Covid has slowed down things for a lot people, giving them more time for family, hobbies, and getting into things they otherwise didn’t have time for. Reading is tough for me as it’s a sleep inducer. As a result, I digest a tremendous amount of audio and video. Often that audio is in the form of podcasts. I have many dozens of podcasts on my phone right now, and am always on the hunt for new ones. I’m kind of a stickler for good audio, as people having a podcast talking through bad laptop speakers isn’t acceptable. Even with great guests, often cell phone interviews turn out bad too. Here are some podcast recommendations that are on regular rotation for me with some film suggestions below that:
In the Dark, Season 1 – I heard this was a good podcast, so I subscribed to it and pressed play without knowing anything about it. Turns out this season is about the Jacob Wetterling abduction. Jacob was a young boy from a small town in Minnesota who vanished in 1989. That story became a media sensation and actually took place not far from where I grew up. As a kid, I remember being warned by elders in town that there was a guy driving around small towns kidnapping kids. We didn’t know any better and shook off that news off pretty quickly. Turns out the killer lived just 20 miles or so from my town at one point after Jacob’s death. Initially I realized that this podcast was tied in with NPR, so I had pretty low expectations. It turns out that it’s the best podcast I’ve ever heard. I’ve listened to it twice and could easily play it a third time. If you live in MN, this show is kind of a must. Even non-MN residents would enjoy it I think.
ESPN 30 for 30 – as a former college athlete, I still enjoy sports. When I initially saw ESPN had a podcast, I was leery. How can audio be as as good as the video? It seems like you need to see so much of what is presented. But I tried a few out, and some are terrific. A Queen of Sorts is my favorite, and actually very relatable to points and miles. It’s about two very high level gamblers that essentially outsmart casinos and take them for millions. If you like MMA and UFC (which I do), then No Rules: The Birth of the UFC is really entertaining and takes you through the life if mixed martial arts, from the very raw beginnings to where it is now. The Bikram series focuses on the controverisal yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, and his ascent (and descent) in the yoga community. I did a fair amount of yoga before Covid, and hearing this story was interesting. Finally, the Spy Who Signed Me is an interesting story of some of the best WNBA’s players who got entangled in an Eastern European team run by a spy. All kinds of things take place in a pretty wild ride. I have a friend who’s married to a prominent former WNBA player. They lived in Siberia and Eastern Europe for half of the year while she played there. Most people don’t realize that WNBA players make much more money paying in Europe than they do in the US….often in many multiples. My friend and his wife said they had bodyguards much of the time in Russia. This podcast brings some of that to light and is a pretty great story. Out of the Woods is also a very compelling story of a world class biathlete who encounters a terrible situation in the woods one day. In short, 30 for 30 has a lot of superb shows. Even non sports people would likely enjoy them.
Afford Anything – I have written a bit about my pursuit of FIRE, or financial independence and a quest to retire early. It’s a quest that I’ve taken up only in the past year. If only I would have known about this 5 years ago, I’d probably be retired now. On the flip side though, I’m thankful I was able to learn about it all all. Not knowing would be much worse than being late to the game. The concepts of FIRE are pretty basic, and once you get those, you can pretty much find a clear path in short time. Paula has a nice show, with generally excellent audio (with a few exceptions). A few episodes that are notable are episode 22 How Jeremy and Winnie REtired in Their 30’s, episode #236 How We Saved $1 Million and Retired at 31 and 32 with Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung, episode 37: Chris Guillabeau. It’s a very worthwhile show with some good guests, and the content is excellent. The show started with 2 guests, but not too long into it, Jay and Paula parted ways. Now Paula runs the show by herself.
ChooseFI – another FIRE related podcast, and probably the best one out there. Excellent audio quality, great hosts, and terrific interviews and guests. Content is excellent. A few notable episodes are episode 012 and 065 with the Frugalwoods. FI websites often have wonderful content too. ChooseFI has a tons of information for a variety of starting points in the quest to achieving financial independence like this starters page. If you are interested in achieving early financial independence, a post on a different, but related site, is also an excellent place to start.
