June 13th, The Inexplicably Big Day in the Southeast

One of the things I’ve noticed from living near Myrtle Beach is that there will be stretches where there aren’t any events I care about, then a weekend were everything happens all at once. June 13th is one of those days where in my drivable radius there are a bunch of events. In rough order of closest to farthest

  • Myrtle Beach, SC: At the Baker’s Dog on June 13th will be Pet Portrait Day. I’d like to take Koga there. The whole affair is part of a professional photographer going on tour to raise awareness for animal shelters. Sign me up.
  • Durham, NC: Wordcamp RDU will be that day. Note that if you go to the front page you’ll see Wayne Sutton’s smiling face. I first met him at Converge South 2007 when we walked together from the conference building to the parking lot. Since then he has really become a North Carolina new media superstar. The conference looks really interesting and worth pursuing if you are anywhere close and anywhere involved in WordPress.
  • Clemson, SC: On June 13th, the Southeast Linux Fest will be held on Clemson campus. Fyers for this event are hanging in my workplace and I’ve seen some of the Charleston people talking about going to this event. The speaking schedule looks pretty interesting to me, but I really don’t think I can swing attending. I’m glad it is happening in my part of the country though.
  • Atlanta, GA: The Susi French Connection is the side project of the Gentle Readers and a band I really love seeing. On June 13 they will be playing an early and late show at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur. We went to Atlanta last fall specifically to see them when the Gentle Readers were reforming to play as the opening act. This time Herman Put Down the Gun is opening, but I’m sure the show will rock it out. As they say in their web page “If you don’t have a superlative time at a Susi French show, you must be an evildoer.” Check it out and tell them I sent you.

There might even be more events that I could drive to and would attend. If I find more, I’ll update this post and put them in. Big day, no?

Around the Podosphere – 5/28/09

Here are a few things I’ve listened to that jumped out at me as being interesting. All are comic book related, just the way it fell.

  • Here is exactly the kind of show I always say that podcast exists for. I don’t know exactly how wide the audience is for a 75 minute show entirely about the first issue of Flash: Rebirth #1 but I am in that group. I liked this show a lot. I’m a reader of this miniseries. The Flash is one of my favorite superheroes and I used to collect this preferentially over most when I was a small boy. I’ve been in and out of comic collecting for the last 20 years and really appreciated these guys catching me up to speed on the last decade of the character. This is in excruciating detail, but by gum I am in the market for that on this subject matter.
  • I listened to this episode of Inkstuds which was an interview with Chris Brandt. The interview was all about the documentary he directed, Independents: A Guide for the Creative Spirit. The movie looks pretty good. They offer a quantity retailer discount of 50% if you buy 3 or more copies of the DVD. I’ve already got a person to go in with me on one of those deals, so at this point it’s gravy. Leave a comment if you are interested in getting this documentary at 50% + shipping.
  • Also on Inkstuds was this interview with Craig Yoe. There was a moment of hilarity when Yoe was talking about Joe Shuster’s work on “Nights of Horror.” Because of his Ohio accent, both Robin the host and myself listening in my car could not distinguish whether he was saying “horror” or “whore”. In the context of the conversation of the book Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster, either word was plausible. For a little bit, it was a real Abbot and Costello routine there. This was a very good interview. In fact these two Inkstuds shows were back to back in my queue and the two I liked best in the last 6 months.

Balticon 2009 in Strobe Flashes

Dave Slusher

I’m really bad at doing thorough con wrap-ups, as evidenced by the fact that I usually don’t actually finish them. I though about presenting my Balticon 2009 wrapup as a compressed novel in honor of the recently late but always great JG Ballard but that turned out to be really difficult. Imagine that. That is now a scratched idea.

I’ll present a series of snapshots of my weekend. It won’t be as exhaustive as I was exhausted. I met a whole lot of great people that were new to me and basically had a blast the whole time. As always, I missed a few names here and there and will forget to mention people and things. This cannot and will not be a complete document of the event, just a quick strobe light version of quick shots.

