Friday, 30 September 2011

Pet Peeves

I’ve got loads of audio book recording on at the moment – ‘Love in a Nutshell’ (by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly), ‘Explosive Eighteen’ (also by Janet Evanovich) and ‘Red Mist’ (by Patricia Cornwell) - so thought this might be a good time to revisit my top peeves when narrating. Today I’m concentrating on producer/directors!

Before I start, I have to say that most audio producer/directors (like my CC partner Ali Muirden) are fantastic – prepared, helpful, encouraging, supportive and constructive. But just occasionally you get one who lets the side down a little...

My top 10:

1. Producers who don’t prepare because they say they like to come to it ‘fresh.’ This is laziness wearing spontaneity’s hat and hoping to get away with it!

2. Producers who over-prepare and have fixed ideas about how, for example, a character should sound.

3. Producers who are tense hear noises that aren’t there.

4. Producers who stop me a lot and break my flow.

5. Producers who give me line readings (when I produce, I’m guilty of this! *hangs head in shame*).

6. Producers who want me to read hour after hour without stopping. Narrators aren’t machines!

7. Producers who don’t give positive feedback occasionally.

And city by city:

8. London producers who insist I'm wrong when I pronounce 'shone' as 'shown' or 'suggest' as 'suggjest' (even when I prove my point by showing them the relevant entry in the Merriam Webster dictionary).

9. Los Angeles producers whose idea of direction is not 'a bit slower' or 'I think we had a bit of a tummy rumble there, darling' but rather 'I'm sorry, Lorelei... but like... I just don't feel like... you know ... that it's like... resonating from the core....' (Huh?)

10. New York producers who insist on ordering lunch from a vegan sushi bar instead of Cajun extra-hot burgers medium rare with blue cheese from Island Burger. (Okay, we're not exactly working on the oil rigs, but narrators need sustenance!) - LK

We'd love to know: If you’re a narrator, what are your pet peeves about producers? Or (fair’s fair) if you’re a producer, what are your pet peeves about narrators?

photo by TheStaceys1

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Chis-wick Capers

Sound editor Al reports on Isla Blair’s recent promotional appearance at the Chiswick Book Festival …
We were thrilled to be at the annual Chiswick Book Festival (CBF) in London at the weekend to see Isla Blair discussing her memoir, “A Tiger’s Wedding”,  where Isla discussed the book with her son, actor Jamie Glover. 

The CBF gets better every year, with established authors conducting seminars alongside budding authors who may be promoting their debut titles. It is a three day event and attracts large audiences for the many workshops and events it holds.

A packed Tabard Theatre witnessed an enthralling hour with Isla and Jamie and it was very interesting to hear Isla being quizzed about the book, research, family history and much more - as always, Isla answered honestly, passionately and captivatingly - it reminded me of the strength of the audio version of “A Tiger’s Wedding” where Isla’s narration really brings the book to life.

If you get the chance, do go along to see/meet/hear Isla at these future events - “A Tiger’s Wedding” is going from strength to strength in all formats, and Isla gives so much when she speaks – it’s something not to be missed! – Al Muirden

Friday, 16 September 2011

Off with the old - on with the new!

Lorelei is very excited!  This week she met with our fabulous designer Dan to discuss the idea of our new-look website (coming soon, so watch this space!).

We’ve been discussing the idea of a re-vamp for a while now. I sometimes think that websites are a little bit like kids. Just when you’ve got them kitted out and spent a small fortune on them, getting them all the right gear in the correct size, they have a growth spurt and need a complete new look and off you go again.

Lorelei and I have both given the idea a lot of thought and discussed the kind of design we do and don’t like.  

Personally, I’m a very central kind of girl. I like things to be equal and orderly.

No messy “flags” waving around at funny angles, no odd “kooky” pop ups bobbing up and down and flailing around, distracting you from the job at hand.

I wonder what that says about me as a person?

In the interests of research, I took a good look at some of my favourite websites.  One of the things that most stood out about the best retail websites out there is simplicity. Build a “no brainer” and they will come!

