Gnomic Musings (the Discworld Portal blog)

You gotta love the luggage. Or at least fear it.

He bears a vague resemblance to me, although I don’t have the cool hoodie with the pointed hood and earholes cut out. The beard and glasses are pretty much spot on, though. Even, alas, to the color of the beard– although mine’s shorter. Very much a medieval gnome, though.

The Portal production studio
Ze cat is now out of zer bag, as Otto Chreik would say. My secret identity is blown, but you get to see my producer Holly, hard at work in the Portal production studio. helping me at the computer. One of these days my wife will get a shot of her sister (and my engineer) Ivy perched on the arm of the chair; the locale from which she prefers to work.

Below: A panoramic view of the Portal’s research desk.


In progress, the Paul Kidby drawing, colored by yours truly, that will be one of three given away at the end of season four.

Portal News for February 12th

Today is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, a man whose accomplishments as president are unrivaled. It’s a good day to reflect on American history. If you aren’t an American, of course, your reflections will be different. But given what’s happening in the United States today, I for one feel a longing for another Lincoln—a man who can bring the country back together across the great divide which now separates Americans into two very antagonistic camps. It’s difficult to be an American right now, at least for me.

In a completely different way and on a completely different subject, it’s also a bit difficult for me not to be preparing an episode for this Friday, which is of course another holiday. But I have plenty to do, both on the show and in my life generally.

What I’ve been doing this morning, though, is playing with Holly and Ivy. We get out a shoestring and they go to town. The amazing thing is that they actually fetch the shoestring when I throw it, or when they jump on it when the end of it is on a chair or the catch. Holly’s gotten to be an absolute pro at it, and Ivy’s learning. Now I just have to get some decent video of them in action.

I’ve received a lot of response to the episode I sent out to everyone whose email address I had. People are responding with a lot of appreciation and enthusiasm. It’s wonderful. I even had a new Patreon supporter come on board as a member of the Thieves Guild yesterday morning. It gave me a great lift, and it came at a time when I really need one. Just fantastic.

I still have to do two Patreon episodes and a video episode, as well as finish coloring those drawings, so I have plenty to do. I know I probably sounded a little down in the last season 4 episode. The email response I’ve been getting concerning the bonus episode I offered has been very encouraging, though. I have been reminded that I really need to work on promoting the show in other ways than through the show.

As you’re probably aware, I have been very resistant to starting a Facebook page, and even more resistant to starting a Twitter account. My need to take a moral stand is being severely tested by my desire to grow my audience (and not just paying listeners.) My listenership has become stagnant at about 200 a week, and I know there are millions of Pratchett fans out there. At least hundreds of thousands of them must listen to podcasts, but probably only a fraction of them actively search for podcasts about Sir Terry or the Discworld. And then only a fraction of them give the show a try, etc.

My task then, and my challenge, is to increase the number of people who are aware of the show’s existence, and try to persuade them to give it a listen. From there it’s up to the quality of the show. There are definitely things I want to improve about the Portal, but I am confident that the quality is good enough to keep listeners coming back.

Long story short: a Portal Facebook page is in the offing. I actually already have an Instagram account for the show, so I just need to start using that. I draw the line at Twitter, but I am going to try to make the Discord server both more active and better-known. And I’ll certainly continue building relationships with listeners via email. I’ve been reluctant to do mass mailings, but I am going to overcome that reluctance. I don’t intend to spam my email audience, but I definitely can come up with emails that will be interesting without being intrusive.

There’s a lot left to do in February, in other words. I know I’ll enjoy doing it. I just hope I can get everything done that really needs to get done.

Yee Haw!

Portal News for February 5th

I woke up before 5 this morning feeling very uneasy. The source of this feeling was a comment my wife made last night. We were talking about the show, and I was explaining the Patreon bonus episodes. After asking me several questions about the process, including how many people I have as Patreon subscribers, and how long it takes me to do the bonus episodes, she said, “So you’re making what, about 50 cents an hour on this?”

I told her I wasn’t primarily concerned with generating income through the show, which she knows, and that I enjoy doing the bonus episodes, which I do. That got me to thinking, however, about some more big-picture issues as far as the Portal is concerned.

Listenership to the show has plateaued at about 200 people a week. I hear from about 10 people (the same 10 people) on a fairly regular basis. Despite my continual efforts to get more people to email me, including offering an exclusive episode to anyone who emails me this week, I don’t get more than 2 or 3 first-time emails from new listeners per month.

