Stray & Jax (Jax is the dog)
- Check Out the Original Version of Street DogsMatt Perry and Jake Warga sent us this piece a while back. It had a lot of heart, but we at Transom.org felt that its structure to be more suited to print than audio, so we started talking about possible revisions. You can read a bit of our email exchange about this.Jake and Matt were interested in
attempting a revised version, which we are featuring.
Being a quasi-didactic website, we are also interested in production
choices and the evolution of style, so we have also included the
first version for those zealots among you who would
choose to compare and contrast.
Not only that, we’ve included a “slide show” version, which certainly uses more of the Web’s capability, but does it make things better?
When you’re ready to talk about it,
come join the discussion
Rob & Cheebs
Sadie & Ruckus
Notes from Jake
Matt and I share an interest in public radio and have a proclivity
for MiniDiscs-we met by confessing those interests. Documentary
production is a solitary experience, especially when the subject
matter is personal. But working together gave us the confidence that
having a partner brings-the confidence to approach a group of people
in public and ask if we can take them, and their dog, away for a
while to do an interview.
One of us would escort the person and start the interview, while the
other would run and get the promised sandwich and dog biscuits. I
was often the runner, and at the end, the photographer. When editing
time came around, it was good having a partner to split-up doing
transcripts and topical discussions.
[For the first version] We each edited 2 participants, and then I did
the master editing at home on my own time, sharing with Matt as I
finished larger sections. We went back out and, based on what I felt
we needed, get street sounds and street musicians to accompany the
story. For a few weeks, we each carried a recorder in hopes of
capturing a musician or assorted sounds. It took a while since he
works and I was in school full time. For subject matter like this,
having a partner was a good idea. We have no future collaborations
planned-each doing our own stories-but still support each other with
the web site and playing sections of our own projects for comment,
encouragement and support as needed.
Notes from Matt
On a strictly practical level, I would say that Jake took a slight
lead in some of the production tasks — editing, recording music etc.
while I took a slight lead in writing and conducting interviews.
These are just general characterizations of how it worked. There was
no strict division of labor, and we did both do a little bit of
“Blue” in downtown Seattle
The general concept of the piece, and its overall organization were
decided by agreement between us. I am beginning to see this as a
weakness. The piece needed a stronger focus, and I think that in the
course of accommodating each other’s visions, favorite tape, and
editing styles, we may have ended up with a watered-down hybrid of
what each of us would have produced on our own. This is a challenge
that we will have to address when we next collaborate.
For now, we are each working on a couple of stories independently. I
am working on a couple of things. One is the story of people who
have recovered and are recovering from sexual addiction, and the
other about corporate rent-a-cops in downtown Seattle.
About how we recorded: The story was recorded on a Sony MZ-R70
mini-disc recorder. We edited it using the free version of
pro-tools, with some help from SoundEdit16 for Macintosh. We are a
100% freeware/shareware operation. This is mostly a matter of
financial necessity, but is also in part an ideological choice. We
want radio to remain an open medium – a person shouldn’t have to
spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to begin producing. We
certainly didn’t. That said, we really do need to come up with some
money to upgrade our mics. The ones we have right now are atrocious.
Our $80 stereo mic does ok at collecting background noise and some
music, but the poor old omni mic we used for the interviews was
purchased for about $30 at Radio Shack and certainly sounds like it.
Producer Matt Perry interviewing Stray
We were somewhat surprised that interviewing street people was no
more difficult than interviewing anyone else. There were certain
challenges of course, but these we were usually able to turn into
opportunities. For example, since our interviews took place outside
(mostly in public parks), there were quite a few interruptions.
Several times, friends of the people we were interviewing came up and
started talking to us during the interviews. On at least three
occasions during Sadie’s interview, she was approached by people
either offering or requesting drugs. These incidents produced
interesting tape, and we included them in the piece where possible.
There was also the matter of the dogs. The participants had to
manage being interviewed and watching over their pets at the same
time. Stray’s dog Jax in particular seemed to want to run around the
park and nearby road. We were able to get some good tape of Stray
yelling after Jax to come back to where we were sitting.
found that the people who agreed to participate were eager to talk to
us. It should perhaps go without saying that we did not pay them for
their participation (although one of them asked for payment), but we
did share our sandwiches with them (and their dogs). However, the
intensity, warmth and length of their responses to our questions
leads me to believe that the homeless kids we interviewed were
speaking because they wanted to be heard, and not for any other reason
The university district has in recent years enacted some drastic (and
possibly unconstitutional) local ordinances targeted directly at
homeless kids who tend to congregate on certain streets. These laws
ban sitting or lying down on the sidewalks or in doorways, and the
Seattle Police have taken to enforcing them with draconian
strictness. Two weeks after moving to Seattle I was cited and
briefly detained by a couple of officers for sitting on the ground in
front of a University district falafel shop while eating my lunch.
Laws like this are the business community’s way of telling homeless
people, and their pets, to move on to some other neighborhood. That
they do; when I first lived in Seattle, the Belltown neighborhood
(directly north of downtown Seattle) was a Mecca for homeless folks.
Nowadays it is almost completely devoid of them; gentrification, city
ordinances and shelter closings have seen to that.
I run the half price ticket booths in Seattle. The place where I work
most often is in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, slightly
east of Downtown, and home to a large population of transient street
kids. Sadie, Stray and Rob all hang out in this neighborhood. Sonic
was a resident of the other major street-kid haven in town; that’s
the University District, located around the University of Washington
campus, about 2 miles northeast of downtown Seattle.
I love the radio and grew up listening to old time radio shows on KNX 1070 in L.A. each evening in high school. Then in college I gained a healthy addiction to NPR. After college I worked on feature horror films in Hollywood as a camera tech; it’s then I started bothering the sound department for information and tips. I ended up falling in love with MiniDiscs.
Next I moved to Seattle for no reason in particular aside from going back to school for health science. I tired of that after 6 months, though chemistry was fun to learn. With my Mac lap-top , the cheapest mixer I could find, ProTools Free, and a rainy day, I retreated and started editing. Now I’m waiting to start grad school in the fall for Visual Anthropology. Ideally, I will travel and write, documenting people and cultures as I go.