Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining audio soundtrack

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is probably my number one movie of all time.  I remember when I first saw it, sometime in the late 1980s on a rental tape, how disappointed I was that it didn't follow Stephen King's novel, how over-the-top Jack Nicholson was, and everything else I decided was wrong with the film.

Over the years I've come to appreciate the movie as something that transcended the novel into something very special.  The Shining is a film rich with an incredible score, shocking, incredible imagery, and layers of subtext and meaning.  There are numerous webpages that explore the meaning and subtext of The Shining in ways I never imagined when I first saw it.

It's no wonder it's a horror classic.

And it's long, running over two and a half hours.

Because it's rare that I have time to sit down and watch something that long, I decided I wanted to listen to the movie at work.  I'm not fortunate enough to own an iPod that can hold entire movies, so I recorded the audio soundtrack on my computer in three mp3 files.

If you enjoy listening to The Shining, then please feel free to download these files.  Please note, they're huge.  Just right click to download.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Paul Singer Obituary

My father, Paul Singer, passed away on June 21, 2012. For a long time he had been suffering from Parkinsons, dementia, and a variety of other illnesses. In the end, he died a painless death, and we will all miss him.

The funeral home handling his cremation posted an obituary that was somewhat lacking and a tiny bit inaccurate, so I wrote a new one and sent it to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Nowhere on their contact page did it list how much it cost to post an obituary, so imagine my surprise when the bill came to $600. Needless to say, my poor father won't be listed in the Enquirer obituaries.

Therefore, I am posting the rewritten obituary here in my blog.

If any family members or friends wish to attend the memorial service, please email me at allen at allensedge.com for the address. Due to a lack of insurance funds, there will be no funeral.

Please post any final thoughts or remembrances in the comments.

Paul Singer

8/5/1937 - 6/21/2012

Paul Singer, 74, of Moores Hill, Indiana, passed away Thursday June 21, 2012 at Shady Nook Care Center in Lawrenceburg. Paul was born August 5, 1937 in Cincinnati the son of Charles P. and Emma (Blust) Singer. He married Beverly Scarich December 28, 1963 and she survives. Mr. Singer was an electronics design engineer for Cincinnati Time Recorder and Lexington Switch and Control and was a U.S. Army Veteran. He was a member of the Catholic Church. He enjoyed family activities, camping in Michigan, fishing, and working on electronics and computers. He designed and built his house, and very generously gave of his knowledge, time, and finances to help his family. He encouraged his children to pursue their dreams and did everything he could to help.

Survivors include wife, Beverly of Moores Hill, son Allen (Deanna) Singer of Covington, Kentucky, daughters Elizabeth “Beth” (David) Gallivan of Los Angeles, and Julie Singer (Joe Warmelink) of Durham, North Carolina, brothers Randy and Michael Singer both of Cincinnati and four grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister Phyllis Haven.

Memorial services will be Sunday, July 1, 4PM in Covington, Kentucky. In lieu of flowers, please consider the financial needs of the family. Sibbett-Moore Funeral Home, Moores Hill entrusted with arrangements.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Cincinnati Subway lives on.

I wrote my first book, The Cincinnati Subway, from late 1997 to 1999. It was published by Arcadia Publishing in 2003. This was the first book ever on the subway. Up until this point, the only information about the subway could be found in some history books and newspaper articles. None of the available sources contained in-depth information.

It was because of this that I decided to write the book. Heck, in 1998, there wasn't a single mention of the subway on the Internet. I felt I was filling a necessary void.

And I did. Since its publication, the book has done very well. It's had six or seven printings now, and by mid 2010 it had sold over 7,000 copies. Pretty nice for a nonfiction regional history book.

In 2009 I was contacted by a local production company producing a documentary about the subway. They wanted to know if I would be interested in appearing on camera for an interview.

Of course, the answer was "Yes."

The company was Time Bonus Productions of Newport, KY. Paige Mallott, the director, had used my Subway book as a reference for the documentary. It took two different days of interviews, but they videotaped me answering questions and discussing different aspects of the subway history.

The documentary premiered in early 2010 on local PBS stations, and as of late 2010, it is still running. I've had several people at work tell me they saw me in the documentary.

It's titled Cincinnati's Abandoned Subway, and information can be found at their website.

In recent weeks, a new book has come out about the subway.

