12.29.2010

2010 Top Discoveries: Podcasts

Most of these actually were new in 2010. I'm a bit more up to date on the podcast scene than in other areas. Also, podcasts are a much newer concept (which you may read more about in my podcast sidebar if you are not familiar with them).

As you can see, it has been a very good year for podcasts and there is something here for practically everyone. Some of these have been featured on Forgotten Classics. Others will be featured in the future. 

The description comes from the podcasters themselves for the most part ... enjoy!

Spilled Milk - Matthew Amster-Burton and Molly Wizenberg combine food and comedy in a bowl and stir it up until it explodes. Join your jovial (possibly too jovial) hosts, Molly and Matthew, for recipes, cooking tips, winning lotto numbers, and catfights.

The Sporkful - The Sporkful is an award-winning podcast and blog about food, but not so much about cooking or recipes or restaurants. We discuss, debate, and obsess over the most ridiculous food-related minutiae, always seeking new and better ways to eat. Hosted by Dan Pashman and Mark Garrison, former co-workers at NPR, The Sporkful is where sacred cows get grilled.

Guys Can Read - A weekly podcast book discussion from a guy's perspective (two guys actually and the book talk is great).

The China History Podcast - Five millennia of Chinese history brought to you each week for your podcast listening pleasure.

A History of the World in 100 Objects - from the BBC (and unusually available in podcast form for all to enjoy).

History of Philosophy - Peter Adamson hosts a podcast covering the entire history of philosophy... without any gaps!

My Merry Christmas Podcast - The Merry Podcast is our audio edition of the best of MMC featuring one-of-a-kind programs exploring everything about Christmas with the help of the team from Merry Christmas Radio, our online radio station broadcasting Christmas year-round.

Chop Bard - The podcast dedicated to picking apart the works of William Shakespeare, scene by scene, offering a fresh and entertaining look at some old goods- it is the cure for boring Shakespeare.

Freakonomics Radio - Just like the books, Freakonomics Radio will explore “the hidden side of everything.” It will tell you things you always thought you knew but didn’t, and things you never thought you wanted to know, but do.

Movie Date from The Takeaway - Each week, Newsday film critic Rafer Guzman and Takeaway producer Kristen Meinzer get in a heated, but friendly debate about the movies.

99% Invisible - Trying to comprehend the 99% invisible activity that shapes the design of our world. (In the design category ...)

A Short History of Japan - A quick tour through the cool bits of Japanese history.

Catholic Stuff You Should Know - modeled after the popular podcast Stuff You Should Know, this podcast explains a wide range of topics ... everything from Stylites (standing on pillars in style) to Ethiopian Christianity to Bishop's Wear and beyond.

12.28.2010

2010 Top Discoveries: Books - Nonfiction

Again, these may not have been new this year, but they were new to me. Today more hold-em-in-your-hand books (including Kindle ... but NOT audiobooks).

(Any short summaries are from my GoodReads list where you may see everything I read in 2010, which I may have shared here earlier in the year ...)

Paul Among the People - Sarah Ruden
My review is here (loosely written but you get the idea).

Confections of a Closet Master Baker - Gesine Bullock-Prado
Sandra Bullock's sister finally couldn't take Hollywood any more after running her famous sister's production company for years. She turned to her true passion, baking, and has a wonderful voice in this book about her life as a baker. A thoroughly enjoyable book that holds up standards without judging everyone around her by them, which these days is increasingly rare in the food writing world. Also, this is one of the few baking books that I have read recently to excite my imagination and interest me in trying some of the recipes. I have baked for long enough and read so many baking books that such an achievement is rare indeed.

Finding Martha's Place -Martha Hawkins
My review is here and an early, personal reaction may be read here.

You Are What You See - Scott Nehring
 I was privileged to read the galley for this book by Scott Nehring. He opens people's eyes to the power of film as a cultural force and unlocks the "key" of story so that you really understand what you are watching (well, ok, I already watched that way ... but I still was riveted by this book). It is simply fantastic. You will never watch movies the same way again. Scott lays out movie structure in a way that helps any movie viewer understand and enjoy movies better.

The Habit of Being - Flannery O'Connor
I grew to love Flannery more and more while I read this compilation of her letters to friends. As well as the little bits of daily life that she shared, there was a steady revelation of the underlying thoughts behind her stories and the underlying Catholic worldview that she wrote from (and lived from).

