The Transom Review

Volume 2/Issue 7

John Hodgman

August 1st, 2002 | (Edited by Sydney Lewis)

John Hodgman
John Hodgman

Intro by Jay Allison

June 23, 2002 – #1

Those of you coming from McSweeneys are aware that John was once a Professional Literary Agent. He has also been on the radio, as you will discover, and the experience clearly marked him. John is willing to answer questions about all jobs he has held and many other topics. We urge you to ask them; otherwise things will get boring quickly. John wondered if he needed to put forward a provocative topic worth discussing, i.e. do we all agree that radio must be abolished? We felt we could rely on you for questions, but if you cant think of anything else, ask that.

Johns bio will tell you something about who he is, if you don’t know, and so will his manifesto, which follows. You will discover that he has a lovely critical affection for the radio. We at Transom are very pleased to have him here for a visit and are grateful to Sarah Vowell and Paul Tough for their encouragement of the idea.

John Hodgman

The Promise Of Radio

June 23, 2002

In Western Massachusetts, there is a stretch of I-91 between Springfield and the Vermont border that is haunted by radio. Somewhere between the hills and the sky, especially if it is cloudy and dark and you are driving alone, something in the air gathers up AM signals from all over the east. They twist and spin around one another up there, bouncing off cloud and mountaintop, before being caught by car antennae heading northward, and suddenly, impossibly, you are hearing broadcasts from Louisville, Kentucky, from Baltimore, Maryland, Niagara Falls and the Great Lakes and Washington DC, our nation’s capital.

Some time ago, as I drove this road, I found myself listening to the Art Bell program. Of course you know that Art Bell is America’s greatest radio commentator on matters of UFOs, the paranormal, bigfootism, etc. And though he broadcasts, naturally, from Las Vegas, in this case the feed of his show was coming to me via a small AM talk station in, I believe, Ohio. On this night, the call-in lines were open and unscreened, as always, but Bell had set a few numbers aside for special callers. If you were an alien, you were asked to call number X. If you were a time traveler you were asked to call number Y. If you were a werewolf or a vampire, you were asked to call number Z.

I remember feeling that it was unfair to ask werewolves and vampires to share the same call-in line, given their long history of animosity. But at this time, I was no longer a famous radio personality. I had long before given up my show at WMFO in Medford, MA, and it would be years still before I would return to the air to discuss superpowers (thus making me America’s second greatest radio commentator on matters of the paranormal) on Ira Glass’s program “This American Life.” No, at this time I was merely a Professional Literary Agent. Who was I to tell Art Bell what to do with werewolves?

Naturally, several people called in claiming to be aliens. There is never any lack for call-in aliens, apparently: they are the baba booeys of the paranormal radio circuit. Many also called in claiming to be time travelers. And some called in confused, since they were time traveling aliens and they did not know which was the correct phone line to use. Only one called in on the vampire/werewolf line.

“I am a vampire,” he said.

“And have you fed on human blood today?” Art Bell asked, legitimately curious.

“No. I typically go up to someone on the street, and I feed off their aura.”

“Their aura?”

“Yes,” said the vampire. “You know: their energy. I steal their life energy.”

“Ah. So you are a psychic vampire,” Bell announced.

“Um, yes.”

“OK, we’re not doing psychic vampires tonight,” Bell said. He explained that that was a very different kind of vampire. And they might do a show on that phenomenon soon, but for now, Bell said to the audibly disappointed psychic vampire, “we are just going to wait for a traditional vampire, the blood sucking kind, to call in.”

I don’t know what happened after I reached my destination and got out of the car, but by the time I turned off my radio at least, Art Bell was still waiting. The night felt darker and stranger.

I tell this story as a means of illustrating the power and promise of the radio arts. Where television luridly reveals everything, radio is coy; radio conceals its sources. It is a voice behind a curtain, and you must provide the face. Or, if you do not keep your radio behind a curtain, as I do, you can imagine it as voices in the next room. This is what makes radio so powerfully consoling to the lonely-it creates the illusion of company in a way that few other media can. Public radio is particularly adept at creating this illusion of companionship, in part because they do not advertise (pledge drives don’t spoil the illusion-while it would be unusual for a friend to suddenly start yelling at you from the next room about the low financing on this year’s Toyotas, it is almost expected that he will occasionally ask you for money over and over, for days on end), and because of the close and uncanny naturalness of its voices. After growing up on tinny, ratatat Boston all-news AM stations (punctuated, of course, by the ceaseless and somehow insidious sound of a simulated ticker tape), the deep, round, FM depth of the voices on All Things Considered sounded so lifelike to me, so nearby, that I was immediately unnerved, convinced it was some kind of special effect or a practical joke.

This intimacy is also what makes radio at the same time always a little spooky, even when it does not involve aliens. Receiving a radio broadcast can be like getting an unsigned letter slipped under your door, the origin unknown, its author obscure. Anyone who has ever explored the ends of the dial, picking up the sound of a woman’s voice, slightly robotic, endlessly reading long strings of numbers without explanation, understands this. This is heightened by the comparative democracy of the medium-its openness to anyone with a short wave or even just a phone line. The air is haunted by voices-countless and unknowable, searching for someone to pull them down and listen.

And so it seems to me that the great power of radio is not so much its ability to disseminate news from far continents near-instantly, or to join us in national conversation, or to reveal to us the stories of our neighbors that they cannot tell us but will happily tell to a microphone. Instead, the promise of radio is that vampires might be calling in at any moment. This is an exciting prospect, and so it is smart to do as I do, and keep your radio on all the time. I also advise keeping it behind a heavy velvet curtain, for reasons I should not have to explain.

My Career in the Air

There was much talk in the last century about the “world wide web” and how it would make available a national platform to anyone with something to say. And with the proliferation of weblogs and personal sites and bulletin boards, we may indeed soon become a nation of individual broadcaster-listeners, each sending out a highly individual program to a small audience, or just to ourselves.

The radio and the web are alike in this way, and sympathetic to each other-they share a primary emphasis on words over image, an abundance of channels all passively waiting for an audience, a vibrancy and idiosyncrasy, and both encourage instant feedback and conversation. That is perhaps part of the reason that transom.org, a website about radio, seems instantly, metaphysically appropriate.

In many ways, my now-very-occasional column on http://www.mcsweeneys.net “Ask A Former Professional Literary Agent,” is the radio program I always wanted to have-a kind of “Car Talk” for aspiring writers-and would still like to do were it not for the various controversies that chased me off the Boston airwaves forever.

But before the advent of the web, there was only one way to become a broadcaster, and that was by

1) convincing your high school’s French department substitute teacher that you should fill in for his two hour weekly radio program on the local college station,
2) quickly learning that the summer management of WMFO was either too busy or too sleepy to care who went on the air,
3) proving yourself by playing the same Billy Bragg and Tom Waits albums week after week, and
4) because you were not patently insane, being trusted with your own weekly two hour show at the tenderly pompous age of 17 for the benefit of a single repeat listener, whose name was Chris, and who was very depressed and would call every week pleading for something other than Billy Bragg.

I am happy to say that, if you follow these four simple steps, you too will be able host the famous radio program “Radio Consuelo” on Fridays, from four to six, from Studio A in Curtis Hall on the Tufts University Campus in Medford, MA from 1988-1989. I recently came across two recordings of this program, to my knowledge the only ones that exist. Jay Allison has very kindly agreed to make portions of these available to you via streaming audio. A guide to what you can hear there can be found via this link: Radio Consuelo Audio.

It is a unique kind of torture to hear the 18 year old version of yourself talking about why compact discs will never replace vinyl, and I understand what I am doing when I give you these tapes. Unlike radio, the web does not dissolve into the air the moment it is created, and what you put out into it exists perpetually in the digital silt, searchable and trade-able and peer to peer file sharable. And while I doubt anyone will be interested in doing this, I now make it possible for three reasons:

1) Because even though WMFO is not an NPR affiliate, it was and is a great public radio station, a place of such openness to its listener-ship that they would give even me a show. And though it was sometimes shaggy and strange, its devotion to the community was never in question. One great program was hosted for years by Mikey Dee, who invited local bands into the studio each week to play in the cramped, damp quarters of Curtis Hall.
2) Because while recently visiting the WMFO website, I learned that not long ago Mikey Dee suffered a debilitating stroke. He is slowly recovering with the help of a lot of loving friends, but for now he cannot speak, either on-air or off. And this reminds me that the lives we leave in our past are not frozen on tape or in time, as we are sometimes tempted to believe. They go on, and if you would like to say something nice to Mikey Dee you may do so here: www.rockopera.com/mikeydee
3) Because as improvisatory and ephemeral as radio may seem, it also goes on, traveling into space, and you never know when a time traveling alien might hear it. Thus, it is important to make all of your work something you can be proud of forever, lest it come back to bite you on the ass like a psychic vampire.

Questions For Discussion

Since those days, I have had the pleasure of contributing three stories to “This American Life,” a program that understands as few others do all the intimacy and spookiness of the radio, and the fact that everyone is telling stories all the time-sometimes in a single sentence, sometimes over the course of an entire life-and that finding them requires only careful listening, good editing, moving their words around on a computer to make them say what you want, plus music. Many people like this show, and I am one of them, and I would be happy to talk to you about it if you want.

As well, I have been taking something of a hiatus from my duties as a Former Professional Literary Agent. As a result, I have accumulated many questions from good people on the subject of publishing, writing, and The Lord of the Rings that have gone, heretofore, unanswered. I have encouraged, therefore, http://www.mcsweeneys.net to direct those patient souls here, where I will help to advise them on these subjects or any others. You should also feel free to ask me questions of this kind.

As well, I would be pleased to read your opinions and contribute my own thoughts on the following issues…

1) What was your spookiest moment listening to the radio?
2) Would you prefer to be invisible or to have the power of flight?
3) Are any of you vampires?
4) Have you ever called into a talk radio program, and what was it like?
5) Is the web a satisfactory substitute for radio?
6) Which one of you people is going to buy me a Grundig Sattelit 800 SW/AM/FM radio, not long ago described as “the most anticipated radio in the past few decades?” For I do not feel I can go on for much longer without it.

HINT: it costs 500 dollars.

Thank you. I have taken up too much of your time. For now, at least…

That is all.


John Hodgman’s “Radio Consuelo”

Originally Broadcast on WMFO-Medford, MA, 1988-1989

TAPE 1: “MFO” air date 10/88:

End of Tom Waits’s “Putnam County;” 17 year old Hodgman starts talking. Sounds as though a lump of phlegm is stuck in his throat. Note first use of meaningless phrase “gimcrack radio for the plaid continent” and self-produced cart drop-in stolen from an album of old radio serials.

Captain Midnight drop-in, then Hodgman, sounding like Pauly Shore via Truman Capote, criticizing the studio for being untidy. What a rock and roll character is this Hodgman. Threatens to actually play more Tom Waits.

“Popsicle Pete” the strangest old radio drop-in ever. Plus, a seamless segue into a song by the Lounge Lizards, during the brief period that Hodgman was almost cool. He later manages to pronounce the word “lounge” with nine syllables. What a boob he is.

Old radio drop-in: “THE ELECTRO HYPNO MENTALOPHONE” (!!!) The one saving grace of this evil recording.

David Byrne song ends, thus confirming Hodgman’s absolutely typical and unsurprising phony-hip “taste.” Then an old radio drop in about Nazi spies before he starts talking again. Here he discusses everything he played as if anyone is listening, mentions a Robert Wilson production at the ART as though he had seen it, then plays Eddie Cochran, that strange song of material dreams achieved: “Something Else.” Otherwise, this whole show is composed of very typical late-eighties NYC downtown music: Laurie Anderson, Waits, Byrne, John Lurie, and on and onÉ Please make him stop talking… It is only later, after more fucking Tom Waits, Hodgman begins the proccess of shutting up.

TAPE 2: “Radio Consuelo 18 August 1989″:

Some time later and a little bit smarter. One of H’s last regular shows, and well into “the jazz period of the program,” a term that is meaningless to all but him.

After spacey jazz music, Charlie Christian music starts (hi-hat cymbal), and Hodgman does his intro by commenting on the weather. This is a time-honored radio convention that has never failed. “This is my second to last show.”

After World Saxophone Quartet, Hodgman talks more. Historical curiosity: note “our relatively new CD player.” Hodgman, with peerless foresight, announces that these newfangled CDs will never catch on. Then some maudlin talk again about how the last program is next week. Then Carmen McRae singing “We’re Having A Heat Wave.” I wish we could conclude that Hodgman has matured as a deejay, that he has begun outlining some sort of a proto-lounge esthetic. But the fact is, at 18 years old, Hodgman has the taste of a 40 year old from the 1960s. It has only gotten worse.

Found at the end of the tape by an anonymous Transom staff member. We are ever so curious to know why it didn’t make Mr. Hodgman’s list of recommended cuts.


About John Hodgman

John Hodgman

John Hodgman

John K. Hodgman is a Former Professional Literary Agent who lives in New York. He has provided fiction, essays, reviews, profiles, quizzes, and commentary for This American Life, The Paris Review, One-Story, The New York Times Magazine, Groom Magazine, React (a website for teens), GQ, and Men’s Journal, where he is a contributing editor covering the drinking-and-lobster-roll beat for their somewhat monthly food column.

For 13 months he answered questions on the subject of publishing, writing, cryptozoology, Robert Cormier, and THE LORD OF THE RINGS as part of an occasionally helpful advice column “Ask A Former Professional Literary Agent” at www.mcsweeneys.net, a task to which he hopes soon to return. Meanwhile, he hosts the Little Gray Book Lectures in Brooklyn on a monthly basis, and he remains an expert on ultra-hot hot sauces, hobbits, and the radio arts as they were once practiced at WMFO-FM, Medford, MA, from about 1988-1990, where he was briefly the host of an actual radio show. He is available to speak on these subjects, or any other, to your group, party, or corporate retreat. In fact, he is apparently desperate to do so. His nemesis is the mad Dr. Craig Kittles. He has two cats.


199 Comments on “John Hodgman”

  • Jay Allison says:
    Say Hello to John Hodgman. Ask Him Questions. He’ll Answer.

    Those of you coming from McSweeneys are aware that John was once a Professional Literary Agent. He has also been on the radio, as you will discover, and the experience clearly marked him. John is willing to answer questions about all jobs he has held and many other topics. We urge you to ask them; otherwise things will get boring quickly. John wondered if he needed to put forward "a provocative topic worth discussing, ie. ‘do we all agree that radio must be abolished?’" We felt we could rely on you for questions, but if you can’t think of anything else, ask that.

    John’s bio will tell you something about who he is, if you don’t know, and so will his manifesto, which follows. You will discover that he has a lovely critical affection for the radio. We at Transom are very pleased to have him here for a visit and are grateful to Sarah Vowell and Paul Tough for their encouragement of the idea.

    One thing I would like to mention, turning to camera three and holding up the album cover, is that John’s Little Gray Book Lecture No. 11, on the subject of Europe Vs. America, will be held on the eve of our historic Independence, July 3, 2002, at Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at 8PM.

  • John Hodgman says:

    John Hodgman’s Manifesto

    1. The Promise of Radio

    In Western Massachusetts, there is a stretch of I-91 between Springfield and the Vermont border that is haunted by radio. Somewhere between the hills and the sky, especially if it is cloudy and dark and you are driving alone, something in the air gathers up AM signals from all over the east. They twist and spin around one another up there, bouncing off cloud and mountaintop, before being caught by car antennae heading northward, and suddenly, impossibly, you are hearing broadcasts from Louisville, Kentucky, from Baltimore, Maryland, Niagara Falls and the Great Lakes and Washington DC, our nation’s capital.

    Some time ago, as I drove this road, I found myself listening to the Art Bell program. Of course you know that Art Bell is America’s greatest radio commentator on matters of UFOs, the paranormal, bigfootism, etc. And though he broadcasts, naturally, from Las Vegas, in this case the feed of his show was coming to me via a small AM talk station in, I believe, Ohio. On this night, the call-in lines were open and unscreened, as always, but Bell had set a few numbers aside for special callers. If you were an alien, you were asked to call number X. If you were a time traveler you were asked to call number Y. If you were a werewolf or a vampire, you were asked to call number Z.

