SXSW Podcasts

I’ve been listening to the audio podcasts from this years SXSW. I’ve got to say, it’s a very mixed bag. I’ve enjoyed the keynote speeches from Bruce Sterling, Kathy Sierra, and Phil Torrone and Limor Fried. The Dan Rather was barely OK, about exactly what you’d expect and nothing more. Thus far, I’ve tried to listen to four or five panels and only made it through one without shutting it off. Something about the tenor of the panels, which is a combination of cutesy hipsterism and smug self-satisfaction from the panelists, makes them unlistenable to me. The very first one I tried was “How to Rawk SXSW”. I don’t think I made it through the introductions before I’d had enough. The “Sex and Computational Technology” panel, similar thing. It had Violet Blue on it who many people like, but I find skip-button-tastic. When I hear her talk, I reach for the skip button.

Yesterday towards the tail end of the workday I heard the presentation on “How to Improve your Lame Podcast.” There was plenty of meta-irony because I thought the podcast on how to improve lame podcasts was such a lame podcast I couldn’t take it. I went to skip it and saw that it was short and would be over soon, so I just let it ride. So, the only panel I’ve finished I didn’t really like but it was short enough that I didn’t bail. Not a great track record.

I wonder if these things are more palatable if you are in the room there and soaking in the wonderfulness of each other and how cool you all are for actually being there. It sure doesn’t play to me time and space shifted. Unlike Podcast Expo, where most (not all) of the presentations I was not present for are ones I can still appreciate when I listen to them 6 months after the event, I’ve thus far not gotten much of that from SXSW, two weeks after it is over.

I’ve got the “Rise of the Blogebrity” session on my player for today. I’ll give it a fair listen, but the odds are against that one. I’m not poo-pooing this stuff out of sour grapes. I was invited to come along and do some podcasts from the conference and I certainly thought about it. I’d love to come to SXSW one year if my work situation would allow it. As much as I wish I liked the panels and would enjoy getting something out of them, thus far I haven’t. I don’t download things and spend my time on them just so I can hate them and bitch about them. That ain’t how I play this game. I’m considering unsubscribing and giving up if I don’t get something of value out of the next few panels. There are plenty of other similar things to listen to that I know I get more value out of.

The Secret

I’ve been hearing about this nonsense about “The Secret” and “The Laws of Attraction” here and there. Thank you, Oprah, for inflicting yet another ridiculous meme, as if you weren’t already in the hole for Doctor Phil. They mentioned it on Girl Meets Girl/Makena Music a few weeks back and I just got an email from B&N.com about it. For the record, I don’t believe that human cognition controls the physical universe. I don’t believe just wishing really hard and focusing on something causes events to occur.

I do believe that human cognition, honed by millions of years of evolution, is one bad-assed pattern recognition engine. That usually helps us out, such as when we were able to spot meta-trends out on the plains. “Hey, it’s getting warm again, that’s when the mammoth come through here so let’s maybe dig some pits and get ready for them” In modern life, that well-refined ability to find patterns in almost anything frequently works against us. That’s all this “Secret” nonsense is. You focus on what you want to occur. Many things happen in and around your life, some good and some bad and most kind of neutral. This is the normal distribution or bell curve. When you engage your desire, though, things that happen on the good end get matched against the patterns. “Hey, that’s the thing I’m trying to make happen!” So, things that either would have happened anyway by happenstance or things that happen because you are working to make them happen get counted as a success of the “Law of Attraction.” The bad and neutral things get ignored. This is also the secret behind the power of prayer.

It’s bullshit. You either made that happen yourself, or it was dumb luck you could take advantage of but nothing mystical occurred. I think it is shameful that people are willing to take their work and minimize it in favor of this woo-woo vague force. Why does that make you feel better than being an effective person that gets things done? What happens when two practitioners of the “Secret” are wishing for the exact opposite thing, say full custody of the same child? How does the universe resolve these conflicting wishes? What is the communication mechanism from your mind to the universe? There must be some particle or energy transmitted. Is it measurable? We understand the electromagnetic spectrum pretty well nowadays, so it’s got to fit in there somewhere.

As always, we know who the beneficiaries of this are. It’s the people selling the Secret DVD for $40, the hardcover for $20, etc. Like B&N.com and the distributors and the creators. If this rule really worked that well and they really wanted to change the world with it, why didn’t they use the Law of Attraction to get them enough money to give away DVD’s to all the households in America? AOL could do it for shitty software on a shitty dialup service, surely changing the universe would be worth it.

