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Every home should have one

I wonder if I could have a few moments of your time?

I feel that it is my responsibility sometimes to remind the reading public that a society such as ours goes about its everyday business often with strict regard to certain well-established norms of behaviour.

In this regard, I wonder if I could prevail upon you — it will only take a moment — to reach down between your legs and see if you can locate something to grab onto. You don't need to go far — just keep searching at arms length in a region often referred to as the crotch.

More than likely you'll know what I'm talking about as many of you no doubt find an excuse to visit this locale several times a day. In your hand is a tackle box. If you don't possess this item of anatomy, I need trouble you no longer. You can go back to the crossword.

The rest of you should not take this opportunity to spend an undue amount of time down there exploring a structural component which you are perhaps already quite familiar with. You can adjust it. Hitch it up. That will do. All I'm interested in is reminding you that it's there.

[3 mins 13 secs   3.1 MB]

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A Podcast Perspective

I was planning on concluding my series on podcasting with a few considered recommendations, but I seem caught between what I may do, and what others could.

To recap, I've been waffling on about web audio, media and podcasting  in the context of what I see is the online here and now.
My thoughts -- such as they are...

I want to now  put together what I see as a 'news and views' podcasting niche which I think is viable. 


Audio is easy to create, edit and publish such that it is on par with online text in the way it comes together. After recording you can edit up in Audacity as quickly as your skills allow. Converting to an mp3 file is seamless and once you upload  to a file host you'll have an url to share. It can be a very quick turnaround.

An hour, for instance:
Record >Edit >Convert >Publish
So doing daily podcasts is very feasible. Of course that's a  tight schedule. But if several people were contributing audio to the one show, daily, or almost daily, episodes are a collective possibility.

While there are many daily podcasts online, I think the best examples of daily news generation from a radical perspective are Palestine Today -- produced by the International Middle East Media Centre -- and Free Speech Radio News (FSRN)-- before they were forced to publish weekly alone.

Both podcasts' working model was to generate daily (work week) segments as well as  a regular weekly bulletin which aggregated the best stories collected from over the week.So listeners got to choose what they listened and subscribed to.


One big advantage of audio is that the  file size is a lot smaller than video files, so playing, or starting and stopping,  is easier and quicker than with watching video. This means that a listener can more easily jump about within an episode. This is why many long podcasts also supply a list of segments within each episode with their time markers.

You can listen to audio  while doing other tasks -- either online or offline -- the sweet spot for podcast length seems to be 10-20 minutes. Democracy Now! runs daily as an hour podcast, but it's still very feasible to browse each episodes content by fastforwarding through the playing file.

In the case of FSRN and Palestine Today, a segment may be only 2-3 minutes long but the aggregation of daily segments in the one weekly shared file is going to be 10-15 minutes long.

3.Content: News and Views

FSRN and Palestine Today are both hard news programs whereas Democracy Now! is primarily based on interviews. This explains some of the length differences, but if you go to the local daily news podcasts as published by the ABC  Radio-- such as AM or The World Today -- you'll get a very smart mix of both.

Of course there is no  rule book for content. As far as eclecticism goes the Central Australia Aboriginal Media Association manages to offer a very broad mix of audio segments on its website without actually packaging them as standalone 'shows'. You'll note too, how creatively CAAMA employs the occasional video and images..and that the site, aside from generating a 5 minute daily news bulletin, doesn't follow scheduled programming online.

Indeed,  the Canadian alt news site, Rabble.ca is a hub of podcasts. Its full name is the Rabble Podcast Network (RPN).
The rabble podcast network is a growing collection of Canadian podcasts that offer an alternative take on politics, entertainment, society, stories, community and life in general. They've been handpicked and are hosted on a platform created by rabble.ca, Canada's leading online news service for the progressive left.
Podcasts are short, web-based audio shows you can download as MP3 files.That's the same format used for most music on the Internet. Once you download a podcast, you can listen to it on your desktop computer or laptop, or transfer it to your iPod or other MP3 music player and take it on the road with you.
Most podcasts are produced by ordinary folks with just a computer, a microphone and opinions or ideas they want to share. We think podcasts are the most democratic medium to come along since, well, the Internet itself. That's why we've created rabble radio.

4.Podcasts and Radio

Many news podcasts are generated as part of radio programming and shared online. Melbourne's 3CR does this, for instance,as does the ABC. But it also happens that some programs (or episodes) begin life as podcasts and are later aired on radio. Indeed there are sites dedicated to sharing online audio for broadcast such as Radio4All and Archive.org .(And that's just the tip of what's out there.)In Australia this phenomenon has been limited by community radio's slow transition to going digital because of funding difficulties, but that's been changing.Another limiting factor can be the presumed poor audio quality of podcasts among radio audiophiles. However, I've found that in-station engineers are quite capable of  improving a segment's sound quality and making up for the  deficiencies in the original audio file.

