The Scuttleblog: A Local Publication

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READ ALL ABOUT IT :

   Along with the comprehensive daily schedule that Rachel posts every day on our Facebook wall, we also have a generic paper schedule listing the times and names of all of our programs.  It doesn’t state which midday short story or monthly magazine is being aired on any particular day, it only states that one will be broadcast at the time listed.  This is usually sent to the listeners who call the station to ask for a hard copy or don’t have a computer handy (or perhaps just don’t particularly like looking things up on Facebook.)  In addition, we keep a stack of them at the front desk for the occasional curious visitors who drop by, along with an explanation about the work we do and how we fulfill our mission statement.  It also comes in handy when a guest is interviewed for either Writers’ Forum, Public Affairs, or The Chef Show; I usually write the dates down for them along with the website address so they can easily see when they will be on the air, and so they can tell out of town listeners when to tune in to catch their interviews,

     Occasionally the name of one particular program catches the eye of someone perusing the schedule–listed at 12 noon on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is the Local Pub.  “Pub” is short for publication, much to the disappointment of many inquiring minds, who hope that perhaps we carry a show extolling the virtues and vices of some of New Orleans’ best bars and dives (which may actually be a pretty good idea, now that I think about it.)  Usually the lineup for the Local Publication program follows a pattern–on Mondays, our audience can hear stories from The Lens, an online news source with breaking political and community interest stories; on Wednesdays, GAMBIT, the free news and special interest tabloid found throughout New Orleans in coffee shops and grocery stores is aired; and on Thursdays, you can hear City Business, which as it’s name suggests, informs our listeners on what’s happening throughout the city on the business, law, tourism and service industry side of things.  The Tuesday version of the Local Pub is potluck (or Russian roulette?) because a wide variety of interesting and dissimilar materials are read: on any given Tuesday you might hear Offbeat, the New Orleans music magazine; Where Y’at? filled with reviews, interviews, and aimed at a “funky hipster” audience; Preservation in Print, the carefully researched and well written architecture and building history magazine; NOLA Baby and Child, a magazine aimed at parents in New Orleans, or Louisiana Health and Fitness, which focuses on keeping active and healthy in a place where every occasion is celebrated with lots and lots of good things to eat. The list is rounded out by a few others, such as Natural Awakenings, Breakthru Media, Art + Design, Amelie G., and New Orleans Living.  Of course, now that baseball season is in full swing, Local Pub has gone through a few minor adjustments.  We now broadcast the Coach’s show from Desi Vega’s Steakhouse every Monday at noon, so the Lens has been moved to Tuesday, making it the permanent publication for that day until we go back to our rotating schedule.

     Today I’m going to be borrowing an idea from our Wednesday Local Publication selection, the Gambit–the Scuttlebut column.  Written as a series of quick news briefs, the Scuttlebut offers tidbits of interesting information from around the city (and City Hall.)  We’ve had a few interesting things happen the past two weeks at WRBH (with more to come) so without further ado, I present:

THE SCUTTLEBLOG

WRBH HAS A WINNER!

As part of the Swine Krewe team, WRBH event planner Rachel Stickney took home the prestigious Porkpourri award at Hogs for the Cause, winning for her airy and delicious Piggy Macarons.  Although her mother, Jean Stickney, is the owner and confection creator at Pralines by Jean…and Cupcakes Too, and Rachel works part time at the shop, she is not a professional baker by any means.  In fact, she first made macarons (a French cookie made with almond meal and egg whites, not the heavy coconut macaroon associated with Passover) when she and her friend Jean Angelico decided to make a French meal on a whim.   By adding bacon and Steen’s syrup to her entry, she transformed the delicate cookie into something spectacular–and adorable, since each macaron sported a sweet smiling porcine grin, courtesy of a pastry pen.  You can find the recipe and more of the story here:  

http://www.nola.com/food/index.ssf/2014/04/exchange_alley_tastes_from_hog.html

UNDER MILK WOOD CAPTIVATES LISTENERS

Last week was a little different for our listening audience: instead of a midday short story on Tuesday and the poetry half hour on Wednesday, they were treated to an ethereal rendition of Under Milk Wood, performed by the Cripple Creek Theatre company, under the direction of former WRBH reader Emilie Whelan.  Mystical and mystifying, the 63 characters voiced in the radio play by Dylan Thomas took us on an amazing journey into the heart of the sad little sea town of Llareggub (read it backwards).  If you missed  last week’s beautifully produced work, you’re in luck, because it will re-air on Wednesday, April 16th at 11 pm.  There will even be a listening party at the Saturn bar on St. Claude Avenue, starting at 10:30 pm.  It’s open to the public, and food and drink will be provided.  RSVP to their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/264566547047542/

Additionally, Under Milk Wood will be broadcast on Easter Sunday, April 20th, at 7:30 pm. 