It's interesting that my first reaction to this news was disbelief. I read commentary about it on a blog a few months ago that stated that the "complete history" would be told with new information and a new perspective.

Huh. Thought I told the complete history.

Meanwhile, on a popular transit oriented bulletin board, the author talked about his upcoming book, mentioning that I had neglected a certain amount of source material, and that my book was "error-laden."

Now, I'm not one to pick fights over things like this, but he never did answer my question about what was incorrect about my book. Regarding the source material I had overlooked, it seemed that it was not available at the time of my research in 1998. Had it been in City Hall, I certainly would have used it.

Anyhow, none of this really matters because the book is out now, and can be viewed on amazon. As of this posting, I still have not located it in a bookstore, but possibly it will be turning up sometime.

I used to point to my book and say it was "The book on the subway." Now I say, "The FIRST book on the subway." I will never disparage the book or its author because I'm a grown-up author who knows that there is nothing wrong with multiple books on the same nonfiction subject. In fact, this is a good thing for the reader or researcher. After all, how many books are published on the Civil War? The founding fathers? And so on and so on? Multiple books give multiple points of view about the given subject, and what one book might not cover, the other book probably will.

So, in the end, I don't think the new book will change how my book is selling. And I wish this author all the luck with the publishing of his book.

On another note, I'd like to draw attention to the concept of The Author's Big Mistake. This is when the author personally responds to a negative published review of his book, whether in print or online, i.e. amazon. Readers will have opinions of the books they read and will post them someplace. Obviously, all authors want to see praise. Authors also need to develop thick skin for the occasional negative review. The author must look at a review like this and agree or disagree with it. A negative review can hurt, both pride and sales.

It's when the author responds to one of these reviews is The Author's Big Mistake and must be avoided no matter how much the review stings. A response such as this tends to make the author look kind of immature, especially when he resorts to insults because he is so upset about the review. "How DARE you not like my book?"

The best example happened a few years ago when some negative reviews for a new Anne Rice book popped up on amazon, and Anne Rice responded with angry words, holding nothing back. While this is an extreme case of The Author's Big Mistake, it does show that it can happen even with the most celebrated of authors.

No matter who you are or what you write, there will be readers who don't like your book. You can't control it. Just grow that thick skin and know that for that one reader who didn't like the book, maybe 10 or 20 did like it but didn't say anything about it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I fought the law and the law won . . . My day in traffic court

I've always prided myself on being a safe driver and maintaining a clean record. So, when I got my first traffic ticket in about seventeen years on September 21, 2010, I decided to go to court and fight it.

Thing is, though, I was innocent of at least some of the charges and was confident I could prove it court.

Here's what happened. I left for work at 5:05 in the morning and got out on the main road heading southbound. When I crossed at Howard Litzler, I went from the left lane to the right lane without signaling. There was NO one on the road: no cars, no pedestrians, no bicycles. I began climbing the hill, checking my speed as I went: 45mph. At the top of the hill I saw headlights fast approaching. I turned onto the interstate and went west at 65mph. A minute later, there were red flashing lights behind me, and I was pulled over.

The officer told me he had been at McDonalds when he saw my lane change (McD's was about five blocks behind Howard Litzler) and started following me, when he saw me suddenly accelerate up the hill going at least "70 to 80mph" when he pulled up behind me. And in order to do so, he had to go over 90 to catch up. Needless to say I was surprised by this, but I didn't argue or agree. I just acted low key enough to be forgettable, and he wrote me citations for the lane change and "careless driving" and sent me on my way.

The whole encounter made me 20 minutes late to work and very irritated all day long.

Since I was guilty of the lane change, and since the rest of the charges were fictionalized for reasons I didn't understand, I decided to go to court. I was being accused of something I hadn't done. I wasn't paying a fine and admitting guilt when I was innocent.

A week later, I learned my fine was $174. Not a fortune, but still, a fine for something I didn't do. There was a principle at stake here.

If I had been guilty, then yeah, I would have grumbled and paid the fine. There would have been no reason to go to court.

In 1993 I bought a book called Traffic Ticket Defense, written by a lawyer who specialized in traffic cases. While I didn't need it at the time, I read it so I could be prepared in case the time ever came up when I needed to go to traffic court. It explained how court worked, defenses, cross-examining, and mostly how it was possible to win a case by representing yourself in court.

