“SQUELCHED ENTHUSIASMS”

My new project aims to explain how podcasting is thriving and dying, or expanding and collapsing, all at once.

My project is new in the further sense that you can pay to support it.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.03.25 11:32. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2021/03/25/hadagoodrun-launch/

How banal to remember commentators on commentators telling us the Walkman antisocially isolated individuals in their own sound bubble. These were the same commentators telling us the ’80s were about greed. As a practitioner of metacommentary, I can advise you not to believe anyone but me.

I spent umpteen hundreds on any number of Walkmen. (This was the era when Sony’s product names were slightly wrong yet magical.) Their tape decks all died quickly. The more pocketable hence cooler the Walkman, the shorter its life expectancy. Aiwa’s tape mechanisms were always more reliable (I had a great little component stereo by them), but Aiwa was never à la mode.

In the golden hour in which your Walkman actually worked, the operating constraints were, first, batteries, but more relevantly sequential playback – and headphones. Those were all conspicuous/intrusive/scratchy, with the Koss Porta Pro (not a magical name) coming equipped with its own tension-relieving pads below the temples and a rapier-sharp bare aluminum headband more suited to a haybaler. (A bald guy who looked straight out of the Berlin industrial scene always used to ride the 80 bus in Montreal wearing those things, which you can still buy.)

But inevitably you were condemned to listen to Side A of an album in sequence, or Side B. (Worse, you might start mid-stream.) Plus you probably bought the LP version to play at home.

Wearing a Walkman was like striding through a 1970s Plexiglas pedestrian overpass. Once you pressed Play or crossed the threshold, your future over the next minutes was preordained, and everybody could see what you were doing.

But since this was the 1980s, every object you touched was real, even if it was plastic (or Plexiglas). The 1980s were the last decade where things mattered because they were genuine, down to the thickest laminate layer on Memphis furniture.

Dematerialized music begat invisible podcasts

“All this has happened before” is one of this project’s enduring themes. When music was dematerialized to MP3s, commentators spent years telling us how much we had lost, though they fudged the details. LPs were always a tactile experience, while CDs were merely packages unless co-designed by the Pet Shop Boys.

Nor did they note the other reason (beyond higher fidelity) why you also owned the LP of each tape cassette: You could at least pick up and drop the needle to listen to just one song. (Wasn’t that the raison d’être of the LP’s little brother [the 45] and its fraternal twins [10″ and 12″ singles]?) Try listening to exactly and only one song in iTunes and see how the rest of your day goes.

Podcasts at no point had a material component or package. Ninety-plus percent of the time, even podcasts’ “album art” is a disgrace, and nobody even bothers to set up custom art for each episode (or within one at MP3 landmarks).

Your pocketable smartphone and your wireless headphones (this means your iPhone and AirPods) allow you to sashay down the boulevard all but invisibly listening to a podcast the choice of which is nobody else’s goddamn business. In wintertime, if your ears are covered, as by a toque or headband, and if your phone’s in your pocket as God intended, you can invisibly and comfortably listen to your podcast.

Music dematerialized, but podcasts were never more than ether. The ultimate case of an unseen companion whispering in one’s ears, as if from a Victorian novel but comfortably happening to us right now, the podcast you listen to with nobody noticing is the Walkman melting into your own humours.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.03.24 11:47. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2021/03/24/walkperson/

I had been online for two full years when Wired began publishing. I called up their publicist, who told me they weren’t shipping freebie copies. No need: Even before it sold out to Condé Nast, you could find that rag anywhere.

Maybe, in current year, the Internet is mildly diverting here and there, but it was shit-hot exciting in 1993. Every new issue of Wired seemed like Christmas Day. But the magazine would soon deliver nought but lumps of coal.

I counted down the days till Wired arrived the same way I’d done for Spy. Now imagine an abomination like this glaring back at you from its cover:

‘Wired’ cover shows a Conan the Barbarian–like figure: “The cable slayer: Bell Atlantic CEO Ray Smith explains why cable is dead”

Who in God’s name gives a hoot about cable-TV executives? Imagine the design process of this cover illustration. How was it even possible to find enough sycophancy within yourself to produce this abomination? Then there’s the rank banality.

Is it a surprise that everyone has now forgotten what passed for big names on Wired’s masthead, like founder Louis Rossetto and gobbledygook-churning mainstay Nicholas Negroponte? No – and what also wasn’t a surprise was getting bought out by Sy Newhouse. Wired was always a business magazine. The interview with Ray Smith is all about revenues, “high-yield-oriented” shareholders, and market segments. (Barry Diller shows up at one point.) Imagine thinking you were cool at the same time, like you were some kind of SoHo art dealer with asymmetrical hair.