But my point is that if a particular niche was filled with online audio it could  be broadcast by some community radio stations. Democracy Now! is broadcast locally by 3CR for instance and shared on by the CBAA, just as many local community radio-produced shows are aired around the country.

5. Advertising, Sharing and Control

One of the great advantages podcasting (or web audio) has over YouTube is that it doesn't suffer from advertising inclusions. So folk get your stuff and no one else's.

While YouTube lends itself to  viral take offs, podcasting is nowadays similarly shareable using such platforms as Soundcloud and today most web browsers will open an mp3 url in its own tab and start playing it. Just click on an mp3 file link and Voila! Instant audio. 

The mp3 files can be easily downloaded and played offline. The links can be shared by email  but you really need a platform like Soundcloud to showcase the audio on facebook. Here's an example of how soundclouding works on facebook: The Bugle Podcast.

As HTML5 takes off, it has also proven very easy to generate online players to showcase audio. Many flash players are proprietary, but coding HTM5 into your show is a very easy copy and paste-- and most browsers will read the code as a clickable online player that will run the file on the same page as the rest of the post.

Here's an example:


I won't go into detail about podcast engineering -- RSS feeds and such  --suffice to say is that what makes a podcast a podcast is that the 'show' as a series of posts generates a feed that can be subscribed to.

Maybe most sites online today generate feeds, news sites especially.Green Left Weekly's taxonomy creates feeds, for instance -- such as 'Comment and Analysis' --and feeds can be read and subscribed to in feed readers and podcatchers.

Depending on your subscribing platform you can selectively or automatically download the feed (and audio/media) content, just as you can opt to listen to the segment online. The only complication with feeds for podcasts is that they must carry the media inclusion, whereas many feeds tend to be little more than headlines. This is why many podcasts have their own 'feed generating' sites, which are separate from where they are showcased.

6.But are podcasts popular?

While I've dealt with this question in earlier posts but if we take the iTunes example: there are 800 million iTunes accounts on the planet...and,in sync with such a figure, there are over 1 billion podcast subscriptions.
Apple says that those billion subscriptions are spread across 250,000 unique podcasts in more than 100 languages, and that more than 8 million episodes have been published in the iTunes Store to date.
When I look at some of the play figures on YouTube -- and remember we are referring above to iTunes subscriptions which is very different from total number of plays as not all listeners subscribe-- these are very decent figures are they not? Even my own podcasts  generate    a larger audience than I got off YouTubery  when I was  using video. And I'm not aggressively promoting my stuff, but I am sharing  my audio via a few platforms.

7.Rigs and costs

The irony of podcasting is that it can be done absolutely for free. If you have a computer and a web connection you can start  podcasting.  Some podcasters prefer to keep it simple if they upgrade and will insist on using cheap $10 microphones.

Since coming back to online audio I'm using a $100 microphone which is also  absolutely portable -- the Zoom H1. It's awesome. I use it both out and about and as a desktop usb microphone. It also offers automatic gain which keeps your cadences and volumes within the same audio range.  

For interviews I'm experimenting with the $40 Olympus TP-8 - Telephone Pickup Microphone, although I could use Skype.

And that's it.You start with what you've got and  how much of an audiophile you want to be will  rule your outlay. Nonetheless, any editing in   Audacity (free download)  can improve on on any rough recording.

8.Podcasting's potential

I'll leave it up to you to consider how far hardware like this can reach but I guess one aspect that should register is the fact that hypothetically you could phone anyone and interview them as part of your podcast -- no matter where they live on the planet. There's no transcribing to be done. Just person to person. As a news gathering resource sharing audio like that has to be a big plus.

What may be sound quality issues aside, it sure generates news and views.

Similarly because podcasting is an easy DIY,with a low tech outlay, it is open  to a wide range of contributors. Free Speech Radio News in its heyday drew on audio journalists from an array of countries, who'd contribute short grab stories from their locations across the globe. Some of it was pretty rough but in the mix of reports the overview was unique coverage.

Democracy Now! -- despite its achievements -- embraces production values and a format that is not so easily grassroots. It is a show that tends to locate the dialogue between the two anchors and their guests.

I think there is a lot to be said for rough audio, rough journalism, if the niche being pursued is not being serviced. Production values and skilling up will no doubt improve over time  but as the experience of Rabble.ca suggests, you never know where audio will take you.

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The Discreet Charm of Bosses

How can I put this without giving offence?

There are some in our society who live off the labour of others.

Don't get me wrong. Most of us get along without recourse to such means, but there are an anonymous few who exploit their fellow human beings without compunction — and, what's more, they have been doing it unchallenged for years.

Does that seem so fantastic? Here is a conspiracy going on under our very noses, and no-one owns up to it. You won't read about it on the front page of the local daily, nor has Sixty Minutes covered the story. But these types do exist.

They're among us now.

[2:46   2.7 MB]

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Covering G20 -- one medium at a time

There's nothing like a good excuse. 

