Monday, July 6, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #136: Classics Are Always In Front

Classics Are Always In Front - 20150706_111646

What Is It

A bookcase filled with classic books to be found just as you enter the Woburn Library.

Why It's Today's Pick

As many know, I am a huge fan of the library.  I frequent it almost daily and regularly encourages friends, colleagues, students, and random strangers to full abuse (I mean use!) the library.  Each library has its own character and personality that reveals itself as you look through its shelves and explore its displays.  However, I find Woburn Public Library to be on of my favorite.  Nevermind that the audiobook section is probably the closest section near the main desk area, but the very first cart that you are likely to encounter is the classics collection.  It doesn't look like it is their only "classics" section, but it does look like they keep this rolling bookcase near the entrance for quick access by patrons and I find that to be pretty cool.  It says something about the library in its desire to keep classic texts--books that have been read and appreciated by previous generations near the entrance.  It says, "Welcome!  Here are some of the time-tested books that we think you will enjoy, and if not, don't worry, there's plenty more to explore here!"   I always stop to look to see if there's a classic that grabs my attention and demands to be read (not that I've read all the classics, but I usually wait until certain ones call to me).  


This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My Most Recent Reads - June, 2015

June was a slow month bu that was to be expected since because I was taking two courses while also working.  That kept me pretty busy with reading many articles and writing papers.  However, I did manage to squeeze out a couple books included reading a physical book in additional to several audiobooks.  I only have one recommendation for this month, but it's a very timely one!


Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities by Craig Steven Wilder

Book Cover - Ebony and Ivory - Race Slavery and the Trouble History of American's Universities
Wilder takes on the historical and economic connections between slavery and many of the founding higher educational institutes in the United States from the 1600s to the 1800s.  Within it, he traces the direct and indirect ways that such institutions participated, promoted, and benefited from slavery.  It is a dry read at times, but a very telling one indeed.  When we have discussions about race and racism and the long-lasting effects, we often look directly to the African American community, but we rarely recognize that beyond the negative effects on this population, it's clear that white institutions such as higher education flourished and became richer as a direct result of participating in slavery in various ways.  Wilder paints this in vivid detail leaving no doubt that the Ivy Walls were held together in part with blood from slaves.  It's a challenging view to accept and realize just how deeply entrenched slavery was in our society and how the animosity created through it still permeate our society.  I'm speaking now in light of the massacre at the historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina--though I have little doubt that by the time you read this--there will be some other more recent and racially-laden event.    

Here's my ongoing list of books read this year on GoodReads.  Also, here 2015's reading reflections thus far:


BOOKS

  • How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul Silvia
AUDIOBOOKS

  • Galileo by Bertolt Brecht
  • So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
  • Higher Education in America by Derek Bok
  • Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" by Lena Dunham
  • Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers by Nick Offerman
  • Camping with Henry and Tom by Mark St. Germain
  • The Credeaux Canvas by Keith Bunin
  • The Smartest Book in the World: A Lexicon of Literacy, A Rancorous Reportage, A Concise Curriculum of Cool by Greg Proops
  • Monologue: What Makes America Laugh Before Bed by Jon Macks
  • Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities by Craig Steven Wilder
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
  • Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed by Annabelle Gurwitch
  • It's Not a Fair World by Harry Shearer

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • The Unwritten, Vol. 11: Apocalypse by Mike Carey

So what have you been reading lately?  What would you recommend?


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #135: Foggy Sun

Foggy Sun - 20150701_060438

What Is It

The sun emerging from behind a cloud on a foggy but sun-bright day.


Why It's Today's Pick

I went out for the morning to find a coffee shop to read here in Halifax, but many were closed since it is Canada Day--a day similar but also quite different than Independence Day.  After a few hopeful options went dry, I came down to the boardwalk to see if there was anything, but there wasn't.  However, there was this glorious contrast of fog with the sun.  It was such a fascinating view--it felt almost as if the sun was bearing down on the water and turning it into vapor before my very eyes.  I snapped a few different photos, but I liked this one because it capture not only the sun and the mist, but also the long shadow of the pier as well as the land (which is Dartmouth, I'm told) in the background.  This image typifies our experience thus far in Halifiax, a mixture of sun and water--sometimes, at the same time!

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #134: That's Not A Ship

That's Not A Ship - 20150630_094227

What Is It

The end of a railroad where it mees with a shipyard and a giant concrete building where there appears to be some kind of production going on as well as a "Mayflower" shipping truck.  