I read more and more slowly as I grew close to the end of the book. Her early death seemed so tragic and I dreaded it. Yes, this seems melodramatic but it is how I felt. She was pragmatic, straight forward, brave, and funny. In her letters to her friends I learned a lot about writing, the Catholic faith, and living a full life under difficult circumstances. And when I read that her last letter was found scribbled by hand after her death, I cried. Not a lot, but there were real tears and emotion there. I must say that now, when I get to Heaven (fingers crossed), one of the people I hope to meet is Flannery O'Connor.

The Roots of the Faith - Mike Aquilina
My review is here.

Full of Grace - Judith Dupre
My review on Patheos is here.

Oh Holy Night - Mark C. Snow
My review is here.

12.27.2010

On Books and "Event Horizon"

Now I have wondered if there is a technical term for the time it takes a book to suck you into the story. Sometimes a book gets you going from the first pages and sometimes much more is required to be setup before you really enter the story. I wouldn’t say that a good book always grabs you from the beginning, but often this is true. I have also found enjoyable stories that took much more to setup, especially in Science Fiction where sometimes a lot of history in this universe must be explained first.

Now whether there is a technical term or not for this – I call it a books “Event Horizon”, this is where the escape velocity exceeds you’re wanting to leave the book. Once you have entered the Event Horizon you are sucked into the book and can not leave it. ...
The Curt Jester (known around here as Jeff Miller) shares some thoughts on reading which I enjoyed. Go see for yourself.

2010 Discoveries: Books - Fiction

These may not have been new this year, in fact I can practically guarantee many of them were not, but they were new to me. Naturally I had to share them with you! Today we'll look at fiction in actual, hold-em-in-your-hand books (including Kindle ... but NOT audiobooks).

(All summaries are from my GoodReads list where you may see everything I read in 2010,)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley
How did this author do it? A story about an 11-year-old detective that  is a unique blend of Sherlock Holmes, eccentric English country house  murder mystery, and Nancy Drew. And it works. Fascinating and wonderful.  I say that even though I pegged the murderer the first time there was  an appearance. The discovery of why and how and who was entirely  enjoyable despite that.

High Spirits - Robertson Davies
Can't remember where I saw this recommended but these are extremely  enjoyable humorous takes on the classic English "Christmas Eve" tellings  of subsequent experiences by the first Master of Massey College. Every  year he experiences either a ghostly visitation or some other  supernatural adventure which luckily happens in time for him to tell it  on Christmas Eve. Funny without being over the top. I will probably have  to investigate this author's other works after this.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simenson
My review is here.

The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Honestly, if I’d really known what it was about I’d never have been  interested but once I was engrossed in it I was glad to have read this  excellent book. Told by two different servants and one young woman who  doesn’t fit into the Jackson, Mississippi society because she didn’t  immediately get married and begin a family, this is a story of their  unexpected collaboration on a secret project that results in all of them  crossing lines that are not acknowledged aloud but which must be  crossed in order to truly know themselves. I raced through the last  fourth of it. Highly recommended. HIGHLY!

Vampire$ - John Steakley
My review is here.

Through the Wall - Cleveland Moffett
A noted detective is getting ready to go to Brazil for an important job.  He drops by Notre Dame where a young woman he never met says a few  sentences to him that leave him pale and canceling his trip. A young  woman, deeply in love, spurns her lover's marriage proposal because she  loves him too much. A international celebrity is found mysteriously  killed in a variation of the locked room mystery. All these events are  connected and are set in 1909 Paris, where the atmosphere is romantic  and mysterious and the art of detective investigation is very much to  the fore in the story. This was on a list from Michael Grost's list for Mystery Scene magazine of classic mysteries that you should read but probably haven't. Here is a piece  about this book which I believe was written in 1907. It is a locked  room mystery, which I normally do not like, but the way the author  slowly uncovers layers truth behind the mysterious situations is already  very apparent. It has the effect of a book of one cliff-hanger after  another and I am hooked. Final word: what a splendid plot and story  telling. Truly this is the story of a master detective pitted against a  master criminal, all wound around a tale of love and friendship. I got  this from the library but I'd bet it is available free at Project Gutenberg. I plan on  reading this on Forgotten Classics.

Carnacki, The Ghost-Finder - William Hope Hodgson
Whenever Carnacki finishes a tough case of tracking down the  supernatural he calls together his three friends to have dinner at their  London club and tells them the story. Sometimes he discovers the  supernatural, sometimes a hoax, and occasionally an intriguing mix of  the two. Thus we get seven fine ghost tales from William Hope Hodgson  who is better known for The House on the Border Land, which I have never  read, but surely shall someday. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I  picked up from Amazon for free and read on the Kindle. I would look at Project Gutenberg for it as a free public-domain book if you can't find it anywhere.

