This Jersey Shore

by bicyclemark 0 Comments
This Jersey Shore

BoatIn the final and perhaps odd chapter of the middle east- north Africa journey, I ventured home to the state of my birth, to see my family, friends, and continue editing audio from the trip.  Naturally, being back in that part of the world only a few months since the massive storm turned many lives upside down, I went with my family to visit the Jersey shore and see what is happening in many of the communities there.

To begin with I have to mention what a strange juxtaposition it is, like so many tragedies in this world: while some live through terrible ordeals and struggle to satisfy basic needs, others in the exact state are living normal lives and of course- as it was the holiday season – exchanging gifts and enjoy themselves.  There is nothing new or alien about this idea, it is the way of the world, so why not- even in New Jersey  where many people still have no home and no idea how they will afford to rebuild their homes as a result of the storm.  It is the type of situation where I can even be a tourist who drives in from a part of the state where things are fine and in 30 minutes I can be standing between piles of rubble and vanished coast line.

But there they were- one after the other- as we drove along Ocean Av, the typical street name in most NJ shore towns- massive construction vehicles moving and creating piles of sand.  Pushing the soggy beige powder out towards the sea while also building tall hills that will serve as a line defense.  There is little to no sign of the old lines of defense. All there is is half-shells of former houses, a few miraculously untouched properties, empty space, and piles of wood where long stretches of previous boardwalk once stood.  The gigantic machines look like ants in comparison to the vastness and nearness of the ocean. Their work looks flimsy, like at any time it could be wiped away by one massive wave or another round of flooding.  But still they work, as do many homeowners and carpenters, stabilizing houses that are leaning one way or another, houses that might be missing their ground floor, or the kinds that are missing sections of their roofs.

Asbury ParkMany along the route look eager to rebuild.  Like the construction vehicles pushing sand, they’re counting on being ready for the all-important summer months, when the weather is beautiful, life feels relaxing and the tourist dollars flow.  Future hurricanes? Unlikely, their actions seem to say.  Several residents assure me that such storms only come around every few decades so its certainly worth rebuilding and getting back to life as usual .

Along the route we come upon my most favorite Jersey Shore town, Asbury Park – a city long plagued by economic depression, corruption, and a past marked by social conflicts.  Even when their was no storm the place that brought us Bruce Springsteen and the Jersey Shore sound looked like it was barely getting by.  But now even the weathered yet proud old structures that survived that re-development wrecking ball, looked critically wounded.  A series of fences and police guided detours lead the public away from the destroyed boardwalk, the centerpiece of the city that is supposed to be on its way back.

It may be a small story in the grand scheme of this world and all its acute problems.  Or maybe because it happened in the US, in a state where some people live very comfortably, it does not seem like it could possibly be that bad.  But even if people around the world are recognizing the scale of the tragedy that has struck this special place, what remains unclear to me is whether or not people in New Jersey see the big picture of what is to come. Driving through proud shore towns that have their traditions and ways of doing things, it was hard to tell if they will do anything different in an effort to deal with future challenges that may even be worse than this one.

How to See and Hear Egypt

How to See and Hear Egypt

Since the revolution began in 2011, many a foreign journalist has gone to Egypt filled with good intentions and enthusiasm. And while some have done interesting or inspiring work, there are still many in the international media that consistently get half the story or hardly any of it and go home proclaiming that they know what’s what.

With our upcoming journey to Tunisia and Egypt, our challenge is to get past those tendencies and see beyond our own natural limitations. To best do that, we turn to our Egyptian friends in-country and from the diaspora, and ask about their experiences and what they most wish journalists would take note of and stay open to while doing their work.

Today on the podcast I speak with a new friend of the program, herself an Egyptian living abroad and living-breathing the revolution everyday even if she isn’t on the streets or in the square; Hanna Yousef is my special guest as part of a conversation to learn her beautiful story and ask what advice she would give to a outsider-journalist like myself, heading to her beloved country for the first time, in search of stories. In many ways this is the preparatory conversation that every journalist should have yet we rarely get to hear as its considered unworthy for your ears; too candid and imperfect. exactly the type of conversation that makes me love podcasting.

Back Roads and Highways of Life

by bicyclemark 3 Comments

Somewhere out in the country side of western Portugal, I’m driving around dodging goats and tractors while reflecting on life’s challenges when you exist across borders. Instead of the usual world news issues and under reported news this is a more traditional stream-of-conciousness podcast that some people out there may be able to relate to when it comes to old age, economic problems, small towns, and ch-ch-changes. Join me on the back roads and highways of Portugal’s loveliest pear and wine regions.

A Living Podcast History

by bicyclemark 0 Comments

photo by dolescum on flickr

Most discussions of blogging or podcasting history immediately sound crazy because they all involve an allegedly “long” span of about 12 to 14 years.  As crazy as it may sound, when it comes to the internet, 12 years is an eternity. When it comes to life, however, 12 years goes by in the blink of an eye.

This spring I have rediscovered a podcast I used to listen to regularly, The Overnightscape, hosted by Frank Edward Nora who several times a week takes you along during his commute to work from New Jersey to Manhattan and occasionally invites you to relax at home with him or with a friend as they talk about everything from pop-culture to history and generally, things going on in Frank’s mind. Back in 2004, when podcasting first officially started, Frank’s style of recording would have been called stream of consciousness, which could be one of the greatest examples of what made the voices and style of podcasting so unique.  No radio program would ever have had the nerve and patience to allow a host to just think out loud without a time limit, but the freedom and honestly of podcasting was the perfect place for it.

Though we’re not far from podcasting turning a decade old, strangely many of those podcasts that were so unique and experimental have disappeared. Producers of these programs stopped for a wide range of reasons, among them: the lack of financial resources to continue, the lack of returns in the form of feedback (or perhaps money), the demands of a day job or other offline life requirements, loss of interest, or as Ivan explained on a recent edition of the podcast – some projects need to end.  Among today’s remaining independent podcast programs, there is a mix of specialized topics which often involve interviews and just a few long running monologue (stream of consciousness) type shows. (my favorite being the incomparable Yeast Radio) Many of these have faced their own critical moments where things almost shut down for good but then fortunately made it through and carry on still today.

Yet despite what we still have in terms of audio (and video) creators, many great ones have hung up their spurs and called it quits. There are countless audio and video files who’s hosting accounts ceased to exist and are therefore no longer available online. Time and the internet keep moving forward, things change, and what seems at present so permanent, can disappear so easily.  At the recent gathering of creative minds during Re:publica12 in Berlin there was a group of people looking for like-minded individuals interested in archiving and preserving blogs. The familiar idea- that one day many of us and/or our websites will be gone and the only way to preserve this valuable (or valueless) work is to put it somewhere in such a manner that it will still be accessible well into the future.

With all this in mind I notice wordpress telling me that I will soon reach 2000 posts on citizenreporter.org. 2,000 posts, 420 podcasts and counting- will it all still be accessible in 12 years?  I very much hope so.