Tuesday, January 30, 2007

easy listening

Working as an illustrator is great, but it also means many hours spent alone in a spare room in your apartment chained to a desk. Your eyes are being used, so you can't watch television. Your hands are being used, so you can't read. Your ears are your only useful, free appendages (my apologies to people who have a third eye, a prehensile tail, and/or can turn pages with their feet).

Sure, you can listen to music, but there are only so many times you can hear Glenn Yarbrough - All Time Favorites, Volume 1 before it starts to get on your nerves. You can try audio books, too, but that gets to be expensive (although I've listened to my fair share--the Harry Potter series read by Jim Dale being my favorite). Then there's this thing called the Internet, and it has all sorts of free programs to caress your eardrums. I'm kind of cheap and poor (back off, ladies, this guy's taken), so for me, it's the way to go.

Without further ado, here's a list, in no particular order, of the top 3 free audio programs on the Internet to get you through a long day of illustrating:

1) This American Life (http://thisamericanlife.org/) - I'm sure many people are familiar with TAL from NPR, but they also archive all of their shows on their website. Every episode manages to be informative and entertaining. I should know. I have listened to every episode. Yes, every episode.

2) The Treatment & The Business (http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/tt and http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/tb) - Radio station KCRW in Santa Monica, California has a wide selection of archived programs. The Treatment and The Business are the best of the bunch if you, like me, love movies and the industry of movies, respectively. Yes, Elvis Mitchell, host of The Treatment, sometimes comes across as a little James Lipton-esque, but he also asks questions more insightful than "what is your favorite curse word?", and finds connections and themes in the work of actors and filmakers that they are seldom aware of, themselves. On the other end of the spectrum is The Business's host Claude Brodesser-Akner, who is sharp, unmannered, occasionally goofy, and just as insightful and and curious about the inner workings of Hollywood as Mitchell is about the outer workings. If you want the fall of Michael Eisner and the rise of Bob Iger at Disney explained concisely (and who doesn't?), The Business is the place to go. My only complaint is that the shows haven't been airing consistently, of late.

3) Hometown Tales (http://hometowntales.com/) - Okay, I lied. I did save the best for last: Hometown Tales is a podcast that you can find on iTunes, but you can also link to it through the HT website. It's my new favorite program, which is saying something because once anything becomes my "favorite", I'll be a fan until either it bites the dust, or I do. HT is all about urban legends, weird news, pork rolls (or Taylor Ham, egg and cheese sandwiches, depending on where you live in New Jersey), and above all, well-told tales from around the world. Listen to Gene and Bryan. I dare you.

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