Wednesday, 20 January 2010

stickler - recreation

The day before the operation I went to the library and got some audiobooks out, although in fact none of them were strictly audiobooks. For the first few days after the operation I wasn't up for concentrating on anything very hard, so waslistening to quite a bit of radio, including bbc 7. Then and since I've also been making an impact on the backlog of various podcasts in my system. Not a backlog, as such, but whenever I come across a podcast which I like, I tend to dowload all the back copies which are still available, completist that I am. I discovered Coverville very recenty, and they produce three programmes a week of cover versions in radio programme form, so I'm catching up with that. I'm also making mighty inroads into my WNYC Radio Lab podcasts, which are interesting and well-put-together programmes on science and psychology. One of the interesting things which incidentally became apparent was that one of the presenters believes in some kind of higher power while the other doesn't, but they spend no time at all arguing about that, which I found refreshing. It also reinforces my notion that science and religion grapple with similar issues and can seem equally implausible the more into science you get; on the one hand, for example, how anyone can nod sagely at someone explaining the scientifically respectable multiverse theory and find it in any way more plausible than the idea of a creator is beyond me; on the other, for example, the issue of free will versus predestination which so exercised young theologically minded people in my youth, and was a stick to beat them with, is exactly an issue in the science world, except that there the scientific view seems to come down unequivocally on the side of determinism, which you thought might be a bigger debating point among ordinary folk if they knew this was where scientific thought was at; would they accept the proposition that they are foolish to believe they have freewill as happilly as they would accept the proposition that someone else is foolish to believe in a god, and would they have the right to accept one and not the other?

Other podcasts - Danny Baker, Adam and Joe, The Moth, This American Life, Word, Speechification, Robert Elms, Kermode/Mayo, R4 Choice, New Yorker political scene. I've finished Richard Herring's As It Ocurred To Me, which I tried having given up on the Collings and Herrin podcast, both of wich served to emphasise that when you remove boundaries of taste and decency from your humour, you can revel in saying more extreme things but it just gets less and less funny. A similar thing happens in music, where artists who manage to 'unshackle' themselves from a record company whichhas been 'restricting their artistic freedom and expression' invariably sem to go on to make a terrible album, once they're alowed to do whatever they want and there's no one there to stop/help/criticise them. In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg continues to come up with the goods. Friday Night Comedy from R4 - ie Now Show and News Quiz. Frank Skinner Absolute podcast - his Saturday morning show; he is extraordinarily quick-witted. Mike Harding. Fighting Talk. Also just discovered, or may just have started with the new year, The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor, a (dispensable) poem and some date-related literary info. It mounts up, doesn't it?

I got a couple of R4 comedy series out of the library, but only listened to one episode of one; had enough on the radio to start with, then seemed too trivial later. I borrowed a James Naughtie BBC series on the history of music, but didn't get through the first episode, didn't like the style. I did borrow and listen to two out of the set of many Shakespeare plays they had in the library from the full set of fully dramatised Shakespeare plays produced by an American project called Arkangel, although they've also got a BBC America Audiobooks imprint. I listened to the two plays which I have never seen, King John and King Henry VIII (though I saw an abridged version of the latter at the Rose Theatre site in Bankside). The series is from the early 2000s I think, and has familiar names in the casts: Henry VIII included Jane Lapotaire, Timothy West, Anton Lesser and Stephen Mangan, while King John included Michael Maloney, Eileen Atkins and Bill Nighy. I enjoyed them both, though I guess I could see why they didn't get performed so often, although in some ways they didn't seem radically different or less good than some of the other plays. King John was a bit silly in places plotwise, but no more so than some other things. Henry VIII in particular had lots of long speeches by people telling other people about things which had happened off-stage, or reflectively monologuing; I could envisage a staging being done by treating much of the dialogue as virtually a narration of a documentary, using screens to project or depict the actions or events being described. I'd have to do further research to find out why they're not supposed to be so good. As it happens, I subsequently saw an email from Shakespeare's Globe listing this year's season, and they're doing Henry VIII, so I'm sure I'll get along to that this summer, all being well. (There's a Scotish production of Hamlet coming to Greenwih in early January, but I'm not sure if I'll be up to going along to that.) I was the first person to get both of those plays out for over a year.

I went back out to the library today, which I think is my first non-hospital excursion. I borrowed a couple of BBC detective serials. I found choosing things hard, as I don't want to be borrowing things just for the sake of it, things I feel like I'm just wasting time with, but things I'd want to listen to normally, whether book or dramatisation.

My namesake at church had mentioned Librivox a few times over the months, and I found my way to it on Sunday - volunteers, mostly American, reading out of copyright books which you can download for free, including via iTunes as chapter-by-chapter podcasts. I downloaded the first chapters of four and ahve stuck with one, an old history of London by Walter Besant which has an acceptable combination of god reader and book worth reading, which none of the other three managed.

I've also been playing my guitar more than I have for a long time, as that's something I can do sitting up without using my eyes very much; of course now I'm regretting not having done it more often in recent years. So much to do, so little time, etc. I haven't played along with a song, either the tune or a rudimentary bass lie, perhaps since school. I don't think there are things I wanted to do as an adult when I was in school which I regret I haven't done, because I didn't really have any ambitions or expectations when I was in school, but there are things which looking back in retrospect I think of course I could have done or tried to do. In fact I remember when I was in school being aware that what I would do after school was go to university but that I neer really thought it would happen, not because I'd do something other than go to university but because I somehow couldn't envisage living long enough to go to university, so that it would never arise. What an odd child. Knowing what I know now, I'd want to have come to university in London to study English and with a bass guitar. When I said that to someone about coming to London, they asked which university I'd have come to, but that seems rather unnecessary detail for my hypothetical alternative. Conversely, if you had told the sixteen-year-old me that I'd be where I am now, I think I'd have been perfectly happy with that future. You probably wouldn't want to mention the eye surgery, though.