174: Knobs and Dials July 2, 2021 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Jessamyn and I were both feeling excessively chatty today so this one clocks in at about one hour fifty five, with discussions about MeFi, Ask, etc. along with a bunch of wanderings and heat wave chatter. Also there is a spider and a bird, and Jessamyn saw a bear outside her window. Also I fixed my goddam GarageBand, so we have music tracks again. I missed those.

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- i made a podcast spider friend and Jessamyn made a podcast bird friend
- of which, Michael Fogleman is a bird nerd AND a math nerd
- Find out ahead of time if the dog dies in the movie, or various other content warnings, at doesthedogdie.com
- we mentioned user soy bean's 'Change the Subject' Documentary at one point
- of which, see also the Conscious Style Guide
- more like LAST aid kit amirite

- Technical Project Manager by ochenk

- Penrose tiling quilt by ubermuffin (MeFi Post, and see also his excellent Penrose quilt roundup)
- A couple of utilities for PICO-8 by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand
- NPR's Joy Generator by Four String Riot
- object: murder is a hand-drawn comic about objects with murderous intent by obliquicity
- My attempt at the Trans Am Bike Race by adamrice

- The Moving Finger of WhoWunIt by jenfullmoon
- The Errand Friend Hang/Date by ellieBOA
- 'The Broken Earth' to be Adapted by Quonab
- The Tactile Beauty of Buttons, Meters, Knobs and Dials by chavenet
- look out for fast mimes by cortex
- patron records and circulation privacy in libraries by brainwane
- Tubes consume a lot of electricity, as it turns out by They sucked his brains out!

Ask MeFi
- Pasta Sauces Wanted
- One-time fees that are worth it?
- What song is this? by Trespassers William
- Can one practise to be patient? by Nieshka

- Metafilter Pride by zamboni
- Summer book bingo! by The corpse in the library
- Ways to make posts more accessible for neurodivergent folks by Sheydem-tants
- Do we really need to use the m word? by lemur
- What's Wrong With The Guardian? by CCBC
- Metatalktail Hour: I'm Gonna Do Something With It Eventually by cortex
- Rosemary's Baby's Day Out by DirtyOldTown

You know what's pretty good? That Loki show is pretty good.

Featured tracks in this episode:
- Io Buggy by ignignokt
- Seven Up / Old Sledge / All Fours by hades
- Guardian by q*ben
- That's The Story Of My Life by MajorDundee
posted by cortex (staff) to MeFi Podcast at 5:47 PM (22 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

The radio vs. podcast argument reminds me how angry I used to get about the word "podcast." Mostly because I despise both Apple branding and puns, but also because I'm always annoyed at taking half a common word and using it as a modifier in a way that isn't related to the construction of the original. (Watergate wasn't a scandal about water.)

I'm resigned to the fact that the word podcast has won and will continue long after no living person has seen an ipod. But, I do fully support the new trend of referring to one episode of a podcast as a pod. If we're inventing new words, let's make a working grammar for them. If you cast flies, spells, pearls, and seed (broad), surely you cast pods. I quite enjoyed this pod.

I spent a few minutes trying to come up with a clever Venn diagram for unicyclists, with mimes, theater people, jugglers, clowns, magicians, mathematicians, rock-climbers, slack-liners, and burning man enthusiasts. It quickly became clear that accurate Venn diagrams need either nearly as many dimensions as categories or shapes that are very different from circles. Also, it's hard to make them funny. I'm resisting the urge to look into previous ideas for higher-dimensional Venn diagrams.

I took up unicycling last year on a whim. I technically paid $12.50 each for two, but one was immediately thrown in the garbage with no parts worth keeping. Still not a bad entry price as hobbies go. If you don't have hallways, or like me have no interior walls that aren't covered in artwork, I recommend tennis courts for practice. And a helmet.
posted by eotvos at 7:13 AM on July 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

This is a very sweary episode, fwiw. Here is the Greasemonkey script for looking at Twitter alt text, it's very helpful.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:22 AM on July 3, 2021

Huh. Brief mention on the podcast and I'm handed a golden opportunity to talk about mimes, clowns, juggling and unicycles? You'd be amazed how rarely those topics come up. (No you wouldn't.) What an interesting day.