NEW BOOKSHELF BOOK!

We’ve got a new book off the shelf beginning on April 14th: ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRET OF THE UNIVERSE written by Benjamin Alire Saenz and read beautifully by Crystal Hinds. You can listen to this uniquely inventive work by a terrific young-adult author at 2:00 pm and again at 8:30 pm on weekdays.  At once controversial and poignant, the novel tells the story of  two teenage boys who share a special friendship that changes their lives forever.

That’s all the Scuttleblog for now–I’ll be filling you all in on the upcoming Golf Tournament next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing All Sorts of Saints

    Since the last blog entry was all about change and how we are affected by it, in both good ways and in bad, I thought I’d explore the topic of change a little further and examine the subject of loss.  “Loss” was one of the topics given to the KIPP Renaissance students last year for their poetry project at WRBH, and it was fascinating and certainly heartbreaking to read about the different kinds of loss they had suffered in their young lives.  Some poems dealt with the pain of a breakup or an estranged friendship; many more told the story of losing of a loved one through violence.  A few shared the ache of losing an adored grandparent who had been a wise, steadying influence in their lives.  Included in the mix were poems that told of a different, good kind of loss: of breaking free from the people and things that hold you back, from bad influences, from those with cruel intentions.  These writings all had a small seed of hope tucked within, a glimpse that the loss might be a gateway to a better place.  I think we all wish that when something is lost, something new will arrive to fill the hole and make things right again.
  I was reminded again, in a much lighter way, of change and loss during this season of transition before the new football season begins.  There’s been a lot of speculation and discussion around the office lately about the upheaval and dissemination of the almost sacred team we knew as the Saints in 2013.  This isn’t an unusual occurrence at the station; after all, two thirds of the employees are rabid fans of the boys in black and gold, and some of the livelier discussions can even be misconstrued as  “heated” or even “argumentative”, depending on your outlook, opinion, and whether or not you are wearing earplugs. With each online announcement of which player has been let go and which has been retained, who will get paid an astronomical salary and who will be selling used cars in Slidell in a few years, the tone of the discussions range from hushed and sad to disappointed, upset, and astonished (who wouldn’t feel upset to read Lance Moore’s Twitter response to signing with the Steelers: “Excited to be a part of #steelernation. Couldn’t ask for a better organization to continue my career with!”)  Sigh.  I’m really going to miss watching him do his little “Lance Dance” after touchdowns.  There are other players I’ll miss too– I was particularly disgruntled to see wonderful Darren Sproles go, especially since last Christmas my gift from my son and daughter in law was a #43 jersey that I was really crazy about.  (Luckily for Natalia, her Marques Colston #12 will still be quite in fashion for the 2014 -2015 season, and of course anyone with a Drew Brees #9 can pat themselves on the back for making a classic, never-goes-out-of-style choice.)  So far my awesome Jimmy Graham earrings (another Christmas gift, this one from my daughter) seem to be pretty safe bets for our “dress in team colors Fridays” during the playing season.  As Tim keeps reminding me, this is the BUSINESS  part of the Saints, where we all get a peek at how the institution runs and how, on the business side of the game, all sentimentality and fondness for the team goes out the window when hard decisions have to be made. At WRBH, we see our readers as our “team” and even regard some of them as “saints”.  Luckily for us, there’s no salary cap at the station since all the readers are volunteers, and we never need to cut our favorite readers because they may be getting older.  We cherish our readers, and we like to keep our team intact.  That’s not to say our roster doesn’t change periodically–career moves to other states, new babies, and added responsibilities in already hectic lives have all taken their toll. Admittedly, sometimes the business end does have to play a part in cutting a reader who refuses to play by the rules or ignores the guidelines we all have to follow, and that’s okay– part of being a team is BEING A TEAM.  However,  when we lose a reader who has played a major role at the station and has been very well loved by our listeners for many years, it leaves us all, staff and listeners alike, with a void that seems impossible to fill.
 A few weeks ago,  WRBH suffered a loss–we said goodbye to one of our most beloved and recognizable readers.  Although Nick Krieger had not been in the station to read for some time, his deep, glorious voice had been mesmerizing  listeners for at least 20 years before he was confined to Covenant Home.  He was a terrific actor, with many credits to his name, including a wonderful part as the farmer who identifies the pie plate as a UFO in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.  Nick always seemed like a larger than life character from a Tennessee Williams play: a consummate gentleman, extremely Southern, polite and well mannered, humble in spirit but also self assured when it came to his great gift as an interpreter of the spoken word.  He was a contradiction of sorts–he would wear ancient, rumpled, sometimes grimy clothes, and yet in the studio, he sounded as refined and elegant as if he was wearing a tuxedo.  He didn’t have much money, yet he was always studying the stocks and bonds in the Wall Street Journal and made several good trades (and once treated the staff of WRBH to a paella dinner after a particularly wise investment.) He was gracious, thoughtful, generous to a fault, and intelligent, with a charming sense of humor.  Nick possessed a confidence and grace that had nothing to do with his outward, often shambling appearance–he believed in himself, and he trusted others to treat him with the respect he deserved.  At his funeral service, there were two fine oil portraits on display of Nick from when he did part-time work as an artist’s model at Academy Gallery.  Nick had a very large head (and body, for that matter) and because he was so expressive, he was an ideal subject.   Both paintings focus on his face.  In one of the paintings, Nick’s eyes shine and he wears a hint of a smile, as if he is recalling an amusing story or a fond memory of a dear friend.  He seems happy, content, a man at ease with himself. In the other, Nick’s expression is pensive and serious, and his face has a lovely nobility, shining with a soft light.    The student artists showed two distinct sides of Nick, and they are both true.

