Oh my. Look what's in here!
Is anybody still seeing this?
I suddenly realize that it's been two years since my last post. That probably means certain doom for this little Fun Zone, but you never know what the future will bring. Okay. Quick update.
Professionally, I'm still very busy with audiobook recording. I'm working pretty much solid from now until Christmas (currently on a Philosophy textbook, but I've also done some noir and some fantasy fiction). It's tiring, but it's been an interesting challenge. Maybe I'll post some details about all of the releases I've missed over the past couple years. Or not.
Hobby/Professionally, did you know that I'm the co-host of The Dice Tower? No? Yeah, I didn't mention that either. Well, I am, by gum! You should listen to it. Good stuff. I'll also be at a number of industry conventions in the coming year, including TotalCon, ConnCon, the GAMA Trade Show, Dice Tower Con, GenCon, and BGG.con. Stefanie tells me it might be nice to plan some time for a family vacation as well...
Family-wise, the children continue to thrive. The little one just hit the 18 month mark. Crazy talk! The Kid will start kindergarten this coming September. I'm old.
Gotta run. Thanks for reading?
The Summerer Family is pleased to release its Q1 and Q2 projections for 2011. Human population within the family is expected to grow by 33% in the coming year with the release of CHILD 2.0 this summer. Family spokespersons are quick to emphasize that CHILD 2.0 is not a replacement for the earlier release ("The Kid"), but is actually intended to interact with this older brother model.
Technical specifications (gender, operating system) are unavailable at this time, but release is expected June 16, 2011.
No, I did not win the Audie. It's okay. I'm working through the pain one day at a time.
Let's back up...
Friday evening was the Audies Gala at the New York Historical Society. This being my first trip to the event, I really didn't know what to expect, and as the day approached, my brain would wander into various fantasy realms.
"All sorts of big shots will be there... I could meet the guy who did the Harry Potter books!"
"Lots of famous people read these audiobooks. Lewis Black is nominated. Maybe I'll run into him sulking in the corner. I'll say something witty, and we'll be best friends forever!"
"Wow. I might win this thing. No, I won't win this. Well, I do have a chance at winning this. No way, it's not going to happen. But what if it does? Wouldn't it be grand if I got to go on stage to thunderous applause and got to thank everybody like at the Oscars? Holy crap, I need to write a speech!"
So I spent the night before jotting names down on an index card, in the unlikely event that I'd have to actually address the crowd. I would thank the judges. I would thank the folks at Audible. I would thank Stef and the Kid. I'd get the heck off the stage. Seemed like a plan.
Stef took a half day off work so I could catch an early afternoon train and meet my good friend Emily for dinner before the Gala. I felt a little silly walking around New York in my tux and coat, while everybody else was enjoying the weather in shorts and t-shirts. I was even carrying around an umbrella because I had heard that it was going to rain. Anyway...
The New York Historical Society is a beautiful place. Stained glass windows, giant paintings, marble staircases. The party was in full swing when I arrived, but I didn't spot any of those celebrities I was expecting. I did, however, run into one of the producers from Audible, who then introduced me to various other talents and producers. At some point, I was handed a finalist medal to wear around my neck. It was all very formal and a little strange. I still hadn't seen any famous people I recognized, so I just hung out with the Audible folks until it was time to head into the auditorium.
I should note that I was told at this point that last year's awards ceremony went very long, with every winner getting up to speak, so only the four biggest awards would actually get to do so this time. This should have been a bummer, but it was actually quite a relief. The most I would have to do if I won would be to stand up and wave.
So I sat down amidst Team Audible, feeling very well-liked amongst that group. Perhaps they just treat all their nominees that way, but they were all very friendly and excited for me. It was pretty neat. I still hadn't spotted any of those celebrities. I did see Barbara Rosenblat, who is a bit of a luminary in the audiobook world, a bit earlier, so I guess that counted, as well as Hilary Huber, my former teacher and fellow nominee. But where was Jim Dale?
Turns out he was all the way to my left, behind somebody's head so I couldn't see him.
Suddenly, sitting in this room no bigger than my middle school auditorium, I felt very out of place. Have you ever found yourself in a room filled with people who all seem more qualified than you? Let's say you're a butter sculptor. You've been at it a few years, and some people really seem to like your dairy-based structures. So you go to the annual Sclupt-a-thon, and you're faced with people who have been doing this for the bulk of their professional lives. Decades of work. That guy over there? He's made 400 butter sculptures. That fine young lady with 6 butter nominee medals around her neck? Those are all nominations for tonight's ceremony. Two rows up? That guy is a master of over 60 dialects of butter!
I'm losing my metaphor. You get my point. I was outclassed in every regard.
The event was hosted by Tony Roberts. He would make a comment or tell a joke, then introduce one of many very distinguished presenters, who would each read off three or four awards. A screen on stage displayed the headshots and book covers for the nominated narrators and titles. The envelope would be opened, somebody would stand up in a corner of the room, and we'd all clap. It all moved very quickly. Before I knew it, the screen lit up with the nominees for Sci-Fi/Fantasy.
I remember worrying that my headshot would look stupid next to all of these pros. It wasn't that bad.
It was time for a new presenter when my award came up, but I was such a bundle of nerves that I barely heard Tony Roberts say, "...while he has narrated several dozen audiobooks, he is best known in the role in Perfect Strangers..." That certainly got my attention, though, and I stared in disbelief as Bronson Pinchot took the stage, smiled, and proceeded to read my name off a card.
Balki Bartokomus read my name. Correctly, I might add.
As I already said, I did not win, but Jonathan Davis, the other Audible nominee in that category, did, so I could share in a little bit of the glory around me. A little bit.
Other highlights: Neil Gaiman won for both Children's Book and Audiobook of the Year, and he gave a very gracious acceptance speech. David Sedaris won for Book Performed by the Author, and gave some lovely credit to Audible, which was nice. At least one of the featured presenters could not properly say the name of the award, insisting on calling it an "Audio" several times during the night. I won't name names, though.
After it was all over, I congratulated Jonathan Davis, and he was very happy and gracious. Then we all headed out into the museum again, drank some champagne, ate some fantastic desserts (I love me some cheesecake lollipops...), and I excused myself to catch a cab to the train station. The end.
Bummed? Sure, but not because I didn't win. I'm bummed because I see the challenge presented by my colleagues in the industry, the level that I must reach before I feel like I would deserve to win one of these awards. Bummed, yes, but motivated as well. I will win an Audie some day. It may not be next year. It may not be for several years. But I love working in audiobooks, and I'm ready to put in the time to get better at it. I'm very proud of Childhood's End, but I know it's not the best I can do. I need to treat each new book as an opportunity to raise the bar, to enhance the source material rather than just repeating it. Then, just maybe, somebody else will be writing about how cool it was to see me at the Audies...
Hello there! What? Yeah, yeah, it's been a while.
Busy I have been. Spending too much time on Facebook I am. Googling myself not doing am I. Talking like Yoda helping is not.
Audible doesn't exactly let me know when my books get published, so if I don't search for myself from time to time on the site, I completely miss a title or two.
Hey look! I missed a title or two...
Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus - Imagine a layer of existence within the confines of New York City, in which the luminaries of the city's history act as patron saints of various elements of everyday life. These are... the Gods of Manhattan. A young boy and his sister discover this alternate reality and are launched into a fantastical adventure involving nothing less than an epic battle between good and evil. Supposedly, this is the first in a series. I hope it does well, because I'd love to read more. Even if I don't get to read more.
Dark Universe by Daniel F. Galouye - This is one of those classic sci-fi stories in which you have to wrap your mind around a world that's very different from our own. The characters in Dark Universe live in total darkness. They "see" through echolocation, using sound reflections to map out the world around them. It's kind of a neat concept, but the language can get a little heavy-handed. "He had never heard a hairstyle like hers before." and "I hear what you mean," for example. Still, it's an interesting story, and an enjoyable read.
In other professional audiobook news, the Audie Awards Gala is a week from Friday. My tux is rented, and I'm planning a lovely evening in NYC, rubbing elbows with the greats in the industry. I still doubt I'm going to win in my category, but I should probably write a speech just in case. It's a pretty expensive mingle session at any rate. I hope there's an open bar.
Digital distribution of music and video has inarguably altered the landscape of the recording industry, as well as that of television and film producers. Most certainly, I appreciate the ability to go shopping for new songs on iTunes, download them nearly instantaneously, and transfer them to the iPod in a third of the time it would take to drive to Wal-Mart to buy a CD. However, cool as that is, my favorite use for the iTunes/iPod partnership isn't video or music or games.
I'm not sure, exactly, what it is about the worldwide dissemination of radio shows and amateur content that has me addicted. Perhaps it's the ability to "time-shift" my favorite programs, sort of a TiVo for Radio, so that I can take my time listening to one over several dog walks, or save up several episodes for a long car ride. Maybe it's the narrowcasting aspect, the fact that I can find a show about any sort of interest, no matter how obscure, and feel connected to like-minded listeners. There's also the ability to learn more about my favorite TV shows or musicians while driving or walking the dog or saving audio files. Most likely, I'm just sick of listening to The Kid's VeggieTales playlist.
