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Podthoughts by Ian Brill: "Skeptoid"

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It disturbs me that in this day and age, when Charles Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould are hallowed names in academia, there are still forces in our country and beyond that have as much a grasp on science as people in the dark ages did, forces that seem to reside in the White House amongst other important areas. We all benefit from scientific advances but the scientific mind, one that demands firm evidence behind arguments, feels like it is in the minority. A nice breath of fresh air is Skeptoid (iTunes link), a critical analysis podcast. Host Brian Dunning takes ten to fifteen minutes outs of your day to turn a skeptical eye towards the ideas whizzing around our culture that compensate their lack of sense with sensationalism.

The first two episodes of Skeptoid I'd recommend anyone listen to is Dunning's two-part examination of logical fallacies that he did on Nov. 5th and 11th. Dunning refers back to these items in all his other shows, discrediting illogical theories by pointing to the non sequiturs and conflicting facts their proponents employ. Dunning's Dec. 17th show devoted to the stories about Area 51 and Roswell is one example of how he proves his points with cold hard logic. The recollections of one witness, which the Area 51 believers have based most of their conclusions on, are systemically rendered suspect when Dunning gives exact dates that prove the witness has his timeline jumbled, as well as concrete proof that contradicts the more outrageous claims made.

I do wish Dunning's podcast was longer. The issues he is tackling deserve more than half the running time of a prime-time sitcom. Imagine the case for science that Dunning could make if he delivered his arguments in greater detail. I would also like it if Dunning had his sources a bit more upfront, as people could be skeptical towards his skepticism. I was glad to hear that end of the Area 51 show the government documents that Dunning drew from were mentioned. I would prefer if all shows had "audio footnotes." That may sounds like I'm asking too much but the tendency for so much literature on the Internet to be sketchy when it comes revealing the origin of their findings is the reason why skepticism is so important in the first place.

If you're a fan of the urban legend busters Snopes.com, Penn & Teller's Bullshit or just plain sick of getting chain e-mails from your parents that tell you how dangerous microwaves are (Dunning has a whole show on that one, too) then give Skeptoid a try.

The Venture Bros Creators Put Colbert "On Notice"

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For the first two seasons of Cartoon Network's "The Venture Bros.", the character of Professor Impossible was voiced by Stephen Colbert. The show's putting together its third season now, and show co-creator (and past TSOYA guest) Jackson Publick tried to get in touch with Colbert, who is now famous. After bouncing from manager to agent to assistant to assistant, he got this snide reply:

"Stephen has neither the time nor the interest in participating in your project."

James Urbaniak, one of the show's stars, had this to say:

As my wife noted, it's an open question why the assistant who wrote that email didn't add the word "little" before the word "project." (One also wonders if Mr. Colbert's lack of interest in the show applies retroactively to the two seasons he's already recorded. The assistant fails to clarify.) Ah well. Such are the consequences of Mr. Colbert's much deserved success. I realize that the person who wrote the email was probably not quoting Mr. Colbert directly and may very likely have had no idea what The Venture Brothers is. Nevertheless (and no one's unhappier about this than I am) I am left with no choice but to put Mr. Colbert on his own board. Guess what, Prof. Impossible-For-Me-To-Do-Any-More-Cartoons? You're on notice!

I mean really... "the interest?" He did do it for the last two seasons. Sheesh. It's complicated to be famous, and it's hard to find good help these days, but this gets a big thumbs down from me.

Hang it up, Silverman.

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Ben Silverman, head of NBC, has compared writers deciding they would picket the Golden Globes (if they were televised) to "the nerdiest, ugliest, meanest kids in the high school are trying to cancel the prom."

Or maybe it's more like "legally organized workers protecting their rights and compensation."

One or the other.

To summarize: hang it up, Ben Silverman.

Andy Kindler's "The Hack's Handbook"

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In 1991, Andy Kindler wrote an article for an issue of The National Lampoon which centered on the impending demise of the comedy boom. It was called "The Hack's Handbook." The piece was a compendium of every cliche that the boom had dragged up -- from inane observations to celebrity gags to "I'm half (ethnicity) and half (ethnicity), so (racist punchline)" jokes.

It was believed to be lost.

OK, so, not really, but it wasn't free on the internet, you had to go to the library or whatever.

However, it HAS RETURNED.

Thanks to the efforts of AST's BillBrasky, who presumably pulled it from the National Lampoon DVD magazine collection, and the hosting of Nathan Smart, the man behind Indie BlockedAPpella, it's now available for the first time.

Here she is, in all her printable PDF glory.

Cunninlynguists - KKKY

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The first video from The Cunninlynguists, for their track "KKKY" from "Dirty Acres." "Dirty Acres" is their third straight excellent LP -- I was lucky enough to get it from my baby brother for Christmas, and I listened to it about five times straight driving around in the car. Kno might be my favorite producer going, and the strong MCs are complimented by some great guest shots -- Devin, Witchdoctor, Phonte. Worth the price of admission.

Podcast: The Wire's Bubbles and Bunk: Andre Royo and Wendell Pierce

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Andre Royo
Guests: 
Wendell Pierce



Jesse is joined by Wendell Pierce ("Bunk," above) and Andre Royo ("Bubbles") from HBO's brilliant crime drama The Wire. The Wire isn't just another cop show -- it's an investigation of contemporary urban America that uses the drug trade as a lens to get at even larger issues. Royo and Pierce discuss what its like to authentically portray urban life, and whether a white writer can capture the largely black experience of inner-city urban life in Baltimore.

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You might also enjoy these past interview programs:
Killer Mike
George Pelecanos
Sticking it to the Man with Maz Jobrani and the editors of Bitch

External Links:
Andre Royo's "Property of Bubbles" T-Shirts
The New York Times: Who Gets To Tell A Black Story?
The Believer: Nick Hornby talks with Wire creator David Simon

Recording Phone Calls with Skype

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One of the most common questions I get from aspiring (and current) podcasters is how I record my phone interviews. I use a digital telephone hybrid called a Telos One. That answer usually disappoints folks who are hoping I'll offer an answer that costs less than the six or seven hundred dollars they have to pay for the Telos. Isn't there a decent way to record using Skype?

Paul Figgiani and Doug Kaye to the rescue. Paul is the chief engineer at the Conversations Network, and Doug's his boss. I've referred many folks to Paul's superb Podcast Rigs over the years, and he's not only a great engineer, he has a seemingly endless supply of good will and willingness to help those of us who are awful engineers. Now, Paul and Doug have put together a clear and concise guide to recording interviews using Skype. It's a huge service to the podcast community, and thanks to these guys for doing it!

Now, if you only come here for the comedy, we'll be back to that shortly :).

Podcast: Jordan, Jesse GO!: Ep 48: Crossover

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This week on the show Jesse and Jordan are joined by Jimmy Pardo and Matt Belknap from the Never Not Funny podcast.


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The Pope and Michaelangelo from Monty Python

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Something is wrong with The Last Supper.

"Is it the disciples? Did I make them look too Jewish? I tried to make Judas look the most Jewish..."

via Kung Fu Grippe

The Sound of Young America Live in SF: 1/14/08

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12/20: Just added... Merlin Mann!
1/4: Just added... Bucky Sinister and Danny Hoch!

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