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Sunday October 2nd, 2016 in Audio books, Comedy, Parenting, Podcasts | No Comments »


The rise in the popularity of podcasts has been an absolute boon for me. I have listened to audio books since a tot, but podcasts have added an embarrassment of riches to my audio options.

Here are the podcasts that I regularly listen to and what they bring to my life.

1. My absolute favourite podcast dares not speak its name on this blog. However it is extremely popular so if you google “My Dad Wrote a” all will be revelled. I have become evangelical about this podcast and regularly and annoyingly proselytise to friends about why they should listen if they want to have happy and fulfilled lives.

2. Chat 10 Looks 3

Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales put their dazzling friendship on display while chatting about politics, films, books, art and cooking. They jam recording in around midwinter balls, television appearances and apparently cooking more biscuits than seems feasible. Crabb and Sales’ all-round competence in their hectic lives and brilliant careers is almost annoying, but they have enough self-depreciation and awareness to stop my smugdar from raising the alert and making my arms throw things. They also recommend a lot of good stuff and have a list of links to follow up on.

3. Neighbuzz

Bit of disclosure – I am sometimes on this podcast but far more often I am just listening and laughing. Hosted by my good friend, Vaya Pashos, Neighbuzz brought me back into the Neighbours fold after years in the wilderness. Before Neighbuzz was invented I hadn’t watched Neighbours since Karl and Susan were having marriage troubles! (Sorry, that doesn’t really pin the timeframe down.) I enjoy listening to Neighbuzz even when I don’t watch the show because it’s funny.

4. Bodgy Creek Football Club Podcast

Damian Callinan performs all the roles on this very clever and very funny podcast. The only problem for me is that you do actually have to listen to it. I often consume podcasts while pretty actively involved in housework and letting my children develop independence by unsuccessfully trying to ignore them. Bodgy Creek does not work for that. You can’t appreciate it properly while having a conversation about making playdough, which we don’t need to do because we made playdough last week and it is in the fridge and we’re not making any more. So Bodgy Creek is a treat podcast for me when I have time to concentrate.

5. American election

I have been checking out some podcasts about the US election, however, often I become just too terrified by the whole thing and disengage. Then I go back to my number one podcast at the top of this list. You should listen to it. Really, you should. It will make you happy even if the world as we know it is going to end. We have a rogue comma. Just try and forget about it.

PS: Obviously, I don’t listen to the first podcast mentioned in front of the children either.


Monday August 29th, 2016 in Audio books | No Comments »


(Illustration by EH Shepherd and shows Pooh, Piglet, Christopher Robin and Eyore walking in a row.)

Eeyore used to be my role model. Fun times.

When I was little my family owned an audio recording of The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne, which we often listened to on long car trips. This particular recording read by Norman Shelley also included the piano music to all the hums composed by H. Fraser-Simon.

My aunt gave us the recording and also played the songs on the piano for us. Her delight in them was infectious and I loved the stories.

Then one day, when I was a teenager I listened to the audio book again. That’s when I realised that The House at Pooh Corner is hilarious. Up until then I had taken the stories relatively literally. I thought Eeyore just needed to cheer up, worried for Tigger when he was starving hungry or stuck in a tree and assumed that Owl really was very clever. As a fourteen year old I suddenly realised that the stories were operating on a whole other level and on that level A.A. Milne was taking the piss.

In particular, I was very attracted to Eeyore’s dark sarcasm.

I felt like I was surrounded by falsely cheerful people who did not understand the true meaningless of existence. They were like Winnie the Pooh with their heads in the honey pot mumbling complete nonsense, whereas Eeyore might be gloomy, but at least he was coming up with some good lines.

I started to tell people that Eeyore was my role model. This was usually met by a laugh or eye-rolling depending on how fed up people were with my sullen and grumpy behaviour. In wanting to be like Eeyore I had failed to realise that yes, he was occasionally funny, and he did bring some welcome cynicism to the Hundred Acre Wood, but he was largely a pain in the arse.

I felt an affinity with Eeyore because he was gloomy but I aspired to be like him because he was funny. In the end I was one and not the other, and not the good way around.

I now know that Eeyore is not a good example to follow but I still think of him often. Every time someone asks me what I’m doing when it’s obvious what I’m doing I think, ‘Leaping from branch to branch of an oak tree.’

And every time I think I should do something, and actually wish I would do it, but also know it goes against my very nature (like dancing while sober, or speaking confidently in a second-language) I think, ‘We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.’ It’s very comforting. Cheers Eeyore.


Sunday August 30th, 2015 in Audio books | No Comments »

As a white girl growing up in country Victoria I didn’t have much personal experience of racism when I was a kid. Or at least it wasn’t directed at me, and I don’t remember it.

I think I learned about racism through books. The first one I remember was an audio book called The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden. It was about a Roma girl called Kizzy who lives with her grandmother in a caravan in England. They have a lovely life together, which is presented in a very positive way. When her grandmother dies Kizzy’s life becomes very hard as an outsider  in the community. She is teased by other children and excluded and ridiculed by many adults as well.