Despite the threats and the bullying, the heightened temperatures and the challenge of negotiating travel through a locked down city, I took my audio recording rig to the G20 Peoples March.

My plan was to record enough POV and soundscape audio at the event to fill up 15 minutes of on air --'play'-- time.

It turned out that once I got to editing -- with a strict preference for  density in mind -- I produced an audio recording of 8 minutes and 18 seconds duration. 

The Blather goes to the G20
[8:18   8.0MB]

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To state the obvious, I recorded a lot more than 8 minutes at the event.

I  'interviewed' participants. I recorded some of the speeches and I accompanied the chanting crowds as they marched across the town with my microphone switched to 'on'. Later, it took me 3 hours  to edit the material down...but then I'm rusty. I came home with 32 separate audio files I had to review and edit from.

Of course an event like this is a media circus. Aside from all the mainstream prattle, online there are video and text perspectives  as well as some stunning photographs -- especially when Zebedee Parks is behind the camera -- from a left and participant's POV.

What I want to draw your attention to is that by utilising montage layering of sound and voices, I was able to capture a range of opinions and deliver them online in a very short (just over 8 minutes) and very small (8MB) package.
TECH NOTE:Indeed I could have swapped some quality easily for a much smaller sized file (delivered at 128 kbps but I could have shaved that to 64 kbps). But at 8 minutes in length, why bother? The recording was captured in .WAV format and exported and published as .mp3.
Given that I'm walking among a couple of thousand people with a small recording contraption in my hand, the sound quality is very good.I'm no audio-engineer but  for an initial day-out-with-rig, I thought my gear performed extremely well.

I've done this sort of thing before... for example:
The Blather goes to an antiwar rally on March 18th, 2006, and talks with participants who are protesting against the continuing occupation of Iraq. 
15 min 22 secs / 7.04 MB / Mono / 64 kbps / 44 kHz
Listen: Mp3 download  (TECH NOTE: twice the length but offered at 64 kbps)
...but it seems to me that very few other folk are doing it. Despite the rich traditions of community radio and Indymedia based audio activism, it's a rare occasion today that you'll see a roving microphone at a protest rally. In part this is due to what was a hardware problem  with many mobile rigs in the past costing a lot of money or the limitations of the radio preferred MiniDisc recorder. Nowadays that's all changed with these new digital devices being readily available.

Unfortunately, radio activism so often tends to be studio based and until recently, analog contained rather than digitalised.Given that you have a 'home' to withdraw to, full of lots of electronic gear and 7 days of programming to deliver, this makes sense.  But with single program online distribution your options can be freer and much lower tech.

"But so what," you ask ,"Isn't the online world's news frontier ruled by YouTube?"

Of course it is, but you could just as easily be disparaging of text as a news medium...but of course text survives very nicely...and why it survives may tell us a little about the ongoing relevance of all  media. 

I'll leave that for homework...but what I wanted to explore here in this post was how audio can be a uniquely useful form of reportage. Sure you can employ voice-over journalism and read out 'the news' as a third person/spoken about  happening -- but nothing quotes like audio because it's so first person -- the person speaking -- in its delivery. 

Indeed to generate x number of opinions (as I've done with this protest audio) by using video instead, would have  been  cumbersome . Furthermore the context of the exchange -- the interview -- would have been contained by a certain artificial formality because you are challenged by a camera in-your-face while you speak.
In the audio, compare speakers' platform speak with the interviews.
Some of the grabs I've included in the audio mix are walk-and-talk. There's no focus issues. No in-shot problems. Just a small microphone held up toward the  head of the person while eye contact is maintained between interviewer and interviewee. 

Much more 'intimate'.

This has been explored before seriously and academically through the milieu of oral history taking.Indeed, collecting points of view rather than focusing  on the third person narrative can often  be a richer  --and more real --take on an event. Any interviewer working from that perspective -- and Studs Terkl is a great example of such a skilled practitioner -- is not trying to engineer a sound grab...or a headline. What I like about it is that like Howard Zinn or E.P.Thompson this approach puts people in charge of their own history telling, their own narrative.

Much as I appreciate  'the media' per se -- its newsiness -- and what supposedly are the rigours of contemporary journalism -- just because the mainstream does it one way, doesn't mean that we should fall completely in step behind.

I've written journalese (in my day) about many  political events but ultimately, with its formulaic take the  standard journalism template can miss so much. By making it a routine news item, depth can be lost, primarily because only so few voices are heard.

Anyone who is media savvy -- and justifiably cynical -- knows how manipulated the bourgeois media can be despite  its proclaimed even handedness. But our everyday existence is formatted by conversation and dialogue. On the left, political  culture is ruled by discourse (and debate) -- despite hard copy and online publications, our medium is  primarily oral.Being left is about really working hard at generating a logical  opinion...articulating and sharing it.

