Podcast Recommendations

Podcasting is like radio for the 21st century, and after initial skepticism, I have become a big fan. Some podcasts I especially enjoy are:

Bible for Normal People

Pete Enns and Jared Byas discuss the Bible with open and inquiring minds. Guests have included Rachel Held Evans, Austen Hartke, Miguel de la Torre, Xavier Ramey, Wil Gafney, and dozens of other Biblical and theological scholars, writers, bloggers, preachers, and speakers. Highly recommended for anyone who is on a faith journey but who also appreciates intellectual rigor.

Queerology 

This is another religion-related podcast. The tagline is “A podcast about faith and being.” Matthias Roberts begins every episode by asking his guest(s) this question: “How would you say you identify, and how has your faith helped shape that identity?” It’s a great way to get the conversation rolling! Matthias and his guests primarily talk about faith and queerness with intelligence and compassion.

Clear+Vivid

For the past twenty or so years, Alan Alda’s focus has been on science communication, and that is the primary theme of his podcast. His guests include an array of scientists, professors, actors, communicators, and of course som appearances by his co-actors from M*A*S*H. Enjoyable, informative, and frequently quite humorous.

Dear Hank & John

This is a collaborative venture between Complexly (makers of educational YouTube content like Crash Course, SciShow, and Healthcare Triage, just to name a few) and WNYC (New York Public Radio). Brothers Hank and John Green “answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the latest news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon.” How many others podcasts bring you all that? Mostly light-hearted and sometimes very silly. Even though entertainment is the main goal, there is a lot of genuinely good information here. Oh, and Hank likes to talk about poop.

The Anthropocene Reviewed

Another Complexly production, this one is considerably more serious than Dear Hank & John. Author John Green reviews “facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale.” In every episode, John brings together two different (and I mean REALLY different) things to review. Examples: Hot Dog Eating Contest and Chemotherapy, Prom and the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad. Be forewarned: John can make you cry. The episode “QWERTY Keyboard and the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō” really had me in tears for both its strange beauty and its sadness.

Vlogging and Blogging

I’ve been doing VEDA (Video Every Day in April) this year. I was going to do it last year, but didn’t get around to it. I almost didn’t do it again this year, and in fact got a late start, so I changed my personal challenge from VEDA to 30VI30D: “30 Videos In 30 Days.” I know very little about VEDA’s origins (and frankly, I haven’t spent too much time researching it) other than a wee bit of info here. A Reddit from 5 years ago implies that even back then, VEDA might already have been passé. C’est la vie. I’m doing it anyway.

I’m mainly using it as a chance to practice recording myself talking into a camera, the camera in my case being an Android. Pretty low-tech, I admit, but it’s still an interesting learning experience. One thing I’m learning is that I say “um” and “uh” and “yeah” too much. I think my speech habits have declined in recent years and I’m not happy about it. I can do better. Seeing myself in in the short video clips I’ve been making is a humbling experience. In my head, I look fabulous and speak smoothly and mellifluously. Every word is a pearl of wisdom. In reality, I look old and overweight, I puff when I record myself while walking, I tend to babble (although not as incoherently as our so-called president); and then there are all those “ums” and “uhs” and “yeahs.”

Similarly, these blog posts are largely a chance for me to practice churning out small pieces of writing on a semi-regular basis. Reading back over them is another humbling experience, but every writer gives the same advice to would-be writers: “Write!” so I’m writing. I’m also practicing my typing, which is another skill where I feel I fall short. I prefer to write with a pencil and paper, but then there’s the problem of transferring what’s on paper to the computer. I suppose I could simply scan my notebook pages, but my handwriting, while perfectly legible to me, might be difficult for other people to decipher.