I will always stand against things where people place the faith and credit for things they do themselves in some mystical entity, be it god or allah or this vague force that magically does good things for you because it wants you to be happy. The universe is a cold place that cares nothing about you, only about converting energy to entropy. These moments of warmth and value and love are there because we put them there and no other reason. The Secret doesn’t work because wishing makes things happen, it works because when you bust your ass things happen and because if you really want to be happy you can make yourself be.

So, I just saved you $40. You are very welcome.

EGC Clambake for March 27, 2007 – “Hippies and Punks – Blowback”

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for March 27, 2007.

I play (another) song from Conconquidore Truidore; I discuss Scarborough Dude’s (over)reaction to the previous episode and Ted Riecken’s response; I play a song by Oxford Collapse, reference my enjoyment of the SModcast and then I too collapse.

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To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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Arguments I Have Known and Loved

In my last show, I talked about hippies and punks. That seems to have really set off Scarborough Dude, who did a show responding to mine. Ted Riecken of Island Podcasting responded to both. I have both shows on my player and the dicksnjanes episode came up yesterday but I skipped it. Ted warned me that it was pretty ad hominem attacks at me in the early going. Having just spent hours in a meeting arguing technical points, I didn’t feel like listening to someone argue with me personally. I’ll listen next time it comes up in the rotation.

One thing that I know I did not emphasize sufficiently because no one that has emailed or commented noticed it, I was not talking about “strawman hippies” or “stereotypical hippies.” All of the comments I cited were as close to verbatim as I could get, some were even written on a notecard, from that audio documentary I had just heard on Puzzling Evidence. People actually said all that stuff, so I was commenting on specifics, not stereotypes. I’ll listen to Scarborough Dude with an open mind, but I note that the title of his show is “Hippiefascistfreak.” If the fascist he refers to is me, then any chance of me taking his counter-argument seriously is out the window.

In other even less pleasant arguments I found an old folder of things I had downloaded from Podzinger vanity searches last year and never listened to. It included this session from ad:tech last year. In it, Steve Gillmor talked about our squabble over the Earthlink ad. It amazed me listening to Steve relate his perception of my perception how completely wrong he was. My problem was never about “purity of the podosphere” or the “Madison Avenue production values invading the podosphere.” My problem was that I heard that lame Earthlink spot 100 times (until I calibrated my fast-forward time to perfectly skip it every time) and I still to this day do not know what they were selling me. All I know of Earthlink is that they are a dialup company. They had 100 shots to tell me if they do something different nowadays and they blew every one of them. Do they have a product for which I would give them money? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure. What I do know is they had a lot of opportunity to inform me, and by going with that vague and horrible spot they did, they pissed away their money on warm fuzzies instead of telling me something I could act on. That’s my problem with the Earthlink spot. They used my time and I don’t even know why. That’s the ultimate act of disrespect from them to the audience, and that’s always been my issue with them.

Steve, please, for the love of christ, you always talk about attention in the machine sense but then don’t pay attention to direct statements people make to you. Do you understand where I am coming from now? I have stated this over and over. It’s not about money, production values, indie street cred, or any of that stuff you seem to think it was about. It’s about wasting my time on the vague. You have a direct channel right into my ears, so be goddamn specific and maybe we can do some business. If you don’t have an offer, don’t waste my time.

Marshall Rogers, RIP

Damn. A comics artist I always liked a lot, Marshall Rogers, has died at the age of 57. I was a big fan of his Doctor Strange, Batman and Coyote. I have most or all of the Cap’n Quick and a Foozle series from the heady days when independent comics were weird and exciting.

The story cites no details as to how he died, but without question it was way too soon. He will be missed.

Busy Weekend

Dinner at people’s house Friday night, family trip to North Carolina yesterday and today. Lots of stuff is shaking but I have had sporadic time and connectivity. More blogging soon. I did catch up with a bunch of email offline today, while watching the Nascar race. Offline time with your laptop can be highly beneficial sometimes.

Beach Walks

Yesterday at lunchtime, I went towards the water and grabbed a quick bite to eat and got a cup of coffee. I then kicked off my shoes, rolled up my pants cuffs and walked on the beach for about half an hour. As a boy who grew up landlocked in Nebraska and Kansas, it seems surreal to me that this is even available to me. It sure is nice to live and work somewhere where it’s so simple to go to the beach that you can do it even if you only have a few minutes to spare for it. It sure makes for an agreeable spring day.

