Before I get to my Pod Pick of the Week, I wanted to offer a little addendum to a piece I wrote recently about bicycling in Los Angeles. One thing I didn't mention was how much podcasting has gotten me back onto my bike after years of letting it rust in the garage.
The iPod and similar devices may be one of the greatest boons to exercise since Jack LaLanne. For those of us who exercise because we must, not because we love it, a good distraction is essential. The iPod began by helping people who favor music as their distraction. But podcasting has extended the devices' utility to those of us who prefer to listen to engaging, enraging, and entertaining ideas. I now start every bike-outing by choosing a podcast I've been saving for the ride. Before I know it, the trip is over. (A word of caution—please don't use both earphones on a bike. One is sufficient and leaves you well able to hear what's going on around you.)
And I already know what I'll be listening to on the bike next week. On Monday, Britain's Guardian newspaper will unveil a new weekly comedy program from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Yes, the guys behind the brilliant BBC TV series The Officeand HBO's Extras. The two started on British radio, but now that they've decided to return to the medium, they're doing so in a podcast.
The Guardian quotes Gervais on why he's going online rather than over-the-air: "I want to do a radio show where I can say what I want, when I want, for as long as I want and that's free for anybody who can be bothered to listen, anywhere in the world."
Would you say the creator of the immortal David Brent gets podcasting? Yeah, I'd say so.
Of course, I haven't actually heard the new show yet, but it almost doesn't matter. Gervais and Merchant deserve a big audience based on their past work and on the theory that podcasting should embrace an anti-TV model—it should give talented and promising people time to work out the kinks and build an audience, rather than yanking them off the air after a few weeks.
The Guardian says this Web site will have the podcast beginning Monday, Dec. 5. If necessary, I'll update that info once the show launches.
In the meantime, here is the week in Slate podcasts. I particularly recommend Timothy Noah's Dec. 1 essay "Someone Else's Book Tour," about serving as the stand-in for his late wife, Marjorie Williams, on the tour for her book of collected writings, The Woman at the Washington Zoo.
Dec. 2: Political Gabfest ( Slate piece)
Explainer: Does Oil Really Come in Barrels? ( Slate piece)
Dec. 1: Someone Else's Book Tour ( Slate piece)
Explainer: How Does a Governor Grant Clemency? ( Slate piece)
Nov. 30: Beware Drug Companies Bearing Books ( Slate piece)
Explainer: That's the Way the Supreme Court Crumbles ( Slate piece)
Nov. 29: So, Do You Sudoku? ( Slate piece)
Explainer: Can Carbon Clean Up a Polluted River? ( Slate piece)
Nov. 28: The Bicycle Diaries ( Slate piece)
Explainer: Why Does a White Flag Mean Surrender? ( Slate piece)
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