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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Madness in the World of Radio

Years ago, I once said I'd write a book called, Why Radio Sucks."  Mostly it would not be so much the medium, or some of the people in it.  It would have a lot to do with those who have destroyed it.


One such place is a company called Clear Channel, aka, Cheap Channel.  The very big broadcasting company that got bigger and bigger and bigger to the point it teeters on bankruptcy, and cannot keep its stations up.


The monopoly that this company has on broadcasting, TV, radio and the concert business is pretty sad, and badly operated.  


This has to do with last night's insanity in Harrisburg.  I am an occasional working at the Clear Channel "cluster" in Harrisburg, which includes six stations.  The one I generally work for is "The Ticket," the sports station.


Most of the stations are by and large automated, under a system which (in theory) allows the operator to access it and take local control.  This is not unusual at all; most radio stations today are pretty much operated by computers.  This takes away the human element, meaning less opportunity for error (in theory), and not having to pay humans to be on the air or running the board, or whatever 24/7.


One must remember an old axiom about computers:  they are only as intelligent as those entering the information into it.


Well, I actually feel bad for my bosses, and the people who have to work their every day.  I don't think anyone understands what kind of stress varied pieces of equipment, which includes computers and hard drives, right up to the control boards and every piece in between go through.  They get put through an awful lot, only you can't always see the problem.  If your car breaks down, or blows smoke, starts to make noise, etc., you know about this, and you take it somewhere to fix it, right?


Well, in theory, you would.


In radio, that's what engineers are for.  You must remember that in the radio business, anyone who calls themselves an engineer is INSANE.


Especially if they don't admit to it.


Well, CC lost their engineer some time ago, a guy I met once called "Squirrel."  Nice guy, seemed a bit more together than most.  Anyway, I don't know why he left, but I gather it had something to do with the way things run over there.


It is not unusual for stations that have old, outdated, obsolete or substandard gear to have problems, especially if you are putting 21st Century stresses upon them.  Some equipment you can get by with; others must be replaced, because when they're falling apart and duct tape is the #1 repair tool (I have actually seen this in a number of stations), you are going to have problems.


Case in point, last night:  now, I am a part-time jobber in the radio world once again.  26 years in this biz does not entitle me to anything.  Howard Stern has been paid millions upon millions from varied companies, and is now suing Sirius/XM -- talk about biting the hand that feeds you.


So anyway:  I did a 7-hour shift at my primary weekend job, WITF, a public radio/TV outfit.  Fairly easy day, as I do sports updates and reports for KYW in Philly, as part of a working agreement.  Not a bad day, but I knew that my second job was going to be trouble.


The Ticket, or WTKT is the flagship station of the Hershey Bears, the American Hockey League franchise that is one of the oldest in the US, and the defending two-time Calder Cup champs.  Very good team; they have a rabid fan base, and the Ticket flashes this game to affiliates.  


You'd think this would be easy:  the game is broadcast from wherever, we send it out, we drop in the commercials, the computer trips things for us at the touch of a button or the F9 key, yeah, easy, right?


WRONG.


Two days before the game, my boss lets me know that we are not running the game from the Ticket studio; we're running it from a production studio.


Why?  Because very soon the station will also be broadcasting Harrisburg Senators baseball games; and the boss correctly decided to ensure this studio will be able to handle a feed, then send it through to the Ticket studio, etc.  


Now, the prod. studio is a good one, with fairly decent gear...on first glance.


The computerized screens are large, good graphics, easy to read, and the third screen which we use to record goals and saves for the Bears game is easy as well.  No problems.


Well, the flips and twists of putting this game on the air is not what it seems.  We need to go to the 6th Level of Hell, or in this case, the Engineering Room.


This is a small room with several racks of gear that handle six radio stations.  There are computers, relays, stacks of rack gear, ISDN gear, phone line gear, all manner of things, most of which I can't tell you what they're for.


You have to dial in one station for the game, you have to dial in the broadcast of the game, you have to change relays, push buttons, get codes right...THREE MILE ISLAND doesn't have this kind of processing.


Okay...now the computer system that handles all of the station programming (same software, six systems) has a series of commands called Macros.  You can trigger these, program these, take these in and out of effect; if you know how to use it.  I don't.


