Podcasts – Are you listening yet?

I’m not sure if it’s the same for everyone, but my passion for learning continually increases with the years – I like it, and hope that the feeling continues and grows. One avenue of education that I think is perfect for those with little time, is podcasts.

If you’ve never heard of the concept, it’s basically a radio episode recorded specifically for consumption by digital users, that is it’s not constrained to running ads every 5 minutes, or to be clean, correct, etc. basically it’s the wild west of audio broadcasts.

By no means are all podcasts that I listen to educational, but there’s an intellectual stimulation that is somehow consistently reached by the entire selection of podcasts I listen to.

Therefore if you’re interested in potential mind expansion (or even just some laughs) then I’d recommend checking out a few of the following:

 

99% Invisible

Do you remember being a kid, hearing a radio story about to start and just groaning “ughhh…. talk radio borrrrrring”? - I do, and I remember I was 22 when that stopped being the case. My friend Nick had mentioned 99% Invisible a couple of times a few years earlier while we were both at university, but I had never got around to it.

Boy was I foolish! 99% Invisible set me down the path of enjoying radio stories (maybe) more than any other storytelling medium.

99% Invisible in summary is a podcast about design, whether it be architecture, art, urban planning, product design – it investigates design in a very unique and compelling way. The audio production is phenomenal, and it’s a joy to listen to for that fact alone. If you like feeling deep, perceptive, and insightful then start listening to 99% Invisible right now – the episodes are basically light meal length, most often 10-15 minutes of weekly perfection.

Here’s a few to get you started:

Clean Trains – How the New York Subway system cleaned up it’s issue with graffiti with cunning and patience (also quite educational on early street art).

Heyoon – Did you ever have a special hiding place which was only yours? This will bring feelings back for you.

The Sound of Sport – We all watched the olympics, world cup, and commonwealth games right? Well what if you found out most of the sounds are fake?

 

 

Professor Blastoff

Have you ever found yourself on the bus, biting firmly down on your fist to stop yourself from bursting into laughter? Well Professor Blastoff does it to me on the daily – I can’t believe how funny this podcast is, it’s given me the highest frequency of tears streaming down face laughter since I first listened to the Ricky Gervais XFM radio series.

It’s basically three comedian friends who discuss a topic each week (mainly scientific or philosophical concepts) with no actual evidence, or insight to support their positions. But that’s why it’s great – they’re interested, passionate, and they’re willing to listen to the experts that come onto the show. I struggle to come up with any criticism for this show – give it a go!

I’d recommend starting from the beginning, however this episode is particularly brilliant. It’s both insightful around nutrition, and introduces the hilarious recurring joke – i.e. David’s cool beers.

 

Well there you are! I’d give you more, but I don’t want to scare you all off yet with too many options. I really hope you give 99% invisible a go in particular, it opened my eyes to Radiolab and This American Life which are again both phenomenal (and will be written about). So get out there (or stay indoors) and start listening!

Let’s see… blueberry, raspberry, ginseng, sleepytime, green tea…

Earlier this year I began to cycle to work, initially it was a way to turn a thirty minute walk into a five minute ride. However, a move out to Remuera would see five minutes rides extend to thirty. While it was initially brutal it sure did help my fitness, although as many people will tell you (with varying degrees of knowledge ranging from – read it in a magazine, through to physiotherapists) general health is 70% diet, 30% exercise. Therefore I was keen to find some drink which wasn’t beer, wine, or orange juice to keep me satisfied – call me a fool but water gets boring. And that’s where the absolutely brilliant concept which is tea comes in!

While tea can appear to be a bit pricey ($5-$6 for 20 teabags of Healtheries range) it really adds a lot of flavour while forgoing the calorific nature of other liquids such as my much favoured orange juice. In the past couple of months I’ve really try to expand outside of the usual English Breakfast (which is brilliant) and as such I’d love to present a few of my recent favourites!

Strawberry Pavlova TeaStrawberry Pavlova tea has kind of made me a local (local to my living room) celebrity amongst friends of flatmates who have come around. It’s so incredibly sweet, but this tea is absolutely bang on with it’s description. The accuracy with which Healtheries label their teas makes me suspect there is some sort of tea transmogrification machine that can take the literal item they want, and convert it into a teabag. If you’re after something full of flavour then I’d highly recommend this tea. I’d say it’s best suited for consumption between 2-8pm, but why not live life rock and roll and try a cuppa at 1:30am (you rebel!).

Next up is red bush tea, I’m sure I’m not blowing any tea-consumer’s mind by mentioning this – but if you’re new to the world of tea then I’d definitely recommend picking up a pack. Outside of your usual black teas, red bush tea is probably the cheapest. It’s got quite a unique taste which I still can’t quite place after consuming several cups worth, but it’s become my go to bed time tea. It’s caffeine free which is helpful, and after it’s had five minutes to cool it goes down smoothly.