I also remember Wired’s gopher site – that cœlacanth technology seems to come up a lot here – defying a Canadian court order and publishing details of a serial-killer couple’s trial. (I specifically looked at that gopher site at the time.) Stunning. But Wired would never fire up the balls to call a telecom executive fat, superannuated and dull. Instead, he got the cover-art treatment. (Today it would be a brave transwymmyn of colour, fresh out of a brief stint in jail for storming then burning down a cop shop in the most womanly manner “she” could manage.)

Furthermore, imagine thinking for half a second that cable TV would trounce the Internet.

Quah and Cridland are latter-day Wireds

In a new tale for an accelerated culture, “newsletters” have quickly become passé, and “podcast newsletters” led the charge there.

I certainly care who has unjustly enriched himself or herself in this demimonde, but I am not remotely interested in the ins and outs of podcast advertising and revenue models. Podcasting “summits” are the dumbest idea of the year.

Cridland’s and Quah’s podcasting blogs and newsletters are a crashing bore. They cover all the wrong topics, and they take seriously what needs to be laughed out of town. Cridland has a lengthy privacy policy, but he tracks your visits to his blog, as I shall detail in due course.

The Times gave Quah its star treatment (well more than once) because he’s a non-White non-American who, the Times is rightly confident, will not materially oppose the Times’ own insatiable appetite for the destruction of its foes, namely foundational Americans. The Times indeed will continue its pogrom against wrongthinking podcasters. “Quah” is how “kapo” is transliterated in Bahasa Melayu.

Imagine spending your precious days on God’s green earth chasing podcasting news. To paraphrase Adam Ant: “We don’t follow ‘fashion.’ That’d be a joke!” Podcast “news” is banal. The gassy, servile podcast press proves podcasting really did have a good run.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.03.23 11:46. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2021/03/23/gassy-servile/

That’s why the lamestream media now needs to destroy them

Counterintuitively, no, there is no such thing as a mainstream podcast – not even Serial, no matter how often written about or lampooned.

Pattern Recognition (excerpted), with a barman speaking first:

Time Out. The weekly. You were on a panel. You follow the footage.” Damien maintains, half-seriously, that followers of the footage comprise the first true freemasonry of the new century.

“Were you there?” Cayce asks, jostled out of herself by this abrupt violation of context. She is not by any means a celebrity; being recognized by strangers isn’t part of her ordinary experience. But the footage has a way of cutting across boundaries, transgressing the accustomed order of things.

“My friend was there.” He looks down and runs a spotless white cloth across the bar top…. “New segment.” Quick, under his breath. “When?” “This morning. 48 seconds. It’s them.” It’s as though they are in a bubble now, Cayce and the barman. No sound penetrates.

“Do they speak?” she asks.

“No.”

“You’ve seen it?”

“No. Someone messaged me, on my mobile.”

“No spoilers,” Cayce warns, getting a grip.

“The footage” is a samizdat series of inscrutable videos. Cayce indeed does follow the footage. She goes out and looks for it.

Podcasting is another in an unbroken succession of pull media. Here we encounter something else Wired got wrong: The magazine of the dumb digerati predicted (twice – in 1997 and in 2004) that the browser was passé and “content” would simply be pushed at you.

‘Wired’ cover with a palm facing us and the word PUSH!

I was of course online at the time and I specifically recall Netscape grinding pathetically away over a telephone modem as “push content” was pushed toward me to my discontentment.

Some defaults are downright evil (canonically, your computer actually pinging with each E‑mail you receive) while others are just a pain in the ass to deactivate. Now our version of push media is notifications. I have basically all of those turned off. Normiecucks have their lock screens festooned with them.

But those still are not podcasts, which you must affirmatively consent to receive. Condé Nast may “subscribe” you to the New Yorker if you previously subscribed to Wired (now you have two problems), but you cannot go from zero subscriptions to some subscriptions without opting in. Nor can the number of podcasts you subscribe to change by any action other than your own, save of course for blue-haired trannies deleting them behind your back. Your podcast subscriptions increase only because you chose to do that.

Fahrenheit 451–style repositories

Podcasting is not very decentralized now, but it was thus for a full decade and could be again. Hence podcasting as a medium cannot be destroyed wholesale the way gopher and newsgroups were. But the medium can be reduced to the level of a mindless beginner with no taste, and that process is underway now.

