Thursday, September 28, 2017

Radio Wales loses a top man, DJ Alan Thompson

In a parallel universe, I live in Wales. I haven't pinned the city down, but it looks a bit like Barry. Which makes sense, given my vision of Wales comes mainly from Gavin & Stacey, and later Stella, which were both filmed in and around Barry. The pace of life suits me, at least as I imagine it. Which again may not match reality. Never been, though we are planning a UK trip for 2019, to include plenty of time in Wales*.

I spend a chunk of most workdays in Wales, via BBC stream. I got into the habit a few years ago of tuning in to BBC Wales every morning as I work. It's not the music so much as the people, which is ironic, because my major beef with U.S. radio is they talk too much and don't play enough music. But there's just something about the discussion on BBC Wales, particularly during Eleri Sion's afternoon show, which is on for me during the morning as we're five hours behind here in Rochester, N.Y. Listening is an escape, which I need more than ever given how awful most of the news is these days. I try my hand at the daily 2:45 Teaser (at 9:45 my time) and listen to Eleri's regular guests provide veterinarian and general practitioner advice, tips on allotment gardening, TV hits and misses on Mondays, and movie reviews on Fridays. And every Wednesday, DJ Alan Thompson stops by to talk music, presenting something new, something old, and something gold. And to wind Eleri up like an older brother might.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sleep or die!

I don't get enough sleep. I'm not sure I ever have. I average about 6 hours a night, and it's not uncommon to dip below that for 2-3 nights in a row, which inevitably catches up. It's a combination of trouble falling/staying asleep, and staying up too late because night time is the only time I have to get things done. Like writing, for example. If I didn't stay up after my son goes to bed, I'd never have time to write.

A story in the Guardian this week has me re-examining my routine. Called The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life: the new sleep science, it echoes a number of other studies I've seen over the years (and recognizing I fall into the category they're describing, I generally click through when I see such headlines). In summary, the brain and body need X number of hours of sleep each night to clear out all the crap that accumulates throughout the day. By depriving your brain and body of this opportunity, you massively increase your chances of cancer, dementia (including Alzheimer's), diabetes, obesity-related issues, and on and on. It's not happy stuff to think about.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Albert Camus, don't be a stranger

I finally finished The Stranger by Albert Camus last night, a mere 30 years after I started it. At a tidy 154 pages, that works out to an average of just over 5 pages a year. I wasn't working all that hard at it for most of that time.

I was in high school when I started it, though technically I was reading L'Etranger back then. Or was supposed to be. It was part of my independent study in French, which I signed up for because I needed an easy elective. Not that French came easy to me. Just that the class was, with the teacher a notable pushover. By that point I had taken two years of high school French (on top of two in junior high), and had dropped it twice. I kept coming back to it, because it was only marginally tougher than a free period as we upper classmen were left alone to do our work (or not) in the back of the class while M. Langley taught the freshmen and sophomores.

At some point I struck upon the genius idea of checking the English version of The Stranger out of the library and "helping" myself through the French with the translation. Which worked fine until M. Langley snuck up on me one day while I had the wrong version open during class. I don't think he bought my explanation that I was just trying to confirm I'd understood what I'd read in the French text. He may have been a pushover, but he hadn't been lobotomized.

Shortly after that I gave up on reading Camus, in French or English. Gauging by how little I recalled of the story when I read it this time around, I'll estimate I made it as far as Chapter 2 the first time around.

But I always meant to finish. Or at least I'd thought about it at some point before now. And thanks to the receipt I found in the paperback copy that was on my bookshelf, I thought about it enough on Nov. 12, 2005, to plunk down 75 cents in a used book store. It was one of seven books I added to my collection that day. I can only guess what the other six were, though odds are pretty good they are all still on my shelf as well. Back in the day I would often spend a half hour or more scanning the shelves of second-hand book shops, looking for titles to stash away for whenever I might need something to read. Twelve years later, I finally got around to Camus.

I'm not sure it was worth the wait, to be honest. It was a quick read, once I got going in earnest, but it's not a book where one identifies much with the main character, which is sort of by design. He's not meant to be very likable, and he's not. It's not that he didn't cry at his mother's funeral or that he doesn't really love his girlfriend and tells her as much or that he lacks the decency to tell his friend Raymond not to treat his own girlfriend like a ragdoll--it's all of these things together. He has no emotional core. Which comes back to bite him in the ass when he's on trial for his life. It's like Seinfeld and friends getting done for lacking the moral fiber to help anyone for all those years. Only not funny. And no one was going to guillotine Jerry when the last episode faded away.

So, while it's good to be done after 30 years and counting, it may well be at least another 30 years before I'm tempted to pick it up again.