Why It's Today's Pick

I found this image a bit haunting and curious.  I had run by it the day before while exploring Halifax but came back for a walk earlier today to capture it.  There's an element of industrialized destitution with the rusted train tracks, the massive, water-stained concrete building, and the train carts allow which seem to be slowly getting swallowed by the abundance of green weeds.  The Mayflower truck are curious because it's a moving and storage company out of Halifax named after the Mayflower that came to Massachusetts (that seems likely given that the icon next to the right of the title is a ship).  All of it seems foreboding or strange--something almost alien.  I would love to go exploring in there as if it were an abandoned lot but it was also clear that there is a good deal of bustle as those train carts had disappeared hours later when I returned.

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

June Is Audiobook Month: The Full Experience #ListenLit

So in this final post for June Is Audiobook Month, I want to talk about why audiobooks are so powerful.  If you haven't had a chance to check out my previous posts on the subject, please do. I've discussed authors as well as my appreciation and considerations for narrators and even the unsung heroes of audiobooks, the sound crew.  


Why Audiobooks Are So Powerful

I listen to a lot of audiobooks in a given year (probably about 150).  Some are amazing aural adventures and others teach me things about the world and myself that I may never have known otherwise.  In fact, sometimes, it's the voice itself that helps me to think about the information, much more than the information itself.  Inflection and emphasis can do much for our understanding and I value that much with audiobooks.  They provide vocal direction that helps immensely in moving through a text.  It's why I encourage everyone I meet to listen to audiobooks and keep listening until they find what works.  People claim to be certain types of learners and I get that, but that doesn't negate the idea that they can still learn in other formats and in fact, should learn in other formats if only to keep their minds receptive to different ways of understanding the world around them.  
Audiobook_logo_small

With audiobooks, it's that crisp and clear sound (created by the sound engineers) coupled with a powerful voice (created by the narrator) that send us off on an adventure, a journey of learning, or just some great laughs or scares.  They have supplied me with tens of thousands of hours of entertainment and enlightenment over the years and I suspect will continue to do so until I die or become hearing impaired.  


When I think about all of the books I have gained access to as a result of listening to audiobooks, it's pretty substantial.  It's something I often explain to people when I talk about audiobooks.   I don't listen to them in lieu of traditional books but in addition to.  I cannot always be buried in a book, especially when driving, walking or doing chores.  Yet, I can be thoroughly engaged in listening while do these things.  

When I first press play on an audiobook, I sit in a moment of anticipation.  Who is the narrator and what will he or she sound like?  How will they seduce me?  How will the narrator and the author collude to inform, entertain, inspire or move me?  Often, they read the book title, author, and increasingly the narrator.  These are mere teasers for the main event:  The first few sentences.  I'm waiting at this point to see just what kind of tone, rhythm, projection, and emphasis they will strike with the text.  How easily will I be sucked into the audiobook?  Some of these questions and experience arise less so if I am familiar and fond of the narrator, but they are still present.  


Throughout a rewarding listening experience, I am often struck by how the narrator becomes the life of the text and draws out the emotion and importance of the words.  At times, it's clear the narrator knows which lines are meant to hit home to the listener and he or she delivers those lines with just the right balance.  Often, as I close in on the end of an audiobook, particularly if it is fiction, I begin to experience reader's remorse.  Many of us have been there with books we've read.  The end is near and so we know the journey will soon end.  We hate this about our authors.  They suck us in and spit us out, changing our mental chemical make-up in the process.  This goes doubly for audiobooks because the relation with the story is that much more palpable because of the voice.  

I've spent a couple thousand words in this series on audiobooks talking about how wonderful they are.  What can I say, I'm a total convert to the experience and carry that zeal along with me to try to convince others to put on a pair of headphones and give it a try.  I hope that you will!

If you do, be sure to come back and share your experiences--I'd love to hear them.  If you already listen to audiobooks, then also please share your thoughts and experiences!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #133: Empty Clam at The Beach

Empty Clam at The Beach - 20150627_094254

What Is It

An empty clam shell on the beach.

Why It's Today's Pick

I went for a walk on the beach at Gillis Park today.  This empty clam was just sitting around enjoying the view, or at least, that's how I imagine it like it were some Pixar film.  Of course, it stuck out to to me because it's a white and yellowish object among a field of browns, blacks, and greens.  Now that I look at the clam closer, I can see small little bugs on it--I'm guessing they're looking to clean out any lingering reminents of the clam that used to live in the shell.  And when I look even closer, there is a whole army of the buggers to the left of the clam in the bottom corner of the photo.  It makes me almost wish I had seen them and tried to capture them.  

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #134: The Bookman Statue

The Bookman Statue - 20150625_085830

What Is It

A photo of a statue at the MBTA Central Station in Lynn.

