Feature image courtesy of http://www.hitthefloor.com/

Keen readers will have noticed by now that I’ve written about Podcasts before (namely here [LINK]).

Not to worry though, dear reader. Previously, I’d written about podcasts relating directly to software development.

I’m a software developer, you see. It just stands to reason that I’d be interested in that kind of thing.

This time, I thought I’d ramble on about recreational podcasts for a while. The kinds of podcasts that I might listen to for unwinding purposes, or to learn more about the world we all live in. Podcasts that I can listen to when I’m wandering about town, on the train, or doing the shopping. But not when I’m necessarily looking to learn about my chosen profession.

I’ve picked my favourite 14 podcasts from my current subscription list, I’m going to list them with a short description and some reasons why I think they’re great. So without further ado (or rambling on to take up space, or increase my word count), here is my list of podcasts:

99% Invisible

I discovered this one while listening to the TED Talks Audio podcast (more on that in a moment). It’s the brain child of Roman Mars, one of the founders of Radiotopia [LINK], who brings you a weekly short essay on design and architecture, each of them is eminently entertaining and extremely informative about the things that are almost completely invisible.

Mars’ discussion on the design of flags, for instance, has been viewed/listened to over 1 million times (and that’s just on the TED website alone). Each episode is thoroughly thought out and presented in a way that is engaging whilst being open enough to allow you to take in what is being said and think for yourself. Plus, they range from 4 to 12 minutes in length, which is a plus for our 21st century, instant entertainment, world.

The Biggest Problem In the Universe

This is an extremely entertaining podcast with an extremely simple set up: Each week hosts Maddox and Dick Masterson bring 2 problems each to their discussion, they discuss the problems and listeners are invited to vote on the problems. Essentially, they’re getting the wider Internet to choose the world’s biggest problems.

It’s actually more hilarious than it sounds mainly due to the interplay of Maddox, Dick, Shaun (the audio engineer), and whoever they have on as a guest star. The site includes a glossary of inside jokes (for folks who might have missed the odd episode), the list of problems, fan art, and a voice mail number.

At the time of writing, amongst the highest rated problems are:

  • Anti-Vaxxers
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Slacktivists
  • Social Justice Warriors (SJW)
  • Conspiracy Dipshits

They also offer a paid-for series of podcast episodes (named The Biggest Solution in the Universe), which has the same format but for solutions to life’s big problems.


After Gaijin Kanpai went belly up (for reasons that I’ve never really understood), hosts LoKi; Jalyee; Zero and Erin bring you silliness and reviews of albums from Korea and Japan.

Their reviews are very thorough and informative, with enough information about the artist and culture – which is what happens when you have 4 folks who are VERY interested in all things Japanese.

The episodes are quite short, and they usually include snippets of the album in the background so that you can get a feel for the album as you listen to them talk about it.

History of Japan Podcast

Isaac Meyer is a PhD student at the University of Washington who specialises in Modern Japanese history. His history of Japan podcast is both entertaining and informative with a whole host of sources to back up each episode (and for further reading).

How Did This Get Made?

Comedians Paul Sheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael discus the intricacies  of big blockbuster flop movies. Fan favourites include Street Fighter (with June asking, “What exactly is a street fighter?”), the Fast and Furious series, and Deep Blue Sea.

Occasionally, they record live episodes at Largo which include audience interaction and prizes for attendees. Paul also records mini episodes, where he goes through corrections and omissions (“things we might have missed or gotten wrong”), Q&As (“You give me Qs and I give you As”), and whether the movie they reviewed would be better with Nicolas Cage in the lead role.

I Was There Too

Each week Matt Gourley interviews someone who was there for the making of a historically important film, but not necessarily  the A stars. For instance, the latest episode (at time or writing) was an episode about the film Mrs. Doubtfire, featuring an interview with Lisa Jakub (who played the oldest child, Lydia Hillard), another was an episode about T2; Aliens and Titanic featuring an interview with Jenette Goldstien.

Each episode has a link to the previous one (via 8 degrees of separation style linking), and some have information on the music, production or writing. Definitely one for you movie buffs.

KEXP Song of The Day

KEXP is an internet radio station based in Seattle. who broadcast 24 hours a day. They are so much more than just an Internet radio station, though. In their own words:

KEXP is a dynamic arts organization that provides rich music experiences on the air, online, and on the streets. KEXP’s unique services benefit three distinct groups: Music Lovers, Artists, and the Arts Community.