Opinions rule because every lefty has one.

I think  a lot of left journalism cheapens that.  I am not trying to undermine the platform  -- I'm just trying to channel, what I think is, the reality.

That 2000 people gathered in Brisbane and marched against the G20  after being addressed by A , B and C  is 'journalism'. Facts. All necessary.

That the protest was militant and enthusiastic can be captured in video and still image. More fact.

That the experience of the event was layered by a range of interpretations and analyses among participants as shared via   the spoken word can enrich that mix so much more. It gives it greater traction. More relevance. A richer didacticism. More depth. Very person-in-the street: vox populi.

I'm not saying that audio is standalone stuff. I may consider it the truest medium, the one less open to spin. But that's my opinion. While I think it is the most neglected  I also  like looking at pictures,  as well as moving ones, and I love how succinct text can be.

I'm not talking about either/or so much as also..


It helps  a lot if you get into a media comfort zone you inahabit with some philosophy in mind. My 'special place' is ruled by montage  especially Soviet Montage experiments -- notably  Dzig Vertov. Indeed much of my outlook is ruled by montage this or that -- such as various takes on photomontage and that old warhorse, collage.
I won't take off here I promise. I'll try to restrain  my  ardour when I embrace this topic.
While the norm is to treat montage as a visual medium -- sound collaging is more than music. For my ear I've always been much taken with the audio mixes created by the Canadian film maker, Athur Lipsett.

Of course this may seem terribly 'arty', but mixes like this are standard 'collages' in Hip Hop, for instance, through the easy DIY of digital sampling.

I'm not arguing for  avant garde 'news' making, so much as  trying to suggest that audio lends itself to 'sampling' while still maintaining a logical and comprehensible progression. Indeed a conversation is a mix of voices...and an interview is a conversation with a purpose. 

'Samples' all. Dialogue to and fro.Point vs counterpoint.

And that's the irony (assuming you can follow me). While I can pull 'samples' of talk out of a collection of recordings generated at the one event and 'mix' them it is more reflective of  our everyday existence than we  recognise.

Indeed, with the digital tools currently available I can telephone almost anyone and interview them as I record the exchange.  The ABC's  radio news programs,  AM and PM, often rely on phone interviews to generate content.
My view is that precisely because the news is collected (recorded and presented) this way, it is less prone to 'spin' or manipulation.
What are these interviews  if not a montage of voices in a succession of 'news item' packages.  

Enter podcasting...and Skypecasting

When podcasting took off -- through the work of Adam Curry in collaboration with Dave Winer, a developer of RSS feed -- portable audio  could move away from  the restraints of radio. This is a very recent history.
Podcasting, first known as "audioblogging" has its roots dating back to the 1980s. With the advent of broadband internet and portable digital audio playback devices such as the iPod, began to catch hold in late 2004. Today there are more than 115,000 English-language podcasts available on the internet,and dozens of websites available for distribution at little or no cost to the producer or listener.
Much of the phenomenon has been driven by person to person interviews as copyright law precluded online sharing of music. Many of these interviews have employed, what's called , Skypecasting to generate the recorded audio.In effect one person 'phones' another via internet VOIP while the two way conversation is recorded for later sharing online. Because podcasting wallows in low tech, low cost, and low capitalisation,  the process was rougher than radio phone in connections, sometimes more cumbersome but then, a lot cheaper and much more accessible without the restraining  regulations that rule over radio production.

What Skyecasting did was enable interviews to be conducted and recorded with anyone you could ring via a Skype account. Of course the quality is not like in-studio chat.It's a phone conversation afterall. But hypothetically you could sit at a desktop and ring around a succession of contacts to generate  POV interviews so long as you kept within the law.[See  6 Essentials for recording phone interviews.] 

Nowadays there are more ways to record phone interviews than relying on Skype. You can, for instance, capture good audio quality off land lines and mobile phone connections with some of the (often inexpensive) devices currently available.
It was my preferred approach  to record off land lines and previously when I was podcasting I rigged a build to do this. The recording devices, and the sound quality,  are so much better today and a lot easier to use.

An attempt at a summary.

I apologise for being so discursive but,in effect, I'm sharing a series of notes:
In the next, and probably final, instalment, I'll look at some contemporary podcast examples and consider their relevance as working models we could learn much from. 
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The Blather attends the G20

About 2000 people gathered at Roma St Forum in Brisbane for the Peoples' March against the G20 Summit on November 15.

Aboriginal activists kicked off  the speeches and a march, surrounding by heavy police presence, followed.

Multiple issues were  raised at the protest, including Aboriginal deaths in police custody, demand for action on climate change, support for renewable energy, and highlighting the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico, while the Mexican president is in town.

Protesters also opposed the corporate agenda the G20 meeting was pushing.

The Blather was there...

[8:18   8.0MB]

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Some notes on podcasting and online audio.

After rejigging my podcasting career I am indeed an audiophile.

