I bloody love podcasts.
I mean, I get that this is not a unique or particularly brave position to take. We’re surrounded by the things, everyone probably has their favorites, or they have one of their own. (Everybody* Has a Podcast now in the same way that Everybody* Had a Blog 15-20 years ago.) The Golden Age might be over, the market flooded with terribly-produced, inconsistent audio and formless blobs that are merely placeholders to wrap around advertisements for mattresses or smart toothbrushes or underwear. But even if it is gone, it brought us a lot along the way—from gigantic, sweeping stories to intimate whispers. And I love them for it.
I love that plucky podcasts like 99% Invisible have forged their own niches, created their own spaces and gangs (even if I just discovered 99PI is now actually part of Sirius XM.) I love that a creator like Helen Zaltzman can actually build a living—albeit probably a complicated and not that glamorous one—out of telling the world about the things she loves in podcasts like The Allusionist. (It’s words. She loves words.)
And I love that they’ve gotten me through.
At the start of the pandemic, with no commute and no alone time—in fact no discernible transition time at all—I stopped listening to podcasts almost entirely. I couldn’t do anything to justify the time, really. Music was a refuge, radio a place I could let burble in the background… but the kind of spoken word audio that required concentration just couldn’t work for me.
Then, two things happened—or, I suppose, two podcasts happened. There was the Guardian’s Football Weekly which was one of the originals that we set up back in the day and is still going strong, even if the cast has changed somewhat. Science Weekly is pretty different now, and Tech Weekly bit the dust five years ago. But Football Weekly still carries on, and during the sharpest corners of the pandemic it became a mooring to the life I recognized.
Second, and more novel to me, was Philosophize This! by Stephen West. Anna switched me on to it: You’ll love this, she said, a guy nerding out about ideas. And she was right. Like Zaltzman, this is just a person who’s passionate about what they want to share—but it was like the philosophy primer I always wanted. I’m 130 episodes deep now, and even if the subject matter is more complex as time goes on (because, well, continental philosophy) he never leaves you behind.
Episode #167 … Jose Ortega – Revolt of the Masses – Philosophize This!
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the podcasts I like most have been going for a long time: Football Weekly since 2006, 99PI since 2010. Philosophize This! has been going since 2013, and while The Allusionist is a mere six years old, Helen Zaltzman has been doing her other podcast, Answer Me This!, since 2007 (although it recently ended.) There’s something about exploring your format, and delivering it perfectly that I just… well, love.
I just wanted to say thank you, really.