  • Paul Fischer invited me something like five times before I could accept this year and I’m glad I did. I met him for the first time, along with people I was either meeting for for the first time really talking to such as Phil Rossi, Earl Newton and Annie Turner, A Kovacs aka A Real Girl, Ross Scott, Tom Vincent, Matt Wallace, John Cmar, Jim Van Verth, Erk and many many others. You note that this list is mostly dudes, that’s because I’ve already met most of the ladies at previous events. I prioritize, you see.
  • The biggest downer of the way it was set up was that there was not a lot of mixing of new media track people and science fiction people. I randomly saw Keith R.A. Decandido in the bar on Sunday afternoon which led me into chatting and then attending a concert he was doing that night. If not for fortuitously seeing him, I wouldn’t have otherwise known he was there. There are multiple other stories like that. I made a specific point of going and talking to some of the SF people but it took work. I’d love to see more mixing, and I suggested an explicit mixer: something like a “SF folks and Podcast folks party” .
  • I saw from her blog late Sunday night that Kathryn Cramer and her family were at the con. I’ve been reading her blog for years and wanted to at least just say hello to her and tell her that I am a fan. As it happened, I got up Monday morning and went for a swim in the hotel pool. A few laps in she and her family also got in! It was slightly awkward to introduce myself wrapped in a wet towel, but I did it anyway because I Am That Guy.
  • Monday in the dealer’s room, late in the con, I was specifically looking for some John Brunner books. I wanted non-collectible cheap copies I can take to the beach without worry, and specifically I wanted books that were the transition from his 50’s schlockier style into what we know from the The Shockwave Rider and Stand on Zanzibar style books. As I was shopping, Kathryn’s husband David Hartwell was walking by. I don’t know the man, but I stopped him and introduced myself to him. He gamely helped me and browsed the shelf with me. He suggested Squares of the City as the closest available to what I was looking for. Bearing in mind I’m a complete stranger, I thought that was just a cool moment. He suggested I try Darrell Schweitzer, who also thought over the question and suggested The Whole Man as a good one but didn’t have a copy with him. I’m not sure what those guys were thinking about the whole deal, but I can’t imagine that old guard SF people have a problem with youngish (relatively) fans trying to broaden their understanding of the field.
  • Panelist Eye View

    The panels I was on were all fun. My talk Friday night was lightly attended but still worth doing and quite edifying. Thomas Gideon posts on the “broadcast vs peer media” panel in his con wrapup here. Before this weekend I didn’t already know Chris Lester and Phil Rossi, but I had a good time with them on the music in podcasting panel. The final one was the “Social Media Triage” panel with Evo Terra, which is the sole reason I created my Facebook account. Previous to this, I had resisted for years. In 50 minutes he walked through my mostly default, newly created shell account and pointed out to me and the audience things that could be one to make the account more effective for the goals I want to achieve. Really good stuff.

  • I was a little shocked at how early things shut down and Sunday night and how dead they were Monday, but in retrospect both were probably for the best. The bar closed down at 1 AM Sunday and I was still in the market for shenanigans but going to bed was better advised than what I would have done if the contrary was available.
  • I had a lot of fun walking the social graph (literally, like, walking). At one point I sat down at Mur Lafferty’s table and as people came and went I ended up talking with David Moldawer for a long time. The conversation ranged a lot of places and he asked if I was familiar with Hugh Macleod. I said that not only was I but that I explicitly referenced his “Sex and Cash Theory” about keeping your day job in my Friday night talk. David reached in his bag and pulled out a copy of Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity and gave it to me. It’s not published for a few weeks, but I have it in my car as I type. Right on! Thank you, David, you kind kind man.

There is undoubtedly more, but I’ll publish now and make other posts later. Publish early, publish often, don’t sit on it waiting for perfection. That is what I preach, no? I had a great time. Thanks to everyone who invited me, made the con possible, talked to me, and so on. It was a great weekend, well worth the 9 hour drive each way.

Balticon Hangover

I’ll attempt a writeup of my Balticon experience later today. This is no promise, considering that I never actually finished my Orcycon 2006 or Dragon*Con 2009 wrapups. Yesterday I had a panel from noon to 1 PM. I drove straight from my panel to Baja Fresh for lunch (second time that weekend eating there!) and from there got directly on the road home. It took right at 9 clock hours to get home, although I had a fairly long dinner break thanks to the fine citizens of southern Virginia, the tourists driving through and their very weird and complicated Subway sandwich orders.

One of the observations from the con really came home to roost in my last minute there. Tom Vincent was reminding me that “I have until Dragon*Con to get that thing we talked about done.” It was a few seconds into this conversation that I realized we weren’t talking about one big idea that will require some thought leadership and effort to make happen, it was an entirely second one from later in a conversation and one that I had forgotten about. At that moment I realized exactly how idea-rich and time-poor my existence is.

I have no grasp on how most people’s lives feel to them, but I have enough important, fun, needs-to-be-done things on my plate to consume at least the next few years and probably much longer. Some of these are personal projects, some are commercial, some are altruistic and communitarian but all need to be done (This is all on top of a pretty full day job with responsibility for building infrastructure for a fast growing company.). Rather than sit on these ideas, I’ll make an effort to throw some of them out into the world and see if they can perhaps get traction without my direct involvement. I’m not possessive and wanting to take credit necessarily, I just want the kind of world that exists after they’ve been implemented. Keep watching the skies!

Thanks to everyone that invited me to Balticon and spent a little of their preciously finite convention time hanging out with me. Huge blast, I should have done it years ago.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for May 22, 2009 – “CREATE South and Balticon, 2009 Style”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for May 22, 2009. This is my first ever episode recorded in a car. I give a wrapup to our 2009 CREATE South conference; I play my goto song for this kind of topic by Alana Davis; I then talk about Balticon and why from here on out I will be attending science fiction conferences with a podcast track and probably not any pure tech-centric or commercially organized new media conferences.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Balticon Rocks

I’m having a great time at Balticon. I’m shocked that it is early evening Sunday. I’ve been doing stuff practically non-stop since I got here and yet there are many many things I have yet to do, people I have yet to talk to and so forth. I’ve seen Brenda Clough and Keith DeCandido in the halls but not had a chance to talk to them. I briefly talked to Charlie Stross. If there is one flaw in how this has worked, I’ve spent lots of time with the podcast and new media people but not nearly enough with the SF people. That I bridge both worlds is great and I like it but it does make it hard to get everything in. I wish there were more events and activities that crossed over between two populations. I’m holding out hope for the hotel bar this evening.

Thanks to Paul Fischer for inviting me. It’s a blast and I feel even more the schmuck for not getting up here sooner. Y’all rock this house!

Off to Balticon

I’m heading out the door for Baltimore. I’m ahead of schedule, let’s hope that’s a good omen. I’m doing a Reality Break interview at 7 PM and then I’m giving my talk at 10 PM tonight. There is some talk that all programming in the room its in will be live streamed. If that’s the case, I’ll post the information about the stream to the blog with as much warning as I can.

I’ll have stuff packages in Baltimore. It might be an exercise in useless optimism but I’m bringing them anyway. If you always wanted one but didn’t get one and will be at Balticon, now is the time, citizens! See you there.

Michael Pollan on “Deep Agriculture” from the Long Now

I listened to an interesting episode of the SALT (Seminars about Long-term Thinking) from the Long Now Foundation. This episode was author Michael Pollan talking about “Deep Agriculture.” This is the same guy who wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I enjoyed this talk and was excited and enthused by it. It gives me hope that with a little political will, we can reform our food system away from the Nixon/Earl Butts model we’ve had for the last 40 years and into something more sustainable.

The current subsidy structure makes it most economical for agribusiness to raise food that makes us less healthy, has a huge environmental impact and doesn’t best serve the common good. I’d love to see this changed, but it’s hard to see anything that happens that requires political will from any politician. I’d love to be proven wrong though.

Cynicalman Movie

This makes me happy, that someone is making a Cynicalman movie. Even better, Matt Feazell himself is in this clip as “Dad”. I used to see him at various comic conventions around the south and I have a number of old Cynicalman issues myself. This movie is goofy as all hell, but that’s what I was in the market for with it. I can’t wait for the full version.