Including research, I’m putting in about 35-40 hours a month on the show. That breaks down to about 8-10 hours a week. It also means I’m actually earning about 30 cents an hour, since my wife didn’t include research time in her (accurate) estimate of 50 cents an hour in income from the show.

That money, which is coming exclusively from Patreon listeners, pays for the cost of hosting the show on Buzzsprout every month, with about 20 dollars left over, which has gone into prizes and mailing costs.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this morning I was asking myself why I should keep doing this. I love doing the show, but if I were working part-time for those 35-40 hours a month I would be making at least ten dollars an hour. That’s not much, but it’s enough to justify the work. It would contribute a little more to our income, which is largely fixed, and wholly inadequate (as is the case for most retired Americans—those who can afford to retire at all, that is.)

This may sound like one big whinge, although I don’t mean it to be. I love doing the Portal, and I intend to continue doing it. But during this hiatus I am going to have to do some serious thinking, and make some hard choices about how I do the show going forward. This website is going to have to go, for one thing. I’m not sure anyone ever even visits it anyway, so that would be no great loss. And I cannot begin to afford what WordPress wants for another year of hosting it.

Maybe I will have to go to one or two shows a month. That would be the easiest and most obvious solution, although it would also obviously be a step backward, toward the show being a hobbyist’s effort, instead of an attempt at presenting a serious podcast—not serious in content, obviously, but in quality of presentation. And I’m as bad as William de Worde and his penchant for “therefore.” I’ve just use the word obvious about half a dozen times in this entry.

I’ve come to use Gnomic Musings as a place to think aloud, and sometimes to vent, since I don’t know that any listener actually reads it. This entry definitely counts as the latter, and if you do happen to be reading this entry, don’t be alarmed. The Portal will keep opening, and the Turtle will keep moving. Maybe just not as often, or as fast.

Portal News for January 19th

What? January 19th??? Yup, it would appear so. I hope you all had a good holiday season. We’re back out of that congruent reality that is the holiday season now, to be sure; back into the workaday world that is life on the Roundworld, as I suppose it must be on the Disc as well. We’re unlikely to encounter any trolls or goblins, of course. But then they’re unlikely to encounter any social media influencers or presidential candidates, so I suppose it balances out in a way.

I just published the second Patreon-subscriber-only episode for this month, and I’m really please with it. In fact, I think it’s one of the best shows I’ve done so far. Now I need to figure out a way to make it more widely available. I realize that, in fact, I need to promote the idea of one-time donations to the show. Making episodes like the one I published today available seems like a good way to encourage those donations. The word “donation” is rather a loaded one, so maybe contributions would be better. But I’m determined to offer some sort of value for any donation or contribution, and what I have to offer of value is of course extra content; in other words, bonus shows.

What I need to do next is learn how to offer that content without it being available to anyone who wanders by. I thought Vimeo was going to be the way to go with that, but it was too rich for my blood. Maybe Google docs? If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

The other thing I’m looking for some help with is finding a new home for this website. I am less than impressed with WordPress, and again, what they are going to want to charge me for a year is out of my league. (I took their bonus offer of a one-year free trial, and I think they’ve failed the trial.) So again, if anyone can help me out with this, please let me know.

I am a lot more technologically literate than most 63-year olds. That’s because I started grad school in 1994, when technological literacy was becoming a big deal in higher ed, and in graduate studies in Education at the U of I especially. So I got in on email and the internet early on. I’m not intimidated by technology the way a lot of people my age and older are, but I’m not particularly literate in the techs of the past 10-15 years. I should add that there are a lot of people my age who are more technologically literate than I am, as well as not being the least bit intimidated by technology. It’s just that there are more of us who aren’t and are than who are and aren’t. If you followed that. 😉

We’ve had a snowy January thus far, which has become unusual for us in the past few years. It used to be the norm. As a Colorado boy I’m heartened by snow in the air and on the ground, and we see it less and less often now. A tiny effect of the climate emergency that is upon us.

“In times of rapid change, experience can be your worst enemy.” That’s a J. Paul Getty quote that strikes me as quite apropos. My wife discovered the BrainyQuote app, and there was nothing for it but that I install it. It’s actually pretty cool.

