Archive for January, 2015

January 29, 2015

Allusionist goes viral

In the latest Allusionist, I find out lots of interesting stuff about how BuzzFeed goads you into viewing and sharing stuff using only LINGUISTIC SORCERY. But never sarcasm or round numbers. Plus there’s a cameo from Roman Mars, complaining that we’re all misusing the word ‘viral’. Read more about the episode at theallusionist.org/viral, and hear it on iTunes/SoundCloud/RSS, or, if you can only be arsed to click once, not twice, right here:

January 27, 2015

Ex Libris

Well, this is going to be fun – tickets are here if you want to come along.

Ex Libris Invitation Oxford Lit Festival new

January 23, 2015

Radiotoparty

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In other Radiotopia stretch goal results news:

Last autumn, they promised that if their Kickstarter campaign raised $425,000, they would hold parties for Radiotopifans.

As you donors blasted through that target, the parties are about to happen – and the first is in London, 2.30-5pm on 15th February, upstairs in the Upstairs Bar at the ever marvellous Ritzy cinema in Brixton.

I will be there. Love + Radio’s Nick van der Kolk will be there. Free pizza will be there. Will you be there? Click here to book your place.

January 14, 2015

The Allusionist begins

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I am very excited to tell you that my new Radiotopia show The Allusionist – which many of you very generously Kickstarted last autumn – has landed!

It’s all about language – little documentaries about words and phrases, with etymological tidbits thrown in. Its online home is theallusionist.org, and the show is available via iTunes, SoundCloud, RSS and various other podcast-wranglers.

Upon hearing I was doing a show about language, loads of people asked me, “Will there be episodes about puns?” Well, guess what: the very first episode is about puns, so I could get the damn things out of the way. It features my punfortunate brother Andy (familiar to you Bugle fans), and the puntriarch himself, our father Zack. TAKE COVER.

I wanted to launch the show with a double bill, and the second episode is all about bras: blogger Lori Smith teaches me about the history of undergarments, while I wonder why we have so many synonyms for our knickers, but none for bras.


A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with the Radiotopian overlord Roman Mars, and he asked me how it was different starting a new podcast now to when Answer Me This! began eight years ago.

Here’s something which is the same: I don’t know exactly what my show is or how to make it, but I can only learn those things by making it and putting it out. One of the most important pieces of advice I give to people starting a podcast is not to publicise it for at least three months or ten episodes, whichever equals more episodes. They never believe me. But I insist that it’s a good move, because a show always improves, and finds its footing; and it’s not a problem, because when listeners do find it a little later, they are happy to find a backlog of episodes to binge on. Between you and me, I was hoping to follow this advice myself this time. BUT…

Here’s a difference: this time, people are listening. You can’t keep a Radiotopia production under the radar. And there was this very flattering review in the Allusionist’s debut week. Of course it is extraordinary to have listeners right from the start, but, given my statement in the paragraph above, it is also VERY DAUNTING. I was insomniac and crapping myself* for weeks before launching The Allusionist! When we launched AMT, I was totally gung ho: I had no idea what I was getting myself into, nor any relevant experience; and luckily our handful of listeners in the early days were very forgiving of these scrappy upstarts. Now, however, I have spent thousands of hours podcasting, so people expect me not to produce a sloppy bowl of shit soup. While I don’t think the first episodes are sloppy bowls of shit soup, I’ve never presented or produced anything like The Allusionist before – it’s a very different beast to AMT, or Sound Women, or live radio – and I know it will take me a few months to get to grips with it properly. So you’re very welcome to listen to the show now, but you’re also welcome to go away and come back in, say, September, when it is likely to be a fully realised audio masterpiece (or a tidy bowl of shit soup, at least).

Here’s another difference: I am now a full-time podcaster, and it is the best job I have ever had. Long may it continue!

*Not literally, thanks for your concern.

January 9, 2015

events listings

Some events coming up:

Learn how to podcast in one evening, that being the evening of 26th January. At this three-hour Guardian Masterclass, producer Matt Hill of the Media Podcast, Spark London and loads more, and I will share our accumulated podcasting knowledge – hardware, software, enamelware finessing your format, getting started, and most importantly, not stopping. Get your tickets HERE.

I’m off on tour around the country with Sound Women. We’ll be visiting Brighton (24th January), Birmingham (31st January) and Newcastle (7th February) to talk about audio and have a jolly old time. Get your tickets HERE.

Also on 24th January, at the Hackney Attic I’ll be participating in a charity game show to raise funds for Arts Emergency. Fellow podcaster Neil Denny of Little Atoms will be hosting, and my fellow panellists are Viv Groskop, AL Kennedy and Chris Coltrane. Get your tickets HERE.

PS Answer Me This! is back, with listeners’ unusual tattoos, stealing back presents, and olive theft:

January 5, 2015

decade in the job

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Today is a milestone of sorts for me.

Ten years ago, 5th January 2005, I packed in my last normal job and went rogue, ie self-employed.

I had turned down the opportunity to make permanent my temporary office job, and didn’t feel compelled to get a new one immediately because at the time I was making enough from work on the side – an occasional bit of overpaid radio comedy, on top of a regular income from going to a rich businessman’s house every Saturday morning so he could dictate his memoirs to me. Plus in those halcyon days, my rent was only £50 a week. IN ZONE 2 LONDON. It would no doubt be far more challenging to try this now, when you need to be clearing £40K a year just to be able to sublet a beanbag in zone 6.

By the time the radio show was cancelled and the memoir-transcribing was on hiatus, frankly I was ruined for proper jobs. I was always terrible at getting them anyway, so being self-employed didn’t really feel like a choice – although I suppose it is, if the absence of an action counts as an action itself. Also, I think it was easier for me to default to this feckless ‘career’ ‘path’ because my father is a sculptor, and my brother is a comedian; I wasn’t taking a risk and breaking the mould, because that mould was already long broken.

Nonetheless, this past decade has been full of fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency hard graft, begging for work, monumental levels of procrastination, frequent feelings of failure, frequent feelings of smugness when I don’t have to get up on Monday morning to go to an office, stress about my lack of current and future financial/career/emotional security, and, above all, the absolute joy of getting to do pretty much what I wanted.

Self-employment is a pretty great way to live, if like me you favour variety, self-reliance and solitude over stability, structure and the company of colleagues.

But let’s not forget that fear. It’s not my ideal constant companion, but maybe I’ll get used to it after another ten years.

Are you in the same self-employment boat? I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you’re willing to share them in the comments.

PS More about freelancing in the October 2014 episode of Sound Women.