Why ALMANAC #2 is super-crazy-late

Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful reaction to the first episode of my new podcast, “Almanac“!

It’s intended to be (and will be) a weekly-ish show. So why has it been a month already and now Show #0002?

While Almanac isn’t going to be an “Andy spouts off about what’s on his mind at the moment” show (well, not primarily, anyway), I feel like the next show has to focus on my reactions to the election. Because, truth be told, I’ve been thinking about little else. Continue reading “Why ALMANAC #2 is super-crazy-late”

(Podcast) Material #47: “Removed Your Head In Daydream? No Donuts For You!”

Material #47: “Removed Your Head In Daydream? No Donuts For You!”

Russell, Yasmine and I got to spend an hour talking about Google’s VR plans in general and Daydream in particular, with Google senior designers Manuel Clément and Robbie Tilton. It was a swell opportunity to go beyond the hardware that was demonstrated at I/O and talk about the level of thought that goes into the creation of an entirely new UI.

I’m eager to see how far developers take VR. Gaming is the most obvious application but to me, it’s the least interesting. We recorded the episode over a Skype video call, as usual. Why do we use video chat, when Material is released as audio? It’s because we have a better conversation when we can all see each other and pick up all kinds of little visual cues.

Over the course of the hour I couldn’t help but think about how a VR recording session would be even better. Even if I were interacting with four VR approximations of flat video screens, the ability to turn to face the person I’m focusing on would root me in the conversation, and it’s also help everyone to feel the direction of the talk as it moves between people.

Oculus Theater kind of blew my mind when I used it for the first time. It’s a simple MP4 video player that inserts the 2D video into the screen of a multiplex-style theater environment, rendered in 3D. It’s way more than a cute little demo. I was watching “1776” in a real theater, which meant that for the first time I got to see it as the filmmakers intended. I’ve seen this movie on video a hundred times but this was the first time I was aware that certain people and actions were meant to be in my peripheral vision as I focused on just one side of the screen.

I’m looking forward to more revelations like that one. The good stuff in VR will come after lots of conversations about how people truly interact with their environment and with each other.

The Bugle’s “Hotties From History” Compilation

John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman’s weekly “The Bugle” podcast has been on hiatus for a lonnnng time. I’m not supposed to be upset about it because John and Andy’s careers have been on such an upswing since the show started in 2007 that it’s become difficult for them to find time. The Bugle is a half an hour to 45 minutes of well-crafted political comedy. If it were “two guys get a tiny bit lit and then argue about last week’s episode of ‘Daredevil’” it’d be easy to maintain a consistent schedule but it wouldn’t be as interesting or funny.

The guys keep saying that a relaunch (as a monthly) is in the works. I can’t wait. In the meantime, I’ve been listening to old shows. Many of The Bugle’s fans have cut together their own compilations.

Here’s 90 minutes of The Bugle’s “Hotties From History” segments. This fine tradition started with one of the guys’ throwaway references to Florence Nightingale. Listeners started writing in with their own picks for historical figures capable of inducing downstairs tinglage, and at that point the bit became an unstoppable force.

“Unstoppable force” is also an apt description of Andy’s heroic acts of stamina, courage, and more than anything else “looking on Wikipedia for lists of things,” in the form of his epic pun runs. They’re like the performance art of Marina Abramovic, a single act that might seem like the product of a burning self-destructive impulse achieves a kind of stature and grandeur when it’s placed within the larger context of the artist’s life’s work.

I’m keeping tuned to The Bugle’s Twitter feed for news on the show. If John and Andy never recorded another show, I’d still be vastly grateful for what for years was the best podcast of my week. But I really hope they can find a way to keep the show going.

Ihnatko Almanac Episode #00161: “Project Doneway”

Episode 00161 of The Ihnatko Almanac has just been posted! Merlin Mann and I talk about “Project Runway” on the eve of the season finale.

This has been kind of a different season (as we discuss). There were fewer personality clashes, at least between the designers…Tim Gunn lost his cool with one of ‘em and that was about as hot as the fireworks got. What’s this? A reality show where nobody throws a glass of Chardonnay in anybody’s face?

I love podcasting with Merlin. The conversation veered off into a lot of different directions. It’s well worth your time even if you’re not into the show.

I recorded this one in LA. So please imagine lots of slices of avocado on the plate as you listen.

My new podcast: “Old Tech News”

Amazing: it wasn’t so long ago that if you wanted to do a weekly radio or TV show, you needed to convince somebody that it was a good idea. You also probably needed to go out and think about what you were going to do with your hair.

But today? So long as you have an hour a week to devote to the project and a blank C-90 audiocassette to record onto, nobody can stop you.

And so, I’m pleased to announce “Old Tech News,” which started on the 5by5 network this week. Why, yes…of course you can subscribe to it! Honestly, you don’t even need to ask my permission. Here’s the iTunes link.

The show isn’t much more complicated than “an audiobook edition of my Sun-Times column, with other writings from other sources thrown in for seasoning.”

I confess that describing the content as “old news” right at the top may have been a marketing error. Folks might take one look at the title in iTunes and conclude that a typical “Old Tech News” show rundown would go something like this:

  • Does the Motorola 68030 deliver true minicomputer performance, or is that just marketing hype?
  • Confirmed: BeOS to be acquired by Apple, become next-generation Mac operating system
  • Predictions for Gil Amelio’s next 10 years as CEO
  • Two Songs, On Your Desktop: Corvus brings Winchester drive technology to the Apple //e

No, no. I promise you that the show contains current, useful stuff (within a liberal range of definitions of the term “useful”).