Just as we remember him.

Be Not Afraid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Hello, my name is Jackie, and I used to be afraid of the iPad.”

If a twelve step program existed for people who are addicted to the familiar, I’d be attending meetings every night.   Along with my gray hair and reading glasses, I’ve come to realize that what gives away my advancing age most of all is my attitude of avoidance when I have to quickly learn something new.  I’m generally not known as someone who eagerly accepts change, and I like to stick to methods and means that are in my comfort zone.  I embrace the familiar.  I worry about failing.  I don’t like to feel stupid.  It embarrasses me when I have to ask for the same instructions I just learned the day before to be repeated, since they seemed to have vanished into a pit of short term memory loss.  I know I’m not alone in this–in fact, it’s a pretty common trait among people of my generation.    My biggest challenge to date was when WRBH made the change to incorporate using iPads to read a lot of the materials used as programming for the station.  The electronic leap made perfect sense–they create less waste and save more trees by reducing paper, it’s easy to download all the news and articles found in magazines and journals, and nowadays everything and everyone is online anyway.  My problem was that I had no idea how to operate one. The first time I tried, I quickly realized something: iPads tend to make me feel old.  Not grown up old, not sophisticated old, not “now I can wear red lipstick whenever I damn well feel like it” old, but the crazy, cranky, doddering kind of old found on countless sitcoms where the ninety-something geriatric character keeps shouting, “In my day, we had books with pages that you turned, not some sort of fancy little flat TV machine that glows in the dark!  And dagnabit, you kids stay out of my yard, or I’ll hit you with my cane!”  Who wants to be that person?  As unfamiliar and off putting as this little device was, I knew I had to get used to it and even embrace it if I was going to conquer my usual fear of change.  So I practiced and practiced on the station’s little flotilla of ships into the future, and eventually even grew to love using the iPads enough to eventually buy one for myself.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t empathize with those who are still a little leery of them.

It’s a well known fact that in this era of computers, social media, and electronic devices, the younger the user, the more adept and fearless they are about experimenting with new technology.  Baby Boomers like myself remember when appliances used to come with a book of directions, and part of the ritual of acquiring something new was the installation period: things didn’t just get plugged in and enjoyed, there was a distinct learning curve involved.  The small how-to instruction booklet became a Bible of sorts, and only after extended study and practice was it put away in a safe spot for future reference, along with the receipt and warranty.  In this brave new world, directions are passe–we are supposed to learn by simply doing it.  By using it.  By leaping headlong into the deep end of the technology pool, without the comforting life preserver of a step-by-step book of instructions.  It’s sink or swim without floaties, and sometimes I feel like I’m dog paddling while everyone else is swimming like Ryan Lochte or Michael Phelps.