This book made me very angry. I could see very clearly how terrible and unfair racism was. I was outraged that people would behave that way. The people in the book lived nearly 20,000 kilometres away but it was a universal lesson. After listening to that book, I knew that racism was bad everywhere. I also developed a strong conviction that would not be like that. I would stand up and say something.

Today I hear people using the word gypsy as a socially acceptable derogatory term and I find it shocking. Perhaps for Australians it sounds like a fun word, colourful, a bit unusual and unconnected to any real people who might be hurt by it. I don’t like it, but I’ve never said anything. I’m probably worried about how people would react and don’t want to make a fuss.

Some people would roll their eyes and think it was Political Correctness Gone Too Far Again.  Is there to be no culture we can mock? How will we have fun? How will we express ourselves? Is life worth living if we can’t call the incompetent finance officer at the stationary suppliers a gypsy?

Here’s something I’m not proud of: I went through a phase in my twenties where I used the word retarded quite a lot. I used it in an ironic way. I was referencing juvenile primary school insults in a self-mocking way. I wasn’t making fun of disabled people, I was making fun of people who made fun of disabled people. That’s what I thought. Anyway, it was fun, I liked the way it sounded, and people often laughed when I said it. Until one day I used the word in front of my housemate. She didn’t say anything, she just looked like all the fun had gone. I remembered that her brother had an intellectual disability. I apologised to her. She was nice about it and said that she’d grown up hearing that word a lot and she hated it.

I’m embarrassed that I lacked the imagination to see how hurtful this word can be (even with a myriad of ironic, well-meaning, self-mocking justifications) before being told. I stopped saying it. Sometimes it made people laugh, but it wasn’t worth it. It’s one thing to use a word when you don’t understand how it affects other people, it’s another to keep using it after you’ve been told.

I probably should say something.

Audio books aren’t cheating

Thursday November 21st, 2013 in Audio books | No Comments »

I watched an episode of Jennifer Byrne Presents this week on Bragging Rights. The panelists were discussing books that are famously difficult to read. Lawrence Mooney was adamant that listening to the audio book doesn’t count. He described a ‘dirty world’ of cheats listening to recorded books in their cars.

I was pleased that Jennifer Byrne disagreed with him. But Mooney’s opinion on audio books as lazy cheating is one I’ve heard before, and I disagree pretty strongly and get a bit fired up.

I’ve listened to audio books since I was ten. Through audio books I was introduced to wonderful writers like PG Wodehouse and Muriel Spark.

Most memorably, my sister and I listened to The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. Usually, when we listened to story tapes, I would do other things at the same time like rearranging my horse-shoe collection or making a collage of all my favorite horses. But soon after starting The Outsiders my sister and I were lying on our bunk beds absolutely mesmerized by the story. Every half hour one of us would get up to turn over the cassette. We listened to the whole thing that afternoon. Then we made all our friends listen to it, and they loved it too. We  appreciated and engaged with The Outsiders even though we listened to it instead of reading it.

Reading to children is considered one of the most important things you can do for their development. Reading aloud to kids makes it more likely that they’ll be lovers of books. It seems a shame that at some point in our lives the enjoyment of aural words becomes considered lazy or weak.

People like listening to stories. Recently reading has become an almost entirely solitary pursuit but in the past, reading aloud was very common and books were written to be enjoyed aurally as well as on the page.  Even now, authors still read aloud from their books at speaking events. We keep doing it because people enjoy it (and it fills up time on the program).

I listen to at least one audio book a week. The kind of books I listen to are different from the ones I read. I can’t listen to anything too complicated as an audio book because I find it harder to listen to audio books than to read. I think there’s a few reasons for this. My mind can wander and accidentally tune out the sound. It’s harder to go back and check a detail earlier in the book. I can’t control the pace of an audio book. It’s harder to stop and think if I need to.

So if someone listened to a big difficult classic on audio book, I wouldn’t accuse them of cheating, I would be very impressed.

I think some people believe that listening to an audio book is like watching the film of a book. I don’t think watching a film is cheating, but I agree that it’s not equivalent to reading the book. But listening to an audio book gives you one-to-one access to the words the book contains. You are experiencing the same words. The medium does make it a different experience, but one isn’t superior to the other.

Paper books are a technology that allows us to access words. The development of writing was a wonderful invention that allowed humans to do a hell of a lot of stuff. However, there are other ways to access words and I don’t see the point in ranking them. It seems ridiculous to have sensory hierarchy that says using your eyes to access words is intellectually superior to using your ears to access the same words. (Who knows where Braille would fit in?)

In The Outsiders Ponyboy reads Gone with the Wind aloud to Johnny, who can’t read well. Johnny loves the book and is very taken with the imagery of the southern gentlemen riding to the war. Ponyboy also reads him a Robert Frost poem with the line ‘nothing gold can stay’. In one of the most memorable passages in the book, Johnny later tells Ponyboy to ‘Stay gold’. Johnny appreciated and engaged with the words even though he listened instead of reading them.

It’s not a dirty world of cheating, it’s fantastic.

