(Annotated Fragments) A Personal Guide to Extended Listening

(Danny from 2016: This was written on Christmas Day, 2010, evidently.  I never wound up finishing this post, and I’ll probably return to the material in the future – listening remains an awfully gratifying part of most of my days, and if anything, I’ve become more fastidious in my collecting and listening to British radio comedy, since I no longer have access to the filesharing resources that made indiscriminate consumption so inviting when I penned this.)

I am warm in my North York room, gradually digesting Christmas brunch, listening to Justin Bianco’s Blackbird, and watching my juicy Montblanc White Forest ink dry on the page.  My feet are resting in anticipation of my seven-hour Indigo shift tomorrow.  I am at peace.  I hope you are, too.

I met Lisa Bullock, a longtime friend of Geoff and Tab’s last weekend at their Christmas party and discovered I wasn’t alone in my obsessive interest in British alternative comedians: it was exhilarating to bounce obscure names and shticks back and forth with instant recognition and appreciation in front of our bewildered friends, like randomly meeting another Nipissing University graduate while wandering through an isolated rural village in Devonshire.  Though both of us love the same players, however, we discovered that we approached the scene through different media – Lisa is an impressive British TV aficionado while I’ve built my acquaintance almost exclusively with radio programs.  When I was (predictably) effusive in my desire to share my library, Lisa expressed concern that she didn’t know how to listen to radio.  This has come up often enough by now that I don’t take spoken-word audio consumption for granted anymore, and because it’s been a big part of my life for the last decade or so, I thought I’d take a shot at providing a tutorial.


I strongly recommend you start with a serviceable MP3 player, rather than a radio or personal computer as your audio source.  I’d avoid radio because it’s too easy to ignore – for many people, radio receivers have an unspoken connotation of ambiance, and therefore the information transmitted may be only half-listened to.  This is inappropriate to your needs and to the information density of intelligent British comedy; imagine instead the quintessential British family gathered around an ornately-crafted wooden wireless, the tasks and appointments of the day scheduled around this ritual audition while the program announcer earnestly thanks them for inviting him into their home.  Receive the program as you would a cherished guest with news from afar, or at least try to imagine you’re a member of the audience at the recording studio.  Limit distractions and try to listen while doing mindless tasks that will occupy you for a period of time similar to the length of the program: I do my best listening while going for long walks in the ravine or doing the dishes; I never listen if I’m browsing online or driving through a part of town I’m unfamiliar with.  Listening in bed almost guarantees I’ll fall asleep in the middle of the program, which is a handy cure for insomnia (thank you, The Goon Show in Grade 12 and OAC), but is otherwise consequently inadvisable.


(Danny from 2016: I seem to have lost my thread, and what follows is tangentially related, but not as practical.  Maybe I was planning to post the first bit after what comes below, and then despaired that it was getting too long?  At any rate, here’s some tedious autobiography.)

Audio’s been a big part of my life for at least twenty years, but I don’t really know very much about music, which is what people ask about when I say that audio’s been a big part of my life for at least twenty years.  Nor radio, actually, in the traditional sense.  I got into audiobooks in middle school when I had my first portable cassette player and immediately abused my library privileges by copying as much of their collection as I could.  I moved from reading-while-walking on my way home from school to walking and listening, over and over, to abridgements of Robert Asprin’s Myth series and Jack London classics.  I was an early adopter of hard-drive-based MP3 players, getting my Creative Nomad Jukebox in Grade 11 and finding I had already out-Napstered its six gigabyte capacity when I brought it home.  By the time I’d (reluctantly) graduated to my first iPod, I’d discovered and obsessively catalogued my introduction to British radio comedy – The Goon Show.  Coming from cassettes, then audio CDs, then data CDs, the ability to command weeks of compressed radio shows and novels with an attractively contoured, compact, and substantial device that sported a backlit, colour screen (I had one of the fancy new iPod Photos!) was awesome and eventually enthralling.  Radio comedy and audiobooks branched out into stand-up comedy recordings and more radio comedy.  Napster brought me Carlin, Rock, and (again, thanks to Gideon) Izzard, as well as The Frantics, Radio Free Vestibules, and I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again.  I found, with the convenience of so much audio data at my fingers, that I started to seek out computer games with long exploration- or grind-based tasks and work through my swelling collection while playing them: I lost years to the Might and Magic series, to various Final Fantasies and Diablos, and to Ultima Online (everyone lost years to Ultima Online) while gaining an encyclopedic knowledge of the irritations of Dennis Leary and George Carlin, and imagining the elaborate mimes of Eddie Izzard (whose videos only became available on LimeWire during the North American releases when I was at Nipissing; it turned out that the video and audio recordings were taken from different performances, probably to optimize his varied deliveries for the two different media.  After listening to my audio recording of Glorious probably twenty times, I achieved what I thought was my grail piracy goal of acquiring a video copy of the VHS that Gideon had shown me during lunch at the end of High School: the victory turned to dross as the timing and inflection I’d scored into the surface of my soul fell flat, even while his mimes were brilliant.)

(Danny from 2016: And there it ends.  I left a note to myself afterwards about being grumpy and lacking focus, though I might’ve been able to pull it together, or at least split this into two posts.  At any rate, I ought to put something together soon about where my current tastes have migrated.)

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *