20 January, 2013

Favourite Sites: A Slew of Podcasts (I)

I'm a great fan of podcasts. Even before they were called podcasts there were a few radio shows who would put some of their weekly programs online. (BBC was one of the forerunners.) I'd like to write a series of posts with short descriptions of My 10 Favourite Podcasts*. Today's post will be about This I Believe and On Being.

Here goes:

This I Believe

"This I Believe is an international organization engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives."

Listening to This I Believe podcasts is a guarantee to make me feel grateful for the gift of the day. They are moving, thoughtful reflections by people both famous and not. They write about their personal beliefs and not just their opinions. Even if some of the authors write about core values very different to my own, their essays give me insight into how they live their lives.

This I Believe has been going since the 1950s, when it was a radio show hosted by Edward R. Murrow (one of my all time heroes). You can read the essays or hear them spoken. I love to hear the authors read their essays out loud. It lends a special dimension to their thoughts.

 On Being

I don't quite know where to begin singing the praises of On Being with Krista Tippett. Perhaps I should just start with two examples of marvelously interesting people conversing with Krista on her program:

A Wild Love for this World 
"Joanna Macy is a philosopher of ecology, a Buddhist scholar, and an exquisite translator of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. We take that poetry as a lens on her wisdom on spiritual life and its relevance for the political and ecological dramas of our time."

Words That Shimmer
"Elizabeth Alexander shares her sense of what poetry works in us — and in our children — and why it may become more relevant, not less so, in hard and complicated times."

It is possible to listen to the unedited and edited versions of the show. I nearly always start with the unedited version, then go onto the edited version, and then go to the site and look at the extra material. Crazy. I know. But the ideas shared are just that good!

In these times where everything is being whittled down into easily digestible bites, On Being is a pioneer in Slow Thoughtful Conversation. The program editors are masters in preparing savoury many-course meals for happy consumption.

If listening to podcasts is not one of your regular past times, I can only encourage you to give it a try. They are highly enjoyable, informative, contemplative and there are no commercials! Pure entertainment.

*As you may have noticed, the list includes public radio program podcasts. There are many excellent amateur** podcasts that are as good as the ones I mention.

For example, if you are interested in finding about news in the tech world, I'd venture to say the amateur podcasts are the places you should be going to.

**Amateur: not in the sense of lacking in quality or not being professional... rather... Amateur: filled with passion, zing, and commitment, but not under public radio contract.

18 January, 2013

Second Chances

There are safe harbours, instant successes, love at first sight, roller coaster rides, the Middle Way, the long tail, and the long road. You don't reach my age without having experienced nearly all of these phenomena. The one thing I don't think I've experienced is the Second Chance. That is until today.

Years and years ago, I wrote a three gaming scripts titled Talkshow Rivals, Sydney Soap, and London Live. (The forth, Atlanta Gold is just a rough sketch of a story.) The games are interactive soap operas: part video sequences, part mini games. There is a hellava lot (maybe 60%) of storytelling going, dispersed with gaming activity (40%). At the time I was trying to sell the script to a large Japanese publisher, video games consisted of 10% story and 90% game playing. (I'm being generous here!)

Still, it was a thrill to be given a chance to pitch my idea to their marketing and R&D departments. In the end, they turned down the scripts because they said production costs would be too high.

Their refusal made me put the work on the back shelf. Literally. I took all of the folders and stored them in one of our cupboards. There they stood for the last ten years.

Fast forward to today... an acquaintance of mine, who has known me from way back when, is going to introduce me to a new neighbour of hers. This said neighbour has worked in the gaming industry for many years. Can I be getting a second chance?

My goal... is to be able to sit down once again with someone in-the-know and have a serious talk about my vision of what gaming can be. I'd like to know whether my concept was just before it's time, or just way out of field.

Wish me luck.

13 January, 2013

Can't top that

One of my pet peeves is when an English word is introduced into the German language incorrectly. There are a lot of examples: handy for cell phone, walking for speed walking, mobbing for bullying... the list is long.
I went on a lovely long walk today and came across this sign at a bar. The bar was in the red light district. I wasn't so sure if it was an unembarrassed blatant advertisement for possible services from the women who live above the bar, but the price made me realise it was probably the price of a shot of cheap schnaps.   

07 January, 2013

Frozen Perfection

iced dome 
Returning to work today
After many days of living simply:
In the family, mostly indoors,
Occasionally in flights of fantasy.

Thanks to Lady Fi for allowing me to use her photo in this collage.

05 January, 2013

Favourite Sites: Letters of Note

You probably have to be of a certain age to even know what letter writing is all about. I'm in my mid-fifties and belong to one of the last generations of letter writers. We wrote party invitations, Valentine letters, thank you notes, pen pal letters, letters of complaint, letters of introduction, love letters, long epistles to dear friends living far away, and letters to family reminiscing good times long gone. Some of my closest relationships were formed and sustained almost solely through letter writing. It is/was considered an art form.

The website, Letter of Note, succeeds wonderfully in showing how delightful letter reading can be. Each letter opens a window of insight into the person's life, opinions, or history.

On the site's archive it is possible to browse through letters according to dates, categories, or author. If you prefer serendipity, there is a "random letter" generator on the right-hand sidebar.

I have subscribed to the blog for a few years now, so I've enjoyed whatever is published new. But, there are over 900 letters in the archive, so occasionally, I consciously seek out letter from some of my favourite persons. Here is a sample list:
  • Harper Lee describing touchingly how reading books was the only means she and other local children had during the Depression to discover worlds outside of their homes or village.   
  • David Bowie responding to his first fan mail from America
  • E.B. White patiently explaining the burden of having to answer fan mail
  • Frank Zappa appealing to his fans to rise up to action
  • Harold Pinter rendering whiplash upon someone of Little Brain
  • Spike Milligan doing the same...
Letters of Note also points you in the direction of other collections of letters. These two letters of Kurt Vonnegut inspired me to order his extraordinary collection. This letter written in 1824 by  Charles Lamb surprisingly illustrates how Man Colds have existed for centuries. The letter also made me remember the part Charles Lamb letters played in the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Delightfully, his letters are available for free at Google Play.

If you are a teacher, parent, grandparent, or just avid reader there is much wealth of knowledge to be discovered here.