My year in podcasts – 2016

When I was a teenager, I listened to radio all the time, from news to interviews to music programmes. But once I moved to Amsterdam to study, I abandoned this ‘old’ medium in favour of reading articles online or just listening to my own MP3 collection. However, the last couple of years, spoken word audio has made an enormous comeback into my media consumption pattern through podcasts. Without exaggerating, via the Podcast app on my iPhone, I listen to about 15 hours of podcasts a week: when I’m cleaning, cooking, traveling on public transport, before I go to sleep and so on. Yeah, I’m a bit obsessed…

Picking a favourite piece of audio – lists abound

There’s SO many qualitatively great podcasts out there on an amazing variety of topics. As a result, there are about just as many lists out there on gems you should listen to as there are podcasts. My fav one is this top 50 list of 2015 by The Atlantic, although this more current top 50 list from The Guardian is really great as well.

Movers and shakers in my 2016 list

But since the end of the years means lists, I’ve made an overview of all the podcasts I listened to at least a couple of times this year. In general, I tend to favour shows that tell personal stories that make you go ‘huh!’, delve deeply into big stories, mix comedy and humour with difficult topics regarding race and gender, or that are work-related (tech and/or cultural heritage).

  • 2 Dope Queens – WNYC. Comedy queens Phoebe Robinson, Jessica Williams and guest comedians delve sharply into race, gender, sex and whatever else needs to be discussed. It’s recorded with a live audience, which gives it a special vibe, and I’ve more than once laughed out loud in public listening to the show.
  • 99% Invisible – PRX Radiotopia. On the things we don’t notice, and how they shape our world.
  • Another Round – Buzzfeed. Heben and Tracy know what’s up. Race, gender and pop culture. Educate yourself, white people, by listening to this show. #checkyourprivilege
  • Argos – VPRO. Not really a podcast, just a Dutch radio show released as a podcast, not edited at all for your listening pleasure, thus including snippets of the previous show and annoying commercials. It’s just SUCH good investigative journalism, that I’m keeping it in my feed.
  • Classic Loveline with Adam and Drew – volunteer collective effort. The semi-official podcast stream lovingly put together by ‘Superfan Giovanni’ based on fan archives is now offline. No more new shows, but MAN did I enjoy listening to people calling in with questions about love, sex and whatever else you can thing of. Since the archives are mostly from the 1990s, it was a real blast from the past for me.
  • Code Switch – NPR. Show about race, ethnicity and culture, from the perspective of a great, mixed team of journalists.
  • De Museumpodcast – independent. Dutch podcast about the museum world in all its facets. Audio quality…not that great and some more editing would do the show good, but it’s nice to hear what colleagues in the field are up to.
  • De Technoloog – BNR. Brand, spanking new Dutch podcast by Herbert Blankesteijn and Ben van der Burg, who interview experts about technological developments and the impact they have on society.
  • De Volkskrant – Volkskrant. A mix of all kinds of subjects, by one of the biggest newspapers in the Netherlands (disclaimer: my boyfriend works there ;)).
  • Echt Gebeurd – independent. The Dutch version of The Moth: true stories told before a live audience. My favourite episodes are the ones where people read from their teen diaries. Hysterical. Considering doing that myself someday.
  • Embedded – NPR. Show that takes a deep dive into the stories behind the news. The episode ‘The Capital’ on El Salvador is one of the most memorable podcasts of the year IMHO.
  • Freakonomics – independent. Freakin’ amazing, and rightfully one of the most popular podcasts around. Showing the economics behind any topic you can think of. Sharp, interesting, well-edited. Just great stuff.
  • Fresh Air – NPR. Contemporary issues and culture from NPR. Didn’t quite do it for me, so I’m no longer subscribed, but sometimes download a show if I really like the topic.
  • Hardcore History – Wizzard Media. Dan Carlin goes on and on and on for hours about historical events. I really tried to get into it, but even after 12 hours of listening to information on Genghis Khan, it just didn’t do it for me. The gravelly voice and the endless stream of facts made me tune out too much.
  • Improbable Research – Ig Nobel Prize. From the people behind the Ig Nobel Prize: “research that makes people laugh and then think.” Wasn’t consistently sharp and witty enough to my liking, but there are some nice episodes in the archives.
  • Invisibilia – NPR. About  how ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions influence human behaviour.
