04 Oct. 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project

A Weekend of Discovery

It started out innocently.  A guy at work* asked me if I would like to read "Assassination Vacation" by Sarah Vowell.  Admitting I had never heard of it or of her, I asked for more information.  He told me that it was an interesting book about the assassinations of the various United States presidents, and further admitted that I couldn't actually read the book, I would have to listen to it.  He had just finishedand was offering to lend mea six-CD set which contained the words in the book being read by the author.  "Sounds interesting" I admitted in turn.

"Well, it may be difficult getting past the author's voice."


"She's a little squeaky..."

I've never actually listened to an "audio book," but I had a leap of intuition.  I decided that if the material were interesting enough, I might after a while start ignoring the mediumher voice and be intrigued by the message.  And, in fact, that's exactly what happened.  As I write this on Sunday evening, Lincoln is dead and Garfield is dead.  McKinley isn't looking at all well, and I have some disturbing premonitions.  By the time you see it on Wednesday, there is little or nothing we will have been able to do to save...

Assassination Vacation has been a very interesting history lesson.  Other than the very bare facts I remembered from days of yore, i.e., John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, I knew almost none of the details.  As for Garfield, the term "disappointed office seeker" has new meaning to me.  But my actual discovery was alluded to above, and it was this:

Audiobooks are great!  I "read" a book I would never have otherwise discovered, and I did it at the expense of a few hours of not listening to the radio while commuting.  I furthermore discovered that the reader of the audiobook doesn't have to be great.  Not only did I grow acclimated to the author's voice, I found one of the most distracting aspects of the experience to be the short (and occasionally monosyllabic) interjections of the "guest readers" whom I suspect were engaged for their marquee value rather than for their thespian tendencies.  So thanks, guy at work.*

Is having made this discovery sufficient?  Will I now actively seek additional audiobooks to "read" while driving?  No and yes, in that order.  No good deed goes unpunished; in addition to seeking additional audiobooks to read, I have decided to create them as well.

Q:  You're going to start reading your blog to us, aren't you?
A:  I'm afraid so. 

Q:  Where's my torch?  Where's my pitchfork?
A:  I'm going to take that as rhetorical.  If by some chance it isn't, see Tony*.

Q:  Do we have to listen to them?
A:  No.  Since I must write each blogitem before I convert it to audio, there's no harm in continuing to read them in print.  Listening is purely voluntary.

What I propose is to read each blogitem into the computer and turn it into an MP3 file.  You can listen to it on most computers simply by clicking on the MP3 link; you can also download the files into a portable player or transfer them to a CD or DVD.  Whether you'll want to do this depends on whether you can get acclimated to my voice as I did to Sarah Vowell's.  There will be no marquee names to interrupt, and no thespians will be harmed in the creation of these downloads.  As an experiment, I have MP3d most of last week's blogs and this one as well.  I talk more slowly than I read, so if you get frustrated, you can yell at your player to go faster.  I will be converting older ones as well as trying to keep up with new ones, unless of course I change my mind.

*The guy at work is actually a "sensitive" guy at work.  Rather than continue to mock him with this anonymous epithet, I am going to disclose that he is none other than my old buddy Tony, who was credited in an earlier blog episode.  Besides, as you have probably decided moments ago, there is more than enough blame to share for my decision.

This has been another punctuational breakthrough:  Three asterisks, one footnote.

Richard Factor

Yesterday  |  Tomorrow