I am in beautiful Monterey at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Spa for the semi-annual residential conference of Saybrook University.
This is the start of my 5th semester in my PhD program (how did that happen?) and struggling with focusing my research toward a dissertation. The more I learn, the more interests I find and the more I want to do. So in one sense, my brain is one of the fractious array of cats to be herded referred to in the title.
If you’ve ever been around cats at all, you know they don’t really follow any rules of group dynamics or recognize much in the way of authority but their own.
Much like the amazingly intelligent, mostly outspoken, and dynamic group of people who want to make the world a better place meeting here at the Saybrook conference. Being here reminds me of the wonderful short story by John Sayles, The Anarchists’ Convention.
I became aware of this story from listening to the Public Radio International (PRI) show, Selected Shorts.
The story was read by comedian Jerry Stiller. If you ask me, he is the perfect voice for the story.
I won’t elaborate too much, but suffice to say that there isn’t much structure or order at an anarchists’ convention, and not a lot is achieved. But it makes a great story, and I love a great story. Maybe I’ll write my version when this conference is done. One thing we do all seem to agree on is that systems are broken and change is needed. The big question is how do we make that change?
I often listen to audiobooks (thanks to SimplyAudiobooks) in the car on my commute. One of my most recent pleasant surprises was Juliet in August, by Dianne Warren, read by Cassandra Campbell. I’m a Kent Haruf fan; I love his straightforward prose and moving portrayals of intertwining lives in small town Colorado. This had a similar feel, but set in Saskatchewan, with rich, overlapping stories and a real sense of the difficulties of everyday life.
But I am between books right now, and am on a streak of podcast listening while I look for my next engrossing book to listen to. I revisited a particular favorite this morning, The Dead Authors Podcast. It’s a hilarious live podcast with host time-traveling H.G. Wells (Paul F. Thompkins) in conversation with a variety of writers brought back from the past in his time machine. It is connected with 826 National, a non-profit that includes the tutoring centers such as 826 Valencia in San Francisco. Even when I am not familiar with the writers, I have a good time. The most recent was with Lucy Maud Montgomery (Ryan Beil), author of the Anne of Green Gables books. Spoiler alert–she really hated Anne and wanted to kill her off.
This got me thinking about some of my other favorite podcasts. Of course, I’ve gone through listening fads. For a while I didn’t listen to anything but Animal Radio; then it was KCRW’s Good Food with Evan Kleiman. But I’ve moved on from those.
Now my must listen list includes:
Pop Culture Happy Hour, hosted by Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon, Stephen Thompson and a rotating list of guest hosts, is the podcast from Monkey See, NPR’s blog for pop culture news and analysis. Not only is it entertaining, but I feel less like I live under a rock when I listen. I’ve gotten great book, movie and music tips.
Futility Closet: “an idler’s miscellany of compendious amusements” hosted by Greg and Sharon Ross, “is a collection of entertaining curiosities in history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and mathematics, designed to help you waste time as enjoyably as possible.” And the lateral thinking puzzles are addictive.
Mystery Show, where Starlee Kine solves mysteries. Listen to case #3: Belt Buckle.
This American Life, the classic that I probably don’t need to describe, with host Ira Glass.
Radiolab, another NPR standby, “where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”
Ask Me Another, also from NPR (yes, I’m an NPR kinda gal), probably the funniest quiz show, like being at a pub quiz with really fun people. Hosted by Ophira Eisenberg; I’m especially fond of house musician Jonathan Coulton and the musical quizzes.
America’s Test Kitchen, with host Christopher Kimball. I sometimes fast forward through the meat cookery since I’m transitioning from vegetarian to vegan, but I still love to listen to the why’s behind the answers to cooking questions.
Go Vegan Radio is a new one for me so I can’t speak intelligently to its content, but it has been on the air for 13 years and bills itself as “the radio show about everything – food, health, environment, peace, politics, social justice – and broadcasts the solutions to all the problems about which other talk shows merely complain – war, violence, disease, world hunger, poverty, climate change, deforestation, resource depletion, water shortage, energy crises, habitat destruction, animal suffering.” Sounds like me!
Main Street Vegan: I first heard Victoria Moran speak at the 2015 Conscious Eating Conference in Berkeley. I was utterly charmed by her and want to be her! She’s written many books and is an incredible speaker. If you ever have a chance to go to one of her talks, do yourself and favor and go!
Welcome to Night Vale, maybe an acquired taste. I’ve heard it described as Garrison Keillor meets Stephen King. Apt description. I went with a friend to one of their live shows when they were in Oakland and I enjoyed it almost more than the podcast. I have to be in the right mood for this one!
I could go on and on, but I won’t. I can’t keep up even with these. Now, any recommendations for my next audiobook?