Thursday, October 22, 2009


So during the approximately 20 hours of being trapped on a plane during our vacation, I had the opportunity to engage in more enriching leisure activities than usual. Probably the most inspiring of all those activities was listening to the Dorkcast podcast.

Three friends of mine, Jeffery Smith, Paul Schreiber and Shawn McDowell, have set up Dorkcast as a talk show about geek pop culture (comics, video games, tabletop role playing games and SFF TV and movies) and technology. Every once in awhile they invite guests or a huge crowd to join them.

I've listened to five episodes of the podcast thus far. As with blogs that interest me, I'm listening to each episode from the first one up to the most current one, chronologically. Integrating blog entries and apparently podcast episodes into an imagined personality provides me with enjoyment.

I also have an ulterior motive to listening from the beginning: these guys are friends, but I really haven't hung out with them beyond Dungeons & Dragons sessions. Listening to their podcast provides me with a passive way of painting a picture of them at a leisurely pace.

It probably creates an unbalanced dynamic between us. I might gain more knowledge about their opinions and personalities than they will have mine. Such is the dynamic of becoming public personality and associating with one, I guess.

But if they want to level the playing field, they could read this blog from the beginning. Probably still unfair, however, as reading is generally more of an active undertaking.

Personally, I can't have talk radio in the background when doing something that involves conscious focus. When doing something like cooking or brushing my teeth, however, listening to talk radio doesn't distract me from the primary activity.

I only have a couple real complaints about the first five episodes: they don't have the best sound quality. The panelists' voices often get lower than my I-Pod, headphones and possibly than my ears can register. Easy enough to infer what the person said from what their fellow panelists say, but I would rather hear what the original person said.

I mentioned the complaint to Paul. He said the problem comes from two sources. The mics aren't the best, so the panelists have to make up for the mic deficiency by speaking directly and loudly into the mics.

Compensating for mics with speaking technique, however, involves a learning curve. Not necessarily a complicated feat to accomplish, but not intuitive, either. Using the mics can require learning the technique or trial and error.

I also didn’t care for the fifth episode. Just about the whole episode consisted of the panelists choosing a super power they would love to have and a shit power that was useless. They also invited up people from a crowd to do the same. The first ten minutes of it were fun, but it got a little old.

Dorkcast works best when they discuss a topic for about ten minutes or so then move onto another topic. Maybe some discussions could go on for a good amount of time, but the whole cool power/shit power got a little self indulgent. There were some gems in there, though, including: using super speed to steel a drink from a bar and getting away, “I’d like to see you vibrate for 30 seconds” and a super fast person running into a cicada that then bored through their head.

Otherwise, I think Dorkcast could become a great resource. My life generally consists of work, researching and writing for my bachelors project, chores, eating, sleeping, watching some TV, dating the wife and some socializing when I get the chance. Sounds nerdy, but playing tabletop role playing games counts as my main form socializing, and I still consider it experiential research.

I don't have much time to keep up with technology, video games, comic books and other topics that Dorkcast covers. The show sums up some of the latest news in these topics with some thoughtful and amusing debate about them.

I kind of wish that they would cover more topics, but I think there's plenty of other sources for me to get this news if I wanted to do so. If Dorkcast just reported on the news of these fields, they'd just be repeating information that other sources provide.

The debate format works well. They provide food for thought on the topics they cover. I can't say how original their viewpoints get. Like I said, I don't allow myself the time to keep up with this stuff.

For a casual geek like me, though, the show provides enough information and viewpoints to keep up with the ever developing tech and geek cultures. I'm listening to episodes from just about a year ago. A lot of the stuff they bring up is either current events to me or brand new information.

They may even get ahead of the news curve, too, as they were discussing Microsoft Windows 7 last year when the new OS was released to the general public just today.

The podcast does a good job of keeping the dabbler in geek culture informed. For those immersed in geek culture, it might provide some good thought food and entertainment.

Links of interest: Dorkcast, Jeffery Smith, Paul Schreiber, Microsoft Windows 7

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