March 2015

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New Title for my documentary: HEARING VOICES plus Fiscal Sponsorship!

I’m  unveiling a new title for my in-production documentary feature film about the history and power of radio: HEARING VOICES: How Radio Changed America & America Changed Radio.  Title changes are nothing new for most film projects, especially early on. As the film is developed and refined, a new title can more accurately convey the essence of the project. I believe this new title does just that.

In even bigger news, the International Documentary Association (IDA) has become our fiscal sponsor.

That means, dear friends, that any and all money donated to my film project will be a tax deduction since the IDA is a 501(3)(c). For a documentary filmmaker like myself, this is pure gold. You give, you get! Investment in a film is always a gamble, plain and simple; but a tax-deductible donation is guaranteed value in return, PLUS you get to be a part of making this film happen. Needless to say, please check it out here!

 

NEW YEAR OR SAME YEAR?

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They say the definition of insanity is doing the same things over again and expecting different results.

 

New Year’s Day is of course a man made (but necessary and practical) invention. In reality time continues in a straight line, ostensibly with no beginning and no end. But the earth revolves around the sun again and again giving us seasons and the rhythms of life. So a calendar was created to help us know when to plant the crops and harvest them. And at the end of every harvest season there must be a great celebration (especially if the fields yielded enough food for the winter). Now it’s party time.

 

And so we come to the end of one year and the start of a new year. New Year offers a moment to pause and reflect on our previous trip around the sun. Are we right back where we started or have we also experienced something of our own revolution in the preceding twelve months?

 

It’s as good a time as any to reflect, hope, and plan. The New Year gives the illusion of turning a new page, wiping an old slate clean. And why not? Trouble is many of us, myself included, can start being reactive to life instead of being proactive. Things come at us at any given time that cost us time, money, and worry. However, we must also strive to be proactive, to anticipate likely events and scenarios and plan accordingly. We need to take ownership of our present life, embrace it (or make peace with it) just as it is, and then move forward by consciously making a list of what needs to change or be accomplished and set a DEADLINE for each of these items. Resolve to be proactive! Otherwise last year will be the same as this year, next year, and the others that follow.

 

Write down all of the things holding you back: all of the troubles, worries, and failures of 2014. Now take that piece of paper and tear it up and throw it in the TRASH. Leave it where it belongs—in 2014.

 

I’m just saying…

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AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO MISSES THE SMELL OF LIQUID PAPER?

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At one time “White Out” or “Liquid Paper” was essential to every office! You couldn’t get enough of the stuff. I miss the smell sometimes. For those too young to remember, in Olden Times we had to use typewriters instead of computers to compose thing s like college term papers. I, of course, also wrote scripts and short stories. Usually I would write out a rough draft by hand. This is where the long lost art of cursive writing came in handy. Then I would insert the sheet of typing paper and roll it into place to begin typing.

 

Typing this blog on a laptop, as I’m doing right now, is gentle and soft. The keys barely click as I press each letter. When I used my Smith Corona Electric State-of-the-Art Typewriter, each keystroke required some moxie. And a full-throated CLUNK-CLUNK-CLUNK would accompany my efforts. Kind of like the sound of shutting a car door on a 67 Mustang (BOOMP) versus a Kia Soul (TINK).

 

SmaithCorona_XD7500When you got the end of the line you had to stop and hit the return, sending the typeface ball back to the left side of the page. These miracle typewriters would often issue forth a friendly DING bell reminder that you have reached the end of the line. Typing this blog I can be completely ignorant of were the cursor is because, thankfully, the computer handles the rest.

 

Some people became expert typists and could handle voluminous amounts of pages chock full of words with nary a mistake, if any at all. Me, on the other hand, being blessed with fat fingers and sloppy hand-eye coordination, made typos all the time. Solutions to a misspelling included typing the entire page all over again, backspacing and placing layers of x’s over the word, or—miracles of miracles—you could roll the paper up a little bit and paint it out with Liquid Paper! Imagine a nail polish applicator. Well, that’s how you used this stuff! You painted out the offending word. Waited a few seconds for it to dry, even gently blowing on the page to speed up the process, and then rolled the paper back into position and retyped the word onto this soft white material now bonded to the paper. Ahh, yes. The smell of Liquid Paper! … I hated it with a passion!

