Monday, August 28, 2006

The Last Softball Post Of The Year, Which No Doubt Has Some Of You (Even The Atheists) Saying, "Thank God!"

Thus ends the summer of my discontent.

My softball season is over and it ended as oddly as I would have expected, considering how weird a year it was overall. The B2-Bombers actually won a game, our second win of the season, and in so doing knocked the opposing team out of the playoffs. The whimsically-named Bacon (called that because the league plays on Sunday mornings and they said, "Hmmmm, what goes with Sunday morning?") had to beat us twice to advance. Nope. Sorry, smoked-belly-pork.

I scrambled last week to line up enough players to assure that these games would be played. I pulled in a couple of guys from my weekday team. I put out a call to another league I used to play in, asking for a player or two, and that's what I got.

Now, before you start questioning whether what I did was proper, let me explain a couple of things. First, our team had forfeited once this year already - you could read about it here, but why you'd want to, I don't know - and the league rules call for any team forfeiting twice in the same season to be expelled from the league. Well, I've been in this league for 12 years and I'm going to play again next year. If we had forfeited this week, it wouldn't have been an indication of whether or not we could field a team that would show up next year. I guarantee we will field one and it will be a competitive one, too - unlike this year - so I wasn't getting thrown out of the league on what would have amounted to a technicality.

Second, these games had, as mentioned earlier, playoff implications. It would have been completely unfair to the other team in competition with Bacon for us to just hand them two games. And, there being no strict roster rules in this league prior to the playoffs, it was incumbent upon us to field an actual team. Once a team reaches the playoffs, any player that hadn't played at least half of his team's games would have been ineligible. This wasn't the playoffs, though, and no rules existed barring bringing in players for one doubleheader.

(Bacon actually imported a pitcher for the set, so they wouldn't have had a moral leg to stand on, anyway. The pitcher they brought in had played for them in earlier years, but not a single game thus far this season. They wouldn't have complained, in any case. The unwritten rule in this league has always been "play the games, no matter what it takes" because guys come down to the field to play, not to win forfeits. The gentlemanly thing to do is to loan a team a player if they are short. We did just that earlier in the year - and dropped two as a result.)

So, we started game one with 10 players, only 6 of whom were actual season-long Bombers. We fell behind by a 10 - 3 count after 5 innings. At this point the Bacon manager pulled his starting pitcher. I suppose he thought that the game was well in hand and he wanted to save the pitcher's arm for a go in game two, since they had to win both, but we just lit up the reliever. We went up 12 - 10 and then held on to win it 12 - 11. His was one of those managing moves that is inexplicable in hindsight, but seemed to make perfect sense to him as he did it.

Well, after the first game, two of our (usual Bombers) players had to leave. They had places to go and things to do that they had scheduled months back, before we were rained out so often that the season extended five weekends beyond what it was originally supposed to have been. One of the players I recruited called a buddy to come down, so we now had 9, only 4 of whom were from the actual team. And none of whom were actually pitchers. As might be expected when a team has no actual pitchers, we got our asses handed to us - and isn't that a lovely mental picture...

We lost game two by a football score: 31 - 10. In my one inning of pitching, I allowed 10 of those runs. We were already trailing 21 - 0 when I went in, so it was the 4th inning and already garbage time.

Man, I am one sucky pitcher. My health and well-being is always in danger when I step onto the rubber, as witnessed here, but this was especially bad. The game meant nothing to either team, so the good sports on Bacon were sending right-handed guys up to bat left-handed, swinging at balls already in the catcher's mitt, dragging winos and crackheads off of the street to take some cuts - anything to stop my misery. It ended, but not until any notions I might have had that I was a real pitcher had been utterly vaporized.


I said, at some point earlier this year, that I wouldn't come back for another year unless my combined stats for both teams ended with me batting at least .400 and with an on-base percentage of at least .500, and I reached those goals.

(As I also said earlier, so you won't get too high an opinion of those figures, you can pretty much translate stats from fast-pitch softball to baseball by discounting 33%. In other words, a .450 hitter in our leagues would be about equal to a .300 hitter in baseball.)

Here'’s my final combined stat line for the year:

G  AB  H 2B 3B HR RBI  AVG. BB  K   OB%   SLG%   OPS   R  Team w-l

36 85 39 2 0 0 17 .459 21 6 .567 .483 1.050 24 8 - 31

In other words, I hit about .306 in baseball terms. Notice that 37 of my 39 hits were singles. You've heard of "Big Papi"? I'm "Almost No Poppy Whatsoever".


This season included a doubleheader wherein my pitchers struck out a combined 19 hitters over 14 innings, yet we lost both games; a double forfeit; a ball smacked into my face at perhaps 90 - 95 mph, from 46 feet away, that amazingly caused no permanent damage; and two friends I've played with for 12 years each quitting the Sunday team. None of the foregoing is happy stuff.

It also included some new friends made on the field; lots of running around in the sunshine, when it was available to be run around in; and the general realization that my softball days are numbered. That last wouldn't seem like a good thing, but it is. It reminds me of how lucky I've been to be able to keep playing this boy's game for as long as I have. Anything from here on out is gravy.

Well, as I've mentioned far too many times this season, I'll be 50 next year. One more season, which I feel that I've earned - albeit with a startling lack of power. 49 years down, 1 more softball season to go. And I promise - no more softball posts until at least March.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, August 25, 2006


8:40 am - It's Thursday and I'm once again home sick. I was out Tuesday, went in on Wednesday, home again today because I went back in too early.

I pretty much knew as soon as I started driving to work on Wednesday that I wasn't as healthy as I thought I was. I was like the person who goes to a restaurant, has dinner and a few drinks, and who doesn't realize how much the drinks have affected him until he gets up from the table and walks outside.

(If I really wanted to strain, I could have come up with a better analogy. But I didn't.)

So, anyway, here I am again. If you're reading this on Friday, then you know that's the day I went back to work again. If Monday, you know that I was sick for the weekend. If you're not reading this, I died.

8:54 am - I've been reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Or, at least, trying to do so. It's one of the most godawful books ever written.

The premise is genius. I assume there isn't anybody unacquainted with it, as it has been a part of our collective pop culture for more than 70 years, ever since Boris Karloff portrayed the monster on film. There have been a slew of subsequent cinematic renderings, each purporting to follow Shelley's story more than the previous incarnation. Mad scientist sews body parts together and brings a sad creature to life. The creature causes much grief, thus proving that we should leave the life-creating to those better suited for it, such as God. Good stuff, filled to the brim with moral quandaries and soul searching, with enough gore to keep the sermon interesting.

The book, though, is written in a stilted and flowery romantic prose that is stultifyingly hard to slog through. The creature is actually seen in only a few paragraphs during the 67 pages (of 165 or so) that I have been able to drag myself through thus far. The creation of the monster is given extremely short shrift, with Shelley having Victor Frankenstein - who is also the narrator - seeing him come to life and then more-or-less letting him wander away of his own accord, the dumbbell. We are then - months later - treated to news of the murder of his younger brother, which Frankenstein assumes to have been done by the monster although he has no evidence whatsoever to pin this supposition upon. He then beats himself up mentally, same as he's been doing - to tears of boredom on the reader's part - since page one.

Perhaps, as I finish the book - which I will do, if only because I want to find out how faithful the movies, if any, have been to the original - it will all come together in such a magnificent way that I will not only forgive the preceding mush but cheer it's existence as necessary. I doubt it, though.

All in all, it is a horribly inept treatment of a concept so spectacular that it lived on despite the quality of the writing. She had a great idea, but she sure was a lousy writer.

(Of course, I say all of the above knowing that I wrote this thing... which Mary Shelley could rightfully squat over and piss on.)

