Tag Archives: podcasts


Oh man, this book. Ugh.

As you might have guessed from that intro, I did not enjoy reading this book. I heard it mentioned on a podcast called Tangentially Speaking and on there they were talking about it being a wonderful essay on life after death, a questioning dive into what it means to be alive, what reality really is, and how our internal view determines our external view.

Hmmm. Nah.

In my opinion, this book is a mess. At times incoherent, at others nonsensical, and at the end of the day leaving me with a feeling of “okay, whatever.”

Maybe I’m too stupid to understand some unobvious subtext, or maybe the subject matter was way over my head. Or maybe its another case of the legend being bigger than the actuality.

As far as “questioning the afterlife” books go, I thought The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom was 1000 times better.

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Swingland was one of those books I came across by accident. It was mentioned in passing on a podcast I was listening to, and having really enjoyed books in the past such as Would You Like Sex With That? I thought I would check it out.

Good call Shane-o, good call.

My local library had a copy and I burned through it in a couple of weeks. In Swingland Daniel Stern shares his stories as a member of the ‘lifestyle’ along with tips for those that want to get involved. I was more interested in the former rather than the latter, and those parts are, in my opinion, the best parts of the book.

Stern is very open and honest throughout, his humour shines through, and he is not afraid to poke fun at himself as he shares his adventures. He has a very entertaining style of writing and the chapters dedicated to his adventures are very easy to read. I skimmed over the How To style chapters, but they too are honest and to the point.

Overall a good fun read. Feel like reading something about a world that is entirely alien to you? Check this out.

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I’m listening to Waking Up With Sam Harris at the moment, his latest episode called “On the Maintenance of Civilisation” to be precise. The episode is a discussion between Sam and Douglas Murray and I recommend you have a listen if only for the brilliant rant Mr Murray has about 30 minutes in. 

It’s gold and so directly on point so as to be something the whole world needs to hear. 



71x1jdullbl-_sl1280_As I have noted many times on this here blog, I am a big fan of podcasts. One of my favourites is called The Thinking Atheist which is hosted by Seth Andrews. The combination of his interviews, logical rants, and his dulcet tone of voice make for an excellent and entertaining podcast, so it was with interest that I purchased his book Sacred Cows.

It does exactly what it says on the cover – it takes a lighthearted look at different beliefs and traditions around the world, and gently mocks them with a bit of logic and reason. Sometimes the logic and reason aren’t even needed as the description of the belief or tradition itself is often enough to make you raise your eyebrows in a WTF manner.

The book covers a wide range of subjects from cargo cults, to papal elections, to the Satanic Panic and keeps you interested all along the way. The chapters are short enough that you can read them in one sitting which makes it perfect for commutes or a quick read before bed time. The illustrations by Vincent Deporter complement the text well, and give you a bit of a visual cue about what is being discussed.

My only gripe is a selfish one – I wish Seth had gone into more detail when exposing the ludicrous nature of some beliefs. I’ve have heard him eviscerate certain practices (his recent podcast on Programming is a great example of this), and would have loved to have seen him do this in the book. Of course, as noted on the cover, it’s not that kind of book, it is rather, a lighthearted look, not a deep expose.

Seth, if you ever read this, maybe your next book could be about that?  I would buy that in heartbeat.

I enjoyed Sacred Cows so much that I am now on the hunt for his first book Deconverted: A Journey From Religion to Reason, Seth’s memoir of waking up from religious belief.

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I was just listening to The Geologic Podcast and in it George mentioned that David Gilmour has a new album out.  I looked it up and had a listen to the title track, and thought it was pretty good. It certainly has a Pink Floyd vibe to it, but is different enough to stand on its own.  The video is rather cool too.

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It has been a while since I posted about podcasts, but since whenever the last time was, I have been thoroughly enjoying a number of them. The list of subscriptions I have is too long to post, but I wanted to mention a couple from the last few days that I thought were great. 

The first is from a podcast called Reply All which talks about all things internet related. Their most recent episode (#40) was called Flower Child and was all about a website called Ripoff Report, a website where anyone and everyone can write a review and complain about a business or service. The trouble is, in many cases the reviews are not often based on an actual bad experience, but rather a personal vendetta or gripe against the company owner. This means that the Ripoff Report about a business usually appears before the businesses own website in search engines. For many, this has meant a downturn in business, or in the case of the young taxidermist that was interviewed, the death of their business. 

The first part of the podcast is the interview with the taxidermist and her explaining how the complaint that was made against her was completely unfounded and made up entirely, and her attempts to get it removed. The second part was an interview with the Ripoff Report website owner. The whole thing was really well done, and it did not go in the direction I thought it would. I won’t give it away, but it is well worth a listen, and is only around 30 minutes long so won’t take up too much of your time.

The other one that I really got into was the No Place Like Home episode of Criminal. So far I have enjoyed all of the episodes that I have listened to; each one goes through a criminal case and all its details, but this one stood out because only the first few minutes were about a guy that got sent to prison for fraud, and the rest of it was about his experience in the prison which was also used by the state as a home for lepers. The human stories contained within it were engrossing. 

This too was only around 30 minutes long so is easy to listen to, and again, well worth the time.

I like me some podcasts!

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On my commute this morning I continued to listen to Leaving the Church: A Conversation with Megan Phelps-Roper the latest podcast from Waking Up with Sam Harris. You might recognise the ‘Phelps’ part of Megan’s name – she was once a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Sam’s interview with her is very interesting, and they cover all sorts of areas, from the beginnings of the church, to the commencement of their infamous picketing, to the thing that led to Megan leaving. 