Balticon – T Minus 24 Hours

Very close to exactly 24 hours from now, I’ll be getting in my car and pointing it north up I-95 for my trip to Balticon. I’m excited about this trip. I have wanted to attend this convention for many years and am delighted to be able to do it. My talk “Amateur Means You Do It For Love” is pretty much prepared as my talks ever are. A page of loose notes is right on par for me talking an hour. The way I do these talks is to prepare a basic framework and then riff inside of it. I have no idea how most people do this, but this is what works for me.

I’m looking forward to this con, mainly because I like being able to attend a new media conference and also a science fiction convention simultaneously. Part of my talk has always included the fact that the history of SF culture is full of the same impulse that we in new media think we created. SF fans have been publishing their own fanzines for 75 years now.

If you are coming to the con, come see my talk Friday night at 10 PM in the Chesapeake Suite. There is some talk about this being live streamed, and I’ll post the information on that as soon as I get it. I assume it is being recorded and I’m going to try to videotape it myself. It should be a good time so come enjoy it with me!

Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input

The title of this post is what I see when I try to use Wolfram|Alpha. Repeatedly. Almost exclusively.

Q: How many calories in a latte? A: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.

Q: What wavelength is ultraviolet radiation? A: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.

Q;: calories burned swimming one mile A: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input. (Note, it can answer for running but not for swimming)

Q: net worth of Donald Trump A: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input. (It can tell me that Trump Tower is 1362 feet tall however)

Q: what percentage of queries to wolfram|alpha return answers? A: Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.

I heard Rudy Rucker interview Wolfram about this project before it went live and I was excited about getting a chance to play with it. I’ve been subscribing to Rucker’s podcast feed for years, and it is usually radio interviews he has done or recordings of his readings. This was something different and interesting, and I was sold on Alpha.

Last Friday I checked in on the launch, watched the video and waited impatiently for my own chance to kick the tires. Now that I have, I’m stifling a yawn. This was the sales pitch:

“Wolfram|Alpha can pop out an answer to pretty much any kind of factual question that you might pose to a scientist, economist, banker, or other kind of expert.”

The reality:

Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the questions I was asking the kind of things that any other kind of expert could answer? Some of them are simple matters of fact. This is not cherry picked, I have several dozen failed queries a lot like these. I’m still excited about what I was sold. Someone wake me when that thing is live.

Balticon Is Nearly Here

Next weekend, I’ll be a guest at Balticon in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I’ve never actually been to Maryland so this will be a big adventure to me. If you are wondering what to expect from the con, this promo should give you some idea.

I’ve got my first science fiction interview for Reality Break lined up and I hope to get a few more. I’m gearing up for my Friday night talk “Amateur Means You Do It For Love” (10 PM Friday night in the Chesapeake Suite). It’s kind of a reworking of the talk I gave at the Podcast Expo/New Media Expo in 2006. Back then, we were in the thick of the new media gold rush. I was trying to play Cassandra to warn that hitching your financial wagons to the podcast horse was not only a bad idea financially, it was a bad idea artistically. I tried to provide a framework for people to do their work without the “get rich quick” mentality that so pervaded the medium at that time.

Nowadays, the persuasive part of that talk is no longer necessary. History has born out what I was saying, so now the talk shifts to the idea of how we can do our work and find it valuable even if we know for certain we will never ever make a nickel off of it. This is why I like to focus inside out in this talks. The whole idea is to find a way that you are have succeeded in what you want to do by sitting at the microphone, and you’ve succeeded even better when you publish. Listeners and feedback and enthusiasm after the fact is great, but it is possible to consider yourself the victor before you get there. Take out the “have one million listeners and make a plush living at this” from the equation because if that’s what it takes to make you happy, you are pretty much doomed to sadness. There is no reason we can’t do what we do in podcasting, in videoblogging entirely for the fun of it and my talk is a celebration of that. Come celebrate with me!