    I remember feeling that it was unfair to ask werewolves and vampires to share the same call-in line, given their long history of animosity. But at this time, I was no longer a famous radio personality. I had long before given up my show at WMFO in Medford, MA, and it would be years still before I would return to the air to discuss superpowers (thus making me America’s second greatest radio commentator on matters of the paranormal) on Ira Glass’s program "This American Life." No, at this time I was merely a Professional Literary Agent. Who was I to tell Art Bell what to do with werewolves?

    Naturally, several people called in claiming to be aliens. There is never any lack for call-in aliens, apparently: they are the baba booeys of the paranormal radio circuit. Many also called in claiming to be time travelers. And some called in confused, since they were time traveling aliens and they did not know which was the correct phone line to use. Only one called in on the vampire/werewolf line.

    "I am a vampire," he said.

    "And have you fed on human blood today?" Art Bell asked, legitimately curious.

    "No. I typically go up to someone on the street, and I feed off their aura."

    "Their aura?"

    "Yes," said the vampire. "You know: their energy. I steal their life energy"

    "Ah. So you are a psychic vampire," Bell announced.

    "Um, yes."

    "OK, we’re not doing psychic vampires tonight," Bell said. He explained that that was a very different kind of vampire. And they might do a show on that phenomenon soon, but for now, Bell said to the audibly disappointed psychic vampire, "we are just going to wait for a traditional vampire, the blood sucking kind, to call in."

    I don’t know what happened after I reached my destination and got out of the car, but by the time I turned off my radio at least, Art Bell was still waiting. The night felt darker and stranger.

    I tell this story as a means of illustrating the power and promise of the radio arts. Where television luridly reveals everything, radio is coy; radio conceals its sources. It is a voice behind a curtain, and you must provide the face. Or, if you do not keep your radio behind a curtain, as I do, you can imagine it as voices in the next room. This is what makes radio so powerfully consoling to the lonely-it creates the illusion of company in a way that few other media can. Public radio is particularly adept at creating this illusion of companionship, in part because they do not advertise (pledge drives don’t spoil the illusion-while it would be unusual for a friend to suddenly start yelling at you from the next room about the low financing on this year’s Toyotas, it is almost expected that he will occasionally ask you for money over and over, for days on end), and because of the close and uncanny naturalness of its voices. After growing up on tinny, ratatat Boston all-news AM stations (punctuated, of course, by the ceaseless and somehow insidious sound of a simulated ticker tape), the deep, round, FM depth of the voices on All Things Considered sounded so lifelike to me, so nearby, that I was immediately unnerved, convinced it was some kind of special effect or a practical joke.

    This intimacy is also what makes radio at the same time always a little spooky, even when it does not involve aliens. Receiving a radio broadcast can be like getting an unsigned letter slipped under your door, the origin unknown, its author obscure. Anyone who has ever explored the ends of the dial, picking up the sound of a woman’s voice, slightly robotic, endlessly reading long strings of numbers without explanation, understands this. This is heightened by the comparative democracy of the medium-its openness to anyone with a short wave or even just a phone line. The air is haunted by voices-countless and unknowable, searching for someone to pull them down and listen.

    And so it seems to me that the great power of radio is not so much its ability to disseminate news from far continents near-instantly, or to join us in national conversation, or to reveal to us the stories of our neighbors that they cannot tell us but will happily tell to a microphone. Instead, the promise of radio is that vampires might be calling in at any moment. This is an exciting prospect, and so it is smart to do as I do, and keep your radio on all the time. I also advise keeping it behind a heavy velvet curtain, for reasons I should not have to explain.

  • John Hodgman says:

    2. My Career in the Air

    There was much talk in the last century about the "world wide web" and how it would make available a national platform to anyone with something to say. And with the proliferation of weblogs and personal sites and bulletin boards, we may indeed soon become a nation of individual broadcaster-listeners, each sending out a highly individual program to a small audience, or just to ourselves.

    The radio and the web are alike in this way, and sympathetic to each other-they share a primary emphasis on words over image, an abundance of channels all passively waiting for an audience, a vibrancy and idiosyncrasy, and both encourage instant feedback and conversation. That is perhaps part of the reason that transom.org, a website about radio, seems instantly, metaphysically appropriate.

    In many ways, my now-very-occasional column on http://www.mcsweeneys.net "Ask A Former Professional Literary Agent," is the radio program I always wanted to have-a kind of "Car Talk" for aspiring writers-and would still like to do were it not for the various controversies that chased me off the Boston airwaves forever.

    But before the advent of the web, there was only one way to become a broadcaster, and that was by

    1) convincing your high school’s French department substitute teacher that you should fill in for his two hour weekly radio program on the local college station,

    2) quickly learning that the summer management of WMFO was either too busy or too sleepy to care who went on the air,

    3) proving yourself by playing the same Billy Bragg and Tom Waits albums week after week, and

    4) because you were not patently insane, being trusted with your own weekly two hour show at the tenderly pompous age of 17 for the benefit of a single repeat listener, whose name was Chris, and who was very depressed would call every week pleading for something other than Billy Bragg.

    I am happy to say that, if you follow these four simple steps, you too will be able host the famous radio program "Radio Consuelo" on Fridays, from four to six, from Studio A in Curtis Hall on the Tufts University Campus in Medford, MA from 1988-1989. I recently came across two recordings of this program, to my knowledge the only ones that exist. Jay Allison has very kindly agreed to make portions of these available to you via streaming audio. A guide to what you can hear there can be found via this link.

    Radio Consuelo Audio

    It is a unique kind of torture to hear the 18 year old version of yourself talking about why compact discs will never replace vinyl, and I understand what I am doing when I give you these tapes. Unlike radio, the web does not dissolve into the air the moment it is created, and what you put out into it exists perpetually in the digital silt, searchable and trade-able and peer to peer file sharable. And while I doubt anyone will be interested in doing this, I now make it possible for three reasons:

    1) Because even though WMFO is not an NPR affiliate, it was and is a great public radio station, a place of such openness to its listener-ship that they would give even me a show. And though it was sometimes shaggy and strange, its devotion to the community was never in question. One great program was hosted for years by Mikey Dee, who invited local bands into the studio each week to play in the cramped, damp quarters of Curtis Hall.

    2) Because while recently visiting the WMFO website, I learned that not long ago Mikey Dee suffered a debilitating stroke. He is slowly recovering with the help of a lot of loving friends, but for now he cannot speak, either on-air or off. And this reminds me that the lives we leave in our past are not frozen on tape or in time, as we are sometimes tempted to believe. They go on, and if you would like to say something nice to Mikey Dee you may do so here: http://www.rockopera.com/mikeydee

    3) Because as improvisatory and ephemeral as radio may seem, it also goes on, traveling into space, and you never know when a time traveling alien might hear it. Thus, it is important to make all of your work something you can be proud of forever, lest it come back to bite you on the ass like a psychic vampire.

  • John Hodgman says:

    3. Questions For Discussion

    Since those days, I have had the pleasure of contributing three stories to "This American Life," a program that understands as few others do all the intimacy and spookiness of the radio, and the fact that everyone is telling stories all the time-sometimes in a single sentence, sometimes over the course of an entire life-and that finding them requires only careful listening, good editing, moving their words around on a computer to make them say what you want, plus music. Many people like this show, and I am one of them, and I would be happy to talk to you about it if you want.

    As well, I have been taking something of a hiatus from my duties as a Former Professional Literary Agent. As a result, I have accumulated many questions from good people on the subject of publishing, writing, and The Lord of the Rings that have gone, heretofore, unanswered. I have encouraged, therefore, http://www.mcsweeneys.net to direct those patient souls here, where I will help to advise them on these subjects or any others. You should also feel free to ask me questions of this kind.

    As well, I would be pleased to read your opinions and contribute my own thoughts on the following issues…

    1) What was your spookiest moment listening to the radio?
    2) Would you prefer to be invisible or to have the power of flight?
    3) Are any of you vampires?
    4) Have you ever called into a talk radio program, and what was it like?
    5) Is the web a satisfactory substitute for radio?
    6) Which one of you people is going to buy me a Grundig Sattelit 800 SW/AM/FM radio, not long ago described as "the most anticipated radio in the past few decades?" For I do not feel I can go on for much longer without it.

    HINT: it costs 500 dollars.

    Thank you. I have taken up too much of your time. For now, at least…

    That is all.

    JH

  • Darin S. says:
    what makes you so smart?

    Do you think radio will eventually kill off such newer, lesser technologies as the so-called "world wide web?"

  • Baud Vodem says:
    Airwave Memories

    Indeed, I always found the radio to be a warm and soothing companion during my long nights on the shores of Hudson Bay during my years as an outpost weatherman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police & Carbiniers. I and my faithful companion would tune in any number of Canadian broadcasts (being so far north as to be out of range of the Detroit "Motown" stations but just within range of the home-decoration and food-preservation programs originating from Sault-Ste. Marie). My companion, a whippet/bloodhound/Airedale mutt named Kevin, would howl (bloodhound-like, in fact) at every mention of Mason jars. Glorious days, fellows, glorious days.

    At any rate, my question is this, is it possible to digitally replicate the voices of former U.S. presidents? We know of course that detailed technical records exist of the frequency, pitch, and timbre of presidents at least as far back as Andrew Johnson (his "shenanigans " of course–OF COURSE–being the reason such records were initially kept by the Office of Homeland Integrity). Can these records be somehow processed electronically, just as my words are being transmitted to you now? If such a technology does not presently exist (though I have no reason to believe it doesn’t), do you John Hodgman believe it will it soon exist? Where will you, John Hodgman, stand when such a feat becomes commonplace? In short, do you believe in raising the dead by radio?

    Thank you, and God bless the smallest piece if pie.

  • Baud Vodem says:
    francis lucy

    when did christopher lydon become "chris lydon"?

  • Baud Vodem says:
    Airwave Memories

    Indeed, I always found the radio to be a warm and soothing companion during my long nights on the shores of Hudson Bay during my years as an outpost weatherman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police & Carbiniers. I and my faithful companion would tune in any number of Canadian broadcasts (being so far north as to be out of range of the Detroit "Motown" stations but just within range of the home-decoration and food-preservation programs originating from Sault-Ste. Marie). My companion, a whippet/bloodhound/Airedale mutt named Kevin, would howl (bloodhound-like, in fact) at every mention of Mason jars. Glorious days, fellows, glorious days.

    At any rate, my question is this, is it possible to digitally replicate the voices of former U.S. presidents? We know of course that detailed technical records exist of the frequency, pitch, and timbre of presidents at least as far back as Andrew Johnson (his "shenanigans " of course–OF COURSE–being the reason such records were initially kept by the Office of Homeland Integrity). Can these records be somehow processed electronically, just as my words are being transmitted to you now? If such a technology does not presently exist (though I have no reason to believe it doesn’t), do you John Hodgman believe it will it soon exist? Where will you, John Hodgman, stand when such a feat becomes commonplace? In short, do you believe in raising the dead by radio?

    Thank you, and God bless the smallest piece if pie.

  • John Hodgman says:
    to Darin S

    Dear Darin S

    You have actually asked two questions, but they have the same answers:

    the radio will thrive due to the emanation of "radio waves." These are vibrations in the air which, over time, will destroy all lesser technologies.

    they also make me "so smart."

    That is all.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Though I am not John Hodgman, nor a Former Professional Literary Agent, nor, as Hodgman is quick to point out, a published novelist or person of any worth at all whatsoever, I feel that I can be of some use here by answering one of Mr. Vodem’s questions:

    >At any rate, my question is this, is it possible to digitally replicate the voices of former U.S. presidents?

    Yes, Mr. Vodem, it is. And the answers lie where they have for nearly a half-century now: within the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World. You’ll find it just a short walk down Main Street USA from the Country Bear Jamboree, where Walt has also proven that it is possible to digitally replicate the voices of bluegrass-singing bears.

    Hope that helped,

    w

  • John Hodgman says:
    to Baud Vodem

    Thank you for posting your very long message twice. It did not make it any more comprehensible, but I appreciate the second chance.

    Alas, the sole machine for digitally replicating the voices of dead US presidents (post-Johnson) resides in the larynx of celebrity impersonator Rich Little, and he, as you know, has been missing for several years. This is a shame, as his James A. Garfield impersonation always slayed me.

    As for your provocative question about the dead, you may recall that when the same Garfield was shot in 1881, Alexander Graham Bell attempted to locate and remove the assassin’s bullet by use of an "induction-balance electrical device" of his own design, and failed. Was this device a "radio?" No one knows for sure. But it seems clear that if Bell couldn’t raise the dead by radio, then your airedale Kevin is beyond our help.

    I should note at this point two things:

    1) what I have written about Garfield is true; what I have written about Little is not.
    2) while I encourage those, such as Baud, who wish to mix truth and lie in their questions, this space is also available to those with sincere questions and comments; and I will certainly offer sincere replies in those cases.

    I thank you.

  • Sam P. Potts says:
    Speaking of radio

    Mr. Hodgman,
    Are there any plans to migrate the Little Gray Books series to another medium, such as radio? I ask because although in real life we are friends and associates and have occasionally discussed this very question, perhaps the general public would like to know the latest developments for a broadcast edition. Have you considered other formats, such as bottle-cap rebus, skywriting (costly and time- and space-consuming, yes, but think of the readership!), and billboard?

    On second thought, perhaps radio would be the most viable.

    (Wow, spell-checker within the form!)

    Thank you,
    S. P. Potts
    Homebody

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Hodgman:

    Back there when I brought up the Country Bear Jamboree, it got me thinking:

    Which do you personally find more disturbing, the Country Bear Jamboree, or the gorilla with the sunglasses that used to play the piano at Showbiz Pizza? And do you think that audioanimatronic characters have a future in radio?

    Is there a possibility that you are, in fact, yourself an audioanimatronic character, and that you are living a lie?

  • julie shapiro says:
    spookytime

    one of my earliest memories of listening to the radio is one of my clearest, and may also be my spookiest. in the early 1980’s i was just entering my double digits, and so, according to my parents, was not yet ready to watch certain things on the tv. specifically, i was sent to bed before the made-for-tv docudrama ‘the day after’ was broadcast, depicting life post-nuclear war. more than a little curious about something i wasn’t supposed to watch, i snuck down and took in about fifteen minutes from the stairs, where i could crouch and just make out the images on the tv in our living room. i was freaked out of my mind.

    apparently so were dozens of other people living in northeast ohio –
    after retreating to my room and turning on the classic rock station my clock/radio was tuned to, i listened to Wolfman Jack, the DJ who was on that night, trying to calm the fears of callers who rather than requesting favorite songs expressed openly their fears about what the movie had reavealed.

    as a ten year old i doubt i found much solace in Wolfman Jack’s responses to his callers – i remember that i fell asleep unsettled, and confessed to my mom in the morning that i’d seen some of the movie, in order that she could explain to me more about what i’d observed.

    in retrospect, twenty years later, i’m amazed at how much responsibility ‘Wolfman Jack’ took on that night, (thinking back on it now, i’m thinking that he must have broken format to take the time to address callers’ concerns) at how much emotion was expressed over the airwaves by young (and not so young) adults needing consolation, at the sheer gravity of it all, in the middle of a classic rock music show. at the power of radio to draw together a troubled community and offer such an anodyne…

    spoooooooooky.

  • Andy Knight says:

    John Hodgeman,
    Many years ago, or maybe just the one, I asked you a simple question about lunch. Now you send me mail all the time about your Little Gray Book lectures. While I don’t doubt that the lectures are wonderful, nor do I doubt that they are quite little and gray, I have to wonder if you feel they are worth the expense of an airline ticket and accommodations at a local hotel and if so, why? Also, have you made arrangements with American Airlines to provide lower rates to little gray people?

    Sam, don’t allow the lure of the spellchecker to draw you in. The spellchecker on this forum has destroyed many a wandering soul.

  • Shauna McKenna says:
    Answers.

    >1) What was your spookiest moment listening to the radio?