Slow Burn, Season 2 – think you know alot about Bill Clinton and his time in office? I lived through that time, but only remember some highlights (and lowlights!), but this podcast does a nice job of taking listeners back to those times. Initially I found Season 2, episode 8 through a search for former victims of Bill Clinton. In this case, the episode deals directly about Bill Clinton’s accused rape of Juanita Broaddrick. I remember liking Bill Clinton when I was young, mainly because he seem cool, especially compared to the older and stodgy George Bush Sr. Heck I think I even voted for the guy. Kind of interesting I guess, as I despise both Bill and Hillary Clinton now, and was very curious to hear Juanita Broaddrick’s story. Would her story be credible or compelling? Well, the podcast author and creator is a lifelong liberal and Democrat, and self confessed “fan” of Bill Clinton. Even he was moved by Broaddrick’s story. Regardless of your political bent, if you can only listen to one episode on this podcast stream, I recommend this one, but the entire season of episodes is also very good.
Pragertopia – this is Dennis Prager’s podcast. Haven’t heard of him? Don’t feel bad, I didn’t until a friend told me about his show in 2005. Like Prager, I was a liberal (not left, just liberal) for much of my life, but his show transformed my thinking to much more right leaning. I find that the vast majority of people who vote left don’t read or listen to conservatives much, if at all. Don’t be afraid though; Dennis is calm, thoughtful, and wise. He’s a best selling author of many books, national radio talk show host, and part time orchestra conductor. He has many mottos that should be draped in every school in the country like, “first tell the truth, then state your opinion”. Isn’t liberalism more caring than being conservative? Ever wonder about what draws people to be conservative vs. liberal? These and many other questions are answered routinely, and clear distinctions between left and right thoughts and actions are detailed. There’s also a male/female hour on Wednesdays, along with a Happiness and Ultimate Issues hour also each week. Each has unique and generally outstanding topics. Marriages have literally been saved via the male/female hour. The show is subscription based (and commercial free), but can be had for 99 cents for the first month. That’s 99 of the most important cents that many people will ever spend, and I mean that literally.
FrequentMiler on the Air – the dynamic duo of points and miles, Nick Reyes and Greg Davis-Keen have a very nice show. Audio quality is mixed across all episodes, as they record a weekly live Q&A video session on Youtube (on Fridays) and use that audio for their podcast. In general, the audio is good and content excellent. Also, as far as I know, the audio taken from the video is minimally edited, if at all. Since I edit my own podcast from start to finish, it’s a fairly impressive feat to go from start to finish without the need to slice and dice audio mistakes. I’ve listened to podcasts with just Greg being interviewed. They can be slow, while Nick definitely has the gift of gab. The two together though, are terrific. The show is weekly, has very relevant and varied content. I’m a weekly listener.
How I Built This with Guy Raz – although I have general distain for NPR, I do have three podcasts linked with the organization on my phone. Two of those are probably permanent keepers (this one and In the Dark). Guy Raz is a typical NPR lefty, but thankfully the show isn’t about him, it’s the guests that shine. The show features some of the most well known companies and the people who started them, and the interviews detail how the started and all of the drama along the way. Some notable episodes are with Whole Foods Market: John Mackey, Chicken Salad Chick: Stacy Brown, Mark Cuban, Lululemon Athletica: Chip Wilson, and S’well: Sarah Kauss. In general, the stories are really interesting and even inspiring. It’s a big thumbs up.
Dr. Death – you walk into a hospital and expect professional staff and surgeons. Trust between patient and caregiver is generally a given, but things do go wrong. In the case of this podcast, things can go very wrong indeed, and multiple times. It’s the the true story of a physician in Texas that unfortunately took took the lives of some patients and mangled others. With so many podcasts out there and only more being added every day, there are plenty of true crime podcasts to choose from. This one is very good, and great for a road trip or for those who like crime and medical related podcasts and information.
Miles to Memories Podcast – a relatively new points and miles podcast, but one that I really like. Miles to Memories is a great points and miles resource led by Shawn Coomer, a guy that I have respect for, as he has his toes in a variety of points earning pools like reselling and manufactured spending. One of his co-hosts Mark Ostermann laughs around 17% of each show, lightening the mood. But the show provides solid weekly coverage of the latest points and miles news. Shawn and his co-host Joe Chung also have extensive Disney experience and knowledge, so for those looking to visit a Disney themed park sometime for less, they are great resources.
The Mad Fientist: Financial Independence Podcast – Another FIRE related podcast, but one that many people don’t key into. In the show’s infancy, an interview on May 31, 2012 with Mr. Money Mustache was really terrific. Although I heard the episode years later, it had a profound impact on me, and gave me a lot of motivation to begin my FIRE journey. An interview with JL Collins is also very nice. It’s an excellent and underrated podcast about financial independence.
