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In what is probably Steve Martin’s greatest magic performance, Steve performs for Johnny Carson the inexplicable unpublished Vernon/Marlo card miracle, “King of Hearts, Come Down and Dance.”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

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

Magician In Trouble: Steve Martin

 

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In a pre-cursor to his great Flydini routine, Steve Martin performs this humorous sketch, a spoof of a Channing Pollock-like magician, on a Johnny Carson Comedians Special.

Thanks to YouTuber  Jeff Dresback

Come The Revolution…Part Two

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A socialist revolution in the United States in 2044? In activist Mike Albert’s new fictional journalistic account, RPS/2044, you can learn how it happened. This is the second part of the interview with Albert that I produced for the Arts Express radio program. Mike talks about what a Revolutionary Participatory Society might look like, why it’s important for present-day activists to lay out a vision for the future, and how we might get from here to there.

Click on the grey triangle above to listen.

You can listen to Part One here.

(And for local listeners to Arts Express on WBAI 99.5 FM and wbai.org be advised that Arts Express has been moved to the new edgier time slot of Tuesdays at 11pm.)

Radio Interview Production Workshop #9: Navigating Audacity

close up of text on white background

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

 

It’s great that you now have your interview file ready to be edited in Audacity. (For the previous installments begin here and then follow the links at the end of each installment.) Go to the project folder on the desktop, and double-click on the .aup file to open your project.

 

double track

 

The blue waveform is the sound of your file (if you recorded in mono you’ll have only one waveform or track, as it is called). If you click on the green arrow Play button in the toolbar above the waveform, you’ll hear your interview. The black square button will Stop the “tape,” and the double vertical line button will Pause and UnPause the tape. The black left arrow returns the cursor to the beginning of the track, and the right black arrow sends the cursor to the end of the track. The red button, which we will not use at all, is to record directly into the program.

 

controls

 

Click on the green Play button and you can watch the cursor move along the waveform as your interview progresses. Click the Pause button to pause the sound, then click it again to re-start the sound from where you left off. Then press Stop, which moves the cursor back to where you started at the beginning.  If you now click the mouse anywhere within the waveform while it is stopped, the cursor will move to that part of the track; so if you now click Play again, the track will start playing from that new cursor position. If you click Stop, then clicking either the black left arrow or the right arrow will move the cursor position to either end.

Play around with these controls for a bit to get a feel for them. They’re really no different from what you would find on a CD player or in iTunes.

If you are conversant with any of the common word processing programs like Microsoft Word, you are already familiar with the way the basic functions of Audacity work.

Think of the blue waveform as the text of your document. Just as in a Word document, you can cut, delete, copy,  and paste. Just as in a Word document, you can also do multiple undos and re-dos. It’s nice to know that you can undo any step that you’ve done, so let’s learn that first!

Click your mouse somewhere in the middle of your blue waveform. Now hold down the mouse button and drag over the wave form a bit, just as you would over a portion of text in Word in order to highlight and select it. (To deselect a portion of the waveform, simply click anywhere within the waveform.)

highlight

If you hit the space bar while a portion is selected, the program will Play the audio within the selected portion. Hit the space bar again or the Stop button to stop the audio.

You can now perform one of the basic editing functions on that selected sound. Let’s try Deleting that selected portion (don’t worry, we’ll bring it back in a moment). Simply press the delete button on your keyboard, and your selected audio is gone—the waveform no longer shows that piece of audio, but the rest of the audio remains untouched. It’s just as if you had snipped a piece of tape from a tape reel and spliced together the remaining ends.

Let’s bring back the deleted part now. Click on the top Audacity Edit menu, and then click on the top line of the submenu to Undo your Delete.

undo

You’ll see your selection is back in your waveform, highlighted.

Now let’s try moving a piece of audio from one place to the other. Select a piece of audio by clicking in the wave form, holding your mouse button down and dragging it a short distance to highlight a section of audio. Then click on Edit—>Cut. Your highlighted section will be deleted, but the contents of the section are now stored in your Paste buffer. Move the cursor to a new place in the waveform—say, by clicking the mouse at the beginning. Now click on Edit—>Paste, and you’ll find you have pasted the selected audio into its new cursor position.  If you begin the player now from the beginning, you’ll hear the selected part which has been moved from the middle to the beginning.

Now, let’s Undo that by clicking on Edit—> Undo. You can undo (and redo) multiple times as long as you do not save your work. Once you save the file, the buffer is cleared out and you cannot go back to a prior step.

Okay, one last function we’ll look at, the Copy function. Just as in a text document, sometimes you want to repeat a selection. For example, it can come in handy when you want to lengthen a silence. So, select a portion of audio, and then go to Edit—>Copy. Your selected audio will still be there, but a copy of it is now in the Paste buffer. Click in the waveform to where you would like the copy to appear—let’s say, this time, right after the selected audio.  Click on Edit—>Paste. You’ll now have a copy of the selected audio at the cursor, but the original selection will still be in its original place.

And…let’s Undo that again by going to Edit—> Undo, and you should be back to where you started from at the very beginning.

Remember, even if you screw up somehow and the Undo isn’t working for you, your original recorded file is still sitting in your project folder. If need be, you can always start off from scratch by importing that file into a new Audacity project.

Play around with these functions for a while to convince yourself that you can recover if you make a mistake. It will give you the confidence to proceed further.

When you’re finished, go to File—>Save, and then quit the program with File—>Quit.

Next time, we’ll learn more about Audacity, and talk about some editing strategies. See you then.

