My commute to work takes around an hour and as can be expected, it's a boring hour crammed like sardines in a rickety metal container with other poor souls. I've taken to listening to podcasts as I rarely have the luxury of comfortably reading a book on the train. I'll be introducing my favourites in this post.
I say favourites, but it's basically everything on my iPhone subscription. Practically all of them are from public broadcasters, and a few I basically found after searching for people or shows I already followed in other formats. All the shows can be found at the link (opens in a new window), or by searching in a podcast app.
Hello Internet (http://www.hellointernet.fm)
Each episode is basically a conversation between CGP Grey and Brady from YouTube talk about various topics. I think it was CGP Grey himself who described it as "two dudes talking". It is very interesting, humorous and also informative at times. CGP Grey also has one of the easiest voices to listen to. His regular talking voice is basically exactly the same as his YouTube video voice. The interaction and banter between them is great and they play off each other's idiosyncrasies. I find that even almost two hours seem too short at times.
At the time of writing, the show is on its third season with 15 episodes. The first one is 39 minutes but it quickly devolved to be consistently over one and a half hours, with the third season hovering around the two hour mark. But like I mentioned above, it never feels tiresome.
(The podcast is also kind of the reason why this blog exists since Squarespace is one of their sponsors, and I just went, "hey it's cheap and works well, let's register a domain name".)
The Infinite Monkey Cage (http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/timc)
This is a wonderfully funny and informative panel show from BBC4 starring Brian Cox, the poster boy of physics in UK, and some comedian called Robin Ince. Each episode features different scientists, comedians, actors and other public personalities discussing various scientific topics from particle physics to homeopathy and the science of Christmas. I love how unapologetic the show and the two hosts are for their dismissal of stupidity, ignorance and bad/fake science, and their unabashed bias towards scientific fact, logic and critical thinking.
If you couldn't tell, this is perhaps one of my favourite shows ever, and not only because it features Brian Cox. The show has unfortunately released its last episode of the past series in March, but never fear, a new season starts very soon on July 7th. There are 49 episodes so far, each just under 30 minutes, with a few that are slightly longer.
If you love science, Brian Cox, poking fun at art (and occasionally biology) and British accents, you'll love this show. Also, some amazing guests show up, such as Stephen Fry and Neil deGrasse Tyson. And don't miss the the hilarious physics vs chemistry episode.
In fact you should stop reading and go download all the episodes right now.
Story-telling and Radio Drama
The Vinyl Cafe (http://www.cbc.ca/vinylcafe/home.php)
If ever there was a show that that epitomized "Canadiana", this would be there right behind "The Red Green Show". Every episode is a mix of live music, write-in stories from listeners and masterful story-telling of the lives of Dave and Morley, and Stephanie and Sam and the Turlingtons, and Scottish meat pies that are always sold out but you can have some fried rice instead. The stories are always humorous and touching, in that particular Canadian way. .
I used to only listen to it on CBC Radio 2 in the car by happenstance. Then I googled the show and realized I could listen to it anytime I wanted. Still, this is definitely a show that best suits a lazy Sunday afternoon. Each show is just under an hour, and there's a large back catalogue available.
Droles de Drames (http://www.franceculture.fr/podcast/4685678)
A radio-drama show by France Culture, a part of the public French radio broadcaster, featuring hour-long standalone episodes of various works of literature adapted for the radio. My favourites so far are from "Les Petits Polars du Monde", a series based on various works of intrigue and mystery, such as Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue". That particular series sounds like what I imagine the old radio dramas to be like, complete with creaking doors, screams of terror and footsteps on stone roads.
I need to mention at this point that I don't actually understand much French. (Or to be more accurate, I understand less than 0.1%.) Still I find this show enjoyable, though I typically listen to the same episode several times over and use it more as a background sound for mundane tasks. If you do understand French, I imagine these would be even more entertaining.
Suzudama Monogatari, or the Tales of Suzu-dama are short stories revolving around a cat called "Tama" who lost his memory and his daily life and his various cat friends. The stories are simple, cute and voiced pretty well. There are only 8 episodes, and each lasts around 15-30 minutes. The stories may not be amazing or terribly original, but it's great as a lighthearted bite-size "snack". The stories feature a full cast of various (stock character) cats, including a spoiled little cat who thinks otoro (deluxe fatty tuna) is what all fish should look/taste like and a gruff aniki-character, along with the eponymous "Tama".
As you can probably tell by the title, this podcast is completely in Japanese. Now I also need to mention that I don't understand much Japanese either. However, the language used in this is simple enough, and the cats speak slow enough, that anyone with a basic grasp of spoken Japanese should be able to comprehend most of the story, without needing to understand 100% of the spoken dialogue.
In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qykl)
Another BBC Radio 4 production, this is a panel show about the "history of ideas", featuring experts in each topic of the week, ranging from religion to science to philosophy and more. The topics can get a little esoteric sometimes, but all the topics are quite interesting and I feel that anyone with a curiosity in the social sciences, arts and history would find the show engaging. The guests are typically all professors from various universities throughout Britain. The shows cover a staggering variety of topics and manage to be quite funny at times.
Each episode is typically under 50 minutes, which is admittedly a little too short for some of the topics. The panel talk format keeps the show from seeming like a lecture, although the downside is that often the show requires you to have some glancing knowledge of the topic. Another slight downside is that the sound of the podcasts are rather quiet, which can sometimes make it difficult on public transit.
Les Lundis de L'Histoire (http://www.franceculture.fr/emission-les-lundis-de-l-histoire)
Also from France Culture, this show has run since 1966. The hour-long show focuses on history throughout the world and spanning the entire history of human civilization. Some episodes focus on a particular time period, some on a particular event or zeitgeist, and others on the history of a particular topic or idea. This show follows a panel format with expert guests invited for each episode. Some of the episodes are interspersed with various musical interludes relevant to the topic at hand.
This show is also in French and, I would say, is very difficult to fully comprehend without both fluency in French and some knowledge about the topic. Some panel guests and the host tend to speak very rapidly at times. Again, if you understand French I think this is a very compelling show. Otherwise, you can be a weirdo like me and just enjoy the sound of French.
I hope my descriptions interested you enough to check out some of the shows. I'm always on the hunt for funny and informative podcasts (a plus if they have nice voices), so please comment with your favourites or any of your recommendations!