Podcasts: on being late to the media party

In February this year, I found some podcasts to listen to on my way to and from work. Also earlier this year (or maybe towards the end of last year), I started watching several Youtube channels a lot more frequently. These are forms of media that pretty much everyone in my generation takes for granted, as do many/most people in the flanking generations. But, wow, did I somehow miss this as a way of learning and consuming content? Yes, yes, that’s exactly what I did.

In November, Alex and I moved to the UK, which was quite a big life change for a number of reasons, but one of the biggies was that we went from being a two-car family to being a no-car family. My daily commute has been a combination of walk-tram-bus, and while I kind of have to pay attention to where I am going so I don’t get run over, I can read or watch or listen while in a moving vehicle without being an immense hazard to others or myself, like I would have been in South Africa if I had youtubed on my commute. In the bit of March before I started working in the dining room, I walked both ways every day (about 30 minutes’ walk), which turned out to be the same transit time, but minus all the just-missing-the-tram heartache, or the waiting-for-20-minutes-in-the-rain-for-a-bus-that-was-totally-due-ten-minutes-ago pain in the butt. The walk time basically opened up a new patch of time in my life that I can learn things or be entertained, and I’m fast becoming a podcast addict.

I know I am very late to these delightful bitesized bits of information and/or humour (mostly both in my preferred ones). I wonder why I didn’t like them initially? I must just have been listening to the wrong things, or maybe even the right things at the wrong time in my life. There is a lot to be said about timing and the influence it has on the media we get sucked into. It’s actually something I want to think about in more depth, and maybe I’ll do the research and write a long-form piece about it, about why people born between 1988ish and 2000ish were so consumed by Pottermania (and then the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones and so on). What has made us so hooked? And are we any different from the generations that have come before us?

One aspect that has definitely shifted between my parents’ generation and mine is the sheer availability of content in a variety of forms. There are so many different kinds of media for us to read, watch, consume (and inwardly digest). My dad doesn’t much care for other people’s interpretations of characters from books – but still really enjoyed watching the whole of the Lord of the Rings (maybe even in extended edition) with me a while back. I just think we’re lucky that we have so much on offer, even if that makes choosing the next thing hard.

I think aside from the availability culture that spurs us on, there is also a major generational FOMO of needing to be up to date with series, or risk spoilers.

What I’m reading

When I started this blog post (before abandoning it in my draft folder for… four months), I had yet to finish A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. It was a serious cork in my desire to keep reading, due to my aversion to finishing much-loved series, as discussed here. I’d been weaving as the wheel wills since I was sixteen and very taken with all the handsome male protagonists – particularly a roguish gambler. A good twelve years later when I finally finished it, I have slightly different opinions about the handsome protagonists (and their marriages), and more or less the same good opinions of my favourite WoT women. I wrote, back in March, that I was stuck with reading because I wanted to finish the series, but I didn’t want it to be over. Well, at least there is a forthcoming TV series to look forward to.

Currently, I’m reading:

  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark (Birthday present. Intriguing story. V. dense prose. Will give better feedback when I’m done.)
  • Home Sick by Marc Raabe (Thriller from A Box of Stories. I highly recommend the service if you are in need of new reading matter.)
  • On Writing by Stephen King (On Audible. Never read any actual Stephen King, but this is just so good. Memoir/ tale of the craft of writing. At 61 books and counting, he’s got some knowledge to share.)
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (We’ve been reading this out-loud every so often. I think we’re about four chapters in, and being re-delighted at the texture of Tolkien’s prose).

What I’m listening to

But this wasn’t “On Rediscovering How To Read”, it was about podcasts. I’ll admit that since my morning commute takes seconds, I’ve let my podcasting lapse a bit, but I have the following ones downloading weekly, and I listen when I do household stuff, or go to the shops on my own:

  • No Such Thing As A Fish – a podcast by the QI elves. This is a series of four interesting facts of the week, presented and discussed with much banter. Very funny, and you learn weird things. Examples of recent titles include “No Such Thing As Panic-buying Frankincense”.
  • Stephen Fry’s Seven Deadly Sins. A typical Fry research and investigation. If you grew up hearing him read you Harry Potter, this is oddly soothing, even as he talks about those things that are not up for discussion in polite company.
  • Writing Excuses – There is definitely a writing theme going on… you’ll have noticed that. Brandon Sanderson (usually) and several other spec fic authors (though they are not snobby about genre) discuss challenges in writing. They also give some writing homework in the form of a weekly prompt. It’s only fifteen minutes, and ends with “you’re out of excuses… now, go write!”

What I’m watching

There’s kind of this weird new split of highbrow culture swirling around Netflix – the consumability of TV streaming has really changed viewing habits; kind of weird, because back in like 2007ish, when Facebook was relatively new, my friends and I were all definitely very hooked on the first bingeable series that did the rounds with us: we all devoured Heroes (followed by House, Desperate Housewives… other gothic extremes). Netflix and other streaming services have turned our previous love of gothic melodrama (honestly, that’s what a lot of it was) into gritty, more violent, more gratuitous, literally darker shows (like, I wanna adjust the contrast half the time so I don’t miss visual details). I have a variety of things on the go so I can watch things that suit my mood at the time. Some things I watch with Alex, some I watch mostly by myself. My beloved MasterChef AU has drawn to a close, so now I am watching:

  • Cursed (Netflix, with Alex)
  • The Durrells (Netflix, by myself)
  • Season 7ish of House M.D. (by myself)
  • The Expanse (with Alex)

Aside from that, I’m keen to pick up Supernatural where we left off so I can finish that one too, without tooooo many spoilers. I’ve also got several other period dramas on my Netflix watch-list. I need another crime procedural to fill the gap left by Criminal Minds. Or, I could actually watch Game of Thrones and Stranger Things… I know, shocking that I haven’t seen those yet! Though I am trying to follow Stephen King’s advice on breaking the addiction to the glowing screen in the corner (she says, even as she looked on Amazon only yesterday at the price of an actual TV).

What have you been watching? Reading? Listening to? Have your habits changed over the last four months?

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