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Saturday, March 12, 2005

those dreamless dreams
So you've all probably read about "Podcasts", or are listening to them right now. Honestly, it isn't really much of a phenomenon right now, but all of the major newspapers and magazines nodded heads and winked at each other one day and decided that this would be the next big technology news story. (What ever happened to nanotechnology?) Even the New York Times gave it front page status. Last month's WIRED devoted its entire issue to the obsolescence of radio, discussing the popularity of satellite radio as well as podcasting/mp3s as alternative media. The basic idea is that entertainment is leaning towards personalization and away from "mass media", as i-pods are more equipped to personalize musical content and now radio/banter/speech. Um, I don't actually have an i-pod, and unless I start mugging people I don't imagine I'll have one soon. But I have been listening to one "podcast" that is available as streaming audio. It's called "Theory of Everything" and is hosted by a guy named Benjamin Walker.

The show is really clever and often poignant. Every episode follows a loose theme, and is composed of long interviews, the narrator's own personal stories, and skits that integrate seemlessly with the non-fiction. It is sometimes not clear at first what parts are fiction and what's "real". For instance, the first episode (my favorite) is about Philip K. Dick. In the introduction, a buzzing sound is heard, and the host claims to be having the "Ubik" logo tattoed on his arm. He gives a brief description of the book in between grunts of pain, and then transitions to an excellent interview with Jonathan Lethem, who was aparently a member of PKD's fan club when he was a kid and Dick was still an obscure, fringe, barely in print author. This, along with the second interview of a Rolling Stone writer (name I can't recall) sum up the backdrop of Dick's work, his major themes and his message wonderfully.

In another episode, he discusses Abu Ghraib with an expert, and then leads into an "interview" with Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor who advocates torture as necessary in fighting terrorism. It becomes evident that this isn't really Alan Dershowitz when the host calmly ties Dershowitz's hands behind his back and begins to hit him violently with a hammer, both parties continuing the interview as though nothing absurd were transpiring. In another episode, Benjamin devotes an episode to the concept of death, having learned that one of his friends died only days before. The show is pretty impressive considering the fact that he does all of the recording and production for the show himself. Anyone else have any reccomendations?

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