Monday, June 28, 2010

On Listening to Too Much Dan Carlin (03)

Another downward spiral in the suicide plunge that Hollywood took was the financial disaster that followed in the filming of such "franchises" as Battleship, Monopoly, Sorry! and Mouse Trap. Believing that "synergies" could be created by making a movie out of a bestseller in another genre, Hollywood could not "get it" that strong sales in one area might not translate to strong sales in another area. Silly things like story, character and the like got lost in the shuffle.

When franchise after franchise failed to live up (in a very spectacular fashion) to initial expectations, the studios imploded. Some closed their doors, some declared Chapter 11 and hoped to come back, some flew apart like an engine revving to the point beyond which centripetal forces took over.

One of these studios tried to reverse the trends of the stupefaction of cinema by filming "more intellectual" properties. While versions of the works of Shakespeare and Dickens did well, other properties did not. After several successes, which led to purchasing and financing more and more properties, which led to stretched purse strings, this studio too went under when it hired Terry Gilliam to make a movie of a property even he could not boil down into a cinematic bite: Douglas Hofstadter's award-winning Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

Even Gilliam could not film the impossible.
Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL (An Ongoing Series)

And now...with more cowbell!

An ongoing (occasional) series looking at what podcasts I've been listening to. I think this time through I'm going to break it into three parts: podcasts I listen to on a regular basis; podcasts that seem inactive; podcasts I've found that I have not gotten far into enough to have an opinion (in other words, downloading furiously, but haven't put them into the mix).

Active Listens:

365 Days of Astronomy: Now in its second batch of 365 Days! Short (10-15 minutes) shows that focus on a wide variety of astronomical subjects (news, background, history). If there is any downside to this year it is what seems to be a more than occasional focus on the 2012 B.S.

40K Radio: A long-running podcast for the Warhammer 40,000 series of games. Shot down recently due to the idiotic antics of one anonymous listener to threatened the hosts. Hopefully to be reborn?

Jon Armstrong and If You're Just Joining Us: Most of the episodes are interviews with an author or an editor, but some use as the basis an outside source, such as a audio essay on the "Amen" track and links to sampling, copyright and intellectual thought. Good stuff, good production and Jon Armstrong definitely has a "radio voice".

Binge History: An occasional (several times a year) entry on history, with subjects ranging from Trafalgar to the colonization of America to the Battle of Britain. Fits in nicely with some of the other history podcasts that have hooked me.

Robert Ashley's A Life Well Wasted: I almost put this in the inactive category, as it seems as if we have been waiting forever for episode six. The subject matter is gaming (usually electronic) and computers, but never mind that. Folks, this is one of the best-produced podcasts out there. Robert Ashley has managed to put out a show that rivals Radio Lab or Studio 360 or This American Life. Download and listen. You'll be astounded.

Babylon Podcast: A fairly regular (slowing down of late) podcast that deals with Babylon 5 (still one of my favorite shows). Interviews with cast and crew, "deep geeking" on themes or episodes. If you are at all interested in the show, you'll enjoy it. If you are interested in televised or filmed science fiction, give it a try (you may get hooked...and end up getting the show).

Balticon Podcast: A podcast that grows out of the annual convention. Posting picks up after each convention ends with a number of episodes derived from panels, interviews or even performances. Noted for appearances by rare interview subjects such as David Drake and Gene Wolfe.

Bat Segundo: As with If You're Just Joining Us and The Agony Column, a podcast that focuses on a wide variety of literary subjects. Interview subjects range from the author to the editor to the performing artist. Our young correspondent (as Bat Segundo refers to him) manages to ask some pretty good questions, it is clear, as with Rick Kleffel's excellent The Agony Column, he actually knows about the subjects he interviews. (Young correspondent? Bat Segundo? Listen and learn...)

Lars Brownworth's 12 Byzantine Rulers and Norman Centuries: Brownworth has written (including one book that is current perched on Mount Toberead) on the periods discussed in these two podcasts, the podcasts can be seen as both a way to promote the writings and to illuminate the periods in ways a book may not be able to do. Good production values in terms of sounds, no use of sound effects/enhancements (other than some music) and some dang fascinating stories about people that most of us probably have forgotten.

Luke Burrage's Science Fiction Book Review Podcast: Luke Burrage reads books and then reviews them, as he reads them. So you may get a couple of shows in the row, or wide gaps. Burrage is also a "performance artist" that travels a bit, so he may have sporadic access to de intertubez. My main complaint with the reviews is that they often seem very off-the-cuff, so he forgets names or plot points or wanders. He also does not seem to research the book or author much, so may miss an important part of the background of the author, etc. Lots of classic books covered (always a good think), thought-provoking when in focus.

Dan Carlin's Common Sense and Hardcore History: Recommended by a friend, and I've liked it so much I've tossed money at Carlin and bought back episodes. Common Sense is the political/news show and Carlin is neither fish nor fowl (left or right). Hardcore History is more a soundscape, Carlin focuses on periods or events. The period after the death of Alexander the Great as a mafia family feud? Listen and enjoy!

Stephen Euin Cobb's The Future and You: I keep downloading them, but to be honest, I haven't listened to the shows in a long time. It should be interesting...but the host rambles, is unfocused, and "ummmmss" and "ahhhsss" a lot during interviews. Some interview subjects are possibly friends or members of his family (so how does it qualify them as experts). Subject matter ranges wildly, from great to W.T.F.

The D6 Generation Podcast: Best multi-subject gaming podcast out there. "Rapid Fire" should not be listened to if you are drinking any sort of liquid or you may be subject to spraying.

Mike Duncan's The History of Rome: An examination of Rome, from its founding to downfall.

Len Edgerly's The Reading Edge Podcast: Edgerly talks about various eBook reader gadgets, software, offerings, etc. He also does a Kindle-related podcast, this is for "everyone else".

Shaun Farrell's Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing: Sort of teetering on the inactive list due to that devil to all "hobbies" and interests: Real Life (R). Shaun is dealing with a career change and the trials of parenting, so the pace of the show has slowed from its heyday. But the episodes that have managed to squeak out still shine. And you'll find very few other appearances by folks like David Weber or John Ringo out there.

Fear the Boot: A long-running game podcast that I've only started listening to. So far, so good.

Fringeworthy: A podcast dedicated to the classic SF-RPG from Tri-Tac Games.

Functional Nerds: Hosts John Anealio and Patrick Hester cover genre fiction, music and technology (especially Apple products). A series of interesting interviews have been tossed in as well. Still developing, still finding its theme, but a good listen so far.

The Geeklife Podcast: Still getting into this one. If it is "geeky", you'll find it here.

Guts 'n' Gears: A podcast dealing with the games of Privateer Press, primarily their steampunkish-fantasy miniatures game Warmachine. Wish they would get rid of the robo-voices that do the introductions and get a better audio feed. Some good game-related interviews, commentary, tricks and tips for the game.

George Hrab's Geological Podcast: Funny, irritating and a darned good musician. I'll put up with the constant jabs at various personal beliefs for somebody with the talent to do songs like "Brains Body Both" and "Far".

Rick Kleffel's The Agony Column: For me, the wellspring, the place that I started with for literary podcasts. Hours upon hours upon hours of excellent listening awaits you here. Not just science fiction or fantasy or mystery or mainstream or slipstream or politics, Kleffel ranges all around the landscape. And he does so in a way that shows he has read, researched and thought about the subjects he touches upon in the shows. The only problem with the show? I keep hearing about books I want to buy. The wallet cringes!

Chris Lackey's and Chad Fifer's H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast: Interviews with folks who study Lovecraft or the tales of Eich-Pee-El Himself. Worth it!

Mur Lafferty's I Should Be Writing (and other podcasts): Laffery has produced several podcasts on her own and has been involved with the Tor Books podcasts and (now) the Escape Pod podcasts. These run between personal essays on the craft of writing (trials, tribulations and triumphs) to interviews with various authors (poke around for the extended David Drake interview, worth it despite sound quality problems).

LibriVox: Buckets and buckets of bits. As Project Gutenberg and similar sites put up texts that are out of copyright, LibriVox puts up audio files of similar texts. Recording is done by volunteers, with a variety of equipment (and a variety of quality). YMMV, but there are some gems in dem dere hills.

Jim Mowatt's Historyzine: Only a few episodes into this, but it (as with others) talks about periods of history that other history-related podcasts have not covered. Mowatt also reviews different history podcasts each episode, which (naturally enough) leads one to make more downloads!

