Monday, February 22, 2010

Jaime's five favourite podcasts

It wasn't that long ago that I introduced my daughter Jaime to podcasting. I figured she would like the fact that she could really get into a show and listen to every episode on her own terms.

As it happens, I was right. Boy, was I ever right. Jaime is now the podcast queen. I have no idea how many she keeps up with, but there is seldom a time when she isn't listening to something or other.

For the past couple of weeks she's been in Vancouver, volunteering at Cyprus for the Vancouver Olympic games. She's having a blast, from what I hear. She's seen some of the gold medal performances - especially the first gold Canada won in the men's moguls. "The curse is over" she shouted at me through her cell phone the night he won.

I was thinking about Jaime tonight because I just finished writing a short item about podcasting for the Mac user's group that I belong to here in Victoria. I remembered that I asked Jaime quite awhile ago to give me her top 5 favourite podcasts.

I've been bugging Jaime to start her own blog just to tell us all about the stuff she's been finding out about. But she hasn't risen to that challenge yet. So I'll present her choices here in my blog. Enjoy.

Jaime's Top 5 Favourite Podcasts

1 - Hamish and Andy

The Australian comedy duo's drive home radio show. Their podcast compiles the segments between songs into 40 minutes of hilarity, five times a week.

2 - The National: At Issue Panel Audio Podcast

This podcast updates once a week and is the full version of the At Issue Panel segment from CBC's The National. Usually no longer than 15 minutes, the panel is a refreshing change from the shouting matches on cable channels. Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hebert, and Allan Gregg provide their take on Canadian politics and the week's news, and the banter between the panelists and Peter Mansbridge is always enjoyable.

3 - It's All Politics

This is a weekly NPR podcast covering all things political (in the US). Hosts Ron Elving and Ken Rudin discuss everything from senate races to mayoral contests from the 1960s, and are constantly trying to stump one another with obscure political trivia. Very punny and thoroughly entertaining, even if you're not as much of a political junkie as these two are.

4 - Wait Wait Don't Tell Me

Another weekly NPR show. Each episode is taped in front of a live studio audience, and features questions about the week's news. The host and announcer are always the same, and there is a rotating group of panelists featured, who provide witty commentary and answer quiz questions. Listeners also take part in some of the games, in hopes of winning the grant prize of Carl Kasell's voice on their home answering machine.

5 - Slate podcasts

All Slate podcasts follow a similar format, with three (and occasionally more) hosts discussing three topics related to whatever area that particular podcast focuses on. There's separate political, culture, sports, women's and money gabfests, as well as monthly audio bookclubs and a spoiler special podcast that discusses recently released movies. All are quite addictive and most end with a segment where each person recommends something that piqued their interest that week, which has led me to discover many interesting articles/books/artists etc.

Thanks Jaime. Great list.

Anyone got any favourites to add? Comments are always open.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Roger Ebert profile in Esquire

Back in 1996, I went through a rough time, health-wise. I hadn't heard the term "a perfect storm" at that point. The book by that name wasn't published until the following year, but looking back at what happened, I'd say that calling my illness "a perfect storm" seems about right.

One of these days I'm going to write about those months of my life. It's an interesting story 14 years later - especially because I've been more or less healthy ever since. But my brush with death did change the way I look at things.

Probably because of my own experience, I'm always interested in other people's stories about significant events in their lives.

ebertx-inset-community.jpgThis month, Esquire Magazine published a profile of Roger Ebert, the famous film critic for the Chicago Sun Times, who has survived cancer but is no longer able to talk, eat or drink. It's a gripping, poignant and inspiring story and well written to boot by Esquire's Chris Jones, who apparently lives in Ottawa. I recommend you go ahead and read it for yourself.

What I am most fascinated by is how Ebert's writing has become so powerful, since he lost the ability to talk. He has an online journal that he writes in constantly. He's one of the most prolific Twitterers in the world with over 70,000 followers. He's funny and entertaining. And sometimes he's over-the-top and sometimes he misses the mark - just like his film reviews.

You might have noticed that I haven't posted anything since I wrote about Blue. So you might not be surprised to hear that I've been moping around a bit and haven't been able to pull together a new post. But today I saw a link to the Esquire piece and I took the time to read it. I also read Ebert's response to the article on his blog. Something about the story struck a chord with me. It brought back a lot of my own recollections about coping with a body that wasn't working right and wondering what the future looked like.

It's late now and I'm too tired to wrap this thought up properly. But fortunately, part-way through the article, Roger Ebert nails the way I felt once I realized that I had been given a second chance to make the most of my life:
I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
Thank you, Roger Ebert.