June 22, 2012


I listen to a lot of podcasts; there are few days when I don't go through at least one.

My desire for talk radio started as a way to drown out the monotony of a summer job I had. It was brutally hot, much like now, and I was working at a shrub and tree nursery in the Okanagan. My friend Scott and I had little radios that we tuned to CBC so that our brains would be occupied while we repeatedly moved potted plants from one seemingly identical row to another.

Years later, I stumbled on podcasts while I was doing another fairly monotonous job, this time in Montreal. Since then, I've spread from one to another, picking and choosing the ones that interest me. A few are just based on hobbies, but I really enjoy scientific, political, and (of course) literary ones. I think it still fulfills that same desire to keep absorbing knowledge when I'm otherwise fairly idle. Now, this is usually on my commute to work.

It turns out that as much as I love to write about strange and unrealistic places, learning about our world really provides a lot of raw material for me -- Ideas have been spawned by asking "what if?" while listening to a show about the way birds may communicate or the history of the Hope diamond.

So, I wanted to point out a show I've recently gotten into from (again) the CBC called Writers and Company. Particularly, the episodes on Malcom Gladwell and Juan Gabriel Vasquez.

In the interview, I find Gladwell's storytelling is divorced from the didactic tone of his books and is more interesting. Still, I know some people can't stand him. If you are one of those people, I doubt this will change your mind. I really enjoyed his stories about entrepreneurs in the second half the show, though.

Vasquez has an awesome accent in English. Possibly worth the listen on its own. However, he has a lot of neat things to say about what drives him to write novels. Particularly, he talks about how he had to leave his country (Columbia) to write about it. I recommend giving it a listen; it's enjoyable from start to finish.

Duane and I (two-thirds of the cerberus-like HBM team) are both transplanted from our home provinces. I struggle with writing about the Okanagan in my stories. There are bits and pieces, but I still don't think I've ever written one piece that is really about the way that I saw the Okanagan. And I've been away for almost 8 years. Then again, Vasquez's upbringing in Columbia was a lot more dramatic than mine in BC.

I don't know if Duane has touched on this either. Maybe I can convince him to set his next apocalypse in Newfoundland ;)

Alex Newcombe

P.S. HBM was interviewed by CKUT earlier in the year. We're not quite the wise storytellers that the men above are, but if you'd like to listen, the show is linked here

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