Friday, 29 January 2010

A way with words

On account of an as-yet-unfixed puncture, I've been walking to work this week (which, given the heavy snow earlier in the month, has actually been my main mode of locomotion to work in January). This has given me the opportunity to catch up on the vast quantity of podcasts that have accumulated on my iPod over the past year. Hitherto, I've been somewhat unconvinced by the format, and have only amassed such a haul through acquisitiveness: once I've started collecting something, and I originally only started to see what the fuss about podcasts was all about, I tend to keep going.

Anyway, this week I've been going through my substantial library of David Attenborough's weekly Point-of-View slot Life Stories. I've actually talked here before about one of these slots that included the sad tale of the Great Auk. They're invariably a fascinating and highly enjoyable fusion of some aspect of natural history together with some tale drawn from Attenborough's own life as a naturalist-cum-broadcaster. This week I've discovered that modern snakes evolved from subterranean reptiles; that Tiktaalik is the new Coelacanth; that early books of animal classification included dragons; that humans and bowerbirds share an aesthetic sense; and that bird's nest soup is largely tasteless (hence, presumably, why it's bolstered with meat stock and spices).

I've also come to better appreciate Attenborough's style of delivery. Largely, I suppose, because it isn't something that I could do myself. In each of the programmes there's a central "big theme" that he's heading towards, but he often starts on what seems an unconnected parallel story that eventually ties in to his main subject. Frequently, this parallel track is one based on his own wide-ranging experiences in natural habitats or with the various people he's encountered on his travels. But he's so brilliant at interleaving his main story with it that, to the listener, the latter maps naturally onto the former. In passing, it's also simply amazing quite how broad his knowledge is, and how matched it is by his life experience. A true national treasure.


chimpaction said...

Hmmm. You had me going looking for them but it looks they are not available any more...

Plumbago said...

I'll see if I can disentangle them from iTunes at my end. However, knowing how proprietary Apple are (in spite of their cuddly image), I suspect this may be a forlorn hope.

I'll let you know how I get on, since I'm sure you'd like them. Nice little bite-sized pieces, told by a master of the subject.

Plumbago said...

As it happens, I had no trouble getting the files from my iTunes directory. As a cursory perusal of your inbox should demonstrate.

For some reason I thought that they'd be bundled up in some kind of binary archive. Did iTunes used to do that or something?

Deditos said...

Nah, the MP3 files on your hard drive have always been transparent. But when iTunes copies them to an iPod it gives the copies random file names and keeps the info relating new file name with track info in a proprietary database.

And I'm sure even Apple wouldn't dare DRM the Big British Castle.

Plumbago said...

Ah-ha. That's what confused me. I had thought that my hard-disk was similarly confusingly organised.

It's quite clever really: it means that you can no longer (easily) swap the contents of your MP3 player when you visit friends [*], but you retain a sensible file structure at home.

[*] Of course, I've never, ever done such a thing (your Honour).