Recently on that other blog of mine, I wrote a bit about dishwashers and why they're for suckers. There I mentioned that I listen to podcasts and audio books while washing the dishes. They're also great for any other activity around the house that doesn't necessitate attention to detail (cooking) or safety protocols (use of power tools), hammock livin' and walks, (when nature is drowned by the less pleasant works of humans). It's a new golden age of audio out there, people. Feed your mind.
While visual media has it's appeal, it's had to share me with audio over the years. Even when I'm not driving, I've decided at times to listen to baseball on the radio rather than watch it on television. There's something more intimate about leaving the images to my mind.
There was also exposure to new music and ideas growing up in the CLE market with such great college radio stations like WRUW and fun shows by Steve Wainstead on WCSB. In those days I would run into the odd radio drama and also came to find and love the wonders of NPR.
I was fortunate to have had a seventh-grade science teacher who would play reel-to-reel recordings of classic radio shows like X Minus One and Orson Welles' War of the Worlds during study periods. I'd read about those shows at that age, but that was my first real (to reel) exposure, and it lead me to my first Philip K. Dick novel and then to his entire catalog.
My taste in comedy was all on vinyl in those days, and I would spend hours listening to records by Richard Prior, George Carlin, Cheech and Chong and The Firesign Theatre.
Internet technologies, as we know, have opened up all things past, present, and yet-to-come to our ears. It's an exciting time.
Here are a few of my favorite things:
Reading, Short and Deep
Jesse Willis and company put together my two favorite podcasts. The SFFaudio podcasts are either audiobooks of public domain works with lively and intelligent readalong discussions or readalong discussions of books not in the public domain. Jesse Willis is the anchor, but his cast of readers is always changing, which keeps things from getting stale. Their discussions of the works of Philip K. Dick are fun, thoughtful, and have sent my brain spinning off into works of my own. They have a lot of fun with H.P. Lovecraft as well.
Reading, Short and Deep is Jesse Willis and Eric Rabkin discussing works you've either known or may never have known without this podcast. The title tells you everything else you need to know.
What can I say about Mr. Jim Moon? I can say plenty, but all I'm going to say is if you like weird fiction or weird anything give his podcasts a listen. I just listened to a series he did about a severed hand (no spoilers here) that was brimming with well researched and well presented weird fun and filled my head with ideas for my own weird works. How did I discover this weird corner of the podcastsphere (say THAT five times fast, and you'll summon something weird)? Mr. Jim Moon is a frequent visitor to SFFaudio, of course.
The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast (SFBRP) was my introduction to podcasts and is still a favorite. Luke Burrage (frequently joined by Juliane Kunzendorf) "reads a science fiction novel and reviews it when he's done." Fantasy books get in there as well. SFBRP is also how I discovered SFFaudio, which lead to Reading, Short and Deep and Hypnogoria. SFBRP is also how I discovered:
Reading Envy, where Jenny Colvin and her guests discuss books they've read, the way they read them, and other topics that revolve around, you guessed it, reading.
decipherSciFi is unrelated to the podcasts above but is still a bit of smart fun. Each podcast breaks down a science fiction film and discusses the parts and their implications.
In addition to these fine podcasts, I also listen to audiobooks and lectures from the series The Great Courses available on Audible as well as free public domain works from Librivox. There is a wealth of brain food out there, and you should be taking advantage of it.
"But," you may be asking at this point, "what about the laughs?" Well, there are plenty of laughs to be had with the podcasters above, but if you want pure fun, here you go:
The Incomparable Network of podcasts
Under the benevolent-ish umbrella of Jason Snell exists The Incomparable and its many wonders. My favorite Incomparable podcasts are really fun. Their TeeVee subpodcast brings me three funny guys cracking themselves up over the week's episode of Arrow. Really. It's great. Also, it's funnier than a thousand supercuts of "Are you okay?". That said: Yo, Internet, where's my supercut of "Can we have the room?" Seriously, these guys have brought the lolz and even some tears of joy. BiffArmy4Lyfe!
Rocket Surgery is another favorite. Do you miss sitting around with your friends bashing on crappy movies? Rocket Surgery is your friend. "Frankenstein Island"! "Johnny Mneumonic"! "Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster"! "Cool Cat Saves The Kids"! I'm still waiting for them to tear into my favorite crappy movie of all time, but I'm never going to tell them what it is. Mwuhahahaha! *cough* Ahem. Put on your mascot hands, straddle your cyborg dolphin and tap into THE POWER! THE POWER! THE POWER! of Rocket Surgery.
Total Party Kill harkens back to a simpler time when all we had to fear was getting lost in the sewers while LARPing. It's a cast of funny folks playing Dungeons and Dragons on the Internet and having a ball with it. Unless you've cast a protection spell against fun go listen to this one right now.
The Incomparable offers something for every nerd. Check it out. Oh, you like Star Trek? Try Scott McNulty's Random Trek. You don't hate Neelix like Scott McNulty hates Neelix. Stupid Fruit Stripe Zebra. Grrr.
Lastly, in my "guys bashing on things" department is The Philip K. Dick Philosophical Podcast. Each episode finds Adam Hulbert and Phil Young taking a PKD short story and, with some readalong bits, trying to sort out what the hell Phil Dick is going on about. Hilarity ensues.
I'm with Jesse Willis on this one. It's fun, but if the hosts did a little more research, this podcast could easily move from my "fun" selections to the "brainy" side. Then again, would it lose some of the fun? That's one to ponder.
Until next weekend, go listen to a podcast already.