I’ve decided to do something constructive. Starting in the near future* this blog is going to host a podcast. That podcast will feature yours truly and will usually have two good friends as part of the regular ‘cast with various experts, fun people and assorted “friends of the show” popping in when I can convince them to do so. We will talk about, more or less, the same topics that I write about on the blog. Not the exact same topics. My ego isn’t quite so out of control that I think anybody wants to listen to people discussing eight hundred words on an adventure game from the mid-1980s. The same general topic areas: video games, action films, sci-fi and fantasy novels, popular music. Generally apocalyptic culture and the kind of culture swimming around in this, our cultural apocalypse.
*I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but we’re not talking “Summer 2013” here.
There are long stories and there are short stories behind this idea and I won’t go into them all. I will, however, briefly go into an important one for me personally. About two years ago, I shamelessly tried to jump in on a podcast idea being thrown around by two of my friends. They were closer to each other than I was to either, and they had a certain dynamic, but I really wanted to be on a podcast and I wanted to hang out with them. Landing a spot on their podcast would satisfy both desires. Hey, I argued: you need some form of host or producer type and I do have an accent.* That podcast never quite came into being and not that long after one of my friends fell terribly ill before leaving us, I hope and believe for better pastures. When he passed, I told myself that I would work to be better, that I would write more, that I would do my job better, that I would be a better husband. Sometimes I have lived up to that promise and sometimes I have not. I believe that by writing in this blog more regularly, I am doing that. I also believe that starting this podcast is living up to my promise.
*I do. I mean, I know we all do, but I have what Americans refer to as “an accent.” Being that I’m not an American.
It’s an odd decision to make. I like podcasts, very much. I frequently listen to podcasts and get frustrated. Many, particularly in some of the rather nerdy interest areas to which I am drawn, go on for too long, or sound like a bunch of people hanging out. I get the latter tendency, certainly. There’s a certain intimacy to a podcast that is hugely important to its success. But otherwise, I find myself wishing that every single podcast I listen to is as good as the ones that have won me over regularly, such as the Idle Thumbs Podcast, the Anfield Wrap, the Guardian Football Weekly Podcast and the Football with John Giles podcast. All of these ‘casts benefit from professional-level production, something I’m not sure I can duplicate, but I can at least endeavour to make the podcast sound as good as possible. All of these podcasts are fairly regular in how they reach a typical length. There tends to be a sense of structure.
Really, the podcast is a rather wonderful medium. Radio programming on demand from all kinds of sources. Truly democratic media. There are many good podcasts, and podcasts that don’t set my heart racing find their audience. So why bother with one of our own? There are two reasons.
One, a favourite podcast of mine recently changed its approach. Despite representing the biggest sports broadcaster in the United States, the Baseball Today podcast had found its own niche with a nice solid cast of participants that regularly discussed the sport in an evenhanded fashion and with a solid sense of fun. Eric Karabell, Keith Law and Mark Simon had successfully established a sense of rapport with their listeners. It was a great example of what a podcast should be. ESPN, for reasons which I am not privy to of course, decided to ditch this in favour of a “Baseball Tonight” podcast that more clearly reflected the podcast’s relationship with the TV show. It’s host, Buster Olney, is an incredibly hard working sports journalist. Not just that, he is an excellent journalist. The show he’s been asked to host however is not the show that I enjoyed listening to. Most days I either skip through the podcast or abandon it all together. This may seem a little foolish, but I was incredibly disappointed. I had underestimated just how much the Baseball Today podcast had become an important part of my daily commute. This frustration led me to think about podcasts from the perspective of how to create an interesting show. I believe very strongly that podcasts present a great chance for anyone to have a show. Small scale works for podcasts. I can do small scale.
Second, the only thing holding me back from starting a podcast was that I was afraid. Afraid that it wouldn’t be good. Afraid that people would laugh at it. Afraid that my friends would make fun of it or roll their eyes if they got together while I wasn’t there. Insecurity. It’s a terrible thing. And my friend didn’t believe in it. At least, he didn’t believe in letting it hold you back. He believed in creativity and he believed in encouraging it in others. If he was still with us he would tell me to do it to the best of my ability and figure it out as I go. He’d be right.
I can’t pretend this podcast will be fantastic right out the gate, and truth be told I’m not sure what to expect. I’d rather have the crew meet in person but that’s not possible I’m afraid. The first big challenge will be to try and create a sense of chemistry over video-conferencing. We’ll see how that goes. I’m not a natural podcast host by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’m thinking of myself less as the “host” and more as the guy that says hello, introduces people, and tries to move things on if the conversation has become too indulgent. I’m not trying to say that this show will be anything earth-shattering, either. But, if you like reading random posts about action films and video games, I hope you will like this podcast, and give it a chance.
We’re going to focus on themed podcasts for the most part. Here are some examples being thrown around for the coming weeks:
The first Die Hard film, its setting in a Japanese owned building, and US-Japan relationships in 1980s movies that may or may not involve discussing Gung Ho.*
Michael Keaton’s career (specifically Night Shift, Gung Ho, Batman and Pacific Heights)
The films of Stanley Kubrick.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s refusal to even pretend to have an American accent in his films and America being okay with that.
History in video games, good and bad.
*It will involve discussing Gung Ho.
This podcast is intended to be casual and friendly. A couple of ‘cast members are professional historians but we’re not looking to create a history podcast. Rather, we’d like to chat about historical context here and there when we think it’s useful. So, if we’re discussing Barry Lyndon we will most likely talk about the historical relationships going on there. Chatting about Ahnuld and his accent is going to lead to some Cold War discussions. We’re not trying to be something entirely new here and Lord knows the Internet doesn’t necessarily need another podcast that just talks about Stanley Kubrick and other huge figures in popular culture. We’re just going to make a podcast that we like and hope that others like it too. More information will be forthcoming soon, and if you’re reading this I hope you consider giving the podcast a chance. With a bit of luck we’ll get better at it and maybe we’ll end up doing it for a while.