Thursday, December 25, 2014

Do you hear what I hear?

So ... right off the top, this is not about Christmas music. *Really* not about Christmas music. Christmas music is why I stay out of stores this time of year so I won't have to tear my ears off or hit anyone. Just sayin'.

So, what is this about? Podcasts, audiobooks and stuff. Ever since I got my ipad (which Mr. B. declared to be the "modern 25th anniversary present"), I've been up to my ears ~ literally ~ in good listening. Funny how it turns out that I'm not using the ipad for the things I thought I would, but it's become indispensable in other, mostly audible, ways. And so much of what I listen to makes me so very happy ... gives me hope, educates me, engages my brain ... all that good stuff. I thought I'd share a few of my favourites:

Podcastly, two of my favourites from the very beginning have been Good Job, Brain! and Books on the Nightstand.

Good Job, Brain! is like sitting around with a couple (okay, four) good friends and just having fun with trivia and quizzes. Not sure how I found them, but I eventually went back and listened to their entire archive. Initially I thought they were "young folks", but I'm starting to think they might be older than they sound, but it makes me feel young to listen. Oh, and every fifth podcast is an "all quiz" ... those are my favourite episodes. Makes me feel *so* smart when I know stuff.

Books on the Nightstand is the private project of Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman. They both work in the publishing industry, so they've often got the inside scoop on new books, but they're not afraid to go back a few years and talk about their favourites as well. It's a half hour of booky goodness. And if you're on Goodreads, there's a Books on the Nightstand group there, too, so it's easy to keep track of what they've talked about.

Now we get serious. When I want something meaty to chew on, it's usually Radiolab or 99% Invisible.

I heard about Radiolab in a weird way: one day I was browsing at Regional Assembly of Text, and I gradually became aware the "music" in the background was not music at all but this seriously interesting discussion of ... ideas, culture, humour ... with a soundtrack and comments. I had to sit and listen for a few minutes. Eventually I asked at the front counter: "Um ... what radio station IS this?", and was told it was the Radiolab podcast. Made immediate note to myself: get some kind of device that could listen to podcasts. Done.

Not sure how I heard about 99% Invisible ... I think it turned up on the ipad's recommended list once I started listening to Radiolab. Got addicted to "99PI" (as they call themselves) really quickly. Theoretically it's about design, but it's a pretty broad ranging definition. This week's episode is about the birth of the octothorpe, or as you might know it: the hashtag. They really pack a lot of interesting stuff into their usual 15-20 minute episodes.

I've backed 99PI twice now through Kickstarter - once to help them go from a monthly podcast to a weekly (so worth it!), and the next time to help them add more similar podcasts to Radiotopia, their new venture ~ and I pretty much love all those podcasts, too. Strangers just had a riveting 4-part series "Love Hurts" on the host's failed relationships (so much more positive than that sounds, I promise). The Truth (Movies for Your Ears) just had a great Christmas story about an elf really not adjusting to his job of judging children naughty or nice at Santa, Corp. There's more, but let's start with those two.

And (of course), there's The Moth. Which is all about storytelling. As in: people get up on stage in front of a live audience, and without notes, tell a story from their lives. Three people, three stories, linked by a common theme. Absolutely riveting. 

One of the other audio treats I've discovered is BBC4 Extra Online Radio. I'm finally getting a university education ~ the easy way! They serialize wonderful classic books as radioplays. I'm currently listening to Wilkie Collins' No Name, something I'd never heard of before, but really enjoying. Last week, it was George Elliot's Adam Bede, and earlier this fall it was Thomas Hardy's Two on a Tower. Not that it's all serious stuff ... the first series I listened to this summer was Charles Chilton's Journey Into Space, a highly *improbable* tale of pseudo-science fiction manliness from the 1950's. They're currently also running Doctor Who, Adrian Mole and Master and Commander. The episodes run every day, and they recently extended the listening period from 7 days to 21 days (yay!). Great companion in the studio.

Audiobook-wise, I'm taking full advantage of Overdrive, the electronic app that delivers the Vancouver Public Library's ebooks and audiobooks to my ipad. There's a 21-day borrowing limit, which certainly helps keep me focused. Currently listening to Kerouac's On the Road, and David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames ~ how's that for variety?

Not sure how many people know this, but there are full audiobooks posted on YouTube as well. Discovered Andy Weir's The Martian on YouTube and could not *wait* to find out what happened next and listened obsessively. I've also listened to the *entire* Game of Thrones series on YouTube because the waitlist through Overdrive was *too long*.

And when I'm exhausted by all that reading? I tune my ipad to Songza, choose a soothing playlist, set the timer to 30 minutes and drift off to sleep ...


Mary said...

Thanks for the great synopsis. I bought B. a KOBO for Xmas so we're learning about library sharing and limitations on ebooks/audio. I'm going to check out some of the podcasts you've mentioned here on the ipad (probably a better use than sims, although that has it's own dubious attraction!).
Happy New Year!

George Wright said...

Yes, wow, what a terrific list of links to follow up on! You should be an audio reference librarian!!

thanks, Rose