 

I may seem like I’m waxing poetically about these Dark Ages of college terms papers, but really, they were so inconvenient compared to the luxury we have now! For Goodness Sakes, we even have “Auto-correct”! Misspellings dissipate immediately so that we never even have to bother to learn how to actually spell things like “receive” and “inundate”—we just slap away at the keys and let the computer figure it out. (And, hey, what could possibly go wrong there?)

 

mkpRiIy1nrHBz00-CNunROQThe Smith Corona eventually went at a yard sale for five bucks. But I still have my first typewriter: a 1919 Underwood. 1919 is the year, not the model number, by the way. I still have it. Now that baby required finger muscles! The carriage return was manual and it creaked loudly as it slid back. It’s a beautiful paperweight now.

 

Gone are the days of Liquid Paper and the mimeograph machine (who remembers volunteering to run copies for the teacher cuz that stuff smelled so intoxicatingly good?) but sometimes I get a little nostalgic for the days of yesteryear. Pre-auto-correct. Back when I really had to lurn from my misteaks.

 

I’m just saying…

BASTING IN THE SAUCE OF SELF-PITY: DON’T DO IT!

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Sometimes I start with the blog and create the title later, other times a great title suggests itself and what follows becomes a stream-of-consciousness exercise to justify it. Guess which on this is.

 

Sometimes you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail. If you fall off the horse, you’ve got to get right back on. If at first you don’t succeed… yadda, yadda, yadda. Why do these types of sayings persist? They must speak to a universal truth about the human condition. What is that truth? That we get down on ourselves and that’s not a good thing in which to invest! These pithy ideas put forth the everlasting need to buck ourselves up in the face of failure, disappointment, or just plain getting nailed for something stupid at work.

 

We need to remind ourselves to put things in perspective (easier said than done, or else we’d need no reminding), never view failure as an end result, but rather a learning experience (some more bloody and bitter than others), and never, ever, ever baste ourselves in the sauce of self pity! (Got to get the blog title in there somewhere, you know.)

 

You know what I mean by that? Ever know someone (even you, yourself, heaven forbid) who loves to relive all the ill fortunes that they have faced? They positively wallow in the filth of regret, perceived failure, and pity. In short, they claim as their divine right the exclusive purview of Life’s Number One Martyr. They pour out their heart and soul and for what? Nobody really appreciates their efforts. Rewards due them are not forthcoming. Everyone else has it better, you know. These people work less and get more of life’s riches. They get the Girl (or Guy). The car. The cruise to Bora Bora. The undeserved love and respect of peers.

 

Oh for heaven’s sake, get over it! Stop it! Really? You are trapping yourself in an endless loop (otherwise I couldn’t describe it as a loop) and you end where you start, which coincidentally resembles every other stop along the journey. Self-Pityville.

 

a_bastingMadeEasyI suppose most of us will, at one time or another, end up in Self-Pityville. You have to fight through any stops at this destination. Make your visits as short as possible. Do not take up residence there and have your mail forwarded to this location! If friends keep hinting that you are only making matters worse with your attitude, or that you should really try to look on the bright side, or are missing out on enjoying what you already do have—I have more unsolicited advice: Listen to them! They are your friends, after all! If they tell you to snap out of it, you really need to consider doing this! If you’d rather blow them off because they truly don’t understand how horrible you have it (and the perverse pleasure you get from explaining it time and time again), then get out the baster and settle in for a while. Might as well get comfortable as you splash about in your sauces, cooking away your hopes and dreams. Just don’t expect any company. Because most of us understand that in life, sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail. We, in fact, do try, try again. And I personally get right back on that horse, grit my teeth, and dare that sonofabitch to try to throw me off again.

 

Sure, I stop off in Self-Pityville every once in while. I just don’t take out an ad and ask for company. In fact, I usually stop, look around, kick some dirt and rocks, and then exclaim, “Well, this really SUCKS!” Then I leave it behind.

 

I’m just saying…

THE SHADOW KNOWS!

ShadowOne of the highlights of my year was being invited to direct a radio recreation at the 40th Anniversary Convention of SPERDVAC (the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety, And Comedy. It was held November 14-16 at the Holiday Inn Media Center in Burbank.

 

This year I chose a show that is very special to me. When I remember discovering the world of Old Time Radio, I automatically think of this series and this particular episode. The 1939 broadcast of “The Shadow” titled “Death Stalks the Shadow.” It’s the tale of a once-good kid named Dan Malley who gets into a life of crime thanks to the supposedly upstanding good citizen Peter Murdock. Malley goes to the electric chair (great over-the-top scene) after telling everything to the invisible crime fighter The Shadow. The Shadow promises to investigate Malley’s claims and, of course, finds Murdock a formidable foe.

