Sunday, September 21, 2008

Amazing variety of podcasts -- a review

Have you noticed the wide variety -- and quality -- of podcasts available on the Internet? 
I have a nearly one-hour commute to work each day and aside from three public radio stations I can pick up in my Chevy HHR, there is really nothing to listen to. 
Oh, WIBC-FM is available with the rantings of right-wing politicos that come across more like side show barkers than talk show hosts. But the only time I listen to WIBC is late at night, on my way home when Geroge Noory is on. He usually has guests who are UFO freaks and conspiracy theorists. At least he keep me awake at 12:30 a.m. 
So, I download podcasts, burn them to CD and thank God the HHR plays MP3s. 
I have long believed the Internet is in its infancy when it comes to content and the quality thereof. It's much like TV was in the early 1950s. Again, the variety of content makes that a good thing. 
There are a handful of shows I listen to on my MP3 disks. They have to do with writing, science fiction stories and old time radio. 
Although I'm not a fan of Mac computers (too much control at the corporate end and not nearly enough shareware available) I do like i-Tunes. I don't have an iPod and iTunes won't interface with any other company's MP3 hardware, I have tried a number of other podcatchers. But I always return to iTunes because it has the most useful interface I have found. 
Anyway, I am going to unsubscribe from one of my podcast choices after more than a year of listening. It is "The Computer Show" from WBAI, New York. 
In the past, the guys who are featured on the show were cutting edge and had great information about the world of personal computing. 
When I experienced a question about Vista, I would listen to their show and they were on top of it. I learned about SP3 from them. 
Lately, though, they spend more time trying to be cute and raising money for public radio than in sharing any information of use to me. 
When I e-mailed them in disagreement about comments made on the show of a non-technical nature, I received an e-mail in return that basically said I didn't know what I was talking about and I misunderstood what was said. 
Not cool. Public relations isn't a strong point for the show originating at the public radio station in New York City. 
So, bye-bye WBAI's computer radio show. 
That leads me to another point. Most of the better podcasts originate in radio stations or with people who have a broadcasting background. 
Humphrey Carmadella Productions distribute very good podcasts about old time radio. I've picked up what is apparently the entire series of available Perry Mason radio shows. After 50 episodes, or so, the podcast no longer is distributed. 
NPR does an excellent job. I really enjoy "Fresh Air" interviews. I could listen to them on WFYI  on my way to work many days, but I am on the fringe of the station's broadcast area and it cuts in and out. 
Another good example of a podcast comes from KUCI, a public radio station in Irvine, Calif. "Writers on Writing" nearly always has helpful content, but the show suffers from repeated technical problems with telephone connections to guests. 
On the other hand, "The Writing Show" with Paula B (the podcast says she is Paula Bernstein, but she has taken Paula B. as her radio name) is very inconsistent on quality. 
She devoted multiple episodes to relating her terrible experience trying to sell books through an Amazon.com store. Admittedly, I only listened to the first of that multi-part diatribe. On another recent show, she tried to analyze the fantasies of J.R. R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." She managed to express all the obvious things while giving no new insights. 
For example, did you know writers of fantasy have to relate their created worlds to the real world? For example, a hobbit hole is not like a nasty hole in our world. Could you figure that out, given it is Tolkien's own explanation? DUH!
Sorry, but even though many podcasts are free, that doesn't give their producers the right to waste our time. 
On the other hand, Mrs. B did an excellent job interviewing kids who are just starting their writing careers (and their adult lives) and her Christmas short story contest episode was very entertaining. 
But that's all OK. If you get the opportunity, watch episodes of 1950s TV shows. They were poorly done by today's standards. But the 1950s is remembered as the golden age of TV. TV only got worse, content-wise. 
This may be the golden age of podcasting
Download iTunes, search for podcasts on your favorite subjects at the iTunes store, subscribe and enjoy!