I’m looking forward to some good things happening vis-à-vis the Portal in 2020. Rapid change, in some ways, perhaps. So it’s probably just as well that I don’t have a lot of experience in doing a podcast. “Doing” is the word I choose because I am the “chief cook and bottle washer” of the Portal. Holly and Ivy do their best, but in reality they can only offer moral support. My wife sometimes critiques the show, but all the rest is up to me. I am hoping that eventually I might find someone to help. Somebody I could collaborate with. Someone to take a little bit of the weight, and provide that perspective and second opinion that are so important. Maybe someday.

Portal News for December 30th

The image above, depicting Susan Sto Helit’s class visiting Quirm, to learn more about time and the telling thereof, seems appropriate as we run out of time for 2019.

Hogswatch, by the way, occurs on the last night of the Discworld year, as Mustrum Ridcully points out (“All the old year’s occult rubbish pilin’ up.) So it kind of spans the week between Christmas and New Years here on the Roundworld.

I feel like the two shows I did on Hogfather barely scratched the surface. That has got me to thinkin’ that separate episodes, covering a book at a time, might be something worth pursuing. I have to give it more thought, but at this time I’m thinking that offering such episodes as premium content on a one-shot basis (you pay $5 per episode, say) may be the way to go. That’s quite a ways out, though, if it happens at all.

I’m going to continue doing this blog in 2020, and I’m hoping that I will actually be able to get people reading it. At the moment no one is, and that of course is frustrating. But I won’t allow myself to be discouraged. After all, 12 months ago neither the show nor this website even existed. I’ve managed to do an episode a week since April 19th, with a few bonus episodes shown in. I know I have a regular listenership, and I have to remember that for many people, that’s enough. They don’t feel any need to read this blog. Or join the Discord server. Or contribute to the show via Patreon. And that’s ok. As long as I continue to work to provide quality content, more people will check out the Discord server. And read this blog. And, in a few cases, become Patreon subscribers to support the show.

And, as 2019 nears its end, I am grateful for every single listener to the Portal, whether they extend their involvement beyond listening or not. It is tremendously rewarding, knowing I’m producing a show that people enjoy, and look forward to each week.

Portal News for December 13th

Ivy hunting up a reference for today’s show

If you’re triskadekaphobic this may be your least favorite day. For the Portal, it’s the day that Season 4 Episode 2 will hit the airwaves. We’re getting excited, as recording time rapidly approaches. As you can see from the picture, Ivy was helping with some research this morning. Holly was slacking on her production duties, and Ivy’s versatile. (Holly may have bribed her.)

Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

Portal News for December 8th

Update: Season 4 episode 1 had 231 plays in the first 48 hours. This is almost double the previous record. Thank you everyone!

The first episode of season 4 went live on schedule on Friday. I enjoyed doing it. In fact I almost did one on Wednesday as a surprise pre-season bonus episode, but what I did instead was produce bonus episodes for my Patreon subscribers. This goes to show that, if you really want bonus material, you really need to become a patron of the Portal.

I discovered four other Discworld podcasts over the break. Hence the radio graphic for this blog entry. A bit dated, I know, but then so am I. I remember us having a radio like that in a closet when I was growing up. Someone, I don’t know whether it was my mom or my dad, hadn’t been able to throw it out. Anywaaaay… the four podcasts are Wyrd Sisters, The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret, Radio Morpork, and Pratchat. I’ve not listened to any episodes of the last two yet, in part because they are over an hour in length. There’s a moral there, perhaps? The first two have multiple hosts. Wyrd Sisters has (not surprisingly) 3 co-hosts, while The Truth has 2. I recommend you give them each a try.

When I discovered the Wyrd Sisters show I also found that they have a Discord server, which I joined. They have their server set up with multiple channels. I was not savvy enough to figure out I could do this on my own, but I immediately stole their idea.

As a result, the Portal’s Discord server now has an announcements channel, and discussion channels for the books (by series; e.g. the Ankh-Morpork series,) characters, and the Portal itself. So it is now an even better place to come for chat, as well as to lurk and find out what’s new. The nice thing is that the discussion channels serve as both chat and forum. That is, you don’t have to be on when others are to use them. You can leave a comment, and someone will come along and respond later, if there’s no one on to respond in real time.

Season 4 featured the debut of a new contest. I’ll give you a quote, you tell me the quote the book came from. Week 1’s quote was “Bravd became aware that he had fumbled the initiative.” Send your answer to randy@mindkindle.net, as always.

