My New Podcast – Pull Box Picks

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Out of the blue, I started doing a new podcast for Derek Coward‘s Reader Feed called Pull Box Picks. I decided I wanted to do a review show of short episodes I could record in my car, and Derek has generously built such a platform for podcasters. It’s a meta-feed made up of various focussed sub-shows. As far as I can tell, mine is now the only one on there that isn’t focussed on specific characters or series. I might have broken the premise but oh well. I flat out love a few of the shows in that feed such as Ronin Rabbit about Usagi Yojimbo, Devil in Your Ears about Grendel, and the Love and Rockets show.

I’ll put the first episode here in my feed as well. On it I give my review of the new series from Boom Studios Elric: The Balance Lost. I’m torn whether to do it with all episodes or just this one. I’ll let the EGC subscribers tell me. The default is just this one, but if popular sentiment runs the other way I have no problem putting them all in.

I had so much fun doing the first episode. I recently received my newly purchased Zoom H2 Recorder. I spent the drive into work profiling how different settings sounded, and on the drive home I recorded this show. I did another one today that I’ll upload soon. I’ve been highly non-prolific with the EGC podcast for years now, and the baby doesn’t help anything. The fact that I haven’t gotten around to recording my seventh anniversary show is telling. Recording a five minute show about comic books, doing minimal editing and uploading it to Derek feels like podcasting heaven to me. Perhaps this is how I get my groove back.

Observations from Recent Podcast Listening

Here is a rundown of some podcasts that I’ve felt particularly strongly about lately, either positively or negatively. These are only my opinions and have a high likelihood of not matching your opinion. Please don’t celebrate too hard or feel too bad if you do one of these shows, or my opinion is opposite of yours. Everyone has their own tastes and these are mine.

Podcasts I’m Digging Lately

WTFPod
Time Subscribed: 1.5 years

I jumped into this show when it was in the early 30s of episode numbers. Because Marc Maron regularly puts out two episodes every week like a machine, it took a long time to catch up because in the time I listened to those 30+, he had published another 15 or 20. I’m close enough to the beginning to call myself a charter member of his listenership. This show has one of the better quality arcs I’ve ever experienced. The shows in the 150s are significantly better than those first 30. At first he was trying to be a bit more zoo crew with prepared bits, almost all of which were unnecessary. I much prefer just listening to him talk to people with as little artifice as possible.

He has an interesting strategy of taking older episodes offline and making them only accessible to premium subscribers. It seems to work for him and is upside down of many podcasters in that regard. Personally, I have 600+ episodes in my queue, which now is 19 days long added together. Good luck trying to get me to shell out for “special subscribers only podcasts”, which would just be another hour in my 450 hour backlog. Maron is doing good work and now using the hunger for that older work to monetize it. Apparently his audiences at his standup gigs are way up too, so good on him all around.

Random quotes I’ve liked from his shows:

Thomas Lennon: “Is Enya rich? She did the music for the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, so she must be. She’s got that sweet sweet hobbit money!”

Marc Maron: “C’mon Gallagher!”

Michael Showalter: “In a western what does it mean when the main character wears a white hat?”
Marc Maron: “He keeps his hats clean?”

Dork Forest
Time Subscribed: 5 months

This is a program I learned about from the above WTFPod when she was a guest on his show. Jackie Kashian does a fun program and at this point where I have a huge and groaning queue, I’m always happy to hear one of her shows start. She interviews people – mostly but not exclusively other working comedians – about the stuff they are obsessed with. There is a lot of fun geek talk about many topics, some of which I’m interested in and some not but almost always it is a fun time. The one exception was the ghost episode. When her friends pulled out the “ghost finding iPhone app” I had to hit the skip button. Still, I dig it a lot and have since I started listening.

Pod F. Tompkast
Time Subscribed: 2 months

Following the chain, I found out about this show from the Dork Forest, which transitively means Marc Maron gets the credit I guess. Paul F. Tomkins does a monthly show with his own bits, recorded bits from his monthly live variety show, and phone calls with his friend Jen Kirkman. I frequently laugh my ass off when I listen to this show. I have not a lot more to say about this show other than that it makes me laugh.

Thrilling Adventure Hour
Time Subscribed: 3 months

Also via the Dork Forest, this show is a recreation of the golden days of radio. It has the distinction of being on both of my lists. There are a bunch of sub-shows in this one, and really what I’m putting as my favorite is the “Beyond Belief” shows, which are parodies of the Thin Man and similar series. The Frank and Sadie Doyle characters are completely unrepentant drunks who are also paranormal investigators. I really dig this series, mainly because of the performances by the above Paul F. Tomkins and Padgett Brewster.

