Faking It

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 6.33.43 PM

MMMM

I like podcasts that stop me in my tracks.

I happen to have a professional relationship with the host, Lizz Hodgson, and so it was riveting for me to hear her get choked up as she recounted the harrowing experience of watching helplessly while her mother experienced severe complications from bariatric surgery. The complications persist in some form or another to this day. She interviewed her mother about the surgery and its after-effects in the show’s debut episode, but it was Episode 20, the most intense and emotional eight minutes of the show’s history, when Lizz opened up in a way I had never before borne witness to. Lizz’ admiration for her mother is obvious, both in word and tone, and so it comes as no surprise to me that she would get so emotional about an occasion when her mother’s fate as a corporeal being was uncertain. This was Lizz in a raw, pure state, and the passion was so authentic that I’ll always remember that moment as eight minutes of podcasting excellence.

This show is about the facade so many of us adopt to assure others that we are coping and hanging on, no matter how rough life may get. Unlike that facade, there is nothing artificial about this show. It is about the gritty reality of our true selves, the persona we leave behind when we depart for work or any other place where it may not serve us well to be vulnerable in the presence of those with whom we are not intimate in any way. Lizz and her guests disclose their personal truth without varnish, and it is no easy feat.

Indeed, these are brave people. Like the man with the severe speech impediment. Podcasting is a predominantly talk-oriented medium, and yet he insisted on being heard. It is the fact that he can’t fake it and doesn’t try to that makes his example so compelling.

If you are looking for something gritty and real in your podcast diet, I recommend Faking It. And I mean that.

Advertisements

On Drugs: A CBC Podcast

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 2.11.06 PM

MMMM

I want to try ayahuasca. I’ve always been fascinated by psychedelic therapy, and the use of this drug supposedly has a tendency to clear out negative build-up of sadness, anxiety and anger. I know this because the host and guest of Episodes one and two of Season 2 know this. What makes this podcast’s examination of drugs and their effects on those who imbibe superior to mainstream media coverage is a lack of hysteria. The host doesn’t condone the use of ayahuasca, but he does want to learn about it, and while he learns, so do we. It is a refreshing break from the moral panic that clouds coverage of drugs.

The show is as well-produced as all other CBC podcasts. Clips from interviews and recordings from as far back as the 1960s are included. After all, the 60s were a historic period for drugs, drug usage and the serious research of drugs. The host, Geoff Turner, is non-judgemental, even when he states a lack of interest in ayahuasca (he’s afraid he might vomit while under its influence, as many have). The show would be a harder listen if he felt he needed to moralize to us. Nor is he encouraging people to do drugs. This gives the show its balanced perspective, and anyone who wants to learn about drugs and the people who use them would see the truth about the issue.

Drugs are a serious issue that affects all of society, but they don’t just kill our young people. There is more to understand and it would surprise some people that their influence isn’t always destructive.

Whether poison or medicine, this program gives the listener a wide-ranging education on drugs and many of us would find out, as I have, that we have a lot to learn.

Minutia Men on Radio Misfits

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 7.05.58 PM

MMM

I can’t say anything bad about this show. It reminds me of the kind of FM morning show co-hosted by two dudes that has proliferated since Howard Stern broke the new ground upon which they stand. Dave Stern (no relation to the aforementioned) and Rick Kaempfer are about as edgy as any guy who uses the word “penis” on FM radio. In other words, this is clean, relatively wholesome entertainment, the type you hear on terrestrial radio in between commercials for large box furniture stores and car dealerships.

I’m wondering if they’re pandering to some radio station they hope will hear this show and hire them as a duo for their morning drive show. They deserve it.  They read offbeat news stories and get laughs largely by reporting to us what was reported to them. The world has gone crazy, and that brings comfort to people who have their act together out there in the suburbs and take great pride in that.

Now, again, I’m not putting them down. They both have strong broadcasting voices and can keep a dialogue going effectively with energy and colour.

It’s just that compared to some of the edgier podcasts out there in what is commonly known as the wild west of communications, this show come across as tame.

