But is it Art?

It’s fitting that the following list/poem by Hilary North is all over the web as we remember, in whatever way each of us do, 9/11. In that context it is powerful. In that context its power is driven by the contrast of its very ordinariness. I’m not criticizing North’s list, which is really beyond criticism even if I wanted to. It makes me sad and stirs my memory (and strikes an appropriate pedagogical note, if one is into that kind of American self-reliance thing), just as it should.

But it also strikes me—and I think this is fair to observe since it is sometimes presented as a powerful poem—that, as art, it’s mundane at best. Reading thousands and thousands of submissions for concīs, what makes this list a list, rather than a poem, is a lack of aesthetic self-reliance. The context of the event does all the work. Without that still-electric tragedy within and around every line it would just be a list, found and forgotten. Just as droves of terrible love poems, to pick the most popular genre of failure, don’t work because without the context (that is so clear to the writer they don’t even realize it, as the very air around them) they’re just observations without even a veneer of musicality or charged (or charging) language.

“How My Life Has Changed” (Hilary North)

I can no longer flirt with Lou.
I can no longer dance with Mayra.
I can no longer eat brownies with Suzanne Y.
I can no longer meet the deadline with Mark.
I can no longer talk to George about his daughter.
I can no longer drink coffee with Rich.
I can no longer make a good impression on Chris.
I can no longer smile at Paul L.
I can no longer confide in Lisa.
I can no longer work on a project with Donna R.
I can no longer get to know Yolanda.
I can no longer call the client with Nick.
I can no longer contribute to the book drive organized by Karen.
I can no longer hang out with Millie.
I can no longer give career advice to Suzanne P.
I can no longer laugh with Donna G.
I can no longer watch Mary Ellen cut through the bull.
I can no longer drink beer with Paul B.
I can no longer have a meeting with Dave W.
I can no longer leave a message with Andrea.
I can no longer gossip with Anna.
I can no longer run into Dave P. at the vending machine.
I can no longer call Steve about my computer.
I can no longer compliment Lorenzo.
I can no longer hear Herman’s voice.
I can no longer trade voice mails with Norman.
I can no longer ride the elevator with Barbara.
I can no longer say hello to Steven every morning.
I can no longer see the incredible view from the 103rd Floor of the South Tower.
I can no longer take my life for granted.

Still Spirited

Hard to believe it’s been 25 years since Nirvana released “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I still remember—and hopefully will never reach the point that I can forget—the moment I first heard it (which was a month or so before this official release and not long after my daughter was born). Different, difficult, better times.

Podcasts I’m Listening To

Inspired by a recently created Slack channel at work—and Bryan’s epic list—here’s a list of podcasts I’ve been listening to.

Must-Listens

The podcasts I listen to completely: every episode, as soon as I can after they are released.

  • A Way with Words. The best words and language podcast out there. Sorry, Allusionist.
  • Allusionist. “Small adventures in language with Helen Zaltzman.”
  • FiveThirtyEight Elections. The only political podcast you’ll find here.
  • Freakonomics Radio. Even when the topic isn’t interesting (and they usually are) it’s interesting.
  • Mystery Show. Hard to describe. Just trust me. Come back, Starlee!
  • Northern Soundings. “Alaska in conversation” with local (as in Fairbanks!) host Robert Hannon. Three episodes in and this series has been excellent…and not just because the subjects (artists and writers) are people I know and respect.
  • Revisionist History. Malcolm Gladwell can be annoying and even enraging…but he’s a witty writer and host and always leads me to some deep thinking.
  • Serial. Deserving of the hype…the latest season featuring Bowe Bergdahl was even better than the first. I dare you to listen to it and not come away surprised.
  • Song Exploder. Amazing (sometimes surprisingly so) musicians take apart their songs and explain how they came to be. Short and sweet.
  • Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder. A story of corruption, private investigators and the dark ethics of the police in 1980s South London.

Listen-a-Lots

Podcasts with episodes that frequently survive the gauntlet.

  • 99% Invisible. A show about “all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” So much hype I wanted to hate it…but I can’t.
  • Criminal. Don’t let the title fool you, this isn’t your ordinary true-crime podcast. It’s (mostly) out of the ordinary and extraordinary.
  • Ideas from CBC Radio. The breadth of In Our Time with a significantly less annoying host and more of a North American focus.
  • In Our Time. I frequently wish I could throttle the host, but often fascinating topics (the history of Bedlam, the evolution of photography, William Blake, the Muses, Euclid’s elements) with well-chosen participants.
  • Naked Scientists. Irreverent, insightful, accurate and timely.
  • Reply All. A tech show. Kind of. But much more than that.
  • Science Vs.. Based on the first two episodes with surprising results about “fracking” and not-so-surprising results about “attachment parenting,” this brisk and entertaining series looks like a keeper.
  • WTF with Marc Maron. You have to skip the first 15-20 minutes of Maron’s inane babble (I’d pay for a subscription that didn’t include that part) but Maron has a real talent for getting his guests (ranging from President Obama and Terry Gross to Jonah Hill and Gallagher) to open up in surprising ways. So good I find myself happily listening to full episodes with people I’d never think to otherwise listen to.
  • Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me. I know, I know. But I still find myself amused. Most of the time.

Dip-Intos

Podcasts with the infrequent, but frequently enough, interesting episode that I stay subscribed:

  • Filmspotting. Long, in-depth and totally worth it when an episode focuses on a film I want to see or enjoyed enough to want to learn more.
  • Fresh Air. I really enjoy Fresh Air, but unless it’s a really compelling guest the episodes just keep getting pushed to the bottom of my list.
  • Memory Palace. Quirky, curious stories from the past.
  • Moth, The. Still the best live storytelling show.
  • Nerdist. The host is annoying as hell. And usually the press junkets for stars mean you can listen to the same kind of thing but better over at WTF. But, occasionally…gold!
  • Next Picture Show. “Where Movie Of The Week meets a movie of the day.” First half dives into a classic film, the second into a modern successor (or something like that).
  • On Being. Explores, sometimes too earnestly, questions of “what does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?”
  • RISK!. A show “where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public.” Often as good as The Moth.
  • StarTalk Radio. Neil DeGrasse Tyson hosts roundtables with scientists, pop culture stars, authors, comedians and more.
  • Surprisingly Awesome. Boring things made awesome. A bit of 99% Invisible and a bit of Revisionist History.
  • This American Life. The grandaddy…I just find too many other shows just as interesting so TAL, like Fresh Air, languishes in my Overcast queue.

For Nerd-Alikes Only

Podcasts for people who might be too much like me.

  • History of English. 82 episodes at the moment, which brings us to the 12th century. Glorious for language nerds.
  • Shakespeare Unlimited. The food of Shakespeare, Othello and Blackface, news of a First Folio Find…if you love Shakespeare you should enjoy this.
  • Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory. If you’re at least mildly obsessed with the Bard and can handle a lot of theory gibble-gabble, there are diamonds to be found here.

Fiction and Poetry

Podcasts of fiction, poetry and fictionalized worlds.

Where Are They Now?

Podcasts I once enjoyed a lot but have since grown weary of. I might go back to them. You might want to start some of them.