Archive for May, 2014

May 22, 2014

the Bank of Zaltzman

If you are going along to the Edinburgh Fringe this year, do attend my brother‘s show at The Stand: it’s called Satirist for Hire, and whereas most Edinburgh shows are written and honed over the preceding year, he’ll be taking requests from the audience for topics they want to be satirized, and writing new material every day accordingly. He operates at his best close to a deadline, so it’ll definitely be worth seeing.

Anyway. As in previous years, Andy asked me to paint him for the show’s posters, and since I wasn’t very happy with how some of those turned out, I wanted to try something different. Lo:
AZ banknote

I had only intended to do his face in this style, but once I’d started, I couldn’t leave the rest of the note unfinished.

Inspiration:

inspiration

Look carefully at one of Her Majesty’s banknotes. There are layers upon layers of detail; it’s a truly beautiful security system. Lines and curlicues are formed out of tiny words. Patterns overlay patterns. The shading on the Queen’s face isn’t even straightforward cross-hatching – it’s rows of little brick shapes. I borrowed several of the design elements and deployed my limited drawing skills on A1-size paper (without a watermark of Andy’s face, sadly; that would have been a nice but completely unnecessary detail).

Weapons of choice:

ink

I love Windsor and Newton drawing inks without reservation. I drew the whole thing with that tiny dip pen, which was used by my grandfather or great-grandfather at school! I’m not usually a retronaut who gravitates towards needlessly old-fashioned tools – no cassette Walkmans for me, I spent enough of the early 90s rewinding tapes by spinning them on a pencil to save batteries and never intend to go back – but something about a dip pen suits me, possibly the scratchiness, possibly the minimalism of the implement that feels like you’re barely holding anything. I’m not so keen on its propensity for ink splotches. Hence the Tipp-Ex.

A few details:

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I hope I don’t go to prison for counterfeiting.

Whenever I draw Andy, I feel a bit like I’m drawing my own face after I’ve just woken up. If I’d gone to sleep wearing an orange clown wig.

Click on the image for a bigger version:

AZ Satirist For Hire Banknote

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May 10, 2014

Doing Something

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Here I am in today’s Do Something supplement of the Guardian!

Click here for more of my patchwork; and here’s how I began it.

May 9, 2014

podcasters on podcasting

It was an absolute joy interviewing so many great podcasters for Olly’s and my BBC Radio 4 documentary Podcasting: The First Ten Years. It was not such a joy having to cut down the many sage and inspiring things they said to tiny soundbites, because 56 minutes of airtime are very quickly filled. So here are full-length versions of several of the interviews I did, in case you are particularly interested in podcasters talking shop.

I’d get squirrelly if I didn’t sit down and talk to people once or twice a week. I would be accosting people in the street if I wasn’t doing the podcast.


I don’t mind telling you I was really quite intimidated to speak to Marc Maron. How do you interview someone who’s done nearly 500 highly-feted interviews on his own podcast? But he was very pleasant to me, and talked candidly and reflectively about podcasting turning around his career, how it can interfere with his relationships, recreating his own garage in a film studio, and stocking up on tea and biscuits for Iggy Pop.

I don’t want to hear about rimming in the airport at 8am.


We’d all agree with Dan Savage there. The eminent sex columnist and campaigner was writing Savage Love before Google existed, so he was effectively the search engine for all sexual problems and proclivities. The column branched out into a podcast, and Dan says: “I used to think of column as most important thing and the podcast was a side-gig, but now it’s the other way round: the podcast is much more important than the column.” Dan describes the intimacy of talking right into people’s ears while they go about their business, having to be a perfect child, and never being shocked by listeners “because I figure, if it exists, someone somewhere is effing it.”

A podcast is just a stretch of time with audio in it, and you can do whatever you want within that stretch of time; so I’d like to hear people doing whatever they want within that stretch of time.


Since it began less than two years ago, Welcome To Night Vale has been a phenomenal success, and when I spoke with its creators and writers, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, I understood why. They wanted to make a podcast that wasn’t like any other podcasts that they’d ever heard, because those already existed. Mission resoundly accomplished.

Fun fact: one of the Night Vale guys had never used Skype before we did this interview, so by forcing him to get it, I felt like one of the bad kids in the playground giving him his first cigarette. I hope I didn’t start him on a slippery slope to…I dunno, Snapchat?

Now, there are about five steps too many to get a podcast.


