Praising podcasts

Don’t worry, I’m not planning to start a podcast any time soon – so you will be spared my dulcet tones.

Through this blog I like to give the impression that I am a renaissance man, known for his erudition and learning.  I’ll admit that this impression is rather ameliorated by my continued difficulty in effectively proof-reading my own ramblings. Yesterday, my poor pretentions at learning were brought home to me even more forcibly – two fictional characters that I had always assumed to be of the stronger sex were both revealed to be men.

These revelations were brought about by the medium of the podcast, or as the BBC seems to have renamed them downloads (an overly generic term, but one which presumably removes any risk of the product being mistaken for a commercial endorsement – other groupings of cetaceans are available).

In an attempt to reduce the sheer number of books I seem to consume each year, I have taken to downloading podcasts onto my generic MP3 player and listening to them while travelling on public transport. The podcast also comes into its own on a packed Central line train (a pleasure that was I granted yesterday evening) when there is no room to open a book (I didn’t even attempt cat swinging) and also while cooking (when you need both hands free – or at least I do).

Yesterday’s offerings were all both educational and from the BBC – though I do sample less serious examples and those from other organisations as well.  A particularly enjoyable More or Less ensured that I shall now always know the difference between the “deficit” and the “debt” with which we are all saddled during these trying times of austerity: sadly it was unable to explain how the measures our masters are enacting will help either (though there may be a very good reason for this lack).  In particular, I do wonder how punishing the Banks that we taxpayers now own is going to help us obtain a decent return on our investment as a nation: surely we should let them make money until we can sell them at a profit, then nail the blackguards.

An especially good and spirited edition of In Our Time revealed that the eponymous heroine of Voltaire’s Candide was a hero and that the book is a surprisingly short read (though usually in large print, as publishers like to make it look longer than it is) among many pearls of new wisdom.  As a result, I now feel obliged to move its reading up my “to-do” list.  The edition did also make me laugh out loud several times, which did attract a number of looks askance from fellow passengers (sorry, customers) waiting on the concourse at Liverpool Street station (I’d probably have been taken off by men in white coats if they’d known what I was listening to at the time and if those parts of the NHS catering to the mentally ill were not so chronically underfunded.  Yes, it may be keeping your taxes down – but it is leaving me free to pun again!).  Still, I’m used to pitying looks from the general public after all these years of mild eccentricity: long ago, I did wonder if I should make the effort to be more “normal”, but apathy rather ixnayed that idea and I suspect it is now much too late.

The Life Scientific interviewed the redoubtable James Lovelace – if I’m as sparky when I’m 92 I shall be more than pleased: to be honest, at only half his age I’d still be grateful to be as doubly dubious.

My finally delight was Shakespeare’s Restless World with Neil McGregor. Like Sam West, I could listen to Neil McGregor read the ‘phone book – probably even the Da Vinci Code – and still enjoy the experience for the voice alone.  However, this episode also provided background to the Union flag and the revelation that Cymbeline was a British King – and not a female sidhe as I’d previously assumed.

Talking of the Bard, on Tuesday night I saw my first of his history plays – Henry V (the French, as it transpired.  1-0 to the boy Hal in a tricky away fixture) in the English Touring/Globe Theatre production at the Cambridge Arts Theatre.  This was a particularly fine night out, and I now feel the need to cover the remaining Henrys and perhaps take in a Richard or two.  Neil McGregor’s earlier attempts to educate me also paid off, as I knew why Falstaff dies off-stage: a row with the actor who previously played the part caused him to be written out. Sometimes it feels as though surprisingly little has changed in the last 400 years – we may have whizzy new technology, but people are much the same as are their issues.

So, if you are not already doing so, I thoroughly recommend investigating the world of dolphin theatre (“pod cast” – see, I told you I’d pun again) as I suspect there is something out there for everyone.  I use something called Downcast which is mildly ironic as its use leaves me uplifted, but there are a whole host of free products available to capture these pearls for your delectation.  Go on, give it punt!

2 thoughts on “Praising podcasts

  1. matathew says:

    I’m a little confused by the passage:
    Through this blog I like to give the impression that I am a renaissance man, known for his erudition and learning. I’ll admit that this impression is rather ameliorated by my continued difficulty in effectively proof-reading my own ramblings.
    because surely “ameliorate” means to make a bad thing better?? Or should it be “hardly” rather than “rather”???

  2. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    I would seem to have managed to move your comment to where it belongs. Just marvel at those IT skills!

    However, I must admit that I have rather extended the meaning of the word ‘ameliorate’ or assumed an extremely controversial value system. Practically, I think I’ve failed to alight on the mot juste: I should have plumped for attenuated or possibly etiolated or just diminished. Still, the error does rather aptly illustrate the point I was trying to make – so all is not lost!

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