Tag Archives: podiobooks

Reading Program Starts

Yesterday the Summer Reading Program started up. I signed myself and my kids up. I thought this might make a good point to resurrect the writing here.

So much I could have written about in the break: some books, some movies (including the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies, Captain America: Civil War), even games (bought and have started Final Fantasy X). Depressing political stuff, UK and US. Soul-destroying lack of progress on so many things. And then a bit of progress on a few things. The garden’s doing well.

For now? I’m going to start by talking about books and audiobooks, and other entertainmenty things, it’s easier writing about those. Be sure to holler if you want me to opine on anything, mentioned above or otherwise.

I start the reading program partway through the following books:
Harlan Ellison’s I, Robot screenplay
In Search Of The Trojan War, by Michael Wood

I have loaded up the MP3 player with audiobooks, the first one I am listening to is:
Infected, by Scott Sigler.

Sitting around near the computer, on the radar to be read during the Program:
Infected, by Scott Sigler
Star Trek Deep Space Nine Companion

And of course, plenty more on shelves in my room.

Also today, I read to kids, which included Yertle The Turtle And Other Stories.

What I Need To Do To Turn My Planned Project Into A Reality

I’ve mentioned before about the site I want to make. I haven’t gone into much in the way of details about what it’s about. Intentionally so, not because I think you’ll steal my idea, but more because I hope the vagueness now, will make the unveiling more exciting.

Here’s basically the things that I need to do to get it going.

1. POSTS
Turn research into content. Lots of research done so far. Try and get to a post a day.
STATUS: Lousy

2. CONTINUE RESEARCH
Accumulate a bunch for making posts easier, keep ahead so you don’t run out.
STATUS: Pretty good on current list. Resources available to continue afterwards.

3. LOOK OF WEBSITE
As long as it’s easy to navigate, how it looks is less important: at the same time, don’t actually want it to look terrible.
Can be worked on after the site is up, but is also less likely to be worked on after the site is up than before.
STATUS: Poor. Think I have a handle on menus.

4. EXTRA CONTENT:
Have some ideas for podiobook-able things, which will also help extend brand. Located microphone, think taking laptop to garage, and recording under blanket, would work.
STATUS: still relatively concept.

5. PREMIUM CONTENT:
Conversion services: software cursorily tested. Results promising, with caveats. No negotiations entered into. More thorough testing required, may benefit from purchasing sample materials for conversion (possible). Conversion process needs tested, particularly master new format (have test document ready and software installed, not progressed far in the conversion efforts yet).
Translation services: Entirely theoretical.
Audiobooks with site/author/reader/(translator) only at the beginning and end, not at the beginning/end of Every File (unless the book’s really short and only one file).

6. OTHER REVENUE:
Advertising. Have some ideas of who to approach. (also see who approaches). Need established site to make it worth their while. Decide number of spots, perhaps decide on genres for these spots.
Membership. Discounts to sponsors, discount to stuff we sell. Discounts to other people. Make it worth more than cost. Also contingent on establishment.

7. OTHER THINGS TO IMPLEMENT:
Community: forum software. PHPBB probably. Making it look right, I don’t want to think about at the moment. I’ve at least played with the software, call it a STATUS of 7%.
Submissions: Anticipate needing to ask for photos. Integration may be the issue. STATUS: concept only.
Amend a plugin to customize images used. STATUS: Started. Back-burner now, needs lots of concentration.
Find a plugin to implement different-language versions of the site. STATUS: A thought.

Some Podcasts I Like

I first got into podcasts while I was working nights in a large warehouse, doing a job that left enough brain free to listen to talk while I was doing it.

I think the first one I listened to was The Signal podcast, about Firefly and Serenity, which lasted for a surprisingly long time for a show about a TV show that lasted a season, and a movie that didn’t get a sequel. the Signal got me into Podiobooks via 7th Son.

I moved on from there into The Survival Podcast while it was still in its first 50 episodes.

Feeling the need for Christian content, I found Godcast 1000, a directory of many Christian podcasts. I listened to a few, probably less than 10. I’ll talk about one in a minute, apart from that, there’s another that I particularly remember. It was a short-lived series called “Dark Sayings Of Old“. The episode that stood out most to me, was Episode 4, “Hugh Latimer, The Sixth Sermon preached before King Edward, April twelfth, 1549″, text available at ccel. Though what particularly stood out to me was the mention of Robin Hood.

