How to Podcast for Fun

I almost titled this “How to Become a Lazy Podcaster” but I thought that would mislead current podcasters into thinking I’m telling them how to become lazy.

Not the case.

I have been a host of a show called The Zero Check for going on three years. The goal of this podcast is to have fun conversations with my co-hosts, talk about music we enjoy, learn in the process, and maybe connect with like-minded listeners.

What I’m saying is we’re lazy podcasters. We aren’t lazy people – we all have busy personal and professional lives, and we appreciate not being tied to a strict recording, editing and publishing schedule. We manage 12+ episodes a year, which we’re satisfied with.

Are there downsides to a lazy recording/publishing schedule? Maybe… The top two drawbacks are:

  • We’ll never have a large dedicated following
  • There isn’t a lot of consistent engagement from listeners

But we have fun, and it doesn’t become an added point of stress in our lives. We do it for ourselves, to enjoy and learn about our favorite musicians and bands. We produce the podcast to share our passion with others who are interested.

Technologically, we make it as easy for ourselves as possible. Our gear consists of:

  • Zoom H2 handy recorder
  • Pair of headphones for on-site audio monitoring
  • Pocket tripod to hold the Zoom H2
  • Basic audio editing software – Audacity or Garageband
  • We run the audio through Levelator a free application
  • Audio hosting is through Libsyn at minimal cost per month
  • Blog hosting is free through Tumblr
  • Domain registration is inexpensive
  • Nameserver hosting is free through Zerigo
  • Shared file management is free through Dropbox
Image courtesy of cogdogblog on Flickr under Creative Commons license

You Don’t Vote For King! (or A Cabinet of Ice and Fire)

I had a conversation the other day, with my friend (and Zero Check co-host) Steven Joncas. We’re both big fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones series.

If you watched Monty Python’s Holy Grail, you undoubtedly remember the scene with 37-year-old Dennis, resident of an anarcho-syndicalyst communte, whom King Arthur mistook for an old woman? Classic scene! I’ll paraphrase an exchange, slightly…

“I am your King!”

“Well, I didn’t vote for you!”

“You don’t vote for Kings!”

Well, imagine if we did, and we lived in Westeros, the 7 kingdoms that are the centre of George R.R. Martin’s novels.

Better yet, lets forget about Kings altogether, and pretend the continent is run by a Canadian-style democratic government, and you were just elected Prime Minister.

Which character from the series are you? Who do you think would make a suitable Mr. or Ms. Prime Minister?

After deciding who you are, your first task as Prime Minister is to compile a list of recommendations to give the Head of State to assemble your cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister – It was a tough choice, but I really think Brynden Tully, The Blackfish, would be my first choice. He’s depicted as a natural leader, with strong morals, a clever pragmatist.

Minister of Finance – This is an obvious choice. There is no better option than Lord Petyr Baelish, a.k.a. Littlefinger. The man can budget better than the best Lannisters.

Minister of Human Resources – Tywin Lannister has a keen sense for how people of Westeros can best serve their nation, and how the nation can serve its citizens. He’s too spiteful to trust as PM, otherwise, he would be a shoe-in for the top seat.

Minister of Defense – Who else than the great Barristan the Bold would be fit to lead the defenses of Westeros? So long as he doesn’t cross the floor to the opposition!

Minister of Justice / Attorney General – Who else other than Eddard Stark would be fit for this job? His sense of right and wrong is infallible, while remaining more practical than a stern man like Stannis Baratheon.

Minister of Industry – Obviously Tyrion Lannister is best fit to handle this important position. Tyrion understands the importance of industry to the nations economy, and would work to strengthen ties between the nations business owners. Granted, Tyrion would likely be frequently shuffled around the cabinet, cleaning up whichever portfolio needed his particular attention. Hopefully his binge drinking and frequent dalliances with prostitutes don’t surface in the media.

Are you a fan of the series, either in book or television format? Who would you recommend to form your Cabinet of Ice and Fire?

Would you recommend Cersei Lannister, or Lady Olena Tyrell for any spots? Varys is another talented fellow, deserving of a large portfolio. Would you make 16-year-old Robb Stark a member of the Cabinet or wait until he grew older?

And what would you do with the young (and blatantly psychopathic) Joffrey Baratheon? Oh really? You’d appoint him to the Senate?!