Renfest Podcast
Time Subscribed: 2 weeks

This one is the biggest surprise on the list. It came in via my AmigoFish prediction list. I had gone in and unrated many shows that I no longer remembered specifically which opened me up to a lot of new predictions. This show came in and I was pretty sure that I’d listen to a few minutes, hit skip, rate it low on AmigoFish and be done with it. To my pleasant shock, I enjoyed listening to it. It’s goofy, with a lot of the kind of music you’d hear in the filking room at any science fiction convention and sometimes has interviews conducted at various renaissance festivals. I’m not a filk fan nor a ren fest fan, but something about this show just calms me and I find enjoyable.

Good Clean Fun
Time Subscribed: 3+ years

I don’t remember exactly when this show started, but I’ve been listening since episode one. My favorite recent episode was the one from pre South By Southwest where co-host Jasper Borgman was lit up from one of the tech parties with open bar and a schwag bag full of stuff. Co-host Michael Butler completely freaked out at how hard it was to deal with drunk Jasper and it just made me laugh all the much harder. I’m friends with these guys but even without knowing them personally, this show has been one of my most fun weekly listens for over half of the podcast era.

Tell ‘Em Steve Dave
Time Subscribed: 1.5 years

This program is the only one on the SModcast.com network that I unreservedly love. I flirted with dropping the main SModcast program but relented and stayed subscribed. I’m at best a moderate Kevin Smith fan. I loved Clerks, Dogma, and Clerks 2; liked Mallrats and Chasing Amy; absolutely hated Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and haven’t seen any of the rest. I just like listening to these New Jersey knuckleheads bust each other’s balls. I generally dislike multiple people banter shows, but this is one exception. The reason I almost dropped SModcast is the episode from their tour where Brian Quinn and Kevin Smith were together and I thought Smith was such a condescending dick to Q that I couldn’t take it (that and I hate their live episodes, which are ever more frequent.)

Regardless of what I do with other SModcast network shows, I plan on sticking with Tell Em Steve Dave as long as they keep putting out shows.

Webcomics Weekly
Time Subscribed: 2+ years

Even though I’m not in the demographic for this show that is mostly geared to creators of webcomics, some of my favorite insights about creativity itself and making a career out of one’s work have come from recent episodes of this show. If you are a writer, artist, cartoonist, knitter or anyone trying to combine their creativity with commerce, I recommend this show highly.

Podcasts I’ve Bounced Off Lately

Smodcast.com’s Plus One
Episodes Listened before Dropping: 3ish

I tried this out, and it’s Kevin Smith and his wife Jennifer Schwalbach bantering. On the shows I listened to, mostly Smith tries to steer the topic to sex and Schwalbach threatens to get up and walk out. I just couldn’t care less. If I wanted to hear spousal bickering, I can get plenty of that in my own living room. Some may like it but I just can’t hang with it.

Triangulation
Episodes Listened before Dropping: 1

This is yet another Leo Laporte show. I don’t know how many there are now, 50 or 75 I guess. At this point it would be hard to imagine an idea Leo has had for a podcast that hasn’t already happened. I listened to an episode where he and Tom Merritt had Cory Doctorow on as a guest and it was probably the least interesting interview with Cory I’ve ever heard. It might be churlish to suggest that Laporte has spread himself thin at this point. Who am I to critique the guy who has a zillion listeners and deeply committed fans?

He’s said nice things about me at various points in the early days of podcasting and I have nothing against him personally but it’s been a long time since I got anything out of any of his programs. I wish him well and hope he keeps on full steam for as long as he can but I’ve checked out as a listener.

Back to Work
Episodes Listened before Dropping: 3

I tried out a few episodes of this newish Merlin Mann podcast. There was a point where I really enjoyed Mann and his work but after a while I burned out on the sameness of his schtick over time. I listened to episode one all the way through and thought it was OK, episode two was more of the same and I skipped halfway through. By the third, I only made it a few minutes before I completely got tired of it. I also got tired of Merlin fawning over how good Dan Benjamin is as a podcaster when I couldn’t figure out what he does that is any better than the 10,000 other practitioners of the form. He seems like a solid yet uninspiring guy to me.

Much in the way that I can’t stand listening to You Look Nice Today, I just don’t find him as funny as he finds himself. I’m sure many people feel the same way about me, but that’s just how it is. I once enjoyed listening to his goofiness, now I just find it grating. Also, a personal productivity guru who announces he’s writing a personal productivity book in 2009 that will be published in 2010 and doesn’t have it out as of 2011 (Amazon says spring 2012 now for Inbox Zero) that serioously undercuts that whole being an authority on productivity thing.

Thrilling Adventure Hour
Time Subscribed: 3 months – I never dropped it

As much as I love the “Beyond Belief” segments, I really don’t much like several of the others. “Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars”, “Jefferson Reid, Ace American!”, “Amelia Earheart, Fearless Flier” just don’t do anything for me. I have yet to skip any of them (update: today I did skip a “Sparks Nevada” that really wasn’t working for me) but I have thought about it. If this feed were only “Beyond Belief” shows it would be one of my highest picks and if it was only “Sparks Nevada” I’d drop it in a heartbeat.

