Easy and not-so easy listening

22 Nov 2019

I’ve been getting back into podcast listening of late, and rather than my usual listening to guitar or tech podcasts, I’ve been trying to listen to a mix of things to help increase my understanding of the current issues we find ourselves in around politics and the environment, and then mixing it up with some podcasts that look at more light-hearted topics that are still educational in some way.

Here’s a list of things I can recommend, grouped by topic, and roughly also happens to be the order of priority in which I listen to them when they pop up on my podcast player.


None – this is an attempt to look at why the current political environment is as divisive as it is. It (usually) stays away from the day-to-day politics, and tries to understand the general landscape of why we seem to have ended up in a situation where we have two sides that share no common ground or hope for compromise.

I binge listened to this from the start over the course of a couple on months, and if you do try this one I recommend listening in order.

Talking Politics – whereas Polarized tries to take a macroscopic look, Talking Politics is more a mix of current affairs analysis and longer term trend reviews, but is always more analytical and thoughtful, avoiding personality politics and focussing on the actual political/legal side of things.

I tend to prefer the longer term episodes, but I do find in the current run up to a general election the microscopic is useful.


The Beam Podcast – The Beam is a magazine publication that looks into environmental topics, and their podcasts continues that theme. I do like that this takes broader topical looks, but I find that compared to the politics podcasts it lacks a little actionable bite, but then that’s probably more a reflection on the domain. Still, worth listening to.

General Interest

Reply All – Reply All attempts to explain how the modern Internet impacts life, from a non-technical standpoint. It has a standard set of topics it cycles through, my favourite of which is super-tech-support: here they dig into things like how did someone’s snapchat account get hacked, or how did someone trying to listen to relaxation sounds on their Alexa get something with creepy footsteps on it – all of which expose how interconnected everything is and nothing comes from where you expect.

99% Invisible – Each week 99PI picks a different niche topic and takes a detailed look at it. It usually has a slight design bend, but topics range from automating pepper farming (which made me aware of how much automation in farming ruins bio-diversity), the design of call holding systems, the and how placing a garden store Buddha statue can change crime patterns significantly. It’s not very deep, but it’s usually quite interesting, and makes a nice antidote to the more serious podcasts I listen to.

The Incomperable – The Incomperable is a film/book/game review show, commonly with a science fiction theme, but not exclusively. I tend to pick and choose which episodes to listen to on this one, as either I’m not interested in the latest Marvel/Star Wars films, or I’m trying to avoid spoilers. However, it has introduced me to some great classic films, like The Thin Man, and I enjoy their annual review of nominations for the two big sci-fi book awards as a way of finding new reading material.