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listening-statue-pixa

I had posted several times here about radio programs and then podcasts that are on my listening list. I saw that the list needed updating, so I’ll use and reuse this post to keep that list up-to-date.

updateI’m not going to link to all of them, because you should just search in whatever app you use to listen. I will note that many of these can be heard by going to their website on your good old-fashioned computer – just do a search on the program title. Some of these shows have very dynamic websites with lots of additional material, so I will add website links to a few titles.

I started out years ago using “pod catchers” that no longer exist. iTunes wiped a number of them out, but I have switched over to using Stitcher on my phone and tablet. Stitcher used to be called Stitcher Smart Radio and people would say that any of these applications were like a “VCR for the radio.” Now, you have to explain what a VCR is to some young people, and might need to say they are like a “DVR for radio.” And yes, I know that radio itself is an old-fashioned medium and that some of these podcasts only exist as podcasts and are never broadcast over the radio airwaves. I have written about a few podcast programs on their own, and may posts on these site were inspired by listening to a podcast.

I realized in sifting through these shows and posts I have written that I also like to think about just listening to the world – not always via electronic devices.

I like how the Stitcher app allows me to “Listen Later” by downloading episodes I want to hear when I’m home on wi-fi, and then listen to them when I’m walking or in the car without using any data.

These are the podcasts on my phone now. I was amazed (and a bit embarrassed) that I have over 50 shows that I subscribe to currently.  They are not listed in any type of ranking or even alphabetically. However, I do have the 7 news ones at the top of my Stitcher app because they are frequently updated and brief. I start my day with the shorter “newsy” podcasts and save the longer shows for other times. Some of the other podcasts only update weekly or irregularly. You can make playlists on Stitcher and I have about 20 of these titles on a second list and I select episodes to listen to later. On my main Favorites Playlist, I can just let it run through the list when I’m working for the day at my desk on wi-fi.

The list at the bottom are the podcasts that no longer update, but that you can still find “archived” online.