Meanwhile, you walk around with a uniquely permuted subscription list, but you do so with an immanent awareness that other fans of individual podcasts also walk the earth. You may not know them personally (though podcast meetups have happened and are a great idea), but you know they exist. You know you aren’t alone. You know you are not the only fan. All of you follow the footage.

Even if Apple and every podcast app decide to ban or shadowban a podcast starting today, everyone who is a fan yesterday can and surely will still listen to it. Unless and until the audio files are deleted (or just renamed, triggering 404s), you are still not alone. You perpetuate the oral tradition the way “books” in Fahrenheit 451 do – by listening to repositories. The difference is you do not later recite them verbatim. That recitation is handled by other fans’ podcast software.

For anyone other than a complete beginner with no taste or no independent mind, your subscription list makes you an army of one. But it’s not as though the military-industrial-entertainment complex could possibly let that stand. Podcasting indeed is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be subscribed to Alex Jones.

Hence the years-long campaign to warn you that podcasts contravene accepted thought (e.g., Joe Rogan), implying there’s something morally wrong with you for listening to them. Or the insistence that some podcasts (e.g., Red Ice Radio) contain hate speech, which term, like racism, merely refers to words the blue-haired-tranny ruling class disapproves of.

You and others who share a fandom of a podcast – this means subscribing to it and listening to it and enjoying it and even counting down the days to the next episode – are battalions of armies of one. All of you as a subculture are one thing. But because you don’t charge down a battlefield together, you do not create culture yourself.

Elsewhere in Pattern Recognition, Cayce “moves along until she finds a sandwich shop, small and preglobalized, but also rather smart.” And now, surprising us all, some small and preglobalized podcasts do induce creation of culture. They’re the only podcasts that could. You’ll learn about those here shortly.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.03.23 11:46. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2021/03/23/subcultures/

The phylogeny of podcasting duly recapitulates the ontogeny of every other online format

White middle-class youth, always the last to know, finally discover rap, the rock music of the ’90s.

The Face published that aperçu circa 1994. I’d have to dig through boxes to locate a citation. But if I were going to hunt around for 25-year-old magazines in the first place, I’d go looking for Wired.

Everything that is happening to corporate podcasting already happened to every other Internet format, from instant messaging to blogs to MP3s. Every medium started out decentralized, independent, and personal, then got subsumed into the military-industrial-entertainment complex.

But only those who remember the olden days realize that. Everyone who was younger than age 18 in 1994 knows the Internet as a corporate manifestation. We used to worry that “the Internet” would come to mean simply “the Web,” and look how naïve we were there. Now you can go a full day without ever being exposed to an HTTP protocol, but when that happens all you’re exposed to are corporate constructs, from Facebook to Instagram to WhatsApp. (Yes, even your instant messaging is corporate, and in the example I just cited, not even private.)

Blogs and Plastic

To paraphrase someone you weren’t expecting, Ntozake Shange: “I could not stand being sorry and coloured at the same time. It’s so redundant in the modern world.”

Manhattan magazine hacks could not tolerate existing in the same universe as blogs. Writing for screens was inconceivable to these has-beens. They never quite twigged to the fact that they’d been writing on screens since the days of WordPerfect 5.1, which indeed were happier days by virtue of that software alone.

Essay‑ or article-like writing that did not go through an editor and did not get typeset and printed and did not pay you money was definitionally worthless. Yet they could not shut blogs down. Magazine journos had no choice but to start up their own half-assed competition, Plastic.com.

The result was the style of flaccid lifestyle-magazine copy that blogs, which got straight to the point, had made redundant.

  • Although [a Plastic contributor] didn’t give us any kind of opinion on the matter, Steven Spielberg has issued a statement saying he no longer wishes to participate in the Boy Scouts of America as a board member due to their policies of discrimination against gays. As always, the Boy Scouts responded with a rousing chorus of “You say ‘discrimination,’ we say ‘standards.’ ”

    According to CNN, Spielberg “did not name the Boy Scout policy that he considered discriminatory” (weak, Steve), but it “appeared clear that he was referring to the organization’s controversial exclusion of ‘avowed homosexuals’ on the grounds that they violate the group’s values.” Normally Plastic discriminates on the grounds that a user-submitted story must contain actual opinions and not just cut-and-pasted story copy, but in this case we made an exception. See how tolerant we are?