But then, if tame is your thing, you should listen to this show. The best part: because it’s a podcast you can listen to it on your schedule. It doesn’t take a lot of risks, but it’s a show you could listen to with your grandfather without worrying about him getting offended by coarse language and unconventional ideas.

 

Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 3.15.19 PM

MMMMM

My only complaint about this show is that it isn’t updated enough.

Alec Baldwin is a natural at podcasting. He sounds like he’s been doing it for fifty years. He is the Charlie Rose of this medium. His confidence, sophistication, intelligence and humour blend together as the ideal ingredients for an old school paternal broadcasting presence.

Though Baldwin demonstrates a natural gift for podcast hosting, it also helps that he has had an outstanding roster of guests. Such entertainment industry heavyweights as Lorne Michaels, David Letterman, Spike Lee, Debbie Reynolds, Michael Eisner and Dustin Hoffman have appeared on the program to dish on the most fascinating aspects of their lives and careers. Figures from politics like Bernie Sanders and George Stephanopoulos and an assortment of other public figures round out the outstanding episode-to-episode panel that rewards repeated listenings.

Perfection in podcasting is not commonplace, but it can be found on this show. Baldwin is as intelligent as his guests and has as much to contribute. This is not a guy with a laptop opened to a Wikipedia page. As one of Hollywood’s most prominent liberals, he is as passionate about political and social issues as he is about the arts. His knowledge-base is as rich and detailed as his experience in show business is extensive. He established himself as an actor during the age of analogue and has brought his understanding of what goes on behind the camera to a digital milieu, and it’s a treat for his listeners.

True to form, a podcast provides a cozy sort of intimacy that is difficult to achieve in front of cameras and audiences hungry for laughs and showmanship. Hearing David Letterman toned down and serious with no pressure to get constant laughs and rely on bits is a revelation. The same man who was once lowered into a vat of water with Alka-Seltzer tablets attached to his body reveals a side of him that is thoughtful and brimming with wisdom. He became more than a veteran broadcaster; professor and pontiff, he revealed himself as someone we can all learn from. Baldwin’s goal has always been to learn from each one of his guests, who all have fascinating stories to tell and the follow-up as lessons that were learned along the way.

Here’s The Thing is a showcase for podcasting excellence and one of the finest programs in the history of the medium. It is an example of how modern technology and high-quality spoken word can converge and produce top-notch entertainment. Alec Baldwin is a brilliant podcaster, and there is no acting involved.

 

Practicing while Black

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 4.14.37 PM

MMM

That idiot Kanye West was famously quoted as saying that slavery was a choice. Thank god for people like Practicing while Black host Delania Barbee. As she points out in episode 13, not only was black freedom generally illegal during the era of legal slavery in the United States, but a privileged few black slaves were able to exploit technicalities in the legal system to escape indentured servitude through legal loopholes their owners hadn’t anticipated. Barbee was diplomatic enough not to name West or throw him under the bus for his comment, but her opinion on slavery was shown in that episode to be far more informed than his. If only she had a position in the media as lofty as West’s so she could serve as the logical antidote to his claims, which are as inaccurate as they are bizarre.

5% of American lawyers are African-American and this podcast provides a voice for their experience of being a minority both racially and professionally. It’s a show that humanizes attorneys in a way with which you may not be accustomed. Ms. Barbee is not a strip mall ambulance chaser with commercials between segments of The Maury Show. Nor is she the type of sociopath Shakespeare envisioned as he called for the blood of all lawyers. No, on Practicing while Black we learn about the struggles attorneys often face, like the difficulty of writing the bar exam and starting a firm of your own when you’re limited in personnel and capital. Indeed, lawyers themselves face their own personal trials and this program provides a window into that world that you would know little about unless you are an attorney or you know a lawyer personally.

Delania Barbee is worth knowing, especially if you’re part of the 5% who needs a mentor. She’s also worth knowing if you want to get sense of the complete narrative of the American legal experience.

Dr. Death

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 4.12.20 PM

MMMM

“I’m ready to become a cold-blooded killer.” Chilling words coming from a doctor, especially a neurosurgeon.

That doctor is Christopher Duntsche.

“It doesn’t even look like he’s trying to operate correctly. It looked like he was trying to harm the patients on purpose.”