The next installment is here: https://jackshalom.net/2018/10/03/radio-interview-production-workshop-10-editing-strategies/

Come The Revolution…

68400843_High-Resolution-Front-Cover_7502482-200x300

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It’s the year 2044, and praise to the goddesses, a socialist revolution in the United States is well in progress. How did it happen? Fortunately we have an account of the 2044 revolution in this set of oral histories that journalist Miguel Guevera has conducted with many of the heroes of the revolution. Guevera (aka 2018 activist Mike Albert) talks about the workings of a Revolutionary Participatory Society and economy in this interview I produced, broadcast yesterday for the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM NY.

Click on the grey triangle above to listen.

And you can hear Part Two here:

https://jackshalom.net/2018/09/19/come-the-revolution-part-two/

(And for local listeners to the show, be advised that Arts Express has been moved to the new edgier time slot of Tuesdays at 11pm.)

 

Radio Interview Production Workshop #8: Dept. Of Ed(iting)

woman holding marker writing on wall

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

You’ve finished the interview and you’re heaving a sigh of relief.  (For the previous installments begin here and then follow the links at the end of each installment.) Well, not really, because a thought occurs to you right away–did I capture everything? Was this thing a total mess? But once I know my interview was recorded properly (I’ll save the horror stories for another time) for me this is the most fun part of the process, the editing.

If it’s true of novel writing and playwriting that it’s all about the revision, then it’s at least as true in putting together an interview. It’s akin to sculpting. You’re chipping away at the non-essential to reveal the form within. If done well, the audience never knows about it. Of course, you are not here to deceive, but there is a satisfaction in knowing that you have made the guest and the interview sound even better than they actually were.

So let’s just take this step by step to start the editing process. The first thing I do is a little bit of organization on my laptop so that I don’t drive myself crazy. I create a new folder on my computer desktop and give it the project name. On the Mac, go to the top left menu of the Finder, click on File to get the dropdown menu, and then click on New Folder. I’ll abbreviate a direction like this as File—>New Folder. (There are equivalent commands for Windows machines, but I’m going to stick here to the Mac.) Rename the folder with your project name (on the Mac, to change a folder name, click once on the title of the folder, wait three seconds, then click again on the title of the folder). Once I have my project folder, I put all files for that project into this folder so that I will be able to find them and navigate to them easily later on.

So the first file you are going to put in there is going to be the recording of the interview you just did. It’s generally best to do a recording in a high quality format if possible, such as WAV or AIF, if your recorder allows it. Otherwise the most common format for audio files is MP3. You can tell which format your file is in by simply looking at the extension of your audio file. It should be something like 121017.wav or 180716.mp3, where the part after the period tells you what format it is in.

Most of the online services like freeconferencecall.com will only generate an mp3 file. The mp3 files, which are compressed files, have the advantage that they are a lot smaller than WAV or AIF files, but the trade-off is that the sound quality is not quite as good. Also, each time you edit and save them, you lose sound quality. That is why even though you may ultimately be required to broadcast an mp3 file (as is my situation) it is best if you can edit the interview as a WAV file, and convert it only later at the end to an mp3 file. (I’ll discuss in another installment how to do that conversion through Audacity.)

So let’s assume you have the interview file in your now titled folder on the desktop (by downloading it to your computer from the online conference service, or transferring  it from your digital recorder to the computer via a USB cord, and then dragging it into the new project folder). The first thing you want to do is get it into Audacity (see here for more about installing Audacity) so you can work with it. To do this, open Audacity and go to the top left menu. Then, click on File—>Import—>Audio. You will get a file selector dialog. Navigate to your project folder on the desktop, and click on the interview audio file you placed there earlier. When you do, you should get something that looks like this:

audacity 1

Notice in this picture there are two identical waveforms (the blue wavy stuff). That’s because this example was imported from a recorder that was recording in stereo. Ultimately, if you are in a similar situation to myself, you will end up broadcasting a mono file, which is a lot easier to work with when editing. If you were recording in mono in the first place, then you will only have one waveform, and you’re ahead of the game. Don’t worry about that now, though, we’ll deal with it later. Typically, a service like freeconferencecall.com only generates a mono track of your recording.

For now, that ‘s all we’re going to do. Next week, we’ll look at some of the basic functions of Audacity and how it’s going to improve your interview. So, go to File—>Save Project, in the chooser dialog, navigate to your project folder on the desktop, and in the “Save As” box change the name to your project name, but keep the .aup extension.

audacity2

Then hit “Save” in the lower right hand corner of the chooser box. You are now going to exit out of the program, so go to Audacity–>Quit Audacity.

What has this accomplished? Well now if you go to your desktop and look inside the project folder, you’ll see something like this:

audacity3

The bottom file, penny.WAV was my original interview file. When you import it into Audacity, the program makes a copy of the file, so that your original file remains untouched.

The top folder, penny arcade_data, like all data folders, you never touch. Audacity uses it internally. The next file, penny arcade.aup, is the way to get back to your Audacity work. If you click on it, the Audacity program will open up again and you will see your imported waveform again. So any file with an aup at the end means it will open up a waveform of something you’ve imported. Just like clicking on a docx file will open up a Word file, clicking on a aup file will open up an Audacity file.

Next time, we’ll talk about some of the basic editing commands and, very importantly, how to undo anything that you think might have been a mistake. See you then.

The next installment is here:

https://jackshalom.net/2018/09/18/radio-interview-production-workshop-9-navigating-audacity-essentials/