The other one that I particularly want to mention, is the podcast “The Illumined Heart“. The blurb mentioned the Orthodox church, which I had encountered in a trip to Israel, but knew I didn’t understand at all. Kevin Allen hosted the show, which contained a long string of interviews. Half of them were interviews about the (or, more often, “an”) Orthodox opinion on some topic (animal welfare, the occult, the death penalty), and the other half were interviews with people talking about their conversion stories from different faith traditions to Orthodoxy – from Islam, from the Baptist church, from the Episcopalian church, from Hinduism and Buddhism, from The Byrds – quite a variety.

It was quite a soft introduction, not immediately hard-core theology, and early on there were some things where I had no idea what they were going on about, and kind of had to set it aside and say “I’ll come back to that later, when I know more”.

After moving to America, I decided to visit Ancient Faith Radio, which produced The Illumined Heart, and I started listening to their many other shows. Well, it was less many at the time, it’s kind of taken off since then. I thought I’d list some shows I particularly like.

An introduction to basic Orthodox beliefs and practices, aimed especially at people unfamiliar with it all, the archived radio show Our Life In Christ is a good start. They keep the tone jovial, don’t really get bogged down in The Seriousness Of It All. Even when they discuss one of the hosts’ brush with law enforcement.

I really enjoyed the content put out by the late Father Thomas Hopko, particularly his podcast Speaking The Truth In Love, and in his occasional lectures. He comes across as humble, saying when something is a dogma of the church, or his own opinion, or when he may be wrong about something or other. Some speakers come across more towards the hard line of dogma, or the church position on things, and some will spend more time on a pastoral approach, and I thought Fr Tom was very careful to be not strident, and to be pastoral.

Also taking more of a pastoral approach, Fr Evan Armatas fields questions from all comers in Orthodoxy Live, which is broadcast live on two Sundays a month, and available for download afterwards.

Sermons from various parishes are available to download, I’m quite font of Homilies From All Saints, with Fr Patrick Henry Reardon. He’s very well-read, and will include references, be it to Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars, or, much to my delight, to P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves novels. I was like Captain America, “I got that reference!”

Sometimes AFR has talks from various events. I mentioned the Doxacon Orthodox Science-Fiction and Fantasy Conference in some past post that I’m too lazy to look up, but I’d like to point out that there have been some moments that particularly stuck with me in these two events:
Eighth Day Symposium – Imagination and Soul: Harry Potter, Twilight, and Spiritual Formation (“Whence Potter-Mania?” is so funny)
The World Below (particularly Systemic Abandonment).

If you’re stuck for something to listen to, give something from here a try.

Review: Fried Green Zombies

The final of the audiobooks i was listening to for the Reading Program, was Fried Green Zombies by John Allen.

Works about zombies tend to fall into one of two categories: straight horror, or humorous. I don’t think they fit comfortably in the “comedy” genre, as such, because the humour still is contrasted with fairly grisly things going on.

Fried Green Zombies, then, falls into the more humorous category.

Chett and Harry aren’t book-smart, they’re more in the huntin’ and drinkin’ line of things. Clay is book-smart and helps them with that sort of thing, hoping to be able to hang out with them and become “cool”. They don’t treat him very well.

Chett and Harry, at the beginning of the story, come across the mysterious female not-English-speaking burqa-clad Bob, whose story emerges over the course of the book.

Co-incidental with the arrival of Bob, are Chett and Harry’s favourite lake disappearing, and the gradual reanimating of local non-alive people (as well as previously-animal portions of Uncle Crank’s meals).

Some local police also have a long-buried secret that they want to keep buried.

And that’s all before a couple of aliens show up…

That’s quite a few threads that need to hold together, and I thought they held together well. The story was amusing and engaging. I enjoyed it.

On the slightly-less-good side (though I didn’t find it a dealbreaker to enjoyment), I only remember two female characters of note (Bob, and Clay’s mother), and I didn’t think either of them were treated particularly well by the writer. Bob, while fairly central to the story, tends to part ways with her clothes when it is dark (but insists on being very covered when it is light). Clay’s mother is, how shall we put it, traumatised at a non-zombie-related, thing that she saw, that seemed a bit over-the-top, leaping over the border from character into caricature. Comparable to the well-worn trope of women seeing mice and jumping on tables, screaming.

