Archive for the Category Commentary

 
 

Podcast Formula (or how to not suck)

I’ve been into podcasting for a long time now, both as a listener and as a creator of content.  The successes that I have had come partially from my being picky as hell about what I listen to and attempting to apply those standards to what I make.  Here are the guidelines I try to follow:

 

Chemistry. 

Top of the list for a reason.  You need more than one person talking and they need to be having fun.  When done well this makes the listener feel that they are part of the conversation and makes for a much better listening experience.  There are zero casts that have lasted on my iPod for long that are a single host talking, not because they were not interesting, they just proved to be not interesting enough without a little dialog, a little banter, a little opposing viewpoint.  No amount of editing, effects or media clips will save your bacon if the hosts are wooden or can’t kid each other.

Set Goals and Don’t Wander Far.

I know, I know, I’m one of those ‘visualize success’ dorks but hear me out.  A good cast is rarely the result of a mic and some people just running their mouths.  Decide what your show is all about and stay somewhat true to that vision.  If I am talking entertainment news I need to insure that more than half of my show is entertainment news and not my droning about trying to find a job, what my kid is up to or my screwball antics at replacing a toilet.  Here and there might be fun but when shows lose sight of their core direction and I find myself once again in a touching non non sequitur about what their roommate found in their nose this week I move on to another entertainer.

That Hair Club Thing.

What I mean is don’t just be a producer of your content, listen to it too.  Put yourself in the position of a listener that will only get some of your cultural references and nearly none of your inside jokes.  Is it still entertaining?  If the answer is yes (and with some it is) then keep it up, if not, rethink what you are doing.  If I find my own giggling irritating when I listen to my show objectively then the audience is likely to as well.  People lie to spare your feelings (Don’t believe me?  Just watch the morons that finally find out how much they suck at singing on national television on American Idol.  Their friends and family should have never let some of those people on that show).  Listen to yourself and seriously think ‘Will anybody but me and my 5 best friends listen to this more than once?’.  If you are only after your friends as an audience than let it rip.

Ad Lib.

This does not fall far from the ‘Chemistry’ tree above.  I can usually tell when people are reading and when you have 2 people reading dialog that is supposed to sound conversational you’ve %$@*^’d up.  Sometime you have to read stuff, I’m cool with that, but when you don’t have to then don’t do it.  Know your material and just talk about it so the experience feels like I am part of the conversation and not at a seminar.  Don’t over-prepare material or you’ll be tempted to just read it.  Outline your points and chat about them.  If you cannot do that then you should consider another hobby.

Don’t Overextend Yourself.

Making a show that does not stink is hard work.  90% of my effort is up front, gathering info and getting talking points outlined.  This can turn into a monster if you don’t rein yourself in a little bit.  Define the line where it stops being a fun hobby and is dreary work and don’t get near that line.  Trust me.

Never forget that there are more choices for podcasts than listeners have time and it is very easy to drop one and try another.  If you want to reach more than 10 people you need to deliver what you promise them and make it entertaining enough for them to choose you again next time.  I hope these help and I look forward to hearing new content.  Drop me a line if you have a cast, I’ll give it a listen.

Edward Hopper and Life

Recently my wife and I went to the National Gallery of Art in DC and spent the day wandering and looking at the exhibits.  There were a number of fantastic pieces there, but is was a good, yet rather plain, painting that had the most impact on me.

An elderly man was standing in front of a wall on which was hung a single painting (Edward Hopper’s 1941 painting, Route 6, Eastham) that depicted a house and road in a rural setting that looked as if it had come from the 1940’s.  It is a fairly solitary painting with no figures, vehicles or action.  Just some houses and a road that disappears into the distance.

This man was standing, shoulders slumped, staring at the painting and that had a much greater impact on me than any of the art did.  The painting was simple and conveyed a clean, simple world of a rural mid-century home and the life that might have accompanied it.  I’m not old enough to see how life and the world has changed since that scene was commonplace and could not quite grasp the size of loss that his stance in front of the painting conveyed.

