Issue #8 of ZINE sees our Creative Head Chris Jeffreys share his favourite podcasts.
How it all began.
Commuting sucks. I commute to work via bus and it takes about an hour each way. That’s 10 hours each week (more than a full working day). And I’ve been doing this journey from home to Manchester for over a decade! That’s a hell of a long time to be sat on a bus.
I’ve often thought ‘How can I turn this necessary evil into something more positive, or productive?’.
Over the last 10 years on my commute I’ve seen the smartphone arrive which has provided a bit of entertainment. Apps like Twitter and Instagram came along shortly after, which I still scan through daily, but 2 hours of looking at people’s dogs or selfies would make me want to throw myself under the bus.
You might ask ‘why not read a book?’ which is a great suggestion. I don’t read enough, and am a firm believer that a well-read designer equals a good designer. The problem is, a jerky bus on winding roads does not make for a pleasant read.
.....and then I remembered podcasts.
Podcasts sprung up long before the iPhone, and were pretty good, but you had to remember to turn your computer on, plug in your iPod, download the podcast, every single time. It was a too clunky and I lost interest. Now you can download them straight to a mobile device. Bingo.
It’s been said we’re in the Golden Age of podcasting. There are so many podcasts for almost any subject. It’s amazing, there’s not enough time to fit them in. Best of all, they’re free.
It has totally transformed my commute.
Here are just a few that I’ve been listening to recently. They’re not related to the design industry, but it goes back to being more well-read on a broader level.
1. The Butterfly Effect with Jon Ronson
In this 7-parter, Jon Ronson’s exposé into the evolution into America’s porn industry isn’t what you might think.
He interviews the man who has single-handedly turned the industry upside down with his free streaming sites, and the people it has affected who have been left struggling to make a living, and who are having to get creative to make a buck. It’s entertaining, funny and a bit sad at the same time.
If you’re a Louis Theroux fan this will be up your street. Each episode is around 30 mins.
2. Revisionist History
‘Sometimes the past deserves a second chance’. Best selling author Malcolm Gladwell is on a mission to revisit things from the past. Events, people or ideas that have been overlooked or misunderstood. He’ll examine and dissect them to reveal that commonly held beliefs about them were in fact not true. It’s really interesting stuff and not every episode is ‘heavy history’. A few episodes that stand out for me are:
Blame Game - Follows allegations brought against car companies and how hysteria and group dynamics can overtake common sense and rationality.
The Foot Soldier of Birmingham - The history of a statue and how symbols of history are often created out of context and tell stories rather than facts.
The Prime Minister and the Prof - The friendship that changed the course of World War II.
3. The Joe Rogan Experience
Joe Rogan is an American comedian, UFC commentator and podcast host. I’m not really into his stand up, and I’m not big on UFC but I love his podcasts (which aren’t that comedic, and only a few are on UFC). Joe sits one-on-one with all manner of guests in a long-form conversation format. They can regularly go on for 3 hours, but it doesn’t feel like it. What I love about it is the range of interesting people he has on, from scientists to explorers, to actors, sportsmen, to psychologists and everyone in-between. And they’re just there for a chat about cool stuff, they’re not promoting anything.
Some notable guests for me were Lance Armstrong (post getting caught out), Jordan Peterson, Leah Remini and her escape from Scientology and James Hetfield from Metallica (who doesn’t really talk about the band, but we find out he’s into beekeeping).
It’s no wonder the JRE is one of the world’s most popular podcasts with over 16 million downloads per month, and 1000 episodes so far. You can also watch the episodes on Youtube.
4. How I Built This with Guy Raz
In this podcast, Guy delves into the stories behind some of the world’s best known companies, with the people that built them. What I like about this one is hearing how these companies initially started from a simple idea, for example I didn’t know that Airbnb started from the founders literally offering air beds on their floor to people who wanted to attend a conference in their town, but couldn’t find accommodation.
Episodes I’ve enjoyed recently are the stories of Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s, Instagram, Dell, Burton Snowboards and the late Kate Spade.
Recently, I’ve started to like True Crime stories. It must be all the brilliant T.C documentaries on Netflix. They’ve left me with a taste for wanting more! I’ve listened to a few T.C podcasts, but my favourite is Casefile. It’s narrated by an Australian guy called the ‘Anonymous Host’. He’s pretty monotone and slow with his voice but that kind of adds to the creepiness, and it really hooked me in.
There are single and multi-episode stories. My favourites so far are:
Case 17 - The Ericsson Twins (A calm situation takes a really bizarre twist)
Case 18 - North Hollywood Shootout (This is intense, almost like an action movie)
Case 42 - Sherri Rasmussen (The police interviews in this one will have you on the edge of your seat)
Case 49 - The Moors Murders (A 3-parter about the notorious Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, the crimes were committed about 10 minutes from where I live)
Case 53 - East Area Rapist (A mammoth 6-parter with each episode over an hour. This case from the 70’s has taken a dramatic twist recently)
Case 60 - Jonestown (3-Parter about a religious cult gone wrong)
I’m a big TV documentary fan, and this feels like an audio doco. Recommended by Louis Theroux, Caliphate sees New York Times terrorism journalist Rukmini Callimachi report on ISIS and the fall of Mosul.
She sets out to find out who it is that we’re really fighting, and what drew people from around the world to fight for them. The interviews with an ISIS fighter from Canada who returns home are really shocking.