I may be a very crude engineer when it comes to sound quality but my preference is playing around with different expressed points of view when layering an edit.

Audio like that is so goddamn dense. It is such a rich medium, such that in the space of a very few minutes you can either say a lot or express it very well. It's the intensity of the package wherein  nothing much distracts from what is being said and how it is being expressed.
German playwright  and Marxist, Bertolt Brecht wrote in  his 1926 essay The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication.:
"Radio is one sided when it should be two. It is purely an apparatus for distribution, for mere sharing out. So here is a positive suggestion: change this apparatus over from distribution to communication. The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him. On this principle the radio should step out of the supply business and organise its listeners as suppliers."
This reminds is of the internet does it not? Maybe he could not envisage talk back radio but I guess it's the thought that counts.
It also raises, to my mind, the option of actually vox popping the people rather than have them come to you, such as in a studio context. Podcasting, even when low tech,  can do that. When I do a later post I'll address this question and its engineering issues.
However, radio or online  audio suffers from a major handicap: it's not video -- and, as we know, video killed the radio stars. 

But the current celebration of online video per  YouTube  is ironic given:
  • that you have to stay on the same web page to watch it
  • that is is extremely demanding of bandwidth 
  • you have to pay for the time you use all that  bandwidth
Nowadays as folk enjoy faster internet times with more bandwidth to exploit, watching video is an online, and very casual, habit. .. for those who can afford it. Indeed, video files -- watching, downloading and sharing of them -- are a major driver of internet use and creativity. This is so much the case that you'd think that video (and games) was where it is all at. 

On that point I too was seduced.That's one of the reasons why I gave up podcasting and switched to exploring video. 

Was not a good move. Hindsight speaking here. 

In the years of my exile things have changed. Podcasting has survived. As Radio Survivor points out, the business of podcasting is booming. But aside from the question of money and start ups, amateur, small scale and hobby podcasting does have a continuing niche. Why? RS comments:
Of course, the ability to produce podcasts does not inherently result in listeners. While I don’t mean to dismiss this imbalance, this is truly no different than any mass medium. Just because you build it does not mean they will come. At the same time, if you don’t build it, you can guarantee they won’t come. I think it’s worth examining the drive to reach a large and ever-growing audience. Not that I think one shouldn’t have this goal, but it doesn’t have to be everyone’s goal. What often matters more is that media message is available for those people who may enjoy or benefit from it. That may be millions, thousands, hundreds or just a few people. But if you don’t ever put your podcast out there, you’ll never know. Even if a podcaster’s audience is small, each one of those listeners is still important. It’s like the well-worn observation about the Velvet Underground: They didn’t sell a lot of records, but everyone who bought one went out and started a band (influenced by VU). Impact, influence and connection can and must be measured by more than downloads and CPMs.
I also suspect that as most community radio stations digitalise they will be forced by government to move onto the internet  as part of their funding arrangement.This has already happened with community television. Of course this sabotages any geographical sense of 'community' as  masts or towers traditionally transmit  to a confined area and its community of peeps.

While community radio does podcast (Example: 3CR) the Catch 22 complication is that copyright regulations make it very difficult (read 'mostly  illegal') to do so if any music is used as part of programming. Songs included need to be removed before the podcasts is shared online. On top of that are some archaic regulations like the requirement for frequent station identification...and that all programs need to be archived if later scrutiny is required.

So the push is likely to be for online  streaming  -- but there, streaming isn't audio on demand as you'd still be held hostage to what's being streamed in real time...just like radio today. However, even online streaming has been cause for copyright disputes
Example: Around 200 local radio stations to cease online broadcast in music licence stoush.
And therein hangs one of podcasting's advantages: on demand audio. You get to listen to your program or episode preference as it suits you. And you can do that very conveniently either by listening online, downloading the audio file or by subscribing to the programming for automatic download  in-the-background of your other online activities.

All that's then required is the inclination and time to listen.

But who's listening?

I've been thinking about that -- given that listening to audio online does  not seem to be the fashion. 

Or does it? 

In that I think Spotify is a game changer.
Spotify is a commercial music streaming service providing digital rights management-restricted content from record labels including Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group and Universal. Music can be browsed or searched by artist, album, genre, playlist, or record label. Paid "Premium" subscriptions remove advertisements and allow users to download music to listen to offline. On computers, a link allows users to purchase selected material via partner retailers.
By May 2014,after 5 years of online existence, Spotify had grown to ten million paying customers and 30 million free users.

I'm not concerned here so much with DRM but the popularity of Spotify changes the way folk use the internet. They're listening ONLINE....rather than looking at screens.

Just like a podcast.

If you are unfamiliar with podcasting you also need to know that most podcasts are listed and shared as part of the iTunes package, my own included. To find a podcast, listen to it and subscribe is a very easy DIY. At present there are 800 million iTunes accounts on the planet...and,in sync with such a figure, there are over 1 billion podcast subscriptions.
Apple says that those billion subscriptions are spread across 250,000 unique podcasts in more than 100 languages, and that more than 8 million episodes have been published in the iTunes Store to date.
So are you getting my drift?