So, mimes. I guess the stereotype of mimes in the sad white-faced clown trapped in an invisible box on the streets of Paris or whatever. That kind of thing is prevalent of TV and movies because it's simple and recognizable and you only need a quick flash of it onscreen to scream, "look! A mime!" But what, more generally, distinguishes mime as an artform is the artist's ability to suggest the existence of—and interact with—objects/forces/etc. using only their body. The classic examples are things like walking in the wind, the glass box, pulling on a rope, etc. but that's all basically beginner stuff: Which is not to say that it's easy. (Note: I'm no great expert or connoisseur of mime but did spend a brief time in my early 20s as a circus performer and learned a few techniques.) Really great mimes can conjure up images of whole rooms full of bustling activity, a full dinner service, or...well pretty much anything. Mimes get a bad rap but it requires incredibly precise control of both the macro and micro movements of your body to suggest the size, shape, weight, dynamic forces, and so on of objects that only exist in the minds of the artist and thier audience. Like, anybody can pretend to be walking a dog and then get jerked in a random direction as the dog decides to chase a squirrel. But video of me pretending to get jerked in a random direction and video of me actually getting jerked in a random direction will look very different. A good mime? They'd probably be about as close as it's physically possible to get and that's really hard to do as different parts of the body have to move in different, independent ways in both large and small ways.

So, a "proper" or "pure" mime performance tells a story—which may be funny, sad, serious, poignant, all of the above or more—using only the performer's body and the willing imagination of the audience to bring to life every single aspect of the scene, from props, to people or animals, to forces of nature and so on. No actual, physical props would be used, typically. So no mimes on unicycles, sorry Cortex.

That said, "pure" mime isn't particularly popular or prevalent these days and miming techniques get borrowed and used by all sorts of other performers. A normal stage production, for instance, might have two characters talking while walking outside. They might use a common technique for walking in place so that the audience doesn't have to "watch tennis" while the characters pace back and forth. In this case the non-existent "thing" which the actors are mimicing is space or distance. The difference is that other things can help sell the effect: Maybe a backdrop which slowly scrolls by, or a fan to blow some leaves across the stage or something along those line, so it's not exclusively—or even primarily—the artist's body selling the effect.

It can even turn up in dance, interpretive dance or other types of physical theatre which obviously also require excellent control of the body. Although I doubt there's a direct connection, the moonwalk, for instance, and the stationary walk I describe above are very similar techniques. The main difference is that in the stationary walk the leg stops moving when it's directly under the body so as the artist "walks" they remain in the same place. While doing the moonwalk, you'd move that leg further back behind the body so as you "walk" you actually move backwards.

And, of course, many clowns make fairly extensive use of miming techniques in their performances but, again, aren't actually mimes because they will also make use of actual, physical props. So, yes! Clowns on unicycles!

Clown can be a confusing term itself. In the US and Canada in particular (maybe other places as well?) when you say "clown" what most people think of is bright colours, big wigs, garish full-face make-up, baggy pants, floppy shoes, and probably funny voices unless the performance is non-verbal. This is a mostly US lineage of clowing that gained prominence, I believe, with the Barnum and Bailey circus way back when. I don't know if rodeo clowns came first and Barnum clowns came after or vice-versa but I'm reasonably certain they share a common lineage. (Reasonably. Ish.) They tend to focus heavily on high energy, frenetic activity with a huge helping of slapstick and other physical comedy which sometimes leads to them coming off as/having a reputation for being bullies. Which might be why so many people are afraid of them. But this is not universally the case.

However, there is also a more European clowning tradition—and no doubt others. I don't know anything about "clowning" or similar professions in Asia or Africa, for instance, but I don't doubt that they have their own fascinating histories—which descend from Commedia dell'arte. These tend towards far less garish outfits, fewer bright colours, and minimal or sometimes completely absent make-up. Physical comedy plays a role but performances tend to focus more on simple, yet silly, situations and interactions with the audience or complex rube-goldberg-esque scenarios often succeeding only by accident as all their best plans fail spectacularly. There can be occasional jabs at an audience member but they're usually, subtly, invited to "give as good as they get" and generally come out on top in such interactions leading to comedy which can come across as more self-deprecating while the audience member leaves feeling like the hero. Though, again, this isn't universal.

Which, if you'll excuse the digression this far into what is quickly becoming an essay, brings me to why I get annoyed whenever people refer to a particular former-politican-who-shall-remain-nameless as, "a clown." Circus clowns, in particular, are often among the most skilled perfomers in the troup. They have to be proficient at many, if not most or even all, of the skills of the other performers. They have to be so good, in fact, that they can look like completely out-of-control incompetents. I don't think I can adequately describe how hard it is to be so in-control that you can look like you have no idea what you're doing while: not hurting yourself; not hurting the other performers; not hurting the crew; and not hurting the audience, all while conveying a character and nailing your comedic timing. And not to say, "hey, look at me, I'm the fine-tuned pinnacle of human perfection," but just to make you laugh because everybody needs a laugh. Straight up, clowns are among the most talented, dedicated, hard-working and downright professional people I have ever worked with in any industry. Former-politican-who-shall-remain-nameless is many things but he most certainly is not a clown. He's not even fit to shine their floppy shoes.

