Archive for the ‘Podcasting’ Category

‘You went to bed with a functioning vehicle. …’

May 22, 2021

Base camp at the overflow area in McDowell Mountain Regional Park, circa 2004.

Ken Layne kicks off this week’s installment of Desert Oracle Radio with a nod to a critter I know all too well — the “truck roach,” a.k.a. the wood rat.

Back when we were camped on that windscoured rockpile near Weirdcliffe in Crusty County, Colo., the deer, bears, ring-tailed cats, buzzworms, mountain lions, coyotes, and wood rats paid us regular visits. Once or twice the rats found their way into our laundry closet via the exhaust ductwork from the washer-dryer combo, which I then would have to disconnect and drag onto the deck so the furry little burglar could make his getaway.

On one memorable occasion, after we had relocated to Bibleburg, we drove back up to the Weirdcliffe place for a relaxing weekend in the boondocks. Herself dashed inside for a wee, and in short order I heard a screech worthy of a slasher film. An invading wood rat had managed to escape the laundry closet only to drown in the downstairs toilet.

But the pièce de résistance of our rodent experience centered on our 1998 Toyota Tacoma pickup, pictured above.

This outrageously expensive machine was practically brand new when one day it developed a hitch in its gitalong, an inexplicable stutter in its step. “This won’t do, not at all,” I thought, and lurched down Hardscrabble Canyon and over to the Toyota dealer in Pueblo that had sold me the thing.

The shop dudes said they’d have a quick look-see and suggested I go grab a bite of lunch. When I returned they were having themselves a huge hee, along with a haw or two or three.

Seems that when the young wrench assigned to my problem popped the hood, a giant wood rat leapt out of the engine compartment, then took a high-speed lap or two around the service bay before rocketing back into the truck somewhere.

The sonofabitch had been gnawing on the wiring harness, which explained the spastic nature of the vehicle’s operation. I got a new one of those along with some advice about various potions for discouraging peckish ratoncitos.

We never did figure out what happened to that particular wood rat, who must have been the most widely traveled member of his clan. I often thought of him holding forth to his grandchildren about the time he surfed a Toyota all the way to Pueblo and back.

Lever action

May 7, 2021

Many’s the swab who dreams of being the cap’n, arr.

There was something of a “these kids today” thing happening on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast this week, and go figure — it struck a chord with me.

Maron was getting deep into the comedy weeds with fellow comic Mark Normand, talking about their backgrounds, their neuroses, how they became comics, standups they’ve worked with and admired, differences in style, the mechanics of jokes, lines and the crossing thereof, and whether the crossing is worth the caterwauling from a vocal subset of the audience getting their knickers in a twist over the outrage du jour.

They both agreed with Harry Shearer, who once told Maron, “The reason people do comedy is to control why people are laughing at them.” They both bitched about the gatekeepers with the God complexes who had the power to decide whether they would get any stage time Back in the Day.

And they both seemed astonished that anyone might think there’s a magical short cut to where they’ve gotten by dint of hard labor, some high-speed bypass that skirts the long and winding road.

Maron said it was his podcast that saved him in his mid-40s, at what seemed to be “the end of the line,” when he had no clue about what he might do next with his hard-won skill set.

And the idea that “we live in this world where it’s like all of a sudden everyone thinks they can do this” is “fucking annoying,” he added.

“We will all be immortalized as content.” — Marc Maron, “Too Real.”

“Give me where to stand, and I will move the earth,” said Archimedes, speaking of the lever. A lot of us feel the same way. With the right tool, we think, we can do anything.

Mmm … maybe not.

In my racket — and in Maron’s, too — it was the trickling down of technology from Olympus that led to delusions of grandeur here on earth. A MacBook Pro and Microsoft Office don’t make you a writer. A smartphone camera doesn’t make you a photographer. A microphone and a Libsyn account don’t make you a podcaster. The TikTok app doesn’t make you … well, to be honest, I have no idea what TikTok does to you. But whatever it is, it can’t be good.

Some of us who came to bike magazines through newspaper work used to give the old hee, and also the haw, to what we called “fans with laptops,” wanna-bes who thought devotion to cycling and/or the sport’s celebrities outweighed the craft of asking smart questions, remaining skeptical, and writing clean copy on deadline.

All you need is love? Not even The Beatles believed that shit.

