I'm mixing it up a little this week, adding some new podcasts from the iTunes Best of 2008 lists [iTunes Store Link], including a few with video under 10 minutes.
"Grammar Girl Video: Irony" Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips are usually audio, but this six minutes of video is worth watching for its excellent explanation of the frequently misused words "irony" and "ironic," using to good effect the infamous Sarah Palin turkey-pardon video. Here's the gist: Irony is all about incongruity and always in the eye of the beholder. Palin and her critics both might have thought the event was ironic, but for different and legitimate reasons. Writing that something is "ironic" says more about you, the observer, than the events themselves, and it is open to misinterpretation. Watch, understand, then use these words properly, or not at all, especially if you are a journalist trying to be fair. Length: 6:29 minutes. Released: Dec. 5.
"60-Second Earth: I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas (Tree)" From Scientific American, another short gem (though longer than 60 seconds). When it comes to Christmas trees, which is more green, wood or plastic? The answer is complicated, but seems to be a live tree in a pot. The strategy in our mixed unfaith household: Thirty years ago, my aunt made a porcelain Christmas tree that stands about a foot tall. We put it on an end table at a respectable distance from the menorah. This represents our own ambiguous connection to a holiday that my wife only observed as an outsider and a religion I no longer observe. The kid is probably confused. So be it. Length: 1 minute, 29 seconds. Released: Dec. 4, 2008.
"Keith and the Girl 860: Turn It Down" This podcast by a Queens couple is consistently rated among the top 10 comedy podcasts at Podcast Alley. Keith Malley was raised Catholic. The "girl" (Chemda Kallili) is Jewish. The schedule is erratic but frequent. This is one of the shorter episodes, and not as funny as the previous, "Get Over Yerself." They do nearly 10 minutes on religion, the holidays and their families. The new Guns N Roses record. The strange gay humor on "Three's Company." The end of Polaroid film. They dream of making millions and moving to Manhattan, which they call, quaintly, "The City." And more. Length: 59:23 minutes. Released: Dec. 8.
"This Week in Tech: Zunegate"http://twit.tv/172 Twitter, Twitter, Twitter. This is the podcast that first got me thinking too much about Twitter this week. It is also the podcast that got me to join Twitter way back in April 2007, mostly as a lurker. Leo Laporte is joined by John C. Dvorak, Bwana McCall, and Julio Ojeda-Zapata, author of a book on using Twitter for business. Dvorak likes Twitter but says it has problems. His comments lead me to think these tech celebrities with thousands of followers have a different experience than people with mutual followers in the dozens or hundreds. They are more like performers or broadcasters than members of the community. They toss out a question and hundreds of fans answer. Sometimes, Dvorak says, they keep answering long after he wishes they would stop. Claims are made that Twitter skews to an older crowd, that it's lazy blogging, that younger people prefer Facebook and IM on Skype. The rest of the tech talk feels recycled: Mac viruses, Obama's Zune, Leo's story (told on last week's MacBreak Weekly) about getting irritated at a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Then they plug their stuff. Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes. Released: Dec. 7.
"Uhh Yeah Dude, Episode 144" Intro is Stereolab. Outro is Lorn. The episode gets off to a meandering start but picks up. The show's T-shirts are late. Libraries and video stores ripping off Netflix. More brocabulary. More obscure fast food. A riff on the 9-year-old pickup artist. "Comb your hair, and don't wear sweats... Just say hi." Top Yahoo search terms. When Seth met search term No. 1. Crazy science: A killer fungus reproduces sexually in your nose and the babies record podcasts. Riffing on the money-saving tips of Andy Rooney of "60 Minutes," who steals dinner rolls from restaurants, mixes gasoline of different octanes, complains about paying $1.50 for a cup of coffee etc. (Rooney has a podcast, too.) A Rastafarian, Bobby Brown, is suing Jiffy Lube for discrimination. Seth recounts how he nearly killed himself and Jonathan with a gas leak in his furnace. Seth claims to be dating the oldest person in the world, a woman they visited at the nursing home in an earlier episode. Removing bear gall bladders. Dreading the holidays. (Seth and Jonathan have done a new interview. ) Length: 1 hour, 3 minutes. Released: Dec. 8.
Attack of the Show's Daily Video Podcast: "The Wired Holiday Store" An iTunes 2008 pick. I actually watched a couple of episodes, which were short and well-produced, seemingly excerpts from the TV show on the obscure G4 cable network. The first one featured a tour of the temporary brick-and-mortar store version of the print magazine that ought to be just a Web site. Lots of gadgets flash by. The store's at 15 West 18th Street through Dec. 28. I'll have to check it out in person. The episode after this, "Batman's New Voice-Over Career," riffs on the terrible raspy Batman voice from the "Dark Knight" movie, which is, not coincidentally, out on DVD. Entertaining, but it has the main drawback of video: You can't enjoy it while walking to work, or you'll run into people. Length: 2:25 minutes to 3:26 minutes. Released: Dec. 10 and 11.