There's not much to say about juggling specifically apart from the fact that it can and has been incorporated into performances ranging from pure displays of skill, to complex coreographed dances, to pure comedy and everything inbetween. Ditto for unicycling but also add free-style BMX-style trick riding and off-road/down-hill mountain biking to the list as well.

Or, I guess, tl;dr: humans are kind of amazing.

All of the above is based on my own experiences and hazy recollections from 20+ years ago so it's possible I got some, or even all, of the details wrong but I think it's at least broadly accurate.
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 8:30 AM on July 3, 2021 [12 favorites]

So no mimes on unicycles, sorry Cortex.


I had a good friend who dropped out of the college we were at together and ran away to join the Barnum and Bailey circus (I had given him a ride to his Clown College interview). He was more of a student of Italian clowning traditions which was fascinating. I got to visit him on the clown train once. He had a room the size of three phone booths stacked on top of each other which was pretty snug for my 6' 4" pal. I think he left that and is now with a touring clown troupe in Japan. I should drop him a note.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:36 AM on July 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Oof, yeah that sounds....cozy?
I like telling people that I ran away and joined the circus because it's easy to understand but what actually happened is I dropped out of university and went to a circus school for two years. Which obviously included a lot of training and public performance but much less of the cramped caravan living, muddy fairgrounds and setting up and tearing down what is, essentially, a complete portable theatre in a matter of hours, several times a month. It's a wild life and a rare person who can thrive and flourish in that environment, so all my respect to your friend. Never did make a career of it in the end myself but still some of my happiest memories.
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 10:30 AM on July 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Thank you for the mime and clown infodump! I will absolutely lean into a lazy Hollywood mime trope sometimes but I'm there with you on respecting the actual discipline behind the work, and ditto clowns. (Though I'm also in the Don't Like Clowns camp at a visceral aesthetic level that I can't really explain or tie to childhood trauma. I also don't like balloons? Who knows.)

And I suppose the pure mime vs. unicycle paradox is pretty unassailable, huh. Though I wouldn't mind seeing a mime convincingly ride one that wasn't there.

On the flip side, to reassure myself that I'm not inventing this weird intersection whole cloth: unicycling mime-drag definitely a thing. As always, I blame the media.

It quickly became clear that accurate Venn diagrams need either nearly as many dimensions as categories or shapes that are very different from circles.

Yes! If you want a full-intersection Venn diagram with more than three dimensions circles go right out the window, unfortunately. If you stick with circles you'll start seeing an increasing number of non-adjacent circles that can't share an intersection with just themselves, so you lose some of the math. I thiiiink you can do a 4-dimensional Venn with ellipses instead of circles, but I'm pretty uncertain as I try to visualize it. But you can definitely adapt more complex wiggly pathing shapes to higher dimensions and preserve the full set of intersection possibilities; maybe to arbitrarily high dimensions, though I can't recall there either.

Also all this talk about European clowning and I'm struggling and failing to come up with a good Pagliacci joke. Off day.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:15 AM on July 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

It is a very strange feeling getting talked about on a podcast and not being able to jump in to correct something or defend myself. I just kind of yell at my, well, I guess I would normally yell at the radio but since I listened while wearing earbuds I just sort of yell into space. Jumping from hobby to hobby is something I've always done. It's an ADD thing and, Cortex, thank you for sticking up for hobby jumpers. I don't usually abandon a hobby outright, I just get obsessed with something for a few months, put it aside, spend two years getting obsessed with sixteen other things, then go back to the original thing. Repeat. It works for me and as a result there are a shitload of things I am mediocre at. I had two older brothers who never let me win anything so I grew up being generally ok with mediocrity.

My snails are still alive, at least four out of the five are, as are the fish. In fact, I have a lot more fish in the tank than I started with. Fish like to make babies, it seems. After the initial tank setup it's really only a quick feed every day and a water change/tank clean every couple of weeks. I love looking at my fish, which are in my office, which is a thing I have at home now because there was a pandemic and as a result I am now working from home permanently.