Bless my boss, the poor guy was there, on a Saturday night, helping me and making sure this thing was gonna work.  I think what has happened in retrospect is:  in an effort to make the job easier, we have made it a thousand times more difficult.  


So anyway, things don't get off to a good start at pre-6:30 pm, when we're supposed to hit the air.  Once we're established, John Walton, the voice of the Bears, and I are supposed to be able to talk back and forth without it going over the air.  Well, we did, then we didn't...then we did.


Okay, we get on the air, things are going okay.  You have to listen to three or four things at once at times in this job, so it is stressful.  You have to stay on top of it. Now in this studio, the breaks must be triggered manually, through the button-bar screen; okay, easy enough, but if your mouse doesn't cooperate, and you're not mindful, watch out.


To compound the madness:  early in the third period of a tie game, it is stopped due to a problem with the ice.  Not once, but two times.  So, John, his partner Ed and whomever they can grab from the tunnel and from the press box are discussing the matter, trying to figure out if there's gonna be a game, etc.  They're doing their job, I'm trying to do mine.


Station problem:  the game usually ends around ten.  If it is a home game, which it was, John does a call-in show.  I take the calls, screen them, put 'em on hold, and send IM's to John to let him know who is on the line.  


Problem, Part II:  this game is not gonna end at ten.  We don't know when it's gonna end.  At 11 pm, the station as a Macro (remember those?) which will fire and return the station to Fox Sports Radio.


Art has to kill that; the hope was John would just bag the call-in show, but no he wants to do it.  Okay, extra hour of work for me, and an extra hour for the boss.


Game resumes, Bears break it open, and kick the Albany Devils' ass, 7-4.  Hooray, the Bears are in the playoffs!  


We finally get done a little before 11 pm, and we kick into the call-in show.  For once, the cheap call-in box actually works pretty well (had this problem in the past), and I can get callers on the air.


I have not mentioned the control board:  the sliding pots trigger themselves to go ON when they're raised automatically.  WTF?


Buttons are sticking!  This is a common problem on every board...too many people punching the buttons again and again and again over time, and the metal below the button is depressed and damaged, and there go your contacts.  


Okay...now, the button bar screen has one last trick left in store for us.  The boss has left, seeing that things are going okay, and I know what I need to do to restore the streams, the programming, etc.


Five minutes later...ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.


The screen that has the buttons to trigger commercials STOPS WORKING.  Let me explain:


--The screen is lit.  It's there.
--The commercial keys are there.
--Fire them; the clock runs on each spot to show you how much time there is.
--The board is up and set right, has been all night.


Result:  NOTHING.  It's running, but there's dead fucking silence.  


Oh, shit...


I try to compensate by finding which spots we need and firing them from other sources on the screen.


No go.


Down the talk-back, I tell John to take it back live, and let's cut this off.  He agrees, and does so.  "So long, everybody."


NOW I CANNOT FIRE ANY FUCKING EVENT ON THE SCREEN.  AT ALL.  NOTHING WORKS.  NOTHING FIRES.  FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES, THIS STATION AND THE ENTIRE SERIES OF AFFILIATES ARE PLAYING DEAD AIR.


My blood pressure is now 100 points higher than normal.  What do I do?


I have no recourse as one would have had in the good ol' days.  I have no music loaded in the CD player, because you just don't need it, in theory.


I have nothing I can play independently to cover my ass.  We have no cart machines anymore; most younger people don't even know what one is.


I finally take the only course of action I can:  I fire the Macro to bring the station back to the satellite and FSR.


Thankfully, it fires, and we're back on air.


What a horrible way to end the night.  This is not what you are supposed to hear.


So I go through what I need to, to restore the Ticket, make sure the WHP Stream is restored to the Hate Talk format, make sure that The River HD-2 is back on that format, unplug the QIC coupler feed, hang up the ISDN lines, reset the relays, fix this, fix that, get into ANOTHER computer system to file my hours.


During this, my poor boss who just got home I think calls.  He is not upset with me; he knows what I went through, but he needs to know:  "WTF happened after I left?"


I told him.  The general feeling is that the equipment could not handle the stress (I mentioned this earlier) that was put upon it.  


The boss had to field an angry late-night phone call from Walton about the chamberpot mess of the game (this is now a regular occurrence, I guess), and apparently the boss got a shit-ton of angry calls about how fucked up that was.