Why It's Today's Pick

I really like this statue.  Clearly, we know that part of the reason is that I'm a shameless bibliophile.  Of course, I also teach literature at North Shore Communit College, which is right across the street from this statue.  But I love what the statue communicates.  The person sits upon a throne of books.  They hold him up and indeed, when you look close enough, they even are a part of him.  In fact, it's hard to tell where the books end and the person begins.  It's a great metaphor about books and by proxy, learning.  I find it also fascinating that hte person is largely naked--speaking to how deeply books become a part of us--surpassing the exterior and delving into our private world.  I look at this statue and I regularly wonder--which books are they that make up this person.  

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June Is Audiobook Month: The Production #ListenLit

In the past few weeks, I've talked plenty about audiobooks with regards to authors as well as my appreciation and considerations for narrators.  In this feature, we are going to take a gander at the production end of audiobooks.  

It's clear when people pick up an audiobook they are thinking about the author and increasingly, the narrator.  These are the two biggest forces that come through in audiobook productions.  But the unsung heroes are the sound engineers, directors and others involved in turning the static text into a dynamic experience.  They are the like the book editor who does so much labor and yet whose presence is rarely seen in the finished product.  


Seamlessness of Sound

7Let's first just recognize that the production crew creates a finished product.  They weave together and level off the narrations that have been produced into a coherent and (mostly) seamless product.  After all, even the best narrators are going to make mistakes, stumble, or need to re-read sentences if not entire paragraphs.  Their work in the studio can take anywhere from a day to weeks and therefore, the production crew must pull all of that together in a single experience for the listener.  

They must listen for consistency and accuracy of sound, making sure a narrator not only sound the same throughout the production, but also that he or she correctly pronounces words (such as foreign words) and maintain character voices. 


The Non-Narrator Sounds

But there are other touches that the production crew adds to the experience that we're not always aware of.  The introductory music or even the musical segues from one chapter to the next (or from one CD to the next--for those that still use CDs).  These often set the tone and mood, providing a simple cue to the listener about what kind of journey they are about to embark upon.  Some companies used this pretty consistently while others avoid it altogether.  I imagine that it can be seen as an unnecessary expense or one that seems relevant for only specific markets (e.g. young adult or children's audiobooks).  

An extension of the musical segues is the musical score wherein music will be added in numerous ways to the production as background or even foreground (Swing! A Novel comes to mind).  Though musical scores don't happen that often with regular audiobooks that have a single narrator, they do occasionally appear and they are interesting products to say the least.  

Of course, some audiobooks go beyond music to add a variety of sound effects.  These are not necessarily dramatizations (which we'll talk about down below), but just added features.  A good portion of the Star Wars audiobooks adds these such as Artoo Detoo's beeping or the snap-hiss of a lightsaber.  I'm not entirely convinced they add much to the listening experience and they can sometimes be poorly integrated such as when, the text mentions the sound and pauses ever so slightly so the sound effect can be heard on its own.  These can feel redundant and forced.  It's better when sound effects replace text (as we'll talk about below).  Though I'm not convinced on them, they still take a good deal of time and consideration by the producer.  The best example that integrates sound superbly is Ross Ballard's productions at Mountain Whisper audiobooks.  These sounds often make up the setting and enhance the experience without being distracting or feeling forced.  


So Many Voices In My Head

Another element that the production crew must put in the extra mile is when working with a full cast for a production.  Some productions will have all the narrators together, others will have them read separately and weave the pieces together.  Getting everyone in the same recording studio produces it's own share of challenges as much as having each narrator do his or her own part separately.  Regardless of the format, this can be a tricky process as it requires blending together numerous voices into a singular production that feels seamless.  

A subset of the full-cast production is the audio dramatization.  I love audiobooks with a singular narrator. They are amazing to no end and will always listen to them.  However, I do believe audio dramatizations are best understood as the most accurate means of adapting an audiobook into an audio format.  I wrote a journal article several years ago about audiobooks as adaptation.  The central argument was that taking a text and moving into an aural medium can be considered an act of translation or adaptation.  If it were to be an act of translation, then you would indeed need a single narrator, reading the text straight with no inflection. But if adaptation is the goal, then dramatization is necessary.  In the dramatization process, one would need to replace sound-oriented words with distinguished sounds.  So to me, dramatizations are always a high-water mark for the potential of audiobooks because they maximize the medium's abilities.  

It's also in audio-dramatizations where the director, sound engineers, and other background are hardest at work trying to weave together numerous inputs to make the most powerful audio experience--or as Graphic Audio puts it: "A movie in your mind."


