Personal stuff of  /  Cosas personales (en inglés) de
DOUGLAS McCLURE

 

Here are some of my personal favorite activities: hobbies, literature, etc....

 

Audio books

I am a big fan of recorded books (often called "books on tape", but which can also come on audio CDs, in MP3 files, and in other formats). I love to read, but sometimes it's just not practical. Audio books are a great way to avoid getting bored while you're driving, washing the dishes, exercising, etc. They have become very popular in English-speaking countries, especially the U.S. I also enjoy audio recordings of plays, stand-up comedy, famous speeches and radio or TV shows.

Some people object to audio books for the same reason that they don't go to movies adapted from books they're read: They say that they have their own ideas of what the characters should look like, sound like, etc., and they don't want to have to endure somebody else's interpretation. This is a pretty reasonable objection in theory, but I personally find that hearing a good interpretation, far from destroying my own ideas, enriches them. Besides, many of the books I listen to are ones I am not going to read. Frequently, too, audio books are read by the authors, whose interpretations must certainly be "valid" enough for the most demanding listener.  :-)

There are several good sources of audio books. Most bookstores in America and Britain now stock them on cassette and CD. You can also buy them by mail or on the Internet; besides the usual big Internet bookstores (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.), my favorite is Audio Editions. They publish a great free catalog about six times a year.

You can also download or stream audio books from the Internet. There are lots of sources; my two favorite are AudioBooksForFree (older books in MP3 format, with some advertising, but the price is right!) and Audible (up-to-the-minute books and periodicals, in Audible's proprietary format).

The quality of an audio book depends on both content and presentation. An excellent printed book can make a rather poor audio book if it is poorly read or performed. Of course, one can put up with a less-than-great reading if the reader is the author. (I don't consider Kurt Vonnegut or Isaac Asimov, for example, to be great readers, but I am still glad to have recordings of them reading their own works.)

Additionally, some written books do not make good audio books because the nature of their content requires the reader to stop frequently and think, and even to re-read sentences or paragraphs. (For this reason, I find that poetry — because of the density of its content — often makes for surprisingly unsuccessful audio books.)

So the following list is quite different from my favorite books list.  Anyway, here are some of my favorite audio books:

 

Books in general

As mentioned above, I love to read. Here are a few of my favorite books. For me, a "favorite book" doesn't have to be very profound — indeed, it can be very pleasant, lightweight stuff — but it has to affect me in some permanent way. If it gives me funny dreams, even if I didn't really enjoy the dreams, it probably affected me deeply....

 

Church

I go to church most every Sunday, and find I get a lot more out of it than I put in. Doesn't sound very Christian, does it? :-) On a practical level, I find that simply going once a week, without necessarily doing anything special, is a great help in avoiding depression and relieving stress. On a spiritual level, I have always believed in a higher power, and I find it comforting to get together with others to affirm this. And on a philosophical and moral level, I find that there was never anybody quite like Jesus. By the way, I do not think that science has replaced religious belief or is incompatible with it.

I try to read the Bible regularly, though I don't get to it as often as I would like. In case you are interested, I mainly use the New Oxford Annotated Bible (a New Revised Standard Version) in English and the Reina-Valera version in Spanish. An excellent source of short daily meditations is a little booklet, Forward Day by Day, published four times a year by Forward Movement Publications (an agency of the American Episcopal Church).

Here is a link to a bunch of photos of my church and its members:  Iglesia San Basilio (Seville, Spain)

 

Cryptography

A hobby of mine is cryptography, that is, the solving of secret codes (actually ciphers) without a key. These puzzles, known as "cryptograms", are quite popular, and simple ones appear in many newspapers and magazines. The more serious cryptogram aficionado will want to know about the American Cryptogram Association, which for many decades has published a great little magazine with excellent cryptographic problems. The magazine comes out bimonthly, and the 100-plus cryptograms in it are plenty of work for 60 days! Very few people can solve them all. For the serious fan of cryptography, I cannot recommend the ACA highly enough.

If you would like to see how a cryptogram is solved, I will include a couple of sample step-by-step solutions in a related page in the future.

 

Languages

I have a real love of the spoken word (as you can see above in the audio book section) and have had the opportunity to live in several countries and learn several languages in situ. Though I don't think I'm particularly talented at picking up new languages, I do work hard and use my musical training to good advantage. At present I speak English (my mother tongue), Spanish, French and German pretty well. I also can speak some Esperanto and read it fairly well. Some years ago I made a heroic effort to learn Basque, but never reached the level where I could hold a conversation.

This last language, which the Basques themselves call Euskara or Euskera, is utterly fascinating to a linguist. It is not closely related to any language on earth, yet it is smack-dab in the middle of Europe. Its word order is more or less the same as that of, say, Spanish ... but mostly backwards. The Basque for "The tall man whom I saw in the tavern yesterday is my friend" runs something like "Yesterday tavern-the-in see-did-I whom man tall-the me-of friend-the is" (more or less — I don't guarantee that this is completely correct. And don't ask me for the Basque version!).

My favorite languages to listen to, from a purely "musical" point of view, are: French, German, and Scottish or Irish English. (Italian leaves me strangely unmoved.) And I am a sucker for women with beautiful voices....