I re-read the book cover to cover and began to plan my approach.

First I had to go to arraignment and plead not guilty, which was scheduled about a month later. That morning I left work and went to court. When it was my turn, I stood before the judge and told him I was pleading not guilty. He asked the prosecutor if my fine could be lowered. He offered to reduce it by $20. I stuck to my plan and said I still wanted to plead not-guilty, so he set the trial date for November 22.

I never knew that if you went to arraignment, there was a chance to get your fine lowered. This is helpful knowledge for anyone who's received a speeding ticket and doesn't mind going to arraignment court instead of mailing in the payment. Arraignment is shockingly easy. Your name is called, the judge says what you're charged with, the prosecutor makes an offer on a reduced fine. If you accept it, you plead guilty and pay that new fine.

But I knew I wasn't guilty, so I went on with my plan.

In the weeks that followed, I prepared for my case by researching the specific laws I was charged with (lane change and careless driving), read almost every article online about fighting tickets in court, and checked out a book from the library called "Beat Your Ticket" which was a more precise guide on how to prepare for court, how to cross-examine, court procedures, and a whole lot more. Overall it was a nice complement to Traffic Ticket Defense. Both books supplied the information I needed to prepare for court.

I had never gone to court before. My only exposure to court was from the 80s TV Show Night Court. I don't watch modern law dramas--I just don't like them. So, this was all new territory for me. But when I make a plan, I always carry it through to the end. My drivers' record was at stake, as well as $174.

I knew from the start that the odds were against me. I knew that in court, the judge usually sided with the officer and the defendant was almost always found guilty. I figured this was because the average person going into court had no plan. He would simply tell his story and hope the judge took his side. But no, I had a Plan. I would make appropriate objections during the officer's testimony. I would cross-examine the officer. I would provide photographic evidence. I would nitpick the laws themselves to prove my innocence. In short, I would go beyond the "average" angry motorist fighting his ticket with my calm, cool-headed approach.

I planned my defense carefully. I took photographs along the route to prove that the officer could not see me where he said he saw me (his position at McD's). There's a bend in the road which makes visibility impossible. I drew a big map of the road to show my position and his position. I went through the laws themselves and explained why I wasn't guilty of them.

Lane change: the law says you must use a turn signal when changing lanes, and that your changing cannot affect other traffic or pedestrians. I would argue that since there was no other traffic on the road, nobody was affected by my lane change, I wasn't guilty of every aspect of that law.

Careless driving: The law states that the driver must operate the vehicle in a careful manner that cannot affect other vehicles or pedestrians on the road, nor can the driving injure the road. I would argue that no other cars were on the road, there were no bicycles, no pedestrians, so therefore, my driving didn't affect anything on the road, nor did it injure the road itself.

As the court day drew closer, I continued to study the two books, memorizing the facts and procedures and committing court procedures to memory. I wrote everything out: my testimony, a long list of cross-examination questions from which I would choose the most appropriate, the objections and when to use, them, and my closing remarks which summed the reasons I was not guilty. I rehearsed out loud all these things so they would flow and not confused and jumbled. Since I have public speaking experience, I have the ability to read out loud and not sound like I'm reading. I am comfortable speaking in front of groups, so in reality, this wouldn't be too much different from past experience.

But I was still nervous. All I could do was be as prepared as possible.

The day finally came. I took off from work to do this, which meant missing out on a day's pay. I dressed in my best clothes, my "job interview" outfit consisting of dress clothes, tie, and jacket, went to the courthouse with my briefcase and carrying my big map, found my courtroom, and sat down and waited.

I was amazed at how busy the courtroom was that day. There were all these lawyers bustling about, and benches full of more people with tattoos than I have ever seen assembled in one location. There were a lot of police there, too. I couldn't locate the one who pulled me over--I couldn't remember what he looked like because I never got a clear look at him. And part of me hoped he wouldn't even be there. No officer almost always means no trial, case dismissed.

I waited for about an hour while other pre-trials and arraignments took place. Finally they called my name.

I stepped to the podium, the judge told me why I was there, and said this was a pre-trial and asked what I wanted to do. I said I wanted a trial, and he said, instead of a trial, they would offer eight hours of community service, working at a local animal shelter. In exchange, the charges would be dropped and no points would be put on my record. In this case, it was six points. I said, no, I was fully prepared and would go to trial. He said, all right, since the officer was present, we could do it right away. He located the officer and asked if he was prepared, and he said yes.

