* Today's smart phones, i-Phone/pads/things have FM tuners, or the capability. If you're toting something proprietary which runs under a contract, you might have to ask whoever you're dealing with to "jail break" that function. (Of course, there are also streaming versions of current broadcasts, that you can get via WiFi.) However, the emphasis on this page will be on the downloading of MP3 PODcast files (music or talk radio programs, perhaps via an "Ap" if you're using a smart phone), the content of which can be woven into your life as time and life's interruptions permit.
Simple through sophisticated MP3 players were cheap and plentiful just a few years ago. They're still available, some with excellent touch screen displays, but they cost between $30 and $140 in stores I shop at. The most recent MP3 player we own (Phillips brand "GoGear") had an FM tuner, but despite that it had a microphone and voice record function, there did not appear to be a way to record from an FM station. (Downloading PODcast MP3s makes infinitely more sense anyway.) Affordable MP3 players are still available on-line through Amazon.com.
* It's my understanding that including an AM tuner in a compact device is not only difficult, due to the need of a bulky "loop stick antenna", but that the loop stick's directional pickup, plus AM radio's inherent vulnerability to noise and hum, are simply unacceptable in a mobile device. (Car radios use a large, non-directional antenna, perhaps built into the windshield.)
* My experience (coastal Oregon) has been that "talk radio" is seldom
to be found on the FM band, including from our available NPR stations,
except during the limited morning and evening news hours. We have to suffer
along with boomy, garbled and commercial interrupted voices on the AM band.
I find women's voices particularly difficult to understand due to the limited
audio spectrum of AM radio, which must fit within a clipped five kilocycle
band width (hard on syllibants).
* It's my perception --as a years long talk/news listener --that most of the available, over the Internet shows are "streaming" and often live --meaning that unless you sign up (and often pay) to get the PODcasts, you have to listen when you're "on line" and at the showcast web site. A "PODcast" refers to "program on demand" meaning you can at least select and access an archived program (if only the current one). Preferably, you can download any of a number of past programs as well, such that you can play and listen to them at your convenience (say: whilst commuting or mowing the lawn) --without having to be "on line" (WiFi) or using up smart phone minutes.
Many people use smart phone applications which automatically download, store and organize their favorite PODcasts, perhaps even allowing 15 second jump-aheads for bypassing unwanted segments.
** Since I've never succumbed to smart phones (I just have a hello-goodbye, $10/month Tracfone), here's a link to modern times information:
* We have precious resources in today's audio media: the opportunities they afford us to stay on top of current events, commentary/editorials, political and other cultural developments, literature (old and new) as "audio books", music and poetry. When I'm doing such scut work as manually surfacing an optical component, cutting the grass (while wearing -38dB muffs plus ear plugs) and scraping paint --I can absorb a wide array of wisdom, opinion and information (mostly as downloaded MP3 PODcasts, via a cheap little MP3 player).
* Keep an eye on library book sales as they bail out of audio cassettes. You'll find plenty of fiction and you might find a still current college level literature course for a dollar or two --one which would cost hundred$ to buy new on CDs. (And: you can get a deluxe cassette player at the Goodwill store for just a few dollars more.)
** The main problem is finding enough appropriate time to listen. If I'm doing anything which requires alertness and thought, there's no point in listening to a spoken word PODcast. A secondary problem lies in getting at a particular audio program or piece of music that you're interested in, perhaps due to download pay walls. Day-to-day live radio news broadcast programs and live talk shows might require you to endure mind numbing, insultingly stupid, repetitive commercials --should you decline pay walls around the commercial-free PODcast versions --the sharing of which is in turn restricted by claims of copyright.
(There are exceptions!)
* The available personal tools of change are mainly the pressure of our collective patronage in the marketplace, and becoming more aware of what alternative choices are already available to the listener/consumer. These tools might make little difference to the world of media, but they can make an effective and immediate difference for the aware individual. ("With it" young readers of this page are more aware of smart-phone, notebook/i-pad/i-tunes and Spotify options than I am and can run circles around barriers to and burdens upon cultural content.)
Smart phones, i-Pads and such: With an Apple product, we had to get onto area WiFi, select Google search services, and carefully select (or ask for, if voice command is optioned) --the desired PODcast. Access was the same but seemed easier with an Android operated phone. (I believe "i-Tunes" carries a fixed subscription charge, but I'm not aware if there are extra access charges. Again: I only pack a $10/month hello-goodbye TracFone.)
XM Satellite Radio: * I do appreciate that it avoids the vexing problem of stations fading as one drives, but I otherwise don't understand why XM/satellite radio is much of an alternative option. From reading commentaries about XM, I gather that you pay maybe $10, $15, (whatever the package) per month, but the music channels still have blabbering "DJs", the talk/cultural stations are locked into broadcast type commercial blocks of time, and maybe you end up listening to even worse commercial/break material to fill in between those blocks. (It was over 17 years ago that I last used a (pioneering, hackable) XM radio device, so my experience is way out of date.)
broadcasts: There's a straight-forward product to buy from Sharper
--a programmable AM, FM, Short-wave radio/recorder for $59.99 (which sounds like a good value).
