Chad Comello

Librarian, cinephile, et al

Tag: podcasts

What’s your accidental ritual?

About a year ago I got into the habit of listening to new episodes of the 99% Invisible podcast on Tuesday nights, on my way home from my late night at work. Most episodes are about the length of my drive home. Cruising through dark and empty streets, weary from the day, I revel in the soft baritone of Roman Mars’ narration and delightful diversity of stories—“Dollhouses of St. Louis” and “Oyster-tecture” being recent gems. It’s a ritual I didn’t intentionally create but has nevertheless become an indispensable part of my week.

What about you? Do you have any accidental routines you’d suffer without?

Down with S-Town

Yesterday I managed to mainline all seven episodes of S-Town, the new podcast from This American Life and Serial that were released all at once. It’s a fascinating blend of those two shows: at once an extended version of a TAL episode, complete with idiosyncratic characters and a vivid setting, and a Serial-esque mystery, with room to explore the unexpected narrative turns.

John B. McLemore, the central figure of S-town, gives incredible tape. The first episode features reporter Brian Reed’s first phone call with him, and immediately you get a sense of McLemore: sardonic, crass, hyper-articulate and smart, obsessive, and very Southern. Even when he’s not directly in the story, McLemore hovers over everything. The final episode (no spoilers) also manages to close his narrative loop with a link back to something in the first one, which I thought was a brilliant choice.

Check it out.

’16 Going On ’17

Here at the end of all things 2016, let’s look back on the resolutions I made last year at this time, shall we?

Podcast less. I started the year with 21 podcasts in my feed, and currently have… 32. In my defense, I was much quicker to delete episodes this year, many of the podcasts publish infrequently, and some of them I’m on a trial run with. I also have been listening to more audiobooks. But the spirit of the goal was to have more time when I’m not listening to anything. So this one’s a work in progress, and probably a goal for 2017.

Reflect more. Though I have the free time to continue to plow through books and movies, I think I’ve done a better job writing about the ones that spark thoughts in me and allowing myself to not read or watch something.

Write more. My goal was to write 52 posts for the year, one for each week. Though I didn’t have at least one a week, I ended 2016 with 67 posts. I probably could have done more, but as this is a strictly At Whim enterprise, I’m not too concerned about quotas.

Overall I think I actually did pretty good! Keeping the goals simple, attainable, and somewhat measurable certainly helped.

2017 Goals

Complete a woodworking project. This is something I’ve been pondering for a while. I’ve yet to find the plans for something I want to make, but this is a big one for this year: to put my hands to use on a tangible and practical project. We need a new bookshelf, so I was thinking about that. Any suggestions?

Run a race. Like woodworking, running in an official race is something I’ve thought would be a nice thing to do but have never pulled the trigger. But I’ve come to realize if I ever plan on completing things, I need concrete deadlines to make them happen. A specific race of a specific length will help me in this, I hope.

Improve my Spanish. I’ve had a decent grasp of it at various points in my life—in high school when I was in classes, during a summer stay in Guatemala, during a post-college stay in Colombia—but I’ve never gotten close to fluent. Short of an immersion program or living in a Latin American country, don’t know if I’ll ever be, but I’d like to get closer. And since it’ll only get harder as I get older, there’s no day but today.

One Less, Two More

I’m getting these new year’s resolutions in writing so that next year’s self-shaming will be based on documentation instead of vague recollections.  

Podcast less

Currently I’m at about 21 podcasts in my iTunes feed, having just unsubscribed from three I realized I rarely listened to despite being interested generally in their subject matter. I started listening to a handful of podcasts regularly in early 2011 (as I documented) and have steadily added more since then. But last year I hit a saturation point and actually took a month-long sabbatical just to dry out from the constant deluge of episodes I would otherwise listen to during every commute, workout, or household chore. It was a open-and-shut case of FOMO that I had to get over. Since then I’ve achieved a nice equipoise of listening to what I anticipate will be enriching or interesting in a substantial way and just deleting the rest and never looking back.

Reflect more

As with podcasts, there will always be way too many podcasts, books, movies, and other cultural commodities I want to consume but never will. That doesn’t stop me from trying to extend my logbook ever longer by gobbling up as many bits of popular culture as I can. But when I’m on my deathbed, will my one regret be that I watched one less movie than I could have? Of course not. (At least I sure as hell hope not—cue Forever Alone Guy) I want to spend more time reflecting on what I read, see, hear, and experience rather than bouncing from one to the next. Which coincidentally leads to the next resolution:

Write more

I tend to be feast or fallow with writing here on the blog, as it’s an entirely whim-based enterprise with no deadlines and no oversight. I write about what I want, when I want. Which is great, except when The Voice in My Head tells me quite convincingly that not writing would be just as good. I wrote 48 posts last year and 47 the year before, so once a week sounds like a decent goal. Once a week, no matter what. You heard it here first.

 

In Praise Of Podcasts

Good podcasts give you more than opinions or entertainment; they give perspective. I like to listen to my favorites on iTunes while making dinner, or when I want to unwind after a long day.

I’m consistently impressed with Q: The Podcast, a Canadian take on current events and pop culture. The host, Jian Ghomeshi, is the best in the business and isn’t afraid to challenge his guests’ arguments. I go to NPR’s Fresh Air and The Sound of Young America [now called Bullseye] for in-depth interviews with artists and icons, though hosts Terry Gross and Jesse Thorn tends to fawn too much.

For great thematic storytelling, This American Life and Radiolab are the perfect combo. I also love Studio 360 for its “American Icons” series, which spotlight different American figures and works of art like the Lincoln Memorial and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. To feel smarter, the TEDTalks video podcast is a good start, though with its scientific and technological focus I tend to skip videos that don’t interest me.

Finally, to keep things interesting, I’ll take in The Bugle, a comedic (and often dirty) take on current events by British comedians John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman wherein the two gentlemen exchange one-liners about everything from the city of Cleveland, Ohio, to erstwhile Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

All of this adds up to an eclectic but immensely gratifying mix of entertainment and enlightenment. And they’re all free.

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