There is a strange man masturbating into my ear.
His name is Revello, and he's been at it, with my tacit approval, for more than 15 minutes.
Dude. How long does this take?
A glance at the screen of my iPod informs me: he's gonna be at it for another 18:33.
Revello runs "Buffycast," a podcast that gives the now two-years-gone "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" the kind of analysis that in the past you'd only find in a 300-level course at your better state colleges. Every week. For half an hour. This is Fan Wanking, unadulterated and uncensored, droning through my speakers.
I will never listen to this again.
I'm one of several people here at Intrepid who swears by his iPod. (There's one among us who swears at his, but I won't elaborate.) My silver and white little buddy travels with me everywhere I go, effortlessly carting around as much of my music collection as I've been dutiful enough to pack into it, a volume that expands pretty much every week. The digital format has liberated me from CDs, the iTunes Music Store has liberated me from Sam Goody, but best of all, the handy car adapter has liberated me from broadcast radio.
But then with the most recent update to iTunes, suddenly there was a little purple icon where none had been before. It was labeled "Podcasts." I resisted clicking on it for several weeks, but as the term kept popping up in the media, at work, from the lips of my toddler, I finally caved and clicked.
Wow. Never in my life have I seen so much nothing pretending to be something.
If you've had better luck, or stronger resistance, and have managed to remain insulated from podcasting, here's the concept: Anyone with a computer and a microphone can record themselves, along with music, sound effects, interviews, what-have-you, into one long MP3 file. Then they make the file accessible for the listening pleasure (*ahem*) of the general public. They're essentially radio programs in a convenient portable format.
Remember like seven or eight years ago, when everyone and his brother just had to have a Web page? DIY website communities like Tripod and GeoCities sprang up, erecting the digital equivalent of the slums of Rio overnight. Pasty-faced geeks built circle jerks...er...webrings to the glory of Seven-of-Nine, while fat girls posted countless adorable photos of Cute Kitty Bootsie in all her princess costumes.
Then a couple of years ago, blogging took over, kludging the Internet with regular updates on everything from the emotional state of innumerable high school students to the hurricane-whipped musings of CNN's Miles O'Brien.
Podcasting, near as I can figure, is simply the latest iteration of this global desire for ego-wanking.
To learn more, I culled the Top 100 list of podcasts at iTunes. Downloads run from the mundane (This Week in Tech is #1) to the even more mundane (Master Real Estate Course, #40) to the downright banal (W's weekly radio address, #90). The FOX network offers FOXCASTS — two minute recaps of the most recent episodes of many of their shows. But what's the point of listening to a recap of "Family Guy" that skips the humor and reduces the story to a Joe Friday-like who-did-what-to-whom? If I listened to any of the Top 100 in my car on the way to work, I'd be worried about dozing off and causing a pile-up.
So I skipped out of the Top 100 and perused the collection of primarily amateur podcasts, which are broken down by category. I started out in TV and Movies (that's where I found "Buffycast") and quickly moved on. Isn't there anything NOT BORING around here?
I picked one that promised "explicit" content, but "Sex and Podcasting" was a tease; the host even disclaimed that the "Sex" portion of the title is strictly to get people to check it out. It's only about making good podcasts. Bastard. "Lesbian Soup" sounded more promising, but it was nothing but 20 minutes of apologies for the show being really lame. I gave up on sex and moved on to sports. "Cubscast" was marginally interesting, if a bit dated. Imagine listening to a sports radio call-in show with no calls. It had the benefit of two hosts, so there was some back-and-forth, but when the most recent edition deals with games that are more than a week old, where's the draw? The "comedy" podcasts weren't funny. The "food" podcasts were bland.
I can see the validity to some podcasts. NPR has a huge collection of their programs available for download, which is great if you just gotta get your Ira Flato fix for the week. Some cities are making tourism or restaurant guides available in podcast form, a great idea for walking tours. There are some decent music-centered podcasts that let listeners hear a more eclectic mix of music than they'd normally be exposed to on regular radio. But the balance is a tidal wave of digitized vocal ejaculate spewed forth by people with too much time on their hands and an unhealthy preoccupation with the sound of their own voice.
Which raises another point: the inevitable backlash of apathy. As with any fad, podcasting's going to reach its peak (in a week or so, is my prediction) after which there's going to a huge SNAP! and the whole thing's gonna go flaccid. The evidence is already out there -— sites that promised a daily/weekly/fortnightly podcast suddenly gone cold, with no updates for a month or more. The novelty wore off, the time became a hassle, or, more likely, the host realized he or she really didn't have a damn thing left to say.
Just like this columnist.
If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.
ABOUT RUSS CARR
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
9.23.05 @ 9:58a
This is a surprise? Most people are boring? The horror! What were you doing downloading an exposé on a cancelled t.v. series anyway?
Quoting Russ: Remember like seven or eight years ago, when everyone and his brother just had to have a Web page?
Yeah, Russ, nothing has changed. Only now they call it "Blogging." You know about these. And yes, most of these are less than insightful. Way less.
But that's not going to stop anyone. And no one is going to stop making music videos anytime soon, either. So you and MJ can just shoot yourselves now and save the pain of it all.
Go buy an XM radio for some real entertainment.
9.23.05 @ 10:07a
Your first hint that it might such should have been the name "Buffycast".
I don't think it will fall flat though. There are some good ones out there. I get most of my news this way. I am a habitual NPR junkie, so getting all of the NPR i want to listen to when I want to is a good thing.
9.23.05 @ 10:59a
Why aren't audio books all out on iPod yet? Or are they, and I just don't know about it?
Seems like a license to print money.
9.23.05 @ 11:03a
There are plenty of audio books available on the iTunes Store, Jael. In fact, a couple of weeks ago there was a fairly public trumpeting because JK Rowling had released the entire Harry Potter series as an iTunes exclusive (along with a limited edition iPod with a Hogwarts crest etched on it). Apple's website claims 11,000+ titles.
9.23.05 @ 11:15a
Clearly, I gotta get me some of that. Harry Potter might be tough -- not sure the Shuffle can handle it.
Thanks for the heads-up on Podcasts, though -- I kept hearing about them and didn't know what I was missing. Sounds like not much.
9.23.05 @ 3:25p
Hey! I want to do a podcast! At least I'm a professional!
"just like this columnist" - heh. Just like anything, tho, really. The internet took the bootleg tape passing theory to a new level. Surely there's got to be some good stuff out there somewhere.