* Recording, capturing or copying digital content --as digital media, as is often facilitated by an available MP3 download --to your computer, smartphone, or other MP3 player device. There are a ton of software options for doing that, including automatic download applications for smart phones, i-PODs, and advanced MP3 players. After learning to reflexively operate the controls and fast forwarding, such a digital device becomes practical.
I manually download what interests me (using a Chromebook), then transfer it to and play it on a simple (think I paid $15, years ago) MP3 device, which holds a caboodle of files and remembers where I last left off. (My MP3 player's fast forward sucks, however, so be sure to check that feature before you buy a player. A small "graphic user interface" helps.)
~ For downloading (say) a 50 megabytes of audio over public
WiFi, you want a strong, near-by signal so your download doesn't get interrupted/delayed.
For live listening: * Fortunately, full featured PODcast applications have "fast forward" --maybe even a 15 second jump feature.
* Were it necessary to simply silence those blocks as quiet time, they might be spent thinking (oh my!) or talking to a friend about the program content you were listening to. "Muzak" type background music vendors long ago realized how much more pleasing and effective their content was if rather long pauses were periodically included. Those long blabbering commercial breaks might be just the ticket for an ideal program break --if they could be easily and methodically silenced.
However: my problem with simply turning off the radio during commercials is that I quickly get into some other interest and usually forget to turn it back on again. A simple "back on" timer function is exactly what's needed.
So: how about a semi-automatic radio commercial termination and restart system --?
** I think the radio broadcast industry has long passed up on a precious opportunity by not promoting what I call a "magazine format" for commercial content. Think about it: although newspapers and magazines charge plenty to carry ads, the reader does not have to read them (an A-mazing concept!) --unless s/he is interested. Radio stations and programs would be far more popular (particularly with upscale demographics) if repeat stupefying commercials could be easily silenced.
The Radio of the Future --how it might work: * All standard radios would be equipped with a blab-blare silence button and/or such a button on a remote control.
* Each single commercial block of time would end with a "back on" tweet signal, such that no radio receiver timer is needed --nor any additional listener attention/distraction (so important while driving).
* Be my guess that TV/cable programming would soon get on board with something similar.
PODcasts: * There are a half dozen progressive talk shows I'd love to be downloading, but they think I should be paying them $5 to $7.95 per month each to do so (except for Peter B Collins' and Brad Friedman's shows) .
* I think a popular willingness to send in a one-time (at a time) token of support for an existing alternative media (PODcasts) is very likely. Be my guess that vastly more money would be coming in to progressive shows by setting their support levels at (say) $10 per year --and without placing premium content behind a "members only" pay wall.
But why not instead --simply do PODcasts
free --but using commercials? * Quality commercials would
sure be nice, but since a PODcast lets us easily fast forward (manually
or via a player application feature), the quality, repetition and stupidity
of each commercial would matter a lot less. Simply leave that to the advertiser's
discretion. An ordinary MP3 player with fast forward jumps would also work
Let's hear it for FM radio! * While our car's AM radio works pretty good, our AM pocket radios are horrible, as well as horribly directional. One has to stand just so (radio in pocket, "hold that pose!") to get the station loud and the hum/buzz down to a low level of annoyance. Add to that the din of repeat repeat idiot commercials and AM radio is simply a non-starter for many of us.
Meanwhile, our FM reception is excellent and non-directional. While there's been little by way of progressive talk (out here in small town America where I live) --just a few milquetoast NPR type shows, those tireless Bible thumpers, and music-music-music, --"low power" FM stations are beginning to make better use of the FM wasteland.
* Surely: there's a dim future for commercial AM radio (since, be my guess, most AM stations would rather die than change), and a bright one for commercial PODcasting.
* IMHO, plying the waters of free PODcasts is difficult. The unwary traveler is beset by snares which attempt to funnel your search and access through middle-man operations which offer to organize and list what's available by categories, artists/hosts and genres. They tend to hide direct links and offers of simple downloads (direct or indirect) --in favor of subscribing to and using their automated downloads (when available).
That's fine, and it's probably more compatible with today's hand-held
mobile device lifestyles (than the methods I use). Just be aware that you
can often Google up the source, bookmark it and make your own arrangements
for access. By way of example, I offer https://podsearch.com/,
through which you might discover https://podsearch.com/listing/hourly-news-summary.html,
which freely originates at NPR,
but at which site we seem limited to streaming their PODcasts. (My wife
and I don't have on-line/public WiFi time to listen that way. We need to
take our PODcasts home.)
