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Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

The Podcast: Auditory perfection? 

Posted by Holly Edgell on January 26, 2017

What is it that’s so cool about podcasts? The little burst of excitement I feel when a new one is ready reminds me of getting letters or cards in the mail back when people used to send letters and cards.


Perhaps podcasts are like magazines; so many subjects and themes that there is something for everybody. Even better, the podcasts you love don’t have annoying perfume sample inserts.

It’s not likely that most people who podcast will become overnight millionaires; advertising is sparse for the smaller players (which is part of the charm). Some podcasters get donations a la public radio; others sell swag like t-shirts. Crowdfunding is another option. 

Still, as it turns out, if you have an attractive concept and a devoted, growing audience, you might attract venture capitalists to back you.

An article at NiemanLab.org says “We can mark 2016 as the year the podcast business came of age.” Ad revenue is growing, according to stats in the article.

Podcasting is a form of story-delivery that accommodates a wide range of voices, as this article from the Knight Foundation describes. Anyone can do it. Not everyone will cash in.

Here are the voices I am listening to:

  • Snap Judgment
  • LORE
  • Somebody Knows Something 
  • Crimetown
  • Moth Radio Hour
  • True Crime Brewery
  • New Yorker Radio Hour
  • Serial
  • Fresh air 
  • This American Life

Related: How to start podcasting 

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6 Uber drivers you might encounter in St. Louis

Posted by Holly Edgell on December 27, 2016


Spending the holidays in the US after six months in Belize, I have employed a variety of transportation methods: borrowing my sister-in-law’s minivan, renting a car and using Uber. 

Side note: Uber is the Craigslist of the transportation space: Once you’ve gone Uber you realize just what a big opportunity taxidom missed out on!

 


It’s fascinating to chat with an Uber driver; each one has his or her own style and reasons for driving strangers around in their car.

6 Uber drivers you might encounter in St. Louis:

1. The chauffeur. He wears a sweater vest, a tie, and a crisp white button-down shirt. His vehicle is immaculate and smells of the peppermints he offers passengers. He also provides small botttles of water to the thirsty. Car: Dodge Grand Caravan

2. The as-needed driver. This is a young man who tells you he’d rather be watching football but needs to drive a few hours to pick up a few extra dollars. Turns out he played college football and is in limbo while he decides on his next move. Car: Chevy Impala

3. The single mother. She indicates you should sit in the front passenger seat because the back seat “is a mess.” Her routine is to drop a bunch of kids off at school in the morning, Uber until the school day ends, and then pick up said group of kids to deliver them home. The group includes her musical genius high school daughter who is already being scouted by prestigious conservatories. Car: Kia Sedona

4. The full-timer. This driver tells you he’s started driving up to ten hours a day because he was recently laid off from his job or recently lost his disability benefits. He studies YouTube videos posted by expert Uber drivers who provide tips on maximizing the system. Knows the city like the back of his hand. Car: Toyota Corolla or Kia Sorrento.

RELATED | Chasing the surge: 3 tips for maximizing Uber earnings

5. The NRA member. Conversation quickly turns to the fact that Uber doesn’t allow him to carry a gun while driving, but he does have a pocket knife on his person. Turns out he used to work as a repo man, so he may have reason to fear passengers. Car: Volkswagen Jetta.

6. The juggler. He Ubers in the city for several hours most mornings (including Christmas Day), then heads to the county (far west) for his full time job at a nursing home. In addition he serves as a Kurdish and Persian interpreter at a local center that provides support services for new immigrants. Car: Nissan Quest.

Do you Uber?

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Vroom, vroom: 5 automotive tips for Belize

Posted by Holly Edgell on September 18, 2016

1. Buying a car. There are few dealerships of the kind you’ll find in the U.S. and other bigger countries. However, the streets of Belize City can be considered one giant used car lot. Just look for vehicles with large white dollar sign and phone number decals on their rear windows. Call the number for a quote and test drive!

Or, you can go to the Facebook Group “Belize Buy & Sell,” where you will find a number of posts showing photos of cars along with prices and contact information for the sellers. (You can also find clothes, cell phones, jewelry, and just about anything else you can think of).