Trouble is My Business - Raymond Chandler
Having suffered through City of Dragons, I realized I'd never really  read any of the prototypical genre she was attempting to emulate. My  random selections of Raymond Chandler from the library yielded a book of  short stories and a novel. Beginning with this book of short stories, I  discovered that Chandler is an author I am enjoying. These pithy  stories are exactly what you would expect from the creator of Philip  Marlowe, except that they show the quintessential hard-boiled detective  from a developmental stage through many different stories. The last four  stories, so I'm told from the book blurb, have Philip Marlowe in them,  though I am not sure how he differs from the 'tecs I've read about thus  far (except in name). Great fun.

Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett
Yep.  I couldn't just try Chandler without also sampling the other great  master of hard-boiled mystery fiction, Dashiell Hammett. Again, my  random library selections yielded a novel and this short story  selection. It also has an interesting overview of Hammett's life in the  introduction. These stories contain hard boiled detectives but also,  surprisingly, twist ending stories from different points of view as  well. Hammett is a more varied writer than Chandler and I am always  amused whenever the main detective describes himself as short and stout  (which seems to happen frequently).

Till We Have Faces - C. S. Lewis
This is an intriguing retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche written in a way that puts me in mind of Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy. It was gripping in a way I didn't expect and which I find difficult to explain. This story works as plain storytelling, as myth, as truth underlying myth, as character study, as unbelievably delicately written prose, and as fantasy. In short, this book is not nearly as difficult to read as I'd heard, while on the other hand containing rich layers that lend to repeated readings. I definitely enjoyed seeing Lewis's echoes of what is familiar in myth but which also is a bit of truth about Christianity.

12.23.2010

Episode 145: Two Christmas Ghost Stories

In which we encounter spirits in the tradition of English Christmas ghost stories.
(Note: these are just as good at any time of year.) 
High Spirits
(download or listen via this link)
Book Information
  • This book is under copyright. Samples are read under the Fair Use Act.
  • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy High Spirits. You will enjoy the book much more than these mere samples.
  • Story rating: G for general ghostliness and good humor.
My Huffduffer Feed
(where you can easily download sample episodes of the podcast highlight or other various podcasts I want to share)

    12.20.2010

    Lagniappe 39: A Star Over Bethlehem

    A Star Over Bethlehem
    (listen or download from link above)
    In which we hear a profound Christmas story from an unexpected source -- Agatha Christie!

    Get the book here: A Star Over Bethlehem


    According to Webster
    la·gniappe \ˈlan-ˌyap, lan-ˈ\
    Function:
    noun
    Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added
    Date: 1844
    : a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase;
    broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure

    12.16.2010

    Episode 144: The Epic of Gilgamesh

    The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Deluge

    In which we hear a retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh
    and also consider myth and literature.
    Epic of Gilgamesh
    (download or listen via this link)
    Thanks to Rose for her retelling of this epic tale.
    Podcast Highlight
    Other Links
    My Huffduffer Feed
    (where you can easily download sample episodes of the podcast highlight or other various podcasts I want to share)

      For Everyone Who, Like Me, Wished Connie Willis's Editor Had Been More Diligent

      As the dedication in All Clear makes apparent, Willis' intent when writing these books was to celebrate and pay tribute to the ordinary people who sacrificed everything -- including their lives -- to help England endure through the harrowing war years. And she rises to the demands of honoring this history. One can only wish that she had given equal attention to the demands of fiction.
      SF Site's review of Blackout and All Clear makes me positive I was wise to not read All Clear after dragging myself through Blackout ... my comments about Blackout may be read here.

      To be fair, Amy H. Sturgis confirmed my decision much earlier.

      I guess I just appreciate a nice turn of phrase. And these two books are very frustrating because Willis has long been a favorite author of mine.

      12.07.2010

      Episode 143: Genesis, chapters 8-9


      In which Noah and family leave the ark and God promises rainbows.
      Genesis, chapters 8-9
      (download or listen via this link)
      Book Information
      • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
      • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
      • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
      • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
      Podcast Highlight
      Other Links
      My Huffduffer Feed
      (where you can easily download sample episodes of the podcast highlight or other various podcasts I want to share)

        12.06.2010

        Lagniappe 38: Velveeta

        Velveeta
        (listen or download from link above)
        In which we discover more than anyone ever wanted to know about Velveeta.
        Except me. I wanted to know.
        Get the book here: Better Than Homemade

        Want to try Salsa Mac 'N' Cheese? Here you go!