Season 4, episode 2 will be coming up on Friday the 13th. Gonna have to do something with that. Maybe talk about substitions. Hope to see you then!

Portal News for November 27th

Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American listeners; and to each of you, no matter where you listen, my deepest gratitude for listening and supporting the Portal. I appreciate it so much!

I’m going to be publishing a free audio (or perhaps video) message for all of you either tomorrow or Friday. Well hey, I’ve got the minutes, so might as well use them, right?

I just wish there were a way I could get a message out to all my listeners. The methods I have– this blog, Discord, Instagram and Reddit are all useful, and will become more so in time, but that still leaves a lot of listeners I’m not reaching. Facebook will help even more with that, I know. So I’m just going to have to continue to be patient, and work within the parameters of the technology as I understand it, whilst continuing to work to increase that understanding.

But again, if you’re reading this, Happy Thanksgiving! I wish we could change the name to Gratitude Day here in the US. Might make it mean something more than football and pre-black Friday deals. Although it does already mean more to most Americans…. or at least, to many of us.

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

Portal News for November 21st

Reporters needed! The Portal Times is looking for creative listeners to provide content for the Portal’s official paper of news. Please submit your articles, drawings or photos to the Gnome at randy@mindkindle.net. Seeking content related to the Portal, the Disc, or Sir Terry’s work in general. All submissions (unless they contain inappropriate material) will be included in the inaugural issue of the Portal Times.

The classic “club with a nail in it.”

Portal News for November 16th

The show is now officially on hiatus until December 6th. That means I am going to take a bit of a break, but it also means I’m going to be working on some new goodies for Portal visitors, as well as producing the November bonus episodes and doing some planning for Season 4.

The last episode of season 3 went live yesterday afternoon, and just about two hours later I got a second Patreon subscriber. I am happier that a dwarf in a gold mine about this, and very grateful too.

Portal newspaper

A Portal newspaper is something I would love to publish in conjunction with the show. In order to do this, like William de Worde I am looking for reporters. So if you have any interest in writing an article or creating a news story for such a publication please do so, and send it to me in an email. I don’t currently have time to create all the content for such a project, but I can do the editing and publishing if I get the stories to put in it.

Social Media Advisors

The Portal is looking for listeners to assist with Facebook, Reddit, Instagram and Discord. If you are interested in helping with one or more of these please email me.

As I said in the finale of season 3, I am looking for listener feedback on the idea of a Portal Facebook page. Not to put too fine a point on it, I need convincing it’s a worthwhile effort. I am subscribed to Reddit and Instagram, but I haven’t done anything with either of those yet. And I know the Discord server has a lot of potential. It’s up and running, and has 14 members, but I would love to have somebody to advise me on that as well.

The Future of the Portal

After 34 episodes in 3 seasons, the Portal is on solid footing, and I look forward to continuing to develop it. As I have said from Day One, I appreciate and encourage listener feedback in doing so. I have a number of suggestions and requests for topics for future shows, but I’m always open to more.

I have to continue to be patient in developing the show and growing the membership (thank you Tony!) and I will. But in case it isn’t obvious, I need to emphasize that the Portal is a labor of love, and every email I get from any of you makes me love it even more. So keep those cards and letters coming!

Portal News for November 9th

I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how it could be November 9th already, but so it is. Which means, among other things, that the last episode of Season 3 will air next Friday, November 15th. I’ll then be taking a two-week hiatus before Season 4 starts, on Friday December 6th.

I’m also still showing up for the live chats on the Discord server on Saturdays, so maybe one day soon someone else will, too.

If anyone has suggestions or requests for Season 4, you know where to send ‘em. (If you don’t, it’s randy@mindkindle.net. But then you already did.)

Tomorrow is the 43rd anniversary of my first meeting of my wife, in Boulder, Colorado, at a D&D game. My, that seems like a very long time ago. And it doesn’t help to point out that it is. But then you knew that already, too. J

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Portal News for October 26th

I like the silhouette above, but it occurs to me that we never encounter a Discworld wizard with a cat, or any other familiar as far as I remember. Witches of course, are another thing. At least Magrat makes several tries at having one. Uniformly unsuccessful tries, as with so many other things Magrat attempts.