I opted to buy a used car from a broker-dealer named Brian who has a mostly empty lot along the highway and a great website, where I spotted my intended. His office is a tent, or the driver’s seat of a car he’s trying to sell.

I paid cash for something called a Nissan Platina, made in Mexico. Someone said to me later, “Oh, that’s a Third World car.” I took this to mean it was hardy and could handle the rigors of dust, iffy fuel and rough roads. Fingers crossed on that one.

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Say hello to my little friend.

Anyway, Brian defines full service! He drove me to the Traffic Division to meet the person who hired him to sell the car so we could transfer the title. The seller was a nun named Sister Rose. The car, I should say, is more than 10 years old and has only about 50,000 miles on it. It’s not fancy, but it runs and doesn’t guzzle gas. Sister Rose took great care of it.

Next, Brian drove me to the insurance company of my choice, where he waited with me until I was duly insured. Finally, he recommended a mechanic he trusts.

2. Servicing your car. You can take your car to one of the major dealers and wait a day or more for an oil change. Or, you can get a referral for a good mechanic who works out of his yard. The guy Brian recommended to me is named George, and it turns out he is the first cousin of my first cousin’s wife. And he lives around the corner from me.

When I called to make my appointment, George advised me to buy my oil and filter, as well as steering fluid (my wheel was stiff and making ominous sounds) and bring these items to his yard. I made my purchases at Westrac, a place—let it be said—that is an automotive paradise: You go in and sit at a kind of bar to share your vehicular woes with a sort of bartender/car expert who pulls the items you need. My filter had to be brought in from another store, but—no worries—they’ll get it in the same day. George serviced my car in less than an hour and drove it around the corner to my place.

3. Parking. There are a number of actual parking lots around downtown Belize City, which is a relatively new development. Parking there will cost about two Belize dollars per hour. Still, you will find yourself parking on the narrow city streets much of the time. In this regard it is helpful to have a Platina, which is about the size of a Toyota Tercel! Parking can sometimes be precarious, as many streets are lined with open drains and a few inches here or there can land you in their murky waters.

Thankfully, whether in a parking lot or not, there is usually someone to help. On the street this will be a random guy who appears out of nowhere and provides expert advise via hand movements, shouts, and thumps on the side of your car. He will be genial and quite pleased to help you. It’s not so different in a parking lot, although the guy helping you is an actual employee.

4. Getting a carwash. Once you have parked your car in the lot across from Brodie’s rear entrance on Regent Street, a shirtless man bearing a bucket will offer to wash your car while you go about your business. There is no set price, but I try to be generous.

There is a guy who combines parking and washing services in the area of the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts nearby. He must have a sixth sense about when I will be in the area, because he materializes out of nowhere–guaranteed.

5. Getting gas. Filling your tank in Belize will cost you about twice as much as in the U.S. One thing that might ease the pain at the pump is the fact that gas stations are full service. Young men in neat uniforms (and baseball caps) will do the honors and clean your windshield and rear window while you wait. They will also put air in your tires.

Happy motoring!

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Pageant-ing in Belize: 5 things to consider before you don your sash

Posted by Holly Edgell on September 11, 2016

What must it be like to be a beauty pageant contestant in Belize in the age of social media? When I was pageant-ing in 1986, there was no way for members of the public to instantly criticize me and share that criticism with hundreds–even thousands of other people. I heard very few negative comments; I suppose my friends and family shielded me. The few I did hear were baffling as well as dismaying.

So, I salute the ten contestants in this year’s Miss Belize Universe Pageant, whose pageant month was full of public appearances and opportunities to be scrutinized.

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Yours truly with my predecessor–and friend–Romy Taegar! Circa November 1986.

Congratulations to Rebecca Rath of Dangriga! She is the newest Miss Belize and will represent us at the Miss Universe Pageant. Watch as she won on Sept. 10, 2016!

If I were to provide advice to young women about whether to enter a beauty pageant in Belize, here are a few items I would ask potential contestants to consider.