        According to Webster
        la·gniappe \ˈlan-ˌyap, lan-ˈ\
        Function:
        noun
        Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added
        Date: 1844
        : a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase;
        broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure

        11.30.2010

        Fifteen Novels in Fifteen Minutes

        I was tagged for this on Facebook (which I actually remembered to visit today), but it is too good to just leave there. Influenced is harder than "liked" ... but here we go ...

        The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. List, in no particular order) fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.
        1. Rumer Godden
        2. Agatha Christie (nonfiction)
        3. Harriett Beecher Stowe
        4. Robert Alter (his OT translations)
        5. Flannery O'Conner (The Habit of Being)
        6. Dean Koontz
        7. CS Lewis
        8. Shirley Jackson
        9. Samuel Shellabarger
        10. Fulton Sheen
        11. Francis Fernandez (author of the In Conversation with God series)
        12. Nathaniel Hawthorne
        13. Robert R. Chase
        14. Charlotte Bronte
        15. M.F.K. Fisher
        You're supposed to tag fifteen people but I decline that part. Not that I wouldn't like to see what Jesse Willis, Scott Danielson, Heather Ordover, Dr. Gemma, and Joseph (Zombie Parent)  would pick. I'm just sayin' ...

        11.26.2010

        Lagniappe 37: Grimm's Fairy Tales, 2

        In which we ask, "Who are these kids, anyway?
        Hansel and Gretel or Little Brother and Little Sister or Brother and Sister?"
        Either name it's the same story with a witch and without a gingerbread house.
        Joseph brings us something extra from the Brothers Grimm.


        Grimm's Fairy Tales, 2
        (listen or download from link above)

        Read by Joseph from Zombie Parent's Guide

        Get the book here: Grimm's Fairy Tales

        References:
        Resources:
          =================
          According to Webster
          la·gniappe  \ˈlan-ˌyap, lan-ˈ\
          Function: 
          noun
          Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added
          Date: 1844
          : a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase;
          broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure

          11.22.2010

          Episode 142: Genesis, chapters 5-7



          In which we encounter the "begots" and begin Noah's story.
          Genesis, chapters 5-7
          (download or listen via this link)
          Book Information
          • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
          • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
          • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
          • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
          Podcast Highlight
          Other Links

          You really should check out Ari's comments in the LibraryThing group

          I really enjoy his comments, especially in something like this list of books that have been tangentially mentioned on the podcast. He is, in turn, making me have a great appreciation for his turn of phrase and take on authors and books. Thank you Ari!

          11.16.2010

          Rose Has Edited a "Crash the Superbowl" Contest Entry.

          Rose sez:
          I edited a Doritos commercial that a producer friend of mine at Columbia shot. I think it's pretty good and right now it is submitted to the Crash the Superbowl online contest. The winner is played during the Superbowl! ...and wins a lot of money...

          So, having views betters our chances of making it to the final round.

          Once you skip the intro, the video will pop up.
          I watched this over Tom's shoulder this morning, only knowing that it was directed by a friend of Rose's who is attending Columbia. I liked it.

          Did Tom tell me Rose edited it? No.

          (sigh)

          Upon opening my email I saw the message above. Swing by and take a look.

          11.15.2010

          Episode 141: Genesis, chapters 3-4

          In which Adam and Eve give in to temptation and suffer the consequences.
          Genesis, chapters 3-4
          (download or listen via this link)
          Book Information
          • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
          • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
          • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
          • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
          Podcast Highlight
          Other Links

          11.06.2010

          Episode 140: Genesis, chapters 1-2

          In which we witness creation, from near and from afar.
          Genesis, chapters 1-2
          (download or listen via this link)
          Book Information
          • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
          • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
          • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
          • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
          Podcast Highlight
          Other Links

          10.27.2010

          Lagniappe 36: Grimm's Fairy Tales, 1

          In which we go on a wild goose chase with Grimm's Fairy Tales.

          Grimm's Fairy Tales, 1
          (listen or download from link above)

          Read by Joseph from Zombie Parent's Guide
          (I realized I mislabeled the episode on the file so it says L34 instead of L36 ...
          we will be flexible about this, right? Right!)