The Price of a Stamp

In one of many sure signs that I probably shouldn’t run for high profile office, I admit sheepishly that when first class postage stamp rates went up earlier this week, I couldn’t tell you what they were before and I couldn’t tell you what they are now. That’s partly my own disconnection, and partly due to the fact that I’ve been looking at things marked “Forever” for years now. At that point, it’s really kind of academic what the real rate is. The stamps are a sunk cost and they’ll keep on working, so what I paid to get them is pretty moot as long as my bills move to the processing center.

Still, if you want to make candidate Dave look out of touch, all you have to do is yell out “How much does a stamp cost?” at the press conference. However, my answer would probably be “I’ll stamp on you for free” so that probably dooms whatever run to failure before it begins. I think I’ll probably just start out spending that time with my family.

Rip: A Remix Manifesto: FAIL!

I saw some references to Rip: A Remix Manifesto (probably on Lessig’s blog, I forget) and it sounded interesting and right down the line with my political beliefs. I went to the site and see they are doing an “open source film tour.” OK, interesting. You have to create an account to book a showing and download the film. Hmmm, OK, I created an account. Then I went to look around the site. I see the download page but it is always empty. I clicked around and at one point I got this message:

NOTE: You must accept the screening agreement in order to have your event approved and published. Please click the checkbox next to ‘I have read and agree to the terms of the B-Side Screening Agreement,’ and submit your event.

They want to approve my event? That is, I may have gone this far without a guarantee that I’ll be able to even go forward with this? This isn’t really fitting my particular vision of what an openness entails. In fact, about this point I realized that I have stopped giving a shit about this movie, I don’t want to hold a screening, I don’t want to download it and I’m not really interested in watching it or attending anyone else’s screening. My window of interest, that period where I was willing to grant this project of few hours of my very scarce time, has now closed.

You can talk the open talk all you want but when actions are out of line with that, I stop wanting to be involved. If you want the upside of “open source” you have to accept the loss of control that comes with it. What this looks like to me is a compromise that is the worst of all worlds.

Put another way, using the lyrics of the Clash:

But, you grow up and you calm down and
You’re working for the clampdown
You start wearing the blue and brown and
You’re working for the clampdown
So you got someone to boss around
It makes you feel big now

End of an Era?

Over at AmigoFish I have several vanity search podcast RSS feeds. Yes kids, you can do that over there! Subscribe to a search FTW!

One of the shows that turned up on the search for “evil genius chronicles” is this episode of the Eight Things podcast. It’s kind of a depressing take on things in the podcast world, including the sale of the Podcast/New Media Expo to BlogWorld, Podshow/Mevio turning their back on everyone they brought to the dance, etc. I was listening with a little dread to see how I fit into this whole thing. Was I going to be listed as a sell out (if so, what exactly did I sell and why didn’t I get anything for it?) Was my slowing down in output going to be some kind of bellwether for podcasting coming and going?

Instead, this post from a month ago about my podcast queue getting deep was used as evidence for my fading interest in the field. That’s a funny interpretation, as actually the truth is very close to the opposite. I still have 122 subscriptions in my aggregator. My stubborn refusal to drop shows for queue depth is part of my committment to the field. I’ll drop them when I quit digging them, but I don’t drop because I have 35 days or more backed up. In fact, I noted the point where my queue had ticked over 30 days but now it is back down to about 14 or so. That’s mostly a function of how much time I manage to carve out in my work days to listen to shows.

I’m still here and even though my production output has slowed down, I still care deeply about the medium. You’ll hear how deeply if you listen to my talk at the upcoming Balticon over Memorial Day weekend. Some things about the medium still bug me deeply but I’m actually made happy by some of the failures of businesses in the podcasting space. I’m happy to see the cynical leave the field for having not gotten rich quick.

I’m here for the long haul,.I never hitched my financial health to the podcasting wagon which turns out to be the best decision I ever made. I create and I listen to podcasts as an amateur and a hobbyist, which means my sole motivation is love and joy and happiness. Tom Marquette missed the boat on how I feel. I’m still high on the medium and getting my second or fifth or tenth wind in it. Depression and disgust are not the proper reaction to the climate out there. It’s time to turn it up louder and dance our asses off, because this party is just getting started.

