For the past few years, I've grown more and more enthusiastic about podcasts . . . and I wasn't sure why this happened, as the technology has existed for a while; I can remember the first one I listened to back in 2007 (The History of the Byzantine Empire by Lars Brownsworth) and while I certainly enjoyed learning about my favorite period in history for free, I couldn't imagine that this was anything groundbreaking, nor did I think that my friends would be interested in the topic (unlike now: I'm recommending podcasts to everyone, 24/7) and after I finished learning about Diocletian and Justinian, I immediately went back to Howard Stern (on my Sirius radio) but this New York magazine article explains what's behind the current renaissance in podcasting . . . and while I love the fact that podcasts have increased exponentially in variety and quality, I don't like the reason why . . . because the reason isn't intellectual and the reason isn't futuristic; in fact, the reason is mundane and environmentally destructive; the reason is cars . . . cars have gone on-line, and so on-demand listening is easy and convenient, and Americans drive a lot-- so the advertising money works if you have a successful podcast, and so I'm going to have to begrudgingly thank the internal combustion engine because I'm learning a shitload of cool stuff; here's a sample:
1) the 99% Invisible episode Vexillonaire taught me that if you want to design a flag, you should draw a one-inch by one-and-a-half-inch rectangle on a piece of paper, and draw your flag in that tiny space, because that small drawing is exactly how a flag looks when you view it up on a pole;
2) the Radiolab episode Cities taught me that the speed people walk in various cities correlates with all sort of things: income, patents created, the number of libraries, how many fancy restaurants exist, etc. etc. and the bigger a city is, the faster people walk;
3) Desi Serna's Guitar Music Theory taught me that in a blues progression, you can play the parent major scale over any dominant seventh chord, so if you've got an E7 chord, then you can imagine that it's the fifth degree of the progression and play an A major scale over it;
4) Sarah Koenig's Serial is still teaching me what this medium can do . . . and that on-demand-listening might be more controversial than anyone imagined.