The reason I tell you this, is that once these games were very easy to put over the air.  In an effort to make things streamlined, we've put more rocks in the road.  


There has got to be a better fucking way to do this.  People when they turn on the TV or radio expect a certain flow and continuity; they don't expect to hear something that sounds like a bunch of clowns are running the show.  Well, most morning shows are run by clowns, but largely unprofessional ones, but that's another story.


My first job in the professional radio biz was as a board op.  But it was much easier to do than this.  We've made our lives more difficult by embracing technology and letting it fuck us, rather than using it right.


On top of all this, I ended up with the program log in my bag when I left!  I've done that twice; yes, the bible of radio stations, the program log.  Paper ones do exist, though why I don't know, we've already computerized that too.


Welcome to radio, folks...it's more fun than you can ever imagine!  


Argh.  Now I must get up to WITF, and do my Sunday shift...oh what joys await me!  At least there, the equipment works most of the time, and I am not employed by the station I'm sending content to.  Whatever problems they have down there, I don't want to know...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Life in the Breakdown Lane, Part I



This is my first attempt at using Xtranormal!  I've been fascinated by the crazy stuff that's been put out through this service over the past couple of months, to the point I decided to try and make one myself.


The site walks you through the steps you need to take, and you can go back and edit, and make the changes you like.  We'll see how it goes over time.


This is the first chapter of "Life in the Breakdown Lane."  It's slightly autobiographical; and slightly is a word I use very loosely. 


I hope you find it entertaining, that's the idea.  

A Long, Strange Week it's Been...

Forgive my paraphrasing the Grateful Dead (Bill Walton forever has the market on unnecessary and uncalled for Dead references), but it has been a long and very weird week.


I don't even know where to start.  I've finally gotten out of a cold; it went straight to my throat, and while it was not painful, it was just nagging...then it went to my sinuses.  Lovely.  But nothing too terrible.  


Walkman update..."Writing on the Wall," by Russell Smith.  Heard some good stuff leading up to this, "Hot Patootie" done by Brian May for a Rocky Horror Soundtrack of years past, some interesting Frank Zappa and Brian Eno.  All good.


Anyway, I fell into a depression of sorts this week.  Some of it was my health, then these weird changes in weather, temp. changes, warm, then incredibly cold, a day of extremely heavy rain and thunderstorms.  It always does that.


Working on a new story idea...that has some interesting elements for me, as I again dip into my past for ideas.  Not sure if I'll ever plumb the depths of my past years in order to get them away from me; but it's worth the doing.


Dharma Fools Update:  still working on it.  Johnny and I had a long talk earlier this week, about the direction the new band will take and our plans for a Japanese charity tribute EP.  Just hard as hell trying to get everyone together.  We have to be patient.


J. continues to come up with interesting songs; while he has a certain formula, he also gets to the point a lot quicker than say, I do.


I have two new songs, the first two I've written in a long time.


"I Feel So Good," by Willie Smith and Pinetop Perkins.  Pinetop just passed away, at 97!  Still smokin' right to the end.  What a guy.  Smith is now probably the last of the Muddy Waters compadres from those great years.  This CD won a Grammy, and well-deserved.  


Anyway, two songs...one is the intro/prologue for this new story idea, but it will also fit well as a song.  Katie will have to sing this one, and I'm sure she'll hit it well.


The other began as an instrumental, then I added lyrics, based on a DVD my sister sent me.  Susan has been a geneology freak, and has done extensive research into the varied branches of our family.  They are amazingly long.


She sent most of us a 2000-frame disc of photos...many are very old, dating back to the 19th Century...some more contemporary shots as well, some I didn't need to see.


They stirred some real interesting thoughts and memories.  Some good, some not.  They also really did make me look into my past and I see now where I get some of my better attributes from.  Leastways, I hope they are better ones.


Very strange to look back like that.


"We're Gonna Rock," by Paul Burlison and friends...great CD called "Train Kept A-Rollin'" -- fabulous.  I think Billy Burnette is singing on this one.  Burlison was a member of the Original Rock and Roll Trio, which included Johnny Burnette.  Great stuff.


TrafficTalk soldiers on...I'm still hanging in there, and a bit more press might help us.  Got a couple of interesting calls yesterday.


WITF has called me in next week to train on the job I didn't get.  I'm to be the fill-in guy...feeling pretty good, I hope I can do well, and let 'em know they made a mistake, hahahahaha...


Either way, to be considered is good, and to get a shot at it, alright with me.


My whole week has been strange, very strange, and I'm just not together.  My sleep patterns have been wacked.  Not sure why; I feel a terribly intensity building within, and I don't know if it means another creative surge is coming, or if means something else.


Anyway...double shift tomorrow...KYW first shift, then off to the Clear Channel job for a Bears game.  They're running it on another of the cluster, because of baseball, so it's gonna be weird.  Fortunately the boss and engineer will be on hand.  Let's hope it works.


Bleargh.  Life in the breakdown lane.  Must go.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ostara, and Other Jumbled Thoughts

Having plenty of those today.  First, a Blessed Ostara to one and all!


I cannot be with the coven today, as work is calling me out.  I have hoped this midday as I finally awakened from a looooong night at the job, and still recovering from a cold that I can get myself together.


My efforts I hope will mean something:  it is a beginning again, as we welcome back spring, the sun and some warmer temperatures.  Let's hope they stay.


My thoughts are more for others; my dear friend Anne-Marie is in her third week at Beth Israel, getting treatment for Crohn's Disease.  It is such a horrid condition, and my friend has battled it for a long time.  I have a similar affliction, but not Crohn's, and I know what it does to you.


But she is in good spirits, and her determination to live is something to respect.  I wish her well, and wish I could be there to see her.


Walkman update:  "My Father's Shoes," by Cliff Eberhardt.  I listen to this in the Office, to drown out people who are unnaturally and unnecessarily loud!  Heard some good tracks earlier as I prepared today..."Christian Island" by Gordon Lightfoot, "Tennessee" by Carl Perkins (him doing country is interesting), "The Flood" by Yusuf Islam, "Vegas" by Sara Bareilles.


The people of Japan,  again in my mind.  The nuclear problem remains, but it seems like they're working at it, the way they do with everything.  The death toll still rises, but again the Japanese people suck it up, and go on with life, even in the face of having their lives turned upside down, and wracked with the loss of friends, family, businesses and homes.  I hope for them, as well.


"Godchild," by Sonny Landreth.


Now...I have to get back to work, and soon.  Another long shift at WITF, for KYW, more than anything.


Hope does spring eternal; I may just have another chance at that job I was turned down for.  I've been asked to come in this week to do some training on that job, and become a fill-in guy once again.


Hopefully the Public Radio system will allow me to work about in different circles.  For some reason, I don't know why companies that are separate but owned by the same firm don't allow cross-work.  Well, they do, but it is weird.  All of it.  But hey, might be a 2nd chance.  Nice.  I'll go for it.


My future needs a bit of reassurance, with work, etc.  I keep working, editing "Out Among the Stars" again, it needs it.  My new idea is a slow cooker, and I'll look into it again when time allows me.


TrafficTalk's future is uncertain.  I had a talk with my boss Friday; I am not sure of their direction, but I told them I'll stay in with them long as it is doable.  I still feel it has a future, but I think the one thing missing is capital.  That drives a lot of things, unfortunately.


I got my invitation the other day from my nephew Aubrey and soon to be niece-in-law, Erica.  They are walking the aisle in August.  Very cool; can't wait to see that happen, and see what they've done to the old family home.  Did a major remodeling of it, and I don't even recognize some of it.  Interesting...wonder how my siblings will handle that?


"Cold Chills," by Jimmy Reed...


Well, I gotta get moving.  I feel hung over, and I don't drink.  But it's what I gotta do.  My wish again is for things to turn, but not so much for me, for others.  I do I suppose have to think a little bit about myself, though...yes, I must.


Trying to not be a self-centered person...I'll sort it out.


Enjoy Ostara, and hopefully things are good where you are...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Report from Japan

The latest today comes from a friend of mine in Japan.  There have been more dire stories, in terms of the nuclear reactor, and the potential spread of radiation.  Still uncertain, I think most of us are of the extent of the radiation, how much has been released, the threat to human health.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-123076988

I've been monitoring the BBC, as well as NHK, and honestly they do a much better job than any of the American networks.  The latter should; it is the public broadcaster in Japan.

This morning, I received word from one of my friends that she and her daughter are okay.  Yumeki is a musician friend of mine; she was inland from Tokyo, so she missed the worst of it.  But Yumeki says things are still bad (her conversion to English is not perfect):

"...I and my family are OK as our addresses are inland provinces of Tokyo area.  Pacific Ocean coastal areas through Japan islands and most particularly from Hokkaido, north-west area, and Kantou (Tokyo)area, those areas were devastated...I have only a limited life-line now on this situation. 

"Scheduled Blackout:  There will be a scheduled blackout (power outage) starting the morning of 3/14 in Tokyo, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Yamanashi, and Shizuoka."

"And water and gas combines to unusable without electricity.The blackout of power outrage is forced everyday for some hours.I hope the battery of my laptop and phone will be able to last as long as possible.Supermarkets almost sold foods out,gas stations stock only few of the rest..

And as world already knew now Japan faces prospect of nuclear catastrophe..All the situation seems very insecure.
Actually some of my friends have already escaped to abroad as air craft transportation from Airport Tokyo is being handling as usual that did not influenced."


Not a lot, to be sure.  In any case, as others have noted, it's pretty hard to comprehend, unless you've been in such a disaster yourself.  The nation as a whole is dealing with shortages, no matter how far you are.  Tokyo itself is 155 miles from the Fukushima plant, but it received its own share of the trouble.

So far, the nation has been moving forward, as best it can.  I'm glad Yumeki and her family are all right; I wish the best for the others as well.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan, and What Now Can We Do (Update)?

Here we are again...I was working an 11-hour shift yesterday for Radio PA & KYW Sports, but during the lulls, I've been keep an eye on what is happening over in Japan.  The BBC and NHK, through the magic of Internet streaming have allowed me to keep up on things.  The old news junkie in me is coming back, but I wish it was for something other than this.


Friends of mine here in the US have been commenting, and thankfully they are feeling as bad as I am about what is going on in that land.  I don't think you can look at some of that footage, and not be affected in some way by it.


I have friends over there, and I've no idea how they're doing, or even where they are.  I can only hope they're all right, but look at how many are missing.  The death toll is going to be high, that is unavoidable.


What little I've seen has been that of destruction.  One of my old friends commented about Godzilla...he was not being funny, I understand his humor.  Another commented that it looked like a disaster film, but this was for real.  You can't make a movie this realistic, no matter what you try.


That town near Sendai that was wiped out, that's the worst.  17,500 people lived there; 10,000 are missing.  The only building of any size still standing is the hospital, and that took heavy damage.  That's just one of many towns that got hammered by this. 


The Japanese people do astound me; from all the footage I've seen, there is a sense of fear, true, but also a sense of calmness, and a strength that says, "We'll get through this."


That to me is amazing.  Even in the kids, you kind of see it.  You have to admire that.  


In any case, the big worry right now is the nuclear plant.  The point has been made that the release of radiation was very low, and if that's to be believed, then people are lucky.  But there's more to deal with, and I hope they have it in hand.  I don't believe we've another Chernobyl on our hands, but it bears watching.


So that said...whatever can we do right now?  I made a donation to the Red Cross, because I felt I had to do something.  It does not make, to paraphrase Living Colour, "make my guilty conscience to go away."  There may be more opportunities for us to help in other ways, so we'll see.  A number of aid funds are pledging support, and the international community has as well.


Must move on...let's hang in with the people over there.


Update for Monday:  the picture seems to not be getting a lot better.  I was struck by a particular scene the BBC shot of a woman who escaped the tsunami, then returned to find the entire place she'd been wiped away.


She explained that she was looking for landmarks, but she couldn't recognize anything.  The woman looked absolutely stunned.  I think her expression, posture and general look of shock pretty much is the face of the nation right now.


More nuclear difficulties; I know nothing about that sort of engineering, and what those people face must be beyond comprehension right now.


My old radio friend Joe noted that the "Today" show ran some soundtrack music under footage.  Just like NBC and that hideous program...leave it to America to choreograph human suffering!  Hell, why not just lay down "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi, or some Lady Gaga while you're at it?!?


I digress.


Dan, the bassist in my band noted that we probably could not follow what Japan is doing right now, and I agree.  Only those who have been in real disaster zones, such as those who survived Katrina, might know.


All we can do continue to hope for the best...already, life is slowly returning to work there.  That's good to see, but shortages, outages and a break of routine will be in place for that nation for some time.


Let's all hope we never have to experience what they have.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan, the Tsunami, Suffering and the Need to Stop Hating

I'm finishing off my TrafficTalk shift for this Friday, and I have spent a great deal of time when not handling calls, looking at the devastation in Japan.  

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709850

Take a good look at this footage.  Watch how that wall of water just sweeps inland; you can tell how fast it's going by comparing it to those vehicles on the roads.


In the lower left at the 2:35 mark, someone is turning a white vehicle around in an effort to escape.  You can see for sure, but I don't think they made it.


People were alive in that video, then seconds later, who knows?


Now people who know me know that a number of my books are set in Japan.  I've never been there, but I have an interest and fascination with that country, its people, its culture, and so forth.  I must go there to do research and live in that country, to make sure I'm getting my details right.


That seems not to be a priority now; I have this wish to want to go there and help, if not report on what I would view.  Unlikely that my skills would be useful as of now.  Emergency personnel are what's needed, and fortunately the nations of the civilized world are stepping up.


Speaking of which:  I was looking about on the varied news sites, the BBC, Asahi Times and Japan Times Online.  I also looked on Yahoo!, at the risk of knowing that the Internet Trolls would be out in force to post hateful, ignorant garbage as "commentary."


Well, much to my surprise--the comments are gone from Yahoo! News.  Apparently they again realized (not for the first time) that the comments section of any story has been hijacked by perverts, political nuts, religious fanatics, spammers and other morons who do not wish to debate, but to end debate.


The hate is real, and very sad.  It's hard for us to not get caught up in it.  Hate is based in fear, I think we can all agree; that said, we engage in hatred, without realizing it quite often.


On Facebook for example, I've grown tired of reading posts from people who I do consider my friends, making some pretty rank comments about politics, religion, the entertainment world, anything really...and also about other people.  It's the kinds of things you'd never say to another's face...but you hide behind your keyboards and say whatever you like.


I have friends on there who love to jump right into an argument, firing off missives, that tend to be rhetoric.  Some just love a good fight, and love to keep it going.  They get off on it.


Well, it's all hatred of one sort or another.  Perhaps we don't wish to hate others, or wish bad things on others, but a lot of us do.  I find it disconcerting.


The disaster makes me re-examine my own values.  I'm outspoken, I admit it; it's gotten me in trouble before, and it's cost me at least one or two jobs in my lifetime.  I admit to saying stupid things, things I wished I hadn't; I also said and did things I've agonized over, and hoped to learn why, and hope to never repeat them again.


Looking at the suffering in Japan, and elsewhere, let's think about the next time we want to open up on somebody, no matter the reason.  I don't know if this makes sense, but I'm saddened by what I see going on a half a world away, and wish I could do more than donate $$ to an aid fund.


We should respect our differences, everyone of us, and see each other as people, and human beings.  Let's try to be cool for once, and see what we can do to help out, without bitching about our comfy little lives, and blaming others for the problems we think we have.


Much of Northeastern Japan has an awful lot more going on than all but a few of us could say we could handle right now.  I hope that made sense; it's very hard to follow what they're doing right now to find those in need and help them.


In this country, we can do better than we have, as human beings.  Let us begin now.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Auto-Destructive Nature of the Literary Beast

Okay...where have I been the last several days?  My blogging is off because of my real life and all the shit that has to go along with it.  And yet, it's really not that much at all when you think about it.


My Walkman's first track is the same one from last night; what happens is, when you shuffle every track (all 2500+ of 'em!), the last one stays when you stop it.  That's fine.


"The Beauty Way," the song that inspired the story of the same name, was the one.  Now, the version I have and love is by Ray Wylie Hubbard; the song was written by Eliza Gilkyson, and I think she does sing on Ray's version.


It is a very interesting, and easy song to play, and I may try it out on the band.


I have not been pleased with the way that story came out; a semi-autobiographical account of a short period in my life, it remained a short/long story of about 130 pages.  Then I stretched it out, by adding incidents, scenes and other weird shit.  It's still not right.


My friend Jess has offered to read it, reasoning I think that it can't be that awful.  Well, I'm my worst critic.


Partly to avoid the reality that it is not that good, I have been busy editing other stories, and oh, did they not need it.  I have blasted my way through "Parasite Girls," which is really good I feel.  "SDS-6" also got a makeover, and I don't even remember what else I worked on.


So yeah...then...I've had ANOTHER one cooking upstairs.  I have started to write out the character sketches and storylines for this one, which could become a series, but I need to think it through a lot more.


Segue..."A Little Soul," by Pulp.  Interesting group; never knew them when they were popular, but then I didn't like Oasis when they were together, either.


Someone recently asked me what my days are like.  Do you really want to know?  Well, I'll tell you.


Weekends are one thing; as I work for WITF/Radio PA/KYW, and sometimes for Clear Channel, those days are pretty full.


During the week, I'm hosting TrafficTalk for the DC Metro Area, 3-7 pm.  Go here:


www.traffictalk.info


That is what we're about.  Okay, shameless plug done.


Now...what happens before and after the shift?  I've made an effort of late to get my ass out of bed in the mornings.  There was a long period when I'd get up at noon if I felt like it.  I realize I needed that pretty badly, the sleep, and the rest.  A smart man once said, "If you don't sleep, you can't think."  Very true.


Segue..."This Charming Man," by the Smiths.  Interesting morning already for music.  Again, never a Smiths fan when they were together.


So I usually end up at the Office, between 10 and 11 am...I get coffee (drug of choice) and it's check my messages, check my schedule, return any calls, and then set to work.


Whatever writing I'm on, I edit, write, consider, and try to make it look like I'm actually doing something.  This is work, you know...I wish one day to make this my career, and to have as much in the tank as I have will bode well for when Sweet Dreams:  Searching for Roy Buchanan (that's SDS-1, or Book 1) is published.


This is what I do, folks.  Oh yeah; so anyway, I hang in here for a while, do errands, then get back to the house to set up my laptop and get ready to host.


Segue..."What Do You Want From Me?"  Pink Floyd, live version from Pulse...great performance!


Now there's not a lot of "traffic," right now, so while I'm monitoring cameras, I can usually take care of office-type things at the house. Multi-task, you see.


At 7, I usually leave the house and head back to the Office and keep working until closing time.


Sometimes I do more of this when I get home, sometimes not.


Okay...you must be thinking, "Shit, this guy's got no fucking life!  No wonder he's not married!"


Sigh...think what you want, I don't really care what you think.  The point of it is, I am like this partly because there is not much money coming in; this keeps me out of trouble financially.  It allows me to focus my mind on the things that I hope one day will make me a living.  Then I can be more like the Wardroom boys who are now gathering before me here at the Office...Coffeehouse Preacher, Loudmouth and one other, Bohemian looking gentleman are together.  Thanks to the Floyd, I do not have to hear CP going off at the top of his high voice about things.


All these fellows are actually nice people, but I'm not of their "set."


Segue..."The Great Divide," Black Country Communion.  Never heard of them, right?  THINK:  Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sharinian...the last man I don't know much about, but...SUPERGROUP!!!  Chickenfoot, EAT YOUR FUCKING HEART OUT!!!


Ahhh...so yeah, the Wardroom...sounds like the wardroom of a Royal Navy vessel when those guys and the recently missing regulars gather.  They all sit about, sparking the world with their thoughts and putting it to rights.


Not my people, apart from my Zen Master...I tend to wonder where that man is, I miss him and his centered presence.


So yeah...this is what I do.  Once I start working more in a full-time capacity again, it should change.  At the same time:  this is what I need to do.  I need to do this type of work, to pay my dues as it were.  I paid my dues in the radio business for 20 years before I made it to XM...that's normal, that's about right.


I'm still in the business after 26 years, give or take two or three that I was out of it.  In any case, I still love it; I assume I'll always keep a hand in through the rest of my life, and I'd like to do that.


As a writer, this is what I want to do; this is what I have to do to get anywhere.  You have to work it; you have to give a shit about what you're doing, and yes I put the hours in.


Segue..."Valerie," by Richard Thompson, from the excellent "Daring Adventures" album.


Not sure why I'm getting all this off my chest like this, but anyway this is what I do.  Later on, I'll have more time to do what I'd like to do...I hope to live long enough to do some of that.


Either way, I cannot complain about my life.  I'm in a better shape than most of my friends and my family, so what's going right now will do just fine.


Anybody that wonders, don't quit anything.  The only time to quit is when you know and are aware there's nothing more you can do.  That's gonna be a long time for me.


Outta here...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Shootdown, and Next Steps

Well, I can now talk about what has been going on the past several days, now that it is not happening.


Last Monday, I interviewed at one of my workplaces for a full-time gig.  The discussions went really well, and I had to admit I felt very much in line to get this job.  I certainly have the experience, the skill, and all that other stuff to make it a good go.


As often is the case, there's always one more person with just a bit more of what they're looking for.  Actually, there may have been more than one, I'm sure of it; I appreciated being considered, and I got a nice phone call from my potential boss saying I was passed over.


I was not surprised; I've learned you cannot get your hopes up too high, or you will come crashing right down on your ego.  It's not fun.


Now, I do admit there was a letdown; I momentarily felt bad, and envisioned myself smashing my head against a wall and screaming, "FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK...!"


Then it passed.  Very quickly, actually.  Nothing has changed; I still work there, I am going to be needed in that capacity, and I still have options.


One of those is kind of one I should have thought of before, but I did look into it the past couple of days.  Not much to expect out of that, but we'll see.


My other options remain; one of which is a practical consideration, which means holding out for a bit and waiting to see what transpires.


The other, I carry on with.  This one is the longer-range goal, but I have continued on this line for nearly four years, and I cannot see a need to stop.


We're of course talking about my writing.  I have finished off edits of two of my manuscripts in recent days, and I feel quite good about the improvements that were made.


This is not a me-me thing, but I have been intensely creative since I began writing the first installment of the Sweet Dreams Series in August of 2007.  I have completed three fiction series of the kind that readers of the SDS drafts will understand; I have also completed a series of stories of a more adult-oriented nature, and that means the main characters are adults mostly, and these are for a more adult market.  Though again, people of all ages can read these and get an idea of where I am going.


This is where I'm going; I am a writer, and again I believe.  The same way Eddie Izzard said you have to believe you are whatever you are in order to succeed, no matter how long that takes you.


Izzard toiled in obscurity for many years, and he paid his dues.  I remember Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth from Keeping Up Appearances, and numerous other stage, screen and TV roles) saying of a fellow actress who had worked for many years without ever being known that well, then finally getting her chance to show what she had.  It's a great feeling to have that happen, and to see others have it work for them.


There are numerous friends I have about me who are writers of one kind or another.  One is self-published; Jim Henry is the author of the "Antiquity Calais" series.  The first book is out there, and he's getting the second one ready.


I am not into the self-publishing route, because I am aware that I do not know the first thing about it.  Even what I do know, I don't feel confident on; I suppose also I want to do it the old-fashioned way, ie, going with an agent and a publisher because I want to see for myself (not just the readers of the world) that I can do this, and be successful at it.


For me, success is getting signed, and getting published.  It has nothing to do with book sales figures, hitting #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list, or any of that.  There are levels to success:  the first one is getting there.


The second is perpetuating the storyline of the SDS, and how I see it working out.  This has potential, and as I've said to others, there is nothing I've done in my life I feel more confident about than this.


The other series?  The other stories?  Most of them are as good, if not better.  Some still need work, sure; they all do.  I will see it through as long as I live.


In the meantime, what do you do?  You keep writing.  You keep working.  You keep doing what you have to do to survive, and moving forward.  That's it, folks, at least in my view.


No one is to blame for it not happening, and no one has stood in my way.  I've taken this the direction I want it to go, and it'll go where it's meant to.


It is hard to patient, yes; but you have to be.  This is a huge exercise in patience, but I feel like I've grown up just enough to make it work.  It will, dammit!


Right now, I have one manuscript that is bugging the shit out of me.  The Beauty Way has never really panned out the way I hoped it would.  I've rewritten quite a bit, and lengthened the story; problem is, it's too familiar to me.  It does not work.


That's a challenge; to make it work, and I will get back to it one day, but for now, it's just not there.  More stuff needs to come up, or come out of me.  One thing that seems to happen a lot is that stories, scenes, ideas, often little thing will just present themselves, and I'll realize I need it for that story.  More time needed there.


Okay, that's my latest rant on the writing world...and life in general.  Away we go...