I would also like to take this opportunity to state, for the record, that not all unicyclists have circus ambitions. For me it was just a goofy thing to learn when I was sixteen and again at 51. I've just been riding for exercise and because it's fun to ride. It's also not as hard as it looks. If you can ride a bike, you can ride a unicycle. It's just a bit more of a frustrating learning curve at first. I have no interest in tricks. Or, I should say, I have no interest in learning tricks or incurring injuries while learning said tricks. I can juggle, but I have no interest in Burning man or theater or slack lining or what-have-you. I do think there are people who look at weird skills like that and think "that's neat, but I could never do that" and those of us who think "that's neat, I need to learn how to do that." and that's why you get a lot of crossover with some of those niche hobbies.
posted by bondcliff at 2:26 PM on July 3, 2021 [7 favorites]

Re: the discussion of bluetooth headphones/earbuds at the beginning, can I just say that as a (what feels like) very very late and pretty resistant adopter of bluetooth headphones, my Anker Q20s ($40-60) have been a surprisingly great pandemic-induced addition to my life? I don’t use the noise cancelling but they’ve been really comfortable and not finicky in terms of connection and even when I still had my phone that had an audio jack I found myself defaulting to them.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:24 AM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I had given him a ride to his Clown College interview

Did you leave four hours early in case the doors fell off?
posted by biffa at 3:29 AM on July 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Jessamyn, what’s the podcast you like to listen to when you do the dishes?
posted by exceptinsects at 10:38 AM on July 4, 2021

Oh, that reminds me: I had meant to mention tangential podcast content and forgot to, but I got to be a guest on an art/craft/making podcast I very much like called Make Do. Here's me chatting for about an hour about art and process stuff with Julia Skott and Tiff Arment.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:08 AM on July 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Fuck yeah, that was sweary good fun!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:31 AM on July 5, 2021

It is a very strange feeling getting talked about on a podcast and not being able to jump in to correct something or defend myself.

Ach, sorry if that felt tease-y, I mostly just wanted a snail update. As I hope you know, I think you are the coolest.

Jessamyn, what’s the podcast you like to listen to when you do the dishes?

No such thing as a fish, a weekly podcast about random trivia from the people who do the research for the show QI. I love it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:22 AM on July 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Ach, sorry if that felt tease-y, I mostly just wanted a snail update. As I hope you know, I think you are the coolest.

heh. Not at all! I yell at podcasts all the time.

Snail update: This morning I found one of the snails upside down. I put him upright but it may have been too late. How does a species manage to evolve if they can't right themselves when they tip over?
posted by bondcliff at 12:22 PM on July 5, 2021

The snail moved! It's a Christmas miracle!
posted by bondcliff at 5:31 PM on July 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Regarding those car settings, I once got a rental car that saved the car seat settings based on the key, so that when you stuck the key in it would move the seat back to wherever the seat was the last time that key was used.

The problem for me was that as a rental car, they gave me two identical keys on a key ring, and I set the seat so I was comfortable. Then the next time I drove it I randomly used the other key, so it undid my adjustments and I had to re-set everything.
posted by ckape at 8:15 PM on July 7, 2021

Still listening to the rest of the podcast but wanted to recommend Soundcore Liberty Air 2 wireless headphones, I love mine and they’re cheaper than AirPods. Lazily not linking as it would be a French link!
posted by ellieBOA at 7:49 AM on July 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this episode (as I scrubbed cloth nappies!)
posted by freethefeet at 5:14 AM on July 10, 2021

Re: the discussion of bluetooth headphones/earbuds at the beginning, can I just say that as a (what feels like) very very late and pretty resistant adopter of bluetooth headphones, my Anker Q20s ($40-60) have been a surprisingly great pandemic-induced addition to my life? I don’t use the noise cancelling but they’ve been really comfortable and not finicky in terms of connection and even when I still had my phone that had an audio jack I found myself defaulting to them.

The noise cancellation is pretty great, the outside world goes away, but those reviews that talk about connection problems with Macs aren't lying. Sometimes I need to give the headphones a little pep talk to connect, and sometimes I have to forget-pair-again.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:55 PM on July 12, 2021

A swear jar would provide an additional — and substantial at that — revenue stream for the site.
posted by y2karl at 10:47 AM on July 24, 2021

Haha and it took me this long to finish the episode, thanks for the shoutout!
posted by ellieBOA at 6:10 AM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just finally got around to this one. Good fun all around.

And yep, Jessamyn has it: my username is from the song. I particularly like the version by The Mountain Goats.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:38 PM on August 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

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