There are 8 million podcasts on the naked Web. Each week, I listen to 10 or more of them and write some reviews. Here's the latest survey of independent audio featuring assorted nerds, geeks, freaks, mystics, fans and experts talking about the things they love. In the order I listened this week:
"TWIT 171: Chocolate Sox" Not a great week for news and information about tech. Leo Laporte makes good on his threat that his This Week in Tech podcast is "unscripted, unplanned and sometimes completely off the hook." He is joined by John C. Dvorak, Andrew Horowitz and Sarah Lane. They discuss Beaujolais Nouveau, insult Adam Curry, taste chocolate, reminisce about Tech TV, brag about how many Twitter followers they have, complain about AT&T customer service, plug a useful Web site (Gethuman.com), discuss the financial crisis, demonstrate an ignorance of journalistic practice and browse a few tech headlines. It's entertaining, if not enlightening. Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes. Release date: Nov. 30.
"Uhh, Yeah Dude, Episode 143." Co-host Jonathan Larroquette mentions a postman who didn't deliver the mail for seven years, with no complaints from customers -- is he a hero? "Junk mail is the only thing that's keeping the Post Office alive," explains co-host Seth Romatelli, who also recounts his brief career as an incompetent letter carrier. Seth also says: "I don't know anymore what is cool, what isn't, what is ironic, what is futuristic, what is robotic, what is stale, all I'm doing is lampin', all the time... I cannot tell the difference anymore, what is funny, fresh, cool, wack -- do the kids even say that?" I do. This show is wack, and that's just the first 10 minutes. Released: Nov. 25. Length: 1 hour, 27 seconds.
The Ricky Gervais Podcast, "Ricky and Karl Test the New Studio Out" Gervais, the star of the original British version of "The Office" (rent it!) and HBO's "Extras," (eh...) has a brief discussion of slugs and evolution, among other topics, with Karl Pilkington. It's hard to summarize. Gervais, Pilkington and Stephen Merchant made a series of for-pay podcasts that are available at iTunes and Audible.com and worth a listen. Pilkington, a radio producer responsible for skits such as "monkey news," is portrayed as either a misunderstood genius or the stupidest man in the world and is typically the butt of the jokes. Here's a video. This brief, free audio podcast seems to be selling another paid spoken-word series, but it's funny enough. Length: 8:42 minutes. Released: Nov. 23.
Twentyhood, Episode 38: "A Tale of Two Countries". On a night out on the Lower East Side, 20somethings discuss beer, their creative underclass jobs, the Canadian economy, the graphic design industry, crazy L.E.S. nicknames, and other topics, over the sound of garbage trucks. This podcast is not updated very often (four episodes this year), and this episode was actually recorded in April. I came across it because it was nominated in the mostly meaningless Podcast Awards. It is one of just four released this year. Length: 1 hour, 4 minutes. Released: Oct. 23.
"MacBreak Weekly 117: The Delicious Podcast Good show this week, despite technical difficulties or perhaps because of them. Leo Laporte is joined on Skype by Alex Lindsay , Scott Bourne and Andy Ihnatko, plus a special guest, WIll Shipley of Delicious Library. They scoff an Apple advisory that Mac users should get antivirus software (an advisory later rescinded). The Simpsons meet Steve Jobs. A mercifully short Audible ad. Discussion of the upgraded Delicious Library software for cataloging media. Shipley discusses challenges of programming for bar-code recognition in cellphone cameras. The merits of online book shopping vs. brick-and-mortar bookstores. Consensus is that bookstores are doomed. A plug for the documentary "Welcome to MacIntosh." Is Mac software business more lucrative than PC software development? Consensus is yes. Snow Leopard OS: zero new features. Speculation about MacWorld surprises in January: Netbooks? The show's Mac links are here and the week's software/hardware picks are here. Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes. Release date: Nov. 26.