So far I’ve had almost 60 listens to yesterday’s show in just over 24 hours, and I’ve had a couple of emails, including one from a listener who’s offered to help me out with the whole cross-platform social-media communicating-with-your-listeners thing. That’s something I have been and will continue to work on. I hope eventually to become halfway competent at it.

Meanwhile, as announced in yesterday’s show, I have made the show’s Discord server, “Friends of the Discworld Portal,” available to all and sundry. I’m not sure if sundry means those who go round the back and come back in for another helping or not. Doubt it. But I don’t doubt that this is the direct link which will get you to the page, from whence you can sign up, join the server, and all that good stuff. And I hope you will. Here’s the link: https://discord.gg/YBD2rzK

I think it rather possible that I may put out a bonus episode tomorrow. Not an official bonus episode of the Patreon-subscriber-only variety, but rather a short one containing a few more observations about wizards that didn’t fit into yesterday’s show, and a little surprise.

And lest I forget– I will be hosting “Chat With the Gnome” on Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. GMT. I hope to see you there!

The rather hideous looking thing above is called a durian. It’s the Roundworld equivalent of a Wahooni. Seriously. You could google it.

Portal News for October 24th

The show will stay at 20 minutes, at least for now. Response to my request for input on the issue was underwhelming, but all three listeners who did respond said they preferred the 20-minute format. Similar, all three were in favor of ditching the canned opening, so that is a thing of the past, too.

I’m still trying to decide how long to take off between seasons three and four. But I’m leaning heavily toward three weeks. Two weeks last time was not enough. I thought about the show as little as possible the first week, but when I resumed work I didn’t make enough progress on the website, YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo….  You get the picture, I’m sure. So this time a week away from everything should leave me inspired to do what I need to do in the following two weeks.

This is not to say that I’m not working on these things between now and the end of season three. But I do have some non podcast-related irons in the fire as well. (“Irons in the fire” is an Americanism for “things I’m working on.) For one thing, I’m working on getting into voiceover work—specifically doing audio books. As you may be aware, they’re exploding in popularity, and of course someone has to record them. I’ll keep you posted.

Working on this week’s show on the Discworld wizards and wizardry has been, as usual, both thought-provoking and a lot of fun. My perception of the changes wizardry undergoes during the course of the year has been altered, for one thing. There are inconsistencies, of course, between some of the things mentioned/presented in more than one book, but even allowing for that (and you have to allow for that!) I’ve had to re-think some stuff. That’s one of my favorite things about doing the show, actually.

One more piece of news: I’m throwing open the Portal’s Discord server to everyone. You no longer have to be a Patreon subscriber to join. I will still be setting up some regular chat times, but you can also drop in anytime and chat, if anyone else is there.  The chatroom is called Friends of the Discworld Portal. You can just go to https://discordapp.com/channels/618531321567772710/618531322130071574 to drop in. There’s also a desktop app, and a mobile one. You can get the desktop app on discord.com.

Portal News for October 13th

Since we did Vimes and Vetinari last week, and part of that was re-reading Guards! Guards I thought the dragon was appropriate.

I’ve been listening to a fair number of professionally-produced podcasts lately, and I’ve reached a couple of conclusions. My producer and engineer are going to have to step up to get us to professional-quality. And the use of social media is instrumental to growing and promoting a podcast.

I don’t do social media. I have a Facebook account that I haven’t even logged into in over five years. The Russians or someone probably hacked it and are using it for subversive ends. I sort of set up an Instagram account for the show a while back, and have done nothing with it. And I will sign up on Twitter when hell freezes over.

Still, I am going to have to start doing some social media. I will give Instagram an honest try, and there’s YouTube and Vimeo and Discord and Patreon, so that makes several platforms to work with. I think this blog has to be the piece that ties it altogether, though, and it has been shamefully neglected. Today is (obviously) the day I start to do something about that.

Last week’s show, featuring Vimes and Vetinari, was a lot of fun to do. And is so often the case, it seems like I barely scratched the surface. I guess that means I shall probably never lack for show topics. Speaking of topics, the Vimes and Vetinari show was brought about by a listener who used his Patreon option to ask for a specific show. I’ve got that as the gift for a $5/month subscription, but I’m thinking of offering a $1/month subscription with that as a prize. I would appreciate listener feedback about that.

