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03-16-12 UPDATE: Ian Shoales: Walking Dead
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With the help of KQED in San Francisco, I'm happily able to bring listeners even more Ian Shoales this week, in an effort to catch up and keep up with his entertainingly prolific output. I just hope he will be willing to let us run his stuff when he finally gets picked up by 60 Minutes, who clearly need him. 60 Minutes, the nation needs you!

With help of the fine folks at KQED, I now present Ian Shoales' brilliant work as a part of this podcast. This time around, a commentary on season two of THe Walking Dead.




03-16-12: A 2012 Interview with Vincent P. Barabba

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"...you're more interested in how these parts interact..."

—Vincent P. Barabba

Vince Barabba has the kind of low-key charm — and utter expertise — that makes it entirely unnecessary for him to try to "sell" you on his book, 'The Decision Loom.' It is, after all, your decision. He can, and does a good job though, of giving you enough of the basics to ensure that you're aware of what he's put into the book.

Yes, there was a small amount of me that was thinking, "The guy who developed OnStar is sitting in my living room at my untidy table loaded with books!" But to be honest, mostly I was thinking how important it is to meet, or hear or somehow get the measure of the man (or woman) who writes a book, particularly a non-fiction title. With regards to meeting the author, he'll be appearing live at the Capitola Book Café on Tuesday, March 20, at 7:30 PM.

In this case, the word "marketing" appears pretty early on in the conversation, and in general, true or not, I tend to think of those involved in marketing as selling themselves first and foremost. That certainly was not Barabba's approach. As he and I spoke, he merely (and barely) had to address the ideas and his experience. Both spoke well enough that you quickly realize there Barabba has something substantial and real to say. And he has the means to write and speak about it in a manner which give the reader or listener confidence that what you're hearing is well worth your reading or listening time. So much so that may take the time when I have the time to go back and speak to him in greater detail. In the interim, listeners can get to the heart of 'The Decision Loom' by following this link to the MP3 file of my conversation with author Vincent P. Barabba.


03-15-12: Ayize Jama-Everett and Ryan Boudinot Interviewed at SF in SF on January 28, 2012

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"Most people would be surprised what they are willing to do."

—Ayize Jama-Everett

"I really love that idea of playing with cluelessness."

—Ryan Boudinot At SF in SF on January 28, 2012, I had the chance for ten-minute interviews with Ryan Boudinot, author of 'Blueprints of the Afterlife' and Ayize Jama-Everett, author of 'The Liminal People.' The short-format interview is particularly fun, because the end is well in sight, and you've got to focus on the present.

In conversation with Ayize Jama-Everett, we revisited his book 'The Liminal People,' a novel that manages to be both atmospheric and exciting as it examines the implications of people with what you'd have to call "superpowers," but most assuredly none like those usually associated with the spandex set. Since Everett and I had spoken before, we honed in on specific points in his novel. The follow-on should be superb.

I'd not spoken with Ryan Boudinot before, though I would have if I could have fit him in my schedule. I really enjoyed 'Blueprints of the Afterlife,' and I'd love to get a chance to crack his other non-genre work. Ryan and I talked more about the scope of where he puts his writing, and the subjects and genre he pursues.

You can find my interview with Ayize Jama-Everett by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

You can find my interview with Ryan Boudinot by following this link to the MP3 audio file.




03-13-12 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read, Episode 35: William Landay, 'Defending Jacob'

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Here's the thirty-fifth episode of my new series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. The podcasts/radio broadcasts will be of books worth your valuable reading time. I'll try to keep the reports under four minutes, for a radio-friendly format. If you want to run them on your show or podcast, let me know.

My hope is that in under four minutes I can offer readers a concise review and an opportunity to hear the author read from or speak about the work. I'm hoping to offer a new one every week.

The thirty-fifth episode is a look at William Landay and his new novel, 'Defending Jacob'.

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Time to Read, Episode 35: William Landay, 'Defending Jacob'.




03-13-12: A 2012 Interview with Whitley Strieber Sound Analysis and New MP3 File

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"The interesting thing about it is that the chosen frequency was right on the line where you, as a younger person, could hear it but Whitley and Anne couldn't."

— Dan Drasin, documentary filmmaker and audio consultant

Since I posted this interview, I've received a lot of feedback, and a new version of the MP3 audio file. Let me explain.