Writing the copy for a website is very tricky though. You’ve got a lot to say and trying to cut it back to the bare bones is very hard, especially when you want to really convey lots of information and your enthusiasm for what you’re publishing. It’s been an interesting exercise in self control and discipline.

But as an exercise in self discipline I’m letting Lorelei and Dan get on with the job of the re-design as this is what they both love and do best. Lorelei is, after all, the woman who made her husband paint their living room walls 6 times* until they were just the right shade. The right shade of white, that is!  Anyone that picky must be trustworthy.

It’s probably going to give me hives not being in control, but hey, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Or so they say!

We’d love some feedback from you, so do feel free to tell us what your favourite websites are and why. - Ali Muirden

*actually, it was 8 times - LK

Photo by kthypryn.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Wars in Vietnam and Iraq

Our guest blogger today is historian Dr. David L Anderson, author of "The Lowdown: A Short History of the Origins of the Vietnam War." Here he talks about parallels for US involvement in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars...

Much has been written on the comparisons and contrast between the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, and there are certainly similarities and differences.  When asked in July 2003 about comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld brushed the question aside.  “It’s a different era. It’s a different place,” he asserted.  It is true that U.S. troop levels at any one time in Iraq or Afghanistan never reached the half million that were in Vietnam in 1968-1969 (the majority of whom were draftees).  Consequently and gratefully, the U.S. deaths in the Southwest Asian war have been a tenth of those in the Southeast Asian war.  Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan have had a Ho Chi Minh figure, that is, a charismatic national leader backed by an alliance with a nuclear superpower leading the fight against American-supported regimes.  Furthermore, in Iraq the American involvement went from a conventional invasion with General Tommy Franks to counterinsurgency warfare with General David Patraeus, and in Vietnam it was the reverse.  In the Vietnam War, the United States went from Kennedy’s counterinsurgency operations with U.S. advisers and Green Berets to Johnson’s and Nixon’s air bombardments of North Vietnam and creation of a South Vietnamese military of a million men by 1971 (much of it on paper, of course).

The parallels for U.S. involvement in both conflicts, however, were so striking that the lessons of the first should have instructed the second.  They did not.  A favorite political cartoon of mine, which I like to share with students, is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 23, 2007, shortly after President Bush had given a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  The speech was intended to convey the message that the administration intended to stay the course in Iraq and not yield to growing congressional pressure for withdrawal.  In the cartoon, there is a scholarly-looking gentleman with a pointer standing in front of an easel with a map of Vietnam on which is printed “Vietnam Quagmire.”  The scholar is wearing a button that says “Historian,” and he is saying: “The lesson is, we NEVER should’ve gotten . . . .”  At that point his sentence is interrupted by a small figure with large ears sitting in a huge chair behind a large desk with an American flag next to it.  The caricature of the president completes the historian’s sentence by adding the last word: “The lesson is, we NEVER should’ve gotten OUT.”

The Iraq War, of course, began in a different context than Vietnam.  Emotions from the 9/11 attacks remained high from fears of more attacks from unseen terrorists, the administration’s repeated insistence that Saddam Hussein was connected with those attacks, and the terrifying image that Saddam had chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons at his disposal.  The Bush team’s inordinate attention on Saddam turned out to be its own creation with virtually no basis in reality.  It was clear to many realists before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq and obvious to most all others soon after the total anarchy that ensued in that country, that Iraq was indeed a reprise of Vietnam.  As Vietnam-era Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara came to learn (and Rumsfeld was unwilling to admit), “military force—especially when yielded by an outside power—just cannot bring order in a country that cannot govern itself.”  In both the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, public unrest emerged in America, though muted in the case of Iraq by the absence of a draft and no demand on individual Americans for sacrifice.  In both wars, no definition of victory appeared tenable, there was little allied support for the United States, and duration and cost of the war grew far beyond predictions.  Yet, in both wars, presidents stubbornly persisted in the wars they had initiated.  Mark Twain wryly noted: “With ignorance and confidence, success is sure.” The ignorance, hubris, and bravado of American presidents were common themes in both wars. - David L. Anderson