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Radio thoughts, podcast thoughts, Beatles writings thoughts

Wednesday 6/17/20

Ran six miles yesterday. Took me up to fifty miles on foot since Saturday. Here is the Songs of Note podcast I was interviewed for on Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks." I listened to a few seconds of it. Normally I never listen to any of my interviews. I wish the audio was better on my end and I had the same studio sound as the people doing these interviews. I think when I have my own show(s) it's going to sound that much more powerful. I look at it this way--I'm an audience tape right now rather than a soundboard. You get what I'm saying, but the instrument saying it isn't as sharp as it can be.

What's good about this episode is that you have an expert on a band who likes that band but does not think that band is very good. They know their stuff every which way, more than a passionate fan, so you can't knock them there. It's not what we now call a "hater." It's applied critical thinking. It's not shtick, it's not to get attention. Rarely are we able to separate what we like from a qualitative evaluation of that thing. These days, it feels like an impossibility. If someone likes something, it's the best whatever ever. Any criticism of that thing is seen as a personal attack, because we are so fragile now, so insecure.

There is, for instance, a Beatles Facebook group and I have noticed that the administrator will not share my Beatles links, even though they'll share any Beatles piece from any publication, venues with far lower circulations and traffic numbers than the places I'm writing for. Why? Because I said something critical once about the band. I didn't say that everything was super duper awesome. It's the norm that I'll be wherever on the internet, and I'll encounter my own work being shared. There are so many topics I've written on, so there will be some Beatles thing, a jazz thing, a hockey thing, something about literature. (What normally happens is the people discussing that given piece will assume the study of that one subject is the entirety of my life's work--just as people will assume I only write fiction--because they view what they read and are discussing as definitive; I wonder what they would think if they knew who and what I really am, like if those people on the HF-Boards hockey history forum knew that I was also the person doing a, b, c, d, etc. That's part of what I'm trying to be able to get people to see--here is one person, and they do all of this, and there has never been anything like it or them. Then what happens when people are seeing that, when the dots start to get connected?)

People will be having discussions about whatever link that someone has shared. They won't come here--they normally won't visit the site and sign up for the blog, buy the books, follow me on Twitter. That's because I have no name. I have the work. Publishing denies me the name, with the absence of coverage, awards, that kind of thing. People tend to be very lazy--they're not going to look up an author, even if they just had the best reading experience of their life. If they know the name, because of buzz and fame, then they'll go that author's site and buy their books and what have you. And I saw this Beatles FB admin get really upset once over something I'd written. It's not a stuffed animal--art is to be discussed. It's not your security blanket. But I noticed that was it for the sharing of my work in that group by this head honcho guy, even when it was some piece in a super high circulation venue. It's so conspicuous by its absence. And then you have people in the comments for other pieces discussing my work, discussing me, discussing what I've said elsewhere, discussing the way I write. He's the minority, this honcho guy--people who really care about the Beatles tend to care a lot what I write about the band, they see that writing for what it is, the level it is at. They are not threatened or wounded by me saying something that is not all-out adulation. I believe they much prefer my insight over any and all puff piece cheerleading. They know what they're getting from me. They know I am hitting the spot and I'm doing it in a way no one else is and you're always getting great writing as writing. Doesn't mean you have to agree--but I'm giving you the stuff. And who cares about agreeing or disagreeing? The quality of the idea is what matters. How the idea is expressed. That can open up your eyes, your ears, your mind, parts of your life. That's what matters.

This is the Downtown segment from later in the day. Pretty good, I think. The stuff about the Newhart episodes was decent. It's tough to do that kind of thing, because you're covering a lot of subjects. You want to be thorough, but you also can't take forever. And with those two episodes--and The Outer Limits one--you have to figure most people aren't going to know what you're talking about at first. Some listeners will know those shows. I think the Downtown demo skews a bit older, so their regular listeners would certainly know Newhart--they may well have watched the original run as adults--and some of those people would have seen The Outer Limits in the original run as kids. But you can't expect someone to remember individual episodes. Famous episodes, sure (say, "Time Enough at Last" from The Twilight Zone), but these don't fit that bill.

So what I have to do is give the whole summary, but not in some didactic way, while threading through ideas about what makes the episodes so notable. Again, not an easy thing to do, and that's after you've covered Christopher Columbus, and then you're going to leap into the Beach Boys and a summer concept album, then wrap it up with talk about a painting from the mid-nineteenth century. (So think about that--that's history, current events, music, television, art, and some bits from your own life, plus bonhomous back-and-forth with the host that has to be interesting to people, not just idle chitchat.) You want it to sound effortless, but it's not actually effortless. It's actually pretty freaking hard. You want to be smart, you want to be funny, you want to be passionate, you want to be balanced, you want to be economical. And you can't have some lagging pace--you have to keep it moving.

What bothers me about when I turn on the radio, and with these stations I reach out to, is I hear people with no pace, no energy, no presence. Inarticulate people. People who cannot think quickly and then have their mouths deliver on what their brains have come up with. They "um." They "ahhhh." They "you know." They "you know" a lot. There are gaps in almost all of their sentences. They speak in cliches. They say nothing of substance, nothing with punch, with vim. They suck on the radio. They say "at the end of the day" again and again. But they have these jobs. And I don't think they know the first thing about performing well on the radio, certainly not judging by how they sound. Their sports insight, on the sports shows, is at a level no more valuable than what I can get from a drunken uncle in Dedham at a Fourth of July cookout. And I write these stations, and there is nothing coming back. The programming is moribund. But they don't care. They can't tell, they don't care, a combo, I don't know. But I know what I hear. I hear very average people being put in front of microphones with no discernible skill for radio.


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