Take a Virtual Drive through London, Tokyo, Los Angeles & 45 Other World Cities

When asked once about his beliefs, This American Life creator Ira Glass replied that he believes “the car is the best place to listen to the radio.” That seems to be a culturally supported perception, or at least it has been in over the past half-century in America. But does it hold true in other countries? Does listening to the radio in the car feel as good in London, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, and Tokyo as it does in Chicago, New York, Miami, and Los Angeles?

You can see and hear for yourself with the wealth of virtual urban-driving-and-radio-listening experiences on offer at Drive & Listen, where you can take your pick from any of the aforementioned cities and 40 others besides. The site makes this possible by bringing together two forms of media that have come into their own on the internet of the 21st century: streaming radio and streaming video.

In most every major metropolitan area, radio stations now make their broadcasts available online. At the same time, Youtubers have by now shot and uploaded a great many through-the windshield views of all those places, creating the once-unlikely entertainment genre of the driving video.




Here we’ve included some prime examples from popular Youtube driver J Utah, whose scope includes American cities large and small as well as such world capitals as Tokyo, Paris, Singapore, Hong Hong, and São Paulo. All in 4K video.

Click on one of the cities on Drive & Listen’s menu, and chances are you’ll see one of J Utah’s videos. It will come with a streaming-radio soundtrack, sourced from one of the stations in the city or country on display. Your virtual Havana drive may be accompanied by announcements of the news of the day, your virtual Istanbul drive by Turkish rock, your virtual Chicago drive by an NPR affiliate (perhaps even WBEZ, home of This American Life), your virtual Guadalajara drive by soccer scores, your virtual Miami drive by straight-ahead jazz, your virtual Berlin drive by Patti Smith.

Each time you select a city, you’ll get a different combination of radio station and driving footage. As every driver knows, day driving and night driving — to say nothing of rush hour versus the wee hours — feels completely different, and so the drivers of Youtube have shot at all possible times. Some of their routes thread right between downtown skyscrapers, while others stick to freeways along the outskirts. As a resident of Seoul, I can tell you that Drive & Listen accurately conveys the experience of riding in a cab through that city — provided you first crank the video speed up to 2x.

Enter Drive & Listen here.

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A Trip Through New York City in 1911: Vintage Video of NYC Gets Colorized & Revived with Artificial Intelligence

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Reading While Driving, Seriously?

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Original Star Wars Trilogy Adapted into a 14-Hour Radio Drama by NPR (1981-1996)

When it opened in 1977, Star Wars revived the old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure film. Within a few years, National Public Radio made a bet that it could do the same for the radio drama. Though still well within living memory, the “golden age of radio” in America had ended decades earlier, and with it the shows that once filled the airwaves with stories of every kind. Radio dramas seemed extinct, but then, before George Lucas’ space opera turned blockbuster, so had movie serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. The episodic nature of such source material resonated with the similarly episodic nature of classic radio drama, and that must have brought within the realm of possibility a bold and near-scandalous proposition: to re-make Star Wars for NPR.

The idea came from a student at the University of California, who suggested it to USC School of the Performing arts dean and radio-drama enthusiast Richard Toscan. There could have been no institution better-placed to take on such a project. Since Toscan had already produced dramas on the school’s NPR-affiliated radio station KUSC, he made an ideal collaborator in the network’s effort to breathe new life into its dramatic programming.




And as Lucas’ alma mater, USC inspired in him a certain generosity: Lucas sold KUSC Star Wars‘ radio rights, along with use of the film’s music and sound effects, for one dollar. Founded just a decade earlier, NPR still lacked the experience and resources to handle such an ambitious project itself, and so entered into a co-production deal with the BBC, which had never let radio drama go into eclipse.




When the Star Wars radio drama was first broadcast in the spring of 1981, fans of the movie would have heard a mixture of the familiar (including the voices of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO) and the unfamiliar. With science-fiction novelist Brian Daley brought on to add or restore scenes to the script of the original dialogue-light feature film, the story stretches out to thirteen episodes for a total runtime of six hours. The series thus stands as an early example of the expansion of the Star Wars universe that, in all kinds of media, has continued apace ever since. An Empire Strikes Back radio drama followed in 1983, with Return of the Jedi following, after prolonged development challenges, in 1996.

