Podcasts led me to Poop into a Wormhole

So this is the issue with me trying to stockpile posts in advance.  I find that I keep changing what I want to say.

What is this podcast of which you speak

For example, on podcasts, first I was just going to point out that I’m late to the party.  Because this is a tech-related party, no one here should be shocked.  Melissa can’t figure out something that the rest of us have been doing for years and is basically like listening to snippets of NPR???  CLUTCHES PEARLS IN DISBELIEF.

I’m pretty behind on the news generally as well.  I tell James and friends that if anything happens in the world, they really need to let me know, because otherwise it could take awhile to filter down to me.  Friends smile and give me a figurative pat on the head like a kid freaking out about a monster hiding under the bed with a surprise pop quiz.  James nods stoically and tries to catalog news as he hears it because he knows the situation is dire.  I’m not proud of this.  It is definitely something to work on in 2015.

You may see where this is going.  I didn’t learn of Serial until it was over and done and it was already a big thing.  I’m actually kind of glad about this for two reasons:  (1) I do much better in a binge consuming format instead of patiently waiting for the next installment to hurry up and come out already and (2) I enjoyed it more knowing how it would end.  I know some people don’t dig ambiguity.  Normally I am one of them, but just knowing that I wouldn’t know made the whole experience OK.

When do you do the cast of pod

Next, I thought, well everyone knows about Serial.  Maybe I’ll just talk about when you listen to podcasts.  See, I had to figure out a good time to listen.  I don’t have a traditional commute.  Even when I used to commute, I would usually read WaPo’s free newspaper-let Express.  (Man, I heart Express.  I couldn’t even look up this link without clicking on two articles.)

I wasn’t one to listen to music on my phone.  Being tied to a phone still feels weird, but that’s another story.  This drives James nuts, but I’m not good on ambient noise.  Ambient noise in this case, much to James’s chagrin, includes music.  I LOVE music, but I find it impossible to write or read if there is music (with lyrics) in the room.  James would listen to tunes–including an embarrassingly large amount of Brit bubble gum pop–24/7 if it were an option.  #sorryjames #notanoption

Despite my focus problems, I found a few times that fit for listening.  Playing with Mac on the rare-ish times when Henry is sleeping is a good one.  I do talk to Mac, but our less verbal play means the podcast isn’t distracting.  And I’m less worried any strong language.

Another time is when I’m editing photos.  I edit photos with picmonkey, and I’ve been trying to get better about batching my photo editing time.  I find this lower plane thinking click-click task suited to some distraction.  It has made something that I’m not wild about something I actually look forward to.

The other day, I even listened to a podcast while cooking!  I usually wait to start dinner until James gets home.  Cooking with two kids (literally) underfoot is frustrating at best and a recipe for disaster at worst.  So James has some time with the kids, and I have some “me time” while cooking.  SNORT.  But it does feel a little more special to have some entertainment while I’m frantically trying to dice an onion and not burn things.

Why do we podcast anyway?

But this made me wonder, what are we listening to podcasts?  And is it a good thing?  Doesn’t it seem weird on some level that we are reverting to a form of entertainment that was popular decades ago?  At first, I thought, maybe this is good that we are getting a bit more low tech.  We don’t need a screen.  We just want to listen.

But then I wondered about a more sinister side to podcasts.  You’ve seen how smartphones can be bad because they keep us from spacing out?  Without down time and boredom, you don’t daydream or have a chance to think deep thoughts.

I worry about our phones generally.  I worry about raising my kids around phones specifically.  How to balance the good side and benefits with the rudeness and headaches and crappy side?

I’m on the low phone use end of the spectrum.  As I type this, I’m not really sure where my phone is.  I’m sure it’s around.  As the caretaker of two kids, I’ve made a concerted effort to have the phone with me when we go out.  But if James is with us, I’ll probably ditch the phone.  Is this weird?   I don’t know.  Probably.

So are people using podcasts instead of phones OR are they using podcasts at times when phones aren’t convenient to squeeze in as much extra media as possible and stave off boredom?  You can podcast when you fold the laundry or cook dinner.  It makes tedious things more interesting.  But is this good?  Is it good to have a tool that creates even fewer opportunities to be alone with our thoughts?

But lately, when the end of the afternoon seems to drag on forever, I’ve been playing classical music while I play with the kids.  I know.  That makes me sound like that mom.  I really don’t know that much about classical music.  I just know that I get overwhelmed and such if I have music with words playing.  I know.  Weird.  But that’s how it is.

And the music is nice.  I’m learning things.  Maybe the kids are enjoying it.  It gives some pep to a dreary afternoon when we are stuck inside.

Would it be better if we played in silence?  I mean, not silence, but just talking to each other all original communication gangster.  I don’t know.  Maybe sometimes?  But I think sometimes there is a place for music.  And I think sometimes there is probably a place for podcasts as well.

The train has left the station.  What do we listen to next?

I blew through Serial.  But then what?  So then I thought, ooo, maybe I should write a “How to Find Your Next Awesome Podcast Listen” type post.  (I’m trying to get better about formulating attractive titles.)  But then I would need advice on how to find interesting podcasts.  Luckily, I have devised a two-step formula:

  1. Listen to what your friends like.
  2. Once you discover a podcast you like, track all of that podcaster’s work.

Here’s the formula in action.  I stumbled onto StartUp, “[a] series about what happens when someone who knows nothing about business starts one,” from a Modern Mrs. Darcy recommendation.  (A virtual, you’ve never actually met “friend” also works for the formula.)  As someone who has toyed with writing a book called something like What Happened to All the Entrepreneurs?, I’m hooked.

After StartUp, I tried Gimlet Media’s other show, Reply All, a show about the internet, hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman.  I like it.  It touches on pieces of the internet I’d never otherwise encounter.  In my can’t-even-keep-up-with-current-events state, it makes me feel a little savvy and cutting edge.

After I caught up on Reply All, I decided to check out PJ Vogt’s and Alex Goldman’s previous show TLDR.  This show is shorter.  Usually seven-ish minutes of perfect potato chip snacking.  I usually can’t eat just one.  Again, none of this is info I need to know, but some of it is downright interesting.

Which brings me to TLDR Episode #10, One Hundred Songs in a Day.  Here, the hosts profile Matt Farley, a musician who instead of making one big hit song has made thousands of no-hit-wonders.   These songs add up though, and Farley makes over $20,000 in royalties a year.

And THIS led me to Farley’s genius work, Poop Into A Wormhole:

(Henry watches the video and says, “That snail is doing a great job!”  Poop = snail.  Apparently.)

James doesn’t understand why I am so tickled by this song.  But I definitely am.  (Which is convenient considering it is going to be all poop humor all the time at this house soon.)

I think the chorus has a sort of Too Many Cooks catchiness.

I think the words are really witty.  If you are too scared to go into the wormhole, it TOTALLY makes sense to send your poop inside.  A stinky surprise!

But maybe I’m tickled for the same reason the TLDR hosts love it.  I love that this song exists at all.  It is like if I took the random songs I make up during the day, actually added music, and then shared them with the world.  I don’t think I’ll be doing this, but I love that Farley is.  Things like this make me love the internet all over again.

And that is how podcasts led me to Poop Into A Wormhole.  Maybe I should just stick to drafting real-time posts instead of crafting you 1500 word odysseys that end in poop.

Podcasts led me to Poop into a Wormhole

Do you podcast?  When do you listen?  WHAT do you listen to?  Please let me know; I need to work the formula again!

Da Media . . . for Kidz

Ah, da media.  (Picture saying this like Ali G.  Clip is a bit NSFW, it is Ali G after all.  Do not click if references to elephants boning on the National Geographic channel offend you.)

Like many of you probably do, I feel very conflicted about screen time for my kids.  It seems that no screen time is the ideal experience.  But I watched TV growing up, and I think I turned out OK.  I don’t remember what I was doing at age two, but a little older, my sister and I lived for Saturday morning cartoons.  There was plenty of Sesame Street and Mister Rogers in there.  And I remember occasions when we would watch a movie, rewind it, and immediately watch it again.  Of course, we did plenty of other things besides TV.  But I certainly don’t remember my mom obsessing about TV as much.  (I may have blocked it out; I do that sometimes.)

Besides thinking that surely some screen time can’t hurt, I worry that I could be missing a useful tool.  I thought of this again when reading Hanna Rosin’s piece, The Touch-Screen Generation.  The article is from last year and is pretty long, but it has some interesting thoughts, particularly on games for touch screens.  We don’t have an iPad or similar, but I think about uses for the computer.  Henry and I read books about kangaroos and we can instantly look up videos of kangaroos on YouTube.  How cool is that??  We’ve also looked at Harrier Jets, bees, frogs eating flies, and caterpillars becoming butterflies.  When I was a kid, we’d just have to wait and hope Mister Rogers covered it.

These videos are definitely the exception rather than the rule.  I try to avoid videos because Henry becomes a shrieking rage monster when he has to stop watching, and the few minutes of downtime are not worth the aftermath.  At the moment we watch one twenty-minute Winnie the Pooh episode per day and a movie on Fridays.  The Pooh is used to entice him inside from the playground for lunch (I can’t just scoop him up because I’m wearing Mac) and to allow me to feed the baby without Henry trying to tackle me.

I have no idea how this compares to most people.  Should I care?  I don’t want to, but this is an issue where it is easy to feel judged, no matter what you do.  Rosin’s article notes that experts tend to view an hour of screen time as a zero sum game, meaning one hour of TV is one hour of time not spent interacting with parents.  But that isn’t really the way the world works.  There are many hours in the day, and I know that the kids get plenty of interaction, playtime, and downtime.

But.  I’m sure I’ll always feel uneasy.  I feel like I have to justify myself, like I’m justifying to you now.  And it will only get harder as they get older.  The general approach is avoidance, but I’m hoping for memories like making popcorn and watching a movie together.  Watching football on Saturdays.  And I don’t want to just bury my head in the sand thinking about apps and games.  Sigh, one step at a time.

What’s your screen approach?  Any apps or programming you recommend?