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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Austin vs. Monotony: Summer Review

This past summer I mowed lawns for my job. It was perhaps the fifth year (nonconsecutive) that I had this seasonal occupation, and as usual I made an effort to make each monotonous day unique somehow. There's only so much difference you can do at a job where you merely sit on a mower all day and eat between properties. I threw random ingredients on my sandwiches (I discovered that ground peppercorns are good on meat sandwiches. Sweet pickles are good on turkey), but that's about the only customizable lunch component there is. The only thing that's really customizable in mowing is the part that takes up 80% of the day: what you direct your thoughts to.

In years past, (I'm not sure how) I mowed with no headphones, or even earplugs in; I preferred to be alone all day with my adolescent thoughts of video games and girls. It is indeed a great job for thinking; Perhaps in fact, the ideal. Mowing without music, in little time the drone of the mower beneath fades away to thoughts and plans for... correct. Projects! A few days this summer I preferred this way of doing things. But more than once a month or so is torture. I'm not sure how I mowed with no ear protection at all, though. Some of those machines are loud.

My system changed when last year I got an iPod, and was able to make good use of it throughout the day.
The problem is, my interest in music is extremely limited. I only had about 40 or 50 songs, which made for a boring, repetitive week. Some long days I could listen to the entire playlist; other days I would come home and delete ear-worms that I realized weren't meant to be listened to more than once a week.

My brother (whom I worked with) and I loved to listen to the radio morning show as we traveled to the different properties. In time our favorite station, Z-103, made a podcast of their morning show. This was a great way to spend time mowing, listening to jokes and trivia all day. I remember several moments of my own busted-up laughter in the middle of a baseball field, drowned by the roar of the mowing engine.
This year, however, the station downsized their podcasts to update only once a week instead of daily. What was I to do now? I can't remember what gave me the idea, but I decided to look around the Web for old radio shows to listen to. In little time I discovered Relic Radio, an archived old radio podcast with old shows from the 40's to the 60's. They had categories such as Science Fiction (my favorite broadcasters were X-1 and Dimension X), Comedy (The Mel Blanc Show), Crime Cases (Your Truly Johnny Dollar and The Saint), and Horror (I didn't like any I listened to). It was amazing to listen to ancient air-waves on my iPod (complete with commercials!); stuff that my grandparents probably listened to. I gained a genuine respect for the entertainment of older times. It was fun for me to experience the stories they displayed in a unique way. There were no visuals, no special effects. Only excellent voice actors and sound effects to illustrate the stories. They were a great way to spend my time.

When the sameness of the science-fiction plots got old, and I got tired of hearing "Golly gee!" and "Hey, put that gun down, Marty", I looked for other things to listen to. There was still a fair amount of summer left. I got the idea from browsing on iTunes to look for audiobooks. Unfortunately, to access the biggest scope of audiobooks, simply buying one, meant I'd need to fork out at least $40 a book. Thank goodness for public libraries! I found and listened to The Hobbit first, and enjoyed the experience. It brought me back to fond memories of 4th Grade, when Miss Baird would sit down with us after lunch and simply read to us. After that I listened to the Hunger Games trilogy, and then the entire Harry Potter series. I finished up the summer by listening to six books of my favorite book series, Discworld. I was amazed at the talent of the audiobook readers. They always managed to find as many different voices as there were characters in the books. In little time, I forgot that one person was telling the story, and felt myself completely immersed in the stories.

In short, I discovered this summer that there are many things to listen to that are products of nothing but pure talent. The instrumental and vocal stylings of singers, the comedic humor of radio DJ's, the classic and sometimes obsolete media of the past, and voice actors reading brilliant literature.
And the best part was, I got paid by the hour to enjoy good entertainment!

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