Boston Pizza’s Recent “Foodie” Ad

I got into a discussion on Twitter today about Boston Pizza’s recent ad that claims their pasta might turn people into Foodies. It was prompted by @ClickFlickCa’s question about the ad.

Here’s the commercial – Joallore linked to it in a subsequent tweet.

I think the commercial is well made. It targets Boston Pizza’s audience; down to the distain you hear in the final declaration “Just be careful you don’t become a foodie.” Boston Pizza doesn’t do anything special or original.

My view of the term foodie doesn’t much matter. I said earlier that I think there’s a lot of pretentiousness behind the term. Not that I think everyone who self-identifies as a foodie is pretentious.

Foodie culture has done a lot of great things for the restaurant and food supply industry. Niche markets have expanded and the number of premium prepared foods has increased.

Chefs have more opportunities to practice their art, and are allowed greater creative freedoms as people’s pallets have become more adventurous. Restaurants have diversified and raised the bar in many markets.

How do I define the term “foodie”? They are a food geek, someone whose passions include food and the food industry. Sharing a great restaurant or ingredient discovery, or a special recipe is truly rewarding. I enjoy food quite a bit, and I find the experience of sharing an excellent meal with friends a fantastic pursuit. However, I have too many interests that I geek out over already, and can’t give food the necessary attention to cross into foodie territory!

So where does the pretentiousness come in? When one attaches social status to the list of restaurants they have visited, or number of syllables in the name of the cheese they used in their latest recipe.  The enjoyment of food is deeply personal and subjective, not something to connect to status.

This is how Boston Pizza is positioning their menu – tasty but unpretentious.

Did Boston Pizza put the last nail in the coffin of the word “Foodie”, or did they just nail their objective?

Is The Brochure Dead?

Who still writes brochures? I mean, I do on occasion. Grudgingly.

Surely this time-honoured communications medium still has its place in marketing and communications. But do they still work, when nearly everyone has ubiquitous web access from connected smartphones?

Sometimes an organization’s clients like to receive brochures, even request them. They’re easy to file, they’re portable, and can be passed between hands.

Not everyone is immersed in the world of the social web, where links are shared like words at the water cooler. For those who operate outside of this space a brochure might be the equivalent to these hyper-sharable links.

But if your brochure is going to be effective, it has to resonate with the reader in some way. Think about the things people share online. They elicit a reaction; they make the reader laugh, or cry, or they inform and teach something interesting or useful. They connect with us on some level.

Does your brochure do that? If not, it’s inert. Maybe even dead and likely to wind up in someone’s recycling bin. My title wasn’t really asking if THE brochure is dead, but whether YOURS is.

I’m not suggesting that brochures are websites, photos or videos. I’m suggesting that a brochure is like a short story. Maybe it could be the 4-pane comic adaptation of your company or organization’s novel. Those 4-pane comics get stuck to refrigerators and bulletin boards all the time.

Maybe your story needs to be told with some slick photos or graphics, and words you could fit into speech bubbles.

A More Thoughtful Photograph

I read an article a few weeks ago asking photographers to please stop camping.

The writer didn’t mean stop striking out with your tent and camera bag. But to stop forming “camps” that claim their way of photography is the right way. There are film purists and digital believers; those who swear by Photoshop and others who cry blasphemy at anything beyond basic touch-ups. And the list goes on.

Digital photography is what got me into the art of creating pictures out of light. However, I’ve begun taking pictures with film, and find it a more thoughtful photographic experience, and a different aesthetic. I would never say it’s better – but different. And I would recommend any photographer who joined the art post-digital revolution to shoot with some film now and then.

How’d I come to this?

My first good cameras were digital. Before that, I had some cheap cameras that used the diminutive 110 format film. It was horrible, and the cameras I used it in were even worse.

I had two early fixed focus digital cameras – an AGFA 1MP digital camera, and a 2MP Fuji. Neither were very expensive and I used both to take photos that I could put on the web pages I was learning to design in my late teens and early twenties.

But it was the Canon SD400 that I won while working at Futureshop that gave me the creative capability to work in some composition. A few years later, I’d saved some money and bought a Rebel XSi. Then I was hooked.