  1. NPR Hourly News Summary – in less than 5 minutes
  2. The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor – mostly literary calendar items and a poem read by Keillor in 5 minutes
  3. WSJ Tech News Briefing
  4. NPR Business Story of the Day
  5. Film Reviews from WSJ with Joe Morgenstern – brief reviews of new films
  6. Marketplace Tech with Ben Brock Johnson
  7. CNET Update – pop tech
  8. The Poetry Magazine Podcast – looks at what’s in the newest issue of the magazine
  9. APM: A Prairie Home Companion’s News from Lake Wobegon – my favorite segment from the longer programs. Since, Keillor has retired, these are reruns of past shows. Timeless but for the seasons.
  10. Hidden Brain – fascinating stories that take science and research and make it interesting to anyone. Hosted by Shankar Vedantam
  11. Here’s the Thing – Alec Baldwin is a terrific host/interviewer of people in many different fields
  12. Poetry Off the Shelf – poets, poems, poetry topics
  13. Codebreaker – by Marketplace This current season asks “Can tech save us?”
  14. Fresh Air – one radio program that I have listened to since before podcasting – but podcasts allowed me to catch the shows I was missing before because their broadcast time clashed with Life. Terry Gross is the renowned host.  I’ll know that I’ve made it when I’m a guest on this show.
  15. The Business – and the business is show business, movies and television, hosted by Kim Masters
  16. Slate’s Culture Gabfest – highbrow and pop topics – highbrow and pop hosts
  17. How To Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black – actor/comedian Black really surprised me as an interviewer. He gets unusual stories from all kinds of guests.  It is a sign of a good interview show and interviewer when you love an episode about someone who you had no interest in beforehand. I found the show with Tim Gunn to be a revelation.
  18. The Treatment – mostly movies with superb host (which is often a key reason why you follow a podcast) Elvis Mitchell,
  19. Maltin on Movies – as in Leonard Maltin, film critic and human film encyclopedia. Interviews with all kinds of movie folk. Sometimes co-hosted by his daughter, Jessie.
  20. To the Best of Our Knowledge – One of my favorites. Big ideas and themes covered in different ways – such as one of my obsessions, time travel.
  21. The New Yorker Poetry – hosted by poet and poetry editor Paul Muldoon. Poet guests pick a poem from the magazine to read and then one of their own. It has not helped me crack how to get published in the magazine.
  22. FT Life of a Song – FT = Financial Times but this UK podcast is all about digging into the origins of songs in all genres.
  23. WTF with Marc Maron – He totally surprised me with this show. Excellent and unusual interviews with rockers, actors, writers, comedians and Barack Obama done in his garage. He rambles and promotes a bit too much before and after the interviews but that’s why God designed fast forward. The older episodes will cost you; the newest ones are free.
  24. On Being – formerly Speaking of Faith and wisely changed as it covers much more than faith and religion. I particularly like how science and religion sit comfortably at the same table without arguing here.  Krista Tippet is the amazing host.  Excellent website.  www.onbeing.org/
  25. Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me – a current events quiz show that’s quite funny
  26. The Sporkful – Dan Pashman’s show for eaters
  27. Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen – pop culture and the arts. Great host. Special American Icons episodes are great: Wizard of Oz, Moby Dick, Disney Parks, I Love Lucy, Superman, The Outsiders…
  28. 99% Invisible – the mostly invisible design of things
  29. The Dinner Party Download – cultural oddities and drink recipes based on history
  30. You Must Remember This – the first 100 years of Hollywood with host and writer/researcher Karina Longworth. I binged through the series on Charles Manson and another about the Hollywood Black List
  31. This Week in Tech TWiT – Leo Laporte and crew. I started listening to this years ago when Leo started his pioneering podcast network. I’ve fallen off as a listener to this and TWiG because the shows ramble on to 2 hours or more lately.
  32. This Week in Google – Leo and Jeff Jarvis with some focus on Google but almost an extension of TWiT.
  33. This Week in Law – Another one in the series hat I listen to selectively when a topic catches my fancy.
  34. On the Media – the best weekly media analysis
  35. Pop Culture Happy Hour – multiple hosts on movies, books, Tv and the rest
  36. Love + Radio – hourlong interviews but not with celebrities and not on common topics
  37. Radiolab – hard to pin down what it is about – it’s about almost anything
  38. Internet History Podcast – interviews with important figures from the Net
  39. Planet Money – the economy explained
  40. The Ezra Klein Show – in-depth, longform talks mostly on politics and media.
  41. The Book Review – from The New York Times
  42. Death, Sex and Money – and more than that in half hour installments
  43. The World Next Week – a “preview” of world events from the Council on Foreign Relations
  44. Triangulation – Leo Laporte (Man of a Thousand Podcasts) talks to smart people in tech
  45. Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty – short doses of language, writing and that scary grammar stuff in an engaging way.
  46. Slate’s Audio Book Club – monthly look at new and important books
  47. Open Source with Christopher Lydon
  48. Science Friday – just that – stories about science for the rest of us.
  49. Invisibilia – the invisible forces that control us
  50. This American Life – one of the originals. A theme is several acts fill up about an hour.
  51. Selected Shorts – short stories read aloud by actors. I tend to select selected episodes but when I just listen to an episode I am inevitably surprised to discover some new or classic story.
  52. Star Talk Radio – with Neil degrasse Tyson. Mostly out in space but not always.
  53. Freakonomics Radio – an extension of the ideas in the books. Economics (ugh!) but done in a way that is interesting (Hurrah!)
  54. The Carson Podcast – interviews with people who guested on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Always touches on Johnny and the show but also digs into the entertainers big and small interviewed.
  55. How I Built This – interviews with innovators on how they built whatever they built
  56. Lore – an odd one that explores the darker and more frightening sides of history
  57. Stuff You Should Know – grew from the articles on the http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/ website. Two likeable guys with more information (usually) than you on a very wide variety of topics.  Most shows are about 30 minutes.    * Things They Don’t Want You to Know – is another offshoot but needs to be seen (vodcast) and is full of all those conspiracy theories. Fun.
  58. Bookworm – If I wrote a novel, i would want all my readers to be as perceptive as host Michael Silverblatt. Anybody important in contemporary writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry) probably has talked with him, Huge archive. From KCRW radio. www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/bookworm

 