(Tangent – “Remember I have been asleep inside this planet of Magrathea for five million years and know little of these early sixties sit-coms of which you speak.“)

The aliens’ computer has been given a female personality, she is merely treated badly by characters, in comparison. Still, I don’t believe it’s unfair to describe the book as “a bit sexist”.

If that isn’t going to trouble you too much, and the other elements sound appealing, you’ll probably enjoy it. I did, but don’t think I’d give it an A.

Review: Motherload

The last podiobook that I finished while the Reading Program was going, was Motherload by David Collins-Rivera.

Continuing the trend of mostly-science-fiction, in this story we find a guy called Ejoq. He finds himself out of work after the company he worked for went under. Stuck on the planet that had been his destination, and his savings depleting, he manages to get a job on a small vessel that’s supposed to be extra security for freighters, who have been having problems with pirates in the area.

Ejoq and his crewmates soon find their vessel is not quite as well-equipped as it’s supposed to be, and trouble is on the way.

Motherload consists of 3 episodes, about 50 minutes each. The world seemed well thought-through: the economics of employment, the logic of how systems on the ships are laid out. The personalities of the crew: The captain with no leadership skills, the enterprising engineer trying to keep everything together, and so on.

This story is the first in the Stardrifter series. The second story, Street Candles, is also available on Podiobooks. I have to say, after listening to Motherload, I am looking forward to spending more time in this universe.

Street Candles was 40 episodes long, and I knew I couldn’t squeeze much of it at all into the time frame of this year’s Reading Program, and I have a lot of podcasts I’ve put on hold that I’d like to catch up with, so I picked a shorter thing to round out the audiobooks portion of my reading this year. But next year? I have an idea of what’s going onto the mp3 player first.

Reading Program ends

Me: 8 x 4hr blocks read. 8 x 8hr blocks read. All that counted toward the Reading Program. Additional 2 x 8hr blocks read, didn’t manage to get credit for that, with 4 hrs remainder on top of that.

Audiobooks: 79 hours listened to before the end of the reading program: 10 titles completed from Podiobooks, a 4-CD set I reviewed the other day, another title from Podiobooks started and not yet finished.

Countless kids books read.2 graphic novels read> Monuments Men finished (the Famous Five book finished, read to self not kids), got a way through The Ionian Mission but didn’t finish.

Didn’t count a bunch of time spent looking at service books, , or reading articles online

Oldest read 14 x 4 hour chunks, with an hour and a half remainder, and probably some extra stuff that didn’t get timed so didn’t get counted.

Middlest managed to read (well, entirely “be read to”) 8 x 4hr chunks.

Think we did pretty well.

Review: The Wonderful World of Linus Bailey

Part of the experience having kids, is little games you play. Or the little in-jokes. Sometimes, during mealtimes, my wife runs out of water in her cup, and asks if there is a water ninja around. Oldest (usually) will sneak around the table and steal her cup. Sometimes my wife will wonder aloud where her cup went, sometimes she will not notice its absence. Oldest will go and fill it up, and return it, and my wife will express surprise that the cup has been magically filled, or returned. “Thank you, water ninja!” she says, then Oldest will admit it was him and say “you’re welcome!”.

I’ve been known to sing (in an attempt to suggest “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match”), “Water ninja, water ninja, ninj me some water”.

Another thing that parents sometimes have to deal with is a talkative child. My sister, when she was young (no slight intended against her less-youngness), used to talk nineteen to the dozen. I think perhaps we could have been nicer about that. Middlest also does a lot of chatting, and if you ask her a question, often she’ll go into a long, mostly-unrelated monologue, and trying to interject can be a risky proposition.

In The Wonderful World Of Linus Bailey, Linus is the one to do the talking, usually at least nominally about the subject at hand. His problem, rather, is one of Constantly Making Stuff Up. His dad, in his imagination, is a ninja, who didn’t come back home after saving a nice lady at the Empire State Building, from people with guns. He has a myriad of imaginary relatives, one who owns the left half of the Amazon river, another who owns the right half. An uncle who runs a Viking hat shop. A mine in the back garden, an evil headmaster.