I’ll give you an example: years ago, we had two eighth graders from Trinity Episcopal School spend some time with us as part of a Career Day program.  One of them was a smart, funny kid named James Pfeiffer, and we all had a wonderful time being big radio hotshots by showing him around the station, letting him meet and greet the volunteers, instructing him on simple editing, and finally recording him doing a station ID (“…this is WRBH…New Orleans”).   We figured that for a 12 year old, a radio station would be considered a much cooler place to visit than a law firm or a clothing store, so we congratulated young Mr. Pfeiffer on his excellent taste in career choices.    And then, amidst all the pats on the back and acknowledgements of our coolness, the automation computer that controls the daily log and broadcasts our signal out to the world went suddenly haywire.  It was disastrous!  None of the usual fixes were working, we were broadcasting nothing but dead air, we had calls out to tech support and had speed dialed the city’s chief radio engineer Ernie Kain at least ten times in a panic.  James observed us turning into the most hysterical, uncool people on the planet and then calmly took charge.  Within minutes, he pulled a chair up to the bridge like a young Sulu or Chekhov, and got the starship Enterprise back on course while Kirk and Spock and Bones were running around in circles like decapitated chickens.  He was the youngest person in the room, and certainly the savviest when it came to technology.  And of course, the most fearless.  To James, the computer wasn’t a frightening thing that was out of control–it was just a machine that needed a little tweaking, and he wasn’t afraid to push a few mysterious buttons and try some previously untried remedy to get it working again.  After he got it up and running, he reassured us by saying, ‘Don’t worry, you can’t break anything.  You can always go back to where you were before.”  I’ve never felt so grateful, or so humbled.

I’m reminded of this whenever the iPad inspires trepidation in a volunteer who is much more comfortable reading a regular magazine or book.  Just like for me, there comes a time in every reader’s life when Tim suddenly hands them this sleek, intimidating device and says, “Today you’re going to be doing something a little different…” and they begin to quake in their shoes at just the THOUGHT of being alone in a studio with this seemingly delicate, difficult, breakable little machine.  My heart goes out to them: after all, there isn’t an instruction booklet to refer to; there are simply a few quick directions on swiping your finger across the screen to turn the page, touching the center and top left corner to find the index and table of contents, and not getting freaked out if you suddenly lose your bearings and the iPad takes you to a place you didn’t want to go.  Remember, there isn’t any shame in asking for help once, twice, or ten times–you can always come out of the studio to ask a question and no one will judge you.  It’s not going to feel comfortable at first, but I promise that after the first successful reading on the iPad you’ll suddenly feel a little smarter, a little more confident, and even a little younger than before.  And don’t we all want to be THAT person?

 

The Impartial Messenger

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It’s ten pm, the dinner dishes are done, and you’ve just settled down with a bowl of ice cream to watch the evening news.  Angela Hill looks radiant wearing her rose blouse behind the desk (stay with me here–yes, I know she has retired, but don’t you WISH you could still have her to read the news to you while you dig into some Haagen Daas  French vanilla?) and she begins to relay a human interest story on a set of quintuplets born at Touro hospital earlier in the day.  The video shows five tiny, wailing little bundles all in a row, with their happy (and exhausted) parents looking proud but overwhelmed.  As Angela’s sweet voice describes the length of the labor, the weight of each infant, and the names the parents have chosen, you settle into a comfortable lull of contentment as you spoon up the silky ice cream from the bowl.  The video ends, and as the camera returns to Angela and Mike Hoss at the anchor desk, you suddenly sputter and choke on your chocolate sauce, because you just heard Ms. Hill turn to Mike and say, ” Wow, those sure were five ugly babies!”  In response, Mike snorts and says, “And what stupid names they gave those kids!”  Then they both laugh heartily and agree that the name “Brianna” should certainly be the last choice of any new parent on the planet, particularly when the infant is as homely as that one.

Now, we all know this would never happen on WWL (and it especially would never have come out of the wonderful and professional Mike Hoss or Angela Hill’s mouths.)   It’s inappropriate, it’s uncalled for,  it’s unpleasant to hear, and such mean spirited remarks would surely have the public calling for the quick firing of the newscasters responsible for them. Yet, over the years we’ve actually had to ask a few volunteers to leave because they’ve broken the golden rule of our readers: don’t editorialize.