I got the idea for the show a few months ago, when I added a new step to my usual writing workflow: I now read every column aloud before I file it. By the time I finish writing something, my “reading words on a screen” subprocessor is severely overloaded but my “hearing words spoken” system is still fresh, and operating at peak performance. Reading the manuscript aloud is a useful trick for catching any errors (or clumsy writage usements) that I missed during earlier editing steps.

After a couple of weeks, I got the idea that if I were to stick a microphone in front of me before this step in the editing process, I could get a useful podcast out of it for free.

I played back the first recording. That’s when I got an even better idea: if I were to do a special recording session after the column had been finished and filed, then the episodes wouldn’t contain spicy ad-libs such as “Oh, Jesus Dexter Christ, Ihnatko…don’t you think a higher lifeform than yourself wouldn’t have made a mistake as dumb as that one?” followed by a burst of furious typing.

It’s “old” tech news because I give the Sun-Times a certain window of exclusivity on my columns (generally a week or two). Also, I have a fairly extensive back-catalogue and I’ll dip into older pieces when it seems appropriate. A review of a new Android phone is a good excuse to record a piece from earlier in the summer that compared iOS versus Ice Cream Sandwich.

It’ll be fine. One of my major influences as a writer is Continental Baking, the fine makers of Twinkies Snack Cakes. I try to write shelf-stable columns that remain palatable long after they left the factory.

(Again, within a certain range of values for the word “palatable”.)

The first two shows are theme episodes. Show 0001 (available now) is a roundup of all of my recent Kindle reviews; Show 0002 (recorded, awaiting editing) contains all three parts of my 6000-word iPhone 5 review.

I’m having lots of fun with this. “Old Tech News” is a different kind of fun from MacBreak Weekly and Ihnatko Almanac and the rest of the podcasts I do. I’m not speaking off-the-cuff. I have a script in front of me and I feel like I’m telling a carefully worked-out story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

It’s also an opportunity to revisit a topic days or even months after I filed my column and stopped thinking about it. I often return to the subject with additional perspective, thought, and experience.

And that’s “Old Tech News.” Hopefully it’ll justify its existence in an iTunes category that’s already fairly well-populated.

And if it doesn’t? Well, maybe it’ll become a cause célèbre that inspires the beleaguered people of the world to finally rise up and demand that their government federalize the machinery of podcasting, thus putting an end to this whole “anybody can start a podcast” nonsense once and for all.

Ihnatko Almanac Episode 0030: “Avengers, Part 1”

The latest episode of The Ihnatko Almanac is now online, for your listening and viewing pleasure.

(Please arrange to be looking at something pleasant while listening to the episode, as it’s audio-only.)

This is one of my favorite episodes so far. My BFF John spent the weekend at my house recently and we took the time to talk about the Avengers movie, and comics in general. John’s last name and mine are right next to each other in the alphabet, which meant we were destiny to share homeroom classes together for a crucial six years of our childhoods. We’ve been reading comics and seeing movies together practically since we started reading comics and seeing movies.

I recorded our 90 minute conversation and presenting it as two episodes. I found this conversation just as interesting while I was listening to it in the car as I did when I was actually taking part in it. I’m hoping I can bring John back for another conversation after the new “Batman” movie premieres.

John, incidentally, has an awesome movie blog. For the past three years, he’s been seeing a new movie (to him) every day and posting a review. Check out Honky’s Movie Year and subscribe…it’s one of my favorite blogs on the Internet and I don’t think you need to be his BFF to agree.

Dear iTunes: Where Are My God Damned Bugles?

Dear Mr. iTunes:

First, I love your store. Generally-speaking, it’s a terrific way to discover and purchase music, whether I know specifically what I want to buy or just know vaguely that I’m interested in discovering new music.

But this is the second time the iTunes app has told me that there’s a new episode of the Bugle podcast waiting, and then not allowed me to download said podcast.

I don’t think you understand the dramatic impact that this failure has upon my Friday and Saturday workflow, Mr. iTunes. I will, charitably, conclude that you’re like the little kid who steals a fire extinguisher from their school just for a lark, without really thinking it through.

Well, iTunes, let me put it to you plainly: The Bugle is certified for class A-B-C-D fire-suppression and though it lacks formal Class K certification, it can, and has, been used to successfully combat grease fires when the user has the presence of mind to thoroughly wet the episode down properly. I ask you: what happens when that pile of combustible metals that I’ve been meaning to recycle suddenly lights up and white-hot flames of magnesium are lapping at my Precious Moments figurines? What do I do after I leap to my MacBook and click the “Get Episode” button, only to be left with a little round exclamation point icon in my hands?

Yes, you’re sorry and you didn’t know what you were really doing when you allowed your friends to goad you into taking down those Bugles. But “I’m sorry” won’t rebuild my rec room, will it?

And before you even try it, don’t go blaming The Bugle for this. I know it’s an election year and it’s so easy to just blame all of your problems on an incumbent podcast but it’s time for you to step up and own your failures. I see the latest episode right there. 10/21/10: “Poor, Poor Britain,” thirty-nine minutes and nineteen seconds. I know that John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman recorded the episode and Chris the Producer edited and posted it. They’re fine, decent men. Andy has a wife and children; John has an accent that’s breezily reminiscent of Eric Idle in the “Nudge, Nudge” sketch; Chris, to my knowledge, has never dressed up any of his cats as Captain Jack Sparrow.

While you, Mr. iTunes, sell more than two dozen different recordings of “Sometimes When We Touch.” Including one by Donny Osmond.

Put yourself in my position, iTunes: who would you believe was the more trustworthy party in any given dispute?

This sounds like it’s a really big issue, but really, iTunes, it isn’t. Just give me my Bugles.

Give. Me. My. Bugles.

Good day, sir.