    (Not being accustomed to editing on screens, Plastic hacks missed the echo of story.)

  • If this were The West Wing, we could expect a moralizing speech about how public figures shouldn’t be judged on what they do in their private lives – or a cold, political speech about how indiscretions can cost otherwise honorable people their jobs. But this is Hollywood, and though West Wing showrunner Aaron Sorkin was arrested on drug charges on Sunday, we think he’ll be just fine in the long run. For the record, Sorkin was found with “a quantity of hallucinogenic mushrooms” in his bag. Guess that explains Ainsley Hayes….

Corporate blogging was a contradiction in terms

So is corporate podcasting.

You have everything you need, indeed literally everything, to make a go of podcasting without selling out to a corporation. Every successful self-made podcast, no matter how one might define successful, started from zero.

All this has happened before

So quit being dumb enough to let it happen to you.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.03.22 20:02. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2021/03/22/happenedbefore/

Esteemed colleague Marc Weisblott is a living test case for podcast players, and is a capital fellow overall.

I marvel at Weisblott’s seeming absence of disillusionment with the lot of the hack. I wrote freelance for ten years or more and gave up on it for a host of reasons, one of them a copyright lawsuit that also spanned ten years or more. Weisblott wrote for the lamestream media, then on blogs, then on lamestream-media blogs. He’s an early adopter of the demimonde that non-progressives delude themselves will save their hides, newsletters. Weisblott’s daily 12:36 newsletter does a great job remaining even-handed while still carrying authorial voice, through which an “agenda” can be discerned by attuned readers.

Weisblott’s maximalist media diet includes subscribing (at one point) to a magical 1,236 podcasts. An OPML file with more than 700 entries was enough to choke Overcast. Now his subscriptions number beyond 2,040.

Of course Weisblott cannot “listen to” two thousand podcasts. Of (further) course, there indeed are nerds who, back dans la journée, downloaded every music file they could. (Alan Zweig shot a couple of documentaries about those nerds. He’s one of them.) There are “collectors” of all sorts of digital files.

That isn’t what Weisblott is doing.

Nobody bats an eye at a study lined with thousands of books, few of whom one had actually read. (I have my doubts Fran Lebowitz read all 12,000 of the books she has had special moving companies schlep for her.) It’s called a personal library. It lets you do things other people cannot, like refer to podcast episodes that have been deleted elsewhere. You surely know Joe Rogan as an example of that, but I’ll have a doozy of a counterexample for you shortly.

If you’re developing any kind of podcasting app, you absolutely must enlist Weisblott to stress-test it. If it works for him it will work for any power user. At the very least, ask him for his OPML file.

Weisblott is invariably just ahead of the curve enough to stay alive, relevant, and productive. He’s been unfailingly kind to, generous with, and understanding of me through a huge chunk of our respective adulthoods. I will always be his friend. You should be his.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.03.22 14:42. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2021/03/22/1236-2040/

GULAG

Vizmin and/or transgenderist malcontents paying good money to learn how to rat out their bosses, i.e., RyeHigh journalism students, have published an 8,100-word manifesto denouncing their own faculty.

Fortunately enough, the manifesto lists its signatories (which word these kids do not know). Place all these journalism students, and their co-conspirators, on lifelong blacklists; block them everywhere online; and circulate their names to others with hiring authority. In other words, launch preëmptive strikes. [continue with: Ryerson journalism blacklist →]

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.03.10 11:46. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2021/03/10/ryehighblacklist/

Wintel laptop on cluttered wooden desk with ghetto blaster, hand wipes and sanitizer, Post-It notes, Kleenex box propped up on stapler

David Shields has a more galactic-sized talent even than I had apprehended if he can produce Reality Hunger (q.v.) and a dozen other books from a trash heap like this.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.01.24 13:42. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2021/01/24/shieldsdesk/

F. Lebowitz (q.v.):

We have way too much democracy in the culture and way too little in the society. But in order to make these judgements, you have to agree or believe that some things are better than others. Not “some people are better than others.” Not “some genders are better than others.” Not that some races are better than others. But that some writers are better than others. Some painters are better than others. Some composers are better than others. Because of course it’s true….

But judgments about music or writing or whatever, they’re purely subjective. You have to know a lot to make these judgements, and that makes people think you are arrogant because you think you know more than other people, even though it’s a fact that some people know more than other people.

No, some people are better than other people.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.01.24 13:17. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2021/01/24/betterthanothers/

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