Then: I’ve seen Michael Keaton’s first Batman movie, but she hasn’t. It is our first date, and we decide to go to dinner at Twin Dragon and then the movie. But we talk and talk until late. The restaurant closes, and we never see Batman.
Now: I’ve seen Christian Bale’s first Batman movie, but she hasn’t. We’ve been married 28 years, and I talk her into streaming the movie after dinner at home. But we won’t give Amazon another $14.99 just to see it. I go to bed early, and we never see Batman.
A few weeks back I was reminded the #1 rule in radio is still a secret, but it holds fast:
Don’t be an asshole.
In the world of radio, one way to rub against this rule is to use your radio voice. Difficult to describe in writing, but like pornography, you’ll know it when you find it. The announcer is almost monotonically stentorian. Too damn smiley (aka puking). Too instantly familiar, like a stranger on a street corner who gets your attention saying, “Broham! How you doing?!?!” Or too much all of the above all at the same time. (In a job long ago we called a fellow with this condition Mr. Rugburn, and the name fit like a custom toupee.)
Another way to break the rule is to tell yourself everything you say is worth hearing (it isn’t), and all your insights must be shared (nope). Somehow some pilots of the airwaves miss the fact that radio is as much about listening as anything else. Shut your mouth and open your heart. Or more colloquially:
Don’t be an asshole.
In this way, we come to the secret of the secret: it is also the way to living a quality life. Use the rule in any profession, and in the slice of time that exists outside work hours. Repeat as necessary. Like a mantra.
So powerful, the rule can even guide an effort like this one. At this writing, it’s the last quarter of 2021. It’s been a long pandemic, and it isn’t over yet. There is so much work to be done to make things more right in this world, and I make no assumptions that whatever I do can amount to much against all that. But let me put this down as I begin here again:
Picture a postcard: flies through the mail, fits in the hand, puts the impression of a place into your imagination. Quirky, cheap and breezy. We’ve started a neat project at Colorado Public Radio making postcards for the airwaves, the brainchild of a newcomer with the marvelous name of Coldsnow and an expat (me).
Here’s a subject I’ve wanted to tackle in some form for a while: Colorado is no square or rectangle, and not because of the curvature of the earth. Have a listen:
Sometime last spring I took a picture that’s stayed with me all year. I didn’t mean to, but somehow the frame captured the mood of the last light of day without really getting the light itself. There’s a brightness, yes, but it’s tinged with awareness that the light is fading. The golden hour.
With a similar but reversed kind of layered vision, I’m looking back at 2020. An extraordinarily hard year. Deadly for way too many innocent people. But every day was a gift.
Here is a very small token of my gratitude. Please enjoy.
A LitHub-recommended long read reminds me that one of the intrinsic pleasures of making audiobooks is that I don’t choose what I’m reading next. Instead, the book chooses you.
Strictly speaking, what really happens is that the studio director chooses you to read the book. But the effect is the same: I don’t pick the books I’ll spend hours reading aloud, word for word, cover to cover. Unlike my home library, these projects don’t say anything about my intentions to be or know or feel something—or do they?
Thanks to working at a studio with a blessedly quirky contract to record material for the Library of Congress, the books that “choose me” are a potpourri of fiction and nonfiction, books I’ve seen elsewhere and plenty I haven’t, things I might otherwise choose to read and, yes, sometimes, things I wouldn’t.
Like the rest of life’s happenstances, sometimes this works out quite nicely. Recently I narrated these three works of nonfiction over a few weeks: a book about sea otters, one about a man who spent his days and nights living as a wild turkey, then an encyclopedic account of connections between sci-fi and pop music in the 1970s.
The result: I know more than I did before (with nointerest in running with the turkeys), and I’m a grateful omnivore.
…is a good way to describe the narrative effort of my current project: the recollections (fictional) of an escaped slave in Henry David Thoreau’s company. There are some wonderfully uncommon words here—words I know I’ve never spoken out loud like phenakistoscope and phalanstery— as well as the characters of Emerson, Hawthorne and a sprinkling of other Transcendentalists. As an erstwhile English major, I say 👍🏼.
A good book tells many tales, some of them so small you don’t immediately notice the weight they carry. To wit, this incidental scene from Curtis Wilkie’s Dixie, in which Robert Kennedy stops unannounced in the all-black township of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, and makes a human connection.