The rest is silence

I was well into my morning before I remembered to do my morning pages, having already had breakfast and decided to watch an episode of Quantum Leap. (On Netflix, where there are a lot of odd gaps in the episodes available.)

But I did them, and then a page of short story this evening, which has so far been the pattern, even if that single page does still feel awfully hard-earned at times.

In between, I’m sure I did some things. Watched an episode of The Muppet Show, helped my father change a light bulb on the stairs, went for a long walk. On which I listened to a pair of Studio 360 podcasts. I was particularly moved by Meehan Crist’s story about the fragility and unreliability of memory. (Which I’d actually listened to last night on the train home.) There’s something both wonderful and frightening about the idea of memory as this continuous game of telephone, in which we don’t remember things so much as the memory of the memory of the memory.

This evening, I watched A Dangerous Method, which is an odd (if often very good) almost non-movie. It’s about the early days of psychoanalysis and the rift between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and the performances are great. Unsurprisingly, given the topic, it’s mostly just a lot of talking. The film is many things, but exciting is not close to being one of them. When it first came out, and I was still part of the behavioral sciences group at work, we joked about going to see it as a group. I’m kind of glad we didn’t, and not just for all the talk of sex and the occasional nudity. It would have been a weird movie to watch with my boss and co-workers. It was a weird enough movie to watch on my own.

Anyway, that was pretty much my day.

Podcast to the wind

I listen to podcasts. Sometimes I have thoughts about them.

It wouldn’t be fun unless we started on something of a downer: first, a terrific excerpt on This American Life from Mike Daisey’s one-man show about Apple and the factories in China, and then Radio Lab’s examination of evil, ending with the strange and awful story of Fritz Haber. It’s hard not to look twice at your electronics after hearing Daisey’s story — that is, if the news out of Foxconn, about the conditions there, hasn’t already), but Apple does at least seem to be taking some steps towards ensuring some basic human rights. Arguably not enough, but at least they’re doing something.

Anyway, on to more happy audio experiences. I really enjoyed Studio 360’s piece on music, Autotune, and distribution — specifically on how the problem isn’t recording tricks and artificiality in popular music. Recording is itself unnatural, and the tricks are nothing new, from the slap-back reverb of the 1950s to Phil Spector’s famed “wall of sound.”

Angelina Jolie also comes across as interesting and intelligent in her interview with Kurt Andersen, and I’m actually interested to see her new film set during the Bosnian war, despite some decidedly mixed reviews. It doesn’t hurt that I’m currently reading Téa Obrecht’s The Tiger’s Wife, which takes place in the aftermath of this (or at least a literally similar) war.

I didn’t, alas, win the listener challenge of writing a 420-character story. (Question: Is this actually a limit currently on Facebook? I don’t really post there.) But I enjoyed the stories that won, and I had a few minutes of fun writing mine:

There was nothing he could learn from the books he had not already learned from the old woman. She did not speak, or perhaps could not, but had revealed her secrets in gestures and glances, in subtle signs she traced in the dirt floor or across the cold, still surface of water from the well outside. No book, not even the gold-leafed pages that lined the magician’s shelves, could offer the boy that. And so he left.

I also continue to enjoy the reformatted Bullseye with Jesse Thorn (previously The Sound of Young America), which really does feel a lot more like a polished public radio show — even if I am pretty sure Jesse briefly called it “tublic radio.” Some of that might occasionally feel like pandering, or watering the show down to make it more palatable to a wider audience, but I like how the show can naturally segue from an interview with the cast of Downton Abbey to a (NSFW, lyrically) song by rapper E-40. The most recent episode has finally convinced me to check out My Brother, My Brother and Me, one of the other Maxfun podcasts. (I also enjoy Jordan Jesse Go! and Stop Podcasting Yourself.)

Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! is always fun, but I particularly enjoyed the story about how President Obama did not — repeat, did notteleport to Mars. This is weirdly disappointing.

The week in podcastery

I’ve been enjoying Alec Baldwin’s new podcast, Here’s the Thing, although I don’t think he rehabilitated Kris Kardashian Jenner‘s image quite as much as he seems to think in his latest offering. I have no doubt they’re genuine (if unlikely) friends, and Jenner doesn’t come across as one of the world’s most horrible people — which is probably the image her family’s reality television ubiquity most presents. But nor does she come across as particularly interesting or worthy of attention. At best, Baldwin convinced that, for all their faults, the Kardashians themselves are probably not pure evil. High praise indeed. His earlier interview Michael Douglas is a lot more interesting.

Jordan Jesse Go! took a page from Golden Girls with their 200th episode and offered up a clip show. This might be a good place to dive in if you’re new to the show, though keep in mind that the pair and their guests work a little bluer than Alec Baldwin. (Even this Alec Baldwin.) But they’re genuinely funny, and JJGo is easily one of my favorite guys-just-talking-about-stuff weekly podcasts. (Along with its Canadian counterpart, Stop Podcasting Yourself.)

Although I think I preferred Community‘s “clip show” better.

And finally, there’s Studio 360, which I genuinely enjoy, although I was deeply disappointed in host Kurt Andersen’s recent interview with Robert Levine about the Stop Online Piracy Act. I tried posting this as a comment at their site, but even logged in I ran into problems. Perhaps the post is closed to comments now that the show’s a week or two old, I don’t know. At any rate, I thought the rest of episode was quite good, but the one segment left a lot to be desired:

Let me just add my resounding disappointment with the piece. It’s not that Robert Levine (or even Studio 360) has a particular point of view on this contentious issue, much less one that’s antithetical to my own. It’s that no dissenting view is heard except in passing, to be dismissed as fear-mongering, exaggeration, and/or spurred by questionable and monetary motives.

Levine makes a reasoned argument in favor of copyright and anti-piracy legislation, but sweeps aside justifiable concerns that SOPA and its Senate counterpart are absolutely terrible tools in this regard. They will do little to protect the copyright of artists (or the corporations who ostensibly represent them) — who are already protected by a bevy of existing law such as DMCA. Rather, they will almost certainly open the doors to many of the “chilling effects” that Levine is so quick to dismiss. The language of the bill is vague and wide-sweeping and dangerous — not to pirates, but law-abiding businesses and users on the internet.

But, regardless of whether or not Levine — and Studio 360 — agrees with that argument, to present only one side of a thorny, ongoing public policy debate is, at best, an oversight and, at worst, irresponsible journalism. I expect more from Studio 360 and was therefore deeply disappointed.

In which my Sunday is spent mostly watching TV

I was going to join my weekly writing group, then go see Thor with them afterward, but our plans fell apart. Maybe next week. I spent the day mostly watching television, or at least it seems so in retrospect. I watched the last two episodes of Fringe — which was a lot of fun, if in the end a little disappointing — the latest episode of Doctor Who — which had its moments but…well, next week’s Neil Gaiman-penned episode looks really good — and a couple episodes of Supernatural and Misfits. Oh, and the most recent episode of How I Met Your Mother. I think that’s it. On paper, it sounds horribly unproductive, but it was a pleasant enough day off, lots of good weather all around. I went for a walk, and listened to the Selected Shorts reading of Dan Chaon’s “The Bees” — a haunting story that knocked the wind out of me even though I’d read it before. And I more or less finished the Sunday crossword.

So, maybe not the single most incredible or exciting Sunday — I’d have liked to have done more writing, more reading — but nevertheless enjoyable.

And a happy Mother’s Day, to mine and yours and all mothers.

Monday various