Streaming test: South Fork Rivanna Stewardship meeting

Hello all! I'm doing a test and if you're online at this moment, I'd appreciate you checking out this experimental live stream of the public hearing of the South Fork Rivanna Stewardship Task Force. I'll have it on and would appreciate any feedback.

(Click here for the stream in iTunes, Winamp, anything else you want)

Update: The event is now over, and the live stream is off. I'll leave the link above, because I plan on using it more often in the days and weeks to come. Check it out. Listen in. Tell me what you think.


Now playing: The Fundamental Grang

Tonight only, I am using my experimental feed to play the music of the Fundamental Grang. This was an experimental electronic noise group that formed in Calgary. Alberta. I have the sole archive of the material, and am pleased to be able to use my live stream to play it for you.

It's worth it to take a make a note of this feed. If you listen, you will hear a lot of interesting things. If you have questions about what you hear, let me know on the blog.

But for tonight only, the Fundamental Grang!


Television is fun!

A rare night off. No work. Taking a break this week. I watched television and it felt kind of historical. Here's what I watched:
  • Saturday Night Live on Thursday night: Not as good as last week's, sort of lackluster with mistakes and no Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Still, it's unusual to watch a show trying to move outside of its usual territory. Live television in prime time excites me.
  • Life On Mars: Second episode. Still following the template of the British show, but I'm hooked because of all the subtle differences. It's like a cover version of a song you like that takes the melody into new places.
  • Red Sox beat the Rays: This is the first baseball I've watched all year. I've been kind of done with baseball, but I flicked through and ended up rooting for the Red Sox. They were down 7-0 and came back to win 8-7 in the ninth. How did I forget baseball?
  • McCain on Letterman: I've not watched Letterman on television for years, but this was must-stay-up television. Letterman's being tough, and it's great television watching it live.


My biggest television desire

Disclaimer: For the sake of this post, I define television as episodic filmed entertainment. Sound simple enough, right?

Anyway, what I want is easy access to British comedy on the Internet. I've been able to watch most of Peep Show, all of I'm Alan Partridge, and a lot more. My cousin helped me get Black Books, and of course, Spaced is the high point. People my age, British people my age, making hysterical comedies.

But now, I want to devour Green Wing. I was able to watch the first 2/3's of the first episode, but that appears to be all that is on YouTube. I want to watch the whole thing, or at least, have an easy way to buy the episodes. I know little about the show, but in a post on i09 about the potential of Johnson from Peep Show (Paterson Joseph) being the next actor to play the title role in Doctor Who, I decided to check it out.

I did not like it at first, but after watching the two available clips from this first episode, I can certainly see myself falling in love with this. Sophie from Peep Show is in it. Brian from Spaced is in it. John Oliver even makes an appearance in the first minute or two.

After that, I'd like to go back and try to get the the entire runs of Brittas Empire and Goodnight Sweetheart. When I have money again, I'll buy them, and I'll promote them. I'll start a club! There's so much great British comedy that I want people to know about.

At least all of the episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus are available online, including the fourth season which I'm enjoying more and more as I get older.

Heroes picks up steam

Heroes is either one of the best or one of the worst shows of all time, depending on the week. The show about people with superpowers had a very strong first season, followed by a lackluster second season. The third season has gone back and forth.

But, the fifth episode was a return to form, I think. The show is often criticized for having a ridiculously large cast, as well as an inability to have killing characters off actually mean anything. But tonight, it all seems to be fitting together. It's like all of the awful exposition is actually creating something that's interesting.


Tim Lewis reading at the New Dominion Bookstore

Elizabeth McCullough of cvillewords.com is one of the real forces behind the Charlottesville Podcasting Network these days. She's recording four or five events for us, and this week I'm in her debt for bringing us the audio from author Tim Lewis launching an ambitious work at the New Dominion Bookshop. The Virginiad is a collection of new poems about Virginia history since 1607. I listened to the podcast of him reading from the works the other day, and I really enjoyed what I heard. I'm going to have to go back and listen to more in order to have it sink in.

BBC Documentary on the role race is playing in the presidential campaign

This week, Radio 4 had a documentary on the role that race is playing in the Presidential campaign. "Soul and Skin" is a 23-minute piece by Rob Watson that he recorded from interviews he conducted in Richmond. You can take a listen to it until Friday, when it will be replaced by something else. I thought it was worth mentioning because it's odd to hear the BBC reporting in our backyard.