Rather than falling by the wayside, podcasting is not only surviving but doing OK.  Many of the most popular podcasts are no doubt   programs shared online by already existing radio stations. Here in Australia, the ABC offers many podcasts. In the US, the NPR network is a major and popular podcast generator....and the daily news program,  Democracy Now!  --while it began life as a Pasifica Radio Network program broadcast, quickly adapted to podcasting --is probably one of the most successful transitions to podcasting from 'community radio' . With its combined video and audio offerings, it is one of the top 50000 sites in the world according to Alexa (ranking:#15,820).

There's more to the podcasting story which I'll follow up with a later post but for now, my message is that podcasting still talks the talk and regardless of whatever may seem otherwise...folk are listening...and they are listening on a massive range of mobile devices as well as desktops.

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Some recent cartoons : reasons for cynicism

Almost routine is the fact that reasons for cynicism rain down upon us and with a little bit of cut and paste the energy is harnessed for the common good.

Click on images for enlarged view.

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I reckon I'm pretty much reconciled.
Yep. I'm much more reconciled than I was last week.
Reconciliation is all the go. I'm reconciled. You're reconciled. We are all reconciled. Oh, it's just lovely. Brings a tear to my eye it does.
You wouldn't by chance be Aboriginal would you?
Not even the teeniest?
Because if you were I could reconcile with you and you could reconcile with me and it would be like the real thing.

[1:26   1.4MB]

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The bit what's left

In a standard working day of eight hours, it may take me four hours to produce the equivalent of my wages. If the time needed to cover my wage packet is reduced from four to two hours, then the bit what's left increases from four to six hours.

It is the bit what's left that makes free enterprise what it is today — exceedingly profitable... 
[2:52 2.8MB]

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Podcast This.

I'd forgotten that before I was engaged in what I may do now, I used to podcast...that is, with audio.

I ran three podcasts: LeftCast, The Blather and LatinRadical. This last one I later partnered with Warrick Fry after setting it up initially as an on-the-spot reportage from Venezuela.

I later established  an online audio/video project under the banner Education for Socialists.

Sony MinDisc
But my audio activism kind of petered out despite my intense engagement and the skill set I worked so hard to attain. I started shooting video in sync with  rising frustrated with the recording rigs I was using.

I had been using  Sony minidisc recording setups and while they offered great sound, these devices weren't digital friendly and while they were cumbersome to use with Windows operating system,  the Sony minidisc doesn't talk at all to a Mac. So when I changed over to a Mac desktop,  that was it. I  had locked myself out my portable recording options.

So I started doing video for a time....Then the online storage site I used,  changed its guarantees and  arrangements ...and unilaterally deleted ALL MY UPLOADED VIDEOS!
Telling them to 'get fucked' did not help. It was a dot com takeover, you see.
Bud Fox: Why do you need to wreck this company?
Gordon Gekko: Because it's WRECKABLE, all right?
Back in that day -- 2005/2006/2008 -- out and about, you either recorded audio on minidiscs or an iRiver IFP  Mp3 player.Flash recorders were coming in but they were too expensive for a pauper like me.

So I thought the whole multimedia thing had run its course with me...until  I  got called back to --at least reminded of -- the podcasting lark only recently. 

I thought: 
Hey! I loved doing that! Why did I ever give it up? 
So I went back over the online archive at the various sites, only to be impressed with what I'd produced. A lot of it has been lost to the ethers. The storage conundrum again. But it's a thrill to go back and revisit those moments through the earphones.
I guess another reason for my drift away from audio recording was my circle of comrades and friends were juiced up with  YouTubery and that seemed to be where online multimedia was at.
A lot of what I produced is rough..but as I skilled up the quality and focus of my output improved. I was working with a couple of radio stations (here and overseas)  who'd air my stuff  and doing radio panel training at a third. Unfortunately the radio instruction was at an analogue station (at the time) so it was archaic instrumentation we were taught to master.

But then... the principles are the same: gain, mic types....impedance and stuff. En route you learn to respect the disc jockeys of the past because queuing so much vinyl would have been exhausting work for but 2 hands.

Before mice were invented...

The Here and Now.

So after going back I started to look forward...and began to renovate one of my old podcasts  -- The Blather. 

Everything still works.It still occupies its space on iTunes.Even the channel/station pop ups work! 

After 6 years! 