“Podcasts are like babies. They’re too easy to make, and not everybody should have one.“ — Mark Normand on “WTF,” with Marc Maron

It’s one thing to play. We have all these cool toys now. We can blog, shoot videos, record podcasts, self-publish books, and broadcast email newsletters, all with a few keystrokes. Damn the gatekeepers, full speed ahead! Hold my beer and watch this! Slap it all up on the Innertubes, the modern equivalent of Mom’s refrigerator, the gallery for all your childhood scribbles.

But gigging is something else. Chops make a difference if you want to turn pro.

What annoyed me about fans with laptops — and what probably bugs Maron and Normand about amateur comics and podcasters — is that too many of them try to skip the whole boring learning-the-trade thing and step right to the pay window.

Sorry, man. No cuts. Maron got there ahead of you. And he ‘s not about to step out of line and go back to his day job. This is his day job.

“What am I prepared to do outside of show business? Nothing!” Maron said.

Preach, brother. Preach.

• Editor’s note: Incidentally, Mark Normand is a funny dude. He has a podcast or two, and you can catch his 2020 special “Out to Lunch” on YouTube.

Space cowboy

April 24, 2021

“Night has fallen on the desert.” That’s Ken Layne, beginning each episode of “Desert Oracle Radio.”

Daylight has fallen on the desert — and in celebration, I just dropped a few coppers into Desert Oracle Radio’s tin cup over to Patreon.

It felt overdue. I’ve been eavesdropping for free, the way you do when you can. But suddenly, while listening to this week’s episode, I thought: “If I’m gonna keep riding this old greydog through the Mojave, I should really buy a ticket.” So I did.

There’s a lot of talk lately about what new “technology platforms” are doing to “traditional media companies.” Yeah, I suppose. You get to write, or talk, or whatever, with a minimum of interference from “gatekeepers.” And if you’re lucky, maybe the audience will forget that information wants to be free, become subscribers, and kick a few Dead President Trading Cards your way.

Most of what I read about the newsletter boom centers on its threat to old-school newsgathering operations. But Will Oremus at Slate seems to hit the nail on the head when he notes that the Substackers are mostly about commentary and analysis, not straight, original reportage of the kind we used to get from our daily blats before Gannett snatched ’em up.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the commentariat has snuck off the reservation. Even in my little backwater, cycling journalism, management realized early on that “analysis” was a whole lot cheaper than sending staffers to the scene because it could be done on the cheap, at the office, where they could keep both eyes and at least one thumb on the indolent tippling slackers. No airline travel or rental cars, no hotel rooms or restaurant meals, no credentials, no worries. Plus the office has reliable internet. Crank up those MacBooks and pound out the thumbsuckers, bitches.

Now the commentariat has realized they don’t need management skimming the cream from their milking of the audience, assuming they’ve built one and can monetize maybe 10-15 percent of it. Good for them, and good for us, especially if it drives management at “traditional media companies” to think about actually suiting up for the game, which is to say covering the news.

As a bush-league blatherer myself I try to keep semi-informed, so I help nurture a variety of operations, from large to small, outfits and individuals I’d like to see thrive. The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Atlantic. Charles P. Pierce at Esquire. Adventure Journal. Padraig and the gang over at The Cycling Independent. And now Ken Layne at Desert Oracle.

Sometimes it’s about the news. Sometimes it’s about the commentary. I’m a sucker for a nice bit of writing, like I heard in last night’s Desert Oracle Radio episode. It put me in mind of some of the grumbling I’ve heard from Hal Walter lately as Weirdcliffe starts to seem a little too big for its Wranglers.

What if, some day … what if we stopped working hard and stopped doing what we’re told? What if we moved to little specks of towns all over the country? Not the places that already have an organic bakery and four coffee shops with more almond milk than coffee beans, but the places built for things that no longer happen and where nobody ever came up with another workable idea. Old mining towns, old cattle-ranch crossroads, the mostly abandoned towns on Nevada’s U.S. 50 or U.S. 6. The real Las Vegas, an hour east of the wealthy island of Santa Fe. Far-eastern Oregon and Washington state. Places where you could maybe afford a house for your family, your friends, whatever arrangement makes sense. Clean air; hopefully, enough water. Clean streams for fishing. Walk your dog out the back door and into the wild. Keep a garden to attract the bees and the hummingbirds. Why not? What are you waiting for?

And now, here’s Patrick with the weather

April 17, 2021

The maple shares the eastern horizon with blue sky
and a few clouds … for now.