New Streets album prompts walk down the Streets

If I had a radio station, I'd play songs by the Streets all the time. The Streets is Mike Skinner, a geezer from Birmingham who made music in his flat living with his parents while working as a fast food restaurant. Somehow he got discovered, and I came across him several years ago when I lived up on Pritchett Lane thanks to NPR. Fresh Air had a bit about the Streets, played the songs, and I was very skeptical after hearing the review. I thought, gosh, I could do that.

A few years previous, I had been a singer in an improvisational punk rock band, but I let that go in order to do move with someone to Canada. In the meantime, I had moved back here sort of as a default, and moved to Charlottesville for a job. And, wasn't doing any music of any sort except some electronic stuff that I had no audience for at all.

So, I was skeptical, but I've been a subscriber to Rhapsody for over five years now, and so I decided to take a listen.

The tracks were absolutely incredible to me, and I listened over and over again. I'm impressed by Mike Skinner's ability to just keep going and going about his daily life, and I was ecstatic about this glimpse into early 21 century Britain.

The second album came out at a very difficult time in my life. A Grand Don't Come For Free is an operetta that follows the story of one guy who loses £1,000 somehow, and it concludes with the following: (note: I know this isn't a video, but it's what's on YouTube at the moment - no real video)

The track tells the story about a guy who has lost all of his money. And, it tells the same story in two different ways. The absolute worst happens and Mike Skinner is in absolute despair. But then the tape reverses and the song begins again, but yet this time Mike Skinner makes an alternative choice which leads him to the creation of a new future. It's a song that has incredibly meaning to me because of where I was in my life at the time.

And now, his new album is out, and it's much better than the third one, which I didn't care for. The themes dealt with celebrity, and he strayed away from what he knew - being young and drunk and aimless in northern England. That appealed to me, because in some very close parallel universe, I am this guy.

The third album was so disappointing to me, but I'm sure one day I will go back through it and mine it for the wisdom of Mike Skinner. But, for now, I'm content to enjoy his fourth album which is much more relaxed and seems less forced and appears to be less about indulgence. The video for the first track is amazing to me, and I watched it at a time when I'm incredibly worried that all I've worked hard for is going to go away, one way or the other:

I want my music to tell stories, which Mike Skinner has no trouble doing at all. I wish my music could do that. When I listen back to the hours of raw improv material I recorded with my friends, I know this is the kind of thing I wish I could do. I wish I had the courage to just put it all out there, but there's a risk with that, isn't it?

I suspect that in this country, we all have this incredible fear of being ourselves. At least, some of us do. I know a lot of people, but yet I have few friends. Is it because I keep all of my creativity locked up where no one can see it?

Here's how things appear to work these days. We all post blogs, and that's great. But who reads any of it? Maybe this is all a dead-end. Maybe on-line requires a real-world presence to get anything done.

I love the Streets. Weak can become the heroes.


Appreciating the new Facebook

I got to say, I'm really enjoying the new version of Facebook. A lot of people were dead-set against it because it hid all the cutesy-stuff like Green Happy Flowers and How Educated Is Your Hamster applications. 

What they did, I think, was to make it much easier to tap into the real resource on Facebook - people you've met in real life that you know. I have 150 or so friends in Facebook, and the new updates make it much easier to have conversations with people. In this past week, I've had a quick discussion on superhero television as well as a conversation about the way Americans should conceive of government. These conversations have occured with former co-workers as well as people from my school days. It makes me feel connected, and maybe a little less scared of being alone in the world.

Of course, it is a little weird being friended by strangers I barely know. Yet, even some of those folks I send messages back and forth with. Why not? That's what it's there for, right?


Thoughts on the American "Life on Mars"

Okay. I'm trying it. I've suspended my disbelief. I'm watching the American version of "Life on Mars" because I was in front of the television anyway. The Thursday Saturday Night Live was something I had to watch.  

