Issue 21. The English Suite

a new podcast to share

Welcome to ESCHORAMA newsletter, creations from Jim’s workbench. If you are a first time visitor, sign up for a free email subscription so you won’t miss upcoming issues.

Happy belated New Year!

I have to confess that I have, creatively speaking, been more or less out of commission all month, due to several factors. First, I was reeling after witnessing the events of January 6. The angry, insurrectionist, violent, moronic mob who invaded the Capitol trying to cancel a legitimate election, i.e. the votes of me and fellow Pennsylvanians among others, was something I will never forget or forgive. This traumatic “season finale” to a four year saga of gaslighting and norm-breaking, was ruinous to my creative energy, and I must give myself a pass while I attempt to process what has just happened. You shouldn’t ask a battered spouse why they don’t cook tastier dinners. Second, I was dealing with some seasonal depression. Nothing major, but it was enough to darken the imaginative landscape. Third, I’ve been sick for three weeks with a nagging head cold. The thing won’t quit! I’m finally getting into the clear now.

When the the New Year turned over, I decided to not make any new year’s resolutions. Why set oneself up for failure? I’m happy to report massive success on this front! If anything creative happens this year, it will happen because it wanted to happen, not because it should have happened.

Is there any news to report? A few items.

We bought a new Sony Smart TV that is prettier and smarter than I am.

I got a new DAC component for the stereo system, the iFi Zen DAC. I’m using it to pump higher quality audio out of my laptop’s USB port. It supports the new MQA audio format, which I’ve been curious to try. To test the MQA sound, I got a free trial subscription to TIDAL. Initial comparisons between Spotify and TIDAL confirm that the TIDAL quality actually is superior; however, we have been experiencing occasional dropouts on our connection, which is probably going to be a deal breaker. It’s a shame because the Master quality audio streams really are quite involving. Overall, I am happy with the Zen DAC. Build quality is excellent, and it sounds great.

I’ve been streaming a lot of classical music lately. I worked my way through all of Mahler’s symphonies for the first time, and now I’m going through Shostakovich’s symphonies. Here is where streaming services like Spotify and TIDAL shine. You can dial up any number of performances of your favorite classical works, compare them, and find your favorite versions.

The biggest news this month is the new podcast I’ve developed. The English Suite podcast is the voice of Widener University’s English and Creative Writing department. My plan is to feature faculty, students, alumni, regional writers, scholars, publishers. We’ll be talking about literature and writing, sharing new and recently published work, and generally celebrating the creative energy emanating from my workplace. I work with a lot of cool people, and I want to share that with everybody. You absolutely don’t need to have a connection to Widener to enjoy this podcast. Anybody with a creative, literary inclination should find something to like.

I hope you will check out our first episode, an interview with Dr. Janine Utell, chair of English and Creative Writing at Widener. We talk about James Joyce’s Ulysses. Have a listen and subscribe!

There’s a lot of buzz among colleagues, students, and alumni about the podcast, and I’ve got some students who will be helping to produce future episodes. I’m excited to be working on it, and it will be fun to watch the show evolve.

I should also mention that the second season of the Podula Rasa podcast has launched in January. Co-producer Dave Blank made the first episode, an interview with his son Stasha Blank. They reflect on the past year and how their definitions of success have changed.

That’s all I got for this month, folks. Stay safe, be well, and see you soon.

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