Then I rediscovered 35mm film

First with my father’s 1970s-ish Canon FTb, and then with a EOS 650 circa 1987 that was given to me. Using film has a certain level of scarcity that makes a photo opportunity feel more precious. I find I’m much more thoughtful when I’m using my film camera, than I am with digital. With a 16GB CF card, I can take hundreds of RAW or thousands of Jpeg images in a single outing.

I do love my new Canon 7D, but when I pick up my EOS 650 (really, the 7D’s closest early relative) I feel like I’m holding a piece of magic, rather than the incredibly advanced technological marvel of the digital SLR. Granted, the 650 was a marvel in its own right when it was new.

I find the colour representation of Kodak Gold, and the grain of Ilford give a photo a personality. Sure, you can achieve similar styles with post-processing of digital. But then you can achieve beauty through plastic surgery too. It’s different.

If you haven’t used film for a long time, or if you’ve never used it, I encourage you to get yourself a camera and bring some with you on your next photo outing. Grab a few different types! It is a satisfying experience.


Albatross and Teen Memories of Big Wreck and Soundgarden

Albatross is the first album released under the name Big Wreck since the 2001 release The Pleasure and the Greed. I decided to pick up Albatross today, on it’s launch.

Of course, this album is really Ian Thornley’s post-Big Wreck bandmates, Thornley, re-adopting the Big Wreck name.

It’s a really good album, and I enjoyed my first listen a lot. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed the first Big Wreck album, In Loving Memory Of…

This takes me back to 1997, when Soundgarden announced that they were breaking up. Soundgarden was one of my favorite bands as a teenager; and the first favorite of mine to break up. Before then, I just hadn’t considered that people in bands would decide to stop working together, when they seemed to be making good music. Give me a break, I was 16 years old. :)

I mean, Nirvana split after Kurt Cobain’s sudden death. A far more tragic and shocking end.

I knew bands split up when members died, or retired at a ripe old ages. Or joined other bands.

But to just call it quits? I didn’t realize there was such a thing as “Creative Differences” before then. Of course, I came to grips with it after I thought about it a lot, listened to Badmotorfinger fifty-thousand more times, and discovered Big Wreck.

The striking similarities between the vocals of Chris Cornell and Ian Thornley, as well as Big Wreck’s similar if slightly more upbeat musical composition was a consolation. They were kind of like “Soundgarden Lite” for me, and over time and repeated listening, I gained a deeper appreciation for Big Wreck’s first album, and their songwriting. They became their own sound, in my mind.

Albatross is every bit a Big Wreck album, and I like it a lot. It certainly reminds me those innocent days when I thought bands just had fun, made music, and got along like best pals. Probably even more than Soundgarden’s reunion reminded me of those days… Kind of weird, eh?

Photo Credit: David Patte/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

My First Photography Gig

Last Saturday, February 4, I shot a small Tae Kwon Do tournament, and board breaking session at Clarington Martial Arts in Bowmanville, Ontario!

My client was my former swim coach, from back in the day. She required some fresh photographic material for the Clarington Martial Arts website.

The entire day was a lot of fun. It really challenged me, as a photographer, which is fantastic. Firstly, it was a challenging space to shoot photos in – odd lighting, lots of mirrors, and lots of people on the periphery.

I was also shooting with my brand new Canon 7D. After one week with it, wasn’t as familiar as my old Rebel Xsi. That said, it’s an amazing camera, and I’ll quickly become as comfortable with it as I was with my old camera.

I’m really pleased with a lot of the photos that came from the afternoon. Here’s a sample of a sparring photo. I snapped this one of brothers, Malcolm and  Marshall, having a round in the ring together.

Clarington Martial Arts

As a martial artist myself, it was a lot of fun to be in that space taking pictures. It was also a lot of fun taking pictures of the younger kids sparring and breaking their first boards. What they lack in strength and coordination, they more than make up for in intensity!

Clarington Martial ArtsI caught this picture of Malcolm and Marshall’s younger brother John, doing a drop break – the board breaking equivalent to a self pitch in baseball. It requires a lot of speed and power.

Clarington Martial ArtsUsing the Canon 7D’s extremely fast continuous shooting, I took a great series of one of the junior instructors at Clarington Martial Arts doing a spectacular wall flip. I wish I had used faster shutter speed, but I do like this picture all the same.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check my Flickr photostream. I have a few other shots from Clarington Martial Arts, and many more.

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