Summary

There are some interesting patterns in here. Several of my top picks are from working comedians. It seems like that field has really taken to podcasting as a medium in the last few years and made it their own. I suspect it is because comedians really have a lot of middlemen between them and their trade in their daily work lives, and they enjoy being able to do whatever they want to do on their own. That was my initial attraction to the medium in August 2004.

Also most of the shows that I don’t like are parts of larger networks by podcasters that do some shows, have success and then go off to do a shitload of different ones. In pretty much every case like that I’ve ever seen, the work gets significantly less interesting to me as the number of podcasts in the network grows. Kevin Smith has made SModcast and now SModcast Internet Radio (S.I.R. for short) his day job. I just can’t see listening to a streaming version of any of his shows. Being able to skip the 5 – 14 minutes of sponsor messages at the beginning of SModcast network shows is what makes them listenable.

Today, as in fall of 2004 what I prefer to listen to are unique, individual voices. The closer someone gets to a well-worn automatic shtick, the less interested I am which is why the podcaster-to-network fan out to producing many shows tends to lose me for all of them. My list grows and shrinks and turns over but I’m still subscribed to over 100 different feeds and still as deep in the medium as I ever was. At first I thought I listened to podcasts to “stick it to the man”, what I didn’t realize then was how easy it was for individual podcasters to convert to being “the man.”

Podcast Queue Update

As of March 23 2011, here is where my podcast queue stands. I’m still working off the long baby listening layoff. I’m at a cool 10 week, 70 day backlog. Right now I’m listening to Good Clean Fun from January 12th. My trusty script that tells me the playtime of my queue just blipped under 16 days worth of listening time. That’s 16 days of 24 hour listening, my friends. That’s a lot of citizen media, friends.

I do get impatient lately in a way I never did when the queue was short. Multiple shows were skipped because some minor things bothered me. On this Web 2.0 session where Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle were interviewing Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the very first question was something like “What about this Google Phone that is coming out?” to which Schmidt replied “Google doesn’t make hardware.” My immediate reaction was “Oh boy, all I need is to listen to Google’s CEO be a weirdly precious and disingenuous douchebag. I’d rather spend this hour listening to anything else.”

I’ve been skipping a lot of SModcast episodes, and I’ve been teetering on the brink of unsubscription for months. For one thing, I hate and automatically skip all live shows. As soon as I hear the applause, I hit the button. Even when they aren’t live, the 6 to 14 minutes of sponsorship messages and promos is completely unreal. As I find the show less and less compelling over time just based solely on the content of it, they are really doing weirdly audience hostile things. I think I might just unsubscribe now and leave the 7 or so already downloaded episodes in my queue. If something changes my mind, I’ll resubscribe. If not, so long guys and good luck. If that happens, I might be the one and only listener of Tell ‘Em Steve Dave that unsubscribes from SModcast in disgust. To be honest, I’ve been digging on TESD waaaaay more than SModcast pretty much since the show started, which the exception of the live episodes. Pretty much every live episode of every podcast sucks.

I have almost worked off the backlog of eBook Ninjas and Dork Forest episodes and I’m really enjoying both shows. After a month of listening to one episode of each every time I sync my player, I’m down to 4 or 5 of each. Once the backlogs are done, my velocity should pick up a little. I’m such a dork for this stuff. I wish I could qualify for being a guest on Dork Forest, I’d talk all about podcasting dorkiness.

What a Long Podcast Queue Means To Me

Obsessive podcast dork post warning – if you are uninterested in the deep miscellany of how one listener handles his podcasts, this post may not be for you.

Some time ago Garrick van Buren asked me about what a long podcast queue means to me. I had posted about the fact that my listening queue was over a month long. Out of curiousity around that time I wrote a ruby script to figure out how long my queue is in listening hours. When it was a month deep, I had around 9 days worth of audio files in my repository. Since the birth of the baby, my listening time dropped way down and the queue got longer and longer. At this point, it is right at a cool 10 weeks long. That means that in early March 2011, I’m listening to the shows from the week before Xmas 2010. Added together, this queue has a runtime that just blipped over 15 days long.

On top of the continuing subscriptions, I have been adding shows this whole time. I don’t get too upset about the long queue and have never found that to be a reason to not subscribe to new shows. Recently I added eBook Ninjas (heard about on The Kindle Chronicles) and Jackie Kashian’s The Dork Forest (heard about on Marc Maron’s WTF). In both cases, the shows had between 15 and 20 episodes that came down the feed on first subscription. For these shows I want to actually listen to the back shows, so I’m now in a situation where the first 25 shows in my list are those two podcasts. Each time I sync, I listen to one episode of each and then skip past the rest. It will probably take me at least a month to clear the queue of just those episodes at the front.

I’ve done this many times with shows I begin and want to listen to a number of older shows. When I first subscribed to WTF a year ago, it was on episode #33 and I did listen from the very beginning. For that show, because he puts it out twice a week like a machine, in the time it took to listen to the first 33 episodes, another 18 had been published. It can be a Sysiphean task to catch up on frequently updated feeds.

But to the real question that Garrick asked, what does it mean to me when the queue gets long? For me particularly, it doesn’t mean that much. I’ve been very far behind like now, and I’ve been so completely caught up that each night I was downloading fewer shows than a typical day’s listening. When the queue is long, the main thing that happens is that my patience and tolerance drops to near zero. When I’ve got 300 files waiting to be listened to, my willingness to listen to shows not cutting for me is drastically reduced. If I try out a new show based on a recommendation and the first five minutes are in-jokes and really boring banter, I hit skip and never come back to that show.

This leads to another more general point – I have come to believe that the first 3 minutes of podcasts are the most crucial bit of the whole thing. If your theme song is five minutes long, you’ve already lost me. If the beginning of your show is a long description of why it’s been so long since the last episode (which I and practically every other podcaster is guilty of doing at least once), I don’t want to listen to that. I especially don’t want to listen if the lateness being discussed in the episode is months or years old at the time I’m listening, which now is highly common. This has come back around to myself. When I record Evil Genius Chronicles episodes, I’m trying very hard to get things rolling fast and coming back to things like sponsorships or long explanations. The other end of this is things like SModcast, where the episodes I’m listening to begin with 12 minutes of promos for SModcastle plus the Adam and Eve and Fleshlight sponsor messages. I’m this close to dropping SModcast because of this. For sure, I begin the show with my finger on the fast forward button. I only wish the Sansa Clip had an audible fast forward so I could hear when the theme song begins.

The main thing that drives whether my queue builds up or gets cleared is how many meetings I have in my day job. Most of my team is in other physical locations so at times much of my day is spent with headphones on. When we changed to a new mode of working that had more phone meetings, my queue size and length began creeping up. I’m not that agitated by it. I’m not disturbed when it climbs. It is a slight bummer as I’m listening to ever older shows with things like offers and contests that are long over before I ever heard them, but overall I don’t care. The one show I make exceptions to my strict chronological listening is Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. I artificially goose the timestamps to make them the oldest shows in my list, so they are always at the head because these are the most timely shows I listen to.

Beyond that, Mr. van Buren, a long queue doesn’t mean that much to me. It lowers my tolerance, increases my impatience and makes my skip finger itchy. It doesn’t make me loathe so subscribe to new shows. In fact, the last few months I’ve added more new shows than in years. If it takes me years to catch up or it never happens, I can live with that. The queue works for me, I don’t work for it. As long as my ears stay full of interesting listening, I don’t care how much unlistened there exists. I don’t have to be a completist on this, just amused at all the times I want to be.

Podcast Quality Vs. Engagement

My Podcast Listening Experience

A few years ago there was a blog frenzy on here about podcast production. I listened to a podcast where the host was demonstratiing how he made his show sound professional, with his Heil microphone and his compressor and effects chain. I listened to that show and in fact I thought that his show sounded better when he turned off all the vocal compression. Before he sounded like a truck rally commercial, after he sounded like a person conversing. Of course, via Twitter he rallied his faithful listeners to come and tell me how wrong I was and this was the result.

Around that time I made myself a little sketch but I didn’t have a working scanner at the time so this was confined to a 3″ X 5″ index card in a pile of detritus in my office. The other day I ran across it and immediately relived the whole argument in a flash, as much fun as that was. In itself, it was a rehash of a 2005 era running of the bull when Stephen Hill of the Hearts of Space radio show weighed in via Steve Gillmor how he though podcasting would never go anywhere because the audio production was so frequently too low as to be unlistenable to him.

My opinion was always hard to articulate but approximates to :

There is a floor of production and processing below which I can’t stand to listen no matter how good the content.
There is a ceiling over which I can’t stand to listen no matter how good the content.
There is some content that I find god awful no matter how good or bad the audio quality is but the opposite doesn’t hold true.

This is easier to represent graphically, and here with my meager talents and illegible handwriting is the sketch I drew myself to figure out what I was talking about. Some of these shows and networks I haven’t listened to in many years but I’d say that this all holds up pretty well in terms of me still agreeing with it. I’m not mentioning the names of the original folks who were so opposed to me because I don’t want any Google Alerts to bring in a lot of douche baggage. Still, I like the concept and stand by it so here you go inkernet. Enjoy!  

Update: I didn’t listen to the show when I first drew this graph but I should have added to it. I’d put George Hrab’s Geologic Podcast about halfway between Hour of Slack and the listenable/unlistenable line. I like the show and am engaged with it each episode and long term as a subscriber, but there have been shows where the produced stuff put me off to the point of getting an itchy skip finger. It’s also worth noting that my single favorite episodes were the three hours of him just talking with his friend Milton about Trebuchet . No bits, no jingles or stingers or bumpers, just lots of talk and bits of music.

Update 2: I saw via FriendFeed that Evo Terra mentioned on Twitter this XKCD cartoon. This is a different angle on the same exasperation I feel sometimes.

My Podcast Listening List now Scrobbled via Rockbox

I’m experimenting with a new thing now. A side effect of running Rockbox is that I can have it save a list of what I’ve played on my Sansa Clip+. Since the player has a clock it even has them in the right order and somewhat sensible timing (give or take a time zone issue or two.) In the sidebar is a little playlist widget that shows my recent plays via Last.fm (which you can also see at my profile here.) I’m just fiddling with this so at any point in the future I may stop doing this, remove the widget or what have you. My queue has been beaten down from 6 weeks to right at 4 weeks and now you can play along at home.

I used to be somewhat cagey about what podcasts I listen to. I’d mention what I really like but generally keep my mouth shut about the ones I don’t much like. In the earlier days of podcasts when it was a closer knit group and my opinion mattered more to more people, people paid a fair amount of attention to my opinion on such matters. For that reason, I wouldn’t have done this then. The sad truth is that I have plenty of friends in the podcast world, people whose company I enjoy and that I consider friends whose podcasts I don’t listen to. It’s nothing personal, I have a specific set of tastes and finite time so its just the way it goes. I never wanted to hurt people’s feelings on the matter. Now if you pay careful attention you’ll notice shows that are missing. If that’s you, please don’t be bummed.

For the record, I don’t care who does or doesn’t listen to my show. If you know me personally and don’t listen, that doesn’t bum me out in the slightest. This is not a new issue to me. From my time doing the Reality Break radio show, I met a number of science fiction and fantasy writers and became friends with some of them. In general I tend to like the fiction of my friends but that’s not a one to one correspondence. There is a well known writer in the field who has been unbelievably kind and friendly to me, whose presence I love to be in and whose work I can’t read for more than a paragraph. For that matter, the late Robert Jordan was very nice to me personally, wrote me a hand-written thank you note for interviewing him and whose work is just plain not my thing and that I can’t read.

If you want to be my friend on Last.fm, go for it. I’ll accept every request that comes in. I’m exposing part of my hand with all this, but I’m no longer so concerned about that. That’s one of the positive upsides of losing traction in the podcast world. I don’t have to guard my opinions so closely. Let the playlists fly!

The Day I Quit Caring about NPR

I have posted before about how I spent my adult life as a public radio financial supporter and devoted listener, but since the beginning of the podcast era I have completely stopped caring about NPR, its affiliates, and practically all of its programming. If you look at the comments on that linked post, there is a guy who takes me to task because some of the programs I talk about are NPR, some are PRI, etc. He feels that invalidates my point but I think his nitpicking actually supports my larger point, which is that public radio has systematically ceased to interest me. It’s not a single point of failure.

If you want to be specific about when NPR news programming lost me, I can pinpoint the exact date, and in fact the exact story. July 28, 2006. The story was called “Sitting on the Porch: Not a Place, But a State of Mind.” It was an exploration of the role of the front porch in America. This was the story I am thinking about when I state that modern day NPR news reporting “explores the intersection of the uninteresting and the irrelevant.”

When I hear people talk about how good the NPR reportage is, it seems to me like this is residual karma. There was a time when the reportage was very good indeed, but that time is passed. For people that do think this is the case, are there stories from the last few years you can point to?

One of the things spurring this post at this time is that I just decided to stop listening to the News from Lake Wobegon podcast. I had been finding it a step up from listening to the whole of Prairie Home Companion because truth be told, it is the only part I cared about. The podcast was a step up because there was a lower risk of hearing Garrison Keillor singing. Over the last few months, I’ve just realized that I just don’t care anymore. A few minutes ago I erased that line from my bashpodder subscription list and now it is gone. This thing that once was so completely essential in my life is now barely even present. Part of this is a direct line from podcasting changing my tastes but a lot is the programming itself. It’s like a what used to be a favorite meal at my favorite restaurant that one day I just lost the taste for. It’s sad, but things move on and now so do I.

Update: Here is Roger Ebert waxing rhapsodic about how much he loves NPR. He sounds like me, 15 years ago. The bloom is off this rose for me. I don’t care about the news, the entertainment programming, any of it. I want to buy a new car stereo that includes an auxilliary input jack which my current one doesn’t have. If I could save $10 on one by having no radio in it at all, I’d take that option. I truly don’t care.

Night of the Livid Walt

I listen to the Tell ‘Em Steve Dave podcast and lately I’ve been enjoying it more than it’s big brother podcast SModcast. Like all podcasts in my list I’m about five weeks behind. On the episode I’m listening to now they make a reference to a fan created animation. LIke most of these, it is an anecdote from the audio show extracted and then animated. I really enjoyed this one. I liked how it looked and I found the original story hilarious. The full story was at least 15 minutes long, this cartoon is only about 90 seconds of the payoff at the end.

I have actually been skipping SModcast when they do live episodes. I listened to the one with Clerks/Clerks 2 actor Jeff Anderson because I wanted to hear what he had to say. Other than that, when I hear that the show is live, I just hit skip. I have 10 days worth of podcast running time, I’m not digging the live ones (or most live ones ever from any show) so why bother? This is also the same reason I stopped listening to the Authors On Tour podcast. I found that when popular authors play to their crowd, it just bugged me to listen. Same thing with SModcast, the playing to the crowd is the opposite of what I liked all along. I’ve decided that at future Dragon*Cons and Balticons I’m not doing any more live podcasts. It’s just not my thing. They are fun to do but really not fun to listen to outside of the room.

Around the Podosphere – October 2010

Here is some of the shows that have recently jumped out at me from my podcast listening. I’m about 6 weeks behind in my listening. I wrote a script to add up the running time of my queue and it currently is hovering around 9 days worth of listening. I’m in no danger of catching up.

I recently started listening to Rebooting the News with Dave Winer and Jay Rosen. The August 29th episode is particularly good. They had some interesting points to make about the business model of Consumer Reports but also about the then recent “ground zero mosque” controversy. I liked their analysis which paraphrased was “It’s not at Ground Zero, it’s not a mosque and if it was, who cares? Build houses of worship of all kinds at Ground Zero if you want to stick it to the religious intolerance of Al Qaida.”

I’m one of the original and longest duration fans of the Rock and Roll Geek Show. At this point I’ve been listening for six years. When Butler was burned out and in a bad mood he recorded  episode #415 which was all the music of Thin Lizzy. On his various programs, Thin Lizzy is his go-to bad mood music, particularly what he and Jasper call “tender jams” of which “Dancing in the Moonlight” is what Butler says is his favorite of all time. I’m inclined to agree.  

I’ve been listening to Marc Maron’s WTF Pod show since about episode 30 or so (and I went back and listened to all of them from episode #1). He had a three run tear of some of the best shows he’s done in the whole row. He did a two part episode with writer-director Judd Apatow for episodes 103 and 104 . Amazingly, the first part contains some of Apatow’s recordings of interviews he did with comedians in the 1980s as a teenaged comedy nerd. I’d put these at the top of the WTFPod list except for their immediate successor – episode 105 which was an interview with Thomas Lennon. I laughed harder at this than any episode in the series. Every 60 seconds, there was some kind of quotable wit. In a crazy digression about how Lennon finds Enya hot, the two mused on whether or not she is rich. Said Lennon, “She sang on the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Of course she has money. She has that sweet hobbit money!” I found myself laughing at the phrase “sweet hobbit money” for hours afterwards. I highly recommend this series as a whole, but particularly these three episodes. Check them (and all of these show) out!

“You Can’t Solve Business Problems with the Legal System”

I heard an interesting session from the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference via my IT Conversations podcast feed. One of Google’s senior copyright lawyers William Patry spoke about how you can’t use copyright law to solve your business problems – not by altering the enforcement of it or lobbying for stricter laws or any of it. Key quotes (paraphrased from memory as it was a 6 AM dog walk when I heard it):

“When you use the legal system to try to solve your business problems, and the ultimate effect is losing respect for the legal system”

“You can’t sue your customers into caring about and buying your product.”

I think this is a very interesting listen. It’s under 25 minutes total and if your income is in any way is tied to copyright, you should invest a half hour listening to this.

EGC Six Year Podiversary is Tomorrow

Tomorrow I’m going to do something I very rarely do. I’m going to sit down and record an episode of the EGC Podcast before I go to work, crackly morning voice and all. This is because I got a wild hair up my ass on August 20, 2004 and recorded the first episode of what became my podcast. I referred to it as an “audioblog” for a while and only stopped because some of the guys who were doing audioblogs before that time were such dicks about the term that I chose to abandon it to them altogether. The audiobloggers tended to record short pieces from crackly unlistenable cell phone connections, and my primary inspiration was the first few episode of Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code. I wanted to do more of a production with music and playing audio quotes of other shows and so on. Sure, the audiobloggers were doing what they were doing before I was but their esthetic and goals were so far from mine I never felt any kinship with them. Also, they were really prickly and not much fun.

To this day, I still have XML URLs in my subscription list that I signed up for in the first 3 months of podcasting. Michael Butler’s Rock and Roll Geek Show, IT Conversations, Michael Geoghegan’s Reel Reviews, Georgia Popplewell’s Caribbean Free Radio. Some publish as regularly today as they ever did, some haven’t had episodes in years. Doesn’t matter, I’m still there when and if something comes down.

My goals have changed and my output radically lessened, but I’m still two feet squarely in the podcast camp. Since the first time I bought a portable MP3 player, I haven’t listened to the radio in my car except as a transmitter for my podcasts. All Things Considered is what I listen to only if it is physically impossible to listen to Deliberate Noise or Tom Vs. the Flash or The Hour of Slack or WTF Pod. Even then if my player battery dies I generally choose the sound of my tires on asphalt over that of NPR. Six years of listening to podcasts has changed my tastes irrevocably and turned me off of the faux populism of This American Life. I can’t even stand the way people talk in that weird, stilted affectation on public radio.

I’ve been doing this for six years and I’ll keep going for the foreseeable future. As the fifth podcaster in the world, that only means something while I keep going. No one cares about the pioneers who quit doing it. They are just historical footnotes.

Thanks to everyone who stuck with me this whole time, those who came in somewhere in the middle and continued, and even those who gave up on me. I’m appreciative for every second of attention all of you gave me, for however long it was, whatever your reaction. Thank you for the gift of your time and I hope to keep repaying that for as long as I can.

Peakecast Episode Six is Live

Today, we posted Episode Six of the Peakecast, our memoriam show for the late great Thomas Peake. This time out, the show is all the music of Guitar Roberts. Doing an episode of this show is always a melancholy experience. It’s good to hear my friend’s voice and be able to present his work, but I hate like hell that the program even exists.

This is a validation of what I’ve always claimed is the very best aspect of podcasting. A show doesn’t need a huge constituency to make it worth doing. This show has a theoretical maximum listenership in the three digits and yet it is still wildly worth doing. If you knew and miss Thomas Peake, listen. Even if you didn’t but you love good music of wild diversity, listen. I promise it will be worth your time.

Special Correspondent for Technorama

I’m still barely dribbling out the con reports from my trip to Balticon and in that time since I’ve been writing them, I’ve been to a whole other con, Heroescon in Charlotte last weekend. I had a lot of fun there, did comic shopping and autograph hunting and all the things a fanboy does at a good sized comic con. This year I also did a few interviews as “special correspondent” for the Technorama podcast. Thanks to Kreg Steppe for lending me his H2 for an hour to walk around and interview a few folks and then toss it back to him for him to do the actual work of making a show from them.

Check out the episode here and let me know what you think. It was a blast to be able to do this work outside of my own shows and just cut loose. I highly recommend it to all podcasters. It really is invigorating.

My Balticon Drive Playlist

Here without much comment is my Balticon road trip playlist. I”m noting specific shows if I think that episode is notably worth checking out specifically from that series.

Ride up:

Ride Back:

This is far from comprehensive on my podcast subscription list, but it’s a good representation of what a few days of listening might be. Note the mix of big media and small, old and new.

Around the Podosphere 5/26/2010

Here are some podcasts and particular episodes that I’ve particularly liked lately. Torn straight from my playlist!

I’ve been iffy on the Long Now Podcast and on the edge of dropping it. It’s got the same problem I have with TED talks – basically good-willed wealthy technocrats throwing the rabble a bone by letting them experience the sessions. Long Now is the far better of the two, TED always makes me feel like I’m being condescended to. The most recent episode really interested me though. It was Nils Gilman talking about “deviant globalization”, basically pointing out that while all business globalizes the business of criminals does so most of all. The whole thing worth it was for the part where he talked about “moral arbitrage.” I also liked the part when he said that Russian organized crime rose so quickly in the 1990s because only criminals had entrepenurial organizational skills during the Soviet era. Interesting stuff.

I’ve started listening to the Tell Em Steve Dave podcast. This is a Kevin Smith spinoff podcast, as players in the View Askew-niverse are forming some sort of a network of shows. To be honest, I’m not sure that I don’t like this show better than SModcast. I’m not a Smith fundamentalist. I like some of his movies but not all, and sometimes I even skip SModcast episodes. In particular, most of the live show recordings I find completely unlistenable. Playing to the crowd changes the dynamic and I find much to the worse. However, the first episode recorded from their tour I kind of liked.

My friends Michael Butler and Jasper Borgman keep it rolling with Good Clean Fun. I listen to all of them, but like any chemistry driven show some episodes hit better and some hit worse. I’m about 3 weeks behind so I just got to the May 4th show but I thought it was hilarious and I really dug it.

This morning I was listening to Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac (the only thing I bump to the top of my queue so that I hear it when it is timely.) Today’s episode including a birthday shoutout to Caitlin R. Kiernan. This isn’t the very first time I’ve heard someone I know personally on that show but it’s always a nice surprise. Happy birthday, Caitlin!

A few months back I subscribed to Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast. I think there were 30 or so episodes when I subscribed and it took me months to listen through the whole backlog. Now I’m relatively current (as current as anything – 3 weeks behind) and I heard his amazing episode with Robin Williams. I’ll admit that as much as I loved Williams 30 years ago, his relentless shtickifying has burned me out. Nowadays ff I see he’s in a movie I’m otherwise interested in, I rethink that interest. Imagine my surprise at the quality of this conversation between Maron and Williams about comedy, life, fucking up and recovering from it. It’s the kind of episode that by itself validates all the work that goes into the series. I’ve had those, and I think Maron has had multiple ones. Very highly recommended listening.

Nicola Griffith on Starship Sofa

On the newest episode of Starship Sofa, my good friend Nicola Griffith has the featured fiction piece. Her story “It Takes Two” from the anthology Eclipse 3 is the bulk of the episode. This novelette was also selected for The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection and The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 4 so it’s not just your ordinary SF story. Check it out!

Podcasts on the Sansa Clip

A few months back my Insignia Sport died and I had to look around for a new low end MP3 player as my podcast device. I settled on the SanDisk Sansa Clip+ 4 GB as the best fit for me. Every time I change players, I end up having to tweak my routine a little in syncing, in how I play them and such.

The Sansa Clip+ was a good news/bad news story for my podcast workflow. The good news is that it has a PODCAST directory built in and files that go in there are treated differently than music files. It maintains your place in the file and you can return to the same spot, even after listening to other files or even leaving podcasts and listening to some music. The bad news is that the directory structure under PODCAST does not honor m3u playlists. That had been my method of listening to shows in the order I wanted to hear them. My syncing script generates a chronological playlist as the last step, but the Sansa Clip+ won’t recognize it. It does recognize the playlist if I put all these files in the MUSIC directory but then it wouldn’t restart and do the other stuff.

I stewed on that for a few days until I realized that the “Play all files” plays them in alphabetical order by filename. I added into my syncing program a little counter that it prepends to the filename and voila! When I play all files in the podcast directory, they play in that order once again. It is a stupidly simple method of achieving that goal but I’m not too proud to take it when it works.

Today is Boom Effect Day

Today is the day for the Boom Effect auction. Earlier this year, my friend Tee Morris lost his wife Natalie suddenly. The Boom Effect is a fundraiser to help with the future of his five year old daughter (known by the internet psuedonym of ‘Sonic Boom’). You can still make an outright donation to the fund via Chipin or you can bid on the various stuff in the auction. There will be a telethon style live telecast to go along with the auction and I’m embedding all this stuff into the post.

Tee has been a great friend to me, to CREATE South, to the podcasting world at large. Please do what you can to help him and his daughter in a very difficult time.

Slusher’s Law of Podcasting Redux

A few years back, I formulated Slusher’s Law of Podcasting, which roughly states that the more people are involved in a podcast, the less I care about it. Here’s someone who feels like I do about some multi-person podcasts:

Bungie. I tried. I really really tried. Your blog is full of interesting information. But for pitys sake, please, can you PLEASE STOP TALKING OVER THE TOP OF EACH OTHER. After 20 mins I just gave up because a) everyone constantly talked over each other (note, a pod cast is NOT a casual conversation, and even if it was, most of what people feel the need to share IMMEDIATELY is just Not That Interesting, certainly not worth destroying someone elses train of thought) and b) no one was ever explained who they are. Who is Joe whatever his name is? What does he do? Why is he being interviewed?

I’m with you, Jake. That’s why I tend to not listen to panel-type podcasts. The worst are the ones where all the people are friends and make nonstop in-jokes. If you are going to do a roundtable show, for god’s sake don’t constantly keep making inane jokes that interrupt the flow.

Around the Podosphere for 2/4/2010

Today was a particularly good day in my podcast queue. Here is the highlights of things I particularly enjoyed:

Within the last month I’ve recently started listening to The Kindle Chronicles podcast. Those podcasters who worry about soundproofing their rooms, try listening to Len Edgerly when his big ass grandfather clock starts chiming midnight. You might not need it as much as you think! Episode #79 featured a particularly good interview with Seth Harwood. I am one of the people who picked up his book A Long Way from Disney last December when he had his post-Xmas special. I liked this interview and think that Seth is a good example of a hybrid new-school/old-school writer. I recommend this series and this episode.

I’ve listened to every episode of the SModcast from the beginning (with the exception of the live show episodes that I had to skip.) My single favorite one ever is episode #103 with his mother Grace, where they get stoned together and tell tales of New Jersey. There’s a point towards the end where Kevin starts cracking his mother up until she gets hysterical. It’s very funny and also kind of sweet. It just made me a little happier to listen to it. Also, I agree with his commentor that says that his mom and Walt Flanagan sound the same. I thought exactly the same thing.

I’ve also listened to every single episode of the Rock and Roll Geek Show. I’m a lifer on that one with my buddy Michael Butler. In episode #387 he has an interview with Tappy Wright, who was the road manager for The Animals, Jimi Hendix and many more that he writes about in Rock Roadie. It’s a fascinating interview and includes Wright’s claim about how Hendrix was murdered. I recommend this for a listen along with every other of the nearly 400 shows.

For five years, I’ve been claiming one of the best upsides of podcasting is the feasibility of doing a show for a niche audience. One example of that in my subscription list is the Flash-back podcast. The episode I listened to today covers Blackest Night: Flash #2. This program covers the various Flash related comic books in excruciating detail. I’m talking panel by panel, friends. Every show is like a master’s thesis in the Flash family. This is not the sort of thing that is for everybody, but for certain obsessed fans of this character (such as myself) it is really and truly awesome.