          Get the book here: Grimm's Fairy Tales

          References:
          =================
          According to Webster
          la·gniappe  \ˈlan-ˌyap, lan-ˈ\
          Function: 
          noun
          Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added
          Date: 1844
          : a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase;
          broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure

          Gulliver's Travels, Socratic Method, the Interwebs, and That Big "Light Bulb" Moment

          I have been interested for some time in the Ignatius Critical Editions series. This interest began when I read Uncle Tom's Cabin and then later was researched the book for reading it aloud here. I was intrigued by this description.
          The Ignatius Critical Editions represent a tradition-oriented alternative to popular textbook series such as the Norton Critical Editions or Oxford World Classics,  and are designed to concentrate on traditional readings of the Classics  of world literature. While many modern critical editions have succumbed  to the fads of modernism and postmodernism, this series will  concentrate on tradition-oriented criticism of these great works.
          I was not really sure what "tradition-oriented criticism" meant but I thought it would be interesting to  compare with the other materials I came across. [Turns out they are talking about traditional classical education style materials.] However, I wasn't sufficiently impelled me to pursue a copy at the time because there was so much material to cover for UTC.

          I never could shake the series from the back of my mind, however, and recently got the Ignatius edition of Gulliver's Travels because my interest was piqued upon having a discussion on an SFFaudio podcast where one of the participants claimed it was a celebration of existentialism. That was far  from my understanding of the book. Satire, yes. But existentialism? I  last read Gulliver's Travels when in high school (on my own though, with  no deeper understanding than that of enjoyment). This critical edition  with several essays and some excellent contextual information seemed  just the ticket for revisiting the book with a critical eye as to just  what Swift was really talking about. I also got the study guide which  looks very interesting at first glance.

          This has proven incredibly fruitful from the beginning .... and I admit that I am just getting started by perusing various essays and the study guide. Understanding the context in which Swift wrote is invaluable in having a proper perspective on whether we can trust Gulliver as a narrator. Additionally, without knowing about the real world events with which Swift was in heavy debate, we can't properly understand the four countries that Gulliver visits.

          However, it was when reading the Study Guide's introduction, Why a Great Books Study Guide?" that a big light bulb went on for me.
          This manner of learning is greatly facilitated when the reader also engages in a dialectic exchange—a live conversation (in person or now online)—with other readers of the same books, probing and discussing the great ideas contained in them and, one hopes, carrying them a few steps further. This method of learning is often referred to as the Socratic method, after the ancient Athenian philosopher Socrates, who initiated its use as a deliberate way to obtain understanding and wisdom through mutual inquiry and discussion. This same "questioning" method was used by Christ,* who often answered questions with other questions, parables, and stories that left the hearers wondering, questioning, and thinking. He already knew the answers, as Socrates often did. The goal was not merely indoctrination of the memory with information, facts, and knowledge, but mind- and life-changing understanding and wisdom.
          This may seem blindingly obvious to many but for me, as I said, it was a new idea in terms of my own participation. I suddenly realized that the internet and podcasts especially had plunged me head-first into mind-broadening inquiry through dialogue and considering other's questions or information. A few examples that sprang to mind:
          • Heather Ordover at CraftLit is the one who began it all for me with her thoughtful commentary on classics. Heather gives background, thematic information and more, and then plays a few chapters of the classic under discussion in each episode. She is a teacher who loves facilitating conversation with her many listeners. They in turn give plenty of feedback and raise thoughtful questions of their own. Thanks to Heather, I revisited the dreaded Scarlet Letter that high school had ruined for me ... and found it to be good. Very good. Right now, in going through A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain, Heather is raising significant points about satire and the necessity for readers' to remember that the protagonist is not the author and not necessarily trustworthy. These points are especially timely for me as they will weave into my reading of Gulliver's Travels, which is just such a story.
          • SFFaudio from Scott Danielson and Jesse Willis is a spot where I actively am engaged in Socratic method as I often participate in their "read alongs" where a few people connect via Skype to discuss a book that everyone read. Those who read science fiction know that more likely than not the good reads also are discussing larger issues. They are not afraid to delve deep into themes and how they resonate through life today. In fact, it was a discussion of Mindswap by Robert Sheckley that led me to pursue Gulliver's Travels and the existentialist claim. If that isn't an example of mind broadening, I don't know what is. Plus, their other episodes are just as likely to open larger vistas as they interview audiobook producers, narrators, authors, and anyone else of interest who comes their way.
          • ChopBard (the cure for boring Shakespeare) from Ehren Ziegler is a newer addition to my podcast listening but I now have a completely new way of thinking about Shakespeare, thanks to Ehren's enthusiasm and practical comments as we proceed act-by-act through these great plays. I have listened to Hamlet and am about halfway through Romeo and Juliet (the play he began the podcast with). First, Ehren provide the context and translation we need in modern times (warning: Romeo and Juliet deserves an R rating if you are reading it right). More importantly, he uses the works themselves to delve deep into people, motivations, and big issues of love, existence, happiness, and suchlike. This necessarily makes listeners ponder and respond, leading again to Socratic method in my own thinking about how this is communicated not only in these great works but in others I have read, and in my life itself.
          All this is by way of recommending that you sample the Ignatius Critical Editions, into which I am now digging with even greater enthusiasm. In fact, they have Macbeth available and ChopBard will be covering that after the next play (which will be The Tempest, beginning Oct. 27... hey, that's today! ... c'mon Ignatius, get me something on that play!). These books are the perfect gateway into enjoying classics, whether for the first time or rereading, and having at least one "light bulb" moment on the way.


