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Stop Podcasting Yourself 220 - Brent Butt

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Brent Butt

Brent Butt returns to talk tropes, sneezing, pink shirts, and Bigfoot.

Download episode 220 here. (right-click)

Brought to you by: (click here to see the whole recap)

Jordan, Jesse, Go! Episode 226: Live at MaxFunCon with W. Kamau Bell, Ashkon, Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi

W. Kamau Bell
Bryan Safi
Erin Gibson

W. Kamau Bell, Ashkon and Throwing Shade's Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson join Jesse and Jordan for a live show at MaxFunCon.

(Sorry the audio's not perfect - we got a little excited on stage and recorded a little hot.)

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: The Bike Show


Vital stats:
Format: talk about all aspects of cycling and cycling culture
Episode duration: typically ~30m, with occasional longer specials
Frequency: weekly

London’s Resonance FM broadcasts not what we would think of as straightforward talk programming, and not what we would think of as straightforward music programming, but something called “radio art.” This broad label turns out to cover a badly underutilized patch of radio’s philosophical spectrum, one safely distant from both bland jukeboxing and tiresome politicking. Eschew traditional news, sports, hits, and complaints, and you open up the creative space for shows a thinking listener might actually enjoy. This I realized when I Podthought about the podcast of every Resonance FM broadcast available in that form. I’d previously written up The Wire magazine’s Adventures in Modern Music, the most straightforward music show I’ve heard on Resonance (and The Wire has R. Stevie Moore on its cover this month). Now I’ve cycled back around, as it were, to listen hard to a program no other station has produced, or possibly could produce: The Bike Show [RSS] [iTunes].

When first I heard The Bike Show, host/producer Jack Thurston impressed me not only with his professionalism and stealthy production skill — qualities not immediately associated, alas, with freeform radio — but a dedication that had him not only chatting in the studio but recording out in the field, on long trips, and even while riding. (These signature “rolling interviews” have their own page on the show’s site.) But back then I lived in Santa Barbara, where cycling meant only an idyllic way to commute. Now that I’ve dropped myself into the vast complexity of Los Angeles with my old brown Nishiki as primary means of transport, cycling has taken a rather more essential place. An encounter with David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries made me consciously grasp a fact my lifestyle had already incorporated: no more efficient, absorbing, and intellectually or aesthetically connected form of urban transportation exists. I had much to learn; I had to catch up on The Bike Show immediately.

You might find yourself in a similar position, but, especially if you live in the United States, you might not turn to this show’s guidance out of two fears: one, that Thurston gears it toward other Londoners, and two, that he gears it toward other, er, gearheads. Resonance’s location does mean that The Bike Show and its guests tend to discuss cycling in Engand and continental Europe. But I don’t mind that, since cycling across the pond seems locked into less of a garrison mentality than it does here; cultural changes are indeed underway, but America’s legacy of marginal, abrasive, spandex-coated car-loathing eccentrics dies hard. London, by comparison, would seem to boast a robust population of well-rounded, normally dressed, non-aggrieved riders, yet Thurston and his coterie bring up concern after concern about their city’s lack of sufficient infrastructure and basic regard for the two-wheeled. Denmark and the Netherlands, where toddlers and octogenarians alike ride helmetless and fearless for their every errand, come up again and again as the consummately bike-friendly countries against which all others must be judged. The term “Copenhagenize” sees much use.

Los Angeles, it will shock you to learn, has taken few pains to Copenhagenize. Happily pedal though I may over these 500 square miles — especially when we’ve got a CycLAvia going on — it only takes hearing a conversation between Thurston and the British and European bike enthusiasts, bike builders, bike racers, bike collectors, and bike writers he brings into the studio or connects to by Skype to suspect I might lack something in the way of accommodation. But thanks to Thurston’s enthusiasm, the briskness of his operation, and the variety of perspectives he brings tgether, this doesn’t actually discourage me. Quite the opposite, in fact; the next time I feel burnt out after a long, loud, lonely ride down one of this city’s bike routes in name only — Venice Boulevard, say — I’ll click on an episode or two of The Bike Show for an instantly revitalizing shot of cycling culture. I can’t listen at home without wanting to get right back on the streets, inhospitable as they may sometimes feel.

And this brings me to address that second fear: cycling culture, on this program, means more than ranking derailleurs. Thurston occasionally invites guests who sound like they’d gladly rank derailleurs for the duration of the broadcast and beyond, and perhaps he himself longs to do the same, but The Bike Show sounds dedicated to not drilling too far into any one subtopic. This is not a show about the mechanics of cycling, the business of cycling, the science of cycling, the sport of cycling, the history of cycling, or (heaven help us) the politics of cycling: it’s a show about all of them and everything else besides. As driving a car steadily becomes a stodgier, more expensive lifestyle choice, the humble bicycle has its chance to recapture the imagination of a large, able, willing, developed-world population outside of Copenhagen. But to do so, it needs as few monomaniacs as it can get. Every skillful essayist treats their chosen subject as a nexus of all subjects; in each episode of The Bike Show, we have from Jack Thurston and his collaborators a skillful essay indeed.