  • Musetech – independent. Interviews with museum technology experts. Can be nice enough, but often such poor audio quality and/or editing that I skip through most of the episodes to find some nice nuggets of info.
  • Newseum Podcast – Newseum. Behind the scenes at the Newseum. Not superb, but often short enough to make me listen to it in its entirety.
  • No Such Thing as a Fish – Quite Interesting. Super-funny stuff by the researchers of the BBC show QI. Bizarre facts abound, and the giggles by the hosts more often than not make me giggle as well.
  • Note to Self – WNYC. How tech developments influences humans. Love that they often have multi-part series. My fav this year was the series on two women who want to launch an app that helps working moms out by connecting them to a vetted support network, while being moms with young children themselves.
  • Radio Doc – NTR/VPRO. Radio documentary show from Dutch public broadcasters NTR and VPRO. Hit and miss, but the hits are so good I’m still subscribed.
  • Object Oriented – independent. About digital learning in museums. Seems to be dormant right now.
  • Parel Radio Podcast – Radiomakers Desmet. Selection of the best Dutch radio documentaries and radio plays. The ‘1 minuutjes’ (super short audio stories) that are part of the show are SO good.
  • Planet Money – NPR. About the economy in all its facets. Spin-off show from This American Life, to which Planet Money sometimes still contributes. Sometimes download an episode, but not so gripping that I keep it around in my feed.
  • Radiolab – WNYC. Some of the best sound editing around. Taking your curiosity on a trip each week.
  • Reply All – Gimlet. Show about the internet. PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman started it in 2014 and they keep on surprising me about the hidden side of The Interwebs every time.
  • RuPaul – What’s The Tee? – The Paragon Collective. RuPaul and Michelle Visage shoot the shit, kiki, spill the T and throw some shade, with a different drag queen guest each week. Ru’s laugh = life.
  • Serial – WBEZ. Yeah, everyone knows this one. Investigative journalism at its finest or at least storytelling-est, by Sarah Koenig. New season should come out somewhere in 2017.
  • StartUp Podcast – Gimlet. Tip by friend LotteM. Still need to listen to it, but just subscribed, so thus it makes the list.
  • StoryCorps – independent. I have so much love for StoryCorps. They’ve been collecting stories all across the US, by the broadest range of people, since 2003. Feel-good audio goodness.
  • Surprisingly Awesome – Gimlet. Showing the extraordinary behind the seemingly mundane.
  • Tim Ferriss podcast – indepedent. Learn how to be your best and most efficient self by author, angel investor and philanthropist Tim Ferriss. Or don’t, because I still don’t get why in the world anyone would want to listen to it. I tried for four episodes, which I don’t remember, except for being self-congratulatory. Bruh…
  • The Guilty Feminist – independent. Comedians Sofie Hagen, Deborah Frances-White and guests “explore their noble goals as 21st century feminists, and the insecurities, hypocrisies and fears which undermine them.” Great tip by one of my colleagues, and now one of my fav podcasts.
  • The Memory Palace – PRX. Stories about the past. Creator Nat DiMeo is currently Artist in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, thus there are now also specific episodes with a Met focus.
  • The Moth – independent. True stories, told live, to perfection.
  • This American Life – WBEZ/PRX. Well, who doesn’t know TAM. Just the best. Always. Never disappoints.
  • Woord Vakantiepakket 2016 – NPO. Kind of an odd one out: this is a special podcast feed with the best stories from Dutch public radio, selected for the 2016 Summer holiday. I listened to pretty much everything when I was in Myanmar a few months ago, great stuff!

Giving back – donation time

I often donate a small amount to quite a few of my favourite show. I’ll do so again this December, ’tis the season. I’ve also decided to become a sustaining member of one of the shows, because producing quality each and every week with limited funds is hard. So hard to choose, but I’ve gone with 99% Invisible, since it always makes me go ‘wow, that is so interesting!’ and just never disappoints.

I wonder what the list will look like next year. If you have any must-listen tips, let me know! O, and if you love podcasts and good storytelling like I do, consider getting the amazing graphic novel on audio stories by Jessica Abel, Out on the Wire.


The wonders of Marktplaats – absurd conversations when offering a free bed

So I’m in the middle of moving house, and am cheaply decorating the new place by painstakingly finding nice, cheap second-hand items on Marktplaats, the Dutch answer to Craigslist (actually, it’s owned by eBay). It’s fun to get cool stuff for low prices, and to get a peek into other people’s homes and lives when I go over to pick them up. Today however, I was on the recieving end, since I offered a nice double bed for free on Marktplaats.

