Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Stand Here iPodding - Part Three

What you needn't have and what you must--a favorites list.

There is one more program that is a must if you want to convert streaming media into mp3s for your iPod. Audacity is great for recording the audio from all kinds of streaming media. All you do is select "Stereo Mix" as your input source to take your computer's audio output and channel it back through as input. Then you can easily chop off the beginnings and the endings to get a clear track without unnecessary silence or jabber. Export the resulting project files to mp3 format and you are done! However, you are recording in real time, which means you don't want to be doing anything that could interfere with the media stream or compete with the sound you are trying to record. That means, for example, no web surfing or downloading of email while you record.

Now for my list of favorites:

Municipal and Other Public Libraries

The Library of Congress maintains an index of poets, novelists and other writers whose work is broadcast on the web.

The San Francisco Public Library has over 1200 downloadable audio books (free account needed) and the New York Public Library also permits download of audio material.


University webcasts are ubiquitous these days but here are some I favor:
The University of Pennsylvania's archive of literary webcasts, Penn's larger list of media links, and Penn's digital poetry archive.

UC Berkeley, mentioned in Part Two, has an archive of downloadable media in various formats. Also check out the webcast.berkeley Courses Schedule.

Similarly, MIT has OpenCourseWare and video lectures. There are Princeton event videos. There are Stanford free lectures. Purdue has complete lectures of select classes.

Columbia University's Fathom Archive offers access to a wide range of free content, including lectures, articles, interviews, exhibits and free seminars. You can also find some great lectures about literature here: http://ci.columbia.edu/ci/subjects/literature.html.

Stores and Publishers

Barnes & Noble's Meet the Writers Podcast features many hours of video and audio interviews. Also check out the Amazon Wire. The Tattered Cover, a splendid independent bookstore, features a podcast I mentioned previously, called Authors on Tour. As for publishers, there is The Penguin Podcast. Simon & Shuster's got one, too. Also check out the one by Canada's Raincoast Books.

TV, Radio, and Newspapers

Booknotes, on CSPAN, has 15 years of televised book interviews. NPR has a host of audio material relative to books. Also check out the wealth of downloadable material on writing, poetry and books from the BBC. ABC Radio National in Australia has a daily book show that's very good, The Book Show. Michael Silverblatt is a terrific literary interviewer, and there is a podcast of his KCRW show, Bookworm, here.

Another worthy archive features Don Swaim's conversations with prominent writers. His show, Book Beat, aired on CBS radio (AM stations) from 1982 to 1993. Short segments can be downloaded from the Dom Swain website, while full-length, unedited recordings can be downloaded from Ohio University's Wired for Books.

For an exhaustive list of public radio (and TV) stations that feature live web broadcasts and podcasts, including literature and drama programs, see Public Radio Fan.

As for newspapers, there's the New York Times' Books podcast, and from the UK, there's the Times Online Books Podcast.

Authors and Publicists

Bill Thompson maintains a growing list of author websites on his podcast's website here, and many of these authors post readings and interviews or links to them that can be downloaded. Publicists are getting in on the podcast act also. TriCom Publicity, Inc. has one featuring its clients, called Authors in Your Pocket, and it's an excellent model.


The Lannan Foundation podcasts are superb. Also check out Lannan.org for more downloadable audio, and video, too, including archived interviews conducted by Michael Silverblatt.

The Academy of American Poets hosts a podcast as well as an audio archive. You can find them both here.

Also check out Nextbook , which was established to be a gateway to Jewish literature, and features a podcast and lots of downloads.

Not many literary reviews publish podcasts. I mentioned PodLit previously, and now I've found The Chattahoochee Review podcast. The Chattahoochee Review is a literary quartly published by Georgia Perimeter College. Their podcast is a mixture of interviews, readings and lectures, of varying lengths. There are also audio downloads at The Paris Review, but no official podcast.

Additional Goodies

This isn't a podcast but I found it while looking for one at The Paris Review. Thanks to an NEA grant and other support, The Paris Review now has an archive called The DNA of literature, containing over 50 years of their "Writers at Work" interviews, and they are all available online, for free. What a tremendous resource.

This isn't a podcast either but I want to mention it here anyway: LibraryThing. It's an online service that helps you catalog your books. You can access your own catalog from anywhere, even a web-enabled phone. LibraryThing connects people who own the same books, and comes up with suggested reading. You can have a free account and catalog your first 200 books for free. After that there is a modest fee. Just enter the book's ISBN or a keyword and up pops the rest of the indexing data. LibraryThing fills in the blanks from public sources like Amazon and the Library of Congress. Then just click on the book to add it to your catalog. You can even create notes -- such as links to relevant digital media. It's extremely cool. You'll find it a lot easier than using Excel or home library software -- and now you know what I was referring to when I said what you needn't have in the title of this piece.

Ruth's Chris

A Restaurant Review

Ruth's Chris has a new place outside Ocean City, Maryland. Store No 95 they call it. I am quite sure it is just as nice as Stores 1 through 94. The enterprise went public this year.

It looks like a deluxe paddock inside, or maybe a ski lodge, with a loft and an open floor plan. Let's go with paddock, because ski lodge implies there is a mountain outside, and this place does not have one. It is flat out there, flat as a pancake, except for the manufactured lumps that grace the golf course, a golf course that stretches as far as the eye can see, over the filled-in wetlands leading out to the Bay. Turning right from the highway on Maid at Arms Way (across from the Home Depot and the Wal Mart), the expanse reminds one of an enormous cat box, with ribbons of asphalt threaded through it. Or a landfill.