-A colleague of Dr. Christopher Duntsche

It’s quotes like these that leave a suspenseful caboose at the end of every episode of this true crime podcast and its tales of grisly medical malpractice. Like me, you’ll want to see where the tracks lead to.

When we undergo surgery we are vulnerable. The relationship between physician and patient is built on a foundation of trust and professional ethics, not to mention the vast knowledge, experience and expertise of the medical professional, which we seldom question, no matter how cynical we might be in everyday life. This is even more true in the case of surgeons. Depending on the procedure, they may literally have our very lives in their hands. Mistakes and personal feelings are persona non grata. The laws of science and the regulations governing the medical profession must be upheld, and they usually are.

Tragically, this is not the case 100% of the time. If you were unlucky enough to be operated on by Dr. Christopher Duntsche in the Dallas, Texas area you might have walked in with back pain and were wheeled out paralyzed by the waist down. You may even have died. There are effective treatments for the conditions his patients suffered from, but unfortunately there was no cure for Duntsche’s arrogance-fueled incompetence. It was his pride that convinced him to operate on such sensitive areas as the brain and spinal cord despite his poor understanding of both the appropriate surgical procedures and the anatomical details involved.

The show’s researchers passed through Duntsche’s personal and professional history with a fine-toothed comb, and the details they uncovered amount to an impressive investigation, comparable only to the work of police detectives. Interviews were conducted with patients, old friends of Duntsche’s and his medical colleagues. They paint a disturbing picture of a sociopath with an outsized perspective on his own capabilities as a surgeon combined with a lack of concern for the consequences to his patients when he overestimated his ability to treat them effectively.

I already want to learn more as a personal investigation of my own, which has already led to Duntsche’s Wikipedia page. I’m going to listen to every episode of this show to find out how Duntsche’s grotesque legacy as a surgeon could possibly have left such a blemish in an atmosphere of otherwise caring and dedicated medical professionals.

This podcast is terrestrial-radio worthy, and a sure sign that podcasts just might trounce terrestrial radio completely at some point in the future. It is well-produced and highly professional. Everything from the narration to the choices of music indicate a high production standard. It is the perfect blend of top notch content and highly-skilled professional varnish. If you have been disappointed by podcasts in the past, this is a prescription from Dr. Rector that will renew your faith in the medium.

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 8.51.31 PM

MMMMM

“You take the listeners on a journey,” observed Jordan Peterson on episode 1139 of The Joe Rogan Podcast. It can be a long journey: some episodes are longer than three hours. Fortunately it feels more like a sight-seeing expedition and less like a morning commute. A wide range of public figures have appeared on Rogan’s show and range from political commentators to athletes to health experts to figures from the entertainment world. Given the long-form format and Rogan’s open mind, he takes his guests and audience on many twists and turns as they explore ideas and arrive at revelations. Sometimes a guest blows Rogan’s mind, and he is deeply appreciative as his reactions demonstrate.

Your mind would be blown too, if you were a regular listener. If someone who fascinates you appears on The Joe Rogan Experience you will get your money’s worth. When Rogan picks a guest’s brain he starts on one side and doesn’t stop until he’s emerged from the other ear hungry for more. As Peterson pointed out, Rogan is a tough interviewer. If he doesn’t understand something or needs clarification, he doesn’t hesitate to question further. This show is no place for propaganda and unquestionable authority.

Going as deep as he does with guests has reverberated into mainstream media, and some of the ink he has gotten will surely bleed into the history books. Alt-right icon Milo Yiannopoulos’ career fell apart after a clip from an episode of this show emerged in broadcast media. It featured a moment when Yiannopoulos asserted his belief that sexual relationships between adult males and adolescent boys can be consensual. Even his most faithful right-wing allies could not abide such a sentiment, and the resulting storm of controversy sank Yiannopoulos’ career as journalist, commentator and editor of Brietbart.com. Another example of how The Joe Rogan Experience sent shock waves through traditional communication channels was a recent appearance by Tesla C.E.O.  Elon Musk, whose behaviour has been erratic as of late, to say the least. On The Joe Rogan Experience he lit up a joint during the conversation. The action sure didn’t sit well with Tesla shareholders and executives. Considering that he had also publicly mused about taking the company private, his appearance and conduct on this show ruffled more than a few feathers. The company faithful were as rattled as Apple’s shareholders were when Steve Jobs emerged emaciated after being stricken with cancer.