This was the third time I’ve interviewed Roman Mars and since we met at SXSW last year, we’ve also become real-life pals. I’d love for him to teach me everything he knows, but I suspect that’s what everyone wants from Roman. At least I can benefit from his wisdom dispensed here. He talks about the necessity of podcasters putting in the effort, his record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns having to justify spending time away from his family, the socialist principles behind the Radiotopia collective, and how 99% Invisible fans are willing to fund the show but NOT to hear Roman swear at the dead.

The whole plan was for me to support the family by being a lawyer and Jesse would make his adorable little public radio show and podcast and pay some of the bills that way. Instead now I work for the company and we’re trying to pay off my law school debt!


But thank goodness things did turn out that way for Theresa Thorn and her husband Jesse, otherwise the rest of us wouldn’t get to enjoy the fruits of the Thorns’ podcasting empire Maximum Fun. Theresa’s podcast One Bad Mother is absolutely charming, even if like me you’re not particularly interested in parenting; she tells me about oversharing, having babies to beget podcast material, and MaxFunFans bonding with each other in real life.

Did I expect to be in for an interesting ride? Yes. Am I amazed to be still on that ride? Yes.


I have a lot for which to be grateful/ungrateful to Ewan Spence, because without him I might never have become a podcaster at all. And then where would I be? (A: still working on my own in my living room most of the time.) Being interviewed by Ewan for a podcast way back in 2006 was what gave Olly the idea to start a podcast with me.
Ewan talks about how he came to be Scotland’s first podcaster, and subsequently the Edinburgh Fringe podcaster and THE Eurovision Song Contest podcaster – he’s out there backstage in Copenhagen right now!

Keith loves the fans so much, he married one!


Keith and the Girl have such hardcore fans, there are more than 130 KATG tattoos and counting – and even a few horrific-sounding (and looking) FLESH BRANDINGS. Frankly I’m relieved that Answer Me This! fans are comparatively restrained in their affections… I don’t know how Keith and Chemda manage to do a podcast DAILY – they even released an episode on the day their romantic relationship came to an end – but I’m glad they do: they’re very frank, funny and smart.

Podcasting became this opportunity to try something different, something new, see what worked.


I dragged Chris Skinner out of a post-knee-operation cloud of anaesthesia to talk about making some of Britain’s earliest podcasts, as well as The Game, the Dave Gorman podcast, and my brother’s podcast The Bugle. Speaking of which…

The internet is the 21st-century equivalent of shouting at traffic.


It was a bit weird interviewing my brother Andy, so naturally I asked him about the sibling rivalry that everybody assumes plagues us. He and his Bugle co-host John Oliver speak about relishing the complete creative freedom of podcasts, making each other laugh, and how Listeners paying for podcasts is “like higher rate taxation: voluntary, but if you’re feeling philanthropic you might want to do it.” Afterwards Andy said he and John had never actually talked to each other about most of the things I asked them about in the interview, so it was nice for him to find out why John wants to carry on doing the podcast even though he’s now Big Johnny Showbiz. (Apparently the contract for his new gig specifies that he is allowed to continue Bugling, you’ll be relieved to know.)

The whole playlist:

May 8, 2014

My So-Called Life

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Angela Chase! To celebrate nearly twenty years since the advent of one of the finest TV depictions of adolescence, I went on Little Atoms podcast to talk about My So-Called Life. I watched it when it aired in 1994, when I was almost exactly the same age as the protagonists; some ten years later I watched it as an adult, and unlike most cultural highpoints of the 90s, it holds up. Another decade has passed, so it must be due another viewing – now I’m closer in age to Angela’s parents than Angela, will it have changed in my eyes? (No! I’ve always been Team Patty.)

Unthinkably, even the styles seem to be coming back into fashion – I’ve seen many young ladies wearing flannel or dungarees (accessorised with a pair of DMs, of course) on the streets of London over the past few months, although gents don’t seem to have revived the curtain hair. YET. Please god never, I can’t go through all of that again…

Click here to listen to the podcast, and don’t blame me when you wake up in the night after a bad dream about shapeless babydoll dresses in which everyone speaks very falteringly.

Also happening in my so-called life is the Sound Women podcast, which this month concerns itself with different routes into broadcasting careers. Ruth Barnes and I reflect upon our own – hers classic, as she bombarded stations with cassette tape demos and headed notepaper, for which she blames Fame Academy; mine, via podcasting, involved sitting on my arse in my living room for seven years. And counting! Also, Peter Sale sheds light on his work at Wandsworth Prison’s radio station, and Becky Sheeran of Talk Becky Talk talkBeckytalks to Natalie Peck about YouTube stardom.

PS Because I know there’s a part of you that still loves the way he leans (though personally I prefer Brian Krakow):
My-So-Called-Life