I turned around and located the officer. There he was! The subject of my nightmares, the thorn in my side, my Accuser. It was a young guy, looked no older than 22 or 23. Certainly not the menacing ogre I had built up inside my mind.

The judge called a recess and said we'd begin then.

I sat back down and the bailiff came over and pulled me outside. He suggested I take the plea deal because eight hours of community service was a decent offer, and he didn't know if I could win or not. He told me to think about it and let the judge know if I had changed my mind.

I did think about it and decided to go ahead with the trial. (In retrospect, I should have taken this plea deal. More on that later.)

After the recess, my trial began.

This was my moment. This was what I had been planning and fantasizing about for weeks. But this was no longer fantasy. This was reality. And I had better have my shit together.

I took my seat at the defendant's table. Beside me, the prosecutor and officer sat at their table.

With lawyers watching, police officers watching, and a courtroom full of people I didn't know watching, the trial began.

The officer told his testimony by answering questions from the prosecutor. I tried to take notes, but he was talking so fast I couldn't write anything down. But I did object: "Objection, your honor, he's reading from his notes." This strategy was designed to make him put his notes away and/or share them with me. Through "discovery," the defendant is allowed to see what evidence there is against him. The judge asked the officer if it was his notes and the prosecutor said no, it was the citation, which was perfectly allowable in the courtroom.

In other words, He had no notes. Apparently, he wrote nothing down following the traffic incident, which was both a good thing and bad thing, which you'll see why soon.

He continued. His testimony was vastly different than mine. He explained that he was positioned at Howard Litzler and saw me blow past him going 70-80mph up the hill. He followed me at going at least 90 and saw me do the lane change at the top of the hill before pulling onto the interstate, where apparently I went 80 until he finally pulled me over.

WHAT??? In what reality did THIS take place?

Now, you're not allowed to argue with the accuser during court, so when he was finished, the judge said I could ask questions.

Oh, I started in on my questions. I asked question after question, facing him as I did so, watching his reactions as they progressed:

How long were you on your shift when this took place? 10 hours.
How long have you been a police officer? The prosecutor objected to this, but the judge overruled. Answer: two years.
In the academy, did you take any tests to judge a car's speed? No.
In the academy, were you trained to uphold all aspects of the traffic code? Yes.
Where were you exactly when the first incident took place?
Where was my location?
Did you use radar? No
Did you use a speedometer? Yes, when he was driving after me.
Has the speedometer been calibrated? Don't know.
How much traffic was on the road? None.
Pedestrians? None.
Bicycles? None.
Was I weaving? No.
Did my driving injure the road? No.
How do you define careless driving?

And this went on and on. Since my defense was built around the fact that he told me previously he was at McDonald's when he first saw me, and since now the story was different, my strategy had to change on the fly. I was trying to poke holes in his testimony. I was trying to trip him up. I was trying to get him to change his facts so the judge would catch it and hopefully dismiss the case.

I almost succeeded--twice. One of my questions was: "What is the difference between speeding and careless driving?" The prosecutor objected to this, but the judge overruled, and I had to explain my question. The officer testified I had been speeding, but my citation was for careless driving. The judge told him to answer the question or he was going to dismiss the case right then. (I was silently cheering at this point.) The officer explained it, somehow, and the case went on.

Another time I pointed out that the citation said the incident (lane change) took place at Howard Litzler, but the officer testified that the lane change took place at the top of the hill. Why was there a discrepancy? The officer said he made a mistake when he wrote it down, that he was at Howard Litzler when he observed it. Or words to that effect.

I still wasn't buying it, but by this point I was running out of steam. I knew from the way things were going that it didn't look like I was going to win. When my cross examining ended, the prosecutor asked a couple of questions, then I tried entering my evidence: my big map, my photographs, and they allowed it, but it was all moot because the officer testified he wasn't in the locations represented by my maps or photos. And now my mouth had gone completely dry. I was having trouble getting some of my words out because it felt I had cotton packed in my mouth.

I gave my closing remarks that summed up my position and why I wasn't guilty of the laws he accused me of breaking.

Then the judge spoke. He said that you must use your turn signal no matter what: weather conditions, lack of other vehicles, etc. As for the careless driving, to be honest, I didn't understand all of what he said, something about speeding versus not intending to speed, but I was so numb I couldn't take it all in. Final judgement, guilty on all charges, $174 fine.

In the end, he sided with the officer, I guess ignoring every point I brought up in cross-examination and testimony.

The whole thing took about 25 minutes or so.

I can't say it was "fun," but I did take satisfaction in watching the officer get rattled during my cross-examination as he answered or struggled to answer my questions. I also felt the same satisfaction when the prosecutor objected (I knew I was getting to her), and especially when the judge overruled her. Ha! Take THAT lady prosecutor!

When I was pulled over on the side of the road, the police officer was in charge. One wrong step and he could have arrested me. In the courtroom during cross-examination, I was in charge. He HAD to answer my questions, to explain his actions, and to face ME this time. This was quite a feeling, I have to admit.

When it was over, I left the courtroom with as much dignity as I could muster. A few other people, including other police officers, left with me. After we left, one police officer--a police officer mind you--told me I did great in there. He said my biggest mistake was admitting to the lane change, but I was sure it would come out anyway, so it didn't matter. He said the average person probably would have just yelled profanities at the judge. In the elevator going down, another man told me it took a lot of guts to do what I did.

The biggest unexpected problem I faced was the officer's change in testimony. I think this is attributable to one of two things:

He lied. Possible. Perhaps he knew he had no case so he changed the report of the events, confident that I would lose.

He totally forgot what happened. Just giving him the benefit of the doubt, this is what I think is more likely that happened. As he was testifying, he was looking at the citation. NOT NOTES. He said he had no notes. I believe he was using the citation to reconstruct what happened, but forgot other details including where he actually was when he observed the lane change. Once he had developed his new, reconstructed story, he stuck by it until the end, never mind the discrepancies.

I only realized this later. If I had realized it during court, I may have changed my line of questioning to reflect on his reconstructed story which would have poked further holes into it. Maybe I could have gotten the careless driving accusation thrown out, which was one of my intentions.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out in my favor. But I tried! I tried my ass off. I played lawyer for one day and gambled with me driving record. And lost. Now my insurance rates will rise and I will have six points on my record for the next five years.

It was an expensive point to prove: that I was not guilty for what I was accused for.

I believe now that while I lost the case, this is a victory for the common person against the police at large. In other words, my day in court showed the judge, the lawyers, the police officers, and the people watching, that not every driver accused with bogus charges by the police will just lay down and pay the fine. Some of will fight back. And the police need to realize this.

Perhaps next time one of those police officers will think twice before issuing tickets indiscriminately just to fill their quotas.

Because if it goes to court, they could end up looking like an asshole to everyone in that courtroom, including their own peers. And I may have succeeded in doing just that.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

National Career Fairs: What a waste of an afternoon.

Wow! It's been a while since I posted. Where have I been? I've been here, unemployed, raising my baby girl while my wife works. My biggest project was finishing the novel, then querying literary agents. As I wait for the responses and rejections, I'm gearing up for my next writing project which I am trying to figure out exactly what it will be.

Meanwhile, as I said, I'm unemployed. Fifteen months now. Where has that time gone? I can't tell you how many hundreds of resumes I've sent. Periodically I'll check out a career fair and see if I can find something worthwhile.

I went to one today hosted by National Career Fairs. This is officially the last career fair I will ever attend.

Here's why.

They should really tell you in advance what kinds of positions these companies are looking for. They don't. So when you arrive, you learn the bitter truth: they're all looking for sales people.

That's it.

The man in charge yells to everyone in line to check them all out! Network! Ask questions! You never know! I tried, I really did. "What are you looking for?" I would ask. "Salespeople," they responded. I'm an electronics technician by trade and a published writer, I would explain. "No," they would say, "we're not looking for anything like that."

So, why did I go?

Here's a few companies who were represented at today's career fair: The Army National Guard. Chipotle. Four insurance companies (and you know who they're looking for, right?). Something called Woodmen of the World, which appeared to be like a "sell our products" kind of company, judging by their very vague banner. (Shades of Amway, perhaps?) Four colleges. Do I go to a career fair so I can go back to college? Why waste my time, DeVry? Kaplan? National? and Fortis?

There were some others, but I was too irritated to stick around.

