Thursday, September 20, 2007

Marriage maintained - Wise Counsel

In an era when nearly half of marriages end in divorce, the call for marriage counseling and advice is a necessity. The Wise Counsel podcast pays attention by interviewing the authors of books like Eight lessons for a happier marriage and Getting together and staying together, William and Carleen Glasser. The interviewer Dr. Dave goes over all the practical advice and profound general truths that the Glasser couple present in the former title. Much of this boils down to the worn out: you've got to work on your relationship and it is all a matter of give and take. But it sure won't hurt to rephrase and remind once more.

Dr. Dave turns out very involved, having read the book closely and also applying to his own experiences. The listener must be warned though that the sound quality of this podcast is rather bad, much static/rustle. I wonder Dr. Dave couldn't mix this away, he has done much better sound before. For the truly interested, this should be no real trouble. You can hear all of the interview well enough. Besides, helping your marriage is not entertainment.

The only question that I am left with: we have had this advice, basically, ever since we can remember, also when divorce ratings were much less than today. So what are we doing wrong? Are we so bad at listening, learning, internalizing? Or could the advice miss out on something? I really do not know. Eventually a successful marriage is a kind of magic.

UC podcast tries to laugh (humour)

A rather unexpected and compelling title occurred in the feed of the University Channel podcast: Only Joking - how humour makes us human. Usually the lectures in this podcast are, if entertaining, still very serious and pretty heavy. Not this time. While our sense of humor is being explained as a defining human trait, lots and lots of jokes are made. Sometimes they are funny just for being seriously recited with scientific claim to pun and then turn out to have little to offer at all. Especially the alleged jokes from Macbeth and other classics. It reminded me of over-enthusiastic reverends trying to show off with a joke from the Bible. Face it, the Bible is not funny, not intended to be funny, it is only funny when poked fun at, especially because it is not funny. That's what I think, or did I miss the joke?

The Writing Show - Audio Plays

The Writing show comes with a refreshing suggestion: try your hand at writing audio plays. An excellent idea. Audio plays are easier to produce and offer an template for a lot of dialog. Dialog usually forms the backbone of my narratives. What is more, I used to like audio drama. Such good memories I have about Draußen vor der Tür by the impressive Wolfgang Borchert.

As usual, the writing show knows how to inspire me. Much of what is discussed delivers a lot of good practical advice. I hope the sound clips also help. In any case, this podcast has induced me, checking out on the Sonic Society. However, I must admit, the clips were not exactly to my taste.

Plenty of material to work with though. And a sound excuse to read Borchert again. Not just Draußen vor der Tür, there are more plays. And there is the short and pungent An diesem Dienstag, which mesmerized me already in 1982.

OVT - Meindert Fennema, Plasterk en M.K.

Via de website van OVT kan je de verschillende onderdelen van het programma in afzonderlijke streams beluisteren. Als dat toch al kan, waarom wordt de podcast van OVT zonder enige vorm van post-produktie in de feed gezet? Waarom niet die tien minuten over Mein Kampf in een aparte file, of anders afdoende gemarkeerd met een bookmark? En zonder die overbodige minuten met flarden van commercials en nieuwsbulletins? Het leidt ertoe dat ik OVT meestal niet ophaal, laat staan beluister. Jammer van zo'n goed programma.

Deze keer heb ik dus wel geluisterd. Na alle ophef in Nederland, eerst met Geert Wilders' hete luchtballon om de Koran te verbieden en vervolgens - als tegenreactie, kennelijk - minister Plasterk die Mein Kampf maar weer wil toestaan. En daar dan vervolgens half en half op terug moet komen. Over dat laatste gaat OVT en we gaan meteen naar de oorsprong: politicoloog Meindert Fennema, die al in de Volkskrant schreef dat MK eigenlijk wel weer moet worden toegelaten in Nederland.

Waarom eigenlijk? Omwille van de vrijheid van meningsuiting, natuurlijk, maar hoe zit het met de beperking daarop? MK is verboden als haatzaaiend (woord?) boek. Daarom wil Wilders de Koran ook verbieden; omdat het haatzaaiend zou zijn. Een ander argument dat over tafel gaat is het verband tussen het boek en de moord op talloze mensen. In die gedachte zou je de Bijbel ook kunnen verbieden. Ten slotte wordt de specifieke, emotionele en symbolische lading van MK haast zijdelings aangestipt. Daar gaat het mijns inziens juist om de kern van de rechtvaardiging voor het geldende verbod, maar dan zijn de tien minuten voorbij en haast OVT zich naar het volgend onderwerp.

The historic meaning of 1910

Technically, this is not about a podcast. As I pointed out below, there is a new section in iTunes, called iTunes U, which contains audio material from universities, and as such they can be downloaded and subscribed to, just like podcasts, iTunes simply does not list them as podcasts. As opposed to Berkeley, that uses both iTunes U and podcasting, Stanford, is only into iTunes U. And so, what I would call their history podcast, it cannot be acquired through any regular feed, other than iTunes U and also, will not show up in your player as podcast, but rather similar to all other audio material.

That aside, this Stanford history podcast, is a kind of radio program in which one or more professors discuss a certain subject in history. The show I have listened to was about the year 1910. By means of art and cultural typifications, 1910 is shown to carry all the marks and indicators of what disasters that are about to come. The Great War and all that was triggered by the Great Wat in turn, the second World War and the Cold War.

The two professors Harrison (they are brothers) go about this fantastic subject in a bit of a tentative way. There do not seem to be much order and programming. There is even an interruption, that has nothing to do with the program altogether, rendering it a bit amateurish. A pity, because it diminishes the depth of the subject and the quality of the speakers.

Why is iTunes U in music and not in podcasts?

There is a new section in the iTunes directory, that is called iTunes U. It is a section where universities (so far only American Universities are present) can publish their audio material. We can safely assume - and a couple of samples I have taken indicate exactly at that - most if not all of this material is educational material, whether they are lectures, interviews, talk radio, panels and so on. From my perspective, this section qualifies as educational podcasts and the content is exactly up my alley.

Not only does it walk and talk like educational podcasts, the fact that the material is free and can be subscribed to, also gives it the attributes of podcasts. That is where we hit a snag. iTunes does not treat this material as podcasts. Upon download, it is placed in the music library, inconspicuously between all the rest of the material. There is no 'podcast' or similar label and neither is it copied into the podcast section. The only separation is a folder with playlists. (I took some stuff from Stanford, so I have a Stanford folder now)

I do not like this taxonomy at all. iTunes should treat all podcasts as podcasts. It would be great if actually all talk material would be separated from the music, podcast or otherwise. Next, it would do, to have this talk section be customizable, so that the user can devise a taxonomy of his own. This woukld also improve the podcast section, which, at the latest version, still has a flat hierarchy, listing all of my podcasts, one after the other, without allowing me to group them in any which way. With the amount of podcasts I keep at hand, this has become near unmanageable.

EDIT: Have Stanford or iTunes officials been reading my blog? Stanford and other universities on iTunes U offer a button to subscribe thus making their audio true podcasts. The content turns up in the familiar podcast section. Such an improvement.