 

My mother always told me about going on Sunday drives with her father and listening to “The Shadow” battling evil-doers from the glow of the car radio. I ordered a record album from a catalogue and the very first episode I listened to was “Death Stalks the Shadow.” I was hooked! I also recall taking my portable record player to the backyard one summer night, powered by a couple of extension cords, and playing the record for my father. I distinctly remember staring at the stars while The Shadow fell into Murdock’s clever trap: a room sealed by an electrified door. Then, when the Shadow proved too clever by not automatically trying to open the door, the foul villain poured poison gas into the chamber! How could the Shadow escape? Well, he does, of course. The Shadow even spares Murdock so that the police can arrest him. He wanted Murdock to face the same fate as “young Dan Malley.”

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Leading a wonderful cast was the incredible character actor Richard Herd as the Shadow. I also had old time radio veterans Gloria McMillan, Tommy Cook, John Wilder, and Stuffy Singer in the show. Chris and Randy McMillan came down from Seattle to perform the famous organ music live. Jerry Williams led the sound effects team. I also invited Bobb Lynes and Barbara Watkins to return to the SPERDVAC stage as part of my cast. When I first discovered these conventions, Bobb and Barbara were key figures in its productions on stage and off. I subsequently appeared on their live radio show on KPFK-FM in Los Angeles. It was fun to all get together again! Later that day I got to perform as an actor opposite Chuck McCann! So much fun!

 

Sperdvac CoverThe remainder of the three-day event was for me to hang out and watch panels and other recreations. Here are some of the guests: Van Alexander (music arranger “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”), Frank Bresee “Golden Days of Radio” from 1967-1995, Ivy Bethune “Superman”, Leonard Maltin “The Great American Broadcast”, Los Angeles radio personality “Shotgun Tom” Kelley, Chuck McCann, Bob Mills (Bob Hope writer), Ray Charles (The Ray Charles Singers –Perry Como, also Three’s Company theme male singer), Gloria McMillan “Our Miss Brooks,” Lee Meriwether, Joan Del Mar “Jack Benny,” Tommy Cook, Ivan Cury “Let’s Pretend”, Terry Moore, Herb Ellis “Dragnet”, Peggy Webber “Dragnet,” Stuffy Singer (he voiced a Lost Boy in the Disney film “Peter Pan”), Beverly Washburn, Richard Herd, Gladys Holland “The Great Gildersleeve,” Marvin Kaplan “Meet Millie,” Jimmy Weldon, and John Wilder “The Great Gildersleeve,” and “The Abbott & Costello Kids Show” as the youngest emcee in radio, plus he also voiced a Lost Boy is “Peter Pan” (as adult John produced 26-hour NBC miniseries “Centennial”). The legendary Stan Freberg was also there along with his wife Hunter.

 

For an Old Time Radio junkie like me, this was just about a perfect weekend!

 

I’m just saying…

2015 OFF TO A ROUGH START

The loss of my mother on January 22, 2015 set the tone for the beginning of this year. However much I feel like stopping in my tracks, I cannot. It’s not just because I have things to do and goals to achieve. I have my life to lead. Accepting that it will never be the same will take time and I don’t control how that part of my journey goes.

 

That being said, I am very excited about the balance of this year! First and foremost, my documentary film project (“Radio Changed America” is now known as “HEARING VOICES: How Radio Changed America & America Changed Radio”) has acquired the International Documentary Association (IDA) as its fiscal sponsor! That means, dear friends, that any and all money donated to the film project will be a tax deduction since the IDA is a 501(3)(c). For a documentary filmmaker this is pure gold! You give, you get. Investment in a film is a gamble, plain and simple, but a tax-deductible donation is guaranteed value in return, PLUS you get to be a part of making this film happen. Needless to say, I will have more information available soon.

 

Additionally, a screenplay that I co-wrote is still alive in the industry circles. These things are always long shots but that fact that it continues to be read and considered is a significant thing.

 

And if that isn’t enough, I continue as the introduction voice of the web series “Creative Continuity” and I have a couple of other irons in the fire that may yield wonderful creative opportunities.

 

So 2015 may indeed be off to a very rough start, there is no reason to believe it will end in that manner! Stay tuned…