Friday, May 12, 2006

Back Link Audio Addict

I’ve lived in Germany for nearly twenty-five years now. Until DVDs were developed, my access to English speaking entertainment was very limited. I read English books; yet, this was a costly pastime, mercifully alleviated whenever my friend Karen or my mother sent me care packages. Other than this, everything I heard or saw was in German. For unfortunately, all films and television programs (this is just peripheral piece of information since I’ve don’t own a television) are synchronised.

When DVDs came about, it was like leading the camel to water: a camel that had been traipsing through a desert for the last 15 years or so. Boy, did I ever drink deeply! I bought, rented, borrowed, and bartered indiscriminately.

I truly love looking at films in their original language. English, French, Korean, Mandarin (even though I do not understand the latter languages at all) it doesn’t matter, I’ll watch it. It is a positively joyful experience to hear actors speak with their real voices. I remember reading an interview where an actor said that what makes a great actor is 80% his voice, 15% the silences, and 5% the body language.

With the occurrence of broadband Internet I have discovered a new addiction. One far less expensive than buying books or renting DVDs… Audio! Podcasts, radio programs, playlists, online radio, lectures, debates, panel discussions, etc.: they are all there at my fingertips and nearly always for free (shame on you Ricky Gervais and New York Times Select). Oh the bliss, an unlimited amount of wonderful things to listen to at any time of day, from any corner of the earth. It is just unbelievable. The reason I am mentioning this is because in the last days I have listened to some very interesting audio programs, which I would like to share with you.

Yesterday, for example, I was able to hear one of my favourite bloggers, Ory Okolloh, author of the Kenyan Pundit blog, participate in a panel discussion (here and here) at the We Media Conference in London.

The general theme of the discussion deals with the power of media in African countries, what voice do they have, what are they saying, are they being heard. (This is a very rough description). Usually I would expect a panel discussion’s format to follow the lines along the lines of statement/agreement/disagreement/questions-from-the-audience type of dance. This particular dance did not always flow smoothly. I wondered at times whether the persons on the panel were sitting in different rooms.

Yet, having said that, there were a few jewels of statements spoken. Most noticeably, I liked Ory Okolloh’s opinion about connectivity and how Kenyans cannot afford to be locked out of developments in the Internet. And then she (or another panel member, I am sorry this part went too fast) stated that just because extensive access to the Internet does not currently exist throughout most African countries, it still plays an exceedingly important roll in the lives of many people. For not everyone has to be hardwired into a network for the network to function. How true this is!

The night before, I listened to a debate between Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens about Blasphemy. The Culture Vulture blog announced it as one of the most talked-about events at last year's Guardian Hay Festival. Hard to resist, isn’t it? Exceedingly interesting stuff.

I marvel at the British peoples’ ability to talk straight, make wonderful erudite statements, be provocatively eloquent, and highly entertaining, as well grovel in a base need to demonstrate their blatant superiority, welcome confrontation, and show an unhealthy urge to humiliate or insult their opponent. Yet, I lost count of all the things they said which were truly brilliant.

Last weekend I addictively listened to the musician and conductor, Daniel Barenboim talks for the Reith Lectures series. Each of his lectures are held in different countries and thus, with audiences of different temperaments. Here is truly a man of elegance, grace, beauty, but also, very importantly, possessing clarity of perspective, courage of heart, and unrelenting ability to provoke thought.

Tonight, I listened to a presentation given by of Jim Whittaker, the first American to climb Mount Everest and the former CEO of REI. Mr. Whittaker talks about his life, as well as his views on environmental issues, running a successful business and the pursuit of his passion for mountain climbing.

(I found out about the Whittaker’s presentation, A Life on the Edge, on Guy Kawasaki blog, Signum sine tinnitu.)

Then there are numerous playlists that I listen to on iTunes. The one closest to my heart is radio déliro. Even though I have experimented with a few other playlists, I always return to this one. If anyone knows of a playlist of the same quality for Latin, jazz, or African music, please let me know.

A variation on playlists is a personalized playlist called LaunchCast. You set up a profile of the music you love (genres, composers, performers, etc.) and then this search engine automatically picks out music to match your profile. You can rate each of the songs it chooses while you are listening to it, so that theoretically, over a period of time, the program will make better and better choices.

Last, but most importantly, are podcasts. I would like to write a blog entry specifically to do with podcasts at a later point in time. Here is a list of some of my favourite podcasts: tartanpodcast, ritmo latino, woman’s hour choice, delta park project, digital planet, and various podcasts produced by the BBC, The Guardian Unlimited, and the New York Times.

All of these forms of audio entertainment are truly that: entertaining. Please click on a few of the links and give the programs a try, as well as share you own favourites as a comment to this blog entry.

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