Archive for the ‘Radio Free Dogpatch’ Category

A sound choice

February 7, 2023

We’ll be right back after this message. Or not.

Nobody — well, almost nobody — is launching a new podcast these days.

Back in 2020, more than a million new podcasts were trying to grab the world by its ears, according to the search engine Listen Notes, via Joshua Benton at NiemanLab.

But in 2021, that number dropped to 729,000. And in 2022, it fairly plummeted to 219,000.

Oof. As Benton adds:

Roughly everyone launched a podcast in the COVID-19 pandemic’s nadir, and a big part of the decline is an aftereffect of that fact. All that time stuck in your house had to be put to use somehow, after all. The 2020-21 spike in cognitive surplus was always destined to recede.

Truer words, etc. Even more so for those of us running a cognitive deficit. I launched Radio Free Dogpatch on Nov. 13, 2013, and churned out 46 episodes on a highly irregular schedule before calling it quits on March 1, 2021, when I finally lost the thread for good.*

I didn’t formally stop production; I just never started another episode. And apparently I had plenty of company. Again, from Benton:

There are 369,545 podcasts whose last episode was released between 2010 and 2019 — a full decade. But there are 1,318,646 whose last episode came out in either 2020 or 2021. Those two pandemic years featured a huge number of new podcasts launched, yes — but it also witnessed the death of an unprecedented number of shows.

To put it another way: Of all the podcasts that have stopped publishing since 2010, 78% of them stopped in either 2020 or 2021. The huge spike in creation coincided with a huge spike in destruction.

I managed only five episodes in 2021 before pulling the plug. But I had been wildly inconsistent since the get-go, never sticking to my goal of one per week for more than a few months and taking entire years off.

You can browse the entire Radio Free Dogpatch archive by clicking the image.

Radio Free Dogpatch was like a rocket that failed to achieve orbit. Three episodes in 2013, three more in 2016, nine in 2018, 10 in 2019. … Hang on, boys, we’re riding the lightning!

Or … not. RFD gained a little more altitude — I managed 16 episodes in 2020 — but that only meant it had further to fall once it flamed out.

If a podcast falls in the media wilderness and nobody’s listening, does it make a sound?

Not in this instance. Producing RFD involved a lot of hardware, software, and uninformed tinkering; writing and rewriting scripts, recording and editing audio, finding and adding effects and music. But it never attracted the volume of comments that attend a simple prose post with photo.

The podcast seemed to have all the traction of a 23mm slick in deep sand. When it finally augured in there wasn’t an audible thump.

I haven’t given it much thought over the past two years. But since reading Benton’s piece in late January I’ve been idly conducting a mental autopsy on RFD, and I think I’ve nailed down the cause(s) of death.

First, my best year, 2020, ran only from January through April. Finally, I was consistent, but only for four months. Why?

Well, in March 2020 we went on lockdown. So Herself had to start working from home, which drastically altered the sonic environment in the old home studio. Suddenly there was more than one of us hollering into a microphone, and only one of us was making any money doing it.

At one point I found myself reduced to jabbering into a portable recorder in our walk-in closet in hopes of getting some clean audio. I briefly felt some sympathy for Paul McCartney, who must have felt likewise bollixed when John Lennon abruptly became available only as a package deal, bundled with Yoko Ono.

Except I wasn’t Paul, or John, or George, or Ringo. Shit, I wasn’t even Yoko. They were all pros. I was just another amateur overequipped with technology he didn’t fully comprehend, all the chops of a Beatles wannabe singing into a hairbrush in front of the bathroom mirror, and not enough space — or drive, frankly — to get any better.

We’re living in what may be the most democratic age of communications the world has ever known. Publishing, broadcasting, exhibiting —  if the spirit moves, you can create something and run it up the digital flagpole, see if anyone salutes (preferably with all five fingers).

But occasionally your baby gets that single-digit critique, or worse, a yawn, a blank stare. They’re not all beautiful.

A laptop won’t make you a writer. A camera won’t make you a photographer. And a microphone won’t make you Ira Glass. It’s not a magic wand, though in the right hands it can be spellbinding.

I just wasn’t that good. But I had fun finding that out.

