I once loved to drive. During my eight years living in Los Angeles, I regularly drove myself home to San Francisco to see my family. It didn't take much longer than flying onec I accounted for getting to the airport early, the flight itself, and then the drive to my mom's house in Marin County. I also consider driving way less stressful. In fact, I found it relaxing.
I sometimes enjoyed driving around L.A. too, but I hated having to drive. After spending my first four years carless, once I had the ability, I never considered not I felt driving anywhere more than a few blocks. While I wasn't quite as bad, Steve Martin's half-block journey by car in L.A. Story wasn't too far from my reality, but that was in large part due to the atrocious transportation options available in early 1990s Los Angeles. My one saving grace of being in the car so often was the radio: Howard Stern, Jim Rome, and the early days of Loveline. (Hey, I was in my early 20s!)
After I moved to New York in 1996 and no longer drove with regularity, I rarely listened to the radio other than when I was in the shower or falling asleep. My portable CD player had a radio, which of course was useless in the subway. And so, I found myself listening to much more album-based music and significantly less talk.
Podcasts changed all of that. Suddenly, I could take NPR/PRI with me, and at first, my podcast rotation was limited to shows from those distributors. I wrote about This American Life and Radiolab in 2007, but my obsession with the medium has exploded especially over the last three years as I continued discovering phenomenal shows of all varieties. I have such a backlog of podcasts; I know I will never listen to them all, but when I'm riding the subway, walking around the city, doing dishes or cooking, I'm usually playing one.
I listen to some shows without fail on a weekly basis; others stare back at me from my iPhone and iTunes, wondering when I'll visit, and periodically, I'll have a little binge session. Still others – like the how-had-I-not-discovered-it-before Professor Blastoff -- have become major addictions. I listen to new episodes each week while also working my way through the archives from the beginning so I may belatedly witness the show's development. (To date, I'm up to episode 38.)
As part political-junkie, my weekly must-listens include a few political podcasts, and I was sad to learn that one will end its seven-year run this week. NPR's It's All Politics has been one of the most entertaining and informative political podcasts I've found, but the episode released later tonight - assuming it's on schedule – will be its last.
NPR's decision to cancel the long-running Talk of the Nation, announced a couple months ago, also produced the demise of this weekly conversation between Ron Elving and Ken Rudin as the latter is leaving the network. The show frequently utilized guests hosts when in Elving or Rudin's absence, but it makes sense for them not to continue with a permanent replacement. Although the fill-ins were always engaging and informative, the bad-pun, Borscht Belt-like shtick and chemistry between Elving and Rudin is the primary ingredient that made this podcast such a blast.
Both hosts are seasoned political reporters, and their commentary included a level of thoughtful, usually non-partisan analysis frequently absent from some of the louder shouting matches among the media. Their discussions possessed a wonderful sense of glee allowing even their dumbest jokes – and wow, were some dumb! – to consistently elicit chuckles and even the occasional guffaw.
The most frequently recurring joke involved repeated references to "the listener," as if the podcast's audience totaled one. As the show regularly ranked among the top 30 political podcasts on iTunes - competing with podcast versions 60 Minutes, PBS Newshour and The Rachel Maddow Show among other mainstream TV and radio programs people choose to experience in podcast form during commutes or because they've otherwise cut the cable cord - I'm sure they had a relatively large listening audience, certainly allowing them to add an "s" to "listener." However, if I ever was, in fact, the sole listener to NPR's It's All Politics podcast, I am very grateful to Ron and Ken for doing their show just for me. This listener will miss them and their banter a great deal.