Thursday, October 22, 2009

Monster in the Manger

I was thinking about holiday traditions tonight, and we don't really have any yet, but one thing I am going to miss is the tradition of sneaking a wind-up monster into my mom's nativity scene. Many, many years ago, the then Princess Bad Kitty and I returned home from an evening's debauchery to find that my mom had put out the Christmas decorations...including the nativity. It was your standard stylized wooden barn with plastic depictions of your favorite nativity celebs: Mary, Joe, the Sonagod(tm), a collection of sheep, a donkey, a cow, a camel, the Wisemens, and obligatory angel. That thing's been set up in our house every Christmas since before I can remember, but this night we were just messed up enough that I got the idea to put this silly, green plastic wind-up monster that shot sparks out of its open mouth right behind Mary and Joseph. The site of this thing in there made us laugh so hard that we thought we were going to pee ourselves, and then next morning I was soundly chastised for waking the house up at 1am. The best part was it took her several days to find the beast. It then became a tradition every year for me to sneak that critter into the nativity and see how long it would take her to find it. The best year was the one where I had forgotten I put it there, and came home to find it hanged by its non-existent neck on my curtain rod in my bedroom.

Ah well, I don't imagine the decorations will find their way out of their boxes this year. Just as well, I suppose. I have no idea if I even still have that little monster.



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Songs for Jenny

Tony Pucci is one of the Starbase's biggest fans, as well as a musician. He lost his sister, Jenny, to ALS(Lou Gehrig's Disease)not too long ago, and he has just released a CD called Songs for Jenny. He wrote the music, and then got numerous musicians from all over the world to record the songs. All the proceeds from this CD will go to ALS research. Please, if you can help, do so here.

Feeling Better

A Real Horror Story

Something terrible happened to me last night. I haven't been getting much sleep lately, so I turned in early. I took an Ambien and lay down with a guided relaxation mp3 playing in my ears. I have never been able to meditate, my mind's just too chaotic, but guided relaxation recordings do help. So I'm laying in bed, and the soothing female voice is telling me to focus on my breathing. This is nothing new, and I've gone to sleep many times to that particular track so I didn't expect anything unusual. As she used the term 'the breath of life' I was suddenly, horribly back in the hospital room waiting for my mother to die. Her labored breathing, like a fish carelessly thrown on the pier gasping to survive, echoing in my mind. And nothing I could do would make it go away. I had to face that horrible afternoon again. I had to face my abhorrent, yet natural desire for it to end quickly. My selfish desire to get the fuck out of there. And then that terrible silence.

I did notice something odd, though. My mind was beginning to cover over what she really looked like that day with a nicer image of her sleeping. No missing hair, no slack features. I can't let that happen. I can't let false images of a beatific scene of peaceful passing superimpose itself over the terrible reality of that day. I won't.

I can't.

I feel so alone right now, even though I'm surrounded by friends and family. It seems sometimes that the only emotion that I truly feel anymore is rage, and all others are just learned responses, a mime's performance. It doesn't seem fair that when we get a physical wound we can easily avoid activities that will aggravate the injury, but mental damage hides in the shadows and waits for the oddest things to tear at the stitches. It is a selfish grief, and selfishly I pour it out here in the hope of some sort of catharsis, and perhaps it will make me feel better, but when that mental scab tore away I felt like I'd be punched in the stomach. How can you hide from your own thoughts?

I really hope that this makes sense, because I can't bear to reread it for spelling and grammar. And I also hope, dear friends, that you didn't get this far. Sorry to be a downer, but I needed to get these things out into the light.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Silver Lining

Well, at least someone in the house is glad that the young'n blew up my amplifier/receiver.

Place Holder

Ok, I've had some serious hardware issues this week, so my Blogtober experiment is an epic fail, but I'm still going to do my best to post more often. And as a token of my good faith here's a great cartoon that Kennedy posted on Facebook. I think it encapsulates much.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I don't think I can do that, Dave.

So I may be mixing my cinematic metaphors, but the bottom line is I didn't post yesterday because my computer has had some sort of brain hemorrhage and wouldn't function for me. I have sent a plea to the mighty and powerful Unkk, but I fear that I may have to do a complete Windows re-install...not something I want to do. But I can still post from work and on the other machine, so this is inconvenient, but not crippling. I hope.