Linus’s problems start when his teacher tells him to not make up any fanciful stories as part of his class assignment (he does anyway), but things get dramatically worse when all the stuff he’s made up actually starts coming true.

I really liked the story. I think it’s one of those stories that has things going on at the kid-level, but plenty of stuff at the grown-up level as well. Of course, using words like “ninjing” like I do, I’m going to enjoy. I found the story clever, well-thought-out, and funny.

I think Oldest will enjoy it, and I’m really thinking of getting him to listen to it.

The Wonderful World of Linus Bailey can be found on Podiobooks, Amazon, Peter James Lamb’s website, and elsewhere.

Review: EDYL – The Reading Department

You might be starting to suspect, by now, that I am somewhat partial to the science-fiction genre. A lot of the audiobooks I’ve listened to in the binge during the reading program, have fallen into this genre.

Well, you’d be right. Science-fiction is rather a large umbrella term for stories,  which usually overlap at least one other genre. Crime, Horror, Comedy, and many more. And just by adding some elements, technological or otherwise, that secondary genre can be substantially expanded.

EDYL – The Reading Department, by Mark Capell, overlaps slightly with the “Spy” genre. Set on Earth in 2046, Jake Radley is about to embark on a new career – but he can’t know what it is until after he’s committed to doing it. After that, the training doesn’t really give him any clues, either.

While this is going on, society-at-large is being filled in for us.

Mr Capell creates an interesting world in the short running time of The Reading Department, with uncertainty on both the societal and the personal level.

I enjoyed it, enough that I don’t want to talk too much about it, so I don’t spoil anything.

The Reading Department ends in a way that you rather want to know What Happens Next, like it’s Part 1 of a series. Technically it is Part 1 of a series, with EDYL – Island Of Immortality available on Kindle. Island Of Immortality, however, is set 71 years later, so we might not find out the rest of Jake’s story.

Still, the possibilities that are left dangling to us, may be a better choice than a direct continuation of the story.

Thumbs up from me.

Review: Educide

I was out working in the back garden when I finished Window In The Sky, the last Podiobook I had on my player. Forgetting that I had a series of Louis L’Amour short stories grabbed from CD on there, I came in and had a look at the Podiobooks that I hadn’t listened to, yet. Not sure at that point how long the Reading Program would be going on for (ends Aug 7th), I looked for a story that didn’t have a great deal of parts to it.

Educide by S. Lawrence Parrish was only twelve episodes long, and short episodes, as it turned out.

Avery Carmichael arrives at a school as a student teacher, someone learning on the job about what it is to be a teacher. He has been assigned to work with Sam Petersen, a veteran teacher.

In a school where resources are stretched thin, and many students require extra attention, the environment doesn’t start off easy (well, Avery wanted a challenge), and as the story goes on, progressively gets more difficult.

It’s been a while since I was in school, but there are many parts I do remember. Substitute teachers who tried to make things fun, but weren’t really able to handle classes that really test the limits with new teachers. Teachers who start off the year all pleasant, and “you can come to me if you have any problems with your work”, but as the year went on would flip out really easily, and you wouldn’t want to approach them for anything. And of course, teachers who, through whatever miracle, actually made you want to work.

And then the students, the ones you really wanted to see, the ones who you’d go out of your way to avoid.

Sartre had a point when he said “hell is other people”, though I believe he missed the rest of the equation, “so is heaven”.

Mr Parrish wrote school very well. the environment seemed familiar, both students and teachers. And, having worked for other people, the off-campus administrators seemed believable as well.

I found the ending rather a surprise, though I suppose I shouldn’t have. It seemed a logical outgrowth of the way people were treated.

Looking on Podiobooks, I see that Mr Parrish has a few more stories uploaded there. Based on how well this one was constructed, I’m going to have a good look at the others to choose some more to pick out.

Review: Window In The Sky

When I started getting into Podiobooks in a big way, I downloaded Homesick by Paul J. Joseph. This turned out to be the second book in his Through The Fold series. I went back and listened to Marker Stone (book 1), and now I’ve listened all the way through and finished book 6: Window In The Sky.