The furnace was chugging away when I woke up this morning. This, after some days of riding around and about in knickers and arm warmers. (Not the furnace. Me.)

Our weather widget in the kitchen told me the temp outside was smack dab at freezing — 32° Fahrenheit. No wonder I was wearing pants, socks, and a long-sleeved shirt, I mused.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla says she would like her meals delivered.

In my office Miss Mia Sopaipilla was tucked away in the Situation Room, monitoring developments, largely through closed eyelids.

The forecast calls for snow, which some of you are already enjoying. Any inclination I might have to bitch about it is tempered by the ongoing grim news about the state of the Rio Grande, which is likely to be drier than the proverbial popcorn fart this summer. Pinning our hopes on a stout monsoon season seems about like asking Santa Claus to lay a few bazillion gallons on us. We have not been good girls and boys.

Speaking of water, if you are fortunate enough to find yourself restricted to the great indoors by inclement weather you might have a sip from this week’s episode of Desert Oracle Radio. Ken Layne discusses the “accidental miracles” that spared so much of the American Southwest’s mountains and deserts from growth for growth’s sake, which Ed Abbey dubbed “the ideology of the cancer cell.”

Then change channels to KLZR-FM in Weirdcliffe, where my man Hal Walter — who seems to be Mister Multimedia these days — chats with Gary Taylor about the joys of running and other things.

Hal is enjoying a bit of snow himself up to Weirdcliffe rather than running his ass off at the Desert Donkey Dash in Tombstone, Ariz., where the forecast is for a high in the 70s. If he has any regrets about this as he feeds the woodstove he is keeping them to himself.

Going to town from the desert

March 6, 2021

Triggered by a listener’s letter, Ken Layne at Desert Oracle Radio rang up Phoenix scribe Jason P. Woodbury, and the two of them demythologize desert life a bit by trading observations about a few Southwestern communities — among them the Duke City, home to Your Humble Narrator.

Layne says our town “has a reputation as sort of the ugly stepbrother of Santa Fe,” which he argues lends it a skosh more soul than its pricey neighbor to the north. A working-class, salt-of-the-earth vibe, don’t you know.

Albuquerque “is sort of famous for eight of nine cars around you in the process of falling apart all at the same stoplight,” he says.

The ninth, of course, is stolen.

Also up for review: Palm Springs (Woodbury likes hanging out at the Ace Hotel) and Sedona (Woodbury’s a fan; Layne, um, not so much).

“Sedona’s like a vortex of intelligence, you know? And it all disappears as soon as you get there,” he says.

Spring broken

March 1, 2021

There’s the signpost up ahead … you’re about to enter the McDowell Zone.

Can you be both stuck and unstuck, at the same time?

Dern tootin’, podnah.

Case in point: Last year, I had planned a March trip to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, to (a) get the hell out of here, and (2) get the hell out of here.

Well sir, God, He got wind of those plans and had Himself a good old hee, and also a haw. And the next thing you know I had a broken ankle, a dead cat, and a strongly worded suggestion from the State that I (and everyone else) stay put while the Plague sorted itself out.

So I was what you call stuck.

Now, a year later, we have a vaccine. And by “we,” I mean … well, what I mean is that there is a vaccine, and some other people have gotten it. But I haven’t. And I don’t know when I will get it.

Thus I am, you might say, unstuck. Which means I’m stuck.

Which in turn means that you get the needle. Because yes, yes, yes, it’s time for another medicinal episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: Once again we go to the Comedy Closet for this one, using a Shure MV7 mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with a sonic bump from Auphonic. Music and sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat with an Apple loop or two from iMovie and GarageBand. House call by kindly old Doc Firesign. Now just turn your head and cough.

Getting wood in Weirdcliffe

February 22, 2021

The fireplace in Weirdcliffe, before we installed a Lopi woodstove insert.

When Texas sank back into the Ice Age, I was reminded of the good old days on our wind-scoured rockpile outside Weirdcliffe, Colorado.

There, the power only went out whenever it was inconvenient. And it usually would stay off for an hour or two at minimum, which was the time it took for a utility guy from Cañon City to flip a switch somewhere.

We learned early on that not much works during winter at 8,800 feet in the ass-end of nowhere if you don’t have power. No water, no cooking, and most important, no heat.

