Tag Archives: podcast

Anthony Griffith: Best of Times, Worst of Times

I listen to a podcast on iTunes called “The Moth“, where people tell true stories to live audiences. It’s powerful, funny, very raw, and sometimes just incredible.

This morning as I was driving to work, I heard what has to be the most overwhelming 10 minutes of storytelling ever delivered. I was sobbing by the time I got here, and had to stay in the car in silence for about 20 minutes just pulling myself together.

It’s the story of Anthony working as a comic, performing on the Tonight Show, while his young daughter is dying of cancer. I think you should listen, but you should prepare yourself before you do.

Anthony Griffith: Best of Times, Worst of Times
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mobile update: full disclosure

mobile update: full disclosure

I think that this whole thing, this whole twitter, last.fm, myspace, xanga, podcast, youtube, meebo, friendster, del.icio.us, icq, instant messenger, wordpress, flickr, mobile blogging, stickam, facebook thing is all really just about one thing.

The search for social connection is the search for meaning.

Pick a person 15 to 25 years old. Anywhere in the country, any city, any school. It doesn’t matter if you know them or not. You can find their favorite movies, what books they’ve read, who they’re dating, where they live, what music they’re listening to, how they did in their classes this semester, what major they’re thinking of taking next, what they did over spring break (with pictures!) their room number, their cell-phone number, and most of the time, exactly where they are and what they’re doing right now. Right. Now. Does that sound creepy? It should sound creepy.

You don’t have to go looking; they’re already broadcasting it for you. They’ve put it all down in easily scannable, pre-formatted columns. You can get it delivered to your morning email. It’s a flood of full disclosure, a blow by blow account of every single thing that happens, every single day.

They update facebook every 15 minutes with accounts of what they’re doing. They text their twitter account with book titles and bowel movements. They stare into a tiny webcam, and openly divulge the intimate details of friends and lovers. Then they upload it to a server, where the link gets passed around faster than a business card and a fake lunch invitation at NAMM.

The flood of self-disclosure is epic.

This is what I think. We took away the meta-narratives, the structures that gave significance to the mundane actions of life. We told them that there was no reliable test for truth, and they believed us. We told them that good and bad had no meaning apart from what we decided they should mean, and they believed us. We told them that the dust between their fingers was the end of the world, the full substance of reality, and even though they knew it had to be a lie, they believed it. We stripped away everything that gave purpose, structure, dignity, and value to life, and left them nothing but doubt. They are grasping for meaning in a world where we have left them none.

And they, and we, all of us, found ourselves on Descartes stoop, listening to him lecture on the one true thing; if everything else is false, if the world and its tenants are the elaborate deceits of a cruel demon, then one true thing would still remain. Cogito ergo sum,

“I ponder. I exist.”

And we fling this one true thing out into the world, to listen for echoes. We strain to hear the shouts of others in this dark wood, to find comfort in the fact that, if we are lost, we are at least lost together. We spit out the running dialog of our ponderings, because they are the only evidence we have that something real exists.

And every time someone hears, and responds, that ephemeral tendril is drawn between us, between the thinker and the listener, and it gives meaning to both. The connection is meaning. We may not know what is true, or good, or real, we may doubt everything and anything, we may doubt even the words that we hear from the person we listen to, but the meaning isn’t in the words. It’s in the speaking and hearing. The connection is the meaning. The validation of existence is the meaning. Thin, fleeting, fragile, impossible to parse, yet it is still meaning.

Because it is so thin, and so fleeting, it takes quite a lot of it to matter.

William H. Auden was one of the great poets of the last century, maybe one of the greatest poets of the English language who ever wrote. In his poem “September 1, 1939“, written on the occasion of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Auden writes about the futility of modern life, in its relentless and ever-failing pursuit of meaning.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

In this same poem, Auden asperses love as a great deceit, saying that it is not enough for a person to be loved; what a person really wants it to be the only person loved. To be at the center of the connecting tendrils of meaning. To fling every act of disclosure out into the world, and to have it lauded and embraced, and not only that, but to be lauded and embraced while everyone else is ignored. If love is the escape from the meaningless existence, then it cannot be the kind of vacuous, self-embracing love borne out by massive self-disclosure.

What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

But Auden holds out some hope. He hangs it on two words. The search for meaning ends in despair if the the goal is to be “loved alone”. If existence is to have meaning, it can’t be because of a flood of disclosure, or the apoplectic grasping of echoes to the exclusion of others. Instead,

We must love one another, or die.