Why I Won’t Be Bum Rushing the Charts

I’ve seen a number of references to this Bum Rush the Charts deal. Tomorrow is the day, and they want you to buy the song “Mine Again” by Black Lab from iTunes. The first most basic reason is that I’ve never put a cent of my money into the iTunes system and there is no way I’m going to start for this. I don’t even have my own iTunes account, I use my wife’s. I’m not giving them my credit card, I’m not purchasing any music inside a DRM envelope regardless of the point trying to be made. To me, that’s the more important point than the one the BRTC project is trying to prove.

The other reason is that I think the ultimate goal is a stupid one. From their manifesto:

Podcasting gets little respect from traditional media. To them we’re little more than a joke, than amateurs. What they don’t understand is that podcasting is more than just a delivery mechanism – it’s a social movement. People are sick of the watered-down, cookie-cutter content that networks and record companies expect us to enjoy. People are tired of watching friends and loved ones get sued by record labels who only care about profits and nothing else, not even the artists they supposedly represent.

and later

The track we’ve chosen is “Mine Again” by the band Black Lab. A band that was dropped from not just one, but two major record labels (Geffen and Sony/Epic) and in the process forced them to fight to get their own music back. We picked them because making them number one, even for just one day, will remind the RIAA record labels of what they turned their backs on – and who they ignore at their peril.

I personally don’t care if the traditional media gives me little respect. I give them little respect, so why not? Let’s keep the relationship symmetric. The whole endeavor smacks of high school power dynamics to me, of trying hard to impress people who don’t care about you in order to validate yourself. I don’t need the validation of incumbent media, I don’t need the respect of the music industry. Fuck them. Why should I care what the RIAA thinks? They are a corrupt and immoral organization, so I’d rather have their contempt than their respect any day. You don’t prove that new media matters by trying to out RIAA the big media. You prove it matters by mattering, by doing good work that you care about and stand behind. Artificially manipulating the charts for a single day, even if it actually works, does nothing of lasting value for anyone.

What’s the best case outcome the organizers want? Suppose it does catch big media’s attention. What happens differently Friday than it would have? Black Lab gets signed again to Geffen? I’d argue that you do new media a better favor by ignoring the incumbents and doing business your own way, not trying to play their game by their standards. It’s an absurd and ineffectual exercise in misplaced activism and misallocated priorities.

They state:

If you believe in the power of new media, on March 22nd, 2007, take 99 cents and 2 minutes of your time to join the revolution and make iTunes “Mine Again”.

I believe in the power of new media, and on March 22nd, 2007 I’ll be listening to it, watching it, having a phone interview with another podcaster and writer (she’s interviewing me for a change), and who knows, I might even create a little of it. Hell, I might even buy merch from a few of my favorite shows. What I won’t be doing is trying to search for external validation from organizations I don’t even like. Instead, I’ll work on being strong enough not to need it.

If you are willing to dump one dollar into that cause, might I suggest you PayPal a couple dollars to the Reverend Magdalen legal fund. The email address magdalen@subgenius.com is the one. That’s where my money went and for a much better cause.

Update: I checked the charts just now (7:30 PM EDT) and didn’t see Black Lab in the top 10. I did see Gym Class Heroes at #5 though, a band I only know about because my brother played them in his podcast. So it goes.

EGC Clambake for March 20, 2007 – “Hippies and Punks”

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for March 20, 2007.

This is a particularly foulmouthed episode, including an F-Bomb explosion that came from some sort of anger repository I had not realized I was tapping. Be warned.

I play a song from Conconquidore Truidore; I talk about internet radio and the CARP decision and Doc Searls; I play a little clip from Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac; I discuss Bruce Sterling’s talk at SXSW; I talk about listening to Steve Blush on the Small World Podcast and from there launch into my theory about the similarities between hippies and punks; I briefly mention seeing Public Enemy; I play a song by the Brothers Falloon and lurch out of the room.

You can subscribe to this feed via RSS.

To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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Managing the Podosphere

I listened to this interview Chris Pirillo did with Alex Williams about mostly Podcast Hotel and podcasting in general. At one point in there they stated that “there are no good tools for finding podcasts”, which implies that either they’ve never heard of AmigoFish or that they don’t think it is good. Either of those bum me out.

