Compared To What?

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Nellie and Company take a swing at the Eugene McDaniels classic made famous by Les McCann and Eddie Harris

piano & vocals – Nellie McKay; bass – Alexi David; guitar – Cary Park; drums – Kenneth Salters

More Mckay at Nellie McKay

What’s My Line?

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The guest on the October 13, 1953 edition of What’s My Line (exactly 65 years ago) had just celebrated her 69th birthday. Unlike other more recent occupants of her job, she had never been a high-fashion model, served on the boards of exploitative corporations, nor killed her friend by running a stop sign at 50 mph. Nevertheless, she managed.

Thanks to YouTuber What’s My Line?

“Go To Sleep, You Weary Hobo”

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Woody Guthrie’s rendition of Goebbel Reeves’s “Hobo Lullaby,” a song about a heaven where there are no policemen around to harass anyone.

That’s David Carradine playing Woody hopping the boxcars in Hal Ashby’s film, Bound For Glory.

Thanks to YouTuber FreeNeverSaid

Nellie’s Updated Fixin’s

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Monday Morning, Mckay makes mischief.

The versatile Nellie McKay, performing on The Jimmy Dore Show, updates an old Country Joe and The Fish anti-war standard. (NSFW)

Thanks to YouTuber The Jimmy Dore Show

***The Fourth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest***

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Yes, it’s time once again for this blog’s annual World Famous Magic Contest (“World Famous,” as in my local restaurant’s “Sam’s World-Famous pastrami-on-rye sandwich, one trip to the salad bar only, please”).

So here is the challenge this year:

Last year at a magic Convention I overheard the tail end of a conversation where a well-respected famous magician was saying to his companions, “Well, that’s because that’s the Greatest Trick in Magic…” I kept on eavesdropping, but I never heard just what that earth-shaking Greatest Trick in Magic was.

So your mission, Jim and Cinnamon, if you should choose to accept it, is to tell us what the three greatest tricks are in magic. But please don’t just list them. You must explain why you consider each trick a great one. Extra points for coherence, unexpectedness, humor, and persuasiveness.

And wonderful prizes, as always, will be awarded:

First prize is first choice from the terrific grab bag of wonderful magic books, tricks, and DVDs I’ve put together; second prize is second choice from the grab bag; and third prize, in a parallel, numerically pleasing manner, is third choice from the grab bag. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books, tricks, or DVDs, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to own.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll also ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will not be sold, but will be offered only as a free download to all those who enter.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Wednesday, Oct 31, 11:59 PM.

All are eligible except those who have won 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize in the previous two years.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

“Autumn Leaves Must Fall…”

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Chad and Jeremy singing “A Summer Song” 40 years after it was first released in 1964.

Thanks to YouTuber Independent Musicians Foundation

Radio Interview Production Workshop #10: Sculpting Your Interview

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male statue

Photo by Emily Wilkinson on Pexels.com

So now that you’ve had some time to play around with some of the basic functions of Audacity such as cutting, moving, copying and pasting, let’s take a closer look at the editing process, and some more tools and strategies which will save you time and energy. (For the previous installments, begin here and then follow the links at the end of each installment.)

The most important strategy in editing, in my opinion, is working from big to small. That is, cut away the big useless sections first, and then start working more precisely. Again, sculpting is a very useful metaphor here: think of chopping away big blocks of stone before you start doing any polishing. There’s really no sense in beginning by obsessively cutting out each “umm” or “err,” if  that whole portion of the conversation is going to be cut out anyway.

What should you be cutting? Generally, you want to be able to cut enough back so that the listener can sense a clear through line of the argument or intention. Of course this is going to vary vastly from speaker to speaker. But it’s not uncommon for a person to say something like:

“I owe my life to Jane. Jane was married to a guy named Saul who worked in a little candy store down by the Bowery. He was a tall guy who always wore plaid and never liked me. In fact he went out of his way to avoid me. Anyway, Jane was the one who taught me everything I know about poker playing. She taught me how to count cards and bet correctly…”

Now if you have the time, you can leave in the bit about Saul, but really (and the “Anyway,” is the big clue) it would be more clear and direct to edit it so it said,

“I owe my life to Jane…Jane was the one who taught me everything I know about poker playing, etc.”

It is also often the case that a guest will make a statement and support it, say, with three examples. Much of the time, you can cut out one or two of those examples.

“I was always a dreamy kid. I would sing to myself in school and the teachers would yell at me for making noise. Then at home I would lock myself in the bathroom for hours reading books. My parents were flabbergasted by that. And of course when I was sick I would pretend to be the star of my own variety series and use the bed as a stage.”

They’re all fun to hear about, but if you are fighting for time, it could look like this:

“I was always a dreamy kid…When I was sick I would pretend, etc.”

But sometimes the cuts need to be even more drastic, and need to be made based on what topic you are going to focus on. For example, I had a very interesting conversation with a woman who had written a book about the history of segregated schools in the US beginning with the Civil War. I had to make a decision to focus the edited version solely on twentieth century history, with just the briefest nod to the important 19th century era. Sometimes you will be sad about what you had to leave on the cutting room floor, but it is all about working within the constraints you have.

Let’s look more closely at what needs to be done in Audacity to achieve these edits. First we’ll take a look at what I call the “name area” of the track on the far left. There are a couple of important functions hidden away here. And also some buttons and sliders you don’t want to mess with:

name area

The top slider button marked -…+ will change the volume level during playback. Leave this slider alone; there will be times when you want to adjust the volume levels, but you don’t want to do it from here. Likewise, the slider directly beneath it changes the output to the left or right speaker. Again leave that slider in the middle. Instead start off by clicking on the inverted black triangle at the upper right hand corner of the name box. When you do, you should get something that looks like this:

Name Controls

First I will name the track, by clicking on “Name…” at the top and entering a track name. In my example, I call it “penny interview.”

title traack

Since in my example, I started with a stereo track, and I want to work with a mono track, I click on the inverted black triangle as before, and then click on the line towards the bottom that says “Split Stereo to Mono.” (If your track is already mono, you won’t need to do this.) You will now have two separate identical tracks. You are going to get rid of the bottom track by clicking on the “x” in the upper left-hand corner of the name area of the track. (Remember you can bring the track back again by “Undo”-ing the action by going to Edit—>Undo).

Okay, so let’s say now you’ve decided on a chunk of the track you’d like to delete. Highlight the selection by dragging over the area with your mouse. You can extend the selected area right or left by pointing the mouse at the very border of the selection and waiting until it turns into a finger-pointing hand icon, then clicking and dragging the border carefully with your mouse.

Once selected, you can listen to how the track would sound without the selected part by pressing the “c” on your keyboard. You will hear a few seconds of sound from before the selection and then a seamless cut to a few seconds after the selection. In other words, this is what your track would sound like after the selection is deleted. This allows you to adjust the borders before you do the deletion for the best cut.

To help you achieve accuracy, you should use the Zoom function, by clicking on the magnifying glass with the “+” inside.

zoom controls

The more you click, the more zoomed-in you will be. To zoom out again, click on the magnifying glass with the “-” inside it. Notice the time markers immediately above the zoomed in track cover a much shorter length of time now in one screen.You would have to scroll horizontally to see more of the track. For example, this zoomed-in track only covers 33 seconds:

zoom time

This is a lot, so just one more thing about editing for now: if you want an edit to sound natural, the general rule is to cut on the breath. That is, leave the person’s intake of breath before s/he speaks. So let’s say the original audio was: “The CEO was incredibly incompetent and incredibly stupid. What’s more, he was a drunk.” If you want to edit  out the phrase “and incredibly stupid,” make sure to leave in the breath before “What’s more.”

After you make your cuts, save and quit, and next time we’ll talk about adding other tracks to your interview for texture. See you then.

 

“King of Hearts, Come Down and Dance”

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In what is probably Steve Martin’s greatest magic performance, Steve performs for Johnny Carson the inexplicable unpublished Vernon/Marlo card miracle, “King of Hearts, Come Down and Dance.”

Thanks to YouTuber Jeff Dresback

Book Nook (6)

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pile of books

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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For the past decade or more, my reading habits have been very cyclical: for months at a time, I can’t seem to pick up a book, and then all of a sudden, something will kick in and I’m reading a lot. So, since it’s been a while since I’ve done a non-magic edition of Book Nook, here are some of the books I’ve enjoyed reading lately:

Government by B. Traven

This is the first of the mysterious B. Traven’s Mexican “Jungle novels” a sharply provocative and humorous set of novels set in Mexico just before the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s. This initial book is a masterpiece of dry humor and wry observation. It’s major subject is the petty and not-so-petty corruption of government officials at every level of society. But Traven makes clear that the corruption of the local officials in their drive to exploit every peso and drop of sweat out of the local Indian population is just a reflection of the larger overall exploitative capitalist system happening on the national level. The author pulls no punches and names things for what they are. It’s a system where friends and family catapult you into power, but you must always watch your back or you’ll get stabbed by one of them. The parallels to today couldn’t be more apt or timely. This is a book that shows you the blueprint. Especially remarkable as well is a contrasting passage where Traven describes how the tribe of local Indians choose their leaders democratically, in a way that ascribes grave responsibility and accountability to the chosen one.

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Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

I enjoy Anne Tyler’s novels because when reading her books, I get the sense that she is in no hurry.  She’s a writer who knows that after this one’s finished she’s going to write another one, and the current one is a wave in the larger ocean of her work. She doesn’t feel that she has to put everything she knows in one book. So this story is a small one of a woman’s life viewed at several milestone years. Externally, not a lot happens. But we see how a child of promise slowly has her options closed off as life proceeds and what it might take to find some sense of freedom in the end. Tyler’s characters always feel real enough so that you feel a sense of loss when a book is over, loss for the people who you have met in the course of reading the novel.

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Radical Walking Tours of New York City by Bruce Kayton

It’s rare that one can read a guide book straight through like a work of fiction, but Radical Walking Tours of NYC is one such book. It takes us on over a dozen walking tours of several neighborhoods of NYC, and vividly depicts the rich labor and political history of this city which has been home and host to so many great figures and stories. Along the way you’ll learn a lot about history they never told you about in school. Whether it’s the location of Allen Ginsberg’s apartment or Emma Goldman’s massage parlor, you’re sure to find out something new here. Bruce Kayton is well qualified for the task as he for many years led such tours through the city.

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The Untold Stories of Broadway by Jennifer Ashley Tepper

Years ago, Mary Henderson wrote a seminal work on the history of New York City Theater buildings, The City and the Theater, and now Jennifer Ashley Tepper has come out with an oral history of the people who worked and performed in those buildings in The Untold Stories of Broadway.  The multi-volumed series is organized by theater building, and in each chapter the people who worked in each theater on various productions tell what it was like to be part of that experience. The author has interviewed scores of people. The work is valuable in the 360-degree view that the book gives you of theatrical production. So, for example, in a chapter on the Shubert Theatre, you not only get the point of view of the actors who worked on such shows as Spamalot, Rent, and A Chorus Line,  but you also get commentary from the house manager and even the concession stand operators. You’ll also learn a lot about the physical layout of each theatre, and why some theaters are suitable for one kind of show, while other buildings are better for other kinds.These stories are not necessarily juicy remembrances of gossip, but honest, workaday accounts of people’s experiences from the inside. Many books purport to give a “backstage” view–this one really does it. Highly recommended for Broadway Babies.

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A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

For years, my friend Tom has been trying to get me to read Bill Bryson’s books, and now I finally understand why he is such a fan. Bryson is a very entertaining writer and this account of his attempt to walk the Appalachian trail is a fun read. A gentle humorist in the vein of Dave Barry, Bryson takes you along his sometimes grueling hike, and introduces you to a wonderful set of characters, both those who join him to walk the trail, like his unprepared but faithful companion Katz, and the variety of hikers he meets along the way. Bryson is funny, but he also succeeds at communicating the awe-inspiring nature of the path, and the sheer doggedness and courage it takes to accomplish completing the trail. At times, the tale proves unexpectedly touching. For myself, I was very happy to sit in my easy chair and nod my head saying to myself, “Yup, that’s why I’m sitting here.”

Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying

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A terrific version of the Gerry and the Pacemakers’ song by the multi-talented Nellie McKay. It’s so good it makes me want to keep playing it over and over.

Thanks to YouTuber eTown

Angels on High

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Monday morning, atheists believe.

If there is a heaven, then surely one must be greeted by something like the celestial sounds of Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt singing Neil Young’s “After The Gold Rush.”

Thanks to YouTuber Don Giller