Archived But Not Currently Active Programs

  • Esquire Classic Podcast – looks back at classic pieces from the magazine
  • Unretirement – Life after you retire when you still want to do.. something.
  • Serial – Year one about a 1999 murder investigation about Hae Min Lee, a high-school senior who seems to have been murdered by her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. Did he do it? ,The series led to the case being reopened. Year two dealt with Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl who went AWOL from a U.S. Army outpost in eastern Afghanistan.   serialpodcast.org
  • By the Way, In Conversation with Jeff Garlin – crazy, funny Jeff (Curb Your Enthusiasm) does freeform interviews on stage with folks. On hiatus while he works on his TV show, The Goldbergs which is a kind of The Wonder Years for the 1980s.
  • The Message – a kind of radio drama in the thriller genre about a message from out there that needs to be decoded.. The new season is called a LifeAfter and is about a guy who communicates with his dead wife on his smartphone.
  • Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell’s 10-show series taking a new look at topics revisionisthistory.com

albums

This past week I was spring cleaning and getting rid of (via charities, the local library, a few friends) things piling up in the basement and garage. Besides all the usual garage sale merchandise, I had to clear out some books and movie videotapes. There are also shelves full of my vinyl record albums that go back to the 1960s which I look and but still can’t bear to “get rid of.”

Flipping through those is always a musical journey through my discovery of music and the development of my tastes in music. That journey came up yesterday when I was listening to the FT Arts podcast that did an episode about how music streaming is changing the experience of listeners. Somewhat frighteningly but not surprisingly those services use algorithms to guide us new music.

Once upon my youth, that task was done by friends, DJs, critics I read in places like Rolling Stone, and flipping through albums at record shops. I still get some suggestions from friends (often via social media), less often from critics, almost never from “the radio” even though I occasionally still listen, and never from stores that sell physical music.

On that podcast, they discuss the movement in taste development with Spotify’s Will Page and FT pop critic Ludovic Hunter-Tilney.  The segment that caught my ear was the idea of the “hairstyle hypothesis” of musical taste. The Spotify data encourages the theory that in our teenage years there is maximum experimentation (hairstyles, music etc.). At age 23, that openness seems to close. We have found our taste and we listen to the same genres, artists, songs a lot more. Like all things that we become very comfortable with, this can also become a rut.

Maybe this is true for reading the same favorite authors, watching the same TV shows, eating at the same restaurants and ordering the some food etc.

Spotify, Pandora and any streaming music services are a way to discover new music. I also think some of that discovery include “rediscovering” music from our past that has been buried under the pile.

Technological music fans say the digital marketplace enhances choice and that it actually encourages niche artists a chance to flourish in this immense marketplace with fewer mass-produced brands.

The podcasters reference Chris Anderson’s idea from 2006 that he laid out in his book The Long Tail. (Sidebar: There is a graphic novel/comic version that book. Odd.) Anderson used the music industry for much of his argument. This is when the iTunes music store and software was more dominant. His premise is that the time of paying the most attention and getting the most profit from the top of the demand curve – the big hits and most visible artists – is over. The other items, which might be considered misses rather than hits, creates the long tail of that same graphical curve.

I have seen that curve in operation with my blogs all the time. Rather than paying attention to the hit counter numbers on my newest posts, the big numbers come from old posts that continue to be found. If I ever made money from posts (Hah!) the big money would be from posts from the past. Look at the sidebar section on this page of “Top Ten Posts Today” and you will usually find a majority of older posts.  Things that I wrote in 2008 have a long tail.

We don’t all listen to the same music in the way we did when Am radio ruled. We don’t we all watch the same TV shows as we did when there were limited channels. Growing up, I had 3 major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS), a few local channels that fed me reruns of older shows and old movies and a PBS station. The many choices and vectors we have now have killed the smash hits. The numbers for shows, songs and book sales are small compared to an earlier time. Don’t interpret those lower numbers as meaning that people don’t read, watch or listen as much. It’s all about the number of options. The attention deficit disorder of media.

In the area of discovery and rediscovery, one personal musical example is the album Salty Dog. I bought that album when it was released in 1969 while I was deep into my hairstyle experimentation phase.

I loved Procol Harum.  I loved that cover. I bought Player’s Navy Cut cigarettes because that was the inspiration for the album art. (Sidebar: They are unfiltered powerful cigs). I liked the title track on that album, but my favorite track was and still is “Pilgrim’s Progress.” I liked the allusion to literature and I loved the music, Matthew Fisher’s Hammond organ, and the lyrics by the band’s lyricist, Keith Reed, which in those days was serious poetry to me.

I downloaded the digital album years ago and in doing so rediscovered some of other tracks, adding to one of my blues playlists “Juicy John Pink.” Just today, researching for this post, I rediscovered the acoustic track  “Too Much Between Us” which I probably haven’t heard in several decades. That’s because I don’t listen to “albums” anymore. I listen to tracks.

