How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts, and the literary world to hear their answers. This is drawn from a phone conversation last month with writer, director and actor Alex Karpovsky, best known as Ray on Girls.
I wake up to an alarm clock that has NPR on it. I feel that’s the first information I get, I don’t read it. I usually wake up around 8 or so, so that’s Morning Edition. Then at 9, it’s BBC World Service, so if I’ve had a late night, it will spill into BBC. If I’ve had a really late night it will spill into The Brian Lehrer Show, which I think starts at 10. When I do get out of bed after a few snoozes I go to the New York Times online. Actually, if I was really honest, my phone is on my nightstand, so before I do that will look at the phone to see if there are any emails or text messages that are new. I don’t look at news on my phone in bed, I just look at my email and my texts.
While I’m drinking my coffee, which is the first thing I do, I’m looking at New York Times, and I’m also going to Huffington Post, which I’m a big fan of, and—I’m from Boston—so I’ll go to the Boston Globe’s website, which is Boston.com. I will go to the sports section, because I’m a Boston sports fan across the board. I’ll read about the Patriots or Red Sox.
Then it’s time to work, which I do from my apartment. I’ll turn the WiFi off when I write. That’s very important to me. I write for about three hours usually from 10 to 1. At 1 is usually when I do my naughty reading, which is Facebook, Twitter, and like ESPN or something, all of the stuff I feel if I did before I started writing would somehow make me feel naughty and make me feel kind of like maybe my focus is somehow compromised. I’m sure I can get over it, but I just don’t do it. It’s not going to be an emergency if it’s on Facebook so it can wait.
I enjoy Ram Dass’s Twitter feed. I enjoy Eugene Mirman. Lena’s got a great Twitter presence. Nick Offerman. Reggie Watts. I’m interested in what they have to say. In regards to Ram Dass, I have a part of me that leans toward the East in regards to worldview and it's a nice way to balance out jokes. I have a soft spot for him and for Eckhart Tolle.
As for writers I follow, I’m a fan of Andy Borowitz. There’s Dan Shaughnessy at The Boston Globe, I’m sort of a fan of. Manohla Dargis at the New York Times, I’m a fan of hers. Those are probably the big ones for me.
When I’m on the subway, I have the New Yorker app. So it downloads some of the content to your phone so you can access it on the subway. That’s what I look at on the subway, and I use my phone for that. The magazines that I’m mostly a fan of are the New Yorker, the New York Times Sunday magazine, and I’m also a big fan of Wired magazine. I go to the Wired website a lot.
I have an iPad; when I got to bed at night sometimes I’ll read a magazine piece. Those are usually the last things I read in a day. I try not to read news at night. A) Because I’ve probably devoured it by now anyway and it’s not news anymore to me or B) it doesn’t help my sleep. I find it easier to get something that’s pseudo-narrative. It helps me fall asleep. There was that great article a week or two ago about a guy who was lost at sea, which put me asleep one or two nights. Not because it’s was bad. It’s what I like to read when I go to sleep.
I don’t read that many novels anymore. I’m kind of ashamed to say that. I read a really great novel called The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., which I actually read as a book, a physical hard copy book. That’s probably the last book that I read and I really really enjoyed it. Everyone on the show was saying how good it was, and I agreed. I’m glad I listened to them.
When we shoot Girls we start really early usually. We have to be there usually at 6 in the morning so we have to get up at 4:30 or 5, so there’s less leisurely time to explore the news and meander through the different stories. Things are kind of truncated at least in the morning. But when you do get to set there’s a lot of downtime and a lot of pockets where you are waiting for stuff to happen. I devour the same stuff, just a different time of day.
I wish I could listen to music when I write. I feel like it would be less lonely, but it always ends up distracting me. I sometimes end up listening to music when I’m biking to the subway or riding the subway. If I’m in a really good mood I would prefer to listen to music rather than read on the subway or to the subway, but often I’m not in a euphoric mood so I end up reading. So I guess the times when I do listen to music is when I drive—I have a car—or when I am riding the subway in an ecstatic mood. I’m on Spotify and a few friends of mine have made mixes and I just listen to those. But there’s an artist called Nite Jewel that I really like and I’ve been listening to a lot of her recently.
I’m a huge fan of Louie. I’m a huge fan of Veep. I like Parks and Rec a lot. Those are the ones that have been on my mind recently. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. I have a TV that can do WiFi so I watch most of them on my TV. They are all on my iTunes usually. So when I’m traveling—like tomorrow I’m going on a plane and I already have a bunch of stuff that I’ve been slowly prepping in the background. It’s going to be a 6 hour flight. So I have a bunch of stuff that I’m ready to watch. I never got around to watching Hello Ladies on HBO, so I’m very curious to see that. I’m hopelessly behind on Breaking Bad. I’m one of two people in the country who doesn’t know how it all ends. So I hope to make a little bit of progress on that one the plane. There’s Louie episodes that I’m very eager to see.
When I cook, I listen to NPR; when I drive, I often listen to NPR; and when I shower and shave, I listen to NPR. I’ve got a water-resistant portable radio in the bathroom. I consume quite a lot of NPR. Tons of programs. The Brian Lehrer Show, The Leonard Lopate Show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, This American Life with Ira Glass, Science Friday with Ira Flatow, Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! with Peter Sagal. Those are all shows that I really like and I’m sure there’s a lot I’m forgetting. I also really like Radiolab and I also really like that one called, what’s that one called? Sound—fuck, I can’t remember. It’s good.
This American Life I often listen as a podcast, Fresh Air I’ll listen as a podcast. Sometimes I’ll listen to 60 Minutes as a podcast. It’s actually highly listenable. You can enjoy it without the visuals. I sometimes just listen to Real Time with Bill Maher, and it’s totally fine. I’m also a huge fan of The Treatment, which is a show by Elvis Mitchell out in LA where he interviews people mostly in the movie industry. Marc Maron’s WTF podcast is really fun.
The only time I feel like I watch TV news is when I visit my parents’ house when they have like CNN or Fox News blasting off one of their TVs. No, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Wolf Blitzer’s face on the screen. I am a pretty devoted watcher of The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart at 11 p.m. every night. That’s part of my getting ready for bed ritual. I watch him and sometimes I’ll let it go to Colbert, I’m a huge fan of Stephen Colbert’s. I usually do watch those every night too. The only thing I watch live on my TV are those two things and professional sports.