While we were waiting for our table at the restaurant an impossibly long stretch limo drove up, and it was black with decorative red and yellow flames air brushed down the side of it. Several people weaing laminated name tags got out and were escorted immediately to somewhere we could not see.

The restaurant is luxurious, and the people are so very nice!

Our waiter, for example, was very knowledgable about the menu. With the cheerful persuasive skills of a man who most likely sells time shares (to married couples only!) in rural Virginia during the day, he told us with great care about the enormous lumps of corn-fed beef that you could purchase, a la carte, along with large platters of a la carte mashed potatoes, potatoes which sit in about a half a pound of melted garlic butter. Mmmm. And you can start with their signature a la carte "chop" salad, which has a vertical structure and as far as we can tell, is comprised principally of mayonnaise, with a lovely chiffonade of french-fried onions on top.

On this occasion my father had a gift card worth $80 to spend, which bought us two of those luscious a la carte steaks, oh boy! We chose the petit filets, the smallest on the menu. We could have split one between us, actually. My daughter, who is ten years old, ordered the boned chicken, which was a whole poussin with all of the bones removed except for its cute little drumsticks, and it came wrapped around about ten ounces of melted Boursin "cheese." Our meat came out on plates we were told were five hundred degrees so don't touch them! To be fair our server then made a big deal about transferring my daughter's chicken to a cooler plate without even being asked to do so, but I suspect he was engaging in a bit of performance art at this point on behalf of his tip.

I should tell you that we went there under false pretenses. My father made the reservation under the name Jones, because he is 81 years old and is getting tired of having to spell S--------- every time he calls someone on the phone who wants to write down his name. This resulted in our being called Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Jones all evening, and my daughter kept asking things like, "Why do they keep calling us Jones?" or "Why do they have to call us anything?" or "Why didn't you just say Bob if you didn't want to spell S---------?" or "What are you going to do when the check comes and you are trying to pay the bill with a credit card with the name of this guy S--------- on it?"

The Mrs. Jones part was pretty funny though. I guess we made an interesting couple, Dad and me.

So my dad, who was getting a bit grumpy at all of the name business, said, "Why do they need to call you by name in the first place? It's not really a country club." It's a gated community without a real gate. It's called Glen Riddle, but it's not really a glen either. It's named after the guy who used to train those famous race horses. Actually his name was Sam Riddle, a textile millionaire, and he named the place Glen Riddle after the town he came from in Pennsylvania. Which in turn is a famous old name in Scotland that has something to do with winnowing wheat and rye. Indeed much of the physical structure of the once-great stable was used in the design of the restaurant. There are delightful touches like old stall doors that have been polished and turned into tables in the bar and grill.

If you buy one of the $600,000-plus houses constructed by the Centex Corporation on the Glen Riddle Fairway site, you can choose from two popular models, the Man O'War and the War Admiral. Don't worry if you can't qualify for a bank mortgage, because Centex provides that, too! And don't forget Centex's HomeTeam Pest Defense. Should undesirable vermin invade the homeland, these houses are designed with a built-in system to facilitate their extermination! Unfortunately we haven't met any of the people who live in these warring houses, nor are we likely ever to meet them, since we don't play golf. But at dinner they seemed nice. In fact, my daughter was so impressed with their grooming, she said at one point, "Mom, why do all of the women in here look like they come from soap operas?"

While waiting for our meal we noticed that an awful lot of the men wore tennis shoes and leather jackets and displayed beepers or cell phones on their waists while eating their supper. Truly we don’t belong to any real country clubs, and with a name like S--------- it was highly unlikely that my parents would ever have been invited to join any when I was a kid, but now I know what you are supposed to wear.

When the check came we were given a gargantuan plastic carry-on bag bearing the famous Ruth's Chris logo (in red, black and white) to transport home our enormous uneaten lumps of leftover red meat, which had been cooked to absolute perfection and the bits we were able to eat had practically melted in our mouths. Before being placed in the bag, they also had been carefully wrapped, separately, in generously-sized No. 6 black plastic clamshells.

When we got ready to leave, I noticed a young woman in the unheated entryway. She had long chestnut hair and long, muscular legs, which were bare, although it was about 38 degrees at that point. She was wearing one of those miniscule lacy black acetate slips, with a black push up bra underneath. The bra straps were just a bit shorter than the spaghetti straps on the dress. Focusing on her legs again, I noted this dress could not possibly have been any shorter. On her feet were enormous black platform shoes with heels higher than anything I had ever seen south of New Jersey. There is, in fact, a term they use for shoes that look like this in New Jersey, but we don’t use that kind of language on our beach down here. She was on her cell phone for a very long time, swinging her big red forelocks as she shifted from one foot to the other, like a gamine stuck at the gate. It looked like she was getting cold.

All in all, it was a great evening. We waved a cheerful goodbye to pretend soldier in the little house on our way out. For some reason, on the way home, driving through Berlin, Maryland with my father's handicap tags swinging to and fro from our rear view mirror, I found myself humming, "Tomorrow belongs to me!"