In my vinyl record-listening days, I would put on an album and let it play. Sure, I could (and sometimes would) lift the needle and skip a track, but not that often. Then audio cassettes came and I could (and did) make my own “albums” and mix tapes. I made my version of a band’s “greatest hits.” I programmed my own hour of “radio.” to listen to in the car. My listening narrowed to a comfortable rut.

I read that vinyl’s sales are a way up. I’m not sure why. A reaction to “anxiety about our new age of plenty? A return to album rather than track listening? A reaction to the low-definition bit-rates of digital music (though quite acceptable to most of the world it seems) that got audiophile rock veteran Neil Young to create a new way of listening and got him to pull his songs from Spotify and Apple Music?

Maybe the time is right to put my vinyl collection on eBay… if that wasn’t such a lot of work, and if I wasn’t so damned nostalgic.

krista-tippettI have been listening to Krista Tippett on her radio program, Speaking of Faith, since back in 2003. Though it changed its name in 2010 to On Being, the program has the same focus and appeal.

Like many programs, movies and books that I admire, it often features people who I have never heard of, and who I would probably never have encountered – but I trust her choices enough to listen, and I am usually rewarded by insights from her and the guest.

She has written several books, but her new one is Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.

On_Being_Becoming-Wise-Products-final

“I’m a person who listens for a living. I listen for wisdom, and beauty, and for voices not shouting to be heard. This book chronicles some of what I’ve learned in what has become a conversation across time and generations, across disciplines and denominations,” says Krista.

In the early days, her show did have more of an outright focus on religions. But it has always had an interest in how scientists relate to religion, faith and being. Those programs have been amongst my favorites.

For example, my own fascination with Albert Einstein seems to be shared by Tippett who has done multiple programs about Einstein. She has also written Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit. Einstein is a good example of that strange Venn diagram that many of us have where religion, God, faith, belief, and spirituality overlap. Albert Einstein did not believe in a personal God. One of the many Einstein quotes you find online is “God does not play dice with the universe.” That seems to be a clear statement of belief, but it was about quantum physics, not the God of religion. But Albert certainly spent a significant amount of his life doing thought experiments about the relationship between science and religion. How could he not wonder? Any thinking person must wonder.

I believe all of us have the same interest as Einstein (although he may have taken it further than most of us) in trying to discover the order deeply hidden behind everything. Tippett notes Einstein’s self-described “cosmic religious sense” is very compatible with twenty-first-century sensibilities.

But On Being and her new book includes the ideas of theologians from many faiths, but also poets, activists and others.

I call this post “Becoming Wiser” (as opposed to Tippett’s book title Becoming Wise)  because I know I am wiser for having listened to Krista’s programs and read her books, but they also remind me how much further I need to go to be Wise.

This is not a book review but a preview because I haven’t read this book yet, but I am confident that it will continue to help equip me “to meet the world where it really is, and then to make it better.”

 

other books

Further Reading:
Amazon is getting much better with its recommendations. When I pre-ordered Becoming Wise, Amazon suggested a group of books that do belong on the same shelf. There were  four that I have already read, and the others are all books I would like to read. It included the obvious choices of her other books: Einstein’s God  and her earlier Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters–and How to Talk About It.  It also suggested Rising Strong by Brené Brown,  Felicity: Poems by Mary Oliver,  The Good Book: Writers Reflect on Favorite Bible Passages by Andrew Blauner,  Gratitude by Oliver Sacks  A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals, and Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart by James R. Doty. there are others I would add to that list – for example, guests from her programs, such as Parker J. Palmer and Karen Armstrong.

The idea of a working phone booth on a dirt road in the middle of the Mojave desert, over a dozen miles from the nearest pavement, is intriguing to me.

It caught the interest of the wonderful radio/podcast (I don’t really make a distinction any more) called 99% Invisible. The program is about “all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. You probably never heard of it because somehow podcasts are still kind of a fringe thing, but with 80 million downloads, 99% Invisible is one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.

Last week I listened to their show about that phone booth.  They track one person, Godfrey (“Doc”) Daniels, obsession with it. He read about it in a zine called Wig Out! letter to the editor back in 1997.

Dear Wig Out!,
Recently, I spotted a small dot with the word “telephone” beside it on a map of the Mojave desert, 15 miles from the main interstate in the middle of nowhere.

Intrigued, I donned a cheap, brown serape and a pair of wing-tips and headed out to find it in my old jeep. After many hours I do find it (the glass is shot out and the phone book is missing) but it works! Apparently, this booth was put in after WWII for the use of a nearby mine which ceased operations in the 60s; why the local phone company keeps it operational is anybody’s guess.

