The future depends on your brain! Grinning Planet's audio picks are intended to help you to learn, stay informed, and expand your mind, all by simply listening to your audio player while you drive, putter around the house, or veg out in a chair. You can also listen directly on your computer, either by just clicking the "listen" links or by right-clicking to download the MP3 file to your hard drive and then playing it from there.
My goal is to provide a mix of news, interviews, and other features that gets to the TRUTH about what's going on, ensuring true RELEVANCE to where this planetary circus wagon is headed.
I avoid news stories that are propagandistic distractions, political horse-race coverage, or passing curiosities. While I do try to offer clips on important recent news stories, I do so in a way that puts the story in context, rather than trying to offer up-to-the-minute happenings. We all need to work on our addiction to "the latest" and spend more time on The Big Picture.
I pre-listen to almost all of the clips. Those few clips that I have not yet heard but post anyway will have a rating of "U" (unrated).
The bottom line is that we're all busy, but we all need to feed our brains good information and good food-for-thought. Here it is—and it's free! Free Audio News Download
The highest rating is 5; the lowest is 1, and "U" means I haven't listened to it but trust the show enough to include it anyway:
- 5 - Must-listening!
- 4 - Very good
- 3 - Good, worth a listen
- 2 - OK if you've got the time
- 1 - Gah! Read the comment!
- U - did not have time to listen but likely is good
My top goal in picking MP3s to include is to make sure they are honest and relevant. News organizations that score well on these factors do the following:
- They strive to engage in the traditional role of the press as watchdog over the activities of governments, corporations, and others in power.
- They don't avoid subjects and facts that would be embarrassing to those in power.
- They don't parrot the propaganda dished out by The Powers That Be without investigative treatment and critical analysis, and they don't pass off press releases and "video news releases" as actual news.
- They report on meaningful stories, and report on them in depth, following up as necessary.
- They don't distract the audience with gossip pieces, infotainment disguised as news, and other "non-stories."
- They don't substitute he-said/she-said "balance" for fact checking; and, when necessary, they point out misstatements and blatant lies, even when the truth shows one party or person to be "more wrong" than another.
- They seek guests and interview subjects beyond those who are part of the standard "Beltway Insiders" pool of politicians, analysts, and pundits; they especially seek those who represent points of view beyond those offered by the dominant political parties and leaders.
Rather than recommending a specific brand, I can offer a few thoughts about the characteristics you should look for in an MP3 player to make sure it has maximum functionality for listening to batches of news and interviews as MP3s:
- Resume Feature -- When you turn off the MP3 player and then turn it on later, things should restart exactly where you left off, even if that was in the middle of an MP3. Many feature listings for MP3 players do not say one way or another if this is included, so you'll probably have to do some digging or find out by contacting the company whose MP3 player you're interested in. (If they don't email you back, that's not a good sign for future customer service!) That may sound like a lot of effort, but this is an important feature to make sure you get.
- Pause -- If you get momentarily interrupted, you obviously want to be able to stop the MP3 player for a minute without having to actually turn it off.
- Fast Forward, Rewind -- You'll want to be able to move forward or backward within an MP3. It's even nicer when the speed of the fast forward and reverse are user-settable.
- Skip -- You'll want to be able to skip to the next track or go back to previous tracks.
- Transfer Software -- Some players include manufacturer-specific MP3 management and transfer software to help you get the MP3s from your hard drive to your player. Other players let you use a Windows-like foldering system to manage and transfer MP3s in a more drag-and-drop fashion. Make sure the player your considering has a system that sounds user-friendly to you.
- Order-of-Play Control -- Some MP3 players just play all MP3s you've transferred in some sequential but mysterious order. It's better if the player lets you control the order based on parameters like file name. It's also helpful if the player allow you to group MP3s into folders and prioritize the order of the folders (even if only alphabetically) so you can further control the order of playback, ensuring you hear the MP3s you consider most important first.
It's very helpful to read user reviews when researching MP3 players. Amazon.com has done a nice job of integrating user comments, manufacturer feature listings, and other info into their pages.
If you must know, I typically use the Sandisk Sansa Clip+
or MP3 players made by Cowon/iAudio.
The old Cowon MP3 players were a nice balance of features and price, but Cowon seems to have moved their product line to higher-end, higher-priced video-based players. So I've migrated to using mostly the Sansa Clip+, which is not as good but has all the most important features and is waaaay cheaper. (Important note: If you want files to play back in alphabetical order on the Sansa Clip+, you must change the USB Mode setting to "MSC". )
You can get cheaper players even than the Sansa Clip+, but each time I've gone through the research process, Cowon and Sansa Clip have always has always come out on top with respect to have the features I need. However, companies are always changing things, so when the time comes for you to buy, do your own research! Caveat emptor!
There are two main reasons a clip becomes "no longer available":
- Lazy Webmasters -- When a web site gets a makeover, a good webmaster will set up "redirects" so that old URLs are automatically mapped to the new URLs. Unfortunately, most webmasters are lazy and do not do this. For recent shows with broken links, I try to hunt down the new URLs. For older shows, I just don't have the time.
- Defunct Show -- Podcasts may "go out of business." If they no longer maintain the web site that hosted the audio, the material is simply gone.
It's a shame that older material does not live in perpetuity, but there is so much new material in the pipleline, it's best to just keep moving forward.
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