Late in the interview though they were talking about “managing the blogosphere” and “managing the podosphere.” I’ll admit that I hear this sort of talk a lot and it never fails to perplex me. I don’t understand 1) why people feel the need to manage these things and 2) why they have any expectation of them being manageable. I have never once walked into a public library or a Barnes and Noble and said “Oh my god, look at all the books! How will I manage this? How do I know I’ve read all the ones I might like?” That’s life in the post-scarcity world. The belief that we can get a handle on the exact set of the millions of blogs that matter to us is misplaced, I think. I have 200 cable channels and I don’t manage to see every single thing that might appeal to me so why would anyone even think it was a reasonable goal for the 100,000 podcasts out there?

Personally, the thought that there is another new thing out there that I will like even better than my current podcasts makes me happy. You could be pissed that you aren’t already subscribed, or you could be happy that there is always more good stuff out there that you will enjoy. It’s not about hoarding every single thing that you might like, it’s about keeping your ears and eyes full of agreeable listening and viewing. If your time is filled, things are all right. There might be a fabulous show out there you don’t yet know about, but if you are already happy I wouldn’t lose sleep over it. Find it as you can and don’t stress about it. Our days are already full of legitimate things to worry about, so why find worries in your recreation? Don’t worry about managing (“optimizing”) your podcast world, worry about satisficing (“good enough for rock and roll.”)

You Tube Confession

When you IM me your links to YouTube videos, I don’t look at them. When you embed them in your blog posts, I don’t click them. Even when you tell me that they are the most fantastic thing ever, I don’t do it. I hate the interface, I hate the shitty resolution and frame rate of those things. There is pretty much nothing I care about enough to touch YouTube for. I’m willing to subscribe to your RSS feed if I like your show and watch them offline, but I opt out of the whole YouTube craptacular experience. I just plain hate it.

XML View in Mozilla

Here’s a lazy web question. Does anyone know how you can change Mozilla’s handling of XML back to the way it used to be? If I’m loading an XML page, 19 out of 20 times it’s because I am examining it for correctness or to extract information from it. I hate how it does that more human readable formatting by default now. It just requires me to go and view source on ever single one of them, when what I really want is the tree view it used to have, where you could expand or close individual elements in the XML tree. How can I get back there? I looked in the config settings at every XML thing I could find, but didn’t see a way to turn off this new behavior.

Update: Thanks to a link in the comments from Derek, now I understand that this is part of a holy war inside of the Mozilla project. The problem is that RSS feeds are handled as a special case and intercepted by the rendering engine. The XML toolkit doesn’t work with these, because by the time you have access to them they are now a specially styled page. Viewing source will still see the raw XML but the browser window knows it as the fugly transformed page. I agree with the people who hate this behavior or at least want the ability to disable it. It costs me an enormous amount of efficency when I am working behind the scenes on AmigoFish and and looking at RSS feeds. Now that I know this is the case, I will probably use a different browser for this work. Mozilla project, thanks for all the work but this is one decision you really took the wrong fork on.

Dapper to Edgy

I’m extremely conservative when it comes to upgrading OS’s on my work-a-day machines. That’s why I never upgraded my iBook from 10.3, since I was earning my living on it when 10.4 came out. For similar reasons, I dragged my feet on upgrading my work laptop from Ubuntu Dapper to Edgy. Last night I bit the bullet, took it home and ran the upgrade all evening. It seemed to have worked pretty well. The only downer is that it broke my wifi card since apparently ndiswrapper is broken in Edgy. I like it though, and the support for greater than 512 Mb SD cards is built in now. That’s nice, since that’s how I watch vlogs during my lunch hour. So far, so good.

The End of Penn Radio

Around XMas, I got really behind on my podcast listening and only recently have I been catching up. One of the shows I was farthest behind on was the Penn Jillette radio show. I think at the high point, I had 20 shows in my queue. Just recently I was down to only a few programs but no new ones were coming down. They’ve changed their RSS feeds a few times so I went to check it to see if that was the case. To my shock, I saw that the last show was labeled “The End” in the RSS feed. I heard it tonight and sure enough, that was the end of the show. That’s one fewer broadcast show in my feed. We’ll see if that 4 hours a week missing from my queue means I stay more caught up on things.

