For some people, podcasts are all about true crime or politics. For me, they’re a pathway to new and treasured friends.
Over the past year, I’ve made some wonderful new friends. None of them know I exist, but they’ve proven to be rocks that I can cling to in the churning sea of the pandemic. When I can’t go out, they come in, and enrich my life. Interested? Let me introduce you!
“This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars.” Just hearing those words, and the instantly recognizable voice from beautiful downtown Oakland California, brings a smile to my face. (Roman’s voice been called the sexiest on radio, and who am I to argue.) With every episode I can be sure I’m going to learn something fascinating, have a laugh or share a sad insight — sometimes all three within the next 45 minutes. After every episode, I go out into the world with new eyes, trying hard to notice the things that I’d typically take for granted in the built world, and ALWAYS reading the plaque.
Gateway episode: #405 The Freedom House Ambulance Service. The story of the beginning of the emergency medical response profession — it won’t be what you imagine.
It’s the same with Ira Glass’s distinctive tones from WBEZ Chicago. Often the stories on This American Life are disturbing or unsettling, shining a light on inequities and injustice. There’s a heady mix of empathy, humour, irony and outright amazement. In other words, the episodes of this iconic podcast are about reality, and the frailty of human existence. I am better for having listened.
Gateway episode: #47 from 1996 Christmas and Commerce includes one of David Sedaris’ first radio pieces, his now iconic tale of life as an elf for hire at Macy’s Santaland. For something completely different, there’s #528, including an original 14-minute musical on video by (pre-Hamilton) Lin-Manuel Miranda.
For something a little lighter, I so look forward to every Friday night and the latest episode of No Such Thing as a Fish. Anna Ptaszynski, Andrew Hunter Murray, James Harkin and Dan Schreiber are working at home from “four undisclosed locations in the United Kingdom”, but it hasn’t interfered with…