Alistair CookeLovely piece from the BBC on Alistair Cooke, who would have turned 100 years old this week. As the story discusses, Cooke spent much of his life trying to understand and explain America to the rest of the world. This quote, as related here by his daughter, is particularly remarkable:
Perhaps in every period of affluence and self-indulgence, America needs a national crisis, a depression, a collapse of the money market, to throw up a benevolent leader - he had better be benevolent if the system is to hold - who mobilizes the best of America instead of the worst.
Remarkable, especially considering he said this in 1998, years before the rise of Barack Obama to the national stage. I doubt if many Americans even recognized its self-indulgence and the illusory nature of its affluence during the past few years, which have abruptly brought us to the crisis we're in right now. (And I certainly hope and trust that Obama is just such a benevolent leader.) Seems like Cooke knew us better than we know ourselves.
Robert Olen Butler in Verb
Here's a nice audio piece...Robert Olen Butler reading from his unpublished novel Alvin's Wild Ride, on the podcast of Verb: An Audioquarterly (9MB mp3, 9:37). A teenaged boy exploits the soon-to-arrive nuclear holocaust to get in the knickers of a girl he'd never have a chance with otherwise, in an oddly poignant way, and utters probably the most oddly inappropriate anatomical description I've ever read.
...and I look at the secret place on her body, and it is as pretty as her face. It is the pink of my mother's azaleas and it is pouting like a spoiled child...
Verb looks intriguing, and sounds like it's extremely well-produced, though at $19.99 a pop it's probably out of my price range--the esteemed likes of Butler, Stuart Dybek, Ha Jin, Ed Falco, George Singleton and Peter Case notwithstanding.
(Via Emerging Writers Network.)
"Archie Domino's Ex-Trainer"
Quirky Nomads has graciously podcasted my audio short story, "Archie Domino's Ex-Trainer", again read by yours truly. (The file is a 9MB mp3; my story is the second segment, starting around 4:25.) This was another "three-item story" which had to incorporate a stool, an ex- (ex-wife, etc.), and the closing line "And that’s why I had to pour the melted snow on my head." This was a fun one to both write and produce--though I abhor the violence of boxing, I still find myself strangely fascinated by the sport.
Booga Talk, Episode 4
Another week, another rambling discussion about books: what we're reading now (still Like a Fiery Elephant [which I just finished yesterday: excellent book] and Time's Eye), what we're reading next (me: Daniel Clowes' Ice Haven and Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie; Julie: Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), where we buy books, and some of our earliest reading memories.
Booga Talk Revamps
My wife and I have revamped our podcast, Booga Talk. Gone are the meandering, barely-informed critiques of Ann Coulter, musings on Quizno's and mocking of local TV weathermen. Arriving is some semblance of structured discourse; since we're both obsessive readers, we've decided talk about literature--what we're reading now, what we're reading next, what we've acquired recently that we might get around to reading sometime next year. Of course it's still meandering (no scripts for us, ever!) but hopefully a more focused form of meandering.
Check out Episode 3. B.S. Johnson, Arthur C. Clarke, the Backyardigans, my baffling continued failure to read Atonement...it's all there.
Booga Talk, Episode 2
Episode 2 of Booga Talk--the podcast which convincingly answers the question, "What happens if you record an over-tired married couple's attempt at topical witty banter?"--is now ripe for the plucking. My apologies in advance to Michael Schaub, Kinky Friedman, Willie Nelson and every other rational, levelheaded, compassionate, non-fratboy-voting Texan.
Somehow Julie and I got this crazy idea in our heads that our late-night, bleary-eyed, drifting-off-to-sleep conversations would be enjoyable not just for ourselves to hear, but also for the rest of the world. Whether that's actually the case remains to be seen.
Introducing: Booga Talk.
Long story short, we bought an iRiver MP3 recorder/player, pressed "record" and had one of our mildly amusing chats, with the results refined into finished product via Julie's podcast-editing talents. The first episode covers Ann Coulter, Christian-devouring lions, Brant Miller's thunderstorm survival techniques, and Quizno's, along with musical selections from D+ and Beat Happening.
We enjoyed doing this, and hope you enjoy it as well. We'll keep recording episodes as long as it still amuses us.
"Through the Window of Maury's Uptown Diner"
Quirky Nomads has graciously podcasted my audio short story, "Through the Window of Maury's Uptown Diner," narrated by yours truly. The story had to begin with "There are two things I can't stand," had to be based on this photo, and be no more than three minutes long. There are two more stories on the podcast that are quite good and worth your listen as well. I really enjoyed doing this, and I'm very pleased with the results--it kind of makes me feel like I'm on "This American Life."
Special thanks to QN proprietress Sage, both for running my story and adding the background sound. I was thinking of doing the latter myself to help set the scene of two people sitting in a diner, but it was beyond my technical capabilities--and though Julie could easily have done it for me, she was out of town during the weekend that I recorded the piece.
The Kindness of Strangers and...
Today's Quirky Nomads podcast includes my retelling of an old anecdote about "the kindness of strangers and the non-kindness of strangers." (Listen here.) The incident really happened, and taught me a few things about the world.