Nick & Choose 32: Podcasts

Published Feb. 2, 2011

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Getting an Earful
Exploring the odd, unusual—frequently tedious—podcasting outskirts

My life’s most excessive purchase is my iPod Touch. I employ no apps. I don’t go online. I’ve never used it to watch a movie, and it holds little music. On the sliding scale of extravagance, I’m like the guy who buys a Porsche just so he can drive it in rush hour traffic.

During my own commute, my iPod serves its primary function as a podcast delivery device. I have a regular lineup of shows, all of which could fairly be deemed “mainstream.” But on occasion, I do find myself checking out the dustier corners of the iTunes library. It reminds me of when I was a kid, taking my first exploratory steps away from the music on pop radio. To stimulate intellectual growth, sometimes you have to shock the system. So for a week, I strapped my headphones on like defibrillator paddles and plunged into the auditory fringe.

Perhaps still channeling my younger self, the first area I turned to was porn, and the show Porn++. The podcast features two guys dissecting scenes from current and “classic” adult movies. You’d think having been on the job since 2008, the hosts would’ve seen everything by now, but as they trade breakdowns, the commentary is often interrupted with an ear-shattering “WHHHAATT!?,” as if somehow a particular bout of fellatio finally took sex into the 21st century. The show’s only highlight was the coda, during which they discussed whether or not their parents knew about their side job. Said one cohost to the other, “In hindsight, I recommend you don’t tell your dad.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Help Me Quit Porn. I was hoping for a cheeky peek at religious self-righteousness, but after a bitching Christian rock intro, the show turned out to be just a recount of one man’s struggles followed by quiet prayer. It’s actually quite soothing, like having a remorseful Mr. Rodgers discuss his dirty habits, then read you a passage from Corinthians.

Thinking elicited fear would be a good measure of a podcast’s success, I turned to the supernatural. Sadly, the only alarming thing the Northwest Georgia Paranormal Investigation Team had to share was the bitter announcement that a team from Tennessee got first dibs on a haunted swamp house. On The Paranormal Podcast, hyperdimensional physics expert Mike Bara announced that “Newton, Einstein and quantum mechanics are all wrong,” and that the 2012 apocalyptic nightmare can be avoided through the power of positive thought. He may be an idiot, but he’s not a dull listen.

Boredom did, however, strike when I tried to learn about other people’s hobbies. The hosts of The Antique Auction Forum brought on Mark Moran, author of price guides on everything from salt and pepper shakers to West German pottery. I feel I owe my brain a sympathy card. Then there was Crafternoon Tea with Auckland’s own Grannyg, aka an hour in which I could actually feel my body aging. Steam Geeks promised a breakdown of True Grit and a discussion on the influence of Westerns on the steampunk subgenre of science fiction. Oddly, however, they began the show with more than 30 minutes of comparative whiskey tasting, and the subsequent hour was a wash.

Deciding to indulge my own nerdy tastes, I dug for podcasts about movies, video games and comic books. I found Boston Bastard Brigade, a show that perpetuates negative stereotypes about both nerds and Bostonians. But I encourage you to check out Giant Fire Breathing Robot if you’d enjoy a lengthy commentary on how awesome it’d be to have director Kevin Smith’s baby.

My podcast search’s one salvation was Band in Boston. Light on chatter, and with tastes skewing toward Americana, the hosts list the weekly lineup at some local clubs and play select tracks. It answers the question, “I wonder what a band named Cat-Tooth Jim sounds like?” (Pretty good, actually.) The interludes allow the mind to wander, which is part of the reason I assembled my regular lineup in the first place.

Like picking your particular brand of cable news, sometimes your brain just needs the guise of edification in order to unwind—a springboard into day-dreaming. All I ask, and what my quest failed to find, is that a podcast give me what I want to hear, and the freedom not to listen.

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