    A short story on This American Life backlit — or backsounded, I guess I should say, I really don’t know any of the aural terminology, but backlit is such a nice word — by the singing of Kitka, a Romanian folk ensemble. The music of Kitka is haunting. The story was about children who listen to a man die of starvation, without offering him assistance.

    (Edit: Assistance in finding food. Not starving. I mean, they didn’t goad him into starving. They just didn’t….oh….nevermind.)

    >2) Would you prefer to be invisible or to have the power of flight?

    Flight.

    >3) Are any of you vampires?

    Are you?

    >4) Have you ever called into a talk radio program, and what was it like?

    No, but when I was 16 I requested Paula Abdul’s "Straight Up" over and over again. Remarkably, the radio station played it over and over again. And over. And over. Again. Paula Abdul, you owe me.

    >5) Is the web a satisfactory substitute for radio?

    Although I liked your comparison very much, I think that the media are different to a degree that resists comparison. The best of the web is stuff like this, conversations between equals. I mean, I know it’s not technically so — you’re the moderator, and you possess that most coveted of American characteristics, celebrity — but the web makes it so that you are a person at a keyboard and I am a person at a keyboard, and in fact, I probably am at a conversational advantage, because I type 107 words per minute. With my hands shackled.

    Even call-in talk shows, on the radio, have very clear delineations between broadcaster and listener. The control of radio is probably where it excels over the web; the selection of the finest, most coherent voices from the squabbling masses.

    >6) Which one of you people is going to buy me a Grundig Sattelit 800 SW/AM/FM radio, not long ago described as "the most anticipated radio in the past few decades?" For I do not feel I can go on for much longer without it.

    Sam Potts.

  • jake says:
    sincere questions & comments

    John,

    I’m particularly fond of your TAL "Cuervo Man" piece, not least because the Man (aka Ryan McDonough) is an old high school friend of mine whose unique talents had gone uncelebrated for too long. I encourage Transom visitors to check it out via the links at end of John’s bio above (and http://www.mcshowoff.com, Ryan’s site).

    1) What was your spookiest moment listening to the radio?

    Hmmm… I’ve had my own Art Bell moments, often driving back to Boston from late-night gigs in Portland, or Burlington. But I think my spookiest radio moment was in 1980; I was nine years old and at night I’d listen to WCOZ or WBCN (#1 tune of 1980: "Call Me" by Blondie), and
    that summer there was a barrage of radio ads for "The Shining", which spooked the hell out of me – "Here’s Johnny!". I didn’t see the movie until years later, but those ads, and the Bartók-ish score in the background, stayed with me.

    2) Would you prefer to be invisible or to have the power of flight?

    Invisible, all the way.

    3) Are any of you vampires?

    Not a vampire.

    4) Have you ever called into a talk radio program, and what was it like?

    I have a confession. I may be spilling a trade secret here, but my one and only time calling into a program was done under some duress. It was my first day as intern/producer on The Connection with Christopher Lydon, and one of the hours was generating zero calls (a rare lull, I learned later). A producer, who shall remain nameless, had me sit in a production booth down the hall and call in with a pseudonym and a planned question. It was the only time that particular trick was pulled during my time there, so maybe it was just hazing…

    5) Is the web a satisfactory substitute for radio?

    No, but it could be if/when wireless broadband internet becomes omnipresent & cheap, and we can get worldwide streaming audio just like satellite radio today, with tivo-like audio-on-demand features in our car stereo, plus all the interactive possibilities of the webbed world.

    6) Which one of you people is going to buy me a Grundig Sattelit 800 SW/AM/FM radio, not long ago described as "the most anticipated radio in the past few decades?" For I do not feel I can go on for much longer without it.

    I want one too… Perhaps they’ll cut us a 2 for 1 deal?

    So, John. What does your current media diet consist of? What are you listening to, watching, reading on a regular basis? Are you a vegan-like public media only type, or do you chow down cable tv, commercial radio, and mainstream publications as well? What’s on the menu?

  • Sam P. Potts says:
    This also happened to Spain

    This afternoon, I happened to be reading and came across this:
    "In 1679 King Carloss II of Spain declared Joseph [husband of Mary, foster father of Jesus, cuckolded by God Himself] the patron of all Spanish dominions. In Mexico, the news was reportedly greeted with widespread celebration. Only one year later, however, King Carlos rescinded the decree amidst fears that an envious Santiago [the former patron saint] might retaliate."

    I mention this as an example of the capriciousness of history when left in human hands. Can the web substitute for radio? Perhaps also to the point, can the web substitute for television? I don’t know, I am only saying that if there is any substituting going on, it will be somebody’s fault but we’ll all have to pay the price. Luckily, things are much better preserved on tape nowadays. That is silly.

    I often feel overwhelmed by the web in a way that radio never inspires. I listen to only one station on the radio, and it seems that that is about half the number that are actually worth listening to. On the web, there is a lot of really excellent stuff, sometimes very easy to find. But I have never been moved by anything on the web as much as some things I’ve heard on the radio.

    With the wise counsel of Mr. A. Knight, this message has not been spell-checked. Live free or doe!

  • John Hodgman says:
    to SP Potts re: Are there any plans to migrate the Little Gray Books series to another medium, such as radio?

    No plans so much as wishes, confounded by logistics. There is something about this Lecture series that would lend itself to radio broadcast, and who wouldn’t want radio celebrity, the chance to drink cristal every day on a cigarette boat protected at every moment by his private army of ninjas, such as one "G Keillor?" The answer is no-one. Every one would like this.

    But at the same time, how can you convey the sheer visual poetry of a man throwing a whiffle ball at another man who is dressed dressed as a giant sea gull in a purely auditory medium? Or auction off flea-market tiki statues or broke down pianos if people cannot even see the merchandise?

    This goes, in some strange way, to our discussion of web vs. radio. Obviously whatever similarities I might note can be counted by obvious differences. While it’s possible that adaptation for the air might winnow out some of the Lectures’ more egregious sight gags and gimmickry, leaving only audio beauty behind (www.jonathancoulton.com), it’s just as if not more possible that the only form suitable to this monthly train wreck is a sweaty room in Brooklyn.

    Meanwhile, what do you mean by the term "real life?"

    That is all.

    Jh

  • John Hodgman says:
    Pastorek: Which do you personally find more disturbing…

    Pastorek:

    I do not know of this gorilla, so I cannot comment there. I only saw the country bears once, from afar, and I did not find them particularly convincing, either as bears or jug band musicians.

    I am not an audioanimatronic character. In fact, I hardly move at all.

    Jh

  • John Hodgman says:
    Shapiro: "in retrospect, twenty years later, i’m amazed at how much responsibility ‘Wolfman Jack’ took on that night"

    I recall "The Day After" as well, and it seems like a kind of dream. Did network television really produce such a thing? And did we all really respond with such unjaded anxiety that way?

    I suspect that it is one of those things–like bedtimes Wolfman Jack’s howling midnight comfort–that I suspect our culture could not replicate today. This is sad, but it leaves more time, at least, for discussion of Tom Cruise.

  • John Hodgman says:
    to Knight: "Many years ago, or maybe just the one, I asked you a simple question about lunch.."

    Are you Andy who wrote:

    "I’ve known Will Allison all my life, and you sir, are no Jack
    Kennedy. That said, what should I have for lunch today?" on 3/9/01?

    Thank you for your patience. The answer is: chicken.

    Jh

  • John Hodgman says:
    to McKenna: "The best of the web is stuff like this, conversations between equals. I mean, I know it’s not technically so…"

    Shauna,

    You are right that we have all been empowered by the web: everyone with a keyboard can now effectively broadcast to a national audience. In a sense, it puts each of us on the same footing as the major media conglomerates, except for AOL, who now apparently own all our thoughts and teeth.

    This is, I think, a positive development overall. But also consider: it is this same extension of power that allows me to mercilessly spam A. Knight with Little Gray Book Lectures, and contributes as well to a fractured culture of increasingly specialized niches in which even a barely showered and non-cristal drinking former professional literary agent may be considered a "celebrity."

    How can this be good?

    Jh

  • John Hodgman says:
    to Jake re: mcshowoff.com and my media diet

    Ryan is a very talented but troubled person who needs help. This is why I put him and all his dirty secrets on the radio: to force him to hit rock bottom so that he can start putting his life together. Also, with him out of the way, I hope that I soon will be able to replace him in the liquor promotion department, though my act will be somewhat less ab-intensive, mainly involving me sitting in a comfortable chair while wearing loose pants, drinking. You have no idea how successful this campaign will be.

    My media diet generally includes a daily trip to http://www.mcshowoff.com, and then I am reading ABOUT SCHMIDT in anticipation of the Alexander Payne film of the same name. When I finish that book, in about 14 years, I intend to read the soon-to-be-published new novel by Sean Stewart, author of MOCKINGBIRD, a book that everyone should read if they are interested in Houston and voodoo. I am also enjoying the Grand Theft Auto III on PC, which I received for free, because I am a member of the world press. If anyone knows how to solve the "Kill 30 Diablos in 120 Seconds" rampage, please contact me immediately.

  • John Hodgman says:
    PS to Shauna

    I can only conclude that it’s the same madness that led you to deem me a "celebrity" that led you to the conclusion that Potts would ever buy me a 500 dollar radio. Potts spends all his money on Mars bars. Take it from me.

  • Cordley Coit says:
    Don’t shoot the messanger he’s wearing Kelvar

    One of the nightmares I as a human have, is being chained up by Homeland Security and forced to listen to This American Life reruns by sadistic mouth breathing Lynn Chaney types doing unspeakible things with their rubber guns while some young woman with a flatliner voice talks on and on about the injustice of going to shopping mall with a maxed out Visa card.

    There are duller things a New Left meeting in Boulder, all night Techno, watching TV.
    Of course one could listen to all the excuses the Bushes used when they we caught shoplifting a few billion in S&L monies.
    Living in a Republic ought to be dangerous and he speaks for a generation that is rapidly dying of boredom in public.

    Childern are dying of boredom every day in factory farm schools. Security has ratched down on lowest workers being fired for smoking pot or not meeting some vague profile. My daughter talks of flying in terms of bing man handled by dykes at the gate in Denver. Indian reservations have tuned into internment camps like Palistine and we listen to the liittle Beemer driving high school snots with their mall accents and NPR marches on being revolutionary. Where did you lose the real world for the Specticale

  • Shauna McKenna says:
    Mr. Hodgman:

    So modest.

    With little sleep in my recent history (oh, when will these all-night techno parties ever cease) I have to admit, I first read that Potts spends all his money on "Mars bar." It’s on 1st and 1st on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and it’s a monument of sullenness and dank glory. There’s a pinball machine, too.

    To return, briefly, to the comparison between radio and the web…it’s important to distinguish between looking at the web as a reader, and participating in all the various subnetworks weaving and winding like so many strands of a, um, cobweb. I have a fine array of acquaintances and friends met through the web; yet none, that I can think of, through radio.

  • Jackson Braider says:
    This isn’t Transom! It’s a Lovefest!

    Mr. Hodgman, Sirrah!

    Mr. Allison promised on the AIR circulation today that I would encounter an audio artifact of you pronouncing the word "lounge" with nine syllables. While I’m looking forward to hearing your melisma, the missives thus far have convinced me of your capabilities.

    A couple of things before I proceed: none of the manuscripts you represented crossed my desk during the days Danielle Steele signed my paycheck, but then again, I had already moved onto the greener pastures of long-term care investment before you got out of college, so that was scarcely possible.

    I never had a spooky experience on or with radio, except when I tried to call in once and found myself on hold as "the next caller" for some 15 hours while Christus Lydon read some poem by a poet who happened to be sitting in the studio with him and — oops! "Connection Listeners, we’ve run out of time!"

    Speaking of the undead, where is Buffy when we *really* need her?

    That’s one kind of spooky — check out the marine forecasts on the BBC some night for another.

    So, when did radio really, honestly, truly disappoint you?

  • First, do you find that people yell at you a lot? In thinking how I should address you I found myself wanting to cup my hands around my mouth and belt out, ‘Hey Hodgman!" It just seems right you know?

    A radio question. Can you talk about the balance of your position in a story as both a storyteller and a character? "Cuervo Man" was too, my favorite of your pieces. And one of the things that made it so special was that noone else could have told the story the way you did, you are, will always be, and have always been, "John Hodgman, former Professional Literary Agent." I present Radio Consuelo as evidence of that. And still you never got in the way. And I actually believed you were being sincere when you were out failing to replicate Cuervo Man’s act in the bar. I don’t really care if you were being sincere or pulling a cruel, cruel radio joke. The fact was that I believed you.

    o.k. in the effort to help you complete your database.

    >1) What was your spookiest moment listening to the radio?

    spooky doesn’t mean scary does it? Either my first time hearing Joe Frank or hearing my local college radio station playing a nature record from the 70’s about coyotes hosted by Robert Redford.

    >2) Would you prefer to be invisible or to have the power of flight?

    Invisible. With my luck I’d be stuck only knowing how to fly sideways and what use is that?

    >3) Are any of you vampires?

    Not since kindergarden when I tried to bite the neck of the girl in line in front of me. I thought I was just playing but apparently it hurt. My fangs have since been filed down.

    >4) Have you ever called into a talk radio program, and what was it like?

    No, though as a kid I did call in and win a t-shirt from my local metal station called "Pirate Radio." I was too young to receive the one with the dirty phrase and picture of the pig so I got the one with the station name scrawled in neon green letters.

    >5) Is the web a satisfactory substitute for radio?

    Not at all. No room to be assaulted and forced to pay attention like can happen with the radio.

    >6) Which one of you people is going to buy me a Grundig Sattelit 800 SW/AM/FM radio, not long ago described as "the most anticipated radio in the past few decades?" For I do not feel I can go on for much longer without it.

    Can you guarantee that it’s rating as "the most anticipated radio in the past few decades" is correct? Who’s been keeping track?

    I have another question, but that can wait till later.

  • John Hodgman says:
    To Braider: "So, when did radio really, honestly, truly disappoint you? "

    I will only be disappointed if/when satellite radio really takes off, removing regional character from radio, which is one of it’s finest and shiniest charms. I don’t want a continuous signal when driving from coast to coast. One, I don’t drive from coast to coast as often as I used to. Two, the sublime pain of a good station fading out while driving, and the hope of finding something as good or better in the next town–all of this is the point, to me.

    Media are defined as much by their limitations as their promise. When those limitations are taken away, you get something else, something different, something perhaps not as good.

  • John Hodgman says:
    to menjivar: "I don’t really care if you were being sincere or pulling a cruel, cruel radio joke"

    Before i answer, please clarify:

    1) what sort of joke did you think I was playing, and on whom (apart from the overarching cruel joke at Ryan’s expense?)?
    2) is your name, "Menjivar," Narnian?

  • i just meant…

    1) it was a silly way of saying it didn’t matter to me whether you truly wanted to be the next "Cuervo Man" or were simply doing so for the benefit of a radio story.
    2) close, Salvadoran. But since my father left long ago and nasty wars kept me from visiting for some time it might as well be Narnian. It feels that distant.

  • John Hodgman says:
    to Ryan: " You haven’t destroyed me yet, Hodgman. But I will get you for trying. I’m building my own Jame Gumm/Buffalo Bill-style pit in the new pad to keep you in"

    Which prompts the question for discussion: what five books, albums, films, or recorded radio programs would you bring with you if you were being kept captive in a pit by Ryan McDonough?

    I will ponder this and get back to you this afternoon.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Wow. Way to make a question out of the creepy pit guy’s threat, Hodgman.

  • beedge says:
    one question:

    wtf are y’all babbling about?

  • Ryan says:
    Hodgman owes me $100,000

    It seems you have won after all, Hodgman. I was officially released from my contract with well-known tequila brand just hours ago. While I don’t think your story had that much to do with it, I would still like $100,000 from you for trying to sabotage me.

    I was joking about the pit, Pastorek. It was from a motion picture. It’s all an act. John Hodgman is in no danger.

  • Shauna McKenna says:
    This is a lovefest.

    I love a lovefest.

    >what five books, albums, films, or recorded radio programs would you bring with you if you were being kept captive in a pit by Ryan McDonough?