You can hear all fourteen hours of these original Star Wars trilogy radio dramas at the Internet Archive (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi), or on a Youtube playlist with fan edits combining the originally discrete episodes into continuous listening experiences. NPR’s gamble on adapting a Hollywood hit paid off: the first Star Wars radio drama drew 750,000 new listeners, many from the youthful demographic the network had hoped to capture. It was the biggest science-fiction event on American radio since Orson Welles scared the country with his adaptation of H.G. Welles’ The War of the Worlds more than 40 years earlier — a broadcast produced by John Houseman, who in his capacity as USC’s artistic directory in the 1970s, encouraged Toscan to bring radio drama back. In recent years, NPR’s audience has continued to age while the Star Wars franchise has in theaters, on television and elsewhere, gone from strength to strength. Has the time come for radio to use the Force once again?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

An Archive of 1,000 “Peel Sessions” Available Online: Hear David Bowie, Bob Marley, Elvis Costello & Others Play in the Studio of Legendary BBC DJ John Peel

Before he became the most influential music broadcaster of all time on the BBC, John Peel had to become John Peel. Born and raised in England, he spent a stretch of his early twenties in the United States, working for a cotton producer (his father’s industry), selling insurance, and writing punchcard computer programs before finding his way onto the airwaves. Hosting work in such locales as Dallas, Oklahoma City, and San Bernardino primed him to return to his homeland and take his radio career underground — or rather offshore, to the former minesweeper anchored in the North Sea from which Radio London broadcast in the mid-1960s. In those days, British “pirate radio” took place on actual ships, and it was on Radio London’s MV Galaxy that the returned son of Heswall, born John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, quite literally made his name.

Pirate radio existed because the BBC couldn’t, or wouldn’t, play the quantity and variety of pop and rock music younger audiences demanded — and over in the States, were already getting. After Radio London’s 1967 shutdown, Peel joined the Beeb’s newly launched pop station, Radio 1. But even there limitations continued to apply, and today they sound draconian: the Musicians’ Union and Phonographic Performance Limited, for instance, once limited the number of commercially released records that could be played on air.




The BBC’s solution was to cover popular songs with its in-house orchestra; Peel’s less square solution, as it evolved, was to bring the bands in to do it themselves. Over Peel’s 37-year career at the BBC, these “Peel Sessions” would number over 4,000, about a thousand of which you can enjoy on Youtube today.

Compiled by a fan named Dave Strickson, this list of Peel Sessions available on Youtube goes all the way from the Mancunian pop-punk of A Certain Ratio in 1979 and 1981 to the Glaswegian new wave of Zones in 1978. (Yes, the list technically begins with the numeral-featuring acts as 14 Iced Bears and 23 Skidoo.) In between, Peel’s guests include A Flock of Seagulls (1981), Billy Bragg (1983, 1991), Bob Marley and the Wailers (1973), Cocteau Twins (1982, 1983, 1984), David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Elvis Costello & the Attractions (1977, 1978, 1978, 1980), Fairport Convention (1968, 1969, 1969, 1974), Joy Division (1979), Morrissey (2004), Roxy Music (1972, 1972), Shonen Knife (1992), Sonic Youth (1986, 1988, 1989), Tears for Fears (1982), The Jesus and Mary Chain (1984, 1985, 1985, 1988, 1989), and Yo La Tengo (1997).

And of course, Strickson’s list also includes no fewer than eight Peel Sessions by The Fall (1978, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1987, 1991, 2003, 2004), the legendary DJ’s favorite band — or at least the band that took up the most shelf space in his formidable record collection. But as Peel’s fans know, he only met The Fall’s mastermind Mark E. Smith (like Peel, an outspoken Northerner) two brief times in his life. One such fan, a Metafilter commenter by the name of Paul Slade, notes that “Peel used to make a point of staying away from session recordings, partly because he didn’t want to hear the new music till it went out live. That way, he knew he’d be able to react honestly on-air to anything in the session that surprised or delighted him.” His between-song comments do indeed constitute an unexpected charm of these vintage broadcasts, though surprisingly many have nothing to do with the session at hand. Peel undoubtedly loved music, but he seems to have loved Liverpool Football Club even more.

via Metafilter

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

A New Online Archive Lets You Listen to 40 Years Worth of Terry Gross’ Fresh Air Interviews: Stream 22,000 Segment Online

As the weather grows colder, we look for reasons to stay inside, snuggled up under a blanket, steamy mug in hand.

Or sometimes we look for an incentive to bundle up and go for a long freezing constitutional.

Either way, 40 years’ worth of Fresh Air, Peabody award-winning radio journalist Terry Gross’ interview show, is just the ticket.

A complete digital database of over 22,000 segments is now available for your listening pleasure.




Feeling overwhelmed?

Scroll down on the home page to delve into a recent episode.

Or dial it back to one of the earliest extant installments.

(In the first decade of the show’s history, many episodes went untaped or got recorded over.)

