I write about podcasts I listen to on this blog quite a bit. There was a phase I went through when I first started listening to podcasts and having a lot of free time due to disability, a phase of needing to document the various episodes that I had enjoyed. If you do a label search for FFRF you can see that my obsession with recording my impressions of this particular podcast was quite intense (and yet another subject that I have a series of lengthy articles on that I haven’t published. I really need become obsessed with finishing my writing and publishing it) likely because I felt their online library lacked any real organization.
I’ve noticed this compulsion in other’s behavior over the years, a need to retain copies of all the things they’ve watched, or all the things they’ve listened to. I had never attributed it to myself until I had time to reflect and notice the stacks and stacks of books, music and movies that cover every shelf in every room of my house. Since that time I have consciously tried to restrict the impulse to retain every smidgen of information that I run across, trust the internet not to lose the data that seems to sieve out of my mind, everyone’s mind, unless we are reminded of it on occasion.
Besides, it has become clear over the past few years that there really isn’t time enough to watch all the things I want to watch, or listen to all the things I want to hear; much less space in my, our, homes for all that content. Space in our minds for all that memory. Youtube’s content alone expands so quickly that if you attempted to start watching it, you would never get to the end of it. My Tivo (thanks to Grande) is always full of things I want to watch, but almost never get time to watch sans distractions. Gaming occurs while watching and listening to other content that I need to catch up on, and it all gets blended together in a sort of melange of information that I can’t separate cleanly.
Try as I might to break obsessions when I find them (I used REBT methods to quit smoking and learn to hate the taste of french fries just because both were obsessions that were bad for me) I can’t seem to shake a process once I get started on a project. The process that I’ve gotten into with podcasts is I go back and listen to their back libraries once I’ve determined that the content is dense enough and worthy of further scrutiny. So while I have followed Freetalk Live off and on for years, I have felt no need to go back and review the hundreds (thousands?) of hours of talk show inanity like I have for Dan Carlin’s podcasts which are generally shorter and more informative than 3 hours of random callers. Those are just examples. If I listed all the podcasts that I dabble in we’d be here for days. Just listing the ones I love will take hours.
My most recent project is the Radiolab podcast. I rediscovered Radiolab recently; and I say rediscovered because I remember hearing it on NPR years ago. Or perhaps that is a false memory. I want to say I remember it, because I remember a lot of the voices I hear on it, but I have to say that I haven’t run across an episode yet that I distinctly remember hearing on the radio. Which may be a way of saying that the internet is the modern example of public radio, television and the library all rolled up into one, because a good portion of PBS and NPR are available on the internet if you know where to look.
Apocalyptica (above) was the episode that decided me on going back and listening to the rest of the catalog for the podcast, and I had started into that list on the podcast feed when I discovered that the feed isn’t all inclusive, that there are several years (years) of episodes on the website which are not on the feed. So I had to backtrack (the obsession kicks in) and start from the beginning, from the shows on the website.
I like relying on the podcast feed to tell me what I’ve listened to. None of the podcasting apps track your listening across platforms, so if you are like me and can’t remember if you’ve listened to something just based on the title of the episode, it can become quite tedious downloading, listening and then discarding content because, meh, I’ve heard that before.
So this morning I roll out of bed and decide “enough” of the current book I’m struggling through (The Last Dark, book 10 of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) I think I’m in the mood for something lighter. What did I listen to last from Radiolab…? Memory and Forgetting is loaded on the phone. Did I listen to that one? I can’t remember. So I crank it up. Rats and Spotless Mind; false memories; the muse of a New York painter; the story of Clive Wearing. Listened to the whole thing again. I have a hard time believing I forgot this episode; Clive Wearing’s experience (like the movie Memento mentioned in this story) is a rather potent nightmare for me. His repeated statements “It’s like death” ring with a certain terror in my mind.
I have to admit that I was running on hour 20 something with no sleep, and had listened to two other episodes that same day. I noted the other two episodes (Zoos are depressing, I agreed with Jad. I was struck with the statement “At the beginning of the morning, the things left standing are the things you need to know.” 37 mins in to the episode Sleep) but somehow the last episode got lost in subsequent sleep. I would go on to mention that the episode Stress reminded me so much of myself and might go a long way to explaining how and why I forgot Memory and Forgetting but I think the rabbit hole is deep enough now.
…and I’ve just discovered that the Radiolab feed/website is as freeform as the show is. There are two different archives for the show. There is the podcast archive and the radio show archive, some of which overlaps. Not all of it does. It’s actually worth the time to go back to the early radio shows in the archive and listen. Especially shows like Emergence, a subject I will be spending a lot of time talking about in the future.
Welcome to my morning.
Editor’s note. Radiolab’s old website was incorporated into the WNYC studios website sometime in 2019. I don’t know that all of the shows listed in the old Radiolab.org website made it onto the new one. I have redirected show links to their new homes on WNYC. The radio and podcast page links now point to the Wayback Machine, where the pages are preserved.