Podcast Coming Soon

In upcoming weeks, you’ll be seeing a new tab on this website. I’ve had the plan for awhile to make a landing page with some of my short stories and essays, but had been dragging my feet. Or maybe not dragging my feet, I was just running around in different directions — but it was on my mind.

Part of the delay was that I had to work through some trial and error: I had an okay microphone but my “sss”s were hissing so I needed to order a pop-screen;  I had time allocated to record, but the neighbors decided to do construction right outside my office, etc. I got an Adobe subscription so I could do an edit, but my computer isn’t up-to-date enough to run it the latest version of Adobe…

But then because my brother announced he was moving back to Los Angeles. Lucky for me! He has the skills and equipment I lack. As soon as he finished painting the walls and  be re-assembling his home studio,  I jumped to the front of the line before he got too busy. 

It’s been going well, but I’m discovering learning curves in new areas. This is the first time in a long time that I am “the performer.” I recently went back and re-recorded the first episode because when I listened to it, it felt a little lackluster and I realized it was because I wasn’t committing  to doing different voices for everyone’s dialogue. I think it felt a little silly so I only half-committed — and half committed is half-assed.  Listening to myself, I realized that there’s a reason it’s easy to get caught up in audio books and LeVar Burton Reads, and a reason it’s harder to get lost in the The New Yorker Fiction Podcast (although I listen to it still). For fiction, I like hearing actors who bring things to life, so I re-recorded to try to come closer to that bar, even though it’s out of my comfort zone.

The next hurdle is picking a “podcast host.” I can post episodes from this WordPress site for free, but they seem to be part of the blog post — and because I also blog about non-podcast things, that might be a little weird. I’d like to have a separate landing page, and, it turns out, my tastes aren’t as cheap as I’d like them to be. It costs not to run any ads, costs to have a pretty picture next your player  (also, I need to design the picture for the player).

Too late to make a long story short, we’ve got three in the can now.  I’m still figuring a few things out, but it’s coming soon!

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Greg adjusting the first episode.

 

Here is our theme song!

Who Ya Gonna Call? Gumbusters

I just got back from my summer travels. First stop was New York City. I got to see some family and friends I hadn’t seen since my last trip five years ago. I stayed in Manhattan but traveled almost every day to Brooklyn, which gave me a chance to check out some day-to-day action in the city.

One day I saw this guy; IMG_4440

Once I saw it, I became aware of the myriad dark blotches on the sidewalks and streets and realized they were old gum. Kind of crazy. I’ve never noticed that in LA — maybe because we have less pedestrians? Though now I need to look more closely the next time I’m in a neighborhood with more foot traffic.

Who pays this guy?  The sidewalk in this picture doesn’t seem to be associated with any private business. Maybe he has  contract with the city. I found this video online, but it doesn’t address that question.

Technical Exercise and Random Thoughts

I just watched a minute-long video about how to embed a photo from Instagram, and here is my photo.

 

The beach is a pretty common Instagram-type photo subject, though probably slightly less common than cute animals and food. I’m not a very industrious or creative Instagrammer.

I went to the beach to breathe in and out and not think too much about the future, but ironically, this photo, to me, feels like looking down a “road” with the future rushing at you, in the form of roiling clouds.

I’m thinking about the future these days. And the past. Probably because I’ve been writing a lot of “personal statements” for applications that ask me to describe life experiences that have shaped my worldview and made me utterly unique and invaluable to a writers room or workshop or the human race — in 500 words or less. The process of sorting through all my experiences in the search for meaning and uniqueness  makes me both philosophical and morose.

In other news, I thought there was a marching band practicing outside my window, and a couple having an argument on the street, but now I realize it’s all coming from the neighbor’s television, which has powerful speakers. As does our television, since a friend just gave us his old surround-sound set up. Truthfully, I hate both our and our neighbor’s excellent sound quality. It’s too much. It’s the audio equivalent to those super-bright car headlights that increase the driver’s ability to see ahead, but blinds everyone else.

The List is Long but Not Insurmountable

This past Memorial Day, I did not feel like BBQ’ing. Instead I was struck with the idea that I should tackle a task that has been on my To-Do list for nigh on five years: transferring a dozen VHS tapes to a digital format so that the tapes could be discarded.

This entailed purchasing a converter box and accompanying software, borrowing a PC computer (the software doesn’t work on a Mac) and a working VCR.  There was a false start about three years ago when the VCR only played with a time-code window that couldn’t be turned off without the remote, which we did not have… The computer returned to its owner and I lost momentum… for about three more years. But the power of list is strong, and a vaguely guilty sense of obligation can push when passion does not, so for the last week I have returned to the cause.

 

The recording process entailed watching much of the content on the tapes — which ranged from boring-to-watch, to embarrassing to emotional. My mom looks like my sister. My brother has more hair. My father was alive. But everyone was also so… them. So exactly the people I know that it kind of stabs you in the heart.

I, too, sound the same and look like a younger version of myself, which is… I don’t know. I think without any evidence to the contrary, one can begin to think that one has progressed from some mild stupidity in youth to wisdom–but the person I see on screen doesn’t seem to be in need of any great advice that I might now possess…

One tape is a “video portrait” I did for my first ever video class.  I interviewed a friend for the portrait. In the interview, he says “I have lists for everything–you can ask me my favorite songs, movies, television shows, friends–anything. I probably have a list for it.” This was true — he was (and remains) someone who has always amazed me with his ability to categorize and rank his preferences for all sorts of things.

I, on other hand, do not have those kinds of lists.  I’ve taken part in a dozen writing workshops where we are asked to introduce ourselves and mention out favorite books or writers. Despite having experience that has taught me this will be the first question, I often come up blank.  I despair as password authentication questions trend away from the factual: “What is your mother’s maiden name,” toward the subjective: Who was your favorite teacher?” I don’t have a favorite song or a list of favorite songs…

I do, however, have a list of things that at some point I thought would be good to do and have become part of mental To-Do List that keeps turning up in my brain like that pair of florescent sunglasses you bought at a gas station a decade ago on the way to the beach and now keeps reappearing under the car seat.

I don’t know how many items are on to-do list, or which items are at the top.  But today, the list is one item shorter. Small victory.

 

What I’m Making: A VINE! Sort of….

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I woke up this morning and thought, “I should learn how to make a Vine. For those who might not be familiar, a Vine is a 6-second (or less) video made with a mobile phone application called “Vine.”   Although I have a couple of friends who play around with it, I was only driven to action by  a perfect storm of circumstances:  1) I read an article in the New Yorker a couple weeks ago, 2) I’ve been thinking more and more seriously about shooting a short film in 2015,  3) I woke feeling slightly energetic without anything on the agenda for an entire day (such an amazing feeling!) and 4) I just got new contact lenses and can see the world around me much more clearly.

In preparation for the short film (short but long compared to six seconds) I know I need to practice seeing the world and events more in terms of images and that I also need to think more about how those images can be assembled.

Making a Vine seemed like the kindergarten version of this– just putting  a few second-long snapshots put in order to tell a very simple story. How hard could it be?

The answer–if you haven’t guessed already, is that IT COULD BE HARD.  I basically did EVERYTHING WRONG. In my defense, I wasn’t ready! I was still watching some kid’s instructions for how to use the app on YouTube when Paul said, “I want to walk to the donut store.”  He also wanted to leave right then. Only as I scampered behind him, pulling on items of outerwear did I start to piece together a vague plan: I’d get a few shots of Paul walking to the store, and then a final shot of him holding his donut. Great. I opened the app and shot my first scene of Paul walking.

Several blocks later, I decided it was time to shoot the second scene. But… Had I held the phone vertically or horizontally? I decided to hedge my bets by getting a shot both ways. I hadn’t had a chance to look at the post production part of the application, but surely it would allow me to omit one of them later, right? Or probably it would let me rotate the images. Probably. I’d figure it out later…but definitely I could fix it in post.

As we walked I concentrated on taking REALLY SHORT moments of video. Because six seconds is like…practically instantaneous. And what if the app cut me off after six seconds and I didn’t get the last shot? Quicker was better, I figured.

We arrived at the donut shop. It was closed.  When we decided to walk to a nearby cafe, I started shooting the new adventure. Maybe the editing part will let me break it up into two Vines. I would have Vine 1, going to the donut shop,  and Vine 2, going to the cafe. And if the cafe was closed too, then I could have parallel endings for both. Endings…Uh-oh.  We were already a couple blocks away when it occurred to me that I’d been so distracted by the shop being closed that I’d forgotten to shoot the ending I was thinking of.  We had to go back and do pick-ups. As I shot the last scene, I realized I should have begun with a “first scene.” of Paul saying something like, “let’s go get a donut.” It would have been a beginning. It’s good to have a beginning. And a middle. And an end. Oh well, I could shoot the beginning when we got back to the house and then re-arrange the clips. I’d fix it in post.

Once home, I embarked on my mission to fix it in post.  Half my footage was horizontal and one scene was upside down.  Clips that needed to be longer were so short you couldn’t perceive them. And it’s possible the program deleted a couple that were too long, I’m still not sure of the rules. Without going into great detail, I will say that the amount of fixing my footage required was well beyond the in-phone editing capabilities of Vine. In the end,  I downloaded two new applications and a new browser and opened the iMovie 9 I’ve never opened since buying the computer three years ago. I also watched a half-dozen videos, read some articles. Five and half hours later, I had what you see above. And by the way, failed at “hacking” the system to upload it back onto Vine.

So my first Vine is not technically a Vine at all. But I like to think that when the time comes for my next six-second venture, I’ll be ready.