Comment or suggest a podcast on the Podthoughts forum thread

[Podthinker Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture [iTunes]. Contact him at colinjmarshall at gmail or follow him on Twitter @colinmarshall.]

Judge John Hodgman Episode 61: Sibling Drivalry

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Luis brings this case against his older sister Alejandra. They currently live with their parents and share a car to get to school and work. Luis claims that his sister prioritizes giving rides to her boyfriend over rides to her brother, leaving Luis lugging around art supplies on the city bus. Alejandra says Luis refuses rides and then pouts over it. Who is right? Only one man can decide!


Jordan, Jesse, Go! Episode 225: Tree Pose with Greg Fitzsimmons

Greg Fitzsimmons

Greg Fitzsimmons from Fitzdog Radio joins Jesse and Jordan to talk about yoga, the sensual misadventures of A. Dick and about his comedy alter ego, Grapefruit Simmons.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kurt Braunohler, Walter Mosley, and Kasper Hauser

Kurt Braunohler
Walter Mosley
Scott Tobias
Nathan Rabin
Kasper Hauser

AV Club Culture Recommendations

This week’s culture critics are Nathan Rabin and Scott Tobias of The AV Club, here to offer up a pair of humor-fueled recommendations. Nathan suggests checking out comedian Hannibal Buress’s debut one-hour special, Animal Furnace, noting a marked evolution in Hannibal’s stand-up style. Meanwhile Scott is enamored with Wes Anderson’s latest, Moonrise Kingdom, hailing it as the filmmaker’s best work.

Moonrise Kingdom is currently in limited release, opening nationwide on June 15th, while Hannibal Buress’s Animal Furnace is now available on both CD and DVD.

(Embed or share this week's AV Club picks)

Comedian Kurt Braunohler

Kurt Braunohler is a stand-up comedian and improviser, as well as one half of the sketch duo Kurt & Kristen, performing alongside writing partner Kristen Schaal. While stand-up consumes much of his time these days, he may soon be best known for IFC's Bunk, putting his disarming charms to work as host of an improv game show where comedians compete in insane challenges on behalf of less than charitable causes.

Kurt sits down with us to discuss the myriad ways in which the conventions of the game show format are begging to be satirized, the serendipitous origin of Kurt & Kristen, and how they took one of our all-time favorite sketches, "Kristen Schaal is a Horse", to Australia's biggest stage. Bunk premieres Friday, June 8th at 10:30 PM on IFC.

(Embed or share this interview with Kurt Braunohler)

Kasper Hauser News Update

Thought you could escape the world of news within the hour of our pop culture program? Think again! Getting you caught up on all the latest stories that may or may not have happened, here's an update from the minds of our fake news team: the San Francisco-based sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser.

For more Kasper Hauser, check out The Kasper Hauser Podcast right here on

(Embed or share this Kasper Hauser News Update)

Crime Novelist Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley is an author of nearly forty books, but perhaps he's best known for his work in detective fiction. His Easy Rawlins detective series began with 1989's Devil in a Blue Dress. Lately Mosley's penning the stories of a new detective: Leonid McGill. His latest serial novel is All I Did Was Shoot My Man, the most recent entry in the McGill series, and it's loaded with the kind of snappy, hard-boiled noir writing Mosley is famous for.

Walter joined us back in 2010 to talk about the existential crises at the heart of the detective genre, and how he made the move from computer programming to detective fiction so many years ago.

(Embed or share this interview with Walter Mosley)

The Outshot: Jay-Z’s Flow

For The Outshot this week, Jesse makes the case for Jay-Z as hip hop's greatest of all time -- if only for the effortlessly perfect rhythm of his lyrical flow, best represented on the track "Hovi Baby".

Got your own pick for rap's best flow? Stake your claim on the MaxFun Forum by picking your own Outshot.

(Embed or share this Outshot on Jay-Z’s flow)

Subscribe to Bullseye in iTunes or the RSS feed!

Throwing Shade #31:Target Pride Shirts, Stupid Studies, Memorial Day DADT, Pro-Life America


Bryan survives his Mexican wedding adventure to talk 'sues with Erin. Ya, know, fun stuff like Target's pride shirts, a new study about on how women are fat because they're doing less housework, a special Memorial Day inspired look at Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the rising popularity of pro-life stances.  Si se puede! 
Subscribe and Rate on iTunes
@gibblertron & @bryansafi #tspod
Throwing Shade Ring Tone (thanks @bcevans)
Bitly for sharing Throwing Shade on Twitter
Official Max Fun Page
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Stop Podcasting Yourself 219 - Cameron Reed

Cameron Reed

Musician Cameron Reed joins us to talk bleeps vs. bloops, video arcades, parades, and themed bars.

