Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Rest of the Voice Story

I was a lucky baby: My grandfather read aloud to me from the time I could sit up straight on his lap without falling off. He had a great voice and he read with tremendous expression. I guess you could say that's where I got my start: My parents put my reading-aloud skills on display whenever they had guests. My first, second and third grade teachers all put me to work reading aloud to younger or slower kids, so I got lots of practice.

When I was 12 or so I read a Reader's Digest article about how your voice can make or break you and followed the tips and advice they gave to train my voice and keep from getting a Texas accent. (To be fair, I had inherited my father's, two grandfathers' and a great-grandmother's velvet-steel singing voice.)

My first job, obtained for me by my mother, who worked in the lobby taking classifieds, was telephone soliciting newspaper subscriptions for the San Antonio Express-News. It made me an unaccustomed amount of money, but lord it was boring! I must have done OK at it, because they didn't fire me; I quit to go get married and have babies. I did telephone sales again, but the company was ahead of its time and went bust. And another such job, selling display ads for a "Jewish American News," followed but lasted only a few months. At length I joined the USAF so I could afford to get a divorce and still meet my kids' medical needs.

My voice "career" really started when I was in the Air Force, stationed on Guam. I answered the phone and called folks as part of my job, and all the guys just raved about my voice. So I went to the Armed Forces Remote Entertainment Services (I think that's what AFRES stands for) radio station on base and asked if I could do any voice work for them. They put me to work reading — and doing my own recording — on some 93 two-minute scripts describing different jobs that airmen could cross-train into, a program called PALACE CHASE. Only when I had finished did they inform me that you could make money doing this, and that there was a guy downtown who was always looking for voice talent.

Rather flattered to hear myself called that, I called "the guy", Joe Couch. A refugee from the rat race of, ironically, the Dallas advertising scene, Joe  co-owned Glimpses of Guam, the only advertising agency in Micronesia; he worked for all the big brands. I went and auditioned in a closet-size room, reading a 60-second Borden ice cream radio commercial; he promptly said, "I'm gonna use that. Send me an invoice for $45 (TV, I discovered, paid $60!), and see what you can do with this spot" — for Chevrolet.

For the next two-and-a-half years I worked nearly every week, often with Joe Cunningham; a real character and a real voice talent, besides doing commercials he made his living, I think, as a musician and guru in four or five languages including Tagalog, Chamorro and some Samoan. And maybe buying and selling just enough pakalolo to get his own for free. I was the only female voice on the air, and local radio station KUAM, the only 50,000-watt station in the Pacific, came looking for me, flattered me, offered me incredible money ($10 an hour) and hired me. I got my Class IV license (paid money and filled out a form, learned to read gauges and monitors and do all the legal paperwork), and I became a weekend broadcast announcer and newsreader. The program (and on-air talent) manager, though, was an ex-Navy weenie who reminds me now of William Macy. He ran far too military a ship for my liking, so I jumped ship and went to work for KSTO ("Kay-steree-ohhhhhh!"), still part-time but now on nights. That was the only FM station in Micronesia, way off in the boonies on a mountainside. It was fun.

At my next assignment, Rapid City, I worked briefly at KOTA but quit to do commercials. Radio is actually boring to me, and I find I do much better with a script than spontaneously. When I got out of the service and moved here to Fort Worth in 1982, I was too absorbed in trying to help my landlord and lover manage several careers — farming, excavating and hauling, truck brokering and running a front-end loader on the sand and gravel pit we had somehow acquired  — to think about voice work.

But in 1986, fresh from owning a Jacksboro Highway bar we similarly somehow had acquired and only too happily sold, we ran straight into the Recession. In desperate need of money to pay notes or lose land, I looked up "Recording Studios" in the YP and asked the guy who answered at one of the few in Fort Worth whether they needed any non-union voice talent.

Eagle Audio was a brand-new studio destined for big things, even though it's smack in the middle of what the founders laughingly called "Fort Worth's wine-tasting district." I went there and auditioned for them, reading scripts they supplied with lots of different voices and accents, and they put me on their demo reel. I've worked mainly for them — and often, to my delight, with fellow quick study Art Jones — ever since, though I've also worked for other studios on industrial and private gigs. And I never did join the union, so I never went super-national or got into cartoons: I've not been great at auditions, but now that my voice is older (and so am I!), I feel more comfortable about the way I look, so maybe that will change.

I don't really see that I did anything different or extraordinary, @BronxLens, but if any of this helps, I'm glad. It's been interesting! 

Have No Fear, the Talent's Here!

