman on Batman. More importantly, it led me to the Storywonk podcasts and the husband-and-wife podcasting team Alistair Stephens and Lani Diane Rich.

Although Stephens and Rich have since divorced—and Storywonk is, sadly, no more—I owe both of them for reigniting my love of story and for indirectly inspiring me to begin posting some of my writing online again. This is how I landed on WordPress.

Storywonk also led me to Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, and another read of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and American Gods.

Since those lonely early days working evening dispatch at the post office, I’ve listened to dozens of different podcasts. Every night, I go to sleep listening to a podcast episode. I try to pick it up the next night at the spot I dropped off.

Go to my archives to see a few of the podcasts I’ve recommended since 2015. I’m going to close with a few I’ve never written about before.

The Office Deep Dive with Brian Baumgartner

I know I’ve talked about The Office Ladies, a rewatch podcast about the US version of The Office, hosted by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, two actresses from the series. This is a competing podcast (friendly competition, I think), hosted by Brian Baumgartner, who played Kevin Malone on the series. Baumgartner has a soothing, well-modulated voice, and the podcast is quite well done. He had an earlier podcast titled An Oral History of The Office. I hear it was good, too, but I’ve never listened to it.

Smartless

The podcast I never knew I wanted. The podcast is hosted by actors Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett. Each episode, one of the hosts brings a guest whose identity the other two don’t know. Guests have included Bob Odenkirk, Darius Rucker, Sarah Silverman, and Sir Paul McCartney. These guys are a lot of fun and seem to genuinely be good friends (or I’m still gullible and they’re acting).

LeVar Burton Reads

It’s exactly what it sounds like. LeVar Burton, reading a short story. Burton has a soothing voice. And, who doesn’t like hearing a bedtime story?

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe

SGU is the official weekly podcast of the New England Skeptical Society, hosted by Dr. Steven Novella and panel. They talk a lot about pseudoscience and conspiracy theories, the kind of stuff I like.

The Delta Flyers

I’m on record as saying that—prior to the Disco Era of Star Trek series—my least-favorite Trek series was Star Trek: Voyager. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. One of them had to be least-favorite. I do enjoy hearing Garrett Wang and Robert Duncan McNeill—who played Harry Kim and Tom Paris on the series—talk about the show, though.



Podcasts are here to stay as an entertainment choice, it seems. Some have YouTube channels as well, but, for me, it’s always been a strictly aural experience.

Here, at FirewaterCorp, our motto has always been “Read. Play. Watch.” We’ve often added “And Write About It.” But, just as easily, we could add “Listen.” In fact, let’s officially change that motto now:

Read. Play. Watch. Listen.

And, then, write about it.

4 thoughts on “Invasion of the Pod People: my personal history with podcasts (plus, a few 2021 recommendations)

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