Some shows have been lost. 
I did keep the original recordings  but...
But aside from the fact I don't have a portable recording device to  cart out and about, I'm tooled up.
FYI: Most podcasts are recorded in house -- in some sort of desktop studio -- with microphone direct into computer. Chat and stuff. Whereas I preferred to use a portable device and loved to go out and about recording stuff.Even for delivering monologues I preferred mobility to sitting down and speaking into  LCD screen space. Radio teaches you tricks for this but talking to nothing else -- least ways nothing alive -- is real hard yakker. Makes one very self conscious.
Zoom H1
But on that point of devices the news is good. After a bit of Googling I located a Zoom H1 Handy Recorder at an obscenely cheap price. This is a flash recorder  for $85...and it's Mac friendly.

So really, nothing can stop me now....

Podcasting Perspectives

I'm over a lot of the initial excitement of years back and I guess I'm much more confident and able. Nonetheless, truth to tell, I don't have any set game plan. I think I'll throw a mixed bag of audio at The Blather recorded from various contexts. Some of it will be scripted and a lot of it will be out-and-about (such as at protest marches and other political events).

So what you do is walk around with your recorder in tow, grabbing sound bytes ...interviewing...soundscaping.

I guess my bag -- my preferences -- my media dispositions -- today are very clear to me:
  • comics -- making graphics by using collage techniques(rather than relying on Photoshoppery) -- with the option to do more stop motion animations
  • taking photographs (rather than shooting video)
  • recording audio (on-the-run rather than sedentarily) 
Indeed I can see where I can combine this media online. I do that with the photographs and comics now...so why not 'add' audio?

Later on I'll write a little something -- in McLuhanist mode -- about the difference between  videotaping an event and audio recording it. I'd also ponder the dichotomy between a photo essay and a video report of the same occasion. It's  not that I'm against video -- I watch heaps of the stuff! -- but it's a very 'cool' medium. 
For Marshall McLuhan ‘cool’ visual mediums are video and  cartoons which are extensions of a physical sense in “low-definition.” These forms  require from the audience a higher degree of participation.‘Hot’ medium, on the other hand, is an extension of a physical sense that is dense with information. For instance, McLuhan gives the examples of the image and text as ‘hot’ visual mediums. They are ‘hot’ because they provide an abundance of visual data to the eyes and leave little room for interpretation and further thought on the part of the audience.

The Conundrum of Online Storage

Since the dot com universe is very fluid -- what with cowboy  raids and start ups a plenty -- securing reliable free storage for your audio file has proven difficult.
Ironic when you consider the small sizes of  audio files compared to all the huge video files that get taken up, gratis, by YouTube...
I had been well served by Radio4All  but that was often 'down'. I also used archive.org which was more reliable but a pain to use. Initially I had used ODEO -- which offered a great DIY interface and widgets -- but the ODEO folks kinda lost interest in audio and went on to found a little something called Twitter...
At the time I thought: who would ever want to 'tweet'?  
This time around I'm exploring the use of Google Drive. I appreciate that option because I'm in control without having to play up to funny bugger protocols and upload hierarchies. The process  of publishing your audio --sharing the file --is simplisimo. Very nice 'hack' it is.
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In comic mode..some recent cartoon commentary

I seem to have experienced a recent graphic frenzy. 
One after another; even a few in a couple of 24 hour periods! 
In mouse mode: click...click...click.
All my graphic work -- my comic making -- hangs out at PunchRatbag and I now do the political stuff under the nom de plume of 'Prof Ratbag. 
It should really be 'nom de' mouse.
Work quickly. Spontaneously. Improvise....then Upload the sucker!

Click on images for enlarged view.

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Recent comics...

Some recent comics with Australian contemporary politics  in mind.
Click on image to enlarge view.

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A year in comics -- being contemplative musings on the best read and my own graphic adventures

Infographic webside
I am now  habituated to reading comics. 'Tis a passion that has taken over much of my reading preferences.

Through 2013 I've read quite a few of what gets called 'graphic novels'--
A graphic novel is a book made up of comics content. Although the word "novel" normally refers to long fictional works, the term "graphic novel" is applied broadly, and includes fiction, non-fiction, and anthologized work. It is distinguished from the term "comic book", which is used for comics periodicals (ref).
I guess most of what I've read can be called graphic novels but I've learnt to appreciate the periodicals too.

There has been a mix of quality in what I've read.  I won't detail my preferences, but here is my top ten list for the year (in no particular order/you can get more details here):
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (Scott McCloud)
Hey, Wait... (Jason)
Tits and Clits (Various women)
Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life (Ulli Lust)
Percy Gloom (Cathy Malkasian )
Monologues for the Coming Plague (Anders Nilsen)
Box Office Poison ( Alex Robinson)
Why I Hate Saturn ( Kyle Baker)
Stuck Rubber Baby (Howard Cruise)
Drawn to New York: An Illustrated Chronicle of Three Decades in New York City (Peter Kuper)
It has been an amazing  journey both through graphics , dialogue, characterisations and story telling such that I'm gobsmacked at the skill and creativity of the folk who make this stuff.

