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.

Anthropocene Reviewed reviewed

Having recently written about connections on this blog (Book Habits), I thought I would turn my attention today to another exploration of connections: John Green’s podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed (Anthropocene Reviewed), in which Green “reviews facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale.”

Google Dictionary defines Anthropocene as “the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment,” which is itself a controversial and fascinating topic.  In each episode of the pod, Green talks about two things, for example: “Teddy Bears and Penalty Shootouts” or “Hawaiian Pizza and Viral Meningitis.” The two subjects of each episode aren’t necessarily compared to each other. In fact, Green rarely ties them together in any way, but simply having such disparate things reviewed in close proximity to each other invites one to find connections. (My personal favorite two episodes are “Velociraptors and Harvey” and “Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad.”) Each episode is around 20 minutes long, and is thoughtfully written. A special pleasure is the quality of John Green’s delivery. His speaking voice is well-suited to the introspective nature of the pod.

Green’s fans also know him from his zanier podcast Dear Hank and John, made with his brother, and highly successful YouTube channels like VlogBrothers and Crash Course. He can rightly be called an internet superstar. Before turning his attention to the internet, John Green had already published his first two young adult novels, Looking for Alaska (winner of won the Michael L. Printz Award, which is given by the American Library Association literary to recognize the “best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit”) and An Abundance of Katherines.  It was on YouTube, however, that his fame exploded. Beginning in 2007 with Brotherhood 2.0, Green’s online presence has made him a celebrity, and one of the internet’s top educators and communicators. This from a man whose first video (January 2, 2007) begins, “I’m not going to be good at this!”

Just as I enjoy finding connection between different books, and between books and everything else, I enjoy discovering and following the connections among the Green brothers’ many projects. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a podcast which should appeal to anyone who is broadly curious about life and its interconnections. I give The Anthropocene Reviewed 4 ½ stars.

 

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.