Beta Files Podcast
March 9, 2018. The President of the United States is being sued by a Porn star, the attorney general is threatening to deport the state of California, Sam Nunberg lost his mind on national television, and the New Yorker ran a full dossier on Christopher Steele. Just another week in America – buckle up, I’m the Barbour and this is the Beta Files…
Welcome to the first of, hopefully, many weekly snapshots of American culture.
What is this, you’re wondering. Well, short story long, I had an idea, plugged in a mic, and here we are. It isn’t going to be much as far as massive amounts of political commentary or opinion driven diatribes, there won’t be a lot of activism here, male dominated attitudes, etc. No, here we will simply be commenting on what the hell is happening in the world for those who abhor the news cycle and “depressing” stories that clutter it.
The structure of the show, keeping in mind that we may change it, is a simple three act paradigm with an opening segment focused on the headlines from the past week, a second act with Dr. J who will join me to discuss art and literature, and a final act that will focus on the lighthearted or smaller informative stories that may be left behind in the continuing chaos that is the Trump presidency. A well-rounded show as you can tell.
We’ll do it once a week, posting the podcast on Friday nights for anyone to download and listen to on this website, thebetafiles.com. Yes, thanks to the wonderful people of WordPress, we have our own domain. Peachy keen…
A little history about me – I was born to a man and woman in a hospital. My father passed away when I was three, but left a large collection of writing, drawings, paintings, and poetry behind which gave me the bug. Now, here I am, 38 years later still trying to find a niche in the literary market…..by talking into a microphone…
Not exactly literature, though I did write this…
As my mother would say, Any way….
With all of that out of the way, let’s get started by looking at the headlines…(soundbite)
On Monday, The New Yorker ran a detailed article focused on Christopher Steele and his investigation of, quote, the many criminal roads that lead to Trump tower. Two interesting revelations that stood out for me from the article were the claims that Steele ran into Trump tower no-nos at least five years before the election, and that the decision to choose Rex Tillerson over Mitt Romney may have been decided in Moscow, a claim that outside of Jake Tapper and Chuck Todd hasn’t gotten a lot of traction in the headline crawls thanks to a Stormy week in the northeast and the west wing.
By Tuesday, soundbites all over the upper list of channels on Direct TV were full of Trump claiming “no chaos” as his top economic advisor optioned his free agency clause and left to join the Yankees after the commander in chief insisted on creating a trade war with Reynolds wrap and pepsi cans.
On top of that, Stormy Daniels popped back up in the first quarter of every hour like a bad case of herpes that just will not go away after she filed suit against Trump when he failed to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Apparently, she’s not suing for money, instead she is suing for acknowledgement of the affair. Who would have thought that the woman to act as that lynchpin in the Trump v female population would be the same porn star that Steve Carell tried to watch in 40-year old virgin. Oh irony, how thee play such fun games…
Florida passed legislation that makes both the NRA and those pesky kids a little less angry, though part of the agreement allows volunteer options to bring firearms into classrooms. It did not pass assault weapon legislation, however, leading to the continued call for legislatures to work harder against the influence from the NRA. These kids are not letting up, and kudos to them for that.
In what would be a great Onion headline, Jeff Sessions plans to deport California and revoke all rights shared by both naturalized and immigrant Californians which include the right to get drunk and pee on Sunset Blvd after a great night at the Whiskey…something I feel Mike Pence secretly desires.
Earlier this week, the AG made his way to California where he went after the governor and others over the fact that Sacramento refuses to help ICE find and get rid of unwanted individuals. California has doubled down on its status as a sanctuary state, and is ready to fight the feds after former Attorney General, and number one thorn in Sessions side not named Trump, Eric Holder pointed out that the supreme court ruled previously that states could not be forced by the fed to give up resources when the state does not agree with the federal policy being cited for said resources. Sessions is angrily shaking in his white boy boots over the outlandish idea that a state could have a conscious and is baffled why those pot smoking hippies would want to defend drug selling gang bangers from Tajuana. Of course, sessions would also have ICE raid every Taco Bell to deport those annoying chalupas and the 1 am pot menu.
