Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mollusks don't oscillate

I've been trying to be a better podcast listener. I can't be a twenty-something New Yorker (ack) without listening to NPR and shit.

Three years ago, I was driving along the dull Midwestern stretch of I-70. I was bored with my CDs (remember Discmen? good times) and mixtapes (better times), so I fiddled with the radio. Tolerated a few minutes of country music. Flipped right past Christian stuff. The only other thing on was some kind of talk show. Something about America. Except just one person talking, and there was music. The speaker kept pausing and I kept thinking the story was over. Except, of course, it wasn't. I think the story was something about the woman's father getting old, or the parents were splitting up, or something along those lines. Eventually it ended and presumably I found something else to help pass the corn-field time.

Months and months later, I told my new boyfriend about it. He said, "Yeah, that's This American Life. It's a podcast and it's really good, you should listen to it." I rolled my eyes. These kids and their iPods and their fancy podcasts. Blah blah blah.

Fast forward a year or so and I got my very own (free, hand-me-down) iPod. It totally changed my life. But I still refused to investigate podcasts. Too complicated or something? No real reason.

Another year or so further on, when I got my bigger, newer, much shinier iPod, with so much empty space, I finally broke down and looked at the whole podcast thing. I subscribed to This American Life, but rarely listened to it, since I almost always prefer music (especially while reading on the subway, when I can't hear a damn thing on a podcast anyway).

The last few weeks I've been driving to school training, each trip lasting between 30-45 minutes. I used the time to start catching up on the last six months' worth of This American Life. I made the unfortunate mistake of listening to The Audacity of Government on the way to school one day, boiling my blood before going in to Save The Children at training. I loathe this administration and everything it stands for. But that's another post, one I don't need to write. Ahem. Shows from this podcast have made me laugh, cry, rage, and think. (The title refers to a great speech by Malcolm Gladwell taken from The Moth, on a show from the spring that I just heard recently.) I've whittled the list of shows down to 'just' eight one-hour episodes.

And so, anticipating way too much time on my hands and despair at no more podcasts, last week I finally took the BF's advice and also subscribed to Radio Lab, The Moth, and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. I downloaded six or seven of their most recent shows and have been slowly learning new formats and enjoying new things to think and laugh about. The first Radio Lab I listened to was about self and the soul, and it was completely fascinating. Mirrors, monkeys, neurons--good stuff. The first Wait, Wait was a best-of compilation featuring Dave Barry, Craig Ferguson, and a couple others I don't remember. Very funny indeed. Surprisingly, I didn't even mind looking like a total lunatic, standing alone and giggling at nothing in public. I have no shame, but I do have lots of time to kill.


Mintyfresh said...

i made my cousin listen to "Things I Learned from TV," because all the TALs I'd described were horribly depressing. It's a hysterical one.

And I've been singing Radio Lab's praises to everyone (And Andy and I had an animated conversation about it!). I'm bummed that the podcast has changed to short bits--I like hour-long podcasts!

Ita said...

I love This American Life and Wait, Wait don't tell me. I listen to NPR on my hour drive to school every day :)

Not Quite Grown Up... said...

I love This American Life and Radio Lab. I'm actually kind of sad that my commute is only 20 minutes now - that's not enough time to listen to a podcast. (My commutes used to be 30-45 minutes, you could really get into the podcasts with that much time.) The only time I didn't like TAL was when it made me cry on the way to school. There's nothing like crying before you even start the stressful part of your day.