  1. Do you know what it feels like to lose? I suspect young women who know what this feels like will be able to face what’s coming. So, if you have competed before (e.g. in sports, academically, in other kinds of contests) and survived defeat with your ego intact, that is a point in favor of entering a pageant.
  2. Do you know how it feels to win? This is important because the minute you triumph you will become a magnet for people who want to be in your life, for better and worse. Being a gracious and humble winner can go a long way in keeping your ego intact.
  3. Is your support system strong and absolutely on board? Any ambivalence in the people closest to you can lead to self-doubt. Your friends and family love you, but they may not see entering a pageant as something they want you to do. Also, a ride-or-die crew will make sure you have the resources you need: They’ll help you find sponsors, be your cheering section, and remind you that you’re awesome no matter what happens.
  4. Are you confident? Confidence is not the same as courage. In my mind, courage gets you through something you may not believe you can actually survive. Confidence means that no matter what happens in the pageant, you’ll be fine. Maybe you’ll shed a few disappointed tears, but you won’t be shattered.
  5. What happens next? Do you have a plan to get on with your life, win or lose?

Would I do it again? Yes. I won a college scholarship (as did the 2016 winner, Rebecca Rath). I traveled to Singapore, Europe and all around Belize. I was probably too young; at age 17, my ego was fragile and the Miss Universe experience was overwhelming. Still, no regrets.

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Rebecca Rath (holding the water bottle, wearing black dress) joins her fellow Miss Belize delegates for lunch at Cafe Michel’le in Belize City.

Follow Rebecca’s road to Miss Universe on Facebook!

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Belize: Where food is everywhere and yet…

Posted by Holly Edgell on August 27, 2016

A foodie visitor to Belize might observe that the country has a vibrant “street food” scene. In Belize, we just call it food, comida, and dinna (dinner). There are small vendors everywhere. On a recent five-minute car ride from my neighborhood to the grocery store I counted at least ten pop-up, semi-permanent and permanent purveyors of food: meat pies, tamales, panades, barbecue, johnny cakes, rice and beans with stewed chicken–you name it!

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For a poor country, there is a lot of food around. Grocery stores are plentiful and well-stocked. Upscale eateries and casual eateries abound in the tourist areas (there are not as many in Belize City). Portions, whether on the street or in a hotel dining room, tend to be generous. Prices range, depending on where you are (in the districts versus a tourist destination, for example), but a few Belize dollars can fill your belly.

And yet, children go hungry.

Recent years have seen the rise of school feeding programs for children who may not get a nutritious meal on any given day.

10 Belize feeding programs (there may be more):

  1. Rotary Club
  2. Dara’s Feeding Program (fundraiser)
  3. Social Security Board Ride Across Belize (fundraiser)
  4. Toledo District School Feeding Program
  5. St. Paul’s Feeding Program
  6. St. Peter’s School Feeding program
  7. Together We Can Solve Hunger
  8. Cornerstone Foundation Feeding Program
  9. Holy Cross Anglican School Feeding Program
  10. Belmopan Police Feeding Program
  11. Red Cross Feeding Program

It’s hard to find information on the exact numbers or reasons for hunger in Belize. I did find the World Food Programme Hunger Map, which calls the “prevalence of undernourishment” among Belizean children “relatively low;” about 9 percent of kids ages five to 14 don’t get enough to eat. That seems rather high, in a country where food (literally) grows on trees and in the sea. Are adults simply hogging all the food for ourselves?

Belize snapshot (Source: CIA World Factbook)

  • Population: 347,369 (July 2015 est.)
  • Population below poverty line: 41%
  • Adult unemployment rate 12.9% (2014 est.) 14.1% (2013 est.)
  • Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 total: 25% (male: 18% ,female: 35.6%
  • Adult obesity rate 20.6%
  • The second largest population group consists of children 0-14 years: 34.87% (male 61,822/female 59,312)
  • Children under the age of 5 years underweight: 6.2%

An informal economy

Back to the food vendors. Are their families eating the food they prepare?

I also wonder whether the official economic statistics include these entrepreneurs. Then I think of the people who have day jobs and do other things on the side to make ends meet, to feed their children.

They do nails or hair in their parlours (living rooms); sell clothes out of their bedrooms (using Facebook to advertise); cook in their own kitchens and deliver to customers. There are car dealers without car lots (they park their vehicles on the streets and post contact phone numbers in the windows). There website designers, domestic workers and childcare providers.