Since it’s already Sunday afternoon, I’m afraid there will be no bonus show this week. What there will be, come Friday, is the first of four shows about wizards and wizardry. The development of wizardry and magic use through the canon is an interesting one, and I’m looking forward to exploring it with you.

Remember you can swing on over to the Portal’s Patreon page to become a subscriber, or just to see what’s to offer there. I will talk to you on Friday!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Portal News for October 9th

Season 3 Episode 4 went live on Sunday; two days late. I wasn’t happy with the episode, because I wasn’t really in a place where I could give it my full attention, and I had to rush to finish it much more than I would’ve liked. But it’s out there, and no one has written to tell me it sucked.

I have gotten a couple of responses to the “who’s your favorite character” question, including two from listeners I’d never heard from before. That was very gratifying. The “favorite book” question garnered only two responses, and I was beginning to re-think the wisdom of abandoning the trivia format for the contest. But I’m feeling better about that now.

My wife is feeling better as well. She spent one night in hospital, and has been doing better each day since I brought her home. Chemical pneumonia can be terrifying, because the symptoms can include an altered mental state, which she was definitely suffering from. It’s an episode in our lives that I want to get completely behind us, although I know I’ll remember that morning at 3 a.m. in the armpit of a bad night, as Sir Terry would say.

Portal News for October 4th

My wife ended up in the hospital with chemical pneumonia this week. As a result I will not be publishing an episode of the Portal today. I hope to be able to do so tomorrow, October 5th, or perhaps Sunday the 6th.

Portal News for September 17th

I was looking for a good Autumn image when I came upon the above, and immediately thought of the Balancing Monks. Perfect image for this blog entry. It actually works in a couple of ways, since not only does it contain a visual Discworld reference, it also illustrates my loss of balance in terms of keeping up this site, or at least this blog. I am embarrassed that the last entry is from July 12th.

I know that I started putting the trivia questions and answers in the appropriate show descriptions, so I don’t actually feel bad about that. But the site overall was and is in desperate need of a good deal of work, and none of that happened over the past two months.

What’s important is that season 3 has rolled around, and that’s worth noting here. With the new season has come the roll-out of my Patreon page, which creates the opportunity for listeners to support the show through a small monthly donation, which allows me to afford my podcast hosting service and, with a few more subscriptions, the monthly hosting fee for this website. Pretty cool.

You can go to Patreon.com and search for the show, or use this direct link:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21210045

Meanwhile I’m back to work on Witches and Wizards, which is proving to be a topic even more fruitful in terms of show ideas and possibilities than I imagined. Actually I did imagine, but no matter. There’s plenty of material for this season, with oodles left over future shows and seasons.

“Oodles,” by the way, is the technical term for large amounts of something. It is roughly equivalent to “scads.”

Portal News for July 12th

This week’s trivia question: “A famous Ankh-Morpork tavern has a different name in The Color Of Magic than in later books. Give either name.” The first three correct listeners to answer correctly will get their names into the drawing for the Season Two grand prize, which my producer assures me will be quite grand indeed

Last week’s answer, to the question of what Granny Weatherwax was doing in her debut scene in the novels, was serving as a midwife. More Nanny’s style, but Granny does go Borrowing in her second scene. And the book is Equal Rites.

This week’s episode is now live. Remember you can reach me at randy@mindkindle.net. This edition of Portal News is only very slightly longer than last time’s.

Portal News for July 5th

This week’s show is now live. As promised, here is the Discworld Portal trivia question for this week: The very first time we meet Granny Weatherwax in the Discworld novels, what is she doing? And the hint is that it’s something we would be much more likely to associate with Nanny Ogg.

And there you have it: the shortest edition of Portal News ever.

The Gettysburg battlefield, as seen from Big Round Top. Little Round Top may be seen to the right. Image by Bruce Emmerling from Pixabay

Portal News for July 2nd

The second season’s starting to shape up nicely, thanks to Tony, a listener from the Antipodes, who suggested using the idea of belief as a theme. I think it will be good.

The main reason for a Tuesday post, though, has nothing to do with the Discworld or the Portal. I know I have a lot of international listeners, but I want to make note of the fact that this is a very important anniversary day in U.S. History. On the 2nd of July 1863, approximately 375 men from the state of Maine prevented the Confederate army from flanking the Union line. Had this happened, they could have rolled up the Union army, dealing it a defeat which would have quite possibly led to a peace agreement that left the Confederacy in existence.