Joe Rogan questions his guests deeply on a wide range of subjects, and no matter how controversial, unstable or downright wrong some of them may be, he is always fair yet determined when he pursues them for the truth. He gives his listeners a glimpse of his guests’ perspectives before getting to the evidence behind theories and opinions.

In an age when people are so divided and confrontational, it is refreshing to listen to a show that bridges the gaps with conversation and rational consideration of the facts. After all, the more you scream in someone’s face, the less they’ll want to listen. Listen to this show and you’ll learn something.

The Adam Corolla Show

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 8.29.50 PM

MMM

Would I recommend this program to just anybody? Absolutely not. Only people who are similar in most respects to Adam Carolla will enjoy listening to this show.

What kind of person would you have to be? It helps to be a man, for starters. Not just any kind of man, either: you’d better be a sports-loving, alpha male who likes to build stuff and evaluate other males based on their gender credentials. Even drinking French vanilla coffee is an egregious sin in the Carollaverse. To loosely quote the movie Heathers, if you’re not holding a brewski in your hands you might as well be wearing a dress.

Your political allegiance will also make or break your loyalty to this program. Though he denies it strenuously, Carolla is a conservative and it would be very difficult to enjoy the show if you hold left-wing opinions. He’s also very shallow, so if you don’t fit the conventional standard of beauty, your days as a Carolla fan will be numbered, especially if you’re a woman.

If you do identify as part of the Corolla demographic you’ll enjoy the show tremendously. If his views don’t offend you, you’ll find Carolla very amusing. When you’re not laughing, you may feel conjoined with him in outrage. One of Carolla’s trademarks is his tendency to rant and complain, which he has integrated into the format of the show. Everything from passion fruit iced tea to the economic disparity between racial demographics has been thrown to the grill and Corolla really sizzles once he gets worked up.

Other times he’ll just waste your time with games like Totally Topical Tivo Trivia, which are totally tedious to listen to. Carolla has a gift for filling dead air, which he developed during his days on terrestrial radio. Unfortunately he’s about as entertaining as the dead when he plays these games. He leaves you with that feeling you got when it was your friend’s turn to play the Streetfighter arcade game at the convenience store: you become acutely aware that there are other places you’d rather be.

 

Smodcast

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 9.55.27 PM

MMM

Strangely, Kevin Smith is not as entertaining on his own podcast as he is on others. Bret Easton Ellis’ podcast was like a cold puddle of gasoline before Kevin Smith came along and set it ablaze. Smith is a strong, entertaining presence; funny, well-informed and a fountain of verbosity. I have also heard examples of this on WTF With Marc Maron and The Adam Corolla Show. So why is it that his efforts on the mothership program of his podcast empire consist of little more than Smith laughing at his own jokes?

As he laughs hysterically, often until he is out-of-breath, silences sometimes follow. This is usually because his co-host Scott Mosier is not laughing nearly as hard, and it’s quite possible that during the moments of absolute quiet, he is grinning out of courtesy.

Why must this be so? Is Smith’s ego so huge at this point in his career as filmmaker and podcaster that he doesn’t consider anybody to be as funny as him?

If he does believe that, he must know that he is wrong. There are plenty of people out there who are funnier and more articulate than he is…including himself when he is not recording this podcast. On An Evening With Kevin Smith, which is a DVD of one of his Q&A shows, he demonstrates an extraordinary talent for storytelling and punditry. He is funny and well-spoken.

His humour is often self-deprecating, but this is a smokescreen for a man who has a higher opinion of his own talent than even his most ardent fans possess. I know this because I was once one of them.

It’s awkward to listen to someone laugh hysterically while you fail to see the humour in what they are saying. It has nothing to do with whether I “get” the jokes. I understand them. They just aren’t nearly as funny as Smith thinks they are.