50 Years of Silence

Friday October 7th, 2011 in Audio books, Memoir, Television | No Comments »

I’m listening to 50 Years of Silence by Jan Ruff-O’Herne read by Beverley Dunn (if I had to describe her voice I’d say that it’s rounded, deep, careful, with just a hint of a quiver that provides gravitas. Sample here). It’s a true story about the author who lived in Dutch Colonial Indonesia when Japan invaded. She was interned in a prison camp and then forced to work as a prostitute.

My eye was drawn to this after listening to The Plantation, which touched on some similar experiences in Malaysia.

I’ve listened to CD one of four. The first part of the book describes her terrific and fun childhood. But when I left off the Japanese had just arrived – and just when she’d got a lovely taffeta party frock. I listened to the first CD about five days ago and I haven’t gone on to the next disk. I guess I’m a little apprehensive about how horrible it’s going to be.

So what have I been listening to instead? Toddlers and Tiaras. I hate myself.


Monday September 26th, 2011 in Audio books, Historical fiction, narrators | No Comments »
I’m listening to The Plantation by Di Morrissey read by Kate Hood.

It’s about about a  plucky young Australian woman tracing her family roots back to a plantation in Malaysia.

I’ve listened to a few Di Morrissey books now and they’ve all been read by Kate Hood, who generally gets right into the spirit of things.

I’m have noticed a couple of issues with this one though. There are quite a few Malay phrases scattered throughout the book and I reckon she’s saying them wrong. I used to study Indonesian awhile back and there are a few simple and refreshingly consistent pronunciation rules that wouldn’t be that hard to put into action. Then again, maybe I’m just ignorant and don’t realise the differences between Indonesian and the form of Malay in the book. Or maybe she’s doing it deliberately to reflect how the plantation owners would have spoken.

So I can’t be sure, and I suspect I just need to loosen up.


Thursday September 8th, 2011 in Audio books, Podcasts | No Comments »

To keep my brain fresh and young by learning new things, I am listening to Talking Poofy’s poofcasts, which promise to be – “Everything you ever wanted to know about our people, and all the things you were too terrified to ask”. I am learning a lot. And cackling.

I’ve only just discovered the poofcasts and it turns out they have a back catalogue of 40 episodes! Luckily many of them aren’t available, because otherwise I might overdose.

Because I’m all about balance, I’m also listening to Love over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith.


Thursday September 1st, 2011 in Audio books, narrators | No Comments »

I’m listening to Ring for Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. I thought I knew exactly what I was getting with this one but I didn’t.

Firstly I assumed it would be read by Jonathan Cecil, who I believe is the ultimate Jeeves narrator. Instead it is read by Nigel Lambert. I was concerned, but without cause, Lambert does a great job.

Secondly, I assumed Bertie Wooster would be present. He is not. Jeeves is instead in the service of Bill (Lord) Rowcester. I miss Bertie. Bill is also dim and bumbling, but he doesn’t have Bertie’s turn of phrase.

Thirdly, the book is explicitly set in the 1950s. There’s all kinds of references to the modern world, like television and the welfare state. Not sure I’m a fan of this because Wodehouse is all about timeless escapism for me.

And finally, no-one is trying to get out of an engagement. There is still the classic breaking of the engagement and subsequent reunion plot, but I like this to be paralleled with a fellow trying to get out of  an engagement too.

So not 100% what I was expecting but still absolutely fine to cook dinner to.

Happy Birthday to Me

Monday August 22nd, 2011 in Audio books, Horses, School | No Comments »

It was my birthday a week or so ago. I received excellent presents from my sister.

The first was Carry on Jeeves by PG Wodehouse read by Jonathan Cecil. I know I’ve said before that I don’t need to own audio books, but there are exceptions. Carry on Jeeves is a classic. I now know I can now listen to it any time without being dependent on the fickleness of library collections. This will help me sleep at night.

The second present was The Penny Pollard Collection by Robin Klein read by Rebecca Macauley. I loved these books when I was in Grade 4. I actually thought I was Penny Pollard. (It turns out that I’m not though because I’m scared of horses.)

The third present was an Indonesian novel Obsesi. I used to learn Indonesian at Uni and to keep my eye in I occasionally read pot-boilers in Indonesian. This makes it sound like I’m more proficient than I am. I don’t understand a lot of the words, but it doesn’t really matter, I still get the idea.

So, this was an excellent combination of presents. But did my sister have to scour the streets of Melbourne wandering from shop to shop looking for the perfect present? No she did not. She just went to this shop. They specialise in audiobooks and foreign books. All future present dilemmas solved – something for everyone! Brilliant.


Sunday August 7th, 2011 in Audio books, narrators, Science | No Comments »

I’m listening to The Demon Under the Microscope by Thomas Hager read by Stephen Hoye.

It is a ripper. It’s a non-fiction book all about the discovery of the first antibiotic, sulfa. One of my favorite ever subjects at university was The Ecological History of Humans and was all about how diseases have shaped human history (they have). War, colonisation, trade – all of these major forces have been at the mercy of diseases and our ability to deal with them.

So, as an old history and philosophy of science nerd I am flipping loving this story tape. My only criticism is that I find the narrator a little dramatic. He has a habit of extending and then falling away on the last word of sentences, which sounds like he’s narrating a movie trailer. You can listen to a sample.