We laughed when Watson wrote “What is Toronto?” in final jeopardy last month, but we should have wept. Robots can do enough already – trivia is our thing! So let’s get it together and hit Watson where he’s weakest: we’ll take American cities for everything, Alex. From Coney Island to Greenpoint, Brooklyn stinks of history, and it’s our responsibility to get out there and smell it. Luckily, Brooklyn has tons of free resources for people who take their learning like their subway trips: cheap, efficient and victorious. Don’t just be in Brooklyn: become part of it by learning your neighborhood, and help us beat back the evil tide of the singularity.
Until computers learn how to use our mobile devices to melt brains, we have podcasts, and there are some great free ones out there for Brooklyn.
The Bowery Boys: Bowery Boys is the preeminent New York City history podcast. While it covers the whole city, there’s a lot to be gained from the podcast on Robert Moses, in addition to more obvious discussions on the development of Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island and the Green-Wood cemetery. The Bowery Boys website supplements the podcasts with images, links and additional discussion. Random fun fact we learned: the area called Bushwick today was once known as “Cripple Bush” due to the prevalence of craggy, impassable brush.
WNET’s The City Concealed: The City Concealed currently offers 16 video podcasts about under-appreciated and historically significant places across all five boroughs. Brooklyn episodes take viewers inside the Park Slope Armory, the Brooklyn Navy Yards, the Greenwood Cemetery and Newtown Creek. Fun fact we learned: The Park Slope Armory was in use by armed forces up until the Gulf War.
MuseumCast: The New York Transit Museum: MuseumCast offers a series of quick-hitting podcasts about New York’s most important stations, including Borough Hall and Atlantic Avenue. Did you know Atlantic Terminal was one of the first four stations in Brooklyn when it opened in 1904? We do now, thanks to MuseumCast.
Until the machines put tolls on our sidewalks (coming soon no doubt), the out of doors is totally free. so get out there, listen and learn!
The Brooklyn Historical Society: The BHS offers short, free audio supplements for two historically rich Brooklyn neighborhoods: Fort Greene/Clinton Hill and Park Slope. These are available on iTunes, and they offer some pretty incredible stories about the people, places, monuments and businesses which make these neighborhoods what they are. More audio tours are on the way. You can hear about the history of BAM — the oldest performing arts center in the country — or when Pratt was embroiled in controversy after being accused of subversive activities, with musical intros by Black Star, Mos Def, Erykah Badu and Biggie.
Broadcastr: Broadcastr (which just launched its free beta version this past week) lets users upload and listen to stories organized on a map (right now you can tune in to stories from comedian Michael Showalter describing different Brooklyn neighborhoods). The plan is for restaurant reviews, reflections on the Brooklyn Flea, advice on jogging routes and personal anecdotes to combine and offer a compelling — and ever-changing — picture of Brooklyn life. When the mobile apps become available, users can listen to audio stories (including oral history clips from BHS’s archive) from their GPS location, like, as Broadcastr calls it, “a museum tour of the entire world.”
Netflix doesn’t have a lot in the way of edifying Brooklyn documentaries available on instant, but they do have one very solid entry (forthcoming pun fully intended): The Brooklyn Bridge, directed by PBS favorite Ken Burns. Also, for trivia purposes it’s worth nothing that (in addition to Brooklyn bars) Netflix offers a number of iconic films set in Brooklyn available on instant, including: Dog Day Afternoon (1975); The Warriors (1979); 9 1/2 Weeks (1986); Do the Right Thing (1989); and Andrew Bujalski’s Mutual Appreciation (2005).
NOW, USE THAT BRAIN
And after you’ve amassed all possible knowledge about Brooklyn, you must then compete against other humans to find the one who will lead us in our fight against the machines. The Brooklyn Historical Society’s semi-regular “Trivial and Convivial” event, which next occurs on March 10. It has a $10 cover, but the competition is intense, all questions are Brooklyn-centric, and the prizes go beyond the standard $15 bar tab (including brewery tours, Brooklyn Brewery merchandise, neighborhood guides and more). Go, compete and find the One; but please, not this The One.