The Omnibus Podcast - a Review by Erin Wade

Omnibus Podcast - Defenestration

The Omnibus is a new podcast by John Roderick and Ken Jennings. For those unfamiliar with these two gentlemen, this description, by Kim Holcomb on Twitter, sums them up to a "T":


Ken Jennings is likely the better known of the duo due to his record setting winning streak on Jeopardy! During that streak in 2004 he was all over the media, he has participated in multiple other game shows, and he is also an author.

John Roderick) is the lead singer and songwriter of The Long Winters, as well as a veteran podcaster, co-hosting Roderick on the Line and Road Work with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin, respectively. Roderick is also a former candidate for the Seattle City Council, a process which he detailed in painfully honest detail on ROTL, and which I talked about here.

The Omnibus is a new take on historical events and popular culture. The show is couched in the conceit that Ken and John are recording an encyclopedia of obscure and ephemeral information about our history and times in the hopes that it will be preserved for future generations - or beings, for there is no assumption they will be human - after what is almost certainly the impending apocalypse that will end our era. As such, almost any errata is fair game, ranging from describing how starlings were introduced to the americas to the "Rachel".

Yes, the "Rachel", Jennifer Aniston’s haircut from the TV show Friends. How is this a thing that needs to be preserved for future? This is part of the the magic of Omnibus - by the end you will understand why.

The range and variation in topics should be a clear sign to listeners that this is not a show that takes itself too seriously. Far from being a dry lecture about a given subject, the Omnibus ultimately plays as all the best podcasts do - it’s about two people, who clearly enjoy each other’s company, talking about something that interests them both. While each episode is nominally about the thing in the title, they all wander far afield, covering topics and ideas that are, to a greater and lesser degree, related to the original subject. The hosts know it when it happens, and you will hear them periodically note that they are, perhaps, veering some distance away from the topic (not that this realization has any impact on the course of the discussion). It’s a little like reading the cover page on Wikipedia, and then following the rabbit hole of links in each article, but doing so while taking with a good friend. If that notion appeals to you - and you know who you are - this show is absolutely for you.

I’m several episodes in at this point, but probably my favorite thus far has been the December 7, 2017 entry on Defenstration.

Full confession here - I’m quite certain I had heard this word before, but if I thought I knew what it meant, I was kidding myself.

Defenestration, my friends, is the act of throwing someone out of a window.

Is it possible to talk about such a thing for nearly 40 minutes? It is indeed, and magnificently so! How did such a thing reach the level at which it requires its own name? When it involves an entire city council, well...

There are many good podcasts out there, and between podcasts and audiobooks I have little free space in my listening time, so I guard it carefully. That said, Omnibus has quickly gained a spot in my regular listening cue. If you like history, but don’t want it take too seriously, Omnibus deserves a listen.

You can find the podcast here, and subscribe to it on iTunes here.


Looking for New News by Erin Wade

I sincerely miss The Diane Rehm Show's Friday News Roundup.

I became a news junkie when I was in college. The first Gulf War happened during my time in undergrad. I discovered CNN during that event and, probably more importantly, CNN's Headline News channel. There was a large projection TV in the student union that happened to be in the seating area of the fast food restaurant at which I worked. Once the Gulf War started Headline News was running on that TV much of the time. When I was away from work I found myself turning it on at home as well.

The Gulf War eventually ended, of course, but my attention to news events carried on. In addition to TV I listened to early talk radio - mostly WLS in Chicago) when it rode the wave of conversion from Rock to Talk that seemed to be started by Don Wade (no relation) - and read magazines. As time went on I discovered NPR and found that between Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, and All Things Considered one could keep the news spigot flowing throughout the day. Radio ultimately won out over TV because I could do other things while listening.

Keeping that spigot flowing every day is something one can do, but it doesn't mean that one necessarily should - it is possible to get drowned in all of that news. While it can be somewhat interesting to be that person who knows who the US Representative is for the third district of a state one has never visited simply because that person is involved in a news story one has heard, it also follows you throughout each day, and can reach the point where it is hard to escape. It's good to be informed, but it's not good when you are wondering about the fate of the McCain-Feingold bill in your spare time.

Probably the only truly useful thing I took from The Four Hour Work Week was the idea of scaling back one's news consumption by getting information from weekly news summaries rather than trying to catch it all over the course of the week. This approach ensures that one remains informed without being washed away in details that may or may not ultimately turn out to be relevant. Ultimately, learning how to do this made me a happier, more relaxed person.

The Diane Rehm Show's Friday News Roundup was, for me, the perfect way to manage that. Diane (or her guest host) would review the week's stories with a panel of journalists. The group had clearly done their homework, and could speak in detail on the topics at hand. Sometimes the group would include a bit of spice as well, such as when David Corn would join and argue with, well... almost everyone. And, as luck would have it, Diane's show was available as a podcast, which removed the need to be listening at a specific time.

Diane Rehm retired at the end of 2016, and with her the Friday News Roundup as well. This left me in a news drought, and this during a time which, arguably, being informed is extremely important.

What I needed, then, was a news program that was fairly objective, came out as a podcast, and offered a perodic (preferably weekly) summary of the news. This turned out to be a harder hill to climb than I expected. There are plenty of news podcasts, of course, but something that offers a summary of the actual news, as opposed to an array of pundits providing their opinions about said news, well - that's more difficult.

For now, I've landed with On Point with Tom Ashbrook. It has a somewhat different format than The Diane Rehm Show - more clips and cuts from the week past. Still, three weeks in I'm finding that it meets many of the same needs for gaining the week's information. Perhaps because it's NPR I'm finding that some of the panelists are the same - this week's show included Susan Page from USA Today, for example.

I'm still evaluating and looking, but for now this seems like home.