Give Me the Straight Dope

General words of wisdom suggest everything in moderation, right? But I’ve got an itsy bitsy, teeny weenie, steamy kind of dreamy need for podcasts. And I think my weakness might hover right on the edge of addiction.

I actually crave my daily dose with an urgency that suggests the necessity for an intervention. I’m a knowledge junkie, a story fanatic, an anecdotal zealot—I pine for the adrenaline rush of hearing my pushers’ voices break through the silence in my ear buds. There are four men in particular who have encouraged this uncontrollable habit of mine. Four men who all work for the great drug lord—NPR.

National Public Radio. Each country has something similar—their own kingpin. The BBC, PRI, ABC. I could go on, but I’d bet there’s no need. We’ve all got our source, and sometimes we need to keep it under wraps lest it reveal too much about one’s slant on the world.

But I’m revealing mine, and maybe it’s a desperate plea for help, but I have a feeling by admitting my podcast obsession, you all might just increase the volume and make it worse by offering up your own. And then I’m going to need to taste yours too. Just a small dose to see how it compares to the stash I already get. It could send me right over the edge, and come the holidays, when I’m supposed to be in the kitchen basting, stirring, baking and carving, one of my kids will find me sprawled on the floor, eyes glazed over, my ear buds doing the work of an IV drip hooked up to the bag of juice that is my smart phone on the counter.

261014ivpodcasts (768x800)

Firstly, let me correct two misconceptions I may have created. I’m not stating that I am a news junky, and only get my worldly knowledge from one source. That would be the near equivalent to feeding my body all its necessary nutrients only via chocolate. I’ve tried it. And it’s missing a few things. Like a good chunk of the building blocks for a functioning brain and body. But I gave it a royal go—for the sake of science. No, it’s not political issues, economic reports and scandalous headlines I’m after, but rather pure human interest.

The other fallacy is that all four men work for the organization. The big conglomerates only pimp their work. All this is nearly irrelevant, because I’d like to get down to brass tacks and introduce you to four men I would not like to live without.

Guy Raz. His geeky, chunky glasses with tape in the middle sound has me sigh with delight every time he begins his podcast and hosts The TED Radio Hour. The man has an extensive history, working his way up the ranks in radio, both in the studio and on the field, and has the accolades to match his efforts. And through this accumulation of experiences he’s developed an audio personality that people warm to immediately. He pulls out the best of his interviewee’s tale and hands it to you with a warm mug of just for you. As if TED talks could get any better, Guy Raz squishes the best parts of at least four of them into less than an hour. And because of this, I just want to squish him.

261014guyraz (570x800)

Next up? Two fellas who share a mic, and with whom I would willingly share a last meal, my last bottle of wine, or a small row boat while we wait for the inevitable possibility that we will never see rescue. Why? Because so much that comes out of their mouths is rewind worthy.261014robert (589x800)

That’s right. I find them so interesting, and so opinionatedly creative, that I spend more time going backward in their podcasts than I do moving forward. Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad, the hosts of Radiolab, reel their audiences into a world where curiosity is deeply explored.261014jad (533x800)

Their descriptive tag:  Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience, neatly says it all. They are the answers to your inner, never-ending, five-year old self’s desire to ask, BUT WHY?

And finally, a man so well-known for his prowess in storytelling, I doubt there is an honor or award that has not found space upon his walls and shelves. To be a part of the production of anything Ira Glass creates is like being a part of something that might be canonized for future generations when wanting directions for building the ethereal soul of a story.

261014ira (497x800)A soft-spoken bard, Ira Glass takes you on a journey in the podcast This American Life with stories that talk of mostly everyday folks doing ordinary things, but he sprinkles extraordinary perspective around it. Ira can make the act of watching paint dry turn into an spine-tingling philosophical adventure. There is magic in that minstrel’s narrative, and he encourages me to look at life through a lens I’d like to make permanently mine.

And so it goes with each of these stewards in charge of spinning a colorful yarn. They capture my attention with their shiny, fluttering strings, weave a tapestry of turmoil, exploration, hypothesis and kismet into a large enough mat where we set sail upon updrafts and thermals. And their stories are as fickle and unpredictable as the wind. I never know where it is we will go, or how we will get there. I only know that when it is all said and done, I want another ride.

I am obsessed, I am devoted and I am happily under the influence.


October Gotta Have a Gott 

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. See the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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66 thoughts on “Give Me the Straight Dope

    • Really Rajiv? That’s all? Oh, man, I certainly hope you click on a link or two and find yourself immersed in some epic narration. That’s the beauty of the internet and iTunes–and all for free!