The only reason I went was to speak to a representative from a company I applied to a few days ago for a job I would be ideal for: an electronics assembler for a company whose initials are NG. I applied and naturally I never heard back. I thought if I attended the fair and spoke to the man personally, maybe I could gain a little ground.

He explained that this position, which I've done everything on their required experience list, needed proper certifications, which I lack. This certification includes soldering. As an electronics technician, I've been soldering on the job or in various hobbies for most of my life. But no, you must be certified. Ergo, no job for you.

Not even a consideration.

Career counselors used to say, "apply for the job anyway, even if you don't have all the experience they're looking for." I guess in today's market, that advice no longer applies because chances are good that NG will easily find the right person with the right certifications.

The blog reader might say, why don't you get that certification, blog-boy?

Because there's still no guarantee.

First off, where do I find a place that will certify me in soldering? Secondly, how much does that cost? I am unemployed, so I can't very well spend all those dollar bills I'm currently using as toilet paper, now, can I? And finally, assuming I do use my toilet-paper money to get a solder certification, then what? Does my phone start ringing with job offers? Or am I back to where I am right now, still looking for a job? Ah, but now it's different! Now I'm Certified in Soldering!

But, NG or some other company will find another reason not to hire me. "You don't have the Bullshit Certification," they say. "It's right on the job page. I see you're certified in soldering, but not Bullshit. Sorry, no job for you."

I'm willing to do work outside of what I'm used to doing (besides selling insurance, cars, stereos, vinyl siding, etc etc etc.), but whatever it is, it has to pay more than my unemployment currently pays me. Otherwise, what's the benefit?

Currently, my unemployment plus my wife's paycheck keeps us afloat with a little bit to save every month. Then, I get a royalty check every six months, which helps.

Reduce that unemployment check by $1, and we'll start to sweat.

I used to have a good job. For a long while, it looked like things were going to finally be okay. Then the job was gone. Then the baby was born.

Then President Obama says things will get better and new jobs will be made.

I'm still waiting.

Our neighbors lost their house to foreclosure. A house two doors down from us got foreclosed on. I can't even refinance right now because currently our house is worth less than what we paid for it in 2000. Oddly, our mortgage payment has stayed the same.

I have about three months before my current unemployment extension is up. Then, looks like I'll be working at Krogers.

Shouldn't be so bad, I worked there in college.

Friday, February 20, 2009

You can't go home again. WRFN becomes Norse Code Radio

I'm going to sound like an old man in today's post.

When I say that I graduated from college thirteen years ago, it makes me feel old. I graduated from Northern Kentucky University in 1996. Looking back, I wish I had majored in something different. Alas, I majored in Radio/Television with an emphasis on engineering. I wanted to be a broadcast engineer.

The way that turned out is a story for another day.

Since I enjoyed radio, in my freshman year of 1990 I was instantly attracted to the campus radio station, WRFN. It was there that I found my home away from home. It was there where I spent all my extra time, where I became a DJ, learned the art of voiceover work, production, promotions, sales, and became the general manager in my final year. I put a lot of myself into that place, trying to make it the best little radio station I could. And I succeeded in improving it both technically and aesthetically. I had an awesome set of friends, and we all worked together to keep th station going. It was like our own little club, and we loved it.

WRFN was set up to mimic a commercial radio station. We had a definite format to follow, modern rock mixed with classic rock We logged all music and spots and promos we played. WRFN was kind of a training lab to learn how to work in radio, even if the only audience were those who had to listen in the university center or those few who tuned in their radios in the dorms.

We did things almost the same way as the "real" stations: we sold air time, produced and played commercials, read PSAs, played station promos, wrote and read news. We signed on in the morning and signed off at night. We followed a playlist and went live when the log told use to. We played carts, records, and CDs. WRFN was a place to hone our talent both in voice and production. The longer we worked at it, the better we got. We had a lot of students work in commercial radio after leaving WRFN.

Everything was analog from 1990 to 1996. Except for CD players, everything was done on tape. We played records on the air. There was no computer.

And we were happy. These were among the best years of my life.

However, radio had been changing and we didn't know it. Analog was shifting to digital. Computers were taking over the radio studios. Even the CDs were disappearing along with the old cart machines.

And since I graduated, internet radio has come into its own in supplementing terrestrial radio.

Which finally drags me to today's point.

WRFN went through a whole lot of change after I graduated. WRFN was dark for a lot of the time; it seemed like people weren't interested in it for a while. Eventually the doors reopened, new staff was brought in, a lot of the equipment was replaced. The studio moved. They started broadcasting again, until it went dark and went through more transition into which we find the little station today.

The station has moved yet again and no longer resembles what it once was. Welcome to Norse Code Radio, which has no distinct format. Today the station is located in a small room with a laptop and a tiny audio mixer. I found these pictures through their website. As you can see, it's no longer a training ground for future broadcasters, it's your basic little internet radio station.

And that's not a bad thing at all.

In today's world, there's almost no point to learn how to do radio. Companies have cut their staff in half and the reality is that there are far fewer jobs available in radio anymore. Internet radio has allowed just about anyone to take to the web and broadcast their favorite music.

One thing that amateur internet broadcasters have to learn how to do is make themselves stand out. The problem is that there are far too many choices of internet stations to listen to. I could go on and find a hundred different stations playing basically the same thing.

One of the chief problems of amateur internet broadcasters (by which I mean, webstreams that are not streamed off of a commercial FM or AM radio station) is that they tend to lack any kind of personality. The station plays like a music service with ten or fifteen songs in a row, then a brief station identifier. I guess I'm in the minority when it comes to radio listeners who want to hear any chatter. I like chatter. I like listening to the wacky personalities. I like to hear someone introduce a song, or entertain me with a clever piece of production.

Norse Code Radio is somewhere in the middle. NCR isn't set up to be a training lab for future broadcasters, it's a place for an NKU student to play his favorite music for a couple of hours and have some fun. I've been sampling the station for the past few days and found that there is no real format. There are two-hour blocks of shows where the person plays specific types of music. Most of what I've heard is alternative and its variations, some classic rock, some modern rock, and an interesting Japanese rock show.

With all due respect, most of what I've listened to lacks personality, but two of the shows deserve mention. I listened after six on both Wednesday and Thursday nights and have enjoyed both the music and personalities of those who were on. It didn't sound like they were following any kind of format; they didn't have liners to read, promos to play, or even PSAs. It sounded to me like they were playing their favorite music and having some fun doing it.

That's really what WRFN boiled down to when I worked there from 1990 to 1996. A place to play your favorite music and have some fun. We all did have a lot of fun and most of us took our roles very seriously. I think it's great that WRFN is back in 2009, even if has lost the slogan we gave it around 1994, Northern's Best Rock.

I plan to listen more often and see how my old radio station is coming along.

I know a piece of equipment they desperately need, though, and that is a good processor. Winamp may be a great tool, but their levels are all over the place, one song plays loud, the next one is soft, the microphone is somewhere in the middle. I'd suggest an Omnia-3net and that would make them all the more listenable.

Otherwise, it's not bad to listen to, and I have pretty eclectic tastes.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Are you an author? Here's how not to impress me.

I love meeting other writers. It always fascinates me to see what kinds of subjects interest other writers, whether fiction or nonfiction. Well, except poetry, I suppose. Poetry is so subjective that what one person likes, another person hates.

Let's set aside poetry for another discussion.

Writers who finish their books will invariably seek publication. I am doing that right now. Hopefully soon I will post a happy blog announcement saying that I have found an agent for my book. Hopefully that day comes soon.


For many authors, though, that process takes too long. They want their books published now.

In some cases, they'll finish writing their novel in two months. ("I can dash off three hundred pages in two months," I heard one writer say once. That's nice, but how long did revision take?)

So they google "book publisher" and find a helpful list of vanity presses, and at the top is PublishAmerica, about the worst vanity press I have ever come across. This Washington Post article is three years old, but its information is still relevant. These writers, not doing any further research, will either doom their manuscripts to Publish America or pay several hundred to several thousand dollars to another vanity press like iUniverse, Trafford, xlibris, booksurge, and the list goes on and on.

This is not the way to get published. But many writers seem to feel that it is.

What doesn't impress me as an author is when I meet another author who tells me he or she has a book published through a vanity press. My first question is always, "Who published it?" because I want to know. Is it Random House? Dell? Bantam? Even Bleak House Books? If so, I find that very impressive. Here's an author who has done all the work necessary to achieve the status as "published author." (And here's an interesting aside, legitimately published authors rarely call themselves "published authors." That moniker usually belongs to the vanity press authors.)