10:11 am - Just finished reading another 8 or 9 pages. Frankenstein has confronted the monster in the Swiss Alps. The monster has convinced him to hear his tale of woe, which he has been recounting in a sort of King James Bible type of speech filled with thee's, thou's, thy's and other assorted unnecessary baggage that would make Strunk and White spin in their graves. And, as the monster unfolds his tale for Frankenstein, he drops this manner of speech after about two pages. Shelley isn't even consistent in her bad voices.

I'll grant that it's definitely more interesting than it previously was, but it's still pretty bad. I'm going to finish the damned thing and then take a nap. See you later in the day.

2:40 pm - Man, I am having vivid dreams. No, none of them involve freaks sown together with bolts coming out of their necks. They aren't nightmares, per se, but they have a nightmarish quality to them. Full of jump cuts and jerky motion, but also filled with people I loved. I say, "loved" because they have appearances by dead people. My father, my grandfather, the cat I had as a childhood pet - who doesn't rightly qualify as "“people", I suppose, but you get the idea.

My father was trying to give me some sort of religious advice, in a room whose walls were papered with tracts written in gothic script. I have no idea what exactly he was trying to tell me, but he was smiling constantly while trying to impart whatever advice it was. Scene change and my grandfather, from my mother'’s side, was giving away candy for Christmas presents. He was very happy, too, although he was dismayed that his favorite candy - some sort of cinnamon taffy-like concoction - didn't taste like it did when he was a kid; not hot enough. As I was leaving, I found a piece of the old-fashioned candy and gave it to him, and this pleased him mightily. Then I was feeding the cat - no, not cinnamon taffy - in the house I grew up in. From there, to a cruise ship where MY WIFE (yes, actual living people were in the dreams, too) had accepted some sort of bet concerning keeping her footing while walking through the waves outside the boat, which were like 60 feet high and causing the boat to rock viciously. The bet had been proposed by my softball buddy, Fred Goodman, and declined by a couple of other people I couldn't identify. They were all dressed in tuxedoes. And then I was exchanging Christmas gifts with my mother and grandmother and some other folks and being loaded down with so many of them that I had to leave before I couldn't carry them at all and got crushed under the weight.

I must be trying to work out some problem or another, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what it is. And I know - other people's dreams are one of the most boring things on earth. Not as boring as Frankenstein, though.

3:10 pm - Little League World Series is on. It's the international division semi-final of Japan vs. Saudi Arabia. If you haven't been following this at all, I should tell you about one of the more interesting stories.

The Saudi team, which is mostly comprised of sons of American soldiers and overseas workers, has a player who is 6' 8" and weighs 250 pounds. He is the Little League maximum age - thirteen years old. His name is Aaron Durley and he plays first base. They've shown a comparison of young Durley with Shaquille O'Neal at the same age. O'Neal wore a size 16 shoe, while Durley wears a 19.

They just showed a shot of Torii Hunter, from the Minnesota Twins, visiting the Saudi dugout. Durley towers over him. The word is that, after the series, he will go to live with some relatives in Houston, pursuing a school basketball career, while his folks go back to Saudi Arabia.

He seems like a very nice kid. In interviews, of which there have been too many for the kid's comfort, he comes across as polite, respectful and quite well-spoken for someone so young. One other interesting thing is that the entire Saudi team has bleached their hair blond. Durley is already 6' 8" and the only black kid on his team. Blond hair on top of that? How can you not root for this kid? I mean, the first thought that enters everybody's head upon seeing him is that he can't possibly be within the age limit and is a cheat of some sort. It can't be easy for him to stand out as much as he does, as no kid that age wants to be so noticeable. I hope the move from the relatively sheltered life he probably has in Saudi Arabia to the more varied life in Houston is beneficial for him.

3:44 pm - The thing about sitting here with this cold or flu, or whatever the heck it is I've got, is that I feel well enough to be doing something, but nothing really useful. I know that if I was in work today, I'd feel all washed out and tired and I'd definitely want to be home instead. However, being at home makes me feel guilty and like I could be in work if I just sucked it up a bit. Frickin' protestant work ethic combined with Catholic guilt.

4:02 pm - In a 0 - 0 tie, with two outs, a Saudi kid just ran through his coach's stop sign at third base. Out at the plate by a good five feet and...

They just showed the replay. The coach was waving the kid around the whole way, until the kid was a step past him and then he threw up the stop sign. Not the kid's fault at all. And now they're showing the coach in the dugout telling the kid not to run through the stop sign. Ugh.

And Japan has started their part of the fourth inning with a rally, which is the sort of thing that happens more often than not when one team screws up. The first two Japanese batters have reached on infield errors and now a single from the third batter has scored both of them. I'm afraid the Saudi bubble is about to burst in an ugly fashion.

And the Saudi pitcher has worked his way out of it without further damage. Nice job! I'm going to just sit back and watch the rest of this. See you after the game.

5:10 pm - The Japanese pitcher hit a home run in the top of the sixth, scoring two insurance runs, after the Saudis had closed it to 2 - 1 in the bottom of the fifth. The Saudis didn't go quietly in the bottom of the inning, getting the tying run to the plate with two outs. However, it ended on a strikeout and the Japanese will now meet Mexico - whom they beat 6 - 1 during pool play - in the international final on Saturday.

Later tonight Portsmouth, New Hampshire, plays for the right to go to the American final.

7:45 pm - Just finished reading Frankenstein. There are holes in this story big enough to drive whole fleets of Mack trucks through - and they could be doing wheelies and donuts, too. I've gone on about it too much already. Sorry. Bottom line? Great idea, hideous execution. See the movie - any of them. It is one of the rare instances wherein Hollywood was completely correct to do a re-write.

10:12 pm - Portsmouth lost, Georgia won. They go up against the Oregon team, Saturday afternoon on ABC, for the right to represent America in the finals.

Meanwhile, I'm going to watch Futurama and then go to bed. I'm definitely going to work tomorrow. If I sit around for another day, writing crap like this, I won't be doing anyone any good.

See you Monday.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


(Fade up. Cue Twilight Zone music.)

I am writing this yesterday. However, it's today to me. And I'm posting it to your today, which is my tomorrow.

I am speaking to you from the past!!!

Ooooh, scary.


9:02 am - So, here I am, home from work. I think I've got a flu of some sort. I've got a slight fever, a bit of the chills, and my thinking is decidedly foggy.

I called in to work a little over an hour ago. Nobody was in yet, so I left a message. No matter how sick I am, I always feel like a fraud when I tell someone I'm not going to be in to work. I feel like I should make myself sound horribly ill; like death is sitting beside me on the bed, polishing his scythe. As a result, when I call in I tend to ramble and sometimes I toss off a small joke. And that makes me feel like even more of a fraud, because it's bad form to have a sense of humor when you're sick.

I once called in to a job and left the following message on my supervisor's phone:

"Hi, this is Jim. I'm not feeling well, so I'm staying home today. So, I'm a home Jim. I'm going to do a few curls and run the treadmill. Ha-ha-ha. See you tomorrow."

The next day, I had to explain that it was a joke - see, my name is Jim and it sounds like the shortened form of gymnasium, gym? Ha-ha-ha. They bought it, but only after a prolonged session of scowling.

I guess the lesson here is if you're going to make jokes during your call-ins, they had better be good jokes.


10:23 am - Third cup of coffee.

I know, I know. Coffee is not the thing I should be drinking. It should be plenty of water or other actual thirst-quenching liquids. I think that's a load of hooey.

("Hooey", of course, is a substitute word for crap. It only seems to work when you wish to indicate falsehood or deception and it only comes in loads or bunches. Try calling someone a hooeyhead and you'll see what I mean. However, I digress.)