Me and the Podcast Expo

It’s been busy times lately, and I haven’t bothered submitting a proposal to speak at this year’s New Media Expo (aka Portable Media Expo aka Podcast Expo.) On the one hand, I hate the thought of not doing it. Having spoken at the first two, I’d like to keep that streak going. Also, as I listen to the other talks that get released via Gigavox, I really think it is important to keep the perspective from my side of the fence involved. The “how to get rich as a podcaster” stuff ranges from not so great to dreadful, so I’d like to ensure that the other side of that perspective is well represented. The best way to do that is do it myself.

On the other hand, I haven’t really thought about what I might want to do. I have vaguely thought about continuing the thread of the first two talks. The first was about connecting with an audience and the second was about doing it because you love it. For a third, I’ve considered something about how to improve yourself by podcasting. My half-formed idea is about the extra practice you get talking, forming thoughts and such. I think that writing a thousand words a day blogging for the last 4+ years have helped my writing abililties tremendously and podcasting 200 episodes have done similar things for my verbal communications. I think I talk off the cuff better, I find it easier to organize and gather my thoughts, etc.

If anyone has any suggestions or thinks this sounds like a good idea, come forth with the feedback and pronto. I’ve got to turn this in tomorrow so all the dilly-dallying time has already been squandered by me.

Believe the Hype

Not much blogging lately. After work yesterday, almost immediately we headed towards North Myrtle Beach because Public Enemy was playing the House of Blues. We’re getting on towards the 20th anniversary of when I first saw them live, and they still kicked it. They messed with expectations some by playing several songs without Flava Flav. Just when you had resigned yourself that maybe he was off doing some TV reality show nonsense and that his role would be filled by Professor Griff, he came rolling out on stage and the energy level popped up a notch. They had a three piece backing band that really rocked. I’d never seen them in a configuration like this, which gave the songs high energy but low fidelity to how they sounded on record. Not a problem for me, but might be for some.

There was a point about 30 minutes in where I thought this might have been the best of all the times that I saw them. The middle flagged some, and there was an extended Flava-centric portion that I thought was too much. He’s the cayenne in this gumbo – you miss the kick when he’s not there, but you don’t want to make a meal of just that. The kicked it back up for the last 20 minutes and really finished with a bang. It wasn’t just the hits that were moving me, several of the newer songs that I’d never heard before were some of the best of the night. Next for for them, Austin and SXSW. I’d recommend catching them if you can.

Overall, it was a great show and now us old folks are feeling the effects of it. The crowd on average was pretty middle aged. Lots of people my age, plus or minus a few years. I had actually expected the audience to be overwhelmingly white but it was probably 50/50. All around the Grand Strand, there a sleepy 40 year olds bobbing their heads and reaching for the coffee.

Pod Dorks at the Beach

The oddest thing happened during our vacation in Wilmington. We were watching the local news last night, and a story came on about podcasting. More than that, it had an on-camera interview with Adam Curry, who apparently was in the same town as me at the same time. He was there promoting some locally produced show that is on Podshow. What would have been really freaky would have been if we had bumped into him out and about.

To put things in perspective, this was the story after the story about a guy who has a lot of clocks so daylight savings time means he has to change them all.

At the Beach

I’m semi-offline line now as we take a long weekend in Wrightsville Beach, near Wilmington NC. It seems weird to leave a beach community to go to a different beach community but there is a value in chilling somewhere that isn’t home. We’ve had dinner at Red Robin, ridden bikes almost the entire length of this island, and just generally had a big time. I just got back from lounging on the beach, catching up on my MAKE Magazines and swimming in the indoor heated pool. It’s a little chilly here, but just warm enough for fun.

Rev. Magdalen Still Can’t Win For Losing

Those of us in the Subgenius world have been following the sad travesty of justice that is the child custody case of Rachel “Reverend Magdalen” Bevilacqua for a long time. It continues forward, and just when it looked like she had prevailed the whole thing got kicked up to appellate court. Thus, she needs another chunk of money to pay a new lawyer, despite having paid everything she has on lawyers over the last year. I’m exercising my Dobbs given slack by sending in some cash. If you care at all about the right of citizens to make fun of the powerful without losing their children for it, this is the one to support. Libertarians, time to buck up and let the invisible hand of the marketplace reach in to your pocket to hand Magdalen some money. Praise Bob!