But I won’t harp on that point anymore. There are episodes I remember fondly from the lengthy period during which I listened faithfully to every episode. Hell, I even went back through the archive and listened from the show’s inception. The episodes that I would be most likely to listen to again would include the one co-hosted by his friend Bryan Johnston. He told a story about a sexual liaison he enjoyed with an ex-girlfriend’s mother. Smith was a supporting player in the telling of that tale, and thank god for that because Johnston needed no assistance.

Episodes that were uploaded marking the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Prince were also memorable. Smith is not afraid to get emotional on the mic, like when he got choked up remembering Carrie Fisher both as a fan of Star Wars and as a colleague when she played a part in one of his films. His version of other very personal events, like when he was tossed off of Southwest Airlines because of his weight and the heart attack that nearly killed him were memorable because of their surprising depth.

Listening to a typical episode of Smodcast feels to me like listening in on a conversation between two small boys. Speaking of which, I can recall one telling moment in a Smodcast episode when, in his forties, Smith identified as a boy and anticipated that Mosier would follow suit. Scott Mosier laughed at that ridiculous statement but insisted between chuckles that he strove to be and identified as a man.

Either way, this podcast has its moments, but it needs to grow up. If Smith were to share the spotlight more often and explore serious topics on a regular basis, it would enrich this program. For now, I wait every week until I hear something about another seismic event in Smith’s life because this podcast needs an earthquake to change its soundscape.

 

The Malliard Report

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 8.35.42 PM

MMMM

The Malliard Report is a podcast that deals primarily with subject matter from the fringe. Topics like the paranormal, offbeat theories and alternative perspectives that offer a different take on current events add up to a podcast that covers territory that wouldn’t register on the mainstream media’s radar.

As someone who takes an interest in the paranormal myself, I couldn’t help but be swept up by it. The first episode I listened to featured an interview with Preston Dennett, a UFO researcher and author who has written upwards to 19 books. Needless to say, when Malliard interviews an expert, he ensures that he enlists someone who has done their homework, and Preston Dennett knows as much as anybody who has been studying the subject of ufology for a great many years.

However, it was the episode immediately prior to Dennett’s that captivated me. John S. Weiss is a man who has experienced the Afterlife and written a book about his experience. Yes, he does recount the encounters with dead relatives in a welcoming light at the end of a tunnel that are common within near death experience narratives. However, Weiss’ store of knowledge and experience in that realm is deeper than the tunnel in which he found himself after a brief bout with death.

Granted, this is very exciting if you are open-minded. Most portrayals of the paranormal in mainstream media will be disputed by a skeptic, usually a haughty and pedantic one. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, of course, but there is always something very mean-spirited about these take-downs. One may insist that they should be afforded their own opportunity to express their contrarian point-of-view on Malliard’s podcast. This is a valid point, but is someone like John S. Weiss ever invited on a show with an atheist’s perspective on death to counter the non-believer’s point-of-view? Why should only one side allow wiggle room for critical thinking and not the other?

Malliard doesn’t claim to believe every word out of his guests’ mouths, either.  Still, he is open-minded enough to entertain the hypetheticals and indulge in imagination when reality disappoints. Jim Malliard is the gatekeeper to a wider understanding of the universe. This dovetails with his audience’s sense of wonder and awe as they contemplate the possibility that there may be truth within alternative theories and perspectives on the world and the nature of its reality. I know I was as riveted as Malliard as I listened to Weiss’ breakdown of the science of the soul. Malliard leaves the door open to possibilities, and possibilities are exciting.

The show is largely guest-driven, and Malliard is a generous host, allowing his guests to tell their stories without frequent interruptions to foist his point-of-view upon the narrative, like many personality-driven podcast hosts are wont to do. John S. Weiss’ experience with the Afterlife was riveting not only because of the anecdotes and data conveyed, but his momentum was never disrupted by the sound of narcissism embodied in a voice that is enraptured by its own sound. John S. Weiss is a practiced and highly -skilled storyteller and Jim Malliard gave him a wide berth to do what he does best, and nobody could have done it better.

If you are a believer in the paranormal and all other avenues of the unconsidered and the unexplained, this podcast is well worth a listen. The universe is deep, vast and mysterious. Solving mysteries is what intelligent and open-minded people do, and many of them listen to this podcast.