I've tried drinking loads of fluids when I'm sick, like all the best authorities say to do, but all that does is make me get up out of bed to pee more often. I've noticed no appreciable difference in the length or severity of my illnesses when I've had hooeyloads of coffee instead of water. Of course, coffee makes me pee more often than I'd prefer, also, but at least the caffeine makes me feel like less of a walking peeing corpse.


10:38 am - First commercial break in Green Acres on TV Land. I absolutely adore this show. And I'm amazed that something so self-referential and surreal could have gained a spot in the primetime line-up of CBS in the 1960's. It is the The Persistence Of Memory of sitcoms.

The first few episodes of the show were more-or-less normal by 1960's standards. The basic plotline (city man moves to the country and is continually bested and bamboozled by the country folk) was basically a reverse of the plotline of The Beverly Hillbillies. The show was populated with some of the same characters that appeared in both that show and Petticoat Junction, another "country-humor"” show. But, as the show progressed, more and more bizarre things began happening on the screen. Characters would notice the writing and producing credits on the screen at the beginning of the show, for instance, and make reference to them. Or - as happened in the episode I've been watching today - Eb, the handyman, sang a brief bit of the theme song, dubbed in Eva Gabor's voice.

Alas, it was cancelled by CBS when that network decided to purge itself of all of its old-fashioned programming in the 1970's. In one fell swoop, the network attempted to change its demographics by getting rid of anything that was country-tinged. The network executives had no idea that Green Acres, while nominally a corny country show, was actually one of the hippest shows on television. But, if they had had any idea, it never would have aired in the first place, of course.


11:26 am - More coffee and a big turkey sandwich. I have a ravenous appetite when I'm sick. Lucky for me, I have a big old bunch of cold cuts hanging around.

This past Sunday was supposed to be our last game of the season in my Sunday softball league - well, at least for the teams who aren't making the playoffs, which includes us, unfortunately - but we were rained out for the sixth or seventh time this year. I had bought makings for sandwiches for after the game. Some of the other guys were going to bring drinks and snacks of various sorts. We could sit around the park and enjoy each other's company for another hour or so, while chowing down after the game, before we pretty much went our separate ways until next April. But, as I say, a rain out, so we play next weekend for the last time. Meanwhile, I've had ten guy's worth of meat, cheese and rolls to munch on this week. It hasn't been easy doing the work of ten guys, but I'm giving it my best shot.

I'm watching a Little League World Series game between Japan and Curacao. I love the Little League World Series. It's amazing how well these kids play ball. The New England team, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is still alive, so extra rooting interest for me.

Well, Japan is off to a 3-0 start. They look like the class of the international division, although the team from Saudi Arabia (made up mostly of kids from American military families, I believe) looks pretty sharp, as does the team from Venezuela. The Saudis and Venezuelans play each other tonight.

Looks like Japan has this game well in hand, and I'm feeling a bit tired after the turkey sandwich (and the flu - duh!) so I'm going to take a nap.


3:13 pm - Good nap. I'm feeling loads better than I did this morning. I think I'll probably go to work tomorrow. I'll call in around 4:00 or so, if I'm still feeling well, and tell them. Wednesday is usually the day that Dan, my co-worker in production, foregoes the commute from Worcester and works from home. If I were out, however, he'd have to be in work physically, so I'll call and let him know he can sleep an hour later tomorrow.

More Little League on the tube - Staten Island, NY, vs. Phoenix, AZ. They're making a bit of a flap about one of the kids from Staten Island. He swore in the dugout the other night. Since all of the coaches wear microphones, the swear played in prime time. It was a choice swear, too, not one of your borderline jobs. The kid dropped the F-bomb on coast-to-coast TV.

The game was going into the last half-inning and his team was trailing 3 to 2, so the kid said - and I may not have all of the words exact, but the sentiment is as it was - "“All we need is one fuckin' run!" Immediately after which, his coach kind of cuffed him on the ear, which was also caught on camera.

The kid was excited and trying to get his teammates charged. The coach knew that he was miked, so he was embarrassed, but he also acted as a coach should act - as a disciplinarian. A kid could get thrown out for swearing, if an umpire heard him, but it appears that none did, so not a big deal, really. Thankfully, that's exactly the way the announcers are describing it, also. No over-reaction and hand-wringing. Somewhere, no doubt, there are a bunch of sob sisters who know nothing about sports decrying the whole thing, but not on the telecast. Good.


4:05 pm - Just called in and told them I was coming in tomorrow. And there was much rejoicing. Huzzah.


And, as you read this, it probably is tomorrow. Except it's today, but not yesterday. And I'll see you tomorrow, by which I mean two days from where I'm now writing this.

(Cue Twilight Zone music. Fade to black.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Enough Whining!

Frickin' fair-weather Red Sox fans. Go back in the suburban-yuppie BMW-infested holes you crawled out of. I've never heard such a bunch of crybaby yowling in my life.

If you buy a ticket, sure, you deserve to be entertained. But, do you seriously think that these professional athletes are NOT giving it what they've got? Do you think they're mailing it in? They're trying. Some have come through magnificently - Manny, for one, for sure. Some have played very well - Let's put Ortiz, Schilling, Youkilis and Papelbon in this category, at least. Some others? Not so good - Timlin comes to mind.

In any case, I haven't seen anybody dogging it. So you got your money's worth. Shut up and - if you're truly a fan and not some johnny-damon-come-lately-scum-sucking-frontrunner - enjoy the games for what they are.

Yes, it sucks that we're now as far back as we are. You know what? If we were further back, I'd still be watching the games. So would a whole lot of real fans. Some of us grew up on teams that routinely finished 9th. Hell, some of you don't even know what it's like to ever have a team finish 9th, do you? There's never even been a 9th place since you started following ball.

My hopes and dreams as a child rode on the backs of Bob Tillman and Eddie Bressoud. We knew that there was no hope by the time May 1st rolled around. If you've had a good ride until mid-August, consider yourself blessed.

Some of you started rooting for the Red Sox in 2004. Where were you before then? Don't answer - I don't care. Wherever it was, you might want to think about going back there and quit yer whining. I waited through 40 years of rooting before the Sox won it all. How about you? 5? 10? Chicken feed. Poor baby. The Sox have lost four games in a row. Wah, wah, wah. My Dad lived his entire 63 years without ever seeing them win it once. Did he have opinions? Did he say his say? Yes, but he didn't whine. There's a major difference.

Enough. From you and from me, too. Game starts in 15 minutes. It might not be pretty - or it might be great - but whatever it is, it's Red Sox baseball. I'll be enjoying it. You? That's up to you, I guess.

Monday, August 14, 2006

How To Make $1,000,000 By Doing Nothing

This is NOT a scam. I am really, honestly, truly going to show you how to make $1,000,000 by doing nothing.

(When you make your million, please have the common decency to send me a few bucks. I'll probably be living in a sewer by that time, eating discarded popsicle sticks and using a rat for a pillow. It's the least you could do.)

(Since I won't have what you'd call an "address", you'll have to hand deliver the money. Just yell down every sewer you pass, "Suldog, you down there?" and when you get an answer, it'll be me. Then chuck your money down the sewer. That's pretty much what I did in learning the secret I'm now going to pass on to you, so it will be kind of like poetic justice.)

I absolutely guarantee that, by NOT doing the things I'm going to describe to you now, you will become a millionaire. And the beauty of it is, you don't have to do anything. All you have to do is NOT do what I did.

1 - Do NOT Smoke Cigarettes

That is, of course, generally good advice, but it is also the first step on your road to a cool million.

By not smoking cigarettes, you will be saving $5 a pack at current prices. Let us say your habit would have been similar to mine and you would have smoked a slight bit more than one pack a day. We'll call it 400 packs a year to make the math easy. Well, that's $2,000 a year you can sock away. Smoke for 35 years like I've done so far and that's $70,000 in the bank.