The regiment in question was the 20th Maine, and it was led by a professor from Bowdoin College named Lawrence Joshua Chamberlain. The fight took place on a hill in Pennsylvania named Little Round Top. The day before, 2500 Union cavalrymen under General John Buford stopped the Confederates from moving through Gettysburg and seizing the heights south and east of the town, a move which would likely have resulted in the Union army chewing itself to pieces assaulting dug-in Confederates who had the high ground.

The next day, the 3rd of July, Robert E. Lee made his worst mistake of the war, by ordering a charge across a mile of open ground against the Union center. This attack, generally called Pickett’s charge although two other divisions were involved, was a disastrous failure. It sealed a Union victory at Gettysburg, and quite probably prevented an end to the war which would have acknowledged the Confederate States of America as an independent political entity.

It is an almost absurd understatement to say that would have changed the course of history. So thanks for indulging my old-history-teacher side in reading this. There are moments in history which are, in Churchill’s phrase, a “hinge of fate.” July 1-3 1863 was one such moment. Over 7,000 Americans were killed, and another 33,000 wounded, in the course of that battle.

Portal News for June 29th

Image by Digital Photo and Design DigiPD.com from Pixabay

The show actually went live today, Saturday the 29th, since I managed to delete take 1 somehow last night. I think it turned out ok, though. I like the reading of the full entry on The Discworld in Turtle Recall. Take 1 had excerpts, but not a full reading. Following the reading with some comments about the show and the new season seemed to be about right.

The quartet of magic, life force, the power of metaphor and belief, and narrative causality give a nice point of reference for further shows. Not to mention that reading aloud is something I really enjoy—and something you should try when reading your next Discworld novel. Even if you live alone. Seriously. Maybe especially if you live alone.

In any case Season 2 Episode 1 is now live, for your edification and enjoyment. I hope you do enjoy it. I hope someone comments on this blog one of these days, too. In your own time.

Portal News for June 21st– the Summer Solstice

Episode 10a is live, and episode 10 will probably be out by the time you read this. If you are reading this. I have no way of knowing how many visits this page is getting. Anyway, in episode 10a you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the Portal and its creator. I reveal some of the details of my checkered past as an educator, and go on a short rant about education vs. learning. That rant is amplified in episode 10 when we look at Sir Terry’s views on education and learning. I also share some details about my process in creating Discworld Portal episodes. All in all a change of pace for this bonus episode.

            Episode 10 concludes our look at Deaths’ family and household. We meet Susan Sto Helit, Death’s adopted granddaughter, and a young lady with issues. She despises wooly thinking and believes that someone, someone like her, could get the world all sorted out in no time if they were just given the chance. She is a firm believer in logic, and thus rejects as figments of her imagination any experiences which seem to be outside the bounds of logic—until her encounters with Death’s household convince her otherwise.

            In time, over the course of Soul Music and Hogfather, she becomes reconciled to her unusual nature and the unusual nature of Discworld reality as she is compelled to take over Death’s job for him in the first case, and find out what has happened to the Hogfather (while Death attempts to take his place on Hogswatch night) in the second.

            We will of course see more of Susan in future episodes, but in this one we learn a lot about Susan’s personality, and see that Susan’s hair is… unusual itself.

Portal News for June 15th

Episode 9 is live, and already has 16 plays, in less than 12 hours. A lot of people would probably say “What’s the big deal?” It’s only a big deal to me, but still. Watching the growth in listeners over the first nine weeks of the show has been fascinating—and instructive. A very big and sincere thank you to those of you who have listened to most (or all) of the shows. I’m having about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on doing this podcast. So I’m very glad others are enjoying it (although not that much, I’d guess.)

            It’s hard to believe Death could have a family, but lots of things that happen on the Discworld can be hard to believe, if you don’t know how to look at them. I believe Miss Tick gives lessons in how to look at them, but she can be hard to find. Listen for any word about traveling teachers in the neighborhood.

            Yes alright so Death’s family. Last week was Mort and this week was Ysabel and more Mort in the spotlight (if a podcast could have a spotlight.) This week we also began to make the acquaintance of Albert, Death’s manservant or butler, formerly Alberto Malich. Founder of Unseen University and the only wizard known to have ever done the Rite of Ashkent backwards. Albert is 79, but he’s been more-or-less alive for 2,000 years. You’ll need to listen to this week’s show for that to make sense.  

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