Check back here for more economic musings. 

 

 

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On the elements

Posted by Holly Edgell on August 14, 2016

Which is harder: To realize one is out of one’s element or in one’s element? This is not a trick question, but it’s not easy to answer.

I think one can be out of one’s element and function perfectly well. Coping is what we as human beings strive to do. Survival, right? The problem is that coping can come to seem normal, since there may be nothing in particular to point to that is making one feel that things don’t quite fit. And yet, things don’t quite fit.

“I acknowledge the four elements. Water in the North; incense to recognize the air in the East; flowers for the earth in the South; a candle for light from the West. It helps me keep perspective.” Laura Esquivel

Mind you: It’s not all sunshine in one’s element, either. Still, it feels different. Even bad days or in frustrating moments, the element feels different. Moving through the trouble (whether a little or big one) feels different. The element is working in one’s favor, so to speak.

Vier Elemente wie Yin Yang

 

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Dear Prince: You had me at ‘Controversy’

Posted by Holly Edgell on May 1, 2016

Somehow it’s hard to imagine Prince resting in peace. In the afterlife, I see him making divine music, dancing up a storm and–yes–throwing shade all over the place.

Many of us fans may believe we really understood Prince, really “got” him. My own sense is that he probably experienced great happiness, tremendous joy, and deep dark times. He certainly lived; no doubt there were few things he wanted to try that he didn’t try.PRINCE

The first concert I ever went to was Prince: The LoveSexy Tour. My boyfriend and I were among the fans at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Halloween in 1988.

RELATED: See list of every concert Prince played in the state of Michigan

Random concert impressions:

  • Sheila E. being a virtuoso on the drums
  • Prince playing the keyboard rising from the stage atop a heart-shaped column
  • There was a bed on the stage
  • There was a basketball hoop on the stage
  • There was a full-scale replica of his Ford Thunderbird on the stage

Memory is not always reliable, but I have a strong recollection of my first Prince moment: Hearing “Controversy,” on Radio Belize. I must have been around 12 years old.

“I just can’t believe
All the things people say, controversy
Am I black or white?
Am I straight or gay? Controversy

Do I believe in God?
Do I believe in me?
Controversy, controversy
Controversy.” 

[Release date: October 14, 1981]

Any guesses which line jumped out at me? I was impressed by the music, and blown away by the reference to being biracial; I could not recall ever hearing such a thing in music.

Learning of Prince’s death felt like a light going out. One moment he was here: bright and eternal. The next, gone. It was good to live in a world in which Prince also lived. Now I console myself with my concert memories, my Prince music collection (good thing I kept his CDs), and the thought that we shared a planet for a time.

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Sunday: Chickens and beads in Ybor City, Tampa

Posted by Holly Edgell on March 13, 2016

Impressions: Ybor City coming slowly to life on a Sunday afternoon. There are shiny beads all over the place, which –along with the tattoo parlors, bars and tourists mingling with locals– give the area a pleasantly seedy Bourbon Street vibe.

Live music in the bar & grill where I’m eating: Not a bad rendition of “Hotel California.” There is, as Belizeans might say, a rain breeze. Like it might pour or might not.

Low humidity and anything can happen. There is no comparable sensation in the Midwest.

Amtrak train cruises by a street away, startling a clan of chickens–yes, chickens.  

    
    
    
    
 

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TEDxKC 2015: An event worthy of an August full moon in Kansas City

Posted by Holly Edgell on August 30, 2015

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Explaining TED and TEDx to the uninitiated can be a challenge. If you say, “It’s about great, important ideas,” the whole thing sounds more highbrow that it really is. To say, “It’s inspiring,” makes it sound vaguely religious. “Talks by cool people about cool things?” Well, you get the idea.

Still confused? More about TED here. Click here for TEDx, its awesome offspring. I recommend listening to The TED Radio Hour to sample the talks.

August 29, 2015 was the night of TEDxKC’s “Reimagine” event. TEDxKC is the largest TEDx event in the United States, and among the largest in the world. While smaller TEDx endeavors may focus on local speakers and entertainers, the Kansas City version brings in names from around the country and even the world. One local “Challenge” speaker, chosen through a video submission process, joined the lineup.

