RSS and Podcast Renaissance: Tom Kantor, Pulsar Music, and Rail Dynamics

The AK-47 of Phones and Dodo Birds

I remember buying the Nokia 6210 WAP phone for a cool $800 back in the early 2000s. Bob Geldof called it the AK-47 of phones and was still using one in 2014. WAP was hopeless. it was a complete waste of time and money. While I am pleased 'Sir' Bob got his money's worth, I really thought that RSS and podcasts were in a museum of popular culture somewhere as a reminder of the olden days.

I remember iPodder. It never worked. Not once. Then just a little while ago, RSS and podcasts were back! So here's a little story about the Renaissance of RSS and podcasts, and some interesting discoveries I made using these old school tools.

The Renaissance of Really Simple Syndication (or Rich Site Summary for purists)

I often commute for up to two hours per day, and this has opened up the whole old world of podcasts, which has opened up a whole old world of RSS. I say old world because I thought RSS and podcasting would have gone the way of the WAP phone by now. But no, RSS and podcasts are experiencing a renaissance.

I used RSS years ago and I had almost forgotten about it until I listened to a podcast. Good old Feedly was recommended, so back I went. I have dropped out of social media several times (except this blog), and each time I rationalise all the apps and social media sites I use, and Feedly (along with iPodder, which is now Juice) was an early casualty. 

One of the things I have been doing unsuccessfully is subscribing to a number of websites. But my personal email ends up as a stack of unread emails about things I might be interested in but rarely get the chance to read unless I print them out or let them sit in the inbox or open on tab in my browser for an eternity.

When Twitter first came out (I was an avid user back then, not so much now it is over-run by trad media. Twitter has been a casualty of rationalisation several times), I remember the discussions about how it was a stream, like a river where everything floated past and you might look at things of interest, but if you missed it and it wasn't popular, then c'est la vie.

Email is like a dam - it fills up and fills up until it either explodes or you have to open the flood gates and let the stored energy disappear in a rush. Either way, you miss out on things. C'est la vie.

So Feedly it is. I find myself unsubscribing to all the email subscriptions that clutter up my inbox and I daresay I miss out on more than I do using the RSS aggregator. When I unsubscribe, I am providing feedback to say that I am still following on RSS. 

Occasionally, I find websites that I want to follow but there is no ready RSS feed. They are stuck in the Middle Ages I guess.

So now I subscribe to various RSS feeds through Feedly. I simply search for what I want, delete what I don't. For example, if it has 'Trump' in the title it gets deleted. Instantly. It makes no difference to my current affairs knowledge and I stay remarkably happier. 

Not because I care about Trump. I just don't care about Trump. Whenever anyone says they are a world beater, I say let them have a go. They all go the way of the WAP phone. I don't need to read about it every second of my short life.

Occasionally, I stumble upon really interesting things. The video made by Tom Kantor at the top of this page is one example. Filmmaker Tom Kantor, died too young, son of philanthropist Anne Kantor, sister of Rupert Murdoch; Tom's sister runs the Poola Charitable Foundation.

The film is haunting. It provides the sounds of my childhood. A sound so familiar I pretend to cringe in case anybody notices. And the haunting scenes of familiar brands and that empty landscape, always present, unpaved, the new discarded upon the ancient. The rich kid who went to Swinburne TAFE, and they who have unknowingly educated angels. Brilliant.

Podcasts are great. And I am learning so much I simply must use them in my teaching

For listening to podcasts, I find Stitcher suits me best. I was thinking of using Stitcher for my own podcasts, but I cannot seem to login to their content provider portal and they aren't answering my emails, so maybe not. But for now, Stitcher will do.

My favourite podcasts are Art of Manliness and Lapham's Quarterly. But the more I commute, the more I burn through the episodes. Some times there just aren't enough.

Last week I stumbled upon the Smithsonian Institution's podcast "Sidedoor". It's great. Here are two of great discoveries:

Pulsar Sound: An app that makes music out of the stars. Turn the app on, point your phone at the sky, and it makes music based on the frequencies emanating from pulsars. Or something like that. Bet that won't work on your AK-47, Sir Bob.

Rail Dynamics: Emory Cook basically created Hi-Fi. That's not a typo. And he is most famous for his cult hit record, Rail Dynamics. This is a bunch of recordings of steam trains. I can listen to it while I read and write, much like my other favourite composer, John Adams. It is like a naked Pink Floyd album. Just brilliant.

And to top it all off, I found some new music, while trying to put together my first podcast, I stumbled upon some new music. A Russian band, Stoner Train, with a Russian, blues throcalist. Now I have heard it all. And the cover depicts a train, so it's on theme, too.