          *I suppose we might also call this the rabbinical method as well as Christ was following that teaching method.

          10.25.2010

          Episode 139: Genesis, Note to Reader 4

          In which we consider old-school books and commentary.
          Very old school books. Very new commentary.
          Genesis, Note to the Reader 4
          (download or listen via this link)
          Book Information
          • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
          • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
          • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
          • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
          Podcast Highlight
          Other Links
          My Huffduffer feed

          10.15.2010

          Episode 138: Genesis, Note to the Reader 3

          In which we discuss sex three ways ... oh, yes, and Hebrew.
          Genesis, Note to the Reader 3
          (download or listen via this link)
          Book Information
          • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
          • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
          • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
          • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
          Podcast Highlight
          Other Links
          My Huffduffer feed

          10.07.2010

          Episode 137: Genesis, Note to the Reader 2


          In which Rebecca runs back AND forth AND back AND forth AND back AND forth.

          Genesis, Note to the Reader 2
          (download or listen via this link)

          Book Information
          • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
          • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
          • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
          • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
          Podcast Highlight
          Other Links
          My Huffduffer feed

          10.06.2010

          I, Cthulu

          Brilliance from Neil Gaiman for Lovecraft afficianados. Here's the beginning ...
          Cthulhu, they call me. Great Cthulhu.

          Nobody can pronounce it right.

          Are you writing this down? Every word? Good. Where shall I start -- mm?

          Very well, then. The beginning. Write this down, Whateley.

          I was spawned uncounted aeons ago, in the dark mists of Khhaa'yngnaiih (no, of course I don't know how to spell it. Write it as it sounds), of nameless nightmare parents, under a gibbous moon. It wasn't the moon of this planet, of course, it was a real moon. On some nights it filled over half the sky and as it rose you could watch the crimson blood drip and trickle down its bloated face, staining it red, until at its height it bathed the swamps and towers in a gory dead red light.

          Those were the days.
          Read it all here. Via Redecorating Middle-Earth in Early Lovecraft.

          9.30.2010

          Episode 136: Genesis, Note to the Reader 1

          In which we consider translation and Biblical Hebrew, imagery and literalism.

          Genesis, Note to the Reader 1
          (download or listen via this link)
          Book Information
          • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
          • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
          • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
          • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
          Podcast Highlight
          • FilmNerds: zombies series (UPDATE: except for the last episode in that series, Zombies and Religion which has some very inaccurate information about Catholicism in the beginning. Which, for me, put their comments about Islam in question as well. The last 10-15 minutes seemed solid as far as I could tell with my limited knowledge of Eastern religions.)
          Other Links
          My Huffduffer feed

          And Still More Book Reports

          Finishing catching up on the most interesting things I've read lately.
          • Better Than Homemade by Carolyn Wyman: Extremely enjoyable little essays about the origins of such American staples as Instant Breakfast, Minute Maid, Wonder Bread, Velveeta. A quick read that takes us down memory lane to a time when we weren't guilt-wracked over what we ate ... well, except to want it to be more nutritious or technologically modern. Oh, those were the days.

          • The Trials of Rumpole by John Mortimer: I haven't picked these up for years but vastly enjoyed revisiting John Mortimer's turn of phrase which so eloquently draws a portrait of Rumpole and his trials both in court and in personal life. I had forgotten until rereading these that there are always two to three plots in each story, no small feat. The main trail, office politics, and home life all have a linked theme and yet each can stand on its own, often in a humorous way. If you haven't ever read one of the Rumpole books, then do give them a try. You needn't read them in order, although there is character development from book to book of friends and coworkers (and even of villains defended, like the Timson family). Hannah is reading the Rumpole books for the first time and working her way through the entire series, so we know they hold up well no matter your age.