Lemon Meringue TeaLast but not least I go to lemon meringue pie tea, now I know you’re asking – “really…? A tea that tastes like lemon meringue pie?” but if you’re a keen observer of the picture, you’ll have already noticed that Healtheries and their amazing tea transmogrification machine are at work again. Just like the strawberry pavlova, this tea is quite sweet, but the lemon and creamy flavours are slightly gentler than the strawberry pavlova. Once again it’s surprisingly accurate to the actual dessert, but I can’t help but feel if you’re going to go all the way for sweetness, you may as well just opt for the strawberry pavlova. Nevertheless this is delicious too, and well worth a go if you spot it in someone’s pantry.

 

Wot I’m watchin’ #1

Have you ever thought “my word, I am brilliant – I have just absolutely the best taste in television and music, and should really actively attract the attention of others so I can display so!” well you’re in luck, cause if you haven’t. I have – and I’ll be making you consume my opinions via the power of mind control (and eye-reading).

Star Trek: The Next Generation neeeeerrrrrrrrrrrd!

First up is the brilliant Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s like coke to dr pepper, tomato to your tomato, old testament to your new testament – relatively the same as it’s competitor but you feel significantly more at ease with the liberal attitude displayed in the latter.

Star Trek was always a show I had been peripherally aware of growing up as a stud nerd, it was set in space, it wasn’t ashamed of itself, it was happy to go on for four episodes in a row about Holodeck misadventures (Riker and the holo-girlfriend, Picard and his detective days). Suffice to say it was relatively high-level sci-fi – which at the age of ten, trying to avoid the next episode of Gon’ Huntin’, was dessert to my eyes. However went put up against the likes of Stargate or Firefly I knew I would take that fast-hitting action any day of the week.

Picard's the man

To my surprise though I’ve recently found myself entranced in the adventures of the Enterprise. Once you grind past the teeth-gnashing first few epsiodes (so so so cheesy) it becomes so addictive. The ethics, and morals displayed within the show feel so far ahead of it’s time (late 80s, early 90s) – LGBT, gender, and socio-economic issues are frequently challenged over the seasons, and in fact are done so to a level I’d consider incredibly progressive (even by Twitter standards!).

While certain episodes can go on occasionally, the cast polishes away any spots, as they have so much depth both in terms of acting ability, and character development. My personal favourite is the Android – Data, who constantly strives to be more human and yet constantly displays more human, and empathetic than even his most virtuous of companions.

Overall I’m halfway through the fifth of seven seasons (that’s like 100 x 45 minute episodes…) and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Seasons 3, 4, and so far 5 have definitely been the best. season 1 takes about half a season to let you warm up to the characters, and get past the shoddy scenarios encountered early on. However a string of character developments sees season 2 truly plummet. If you’re into sci-fi, give it a go!

Samurai Champloo

I actually started watching this show today, I was bored and looking for something to do and decided to flick this on. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched anime, and to be honest I was a little apprehensive. It’s not that I dislike anime, I think in a 1 to 1 comparison with Western TV shows, anime probably makes me laugher and think deeper than the West. However, I battle to enjoy any TV at all because it feels like too passive of an experience to me – so to then watch animated TV I feel even lazier. I believe any medium, no matter the form of its expression can move people equally – but it’s hard to not let slight feelings of idiocy creep in when you’re in your mid 20s watching “cartoons” (which is such an insult to the medium).

Samurai Champloo

It is to my utmost pleasure that I announce that this cartoon is thoroughly brilliant – it’s funny, energetic, very well drawn, and readers…stick with me readers……THE SOUNDTRACK IS SO GOOD. I had first been told of this show more than a year ago when I was at a LAN party and some guy put on some sweet chill hip-hop vibes – the tracks he was playing were created by Nujabes, a DJ who had also produced the songs for Samurai Champloo – to my woeful ignorance then (and everyday up until this day) I wouldn’t watch the show, until today!

It’s probably too early to declare outright brilliance series wide, but in the first few episodes it’s been nothing short. I don’t think it’s fair to point to anything in particular as the one winning feature of the show thus far, it’s really the full experience of Samurai Champloo – the writing, art style, soundtrack, direction – everything is clearly well thought out, and to be honest I would expect nothing less from the man (Shinichirō Watanabe) who created my favourite anime show – Cowboy Bebop. If you’ve ever thought about giving an animated show ago that isn’t Adventure Time – then why not try Samurai Champloo?

Kroll Show

I remember seeing posters for this in the New York subway and the show had some pretty funny taglines – however, travelling wasn’t conducive to catching new TV shows so it wasn’t until I was bored looking for a new show last month that I actually watched it. There’s definitely a few great series of sketches – my personal favourites are Wheels Ontario, and Dr. Armond, but my main criticism of Kroll Show is it’s hit-to-miss ratio. Every sketch show has one of these – and while I think Kroll Show definitely exceeds the level of which to entertain – it’s not something I’d go around the streets yelling about. It’ll keep you laughing, but it probably won’t make any “best shows ever” list.