You're well on your way! Ready for step two? Alrighty then; let's go!

2 - Do NOT Become Addicted To Cocaine For Four Years

Again, generally good advice. However, if you don't become addicted to cocaine at age 28 and pretty much spend every dollar you make until the age of 31 on the stuff, you'll have saved a big old wad of cash.

By my estimation? About ANOTHER $70,000! I'm figuring that you'll have a job that pays as little as mine did and you'll make about $340 a week. If you have a better-paying job by the time you're 28, all the better. For goodness' sakes, a particularly energetic paperboy can make that kind of money nowadays, so you have no excuse.

Wowzers, Chumley! Add that to the $70,000 you made by NOT smoking cigarettes and you can easily see where this is headed, but I'm going to continue on anyway because I've got space to fill.

3 - Do NOT Try To Be A Rock And Roll Star

This inaction will net you another $10,000 or so. You won't be buying guitars, strings, keyboards, drums, or sheet music. In addition, you won't be getting poofy haircuts or wearing silly clothes, unless that's the sort of thing you like anyway.

(I could add on another $150,000 or so that you'd make by flipping burgers for ten years instead of thinking you're the second coming of Mel Schacher and Bootsy Collins rolled into one, but this plan is based on doing nothing so I won't. How fair is that?)

4 - Do NOT Try To Become A Professional Bowler

A string of bowling in my day cost about a buck. In this day, it costs at least three times as much. Think of it! You're already three times better off than I would have been at a similar age. And, again, you've done NOTHING!!!

Let's say you aren't going to be a fanatic about it, like I was. You won't bowl 20 strings three times a week at $3 per string, so that's $180 or so times 50 weeks in a year - you're taking two weeks off to make the math easier - and that's another ten years, which makes it $90,000 you've got in your pocket and you did NOTHING!!!

Add up everything you didn't do and you've socked away about $240,000, my friend. A somewhat modest 5% compounded interest for 35 years? Bingo! $1,000,000 big smackeroonies in YOUR VERY OWN POCKET!

And what did you do to get that million? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!

You're welcome.

By the way, it will take you 35 years to become a millionaire. Oh, yeah, some of you are now crying, "Fraud! Swindler! Jackanapes!" Well, fraud and swindler perhaps, but while jackanapes might be true, it is not well used in this context, so there!

And if you're 20 now, by the time you reach my age $1,000,000 will buy you a Snickers bar and it will be about two-thirds the size of a current Snickers bar, if past history is to be trusted.

See you in the sewer! I'll save you a comfy rat to lay your head on.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blood, Sweat, No Tears

"Time! The ball is dead!"

What did the umpire say? Who's dead?


I was asked after the game if everything went in slow motion when it happened, like you might see in the movies. Nope. Fast as hell. If it happened in slow motion, I would have caught the damned thing.

"Sully, are you OK?"

I ran my tongue around my mouth to see if I still had all of my teeth. Yup. Oh, shit, what about the implants? Yeah, no problem.

"Yeah, I'm OK."

"Do you have all your teeth?"

I checked again.

"Yeah, I'm OK."


It's odd the things you think about when you're lying on the ground. The first thing I thought was, "They should really rake this field more often. Too many pebbles."

I guess it wasn't really too odd, though, since I had a few of the smaller ones in my mouth.


Two batters previous, there was a soft liner a couple of feet over my head. I reached up to catch it, but it was already past me. I swore. I knew that if my reflexes were just a bit younger, it would have been the second out of the inning.

Then, one batter previous to it happening, a one-hopper bounced over my head. I swore more vigorously. That should have been the third out and I should have been back on the bench.

Since I had proven that I couldn't use my glove quickly enough to catch the balls that came close to me, God had no other alternative than to have me stop the next one with whatever part of my body was available at the time. It turned out to be my face. I guess that's what I got for swearing.


We were the visiting team, so we batted first. I led off the game by drawing a walk. That pretty much turned out to be the highlight of the evening. We failed to score and then our opponents plated four runs in the bottom of the first.

We got one back in the top of the second, but after the bottom of the second the game (and the season) were pretty much a done deal. Fifteen runs. We trailed 19 - 1 after two innings.

I hate to give you the impression that the Linwood Flames are that bad of a team. We really aren't. It was just one of those innings where everything went wrong; easily the worst inning of the year for us. Only one error, and the other team doesn't score fifteen runs without hitting the ball pretty well, but there were a whole bunch of pops that fell between fielders and stuff like that.

Anyway, we get into the third inning and they're still scoring. I had been playing first base and I got the ball back from an outfielder after a home run. I toss the ball back to our pitcher, but now Kevin (a coach) yells out from the bench, "OK, Sully, it's your turn", with a tone of voice that sounded only slightly sadistic.

I took the ball from the departing pitcher, placed my right foot on the rubber and started tossing warm-ups. Felt pretty good, actually. After only four or five, I told the ump I was set. He called the next batter into the box. On a 1 - 1 count, he grounded out hard, third to first.

The next batter hit a fly to right. I'm halfway to the bench, savoring the thought that I got out of the inning with no further damage, when the right fielder dropped the ball. The batter had barely bothered to run, so he only made first. Oh, well. I can get the next guy.

Nope. The next guy hit a rocket to right. Two more runs in. I then got the third guy. Well, actually my center fielder got him. It was a decent liner that he ranged to his left to snag on the run.

I'm back on the bench now, telling my manager that I feel pretty good and I'd like to throw another inning, if that's OK.

He said, "OK?!? You're probably throwing the next four, Sull. You're pretty much it."

Not too long after that, I was counting my teeth and complaining in my head about the number of pebbles on the field.


So, it was first and second, one out. I honestly can't remember even seeing the ball. I distinctly remember it hitting my throat first and then my jaw, which is odd since there's so little space between them. I may have gotten a small piece of my glove in front of it, but I don't know for sure. All I recall is thinking, "Oh, shit" and hitting the ground. I'm not sure if the thought preceded the hit or vice-versa.

I heard the umpire calling time. I checked my mouth for teeth. Everybody from both benches was coming towards the mound as I got up. Kevin or Kurt asked me about my teeth. I said I was OK. Then someone told me I was bleeding, which I was. It was just a couple of scrapes where the ball had hit my jaw, although I was still dazed enough so that when I put my hand up to my face and saw blood on it when I took it back down, I wasn't sure where it was from.

Then someone from the other team pointed out that there was a bit of blood from my mouth. That worried me. I checked my teeth again. No, they were fine. I spit. Yeah, a bit of red. Where was it from? I guess when I went down I either bit my inside lower lip or the small pebbles in my mouth had cut it.

As he saw that I wasn't going to die, the opposing batter apologized for hitting me. Nice of him, but it wasn't like he was trying to kill me. That's just the way it goes sometimes. He held out his hand and I touched my glove to it. It was the kind of moment that would have received a thunderous ovation if there was a big crowd at our games, but since there were only ten or twelve people in the stands, I think the only noise came from the geese in left field honking.

Kurt kind of took my arm and started to lead me to the bench. All things considered, it would have been the smart thing for me to do, to take a seat. However, how often do you get a chance to be macho in a softball game? I said I wanted to stay in. Against his better judgment, he let me. So, now the bases were loaded. I threw a couple of warm-ups, just to make sure I was OK. Yeah, no worse than usual. Next batter.

Grand slam. Now Kurt comes to get me again. I beg him for one more batter. I'm really (honestly) finally figuring out this pitching stuff. I know the secret now. The idea is to avoid the hitter's bat.

I struck out the next batter, swinging, and got the final out on, I believe, a pop to Kurt at first. Now I was definitely out of the game. End of the season for me.


