Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Only List Harder Would Be One of Desserts

I listen to a lot of podcasts.

Currently, on my phone alone, I have (let me count) 210 episodes of over 30 shows of various kinds – and that’s only the ones I’ve been able to download or haven’t yet listened do. Jeebus only know how many episodes of “Radiolab” or “The Nerdist” or “The Sporkful” I have to go through – or even how many podcasts I’ve yet to discover and will want to catch up on eventually. (There are, of course, some I can't stand; don't even get me started on "This American Life.")

My opinion of Ira Glass.

Now, I don’t know how you listen to podcasts, but I tend to binge; that is, I’ll wait until I have a critical mass of something, then listen to all the episodes, one after another. I just finished the Warner Archive podcast (which my long-suffering wife found unlistenable) and am currently in the midst of the BBC’s “Desert Island Discs.” I’ll deal with DID in a moment, but want to digress (I know, I know …) to talk about the WACcast. When I first discovered it, I thought it was a natural for me; three guys who are really knowledgeable about movies – especially old ones – talk every week about the “new” movies the Warner Archive is releasing.

George Feltenstein, who hosts the Warner Archive podcast, 
and who sounds exactly like he looks.

The Warner Archive includes everything M-G-M made before the mid-80s, I believe, and everything RKO and Warner Bros. made at all, not to mention the output of a few other studios, so it’s a rich stew of celluloid. The thing about the podcast was, no matter how dismal or uninteresting was the movie they were discussing, they could find only things to praise. “Well,” I thought (reminding myself of my online rep), “they need someone like me, to be the voice of realism and to point out some of the negative points of the movies.

And then, I of course realized that the reason the hosts spoke so positively of every movie was because the podcast is basically a commercial and they’re trying to sell product. Any kind of negative comment would tend to depress sales – and, for all I know, they may genuinely enjoy everything they’re watching – which is a lot. These guys are intimately familiar with movies even I haven’t heard of.

But, back to my point. of my binge-listening. When I complete catching up on a podcast, I look for the show that now has the largest number of episodes remaining. (When I finish DID, I’ll be moving on to either KCRW’s “The Business” (about the movie and TV business) or “The Treatment” (critic Elvis Mitchell, one of my favorites, interviews actors, directors, and other movie people), or even my NPR stories – though I tend to wait on those since the NPR app is so awful.

Elvis Mitchell; great host, better critic.

But back to my point. Listening to “Desert Island Discs” always makes me wonder what discs I would choose. For those not familiar with the show, the guest – almost always a Brit that no one outside the UK has heard of (“World famous in Britain”) – is interviewed about their life and career, and asked what eight records they would take with them if they were to be marooned on a desert island. They’re also asked what book they would take (the complete works of Shakespeare and The Bible are already provided – though I’d fight them on the second, having no use for it) and what useless luxury – emphasis on the “useless;”  they’re not allowed to take, say, a boat, or anything that would help them escape or contact help.

So, in listening to the show, I compare my choices to the guests’ – some are surprising (Bishop Desmond Tutu had Nat Cole’s “Unforgettable” and Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” in his octet; I had him pegged for sacred and classical music) and some are not (a lot of people choose Bach, and – according to Wikipedia – the most popular choice is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony). It’s always interesting to hear not only what choices they make, but why. Most often, it’s to remind them of a particular person or moment in their lives.

Bishop Tutu -- Nat Cole fan (but who isn't?).

It struck me that compiling a list like that might make for an interesting blog post – unlike this one – so, later this week, I’ll work one up.

To be continued …

1 comment: