The two fathers of 'podcasting' have called for jokes and satirical broadcasts to be clearly labelled as such, after they were bamboozled by a comic female impersonator.
Two "bloggers" - former MTV video jockey Adam Curry and former software developer Dave Winer cooked up the idea of enclosing audio files in some XML code so they could be pulled off the web onto a portable device - a nifty, if not terrible original idea. With real, grassroots webcasting itself in mortal danger, its seems an odd distraction. The Webcaster Alliance is locked in epic battle with the RIAA over the right to distribute art, but instead of supporting them, these bloggers have other priorities, and top of the list is the right to be able to burp at home, and then broadcast it over the fabled Interweb. Unscripted burps are particularly welcome.
And so not surpringly, people have taken the idea and run with it, making their own burpy broadcasts in their kitchens, and shoving them up on the web. For a week on their own burpy 'show', Curry and Winer rebroadcast the adventures of a podcaster they admired, one Yeast Radio's Madge Weinstein.
Madge Weinstein is really a database programmer called Richard Bluestein, who performs the part of "a domineering Jewish lesbian" - firmly in the tradition of John Waters' diva Divine, and a long-line of female impersonators including Dame Edna Everage. He's been recording his own scatalogical skits for a while.
But Curry and Winer didn't realize that Madge wasn't really ... a woman.
It's an easy mistake to make, looking at the pictures of Madge in action (below), hearing her show, or if you don't have an internet connection, where Madge flaunts let's it all hang on a number of web sites.
Judge for yourselves -
Madge Weinstein is really a man in drag. Who would have guessed?
Now let Winer himself describe the historic moment in podcasting history where they realized that Madge was actually - gasp - a man in drag!
"I looked over at Adam and asked how he felt about this. "Not good." Then he asked how I felt, and I said I had repped Madge as being something other than what she or he was. An act."
The intrepid twosome leapt into action.
"We both agreed we should do an instant podcast to explain and raise questions."
And so they did.
"It's borderline podcast material to do that," opined Winer. "It's like stage material, or fiction. It was scripted - clearly scripted."
The horror! Curry agreed.
"Oh my god, this is scripted" replied the 80s throwback former video jock.
"How much is scripted?" wondered Winer. "I clearly wasn't talking to Madge, a transgender 50 year old jewish guy with a beard. So... it's an act!"
Winer articulated his anxiety further.
"I don't want the feeling that this is a script written by a comedian who just wants to er, entertain us."
Of course, there's no danger that anyone could mistake Curry and Winer's earnest podcasts for entertainment -but the script scare had to be dealt with, urgently. Great issues of morality were at stake. And so Winer demanded that Bluestein report in to the Podfathers to explain hershelf.
"We need to hear from whoever Weinstein to it is as to how we should interpret that other stuff," he declared. "We'll give her another chance."
"I want a direct statement on how we are intended to interpret this podcast. And then I'm going to make my decision," huffed Winer.
These very issues are going to be discussed at a conference he explained, at Harvard, where until last year, on the recommendation of Professor Lawrence Lessig, he was appointed a Fellow of to the Law Schools' internet think tank, the Berkman Center.
"Madge broke the rules" concludes Winer. "I need to know which parts of what's she's doing are real!"
Alas the happy podcast nation didn't take this outbreak of morality very well.
"You guys sound like you are about to start regulating what podcasters can do and your first rule is that you cant be make-believe? What kind of shit is that?" asks 'Dave'.
"You must be the only two people in world of podcasting who thought he/she/it was legit. Get a grip guys!"
" I think podcasting just bit you in the ass" writes Ian.
On Madge's blog, much more incredulity is expressed at the gullible and Pompous Podfathers.
"Do they go out to clubs and think, 'Wow, this place is great! Barbra Streisand AND Carol Channing together on stage! Though I had no idea Barbara had such huge feet." writes one.
"Who they heck are Dave and Adam to define what should and shouldn't be the content of a podcast?". I appreciate that their efforts have been key to the popularity and success of podcasting as a medium,"
"To the fathers of podcasting- wake up. Your revolution is about to start leaving you behind," agrees another 'caster.
"Fuck you" replied Winer, echoing a theme he had developed earlier on this weblog. The great communicator issued a pre-emptive welcome for the press on New Year's Eve.
Here's a screengrab -
And Madge's response?
"I've been accused of being dishonest but that's from people who don't know what the fuck they're taking about," she declares. "I am a lesbian. I am a rock band manager. And most importantly - a former lover of Ethel Merman."
Which should be good enough for anyone. ®