Thursday, February 15, 2007

In Praise of Podcasts

When I lived in Chicago, I was an NPR addict. I listened to it all day at work and most of the time at home. Morning, afternoon, evening. You could always find my radio on and playing 91.5.

Moving to Ireland made me become a daily Newstalk listener. It was a good, albeit imperfect, substitute. Whenever I had the chance, especially if I was cleaning or baking, I'd listen to NPR online. Weekend Edition Saturday, Fresh Air, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, On the Media...It was like importing a little bit of my past into my new life.

Moving to the Middle of Nowhere put a crimp in my Newstalk lifestyle. I can't get decent reception on my walkman, either in the house or out on the road. I have managed to find a configuration at work that allows the station to come in decently and I'm sure my co-workers think I'm a bit strange. The station comes in best if I put the walkman on the top of my in-tray on my left, have the headphone cord come up over my left shoulder and have the earbud separator behind me, instead of the more typical in-front configuration.

But for my runs, I was doomed to listen only to music. Music provides a good accompaniment when I'm in the mood to run, providing pacing and timing for me. But when I don't particularly want to run, it helps to have the distraction of stories to focus my mind.

Enter the podcast, a phenomenon I realise is not new but one that I was ridiculously slow to embrace. The fact of the matter is that I didn't like the word at all. My personality is such that I often issue summary judgments against things based on arbitrary and flimsy reasons. I fully admit it's illogical to refuse to watch The Bridge on the River Kwai because of the whistling, but I have nonetheless taken agin' the film.

My acceptance of podcasts snuck up on me. It started with Peter's Mac laptop, which I inherited to use for dial-up in the dark weeks before broadband arrived in our house. He'd downloaded the contents of his sister's Ipod, which included some podcasts. Since I couldn't listen to NPR online and I couldn't get reception for Newstalk, desperation forced me to listen to the podcasts for distraction while cooking. The selection wasn't great – NASA, some guy called The Naked Scientist (because he stripped science bare, not because he podcasted nekkid), and the annoying Chris Moyles' show. I know what rock-bottom sounds like – rock-bottom is listening to Moyles interview David Beckham because the alternative is listening to a guy tell you how to create a submarine experiment in your kitchen sink.

Broadband arrived to save me and I had a take-away lesson from my dark, desolate podcast days – if those guys had podcasts, then chances were shows I love might have podcasts. It was time to find out. To my delight, NPR has oodles of podcasts. Some of them are just compilations of stories from different shows, so if you've heard the show, you've already heard the piece. But a few shows are podcast in their entirety (including Fresh Air and This American Life), so I've taken to filling up my Shuffle with podcasts for my runs.

I am willing to admit – I was wrong about podcasts. (But I am still not conceding ground on The Bridge on the River Kwai.)


At 15 February 2007 at 08:12, Blogger Bernie said...

Ira Glass rocks this American life, doesn't he? My fav: "The Minders" and the part about bravery tests. I'm trying to stitch together work from the first year media writing classes I teach and to produce an Irish version of "The Minders" for

At 15 February 2007 at 12:39, Blogger laurie said...

now this is funny. you're in ireland, loading up your ipod shuffle with "this american life."

i'm in the US, loading up my ipod shuffle with "documentary on one" from RTE. (i think they're better than this american life--i love the felt-life feeling of it, the creaking doors, the dogs barking, the people speaking instead of just being interviewed....)

At 15 February 2007 at 13:38, Blogger Terri said...

This is where I 'fess up and admit I don't know how podcasts work. Last of the great IT tech's, me...!

At 15 February 2007 at 14:16, Blogger laurie said...

i don't mean to be pushing my own blog, but ann you and i sometimes have parallel's what i posted about ipods and documentaries.

terri, it's so easy. with the RTE podcasts, you can just go the RTE website and listen right on the computer, or you can download the podcast into your ipod through itunes. it's a simple matter of clicking and dragging.

if i can do it, anyone can.

At 15 February 2007 at 14:19, Blogger laurie said...

or maybe i can make that clickable. let me try:

ipod blog link

At 15 February 2007 at 20:10, Blogger -Ann said...

Bernie - I love Ira Glass. I used to tell Peter that if things didn't work out with him, I would set out to meet Ira Glass.

Apparently, Showtime is doing a This American Life television show. If you go to Itunes and look for Sundance film festival podcasts, they have a nice long podcast of a sort of forum they did about how making the tv show is different than making the radio show. I don't think I've heard "The Minders" - will have to look out for it.

Laurie - That is funny. Newstalk does podcasts too. Probably better to get them through Itunes though, just search for Newstalk. Kids Talk is always very amusing.

That's weird about the parralel posts.

Terri - Yep, what Laurie said. Just go to Itunes, find the link for Podcasts and away you go.

At 15 February 2007 at 20:45, Blogger laurie said...

ooh, thanks for the newstalk tip, ann. i'd run out of RTE documentaries, burned through the entire "terrace" series, and am halfway through "shank's mare." i was beginning to panic.

i don't love ira glass, but i have a friend who named her son after Noah Adams.

At 15 February 2007 at 21:22, Blogger Arbusto said...

I will not watch the movie Chicago because of the terrible "Lady Marmalade" song that was all over the radio prior to the movie's release.


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