Just a mere three hours after putting the ad on the website, I got a call. It was surely one of the most absurd conversations I’ve ever had. Though the whole ordeal was not aided by the fact that the speaker of my phone is a bit dinky, I am positive I heard the parts I’m about to post.

Me: “Hi, this is Lotte”
Person with thick Limburg accent (south of Holland), let’s call him ‘Loet’: “Yeahhh hallo, I’m calling about the bed on Marktplaats.”
Me: “Ah, yes, that was fast!”
Loet: “So yeahhh, I’m looking for a bed….What shape is it in?
Me: “Well, it’s been used, but it’s a comfortable mattress and it still looks quite nice.”
Loet: “Oh… [dissapointed pause] Well, I’m looking for something that’s a bit used, like with those yellow stains and circles, you know.”
Me: “Um….ok….Well you know, it is free, so does that really matter?”
Loet: “You know it’s for a student and it’s a waste to get a nice mattress when other people need a nice mattress and I don’t really need a nice one. So some yellow stains are fine.”
Me: “Ok….I don’t….it’s up to you.”
Loet: “There [breaks up, something about a German Shepherd].”
Me: “I didn’t quite follow that. Look, it’s free. I need to get rid of it. I’ll be doing some painting and other DIY around the house, but we move in two weeks, so you can think about it, and see if you want to pick it up. Otherwise I’ll throw it out.”
Loet, feeling a bit happier now: “Heeeeyyyya, but if you’re doing so much work around the house, it might get dirty and stained! Then it’s much better!”
Me: “Ok, I’m going to hang up now. If you’re still interested, send me an email.”

Probably this was a prank call, but if it isn’t, I’ve learned that yellow mattress stains are a fetish too. Who knew!


My short internship at a regional av-archive: experiences and lessons-learned

A few months ago, I decided I didn’t know enough about the day-to-day practice of the various departments of an audiovisual archive. This might sound strange, since I work at the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision and know the organisation very well after 3.5 years. Of course, due to all the experience I’ve gathered at the wonderful R&D department of Sound and Vision I have a pretty good idea of the general paths of the digital archive life cycle and a lot of knowledge about innovation in the heritage field, but hands-on experience is something I found myself lacking. Secondly, since Summer 2012 I have had the pleasure to work closely with regional archives for the first time in the Amateurfilm Platform project, in which Sound and Vision has teamed up with the Gronings AudioVisueel Archief (GAVA), the Rotterdam City Archives and Limburgs Museum Venlo to make amateur film available online and save vulnerable tapes from the video era (1980s-2000s). This made me curious about the differences and shared practices between regional archives and a national, large-scale archive like Sound and Vision. Harry Romijn – GAVA curator and deputy director of the Groninger State Archives – kindly offered me to join my regional colleagues in the north of the Netherlands for a week to show me the ropes and I jumped at the opportunity. Last March, I travelled to Groningen and was welcomed by GAVA’s wonderful team (Harry, René, Sebastiaan, Gert and Marij). Hereby an overview of my experiences and lessons-learned of a week in a regional archives.

Day 1: copyright affects big and small heritage organisations equally (and it ain’t good)

On my first day, I got to dive right in and got a tour through the cold storage vault that contained – among many other things – materials belonging to the Poparchief Groningen. This archive harbours a vast array of musical history of Groningen, such as awesomely designed ‘80 demo cassettes, concert posters and photos of local bands. Almost immediately we talked about the eternal “what about the copyrights” question all archives and heritage organisations have to deal with: what if the Groninger Archieven wants to make the hours and hours of music in the Poparchief available online? Do they have to clear the rights with bands themselves, or (partly) with collective management organisations (CMOs)? The latter will most likely not come cheap, but also it probably doesn’t make sense to do this, because many regional bands are not members of CMO and are thus not represented and compensated through them. Approaching bands directly and asking for permission seems to be the most direct, but also most time-consuming solution. Extrapolated to the entire archival holdings of GAVA, clearing copyrights to show them online will simply never be viable with the current copyright system, which still is vastly unusable for the digital domain and without clear online exemptions for cultural heritage organisations.

Day 2: handling film, improving a MAM and the local cultural scene

On day two I had the pleasure of meeting Hay Janssen of Janssen Film & Audio Services, who came to fix a Steenbeck film table (Janssen also build Steenbecks).

