Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Podcasts in Review

I've had plenty of opportunity to check out new podcasts. Traveling through SE Asia, often I found myself with seven to 12 hours to kill, riding a minivan through the mountains, riding a VIP or sleeper bus from city to city or country to country.

Reading was out: in a minivan en route to a small northern Thailand town that prides itself on over 700 turns in the road to get there, I re-learned how to become carsick. One can't rely on stimulating conversation when one might not speak the languages of every rider in a vehicle--and if they're French, sure, they can speak a little English but they have no desire to speak with an American. Staring out the window is only reasonable for 12 hours in the day, because night falls solidly and it is dark and there's nothing to look at when you're riding through the night.

I had a nice little iPod Nano, which I surrendered to Rebecca when hers crashed. Her sister gave us their first generation iPod Touch and I loaded that up with apps, games, and podcasts. Podcasts were the way to go: they kept me in touch with what was going on in the States, from national news updates to opinions on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Closing my eyes, I could drift in indie music reviews or murmur Thai language lessons.

But I didn't know which podcasts to listen to. I had a few favorite standbys but got tired of them after ten hours. That's ten hours straight, mind you. There really was nothing else to do, and just because you're riding a bus all night long, that doesn't mean you're sleeping all night or part of the night. You really do have time and motivation to listen to an entire backlog of someone's podcasts, and I guess it's easy to get sick of anything anyone puts out for ten straight hours.

iTunes was my resource, and I'd hit up the iTunes store for new titles. I asked my friends for recommendations, but most of my friends do not listen to podcasts. Browsing by topic was pretty successful though still hit-and-miss. I want to go over some of the misses.

TechStuff - Couldn't stand it. I could not stand listening to two unfunny guys giggling at their own jokes. The information was solid and frequently very interesting, but I couldn't get past the poor humor to wait for the techie explanations to play themselves out.

You Had To Be There - I'm told that I have a poor attitude toward women. When I say I don't like certain comics, someone points out that the comics I don't like are female, which causes me to list the female comics I adore. It's not without some trepidation that I say I do not find this podcast funny at all: I listened to one episode as the two hosts traded "jokes" at each other, exhibiting a low, unevolved caliber of humor. Their guest was quite funny and made me laugh half of the time, but the hosts were painfully tedious. Baleeted.

Why You Suck in Bed - Another podcast with two female hosts. I don't hate female comics! I love Tina Fey, Janeane Garofalo, Maria Bamford, Sara Silverman! But the hosts of this show... are they even trying to be funny? They sound smug and they wrap up their comments with that lazy, drugged-out chortle characteristic of people who've given up and let themselves go. They talk about sex and they talk about it arrogantly as though they are experts. They fall prey to the delusion that because they've done something a lot, they are therefore experts on the subject. This might apply to playing the violin or woodworking, but it is not relevant to being a slut. Consequently, this show sounds like a lot of self-congratulatory masturbation with two really unpleasant people.

Comedy Death-Ray - Or, as I call it, "Death of Comedy." I've listened to several episodes and I can't stand it. It comes highly recommended by other comedy podcasts that I respect and admire, but this one isn't funny to me. One whole episode was a bunch of poo-poo and pee-pee jokes from a guest who sounded stoned. The theme song really irritates me, a terrible a capella ditty that sounds like it was penned by the kind of jackass in a corporate office who likes to sing his cliche, borrowed situational punchlines. I don't find the host funny at all, and I'm perplexed that so many comics I like speak very highly of this podcast. I've seen Comedy Death-Ray videos on and those are hilarious. So what's wrong with this show?

Have You Seen This App? - This was shameful. It's a video podcast, but it's just a cheap video camera pointed at a computer monitor, and the host narrates from beside his own computer. In the episode I was listening to, the host said he had five minutes to run a show but--and I timed it--he spent four minutes gushing unabashedly over a certain app. For four minutes he ran on and on about how cool he thought it was, and with one minute to go he started to talk about how it worked. He shoved his mouse around on his screen and started to demonstrate aspects of it, the dim, flickering display finally representing some activity (prior to this, you could only see his silhouetted forearm pointing at the screen for emphasis). My impression: he didn't know all of what the app was capable of, and he didn't know about other apps that did the same thing for free. I was not terribly impressed with this guy.

Fitzdog Radio - Didn't care for this at all. His website says he's very funny and talented and offers many proofs of these claims, but his school of humor (lots of swearing, references to brutal violence) isn't for me. I like abstract, cerebral humor, not the kind of stuff that goes with terrible beer and self-defeatist voting. Yet once again, he is liked and admired by other comics I like and admire. So what gives?

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