The massive database, created with help from library scientists at Drexel University, is also searchable by guest and topic.

If you feel like handing over the controls, home station WHYY in Philadelphia has some suggested collections—Jazz LegendsSaturday Night LiveHow the Brain Works

If you’re open to anything, try the wild card option at the bottom of the screen. Click play for a random episode.

Or try typing one of your interests into the search bar.

“Cats” yielded 1713 results, from a chat with author John Bradshaw on the evolution of house cats to an interview with zoologist Alan Rabinowitz on endangered large cats to some training tips, courtesy of feline behavior specialist Sarah Ellis.

Of less direct relevance, but of no less interest, are:

A review of Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi’s film No One Knows about Persian Cats, which netted the 2009 Special Jury Prize at Cannes.

A review of Margaret Atwood’s 1989 novel Cat’s Eye.

A History of Catskills resorts.

A post-mortem with comedian (and avowed cat person) Mark Maron following then-President Barack Obama’s 2015 appearance on his WTF podcast (an occasion which required Maron’s house cats to be corralled in his bedroom).

The Coen Brothers on writing The Big Lebowski and the difficulties of wrangling Inside Llewyn Davis’s feline performer:

Gross: So how do you cast a cat for your film?

One Coen brother: Ooh, that was horrible. We just used on the advice of the trainer—the animal trainer, kind of an orange, kind of a marmalade tabby cat, just because they are, you know, common, and so easy to double, triple, quadruple. There were, you know, many cats playing the one cat and, you know, the whole thing is actually pretty, it comes across well in the movie, but the whole exercise of shooting a cat is pretty nightmarish because they don’t care about anything; they don’t want to do what you want them to do. As the animal trainer said to us, a dog wants to please you; a cat only wants to please itself. It was just long, painstaking, frustrating days shooting the cat.

Other Coen brother: What you have to do is basically find the cat that’s predisposed to doing whatever particular piece of action it is that you have to film. So you find the cat that can—isn’t afraid to run down a fire escape or this, you know, the cat that’s very docile and will let the actor just hold them for extended periods of time without being fidgety. And then you want the fidgety cat—the squirrely cat—for when you want the cat to run away and you just keep swapping them out—depending on what the task at hand is.

If something really catches your fancy, you can add it to a playlist to share via social media or email.

Readers, what would you have us add to ours?

Begin your exploration of Fresh Air’s archive here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Yo-Yo Ma Performs the First Classical Piece He Ever Learned: Take a 12-Minute Mental Health Break and Watch His Moving “Tiny Desk” Concert

For those who feel their enjoyment of J.S. Bach’s gorgeous Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1 in G major has been undercut rather than enhanced by its frequent TV and film appearancesYo-Yo Ma’s 2018 NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert is a tonic.

As he explains above, the prelude was the first piece he learned as a beginning four-year-old cellist, adding one measure per day, an incremental approach he recommends.

He and the 300-some-year-old composition have done well by each other throughout a relationship spanning nearly six decades.




His first recording of the Suites, in 1983, resulted in his first Grammy.

Currently, he’s wrapping up the Bach Project, playing the Suites in 36 iconic locations around the world, believing that Bach has a unique ability to unite humans and inspire collaboration, especially in “a time when our civic conversation is so often focused on division.”

The legendary cellist’s unassuming, friendly demeanor is also a unifier, well suited to the informality of the Tiny Desk Concerts.

(Producer Tom Huizenga—a non-cellist—recounts how Ma passed him his bow, along with a 1712 Stradivarius, encouraging him to “play something.”)

Music is a clearly a major part of Ma’s DNA, and also the way in which he experiences the circle of life. He introduces the Sarabande as the heart of the suite, telling how he played it at two friends’ weddings and then again at their memorial services, illustrating the ways in which music is a cumulative emotional proposition.

As he told NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly immediately following his performance:

You try and transcend technique to get to what you think is there. Instead of saying, “Here are these notes and this is difficult and I’m going to try and nail it,” you try to express it.

With the sand quickly slipping through the hourglass of his 12-minute performance, he treats his audience to Bach’s tiny, populist Gigue.

Set List:

J.S. Bach: “Prelude (from Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello)”

J.S. Bach: “Sarabande (from Suite No. 6 for Solo Cello)”

J.S. Bach: “Gigue (from Suite No. 3 for Solo Cello)”

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 4 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Louise Jordan Miln’s “Wooings and Weddings in Many Climes (1900). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Hear Glenn Gould Sing the Praise of the Moog Synthesizer and Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach, the “Record of the Decade” (1968)

Glenn Gould made his name as a pianist with his stark, idiosyncratic interpretations of the music of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and especially Bach. He left behind not just a highly respected body of work in the form of recorded performances, but also a host of strong opinions about music itself and all that culturally and commercially surrounded it. His enthusiasms weren’t always predictable: in 1967 he went on CBC radio to lavish praise on the pop singer Petula Clark, and the next year he returned to the airwaves to make a hearty endorsement of a record for which not everyone in the classical music world would admit to an appreciation: Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach.