In case you're wondering, Life on Mars is the show about a detective from our time who gets hit by a car and finds himself waking up in 1973.  It's a fish out of water story, as well as a police procedural. The British version starred John Sim as Sam Tyler, the cop who doesn't know why he's trapped in the past. Philip Glenister is Detective Gene Hunt, who is much more violent in the original. The show existed for two series of eight episodes, and wrapped up nicely, if not a bit confusingly. It's aired on BBC America, so a lot of Americans have seen it. 

This is the second version of the American pilot. The first one didn't test well. The guy who played the transporter guy on Star Trek: The Next Generation was Gene Hunt, but when it didn't work out so well and they remade the pilot with Harvey Keitel as Gene Hunt. I'm only watching because I'm intrigued to see Harvey Keitel in a series. 

I'll say this 40 minutes in. It's not awful, but this first episode is very similar to the original. The main difference is that there are commercials in it, which breaks up the pace. Just when I get into it the story, these six or seven commercials pop up and I find myself doing something else.

I told myself I wouldn't work tonight. 

I wasn't even going to turn the computer back on.

But, you have to do something during the commercials. I can't allow myself to relax and just watch the commercials. The business of television is in trouble, as I think I will certainly be watching this show online if I decide to watch it going forward.

Will I? Well, I would like to see how this version differs from the original. I was underwhelmed by the conclusion of the British version, and my memory of the show dimmed when I heard they were doing a spin-off with a female detective who goes back in time and takes over where Sam Tyler leaves off. I watched the first episode of that, and it just seemed kind of gimmicky and cheap.

The commercials are still going. I feel for businesses who rely on television advertising, and I feel for television executives. They're not going to make nearly the money they used to. Surely, there's a need for businesses to figure out how to communicate with their potential clients. 

There are shows I will brave commercials for to make sure that I see the show as soon as I can. Lost  and Battlestar Galactica, maybe Saturday Night Live.  I sense this isn't going to be one of them. I'll likely continue to watch the first seasons on shows on DVD so when I do have free time I can devour them. I recently did that with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I bought most of the first season on iTunes, watched the rest on hulu. And you know what? It's an interesting show and I'm really enjoying it!

It's not a good sign for Life on Mars that I've started writing during the show. I'm sure if this was an original idea, I'd likely enjoy this a lot, but I can't get over the fact that it's a remake and a shot-by-shot one at that. I'd like it to be on the air, if only because I think Michael Imperioli deserves work. 

Jason O'Mara as Sam Tyler kind of overacts. Lisa Bonet as Maya is supposed to be a recurring character, which means the show is going to deviate a lot from the original. That could be a good thing. Look at the Office, which has also become fairly successful after deviating from the original. Maybe Life on Mars can do the same. If you've not seen the British version, then give it a shot. 

Airplane crash video somehow cheers me up

As the financial crisis deepens and we all find ourselves wondering when we're going to feel the big impact, this video somehow cheers me up and reminds me it's all going to be okay, somehow. Even though the setting for the video is pretty grim.

I don't really know this band, Bright Eyes, but I think I'm going to watch all of their videos. Then I'll buy their albums. Then I'll go see them. And that, my friends, is my plan to jumpstart the economy.


Critique of Radio 4 history show's use of actors

A few weeks ago, I blogged about BBC Radio 4's "America, Empire of Liberty" series on American history. I noted that I enjoyed the use of actors to read excerpts from historical passages. It's a technique I stole a few years ago for a documentary I did on Virginia's literary history. But, the Independent's radio critic isn't a big fan:

Every time we get to an excerpt from a letter or a speech, up pops some actor or other putting on the appropriate voice: Edmund Burke is Oirish, George III gets a terrible stutter, southern gentlemen sound like the supporting cast in 'Gone with the Wind'. I understand the impulses to break the monotony and identify the characters, but against the background of Reynolds' downbeat narration it just sounds hammy. At times, it gets as annoying as a Woman's Hour serial: and that is not an insult I fling about lightly.
I disagree with Robert Hanks, because I think it makes the pieces a bit more entertaining to listen to. But, isn't it great that there's radio criticism in a newspaper? I wish I had that here, as well. The aforementioned documentary I mentioned stunk, and was absolutely awful. Yet, it aired without any comment at all. I would have loved to have been raked over the coals. I certainly deserved to.



Two long-form arts discussions to listen to at CPN

I've been fortunate to work with two arts groups in the last week to produce a couple of long arts discussions for various communities.