As someone who has in the last couple of years left a highly controlling religious group, I can really relate to some of Megan’s experiences. I still have around thirty minutes left to listen to, but Megan made a comment that for me, with my experience, rang very true.

She mentioned a New York Times article called The Brain’s Empathy Gap and it was a quote from that article that really struck me: “The suppression of empathy is most strongly correlated with group identity.” She followed this up with the statement “The stronger your group identity the more you are able to suppress empathy for the outgroup.”

Both comments are right on the money in my opinion. The group that I was a part of encouraged minimal contact with ‘the world’ and an ‘us and them’ mentality. As a group you looked forward to Armageddon – the death of billions of people on earth, are not encouraged to donate to or assist charities, and unless there is potential for conversion, you are advised to not associate with those who are not part of the religion. This engenders a general lack of empathy – no need to worry about that thing or do anything about it, Armageddon will be here soon and God’s Kingdom will fix everything. 

The quoted article, and Megan’s comments echo true with my personal experience. 

Something else she quoted hit home too. From the book Journey to Jihad about a young guy who gets radicalised by Islam: The threat of excommunication kept most members obedient.” So very true.  Lots of people stay with these groups, not because they love the religion, but because they fear being cut off from their social group and years of connections. 

Very interesting. 



Still going well on the podcast front. I’ve now listened to The Infinite Monkey Cage and also the two episodes featuring Anthony Bourdain on StarTalk Radio with Neil de Grasse Tyson. Both were really interesting, with TIMC especially being hilarious. 

The Bourdain interviews were interesting as they switched between a discussion with a Nutritionist and the interview itself. De Grasse Tyson and the Nutritionist would introduce a topic and then part of the Bourdain interview would played, where he talked about his travel experience with the same subject. Then switching back to the podcasters, they would discuss in more depth and from a scientific / nutrition viewpoint. Very interesting. 

TIMC was very funny. It’s a panel discussion on a particular topic (in this case it was serendipity in science) with the hosts Brian Cox and Robin Ince and guests. Scientific discussions can easily be boring as hell, but this was not only interesting, but very very funny.  I loved it, and can’t wait for the next one – although that episode was the season final so I have to wait a few months argh!

This morning I’m listening to Freakonomics Radio’s rebroadcast of A Better Way to Eat featuring an interview with a professional hot dog eater. Yes, you heard that right. Takeru Kobayashi is apparently a legend, and the interview was pretty cool. 50 dogs in 12 minutes? Whaaaaaaaat?



Some better news on the podcast front today. Last night I subscribed to some more podcasts, so. My subscription list now looks like this:

  • The Skeptics Guide to the Universe
  • The Skeptics Guide to the Universe 5×5
  • Waking Up with Sam Harris
  • The Bugle
  • Penn’s Sunday School
  • Radiolab From WNYC
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage
  • StarTalk Radio
  • Freakonomics Radio
  • Ten Minute Podcast
  • The Art of Manliness

I’ve just finished listening to The Skeptics Guide to the Universe 5×5 #113 and it was great. The “5×5” bit refers to five skeptics in five minutes. This is a short sharp companion piece to their main The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast. The subject under discussion was “What’s the Harm?” talking about the common retort to skepticism of “so what if people believe / do that?” and explained the very real harm that can come from certain beliefs. I really enjoyed it and look forward to listening to more of the short episodes, and getting into the longer episodes. 

I’m currently listening to Penn’s Sunday School’s latest episode Gays to the Front of the Bus and am enjoying it too. I’ve always enjoyed Penn and Teller as magicians, but many people aren’t aware of their other side which is skepticism, debunking, and atheism. Penn does his podcast without Teller, and looking over the episode lists, he and his offsider Steve Goudeau cover a wide range of topics. 

Good stuff, and much better listening than the stuff I heard yesterday. 



I mentioned the other day that I listened to my first podcast, and that I really enjoyed it. Since then I have been looking around for some more to have a listen to. 

I have now subscribed to:

  • Radiolab From WNYC
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage
  • StarTalk Radio
  • Freakonomics Radio
  • Ten Minute Podcast

And of course the one that got me started, The Art of Manliness. 

When you subscribe to a podcast on iTunes, it downloads the latest episode, and you can also download previous episodes. So in addition to the most recent episodes, on a couple of the podcasts I downloaded some other interesting sounding episodes. For example on Radiolab I downloaded Nazi Summer Camp, and from StarTalk the interview that Neil deGrasse Tyson did with Anthony Bourdain (a long time hero of mine).  

I will start working my way through these over the next few commutes. 

This morning I started with the abovementioned Nazi Summer Camp on Radiolab. I ended up turning it off after about five minutes. The editing of it, the different voices, and the sound effects made it feel like I was listening to the audio of a video and missing out on some accompanying visuals. It was not easy to listen to. 

I tried another episode, Antibodies Part 1 and while it was better, and the editing cuts weren’t as rapid and it seemed a bit more cohesive. But still not quite my cup of tea. I think I will keep the subscription and maybe just listen to podcasts that have a title that sounds interesting to me. 

So now I have moved on to Ten Minute Podcast’s latest episode Japanese Businessman. So far, they seem to think that they are hilarious, but I’m not sharing their mirth. I think I will give this one a few more goes before I decide if I will keep subscribing. 

Will have a listen to StarTalk tomorrow. 

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