My Favorite Sources of Audio Dramatizations

I first came into audiobooks because of dramatizations.  The BBC's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sucked me into the world of audiobooks when I stumbled upon it at my local library in the mid-1990s.  It helped me make sense of a book I had tried to read a dozen times.  So I always try to pick up an audio dramatization at least once a month because it always feels like home to me.  If you are looking for some great audio dramatizations, these are the best places to start.  

L. A. Theatre Works:  Full-cast performances of plays both known and unknown.  They often have well-known actors in lead parts and are performed in front of a live audience.  They will also sometimes include interviews with the director or other great material.  Many libraries carry them or grant access to them through OverDrive.  

Graphic Audio:  They do amazing productions with full-cast, sound effects, and musical score.  They focus on genre and serial fiction.  They have been putting out some great audiobooks on Marvel & DC Comics narratives.  The drawback is that many libraries don't care enough of their titles and they don't sell their productions on Audible, which is the go-to place for many audiofiles.  

BBC Radio: I would be remiss if I did not mention the BBC, given how much they changed my life in terms of audiobooks.  They are still a major player in the audio dramatization field and they provide many great productions.  They are a bit harder to access through the library but they do eventually end up on Audible.  

AudioComics:  Though they are not as prolific as the ones mentioned above, they are still the potential game-changer for the field of audio dramatizations.  They bring an amazing range of talent, lead by the excellent, William Dufris and focused on adapting non-mainstream comics.  I have high hopes for them as a company.

Again, all of these fantastic experiences are made possible by the production crew, the ever-present but often unheard workhorses of every audiobook production.  

That's all for now--keep an eye out for my final entry in the series that pulls all of these together.  


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #132: Iron Eye

Iron Eye - 20150623_061438

What Is It

A metal hoop in cement near Ferncroft Pond.

Why It's Today's Pick

Upon a walk this morning, I decided to stop by Ferncroft Pond.  I occasionally visit this small little nestled and rarely visited nook that's off of Ferncroft Road, down the street from North Shore Community College.  It was a calm and slightly hazy morning and there was a nature-induced soundscape of birds, a slight breeze, insects chirping and even the occasional bullfrog letting one loose.  I thought about snapping a photo of the pond, but then I spotted this figure in the ground and thought it could make a more powerful centerpiece to the photo.  I liked how it came out overall, though if I were to take it again, I would try to have some of the water seen within middle part as this would make for an interesting balance and visual.  It still turned out well.

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, June 22, 2015

June Is Audiobook Month: The Narrators Part 2 #ListenLit

In the last post, I gushed an awful lot about narrators.  I couldn't help it.  They have changed my life in profound ways.  This week, we'll explore a few other elements around narrators that aren't necessarily as positive.


Author as Narrator

It needs to be said: most authors do not make good narrators, even when it comes to telling personal stories such as memoirs.  There are definitely exceptions to the rule but usually when an author delivers a good narration, they have experience in radio or acting, thus transferring previously established skills.  I root for authors as narrators but they just don't make the cut and it can often feel like to narrate the book is an act of ego.  Too often has the author's inability to navigate their own complex prose turned me away from their book or the inconsistency or over (and under) dramatic voice done them in.  Ideally, an author should read the introduction, the foreword, or the afterword--that is, they should contribute and provide a small sampling of their voice that the listener can appreciate and contextualize with the production.  However, the full text should be left to the professionals.  
Vocal Microphone

Bad Narrators Happen

And that's not to say that narrators are always perfect.  Some narrators have definitely botched it in some ways small and big.  Though sometimes, this can be the fault of the narrator, the director, or the sound engineer for not picking up on things.  I regularly come across vocal shifts in productions where it is clear that the narrator has had to reread a section, possibly days later and his or her voice does not match with the previous voice.  Such moments can feel like bad dubbing.  Then, of course, there are when narrators get accents wrong, overdo them, or are inconsistent with them.  This too can be draining for the listening experience.  


Questions I've Always Wanted to Know (And Hoped to Get Real Answers)

I've interviewed several dozen narrators over the years.  It's been a great experience and I'm a total fanboy when it comes to narrators.  However, the interviews were largely promotional so it was often hard to get to really deep and controversial questions.  So the following is my wish list of questions to ask narrators.
  1. How does narrating a book that has uncomfortable content or content that you are personally opposed to (ethically, philosophically, politically, etc) effect you?  
  2. What's the worse narration you have ever done and why?
  3. What's the worse narration you have ever heard and why?
  4. Who's the worst author you've ever had to narrate and why?
  5. What's the most embarrassing mispronunciation you've ever uttered into a microphone?
Maybe I might get an answer for that last one but the other questions are likely to be dodged.  That's all for this edition.  In the next post, we'll talk about the production--or where the magic happens!  


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.