    The Tao te Ching

    Some really good guide to kickboxing

    Finnegan’s Wake, because where else but in a confining pit will I have the time and patience to understand

    Any given show by Psu (spelling?) Braun of WFMU. I’m not sure if she’s still there. But she’s the greatest.

    The film "Mirror" by Andrei Tarkovsky … pretentious, but I pretend not. Or "The Royal Tennenbaums," because I haven’t seen it yet. Will buttered popcorn be a suitable substitute for conditioning lotion, Ryan? This almost sounds fun. And tequila? Will there be tequila?

  • whitney pastorek says:

    >I was joking about the pit, Pastorek. It was from a motion picture.

    Wait, what? "Motion Picture"? You know, someone told me they’d built a nickelodeon in my neighborhood, but I’ve been scared to go down there because my bookie owns the barbershop next door and I’m in the hole to him for like $50, but I gots to buy bread for the missus, so I need to avoid the guy for a while, you know? But I swear I’m going to get on this fad eventually. I heard they’ve got this one now where an ocean wave rushes towards you like it’s darn near gonna swallow you up. My sister-in-law has been hyperventilating since the weekend, after her no-good bunko-playing boyfriend took her to see it. Anyone out there seen this one? Thumbs up? Down?

  • Ryan says:
    Wow, who’s creepy now?

    I’m glad I didn’t write, "It was from a talkie."

  • whitney pastorek says:

    What’s a talkie?

    HODGMAN. I have a real question. You have commented on your sudden misgivings about satellite radio, and the way it would diminish some of the quirks and challenges that make current coast-to-coast radio listening such an adventure. But how could the long and consistent arm of satellite possibly be any worse than the even longer and clearly corrupt arm of Clear Channel Communications or one of the other giant radio conglomerates currently forcing me to listen to that Spiderman song 30 to 40 times a day? I realize that public radio is, for the time being, holding its own, but how much longer can they survive? And what can we do to help them? And at what point will it make sense to give up and retreat to satellite radio stations of our own, where we can broadcast monopoly- and Chad-Kroeger-free? And do you happen to know how to build and launch a satellite?

  • Andy Knight says:

    >…But how could the long and consistent arm of satellite possibly be any worse than the even longer and clearly corrupt arm of Clear Channel…

    Damn you, Pastorek, for stealing my thoughts while I was otherwise detained by the Ryan McDonough shaped pit that is my life! May you have a poor culinary experience in the near future!

  • Joshua Barlow says:
    The BONUS Track…

    It’s a quote from some film, I know it… From where did it originate? I need to know…

  • John Hodgman says:
    "John Hodgman is in no danger"

    Not so fast, McDonough. I will be the judge of that.

  • John Hodgman says:
    "I love a lovefest. "

    Your 5 items for taking to a pit are intriguing, Shauna, and mostly correct. The one you missed on was "The Tao te Ching." The correct answer is "A ladder long enough to be useful for escaping from pits."

    I am embarrassed to admit that I am unfamiliar with Braun, but I am making up for it now: http://www.wfmu.org/Playlists/Pseu/

    I wonder if this is not a sort-of answer to the dilemma posed by Whitney: how can satellite radio possibly be worse than national radio networks controlled by corporate fiat?

    This "everything is bad" thesis is provocative and largely true, though I remain unsure of how satellite radio run by a single corporation could possibly be better.

    I am more cheered by all the strange and weird and beautiful local and independent radio stations I am able to listen to on the web. This seems to me a better coast-to-coast solution, as it is much more likely I will be sitting still and wanting to hear many distant voices than I will be traveling across the country wanting to hear the same uninterrupted stream of lite jazz.

    I tune my browser from time to time to these stations (wmfo.org-Medford, MA, wwoz.org-New Orleans, wbur.org-Boston, http://www.cbc.ca/radioone-Canada), though I’m sure you good people know of many more and better ones. Please list them now.

    That is all.

    Jh

  • John Hodgman says:
    it didn’t matter to me whether you truly wanted to be the next "Cuervo Man"

    Menjivar, my Salvadoran friend,

    It is absolutely true that, the moment I saw Ryan screaming from the docks of Cuervo Nation, I thought that would be the greatest job in the world. It’s true I usually have this reaction to almost any job, including stevedore, scrimshander, cheesemonger, any kind of monger really, and Professional Literary Agent. But this job was better than all of those because it involved yelling at people for money while drunk.

    Or at least, that’s how I’d do it.

    The desperation that you hear in my voice on the radio program as I attempt to give away free alcohol is very real. Like acting or being president, Ryan’s is a job that seems so intuitive and skill-free that you initially think anyone can do it. It’s only when you are trying and failing to get someone to drink a shot of tequila off your head that you realize how hard it is to be Cuervo Man. Or in the case of our current administration, president.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    The two stations I grew up with:

    KUHF, which is mostly classical, but plays the best classical music in all the land, that being the soulful sounds of the Houston Symphony, which is the best symphony in all the land, and I’m not just saying that because my parents are in it, and when I was a kid, left at home alone while they were off playing a concert, I would curl up around the radio and listen to the live broadcast of the show and imagine that they were home with me… (wait, did you say "spooky" or "incredibly pathetic and wounded"?)

    And KPFT, which plays that unexplainable Texas-hippie combination of, like, country, world music, zydeco, and the Indigo Girls. Great for picnics and days at the beach. A little dull for me in high school, which is why I started listening exclusively to KILT, All My Favorite Country Classics, From Yesterday AND Today!

  • John Hodgman says:
    I will ponder this and get back to you this afternoon

    I realize now that I did not get back to you on this matter of what five things I would take with me into Ryan’s pit.

    -book: I Claudius/Claudius the God, for sheer heft, and to read aloud from my pit, as I happen to know that historical fiction makes Ryan crazy
    -song: I am currently listening exclusively to "Kenesaw Mountain Landis" at http://www.jonathancoulton.com; perhaps will make Ryan dance, in a careless two-step, fall into the pit and hurt himself. If allowed an entire cd: curse of the mekons
    -film: silence of the lambs; this would simply blow ryan’s mind out of his bald head
    -radio program: the wonderful contribution that david greenberger of duplex planet made to lost and found sound in which the fellow attempted to sing on tape forever.
    -a long ladder

  • John Hodgman says:
    and I’m not just saying that because my parents are in it, and when I was a kid, left at home alone while they were off playing a concert, I would curl up around the radio and listen to the live broadcast of the show and imagine that they were home

    Dear Wounded and Spooky

    Do you mean to say you would imagine they were playing with a whole symphony orchestra downstairs?

    I will tune in to KPFT now. I will not tune in to KUHF, because I do not want to hear from your parents anymore today.

  • John Hodgman says:
    KPFT

    How perfect: a pledge drive.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    >How perfect: a pledge drive.

    whoops.

    Anyway. Well, Hodgie, your question is a good one. My family being almost retardedly musical (aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins all playing instruments, comprising, if not a symphony, at least a solid chamber music outfit), it wasn’t far off to imagine that there might be an entire orchestra downstairs, even though we lived in a one-story house with no basement. In any case. I think it was more perhaps the thought that they were home, playing the music on the family hi-fi, or, better yet, that I could revert to the days when, at age 5 or 6, they would take me with them to concerts and sit me down backstage to be watched over by some stagehands because they couldn’t afford babysitters and didn’t trust babysitters anyway, at least, not since I was kidnapped that one time.

    w, getting more and more wounded and spooky by the minute…

  • John Hodgman says:
    they didn’t trust babysitters anyway

    You have inadvertently (or advertently) solved a vexing childcare problem in my life. Why hire babysitters when there are so many itinerant stagehands looking for work?

    Q: is it still the case that stagehands smell like the sea and all know magic? I hope so

    Jh

  • whitney pastorek says:

    >Q: is it still the case that stagehands smell like the sea and all know magic? I hope so.

    Yes. Except some of the magics are more… appropriate than others.

  • Shauna McKenna says:
    WDVX
    WDVX

    of East Tennessee. I found it whilst driving through, well, Tennessee, on a road trip last week. It features the best selection of bluegrass and “old-time" music I’ve ever heard. WDVX and an unannounced gospel station near Mobile, Alabama were my only two reprieves from bubble-gum pop and classic rock.

    Perhaps someone with broadband can find the gospel station. I cannot. It’s hot and my computer begs me for sorbet.

  • Ryan says:
    5 things

    I would bring "Mulholland Drive" to watch a million times and still not understand. I would probably bring some kind of porn, video and magazine, which I know is shallow, but hey, it IS my pit. I would bring K-Tel’s "Dumb Ditties with such classics as "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth", "Who Put the Bomp", "Bridget the Midget" and "My Ding-a-Ling". I would bring Depends Undergarments and, of course, I would bring John Hodgman.

    To Shauna: Of course buttered popcorn is an adequate substitute for lotion. And if you want tequila, I’d be glad to let you have some. I’m pretty sure it won’t be from my former employer who just dogged me yesterday. Ask Hodgman what’s good and I’ll put some in the pit.

  • whitney pastorek says:
    5 Things

    - my bootleg copy of Patty Griffin’s never-released 3rd album

    - The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander

    - Jack White

    - Say Anything

    - my guitar, as I’m sure that after a few renditions of my Bon Jovi favorites, Ryan would let me out of the pit

  • Andy Knight says:

    How can CAI/NAN go unmentioned? Ah, it can’t!

    Into Ryan’s Pit, 5 things I would bring:
    Ryan
    Vodka
    Plunger
    Shovel
    Yams

  • bw says:
    not a single vampire?

    and I read all 57 messages!

    john-
    with all the great stations in the boston area how is it you ended up listening to only wmfo.. what about wmbr or wzbc or whrb??

    and how is it you didn’t do radio in college? to busy with the campus crusaders???

  • John Hodgman says:
    how is it you ended up listening to only wmfo

    I didn’t only listen to MFO. Of course I also listened to ERS, BUR, GBH, HDH when Gene Burns was on, WBRS when Ari Vais was on. ZBC is obviously a great station, but not one I listened to regularly, for no good reason. And of course in the mid eighties, FNX was an eye-opener to an important American band called Animotion. Finally, there was whatever Christian AM station that then aired the sublimely weird "Talk Back with Bob Larson:" more bogus recovered memory satanic abuse tales than you could shake an inverted cross at.

    Listen here for Bob’s take on Angelina Jolie, Tomb Raider, and the Illuminati: "the people who made this movie either don’t know or don’t care about the truth of the Illuminati." http://www.boblarson.org/archive/062701.ram

  • Shauna McKenna says:

    >"the people who made this movie either don’t know or don’t care about the truth of the Illuminati."

    Brilliant.

    John, is it okay to ask non-radio related questions here? (Like that question, for example.)

    Question: Have you considered conducting or encouraging spin-offs of the Little Gray Book lectures in other cities? Say, Philadelphia? A radio program would be lovely, too, but I don’t think one can be properly impressed by things like a piano hauled by frightening Russians unless one sees that piano mere feet from where one sits.

  • John Hodgman says:
    is it okay to ask non-radio related questions here? (Like that question, for example.)

    Shauna,

    The answer is yes, please.

    I agree with you that there is a certain frightening immediacy to the Lectures at their best. But as it was imagined, in part, as a radio program on stage, it’s hard to get that idea out of my head. Much like my idea for a car powered by melons.

    Derek Powazek’s very fine storytelling site http://www.fray.com has had great success setting up live, often simultaneous, events in many different cities. I wouldn’t be averse to taking the show on the road, but right now we’re concentrating on making each show a very good, self-contained, successful program.

    Are you planning a reading series in Philadelphia?

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Secret note to Hodgman: I got this great package in the mail yesterday. I was going to thank the sender by email, but his mailbox is full. Ahem.

  • John Hodgman says:
    i got this great package in the mail

    this is not a "secret note."

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Yes, it is. Everyone else knows not to read it, right?

    Shauna totally should start a reading series in Philly.

    Although, something that could be tried, in terms of the discussion of the LGB’s breaking out to other cities, is USING the internet via webcams to broadcast– "stream", if you will– readers from other parts of the world into many locations. Have them on remote, sort of. That way, people sitting in bars all across this great land of ours could see the same thing all at once. And it would bridge the gaps between live performance, radio, and the internet. And be brilliant.

  • Shauna McKenna says:

    >Are you planning a reading series in Philadelphia?

    I’ve given it some good hard thought. Planning is where I get stuck. Up until, oh, last Monday, I thought I was a shy, home-loving woman. And then I found myself behind a microphone with blindingly bright lights pointed at my face and I sort of settled down into my own voice and had some fun. So for now I’ll just say that I’m mulling, and I might mull my way over to Fergie’s, a bar that has a second-floor stage.

    Philadelphia, I say to you: Shall we dance?

    In case the planning stage and I come to a happy synthesis, do you have any words of wisdom from your experience?

  • Shauna McKenna says:
    xpost with Whitney

    I extend that last question to Whitney, too, and everyone else in this forum who might have experience with organizing live literary events, or opinions about live literary events, or even freeform rants about literary events.

  • Ed Page says:
    Hi

    You can all relax now. I’m here.

    John: I’m not a vampire, in case you were wondering. When I bite the necks of pretty girls, they do not frown. They giggle. Then they ask me my name. When I tell them my name, they giggle some more. Do I have a funny name? What gives?

    Also: Do you like your Swiss Army watch a great deal? I really like mine. How long have you had yours? John McPhee wrote a book about the Swiss Army. It’s a real army. It is not a joke army.

    Plus: Do you have a favorite recipe? What’s your favorite meal?

    Moreover: Who were your heroes when you were growing up? Who inspired you? Who inspires you now?

    One more thing: Do you feel as old as your age? Or do you, like Stephen Fry, feel 15 inside?

  • Ed Page says:
    A Clarification

    >When I bite the necks of pretty girls, they do not frown.

    I’m not saying the pretty girls’ necks don’t frown. No. The pretty girls’ necks frown plenty! What I mean to say is that the pretty girls themselves refrain from frowning as my teeth sink into their pretty neck flesh. You see?

  • Andy Knight says:

    John, what is your goal with the Little Gray Book series? At what point do you say, "well, there. I’ve hit my peak." Will you continue doing them after you’ve hit your peak? Will you then backslide until you are left with nothing more to your name than The Little Gray Book Theater in Branson and a small house filled with the children of strangers? Any plans for a Little Gray Book theme park ride? How tall would you have to be to ride?

  • Rich Alcott says:
    Elvis the undercover narc has nice ring to it

    Hodgman -

    Peter Guralnick in his excellent book "Careless Love," which I bought hard-cover remaindered at Waldenbooks in the Norwichtown Mall for six bucks, tells a great story of the late American recording artist and, let’s face it, immortal folk icon, Elvis Presley. How Elvis collected police badges. How in December 1970, when he learned that Paul Frees — the same Paul Frees who as a vocal artist did such fine work with Stan Freberg and Rocky the Flying Squirrel — worked as an undercover narc with the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and carried a badge to prove it, Elvis developed an all-consuming desire to own a BNDD badge of his own and to that end, flew to D.C. and when that son of a bitch John Findlator, the BNDD deputy director, refused to issue Elvis a badge, Elvis arranged a meeting with then-President Richard Milhous Nixon and got his badge. Elvis was concerned that the hippies and their goddamned drug abuse were ruining America, that the hippies had no respect for the flag and all that this great nation stands for. According to an FBI memo, "Presley indicated that he is of the opinion that the Beatles laid the groundwork for many of the problems we are having with young people by their filthy unkempt appearances and suggestive music." Elvis promoted himself as an ambassador of good, clean American living. My question is, you seem to have that same patriotic streak that Elvis had, you want to do good for these United States, too. When Elvis went to Washington that day, he wore, according to Guralnick’s book, "his new, jeweled, oversize glasses, a dark Edwardian jacket with brass buttons draped like a cape around his shoulders, and a purple velvet V-necked tunic with matching pants set off by the massive gold belt the International Hotel had given him in gratitude for his record-setting performance. Over a white, high-collared, open-necked shirt he wore the gold lion’s-head pendant that he had just purchased from Sol Schwartz and his Tree of Life necklace with all the guys’ names engraved on its roots and branches." Don’t you think, Hodgman, that your work as a former Professional Literary Agent would be more effective if you paid more attention to your wardrobe? You seem to be a guy who favors a single, rather colorless outfit. Don’t you think you could do more good for all Americans and, indeed, all freedom-loving peoples around the globe if you took a fashion tip or two from the book of Elvis? Elvis, who was never indicted and sold a lot of records. Also, Elvis schmoozed then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, whom — again, according to Guralnick — Elvis considered "the greatest living American." Hoover, as we know, was also a man who favored fabulous outfits. You want to fight the scourge of subversiveness in this country, too, don’t you, Hodgman? What do you think Elvis was up to? Wasn’t being an immortal folk icon enough for him? Why did he want to be a cop, too? Do the cops sell more records than the Beatles? I think not. What do you think, Hodgman?

