Here's my weekly roundup of podcasts from selected geeks, nerds, kooks, freaks, comedians, self-styled tech gurus and other denizens of the audio Web, in the order I listened this week:
- "Extra Life Radio, #202, #203, and #204" "Geek tested, nerd approved!" A likable group of geeks and nerds, Scott Johnson and his friends are Web comics artists who talk about films, TV, gaming and comics, among other topics of a certain type. The first episode ("Vacillating Two Oh Two") encapsulated what I value in a podcast -- a deep and serious discussion that makes me care about a niche interest, in this case, Web comics. The next episode (#203 "Spinimal!") was a wide-ranging discussion of movies. The Thanksgiving episode (#204, "Choot the Turkey") was the least compelling, more movie talk and a long, easily skipped conversation about soccer parents (they often take a good 15 to 20 minutes to warm up). This podcast was the winner in the general category of the mostly meaningless 2008 Podcast Awards, sponsored by the marketing company Podcast Connect Inc. The contest bases the awards on how many fans repeatedly click on an unscientific online survey, as Mr. Johnson, to his credit, notes. He and his co-hosts also won for a "World of Warcraft" gaming podcast, The Instance. Length: Ranging from 1 hour, 7 minutes to 1 hour, 32 minutes. Released: Nov. 12, Nov. 17 and Nov. 25.
- "The Bugle: Episode 54, The Las Vegas Special" John Oliver, best known for his appearances on "The Daily Show," and Andy Zaltzman are responsible for this weekly comedy podcast from TimesOnline.co.UK. It is relatively clean and amusing, although sometimes difficult to follow, because the comics have similar voices and insist on speaking British. It may be the only place you'll ever hear a joke that compares Joe the Plumber to Gore Vidal. I usually don't subject my wife to podcasts, but Jane, a wannabe Anglophile, listened to this one and thought this line was hilarious: "The ultimate Scottish dream, Germany beating England in a World Cup football final." I'll take her word for it. The audio quality is a little muddy. Length: 35:11. Released: Nov. 23.
- "Diggnation, Episode 177: Multiview Diggnation Remix" Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht skipped the beer this time, because Kevin had a bad cold. That does not excuse the much-noted exchange that came next, starting around 3:29, a riff on domestic violence that eventually prompted a public apology from Rose, the millionaire founder of Digg: "There is only one time you can strike [a woman] -- if she kicks you in the balls, you have the ability and the right, to punch her in the teat ---it's just like that -- it's kinda like tit for tat. ... It hurts them, it does too - or take a scissors to the teat." On the video, he made a cutting action with his hand. Har har, boys. Perhaps they should go back to taping this videocast drunk. Or stick to the script. My morbid curiosity satisfied, I skipped the rest. (Diggnation was nominated but did not win in the video category of the mostly meaningless Podcast Awards). Length: 48:07 minutes. Released: Nov. 21.
- "You Look Nice Today: Faux Tog" Once again, the show has guests. Once again, they are John Hodgman and the Brooklyn singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton. Chess jokes. Discussion of a universal template of dreams from Merlin Mann: "You're naked, there's a test, there's ladies..." In New York, dreams are often about discovering extra secret rooms in your tiny apartment. A discussion of horrible jobs, including work at a Lego store at the Mall of America on Black Friday, a true story. This show was voted best comedy podcast by the largely meaningless Podcast Awards. Released: Nov 24. Length: Back to the usual 32:12 or so minutes.
- "Vomitus Prime 83: Make Chips!" I'm a longtime fan of sick humor. But it's possible to go over the edge, and this podcast crossed into misogyny with vulgar words for women this week and last. Their fans may argue that it's all an act, and that this kind of humor is guaranteed to misfire once in a while. Maybe I'm an old fogey for cringing at this stuff, but I just can't listen to it. I say that with some regret. These guys are likable and produce some promising satire -- chewable children's Vicodin? funny idea -- but they lost me with the trash-talking of women purely for shock value. Delete. Unsubscribe. Goodbye. Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes (didn't finish). Released: Nov. 23.