Let you know soon.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


Almost missed today. Not much going on, really. Well, not that you'd want to read about. Although I did read a very interesting story this morning about a suicide bomber who tried to kill a minor functionary in the Saudi government today. Apparently it's a tradition in Saudi Arabia to accept supposedly penetant people with trust and forgiveness on certain holidays. Well, this former Al-Quaida operative vowed his reform, and met with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Unbeknownst to the Prince the man has inserted an improvised explosive up his ass, and when he met with bin Nayef, detonated the device. The only problem was that a bomb small enough to fit where the sun don't shine, or at least this particular firecracker, was only strong enough to kill the bomber, and make a big mess. I realize this is a tragic tale of hatred and attempted murder, but I can't help but laugh. I would imagine that the bomber's family will be the butt of many jokes for years to come.

Ok, I'm going to bed now. You can read the hole story here.

Sleep tight.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Teacher Gets Schooled

Today I got showed up...shown one of my students. I needed to instruct the person who will be running the sound on the next show how to edit audio. I decided to go ahead and show the whole class. Granted this is something that is normally taught in my Sound and Lighting Design course, but I thought it would be fun for my Stagecraft class too. So I hooked the laptop to a projector and proceeded to let them bask in the fount of Audacity knowledge that I garnered from nearly a year of podcasting. To quote Merlin from Excalibur, "There's always something cleverer than yerself!" One of my more energetic students is a freshman who is very, very enthusiastic, and apparently knows a lot about Audacity(that's the audio editing software I use, BTW). He sat right up front and kept contradicting me. At first it was annoying, but after the third time he was proven right I swallowed my pride and let him teach me a thing or two. It ended up being a good class, and some of the things he showed us will greatly streamline my podcast editing.

Other than that today has gone out of its way to live up to the old Garfield saw, "I hate Mondays."

See y'all tomorrow.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Advice to New Podcasters

Yeah, yeah, there are probably dozens of blogs that say 'this is how to do a podcast'. Well, if there are, I've not been able to find them, and I know a lot of folks who are trying to make a go of it right now, and several of them have asked me for advice. So, to avoid repeating myself ad nauseum I give you:

Now one thing I'm not going to get into is technical details on how to use the various editing programs available. I use Audacity because it's free, and has a relatively short learning curve. If anyone has specific questions about that program I'll try to help, but otherwise what I'm about to say is pretty general.

1. Microphone. Folks, I cannot stress how important it is that you get a decent mic. I know that you may not have the funds to drop on a $200 Sennheiser, but the $5 stick mic that came with your computer won't cut it. You can get a perfectly adequate microphone for podcasting for less than $20. It wants to be directional, preferably cardioid, so that it only picks up what you want it to, and spend the extra fiver to get a pop guard. Just remember that what you are presenting to your audience, regardless of how wonderful the content, must be pleasing to the ear or they won't stick around.

2. Mixer. A mixer is not a necessity, but it makes the life of the podcaster much easier. If all you are doing is plugging your mic into your computer you're stuck with the sound. If you can pick up a small mixing board, and they are out there for around $100 or so, you can tweak all kinds of things to help improve your sound quality. It will also open up the world of call-in shows to you, because you'll need to be able to feed the sound from your speakers into your output, otherwise the audience won't hear your callers.

3. Speaking Techniques. There's a delicate balance between being too close to the mic, and too far away. Experiment with your set-up and settings to find what works best for you. Be careful when speaking to not fire your 'plosives' such as P, B, and T right into the mic. I find that if I turn my head just slightly off the direct axis of the mic, and be mindful of not hitting those consonants too hard, it greatly helps mitigate the unpleasant pop you'll get. Of course, you can always remove them later when you edit, but it's much easier to not have to do that in the first place. It's the same with S and Z. They can create a very unpleasant hiss when said loudly and directly into the mic. Another problem with being too close to the mic is breath. Breathing into the mic is very, very annoying and is usually something that is difficult, if not impossible to edit out later.

4. Awareness. While many podcasts sound like a bunch of friends just sitting around talking about something you'll notice that that best ones never let go of the awareness that they are performing for an audience. When recording you must always keep in mind that while you may be alone in a room with a microphone, your voice will be going out to, hopefully, hundreds of people. Most of these people will not share your background, geographical location, or knowledge of the minutia that make up your life. So when you are talking about things, try to constantly ask yourself 'would I need this explained to me if I had no idea what it's about?' Now, admittedly, it is fine to assume a certain level of knowledge on the part of your audience, for example with my show I am reasonably safe in the assumption that most of my audience has a working knowledge of Star Trek and most high profile Science Fiction projects, but when I start to go on about some bit of off-screen trivia, or some obscure TV show from the 70s I almost always make sure to give it a bit of explanation and maybe even a way for folks to find out more about that topic. And it is best, especially if you are doing a show with close friends, to avoid in jokes and colloquialisms that most of your audience won't understand...unless you then let them in on it.

5. Tangents. Most shows have a general theme, and then specific topics for each episode. Of course, since we are human beings, we often go off on tangents that don't really pertain to the topic du jour. The crew at have refined the tangent to an art form, but that doesn't mean that tangents are always a good thing. Some of our earliest criticisms for Starbase 66 involved us straying too far from the topic. You can stray, and I encourage it in the raw recording because lots of good stuff can be found in a tangential conversation, but I usually end up cutting most, if not all of it out. Audiences are fickle, and usually they don't tolerate too much deviation from the established course. Of course, you need to find on your own just how much leeway your audience will give you, but for the most part the more on course you stay, the happier your audience will be.

6. EDITING! It is with great dismay that I have found that some folks want to podcast, but don't want to be bothered with editing. I'm afraid that's like wanting to be a Baseball player, but not wanting to be bothered learning how to catch a ball. YOU MUST EDIT YOUR PODCAST! There will always be something said that doesn't work, or some outside noise that gets in the way, or thousands of other things that your audience won't want to hear. It's all about the audience, folks. If the product you put out is not something they find compelling, and enjoyable, they won't come back for more. Eventually you will develop a feel for your show and its natural rhythms, but don't be discouraged if the first few aren't great. On average your first three attempts will not be usable, and even the old pros have to toss a show here and there because it just didn't work. In my opinion it is better to not put out a show then to put out something that is not worthy of your audience.

7. Recording. This final point is for folks who are not able to record with everyone in the same room. There are many ways to do this, we use the Skype voice over internet software, but they all have one thing in common...lag. No matter how far away you are from your cohosts or guests, there is going to be some sort of time differential between you. Sometimes you can get away with just recording the show as it happens, but most of the time one or more of you will be distorted, or drop out, or have other problems that will eventually bother the listener. The unpleasant, and time consuming truth is that it is best for all parties to record their own track, and then have your editor synch them up. I won't lie, this is the worst part of podcasting. It takes many hours to put together a one hour show, but as I said above the result is something that your audience will want to come back for, and that's the goal. You can have the best podcast in the world, but if the sound quality is crap, no one will listen. As you get better at editing you will also get quicker, but there really are no shortcuts to a quality show.

And that's all I'll get into today. I hope someone found this information helpful, and for those of you dear readers who don't care about podcasts:

See you tomorrow,

Saturday, October 03, 2009

S-A-T-U-R-DAY, Hey!

Yippee! Yahoo! It's Saturday!!! Not that I have anything other than much sloth and podcast editing on the agenda, but at least I don't have to drive anywhere. Starbuck, reigning felitard and lummox, has neglected his alarm clock duties all week, allowing me to sleep 'in' until 5:30 every morning. So, of course, today he remembered that I'm not allowed to sleep that long and woke me at both 4:30 and 5:00! If he was any more of a pain in the ass I'd have to smear hemorrhoid cream on him.

Sorry about the meerkat pic cop-out yesterday. It was an overall shitty day, with some financial crises mixed in with a higher than usual child aggro level, so I was not really in a good frame of mind. But today is better.

If I might talk about the podcast for just a bit. Starbase 66 has been far more successful then I could ever have wished, but we want more! We are averaging between 1200-1600 downloads per show, which is good, but not great, so I was wondering if you lovely folks would do me a favor. If you have a blog, or some other way to distribute visual media, would you please post this picture somewhere that folks can see it?

Now let me say that if you do not wish to do this there will be absolutely no hard feelings, and I won't ask anything like this again, and I'll still be your friend, etc. etc. But if you can/do help me out I will be forever grateful. :-) And if there is any way I can return the favor, you have but to ask.

In other news I had a couple of biopsies taken from my pasty hide a couple of weeks ago(why is it that doctors always reach for the melon-baller when they see me coming?)and the tests came back benign. I'd say hooray, and indeed I am relieved since I have already had a couple of cancerous bits carved out of me in the past, but a benign biopsy takes just as many stitches as a malignant one. Ah well, the stitches came out on Thursday and all is well. Aren't you glad you know that now?

And that's all I've got right now, gentle readers. If anything interesting arises you'll be the first to know. :-)


Friday, October 02, 2009


I'm in the midst of a really crappy morning, but I shan't neglect y'all. Enjoy this picture.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

And Thus It Begins

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit folks, and welcome to BLOGTOBER!!!!(you have to read that like it's a cheesy radio promo: deep voice, lots of reverb, and exaggerated syllables) I intend to give you wonderful readers a post a day for the next month. Hopefully that will restart my blogging engine and keep me posting more frequently. Unless, of course, the screams of 'dear God, nooooo!'become too loud.

Anyway, have a great October 1st. See you tomorrow.