Saturday, September 8, 2007

Road trip audio

My sister's plan to have a second set of twins (this is not my sister, but she sounds like she's in serious survival mode, too) messed with my plan to non-stop rock in September. Instead, I've been buying crib sheets and finger puppets and today I'm off to the ole homestead (east of the Cascade Mountains and north of Crackima).

It's a long drive, and I like listening to talking more than I like listening to music on long drives. Even if we hadn't lost our NPR map the very day we bought it, I suspect there would be gaps, where I'd attempt to listen to Bill O'Reilly for two minutes and just be furious for the rest of the week. The last time I tried this, he was saying something about people on welfare being lazy, which was infuriating because in fact, the only people I've known on welfare were disabled or they were people with children who can't afford daycare on minimum wage. They have tried the exhausting regimen of one or two low-wage jobs and raising their kids. They are NOT lazy. Man, I'm enraged again, and this was a couple years ago! Where was I? Ah yes, alternatives to geographically-limited NPR and compassion-limited Bill O'Reilly.

I love a good audio book. The best I've heard so far was Undaunted Courage, about Lewis and Clark. The worst was the The Blind Assassin, about an dull, uptight, upper-class Canadian woman, who fucked up her life by marrying an upper class American man. Woe was her, and boy did we hear all about it. Something like eight cassettes worth, and the two "surprises" are telegraphed from Chapter 2.

Unfortunately, I almost always consider my need for an audio book late the night before a road trip, when the Internet is the only possibility. This trip is no exception. But sucks! My phone is my mp3 player. Not an and iTunes aac player, mind you, because what's aac besides code for "You can't do what you need to with this file. Thank you for your $20." My phone won't play DRM-crippled aacs, and burning to a CD won't help. The CD player in the car long ago decided it loves Iron & Wine so much that it no longer opens or plays. In the age of the mp3, my intended fix for that involves a hammer. Apparently, there's an aac "hack" that involves burning eight CDs, then ripping the eight CDs back onto your computer as mp3s, but it would be my luck that I'd have dropped $20, spent all night fussing with CDs, and it wouldn't have worked for some horrible reason like file size or bit rate or something.

So I needed mp3s, and how. As of last night, my podcasts amounted to some enjoyable-enough episodes of the old CBS radio show "Suspense" and some left-over BBC podcasts about extremely intractable and depressing world problems ("Marrying into Conflict", anyone?).

I've listened to all my other favorite podcasts, and I long ago burned through the Internet Archives' incredible Black Museum with Orson Welles and the surprisingly-thrilling insurance investigator series Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. I've also finished off Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. I couldn't get into The Shadow, and its popularity worries me -- it's so creepily suggestive of a nation that wants someone working for the government to watch them in private.

I've had mixed success with Internet Audio Archive audio books. I enjoyed Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." But the books read by computers, while an awesome idea in theory, are, in practice, really awful (they read some punctuation, and the title page alone can last an entire 5 MB file).

Nothing from my Good Reads lists was on the Archive, but some related material is promising. I've downloaded The Divine Comedy, Childhood, Jude the Obscure, Candide, and Roughing It. If I make it through all my Suspense episodes, I'm more than prepared.

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