Something different to listen to
Do you commute daily and often spent the trip aimlessly looking at the traffic jam? Do you drive daily and hate yourself because you accidentally deleted everything but Skrillex in your iPod? If so, do yourself a favor and go download a few podcasts for your next trip. Yes, podcasts have been around for a few years now but I just got into listening to some of them since the beginning of this year, and I wonder how many great episodes I’ve been missing. For the uninitiated, podcasts are basically radio shows in the form of downloadable episodes so you are free to listen to them anytime you want. The topics vary, from science investigation to interesting life stories to new music (just like real radio). You can either download them manually from each websites or fire up your iTunes/other media player and use the podcast feature to browse and load them up to your iPod/iPhone/Android phone/your player of choice. I personally use iTunes and my undying iPod Classic or I just use the BeyondPod app in my Galaxy SIII to directly download them into the phone. (The latter is much more practical.) If you’ve got some cash lying around, Pocket Casts should be a better option on either iOS or Android. As very, very few (Indonesian) people I know listen to podcasts, here is a heads up of my favorites for those who want to spend better time earning new knowledge while commuting/driving — and yes, it helps with your English immensely. Go ahead and stock some, you won’t know when the right time comes to listen!
Hosted by Jad Abumgrad and Robert Krulwich, this is hands down the best podcast I’ve ever followed. Radiolab brings you interesting occurrences on daily life and puts a deep, detailed research and wraps it up in a story accessible for everyone. If the science-y vibe scares you, don’t, because the stories are way more than just science journal in audio form. One of the latest episodes looks into a specific tribe in Kenya that bore almost all of the best runners the world have ever seen. Another puts you into perspective on how we perceive speed and time, from the microsecond-sensitive stock trading to a decade-long experience on seeing a substance drop (as in water drops). Lately they’ve been more into biology, with all the genetics and whatnot, but I ensure you Radiolab will give you a more eye-opening morning commute than any music ever.
All Songs Considered
Pitchfork is so 2007, man. Okay, maybe it’s still relevant, but for those who want to get into the hottest new music without the time to read all the fancy reviews, NPR’s All Songs Considered gives the best bang for your buck. Well, it’s free, so no bucks involved actually. Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton will take you every week to discover fresh artists and hear new tracks from the established ones just so you now have a reason to leave the playlist you’ve been listening to since high school behind. You’ll get Death Cab for Cutie, James Blake, Of Montreal, and even The Beatles, but you’ll also discover the unheard-of La Luz, Mapei, Perera Elsewhere, and many others that you will learn to love. All wrapped in informative and often funny talks between the hosts.
Stories. Everybody’s got one. Even your cashier at the nearest Circle K probably have one interesting story in his life that would totally get your attention. The Moth is all about stories, directly from the very person who experienced it. My favorite is about a guy with Indian descent (that is, the Asian India, not Native Americans) that told a story about how his family faced the mortality of old age and how they don’t seem to be afraid of death. Every episode is not equally interesting, especially with people whose culture are so detached from the world we live in that we can’t really relate to, but when it’s good, it’s gold.
Dubbed by its creator Roman Mars as “a tiny radio show about design”, the show talks about the design (or architecture) in objects in our daily life that are 99% invisible to us but are definitely crucial, hence the name. From revolving doors to the iconic I Heart NY logo to the reversed flow of Chicago River, it might surprise you how much thought have been put into objects that we casually meet and use everyday. As someone who have always wondered who made the stripes dividing the lanes in the road white or why the shot clock in basketball is set to 24 seconds, this one will have you answered.
New Yorker Fiction
The New Yorker is a publication with a reputation, and the fiction section is always nothing short of wonderful. This podcast takes you into the short stories that have been published in past issues, read by notable authors who are fans of the stories. One important thing to note is that before the storytelling starts, the authors will tell how they fell in love with the story or the author, and sometimes, how it made them got into the world of writing in the first place. Oftentimes it offers an endearing insight about the author’s love of literature, something that I’m sure a lot of people could relate to. My personal favorite is Francisco Goldman reading ‘Clara’ by Roberto Bolaño. So sultry, self-aware and pandering. If you’ve got no time to read a book, you can always listen.