Finally, we were formally introduced to Sam Nunberg this week, the Trump campaign official that no one I know even had an inkling existed. Nunberg made waves Monday when he went on every possible talk show on cable news for five, almost six hours declaring that he would not comply to Mueller’s request for his emails, then maybe give what few emails he had gone through over, to finally that night realizing this was crazy and insane and announcing on MSNBC that he would gladly hand over his email password so Mueller would have access to everything. If you have not had a chance to see any of the clips, or read one of the several fully transcribed interviews floating around on Twitter, please do so. It is a great laugh that will be funny until Nunberg disappears in a Denzel style Russian mafia hit. Don’t forget that a former spy and his daughter were poisoned by the Kremlin this week, so training day could actually happen…
And that’s the headlines, or some of them, for this week…(exit soundbite)
Dr J Segment:
Ok – on a lighter note, it is time to welcome my dear friend and colleague Dr. J. The doc is not only a professor of the bastardized Germanic French Celtic Saxon language we call native like myself, he is a poet who shares and disagrees with many of my favorites. Tonight, he has agreed to join us and give us some insight into the life of one William Carlos Williams, master of the refrigerator post-it that gently let’s your lover down, Dr. J, how’s it going?
Finally, we take a look at Podcasts. On Tuesday, Wired ran an interesting article on the rise and continued popularity of what the article insinuates as the new way to gather your news without the bothersome TV or crumpled newspaper that your neighbor didn’t steal.
Felix Salmon, the articles author, took a unique look at how the podcast has become, in his words, industrialized as larger media companies like The New York Times, Washingon Post, and NPR have invested larger and larger amounts of time and advertising revenue on the format, helping boost their native formats by allowing traditional journalists another avenue to explore and experiment with, adding to the plethora of information that the organizations can draw from for their narratives.
But the question I had as I combed through the article was simply how do we define what a podcast is? I asked because, this little venture I am playing with here has been something I have been playing around with for a while now, and I have simply called it an idea for a podcast, but is it? What characteristics define the podcast? Can a guy literally plug in a microphone, talk for twenty or thirty minutes about the news of the day, and call that a podcast? To me, the ambiguous nature of the podcast rivals that of the blog where both amateur and professional writers compete to create dialogues connected to larger narratives promoted by the Mainstream media outlets. Blogs also take on the nature of personal interest diaries, expanded thoughts that are better left to post-it notes, and reflections on personal beliefs and observations.
Are these also possible avenues for the podcast?
There are two major moments in the brief history of the format that techies point to in creating the massive popularity of the podcast: the adoption of the podcast by Apple through iTunes, and of course Serial, the NPR offshoot of This American Life that changed the way individuals could binge something besides Netflix and Hulu. But, when you dig into these two moments, a definitive set of rules for the format does not present itself. Most of the earlier podcasts hosted on Apple were either smaller summaries of larger productions, or attempts by personalities to create spaces that mainstream radio would not endorse.
In the case of Serial, it was no more than a larger story that could not fit into the weekly time constraint NPR devotes to This American Life. If you have ever listened to the NPR program, you know that they spotlight two or three stories based on a common theme. Serial was one story that ran through multiple episodes to develop a more detailed story complete with cliff hangers, a-ha moments, and intrigue that made the normal formatted hour on the radio seem elementary.
Compare that against the Daily from the Times, or the 202 from the Post. These are newscasts set in a small time table that are used to promote the headlines from the newspapers, giving listeners a brief glance at the daily goings on at the papers. What do you end up with? A wide open format that, seemingly, has no rules.
Which brings me back to the question I opened with at the beginning of this episode, what exactly is this, The BetaFiles? It is a question I will leave to you. I think trying to define it by putting a label on an abstract idea would diminish whatever meaning could be gleaned, if any. Our culture is full of every opinion you can think of, and harbors so many points of view that demand attention, a fact that has led to deeper divisions between neighbors, brothers, sisters, and friends. Here, I want to explore what we can do with these divisions, if bridges can be built.
When I first sat down to write this episode, I immediately went for gun control for this segment. I wanted to talk about the NRA, assault rifles, teachers with guns, etc. But then I realized it would automatically polarize. No matter which side I took, there would be anger, insults of intelligence, patriotism, and questions of strength and masculinity. So I scrapped it and chose this instead.
So what is this? You decide. I can tell you what I want it to be – I want it to be a chuckle, a giggle, a smirk. I also want it to be neutral ground where we can laugh at ourselves. We don’t laugh at ourselves any more. We’ve become too serious, too dogmatic in what we decide to defend. Polarization, history teaches, creates a dominant thought that rules and oppresses everyone. We need to get away from this road we are hurtling down so rapidly. So I ask that you join me, once a week, in this space. It’s not a safe space, its not a dark space, its not a left or right space. It’s that space we have overlooked for too long now where we forget being politically correct, religiously fanatical, and realize that our feelings are our feelings, not everyone else’s. Call it what ever you want, I just ask that you come back and listen again.
And that’s the show for this week. Next week, we’ll have another fun look at the headlines from the week, Dr J will join me in discussing the southern myth and William Faulkner, and so much more. For Dr J, I am The Barbour, thank you for coming by. Make it a great day, and always remember, as long as the sun rises there is opportunity.
This has been the Beta Files