Monday, June 27, 2011

Podcast Adventures and the Importance of Cultural Documentation

I just finished the second episode of the Quimby's podcast! I really enjoyed doing all the work on it, from the interviewing the guests, to the digital editing, as well as kinda monologe-y stuff in the introduction and conclusion that was silly and fun, then splicing everything together. I even enjoyed some of the problem solving about the uploading. For the stuff I need a little help with, I have a date with an Apple one-to-one support rep tomorrow to help me, specifically with some questions that have been popping up about configuring the data upload process, mostly in reference to getting the podcast on I-Tunes. (Apple One-to-One, the best $99 I've ever spent ever, ever, ever). I did get the first episode approved/uploaded successfully to I-Tunes already, but I'm intentionally not drawing as much attention to the podcast on I-Tunes until I get all the details the way I want them there. Right now you can listen to the podcast and subscribe to it at for streaming live or downloading individual episodes. You can play it on your I-pod or computer. (The first episode is there to, where I interviewed Margaret Hicks, who wrote a book called Chicago Comedy: A Fairly Serious History.)

So for this second episode, I interviewed the authors of The Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats (Lake Claremont Press), Sgt. David J. Haynes of the Chicago Police Department and his partner-in-crime, blogger Christopher Garlington. They were fabulously entertaining and did an event for their book at Quimby's about 2 weeks ago. The book has outrageous stories from working cops, Chicago cop lore, recipes and a bunch of other fun stuff. The idea is that all the meals have to be under like $10.00 (or was it 5? I don't remember.) The book talks about all the regions of Chicago and suggests where to go and even comes with coupons. It's a lot of fun.

I was just ruminating about how ever since I can remember, as a kid up through now, I have enjoyed documenting things in written, audio and/or visual form. It might be a transcript of things that happened, it might be a set of photos from an event, or it might be a recording of something. What immediately springs to mind is how when I was a kid, I used to love, love, love recording sill things with my friends on a tape recorder then loving the playback too, mesmorized (and also tickled) by how we could create entertainment just by hitting record; as an adult I would say that hasn't changed much, except that instead of calling it "entertainment," I would upgrade "entertainment" to "art." But for the most part, I feel the same way about recording now: Turn on the record button! The performance and the documentation of it has started! This recording is a document of the moment! Of the event! Of the culture! Of the society! Of a moment in history! A summarization of all of history! Of humanity! At a place in time! As a summization of ALL time until now! A document of what we have evolved to! And as something universal about the human spirit and predicament! And so on! ...I think of when they flash the title of the movie American Movie right after Mark Borchardt says that he funds his movie by maxed out credit cards. The way Americans fund art! Debt! Art! Poverty is the existence of the artist! And so on! The point being, perhaps that what documentation is, at its best, is in some way an encapsulation of something in cultural history. P.S. Am I remembering the opening sequence of American Movie correctly?

In grade school I once recruited fellow classmates to read a transcript I made of a field trip we had taken. The teachers let me and my actors and actresses out of fourth period for a week! Then we performed it for all the other classes. In high school I remember forcing my friends to go out with me and pretend we were aliens documenting our findings (OK, that is pretty nerdy -- especially when I share this fact: I had just read all the Hitchhiker's Guide series). 20 years later, the third issue of my zine Caboose was mostly a transcription of a round table discussion with friends about the sociological intricacies of karaoke, our favorite pastime. And then a few years ago, I took photos of notable things my dad, a veterinarian, has had to surgically remove from animals. In Caboose #7: Britney Spears 101, I reproduced selections from my journal when I was sick. The idea wasto use it as a filter from which to view paralells in popular culture -- since when I was sick, Britney Spears was also making her way through a series of public meltdowns. In fact, just a few days ago I made a video specifically devoted to one evening's activity of Punk Rock Karaoke, which consisted of both video and photos, because I felt like somebody needed to do that before the awesomeness of the evening was swept away to the past. (A recording company that some of their karaoke versions they record and make them into actual karaoke files with graphics and they make their own videos?!! How much more awesome can that be?!!!)

I think it is both enjoyable and important to creatively process things I've watched, heard, read and otherwise consumed.

Isn't that what good journalists do? Just thinking aloud on that one.

Just recently, I had this idea for a recording series: So the Poet Laureat from 1997-2000 was Robert Pinsky. He founded The Favorite Poem Project, which recorded Americans reciting their favorite poems, but the catch was that it had to be a favorite poem you memorized. It couldn't just be someone reading it aloud -- you actually have to have it memorized. And it wasn't necessarily famous people doing it -- it was sort everyday people doing it, like insurance salesman who loves an Ashbery poem, to, among other things, show that Americans were fully capable of enjoying art. And they created this big database of it.

Well, I had an idea that's kind of a take on that. And it's this (stay with me here): I keep ending up in these social situations where I'm talking to someone about something and for whatever reason, they have some spiel that they've memorized from necessary repetitive recitation or just hearing something a  lot. Everybody I know has at least one of these types of things they've memorized, probably you too! Usually it's something you've memorized from some sort of blue collar job you've had -- for me, it's the consignment spiel I go into at work -- "So the 2 things I always tell people when they consign stuff is: 1.) Don't let more than 6 months go by without checking in on your zine or we may assume ownership and 2.) If any of your contact information changes, let us know so we can keep our records updated." I also have spiels I still remember from past jobs, like knife selling: "highly engineered thermo-resin material and made out of 4-40A grade steel!" You get the idea. For some people, whatever it is that they've memorized might not necessarily be work-related, it's just something they hear a lot, and they can deliver it in a super awesome impression which is always awesome. Last night, for example, we had a party and a guest did a hilarious (and spot on) impression of the voice on the intercom at the Village Thrift in her neighborhood. So my idea is to record people doing whatever their memorized spiel is. Everybody's got one. It's a cross between The Favorite Poem Project and Studs Terkel. What would I call it? Thoughts? Anyone? Anyone? Also, do you have something you've memorized and want to be included?

Or perhaps you want to take on this project? I'm pretty overcommitted as it is. I'd be happy record you recording someone else and present it back to you as some sort of statement about our humanity.


  1. I heard those Beat Guys were especially handsome. Well, the writer guy is. That's what I heard, anyway. Also, why do you call it the Masonic Lodge?