Friendly Steenbeck

Friendly Steenbeck

I also got to view some awesome 8mm films donated to GAVA by the widow of a prolific local amateur filmmaker, and use a splicer to attach fresh blank leader. After this, the GAVAs media asset management supplier De Ree came to discuss improvements and additions to the system (MAIS Flexis). It provided great insight in what it takes to manage a collection as diverse as GAVA’s (photos, paper, audio, video, film, etc) in one system and the requirements to make sure everything can be described and accessed as efficiently as possible. I was surprised how easy it can be to request these improvements and how open De Ree is to these suggestions, not at all as difficult and bureaucratic as I expected; just a good hour-long meeting in which many things were taken on board. In the evening I was treated to a great and inspiring ForumMediaClub evening at the cultural center ForumImages by GAVAs René Duursma.

Day 3 and 4: cleaning up the database, and the vast difference between amateur video and film

On Thursday,  the diversity of topics and practical experience gained continued. I first cleaned up a part of the controlled term list used to describe the PopArchief, which was followed by comparing GAVA’s contract with the one Sound and Vision uses for donations of collections by amateur filmmakers. In the afternoon, I viewed and registered Video8 films contributed by the public at the 2012 Home Movie Day GAVA organised within the scope of the Amateur Film Platform project. The Video8 films I viewed were contributed by a woman from Hoogkerk, and contains a wide array of footage from the 1990s to the 2000s, ranging from a motor cross competition in Hoogkerk, a 30-year work anniversary and a trip to Dutch amusement park Efteling.

Hours and hours of Video8

Hours and hours of Video8


Besides videos, I had the opportunity to view films recently brought in and not yet digitised from the ‘30s-’50s. This was stunning material, featuring a stop-motion animation in colour from 1949 to footage secretly filmed by the maker during WOII. I continued this work (registering video, viewing film) on my last day, which flew by.

René checking the beautiful 1949 stop-motion film

René checking the beautiful 1949 stop-motion film

Lessons learned: bigger is certainly not better, and the importance of local knowledge

All in all, I had a tremendous time and I can’t thank all the GAVA crew enough for showing me so much in only four days. I really got to experience all facets of the work and activities of a regional audiovisual archive and how they differ from a national archive like Sound and Vision. For instance, due to more modest budgets, GAVA are much more creative and flexible when it comes to digitising film and video. If amateur filmmakers or their heirs bring in footage, they are asked if they might be able to pay for part of the digitisation costs, so the process can be expedited. Another solution to saving costs is to digitise B-collection film and video to a lower (but still quite high!) resolution than the A-collection material to save on storage. My main lesson however was that although Sound and Vision is one of the biggest and professional archives in Europe, the regional archive have such a broad and deep knowledge of their history, that they are vastly better equipped to describe and understand amateur film and video. Whereas I could see the general interest of a film (period, stock used, quality of the shots), the GAVA staff knew exactly what they were looking at – streets, buildings, people, local car number plates. All in all, I couldn’t have been at a better place to get the hands-on expierence of the day-to-day working of an audiovisual archive, and insight in the differences between a regional and national archive.


My year in texts – part 1

For the last 8 years, I’ve been archiving most of my text messages since I’m too lazy to keep a diary and this has proven to be a worthy substitute.* I do this by typing the texts over from my phone in an Excel document. I’m sure there are better ways, but this manual labour has one important benefit – I learn the texts almost by heart and it makes it easier for me to  remember the bigger and smaller events in my life.

This year I want to do some actual text data crunching. So for the whole of 2010 I’ve been meticulously typing out all of my received texts, the date it was sent, who sent it, and in which order the texts got to me each day, so I can order them cronologically. Now, there are flaws of course. I could have for instance used an official time-stamp structure (since the time texts are sent can be important contextual information). Maybe next year. Also, I haven’t categorised the people who sent them (e.g. friends, family, colleagues) or the nature of the texts themselves (e.g. informative, love, absolute bollocks). And the final flaw is that I do not archive the texts I send out. For a complete archive, this would of course be best, but it would be impractical to do this, and also like I mentioned before, I’m lazy.

Coming January, I want to make an overview of:

  • The number of texts received in total, and the busiest months / days / weeks
  • The number of texts received per person
  • The average / median / mode of the length of the texts, also per person
  • Then, I want to see if I can draw some conclusions about my personal relations based on all this data.