  • John Hodgman says:
    "stream", if you will– readers from other parts of the world into many locations.

    Yes, I would like to break into that market–young people gathering at bars, ordering chicken wings, and watching literary readings from around the world on large projection televisions. The "No Idea" bar on 20th street is a good example, subscribing to an all literary-reading cable service. They do it for art, yes, but also because it moves literally gallons and gallons of well tequila and shooters. Unfortunately, it too often leads to hooliganism.

    A very nice thing happened at the last Little Gray Book Lecture in which the author Ethan Watters, of San Francisco, greeted Williamsburg via videotape to discuss bluffing at cards. This was done from the vantage point of a Jewish cemetery, one of four surrounding a bay area card room, and including a dedicated Serb and circus cemetery, while Watters perfomed card tricks. It was at once very funny, very moving, and 3000 miles away. So there is some possibility to explore there.

    I hope soon that some of the audio tapes we made of the first Little Gray Book lectures will be available on the web. The problem is, those DAT tapes are still in Brooklyn, and I am on 104th Street, and you good people are everywhere in the world, and none of us knows how to make all those places meet. Yet.

    Hello to Ed and to Andy and Rich. It is a very nice Saturday afternoon, so I will go outside now. Longer letter, as they say: later.

    That is all

  • Rich Alcott says:
    To be fair, Pete’s gone deaf.

    Here’s another question: A famous rock quartet from the ’60s, minus the original wildman drummer who died a quarter of a century ago, regroups in Las Vegas to begin a summer nostalgia tour. While in Vegas, the other half of the rhythm section, the bass player, dies at the age of 57 from a presumed heart attack. Now the famous band is down to the guitar player and the vocalist. What do you do?

    (a) Postpone the tour as a nod to good taste and plan to resume after a suitable period of mourning for the lad you’ve played with for 40 years.
    (b) Cancel the tour, retire to the studio, produce a masterwork as a tribute to a career well-spent.
    (c) Soldier on as if nothing had happened because after all the halls are booked, the tickets sold and who goes to a rock show to see the bassist anyway?
    (d) Who died?

  • Rich Alcott says:
    Meet the new boss.

    Same as the old boss.

  • smartygirl says:
    !

    Hodgman, you mention CBC radio one, but have you tried radio two, esp. late at anight and on weekends, and more specifically any show hosted by David Wisdom?

  • Jay Allison says:
    Little Gray Audio

    John Hodgman, if Transom can help in turning those DATs into Web audio for all the world to enjoy, let us know, okay? Or at least the good parts.

  • John Hodgman says:
    radio two, esp. late at anight and on weekends, and more specifically any show hosted by David Wisdom

    I confess my ignorance, but I see "Pearls of Wisdom" begins in 5 minutes. I will dial it up.

    What do you want to tell me about him as/before/once I do. And are you, smartygirl, a Canadian?

  • John Hodgman says:
    I am going to answer all your questions

    One by one, Ed Page, I will answer all your questions, using only English words.

    1. "Do I have a funny name?"
    The answer is "yes," as your name is also part of a book; but it is not as funny as "Ed Spine," or "Ed Backflap."

    2. "What gives?"
    The answer is "a generous person," or "Trenton," which as you surely know if you have ever traveled by train through it, is the city that makes and makes as the world, insatiable, takes and takes.

    3. "Do you like your Swiss Army watch a great deal?"
    The answer is "yes," but I am not going to get into another watch-love competition with you, Ed.

    4. "How long have you had yours?"
    The answer is "2.5 years." Note to readers: I have met this Page one time, in Seattle, and I do not really know him. You may be wondering how he knows so much about my watch, and so am I.

    5. "Do you have a favorite recipe?"
    The answer is "Correspondent Page’s Savory ‘Recipe for Disaster’" which I encourage you to post in your next free moment.

    6. "What’s your favorite meal?"
    The answer is "I am now buying anchovies by the pound jar. You do not wish to know more."

    7. "Who were your heroes when you were growing up? Who inspired you? Who inspires you now?"
    These questions all require sincere, personally revealing answers, and thus I discard them. Whatever small amount of work I have done is such a poor imitation of my influences–their voices and sensibilities, their schemes for avoiding personal questions–that their identities should be immediately apparent to the curious and inordinately wrist-watch-observant.

    8. "Do you feel as old as your age? Or do you, like Stephen fry, feel 15 inside"
    The answer is "Even as a child I have always I have always one year too late, too tired, too old. I do not feel 15 inside. I do feel like I have Stephen Fry inside me, however, and I blame the anchovies."

    Thank you for all your questions.

    Jh

  • John Hodgman says:
    The Little Gray Book Theater in Branson and a small house filled with the children of strangers?

    If the Little Gray Book Lectures are like any other artistic endeavor in history, I will be the last person to realize when they have hit their peak. If, indeed, they have not hit peak already.

    So I will likely keep going well beyond need or anyone’s desire. At this point, I will naturally comfort my anxious insecurity by claiming loudly that the Lectures’ failing popularity is clear evidence of a failing culture, and I will write columns about how bad everything is now, and how audiences are growing stupider by the second.

    If, at that point, I have a small house filled with the children of strangers, that will only be, shall we say, a provocative bonus.

  • John Hodgman says:
    Here’s another question:

    Thank you for your quiz. As a former professional quiz writer, I should note that (D) is not really a possible answer but what we call a "bonus question," the answer to which is "The Ox."

    As for (A) (B) or (C), I think that the answer is (C), in that the soldiering on itself could be construed as a tribute, and you will not lose money.

    As for your question about Elvis, you are right that it is important to fight crime. But while wearing a cape and publicly buddying up to the president is certainly one way to do it, I prefer to stay behind the scenes, discreetly directing my sworn band of adventurers, scientists, and novelists from the anonymity of my Upper West Side Observatory, while wearing normal clothes.

  • John Hodgman says:
    if Transom can help in turning those DATs into Web audio for all the world to enjoy, let us know, okay? Or at least the good parts.

    You are a kind man, the true answer to Page’s "What Gives?" stumper, and I may take you up on this. I hope that your generosity will not spell your peril, but it seems to be your fate, and there is nothing I can do about it.

    Fondly, I am going to make a sandwich now…

    Jh

  • Ed Page says:

    >5. "Do you have a favorite recipe?"

    The answer is "Correspondent Page’s Savory ‘Recipe for Disaster’" which I encourage you to post in your next free moment.

    John: This is a very tall and shiny thing for you to say about my "Recipe for Disaster." I thank you from the bottoms of my most pumplike and reliable organs. However, my hands are figuratively tied. "A Recipe for Disaster," you see, will be appearing in the first issue of the print edition of Sweet Fancy Moses. Thus, to post it here would be nothing short of scandalous.

  • Shauna McKenna says:

    >Thus, to post it here would be nothing short of scandalous.

    Ed Page, you are a gentleman and a holler.

    I don’t have a Swiss Army Knife. Or a badge to validate any crime-fighting investitures. However, I, too, had a sandwich this evening, and I’m happy to report that there’s about a quarter pound less Spam in the world to threaten you all.

  • John Hodgman says:
    quarter pound less Spam in the world to threaten you all.

    I thought I was through for the night, but I am moved to say: that is a lot of spam.

  • Shauna McKenna says:

    I do what I can.

  • more little gray questions

    so- since you are talking about the little gray books… as I prepare to only sort of copy them in atlanta, since I have never been to one and can’t copy completely even if that were possible or desireable, I am curious.

    What kind of hi-jinx do y’all get up to at those things, beyond the people talking and showing stuff?

  • whitney pastorek says:

    J.S.: A very important factor in the planning of your Little Gray Ripoff series is to have one youngish blond girl in the audience who craves attention and consequently will work way too hard to win all contests, auctions, and tests, thus earning her a place in the hearts and minds of all those in attendance, and the occasional snarky personal remark from the host. See, people love an underdog.

  • matters of planning

    At this point, I am hoping for anyone at all to be in the audience. If I am able to achieve that, I will then desire motivated enjoyers of the evening who will want to take part in games, tests, and auctions I now realize I should arrange to have. It will then take me a while to build up to snarkiness toward said enjoyers, except for the actually friendly kind, which is what I hope the youngish blond girl you mention got.

  • oh, and, I am at work so why not.

    Ms. Pastorek- I tried and succeded in winning a contest, myself.

    Also, I remembered there were questions posed in an earlier part of this.

    1) What was your spookiest moment listening to the radio?

    -Something about the US military on art bell, listening late at night with my ex-military loved one silent beside me. probably one of his gulf war syndrome shows. That or something to do with the North or South Pole.

    2) Would you prefer to be invisible or to have the power of flight?

    -Flight. People usually don’t look up, so you could fly AND be essentially invisible.

    3) Are any of you vampires?

    -Yes, though not me.

    4) Have you ever called into a talk radio program, and what was it like?

    - Yes. It sucked. It filled me with feelings of guilt and embarrasment that I would dare to think anyone could give a flying foo what I had to say about anything. I hung up while on hold, then disdained most of those whose calls were taken.

    5) Is the web a satisfactory substitute for radio?

    - Definitely not until I have a better web connection, maybe then. I will also need the web in my car if it is to substitute for radio. Though, you might have left this open purposefully. "Substitute for radio" is ambiguous. My first response was to question whether the web could be the thing I listen to while working at home or driving. On further reflection, if the function of radio is defined as something broader: what gives me my news, what blows my mind, what reassures me that I am not a tool of the entertainment conglomerates, where future society is born and bandied about, then I would say yes, that those functions are for me served in combination by radio and by web, and web has certain other possibilities that can take it beyond radio.

    One of its main advantages is the lack of physical control- say, thinking about them changing the rules for how many radio stations and other media any one entitiy can own in a given geographical area. As far as that goes, there are big advantages on the web, at least for now. It is very difficult to stop information- they can trace things later, sure, but it is hard to stop it.

    6) Which one of you people is going to buy me a Grundig Sattelit 800 SW/AM/FM radio, not long ago described as "the most anticipated radio in the past few decades?" For I do not feel I can go on for much longer without it.

    - Not me, unless I win some big prize.

  • John Hodgman says:
    correct

    I cannot overstate the importance of certain people in the audience, flipping me the bird in the darkness.

    Jh

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Wait. Am I really the only vampire on this thread?

  • John Hodgman says:
    what reassures me that I am not a tool of the entertainment conglomerates

    Hello, JS

    Yes. At the risk of sounding horribly paranoid, it is this possibility of being pawn to conglomerates that is most on my mind lately, except when I am thinking about my machine to slow down time.

    You may know that I was once a professional literary agent. You certainly know that nearly all mainstream publishing now exists as an arm or other limb of a giant media company, typically a German one. During my brief time as a high powered media insider, I regularly laughed off the suggestion that somehow the books we had a hand in publishing were controlled by a bilderberger-like coporate agenda–the level of incompetence and laziness I encountered daily just made it seem too implausible.

    Now that I am on the outside and have been for some time, it is hard to maintain this casual attitude. There is still plenty of laziness and incompetence, and also dedication and good taste, on an individual level and in all media; occasionally, these things conspire to allow good and beautiful things to escape. But I can no longer laugh off the clear and primary mission of most mainstream media: to make us care more about Tom Cruise’s braces than our very souls. And it does this with such unrelenting and unapologetically crass zeal that I can only conclude that I was missing something all along, or that it all went to hell the moment Hodgman was no longer there to keep it in check. I suspect the latter.

    As for getting an audience in Atlanta, I also have as suspicion: you will thrive. There are good writers there, a small and dedicated arts community, and little competition by way of literary readings. That is, at least, until my Little Gray Franchises start opening up on every block of your peach tree town, all offering the same canned music, coffee, comfy couches, and Todd Pruzan cameos, each with a little picture of Whitney on the wall flipping me the bird. Then I shall triumph. Until then, you shall shine.

    Jh

  • the number one argument

    The number one argument against any conspiracy theory ever:

    "the level of incompetence and laziness I encountered daily just made it seem too implausible."

    However, without resorting to saying "That’s just what they want you to think!", one must acknowledge that humans have been organizing themselves and kicking booty to accomplish common goals for a long time, and we are pretty good at it. It takes relatively few competent and motivated people with an organization at their command to perpetrate unsurpassed nastiness. Without folks who use their powers only for good -the entertainment conglomerates have no reason to consider abstract limits to their business models and goals.

    It is everywhere. At a bookstore I used to work at, the boss would call books "units." [granted, that was the same boss who wanted to fire whoever had written "good customer service means never hitting back!" on the whiteboard in the breakroom- which was me- and was himself later fired for not moving enough "units"]

    What reportage emerges (on public tv and radio) about how the conglomerates work seems to focus on NEWS and all that- which is an issue. The less tangible aspects of culture (music, lit, etc, and especially what used to be meant by criticism) are threatened – eroded really – insidiously almost. [even darth sidiously].

  • Shauna McKenna says:
    can I just say?

    >3) Are any of you vampires?

    >-Yes, though not me.

    Perfect.

    When Mr. Hodgman said, long ago, that the unruliness of the web may be giving rise to dubiously credited "celebrities" and the like, I think he hit on exactly how the subculture is making creativity persist and disseminate, far better than photocopied zines or single-city poetry readings of the past.

    Okay. So the media comglomerates have pigeonholed "literary fiction" and "debut fiction" and "adult contemporary music" and "investigative reporting" and "lifestyle programming" and "urban humor" and "sadomasochistic story hour" … but hey, viva the worldwide web! It’s still pretty painless for an aspiring whatever to run a whatever web page, and the best marketing is still via word of mouth (or word of keyboard, as the case may be). My point? Play not the dirge yet. We write. We read. We traverse the transom. Broadband will become more accessible, I’m sure of it. We will donate, as we are able, to far-flung independent radio stations and miscellaneous arts organizations as we enjoy improved technology and reception.

    Take THAT, BMG!

  • Woo!

    and how!

    "It’s still pretty painless for an aspiring whatever to run a whatever web page, and the best marketing is still via word of mouth (or word of keyboard, as the case may be"

    It is indeed. I have schlepped my way to a somewhat nationwide project on my homepage ( http://www.jsassociate.com ) by means of the www– often by emailing strangers, lurking in chatrooms, and only a little by actually putting up flyers and distributing promotional cards.

  • John Hodgman says:
    where is Ryan? where is Jake?

    I will address these important issues of unruly webs and unfair pigeonholes, but I am right now wondering what became of Jake, friend to Cuervo Man and former radio producer. What is he doing now? Today?

    And what became of this "Ryan?" And when will he explain why Opie and Anthony has changed the face of radio?

  • bw says:
    i’m no secratary BUT

    Jake is sitting right next to me as I type this.. we are (he is) listening to experts talk about internet law…

    Jake is very very busy this week…

    they are gonna turn the computer into an appliance.. where content will be so controlled – it will be like folgers coffee.. or at least that is what the expert said…

    John I would like to know this – if you started doing your own weekly radio show.. lets say wnyc calls you up and says, "hey, John.. we NEED YOU"

    what would it sound like???

  • Shauna McKenna says:
    oh, it’s me, isn’t it.

    Well, John Hodgman, I’d like to know where the other people are, too, and I’m afraid it’s my fault they’ve gone. They really didn’t need to know what’s for dinner on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.

    Oh, dear.

    For now, I’d just like to wish you a fine time at your Little Gray Books lecture this evening. Wish I could be there.

  • John Hodgman says:
    what would it sound like???

