Other Media

Podcasts

In 2020 I got very excited about Pushkin. Malcolm Gladwell and his best friend Jacob Weisberg created Pushkin to combine entertainment value that Malcolm Gladwell brings, combined with the knowledge of some of the world’s greatest experts.(1)This is a I really enjoyed the great podcast on the history of Pushkin where Michael Lewis interviews the co-founders. Here are some of my favorites:

From COVID-19 Podcasts from 2020/2021:

  • This American Life Episode 727 had an interview with 4 of the scientists that did the basic research on the COVID-19 vaccine. The crazy thing about this vaccine is that all the research on the vaccine was done years ago, on MERS. Most of the COVID vaccine work was the engineering and testing of making the vaccine. Without that huge jump start, we would still be waiting for a vaccine.
  • The Great Vaccinator is about an obscure scientist who we should all know the name of. Maurice Hilleman created the Mumps vaccine in 4 years, in addition to creating 8 of the 14 standard childhood vaccines.
  • Every Day is Ignaz Semmelweis Day is an homage to the discoverer of germs and the first proponent of hand washing. The medical community was not a fan of Semmelweis, thinking that doctors new best. It reminded me of this Atul Gawande piece on anesthesia vs. antisepsis.

My classic list of podcasts (from 2016) kind of clump together as This American Life-Like (no pun intended). I like a lot of podcasts but these are the ones that I tend to listen to every week and have gone deeply into the archives on:

  • This American Life – There’s no point in explaining This American Life. It’s the father of all modern podcasts. If you haven’t listened to it you should. You can start here. I’ll let the TV Show “The O.C” describe it as “Is that that show by those hipster know-it-alls who talk about how fascinating ordinary people are? Ekhh. God.” I remember first hearing This American Life on the radio in college but I didn’t know the name. Then I heard it again in a cab in Chicago and listed to all of the archives online. The show spawned a number of other This American Life-Like Podcasts:
    • Planet Money. A business podcast started by two contributors from This American Life – originally a joint project between This American Life and NPR.
    • Startup. A podcast about starting a company called Gimlet to create more podcasts like This American Life.
    • Invisibilia. A podcast about human behavior created by alumnae from This American Life and RadioLab.
  • Radiolab is a more sciency take on podcasts (“lab” is short for laboratory). They do episodes on hard topics like logarithms and chirality. They’ve also done more lighthearted bits like the transformation of Professional Wrestling. They also did a great episode on a man who took a very different approach to the prisoner’s dilemma (for anyone who loves game theory, you’ll really love this!) Abigail and I saw them live. It was amazing. I learned about Radiolab from This American Life – Ira really likes them.
  • 99 Percent Invisible — This is a phenomenal podcast about design all around us. You can start here for a sampling. I learned about 99 Percent Invisible from Radiolab.
  • WTF with Marc Maron — This is the oddball in the bunch. A great podcast by a great interviewer who’s a bit of a troubled soul. His interview with Louis CK is one of the best podcasts ever. He’s also done the only interview of Terry Gross from Fresh Air. Oh, and he interviewed The President. The Obama recap also shows how nutty Maron really is. Unfortunately most of his archive requires a subscription.

Blogs and Newsletters

  • Kottke.org — One of the earliest and still one of the best blogs on the net. It feels like you’re walking into an artisanally curated Brooklyn art gallery/coffee shop poetry slam. I learned about Kottke.org from Rebecca Mead’s early article on blogging You’ve Got Blog (added 8/20).
  • NextDraft — This daily newsletter by Dave Pell is a thoughtful and fun summary of the day in 10 mini articles. Pell does this as an unpaid side gig but takes this job as “Managing Editor of the Internet” seriously. Pell is a venture capitalist who hit it big and this is his full-time/hobby/job/semi-retirement project.
  • Post Secret — People send in anonymous postcards with secrets they haven’t told anyone else. What you get is brutal raw honesty. Founder Frank Warren has a great video summarizing the site. I saw Frank live and he opened the presentation with the music video Dirty Little Secret which used actual Post Secret cards.

Songs

Television Shows

 

Videos and Other Media

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 This is a I really enjoyed the great podcast on the history of Pushkin where Michael Lewis interviews the co-founders.