In answer to my question, the author might respond with "Booksurge." Or God help me, "PublishAmerica."

And here's my typical response:


That doesn't impress me at all. This tells me right away that this author did not do his homework, did not do the proper research, and just paid someone to print his words.

I could pay Trafford a thousand bucks to print up all of my blog posts, but that doesn't make it saleable literature.

Now, there could also be other reasons why this author went vanity:

"I queried a hundred agents and/or publishers and they all turned me down."

"I'm too old to wait for around for a response from a publisher."

"The publishing industry is closed to new authors. They're mean that way, you know."

I won't refute all the above claims, except to say that if a hundred agents and/or publishers turned down your golden words, then there could be reasons why that happened: bad query letter, incorrect submission, publisher didn't want another book on that subject, book badly written despite your claim that your boyfriend loved it. The list goes on and on.

And the publishing industry being closed to new authors? Please. Stephen King won't live forever. Both Michael Crichton and John Updike recently passed on. New authors have to step in to take their place. Have to. Publishers want the next King, Rowling, or heck, even Stephanie Meyer. But many unpublished authors believe the crap that comes from the vanity presses.

Take this quote, for example. This is a direct quote from a representative from Trafford Publishing posted on the Absolute Write message board:

"New authors seeking publication face a great challenge because publishing companies flooded with unsolicited manuscripts simply do not have resources to take a chance on unproven talent."

This is an utter bullshit line used by vanity presses to try to convince their potential customers that publishers don't take new talent.

Aspiring authors, do some research. Get a copy of Writers Market 2009. Visit agentquery and read what agents are looking for. Visit their websites. Read their blogs. You'll see that many of them specifically say they are looking for new talent. Write a query letter until it shines and follow their guidelines explicitly and only submit what they want to see.

Then later, when I run into you someplace, you can say, "I'm published with Random House."

That's impressive.

Between acceptance and publication takes a long time, perhaps up to two years or more. I've seen some PublishAmerica authors' blogs that say something like:

Submitted manuscript: May 1.
Received reply: May 3.
Signed contract: May 5.
Book will be published: May 20.

And they're excited about this, proclaiming, "I'm a world famous published author!"

Dude, or dudette, No, no you're not. You're neither world famous nor actually published. You're an author because you wrote the words, but that's it.

It never seems to dawn on some of these people that there is something seriously wrong when a publisher accepted their work the day after they submit it. They don't see any red flags when said publisher says they "won't change a thing" to their manuscript because it's so perfect.

Then, a month or two later, their book comes out. And bookstores don't want the 75 page $25 novel that's listed as unreturnable with a bad discount. And authors don't know why.

Same thing with a typical vanity press. Bookstores don't want them. You can't get your booksurge novel in bookstores nationwide because there's no distribution with vanity presses and PublishAmerica. The vanity author must hand sell the books himself.

And sorry if I sound elitist, but that does not impress me.

On the flipside of all this is self-publishing, whether through lulu.com (which is a PRINTER) or doing it yourself at the local print shop or Kinkos. Self publishing is not a good option for fiction. Strange as this may seem, many authors disagree with me on this point. They'll print up their novel at the local print shop, sell it at the local book store, and that's pretty much the only place you can find it. If you've got a great book, you're doing your readers a great disservice by publishing this way.

Nonfiction, OTOH, has its place with self publishing, if the topic is narrow enough that commercial publishers aren't interested. If you have a small, but solid audience, you can sell your self-published nonfiction book yourself with minimal effort through your website or word of mouth. If you want it in bookstores, you have to be your own distributor and get them there yourself. And people, that's a lot of work. Your new job, besides writer, is salesperson.

I met an author who self published a Civil War book whose subject is a specific battle. The books are well written, beautiful, and reasonably priced. He distributes them himself quite successfully. This is a more rare case, but there are enough readers interested in the Civil War to justify this sort of publishing. I asked him why he didn't submit to a commercial house. He explained that he did and got offers for publication. However, he would have received the typical 10% royalty and didn't feel the return justified the ten or so years he put into researching and writing the book. And I agreed with him, although for me, the additional sales work involved would have been too much for me to handle.

I applaud him as a success story in the world of self publishing.

And that does impress me. I say, good job.

But in other cases, especially with fiction, publish with a commercial publisher if you want respect in the writing community.

Otherwise, you'll just be another vanity author.