A nice guy in the stands - no idea who he was - went to a store and got a couple of chemical ice packs when he saw me get hit. As I came back to the bench, he was just getting back from the store or wherever and he handed them to me. I thanked him profusely. I would have bought him a beer after the game, but this game was so bad he was gone by the time it ended.


So, that's the end of my weekday season. Good bunch of guys on that team. I'm hoping to come back for one more year and I hope all of them will be there, too. We're much better than this. I'd like to see us prove it.

Four more games on Sundays - two this Sunday, two the next - and that will be it for the entire season. No playoffs for that team. My championship drought has now reached 42 years. Next year I'm 50 and I really, honestly, truly think it will probably be the last one for me. One more chance.

So, I said yesterday that I'd leave every bit of sweat I had in me on the field. That turned out to be true. I didn't know I'd leave some blood, too. No tears, though. It's all good. It always is.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mr. Happy Softball Guy Is Back!

(You'll notice that I'm using a new template. If you have an opinion about it, one way or the other, let me know.)

So, there was yesterday. Today is a different story altogether.

Tonight, the playoffs begin for my weekday softball team. There's a distinct possibility that they'll end for us tonight, also, but I wouldn't still be playing this game at my age if hope didn't spring eternal.

We finished in fifth place. This means that we play in the "play-in" round. We play the fourth-place finishers. In order for us to advance, we must win two games tonight. The other team, by virtue of finishing fourth, only needs to beat us once to eliminate us.

Since the other team I play for has been having trouble fielding a complete squad for games, I'm not counting on there being more games for me to play there this year. I'd like to think I have those remaining games in my pocket as backup, but I honestly don't know if I'll get to play them. So, this may well be my final time playing this year. Considering my age and general physical condition, there's always the chance it could be my last game, period. You can bet your bottom dollar that every drop of sweat I have in my body will be left on the field tonight, win or lose.

Yeah, it's just a softball league that nobody outside of the teams involved (and maybe a few family members) cares anything about. That stuff doesn't matter to me. Tonight it's the most important thing in my life for as long as we can make it last. That's just the way I'm wired; I can't help it.

Please say a prayer for me to compete to the highest level of whatever skills I posess, and also that nobody gets hurt. That's the prayer I say before every game I play. Tonight, I'll also take as much outside help as I can get, thanks.

Tomorrow with the results.

Worst... Season... Ever.

The softball league I play in on Sundays is a good league. The people who play in it are competitive but friendly. It's just about the perfect mix of those two elements.

I have been a player in this league for twelve years and I was a manager for nine plus of those years.

This has easily been the worst season of the twelve.

Yesterday was the absolute low point of the twelve years. My team, the B2-Bombers, forfeited both ends of a doubleheader. Out of a sixteen man roster, six players showed up by the start of game one. As I was going home, a half hour after the scheduled starting time, two more drove into the parking lot of Smith Field.


As you know by now, I have no life. I was at the field by 7:30 for a 9:00 doubleheader. I warmed up, did stretches, ran a little bit - all of the stuff someone who cares about his performance does earlier and more often when he gets to be 49. The second guy on our team showed up at around 8:40. By that time, the other team had 14 players there, taking infield and batting practice and throwing with each other.

What happened yesterday with the team is pitiful, but I'm even more so for caring as much about it as I do.

I can say with absolutely no question of being contradicted that I've spent more time working to make this team a winner than anybody else on the team, past or present.

I can say with no doubt, and no regret, that I have given everything I have had to give in every game. I may not be the most talented player on the field, but nobody has left as much of himself on the field as I have. Maybe somebody has given as much, but not more.

And I can say without a doubt that if I keep on writing this drivel, nobody will care. If anyone cared, they'd have been there yesterday. They'd have been there with at least time to warm up properly. The five guys, aside from myself, who showed up by game time are good fellows, but none of them were there in time to warm up properly, really. They have their reasons, of course, and probably good ones, too. Like, maybe they have lives...

But yesterday was still pitiful, no matter what.

I'm not the manager anymore, so this shouldn't eat at me like it does. Can't help it, though. I'm a team guy. Always have been, always will be. I'll tell you this - if I was still the manager, I'd tell every person on the roster that if they didn't show by one hour before game time next week, then they may as well not bother showing up next year. And if that left me with just me on the roster, so be it. I'd field an entirely new team.

This team should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. I know that, for the first time in twelve years, I'm ashamed to show up at the field and call myself a Bomber.

I've been on less-talented teams. I've been on teams that had hideous won-loss records. I've been on teams that finished last before. But I've never been ashamed to be part of a team before. This year I am.

I'm going to let everybody on the roster know about what I've written here. I'm not hiding my feelings from anyone. And every single one of them will have an excuse. Some of them will be legit. Some of them won't. But every single person on the roster will think that his excuse is legit. Whatever.

And if somebody thinks I'm an asshole, I don't care. I've earned the right to be an asshole. I've put more of my time and effort and sweat into this team than anybody else. Feel free to call me whatever you want, guys, but my conscience is absolutely clear.

How's yours?

If you want to answer me, don't use words. Don't just talk about it. Show up next week and reclaim whatever pride you can. I'll be there at 7:30, waiting for you.

But it might be the last time.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Selling Old Banana Skins To The Government In Order To Earn An All-Expenses-Paid Trip To Las Vegas!

Or, in other words, part five. If you had read part four, you'd know why I named this piece as I did.

You've made your tape.

(I know, I know. You haven't. We're pretending.)

You've made your tape. Now what?

(If you don't want to end up like me, go to the tallest bridge in town and chuck it as far as you can.)

(Can you tell I'm not the happiest camper in the forest right now?)

Maybe I should start over...


Perhaps I can start you off by telling you what NOT to do. Here's a good place to go to find out.

You're back? Good.

So, you've made your tape and you know how NOT to write a cover letter. What next?

You send me a big buttload of cash. That sounds good. Yeah, do that.


I'm sorry. You come here, in all good faith, expecting something of value. Instead, you get whatever the hell this is.

I apologize.

Of course, if I was really sorry I'd erase the whole thing and start over. Since that hasn't happened, you can feel free to judge my sincerity.



Slap a label on it and mail it everywhere. With luck, you'll get a job.

How's that?

Look, I don't mean to be abrupt or rude, but I already have been, haven't I? Too late.


OK, have the slackers gone home? Are the folks who are serious about this still here? Good. The above was just a test. If you're going to become a voice-over person, you have to get used to random dissing and not getting any good explanations.

And, of course, that's not really why I wrote the crap above. I just felt like it. But if you rode out that junk, you deserve something. So, here begin the real and honest-to-God pointers.

I am really testing your patience, aren't I?


OK, you need to label your tapes. You want to put your name and your contact info onto the labels. Phone number (or numbers), e-mail, names of your carrier pigeons, whatever will help someone contact you when they want to pay you gazillions of dollars for reading.

I shouldn't have to say this, but just in case: Get the labels printed. Don't just write on them with a felt tip. You're supposedly a professional now and you need to keep fooling people into thinking you are. Everything you do has to present a professional image.

You will want to put your tapes into the sort of cases that allow insertion of a label within the case. Like the below...

(You might even wish to buy your tapes from the place where I stole the photo so then I won't feel too bad about having done so.)

The reason you want these type of cases is because many producers store talent tapes with just the spine of the case showing. By making labels that insert into the case, and including your name on the spine, you will be allowing the producer to reference your tape quickly. Print your name on the spine vertically, as most producers will store them in that fashion.

The inserts are called J-Cards, by the way.