SHOUTOUTS: I got involved with TEDx when I connected with the great folks at TEDxCincinnati in 2013. And, to my delight, there’s now a TEDxBelmopan in Belize!

As a TEDxKC volunteer, I helped hand out T-shirts and swag bags before the show and earned a free ticket to the simulcast. Both it and the the live show (both at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts) were sold out.

TED

My 5 favorite moments:

  1. Opening act: The Louisville Leopard Percussionists. This is a group of pre-teens who know they way around xylophones and drums!
  2. Terri Trespicio: She used to work for Martha Stewart. Now she’s a branding strategist with her own podcast, Solopreneur. Favorite quote from TEDxKC: “You don’t follow your passion. Your passion follows you.” Her message was about how waiting around for passion to strike can mean a host of missed opportunities.
  3. Martin Pistorius: He rolled onto the stage in wheelchair, with a laptop balanced on his knees. The freelance web developer (originally from South Africa, living in London) spent more than a decade trapped in a world only he knew existed–unable to communicate, but able to see, hear and understand everything around him. It took an aromatherapist to alert family and medical experts that Pistorius was ready for the world. His book is Ghost Boy. Favorite quote from TEDxKC: “We are told actions speak louder than words, but I wonder: do they?” In the end, it was his words that made the difference.
  4. Scott Hamilton. Yes, that Scott Hamilton! The Olympic figure skater, a cancer survivor, is now a leading proponent of a cancer treatment I’d never heard of. It promises to beat cancer without the toll chemo and traditional radiation can take. Favorite quote for TEDxKC: “There’s a new kid in town and it’s called proton therapy.” I learned that proton therapy is offered in only about a dozen places around the country, it is currently very expensive, and that major insurance companies won’t cover it–even through Medicaid and Medicare do and it’s FDA-approved. There is center planned for Kansas City, Hamilton said at TEDxKC.
  5. Chaz Ebert. She is the woman who married Roger Ebert, the film critic. Now she runs a foundation that aims to bring empathy to the filmmaking. Sounds like a tall order! Still, if anyone can do it, Ebert can. Favorite quote from TEDxKC: “When we empathize with others, it turns out to be in our best interest as well.”

MORE:

Here are three of my favorite recent TED Talks (all from TED Women 2015):

  1. Margaret Heffernan: Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work
  2. Roxane Gay: Confessions of a bad feminist (Ms. Gay is awesome to follow on Twitter @rgay)
  3. Rich Benjamin: My road trip through the whitest towns in America

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Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries.

Posted by Holly Edgell on June 28, 2015

Is it another sign of maturity, or just a rather twisted and voyeuristic streak? Lately, it’s hard for me to sit through a fictional television program; it has to be about depravity, murder, secrets and/or lies to really hold me (True Detective, Season One). Similarly, I used to love to read fiction; now, magazines like Harper’s and the New Yorker hold my attention, as can biographies–especially revolving around themes of race.

Exception Alert: “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” a comedy, is the bomb. Not suprisingly, it comes from the twisted and awesome mind of Tina Fey.

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Thanks to the podcast “Death, Sex & Money,” I have a great resource for discovering documentaries I might not know about otherwise. There is a link to a Google spreadsheet on the show’s website, and it’s being populated by fans of the the podcast.

Go here to check it out: Summer Documentary List

I was moved to add three docs of my own choosing:

  • “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden”
  • “Open Secret”
  • “Little White Lie”

The list reminded me I’d not yet seen “Grey Gardens,” which omission I rectified this weekend. Other docs I’ve watched this summer (pre-list) include “There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane,” and “The 9/11 Faker.” Also, “The Vivian Maier Mystery,” “Savage Memory,” and “Love & Terror On The Howling Plains of Nowhere.”

Get the picture? Sensing a theme?

Documentaries allow me to feel things I don’t normally tap into on a regular basis. They remind me that life is large, that time is short, and that there are really more important things than x, y or z.

Human beings are so improbable. How do we ever get anything done? How do we find and then lose ourselves and each other?

More documentary recommendations always welcome! (Remember my favorite themes, please).

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