A nearby rancher told me that in the 70s they replaced the old rotary style phone with push buttons because the sheep were having trouble dialing…

Doc didn’t know where it was or if it really existed. But the letter had a phone number for it and he called. It rang, but no one answered. He continued to call and even got others to call.

After a month of tries, he got a busy signal. Someone was there. He kept calling repeatedly and finally he caught the person who was using the phone and she picked up. I’ll leave the details for you to discover when you listen to the program, but I’ll say that the phone was used by some people who had no phone of their own. This was 1997 in that distant century before cell phones. He talked to her for a bit. He was so excited that he forgot to ask about the exact location of the phone booth.

Doc eventually track down the location and went for a visit.

It was 1997 and the Internet was new for most of us, but Doc created a webpage and it went as viral as a page might go back in 1997.

People contacted him, sent him news clippings from all over the world about this off, cultish desert phone booth.

The Mojave Phone Booth started getting a lot more calls. People made pilgrimages to the site.

It became very popular. Too popular. The phone booth was located on a nature preserve and the National Park Service was not happy about all the visitors, traffic and the ringing phone. The booth was removed in 2000.

busPeople continued to visit the place where the booth had been.

It reminds me of the story of Chris McCandless who went to Alaska, somewhat ill-prepared but full of the Romance of adventure. He starved to death there.

But people continue to visit, pilgrim-like, the abandoned bus that Chris lived in. What are they hoping to find there?

A trip the Mojave location after 2000 would have found you staring at the concrete slab where the booth once sat. But even the slab was removed. Some people tried to mark it with a plaque.

The number that Doc was calling is still around, if you want to give it a try.  760-733-9969 is not the Mojave Phone Booth, but perhaps its ghost will answer. It is like making a call out to the universe.

If you’re out in the deserts of the American Southwest, you might want to combine your trip with a journey following the large concrete arrows (seventy feet in length) that are there. They may have a logical origin, but I’d like to believe that they might be landing beacons for UFOs.

dolphin56I really like these odd little items that catch people’s attention.

I’m a follower of Dolphin 56. Back in 1979, he was captured along with five other dolphins in Florida. They were assigned the numbers 55, 56, 57, 58 and 59.  Dolphin 56 was estimated to be about 12 years old. He was weighed and measured and branded with the number “56”.

He was spotted over the years from Florida to New Jersey. He was very comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, with people. He became the most comprehensively tracked dolphins on the East Coast. A Facebook page was set up in 2009 to track his movement. People posted photos and video of their sightings.

Dolphin Dolphin 56 went missing around 2012, but people continue to look for him, just like people go to Alaska and to the the place where the phone once sat. The last reported sighting I found reported was that in July 2011 the dolphin was photographed off the coast of Wales – which I find incredible, and not very believable. I prefer to think he is headed back to Jersey waters now as the ocean warms up.


Mojave Phone Booth website  http://deuceofclubs.com/moj/mojave.htm

There is even a film that was made about it.  I “rented” it on Vimeo for $5.

Doc did a Kickstarter to get some bucks to write a book about his phone booth adventure.

 

I was listening to an episode of the Unretirement podcast that was on creativity which featured Richard Leider who has written a number of self-help books, including several about finding purpose in your life.

Richard Leider gave this formula:  G+P+V=P   Gifts + Passion + Values = Purpose

Gifts are those talents we have that we really care about. They are not just “what you’re good at” but also what you love to do. That leads right into the passion you feel for things or even a deep curiosity you have about something. Values have meaning besides the things you value and the values that guide your actions. It includes the environment where you live and work – a healthy environment, not just a physically healthy environment, but also an environment (such as in your home or workplace) where relationships are healthy.

Your purpose then becomes the reason for getting up in the morning.

Having written books with titles like The Power of Purpose and Life Reimagined, you might guess that in his talk on that particular podcast the topic might have focused on people who are at a point in their life where they’re asking, “What’s next?”

Chris Farrell’s podcast on “unretirement” comes from his own book on the topic, Unretirement. In it he describes the old idea of retirement as meaning withdrawal. He see that definition of stopping productive employment and minimizing their activities as a “short-lived historical anomaly” whose time has ended.

Farrell sees the boomer generation, poised to live longer in better health than any before, as the generation to go into unretirement―extending their working lives, often with new careers, entrepreneurial ventures, and volunteer service.