- "Uhh, Yeah Dude, Episode 142." This podcast shows how to be funny without being a jerk. Co-hosts Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli sometimes crack sexual and scatological jokes, but you never sense that they disrespect women, or anybody. Even when their humor is in poor taste, they are self-deprecating and never mean-spirited. Their stance is one of apology for male stupidity and mock-horror at tabloid America. (Here's an early profile of their show, now nearing the end of its third year). This week, they riff about Black Friday and again mock the horrifying "Brocabulary" (see related viral marketing). They goof on the immaturity of the NSFW Land O Lakes Indian Maiden trick; a terrible cameo by Jason Alexander (Seinfeld's George) as a serial killer on "Criminal Minds"; Florida write-in votes; pathetic cocaine addicts; the healthiest and least healthy cities, Burlington, Vt., and Huntington, West Va.; the newFinal Jeopardy music; a landlord who secretly taped 34 female tenants for 19 years; and toddler fights on YouTube, among other disturbing topics. Released: Nov. 25. Length: 1 hour, 27 seconds..
- "MacBreak Weekly 116: Compressed Bits of Cheese Leo Laporte starts: "We had a show lined up..." Uh-oh. A guest shortage. Leo is alone with Andy Ihnatko, the entertaining tech writer for The Chicago Sun-Times. It's an entertaining show, nonetheless. They discuss the absurd Typepad journalist bailout program publicity stunt and the troubles of print journalism. Snow Leopard operating system update: not a major release? The allure of iPhone games; Leo killed his virtual villagers. They are joined at 21:57 by Rich Siegel of Bare Bones Software, which makes Yojimbo and BBSEdit. Problems with iPhone pricing and app structure. Is Google Mobile app getting special treatment from Apple? The iPhone app approval and rejection process. Andy still has the long iPhone backup problem. Leo says uncheck "send diagnostics to Apple" (that worked for me, too -- here's the how-to.) Danger: Obscure bug. Don't run your MacBook without its battery. Twitter hires the developer behind I Want Sandy and Stikkit, free services that will now die. A mercifully brief Audible ad. The week's picks: Besides the new version of Andy's iPhone book (not out yet), Uli's Talking Moose (free, a weird bit of Apple history dating to 1986), and Screenium, Cyberclean (See the handy and awesome MBWPicks for details). Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes. Release date: Nov. 26.
- "This Week in Media 116: Dear Journalist" The host, Daisy Whitney, is joined by my colleague Brian Stelter of TV Decoder, Alex Lindsay of Pixelcorp, David Cohn, founder of spot.us, Patrick Thorton, of beatblogging.com. They go right to the heavy stuff: Will 2009 be the year of the great newspaper massacre? Are we no longer in a general interest media world? Will niche journalism dominate media in the future? Will citizen journalism supplant professional corporate journalism? What about hoaxes like the Steve Jobs heart attack rumor on CNN? The two types of online journalists, "thinkers and linkers." Some J-school-style debate about the "myth" of objectivity. Length: 55:33 minutes. Release date: Nov. 25.
- "TWIT 170: Mile High Wi-Fi" This Week in Tech won the technology/science category in the mostly meaningless 2008 Podcast Awards. The host, Leo Laporte, is joined in this episode by Tom Merritt, Ryan Block, and Alex Lindsay. The topics: smartphones, wireless access on Virgin America, SearchWiki from Google, and, of course, the death of print media, starting with the move of PC Magazine to an entirely digital product. Block: "People interested in technology are not buying print magazines." A discussion of what this means for other print products. They take a break for a 5-minute Audible.com ad and some more gadget talk, then return to the death of print, with references to many articles first printed by newspapers (whatever will they talk about if all the newspapers do die?) Obviously, this is Topic A in the tech expert echo chamber. Their endless fascination with this topic, combined with a boundless enthusiasm for the online future, has an undercurrent that's a tad ... bubbly. They seem to think that Web media businesses will be spared in a major crash. Not likely. Length: 1 hour, 16 minutes. Release date: Nov. 24.