The first reaction came in late yesterday afternoon, from a listener who told me the interview was for him, unlistenable, because he could indeed hear the high frequencies on the recording. "I can clearly hear a very high pitch ringing in the Kleffel taped interview aptly described as the highest pitch on a glass harmonica. I can only bear to listen for a few moments as it is so pronounced and continuous that it is giving me a headache. I have tried listening to different parts of the interview and it is always present. I am not sure that it is not an artifact of the recording equipment. I am a musician but I have never heard that sort of sound in all my years working with recording equipment. I would be curious to know if anyone else can hear it."

Apparently others could. On the advice from Dan Drasin, documentary filmmaker and audio consultant, Whitley used an iPhone application to analyze his apartment in hope of determining whether or not there was a listening device that might have caused this sound, but he came up empty. Whitley alo related a story about a time when he was in Paris, France, alone in his hotel room. Two men came to him and offered to induce "missing time" and interview him while he was in that state. They used sound to do so, and he heard, but was not allowed to keep, the interview. With regards to our interview, as noted below, he wondered what might have transpired during our missing five minutes.

Drasin sent me a new audio file, processed with a notch filter to remove the 9Hz sound. There was a bit of discussion about the sound of old televisions. When I was very young, I used to be able to hear an analogue of this sound when I went to department stores where there were lots of televisions on display. But since the sosund was confined to the Strieber apartment, I do not think that it could have come from a nearby malfucntioning television set.

Drasin sent me this in an email:

"With regard to the strange, high-pitched sound, we can rule out old CRT (tube-type) Television sets and computer monitors because the pitch, or frequency, is all wrong. The strange sound was about 9KHz (9,000 Hz or vibrations per second). Old TVs put out 15,750 Hz and CRT computer monitors go even higher, so they're not even in the ballpark.

If the sound was a practical joke by the Visitors just to stir things up a bit, there's no telling how it might have been accomplished. If it was some kind of silly black-ops thing, one possibility might have been a high-frequency sound beam aimed at one of Whitley's windows from outside. But it also could have had any of a number of other causes unknowable to us, or that we just haven't thought of yet. The interesting thing about it is that the chosen frequency was right on the line where you, as a younger person, could hear it but Whitley and Anne couldn't.

About the slowing of the clocks: Old-fashioned electric clocks use rotary electric motors that are locked to the 60Hz AC power-line frequency as their time reference. Battery-powered and modern AC-powered ones use an electronic circuit with a quartz crystal that vibrates at a constant frequency -- usually about 33KHz (also way out of the range of the strange sound). To slow down or stop both types of clocks would surely require different means, both of which would be fairly exotic."

Thanks, Dan! If you could hear the sound and were unable to listen to the interview, it should be possible now. Here's a link to that new (mono) MP3 file.

I'm just glad that whatever happened, and however one might wish to explain it, I do indeed have hard evidence. Readers who want to see more comments on this interview should head over Whitley's website. We now return you to your regularly scheduled life ... five minutes late, forever.




03-12-12: A 2012 Interview with Whitley Strieber

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"We find ourselves grappling daily at every level with questions we can neither bear nor answer."

—Whitley Strieber

I interviewed Whitley Strieber in his Santa Monica apartment in 2008. It was a really enjoyable conversation about his book '2012,' a science-fiction novel I also enjoyed. Much of the conversation involved his non-fiction as well as the novel. The apartment was very nice, and the whole experience memorable for the cozy suburban setting which contrasted with our outré conversation.

I suppose that there is some sort of irony in my showing up again in that same apartment in 2012, with no apocalypse in sight. I drove straight down from Santa Cruz to Santa Monica, arrived early, had a nice lunch in Culver City, then found a good parking spot near the Strieber apartment. I lugged a couple of cases of equipment up the short stairway and knocked. Whitley's wife Anne opened the door, and as I entered my hopes for another good interview fell. Inside the Strieber apartment, I heard a high-pitched whine, which would surely ruin any recording I hoped to make. It was so prominent, so annoying, my immediate assumption was that the origin was from one of the neighboring apartments. It was so crazy-making that were the origin in their apartment they would surely do something about it.

"Can you hear that noise?" I asked. "Is there something we can do about that?"

"You mean the refrigerator?" she asked. Whitley was in the back, coming out in a moment.

"That's no refrigerator," I said with certainty. It was a high-pitched electronic shriek, varying slightly in tone sometimes, almost as if someone were operating a wah-wah pedal on it. I tried to describe it to her, and frantically wondered if there were somewhere else we could record. I was out of my element, though, and had no nearby place to stage the recording. With sounds like this, one can with software filter them out, but it is incredibly tedious, very difficult and very dicey. I didn't know what to do, so I just started setting up.

Understand, this was no background sound. This was loud. It was like tinnitus turned up to 20; but it was way, way too loud to be tinnitus. But, with no other option, I just started setting up. Whitley came in, but neither he nor Anne knew what I was talking about; they couldn't hear it.

