Exploring audio books on foot: part one

I originally decided to try out audio books for running and road trips. With the latter, I found even the most compelling story made me sleepy. When driving from Calgary to Winnipeg in one go (1325 km or about 13 hours with food breaks), I need peppy, bouncy, soulless pop music from the 90’s and 00’s to keep me alert and able. Slight clarification: it’s a completely different experience if me or my road trip mate are reading aloud. Perhaps I’m just wired to pay more attention to someone I can see. Anyhow…

runner with headphonesListening to an audio book while running took some experimentation. I began by downloading books I thought would be inspiring (Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall), energizing (Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing), diverting (Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling), and comforting (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen). Some of these were favourites and some of these were new, but with every attempt I came closer to finding the type of book I knew would be effective in keeping me going over the building mileage in my marathon training.

Obviously Born to Run was going to be a good one. I’d read the paper version twice, but I think I enjoyed the story in my ear even more as I ran the tree-lined streets of my neighborhood, pushing beyond my easy pace and playing with my running form as Fred Sanders (the narrator) explained how my body was made for this motion. Unfortunately, I can’t just listen to that book again and again. It’s only 11 hours… which sounds like a lot but isn’t when you’re averaging 25-30 miles a week. I’ve since downloaded Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running but haven’t taken it out on the roads or trails yet. I feel like it’s going to be atmospheric, and I think I’m waiting for the winter to experience Murakami’s phrasing in my mind.

Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me, even shorter at a paltry 5 hours, was a joy. I’ve come to think all memoirs/autobiographies/essays by comedians should be experienced as audio books. I’m sure it’s funny on paper, but funnier when Mindy Kaling is telling you her stories with her own timing, cadence, and inflections. The same goes for Amy Poehler’s Yes Please!, which has the added secret value of guest narrators like Patrick Stewart and Seth Meyers and moments of laughter and improvisation that you won’t find in the bound version. This category of badass-successful-feminist-female comedians definitely works for me. I get to feel powerful and feminine, entertained and empowered, and it’s the right amount of diversion and lightness for 3-6 mile recovery runs. Right now, Caitlin Moran is making me laugh and wince as she develops her first adult feelings about – of all people – Chevy Chase, and tries to find the right names for her “bathing suit areas” in How To Be A Woman. Her stories are embarrassing, not for their content, but for their familiarity.

I’m also trying to enjoy Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, but aside from the interest I have in the actual journey, and the appreciation I have of her story-worthy, atypical life, I don’t like her. I wish she’d hurry up and get her shit together. It’s not entertaining to me to listen to her cheat on her husband and do a lot of heroin. It’s physically painful to me to imagine not thinking about the weight of a hiking pack… or attempting to pack it… prior to embarking on this massive expedition. She’s an incomprehensible mix of determination and complete lack of foresight. But I think I could get over that if they’d chosen a different narrator. I’m sorry Bernadette Dunne. You are totally great at your job. I have no problem with you or your style at all. BUT you sound like you’re in your 50s, and Cheryl at the time of this journey was in her 20s. It’s distracting.

— To be continued —

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Fringe Fest — a real journey of story

This is my favourite time of the year for the city. People have deluded themselves into forgetting the annual eight months of winter in the bright blissful Prairie heat of July. It’s sunny and verdant and vibrant everywhere, and in the city’s core the streets fill up with tents and buskers, food carts and performances.

Downtown is at its best right now, because the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre festival is on. 180 performances in 12 days at 32 different venues… it makes for a colourful, active, and entertaining vibe all over the city, but shines brightest in the three square kilometers surrounding Portage and Main.

Fringe

I’ll be spending a significant chunk of my free time taking in Fringe shows (I have 13 scheduled… the first, Burning Hearts, in less than two hours), and I think I’ve targeted a good cross-section of genres to explore this year. The one I’m most looking forward to? How to Talk to Human Beings (watch the epic and informative trailer).

I’ll be posting updates/reviews if I feel like it.

What?

I’m being honest.

 

S.E. Lund

 

P.S. If you’re curious, my second-most favourite time for the city is the second week of February.

A picture is worth 140 characters

JT got a smartphone last week. His first. For the last seven years he’s been using one of those old brick phones (it slides!) — specifically the Samsung Messager (SCH-r450), seen below.   samsung messager “The Brick,” as we affectionately called it, was a source of pride and conversation for JT and a source of amusement for me. I loved to watch people’s faces when they noticed it — especially in the last two to three years.  It was a good phone, and my husband – so practical, so… economical – found it hard to justify replacing it. I actually agreed with him. The Brick was hardy. You could chuck it full-force against a wall and it would still be pristine. It had a battery life of at least a week on a full charge (even in year seven). It had a full keyboard for texting. It received and made calls. He has an iPod for music, and who needs the internet, anyway? Data is expensive and besides, as he pointed out, everyone around him has a smartphone if he has a webmergency (read: if he needs to check his fantasy football).

But last week he took the plunge and got an iPhone 5S, and something unexpected happened. I learned that we communicate very differently.

I’m going to be real with you, folks. I’m in communications so I have an obligatory Instagram account, but anyone who follows me will know that it’s not my favourite medium. My nine photos will back that up. Pictures are powerful and impactful (let’s exclude selfies here), but I like words. Twitter is my platform of choice.

Apparently JT is an entirely different beast. Now that he has a camera better than 1mp on his phone, an extraordinary number of his texts have been photos.  I don’t think he’d ever commit to Twitter, but Instagram is probably right up his alley. Hell, he even makes me understand why Snapchat is appealing to people.

I suppose my point is, technology allows us to tell the stories of our daily lives in new, innovative ways that not even we could have predicted would be appealing to us. Massive creative freedom.

Let’s talk about film

As this is a blog dedicated to storytelling, I would be remiss if I did not, at some point, talk about film.

Look, I’m not an expert or even really a knowledgeable amateur when it comes to discussing the intricacies of what makes a film “great.” For that, I bow down to the lovely critics and experts and people in the business who are dedicating their lives to exploring this wonderful medium. But in an effort to be exposed to some of the greatest stories of all time, I’ve been on a structured path to see all of the best films that have ever been made.

A few months ago, I was reading one of those “Top 100 films of all time” lists, and I was struck by how few of them I had seen. Deciding that I would watch them all, I compiled the Master Movie List of Awesomeness (shall I post it here?), which is made up of the “top films of all time” from the following sources as of June 2014:

Even with many overlaps, the full list has about 400 movies on it. Every Thursday, JT and I host an open house movie night where we watch two of the films (or just one if it’s longer than 3 hours) with our friends. In addition to the new and/or less decorated movies I’ve watched outside of movie night, since June I’ve seen (in order):

  • His Girl Friday
  • The Godfather
  • Taxi Driver
  • West Side Story
  • Blade Runner
  • The Third Man
  • North by Northwest
  • Psycho
  • Citizen Kane
  • Annie Hall
  • American Beauty
  • Driving Miss Daisy
  • Roman Holiday
  • The King’s Speech
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Aliens
  • City of God
  • The Graduate
  • Apocalypse Now

That’s a whole lot of story.