    I hope it would sound something like the very lovely Little Gray Book Lecture we enjoyed last night, especially Todd Pruzan’s piece on sadistic 18th century children’s book author FL Mortimer and Brendan Greeley’s frighteningly insightful powerpoint presentation on lawn mower racing in Germany.

    I’ve been enjoying this conversation, and I’m still eager to a) get someone to admit they are a un-psychic vampire, and b) get some more live feed web radio station recommendations.

    As to your point about folger’s coffee and computers, I have tried to make coffee in my computer many times, and it doesn’t work. Although one of the finest days in broadcasting was when rockapella crooned the folger’s jingle on an imitation city street corner. If only rockapella could come and bring their dulcet, instrumentless, rocking edge to public radio, we perhaps would never have another funding problem.

    I’m going away today, but I will write tomorrow, and from Omaha on Sat, Sun, and Mon, depending on internet access. Thank you all for your kind attention for now. My fondest wishes for In

  • Jay Allison says:

    Not a recommendation for live feed web radio station, but a comprehensive series of articles about why you need one, over at Salon:

    ===========
    Radio’s Big Bully

    "A complete guide to Salon’s reporting on Clear Channel, the most powerful — and some would say pernicious — force in the music industry.

    For the past few months, Salon reporter Eric Boehlert has been tracking the story of Clear Channel Communications, the little-noticed media giant that has quietly taken over the country’s radio and concert industries…."

    For more: http://www.salon.com/ent/clear_channel/

    ============

  • Marlon Perkins

    Mr. Hodgman,

    very cool that the eur v. amer went well. [unable to achieve an appropriate mutual of omaha "wild kingdom" quip].

    1. Re-question- What sorts of things other than people talking have y’all enjoyed at the lectures?

    2. any recommendations on atl-ga folks I might not know to get in touch with? [still trying to finish with a trading card project and get solid on the first prototypical copying event]

    ta!

  • Frank V. Coco says:

    Laurel’s dad here.I was going through This American Life and stumbled across transom and your topic. Radio has been the love of my ears life since childhood. The mystery of sound waves reaching around corners and finding us as we look for them still captivates me. I would rather hear a scratchy voice or symbolically special music on radio than on a very clear CD or tape, prhaps because it is being shared by someones else in an invisible bond between us. Good to learn of your whatabouts if not whereabouts. Frank

  • geeks and dorks

    Hey Hodgman,

    Since you’ve had the chance to work with and be both…

    What’s the difference between radio geeks and literary dorks? is there one?

    It sounds like a lazy question and maybe it is but it’s also an earnest one. Did anything from Radio Consuelo make it’s way over to that other world of professional literature where people paid you actual dollars for your knowledge and skill and ability to put funny into words? What sort of adaptations to your writing have you had to make working for This American Life?

  • Rich Alcott says:
    A brief elucidation

    Hello, Jonathan. I hope you don’t mind if I jump in here and take a crack at this thought-provoking question. Dorks and geeks. A dork can be simply a doofus, an awkward, ungainly person who, perhaps, is unaware of the humorous effect he may have on those around him. I believe term "dork" is solidly male gender specific. There may be no known female dorks and if there are, I am sure there is another term for these individuals. A geek, specifically, is a specialist in a traditional carnival sideshow. The geek was the fellow who would, for a price, bite the head off a live chicken. I swear I’m not making this up. Don’t know what he did with the head once he’d bitten it off. The verb "to snarf," on the other hand, referred to sniffing girls’ bicycle seats outside the public swimming pool in summer. Snarfing was educational back in youth’s halcyon days … so I’m told. I know you didn’t ask about that one. It’s just a little free information.

    A "radio geek," therefore, refers to an entertainer who does the thing for audio broadcast. Although, as with ventriloquism or magic, what’s point to doing it on radio? How do you know the guy isn’t faking it?

    A "literary dork" does it in writing.

    I hope this is helpful.

  • more helpful

    than you’ll ever know. I guess I should stop calling myself a radio geek then. But I’ll have to disagree. Ventriloquism and magic do belong on the radio. As does mime as Joe Frank proved some years ago.

  • helen woodward says:
    I vote Frank gets a tshirt for this lovely quote…

    "Radio has been the love of my ears life since childhood. The mystery of sound waves reaching around corners and finding us as we look for them still captivates me."

    all those in favour say "I".

  • Sydney Lewis says:

    I!

  • Josh Duty says:
    Alexander Payne

    My neighbor is from Omaha. She talks about it often, and invariably segues into: Alexander Payne, Omaha resident. And you mentioned reading About Schmidt, and now you’ve gone to Omaha. Hmm. So, like, are you guys buddies? Will you make movies with him? Why are you in Omaha?!

    KVRX.ORG is worth listening to, sometimes.

  • Susan Jenkins says:
    Magic tricks: community and flight

    Dearest friend, collaborator and fellow Upper Manhattanite,

    I have returned from my long convalescences in the Pine Tree State and wish to congratulate you on your star turn here at the Transom. It pleased me to hear your 18-year-old voice doing things I wish I had been doing at that age. Instead of discussing the virtues of 13% butterfat ice cream and butter grilled bread to unmotivated young teenagers I was teaching to slog ice cream and burgers at Friendly Restaurants throughout southeastern Pennsylvania. It paid well.

    When I first encountered your LGB series last year, I marveled at the magical ability you seemed to possess, the ability to create something that provides not only reliable entertainment and alcohol in a congenial setting, but also generates a sense of community among writers. This was something sorely missed by me, more so than I had realized, since moving from Philadelphia to NY several years ago. In the early 90’s in that fine city a writer friend and his wife owned a bookstore called City Book Shop on college-student-and-antiques laden Pine Street. The unhyped neighborliness of the place and cautious respect for Literature (as opposed to blind devotion) somehow combined to encourage creative types to swing by on a regular basis to see who else was about. It became an impromptu meeting place where people more or less doing the same creative thing liked hanging out. The more you hung out there, the more you felt you were part of something more than a bookstore or reading series. Within a year after they began their reading series other places (bars, restaurants) started their own serieses, sometimes run by writers who had become regulars at CBS. The city’s whole literary scene took on a new life, what some people were calling a Renaissance. It was pretty neat—especially when you felt yourself stepping outside for a moment and imagining this localized literary life (the drugs, the pregnancies, the in-fighting between poets) as a future historical narrative that someone might take seriously in 25 years.

    What are your thoughts on this perception of community among writers and artists? And how does community-generating differ between these live, face-to-face situations like LGB and your various experiences with radio?

    To answer one of your questions: Flight. Because it provides not only the ability, but the sensation of escape. A superpower influences many things, but as you yourself discovered, they are more psychic than physic.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Dammit, doesn’t ANYBODY care that I’m a vampire??

    ( hi susan. )

  • Care in the sense . . .

    If you mean by "care," freaking out and being afraid and calling Dutch paranormal researchers to kill you, then no.

    If you mean, notice and consider adding garlic to shopping list, but otherwise just await further developments with interest, then yes I do care!

  • Susan Jenkins says:

    Here, people can’t just say hi. They have to make some smart remark about their dental abilities. (or a pithy response–hi whitney).

  • John Hodgman says:
    1. Re-question- What sorts of things other than people talking have y’all enjoyed at the lectures?

    "1. Re-question- What sorts of things other than people talking have y’all enjoyed at the lectures? "

    Here are 8 things.

    1. David Guion breaking a bottle over Mike Handelman’s head.
    2. Dave Herman playing a sousaphone.
    3. A video of Ethan Watters sitting in a graveyard explaining bluffing.
    4. A spelling bee, at which Allison Silverman finally faced her nemesis, Chung. (Winning speller: Tanner Colby)
    5. A man dressed in a seagull costume. A different seagull costume than the one I am wearing now.
    6. Brendan Greeley singing "Send In the Clowns" accompanied by Lawrence Krauser on a dying piano.
    7. Mark Smith playing an audio tape of his former roommates fighting.
    8. Mike Daisey drinking a glass of gin, and then discussing snowmobiles.
    9. David Rees discussing the ninja comics of his youth.
    10. Elizabeth Gilbert singing Hank Williams songs, thus revealing that she is, in addition to being a very fine writer, a country music superstar.

    I am very grateful to all of these people for lending their talents to this enterprise. Except the guy in the seagull outfit, who was mysterious and strange.

    "2. any recommendations on atl-ga folks I might not know to get in touch with? [still trying to finish with a trading card project and get solid on the first prototypical copying event] "

    You should look up one JS Van Buskirk. Other than that, I don’t know. My father in law lives there, along with my step-mother-in-law, and while they are both fascinating and intelligent, able to speak definitively on old English literature, they are also retired and done with public speaking.

    Oh, and you have the CNN talent pool to call on: http://www.cnnasiapacific.com/cnni/cnni_highlights/pageinclude/Srattansi/Srattansihk.asp

  • John Hodgman says:
    Laurel’s dad here

    This reference is to my past life as a child in Brookline, Massachusetts, and my friend and Heath School classmate Ms. Laurel Coco.

    Dear Frank V. Coco–it is so nice of you to write. Yes, it is that suspicion that someone else is also listening that makes radio so compelling and reassuring. Listening to recorded sound feels like a much simpler and lonelier transaction.

    Earlier we were talking about similarities and differences between radio and the web. Shauna pointed out that that suspicion of connection with remote souls on radio is made very real and direct on the web. No better evidence of that exists than your very welcome and surprising note. Thank you.

    Please give my best to Laurel!

    Jh

  • John Hodgman says:
    What’s the difference between radio geeks and literary dorks? is there one?

    Answering a question like this requires a great deal of Venn diagramming, which, like sleight of hand and ventriloquism, makes for great radio, but it’s difficult for me to do in ASCII on a bulletin board. But as I believe you suspect, there’s an awful lot of overlap bewteen these two geek/dork sets. Both love words without pictures, and I leave what to make of that commitment to non-visual artforms to you.

    As for your other earnest/lazy questions.

    1. "Did anything from Radio Consuelo make it’s way over to that other world of professional literature where people paid you actual dollars for your knowledge and skill and ability to put funny into words?"

    Except for my contribution to the briefly published Starbucks literary magazine "Joe," which was sweating dollars for four issues or so, I have never been paid for funny. I suppose in a more general sense the experience of being a DJ allowed me to get used to the sound of my own voice, and this is good because I like to read aloud when I write. I mainly wish that I could drop in clips from old radio serials into my regular conversations. Just a simple comment from a mad scientist on the hypno-metallophone says so much more than I could ever put into words.

    (I dreamed while in Omaha that I was listening to WMFO, and that they were using those same drop-ins that I taped so long ago. In my dream I thought: I cannot wait to write about this on Transom)

    2. "What sort of adaptations to your writing have you had to make working for This American Life?"

    I have had to learn how to do something that is very hard for me: get to the point. There is little time in radio for dithering, and as this is true about life as well, this is a very good lesson to have learned.

  • re-question answered, thank-ee!

    Cool!

    "Oh, and you have the CNN talent pool to call on:
    http://www.cnnasiapacific.com/cnni/cnni_highlights/pageinclude/Srattansi/Srattansihk.asp "

    Excellent point!
    If I can’t get the former Miss Alabama I am hoping to have present at "Promote Your Self," this man is next on the list.

    i gratuitous abuse of non-airwaves: the trading cards are developed and a lucky few can get a set absolutely free by mail, just ask

  • Susan Jenkins says:
    re: singing

    I have this to share:

    disney.com/bears

    You know who you are.

  • John Hodgman says:
    dorks v. geeks

    Without discounting Alcott’s historically accurate definition of geek, the evolution of the term has supplied a new dichotomy, never better elucidated than here: http://www.catandgirl.com, or specifically here: http://wso.williams.edu/~dgambrel/catgirl/cgoed.gif

    You will enjoy this. It has nothing to do with radio, however.

  • John Hodgman says:
    omaha

    You are confused. I am no longer in Omaha. I am now in New York. But you are correct: everyone in Omaha speaks of Alexander Payne, as everyone in Buenos Aires speaks of Borges, particularly the film that Borges directed that is called "Election."

    I will listen to the station you recommend.

  • John Hodgman says:
    the virtues of 13% butterfat ice cream and butter grilled bread

    First of all, the above requires no defense. These things are unassailable.

    Second of all, who do you mean by "sometimes run by writers who had become regulars at CBS"?

    Third of all, w/r/t "this perception of community among writers and artists?", my fear is that it is in fact only a perception of community, in the same way a long night and too much whiskey creates among two strangers a perception of sudden, close friendship, especially if a car chase is involved as well.

    When communities spring up, especially among artists, they are organic, natural, undesigned; when you call them communities, they tend to have already disbanded. They are something we remember, perhaps rosily and falsely, or perhaps truly, rather than something we continue to experience.

    It is for this reason that we reliably provide alcohol, as you point out–to offset this erosion of intimacy.

  • John Hodgman says:
    Dammit, doesn’t ANYBODY care that I’m a vampire??

    I cannot provide a better answer to this than Van Buskirk’s. I will take a "wait and see" attitude toward your vampirism.

  • John Hodgman says:
    all those in favour say "I".

    I

  • John Hodgman says:
    Suitable Questions

    I should say now that Susan’s question regarding community building among artists was a very thoughtful, interesting question, but also very hard to answer, especially because I am sleepy.

    For the next day or so, I would like to focus on easy questions that have answers. Here are some suitable questions:

    1) What is your new favorite sandwich?
    2) How many messages are on your answering machine right now?
    3) Did you see a movie today?
    Follow-Up Question) Which movie?
    4) How does radio work?
    5) Do werewolves sleep as werewolves, or do they revert to human form when they fall asleep?

    Anything in this vein would be appropriate until I get back on my mental feet and start wearing pants again.

    That is all.

  • helen woodward says:
    The eyes have it….

    the tshirt is already en route to laurel’s dad.

  • Anaheed Alani says:

    Everyone knows that werewolves only wolf out once a month, during the full moon (and the nights before and hence) and it’s only at night. They are normal people who can go to high school and be in rock bands during the day.

    I will see a movie later. It will probably be The Powerpuff Girls.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    1. Chicken salad

    2. 0

    3. no.

    follow-up: oh, rub it in, why don’t you?

    4. pixie dust

    5. Anaheed nailed that one. I can’t even pretend to know. Hell, I thought there could be more than one Slayer at once. I’m not the smartest of vampires. Actually, I don’t even think it’s about smartness: I think I just don’t retain.

  • Anaheed Alani says:

    Dear Whitney,

    1. Buffy

    2. Faith

    Case closed.

  • five questions

    1) What is your new favorite sandwich?

    I am very impressed that you knew I have a new favorite sandwich as of yesterday. Though, given your super metal powers, I am not surprised. Mondo Bakery on Howell Mill Rd. has a date/brie/prosciutto/basil sammie that is really good.

    2) How many messages are on your answering machine right now?

    maybe one. maybe more.

    3) Did you see a movie today?

    No, but the night is young.

    Follow-Up Question) Which movie?

    I will soon be eating dinner with folks who are seeing "Road to Perdition" right now. I might watch "Usual Suspects" again tonight while I, what else, make more trading cards that people can get from me.

    4) How does radio work?

    Radio WORKS like this: "Sashay! Chantay! Sashay – Chantay – Sashay!!"

    5) Do werewolves sleep as werewolves, or do they revert to human form when they fall asleep?

    Anaheed is entirely correct. So, yeah, the werewolf gets done wolfing, it goes to sleep as a wolf but wakes up in human form and proceeds to accept film roles of uneven quality.

    BTW- Vampires don’t need to retain, as long as they can totally kick butt.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    >Dear Whitney,

    1. Buffy

    2. Faith

    Case closed.

    But Anaheed… oh, nevermind. I’m quite sure there’s a better place for this discussion.

  • yeah! cause Kendra… oh well. I guess here isn’t the right place.

  • Anaheed Alani says:

    Sorry John Hodgman.

  • Jay Allison says:
    Archived in Perpetuity for the Good of Future Generations

    I’ll go out on a limb and say that today’s exchange might not make it into The Transom Review. Of course, it will depend on the phase of the moon.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Yeah, sorry dad.

  • Anaheed Alani says:

    Sorry Jay Allison.