First, I helped my friend Jeff Cudlin with a podcast on a panel discussion called "From the Gallery to the Street: Artists Talk Politics." Jeff is the Director of Exhibitions at the Arlington Arts Center, and someone I've known since I was 6. Everything I am today, I owe to Jeff. Hence, the free labor.

Second, I recorded a talk for the Piedmont Council of the Arts for their recent "Creative Conversation" on Arts Education And Our Community. I'm not pleased with the sound quality, but I'm incredibly impressed with the turn-out and I applaud PCA for their work on this front. I think they're going to pull a lot of things together, and I'm glad to be able to do my small part.

Podcasting may not necessarily be a mass medium, but it's a great way to connect people together. When I look back at the last three and a half years, I'm amazed at how many people I've worked with. And, I look forward to all the folks I am going to work with in the future.

One challenge at the Charlottesville Podcasting Network is to figure out how to let people know about all of the stuff we have. If you're interested in art, then check out our Arts category. Browse through archive and see what we have to offer. Drop us a line if you want to know more, or leave a comment: What would you like to hear?


Great engineering challenges of the future

I wish I'd been an engineer. My dad is one, but I don't think he ever sufficiently conveyed to me what he did. From an early age, I was pretty convinced that he drove trains. Somehow, that mental image stuck and I never quite made the connections I needed to understand why math and science were so important.

I wish I had been able to take a look at something like this from the National Academy of Engineering when I was 10 or 11. I would have liked to have had more direction when I was younger. What are the grand challenges for the future, and how can they be solved?
  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
In these current economic times, I can't help but think that investing in the research and development it will take to address these challenges. If I had limitless funds and could do anything with my life, it would be to go back to school to study to be an engineer. I'm particularly interested in "restore and improve urban infrastructure" as you might expect. At least I get to write about it locally.

Another thing to note is that one of the committee members is Wesley Harris, the first African-American to finish the Engineering Honors program at the University of Virginia.
Harris also address the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, the podcast of which can be heard at the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.


A bright future for CPN

I am proud that for three and a half years, I have been running the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. The site is my public service towards the community. My income comes from my job at Charlottesville Tomorrow as well as my business, Wordcast Productions. I love what I do, though I wish I had more time to run the website.

Right now, CPN is my third priority, work-wise. My day job always come first, and I'm incredibly blessed to have it. I am learning so much about how this community works. I am doing the best journalism of my life, as we continue to learn to craft a new way of reporting. If you want to know what's going on in regional growth and development, then take the time to sign up for Charlottesville Tomorrow or listen to us in iTunes.

However, sometimes I wonder if the folks at Spicy Bear are right. Should I look for a buyer for the Charlottesville Podcasting Network?

The answer, of course, is a no. If I have created any value, it is certainly not commercial. I'm not sure what it is, precisely, but I am proud of the work that I have done. I wish we had a larger audience, and I wish that I could find someone who would be interested in some form of a partnership that sought to boost an audience while boosting a brand. And, of course, any money I could bring in to the site would go to pay people to run the site in a much more timely fashion. I would like to figure out a way to create jobs for people.

Right now, I have five or six podcasts that I need to produce. They are: the NAACP's Freedom Banquet; two lectures from the Jefferson Society; something for one of my clients; another thing from one of my clients; last week's Wake-Up Call; probably more I have forgotten.

And then, there's what I want to do. I have ambitions to create a weekly arts podcast, a three-minute newscast for Charlottesville Tomorrow, maybe even a podcast for the area's gay community. I'd also love to create a podcast to roll out the hours of music I have created as either my band or my solo work.

I am increasingly concerned that I'm not able to take CPN to the next level, but I would never sell it to anyone. I feel like I made a huge risk in 2005 to create something new, and it has paid off immeasurably in terms of how connected I feel to this community. But, I don't think the real value has not even begin to reach fruition. It's a business that is more than a business. It's an attempt to create an important resource for Charlottesville, Albemarle County, the state of Virginia, my clients, and all of it. I want to try to make the world better by helping people learn to communicate with each other.

So, drop me a line if you're interested in participating on some level. I need more producers, sponsors, underwriters, and most importantly - listeners.