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Some Days, I Just Wish Id Stayed Embed(ed)

By: Darrin Snider (darrin at indyintune dot com)
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 6:00:00 AM


I'm one of those people who are usually early adopters, be it technology, music, or some weird fringe underground movement. I'm also one of the last ones to notice when it's severely antiquated, or worse, completely dead.

I was just another nerd with a Samsung I330 six months before Jack Bauer whipped his out and suddenly made them cool to own. Okay, mine didn't do fingerprint scanning or receive real-time infra-red satellite video from CTU's mainframes (WTF?!), but still, I bet nobody ever asked Jack, "Look at that big clunky thing! Why do you have to get your email sent to your phone, you big geek!? So what if your phone can download pictures of Mia Kirshner?! Hey we're on a date here can you put the phone down and pay attention to me, asshole?" Eventually they pried that away from me and handed me a Windows Mobile device, this was about a week before the first iPhone came out.

Then there was that Creative Nomad Jukebox I just had to have because at a whopping 6GB it was the largest portable MP3 player available. Okay, it was also approximately the size of a Sony Discman; ate six AA batteries, three eggs and a side of bacon for breakfast; and of course you couldn't mow the lawn with it, because if you even touched it while it was playing, the hard drive would skip. Boy, did I stand by that thing, though. The whole time you guys were going to the gym with your fancy white iPods and working on your six-pack abs, I was sitting at my desk, scarfing down Benn and Jerry's, slowly devolving into a bizarre male version Kirstie Alley (yes, back then I even had the hair), and screaming at the cats to, "Tiptoe for Pete's sake! I'm trying to listen to Tales from Topographic Oceans here!"

Oh, and then there was the whole "podcasting scene" which, after hearing "Webtalk Radio" in 2005, I was thoroughly convinced was going to meld indie's edgy creativity with mainstream mass-acceptance and distribution the way Atari Force melded console video games with comic books. Okay, I gave up on Palm OS and Creative labs, and these days I'm sporadic about actually getting podcasts out, but I'm getting ready to release Episode #100, as soon as I get a free moment to edit it, and will be listening to it on the requisite iPhone4 they've issued me. By the way, after all these years, it turns out I absolutely hate the iPhone (rant for another time), which this means it will become an industry standard. So, adopt early, kids.

When I was a serious podcast addict, this would be about 2005-2008, I probably had 40 or so shows I listened to almost 24/7 every week without fail. This "first wave" was a very exciting time, sort of like the Oklahoma land rush of 1889, only without cholera, Indians, and kids selling cow poop and glasses of water to people who rode out into the wilderness completely unprepared. My day generally started with tech shows (Twit, Geek News Central, Technorama) while showering and during the morning commute. The 8-5 slot was reserved for music casts (Getting a Leg Up, Insomnia Radio, Coverville), meeting schedule pending. The lighter, geekier stuff (Slice of SciFi, Deadpan, Evil Genius Chronicles, Geologic) accompanied dinner and whatever I was working on for the evening, as I am famous for loathing and refusing to watch television.

Let's face it, despite being a lonely single guy living alone in a very big, dark, quiet house, I craved the sound of human voices, and as as someone who has never really been a fan of other people in general, radio personalities (those voices you never have to meet or deal with) were natural substitute for human interaction (this was, of course, the days before radio personalities became people you wouldn't want to idolize, emulate, or socialize with at a cocktail party under any circumstances). But podcasters were more than that. I could chat, email, Skype, and interact with them any time I felt like it, and once I became a podcaster myself (thanks to some helpful advice and words of encouragement from a few of them), they became peers, partners and friends. Honestly, at the time, I didn't know if I was part of an obscure in-joke, an underground movement, or the ground floor of the next big thing, but it didn't matter. (I later found out it was none of those, and I was actually an initiate in a sex cult, by the way ... "podcasting" was just a euphamism. I'll know how to recognize them early on next time.) This was one of the few times I really clicked with a social group on-line since the heady days of I laughed my ass off with these people during their good times, felt sympathy for them during their hard times, and even drank a virtual toast with them via Twitter after a dark April Fool's day that saw the untimely passing of one of our own. It was a very cool time for me.

Since then, the perils of having a managerial position where the phone rings constantly, living with females who get all tetchy when you put on headphones and ignore them, and having a monthly Audible subscription that keeps me occupied catching up on all that stuff I said I read (and wrote great reports on) in high school and college, means that most of my podcast listening went by the wayside a couple of years ago. When I got the aforementioned iPhone however (and before you ask, my HTC Touch Pro is still my primary portable device), I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to get back into the scene again, especially since the phone contained it's own podcatcher and enough space to store my entire OMPL file instead of having to remember to synch with the PC, select a playlist, copy the files, purchase batteries, make a sacrifice to Kali, etc. on a daily basis. Okay, so there there are a couple of advantages to the iPhone, but I'm still pissed that the "2x" button really only plays the file at 1.5x speed? Very misleading. I'm still far too hyper to listen to an entire hour long show in real time. Gotta move on, man!