In the last blog post, we talked about how expression, warmth, fluency (and the ability to pronounce words correctly) were vital assets when auditioning to be a reader for WRBH.  This post deals with the second part of the audition: what NEVER  to do.   There are two pages to the application form potential volunteers fill out when auditioning at the station– the top sheet collects the basic information we need to know about the future reader, like email, address, phone number and availability, and the second sheet is a waiver that states a warning and a promise that possible volunteers must adhere to.  The warning reminds readers that our mission is an altruistic one, to make sure the blind members of our community (or those who cannot read for whatever reason) can be every bit as well informed as their sighted peers, and that WRBH is not a talent agency or stepping stone to a career in voice over work.  The promise asks that readers do their best to read material that they may strongly disagree with in an impartial and objective way, and that they will not attempt to interject, through voice expression or editorializing, their own views on the listener.  The warning is pretty straightforward and easy to understand, and tends to disappoint applicants who were hoping to use WRBH to pad a resume or acquire a few audio CDs of their readings and then disappear (the station is a lot like that old fashioned girl who wants a meaningful commitment and a declaration of love before she offers too much of herself–who wants to be used and then dumped like the proverbial cow who gave the milk for free?) and if they balk at signing because of the warning we know they weren’t really going to be reading for the blind but to benefit themselves.  The promise, on the other hand, sometimes flummoxes well meaning potential volunteers who think we are asking that they read like robots, with no expression or warmth in their voices.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We want warm, we want expressive, we don’t want inappropriate.

Let me clarify what that means: it’s okay to feel (and sound) sad when you’re reading a tragic news story or book.  It’s hard to conceal the joy and amusement in your voice when you’re reading a terrifically funny piece of writing.  Where trouble occurs is when anger or disgust is apparent in your reading, because you personally disagree with the sincere opinion or viewpoint of the material you’ve been assigned.  Now, if you are actually reading an editorial that is expressing the author’s disgust or anger, you’ll know it and you’ll be doing the right thing.  However, anytime a reader decides to add sentences that convey their own opinions because they just can’t help sharing what they REALLY think is a cardinal sin–after all, we, the volunteers, are asked to serve an important and sacred duty: to be the eyes of the blind.  Not their brains.  Their brains work very well, and they are perfectly able to decide on their own how they feel about what you are reading to them.

So spread the joy in the joyful, the sadness in the tragedy, but keep your own opinions to yourself.  That includes sarcasm, sighs of annoyance, snorts of aggravation, and anything you decide to share that isn’t on the page.  It’s your duty to the ones who are listening, and they’re counting on you.

In the WRBH Gumbo, Fluency is the Roux, Accents are the Okra (plus a message from Rhonda Faye)

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RRRRRIIIIINNNNGGG!

“Hello, this is WRBH.”

“Hi, I’m calling because I’m curious about how I can become a volunteer.  I heard about your station from a friend, and since I used to be a disc jockey…”

“Have you had experience reading aloud?”

“No, but I used to have a radio show where my partner and I did a comedy routine with sound effects and took calls from listeners, and I’m great at making up jokes on the fly…”

Uh oh.  I’m not saying working as a d.j. for a radio station is a bad thing–it isn’t.  In fact, it’s great work if you can get it.   It’s just that the skills needed to talk off the cuff and spin records and ad lib and concoct hilarious banter with the people who call in to your show aren’t at all the skills you’ll be using if you want to be a reader at WRBH.  Whenever I get a call at the station to ask about volunteering, I always stress that THIS is the most important talent to possess in order to become a reader: an ability to pick up material you are unfamiliar with, and be able to read it fluently.  This is often called being a good “cold” reader, and many of our volunteers who work in theatre and in films are usually very good at it, because they so often have to audition with scripts they haven’t seen before and make snap judgments on how the character should be responding.  A beautiful voice is definitely a plus, but the number one thing we are looking for is being able to process quickly, clearly, and accurately the words on the page (or iPad) so that the recording can be edited and aired as soon as possible.  Usually only one engineer is in the studio per shift, recording the programming for the week, and if they  have to spend an inordinate amount of time fixing flubs and stumbles and start-overs, it’s almost easier to stop trying to find all the mistakes and just re-distribute the material to a volunteer more proficient in cold reading, and then use the new, near perfect recording.  A few mistakes are normal–after all, we understand that our readers are human!  It’s just that being able to read aloud fluently is one of those talents, like being able to sing, that you’re either really good at or not, and it’s the first thing we ask for in potential volunteers.   It’s especially important if you are ever called to substitute for the newspaper, since the broadcast is live and cannot be edited until later for the re-airing in the evening.  That’s one of the reasons we have designated newspaper readers for each day: we need to know those volunteers will be able to accurately (and pleasantly!) deliver the news since there isn’t any way to fix a mistake during the live broadcast, except for the reader to say politely, “Excuse me” and begin the sentence again. .