Through The Fold has been an interesting series. As a series primarily set in space, whether on ships or stations or alien worlds, we often see well-thought-out situations and technologies: muscle wastage in low-grav environments in those who don’t exercise, and people trying to find a way around the exercising. Stations as waypoints on longer journeys. Space travel taking a Long Time (which it ought to).

These things help ground the series when it ventures into the alien-ness of the Masters, then the even-more-alien-ness of the Szzzyyyxx (pronounced “See-ikes”), the weird weapon that so negatively affects Baltan City, and then the time travel and parallel universe stories.

I’ve read and watched a lot of science fiction, and know how badly the Big Shiny Reset Button can suck. Mr Joseph has impressed me by using reset buttons in two books, and have it be satisfying.

One thing I find interesting about the series, is the steps between each story are pretty big. The discovery of the Fold in Marker Stone does make a logical step to exploration of the other side in Homesick, but after that, the stories aren’t really what you expect from a logical, measured building-upon the foundations carefully laid by the book before. The pattern’s a bit more complicated than that, so while the steps seem like left turns, they do build upon each other and add up pretty well.

Layers of complexity are added as the series goes on, and Window In The Sky is the most complicated of all. Splashdown introduced time travel to the series, Window really explores the effects of history being rewritten multiple times. From the perspective of a few different points in the timelines.

There really is quite a tangled web, which Mr Joseph manages to untangle without leaving any threads hanging, which seems like rather a feat.

Initially in the series, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with a same-sex relationship portrayed in the story. I soon overcame this, though. Mr Joseph avoided two pitfalls that lie lurking, waiting to ensnare works like this. One, there can be a temptation to describe one type of relationship more than another. The other, to go into a lot of description about physical acts.

Mr Joseph balances the main romantic partnerships (Sally and Jackie, and Ian and Angela) about the same. The dynamics are different of course: Jackie is more supporting of Sally than Angela is of Ian, but neither relationship is turned into porn for the ears, as some other writers do. I appreciated that.

There’s a twist at the very end of Window that has the comments section at Podiobooks, very divided. To some extent, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, at the same time, it’s one of those things that seems worth discussing. So what I’ll do, I’ll give my wrap-up now, leave a few lines blank, then talk about the ending a bit. If you don’t want to be spoiled, well, you’re a grown-up, you can skip that part.

The wrap-up:

Someone (and I’m too lazy right now to look up who) once said: If a book isn’t worth reading twice, it’s not worth reading once. I enjoyed the Through The Fold series, and while sometimes it was a bit tricky to follow, when one character stopped talking and another started, and there wasn’t a lot of change in the vocal style, any potential confusion always got swiftly cleared up. The stories got complicated, yes, but I still managed to follow them. I think I will listen to the whole series again. They’re pretty long books, so I’m not quite ready for such a massive undertaking at this point, but having finished the series now, I’m kinda looking forward to it.

All six books of the Through The Fold series can be found at Podiobooks.

MAJOR SPOILERS AFTER THE BREAK

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Are they gone? Good. Reminder: MAJOR SPOILERS (in case you forgot)

After the entire timeline is reset, and a new universe emerges, Ian and Sally are, for different reasons, left partnerless. They also both remember the previous timelines, which nobody else does.

As the only people alive who share that now-vanished history, it’s not surprising that they would find it easier to connect with each other, than to anyone in the rest of the populace who wasn’t there so couldn’t remember. I’ve heard stranger real-life stories of gay people surprised to find themselves choosing to be in a straight marriage.

Ian’s broaching of the subject does seem a bit awkward, but any such conversation would be. The question “Are you still…?” then jarred a little, but seemed mitigated by his bringing up that she’d mentioned she had had a crush on a guy, once. Sally’s reaction to what would obviously seem like a major change, seemed reasonable as well.

Thus to me, that development in the closing moments of the book, didn’t really come across as contrived, to me.

I can see how it would piss a lot of people off, who have different viewpoints on the subject to myself. Seems Mr Joseph is on track to piss everyone off: for one group, by having a gay relationship prominent throughout the series, and to another, by having a gay character turn straight at the end.

I’m an asshole, and am also not entirely in either group, so I just find that observation amusing.

Anyway, the scenario made sense to me even without that change, so.