Nerdist: More geeky/nerd culture. Like Elvis, they are everywhere.

Nowhere in Mulberry: Cullltuure, dahlling. Pop culture. Man, these guys can ramble on.

PodCulture: More geeks on geekdom. Or is it nerds on nerdom?

Radiolab: I first got hooked on this show when it started showing up on the local NPR station. But airtimes bounce from slot to slot and you never know when you have a new episode or not. Luckily, there is an alternative: the Radiolab podcast, both episodes and shorter (podcast only) episodes. Great stuff, no matter what the subject.

Spider Robinson and Spider on the Web: SF author Spider Robinson puts out an occasional podcast dealing with his own fiction, thoughts on current events, music and his family.

The S-Words Podcast: More geeks! More nerds! More culture! More Elvis!

The Sci-Fi Guys: Reviews (written and audio) of SF/F books and the occasional interview. Somewhat inactive (de boys, dey are in school, see).

SFFaudio Podcast: Reviews of audiobooks, a podcast that ranges around the audio world, and links to either direct downloads of free audiobooks or books for sale. Hours of listening!

Studio 360: Another NPR production. Wide-ranging and always interesting.

This Week in Wargaming: Tottering (?) on the brink of inactivity. I first discovered this through The D6 Generation Podcast. Hopefully it will continue (even if not at the rate the name implies). Lots of good reviews and background on games I would like to buy (the wallet cringes).

The Tolkien Professor Podcast: Professor Corey Olsen (a tenured professor teaching fantasy, the mind boggles!) podcasts about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Some shows can be listened to independently, but most should be listened to after you read the various works of Tolkien. Audio quality varies, but is generally good (most episodes were done in the classroom, so you sometimes lose the voices of students who are participating).

Voices of Babylon: At first a series of dueling voicemails on the Babylon Podcast (above), then incorporated into that podcast, then a podcast on its own until one of the hosts became ill. Hopefully coming back (there have been a few brief postings recently).

Wil Wheaton's Radio Free Burrito: Multi-faceted one-man show Wil Wheaton talks about acting, ST:TNG, being a parent, being a husband, writing and more.

The Webcomic Beacon: Just started listening to this recently. About (doh) webcomics. Quality seems on the low-end in terms of audio and focus, but the day is young.

Writing Excuses: One of my favorites. Great podcast.

Inactive, Dang It:

Carpe GM: Several game-related episodes. The podcast seems to have died and only some (?) of the episodes can be found here. Some good stuff.

The Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas: No show in quite a while, so I'm putting this in the inactive list. The Ninjas cover science fiction and fantasy, alternating between movies or television and books.

Point to Point: "Historical simulations" or, if you are like me, wargames. Sadly, appears to be inactive.

Table Gamer Weekly: No new shows since April 2010, so I guess it is no longer "weekly"...

Tor Podcasts: Started with great fanfare a few months ago with audio versions of stories and a weekly podcast on a variety of subjects. Seems to have been "slowed" by management (see comment 15), which management seems to deny (see comment 30 onwards in the previous link).

No Maps For These Territories:

Ancient Rome Refocused: Just found it today. Seriously. Downloading now.

Armed with Science: Science as it relates to the military. Seems to be inactive since April 2010.

Astronomy Cast: A wide-ranging series of shows on astronomy. Usually three or so episodes seem to be related by theme (e.g., the structure of the solar system, or several historical figures).

Beam Me Up: SF/F related, news, reviews and even stories.

Cheap Astronomy: I've encountered the Cheap Astronomer in the 365 Days of Astronomy series (above), both last year and this year. Here he runs a cheap site, with cheap tricks and tips and a cheap podcast. Seriously, the entries in 365 Days have been excellent, which led me to this podcast.

Clarkesworld: Fiction that has appeared in the award-winning magazine, from authors ranging from Tobias S. Buckell to Jay Lake to Cat Rambo to Kij Johnson and beyond. Downloaded all to date, waiting for a long solo car trip to start digging into them.

The Command Line: Primarily a programming podcast (!), but talks on occasion about technology, genre fiction, etc.

CWF Gamecast: Seems somewhat inactive. Wide variety of subjects.

Dead Robots' Society: Genre related news, interviews, etc. Go to this link for downloads and previous episodes.