• • •

* That bit up top about how “I finally lost the thread for good?” While I was banging out this blog post I kept thinking about how I could turn it into a podcast. Jesus H., etc. Some people are slow learners.

Spring?

March 20, 2022

The arthritic old ornamental pear stretches its gnarled limbs.

Kinda gnarly-looking, I know. Still, EarthSky says it’s the vernal equinox, so I gotta go with it.

The allergies say spring. So does the unsettled weather. The NWS has issued a red-flag warning; no, it doesn’t mean the Russians are coming, but it seems we can expect winds of 20-30 mph with gusts to 45.

Last year I rode the equinox in shorts and arm warmers, which came off midride. The year before that I got rained on. So it goes.

Tracking alongside the allergies is another seasonal affliction, the wanderlust. One former colleague will attend next week’s Bicycle Leadership Conference in Dana Point, Calif. In a couple weeks he and some others will dive into the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey. And the Cactus Cup at McDowell Mountain Regional Park outside Fountain Hills, Ariz., has already come and gone.

Some old newspaper pals from California recently took a ski trip to Aspen. The friends who blew through here with their e-bikes on Friday were headed home to Fort Collins from Tucson. I’m starting to feel like the only guy I know who hasn’t traveled further from home than he can get on two wheels and one water bottle.

It all reminded me of a bit of grumbling I recorded last March for Radio Free Dogpatch, with an assist from kindly old Doctor Firesign and Ralph Spoilsport Motors (“The World’s Biggest”). I think I’ll give this ol’ baby a spin on the freeway. …

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.

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.

Down in the dumps, or up in the air?

February 1, 2021

Didn’t know Kal-El had a white-trash eejit cousin, didja? Now you do.

Some people never learn.

And yes, I’m looking at me.

It took slightly more than nine months, and it was a breech birth, like all the other little bastards.

But baby, here we go again — yes, yes, yes, it’s another 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: Acoustic considerations (Herself doing paying work right next to my “studio”) dictated that I change locations yet again (to her walk-in closet). This time I used a Shure MV7 mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with music and sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat and Freesound. No DC Comics properties were harmed in the production of this podcast. If “Justice League” couldn’t do ’em in, nothing can.

‘We’ll be right back after this message. …’

July 15, 2020

Down time.

The question very much not on everyone’s mind is: “Whatever happened to Radio Free Dogpatch?”

My little podcast was ticking along nicely there for a while, with episodes popping up semi-regularly since the first of the year.

Then the broken ankle took me down in February, and The Bug® put the boots to me in March.

And that, as they say, was that.

A podcast, even a low-rent, one-man, half-assed model like mine, takes time. Thought. Quiet.

It’s quiet out there. Too quiet.

All those things were suddenly in short supply when Herself joined me in working from home.

If any of you have been doing likewise in lockdown, you know the drill. Zoom meetings. Phone calls. Speakerphone calls, with voices that often fail to harmonize with the ones in my head. Skypeing. Messaging. Texting.

And it all starts at stupid-thirty, ’cause Herself is an early riser. By the time I crawl out of my coffin around 6-ish she’s already brewed the coffee and fed the cat, and is two-three phone calls into her day.

Which is rigorously planned. She has a List. Items will be checked off same or she will know the reason why. Any gaps that appear unexpectedly between chores will be filled with … more chores. Herself is a Tasmanian devil of relentless functionality and accomplishment.

Me? I just, y’know, kinda, like, fuck around, an’ shit. See what happens. If anything.

Ho, ho. Too bad for me. Her gig is the one that makes it rain around here. My contributions to the general fund have become a little less laughable since I started collecting Social Security in April, but next to her mighty fiscal Niagara my revenue stream remains the dribbling of a very old dog with prostate issues and a bladder stone the size of the Hope Diamond.

Shucks, the podcast never brought in a dime anyway. In fact, it sent dimes out, in the form of dollars. Many, many of them. An essential worker it is not. Like Adolf Twitler’s “presidency,” it is primarily a cash-burning vanity project.

So if anybody is going to STFU around here for a minute, or even for months, well … it’s gonna be Radio Free Dogpatch.

