I read a study last week that said that as far as our problem-solving ability and general mental plasticity, our brains finish the major parts of their development by the time we hit 25. That scared me a lot because I engaged in the willful murder of many of my brains with almost religious zeal between the ages of 20 and 25. Happily though, the article went on to say that the brain does retain the ability to absorb new information, adapt and change itself even after the sea of chemical obliteration that characterizes many of our early 20s.
Still, I was scared straight about the gradual process of dumbening that is most certainly already taking place in my head. I then began a my very own self-directed but no less rigorous, adult education program. I started by reading the New Yorkers that have been gathering dust by my bed all summer, went to a bunch of museums, ate a whole lot of salmon and tried to get more sleep . I’ve also been listening to podcasts like, a lot.
I used to only listen to music on my iPod, but once I saw how much awesome shit was out there in the podcast-o-sphere I was hooked. Not only can you enjoy the refined comfort of a fireside chat with Noam Chomsky as your hurtle over the Manhattan bridge, podcasts are a pretty good exercise in attention-directing too. Unlike music, which often facilitates daydreaming, podcasts demand you to pay attention to the whole thing. This is still hard for me, but I’m working on it.
My goal is fluency. I had a pretty good foundation thanks to middle school and high school French but I’m still not fluent. Considering the dizzying amount of money invested in my education, I think it’d be nice to speak a language beside English. The adorable Hugh Nagle (who pronounces “aitch” like “haitch”!!!) and his co-host Amelie Verdier, take you through a series of lessons that are surprisingly effective, refreshing verb rules, vocab and other little linguistic idiosyncrasies that years at the bong have erased.
For those interested in learning a language that might actually prove to be partially useful beyond Opening Ceremony and the lobby of Film Forum. I can’t attest to its quality but the grassroots cultural think tank that is the iTunes review section seems to think it’s worth a listen.
Want to pepper your dinner conversation with clever trivia about the infant king of Russia, the history of Vaudeville or the Levittown-like suburb that Henry Ford built for his workers in South America? Well then, you my friend, are what is known as An Asshole, and you will doubtlessly be mocked at any dinner party you’re lucky enough to be invited to.
As silly as useless information can be, a lot of the stuff on this podcast is legitimately interesting and they are short and sweet enough to listen to on a quickie subway ride.
4. Da Burghcast
So it’s not “academic”. So the hosts were never “offered admission to an accredited college.” So they “relentlessly taunt their homosexual intern on the air.” So what? Good fun! The Burghcast (named for Pitts- not Williams-) is actually a hilarious podcast by two NYC-based comedians/writers who impersonate Herb and Buxy, two conservative, obese-sounding Steelers fans. It’s done in the guise of a sports recap but touches on enough pop cultural stuff to be accessible to everyone. I regularly burst into loud laughter listening to this on the train.
I only listen to the wiseass news, cuz otherwise it’s boring!!
6. TED Talks
Duh. All of ‘em, mostly.
Clever, designy and interesting features, interviews and more.
Noted philosophers are interviewed on such light topics as morality, humanism and what the hell our lives mean. The LOLZ don’t stop.