After voicing his distaste for compilation albums, comparing them to Reader’s Digest condensed literature, Gould informs his listeners that “the record of the year — no, let’s go all the way, the decade — is an unembarrassed compote of Bach’s greatest hits.” The whole record, he claims, “is one of the most startling achievements of the recording industry in this generation, certainly one of the great feats in the history of keyboard performance,” and “the surest evidence, if evidence be needed, that live music never was best.” Gould had retired from the “anachronistic” practice of live performance four years earlier, seeking his own kind of musical perfection within the technologically enhanced confines of the recording studio.




On that level, it makes sense that a meticulously, painstakingly crafted recording — not to mention one impossible, at the time, to reproduce live — like Switched-On Bach would appeal to Gould. He also takes the opportunity on this broadcast to introduce the Moog synthesizer, which Carlos used to produce every note on the record. “Theoretically, the Moog can be encouraged to imitate virtually any instrumental sound known to man, and there are moments on this disc which sound very like an organ, a double bass or a clavichord,” Gould says, “but its most conspicuous felicity is that, except when casting gentle aspersions on more familiar baroque instrumental archetypes, the performer shuns this kind of electronic exhibitionism” — a sure way of scoring points with the restraint-loving Gould.

The broadcast includes not just Gould’s thoughts on Switched On-Bach and the Moog but two interviews, one with poet and essayist Jean Le Moyne on “the human fact of automation, its sociological and theological implications,” and one with Carlos herself. Asked about the choice of Bach, Carlos frames it as a test of how the new technology of the synthesizer would fare when used to play not avant-garde music, as it then usually was, but music with the most impeccable aesthetic credentials possible. “We’re just a baby,” Carlos says of the enterprise of synthesizer-driven electronic music. “Although now we can see that the child is going to grow into a rather exciting adult, we’ve still got to take one step at a time. It will become assimilated. The gimmick value — thank god — is going to be lost, and true musical expression, and that alone, will result.”

via Synthtopia

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How the Moog Synthesizer Changed the Sound of Music

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Haruki Murakami Became a DJ on a Japanese Radio Station for One Night: Hear the Music He Played for Delighted Listeners

In his native Japan, Haruki Murakami has published not just fiction but all sorts of essays dealing with a variety of subjects, from travel to music to writing itself. One collection of these pieces came out under the title Murakami Radio, a possible inspiration for a broadcast of the same name this past summer on Tokyo FM. For its 55-minute duration, Murakami took the DJ’s seat and spun records (or rather, files from several of his music-filled iPods) from his famously vast personal library, including The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA,” Joey Ramone’s version of “What a Wonderful World,” Eric Burdon and The Animals’ “Sky Pilot,” and Daryl Hall and John Oates’ version of “Love Train.” You can listen to all his selections in the Youtube Playlist above.

“It has been my hobby to collect records and CDs since my childhood, and thanks to that, my house is inundated with such things,” wrote Murakami in a message posted by Tokyo FM. “However, I have often felt a sense of guilt toward the world while listening to such amazing music and having a good time alone. I thought it may be good to share such good times with other people while chatting over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.”




He also chatted a bit himself between songs, answering listener questions and explaining the relationship between the music he loves and the books he writes“Rather than learning storytelling technique from someone, I’ve taken a musical approach, while being very conscious about rhythms, harmony and improvisation,” he said on-air. “It’s like writing as I dance, even though I don’t actually dance.”

For many of Murakami’s fans, Murakami Radio (full recordings of which do exist on the internet) marks the first time they’ve ever heard his actual voice, and it turns out to have a thing or two in common with his authorial one: take, for instance, his use of boku, the informal personal pronoun favored by most of his narrators. With the broadcast initially announced as a one-off, it might also have seemed like the last chance to hear Murakami speak, but the official Murakami Radio site recently announced two more editions. The next one, scheduled for October 19th, will deal with not just music but another of Murakami’s passions, running. Anyone who’s read Murakami’s 1979 debut novel Hear the Wind Sing will remember the talkative Saturday-night radio DJ who makes occasional appearances in the text — and may wonder if, nearly 40 years later, Murakami channels him again when he gets behind the microphone himself.

via The Vinyl Factory

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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