I remembered the joys of a heat-free home from my stint in a 9×40 singlewide trailer in Greeley back in 1974. Its oil furnace was forever seizing up in the middle of a winter night, and there’s nothing that clarifies the mind for higher education quite as well as the backsplash from a frozen toilet when you get up at stupid-thirty to offload a sixer of the long-neck Falstaffs you enjoyed for dinner.

Our private road. I went backwards on this stretch in 4WD one evening. I wasn’t scared or nothin’, but somebody shit on my seat. | Photo: Hal Walter

So on our hillside, we kept ourselves prepared. There were canned goods and jerrycans of water in the hall closet, along with a Coleman two-burner and several 1-pound propane bottles for emergency cookery. And we had several candle lanterns and flashlights at the ready because this shit never happens in broad daylight on a weekday.

But the smartest thing we did was have a Lopi woodstove insert installed in our fireplace, along with buying a chainsaw and ax. When you heat with wood, it warms you twice — while you’re cutting it, and while you’re burning it.

And speaking of getting wood, yes, yes, yes, it’s time for the latest episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: I recorded this one in the Comedy Closet, using a Shure MV7 mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with a sonic bump from Auphonic. Music by Infernal Hound Sound; sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat. Special guest appearance by Shel Silverstein.

Vox clamantis in deserto

February 21, 2021

If you’re feeling the strain of a year spent sheltering in place, occasionally pulling on the mask(s) and nitrile gloves before carrying your 10-foot pole into the grocery store like Little John facing off with Robin Hood over the last sack of whole-wheat flour in Sherwood Forest, you’ll appreciate this week’s episode of Desert Oracle Radio, “Out of Our Holes.”

Ken Layne talks about the urge to join the coyotes on the night shift, the struggle to write in an age when the word has faded, and the joy of finally coming out of our holes to once again tell strange stories around the fire.

Road hard, or my home really is on the range

February 15, 2021

Welcome to the Hotel Tacoma.

Some of us want to hit the road; others are compelled to.

I’ve been both over the years, rambling from Maine to Spokane and Bisbee to Bellingham, occasionally by thumb, a time or two by bus, but most often behind the wheel of a Japanese pickup truck with a camper shell and all the fixin’s for a bit of home away from home.

Trucks with beds and friends with couches saw me through my rambling, gambling years, as I rolled the dice with one newspaper after another. I eventually came up winners by leaving the business altogether.

Marrying well didn’t hurt, either.

And while I have kipped in the beds of trucks since, I have done so as a tourist, not an honest-to-Steinbeck nomad like the people in Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book “Nomadland,” which has been reimagined by Chloé Zhao as a fictionalized film set to debut Feb. 19 on Hulu.

It’s challenging to make a go of it when your house has wheels. Finding a spot to camp, a shower, or an unguarded Internet connection is a lot like that job of work you don’t have anymore. It’s a whole lot easier when you’re only doing it for funsies and can splurge on an occasional visit to Starbucks or Holiday Inn Express.

The people in “Nomadland” are not posers. They swallowed their fears, and their pride, and jumped into that endless asphalt river.

And speaking of jumps, it’s time for another great leap forward … into the latest episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: I went back to the Comedy Closet to record this one, using a Shure MV7 mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with a sonic bump from Auphonic. Music and sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat. Special guest appearances by The Firesign Theatre (“Temporarily Humboldt County”) and Mel Henke (“See the USA in Your Chevrolet”). I usually saw the USA in a Toy-o-TA, but to each his own.

Have mercy, been waitin’ on the e-bus all day

February 8, 2021

Got your brown paper bag and your take-home pay?

So, we start the week with a shot of seltzer in the snoot for Impeachy the Clown and follow it up with a squeeze to the wheeze of our local Bozos and their e-buses.

Hur-ry, hur-ry, hur-ry! It may not be The Greatest Show on Earth, but it is another episode of Radio Free Dogpatch!

Yes, it’s free! Join the expectant crowd gathering now as we stop here on [Intellectual Property Theft Street]. Live in The Future: It’s just starting now. As for The Past, well — we’ve been taken for a ride down the Mother Road before.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This time around I cheapskated the podcast using an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic (a model since discontinued) and Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with an assist from Auphonic. Sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat, including the background music, “Waiting Game” by Dave Miles. Special guest appearances by The Firesign Theatre and ZZ Top, who did not know they were making special guest appearances, and if you don’t tell them, we won’t either. Let’s just keep this moment of simulated exhilaration locked under our wigs.