Your J-Card should also be noticeable from afar. I'd suggest getting them printed in a unique color or, at least, a color that might suggest your vocal qualities. If your J-Card is a cool forest green, the producer might associate you with a cool soothing read, for instance. If a deep lustrous red, perhaps a hot and sexy female. If black with yellow writing, the Pittsburgh Steelers. In any case, you're trying to make it stand out. Be creative.

Name alone on the spine will work, but you could also include some contact info. In that way, you'll be helping the lazy-ass producer (like me) who doesn't want to do anything as strenuous as actually taking your tape from it's slot to read it.

Who are you going to send these lovely tapes to? Well, it depends upon a few factors.

Factor number one is whether or not you have, or want, or need an agent. If you have an agent, YOU aren't sending the tapes anywhere. Your agent is handling that. If you want or need to have an agent representing you, you're getting your tapes into the hands of agents for them to listen to.

I have never been represented by an agent, so I won't pretend to know much about them or the best way to contact them. I do know that in certain locales you must have agent representation or you will not work, period.

You also need to consider whether you'll be a union talent or a non-union talent. Once again, in certain locales you will not work unless you are a union talent. You'll want to check with your local AFTRA chapter for more information on unions in your area.

I am a non-union talent. Boston - and New England in general - are good non-union areas. Union jobs are certainly plentiful in broadcasting here, but non-union dominates in most areas, such as my niche of telephony.

What are the pluses of being a union or non-union talent? If you're union, the pay is higher. The guaranteed rate for each hour or portion thereof is probably in the $400 range these days and can go much higher for an in-demand talent. There may also be residuals - that is, extra payments for re-broadcasts. However, being non-union in a largely non-union market will leave you eligible for many more jobs; will not tie you up with exclusivity clauses in contracts; and will not take union dues out of your pocket when you aren't working.

Perhaps most important, union talents are forbidden from working non-union jobs. So, if you carry a card in a mostly non-union region, you had better have good steady union gigs. Otherwise, you're much better off being non-union, IMHO.

Again, you MUST be union and/or you MUST have an agent in certain cities and regions. You will have to know the requirements for your region and for any other regions you want to work in.

If you start sending out tapes yourself in wholly union or must-have-an-agent regions, you'll immediately be labeled an amateur. More important, you'll have wasted your time and you won't get any work.

OK, if you're sending out the tapes, who do you send them to?

Every TV and radio outlet within driving distance. Ditto for cable providers. Every advertising agency and also every niche provider of services, such as my own place of employment, Marketing Messages. Any place that could possibly use a voice gets your tape. And, if you have a clean professional home studio, send them to every damned place in the country. That should keep you busy for a while.

Before you start throwing tapes into envelopes, though, get some names. If you just send your tape to "BIG ADVERTISING AGENCY, METROPOLIS" it will probably be shitcanned upon receipt. If you address it to someone specifically, it will at least reach that person. So, call every place you want to send a tape. Find out who to send a tape to. If you can't get an individual name, at least address it to Creative Director or Programming Director or some such, so that it has a chance of getting to someone who might actually care.


I'm going to finish this quickly now, since I have some of that actual paying work to do. As I've said before, if you're really interested and you have specific questions, ask me in the comments section. For instance, I know I've given short shrift to such things as cover letters (except for my bad examples) and head shots. Ask and I'll answer as I'm able.


Are there jobs you will refuse? You may have religious or ethical concerns. For instance, I know a talent who will not do anything connected with liquor. It's up to you, of course. I've never refused anything yet, but I'm a Libertarian (as well as a Libertine) so my moral standards may not be as high as yours. You might not accept a gig doing phone sex. I would. As a matter of fact, if you've got one? Get in touch.

Are you willing to travel and/or relocate? This question, and the above, should probably be answered now.

If you've done everything you can to get work, but you get no response whatsoever, should you hang it up or should you start fresh? Up to you. Do you believe in your talent? How much is it costing you? Will it end up costing you more than you can really afford, to do it again with a different approach? Maybe you should now take some classes or go to school? These are all questions I can't answer. Only you know how badly you want this and how much of your time, money and soul you're willing to invest.


Finally, if you get a gig? Congratulations! Here are the 5 absolute rules to follow if you are hired:

1 - Show up.

If you say you're going to be somewhere, be there. No excuses are good enough.

2 - Be On Time.

Same as above. And this does not mean thirty minutes early. The producer does not want you there early. He is probably busy with another talent or another job, or - worse yet if you show up - lunch. Otherwise he would have scheduled you for then, wouldn't he? Early is better than late, but being there when you're supposed to be there is preferable.

3 - Be Prepared.

If you were given a script, you should be ready to deliver a great take as soon as the mic is on. If you have pertinent questions, ask them before the session. If you are supposed to bring anything, bring it.

4 - Take Direction Without Complaint.

You are not the one paying for this. The client and/or producer is. Whatever sort of read they want is what you should deliver. No complaints if someone doesn't like your first interpretation. Give them what they want and you'll be called back for more jobs. Complain and whine and never work again.

5 - Say "Thank You!"

Enough said.


I hope this has been helpful. Again, feel free to ask questions.

See you Monday with something totally non-work-related.

How To Make $10,000,000 At Home In Your Spare Time Looking At Nude Photos

No, actually this is part four in the series concerning voice-over work. It's just that, as with most continuing series I've done here, my readership has gone down by about 10% each day. So I just fooled the folks who get a headline feed into at least coming here again. Of course, now they're pissed and may never come back.

I understand the drop in readership. Any continuing series or saga has a built in trap. Those coming into it late don't know what's going on and may not wish to invest the time into starting from the beginning. Some folks just don't give a rat's patootie about the subject matter.

Oh, well. I started it, so I'll finish it. Much of the first part of this is a balls-out rant, if that helps. Some of you seem to enjoy me going off the deep end.


In part one of this series, I said that you didn't necessarily have to be able to read three or four sentences in a row without a mistake in order to get a job in this business. That is still true. However, let me add to that.

If you can't read three or four sentences in a row without stumbling, go away. Become a lawyer or a doctor or an accountant or a bus driver. Become anything except a voice-over person, if you value what's left of my sanity.

Since I wrote part one, I've worked on perhaps eighteen or nineteen different productions. Three of them were jobs that I voiced, so no problem there. Out of the remainder, I've had to excise breaths, edit flubs, trim silences, cut out burps and coughs, and otherwise become an alchemist and attempt to make gold out of shit, until I've literally gone round the bend - to have a smoke before coming back inside and tackling the damn job again.

I've had a recording session with a wonderful person, a friendly and funny person whom I tremendously enjoy laughing with while we work, but who on no less than six occasions during a fifteen minute session I had to correct on reads, either misread or words entirely skipped, and whose scripts I marked up with red pen until a third of the sentences had "2x" "3x" or even "9x" written next to them, wherein "x" stands for "times", so that "9x" means we had to do that sentence NINE TIMES before it was read correctly. This person also takes deep breaths in the middle of sentences - sometimes between syllables. I then had to edit that session into something coherent. The reader sounded great when I was through - and insofar as personality is concerned, this is true - but what a royal pain in the ass to record and edit.

I have voice talents send me recordings from their home studios with air conditioners or computer hums in the background. They also send me all of their mistakes. They begin, for instance, "Thank you for calling Fred's Widgets, where the crustomer... where the customer is king. We'll be with you in just a minute. Meanwhile, if you know the number of the people you're reaching... if you know the number of the preach... if you know the number of the person you're trying to reach, you may dial You may du... you may dial it now." Then a cat meows in the background. And on the last "now" the sound of a page being turned is mixed in. And I have to make that sound as though it was read perfectly. And I do. I do, because I'm damned good at what I do.

But it's driving me more and more insane with every passing day. So, if you can't read an entire page cold, go away. If you don't have enough breath control to wait until the sentence you're reading is through before taking a big rasping breath, go away. If you can't send me a remotely-recorded file with no mistakes and no extraneous noises, go away. Do every producer in the world a favor - go away.