As trips back and forth to New Jersey and New York and Boston have become more frequent, my collection of podcast subscriptions has grown significantly. Invariably, I'll be getting ready for a trip of some sort, and won't have any new episodes of my current favorites. So, I'll cruise over to iTunes to get some more. What the heck, they're free, right? Quality is generally good on all of these, but there is some significant variation in regards to polish, content, and professionalism. If you haven't heard of some of these, perhaps you might be interested in trying them out, and if you have heard of them, perhaps you can suggest something similar. I tend to run low at times.
The Dice Tower - Perhaps I'm a little biased, but The Dice Tower is the Cadillac of gaming podcasts. The interplay between Tom and Sam is only the beginning. An array of international contributors provide a dazzling assortment of viewpoints and interests, and the Top Ten lists are a great way to discover games that you may have overlooked. If there's a new episode of The Dice Tower on my computer, you can bet it will be the first thing I listen to.
The Spiel - I found The Spiel when they did a sort of crossover with The Dice Tower, and I've been hooked ever since. Dave and Stephen are a fun-loving pair, and they seem to delight in playing just about anything. The format of their show is a bit more structured than The Dice Tower, with segments like The List, Backshelf Spotlight, and The Game Sommelier appearing in nearly every episode. They also provide some pretty in-depth reviews in the bulk of the podcast. Plus, the Name That Game contest is a fascinating brain teaser.
Garrett's Games and Geekiness - Doug Garrett and his wife Shelley are teachers living in Mountain View, CA, and they play a lot of games. They also have a number of friends amongst the boardgaming elite, so they tend to know the latest information about releases from Essen, for example, or insider discussions with game designers. As a weekly podcast (the most prolific of all of my boardgame subscriptions), GG&G seems the most up-to-date. What I like the most, though, is the back and forth between Doug and Shelley when they talk about a particularly interesting game session. Plus, I won one of their contests, so that's pretty cool.
Boardgames to Go - Mark Johnson produces this "occasional and opinionated" podcast about pretty much whatever he wants to talk about. There's not a whole lot of structure here, just Mark chatting away for a bit. Often, he records the episode while driving, which is fine, once you get past the extra noise in the background. Still, his insights are interesting, and he tends to highlight older games, rather than submitting to the "cult of the new."
GateWorld Podcast - GateWorld.net is the most complete and active Stargate fan site I know. Okay, it's the only Stargate fan site I know, but I've been reading the news updates from the site since the early 'aughts. When I saw that site runners Darren and David had a podcast on iTunes, I tried out a few episodes, and quickly became a subscriber. Each episode contains the latest news about the franchise (casting news about Stargate Universe is the current obsession), as well as a Main Discussion like "Atlantis Deconstructed" or "Are Replicators Alive?" These guys know their stuff, and they remind me of elements of the franchise that I've completely forgotten. Plus, I likes me a good dose of SGU hype.
Car Talk Podcast - Do I need to explain this one? Click and Clack? Car repair? The Puzzler? It's funny stuff.
Satire from The Ungar Report - Former Daily Show contributor Brian Ungar comments on the news of the day, as part of the Day to Day program. Pretty dry, but I got a good chuckle out of it every once in a while. This segment just released its last episode, but it may continue at Ungar's new website.
Sunday Puzzle Podcast - Will Shortz presides over a call-in word puzzle game. It's fun to play along at home, but some anagram puzzles just make my head spin.
Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me - The NPR News Quiz, with the best current events comedy this side of the Daily Show. If I'm able to answer most of the lightning round questions correctly, I know I've been paying attention during the week.
Michael Feldman's What'Ya Know - I'm still evaluating this one. Feldman's show also centers around a quiz, but it's a much slower-paced affair then Wait Wait. The show also involves a talk-show style guest, a musical act or two, and lots of banter with the live audience. At two hours, this can really drag on, especially when the jokes center around some sort of local politics or geographical quirks that go over the head of the average listener. Years ago, while scanning the radio stations in the car on a weekend, I'd be disappointed if I hit this show (as opposed to Wait Wait or Car Talk), and I'm not sure if my opinion has changed yet. Still, it has a few good laughs, and works well for a long car ride.
This American Life - This too is a new addition to the subscription list, and I'm actually a little bummed I didn't start listening before now. Ira Glass presides over a collection of interviews, stories, and humor on a specific theme. I have to give major props to the show that spawned John Hodgman (his segment on what Star Wars Episode I should have been is simply amazing).