    Though I submit that John Hodgman was asking for it with all his questions about vampires and werewolves.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Yeah, what she said.

  • Susan Jenkins says:
    CBS=City Book Shop, now retired

    phooey Hodgman, you’re just keeping secrets again.

    Hope you had a nice trip, anyway.

  • Shauna McKenna says:
    Posterity.

    Are we supposed to say wise things? Is that the idea? I am the posterior of posterity, I’m afraid to say, Jay Allison. The best I can do is answer the questions as itemized.

    1) What is your new favorite sandwich?

    Marmite.

    That’s a lie.

    2) How many messages are on your answering machine right now?

    Zero new, I think about 19 old.

    3) Did you see a movie today?

    No, but I saw a delightful, short TV documentary, part of the "Back to the Floor" series. It involved CEOs doing time in the trenches. It made me grin.

    Follow-Up Question) Which movie?

    See I just automatically ramble.

    4) How does radio work?

    Um, transmission, something something, airwaves, something something, reception.

    5) Do werewolves sleep as werewolves, or do they revert to human form when they fall asleep?

    I recall seeing some naked Seth Green at some point, defurred. I do not regret those minutes of my life one bit.

  • Shauna McKenna says:
    and:

    John Hodgman, for the love of god, put on some pants.

  • Jay Allison says:

    >Yeah, sorry dad.

    Don’t make me come over there…

  • Andy Knight says:

    The thing about radio is that it provides you with an opportunity to go online and post things in the hopes of obtaining free t-shirts. While a bit more time consuming than a simple trip to Target, you can’t argue with the results. This is, perhaps, radio’s greatest societal influence. If Morning Edition would pick up on this theory I’m sure that they would be nationwide in no time at all.

  • Shauna McKenna says:

    Do we get to choose the t-shirt? Can it say I St. Louis?

  • cw says:
    this is the truest thing i’ve read on transom lately

    that’s it. it’s so true. what andy knight said about going online to get a tshirt. that’s why i still come to transom…and i really think they owe me one.

  • Jay Allison says:
    Oversight Committee

    cw, have you not gotten a shirt?? That’s a flaw in the system. You will receive one for Steady Service. And, remember, they come in different colors and sleeve lengths. Incentives for the future.

    My question: Do "thank you" gifts make you contribute to public radio?

  • Andy Knight says:

    >Do "thank you" gifts make you contribute to public radio?

    For me, they determine when I contribute. During February, when every gift ranges from Roses, Chocolates, or B&B weekends, there is no chance that my wallet will open. Also, the pledge breaks on weekdays feature pretty lame gifts… coffeemugs, All Songs Considered CDs. TAL has the best stuff– remember the tattoos and secret decoder wheels? Someday I hope that they come out with some TAL lunchboxes and action figues.

  • Mark Anderson says:
    Car Talk?

    This question is only tangentially (read: not at all) related to whatever the topic now is, but it’s something that’s been haunting me for years, and maybe I can get an answer.

    I grew up around Boston and my father’s been a Car Talk fan from almost the start (and likes to tell people about how he went to the Magliozzi’s do-it-yourself garage in Cambridge), so Car Talk was on a lot when I was a kid. In the pre-nationwide-distribution days, I sort of vaguely remember that they did shows where there were no calls. (I don’t know whether this was planned or whether they just didn’t get any calls that day). I have this extremely dim recollection that once they did an hour-long skit with a main character named Ivan Pullyourpantsov (sp?). I seem also to remember an extended joke about a Yugo-knockoff called a Nogo.

    Um, so, is there any chance that I’m not just imagining this?

  • Frank V. Coco says:

    Thank you for the T-shirt. It was somewhat baffling to get it since I didn’t understand why. Had I donated on my credit card number inadvertently, made a contribution on one of my fugues or just been a mistaken identity? Only now on returning from a brief trip to nyc did it dawn on me to touch in on transom and realize Helen Woodward’s (your)graciousness.Thank you twice and more for the fun of being published on non-scientific stuff which is usually just for myself or letter- writing friends. Who are you guys ? Serendipity rules. Glad I found youse. Frank

  • Frank V. Coco says:
    Five questions

    1.Peppered Tomato and avocado on toasted wholewheat. Or a Reuben
    2.seven
    3.yes Grand Hotel
    4.by waving
    5.they do not sleep when they werewolves

    Frank

  • John Hodgman says:
    thank you Jay,

    For taking over sober discussion leading duties while I was either away or not wearing pants.

    I should clarify that the questions I posed were sample questions of the sort that you might ask me. And you are still welcome to. But I confess I am surprised and happier now to now know all your favorite new sandwiches. I like sandwiches, and these sound good, and it also reminds me that this is a true two way medium, and that is another difference between web and radio.

    However, I cannot promise to use this sandwich information only for good.

  • John Hodgman says:
    "thank you gifts"

    This is a good question: do thank you gifts work?

    I became a member of WNYC many years ago in order to get the mug, and it is a nice mug. But I was mainly moved to call that time because I knew that my friend Sam Potts was volunteering, and that I might get him on the phone. This is exactly what happened, and we had a nice conversation, and I also had the pleasure of surprising Potts, briefly, to silence.

    If we all had a personal friend to call during pledge week, I think that would be a more powerful incentive than tote bags, in that that would makes real the illusion that the tote bag attempts to achieve: a sense of connection and community; that we are all out here toting things for our friends at public radio.

    It is strange, if you are educated in the communistic liberal arts, to accept that merchandise equates with community. But anyone who has a Dokken concert t-shirt understands this, as I now understand it better in possession of these wonderful transom t-shirts.

    You can find Little Gray Book T-shirts as well, and I truly make them available only to spread this kind of joy. But do you know that apart from those I’ve purchased myself, and those I’ve given away, we have never sold one?

    I am glad now that, as much as I would have liked an openletters.net t-shirt, Tough did not commit his enterprise to the flag of beefy tees.

    That is all for now.

  • John Hodgman says:
    hello Mark Anderson

    I know that you are a Boston resident, as I once was. And I do not recall these single subject "Car Talk" episodes, I am glad at least to have confirmation that this was, indeed, as I remember, once a purely bay state show.

  • David Greene says:
    Mark, you’re not imagining it

    Hey Mark,

    Yes, back in the early days, "Car Talk" was a lot, uh, looser. There was no Producer, and the guys would pretty much do whatever they felt like, including taking calls, or not. I don’t think it was planned, or due to a lack of calls (I filled in enginering a few times, and the phones started ringing, as soon as they opened their mouths), but, simply because they didn’t get around to them. You’re also correct about the "Ivan" show…I was actually doing an archiving project here last year, and came across it. Truly an hour that felt like three.

    Sincerely,

    David Greene
    Associate Producer
    Car Talk
    Cambridge, MA

  • David Greene says:
    oh, forgot to ask

    Does providing a helpful answer qualify one for a t-shirt?

  • Mark Anderson says:
    Thank you! (also, t-shirts)

    You’re also correct about the "Ivan" show…I was actually doing an archiving project here last year, and came across it. Truly an hour that felt like three.

    I am so, so happy to have an answer to this question. I’d asked my father about it a while ago and he looked at me like I was crazy. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is easily the most useful piece of information I’ve gotten through the web in months.

    You can find Little Gray Book T-shirts as well, and I truly make them available only to spread this kind of joy. But do you know that apart from those I’ve purchased myself, and those I’ve given away, we have never sold one?

    Are these CafePress shirts? I run a little free online book lending library and recently put up CafePress stuff for sale, and I’ve had the same results — not a single one bought. It might be because people know CafePress shirts are of, uh, less than perfect quality, but I don’t know.

  • Jay Allison says:
    shirts and more shirts

    >Does providing a helpful answer qualify one for a t-shirt?

    The dispensing of t-shirts is indexed to merit and subject to whim, but in your case, David, the answer is yes, based in part on the happiness of Mark Anderson.

  • Andy Knight says:

    The thing about radio The Little Gray Book Series is that it provides you with an opportunity to go online and post things in the hopes of obtaining free t-shirts. While a bit more time consuming than a simple trip to Target, you can’t argue with the results. This is, perhaps, radio’s John Hodgman’s greatest societal influence. If Morning Edition Neal Pollack would pick up on this theory I’m sure that they he would be nationwide in no time at all.

    Also, I too would have loved an Openletters.net shirt. I had to settle for being quoted in two of the Editor’s letters during the final week. Needless to say, that doesn’t exactly keep my shoulders free of sunburns.

  • Can’t we leave Neal Pollack out of this? Haven’t you all had enough of him already?

    And on the subject of pledge drive giveaways. Does the totebag exist in any other universe anymore? How often besides the fruit market and the lake is there a need to tote? The t-shirts are always too big. Go with the mug I say. Yup, the mug. Or Andy’s brilliant suggestion of the action figures if those ever come along.

    Oh and Hodgman if you’re still taking recommendations… wcbn.org. They ramble a bit and talk too close to their cheap mics but there’s moments of magic. It’s the source of that coyote record I mentioned ages ago.

  • Andy Knight says:
    lunchboxes. Big metal lunchboxes.

    >The t-shirts are always too big.

    No, they fit perfectly… Hey! Are you callin’ me fat?! That’s it, outta the pool, Menjivar!

  • cw says:
    re: shirts, shirts, and more shirts

    t-shirts don’t make me give to public radio b/c where i live they don’t give t shirts and if they did beethoven would be on them for some reason. i give during shows i think i like more than other people in my town b/c i fear they will take those shows away and run car talk and thistle and shamrock even MORE than they already do and we’re at a saturation point w/that here in new orleans.

    but i’m throwing away clothes by the handful to make room for my transom shirt. and no, getting a transom shirt doesn’t keep me around, b/c i’ve been around sporadically for over a year w/ no shirt or hope for one! so my masochism and the Good Company keep me around i suppose. and propensity to occasionally argue.

  • cw says:
    i will also take this opportunity to state once and for all that public radio in mississippi is better than in new orleans and how sad is that?

    bashing mississippi is what people in louisiana do and bashing alabama and louisiana is what people in mississippi do.

    now if mississippi somehow has gotten better public radio than in new orleans i have to claim station mismanagement. why do they have more shows in rural mississippi than in new orleans? perhaps this is not the correct forum for this but i just spent 2 days driving across mississippi and noticed they had about 3-4 more shows than in new orleans.

    yet new orleans has far more npr contributors, not to mention entire shows like American Routes that are made here. now is also the time to mention that our npr station didn’t even start PLAYING american routes until they were forced to by shame.

    i usually give to our npr but i’m having problems sending my check in this year. my check is late actually and may never get sent, t-shirt or not

  • John Hodgman says:
    truly an hour that felt like three

    David Greene,

    It is very good to hear from you on this matter. Will we ever get to hear this material? Or can we purchase it now, with our t-shirts?

    A serious inquiry by
    hodgman

  • John Hodgman says:
    totebags

    Menjivar

    Tote bags are commonly distributed as giveaways within the publishing industry, presumably because they are the perfect size for carrying authors’ heads in.

    Anderson

    Cafepress is correct. I realize the cognoscenti on these matters scorn; and there are actual tee shirt snobs who no longer talk to me because of my rejection of the silk screen process. But I am looking for maxium shirtage with minimum overhead.

    C-press also offers tote bags on which to mount your logo. I wish, though, that they also offered:

    Grundig Satellit 500 radios
    onesies/baby tees
    parachutes
    live lobsters
    Kloss Model One Table radios
    the sky
    childlike curiosity
    polo shirts

  • bashing, etc.

    " bashing mississippi is what people in louisiana do and bashing alabama and louisiana is what people in mississippi do. "

    I must point out that bashing Alabama (most), Mississippi (a lot), and Louisiana (for different reasons) is what people in Georgia do. I was born here and live here now, and will concede that even though Georgia believes it is somehow fabulous compared to these other states comprising the real south, which does not include Florida or Texas, Georgia does not have better public radio shows than any of those states. Driving from ATL to Dallas last summer, we only started hearing new and better shows past Birmingham, and lots in Texas.

    PS- Mr. Hodgman, if you make Little Gray Books lectures baby-tees and onesies, I will get some, because I plan to have children in the next few years, and I want my babies to have super mental powers.

    PPS- And give that Andy a t-shirt, goo-darnit- the "I’ll romance the crap out of you" line has charmed the socks off me.

  • Mark Anderson says:
    shirts

    childlike curiosity
    polo shirts

    They do have polo shirts! They call them golf shirts, but they look like polo shirts to me. And they sell a weirdly lopsided flying disc (Frisbee®), which is basically the same thing as childlike curiosity.

    But I am looking for maximum shirtage with minimum overhead.

    I’ll spare you the Marie Antoinette joke.

  • Andy Knight says:

    >PPS- And give that Andy a t-shirt, goo-darnit- the "I’ll romance the crap out of you" line has charmed the socks off me.

    I have my Transom shirts and I wear and stain them proudly. My obvious ploy to obtain more shirts was nothing more than a joke. I want Transom shoes. Unless, of course, they happen to have any shirts made out of glass or mahogany.

  • Cool. I will turn my attention to getting my own smallish t-shirt.

  • David Greene says:
    mmm…not likely

    The question was: Will we ever get to hear this material?

    The answer is, probably not. Those early "Car Talk" shows weren’t air-checked at WBUR. The tapes that have gotten to us were recorded off the air on cheap cassettes by someone getting lousy reception. They might make for a "Lost and Found Sound" in, say, 2050…

  • Shauna McKenna says:

    Jay Allison: No, premiums don’t incent me. The only factor in my decision to pledge or no is whether I’m employed. Sadly, this is not a cutesy, rhetorical way of saying I always pledge. Sigh. Anyone own a coffee shop in Philadelphia? I make a mean cappuccino…

    John Hodgman: Okay, I have a question for you in your capacity as a Former Professional Literary Agent. I’ve held back because I generally prefer to talk about sandwiches. But really, this is something I want to know.

    If a short story writer is seeking a publisher for his or her collection, is it really worthwhile to find an agent? I hear many disheartening stories from fine, fine writers about agents approaching them, and then deciding the stories aren’t cohesive enough for a marketable book. It seems to me that an agent is more worried about money than many short story writers, who generally have found some other way of keeping them in sandwiches.

    And that leads to a sub-question: How important is it for a writer to sign his or her first book with a big commercial publisher, as opposed to a quality (but possibly low-profile) independent concern?

    (These are more hypothetical than they seem. As of today, I’d have a manuscript the size of a wine list. But I’m working to change that.)

  • John Hodgman says:
    to shauna regarding your wine list

    "As of today, I’d have a manuscript the size of a wine list. But I’m working to change that."

    Unfortunately, publishers have discovered that publishing a wine list is likely more profitable venture than publishing a book of short stories. Collections very rarely make money, and are usually only published in order to flatter a promising writer into writing a novel. These also rarely make money, but less rarely, and in the blind gamble of publishing, that makes all the difference.

    For this reason, agents, who like you also want to be employed, are certainly shy about selling a book of short stories unless a) there is also a novel to sell; b) they can convince someone that the collection of short stories is actually a novel; or c) one or more of the short stories has been published in the New Yorker, which apparently makes publishers crazy and compels them to pay 20 year old writers millions and millions of dollars.

    Luckily, there are many things you can do without an agent, including:
    -submit to the New Yorker (though agented material will be read 1st)
    -submit to all sorts of other magazines
    -become a successfully published short story author
    -publish a book with a small, independent press
    -attract the attention of an agent who will perhaps offer to sell your book of stories but will always, secretly hope you will write a novel
    and also
    -love, kiss, dance, breathe, and otherwise enjoy life.

    But, if you want to sell a book to a publisher, you will enjoy having an agent. It would be unseemly for you to scream into the phone for money money money, and as well, reading contracts is boring.

    As for your sub-question, there are wonderful rewards to publishing with a small, independent house–they offer care, attention, and a small but typically active readership that they know well. What they don’t offer is those huge Bertelsmann dollars. Whether it’s your first or your ninth book, this will always tempt you.

  • John Hodgman says:
    Those early "Car Talk" shows weren’t air-checked at WBUR

    David Greene

    If it is not a story that everyone already knows by heart, perhaps you can explain to me how those car men became famous broadcasters.