RRRRRIIIIIINNNNNGGGG!

“Hello, this is WRBH.”

“Hi, I’d like to try to become a reader at WRBH.  I’m a teacher, I read aloud all the time, I am a lector at my church, I’ve volunteered at another reading radio service in another state…”

“Great! We don’t have a lot of openings right now, but we’ll be doing auditions again soon.  Would you like to get on the calendar?”

“Yes!  But I have an accent.  Is that a problem?”

Well…yes and no.  Usually if I am speaking to the person on the phone and I can easily understand everything they are saying, the accent isn’t a hindrance; once again, the main issue is clarity.   Every listener tends to have readers they prefer–Gavin Sutton, with his warm, articulate, and almost ribbony way of reading is a perennial favorite.  Although he is from New Orleans (a St. Aug grad) he’s spent time working in journalism in Washington and shed his twang sometime back (although he certainly can put it back on if he wants to.)  The many voices coming from 88.3 FM are a melting pot (or should I say gumbo pot?) of original and unique cultures and regions, and we like how the differences work to make our station original and unique.  We have readers from all over the country and all over the world (when New Zealander Jane Sumner and British Constance McEneny read the newspaper together after Katrina, their day was nicknamed “Live From The BBC”).  Natalia’s sister Gigi in Houston loves listening to Peter Spera whenever we broadcast a book he has recorded: his oh-so-New Orleans cadence triggers memories of home.  Ronnie Virgets’ earthy “yat” growl has graced our airwaves throughout the years, and his unusual pronunciations are instantly recognizable on local commercials, voice overs, and PSAs.   Allison Freeman and Cameron Gamble are as southern as magnolias in the springtime (just listen to her say the word “pie”– it comes out like “pah”). I personally love hearing Elizabeth Plauche McKinley’s soft Cajun lilt when she reads magazines–it’s a surprising and delightful antidote to the typical “newscaster” sound that the rest of the country perceives as NOT having an accent.  Now, I’m afraid if her accent was closer to Rhonda Faye’s I might have to think twice about letting her read.  Give this a listen to see what I mean:

There’s more to come about becoming a volunteer–in two weeks, I’ll be writing about other issues that come up on our quest for readers.  Be on the lookout for the next blog post!

The Top Ten List of 2013–It Was a Very Good Year!

Last month, every magazine WRBH received had a cover story that screamed Christmas.  After perusing 30 magazines with glossy pages of red and green and sparkles and getting thoroughly bored with cookies, a shift has occurred: all I see in January are lists, lists, and more lists–from People and Time to Entertainment Weekly and Newsweek and beyond, just about everything that’s been read on the air this week contained a rundown on the best and the worst of 2013.  Actually, l love lists, and even though I was disappointed to realize I had only seen one of the top ten movies of the year, I did manage to catch what was considered the unanimously worst event of 2013: Miley Cyrus twerking at the VMA’s,   Something good came out of it, however–one of my New Year’s resolutions is to go to more movies and watch less TV.

Luckily for WRBH, we didn’t have any twerking disasters, and since we’re radio, no one can judge what we are wearing in order to put us on any worst dressed lists, so the only 10 things on my list are good ones for the station.  Without further ado, here are the top ten happenings at WRBH for the year of 2013!

10. Our collaboration with HEROfarm, a marketing firm that took us on as an altruistic project and offered their expertise and advice for free, proved to be a huge asset to the station.  We followed their innovative lead and stepped up our social media input, adding daily Facebook and Twitter updates, and created a station blog in order to connect more with our listeners and spread the word about what’s happening at WRBH. HEROfarm was also the driving force and creative genius behind the new WRBH logo (see the top left corner of this page!) and tagline.  The changes have kept us current, brought us new listeners, and have also inspired everyone here to become more creative in the world of internet mass communication

9. In June, our intrepid chief engineer Tim Vogel attended the International Association of Audio Information Services conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and spent the days sharing ideas, gleaning information in classes, and commiserating with other engineers and employees in the same field.  As Tim put it, “It was a valuable experience to find out how others deal with the same problems and technical issues WRBH has in a non-competitive environment, and knowing that everything I learned would be vital to the station made it even more important.”