  1. Well. It must be Saturday. Bath day and Peak day. I truly do look forward to your posts as much as I look forward to my submersion into hot and soapy water. This post just doesn’t grip me like your others. I have no idea what a podcast is. Nor do I follow NPR. So I can’t relate. I will say that Rob’s illustrations are brilliant. I have no idea what these guys look like but Rob’s drawings just seem spot on. Of course your prose is, as always, first rate. Stellar, Top notch, outstanding etc..and so on. I’m not being a smart ass nor am I being glib. I just dig your writing. Rather I get it or not. Me thinks you are one talented young lady and I appreciate your blog. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Benson, for your discerning candor. It can be a massive challenge to find the perfect fit for every week’s essay, and some may strike a bull’s-eye, whereas others may fall severely short. But it heartens me to know that the objective to practice the craft of writing was well-received. Your opinion matters to me, and I’m hugely grateful for the time you take (especially on your day of weekly ablutions!) to read through the post. And especially to leave your thoughts.
      My gratitude is as boundless as ever. 🙂

      • Aw shucks. Just being honest. You are a singular talent. As a matter of fact I may just have to listen to those guys.After all if you like them there must be something there. Thanks for everything. Afterall you were right about single malt

        • Benson, you are entirely hugable.
          And did you see Linnet’s comment about the food podcast? “Evan Kleiman’s wonderful show “Good Food” from KCRW in Santa Monica” Here’s the link to the web site. I say we check it out.
          Also, I’m hoping you might have spotted a Speyside, a Lowland, or a Highland in your neck of the woods that you might put on your Christmas list. Then start broadcasting that list around to all your family. Start early. Campaign heavily.

          • I am afraid I strayed from the path. I bought a bottle of Dewars. I know heresy. I can’t believe I used to drink that a long time ago. I do like your idea. It is never to early to get the Christmas Spirit. Especially if it’s a single malt.

  2. Ah, Beautiful Men and their beautiful voices. I am fond of these guys too, though I only do earbuds when exercising. The rest of the time, I enjoy the sound of silence! Ironically my favorite podcast is by a woman: Evan Kleiman’s wonderful show “Good Food” from KCRW in Santa Monica. Everything you ever wanted to know about comestibles, from the anthropological to the culinary to the horticultural…
    But getting back to Men, you know who is really good looking and has a great voice too? Kai Ryssdal of “Marketplace” on American Public Media. But I don’t know if they have a podcast.

  3. You know, I used to share your addiction. I went cold turkey last year, and after a couple of weeks of the shakes and snappishness in general, I made it through, and now I live in ignorant bliss. It IS possible, YOU CAN DO IT!

    • It’s good to know that others have paved the road before me. If things truly become too self-indulgent, I just may have to request a few tips for handling the withdrawal. Thanks for the encouragement. 😛

  4. Ah Shelley,

    Yet another entertaining blog and I very much enjoy the variety of your topics; always very informative and descriptive. I too am an NPR junky. Just as Dad’s blue Malibu car with the high tech one speaker AM/8-track radio was always stuck on the local RL station, (remember “Time to Trade?”, ugg… “ah, yea, I’ve got two suckling pigs and a chicken to trade and I’m look’n fer some Plot Lot deer feed to make my deer stand attrack more bucks. Oh, that, and if ya can include some fox pea spray I’ll throw in an extra bushel of Honeycrisp apples from the orchard.”)… and the Leon Redbone tape forever lodged in the player.

    My truck’s radio station is set to 10 different NPR/PRI stations I can pick up, depending on which side of the peninsula I am driving on, (the blessings of living right off the Great Lakes). The other two are set to Canadian stations I oddly pick up when the weather is just right; the French CBCX and the CBC… both entertaining.

    Ah, NPR, just as good as FOX network, “Fair, and Balanced.” Gee, sure wish NPR had that claim first. Hmm. 😉

    I’ll send you today’s all day duck roast and mule deer braise recipe later, I think you’l truly want to make it.

    Much love,

    Stoshu 🙂

    • Time to Trade–I do remember that! And Dick Kaner–43 years in broadcasting. Now there’s a voice I hear every time I pour a bowl of cereal.
      Glad you liked the post, buddy, and I’m totally envying the fact that you can get TEN different stations. I drove twelve hours back from Boston last night and was lucky to find one per state–and dodgy reception the whole way. Okay, it might be the fact that I basically took the route of the Appalachian Trail, so it’s probably my fault, but still, TEN? Lucky you.
      Yes, do send me the recipe so that I can hate you just a little bit more than I already do. Rub it in bud, rub it in. *sigh*

    • Thanks, Cindy–super kind of you to say. I’m glad you get a chance to hear some of these stories. I absolutely love sharing the worthy tales of others and NPR finds me doing that nearly every day.