Dice Like Thunder: Another long-running game-related podcast. So many episodes, so little time...

The Dice Tower: New shows and the occasional reposted and/or updated archive episode. Best games, worst games, classic games, boardgames, card astounding variety.

Dragon Page: Massive, sprawling, throwing out arms like a squid from outer space. Frustrating in that many of the earlier shows seem to be missing. Downloaded all I could find, now to start tagging and listening!

Dr. Karl and the Naked Scientist: Science-related, a wide variety of subjects. Downside with this (and other BBC podcasts) is that episodes are taken down and I haven't found a archive yet.

Dungeon Crawlers Radio: Came across this due to some of the interview subjects.

Escape Pod: 246 episodes and counting. A wide range of science fiction stories from the Golden Age to today, narrated by a wide range of people. YMMV, but most are excellent. Related to this site is PseudoPod, horror stories and PodCastle, fantasy stories.

Forgotten Classics: Similar to Librivox and other public-domain sites. Each episode is usually one or more chapters of a book.

Game On with Cody and Jon: Cover a wide range of gaming subjects. Mentioned several times on a regular listen, The D6 Generation Podcast, so I've started downloading and will put it into the mix.

I've Been Diced: Few episodes and somewhat sporadic. Good variety of gaming subjects.

Jodcast: An astronomy-related podcast coming out of Jodrell Bank. Twice monthly, each episode is available in a number of recording qualities (file size).

Maria Lectrix: Religious-based podcasts, readings from history and historical texts. Somewhat sporadic (inactive?).

Meeples and Miniatures: Seems to be moving away from the podcasts to video and written reviews.

The Messy Game Room Podcast: History games, roleplaying games and more. Somewhat sporadic in frequency.

Myriad Games: Myriad is the game store mentioned in just about every episode of The D6 Generation Podcast (they also support the D6 Generation).

Napoleon 101: Somewhat inactive, covers the period of Napoleon's various rises and falls.

NYAS and Science and the City: Discussions on a wide variety of subjects, recorded at various places. Audio quality varies.

Outriders (or Pods and Blogs): Technology, geekdom and nerdom. As with other BBC podcasts, episodes have a short shelf life and I haven't found a archive yet.

Podhammer: From Down Under comes a show dedicated to Warhammer Fantasy.

Quirks and Quarks: A wide-ranging science-based podcast. Downloaded most of the episodes, now working it into the mix.

Roleplaying Public Radio: Spotted this when they did some episodes on games that I've played in the past. Subject matter seems to be mostly D&D, but they cover quite a few other games.

Sidebar: A comics-based podcast. Came across it as they interviewed one of my favorite genre artists.

Skeptoid: A podcast of "critical thinking".

Slacker Astronomy: Another podcaster that I first found in episodes of the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast.

Slice of Sci-Fi: Another massive SF/F related podcast with multiple linked shows. So many episodes, so little time!

StarShipSofa and Sofanauts: Two related sites, sort of a audio magazine for science fiction and fantasy. News, reviews and a lot of stories.

Sword and Laser: SF and Fantasy with interviews, reviews and more.

The Tabletop Battlefield: Audio and visual podcasts on a variety of gaming subjects.

THACO: Seems to have grown out of Fell Calls (above). Morphed from Iron Kingdoms specific to gaming general.

The Game's the Thing: RPG's, boardgames and more.

The Two Half-Squads: What a fascinating modern age we live in! A podcast that revolves around the venerable series of Squad Leader games!

WhatTheCast?: A podcast based around the DragonCon convention.

World's End Radio: Gaming podcast, primarily (exclusively?) Warhammer 40,000-based.

Zlurpcast: A podcast dedicated to one game in the Warhammer universe. Lo, signs and portents, signs of the end times are upon us!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Patrol with a Pad and Pencil

Part one of a five-part series from The New York Times on a combat artist in Iraq and Afghanistan. Excellent illustations and it is nice to see this MOS continuing in the era of digital cameras and instant communications.
Don't Know Nuthin' 'Bout Edication

Maybe it is listening to too much Dan Carlin of late, but I've been thinking about this for a while. How do we make education more interesting?

I've encountered a lot of wrong approaches, both in my own schooling and in the schooling of The Young Lady. Both she and I have suffered from changes in (for example) the math program every couple of years.

