Saturday, November 12, 2022


All it takes to look like a genius and get people to listen to you, is a set of huge headphones and a giant microphone.

Podcasts, as the name implies, started out years ago when the iPod (remember those?) became popular.  Initially, people used them to play music, but some folks downloaded news programs and talk shows to their iPods to listen to during the day or while on the subway or whatever, and the term "Podcast" was born.  Of course, today, the iPod is a curiosity. I have one hooked up in my truck, as it has an interface and I can play over 10,000 songs stored on my iPod.  It still works - for the time being.  But more and more, we end up streaming Pandora, although that seems to play the same ten songs over and over again.  Algorithms!

But I digress.

Since those early days, Podcasting has gotten huge.  People who droned on into their laptop cameras now have thousands if not millions of followers and are handsomely paid, in some instances, for their efforts.  Anyone can become the next Rush Limbaugh, without the need for radio stations, contracts, and network licensing deals.  Scratchy AM radio is out - the Podcast is in!

Sadly, most of these Podcasters appear to be a little unhinged.  Most are somewhat to the right, if not outright neo-nazis.   Racial jokes and misogyny seem to be the norm, as many Podcasters mold themselves from the FM "Morning Zoo Crew" type of broadcast - each thinking they are the next Howard Stern.

And like with Stern, they court controversy because in this modern click-bait age, controversy generates ratings, which in turn means more money in their pocket.  So, for example, stoking the fires of culture wars is a quick and easy way to make some pocket change, and you don't even have to write the script, as political operatives will supply you with the narrative, tailor-made and all wrapped up with a bright bow.

For some reason, a guy named "Joe Rogan" who was some kind of comedian(?) at some point, is wildly popular, particularly with young men of a certain age.  He parrots a lot of MAGA talking points, but throws in enough other content to water it down and make it appear that he isn't all that conservative, at least to the uninitiated.

He was central to spreading the made-up rumor that schools in [fill in the blank city] were providing "litter boxes" for children who "identified" as "Furries" - and people ate this shit up (no pun intended).  It pandered to their preconceived notions that schools (and teachers) are suspect as indoctrinating and coddling children and indulging all sorts of weird things like preferred pronouns and whatnot.

Of course, as they used to say on Facebook, pictures or it didn't happen.  For some reason, even though this was reported as "widespread" there were no photos from the ubiquitous cell phone cameras, of these litter boxes or "Furry" children attending schools in fursuits.

I digress, but oddly enough, many "Furries" are very right-wing, and in fact, a Furry convention in Denver had to be cancelled when it was revealed that the organizers were outright Nazis.   Odd that the far-right would go after its own.  Must have been a misfire.

Some readers have tried to turn me on to podcasts.  Others have suggested that even I start one!  I declined both offers.


First, listening to people drone on about things isn't that interesting to me.   I have seen some parts of Podcasts and I had to turn them off for the same reason I cannot listen to "talk radio" - the data rate of real information is too slow and I keep thinking "Get to the point!" while the podcaster drones on and on.  Then it hit me, they don't want to get to the point, as their goal is listener retention - so that they will listen through the ads - and not transmitting valid data or information.

I saw this a long time ago when we were travelling and as a joke, tuned into Rush Limbaugh on the car radio. "Coming up next! A searing indictment of Hillary Clinton!  But first these messages on the EIB network!"   We never heard this searing indictment.  I mean, I was curious as to what his angle was all about - but it turned out to be about selling neckties or something.  The Hillary stuff (and gee, she has been a punching bag for the Right for decades now, hasn't she?) is background noise.

The printed word is a far better form of communication.  It is more compact, in terms of bandwidth, and you can peruse it at any speed you wish - or as fast as you can reasonably read.  You can pause while reading and think about what was said, or today, look things up and say, "Gee, that is bullshit!" as I am sure many of my readers do, reading this.

Therein lies the dimorphic problem with Podcasts.  On the one hand, they are so slow to get to the point.  You listen for an hour in order to hear maybe what would be two or three pages of text, which might take ten minutes to read.  On the other hand, since it is harder to pause at certain points and contemplate or even research what was said, misinformation can be slipped in under the radar - too fast, ironically, for you to notice.

The funny thing about "Podcasters" is that they have gone from an audio format to video - with many "Podcasting" on YouTube.  And in order to look the role, you have to go out and buy these huge microphones, many of which look like refugees from the days of radio in 1935, with of course, the circular windscreen - and it has to be mounted on some kind of elaborate spring-loaded arm or something.

Next, get the largest set of headphones imaginable.  You need those to hear your own voice as well as that of the person sitting next to you.  You can't just use earbuds, bud!  And no clip-on lapel mikes like they use in.... real television.

It is just a costume, plain and simple, the giant headphones and giant microphones.  And people fall for this crap.  "He must be telling the truth!  Did you see the size of his microphone?  People with microphones like that know what they're talking about! And they don't let just any old schmuck buy headphones like that!  He says to buy Bitcoin?  I'm buying Bitcoin!"

Yes, people are that stupid.

It has become such a trope that you can go online and buy a "Podcasting Kit" that includes a huge microphone and headset combo.  Of course, it is all cheap crap made in China, just put into a huge microphone and headset housings.   There is no legitimate need for this crap, other than to make the podcaster appear authoritative.

Sorry I didn't post this sooner - it would have made a great Halloween costume!

No thanks.  I will stick with reading and writing.  And sadly, today, reading and writing are becoming more and more obsolete.   In the novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury envisioned a world where all our information would be audio-visual.  The only printed material would be comic books.  No one would read anymore and books would be banned.  Seems like we're halfway there.

Funny thing, I read a comment online from a younger person who opined that Bradbury's book was "stupid" - and not prescient.  Perhaps it struck too close to home, and he felt his "graphic novels" were under attack.

Reading scores are lower than ever.  Cursive writing is no longer taught in school and some people claim they can't even read it (I guess I should stop using italics as well!).  The New York Times "Bestsellers" are often ghost-written political tomes that are sold in bulk and bought by political supporters to indirectly profit a candidate.  No one actually reads them, other than some hapless sap at the New York Times who is charged with writing a review.  He probably only read the first chapter and I don't blame him.  That crap isn't literature.

What is left of the written word lies in Social Media - the 144-word Tweet, or the Facebook posting.  People post only sentences or paragraphs at most.  The most common phrase on Reddit is "TL;DR" which stands for "Too Long, Didn't Read" - can you give me the Reader's Digest version of it?

Reader's Digest - what now would be considered "long form."   Back in the day, my Mother - who ran a bookstore and had a Master's degree in English Literature and Library Science - decried Reader's Digest as being superficial - reducing great works of fact and fiction to a plot synopsis. And she was right, of course, but today, hell, I would be impressed by someone who read Reader's Digest regularly - they would be considered highly literate by today's standards.

But social media has gone video as well.  Most of what people post are mere repostings of someone else's "Meme" - another aspect of our increasing illiteracy.  A photo of a bear, with two sentence fragments superimposed over it.  What is the point of the bear?  That somehow makes the superimposed comment appear to be more meaningful?  I just don't get it.

And fortunately, I don't have to.   I can live in the past with my antique laptops, typing away to the ether where no one is reading, just listening.  Realistically speaking, I will likely live only another 20 years or so - if I am lucky.  The illiterate young kids today, who can't read cursive or drive a stick-shift, and have to use a litterbox in school?  It's their world now.

And they're welcome to it.  Sorry about the global warming, thing, though!