David and Goliath

Remember the story of David and Goliath from Sunday School? It was yesterday’s reading from The Bible Podcast. It had been a while since I’d read the actual text.

tbp logo

Um, who decided this was a children’s story? Beheadings, corpses lying in fields, rivers running with blood, deceit, cowardice, birds pecking out eyes. Yeah, it’s your basic Sandra Boynton rhyming silly kids story.

Anyway, if you haven’t listened to it in a while, it’s a great story. Click here for the direct link:

1 Samuel 17

On a related tangent, the podcast passed a significant milestone a few weeks ago. We added a listener at a research station in Antarctica, which makes people on all 7 continents who listen to the thing. How cool is that?

One Thousand Sets of Ears

In September of 2005, I started a little side project called The Bible Podcast. The idea is pretty simple. I flip on a microphone, and record myself reading a chapter a day from the bible. Then, I upload it to a website where people can download it and listen. Then, sometimes, other people record themselves reading chapters, and I upload them. The website is www.thebiblepodcast.org, if you want to check it out.

Today, this little side project passed a major milestone. It passed 1,000 daily subscribers – people who set iTunes to go fetch the podcasts every single day. In fact, it pretty much blew right through that number, from 800 or so on Monday, to 900 on Tuesday, and today, I logged on to see this:

1216

I’m a numbers guy. I love seeing the numbers creep higher and higher, and to break them down in as many ways as possible. Things like:

25hits9minutes

get me all fancy up with my bad self. I go to the site and refresh the statistics every few hours to see how much bandwidth people are burning through. In December, the server spit out 300 gigs of data. In January, it’s been burning at a rate of about 30 gigs per day. Matthew 11, which was just posted yesterday, has been downloaded 1500 times.

I know that these kinds of numbers are hardly a blip on the radar for the big dogs in the new media, but in the little world of podcasts about the bible, it’s a pretty big deal.

If you search for the words “Bible” and “Podcast”, the site comes up as #1 on Yahoo, and #3 on Google. It you search the iTunes podcast directory for the word “bible”, it’s the first podcast listed.

Gretchen has a theory about the rapid acceleration of subscribers. She thinks everybody got an iPod for Christmas, and then they made a New Year’s resolution to read the bible more. So, they go poking around in iTunes for a way to get their daily bread in tastee little no-hassle packages, like a Twinkee. I think Gretchen is pretty smart.

So, I’m a numbers guy, but I love reading emails from people who listen. There’s a Catholic priest who lives in the northern most tip of Japan, who sat around listening to the Gospel of John with a family who had just lost their young wife and mother. They just put it on repeat and listened over and over again.

There are students in South America who get together to listen to the podcast, and read along with the text, in order to improve their English. Thing about how scary that is, for just a second. You might be walking through Brazil someday and bump into some kid who speaks English with a Mike Lee accent.

There’s a guy who is fairly agnostic about God, but was curious about the bible, so he subscribed to see what all the fuss was about. His email was hilarious. He just wanted to let me know that he enjoyed it, and concluded by saying, “Please don’t send me any tracts or religious crap.” I was tempted to forward him every Chick tract in one ginormous email, but I restrained myself.

tbp_logoThere are the people who want to argue about the translation that I’m using (New English Translation, pretty good, in my humble opinion), or they take issue with the fact that I let Catholics into the club (sheesh), or they are upset that I’m reading the Bible “Out of Order” (I’m guessing they think the thing was handed down out of Heaven in a neatly stacked set of galleys, ready for publishing). I get an equal number of emails from people who love the bumper music, and can’t stand the bumper music. I smile a little bit, because I think there are people who just love to pick a fight, and they like it even more if they can call it “contending for the faith once delivered”. Mostly, I just hit “delete” on those. Life’s too short.

A few have just floored me. There are people in countries that block access to sites having anything to do with the bible, but they are able to subscribe to a podcast feed. They listen. Two people have approached me about expanding the podcast into other languages that will reach areas where it is dangerous to distribute bibles. One wants to do a version in Farsi, the language spoken in parts of Iran and Afghanistan. Another wants to do a version in Mandarin Chinese. We’re still working through the logistics, but I’m hopeful that this will come together.

So, the Story of God advances. 500 years ago, they burned the bones of those who suggested that the Bible could be read and understood by the common people in their own language. Today, a 12-year-old kid in Taiwan can log on to iTunes, and download it.