Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Grab bag of thoughts on Ihnatko, the SGU, Virtual Skeptics and otherstuff too

The Ihnatko Almanac has just celebrated the release of its 100th episode.  While the Alamanac is not a skeptic podcast, Mr. Ihnatko with his discussions of tech, movie, and comic book nerdery does have a fair amount of overlap with many skeptics' general interests.  Also, as I have noted before, Ihnatko is one of the best talents in podcasting today.  While I may not always agree with his opinions on tech gear and pop culture items, I never cease enjoying him discussing such matters.  In part, it is because he understands what he is doing is not radio, it is not television, and it is not even video on the web; no, he embraces the podcast. 

One of the items he discusses on this episode is actually how egalitarian the podcasting format is for being to record and share.  All one needs is a microphone, some basic software, a not so expensive computer of some sort and one is off to the races.  Unlike video, how one looks and, beyond some basic audio clarity issues, how one sounds is far less important than the content.  Content is king with podcasts.  As a bonus, podcasts can be enjoyed by nearly anyone one who has their smartphone with them. 

Yes, some folks are more polished and skilled in the verbal arts than others.  One can have the most dulcet voice, but if the content is not there week in and week out the audience won’t be there.  Ihnatko has this conversation with Dan Benjamin the head of the 5by5 network who also understands and embraces the media.  Yes, Ihnatko also appears on the T.W.i.T. network which has audio and video, and while T.W.i.T. is very slick, Leo Leporte treats it like live radio or television.  Leo is talking to a crowd while Ihnatko and Benjamin are talking to you the individual. 

Other than some of the interesting stuff that the College of Curiosity releases on their outlets, 5by5 as a whole but especially Ihnatko are one to listen to for learning a thing or two on how to make a podcast work. 

In other matters, I listened to the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe for the last two weeks. The first time to get a feel for the show after a few months not listening and the second one since it was live from NECSS with guest, Dr. Paul Offitt.  Both episodes were quite fine.  It was the SGU, which is not a bad thing.  There was nothing in either episode that struck me that they did particularly well that I had not heard or read on another podcast or blog.  Yet, the show still has the benefit of being the best one-stop shopping for weekly science and skeptical discussion.  I still recommend the show to anyone who wants to get the most listening bang for their buck on a weekly show. 

A few thoughts on the Virtual Skeptics. I have grown quite fond of this Vodcast even though it is not in the superior audio-only podcast format.  However, lately the Virtuals have on occasion uploaded the audio to Sound Cloud.  Sound Cloud is nearly as good as downloading an MP3 file to one’s smartphone except Sound Cloud is a streaming service so one always has to be connected to hear the show.  The show actually translates pretty decently to audio only.  Yes, there are times they are referring to some video or picture and one has no idea what they are giggling over, but it still works.  For those who demand their content is audio only, but still want to enjoy the banter of skeptical chatter, this is the best solution so far. 

Yes, Geologist, Skeptic, Writer, and Doubtful News website Czarina, Sharon Hill has stuck with her decision to leave the show to use this time for other activities.  The show has soldiered on without her to continued entertaining results, but the show is just off a beat.  It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes the chemistry work on a show.  As I have noted before, having an actual scientist on a show is a bonus.  There is always someone to hold the till of the show to keep it from going off course.  When Barbara Drescher was that week’s Sharon, her presence seemed to pull things together a bit. 

I do not know what the long terms plans are for the Virtual Skeptics, but I do think recruiting an affable scientist for the panel would be well advised. 

Finally, circling back to the College of Curiosity.  The podcast Oddments featured John Greenman reading articles written by Mark Twain when he worked for the San Francisco Daily Morning Call in 1864.  By today's standards, it is terribly politically incorrect and some points downright offensive, especially to modern ears.  Yet, it is a great 20-minute exhibition on how wonderful Twain was crafting a phrase while painting a vibrant picture of the events described in his articles.  If only I and about two-thirds of the blogs I read could just have an ounce of such talent.  Too many people substitute snark for wry humor and 'trigger warning' to produce an impact.  Now, not everyone should or ought to ape Twain's style, but more people including myself should at least try and hone such a voice. 

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