The first time I heard the word "podcast" in a web meeting, I was immediately turned off. I'm the sort of person who can't stand to watch unread magazines pile up. (Until recently, I had a stack of New Yorkers by my bed which left me depressed, so I moved the pile to behind my armchair where it makes me slightly happier.) Needless to say, the idea of accumulating radio shows on my iPod was thoroughly unappealing. Fast-forward 4 years, and not only am I a total convert, but I've taken to preaching about the medium whenever I get a chance. I download the New York Times front page, anything produced by the Economist, the ever-hilarious antics of Jonathon Katz (Dr. Katz!), Bob Boylan's terrific All Songs Considered, On the Media, Meet the Press (I'm thankful every Sunday for Tim Russert), and tons of other shows. One of my favorites, though, is StoryCorps.
StoryCorps is the sort of program I'd be involved in if I hadn't stumbled into mental_floss. The idea is basically for people to take their loved ones into listening booths across America and get their stories documented. (There are 2 fixed booths in NYC and several mobile booths touring the nation). Participants walk out of the interview with their memories on a CD, while the recordings also get archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and get used on NPR's Morning Edition.
Dave Isay, the genius behind the project, has become a hero of mine. And what's amazing about the 'Corps is that it's managed to collect this beautiful patchwork of American history- stunningly human tales of love and tragedy and everything in between. There are heartbreaking stories from 9-11 to life-affirming experiences from a doorman at the Plaza, to what it was like to stalk (and meet!) J.D. Salinger or be at the last Dodger's game in Brooklyn. And of course, there are sweet tales of love and friendship and immigration in the mix. And though it may sound sappy from the outset, there's a sincerity that runs through the interviews that's really touching.
In any case, I don't often plug things on the site, but after seeing the response to today's newsletter, I thought readers of mental_floss might a) enjoy the recordings (like these two gems: here), b) think about purchasing Mr. Isay's terrific new book Listening is an Act of Love, or c) be convinced to take your loved ones into a StoryCorps recording booth. My parents are coming to the city in a few weeks, and I'm hoping that I can wrangle them into a session, if nothing else, to make sure I get their voices and laughter on tape.