          • Hamlet - Arkangel audio performance: Inspired by Chop Bard podcast, I checked this out of the library and was blown away listening to this excellent audio version of the play. Between the two resources of the podcast and audio performance I was on the edge of my seat and truly loved this play. (Read Thomas L. MacDonald's review of Arkangel Shakespeare.)

          • Through the Wall by Cleveland Moffett: A noted detective is getting ready to go to Brazil for an important job. He drops by Notre Dame where a young woman he never met says a few sentences to him that leave him pale and canceling his trip. A young woman, deeply in love, spurns her lover's marriage proposal because she loves him too much. A international celebrity is found mysteriously killed in a variation of the locked room mystery. All these events are connected and are set in 1909 Paris, where the atmosphere is romantic and mysterious and the art of detective investigation is very much to the fore in the story. This was on a list from Michael Grost's list for Mystery Scene magazine of classic mysteries that you should read but probably haven't. Here is a piece about this book which I believe was written in 1907. It is a locked room mystery, which I normally do not like, but the way the author slowly uncovers layers truth behind the mysterious situations is already very apparent. It has the effect of a book of one cliff-hanger after another and I am hooked. Final word: what a splendid plot and story telling. Truly this is the story of a master detective pitted against a master criminal, all wound around a tale of love and friendship. I got this from the library but I'd bet it is available free at Project Gutenberg. I plan on  reading this on Forgotten Classics.

          • Carnacki: The Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson: Whenever Carnacki finishes a tough case of tracking down the supernatural he calls together his three friends to have dinner at their London club and tells them the story. Sometimes he discovers the supernatural, sometimes a hoax, and occasionally an intriguing mix of the two. Thus we get seven fine ghost tales from William Hope Hodgson who is better known for The House on the Border Land, which I have never read, but surely shall someday. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I picked up from Amazon for free and read on the Kindle. I would look at Project Gutenberg for it as a free public-domain book if you can't find it anywhere.

          9.29.2010

          Book Reports

          A bit about what I've been reading in the last month or two. Just highlighting the good stuff. (You can find all the books I've read this year ... and more ... at Goodreads which I like quite a bit for keeping track of such things).
          • Jane Eyre: Looking for some fiction, my eyes fell on Jane Eyre and I realized just how long it had been since I read it. You tend to remember the big events of a favorite book but rereading has reminded me of just how many small things get lost in memory. This book is truly delightfully and subtly written, for all the over-the-top elements it contains. And just how could I have forgotten the old gypsy? It was even more wonderful than I remembered. This has everything ... true love, sacrifice, redemption, steadfastness ... and that crazy cousin who Jane may have understood and admired but I certainly couldn't. Talk about giving me someone to hate. Oy veh! If you haven't read Jane Eyre for a while (or ever), just go get it.

          • One Door Away from Heaven by Dean Koontz: UFOs, aliens, an empathetic dog, a crippled girl, and a host of supporting characters overcoming past traumas to reach out to others all are combined by Dean Koontz in a book that is the most compelling statement I have ever seen made about the right to life, no matter what one's condition. As always with his novels, few things are what they seem.Two basic plots run parallel before their heroes find themselves coming together to fight off a very evil villain. "What is one door away from heaven," is a question that one character has asked another since her childhood. The answer, along with the overall theme of the book, is enough to make us all examine our lives more carefully ... and be thankful that Koontz's writing reflects his beliefs so honestly. A favorite for rereading and that's what I'm did ... reread it and it held up beautifully.

          • The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri #1) by Tarquin Hall: I learned about this series from Mystery Scene magazine. A judiciously quirky Indian detective (meaning realistic) and his operatives are highlighted, as well as his Mummy who sets out to solve a  mystery that her son does not take seriously. This was an enjoyable "cozy" sort of mystery, like a trip to India, and also somewhat frustrating as I have to look up many of the native words in the glossary in the back of the book. I understand if a word requires complex descriptions, as do some of the common terms. For example could not the author simply have used the native word for gardener and then put "gardener" in parentheses? Yes, I am just that lazy, or possibly there are just that many native words used in this book. Ultimately, this was a classic mystery in many ways and yet it still managed to fool me. Extremely well done and gave a bird's-eye view of India without needing tons of info-dumps. Highly recommended. (P.S. I am a big fan of his Mummy.)

