Just Making Conversation


You can’t do it. There is nothing to listen to on this page.

You haven’t just turned your radio on. You came to a visual space.

There will be listening soon, so hang on. Put up with me for a moment. I have some things to say about listening.  And conversation.

So much of what we say to each other is just reporting. We circulate our news. It passes for conversation.

It’s small talk that fills up time or serves as, how my old friend Tom put it, a social laxative. Often what we say to each other is really proclamation – a one-way bit of info that could be anything from a comment on the weather to a “great truth” delivered as sage advice. I’m not including great, brilliant, spontaneous outbursts like I heard last night. Last night, standing outside my favourite club, “The Moonshine Café”, some of us regulars were talking about the difficulties of getting work and getting paid for it. Out of the blue, one guy said “I just go wherever they’re serving the soup.”

You could tell from the look on his face, as he heard himself and the rest of us laugh, that it had just popped out – though there was certainly the reference to the Great Depression.

I’m talking more about the whole evenings, coffee sessions, and dinner parties where all the talk is “catching up”, a recitation of what’s already happened. Nothing new, nothing original. Sure, conversations can veer into current events or some issue that’s been in the news. Again, it’s second hand stuff.

Maybe this is a kind of re-cycling. We break down our life events into digestible bits and they go back into the word void. The Wordrogen cycle. (I think I will sell  “Wordrogen Cycle” on E-Bay). The Wordrogen Cycle could be nature’s way of cleaning up verbal by-products while you fill people in on your important life and get things off your chest at the same time.

Want to hear a real conversation?

Just go to this page: Home  Conversations with the Captain and you will hear some of the most genuine dialogue around today.

Professor Ron Glasberg and Master’s Candidate Marco Barile didn’t know their informal talk was going to be a hit on the University of Calgary’s website – they didn’t have any list of questions or focus groups. They just started talking, and listening. It’s also remarkable that these are audio downloads – no video – and visitors to the site are still hooked. Score one for audio.

The next link will give you some of the background from Ron and Marco. They really give the best description of how it got going. Here is their video: Conversations with the Captain

I could go on at some length about what is fascinating about this project but, for now, I’ll just mention one aspect that is really interesting to me. This is a project that happened in reverse. I would say that 99% of what you see and hear from any kind of media came from an agenda. Producers or media managers pick a topic, pick the speakers, pick the questions, pick the answers, pick what you get to hear and when and for how long. Honestly, that’s the way it happens most of the time, and that applies to the very best interviews you ever heard. 

In the case of “Conversations with the Captain”, the process was entirely turned around. It didn’t even start out as a project. How refreshing! How hard to edit! It was rather like mining ore from a vast quarry. If a quarry can be 30 plus hours long, that is.

There was someone else involved in this endeavour, definitely the most important person in bringing this series of conversations to the public. Maybe I can convince her to talk about it.


Today’s listening: (a bit of “kangaroo music”, sorry)

1. “Conversations with Myself” by Bill Evans (the whole album, live it up)
2.  Small Town Talk by Paul Butterfield Better Days Band fr: “It All Comes Back
3. Are You Sleeping?  by Harry Nilsson fr: “The Point

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