The Adam Carolla Podcast - Carolla interviews celebrities from the comfort of his den. I'd say more, but I haven't had a chance to listen to more than one episode. At the rate Carolla's recording and releasing episodes, I'm not sure I'll ever catch up.
The Ricky Gervais Podcast - Once upon a time, there was a series of free podcasts starring Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and Karl Pilkington that was absurdly, gut-wrenchingly hilarious. If memory serves, it was one of the most downloaded podcasts of all time. Unsurprisingly, they decided to start charging for the podcast. So now, if you subscribe to the free stream, you get 10-minute samples of the latest "audiobook" release. Still, those ten minutes are pretty freaking funny.
Rockapella Podcast - Only one episode of this has been produced so far, and it was essentially lightweight garbage. The guys weren't in the same room, communicating over Skype or another teleconference system. The interviewer didn't introduce himself, and simply read questions off a piece of paper. It was all very forced and unprofessional. I hope they make some improvements if they decide to continue the series.
Thrillercast - I just happened to come across this on iTunes, and subscribed out of pure curiosity. Thrillercast was a series of interviews with major names in the recording industry, talking about Michael Jackson's Thriller album. It was interesting, but started to get a little tiresome, everybody talking about how innovative the release was. Still, every once in a while, there was an interesting nugget or anecdote to be found, and one of the later episodes with "Weird Al" Yankovic was worth sitting through the mediocre ones previously. The series is over, but you might still be able to track them down if you look in the right place.
So there you have it. My Podcast Playlist. On a good day, I know I have plenty of listening options. And if I run out, I know where I can find more... any suggestions?
Some of you have asked about the math trade I mentioned earlier, and I thought you might be interested in more details, now that the trade sequence has been finalized.
Okay, so actually none of you have asked about the math trade, but I think it's fascinating, so I'm going to talk about it anyway.
ConnCon is this weekend, offering an excellent opportunity to perform a no-shipping game trade. Several people put up games they'd like to part with, and they get matched up with people offering games they'd like to own. Then they meet up at the con, and make the trades.
But how exactly does that work? The magic of computers, of course!
Everybody who wanted to trade a game went to BoardGameGeek and posted to this geeklist, one entry for each game. After the submission deadline, the trade moderator posted a summary of all of the games up for trade. Then, for each game that I was trading, I submitted a list of games from the geeklist that I'd be willing to accept in return. If I didn't like any of the games on the list in return for a specific game, I'd submit a blank list for that game, and I wouldn't give it up. Similarly, if nobody wanted to part with the games I was willing to accept, that particular trade wouldn't happen either.
Once everybody submitted their wantlists, the moderator ran them through a computer program that matched trades and wants. The program is set to maximize the number of games changing hands (thereby avoiding simple trades if more complicated ones are available). The result is a loopy sequence of exchanges scheduled to occur this Saturday.
I put up three games for trade: Gheos, Kontor, and The Historical Scenarios for The Settlers of Catan. The story of Gheos is pretty simple. I give my copy to Dustin. Dustin gives his copy of Carcassonne to Matt, who gives his copy of Rattlesnake to me. Simple.
The Settlers expansion trade is far more fun. I give my game to Matt. Matt gives his copy of Netrunner to Erik. Erik gives The Awful Green Things From Outer Space to Dustin, who gives his copy of The Settlers of Catan to Mark. Mark hands Aquadukt to Dustin, who meets with Matt to give him Clout Fantasy. Matt has a copy of Road to the White House with Dustin's name on it, while Dustin plans to give away his copy of Say Anything to... (ta da!) me. It's like game trading designed by Rube Goldberg.
As for Kontor... well, I'm keeping Kontor. I was only willing to trade it in return for Darjeeling or Ingenious, and the owner of those games didn't like anything on the list. No big deal. There will be more opportunities to trade. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to the game closet to find more games I want to get rid of. I wonder how many games I can fit in my luggage for Origins...
One of the best things about acting is getting to take on a role that is vastly different from your own personality. I am certainly not a beefy military action hero, but occasionally I get to play one in some sort of audio format. It's good sometimes to let go of your own life, and immerse yourself in somebody else's for a bit.
Now, while I had a fantastic time playing Tony Kirby in last year's You Can't Take It With You, I wouldn't say that Tony was all that different from myself. He was a pretty regular guy, and didn't require me to step too far out of my comfort zone. This year is different. This year, I play Walter Steed.
Walter Steed is a pompous ass. He's a radio soap opera actor with an ego the size of Cleveland, and he doesn't hesitate to assert his supposed supremacy upon his coworkers. He tries to seduce two women at the same time. He's delusional. He yells at everybody. He growls. He's a no-talent hack, and everything about his past is a big ol' lie.