Anyway, for the first time in two years, I fired up Juice (another clue as to how behind the technology curve I am), only to be confronted by a Night of the Comet/Omega Man-style nightmare. Uhhhh ... is there anybody out there? Accident Hash? Good Beer Show? Cranky Geeks? Soccergirl? Schwagcast? Anyone? Buehler? Buehler? Holy crap! How dare these people, whose voices kept me from losing control and sculpting a girlfriend out of an discarded potato during the "dark times," suddenly disappear without writing me first? Last I checked, Geek Fu and Wingin' It were ending their runs gracefully, which really was the end of an era, but I remember thinking at the time it was probably for the best and that those two shows in particular had run their course and turned into something I wasn't really in-tune with (no pun intended). But, Zedcast!? This just isn't right! I'm still podcasting ... albeit sporadically ... I think I've actually put out more blog posts that podcasts lately, and I don't even consider myself a blogger, per se. Sure, I'm admittedly considering an exit strategy myself, hanging up my mic, and moving on to something else as well, but dammit, I know there's still work to be done, so for now I'm still in there generating my fair share of content. Why aren't you guys?! (I'm looking at you A.D.D. Cast and Random Signal.)

Okay, it is what it is. No problem, I'll just consult one of the many podcast directories out there and see what's hot and fresh now. I'm always up for broadening my horizons, so to speak and maybe someone in what is undoubtedly a hotbed of new talent will show me something cool and different that will re-energize what is quickly becoming a cynical outlook on the medium. Uhhhh ... wait ... six of the top twenty podcasts are the aforementioned ones that haven't had a show out in two years. Four are videocasts -- this does me no good since I listen while driving, sleeping, working, etc. Another large group seems to be replays of various radio shows posted for the benefit of people who can't tune in live (maybe technically a podcast, but only in the same way that American Idol is technically music). The rest are ... wait ... celebrities?! When the hell did Oprah start doing a podcast?! Does she seriously don a $7 gamer headset, sweat over mic buzz and S-pops, all while swigging Bud Lights and eating cucumber sandwiches with a hot local indie band she's met up with at the Russian Tea Room? Sorry, but I draw the line here: Celebrities can't be podcasters. There's a charm to listening to average Joes like Dan Klass sharing the minutiae of their lives with us (and apologies to Adam Carolla and Kevin Smith, I'm a huge fan, you guys know this), but there is nothing endearing about successful celebrities, who get paid big money to essentially "be themselves" trying to prove that, despite this, they're one of us! The difference here: Podcasting is the most-interesting thing we do on a daily basis. For them, it's a way to kill time in between rolling up their royalty checks and using them to snort lines off a call-girl who gets paid my weekly salary just to have an hour of conversation about the merits of objectivism ... while topless. Okay, obviously I wouldn't know what people do with an expensive prostitute, but it has to be something really cool and high-brow like that. Oh, and before you ask the question that's biting on your mind right now: Adam Curry is a gray area; neither famous enough to be a celebrity, nor mundane enough to be one of us, so he's exempt from the rule. Feel free to listen to him without guilt if that's your bag.

So, have I been living in a bubble? How can podcasting be dead? On those rare (maybe once a month) occasions when I check my ratings, I've generally seen them growing, especially in overseas markets, even when I haven't put out a show in a while. I mean, really, why there are so many people in St. Petersburg, Russia and Cozumel, Mexico who are interested in a show about the Indianapolis music scene? Okay, wait, I forgot, I spend most of my listening hours obsessed with what's being said and played on a little community radio station in Teesdale, UK. Hello, Kettle? This is Pot ... And before you bring it up, yes, I spent the last several years advocating taking podcasting from the underground to the mainstream. I guess I just figured it would be on a level playing field and I'd be at least in the front of that charge. Somehow the first wavers dropped the reigns, the mainstream stole everything right out from under us, and now podcasting is like the 27th third-world refugee child Brangelina adopted and lets sleep on the cot in the corner of the basement. Only, he gets to raid the fridge after wild celebrity parties at the mans, scarfing leftover caviar and Brad's coveted nacho cheese dip. Plus there's the whole perk of occasionally getting to hide under the sink and ... well ... spy on Angelina Jolie in the shower. Me? I'm eating Chef Boyardee out of the same bowl in the same kitchen I ate it out of ten years ago because I haven't made a dime off of podcasting. In fact, if you add up the bar tabs I've picked up for bands over the years, I'm almost a national deficit in the hole. Well, at least I have now formulated a reasonable argument for blaming Oprah on this one.

So, 900 words into this, I suddenly realize that the original point of this post was to spotlight what is on my newly-revised OPML file for 2011, but I suppose that's going to have to wait until next time now since I've got some serious searching to do.

Meanwhile, should I move to Teesdale or St. Petersburg?

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