I take solace from learning that I’m not the only voice to develop a little situational laryngitis in The New Weird Order.

For instance, parents who podcast are finding it tough to get their Ira Glass on with herds of unschooled munchkins free-ranging around the home studio, according to Caroline Crampton of the “Hot Pod” newsletter (scroll down).

Writes Crampton: “[F]or those who work in audio and need to edit for long periods, or record links and tracking to the highest possible standard that the moment will allow, there’s the extra challenge of finding the space and quietness to do that.”

The short version, from one anonymous podcaster: “Take after take just gets nuked.”

(Insert sound effect of Trinity atomic blast here. Oh, wait, we’re doing text now, not audio. Never mind.)

Happily, my primary distraction is not a horrifically bored, runny-nosed, ankle-biting, boundary-testing expense that a dozen or so years down the road will call me a fleshist at my own dinner table for not pledging some of my hard-earned Imperial credits to the Robot Liberation Army. She’s an income-generating asset, and right now, too.

So if Herself screams “GRILLED CHEESE! GRILLED CHEESE!”, she’s gonna get some grilled fuckin’ cheese from yours truly. We call it a quesadilla around here, but still, whatever you wanna call it, she’s gonna get it.

Radio Free Dogpatch is not the new toilet paper. It may be in short supply, but that doesn’t mean the punters are throwing hands over it at Libsyn. If I have something to say, I can always slink off to where the old toilet paper is, close the door, and squeeze out a quick blog post.

And yes, I’ll turn on the ceiling fan and wash my hands afterward.

Bleach Blankety-Blanket Bingo

April 27, 2020

Great Caesar’s Ghost, is it all superhero movies?
And where the hell is our Superman?

Being on lockdown is like watching a bad movie.

Sure, it sucks. But if you bail early, you might miss something.

Or catch something.

Why not just lean back, put your feet up, and enjoy (hating) the show? The credits will roll soon enough. And we know who’s not getting a best-director Oscar for this hot mess.

Pass the popcorn. Say, is it just me, or does this soda taste like bleach?

Yes, yes, yes, it’s another doctor-recommended, hospital-tested, clinically proven 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: Acoustic considerations (Herself doing paying work right next to my “studio”) dictated that I change locations (to her wallk-in closet) and return to the Shure Beta 87A mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder for this one, instead of recording directly to the MacBook Pro using Rogue Amoeba’s nifty little app Piezo. Editing was in GarageBand, with an assist from Miss Mia Sopaipilla, whose stylings on the keyboard while I stepped away from the desk for a moment rendered the original voiceover … interesting. The intro music is a compilation of GB loops, assembled by Your Humble Narrator. Howling courtesy The Colorado Sun, because I forgot to record our local howlers last night. Singing Italians via The Guardian. Angry crowd from the YouTube Audio Library, as is “An Army of None,” by The Whole Other. And Freesound.org contributed the hum (adamamazing), the comic rimshot (deleted_user_7146007), and the film projector (filip_stefanowski ),

The New Abnormal

April 18, 2020

Some folks think they’re getting the business.

The American attention span, ordinarily measured in nanoseconds, is fraying around its all-too-short edges as the walls start closing in on the homebound.

Relief payments have gone walkabout. The SBA ran out of money to loan. And almost no unemployment aid has made it to the self-employed.

Is patience a luxury we can’t afford, or a necessity we can’t live without?

For some folks, it’s just one more thing that they’ve run out of, like beer, beans, and buttwipe. But Your Humble Narrator still has a personal stash, and if you can bear about six more minutes of social distancing, he’ll let you have a little taste.

Yes, yes, yes, it’s another socially distant 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: This episode was recorded with an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic and Rogue Amoeba’s nifty little app Piezo. The trail-walking portion was recorded on a Tascam DR-10L. Editing was as usual, using GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “Easy Day” by Kevin MacLeod, taken from the YouTube audio library, as was the angry crowd. The squeaky bike is from jamesrodavidson at Freesound.org. The yappi corgis are likewise from the YouTube. The Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote are, of course, from the glory days of animation at Warner Bros. And the centurion calls us weird from “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.”