8. Although saying goodbye to Wayne Holmes was difficult, we were delighted to welcome a new employee to fill the void left by Wayne’s move to Austin.   Shaun Johnson has taken over the weekend and Tuesday-Wednesday evening shifts, and already has become a favorite of the volunteers.  Shaun is a delightful addition to the station’s staff, and if you haven’t met him yet, do yourself a favor and come in on a Saturday or Sunday to introduce yourself and say hi.

7. Another new addition to the station’s roster is David Benedetto, and this talented young man has already made himself indispensable.  David comes in two days a week, and in a few short months has already conducted a survey on the likes and dislikes of our listeners, began  an audio interview program with the volunteers (his first subject was Gavin Sutton), worked on fundraising and marketing, took over as the second Writers’ Forum host when Ted O’Brien resigned, and is an oenophile who gives great advice on wine choices.  Is there anything this redheaded wonder can’t do?

6. Facelift time!  The porch and front of the building got a makeover when water damage was discovered, and even though it was expensive, the place looks beautiful.  Nothing like a fresh coat of paint to lift your spirits and make you proud.

5. The Golf Tournament was also a smashing, albeit soggy success, with a record number of golfers who signed up (although not all of them stayed because the weather was so dreadful.)  The good sports who did thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  As usual, the beer was cold, the crawfish were hot, the oysters were salty, the sandwiches, pralines, cookies and chips were plentiful, and the prizes were greatly appreciated.  Along with raising a tidy sum for the station, the golf tournament has turned into a FUN raising event that we look forward to each spring.  Let’s just hope next year is a clear, sunny day!

4.   And speaking of funds: 2013 was a banner year for WRBH.  Executive Director Natalia Gonzalez used her financial savvy and grant writing wizardry to procure a steady flow of income that helped to provide the station with a comfortable cushion by the end of the year.  In a world filled with uncertainty and lurking disaster, it’s a great relief to know that  we aren’t facing 2014 in dire straits in the money department.  We offer thanks for the unflagging support and wise counsel of board member Paul Leaman, and express our sincerest gratitude to the individual donors, board members, benefactors, companies and corporations who so generously shared their wealth with us.  Our listeners, who rely on us to provide information and entertainment, are also grateful.

3. Notice anything different?  Our gorgeous new sign practically stops traffic on Magazine Street with its good looks and cool new logo.  I can’t tell you how many people have asked if we just moved to 3606 Magazine, since they had never really seen us before.  The beloved old sign had a lovely, respectful sendoff when it was auctioned off at the fundraising dinner, and in an act of kindness, the generous buyer graciously donated her new purchase to board member Don Banning.  Which brings me to…

2. A BLIND TASTE.  The fundraising dinner was, as Natalia put it, “…a magical night.”  Elegantly dressed diners were blindfolded in order to experience the meal as a sightless person would, making it an unusually memorable and moving experience.  The dinner was held at La Petite Grocery, and chef Justin Devillier’s delectable five course meal was enhanced by wines paired with the dishes on the menu.  The sold out event was the culmination of  many months of hard work and extensive planning by event coordinator Rachel Stickney and her committee, and Charles Smith and Angela Hill were lively and hilarious auctioneers.  Such a remarkable evening!

1. Lastly, the top of the list takes me to the best thing about WRBH this year and every year– our volunteers.  Our cadre of talented men and women provide the very lifeblood of the station, and are a bunch of funny, interesting, intelligent and quirky characters to boot.  As a group, you gave infinite hours of enjoyment and fascination to people you have never met in person, simply because you are good at heart.  It isn’t always easy to devote an hour of a busy day to a book or magazine, but because you are such a generous and giving bunch, the studios in 2013 were almost always in use and we had to call a moratorium on taking new volunteers for six months.  Thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

May 2014 be just as wonderful!

Time To Give Yourself a Gift

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As I was doing the programming for this week, it struck me that magazines in December tend to be pretty much all alike.  I’m not talking about political magazines or the periodicals with a certain slant, like The Sun or The Nation or Reason, I mean the magazines that you can pick up in the doctor’s office, like Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal and Redbook, dedicated to giving good advice and filling your life with helpful tips on how to manage your home and feed your family well.  This month, they all feature a glossy cover with a mouthwatering picture of a delectable holiday cake or a platter of cookies, usually held aloft by a sweet faced celebrity wearing a cheerful red and green ensemble.  Inside are the same articles with slightly different titles: HAVE YOUR BEST CHRISTMAS EVER! or FIND THE PERFECT GIFT FOR EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST! or FOOLPROOF CHRISTMAS PARTY MENU FOR 10 TO 100 PEOPLE!  It’s intimidating, it’s anxiety producing, it makes me feel that somehow I’ve already failed at having MY BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!  Yet I still buy into the idea that everything needs to be somehow elevated to an outrageously high level for the holidays, and that if I don’t run myself ragged making everything decorated and delicious and sparkling and smelling like a cinnamon spiced spruce tree, I’ve cheated myself (or my family) out of what the holidays should be.  Yes, I know, this time of year should actually be about giving of ourselves and peace and good will towards men, but sometimes all the pressure makes that even harder to achieve than the foolproof party menu for 100 people.  (A tip from me to you: if by some chance, you actually DO have to have a party for 100 people this month, skip the magazine and just go and talk to Rachel Stickney’s mother.  I’m sure she would have infinitely better menus for you, more creative ideas for decorating, plus she actually has 100 place settings of Christmas china.  We’re not talking theoretical holiday party here–this woman is bona fide.)

There is one gift I give myself that helps to calm my seasonal frayed nerves and gives me some of the old fashioned idyllic Christmas spirit I crave so badly in December.  It’s free, it’s available to everyone, and it will not disappoint you like that awful green Jello mold with the grated cabbage and red cherries that your Mom promised was THE BEST SIDE DISH EVER!  It’s WRBH’s Holiday Midday Story Time, and it begins this week.  Starting Monday, December 9th, you can take a break from the shopping and baking and chaos and simply, quietly, listen.  Listen to gentle voices like Leah Chase, Cameron Gamble, Carolyn Cornia, Angela Hill, and Scott Jefferson  sharing stories you loved as a child.  Listen to new voices, too, with stories you haven’t heard before–this year Archie Manning, Sasha Masakowski, Ronnie Virgets, Brian De La Puente, Naomi Orlansky, Jackie Clarkson and Louellen Berger lend their talents to the readings, and the results are just wonderful.  The stories air weekdays at 12:30 pm, so finish your lunch, put that magazine away, brew up a cup of spiced tea, and settle in for a respite from the frantic pace of December.  Here’s the schedule:

All stories air at 12:30 pm, Monday through Friday:

12/9
A Visit From St. Nicholas – Mitch Landrieu
Nonna, Tell Me a Story- John Besh
The Birds for Christmas – Wendell Pierce

12/10
The Littlest Angel – Leah Chase
Sophie’s Surprise – Angela Hill
A Cajun Night Before Christmas – Bobby Hebert

12/11
A David Sedaris Christmas Story – Ron Swoboda
A Cup of Christmas Tea – Scott Jefferson
Together For Kwanzaa – Rose Ledet

12/12

A Child’s Christmas in Wales – James Marler

Engineer Ari and the Hanukkah Mishap – Naomi Orlansky

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – Chris Rose

12/13
Carols and Caroling – Sasha Masakowski
Frosty the Snowman – Brian De La Puente
The Story of Hanukkah – Arnie Fielkow

12/16
A Christmas Memory – Cameron Gamble

12/17
One Christmas – Cameron Gamble

12/18
The Greatest Gift – Clancy DuBos
Olive the Other Reindeer – Taylor Schilling

12/19
(Christmas excerpt from) She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother – Bryan Batt
Together for Kwanzaa – Carolyn Cornia
Holiday Lies – Ronnie Virgets

12/20
Gift of the Magi – Wendell Pierce
The Night before Christmas – Wynton Marsalis
‘Twas the Night of the King – Spud McConnell

12/23
The Nutcracker – Jackie Clarkson

12/24
Peace on the Western Front – Archie Manning
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Ashton Phelps

12/25
Replay of all stories
A Christmas Carol – Constance McEnaney
Old Time Radio: Miracle on 34th Street, Overthrow Christmas, Command Performance, It’s A Wonderful Life, Henry Morgan Show

12/26
Santa Calls – Mike Hoss
The Polar Express – Garland Robinette
Cobbler’s Guest – Joe Bruno

12/27
Merry Christmas Streganona! and The Tree of Cranes – Kristen Gisleson-Palmer and Janet Gisleson
Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia – Stacy Head

12/30
Bless You, Santa! – Jed Collins
The Old Elf and the Cobbler’s Sons – Louellen Berger
Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah – Naomi Orlansky

12/31

Rudolph – Jed Collins
JuJu Saves Christmas – Michelle Hirstius
Bipper and Wick – Fletcher and Travers Mackel
Angels Passing – Sasha Masakowsi