So there you have it—a brief note on why I vlog and blog. If anyone wants some helpful hints from a highly successful vlogger, check out these videos from Hank Green:

Here’s What I’m Into Online

small Captain T

Yes, I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. And I do interact with them—probably more than I should—but I also spend a great deal of time ignoring much of what comes my way via those channels. There are better ways to spend my time online. Here are a few of them:

I’ve promoted the many online endeavors of John and Hank Green before, and I’m about to do it again. Hank’s latest YouTube project is Journey to the Microcosmos, a relaxing and informative look at the microscopic world around us. Hank is much mellower on this channel than his regular viewers may be used to, and he proves he can deliver even at a slower tempo. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBbnbBWJtwsf0jLGUwX5Q3g

If someone had told me even two months ago that I would be listening to and recommending a podcast by a former megachurch pastor, I would not have believed them. Yet here I am plugging Rob Bell’s RobCast. Although his main focus is matters of religion, the pod casts a wide net (see what I did there?), and you won’t be bored! It’s not hard to see why Bell’s preaching attracted large crowds; he’s very good. https://robbell.com/portfolio/robcast/

Another religious podcast that has been bringing me much enjoyment comes from Peter Enns and Jared Byas. The Bible for Normal People takes up the many issues, problems, and controversies surrounding the Bible. Though many people claim the Bible takes center stage in their lives, too often they haven’t really given it the thought and in-depth reading it deserves. Enns and Byas tackle even the thorniest issues head-on, chatting with a varied company of scholars, writers, and bloggers, all the while keeping the tone accessible and entertaining. https://thebiblefornormalpeople.podbean.com/

While we’re on religious subjects, Austen Hartke approaches the Bible from a transgender perspective, which is refreshing and needed. The subtitle of his webpage is “Theology – Identity – Education,” and that pretty well sums it up. (I’ll be doing a lot of this business of approaching theology from different and sometimes surprising perspective in upcoming posts.) http://austenhartke.com/

“Life is an art. Make it your masterpiece.” This is the headline of Lavendaire, the website and YouTube channel by Aileen Xu. Some folks may find here a bit too New Agey, but I enjoy spending some time with her online. Creative Lifestyle Guru is perhaps an abused job title these days, but Lavendaire’s optimistic, helpful, and healthy advice is…well…optimistic, helpful and healthy! https://www.lavendaire.com/

 

 

 

Nerdfighters and Community

At 55, I am much too old to be a Nerdfighter. Even Nerdfighter founders John and Hank Green, who joke these days about their own ages (41 and 39, respectively), are considerably my juniors.  Nevertheless, in the Nerdfighters, I have found a community that brings me great comfort and connection.

For those not in the know: The Nerdfighter community grew up organically around the Green brothers, author John and web entrepreneur Hank, beginning with their YouTube VlogBrothers channel back in 2007. Since then, both Greens have become wildly successful, and their handprints are everywhere with projects like Crash Course, SciShow, podcasts, conventions, bestselling novels and movie adaptations. Through it all, they keep in close touch with their fans. A Nerdfighter is defined as someone who “is made entirely out of awesome.” (Yes, there is an entire Nerdfighter lexicon. https://nerdfighteria.com/).

John has said a Nerdfigher is someone who is not afraid to express unironic enthusiasm. Perhaps this is the quality that most attracts me to the Nerdfigher community. In an age where irony has become the normative way of seeing and expressing our emotions and those of others, it is refreshing to wholly embrace feeling, whether it is a passion for literature, soccer, science, or marshmallow Peeps. This enthusiasm is apparent in the tagline with which the Greens end all of their broadcasts: “Don’t forget to be awesome!”

Outspoken atheist Kurt Vonnegut frequently advised people to join a church if for no other reason than to be part of a community. Sometimes churches can feel threatening to an outsider though. Whether it is a perceived holier-than-thou attitude, the baggage of a long history of narrow-mindedness and scandal, or simple fear of a place filled with unknown ritual and terminology, churches are not necessarily as welcoming as Nerdfighters. What can the church learn from the Greens? To borrow another phrase from John: This is not a rhetorical question.