I can’t say it’s my radio debut, because to the best of my memory, I’ve been on the radio four times in life. The first was when I was in elementary school. I got to be a reader once on Professor Jackie Jackson’s radio show Reading, Writing, and Radio, broadcast out of Sangamon State University in Springfield, Illinois. It was an educational program used in a great many classrooms. Kids on the air would read writing sent in by other elementary-school students, inspired by writing prompts given on the radio show. Years later, as a teenager, I would take an evening class conducted by Professor Jackson — an experience both tremendously enjoyable and formative to me as a writer. But that’s a subject for another post. What I’m remembering now is that first experience of wearing a headset and reading into a huge mike covered in black foam, cued by a technician behind the soundproof glass. I read a little composition by some other gradeschooler whose cat had died, and s/he wrote about being sad.
The second time I can remember being on the air was in a 30-minute interview in Taylorville, conducted in 1999 in the summer Dragonfly came out. Our little town, obviously hard-pressed to find news, played the interview over and over throughout a weekend, until I’m quite sure everyone within listening range got sick of hearing my voice. Lots of former radio enthusiasts took up croquet that weekend, and TV sales spiked.
The third time I was on the radio was when I was supposed to be interviewed about Dragonfly. (This was NOT the Taylorville station. The station and interviewer shall remain anonymous to protect the . . . whatever.) I might have known things wouldn’t go well when, as I was waiting to go into the sound booth, the interviewer’s mother talked to me at great length about how her son, the interviewer, had written a book that wasn’t published yet. She was telling me all about the intricacies of this book. Also, MY mom had come along for the ride.
Well, after about two questions to me, during which I got the strong sense that he was irked that my book had gotten published, the interviewer became all excited about the fact that my mom was the founder of the annual Persimmon Party in Taylorville, and the talk turned to persimmons, persimmon recipes, persimmon folklore, and the particulars of the Persimmon Party. Mom had a great day and came away from the interview all glowing and elated. For that reason, I don’t regret it — not one bit. But it sure wasn’t much of a Dragonfly interview.
The week before last, I laid down my fourth radio track, here at FM Port 79.0, a radio station in a sleek, ultra-modern building with a ground-floor vestibule right out of a science-fiction film, and a glass elevator that offers a view down onto Bandai Bridge, that grand landmark of Niigata.
The occasion was that I was recording my part of a commercial for my friend K.’s onigiri kitchen. Onigiri, also known as omusubi, is usually translated as “rice ball.” It’s the traditional Japanese equivalent of the sandwich. It’s what people take along on picnics and in lunchboxes to eat in remote locations or on the job. It doesn’t have to be heated . . . it can be kept and carried around for a while without suffering too much depreciation. My friend makes and sells these things at her shop. Here’s a picture:
It’s in a little leased structure on ground owned by Japan’s railroad company, JR. You can see that the building rests directly beneath the tracks of the bullet train (shinkansen), which periodically roars by overhead. It’s the very train I take whenever I head down to Tokyo or return from there up to Niigata.
Anyway, this little shop sells onigiri and a soup of the day, and a nearby second building sells vegetables and fruits. I’ve served as “outdoor technician” this past year, rigging up a net to protect plants at night, building some wooden benches from scratch, and (most recently) stringing Christmas lights along the eaves.
You may know that Japanese advertising often makes use of English. I’m not sure why, other than it attracts attention. So in our ad campaign, the lines I recorded for the radio commercial were:
“Let’s have a ball!
Let’s have a ball!
Let’s have a rice ball!”
And, at the commercial’s end, after a female announcer’s voice has identified the place and the hours:
“Have you tried it yet?”
To prepare for the recording session, I came up with about ten different character voices. We narrowed those down to three for the recording session. I recorded the lines in the following styles:
1. English accent, exuberant.
2. English accent, half-whispering, as if telling a fairy tale.
3. Robot voice.
(Personally, I thought my best innovation was having The Terminator, in Schwarzenegger’s voice, say, “I’ll be back . . . for another rice ball.” But that idea got nixed.)
The other artsy thing going on is this:
See my face among all that? A colleague of mine at the university is constantly engineering artistic things: concerts, vocal solos, musical compositions, unconventional photo books, etc. Somehow, she established a connection with a young guy who majored in dance who has decided to visually express one of my poems through the medium of dance. This calls for an exclamation mark: [!] If you can’t imagine what that will look like, neither can I! The dancer is working from an audio recording I made. Since he lives in another prefecture, we’ll meet for the first time on the day of the concert/recital. Talk about “chance art”! I’m supposed to read my poem from a podium while he interprets it kinetically through dance. This is to take place on February 19th. If you’re in Niigata at 6:00 p.m. on that Saturday, stop on by the Ongaku Bunka Kaikan! Literally anything could happen! Personally, I predict a Fortean rain of tiny frogs from a clear sky.
Finally, here’s a snowman that my friend and I built to promote the onigiri market:
And then here I am in this wintry season:
I look kind of Russian, don’t I? This was taken on the street in front of my apartment.
Okay, finally, writing news:
1. Black Gate #15 is scheduled to ship in February. My story “World’s End” is in it!
2. The anthology Discovery is supposed to be out any day now from Rogue Blades Entertainment. My stories “A Fire in Shandria” and “Someplace Cool and Dark” are both in it. I’m really looking forward to reading the other tales in this book, which were all written using the theme “Discovery” and an assigned painting of a female warrior and a black panther standing among some ruins in a jungle.
3. My article “Riddles: An Ancient Game” is slated for the April 2011 issue of Cricket Magazine.
4. My article “The Great God Pan: Myth, Horror, and the Divine” is in FATE Magazine — either it’s just out or is about to be — my subscription copies are always way late and haphazard, and I never know quite how to contact FATE, so I’m sorry I can’t tell you more specifically. As an illustration of the article, FATE is also using my painting of the Faun dancing in the forest at night, a detail of Self Portrait, which you’ve seen on this blog (“Pictures at an Exhibition”).
5. I’ve also got a poem, “The Last Morning of the Mammoth,” being printed in The Best of Every Day Poets I, a poetry anthology that has just been released in the past day or two, and is available through Amazon.
Okay! That’s about enough artsy stuff for one posting, isn’t it?! 🙂 Have fun, enjoy stories, and enjoy the people around you. Take good care of them all!