          • The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing (Vish Puri, #2) by Tarquin Hall: I enjoyed the first in this series so much that I was delighted to find the second book had just come out. A few chapters in, there is the main mystery in which a professional skeptic who exposes fraudulent, famous gurus is apparently murdered by a manifestation of Kali, in full view of a group of friends. Then there is the sub-mystery which Vish Puri's Mummy is investigating and taking Vish's wife, Rumpi, along for the ride. I love the Punjabi characters and see that the author says that one could say Punjabis are the Texans of India. No wonder I like them! All the characterizations were very enjoyable as were the insights into Indian life. However, if the author is going to continually use native terms then they should all be included in the glossary. I don't have the first book available for comparison, but I feel that the glossary was much more complete than in this second book, where sometimes there would be a sentence with no translation following and which was not in the glossary either. Now, the argument can be made that there was context, and so there was, but one could make that argument for many of the terms that were in the glossary. I felt the main mystery was unnecessarily complicated. I understand that Vish Puri explores the big mysteries but this felt rushed and with too much crammed into it ... still recommended, I just didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first book. I will still look for the third book when it comes out though.

          • Sweet and Low by Emma Lathen: John Putnam Thatcher, Wall Street senior vice president at The Sloan (one of the largest banks in the world), has been named as a trustee on the Dreyer's Chocolate charitable board. Think "Hershey's" and you'll get a good idea of Dreyer's power and money. Early in the series of meetings, a cocoa buyer is found murdered in the hotel pool. Luckily Thatcher's long experience on Wall Street means he has a deep experience of that always-present commodity, human nature. Only Emma Lathen could make Wall Street riveting as happened in every one of her mysteries (yes, I know the author's name was a pseudonym for two cowriters ... don't care). Written with understated humor, these books are a joy to read and reread, which is what I did, being a big fan of the Lathen mysteries. It is too bad that so few people seem to have heard of Emma Lathen these days.

          9.28.2010

          Better Privacy: Find Those Cookies and Delete Them

          BetterPrivacy is a Firefox addon that is able to delete a special kind of cookies: Local Shared Objects in short LSO's which are placed on your computer by a Flash plugin.

          This has been a topic of interest to me ever since I heard Dan Carlin's podcast about the 4th amendment and the way we live today.

          What I especially liked was that his comments about the way to control tracking of our personal info (just ask them to let us edit it the way that Amazon does with our preferences) showed a high degree of common sense. His commentary was sparked by the article The Government Can Use GPS to Track Your Moves.  At the time he pointed out that no political leaders were speaking up on this ruling ... although it looks as if that is not the case now.
          The  Obama administration has urged a federal appeals court to allow the   government, without a court warrant, to affix GPS devices on suspects'   vehicles to track their every move.
          Read more at Wired
          Gee. I'd rather have them not speaking up than going for the Big Brother option.

          Anyway, that is what made me interested in the BetterPrivacy addon. I can keep the cookies I want, and dump those I don't. Most importantly, I can find them.

          9.27.2010

          So An Existentialist, Two Atheists, and a Catholic Walk Into a Podcast ...

          ... to talk about Mindswap at SFFaudio. Which I still think should have been called "Bodyswap." AND which I did not pick up on as being existentialist. No wonder the last third of the book made no sense whatsoever.

          Hey, I call it like I see it. But it did lead to some interesting conversation. Especially when we began discussing whether the universe has meaning and what is truth.

          Oh yes. Interesting as in "may you live in interesting times."

          And yet we could all have a drink together later. If we lived close enough to each other to do that, that is.

          9.26.2010

          Robert Alter

          This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.

          9.24.2010

          Episode 135: Night Drive by Will F. Jenkins (a.k.a. Murray Leinster)

          In which a young woman at night is faced with a life-or-death choice.

          EP 135: Night Drive
          (download or listen via this link)

          Rating: PG for suspense and possible werewolves

          Highlight:

          9.23.2010

          Star Trek? Zombies? There's a Book for That.

          Night of the Living Trekkies



          Book? I want that movie! (Rightly rated QB for Quasi-Silly But Awesome.)

          Via SFFaudio, where so many good things turn up first.

          9.16.2010

          Episode 134: The Riddle of the Sands, epilogue

          In which The Editor wraps it all up.

          (download or listen via this link)
          Book Information
          Podcast HighlightOther LinksMy Huffduffer feed

          Barry Hughart

          Bridge of Birds 
          (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox)