As the Aughties* (see below) draw to a close, let others make those lame lists. Lists are for shopping. Provided you remember to take it with you, and can read your own handwriting. Yeah, listen elitist, you use up your toner, that stuff is expensive.
I’d like to take aim at the best phenomena of the Internet Era – the podcast. Everybody and their mom has a podcast. Except for me and my mother, and she wants the Propaganda software for Christmas. Some of these are professionally produced by broadcast industry professionals and bring with them all the positives and negatives of program content, performance and tech savvy. They are not the target for this diatribe which is genuinely intended to be helpful tools for tyros. Cough cough.
No, the pros be pros. I do download some of those shows. NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me is a personal fave. Nothing like well balanced politico bashing and intelligencia poop jokes. This blahg is pointed at the kids in the basement (not the Kids in the Hall, they are old pros). Not all podcasters are actually amateurs or young, they just share some common flaws. Flaws which are not just me being a bitter old unemployed radio worker, which I am. Real problems in presentation.
I am well aware too, of budget constraints. I’m not about to criticize somebody for not owning state of the art, broadcast quality equipment – that stuff costs almost as much as toner! Since most of the podcasts are essentially non-commercial, they are done out of love. Mostly ego, but self love counts in the show biz, or why bother to continue spouting off your opinion on Jar Jar Binks ten years later. Every week. Sometimes twice a week! Luckily for me I’m too spaz for game playing – those geeks are freaks. Though the podcasters who speak Klingon are in the top spot for doofy.
My grind is with untrained extemporaneous speakers. Working from a script sucks – I ain’t no card reader; I don’t want to have things read to me, no matter how interesting. Ad libbing off your notes and knowledge of a subject works for my ear, a few uhs and pregnant pauses won’t kill me. Good show prep is key though. As sharp as it is to have a good outline of topics, and most of these ‘casts do have loads of excellent content, they need to prep some basics too. The kinds of direction you need before the mic is open.
By far the most egregious problem is people talking simultaneously. Its pandemic. This overlapping dialogue can be organic and fun at a party or in an old Robert Altman flick. But as an audio only listen, it is a cacophony. Mostly ca ca. And they are not doing this because they are arguing or fighting. Or stupid. They are just talking at the same time.
This happens because the host(s) and/or guests are typically in different parts of the world. Tough to get physical cues from the panel when one of you is in LA, one in Hong Kong and another is in a car on the Long Island Expressway, eating a taco. Even if it is a video/cam show, it takes sophisticated equipment and engineers to synchronize audio/video. I’m just talking about the talking. So, I can tell who actually is. That and being able to delineate what they’re saying.
Here’s a helpful tip. Prior to the show (or before their segment), tell your guests you and they, must take an audible beat when you are finished speaking. That’s their cue – a beat is clear and fast, and a bit longer than a natural breath and some practice is required. A host can always cleverly cue a response by saying the person’s name he’d like to speak next. This does control the flow and sometimes is not as natural sounding as we’d all love. But it’s @#%&*! a lot better than the wall of sound effect. Never ever forget what happened to Phil Spector and his hair.
Next point of contention is a technical issue. Not everyone can afford a Gentner, or ClearOne studio phone-in system (a specialized PBX). Voice levels can be adjusted to match the level of the studio program microphones and callers. Well, it can, when its installed properly. Don’t ask. Hey! I know I couldn’t do it. But I am NOT a highly paid radio engineer. It wasn’t my fault. . ..
Even if the podcast is archived from an actual radio broadcast, the levels can be way off. Yeah, sure, I know I’m lucky to get anything at all. I also know they are not paying an engineer twice so he or she can go back and do the audio for a freebie podcast. I can’t pay for them so I wouldn’t know. In fact, I regularly listen to maybe a dozen different, mainly weekly podcasts. But there are probably several thousand to choose from in existence. Severe download speed limitations keep me from many good ones. I have rejected some due to size. The reason I drop many is due to my complaints about their performances.
Oddly, Howard Megdal, one of the more intelligent and witty sports personalities emerging from the Pod Era, just corrected some of the over-talking on his Perpetual Post Radio show (I’m listening to it as I type – I am all about the multitasking), by employing the technique I described. Did I mention he was smart? and yet while the media may indeed be the message still, when its garbled, it’s mess only.
No doubt the strait laced and older listeners might have a problem with the flagrant usage of obscene language in some podcasts. The F bomb gets lots of play in certain genres – that being the drunken young dude’s ranting one. Or the young dudes talking about life i.e. drinking, chicks, sports and more drinking. Think the show Jackass, sans the visuals and stunts. A few of them are entertaining while having true insight into media. I don’t mind those words – I was using them before most podcasters were born and getting in trouble for it too. What I do mind, besides misogyny, is the mother fucking laughing at everything they say shit.
The laughing problem is not genre, age or subject specific. I like movie reviews and commentary on TV series. I tried one podcast. The two 40 something guys laughed so much I had to think they’d smoked a doobie or three. They likely were not under the influence – they were much too articulate and made sense in between the yucks. But holy crap – every remark was punctuated by extended guffaws. OK -this is judgmental, but what they were saying wasn’t funny. I tried a really well produced Science Fiction media ‘cast. Same thing, with the too many laughs.
I’m not against having a good time, or laughter. Does anybody remember laughter (insert Jimmy Page guitar riff here)? I gave them a second try, new episode. They were at it again. Only this time it was a ratio of one comment::two laughs. Sigh. I dropped a few F Bombs. And that podcast. Speaking of which, depending on the bandwidth the podcast uses, it can take me anywhere from three to five minutes of download time to get one minute of program. After not being able to do anything but watch my ISP crank, and possibly disconnect me, for 5 or 6 hours, I gots to have mo show, yo, than ho ho ho (see how I worked Christmas in there? which I can do because I am not PC. I’m a Mac).
Previously, I’ve admitted I’m a know it all, who knows I don’t know it all. Though overall, I know more than most sportscasters. My usual opinion of the majority of those people are, they were the kids who fell asleep in class beginning with 6th grade. If they made it to senior year or astonishingly to college, they cut out the middleman bullshit and stayed home to do their sleeping. Books were for propping up the couch with the missing leg.
Not only do they routinely mispronounce words, in One Hundred Monkeys style, they all say the same ones incorrectly! They also misinform. The most egregious statement I ever heard was a former NFL player at Fox Sports fool(who shares the same name as an older UK actor) say, on the occasion of President’s Day, “Lincoln owned slaves” well, that and the rest of them calling Lindsay, Lo – Han. She’s not Asian, though she is aging. It is Low – un. BTW she’s still relevant in a look at me look at me! kind of way, if a new photo shoot is any gauge.
I’m not against informal speech or playing with language either. I enjoy mixing in some patois with my huge vocabulary – my patois de foie gras is legendary. When I do it, its ironic. When they do it, its moronic. Sure sports ain’t the Algonquin. Yes, it is not. But as Yogi once said – “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him a Man o’War.” You might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can fire his dumb ass and get a smarter dog.
Oh well, do what you will podcasters. I’ll take what I can get. I might just be in a blue mood exacerbated by a seasonal disorder. The first half of December includes the birthdays of five of my former girlfriends, none of whom are in contact with me. Not even a card. You’d think with all those Sagittarians, one of Cupid’s arrows would’ve hit something above the belt. It’s not because I’m a prick – it’s because I am a poor prick.
Ho ho ho
* Or the Naughties if you had lots of fun. I tried to copyright Oties. But it was too esOteric…