Suggestions For Positive Intellectual Input, Please?
June 19, 2013 12:28 AM   Subscribe

I need to go on a SEVERE media diet, but I crave media that is intellectually stimulating. On TV, I limit myself to culinary and travel shows, a form of "Mind Sorbet," if you will. I also like to think. I want podcasts, downloadable lectures, and websites that promote a positive, and even spiritual (but not religious!) outlook for today and the future. I want resources that are not selling me anything, per se. I'm OK paying for legitimate content! People have to make a living - I get that! I just want to avoid copious "up sell" sales techniques. Can you suggest anything online I might enjoy?

Back in the day, I worked in tabloid tv. I went to culinary school because I *literally* wanted to stop feeding people shit for a living.

The last time I went on a "media diet," I downloaded a bunch of talks and interviews from the likes of Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer. This was not because I'm about what they were into, but because there was an aspect of self-reflection and ultimate positivity to what they were discussing. But they are pretty commercial at this point, they were such at the time, and I can't justify going back to that type of content. I rarely paid for it (kazaa, limewire) and I don't want to be a cheat this time around.

I'm about to quit a few paid subscriber podcasts I've previously enjoyed because they talk too much lately about topics with a cavalier slant on governmental policies and technology issues that I find disturbing (I'm looking at you Mysterious Universe) even though 80% of their content is otherwise fluffy or thought provoking in a good way. I don't have the emotional energy right now to filter out the "scary."

I don't want to contemplate the dire consequences of all that is, or has, gone wrong in the world stage right now. I already get my puppies and kittens head-space from occasionally watching food shows on TV. At the same time, I don't want my brain to shrivel up and stop seeking new ideas to contemplate. I DO want to start focusing on solutions and people/things that are making positive strides, or promoting such.

I hope this request is not too difficult with the vast amount of media resources that exist, and that folks here can point me towards new media alternatives that can help me source positive inputs.

Thank you.
posted by jbenben to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
LongNow's seminars about long term thinking are worth a try.
posted by eotvos at 1:02 AM on June 19, 2013

I would suggest you get or activate a library card. At my library there are tons of audio books, ebooks, book books, DVDs, music, etc, Using them kind of requires I peruse content and choose, which helps versus other media in that I'm choosing instead of opening a channel and clicking through set topics or literately in the case of TV just sitting myself in front of an ongoing stream.

Find a good youtube channel that covers your topics well, then look at all the recommended channels and videos. Subscribing to some RSS feeds and subscriptions can help one to stay focused but you have to decide something like "I can not start jumping on everything linked to, cause links lead to more links leads to the huge world of things only tangentially related to where I started.

My current youtube channel for intellectual stimulation is chadafrican, not the stuff where he plays his guitar but his dissertations/explorations of thinkers like Jaques Lacan, Immanuel Kant, Michel Focault, etc. On a lot of topics like Lacan my comprehension is developing pretty slowly.
posted by logonym at 1:13 AM on June 19, 2013

Late Night Live
posted by flabdablet at 1:25 AM on June 19, 2013

I think that Aisha Tyler's podcast, Girl on Guy, is really fantastic. Anything NPR is great, and stuff like Radiolab is definitely a "Mind Sorbet." Good luck with your diet :)
posted by Strass at 1:31 AM on June 19, 2013

How about minute physics - would that help?

Give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down, and based on that I will try to think of more.
posted by tel3path at 2:40 AM on June 19, 2013

You might take a look at the offerings from The Great Courses, and in particular the Neil deGrasse Tyson lectures, "My Favorite Universe." Smart takes on a big topic, no up-sell. TGC often runs sales and there are coupons floating around out there for free shipping.

I see that they offer lecture series on "Practicing Mindfulness" and "The Spiritual Brain" in the "Better Living" category.

I DO want to start focusing on solutions and people/things that are making positive strides, or promoting such.

From the Christian Science Monitor: People Making a Difference.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:28 AM on June 19, 2013

> I DO want to start focusing on solutions and people/things that are making positive strides, or promoting such.

Positive News is usually good for this, for me.