  5. Radio for us is just noise and gabbling DJs saying gibberish and nothing of importance. Saying that though, occasionally we tune in to some really good classical stuff (not too heavy or ‘busy’) or a good radio play or discussion. The Internet is therefore our main means of communication, which is why it is such a pain when the connection is down, as if someone has flicked a switch and turned it off!
    Love Rob’s cartoons, especially the IVs! Brilliant.

    • You’re so right, there is a lot of ear-splitting caterwauling on the radio currently, and it does seem to grow more nerve jangling each year, which is one of the reasons why I download these podcasts from the internet and listen to them either on my smart phone or computer later on. No commercials, no raucous volume, just absorbing narrative. Do you have speakers for your computer?
      Glad you liked Rob’s work this week. I love that he went with something a little off the rack. Caricatures are so telling.

      • We had a set of speakers, but they were included in the great sort out give away. I’m afraid I’m still of the walkman ilk or personal CD player, though both of those have gone now too. Who knows what Father Christmas may bring in his sack this year!

  6. I love NPR and consider myself a junkie. No intentions of going on the straight and narrow, either. They’ve been my voice of reason, my entertainment and my joy for many years, but mostly in the car.

    I enjoy your rich prose and your delicious take on these voices. I’m always stunned when I finally see a face to go with the voice. It’s a bit like reading a favorite book, then seeing it made into a movie. Our own imagination is rarely a match for reality.

    • I’m so with you there, Alys. Books to movies almost always fall short for me. I need to put a lot of space in between the reading and the viewing.
      And many thanks for your incredibly kind words about the writing. I’m so glad you liked it. Long live our drug lords!

  7. I have a love/hate relationship with Ira Glass and the Radiolab guys, since sometimes their stories are a little too depressing. But they’re always fascinating! I’d add Peter Sagal to the list, because I love listening to Wait Wait each weekend (just finished the latest program!). And Tom Ashbrook’s voice is so calm, curious, and authoritative.

    • Yes, Abby, I agree, there are oftentimes a few I find I’m skipping over if I don’t have the emotional stomach for them, but then I’m thrilled I’ve got a backlog of choices elsewhere that are uplifting, if not just purely fascinating. It’s easy to get behind.
      And I love Peter Sagal, but I tend to feel really bad about myself after listening to his program, as it illuminates the realization that I will never, ever be clever or fast enough to be a participant on his show.
      Oooh, one more you might enjoy–simply for the incredibly witty and super fast banter. Pop Culture Happy Hour. They’re all so clever.

  8. Of the gents you mention, Ira Glass is the only one I’ve listened to. I guess I am woefully undereducated! As usual, love Rob’s sketches – the calendar is a great idea – Jan

    • I highly doubt the under-educated part, Jan, maybe just not obsessively saturated. Which is most likely a healthy thing. Maybe you’ll give one more a try?
      Glad you find the calendar a worthy notion. More info coming up on that soon!

  9. Shelley!, Your posts are always so ready-witted … “their stories are as fickle and unpredictable as the wind. I never know where it is we will go, or how we will get there. I only know that when it is all said and done, I want another ride” Those lines were so powerful and I have experienced the same feeling… It is breathtaking when it happens, don’t you think?… Regarding “obsessions” I guess a podcast OCT would never hurt… So go ahead then and keep it up ❤
    All the very best to you, Aquileana 😀

    • What wonderfully warm-hearted words, Aquileana! Your comments have warmed my soul. Thank you. And yes, I do feel that those well-written, beautifully narrated stories are enough to fetch the breath from your chest and leave you hungering for more. It’s purely magical. Not unlike the spellbinding tales of mythology you untangle for everyone on your blog site. I look forward to the next dose. Cheers to you too, my friend! 😀

  10. I’m sorry I can’t help feed your addiction, Shelley, but I find that it’s very hard for me to simply sit and listen to something. (Now I can sit and read something until the cows come home, but listening is another matter.) I’m wondering if this aversion to simply sitting and listening to a radio broadcast–or in this techie age, a podcast–stems from my early childhood, when naps were a requirement for every child under the age of six at my daytime babysitter’s house. She’d set the radio to the easy listening station, but in the middle of nap time, Paul Harvey’s daily broadcast played. I had no idea what the man was talking about; I just thought that he was boring and longed for the easy listening music to come back on. (To this day, I can easily recall the way Paul Harvey’s voice sounded.)