Balticon

Over Memorial day I will be a guest at this year’s Balticon. Paul Fischer has been inviting me for years and for once I was able to accept. I’ve never been to Baltimore in my life, so that should be interesting. From here forward, I’m probably not traveling that far to any solely new media conventions. I much prefer models like Balticon and Dragon*Con where they are science fiction conventions with a new media/podcasting track. The SF people are my tribe anyway, I get to record Reality Break interviews, and I have a better time.

I will be reprising my talk from the last Podcast Expo I went to, “Amateur Means You Do It For Love” which will be Friday at 10 PM in the Chesapeake Suite. I’m planning on this one being a barn burner. I first gave the talk in Ontario CA in 2006 and with three more years of the podcast world under our belts I’ve got a lot more to say on the topic. Here’s the super-short abstract of the talk: “Control your own definition of success and don’t ever let anyone else try to alter that for you. Make yourself happy and let everything else bubble out from there.”

I’ll have swag and am on several panels throughout the weekend. I’ll be doing some interviewing, some being a fan and just hanging out. I’m looking forward to it. If you’re coming, look me up and we’ll pass a good time.

The Band

One of my favorite groups of the 60s and 70s is The Band. I love their music and I loved how they defied the psychedelic times by wearing clothes out of the 19th century and singing songs about the Civil War. As I get ever more burned out on “oldies”, this is music that always holds up for me.

We all know “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Two of the songs that always perk me up are the lesser known “Chest Fever” and “Acadian Driftwood.” I like their music that is influenced by New Orleans and Cajun music. I used to live in Lafeyette and really learned to love Cajun and Zydeco back then. In fact just this morning I listened to the most recent episode of The Subdudes podcast so I already had my ears buzzing with the New Orleans sound.

A month ago the Greatest Hits album was on sale from Amazon for $1.99 and I picked it up then. I have several of their albums on cassette somewhere in this house, but for that price it makes sense to just get it again in digital form. I’m listening to it right now and enjoying it all over again.

Hey, buddy, would you like to buy a watch real cheap, here on the street?

I got six on each arm and two more round my feet

Life is a carnival, believe it or not

Life is a carnival, two bits a shot

Very Timely Podcaster Equipment Note

Sorry for this, but you have 3.5 hours to act at publish time. I’ve never heard of this site before today, but at 1 Sale a Day today’s deal is for a hard-sided aluminum case with configurable foam inserts. They bill it as for “photo/video” equipment but it also looks like it would be perfect for transporting my Marantz PMD670. It’s on sale for $9.99 plus another 6 for shipping.

Currently when I travel, I tend to take my Marantz and associated equipment in a big duffel bag which isn’t much protection for some non-cheap equipment. I’m still deciding how many of these to pick up. I’m thinking at least one, but maybe two or three to keep as spares or to give to other people that might need them. I had thought previously about fabricating a wooden rolling box for my equipment, but this might well be a better alternative. A rolling cart and some bungie cords might well turn these cases into what I had been envisioning before minus all the fabrication.

You have until midnight Eastern Daylight time on 5/5/2009 to get this deal. Act now or forever hold your peace.

Comedy History Question

So would it be correct terminology to refer to Chico Marx or Norm Crosby or Foster Brooks or anyone else whose shtick was funny mispronunciations as a “malaprop comic?”

A Unique Work Experience for Me

I’m approaching the three year anniversary of my current job. At the end of June I’ll cross that milestone, which will result in me bumping up the ladder and getting into the higher tier of earning vacation. I’m in my 40s and that has never happened for me before. It used to be a joke amongst my friends that I changed jobs every year whether I needed to or not. In fairness, 2/3 of those were me getting laid off, the company going out of business or having to quit because we were moving to a new place.

There’s some simple pleasures that have eluded me for my adult life. We’ll have been in this house for five years, which is a record for us. Not having to box up the stuff every year or two, changing dentists, finding new jobs, etc is a huge relief in my life. Having the same set of coworkers for years and years, it just feels nice. This is not shocking or novel to most of you, and it’s not like I didn’t understand these. It just feels good to be able to live it for once.