Roderick on the Line / by Erin Wade

ROTL is one of my favorite things. This podcast has been around for 162 episodes - over three years worth of material. It's been magnificent.

This is something that I typically recommended only to a select group of people. There are a number of hurdles to clear - you have to know about podcasts, know how to access them... And you have to be prepared to experience it.

This show is essentially 160+ of the best conversations you have ever had with this friends with whom you and they agree: there is no point to small talk.

John Roderick is a musician - former member of Harvey Danger, and lead singer and songwriter for The Long Winters. In more recent years he's been part of the ongoing geek revolution, touring with Jonathan Coulton.

But that's the tip of the iceberg. Roderick has lived a fascinating life. He's been a rock star. He's walked across Europe. He's struggled with drugs and alcohol. He's amazingly, intensely open and honest about these experiences - the good and the bad - in his music and his conversation.

Merlin Mann is the guy at the other end of the conversation. Merlin is linguistically quick - often frighteningly so - and always delighted to be at his end of the conversation. A self-described former productivity guru, Merlin does multiple podcasts each week. He appears to do this show because he loves talking with Roderick, and wants the world to have that opportunity as well.

I came by John Roderick by way of Merlin Mann. Years ago now he did a video podcast, an interview show called The Merlin Show. This was an outgrowth of his productivity website 43 Folders. It featured interviews with media and tech folk with a focus on their approach to getting things done. One episode focused on Roderick - sitting in, one presumes, Merlin's back yard. Roderick was so delightful that I wanted to know more, and I ended up buying - and loving - every Long Winters album as a result.

So why am I writing about this now?

As I mentioned, generally I'm selective about those to whom I recommend this show. Roderick is an excellent story teller, opinionated, and sometimes painfully open and honest.

And now he's running for political office. Specifically, he's running for Seattle City Council.

He's been talking about the campaign on the podcast. Let me be clear here: he has not been campaigning on the podcast. Far from it. He's been providing his usual open and honest perspective on his experience. Sometimes painfully honest.

If you've ever wondered what it is actually like to run for office - ever wanted to do more than simply consign every politician to the corrupt jackass category - the past half-dozen or so episodes of ROTL paint a very clear picture. The stresses, the struggles with advisors, with deciding whether to go negative or maintain the high road, the impact on family and personal life - it's all here, better than an Aaron Sorkin show because it's crisply, sharply real.

If anything I've said here remotely sparks your interest this show deserves your attention.