Neil deGrasse Tyson

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This is by a looong way the most famous and widely listened podcast I’m ever likely to mention in one of these podverse posts, and therefore the one least in need of me flagging it up. But I figure there must be people out there who don’t know about it, and it is in any case a good gateway for those not yet converted to the joy of the podcast universe because it’s got good, meaty content and high production values.

The Nerdist Podcast is kind of the flagship show on what has become a virtual independent mutli-media empire run by Chris Hardwick.  There’s a whole load of other podcasts and even video shows that form part of the ecosystem, not many of which I actually know much about though I suspect there’s something in there you’d like, but I am here today to point at the flagship.

Specifically, a couple of recent episodes that I kind of liked.

Nerdist #277 is worth checking out, for two reasons.  Those two reasons are, conveniently, the two items that each make up half the show.  First is a conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson, which covers all sorts of stuff I find interesting, most of it clustered around the subject of Science.  Quite a few fun little bits and some pretty serious little bits in there, such as examples of spectacularly bad design in human evolution, the point of education, different ways of solving a Rubik’s Cube etc.  The second half of the show – it was released round about Halloween – is a ‘true’ ghost story.  You may or may not find it creepy, or even enjoy it, but I was quite taken with it mainly just because I think it’s no easy thing for someone to sit there and deliver an apparently unscripted, extended monologue about their own creepy experiences that is remotely engaging or has any kind of satisfying narrative flow and pacing.  I thought they did a good job, even if it maybe goes on just a little bit too long.

Nerdist #279 is an interview with Kevin Bacon.  It’s a good example of what I like about such podcast conversations: so long as the interviewee is willing to play along they can often get to places, and cover material, that you would very rarely see discussed at any length in print or on TV.  That’s partly because they’re often long (this is up around the hour mark, and there’s hardly anywhere left in our short attention span culture – other than podcasts – where you hear or see famous people talking at such length) and partly because, I imagine, they feel less formal and perhaps less consequential to the celebrity involved, and they’re therefore more inclined to go with the flow.  It’s not quite as casual as just eavesdropping on an unstructured conversation, but it’s not a million miles away from that either.  So here you get Kevin Bacon talking about finding a cheap apartment in New York in the 1970s, his 90 year-old father’s campaigning and protesting, the experience of being in the Animal House movie, the addictive nature of fame, and much else.  It’s a good, calm listen.

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