    Earlier this year when I bemoaned the bias I saw in so much of mainstream media, a friend of mine told me that she listens to NPR on her way to work. I’ve set NPR’s website as my homepage, and I find them to be a very reliable source of information. While I’m at work, though, I love listening to WNRN, the independent radio station broadcasting out of Charlottesville.

    • Really?? You’re listening to WNRN, Miranda?? I had a friend who used to DJ for the station – and they have got a few programs I really enjoy, like Acoustic Sunrise and Bluegrass Sunday Morning. Many of my musician friends have been featured on their programming, so I’ve got an extra soft spot for them.
      And speaking of soft spots, Grandpa Harvey’s broadcasts make me incredibly nostalgic for childhood. It’s amazing how people’s voices are symbiotic of eras and memories and emotions.
      And I totally understand that “listening” to tales is not everyone’s cup of tea. My dad absorbs books faster than I absorb chocolate (a most impressive feat), and I’ve tried for years to get him to try audio books and now podcasts. He’s just not biting. Doesn’t do it for him. I get it. And I won’t push it. Well, maybe I’ll push it with him, but I promise I won’t push it with you. He doesn’t have a choice about coming back to read my posts. 😀

      • WNRN is the most awesome radio station ever. I’ve discovered so many great artists by listening to it.

        Oh, I certainly wouldn’t mind if you suggested a podcast for me–I’d be willing to give it a try again. In fact, I do wish I could listen to audio books sometimes. I just find my mind wandering (which it certainly never does when I’m reading your delightful posts). 🙂

  11. He he he! Mine is at 5.30pm every day on Triple J – Hack with Tom Tilley (radio show in Australia available via live streaming… of course). It is one of those shows that I can listen to every day, no matter whether the topic would normally interest me or not, because they make it interesting. So there is another one for your obsession!

  12. Hey Shelley!
    Another post I loved 🙂 I have no idea about the guys you talked about but then your words were interesting enough to give me a fair idea and also to get me to the end of the post. 😉 As for me, in my part of the world we hardly have people like them any more… :/

    • Many thanks, Madhusmita, for slogging through to the end! And here’s the kicker: if you have an internet connection (which apparently you do 🙂 ), then you can click on any of these links and download the podcasts to listen to. Or you can go to iTunes and download them there, or to and download them from here as well. The options are endless and available to everyone. Maybe something might catch your fancy? I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Everyone should have access to news of the world and the people who create newsworthy stories. Cheers to you!

  13. Hi, thank you for checking out Bob the Blobby Dog’s site. I haven’t given into the temptation to try the world of podcasts mainly due to the achingly slow internet here. But I loved your post and perhaps I will sometime in the near future break out and try listening to some and see where it takes me. Loved your description: opinionatedly creative, that is the phrase that prompts me to give it a go.

    • Well, Maria, consider this your warning. And I’ll apologize now up front. 😛
      I’ve oftentimes got that same syndrome of mind-numbingly slow internet speed, but I’ll sometimes set about downloading the program in the morning, work on my writing during the day and check back every once in a while until it’s finished and then transfer it to my smartphone. Then it’s ready to listen to, without ‘connection interuptus,’ at my leisure. I hope you’ll give it a whirl.

  14. Hi Shelley! There’s something about a great voice…it makes me wonder what it would have been like back when all we had for electronic entertainment was the radio. Thanks for sharing your faves, although I am hesitant to check them out in case I, too, get addicted. 🙂

    • An addiction that fills your heart as well as your head has got to appeal to one so learned as yourself, right? Maybe? Hopefully?
      And yes, I was raised on radio programs versus television (that was off limits), so I’m guessing it stuck.
      And both my kids went to sleep nightly with books on tape playing until they fell asleep. To this day, they think Jim Dale (Harry Potter narrator) should read every story created.
      I kinda agree.

      • I’ve been listening to Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole series with my son, and marvelling at how many voices narrator Pamela Garelick can produce. I haven’t heard Jim Dale, but I shall now seek him out! 🙂

  15. I just found your blog this week and I absolutely love your writing style, your wit and your content. Few have grab me like this one. Refreshingly witting. I am a Wait Wait Don’t Tell me junky. I will be checking out your loves here soon. I am confident they are succulent.

    • A huge thank you, Rhonda, for such kind comments. What a daymaker of words to read.
      I want so very badly to be a Wait, Wait fan – and I am as far as content goes – but I feel so intellectually inferior once I’m neck deep in it. I could never be a contestant. I’d embarrass and aggravate everyone with my true need for the wait wait part.
      I hope you might find something worthy in my favorite list. Let me know if anything strikes a chord.

  16. Pingback: Creative Storytelling: Five Ideas | The Daily Post

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