That was the t-shirt my friend and producer, Art Jones, and I decided we would have made after leaving our second consecutive ADDY awards banquet clutching trophies. We never did, but he wrote such great spots for us that we could have, and no one would have thought it odd. In the same way some screen and stage actors are always "on,"  Art and I always fell into giddy persiflage, enjoying verbal sparring matches while our spouses enjoyed each other's company and sympathy more quietly. Art's whole approach to life involves spontaneous and witty shtick; our timing in commercials was something we could count on, as was the funny and punny banter between takes or between spots. It still is, though we more often work separately these days.

So I joined Fluther, and someone asked about the "voice acting" credential in my profile. Or something. I just said "Wanted to." And as best I can figure — aside from being blessed with good voice genes — that's all I did: Wanted to. Bad enough to do it.

Well, he wrote back privately and begged me to explain in more depth. I wrote so long I wouldn't want the time to be wasted, so what's above is "the rest of the story." (Bless you, Paul Harvey.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Selling Sorcery: How do you price it?

So there I was, talking to Linda over a kitchen table loaded down with the nine oils, the Dragonsblood tincture and Hyssop extract, and the live dill ( a sprig for each little bottle) needed for my new Protection Oil, which I'm bottling for sale at PPD along with the Wellness Oil previously mentioned. See the small plastic box in the photo? That's full of bottles of Protection Oil.

None of the bottles are new; all are found or bought old and recycled. Many of the corks are new, and some of the old corks had to be drilled and sanded out. The largest one is two ounces, the smallest about 9 ml. I was looking at a tube about midway between the two sizes and thinking I'd sell it for $7 or $8 — and Linda said that was too cheap. "How do you price it, then?" I asked. Her phone rang. The discussion ended. I still don't know for sure, but maybe a DIY cost comparison is in order.

If you wanted to make two ounces of this oil you'd have to buy (or already have) each of the nine essential oils — Petitgrain and Black Pepper (both nowhere on local niche stores' shelves, so I ordered them online); Jasmine absolute, which is $24 for a 10ml bottle; and Sandalwood, Patchouli, Cedarwood, Juniper Berry, Cypress, and Geranium, at an average of $11 a bottle. You'd have to have or make some Dragonsblood tincture; it's sold only in solid chunks, and you have to smash it up and figure out the solvents. You'd have to have some Hyssop extract on hand; it's not uncommon, but what are you going to use the rest of the bottle for? And you'd need a sprig of fresh dill and a nifty antique bottle; fresh live organic dill is sold in $6.49 packages with about a hundred sprigs (I made 20 bottles total), and cool old bottles run around $3 to $9 — more, if they're really pretty or rare.

Then there's the labor: I bathed ritually, dressed up in my casual witchy robe, put on makeup and did my hair, brushed my teeth with tea tree oil toothpaste and mouthwash, even did my eyes before beginning the ritual to make this oil. I won't count that, because the labor being prepared for was for love.

When I woke up this morning and smelled the result of adding enough olive oil to fill my pottery oils chalice, I doubled the ingredients — did the spell again — then carefully placed dill sprigs in each bottle before filling them (using a clean hypodermic syringe, no needle). And I still have to print and attach the ingredient cards with gold cord!

So here's my price, which I will be happy to justify to the incredulous: the smallest bottle will be priced at $7, the largest at $40. Of course, anyone who needs two ounces of protection oil — which is used pretty much solely to anoint windowsills and thresholds — will probably be a professional home cleanser and thus well able to make his or her own oils, so I'll probably be bringing that one back home to keep as stock. Then again, maybe he or she will appreciate the convenience!

What would you think to pay for the ingredients of sympathetic magick? How much would you think feathers (for a wind-calming spell), empty wasp nests (for getting rid of harassing pests and nuisances), big bird bones (for fast flight away from troubling persons and situations), or powdered cow horn (so someone will "blow your own horn" appropriately) would cost? I'm telling you, this business of selling sorcery and sorcery accessories isn't nearly as easy as giving them away!

I haven't even started trying to price the staff lengths or the wonderful matched antler sheds (for Stag King crowns) or the marvelous twisty Barbados sheep horns. Miserere!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

North Texas Pagan Pride Day 2008

Woohoo! PPD is only 11 days away. (See ) I am going to be a vendor there — first time anywhere, and first pagan fair!

The universe has provided me with a marvelous, experienced pagan mentor for vending, Linda Hall — who is also the person responsible for getting us two "pop-up" tents, which I understand are a vendor's dream. She's bringing some gorgeous batik hangings and sarongs. (The sarongs have another name in the Caribbean; thanks to my friend, Margaret, I remember now that it's called a pareu or pareo.)

