an Internet dream


Forget YouTube. Forget Wikipedia.

All you ever need to know about the world, you can find… Forget YouTube. Forget Wikipedia.

All you ever need to know about the world, you can find on one website. And no, it’s not

Facebook. It’s

Most times, I’ll admit, I have a love-hate relationship with the Internet. Like every other person on the planet, I rely on it in order to function on a daily basis, but about 85 percent of its content I could do without – 80 percent of that being porn. And don’t even get me started on those so-called social networking sites.

But it’s here to stay, for better or for worse, and NPR certainly makes up its better portion. The website has brought me many a satisfactory morsel reading and hearing the news of the world – that world being political, cultural, musical, literary, scientific and even obscure.

There are lots of reasons why you should be paying attention to NPR, no matter who you are. Because of space and attention-span restrictions, however, I’m only going to discuss three.

1. It provides the best access to music on the Internet, period – for free.

NPR Music has guiltlessly perpetuated more than one obsession I’ve had with a musician. Not only can you find selections from the entire Wainwright family – Loudon III, Rufus and Martha – but you can listen to The Duhks play one of the most interesting and invigorating covers of “Whole Lotta Love” I’ve ever heard. Oh, and speaking of Robert Plant, his new collaboration with Alison Krauss? On there, too.

The site recently launched its own all-music-all-the-time website, and it’s pretty much the best time waster ever, precisely because you’re not really wasting your time. You can listen to live performances or sample songs, stream live concerts and hear interviews of every indie act that has existed since the beginning of time. There are highlights of classic orchestral performances, news on international artists, informative historical looks on classic jazz legends, anything and everything else – and the best part is, there is no mention of Fall Out Boy. Ever.

2. Blogs.

I’m not a blogger. I’m not a blog reader.

But John Ridley’s blog “Visible Man” is the most insightful commentary on modern life available on a medium where any schmuck like Perez Hilton can post his idiotic musings. Yes, Ridley’s title is a reference to Ralph Ellison’s seminal work, and it is precisely his thoughts on the black community, a community to which I have no intuitive inclination, that I find to be most interesting. His short piece on Green Bay Packers’ receiver Donald Driver is particularly heartfelt, and he is currently detailing the Writers’ Guild strike with qualified astuteness.

3. It informs those who consider themselves to already be informed.

Nothing – really, nothing – is out of the scope of NPR’s news coverage. For instance, on its main page, one can regularly find stories about international politics, quirky histories, the latest in literary feats, awesome scientific findings and law professors who sing parodies of famous songs in their “Contracts” class.

It was on NPR where I first learned about the Virginia Tech shootings last year, and where I read about that crazy astronaut lady who drove from Texas to Florida wearing diapers. It was NPR that reminded me that Oct. 4 was the 50th anniversary of the launching of Sputnik, an event that those of us in college don’t hold in the proper historical perspective – mainly because we weren’t alive then.

And it was NPR that gave me access to an expectedly funny but surprisingly illuminating interview with the man who wrote a song about the Spanish Inquisition and turned Frankenstein into a song and dance routine with Peter Boyle. That man, of course, being Mel Brooks.

So, yeah, I’ll read The New Yorker every once in a while, just to feel like I’m keeping up on my high culture, and because it’s nice to know that at the supposed peak of my learning curve, I can still be made to feel incredibly dumb.

But I can’t go too long without feeding my NPR addiction. It’s smart commentary for people pretentious enough to consider themselves to be in such company – read Meghan Daum’s “Carpet is Mungers” to fully understand that reference – but plain and simple, it’s flat out the most interesting thing on the web right now.

So navigate yourself away from Facebook long enough to check it out … because that guy you knew for three months in middle school isn’t going to change his relationship status within the time it takes you to read about the Mesozoic cow they found in the Sahara Desert. Seriously.

Check it out. Then e-mail Colleen at [email protected].