"Buzz Out Loud: Baba-Boo! Scareware!" C-Net's "podcast of indeterminate length." This show starts out with fast talking and sound effects by Molly Wood, Tom Merritt and Jason Howell. Some chatter about Playstation Home and Amazon's Unboxed service. Praise for TiVo, the service/hardware with a terrible business model that everyone loves. Merritt disagrees with Corey Doctorow's views on copyright right of first sale. "There's no such thing as 'used' in the digital world." Gratuitous reference to the Brooklyn musician Jonathan Coulton. Learned something: The term for the propensity of people to find faces in things like toast and the moon is paradolia. A couple of the hosts have apparently never heard of Tumblr (or was that a joke?). It is one of the few companies doing well in these troubled times. Howell does not understand the phrase, "throwing the baby out with the bathwater," pleads youth. A Web-based no-hack copy-and-paste method for the iPhone between Safari and Mail. A good idea that calls attention to a continuing, pathetic Apple lapse. Vast expansion of Google Street View. The blank areas seem to be mountains. Now go listen to "All My Internet Friends" by Amanda French, a musical tip that earns this podcast major points. Length: 37:38 minutes. Released: Dec. 11.
"You Look Nice Today: Nickelpuss It's back to the original three hosts. Secular bands. Nerd jokes about Unix command lines. Merlin Mann's childhood room. A lengthy discussion of automobile horns. Youthful ninja fascinations and experiences by Adam Lisagor. How has this movie not been made? Good question. Discussing his teenage musical career in a church band and his secular band, Scott Simpson reveals he grew up near York, Pa., where I worked for eight years, and mentions the nearly forgotten York band Live. Still popular in Europe and parts of New Zealand! True story of the early Web of the mid-90s: I once hand-coded a Live fan page for the local newspaper's pioneering Web site. Ooh, frames -- lovely. It got dozens of hits, which we deemed a success. The site itself was born in a 1996 blizzard that stopped the newspaper delivery trucks. It's hard to remember how primitive the Web was just 12 years ago. This was in a time when people predicted that average readers would never have computers at home and certainly not read news on them at home. Which is kind of true: Now they mostly click around the Web at the office when they should be working. Podcasts were barely imagined. Video was unthinkable on dialup. Twitter? Forget about it. Email was hard enough. Anyway, it's great to see these fellows back on track with their jazzy, meandering nostalgic conversations, much of it about that weird, lost dawn-of-the-Web past. I'll leave it there. Length: 38:48 minutes. Released: Dec. 10.
"Macbreak Weekly 118: Macs in the Mist" Leo Laporte with his regulars, Alex Lindsay, Scott Bourne, Andy Ihnatko. Perhaps Leo watched Grammar Girl's podcast this week (see above) because he asked Bourne if it was ironic that he ate a freshly slain turkey at a Thanksgiving dinner with his fellow bird-watching photographers at a bird refuge. "You don't see any irony in that.. " Bourne: "I do not." Later, Leo: "It's ironic that all four of us are camera bugs..." Ok, maybe he didn't watch Grammar Girl. After about 10 minutes, down to business. Any truth to the rumor that Apple will remove DRM from iTunes for the holidays with unlimited downloads in Europe? Consensus is no. What about $99 iPhones at Wal-Mart? Consensus is no. Discussion of DRM: Only hurts honest people, doesn't deter thieves. True. A five-minute ad for Drobo, ends at 24:20. Big vendors dropping out of MacWorld Expo. Are convention expenses worth it, especially in a layoff environment? More discussion of pulled Apple advisory on antivirus software. Do Mac users need the software? Consensus is no. Santa Claus iPhone app gets run over by a reindeer. Brief discussion of Information Week's Top 10 Apple Stories of 2008. Consensus: Bad list. "We lost interest at the same time the author lost interest." Around item 3 or 4. Ouch. Six-minute conversation/ad about Audible.com ends at 1:01 mark. Then it's time for the picks. Length: 1 hour, 27:56 minutes. Released: Dec. 9. Update added 12/13.
It was a busy week, so I missed a few favorites (in the case of This Week in Media, the Skype interference was so bad in some cases, I couldn't stand to listen. Reportedly, the problem has been fixed and the episode was reposted). [See earlier roundups.]