* Bradblog.com --at:
--By Brad Friedman and with Desi Doyen, is my first stick-it-in-your
ear choice. At the end of each installment's synopsis is a "download MP3"
link. Content is good, we get the whole current and past shows for
free (donations are requested and deserved), we have email and PO Box access
for feedback, and Brad finds a replacement host when he's away.
* The Majority Report with Sam Seder --at:
--is animatedly conversational and sometimes hard to follow (when
they talk over each other).
* The Humanist Report --at:
( I don't see an MP3 download link on the HR home page, so simply right
click on the play arrow at their Player.fm page and save to your choice
of drive.) Production values could be better and the host rather "leans
into" the microphone. (We do need a spiritual humanist movement.)
* Peter B. Collins --at:
--is an excellent progressive talk show option. Much of Peter B's current content is free to download and we're encouraged to bootleg it out to others. Be sure to catch his:
--which is one of the "extended interviews"that become freely available
after two weeks. Peter B has a PO Box for checks and he reads his mail.
Peter B is given to taking short vacations, but you'll otherwise find his
Monday-through-Friday shows posted before 3pm [PST/PDT] as MP3s.)
* The Young Turks --at:
( I don't see an MP3 download link on TYT's home page, so simply right
click on the play arrow at their Player.fm page and save to your choice
of drive.) Lively, humorously sarcastic, but 3 of the 5 segments are
behind a membership pay wall. (Again: I like to think PODcasters would
do a lot better putting the whole show on line and asking us to show our
appreciation with modest donations (like the Bradcast). Alternatively,
they could run commercials --which everyone who's interested will listen
to at least once, then simply fast forward as they come up.)
* My best understanding of our access to Thom Hartmann's PODcast: we get just the "tease" (and that's Hartmann's term for it). The 12/27 tease lasted 29 minutes, which included 4 ding-dong clueless callers. 12/28's and 12/29's teases were about 9 minutes long and no callers. But if you wait a week (or access back a week), it appears we can download about an hour-long portion of the show. If you want more/sooner, then you have to subscribe to get past Hartmann's pay wall. (Same if you want to lodge a comment. I see no USPS or email contacts.)
* Hartmann can distance himself from --the obvious,
events of 9/11. Be my guess that
not crossing this particular "red line" is about not getting himself banned
from his many mainstream and military media outlets.
* Ring of Fire --with Sam Seder and Mike Papantonio--offers a free 1 hour chapter of their 3 hour show at:
Just right click the go arrow, then "save as" where you want the
MP3 to go.
* You'd think that listening to a socialist talking about economics would require propping your eyelids open with toothpicks. Uh-uh: this guy can talk! Try on Prof. Richard D. Wolff's "Economic Update" for size, fit and a few laughs at:
Again: my page here is oriented toward clean and simple downloads of MP3s. If you can afford a home or office ISP connection ($55/month here), then those of you with plenty of time to stream at or away from home will have no problem watching Wolff's videos. I, however, have to snag the spoken word via fast public WiFi around town.
* Download MP3 files from D@W by following these simple steps:
~ Take the headline/topic that appeals to you.
~ If you see "read more", click on it.
~ If you then see "Direct download", right click to save the MP3 version --to where you want it to go (usually, the default folder/directory). (Left clicking on "Direct Download" started my Chromebook streaming the topic.)
Elsewise, I've seen (apparently older) lectures/shows with a little
download symbol: ,
and that works too.
* Then there's John Shuck:
--who I'd characterize as a "process theologian". Reverend Shuck's productions at:
--are precious (and use the search utility for his interviews concerning
* You'll want to follow and archive many of the interviews offered at "To the Best Of Our Knowledge" at:
* It would be nice if you're able to send at least a token donation to the above sources, should you enjoy and want to help support their offerings. Some have USPS mailing addresses (not Hartmann) for sending a small check or money order. (One must never do donations or purchases when using public WiFi --right?)
* Amazon.com and your public library might have audio CD versions of books written (and well read) by the author: Simon Winchester. Title suggestions:
~ The Professor and the Madman
~ A Crack in the Edge of the World
~ The Map That Changed the World
This was allegedly in an attempt to protect a huge cache of WW-1 military material and to escort a 50,000 man Czechoslovak Legion into battle against Germany, privately to keep an eye on the Japanese contingent (from 7000 to 70,000, depending on the source, but probably about 12,000). Our military ended up clearly in support of the "White" (old Tsarist and Kerenski counter-revolutionary) factions, but not in direct conflict --which intervention further prejudiced Russians against the Whites and started the cold war. Graves, our general in charge, came off as a moderating factor who lamented this early example of a poorly defined military mission. About 12,000 U.S. troops were involved, in poor co-ordination with Japanese, British and French forces. The U.S. forces left in 1920. Japan was forced out in 1922.