"You Look Nice Today: Faire du Camping" O.K., this is getting a little ridiculous. It appears that Merlin Mann's comedy crew has taken the author John Hodgman and his musical sidekick Jonathan Coulton hostage. Either that, or they taped 150 hours of material that they are parceling out over weeks and weeks. This is the third or 10th podcast featuring the author, expert, Mac pitchman. They discuss manual labor jobs. Esoteric natural foods culture in Brooklyn. Janky vegetables. Artisanal wastepaper baskets. The inexiplicable why-are-you-still-open bookstore. Independent stores run by angry psychopaths. Christmas-tree shopping in New York. And more leftover comedy in search of a business model. Released: Dec 3. Length: Back to the usual 26:12 or so minutes.
"Keith and the Girl: For Crying Out Loud" This was one of the first podcasts I ever heard on the Web, quite a while ago, and it now appears to have become something of a multimedia empire, featuring audio, video, discussions, listener call-ins, interviews, and more. The hosts are a charismatic Queens couple, who chat with a changing cast of lowlife pals, guests and neighbors about the usual comedy podcast fare -- tabloid fare (Wal-Mart trampling death), men and women, sex, technology, TV shows, video games, etc. They produce a lot of content. Every time I started to write in recent weeks, another two-hour episode popped up in ITunes. They are un-PC, profane, vulgar, engage in stereotyping, babble endlessly. Expect a lot of inside jokes about fans and friends. A few topics in this episode: iPhone addiction, the Wii, porn, a long story about an encounter with people waiting overnight at Best Buy for Black Friday sales, mocking "The Pickup Artist," playing Call of Duty, and so on. The show's frequent guests include unknown comedians, out of work actors, neighbors, and people whose roles are unclear. Entertaining, occasionally offensive. Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes. Released: Dec. 1.
"The Bob Thurman Podcast #65" Uma's dad, the Columbia professor, riffs on Buddhist scripture at lectures recorded at Tibet House in New York. The cosmology is Tibetan baroque, the metaphors foreign to a middle American ear, with talk of the Bodhisattva, the real and the unreal, the Buddha field, the power of your bliss, time control, and more. "Magic is a different type of causality, but it's driven by compassion and love." Stick to the end for references to Marvel Comics (Ant-Man's microverse) and Wittgenstein. You might just achieve samadhi. Not likely, however. Length: 14:24 minutes. Released: Nov. 28.
"This Week in Media 117: Analysis Paralysis" An excellent discussion, mainly because the host, Daisy Whitney of TV Week, runs a tight ship with a list of specific topics to discuss. She is joined by Bill Tancer of Hitwise, the unemployed Internet humorist Martin Sargent, the science personality Dr. Kiki, and David Rewalt of Viz Media. Tancer analyzes his company's annual search data. The top terms are navigational or brand-related. MySpace is the top brand, followed by Craigslist, beating eBay (that's new). Top personalities: Barack Obama, Howard Stern, Oprah, Rachael Ray, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. Top entertainment/multimedia brands: Hulu and iMeem. The Web behavior of early adopters is often a predictor of sites that will later dominate the market (example: YouTube.) What's hot now? Tancer: "Early adopters today are looking for some sort of editorial layer on top of existing video content.... There is so much content out there, they need some help and direction." Search and crowd-sourcing no longer work. One emerging brand: Qik, for mobile video uploading. The panel discusses the general problem of content overload (DW calls it "analysis paralysis," which rhymes but doesn't necessarily make sense). Too many blogs, too many podcasts, too many online videos, too many TV shows. DW: "There's just too much stuff." Trend in response: Shorter content, published weekly. A few other topics come up, including the future of all-in-one set-top boxes and the terrible interfaces on cable TV digital recorders (why can't they all be like TiVo?) That University of Maryland TV study again: "Does TV make us unhappy or do unhappy people watch TV?" Length: 1 hour, 4 minutes, worth every second. Release date: Dec. 2. Added in update.
"Coverville 530: When I'm Driving in My Car and a Man Comes on the Radio, Playing My Cover Requests" And now for something completely different: Music, specifically bands covering the songs of other bands. This episode is an all-request edition, with Cat Power covering "Satisfaction," among others. I'm not sure how I ever missed this gem of a podcast by Brian Ibbott, but this one had a great selection of songs, entertaining calls from listeners and a name-that-tune style quiz that I failed miserably. The show just made the 2008 iTunes Best Podcast List (full list here, opens in iTunes). I'm definitely adding this one to my regular rotation. Added in update.