Rolling Down the New Pod Highway

Just before leaving Glenwood Springs, I created a podcast playlist for the three-hour drive down I-70 to home. It was the first time I'd prepared a playlist for a specific trip, taking advantage of a Volvo iPod add-on that cost more than the iPod itself but does a terrific job putting high-quality audio into the car's sound system.

Being a good husband, I did not pack the playlist with geek-roticia such as my favorite tech podcasts (MacNotables, C|Net's Buzz Out Loud, Mac Attack, Mac Observer's Mac Geek Gab, and Typical Mac User) or with podcasts about podcasting ( Today in Podcasting, the Podcast Pickle, and Podcaster Confessions).

Instead I led off with the latest two podcasts by U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, whom I know Darlene likes to hear. Obama is one of a handful of politicians making savvy use of podcasting. His weekly offerings are informal, informative, and completely devoid of frills. It's as if he just called you up for a personal, one-on-one update from the Senate. As we drove down Glenwood Canyon, we listened to Obama's take on immigration reform and chemical plant vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

Next I programmed in some lighter fare, My Marilyn, a sweet show all about Marilyn Monroe created by Melinda Mason, a fan and who clearly is from Canada, because we hear all "a-boot" Marilyn on her podcasts. I lucked out, because the episode I happened to download (number 21) was a half-hour recording (see Update below) of the Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show from October 26, 1952. Marilyn Monroe was the special guest on the show, announcing her impending marriage to the dummy. It was a tightly scripted, hilarious tour de force, showing Monroe's comic genius, as well as Bergen's.

It was tough to top Marilyn, but the next podcast looked to be newsworthy in the podosphere, which of course meant more to me than to my civilian wife. A California podcaster named Dan Klass, host of The Bitterest Pill, which I've thought was only an average show, announced that henceforth you will have to pay two dollars a month to download his podcast. I've heard of only one other podcaster, Ricky Gervais in London, trying to "monetize" his show like this. Klass pointed out that you'll only pay 50 cents an episode for his show, adding, "Heck, you spend five times that every day on Starbucks!" The truth is, I fell for it until just now when I went looking for the link and found out it was an April Fool's joke. Very funny. I think I'll click on "unsubscribe" at the iTunes Music Store anyway.

I skipped over an episode of My Mac Guys that I'd snuck onto the play list and tried an episode of I Should Be Writing, a podcast by Mur Lafferty, an aspiring fiction writer who brings her listeners in on her creative process, rejections, and a few writing exercises. It's pretty good generally, but this episode didn't catch Darlene's interest, and neither did Senator John Edwards, who even with the help of his wife Elizabeth, is clearly no Barack Obama.

One of the big-time bloggers, Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, now has a podcast with his wife Helen, and the episode we listened to in the Volvo turned out to be a dull, awkward affair, even with a notable guest, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. It was slightly interesting, though, to compare Frist's cloddish comments about immigration with the nuanced, pragmatic and yet compassionate position taken by Obama.

Next up was a special edition of one of the first podcasts that I began listening to, Podcast 411 hosted by Rob Lowe. This is a deceptively simple show that is totally made up of interviews of other podcasters. Rob always asks the same questions, beginning with "What was your first computer?" The interviews are always fascinating to me, full of technical tips as well as guidance on content. The show I downloaded for the trip from Glenwood Springs, though, had nothing to do with podcasting. It was about Rob's new son, whose birth he'd turned into a contest. If you e-mailed a guess at the baby's arrival date and weight (which I did) you had a chance to win all kinds of podcaster goodies, totalling more than $1,000. I think I came very close on the weight, but in the end didn't win. We played the whole episode, which consisted of all the previous mentions of the baby on the show, including audio on his first heartbeat. I was amazed there was no recording of the delivery. Mrs. Podcast 411 must have drawn the line there.

By this time we were getting close to Denver, and I had Lessons 1 through 8 ready to play from the French for Beginners podcast. We listened to the first one, and it was pretty good, a woman giving an organized, precise and friendly overview of how to greet someone and say your name. Darlene is already hooked up with a real French tutor from Sheridan, Wyoming, so she was only mildly interested in the podcast lessons.

So there you have it. Our first personally prepared podcast driving trip. I'm not saying it's easy yet to create this sort of content for the road. But the result sure beats random channel surfing through the offerings of traditional radio. And the possibilities are endless for what you could program into your playlist for the next trip. You could throw in some of your favorite music for a change of pace. And who knows, someone out there may be driving down the interstate listening to the Mile High Pod Chronicles, telling his wife, "Listen to this. What do you think?"

Update (4/12/06): The link to the Edgar Bergen show episode misfired (honest, Mom and Dad, I didn't mean to lure you to the Barack Obama page under false pretenses), and I can't seem to find a permalink. So if you'd like to listen, you have to take these steps: 1) click here for the opening My Marilyn page. 2) Click anywhere on the black and white photo of Marilyn. 3) When you arrive at the next page, click on the link labeled "The Show" just below the photo of the iPod. 3) When you arrive at the next page, scroll down under Show Notes to Episode 21. You can't miss it; it has a photo of Marilyn getting smooched simultaneously by Edgar and Charlie. Click on the little link next to the date titled "MP3" to hear the fun. It may take a while to download.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sorry it took me so long to respond. Here is the direct link to the Charlie McCarthy Episode

I'm glad you liked the show!
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