Saturday, July 30, 2011

Better Than Radio

Radio, someone still loves you. Me. But I've found myself listening to Internet outlets more and more of late, during the times I normally would be listening to radio. The ability to listen to exactly what you want, when you want it, with (virtually) no commercials, and with no fee beyond normal ISP charges is a killer combination. I'm sure radio will survive in some form, but this type of competition is going to be hard to beat in the long run.

Some recent finds .....

* The Late Debate with Jack and Ben - This actually is radio. But broadcasting from a signal that appears to be weaker than AM1280 the Patriot, if that's possible. According to sources, it's available on 95.9 FM in the Twin Cities and a couple of AM frequencies out of St. Cloud. Of course, I can get none of these in my leafy Stillwater redoubt. (True story, on the AM dial after dark I can only get WCCO and the Stillwater oldies powerhouse KLBB.) Thanks to a local Twitter army that provides play-by-play of each show nightly, I found their Internet outlets, and I've been thoroughly impressed. I'm not familiar with the backgrounds of the two hosts (Jack and Ben), they seem to be political functionaries or activists on some level. Major radio chops on both of them, though. Funny, well-informed on the issues, and terrific chemistry between the two of them. Good production values on the broadcast, great bumpers, witty drops, professional intro's and outro's, terrific guests (including many names we recognize from the MOB). The focus of the show is Minnesota state government and politics and I've not heard any show, in any medium, that covers these issues better.

Podcast are available here. In particular, I recommend this interview with our old pal David Strom from a few weeks back. Also, live streaming during their broadcast here, which runs Sunday through Thursday from 10PM to midnight.

* The Dennis Miller Show - Another actual radio show. But one you can't hear live over the airwaves in the Twin Cities. Conservative insomniacs can get the replay between 11PM - 2AM on AM1280, at least those within range of their signal. The rest of us will have to rely on the Internet and the Dennis Miller show does stream live weekdays from 9AM-12 noon at the Dennis Miller Show website.

Unfortunately, podcasts are locked up behind a paywall. But the livestream is worth checking out if you have access to a computer in the morning, weekday hours. Dennis Miller provides the best mixture of humor, politics, and culture on the radio today. He's a riot on a daily basis and always good natured, even covering the depressing developments in the news recently. Those who still have a sour taste in their mind from his Monday Night Football days should give him another try. Radio is a natural fit for his quick wit and improvisational abilities. Terrific guest list too. He gets all the political and pundit stars the other shows get, but he regularly dips into his Hollywood Rolodex for the likes of Tom Hanks, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey, etc. Great radio.

A bonus for listening to the webcast instead of the radio version is virtually no commercials. There are a handful of short promos and Internet only ads. But for most of the time the radio audience is forced to listen to testimonials for buying gold, survival seed banks, and male enhancement aids, the web audience is listening to music. They use an outstanding mix of popular classical and jazz and it's a pleasure sit through the periods between show segments, something you can rarely say listening to the radio.

* Real Talk with Jason Whitlock - strictly a podcast here, featuring Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock. He's a veteran sportswriter who's always been fearless in expressing unconventional opinions on controversial topics. He's fun to read and now fun to listen to. I understand he used to do local radio in Kansas City for many years and it shows in skillful interviews with the interesting and unique guests he books. There are dozens of podcasts out there right now featuring comedians interviewing comedians. Whitlock's show is kind of a variation of that, a sportswriter interviewing sportswriters. Some of his best include interviews with the likes of Jay Marriotti, Buzz Bissinger, Dan Lebetard, and Deadspin's AJ Dauleurio. Others of note were interviews with Grant Hill, former Vikings QB Jeff George, and Christopher Reid (of Kid n' Play fame).

* The Sports Poscast with Joe Posnanski - another podcast from a Kansas City expatriate, former KC Star baseball columnist Joe Posnanski. Great writer, great storyteller, and he puts on an entertaining podcast. Production values lag at times, I think he's a one man operation on these, despite his affiliation with Sports Illustrated. But the quality of the content overcomes the technical issues. Great guests, including shows with Bob Costas, Jim Nance, former T-Wolves announcer Kevin Harlan, and stats guru Bill James (a former NARN guests years ago). Lots of hardcore baseball talk, mixed in with other amusements. A recurring guest is Michael Schur, former writer on The Office (and portrayer of Dwight's brother Mose) and originator of the dearly departed Fire Joe Morgan blog.

When the greatest political writer in the English speaking world isn't hosting the Rush Limbaugh program or doing segments on Hugh Hewitt or podcasts on Ricochet, he occasionally finds time to churn out a few podcasts of his own. As usual, they have nothing to do with politics, yet are still as entertaining as a typical Mark Steyn column. This time he does a tribute to composer John Barry, with a particular focus on the music used for the James Bond franchise. Included are interviews with lyricists involved with these songs and lots of clips and analysis by Steyn himself, in two parts, here and here.

* Finally, a round up of some recent finds on the CSPAN video library, the greatest source of Internet based entertainment for the politically minded.

Q&A with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) - terrific interview with the calm, rational, and unassailable voice of the Tea Party movement in the US Senate.

James Rogan - current California Superior Court judge and former US Representative, where he was a House manager for the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. His new book is Catching Our Flag, about the experience of the Clinton impeachment. That topic is mildly interesting, but the real attraction here is Rogan and his uproarious sometimes bawdy stories of his "political awakening" and his experience as a young Congressman in Washington. He's a real character and you have to wonder what his stories must be like when he's not being filmed for national TV.

David McCullough - the great historian has a new book out called The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. Spellbinding stuff, listening to McCullough talk about the post revolutionary generation of Americans going to the center of the civilized world to learn and bring back the knowledge that fueled the rise of America. Two parts, here and here.

CNBC Reporter Melissa Lee - just because. Warning, believe it or not, a NSFW segment about two-thirds through. A first I think for a Brian Lamb interview.