I'm bringing my famous herbal oils — "Wellness" oil, excellent for massage and for rubbing on owwies, bull-nettle and insect stings and spider bites, and the skin over unwell body parts, and for a wonderfully renewing bath. (I call it healing oil when I give it away, but I have a feeling the FDA or the FCC would get upset and make me put disclaimers on the labels of any bottles for sale.) This oil is presented in highly ornamental big bottles with a story/ingredient card attached.

I'll also be offering some Pagan Security Devices: Protection Oil, for windowsills and thresholds, in pretty corked, antique and unusual small bottles; freshly made organic sage smudge sticks; sticks of fresh organic rosemary; pentacles and maybe baguas for the porch and front door; and some big huge (sterilized) bones with big teeth marks to place on doorsteps and porches as thief deterrents — that is, if Bubba and Khan don't chew through the steel cables tying them to the porch and take them away for burial. (Mo suggested making a huge, heavy paw imprinter for the yard ... maybe next year!)

I'll be bringing some handmade witchy ornaments and accessories, some staff lengths, reclaimed and recycled antlers and horns (NOTE: no animals were harmed so I could offer them) for do-it-yourselfers, bundles of feathers, and a few wonderful Feng Shui remedies. If I can convince Mo to gather and work them, I may be bringing long willow and grapevine braids, suitable for wands and staves or wreaths, respectively. (I'll put up a photo of my own staff as soon as I finish attaching the willow braid and crystal to it.)

I will be proudly offering a polymer clay product that Mo invented, Patriotic Pagan pins: They feature the sacred spiral in red, white and blue, and some feature tiny Swarovski crystals. And if my buddy Leslie obliges with the design in time, I'll even be offering "Goddess Bless Our Troops" vehicle "ribbon" stickers!

I will also, in accordance with the Bright * Green * Light theme of this year's PPD, be offering an extremely "green", sun-charged lighting product, Lunabrite. (See ) It comes in blue and green and I'll be offering it by the foot, cut to the desired length, or in precut necklace/collar/bracelet lengths. The company is sending me several coils, and I will also be taking orders for bulk quantities.

BEST of all, though, I'll be bringing high-quality prints of three Thick Air(C) images and of the "Tranquil Cats" photo seen earlier in this blog. If you want to be sure you get one, please let me know which images you want, whether you want them mounted or rolled, and about what size you want them. I'll let you know the price by return e-mail. If it's not too windy, I'll be offering smoke divination — and you can take your reading/image home.

Look for the beautiful double tent with the gorgeous tall young pagans (Mo's oldest grandson, Rusty, and one of my granddaughters, Angel), probably in costume, somewhere near it. I'm so excited!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pagan copyeditor ("Will edit for Dragonsblood," maybe?)

Tricia Ferguson, whose Pragmatic Existentialist blog link I have attached, challenged me to write about the common practice of using a fish symbol or the word "Christian" on your business card, your business sign, or your advertising. So far I've only seen Christians flaunting their religious leanings, which was also her observation; and this makes it seem that advertising your Christianity is meant as reassurance that you will both follow the Golden Rule and charge humble-carpenter-like fees.

But let's turn it around a moment: Would the word "Catholic" or "Muslim" or "Jewish" in a business's marketing make you more or less apt to choose that advertiser? How about "Pagan"? How about "Mormon"? How about "Atheist"?

I submit that religion is properly marketed only in a religion-oriented context. On the Churches page of your local weekly paper, for example — though I wouldn't expect most said weeklies to respond with anything but civil thanks when you pay for the ad, at least here in Christian Church-heavy Azle. In an ad offering pulpit supply, or ritual robes, or hymnals or religious instruction: in those places it's necessary and indeed, desired information. But where else is it appropriate?

And is it really any kind of guarantee of goodness? Of course not. Think of Bob Jones, and then think of all the religious right-wing figures who've wound up sobbing apologies and promising repentance on prime-time news.

From a strictly business standpoint, I think it's best to keep religion private; you never know who will see your marketing, and not everyone thinks like you do about your religion. Personally, unless the person using religion in marketing is a minister or runs a religious educational entity, I take the inclusion of symbols of Christianity as an indication that I should avoid that business. For one thing, that person is unlikely (based on a lifetime of experience) to embrace my paganism. For another, I don't want to be "saved," which Christians are obligated to do to nonbelievers and heathens if they want to get to heaven. And finally, I've done business with such people, and every single time I've been disappointed or disgusted. I see the symbols and the word as a warning that some kind of con or misrepresentation is likely.