You don't have to die or anything. But don't try to pass yourself off as a professional.

A professional voice talent should be able to use his or her voice in the same way as a professional musician uses his or her instrument. A true professional musician sight-reads music and can generally play a passage as it is written on the first run through. A professional voice talent should be able to do the same with a page of copy. If you aren't able to do that, or aren't willing to train yourself to that level, go away.

By the way, let me not leave you with the impression that I think I'm perfect. I'm not. I've certainly made my share of flubs. I've even saved them to put onto outtake tapes, they were so bad and funny. However, I have a professional level of proficiency. And I have the courtesy of a professional. I would NEVER send a recording to someone else before listening back to it and making sure that I had done it correctly. I have NEVER sent a job to another producer without first cleaning it up and giving them a good take. I know how much of a pain in the ass it is to receive slipshod reads that have to have a major overhaul before they are useful, so I don't inflict that on anyone else. You shouldn't either, if you're planning on going into this business.


OK, I've let off some steam. If I haven't scared you away, let's get back to your demo.

What should you include on your tape? It depends upon what sort of jobs you wish to get. If you're looking for work in cartoons, you don't send someone a tape full of news reads. And if you want to do the news, you don't send out tapes of you impersonating Krusty The Clown.

Some talents have three or four different demo tapes; one for straight reads, one for comic voices, one for narration, one for news. They'll send out a specific one depending upon the studio and/or the job. If you have a load of versatility, you might want to do that. However, let's concentrate on one commercial demo for now.

First, what comes first? What is the first thing a producer should hear on your demo?

A quick hello, your name, and a thanks for listening. "Hi, this is Suldog. Thanks for taking the time to listen to my tape. I hope you enjoy it." Short and sweet. Don't give your phone number or your address or a list of your experiences or any other damned thing. All of that will either be on the label of the tape or in your cover letter.

Immediately after the short intro, put the first bit that showcases your voice. No gap. Hit 'em right between the eyes with a good one. No more than a second of music or anything else before they hear YOUR VOICE because that's what you're selling, not the music or sound effects.

You're also not selling someone else's voice, so unless you're part of a comedy team or another voice is absolutely integral to the presentation, yours should be the only voice on the entire tape.

How long should the first sample run? Different producers will give you different answers. Some folks like tapes that showcase abilities in short ten or fifteen second blasts; 12 or 15 different samples in two or three minutes. Others want to hear you sustain your pitch; prove to them that you can do something good for more than one sentence at a time. I'm of the latter school of thought. I want to know if your voice can hold my attention for thirty seconds. I also want to know if you can string four or five sentences together without stumbling. And I want to know, if you're doing comic voices or impersonations or foreign accents, that you can keep the energy level, timbre, and pitch constant for more than a few words. Just about everybody these days can do a passable Ahnold - "Ah'll be bahk" - but can you keep it up for the duration of the spot? That's what I want to know.

No matter which way you go, you'll be losing some producers immediately. Those who like many short blasts will hate your in-detail tape. Those who want sustaining quality and full productions will toss your immaculately-produced series of short takes. Such is life.

If you just have one voice, the samples should be a tad shorter than if you have a selection of voices. You'll want to show your versatility within that voice. A regular read, a faster read, perhaps a slower read invested with deep emotion. Show some variance within your narrow range.

If you have a bunch of comic voices, you'll want to get as many of them into the mix as possible. Your versatility will be your selling point more so than any one of the voices - unless you've already established one or two within the industry, in which case why do you need to be reading this? Go make your big bucks and leave us peons alone.

Keep it clean. An obscenity-laced demo will not help you. It can only hurt. How many commercials have you heard with obscenities? Right.

Remember that you're selling your voice. Don't let nifty sound effects and music overshadow what you're selling. They should enhance it, but your tape shouldn't leave people saying, "Wow! What was that piece of music? It was great!"

And don't put anything on your tape that you can't duplicate live. I don't give a flying wallenda what you sound like with echo, reverb, phase shifting and the low end boosted to woofer-busting. That's my job, to supply those things when needed. It's your job to supply you. If you go into a studio and the producer expects you to sound like you did on your tape, and you can't, that will be one justifiably pissed producer who will never call you back - and you don't know how many others he'll tell about you, either.

Much of the above is personal sentiment on my part. Remember part one? Subjectivity rules in this business. What I like will be seen as a load of crap by other producers and vice-versa.

The only constant is to present yourself in a professional manner. A clean-sounding tape - no extraneous noise. Perfect pronunciation. Good levels. To the point. Showcase your assets and leave out any liabilities. Be honest within those things you do include. Try to not offend anyone.

Feel free to ask specific questions of me - I know I must be forgetting something important. I wouldn't be me if I wasn't.

(Hell of a sentence, that. I wouldn't be me if I wasn't. Brilliant.)

Tomorrow, I'll try to help with other parts of your presentation - cover letters, labeling, head shots, whatever other ephemera I can imagine might be useful.

Or I might just tell you how to sell old banana skins to the government in order to earn an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas! You never know, so come back tomorrow!!!

The End Is Here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Primer, Part Three (Kinda Sorta)

So, what do you want to put onto your demo tape? Maybe the stuff I'm putting here. Feel free to use them. Really. I wrote them and I grant unlimited permission to use these pieces in any non-broadcast setting.

(I am so magnanimous.)

I'm a bit tied up today, so tomorrow I'll get back to the business of putting your name and your tape out there for producers and such to see. In the meantime, enjoy the following. In all honesty, it wouldn't be the worst thing you could do to use one or two of these. A bit of humor might catch the ear more readily than the same tired commercial formulas that we've heard over and over.

These are, of course, telephony (on-hold) scripts.


Thank you for calling Jack’s Liver On A Stick, the deep-fat-fried confectionary liver sensation that’s sweeping the nation! Mmmmmm-mmmmmm, THAT’S GOOD LIVER! For franchising opportunities, press one. For shipping, press two. If you’re a participant in the class-action lawsuit, or a representative of the Food And Drug Administration, please press 3. If you feel ill and you believe that your illness may have been caused by a Jack’s product, call 1-800-PURGE-ME immediately! Oh, and by the way, do not induce vomiting, as it may cause irreversible damage to your esophagus. Have a great day, and thanks for calling Jack’s Liver On A Stick!


Rahzbahnyah Timminee Carutch Hahkkkk Benefunji! Hi! Did you ever have the desire to learn a foreign language? For all you know, I may have just cursed you out in some exotic tongue! As a matter of fact, I did! I called you a Son Of A Flea-Brained Baboon, but I did it in the Eastern dialect of Kurd-Qatarian, and didn’t it sound pretty? Well, for just $20 down and 10 (to the 4th power) monthly payments of only $9.95, you too can curse like Osama Bin Laden on a three day bender. Please ask for more details when we return to the Sfphlinka… Ha-Ha-Ha, excuse me… when we return to the LINE!


Hi! Thanks for calling Motherlover’s Fluffy Cluckin’ Chickenpluckers. Here at Motherlover’s, we’re obsessed with plucking fluffy cluckin’ chickens. We always say “The fluffier the chicken being plucked, the more fingerlickin’ the cluckin’ chicken!” Hold on now and one of our Motherlovin’ fluffy cluckin’ chickenpluckers will be right with you to assess your fluffy cluckin’ chickenpluckin’ needs.


Did you ever have the feeling that the whole world is against you and nothing you do will turn out right? Are you down in the dumps, depressed, despondent, dissatisfied, and a whole bunch of other words beginning with “D”? Are you standing in the middle of a freakin’ hurricane while some idiot tells you that a smile can be your umbrella, and you’re trying it but you just keep ending up with a mouthful of rain? Well, you’re not alone! Thanks for calling the suicide prevention hotline. We’re sorry we can’t take your call right now, but you pretty much expected this to happen anyway, right? So, hang on and when we get back from lunch we’ll probably talk to you.


