Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Saturday we drove 30 minutes north to Grant's Pass to visit the Grower's Market and buy some plants for the vegetable garden. I picked up some heirloom tomatos, celery, eggplant and basil. The garden got a head start two weeks ago with lettuce, snow peas, peppers and corn. (I think the birds got the carrot seeds so we'll have to try a different tack on that.) It didn't even occur to us that, being Memorial Day and all, we would run into an enormous parade that had most of the downtown area closed to traffic. After our visit to the market, we stopped and enjoyed the show for a while. The whole city seemed to be participating, to the extent that it's a wonder anyone was left to watch. There was a Volkswagon club comprising every sort of Beetle you can imagine, a huge children's string orchestra (the bass fiddles were on wheels and the cellos ran alongside carrying chairs), the local jet-boat organization, all sorts of floats and semi trailers, athletic groups, Boy Scout troops--it just went on and on. It lasted for about three hours, though after twenty minutes we felt overwhelmed and headed back to the car. Maybe people watch for a while then run back and join the parade, I don't know. At any rate, it was very festive.

Medford is about 75% retirees, most of them veterans of one sort or another, so the cemeteries are packed with visitors laden with flowers and American flags. The neighbors are playing horseshoes and barbecuing. The roads are crowded with campers, boats and every kind of recreational vehicle you can imagine. People head up to the mountain lakes, out to the rivers, or down to northern California. Spring was long, cold and wet this year (sleet in May!) so the abrupt change to clear skies and sunny warmth has propelled everyone outside to enjoy it.

We stayed home and cleaned. Not very exciting but relaxing all the same. The back yard needs a major overhaul, and the patio is stuffed with all the junk you throw out there during the winter and figure to deal with when it gets warm. Well, here we are.

On another Memorial Day note, I am overwhelmed by the response to Matterhorn, Karl Marlantes' superb novel about a troop of Marines trapped in an ambush during the Vietnam War. Just reading the comments on Audible, many of them from Vietnam vets, is a moving experience. Karl recently emailed our narrator, Bronson Pinchot, to let him know how much he liked the recording. Bronson is a talented, multi-faceted reader, and I've yet to find a book he can't pull off. But Matterhorn posed a unique challenge, with its huge cast of characters and authentic military tone. He spent a lot of time on the phone with Karl and they became very friendly. He even confessed to me that he had a bit of a breakdown at the end of the book. So it it meant a lot to him to get a nod from the author.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

APAC and the Audies

The Audio Publishers Association Conference was held Monday, May 24th in NYC. I decided to keep the trip short and left Medford Sunday afternoon, arriving at JFK around midnight. Got to the Hotel Belvedere near Times Square at 2 a.m. Had to be at APAC bright and early that morning and was looking forward to a few hours of deep, restful sleep. Well, forget it--I was stark, staring, wide awake. Finally passed out for an hour or two and staggered over to the Westin at 8 a.m. for the conference.

I was pretty much running on adrenaline all day, which was okay because there was a lot to go around. The conference was extremely well-organized this year and the narrator constituency was large and lively. I started at 9 a.m. with a training session explaining the concept of visualization, which is fundamental to good narration. At 9:30 I dashed over to the "Dos and Don'ts of Home Narration" panel moderated by Sean Runnette, and expounded for an hour along with home narrator Renee Raudman, Harper Audio's Michael Conroy and Sue Zizza of SueMedia.

At 11 a.m. I switched to the publisher track for another Home Narration panel geared toward publishers and producers, moderated by John Goodwin of Galaxy Press and featuring myself, Cory Verner of Christian Audio and Bob Deyan of Deyan Audio. Attendance looked to be scanty but shortly after we got started people began filtering in and it ended up fairly packed. I thought we all did a pretty good job of laying out the pros and cons of using home narrators. Basically, you have to have a support structure for research, quality control and fielding technical queries. In Blackstone's case, since we have studios in Ashland and LA, it's not so much a money-saving thing as it is a way to broaden our talent pool. For the big publishers, considering what they've traditionally paid for recording, it's a huge savings. Some of them are doing it and don't mind saying so, others are doing it and don't want to talk about it, and some are very leery of the idea. For many, it's still the "dirty little secret" of the audiobook industry. But the need to bring down costs has everyone looking at it one way or the other.

I took a break for a while and did some visiting, then geared back up for a live ProTools software demonstration in the afternoon. Disaster lurked in the wings when we realized we were missing a ProTools hardware interface, but a local producer kindly snagged one from his studio and we were able to proceed after some vamping on my part. The purpose was to demonstrate how easy ProTools is for home recording once you get over the hump of setting up a template recording session. I think the point was made very well. I put together a PDF version of the demonstration, complete with screenshots, which I'm told is available to member narrators at the APA web site.

Tuesday I breakfasted with narrator Simon Vance, lunched with some of my Blackstone colleagues, shared a cocktail with a dear friend from DC days, Carol Monda (now also in the audiobook biz), then got ready for the Audie Award ceremony that evening, held at the Museum of the City of New York. Tragedy had struck over the weekend in Medford when I realized that my trusty tuxedo was full of holes, courtesy the variegated wildlife of Oregon. A quick shopping trip turned up a white linen jacket, black trousers and bow tie. I looked very Ocean's Eleven if I do say so myself. I certainly stood out, since no one else dared to break the fashion code by wearing a dinner jacket before Memorial Day.

The trip uptown was very exciting because my cabby got into a running shouting match with a bus driver as we careened up Madison Avenue. This went on for about ten blocks. But I arrived in one piece and set about searching for our guests.

The ceremony was a huge success, with an outdoor cocktail party followed by a lightning-fast award ceremony and more partying and shmoozing into the wee hours. Blackstone netted four awards. I was so tired that I introduced Ed Herrmann to a group of Blackstone consultants twice in the space of ten minutes. Ed tweaked me mightily and made a show of taking my wine glass away.

Next morning I had breakfast with my old friends Jennifer Mendenhall and Michael Kramer (pictured above with me at the Audies, photo courtesy of Jennifer), then headed to the airport for my return flight.