Download episode 219 here. (right-click)

Brought to you by: (click here to see the whole recap)

My Brother, My Brother and Me 106: Bicentennial Dad


Keep it locked to 104.3, WRVMBMBAM, for all your classic rock summer time jam needs. We're cranking out the hits from your favorite rock gods, like Ratt, and also Yahoo Answers.

Suggested talking points: Summer Rock Block, Flirty Fortune Cookie, High-Drive, Wanted Two, Irresistible, The Three Year Gap, Cereals, Titter, Escape Plan

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: The Truth


Vital stats:
Format: sound-oriented radio fictions
Episode duration: 9-18m
Frequency: 2-3 per month

“I thought there would be a revival of fiction and theater on the radio,” says science-fiction author Terry Bisson, “and I’ve been very disappointed that it hasn’t, kind of, worked out that way.” You and me both, brother. I say this as someone who, in childhood, obsessively collected bootleg tapes of old-time radio shows like Amos & Andy and X Minus One and had the newer, more internationalist productions of the ZBS Foundation playing on infinite loop. I dreamed of re-introducing “movies for your mind,” in the words of one radio-drama survivor whose tapings I attended as a kid, to the dead airwaves of my benighted time. Bisson made his lament to producer Jonathan Mitchell on an episode of Mitchell’s podcast The Truth [RSS] [iTunes] which adapts Bisson’s story “They’re Made Out of Meat” [MP3]. I bet Mitchell went through similar youthful befuddlement, wondering what made all those cool old shows go away and hoping — knowing, in some quasi-messianic sense — that they would return. It hasn’t, kind of, worked out that way.

What to blame? Maybe the increasingly utilitarian slant of modern American radio, which either feeds listeners’ anxiety over not having the latest news and information or numbs them completely with three-minute shots of anesthetic familiarity. But I get the sense that, deep in the minds of even dedicated tuners-in, radio just isn’t for fiction. They may express great admiration for the idea of new radio drama, and they may even bemoan the past 50 years’ lack of it, but they’ll keep turning the dial if they suspect what they’re hearing isn’t true. I doubt they do it for strictly gray-flannel-suit reasons; they probably just fear that they can’t keep up with a fictional narrative on the radio, or that they’ve already missed some plot point critical to understanding what happens next, or that they’ll get where they’re going before the big twist ending when everything falls into place. Or they just assume the story won’t give them much to talk about at the water cooler.

Today’s radio fictions often try to pull listeners in with intricate production, artful editing, and heavy (to use a program-director term) sound-richness. But this tends to simply fill listeners with guilt about not paying attention: “Man, somebody worked hard on this piece. What a shame.” This American Life has built one of public radio’s most startlingly successful brands by refining their particular sensibility with intricate production, artful editing, and heavy sound-richness, but then, they run a Journalistic Enterprise of Facts — unless, of course, they wedge a bit of fiction into the week’s theme. (Or unless someone pulls a Daisey.) Some listeners feel faintly ripped off when Ira Glass announces a short story, skit, or dramatic monologue coming up, but a few minutes in, don’t they get caught up in it just the same?

They certainly seemed to when This American Life aired The Truth’s “Tape Delay” [MP3]. The piece, a tale of a lonely man who edits and re-edits a phone conversation recorded with a failed blind date, showcases a sonic awareness that separates Mitchell and co. from other radio fictionalists. At its strongest, The Truth takes sound not just as its tool, and not just as its medium, but as its subject. The New York story “Interruptible” [MP3] juxtaposes the snappy, authoritative media presence of an FM relationship-advice guru with her real, boozy, yet no less sensible physical presence. The other New York story “Everybody SCREAM!!!” [MP3] — actually, they’re almost all New York stories, and they satirize just the kind of neuroses that make me live in Los Angeles — pits twitchily human thoughts in a struggle with the driving thump and chintzily amplified barking of a “spin” class. Bisson’s all-dialogue “They’re Made Out of Meat” becomes what sounds like a two-way transmission between alien intelligences evolved to the point of disembodiment.

If you have ears to hear, you will respect The Truth, and not just because its mission seems so Quixotic. It aims for the world of listeners we’d like to be: attentive, empathic, adventurous, unfailingly engaged, aesthetically discerning, and appreciative of the technical points of soundcraft. You’ll come away from most of its episodes feeling seriously impressed by their inspiration, their construction, and their humanity. But whenever you go to play another, that little voice inside will always object: “What, you’re going to listen to something made up? Are you sure you’ve already listened to every real podcast you have?” Jonathan Mitchell must understand this. His program’s very title must reference this. But if any show can finally fire up that revival of fiction and theater on the radio, The Truth can. I admit that I ultimately tend to put my money on people who don’t need human nature to change — but I myself am probably not one of those people.

Comment or suggest a podcast on the Podthoughts forum thread

[Podthinker Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture [iTunes]. Contact him at colinjmarshall at gmail or follow him on Twitter @colinmarshall.]
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