Then there is the idea of appreciation. How much of what you are exposed to is appreciated when you learn it? I had to read Moby Dick, David Copperfield and much more in middle school and high school. In general, I did not like what I had to read (I did read a lot in high school, about as fast and as much as I do these days!) and it is only now that I am coming back around to some of these books and seeing how good they are.

Should we defer such classics until we can appreciate them?

Are there subjects we should defer? You dash through history (the joke is that most people only learn about the Korean War or the Vietnam War in high school because of television shows such as M*A*S*H or Tour of Duty); I am getting more out of reading history these days than I did in school. Did school lay the foundation? Maybe, but I'm betting it was more a combination of "wargames" (or, if you prefer, the politically correct "conflict simulations") and being in the military.

Trends are a bad thing. I mentioned the swapping of math programs that both my daughter and I went through. I also went through trends in books where books of quality were swapped for books that were "cool" or "hip" to us youngsters. Does anybody these days still read I Never Promised You A Rose Garden? Death Be Not Proud? ...or any of those other "instant" relevant books?

No firm conclusions, but there has got to be a better way of doing things.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Space Review

Man, I am behind in my reading of The Space Review!

From the April 26, 2010 issue: G. Ryan Faith looks further at the new space plan (part 1 here). Taylor Dinerman looks at the return of the RLV soap opera. Mark V. Sykes also speculates on the new direction in the space program. And a look to the past with Eve Lichtgarn's review of a book from the dawn of the space age.

From the May 3, 2010 issue: Roger Handberg looks at the future of the ISS with the new direction in space. Daniel Handlin looks at commercial involvement in the new direction. Taylor Dinerman goes back to the Moon. A post-American Moon? And Jeff Foust looks at a book that was published at the right time (for the news cycle).

From the May 10, 2010 issue: Doris Hamill on the new direction (still waiting on a better roadmap, myself). Taylor Dinerman looks at the possibility of additional shuttle missions. Send up the Toybox! A first step?

From the May 17, 2010 issue: The final (?) mission of space shuttle Atlantis. Philip Stooke asks where are we going in space? Good question! Doris Hamill on technology push and pull. Finally, S. Alan Stern (always worth reading!) on the migration from public (government) efforts to private efforts.

From the May 24, 2010 issue: Zombies in space! Jeff Foust on (what was) the upcoming launch of Falcon IX and the test of the Dragon spacecraft (launch was yesterday, all looking good!). Thomas J. Frieling on Rocket Men by Craig Nelson. Glad to see I wasn't the only one who had some problems with the book. Finally, Jonathan Coppersmith looks at a recent conference on commercial space.

From the June 1, 2010 issue: Luckily, this article by S. Alan Stern did not come to pass. Read it anyway. Simon Vanden Bussche on Legos in Space. Actually, some dang good ideas that I've been saying for a long time. Jeff Foust on a commercial space conference in Chicago. Finally, James C. McLane III on Mars as the key to the future of NASA. Only if it ain't flag and footsteps, folks!

I'll try not to let so many issues pile up!

Wot? Another month?

Neil Gaiman, who charges high speaking fees out of sheer self-defence, was not best pleased to be used as a 'political football' after accepting $40,000 to talk at a Minnesota library. (Which needed to use up special funding that couldn't be spent on books or salaries.) The money all went to charity, but the Minneapolis Star Tribune decided this shock horror payment was front-page news. Neil: 'Nobody from the Star Tribune tried to contact me or my assistant or agent for any quotes on this, which I find a bit depressing, given that they have my email and phone number from dozens of previous interviews.' [BB] So it goes.

As Others See Us. Restoring the lost footage of Metropolis has also miraculously rescued it from the taint of sf: 'The cumulative result is a version of "Metropolis" whose tone and focus have been changed. "It's no longer a science-fiction film," said Martin Koerber, a German film archivist and historian who supervised the latest restoration and the earlier one in 2001. "The balance of the story has been given back. It's now a film that encompasses many genres, an epic about conflicts that are ages old. The science-fiction disguise is now very, very thin."' (New York Times, 4 May, sent by dozens of you) As Andy Sawyer wearily commented, 'That's apart from the futuristic setting, the dystopian cityscapes, the videophones, the vast machines and the robot, I guess.'

And much more amusing stuff! Worth reading, as always.