    Jh

  • Shauna McKenna says:

    JH: I thank you for your wonderful response. I will keep putting one. word. after. the. other.

  • John Hodgman says:
    I will keep putting one. word. after. the. other.

    But please do not put periods between all of them, as that would be incorrect.

    You’re welcome, of course.

  • Cindy Closkey says:
    I’ve learned so much here

    I’ve been lurking on this discussion for some time, reading but not contributing anything, and feeling increasingly guilty about it. (Shauna, you ask great questions.)

    Fortunately, I now have some knowledge to share:

    It’s startlingly easy to host a literary event, at least a small one. I held a reading/party for a literary magazine this past weekend, in a small town in western Pennsylvania. The key: Send several advance emails to people who like to read and to listen (and who don’t mind receiving email). Also, seed the audience with friends, including those from out of state who are overdue to visit you anyway.

    Also, since no one seems to have asked yet: John Hodgman, what is your new favorite sandwich?

  • Andy Knight says:

    John, the history of Cartalk can be found right HERE.

  • Shauna McKenna says:

    >Shauna, you ask great questions.

    Thanks, Cindy! That’s going on my resume right now in the "Special Skills" section.

    Your literary evening sounds like a jolly good time. Did anyone sing? I wrote a few lines of singing into a story that I was going to be reading once because I thought it would be "exciting." It was a bad call. I was terrified to a degree that humans should not experience unless head-to-head with monsters and the like. (I just saw Whitney Pastorek sing, as part of a reading, not too long ago. Whitney? Are you still around? Were you skeered, more so than usual, or not at all because you are A Theater Professional?)

  • David Greene says:
    how it began

    Jh asks:

    "If it is not a story that everyone already knows by heart, perhaps you can explain to me how those car men became famous broadcasters."

    Sure…back around 1978, or thereabouts, a guy named Vic Wheatman invited a group of "experts" from different areas to appear on a call-in "advice" show on WBUR. I think there was supposed to be a home repair guy, a stereo repair guy, and others. As it turned out, Tom Magliozzi (for some reason, invited as the auto repair guy) was the only one to actually show up. So, Tom did the show, and, for some reason was invited back. Tom agreed to do it, but, only if Ray would join him. Ray agreed to do it, and, the rest, as they say, is history…or, the beginning of the end, if you’d prefer.

  • Cindy Closkey says:
    jolly good time

    Shauna: There was no singing at my event, unfortunately. A sing-along would have been a great idea. I’ll plan that into the next one.

    In the short stories I’ve written there isn’t any singing, but I do have a story in which the narrator overhears people having sex. I haven’t yet worked up the nerve to read it in public. I’m blushing just typing this.

    On your singing-story debut, even though you were terrified, perhaps people didn’t notice. The audience is generally sympathetic — maybe it was actually the moment that carried the story. Or, maybe it really wasn’t the right choice. Did you get any feedback afterwards?

  • Dave Barber says:
    SERIOUS QUESTIONS for Hodgman

    Besides your favorite sandwich, and whether you’re a werewolf (because if I remember right, you said that you weren’t a werewolf at the time, just a Professional Literary Agent, but you didn’t say whether you have since been tainted with an unholy curse or something), what do you think about the current state of public radio?

    That’s a broad question, so let me be more specific: What do you like/dislike about the current nationally distributed shows? Local shows? Can/does Big (national) public radio harness the energy of cool local shows without blandifying them? What kind of experiences did you have with This American Life? Some people on this board don’t like TAL and others probably prefer it to ambrosia; what do you think about it?

  • John Hodgman says:
    Cindy Closkey

    Forgive the late reply.

    on readings, your recipe for success is absolutely correct. Whether on stage, on page, or on the radio, it is best to presume first that only your friends or your enemies are listening. Intimacy results, and should non-interested parties then show up, that is (to carry on the culinary metaphor) delicious gravy.

    on sandwiches, the true answer is: mesclun and anchovies on toast. Please note: do not use tinned anchovies, except in emergencies.

  • John Hodgman says:
    the history of car talk

    Thank you Andy and David.

    Out of curiosity, who was the stereo repair guy? Can we get him on the air immediately? Does anyone repair stereos anymore? Or TVs? VCRs? Radios? Don’t we just sell these on ebay now and buy new ones?

  • John Hodgman says:
    I do have a story in which the narrator overhears people having sex. I haven’t yet worked up the nerve to read it in public. I’m blushing just typing this.

    Now we all are blushing.

    You should call a local sex therapist and have them read that part. Or, if there is dialogue between the sex participants, get two sex therapists. Especially handy: a husband and wife team.

    As for singing, I suspect that you are correct about Shauna’s skewed perception. Singing never sounds the way we hear it in our head; and I am working on a theory that we always are singing a different song than the one we think we are singing. That, at least, would explain the looks.

  • John Hodgman says:
    What do you like/dislike about the current nationally distributed shows? Local shows? Can/does Big (national) public radio harness the energy of cool local shows without blandifying them?

    Dear Dave Barber,

    Thank you for your serious question. Serious questions are always welcome.

    Typically, my rule is that serious questions get phony answers. Phony questions get serious answers. But for this week, the reverse shall be true. This is how I keep everyone guessing and rule by terror.

    Here is the serious answer:

    Professionally speaking, I am primarily a public radio listener. My experiences with This Am. Life amounts to several phone conferences, and then some hours spent in a tiny linen-closet-turned-recording-studio in an upper west side apartment. This is not very different from my ordinary life, except when I sit in the closet with a microphone there is typically no recording equipment, and only the cats are listening.

    So I am not really any more qualified to comment on this matter than you are. I am not exactly an "insider," and hesitate to critique radio programs as though I know how they are made. As far as I know, they are made of magic and string.

    That said, I don’t think that local shows suffer when brought to a larger audience; what’s lost is a sense of local nuance, and the local listenership will occasionally feel sad, as Mark A and I do to no longer have the loose and local Boston-only-era Car Talk.

    But these losses, I think, are negligible and not measurable by most scientific instruments. I enjoy Car Talk. I would rather have it here in New York than the satisfaction that Tom and Ray never sold out and went to some AM station in Boston in order to keep their shit real.

    An original voice, I think, will typically carry farther than an imitation. And in this regard, if I were to make any critique, I might just say that I think I hear a lot of Tom and Ray in a number of new-ish public radio programs–the ha ha and the forced boisterousness and the elegantly scripted off the cuff cheer–and it does not ever feel as elegant or effortless or natural or right as it does coming out of Tom and Ray’s respective marble mouths.

    I understand: Car Talk is where the money is. And that’s just one example. But, whatever the style of program, I’d much rather listen to different voices revealing a new sensibility than a carefully crafted, professional imitation of something that’s already good.

    I admire WBUR for being willing to capture those voices all those years ago, and this site for attempting to do the same now.

    As for your final question, This American Life, of which I am a great fan, as you might imagine, is also an example of something that was just undeniably new and compelling when you first heard it, and it retains its freshness by constantly seeking out new contributors, viewpoints, stories. I find them to be relentless in this, and I like it, for obvious reasons.

  • John Hodgman says:
    OK, I will stop being coy:

    I cannot speak for anyone else, but I do not feel I need to hear another radio story on “The Langley Schools Music Project.” I love the children, but this has been going on for a year now.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    >Were you skeered, more so than usual, or not at all because you are A Theater Professional?

    Thanks for asking, Shauna. I was not skeered. I was drunk. As you may have noticed, since you have attended and/or participated in many of my readings, professionalism rarely enters into the picture.

    My theory on hosting readings is simple: always assume that the audience has the attention span of a small newborn mammal. That way, the stories that are being read will be the appropriate length to entertain, but not lull the audience to sleep. I also feel that there is certain material, no matter how brilliant when seen on the page, that (to borrow a style from Shauna) should. not. be. read. aloud. And then, you know, the usual showbiz rules apply: start with a bang. leave them wanting more. louder, faster, funnier.

    just kidding with that last one.

    I am about to do a radio project on a group I heard singing in a park near me that is going to kick the Langley Project’s little retro ass. Don’t you worry, Hodgman.

  • Cindy Closkey says:
    showbiz rules

    Whitney, these strike me as fine and practical guidelines for ensuring a fun reading/event. They also remind me of the submission guidelines for This American Life, which I understand to be:

    1) Be surprising.
    2) Punctuate anecdotes with moments of reflection or punchlines, preferably every 45 seconds.
    3) Add music to everything.

    (I’m summarizing of course.)

    My question for everyone: Does the 45-second rule apply to readings, and maybe film and video? Or does seeing someone standing at a microphone or moving around on a screen extend the attention span a little (or shorten it)? Is the overall length of an individual story more important?

    My other question: What material should. not. be. read. aloud?

  • Shauna McKenna says:

    Well, I’m wondering about that last one, too, because I’ve seen some pretty amazing readings of serious material. I think humor works well because, if it’s done right, the reader gets reinforcement from the audience. I think it’s critical that the reader is comfortable.

    Some of the best readings I’ve ever seen:

    (1) Fred Leebron, at the KGB bar, reading a short story called "When It’s You" about a spouse’s diagnosis and demise of cancer. Amazing.

    (2) Zadie Smith at the Housing Works bookstore, reading "Bangs" with They Might Be Giants accompanying her on acoustic guitars.

    (3) Mike Daisey at the McSweeney’s store in Brooklyn, describing severed fingers and being struck by lightning.

  • Ed Page says:
    The opening two paragraphs of an essay written by Robert Benchley in 1929. The essay is called "The Mysteries of Radio."

    >I wouldn’t be surprised if I knew less about radio than any one in the world, and that is no faint praise. There may be some things, like horseshoeing and putting little ships in bottles, which are closed books to me, but I have a feeling that if someone were to be very patient and explain the principles to me I might be able to get the hang of it. But I don’t have any such feeling about radio. A radio expert could come and live with me for two years, and be just as kind and gentle and explicit as a radio expert could be, and yet it would do no good. I simply never could understand it; so there is no good in teasing me to try.

    >As a matter of fact, I was still wrestling with the principle of the telephone when radio came along, and was still a long way from having mastered it. I knew that I could go to a mouthpiece and say a number into it and get another number, but I was not privy to the means by which this miracle was accomplished. Finally I gave up trying to figure it out, as the telephone company seemed to be getting along all right with it, and it was evident from the condition my own affairs were getting in that there were other things about which I had much better be worrying. And then came radio to confuse me further.

  • Jay Allison says:
    thanks

    Ed, how about a t-shirt in exchange for a link to the whole essay?

    Shauna, do you think those great reading moments would have worked on the radio? Can the blind, imagined community of separated listeners substitute for the energy of people in a room? Do the two audiences have fundamentally different needs?

  • John Hodgman says:
    sadly

    Sadly I discovered this morning that one may no longer go to a mouthpiece and say a number into it and get another number. How long has this been the case? It would explain a great number of unreturned telephone calls. Though some will never be explained.

  • John Hodgman says:

    Jay, I do not think it is fair to presume that all listeners of the radio are blind. I have read that some of them are merely mute.

    That said, and having witnessed numbers two and three of Shauna’s "Top 3" list, I think both would have worked on the radio. Indeed, I think the reason they worked so well was because they had, in effect, been radio-fied through the addition of music in one case and and the performative nature of both.

    Music really does help an audience snap to attention. And while it’s true Daisey had the aid of his powerful, hypnotic, eye-to-eye gaze, I think he engaged the audience more through modulation of voice and vocal mood. As well, Daisey does not work from a script. Thus, he was not mumbling, eyes downcast, from a limp paperback in a dreary B&N as though he had never seen the words he had written ever before, which is a shameful practice made only more infuriating by its unforgiveable frequency.

    While I agree that brevity, drunkeness, frequent laugh breaks, and the use of guitars in various ways tends to make literary readings a more enjoyable show, I would hesitate to codify any rules lest it become as ritualized and kabuki like as writing a sit com.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Wow, how often does one see "kabuki" and "sitcom" in the same sentence?

    Yes, I agree with John, that there are no hard and fast rules. But, you know, to all the readers and writers and organizers out there: think about what you would want to hear, were you in the audience, and then read that. We’ve all been to boring mumbly readings, and we’ve all been to happy fun exciting ones. So figure out what the difference is, for you, and do that.

    I will also agree about how music makes things nice. I also think that visual aids help (not on the radio, duh), and so I always encourage the people reading at my events to have one or both of these things. The people that follow that instruction are, invariably, more interesting. Though some people, whose name I won’t mention but whose initials are Shauna McKenna, compensate for an absence of both music and visual aid by reading in a whiskied voice while wearing a red tank top that slips alluringly from their right shoulder throughout. That works, too.

    As for what should. not. be. read. The more I think about that, the more I feel unqualified to answer the question. Just reference my earlier remark about thinking about what you like to hear, and using that as a guide. We will only build others up, here, not cut them down.

  • Shauna McKenna says:
    Blushing.

    Hee.

    Jay, I think all three of the readers I mentioned could do really wonderful things with radio — Zadie Smith with TMBG without modification because (as others have mentioned) the music adds a really engaging layer to the fiction. Heck, I’d say throw in some chilling music at intervals in Fred Leebron’s piece and that’d do it, and sound effects to Mike Daisey (you know, grunts and crashing mallets) and there you go.

    I think the intimacy of the audience depends a lot on where the reading is taking place. John mentioned the publicity tour travesties that are so commonplace at B&N, and from what I’ve seen of readings at the Free Library in Philadelphia (a great big auditorium) the reader has to be three times as good for about half the reciprocated energy. I really love how Neal Pollack has dissected the practice of literary performance, and has worked his kiester off trying to capture the spirit of hip-hop and now, rock, in his (there’s no other word for it) sets. And we’ve heard over and over how John’s featured the bizarre and gleeful in LGB, along with his dead-on deadpan self. There’s a reason you don’t go to rock shows at, say, Virgin records. It’s hard to put spirit and bizarreness and glee into a retail chain. Publicists: Take note.

    But to get back to your question, Jay — I think the magical connection between all the mentioned individuals and live performance and radio possibility is the willingness to entertain. It can translate, sure, with some effort and creativity.

  • Jay Allison says:
    Reading and Thanking

    I hope someone might steer these good readers and others to Transom where we could explore the translation to radio.

    In a moment, we’ll be welcoming new Transom Guests, but I want to say thank you to John Hodgman for all the clever and wise answers he has provided to date. He is welcome to remain here with us in this topic for all eternity waiting, hopefully, for vampires.

  • Ed Page says:

    >Ed, how about a t-shirt in exchange for a link to the whole essay?

    Jay,

    I would love to provide a link to Benchley’s "Mysteries of Radio" essay. However, I am unable to. The essay is not online. I suppose I could type the whole thing out and post it here. It is a fairly long essay and my fingers would be made terribly sleepy from all the typing, but I may just go ahead and do that, since I am super nice and all. Regardless of what I do or do not do, the essay is available in the out-of-print collection Chips Off the Old Benchley.

    On a related note, John Hodgman looks remarkably like the young Robert Benchley. See..H E R E .

  • John Hodgman says:
    Thank you

    Thank you, Jay, and all. I will remain here mumbling to myself in the dark, should any visitor come to hear me.

  • whitney pastorek says:

    Oh, it’s all just so sad now.

  • Ari Vais says:
    give us a tinkle

    Hey John, It’s me, Ari. Member me? Give us a tinkle or drop a line, it would be fun to meet for a drink sometime and catch up – jazzmasterflash@hotmail.com
    yours, ARI VAIS

  • Zack says:
    Mars bar

    I was there recently and a cockroach literally crawled past my drink, struggling over the grafitti carved into the wooden surface of the bar.

  • Sammy says:
    Cuervo Man

    Yes, it seems Ryan is very good at what he does. But it’s all a sad mask covering a very troubled and selfish individual. I have pity for him.

  • Sammy says:
    Being in a pit with Ryan.

    Believe me it would not be fun. He will probably use you and spit you out.

  • Sammy says:
    5 things

    sounds like Ryan has a sex problem.

  • Zachary Baldwin says:
    Werewolves

    Do you really know any real life werewolves?