Remembering all the laughter, love, heartbreak and experiences that come in the less responsibility-ridden days of youth is already sentimental enough a loss.  Those days are gone and must now stand as they are.  I can scarcely imagine the weight my memories will carry when I reach my elder years and when my experiences to then loom as the only significant experiences I will have and not just ‘the earlier chapters of my life’.  How old will will any of us be when we come to the realization that we have already done the greatest things we will do?  I’m a positive guy, but a realist too.  Eventually age and the cultural limitations that come with it are going to flesh out that bell curve.

It is a nice piece or art but would have never sparked nearly as much in me without the look of loss on that old man’s face as he looked at it.

I suppose we spend our days trying to achieve enough so that when that day comes that we stand in front of the painting and are reminded that we’ve reached that turning point we can smile and walk away from the painting and our achievements without slumping our shoulders.  The clock is ticking, I need to get back to living.

Song Charts

This started with my finding a brilliantly mocking graph that someone had made further poking fun at the Rick-rolling Rick Astley anthem ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’.  From there I was led down a rabbit hole to a group of people that are creating graphical representations of songs.  My first one follows, long live Sammy:

Most are far more inventive and wonderful, here are 2 that you should not miss:

And here is the one that started it:  Rick Astley

Mass Effect

I never got caught up in the hype of BioWare’s Mass Effect, partially because I never felt much passion for the precursor, Knights of the Old Republic.  Even after playing KotOR I thought it OK, but not anything more than that.  That being said I rented Mass Effect one weekend a few weeks ago along with some Wii game that stunk, so badly that I forget what it was.  The verdict on Mass Effect?

Awesome.

It is not of a genre that usually hooks me but the game sucked me right in and when I had to return the game I stopped and bought a copy.  I’d wake up at 5 AM to get some playing in before the family started stirring, I’d stay up much later than I should, I’d squeeze in 1.43 minutes while making toast, I absolutely loved it.  Here is why:

  • The story is a solid, engaging SF tale.
  • The visuals are excellent, I loved that my customized character was in all cut scenes.
  • The conversation/interaction model was fun, I could play as ‘me’
  • The combat system grew on me and though was never as challenging as a straight-FPS required me to play more strategically than I usually do (read charge in with shotgun blazing).
  • I got to hook up with a cute blue alien and I think she totally dug me.  I attribute this fixation to my years of loving Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan on Farscape, behold my penchant for blue ladies.

What I was not wild about:

  • All the driving over mountain ranges (c’mon, I don’t need to shoot crap every second, but c’mon, damn)
  • Not enough blue alien ladies
  • Light instructions, no in game help to speak of and having to hit the forums to get some tips on stuff I don’t expect to have to hit forums for

If you have a 360, try it out, it is on my very short list of favorite games ever.

New Firefly Novel (Fanfic) Available

I make no effort to hide my passion for Joss Whedon’s Firefly series/universe and the subsequent file Serenity. I may have retired from the Week in Whedon Podcast but my love for the man’s literary works is as strong as ever. If you like exceptional writing, characters and some high adventure you are doing yourself a profound disservice to not have watched the Firefly series. You can get the whole series on DVD for pretty cheap, if you pay $30 for it you didn’t look hard enough. Watch Firefly before Serenity though as you’ll get more out of it.

OK, moving on to the point here. I’m not a huge purveyor of fanfic, I suppose that I have just read some bad stuff in the past and gotten a bad taste for it. Any monkey with a typewriter can write fanfic and the results I’ve read have often struck me as, well, written by a monkey. The new Firefly-verse set novel by Steven Brust is a far cry from the unholy spawn of monkeys and keyboards, and is worth a read.

It is 168 pages of Firefly loving fiction and though I am far from finished, as it is vying for my scant spare time along with George Martin’s “A Clash of Kings”, it seems a fine read to date with the voices of the characters that we enjoyed so much on the show/movie shining through in the book.

Download a copy here: http://dreamcafe.com/firefly.html

This has my seal of approval though I find myself oddly bothered by the umlaut in Zoe’s name. Keep it in Blue Öyster Cult, leave it out of Firefly…