For brain food, I've had good luck with pulling some things from iTunesU. There's one on the science of cooking, partly hosted by Harold McGee, that I'm working my way through right now that you might like. I've got the science but not the culinary background, I think it would also be entertaining with the opposite skill set. It's definitely deeper than anything I've seen on Food Network.

Neil Degrasse Tyson was mentioned upthread, he also has a podcast (Star Talk Radio) that I enjoy which is pretty light but still worthwhile feeling.

Your local library will probably also have tapes/CDs from the Teaching Company's Great Courses series. The quality I've encountered in those is much higher than the average iTunesU class. I haven't listened to any of the more philosophical ones, but I've listened to a bunch on music (I'd highly recommend any by Robert Greenberg), and a few on literature, and have found them all really interesting and thought provoking, and not at all a downer.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:31 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by General Tonic at 6:57 AM on June 19, 2013

Check out any libraries in your area. Libraries can be such overlooked treasures. Chances are they have great print, digital and multimedia resources. Your library might have I discovered the aforementioned TTC Great Courses series through there. I even bought a few courses when the library had their annual sale. I highly recommend TTC Great Courses. Modern Scholar is a very similar product line to the Great Courses.

Dalton Kehoe's Effective Communication Skills (TTC) is a great place to start as I think anything related to language is apt for cross-pollinating in any field or general self-improvement. Subscribe to A.Word.A.Day for free. Improve your diction through books by Eugene Ehrlich or learning etymology. I recently started re-learning the basics of Spanish through Duolingo; it is a free and motivating system for a subject that can be intimidating. Definitely give it a try if you wish to start learning a new language.

iTunes U is great and free. I recommend John Merriman, historian of French and European history. He is a great lecturer and fairly witty. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a passionate educator but Star Talk Radio has devolved into filler and starfucking (not the celestial variety). Don't miss his books or lecture series, however. I love Project Gutenberg, which can be very convenient if you have an e-reader or don't mind reading long texts off a computer screen. LibriVox is the auditory equivalent; free and perfect for a mp3 player when jogging or just relaxing. An Audible subscription might be worth the price if you are a listener of audiobooks.

Also, just keep an eye out for any events in your area such as university lectures, art classes or workshops, etc. which are open to the public. Good luck.
posted by samuelcramer at 8:22 AM on June 19, 2013

I really like Thinking Allowed, which you can download as a podcast from BBC Radio 4 for free. It's a sociology show in which two areas are discussed each week, often with researchers working in that field.

In Our Time is often suggested as a good intellectual podcast, but it gets very in-depth, and I prefer the lighter focus of Thinking Allowed if I want to do other things at the same time.
posted by mippy at 9:41 AM on June 19, 2013

I really enjoyed 20 Pieces of Music that Changed the World, and The History of the World in 100 Objects.

For an ongoing podcasts, Roman Mars' 99% Invisible is a lovely look at forward thinking on design.

I also can't recommend Steven Tobolowsky's podcast enough. Start at the beginning and work your way through. Just a fantastic perspective on life and show business and what it all means. (here's a link, but it's flashy and upselly and everything you don't want, so you may want to get the files from itunes or other source).
posted by Mchelly at 10:53 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't discount the value of fiction for intellectual/cognitive growth!
Came across this article today: "Reading Novels Makes us Better Thinkers."
posted by Schielisque at 3:04 PM on June 19, 2013

on being with krista tippet might be something you would enjoy. it's primarily radio (so podcasts) and it's programming is about all sorts of spiritual & religious subjects.
posted by wildflower at 12:46 AM on June 20, 2013

a couple more:

spirituality and practice: it focuses on spiritual practices like gratitude, imagination, listening, etc.
spiritual experiences and spirituality: this is a site where people can post their stories about spiritual experiences like near death experiences, inner awakenings,etc. you can also filter what type of spiritual experiences you want to read about by categories.
posted by wildflower at 1:05 AM on June 20, 2013

Response by poster: WOW! Thanks everybody!

I'll be busy exploring these recommendations for weeks.

Please keep the suggestions coming, I'll be checking this thread. It contains the diversity I've been craving:)
posted by jbenben at 2:37 AM on June 20, 2013

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