Freedom of religion is also freedom from religion. Thank Goodness!

Blessed be!

Real Racism: The Mediavore's Knee-jerk Outrage

Fantasy Talking Head With Brain, to caller: Don Imus has been charged with racism so often he's almost as tied to the word as Al Sharpton. Why do you think that's happened?

Caller: Well, what color is he?

FTHWB: Well, duh, Imus is white and wears a cowboy hat.

Caller: Well, there you go. Now we know.

FTHWB: Res ipsa loquitur, huh?

Caller: Boy, howdy ...


If Al Sharpton hates racism so much, why isn't he stamping it out where it's deepest? He could start with himself, if he weren't too busy setting himself up to be The Great Equalizer or maybe Vice Miracle.

The talking heads on CNN have once again loaned America's news-watching time to the Rev. Al Sharpton, enabling the attention-hungry racist icon's insatiable limelight addiction. Once again CNN and, to a lesser extent, other networks, in their insatiable greed for bloodthirsty, even incendiary and therefore loyal viewers, unleash Al Sharpton to fulminate and shake his fist. And once again, Sharpton is being allowed and even encouraged to sully Don Imus' name and endanger his livelihood — by attacking Imus' right to the freedom of speech.

This is so sick. Honestly, it looks like a strikebreaking B movie writer thought it up, just to resettle Sharpton more deeply into his homemade Holy White PC Vigilante frame (gold, poster size, adorned with signed wallet photos of Don King, Rosa Parks and Marjoe Gortner).

I think the reason more Americans haven't figured this out is that most of us don't listen to gangsta rap. We hear Sharpton and what Imus said (and didn't say), but the networks can't play what the black rap stars are saying about white people. Consequently, we don't know what a new rap slang word means until it gets into street circulation, like "nappy-headed" and "ho". And if we use it, all of a sudden it's an insult. We are not allowed to say something because only blacks can use that word — like only whites used to be able to use certain water fountains: as if letting "whitey's" lips touch it would befoul it, somehow make it unusable.

The way Sharpton acts, he's operating on some false assumptions. One of them is that only white people can be charged with racism: I wonder how he would react if a class action civil rights discrimination suit were brought against him and/or the CNN producer that keeps him on the air? Or just "Theft of valuable enjoyment and broadcast time"? Come to think of it, CNN is culpable. Cable subscribers pay for journalism, but we are not getting it: For balance the story should present an equally well-known white person speaking against Sharpton's endless, unhelpful consumption of the networks' news time — and reminding us that every American has both the right to Free Speech and the right to change the channel!

It used to be Jesse Jackson, remember? But he didn't get nearly this picky, and I don't recall his being so quick to get into the media. He basically just snapped to the Clintons' side as if spring-loaded anytime there was a catastrophe they could blame on Republicans, and then he said whatever and whenever the Clintons decided he should. In his own inimitable style, of course. Sharpton is different.

Sharpton appears to think that he is defending all African-Americans' inviolable right to not be offended by other people's free speech. For one thing, of course, he's not the spokesman, and for another that's a nonexistent, impossible right; but the image is solidifying. But he goes further: since the First Amendment is still in force, he can only wail loudly that whatever the offender said should be punished — and he can only do that because, ironically, the very people who should be most alert to encroachments on our freedom of speech and of the press pay him to.

Their currency is what he loves most: His name and image in millions of Americans' living rooms, many white. The attention — and the invaluable assistance — of the world's media. Free publicity. The ability to climb a ladder in a valley and call that the moral high ground because it's on CNN. And the positioning to use his credentials to incite race rioting and call it preaching.

Reverend Sharpton, minister to thyself: WWJD? RTFM*.

I think Sharpton and CNN both need to be called sharply to task. They are acting racist, but in such a blatant way that the fact is ignored — and they never bring his assault on the First Amendment up as the chilling news it is. I think it is racist that he is given my time to cast such stones at broadcasting professional whites while black rappers are becoming multimillionaires by spewing out hatred and threats that are far more racist than anything Don Imus ever dreamed. And I think that it is blatant racism, not to mention illegal discrimination, to attack only whites for using the exact words that blacks themselves first used. Apparently, you can only be called a racist if you're white, but you can only practice racism openly if you're black.

What America needs is for Don Imus to sue Al Sharpton for harassment and stalking and win big. And maybe that class action suit would be great backup — and an excellent reason for the networks to reinvest in journalists.

*Phrase (C) 1998 elan communications (T-shirt design)