Tomorrow, with more better stuff.

Part Four

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Primer, Part Two

If I didn't make it clear in part one, let me do so here. This is a wide-ranging subject. I assure you that I won't be covering everything. I'm only going to attempt to give anyone interested a good start.

For instance, many voice artists have their own home studios. I know squat about setting up a home studio. I can walk into yours and tell you if it's no good, but I'd be hard pressed to tell you how to correct that. When it comes to the technical side of things, I'm not very adept. I can give you tips for good microphone technique - get close and speak softly in your lowest register to sound sexy - but you don't want to come to me for advice on choosing which microphone to buy.

Another for instance: I am non-union and work in a largely non-union market. I'll give some basic advice on whether or not to join a union - whether or not you'll have to do so; what advantages and disadvantages there may be in doing so - but I don't know the current dues structure or the minimums guaranteed to union talent.

I would suggest consulting your local library for further materials on those parts of the discipline I don't cover. You also might want to contact your local AFTRA chapter if you have questions concerning union requirements in your area.


Last time, I tried to give you an idea of what you might need insofar as natural tools - your voice and the abilities you may have gained with its use through normal life - in order to make a go of voice-over work. We left off at the point where you would decide to make a demo tape by yourself or procure the services of a professional.


Doing it yourself these days is much easier than it was when I sent out my first tape. Computers with good digital recording capabilities are much more prevalent. I did my first demo direct to reel-to-reel tape, doing sound effects and music backgrounds live as I voiced, and then I transferred the results to cassettes for sending out. I thus lost one generation of sound quality immediately. These days, there's no excuse for that. You can record everything separately and mix to your heart's content, digitally, with no loss of sound quality whatsoever. If you send out a poor-quality tape today, you have no excuse other than laziness.

Of course, you have to know how to mix. You have to have the sound effects or music or whatever else to mix. You have to have good scripts to read. And the recording facilities themselves must be at least minimally professional. Recording yourself by speaking into the microphone that might have come with your computer will NOT be good enough.

Once you have a few jobs under your belt, you'll be able to access those jobs for use on your demo. The more you work, the better your demo will get as a result. And once you have a few "ins" in the industry, you might have access to use of their studios for minimal (or even no) cost. Until then, what are you going to do?

If you already have professional-grade recording equipment and facilities, good for you. Maybe you've been a working musician or had some other pursuit that entailed your getting such gear. If not, do you want to invest in a set-up before you know if there'll be any sort of guaranteed return on that investment? I wouldn't.

What I'm taking so long to say is this: if you aren't taking courses in media arts or broadcasting, you'll probably need to hire a studio (as well as a producer or engineer) for your first demo. How do you do that and not get taken to the cleaners?

First, you might wish to find out where other people have had tapes done. If you can, ask around. You might know someone who knows someone in radio or TV. See if you can secure a couple of minutes of their time to ask a couple of questions. If that person had a tape done somewhere, were they satisfied with the result? If you can, listen to that tape. Do you like it? If not, why not? Make MENTAL note of what you find interesting and what you find phony-sounding, and then use or avoid those things on your own tape.

(For God's sakes, if some professional is nice enough to allow you to listen to their demo tape and you find something cheesy or laughable, don't insult that person by saying how dreadful you think their tape is. UNLESS they beg for your honest opinion, in which case give it to them - first qualifying your remarks by stating that you're an amateur, giving the person a way of saving face if they really didn't want an honest opinion.)

Just cruising on-line will give you ample opportunity to listen to what other professionals (and amateurs) are trying to sell. Put "voice-over" in Google and you could stay busy for the next decade visiting the sites that will come up. Soon enough - if you have a somewhat discerning ear - you'll be able to separate some of the wheat from the chaff.

You'll also find thousands of listings for "demo tapes", "commercial production", "recording studios", and whatever other names the facilities you'll need might be listed under, in both the phone book and on the internet.

Once you've found a few, then write or call them.

(You might like to address your e-mail "Dear Voice Of God!" or something similar; that would get my attention, anyway...)

Ask if they do demo tapes for voice artists. If so, ask the producer or studio for samples of the work done with them. Ask if they might have a reference or two from past clients. Ask whatever else you want. Anything important to you, ask it. It's your money, so you may as well be totally satisfied before you give it up.

If you decide that you like someone's work and want your demo done by that person, ask the price of such work and what it includes. Be sure you get exactly what you want before settling. Some places will charge for the studio time and recording, but not include charges for duplicating your work. Some will charge for scripting used. Some might give you a break if you have your own scripts. You don't know until you ask, so ask. Find out BEFORE you begin. Ask for a detailed breakdown of what you're going to be receiving. How many copies of the tape? Labels for the tapes? Re-recording of anything you feel isn't as you wanted it? Scripting? Music beds? Sound effects? How much time in the studio before they might start charging you overtime? Ask, ask, ask. Don't be a pain in the ass, but be thorough.

(How do you know if you've become a pain in the ass? I'd say that if you don't know the answer to that question, you are one. It never hurts to preface your questions with, "Gee, I'm sorry to be such a bother..." or similar sentiments. Most people, hearing that, will go, "Tut, tut! Think nothing of it, old bean!")

(Well, that's what I'd say, but only because I've always wanted to say that. And I'm older than Methuselah. Someone younger and more hep to the cool lingo the kids use these days might say, "Yo, no shizizzle off the kilbasadizzle, my peep!")

(If they actually say that, run away. Quickly. And check your meds.)

(By the way, most of these same questions and qualifications apply to finding a broadcasting school or media arts program at an accredited college. Find what you need, in other words, and pay as little for it as possible.)

Now, if you've decided to make a tape - have found a good place, and a good producer, to make one (or have the facilities to do so yourself) - then you have to decide what you want on the tape.

First, though, you have to know how much space you have to work with, don't you? Well, how much space DO you have to work with? Do you know?

I'd say that somewhere in the neighborhood of two-to-four minutes is optimum. Shorter than two minutes isn't really enough time to show your versatility or to prove that you can sustain anything good. More than four minutes and you'll likely become a bore.

What are your strengths? Whatever they are, make them readily obvious. What are your weaknesses? Whatever they are, they shouldn't be on the tape at all.

You may have some general ideas from listening to other tapes, but what specifically do YOU want to show about YOURSELF? What is your goal, aside from getting work in general? Do you want to get work doing straight reads, narrations, cartoons, industrial films, news, telephony, the loudspeaker at K-Mart announcing blue light specials? Whatever you want to do, make sure that that's what you give samples of and spotlight heavily. If you want to be the next Mel Blanc or Billy West, it won't necessarily help your career if you make a tape of yourself reading a stock market report.

Above all else, make your tape your tape. If you hire a producer and a recording studio, that doesn't mean you have to let them dictate your final product. Yes, they are professionals and they may have good ideas, but it's your tape, so your ideas are more important. You have the final say. Don't let them bully you into using crappy tired-sounding music and effects. It may be easier for them to use what's handy than to actually search a bit for something more appropriate. If you don't like the music, say so. If you don't think the sound effects are appropriate, or you find them falling flat where they should be funny, say so. Do it politely, of course, but do it nonetheless. Be satisfied with the final product or else you'll just be giving yourself an excuse for failure.

That's a lot of info for now, some of it even useful. Next, some ideas about the actual content of your demo - including two or three scripts, written by me, that I'll give you permission to use, if you're willing to take a chance at looking like a maroon. See you then.

Go to Part Three (Kinda, Sorta)