Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Namaste Stories - podcast as an art

I find it fascinating to analyze what make good podcasts work and more and more I come to the conclusion it is an art. As the brothers Shepherd from the Word Nerds already pointed out, this might well be part of the art form of story telling. For history podcasts, my main focus, this certainly is the case. Expanding upon that, the true expression of the art should be found in the fictional podcast, the oral narrative per se. The best example I know in that respect is Namaste Stories.

A wonderful example is given in the latest issue Episode #31 "A girl has to do what she has to do". This is a 13 minute tale which stands independently in the string of tales provided by host, narrator and writer Dave P. It can be enjoyed repeatedly. One is bound to find, as I did, new angles in the story, with each new session. However, the story also works in the first instant.

It would be too much of a spoiler to give anything away from the tale, but let me say this much. The perspective of the story is the teacher who finds a girl in his class that he is attracted to. What triggers the attraction? Something purely sensual? Or perhaps some echo of the past? Could the attraction be mutual and if so, how good is that? And so, with what possible intention could it be that the girl is approaching him now? Listen and find out.

Earlier about Namaste Stories.
Namaste Stories - fiction podcast review.

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Sophie Germain - עושים היסטוריה עם רן לוי

The composition of the narrative, is what makes for the strongest history podcast. Dan Carlin does this very well in English, Tom Tacken is the genius in Dutch and the greatly talented composer of a captivating story in Hebrew is Ran Levi in Making history with Ran Levi. A superb example is given in the latest show, which is about French mathematician Sophie Germain.

In her days, women were not supposed to study mathematics, they weren't even supposed to be able to grasp math. However, as Levi presents the story, Mademoiselle Germain was captivated when she was still a kid by the story of Archimedes. The classic mathematician was so immersed in his math problem during a war, that he scowled at a an enemy soldier for disturbing him and consequently was killed. 'A problem so captivating, one risks death, that must be worth studying', Ran Levi has Sophie think. And so she embarks on investing her time in math, against all odds.

She impersonates a Monsieur Le Blanc in order to be admitted to the Academy. She ventures on solving Fermat's last Theorem (Levi plays a sound clip with Andrew Wiles that stems, it seems to me, from the BBC series about Fermat's last theorem. A pity there are no acknowledgments) and this brings her in contact with the great minds of math in her day. Among others she corresponds with the Prussian Gauss and to be on the safe side, she persists in using the pseudonym Monsieur Le Blanc.

When France and Prussia get into war and the French occupy Prussia, the story of Archimedes pops up again in our podcast. The first function was to deliver Sophie to math, the second is to make her worry about the fate of Gauss during the war. One may doubt the veracity of the construction, but for the narrative this construction is of great value. It helps all the facts fit into an effective composition and keeps the listener engaged and makes the story stick.

Max Planck,
Isaac Newton,
Making History with Ran Levy - Hebrew Review

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