I've never had so much fun.
There's something cathartic about playing a character universally hated by everybody else on stage. It's kind of like cheep therapy.
It's not just me, though. The show features a host of other great characters, each with their own zany malfunctions. If the audience will laughs at the final product half as much as we've been laughing at each other during rehearsals, it's going to be a very enjoyable show.
Loving Lives runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, April 23-25, at Spring Glen Church here in Hamden. The Friday and Saturday shows include dessert before the show. Yum. You don't want to miss it.
I've never done this before.
After several years of hearing about the joys of gaming conventions, yet not finding the time to actually attend one, I am currently making plans to visit not one, but two cons between now and the end of June. Overkill, perhaps, but my face-to-face gaming opportunities have been a bit sparse of late, so when the options presented themselves, I didn't want to hesitate. Pre-registration, here I come!
ConnCon - March 20-22 - Stamford, CT (Attending 2/21)
Stef is headed to New Hampshire for a stamping event that weekend, and The Kid is scheduled to spend some quality time with his grandparents. I have rehearsal on Friday and Sunday, but Saturday is completely open. I thought, "Hey, why don't I invite a bunch of gaming buddies over to play some games?" I sent out an invite, and even got a few affirmative replies, when my friend Mark, who is running the boardgame division of ConnCon, piped up to say that the con was that weekend. All of my RSVPs retracted immediately. I didn't even have the con on my radar, thinking that I wouldn't be able to go, but now that the day is free, I might as well check it out.
Heck, I might as well jump in with both feet. I'm signed up for two scheduled sessions on Saturday: one to learn Martin Wallace's Brass, and a second in the evening to play Starcraft for the first time. I haven't been able to discern much else from the website, but I imagine there will be some open gaming, and probably some sort of retail section. The con's focus has been heavily RPG-related, but the efforts of Mark and many others have seen the boardgame presence increase significantly in the past few years. I'm sure there will be plenty of opponents ready for a game.
I've also signed up for my first "math trade." This is a sort of multi-person round-robin trade exercise, in which I post a game (or games) I'm willing to trade, and then once I see all of the available games, I pick a number of games that I'd be willing to trade for. Then some sort of computer program matches things up, I give my game(s) to a specific person, and I get a game (or games) from somebody else, not necessarily the person who got my game. For the record, I'm putting Gheos, Kontor, and the Settlers Historical Scenarios up for trade. We'll see what happens. Here's a link to the trade itself.
Origins Game Fair - June 24-28 - Columbus, OH
Ever since I started listening to The Dice Tower, I've been hearing about Origins. It may not be the biggest convention in the US, but it is the only place where I can finally meet Mr. Vasel for the first time. Okay, it's not just Tom. Lots of members from the Dice Tower team, as well as other podcasters and gaming luminaries, will be in attendance. There's all sorts of stuff going on, including film fests, game demos, auctions, and open gaming. One of the extras I could purchase when registering is a ribbon to the "board room." It's a dedicated room for open games, complete with an extensive game library provided by CABS, the Columbus Area Boardgame Society. From what I hear, it's the big hangout for boardgamers during the con.
While I'm only visiting ConnCon for a day, I figured that if I was going to travel all the way to Ohio, I might as well take in as much as I can. I fly into town at about 10am on Wednesday, and I don't leave until late in the afternoon on Sunday. I have a room in one of the hotels connected to the convention center (anybody want to be my roommate?), so I can spend a minimum of time traveling back and forth. I'm ready for a crazy die-hard chunk of gaming and making friends. I might eat and sleep a bit if I can find the time.
I'm all sorts of psyched. Is it June yet?
No, wait. Is it March 21 yet?
Keep in mind I really have no idea what to expect at either of these events. It's all anticipation at this point. If you're more informed than I, feel free to correct or add to what I've said. Then I know I can track you down at the event itself.
My friends at Audible passed this on to me today. It's a review from AudioFile of Childhood's End, and they have some very kind things to say. Here's just a bit:
Summerer excels at delivering the aliens’ quiet and intensely engaging dialogue with people. His nuanced performance creates a growing feeling of uneasiness in the listener as the Overlords’ insatiable curiosity and watchfulness begin to suggest something less than benign at work.
Nice! Now I just have to figure out what I did on that book, so I can do it again...
Unless you've been scanning the voiceover trades, you probably missed this article being posted today. One of my character coaches, Pat Fraley, interviewed a number of colleagues and students about what they think makes a good audiobook. If you're interested, you might recognize a face in there.
It's just so weird to be lumped in with so many... actors. Just to keep the sureality going, I'm getting headshots taken this weekend. Might as well go hog wild, right?
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