Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "No Agenda"

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The best descriptor for this podcast is unlikely. It's a show where two white guys bullshit about the culture, yet it's not exactly an according-to-Hoyle TTWGBAC. The hosts reside neither in their twenties or thirties but in their forties and fifties, and if we're talking about literal residences, they broadcast not from Mom's basement but from their palatial manors in London, San Francisco and Port Angeles. One host happens to be podcasting entrepeneur and former VJ Adam Curry; the other happens to be tech pundit John C. Dvorak. And they do it live. Twice a week.

The result is a program that on some level resembles a thousand other podcasts out there, but on others isn't like anything else at all. Two-dudes-chatting, a format as basic as they come, is how No Agenda [iTunes link] [stream] started out, but over time and with the aid of Curry's persistent internet gearheadedness it has evolved into a streaming, intercontinental, parodic, paranoid extravaganza. Whether this will be any given listener's thing seems a roll of the dice, but Curry and Dvorak's conversation darts in so many direction that it's almost difficult not to find something compelling in it.

It also helps that, as the first paragraph may have hinted, these aren't your garden-variety podcasters. While — let's admit it — most podcasters are eccentrics, a refreshingly different set of eccentricities afflict Curry and Dvorak. When not tinkering with internet stuff or piloting around the world with his 60-year-old Dutch pop star wife and teenage daughter in tow, Curry, nicknamed "Crackpot", weaves elaborate conspiracy theories out of information triangulated from, say, a sketchy Russian newspaper, three seconds of CCTV footage and a panicked call-in on Muskogee AM talk radio. (The "New World Order" is his pet theme.) Dvorak, nicknamed "The Buzzkill", alternately looks askance at (some of) Curry's wilder conjectures about the global power structure and grumbles about such ultra-curmudgeonly topics as how kids don't have paper routes these days. (For a figure so central to the last couple decades of technology culture, he also seems to have odd technological habits: refusing to use headphones while recording, for instance.)

An accurate encapsulation of No Agenda's topical range proves elusive; suffice it to say that the show's recent overarching preoccupation appears to be, broadly speaking, surveillance and information security. Still, Curry and Dvorak have time for more general global geopolitical topics as well as personal-scale stuff, like whether one should order Cliff Richard's wine while vacationing in Portugal. Perhaps the least resistible element of the program — for your Podthinker, anyway — is its satire of that quintessential fish in a barrel, commercial radio. The show is streamed during recording before it's podcasted, and Curry uses this close-enough resemblance to terrestrial broadcasting to poke a good deal of fun at it. One segment of the intro, for example, introduces "Crackpot and The Buzzkill in the Morning", and Curry lets fly with the series of sound clips he's rigged up whenever he or Dvorak says something particularly morning zoo-y. (This is much funnier than it sounds.)

With this barely-describable yet surprisingly entertaining mixture of qualities, No Agenda has gathered a sizeable and, more important, impressively devoted following. Your Podthinker admits that he's come to enjoy it much more than he ever expected to, though not quite enough to code expressly No Agenda-themed web apps like some of the true devotees have. That requires a lot more concern about the World Order, New or otherwise.

Vital stats:

Format: streaming, intercontinental, parodic, paranoid TFWGBAC
Running since: October 2007
Duration: 1h20m-1h45m
Frequency: twice a week, Sunday and Thursday
Archive available on iTunes: all

[Podthinker Colin Marshall is kind of interested in IP law, though. Discuss it with him at colinjmarshall at gmail, discuss Podthoughts on the forum here or submit your own podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]