Elderado: Larry Elder Podcast – ever wonder what a black libertarian is all about? Hold on, did you realize that there were black libertarians to begin with? Well here’s one and he’s dynamite. Larry’s story is very interesting, growing up with a father he basically hated because they didn’t get along. His dad was always in a bad mood, but that was because he worked upwards of 20 hours per day and was extremely sleep deprived. Larry left home early, graduated from law school, became an attorney, then talk show host and author, and is one of the best minds on the planet. He and his father later reconciled years later too. Similar but different to Dennis Prager’s show, Elder’s critiques of the left and liberal media is exceptional. He talks about issues in the black community at length, something that is really needed now, and those thoughts aren’t exactly NPR-ish. If you’re liberal and want to check out something outside of the information that you normally consume, this podcast along with Dennis Prager’s are highly recommended. I enjoy this show more and more each day I listen. There is a subscription option, but free episodes can also be found online and via podcast apps as well.
History Extra Podcast: The Ukrainian famine – ever heard of the Holodomor? Most people haven’t, which is kind of amazing in itself. I hadn’t heard of it either until I went to Ukraine for the first time two years ago. I’ve been back multiple times since, and I love the country…well to be clear, I’m enamored with the Ukrainian parts, not the Ruskies, sorry Vlad. But as a very quick synopsis, 7-10 million people in Eastern Europe, including at least 4 million Ukrainians, starved to death in 1932-1933. What makes it worse, and also so compelling, is there was plenty of food for everyone. How does that happen you might ask? Two words: Joseph Stalin. This podcast is an interview with Anne Applebaum, who has written extensively about Eastern European history including Gulag: A History, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, and a book I’m currently reading called Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine.
And if you’re looking for something a little different, there’s my podcast too called The Travel Points Podcast.
Movies are pretty personal. Some people like zombie movies, others wonder why they exist. I’m one of the latter. Here’s a few films that I’ve seen recently (with short summaries) along with a few other recommendations. Some may be on Netflix too, although most are likely not.
Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words – the documentary and first hand account of Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice. His path went from deep poverty to radical leftist to conservative judge. It’s very compelling. For liberals a film like this is especially important, as many can’t contemplate why a black person would ever want to be or vote conservative (right)? This video should provide answers to that question. The director isn’t anything amazing, but Clarence Thomas is exceptional. Definitely recommended.
No Safe Spaces – a movie from Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager. That partnership seems like an odd coupling. Prager is a devout Jew while Carolla is an atheist. Prager doesn’t curse in public, while Carolla curses like a sailor. However, from a values perspective, they are nearly identical. The average university in the US isn’t a source of higher learning anymore, it’s a left wing seminary – an indoctrination camp. I mean that literally. They damage students much more than give them wisdom. You can accumulate a tremendous amount of knowledge at the modern university, but most lack wisdom. Professors and faculty are mostly left, and some of the things taught are so far left it’s amazing. If what I’ve just written seems odd, or like some far right conspiracy, please understand 1) I was once quite liberal, and 2) if you are liberal, progressive, or Left, you likely ingest little or any conservative information. This isn’t a far right film either, as there are plenty of liberals interviewed. It’s an interesting and necessary film.
Chernobyl – This a series not a full on movie but since I’ve traveled to Ukraine and Belarus 3x in the past couple of years, the film’s content has a soft spot in my heart. The series is from HBO and documents the nuclear meltdown and explosion at the power plant in Ukraine, just north of Kiev. I visited Chernobly during my first trip to Ukraine and even ate lunch in the cafeteria there. Some people still live and work in Chernobyl.
Other interesting films you might enjoy:
The Lives of Others (Germany, 2006)
Waste Land (Brazil, 2010)
The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina, 2010)
The North Face (Germany, 2008)
Downfall (Austria, 2004)
The Stoning of Soraya M. (Sweden, 2009)
India’s Daughter (India, 2015)
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire (Canada, 2004…free on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CAOnJrxmKk)
The Green Prince
The Fog of War
Touching the Void
The Pursuit (2019)
Born Into Brothels
Surfwise: The Amazing True Odyssey of the Paskowitz Family
Finding Vivian Maier
The Endless Summer
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
You’re on your own with Netflix!