Among my stand out preferences this last year  has to be Peter Kuper: always inventive, engaging and wryly observant. A great talent. But it is to the women I owe my biggest collective debt: Ulli Lust, Cathy Malkasian, Mary Fleener and M.K Brown. Already this year I'm blown away by Gabrielle Bell and can't wait to get my hands on Joyce Farmer's Special Exits.

Why women? Because so much comic work generated by men is misogynist, arrogant and self serving...more so than you'd find in many literary genres. It's a burden than cheapens the medium. It is machismo and sexism that has played such a big part in underground and  alternative comics culture.

As for me...

While I suffer from bouts of comic makers/collage artist's block, I have been productive and experimental. I'm learning by dint of self taught DIY.

Since I'm not drawing or inking I'm not in sync with these others. I may start drawing over the next year -- combining art work with my photomontage and collage approach -- such that my work will tend towards a sort of assemblage or scrap book medium with words . I love the improvisational  impulse offered by finding graphics and working through the stimulus they offer.

And besides I can work more quickly using found objects than generating panels from scratch with pen or brush.

That's laborious.

I also hope to create more stop motion animations. But it is very time consuming to do so, although my technique is becoming more inventive.

My problem is that I have more projects in my head than my creativity discipline is up to fulfilling.  So that's the gambit, I guess: I need to develop more  discipline . 

Mind you if I did manage to sentence myself to the comicifying on a work-a-day sort of schedule it would be quite an adventure. I can envisage a niche I could fill if I could only skill up.

But then, while my dyslexia worsens (a cognitive symptom  of my Fibromyalgia) I'm gonna have to get myself a proof reader cum editor to correct my  seemingly silly mistakes. 
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Who is the meanest in the land?

Moving right along with the possibilities I am now exploring l..o..n..g comics that run down the page. Easy to scroll through as the storyline unfolds. 

Suits mobile devices too. 

Inspired by The Oatmeal, techniques like this suit the web despite being hard copy unfriendly. 

But longer/page-down comics should also mean that I have more room to say stuff -- good or bad as that may be.  Nonetheless, this is the technique ruled over by Rius in his various political books , esp his 'For Beginners' series.

Messy -- but it works.

Deploy photomontage and there you have it...whatever it is.
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Idiosyncratic Webcomics: making them and sharing them

I've now been working at the webcomic coal face for just over a year -- since August last year -- and have produced over 100 strips I'm keen on moving up a notch .

On average that's  almost a  new comic strip every three days.

I'm delighted to have found something that speaks to me and in its idiosyncratic way aggregates so much of what I've done and pursued. It also congeals my obsessions and inadequacies while allowing me to be creative despite my disabilities.

Its' win:win from my POV and I only wish I'd got into this stuff earlier. But who woulda thought that I could go back to puppetry -- and masks/faces -- via a digital and online route?

Now that I'm experimenting with political satire -- and harking back to my Life of Riley days -- I'm working a broader canvas than the initial puppet dialogue format I began with. 

Of course there is other stuff in the offing. I'm gonna finish my memoir -- Young Ratbag --soon enough. If it wasn't for hindsight angst I'd be well through that project by now. Doing Harvey Pekar  and an Antipodean take on American Splendor  is a gruelling exercise in how you see yourself thus far.

It's like sifting through dross.
The irony is that while I make comics I'm not of the comic mode because I assemble my 'comics' from photographs. I'm a photomontage artiste  half way doing stand up monologues rather than  drawing and coloring the standard way of it to create comic panels.

Cut and Paste 

Does that mean I lack artistic talent?

Maybe I'll do some more hand held coloured pencil work but I'm finding that cut and paste is a very powerful medium in itself. As I skill up I'm pushing the envelope in directions that surprise me. 

But  my cut and paste is consciously cruder than Photoshoppery. The photomontage I relate to is anchored in  German Dadaism and is self  consciously 'assembled elements'. There's an irony in the fact -- well I think it is a fact -- that a puppet ( such as on Sesame Street or Mr Punch) is more alive than CGI  or some  seamless realism, such as in video games,  created on a computer. From my POV the contradiction of fusing disparate elements together -- such as pasting my mouth onto Mr Punch's face -- makes the whole business more personable and intimate. That I appear to have a limited emotional range on call from hand puppets, merely ups the anti. 

And besides I have my fans. Yes indeedy do I have aficionados who seem to dig what I'm trying to do. 

This then brings me to a sort of anniversary action:

Once I work out the DIY I'm gonna start publishing my comics in ebook format. That means you'll be able to  download a collection and read them on your mobile device or , if you want, print off your favorite strips. 

Some storylines like Fibromyalgia for Beginners and Girt By Sea are standalone,  and are ready to go (if I knew how -- I need to study up the method). But the rag tag meandering panels featuring Mr Punch may have to be culled to a sort of 'best of' collection or 'editions' just like printed comic books. But the effort is worthwhile as I can get distribution via sites like Amazon, etc.

I suspect that the endeavour is warranted.
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