I'm not a big "woo" person. I like weird fiction, but my life is entirely prosaic. But I was finding myself in a very weird situation. When I finally got my recorder set up, I was beginning to suspect that maybe this was just tinnitus. Fortunately, I'd brought my headphones along. I set up my recorder, turned on the mics, put on my headphones — and the sound vanished. When I took off the headphones, I could hear it, so loud it was very distracting. Headphones on — nothing.

I recorded from the get-go, just to see what would happen. I thought that when I returned to edit the audio, I might hear something. I've included some of the lead up to the interview, so you can hear my reactions to what was happening. It was all very weird.

When I sat down to talk with Whitley Strieber, aside from the shrieking noise I had to endure for the entire interview, I had a blast. Whitley is smart, fun and very engaging to speak with. We explored his book at length. All the time, I heard that shrieking and mentioned it a couple of times in the interview. Whitley mentioned that some who had read the book head a whistling sound. I hadn't heard anything while reading it, but now...this was truly strange.

We finished talking, and I packed up my gear, thanked the Striebers for their hospitality, then headed down the stairs. Even as I walked down the stairs, I could hear that sound bleeding down the tight, enclosed stairway— until they closed the door. Then it stopped.

That sound, happily, does not appear on the audio. You'll hear a finely recorded conversation with Whitley Strieber. I've never had an experience like that and to this day I find it disturbing. Later, Whitley emailed me to tell me all the clocks lost five minutes when I was there, whether they were on the mains or not. I checked the timeline of the raw audio, but couldn't find any jumps.

Readers can hear this interview via three links.

Here's the link to the MP3 audio file of the whole interview, one hour, 36 minutes.

Here's the link to the MP3 audio file of part one of the interview.

Here's the link to the MP3 audio file of part two of the interview.

I take no responsibility for what you hear or what happens to you while you listen. As I said earlier, I live a prosaic life.


New to the Agony Column

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Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Alastair Reynolds : "...the first book was going to contain about a hundred years of implicit future history..."

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Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Roz Chast : "...I had no idea of how it worked because we had never talked about it."

07-08-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 170: Roz Chast : Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

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Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Alan Furst : "...certain periods are echoic..."

06-29-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 169: Alan Furst : Midnight in Europe

06-27-14: Commentary : Sarah Lotz Counts 'The Three' : The Uses of Fear

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Sarah Lotz : "...people need answers..."

06-25-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 168: Sarah Lotz : The Three

06-21-14: Commentary : Steven Galloway Conjures 'The Confabulist' : Creating Harry Houdini

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Steven Galloway : "...so much has been written about Harry Houdini..."

06-18-14: Commentary : Raymond B. Russell Heralds 'The Dark Return of Time' : An Atmosphere of Crime

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Thomas Frank on Parlor Tricks : "Off With Their Heads!"

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 167: Steven Galloway : The Confabulist

06-16-14: Commentary : Geoff Dyer Has 'Another Great Day at Sea' : The Steel Beach Party

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Geoff Dyer : "..but it was as nothing compared to the noise of planes landing..."

06-15-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 166: Geoff Dyer : Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush

06-09-14: Commentary : Colson Whitehead Does 'The Noble Hustle' : Incandescent Memories of the Future

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Colson Whitehead : "...I won five dollars, and from then on..."

06-08-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 165: Colson Whitehead : The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Deaths

06-02-14: Commentary : Kaui Hart Hemmings Explores 'The Possibilities' : Framing Life

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Kaui Hart Hemmings : "I burned that copy and started fresh."

05-31-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 164: Kaui Hart Hemmings : The Possibilities

05-26-14: Commentary : Kent A. Kiehl Heeds 'The Psychopath Whisperer' : Prison of the Mind

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Kent A. Kiehl : "How do you measure the cost of those sixteen homicides?"

05-21-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 163: Kent A. Kiehl, PhD : The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience

05-19-14: Commentary : Justin Go Clocks 'The Steady Running of the Hour' : Time-Crossed Lovers and Wars

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Justin Go : "... there was always something that had to happen ..."

05-15-14: Commentary : Jeff VanderMeer Grants 'Authority' : The Parallax Views

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jeff VanderMeer : "...the land people don't talk to the sky people don't talk to the water people..."

05-13-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 162: Justin Go : The Steady Running of the Hour

05-12-14: Commentary : Matt Taibbi Views 'The Divide' : Zero-Sum Economic Morality

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Matt Taibbi : "... the biggest bank robbery in the history of the world ..."

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