I am one of those people who is asking myself “What’s next?” but Chris Farrell’s past life reporting on personal finance and economics drives a lot of his unretirement ideas.

His book’s subtitle – How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life, and the podcast dwell too much for me with the financial impact of working longer.

He believes (and he’s not alone) that if you can work well into your 60s, even earning just a part-time income through a bridge job or contract work, you’ll make so much more in the course of a year than you could from saving. This is a financial picture of not having to tap your retirement nest egg during those years, maybe even adding to it, and waiting to claim Social Security until age 66 or 70.

Money and “work” in any traditional sense is not the purpose I see driving me for the remainder of my life.

For me, Richard Leider’s ideas of a life reimagined is concerned with a new phase of life that is not focused on money.

In one of his blog posts he talks about giving a friend the book A Year to Live by Stephen Levine. He wanted to encourage his friend to adopt a new outlook for his life. He wanted him to shift to “living with purpose” rather than “having a purpose.”  Stephen Levine‘s book also has a subtitle (as it seems all non-fiction books must these days): How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last.

Thankfully, I don’t only have a year to live as far as I know, but it is not too soon to be thinking about being better about fully living now before the end comes. In other words, live as if you had only one year left. Leider believes that the experience of living this way for just one day can inform and impact your own sense of purpose because living with purpose means choosing how we spend our time, choosing how we will use our most enjoyed “gifts” in order to create more joy and meaning for ourselves and others.

A formula like Gifts + Passion + Values = Purpose is a nice shorthand for a complicated sets of ideas and a big change in lifestyle. But there is no simple formula that works for everyone. It is simplified even more in a scene from City Slickers. (A comedy that I saw 24 years ago that has a few serious scenes that have stuck with me.) It’s all about finding that “one thing.” And that one thing is not something anyone else can tell you. You have to find it.

Annual cicada, Tibicen linnei

Annual cicada, Tibicen linnei

August is the sound of insects at night. When I am sitting outside I am assaulted by cicadas loudly announcing that it is mid-summer.

I wouldn’t call their sound a “song” and cicadas are pretty creepy looking. I came upon a dead one today when I opened the barbecue grill. (Take a look at this cicada molting for a quick sci-fi moment.) They have those large, wide apart eyes transparent, veined wings.

Cicadas are often colloquially called locusts, but they are unrelated to true locusts. In the second half of August,  you find their cast off shells around the garden.

And then there are the katydids.

You can hear some calling out “Katy did! Katy did!” in one part of the trees, and another answering “Katy didn’t, didn’t, didn’t!” from the opposite direction.   Listen to them.

katydid

Okay, I admit that I don’t really hear those words clearly in their song.  I have trouble with bird songs that are compared to human speech and seeing the “pictures” in constellations. It is a bit of a stretch, but good for the imagination.

True katydids (Pterophylla camellifolia) are relatives of grasshoppers and crickets. They grow over two inches long and are leaf-green in color. Katydids have oval-shaped wings with lots of veins which makes them look a lot like leaves. They spend most of their time at the tops of trees.

According to my nature calendar where I record buds, blooms, fruiting and other signs of seasonal change, the katydids usually show up right at the start of August. This year, the cicadas and katydids arrived a week early.

It is a folklore observation that says that autumn will arrive 90 days after the katydids start to sing.  That would make it the last week of October here in Paradelle.

You are much more likely to hear a katydid than see it.  And what are they singing about? Like many insects, they are singing for love. Or lust, I suppose, as the males are trying to attract a mate. This is their reproductive season (August through mid-October).

The males are high in the trees and females come to them. Katydids are poor flier, preferring to walk, and a male katydid may never leave the tree on which he was hatched.

Their song comes from rubbing their wings together (known scientifically as stridulating) and the other katydids are listening with tympanal membranes on their knees.

The song’s tempo is faster in hot weather and slower on a cool night. Their number diminish as we get into fall and that first hard frost will kill the remaining ones.

Katydids eat leaves of most deciduous trees and shrubs, and seem to like oaks best. But they don’t do any serious damage to the trees or shrubs, so we don’t bother spraying insecticides for them. Their enemies are the birds, bats, spiders, frogs, snakes, and other insect-eaters.

There are some folk stories about “what Katy did” but none I have read are very interesting. I prefer to think of them as a signal that summer is half over, and their song fades as summer fades.

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