I’ve now archived all my received texts up to 7 December 2010: 1,228 in total. This is not a very large number compared to the slew of texts sent by teenagers of course, which in the U.S. averages to 3,339 a month according to a recent article on Mashable [1]. However, compared to European [2] stats I seem to be pretty much in the top scale, and also quite Irish.

Admittedly, these are stats of texts sent, not received. However, I have a subscription for 100 texts a month which I slightly exceed each time, so the amount I receive will most likely be similar to what I send.

Ok, the number crunching will start in the coming two weeks or so. Any things I need to add to the bullet points above, like text categories or topics? Let me know, and I’ll consider it :-).

[1] http://mashable.com/2010/10/14/nielsen-texting-stats/

[2] http://bit.ly/fyvvWN

* Also, it demonstrates my obsessive-compulsive data-hoarding archive-loving nature, but let’s not get into that.


Setting up our digital family archive – part 1

This weekend, I met up with some members of my family (my dad’s side) to do something we’ve been talking about for year: digitising and structuring our family archive. We started talking about how to set up this digital archive, and decided to at least create various databases with information:

– Pictures

– Documents (from the archive itself, such as passports, drivers licenses, etc)

– People (one entry per person, taken from the already existing database)

– External information (newspaper clippings, family recipes, etc)

– Locations (important places where family members lived or have moved to)

– Entities (such as the company my grandfather worked for, the family preserves factory)

We talked about how to organise all this information, how to link it to each other, and how to involve other people from the family collect stories and annotations on things that we don’t know. More research is needed, but it’s an exciting prospect to actually create a very specific community in order to ‘crowdsource’ information, and we hope to get more and more people involved from other branches of the family that we don’t know that well. Who knows what might turn up!

After determining this crude set-up and the various metadata fields needed per database entry we selected a first set of pictures and documents that we would scan first. We felt this first batch should contain at least those pictures and documents that mean a lot to many family members

My family is very active in preserving its history already. We have done extensive research on our family tree and there is even a wonderful publication that contains written accounts of our family history, in which the various interesting characters and stories are collected, together with pictures and documents. However, there are literally crates of pictures, drawings, written stories, love letters from my grandparents, and the booklets made for their funerals, just to give some examples.

And while going through these remnants of my family’s past I realised why it is so important to undertake such a time-consuming task. I found my father’s hand-written speech he gave at my grandfather’s funeral. There were pictures of my grandparents in their younger years. Drawings of me that revealed my love and obsession with biology from a very young age. Accounts of my grandfather’s friends who wrote stories about his character when he was slipping away in the darkness of dementia. Pictures of all the grandchildren growing up through the years. These were just some documents and pictures that already brought back a flood of memories and emotions.

It just goes to show how much you can learn about your background and history, but also about what connects us all as humans: people and events shape us in ways we tend to forget or that are just latently present in our conscience. The ‘evidence’ which is left behind can be a powerful trigger needed to reflect on just what brought you here, wherever that is.


Haroun and the Sea of Stories – Salman Rushdie (1990)

I recently finished reading Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (1990). The book is about Haroun and his father, the famous storyteller Rashid Khalifa, who set out to save the ‘Sea of Stories’. I won’t spoil the plot, but one part of the book stuck in my head. Since it so beautifully captures what I feel is one of the most important essences of archives, namely, the wealth of stories that are waiting to be found, I’m going to post it in full.

“[Haroun] looked into the water and saw that it was made up of a thousand thousand thousand and one different currents, each one a different colour, weaving in and out of one another like a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity; and Iff explained that these were the Streams of Story, that each coloured strand represented and contained a single tale. Different parts of the Ocean contained different sorts of stories, and as all the stories that had ever been told and many that were still in the process of being invented could be found here, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was in fact the biggest library in the universe. And because the stories were held here in fluid form, they retained the ability to change, to become new versions of themselves, to join up with other stories and so become yet other stories; so that unlike a library of books, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was much more than a storeroom of yarns. It was not dead, but alive.”

Go on and read it, it’s beautiful.

Link to the book Open Library


How to YouTube!

You guys! Help is on the way! THEVirtualFrank explains how to use YouTube:

0.20: “Today I’ll be showing you how to use YouTube, so you can watch my shows, or post your own.”
0.38: On signing up for a YouTube account: “It’s not rocket science, however, it can be difficult to fill in the verification box.”

I’m all set now!

Living archive


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2 other followers

April 2019
« Dec