Sunday, May 27, 2007

Reading (and Listening) Recommendations: 2007-05-27

  • The Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle Show
    This one is probably for a certain kind of geek only, but as I am most definitely in that camp, I couldn't resist. Imagine being in a conversation with Niven and Pournelle. Joel Achenbach got that privilege. The only complaints: the post isn't waaaaaay longer, and Achenbach didn't provide an audio link for a surreptitiously taped recording of the entire thing.

  • When Democrats collapse
    The always great Bill Maher outdoes even himself. I was trying to look for the money quote to post here, but the whole column is itself that.

  • Le Show (27 May 2007 edition)
    (Listen) And speaking of always great and outdoing self, Harry Shearer is in top form this week. Perhaps this week's show resonated with me because he takes up one of my new pet peeves -- the creeping inability of the U.S. to ensure the safety of its own food supply -- but I think it's more than that. Harry is always funny, always scarily spot-on with his gleanings of news not on the front page, and always spins really cool music.

  • RadioLab
    (Listen) This link points to the home page for a radio show that I just learned about, courtesy of mention by another of my favorite radio shows, On The Media. The connection is that they are both produced by WNYC, a public radio station that seems to be a bit more independent of NPR than most affiliates. RadioLab is hard to describe satisfactorily. If you must have a pigeonhole, it's a show that focuses mostly on new science. (Wait! Come back!) It is clever, well-written, charmingly hosted, and all of the episodes that I've listened to so far are absolutely fascinating. The show's editing took me a short while to get used to -- it feels a little like it's overly conscious of today's wavering attention spans -- but this is a minor complaint, and in any case, I am at least half sure that this gripe stems from impending geezerhood. I have been jotting notes, toying with writing a full review of it, but I'm not there yet. My four favorite episodes so far: Space, Placebo, Time, and best for last: Musical Language.

    I have to say, this show about has me ready to start contributing to NPR again.

  • 9 Beet Stretch
    (Listen) Inspired by the Time episode on RadioLab, I went in search of something mentioned: a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, stretched such that it takes twenty-four hours to listen to the whole thing. This isn't like just putting your thumb on the turntable. The pitches are retained, but the durations of the notes are expanded. It's useless to explain further, and better to just check it out for yourself. I know this seems like a weird thing, but give it a few minutes' chance. I find it strangely fascinating, and I've caught a few minutes that are amazingly dynamic. It's sort of like whale songs, I think. It starts to make sense after listening for a while, and then you worry that you'd better turn it off before you get stuck listening to it forever.

    [Tech notes: Assuming you click the audio link on the page I point to, be a little patient -- the site provides the entire thing as a 24/7 stream, so you come in wherever you come in; i.e., almost certainly not at the beginning. So, you may start in a period of silence. I have tried listening to this three or four times, and the worst delay was ten or fifteen seconds. Also, the volume tends to be a little softer than most noise made by your computer, probably again depending on where you come in.]

The last three remind me that I've been hearing some buzz about looming problems for music being streamed over the Internet. It seems that copyright requirements might kill Web radio stations and place a big hurt on NPR's on-line offerings. This has nothing to do with pimply-faced teenagers (for whom the term peer-to-peer is sadly apt) sharing bootlegged songs. It has everything to do with sites that just stream music for your real-time listening pleasure. I haven't looked into the issue in detail yet, but it sure sounds ominous. presents one side of the story. More on this from me, later, maybe.

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