As well as broadcasting local and internationally renowned artists 24 hours a day, they reviews of albums (in the form of blog posts) and a daily “Song of the Day” podcast which features a performance by a local (to Seattle) band or artist, each day of the year.

Samurai Archives Podcast

Another Japanese history podcast. This time, it focuses on the founding of the Samurai (ranging from the Heian period up to early modern Japanese history), their role in medieval Japan, the bloody battles they fought and the changes (political and otherwise) they helped bring forth.

Hosts Nate, Chris and Travis talk you though each individual topic in 30 minute chunks. They are students of Japanese studies (or at least they were, when they started this podcast) at the university of Honolulu so they definitely know their stuff.

A word of caution though: the first 4 episodes are pretty rough and are interviews which take place at the  AAS/ICAS (The Association for Asian Studies and the International Convention of Asia Scholars) of 2011.

TED Talks

I’m going to assume that you know what TED talks are (if not, then you can learn all about their mission statement here: [LINK]).

Each episode of the podcast is a 4-8 minute short, audio version of some of their best talks. Everything from the design of flags (as mentioned earlier, when I mentioned the 99% Invisible podcast) to the difficulties with raising African-American children in modern America, from Machine Learning to Autism.

The Blacklist Table Reads

The Blacklist [LINK] is a website devoted to getting the best unproduced screen plays into the hands of Hollywood big wigs. The Blacklist Table reads is a podcast devoted to performing the very best of the site in a weekly podcast.

Each screenplay is split across 4-5 twenty minute long episodes performed by extremely talented actors and comedians, with interviews with the writers. If you’re at all interested in movies and story telling, I would recommend listening to this one.

The Bugle

With nearly 300 episodes (at the time of writing), this weekly satirical podcast goes all the way back to 2007 and has the illustrious honour of having introduced the word “Fuckeulogy” into several Dictionaries of the English language (not just online ones, either). The Fuckeulogy was created when Host John Oliver gave a eulogy (of sorts) on the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Obviously, not safe for language ahead:

[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVb84n-FFx4]

The pairing of Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver makes for a double team of satirical wonders. Nothing is free from the magnifying glass view of their wit. Definitely a recommendation for those who enjoy laughing.

The Pratchett Podcast

It’s no secret that I’m a Terry Pratchett fan [LINK] and, though I’ve not written about his passing (yet), I was affected by it not as much as those closest to him obviously.

Graeme Sheridan and Rhys Parton host a monthly podcast devoted to all things Discworld (books, Audiobooks, DVDs, stage plays, conventions, and everything in between). Due to the nature of the podcast, it can (and does) contain spoilers for the books so listen with caution.

The Steve Austin Show

Austin 3:16 says, “Lo there you shall find the cast of pods; brought to you by the loud mouth, trash talking, actor, professional wrestler and ass kicker; Steve Austin.”

There are two versions of the show: the “clean” version, released on Tuesdays; and the “unleashed” version, released on Thursdays. Definitely worth a listen if you’re into Professional Wrestling, TV, Movies or listening to a man talk trash about life and everything that it entails.

We’re Alive

As much as I’m a fan of all of the above podcasts (and a whole bunch of others to boot), We’re Alive is simply the best of the bunch.

It was a bi-monthly produced radio show about a group of survivors after a Zombie apocalypse. Presented as a series of journal entries, We’re Alive won a whole slew of awards and was featured on the Nerdest podcast network. It’s available as a series of Audiobooks (with extended episodes), too.

It’s popularity has even spawned a side story (currently in post production, have smashed it’s kickstarter goal).

Seriously folks, if you’re into storytelling and dramatic works then I don’t think you’d be able to miss this show. Even though it’s already ended, you can listen to it’s 4 season story arch from start to finish with very few interruptions (at 48 chapters of 45 minutes each it would take you one and a half days, listening non-stop) and it’s still available for free as a podcast.

The End?

One thousand seven hundred words later, and I’ve listed 14 of my favourite podcasts with reasons as to why I like them.

I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts, so I’m off to go see what the Internet has for me.

I’m still looking for more Japanese language podcasts that don’t require me to use iTunes to subscribe to them.

Give some of these podcasts a try, I’m sure that you’ll like them, and let me know what you think.

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Jamie is a .NET developer specialising in ASP.NET MVC websites and services, with a background in WinForms and Games Development. When not programming using .NET, he is either learning about .NET Core (and usually building something cross platform with it), speaking Japanese to anyone who'll listen, learning about languages, writing for this blog, or writing for a blog about Retro Gaming (which he runs with his brother)