My original plan for this week’s episode changed when something happened over the weekend that could really make the episode much, MUCH better. So I’ve temporarily pushed that one back a couple of weeks, which means assembling a different episode entirely from scratch. So in that respect, I should have a new episode out tomorrow, just a couple of days late.
I know I’m being a little bit cryptic, but I’ve been burned on this thing before, so if it doesn’t work out then it’s no harm/no foul and I do the episode as originally planned. And if it does…you’re in for a treat.
Let’s start with: I’m okay, my family is okay, everybody’s okay. My wife, as you may know, was considered especially vulnerable to the virus and spent a lot of time in the Southern Studio, but she’s back home and everyone in the household is fully vaccinated, thank goodness. But that doesn’t have a lot to do with where I’ve been.
The fact is, I’m a victim of my own success.
This show is considered “big, for a small podcast” which typically doesn’t mean that much, but in recent months the show has seen a small surge in growth. This happens every now and again: I see a sudden uptick in downloads and then it levels off for a long while until another uptick comes along. My listenership managed to cross some critical thresholds this time around.
So it was time once again for me to think about choosing another provider to host the show. I’ve done it before and it’s typically not a big deal. In fact, it usually goes so smoothly that you don’t know the difference.
The problem that I bumped into this time is that the new host has limits for data uploads that I didn’t know about, because the show’s length (in minutes and seconds) isn’t usually enough to create a problem for me. It’s when I started migrating older shows into the new space that I suddenly had a problem, and I was prevented from uploading anything else until a month had gone by and the meter reset itself.
So my options were to buy more data to upload for a single cycle, or wait it out. I chose to wait it out, since I’d recently spent the money on the new hosting and the new theme music, some of which you haven’t even heard yet.
There’s a little more detail in this audio clip here, which should already be in your podcatcher:
Someone asked me recently about how to support the show financially if Patreon isn’t really your speed. I get that; we’ve got all got enough things to keep track of, and there may be other reasons not to enjoy Patreon.
Well, now there is an additional avenue: PayPal.
If you send a donation to the show via PayPal, you’ll still be able to get the weekly newsletter, albeit via email rather than through the Patreon site. It’s a (very) little extra work for me, but if you’re willing to take that step, it’s the least I can do. And never let it be said I didn’t do the least I could do.
Newsletters will be sent on a prorated basis according to your donation. The current donation level is $5/month, so if you send me a fiver, you’ll get the newsletter for 5 weeks. $10 will get you two months, and so forth. And you still get to be on the Wall of Fame, with no distinction between the donation method.
So you can either go to paypal.me/HowGoodItIs or click that gigantic PayPal logo above, and you’ll go straight to the show’s PayPal page. Or, if you prefer the old-school DIY route, use the firstname.lastname@example.org address from the PayPal app.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s no new episode this week.
I’m in the Southern Studio, which means I’m using a different setup from the one I typically use when I record the show. It also means that my resources as a whole are more limited.
While working on the writing portion of the show (Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Hanky Panky, ” for those of you who don’t listen to my episodes all the way to the end but would appreciate the preview), my travel laptop crashed. Well…okay. It’s an older machine and that sort of thing happens now and again. But this was a hard, Blue Screen of Death-level crash, the kind where the laptop has to go back and try to recover stuff.
Now, this actually happened to me a couple of weeks ago, when I was recording the Paul Pena episode, and it’s the reason the show posted late. I’d just finished recording and the crash came while I was saving the audio file. I save them to a personal server located at home, rather than locally on the hard drive. It takes longer but it’s generally safer. However, the save didn’t complete and I lost the file, so I had to record it all over again. And that’s why you have a Stressed Out Claude releasing a show at 3AM instead of somewhere between 11 and midnight.
So yeah…I can’t say I wasn’t warned. And I guess that computer just doesn’t enjoy the whole Carolina Shag scene (never mind it never leaves the indoors). But I wasn’t prepared for this particular crash. This time around the computer said it couldn’t recover the operating system. I’m not as computer-savvy as some, but I’m more savvy than others, and one thing I do know is that if you don’t have a working operating system, what you have instead is a bunch of electronics that don’t know how to be a computer.
Finally the laptop was able to tell me “OK, I can maybe come back, IF you let me restore to factory settings.” Which, of course, means losing a lot of software. Documents I wasn’t worried about, since I was getting an opportunity to copy those over to a flash drive. But that means I’m losing my audio recording and editing software, my Photoshop, and a few other odds and ends that I can’t replace until I get back home.
But I also can’t sit here for the rest of the week staring at a screen. (I mean, I COULD, but the screen has to change now and again.) So, backup documents and reset the machine, is the route I go. Unfortunate, but necessary. And that means that the Southern Studio is shut down for the time being. So, no promises but I’m going to try hard to release two episodes in the next week or so, with the first one (Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Hanky Panky, in case you were only skimming the first paragraph) on the usual Sunday (26th), and a listener-requested song as the next episode. Which one? I’m not telling, but I will tell you that Paul Kondo was the guy making the request (scroll almost all the way down to see the request, if you’d like a hint), and if we lived closer together, Paul and I would totally be drinking buddies. In fact, I may owe him a drink.
This is one of those things that starts with a story.
Several months ago I attended a podcasting conference, my first one. And one of the presentations there came from the folks at Patreon. They had all kinds of cool ideas about how You Can Monetize Your Podcast And Life the Comfortable Life Forever As A Professional Podcaster (I’m way overselling their oversell, but you get the idea). So with a little bit of their guidance I signed up and set up a Patreon page.
But while I was doing that setup, I realized that I didn’t really have a lot extra to offer someone who took the time to send me money. I couldn’t guarantee bonus episodes because I’m crushed for time, especially during the year. And stickers/mugs/other merch…I dunno. It frankly felt a little bit weird. So I looked at what other shows were doing and I got some ideas from them, but they also had WAY more listeners than I did (do), so their stuff scaled up pretty easily. I put in just enough to get the page active (there was a time constraint to setting up, but I don’t remember why), and I pretty much walked away from the idea. Didn’t mention it here, didn’t mention it during the show, didn’t mention it in the social media.
And then…and then.
Someone found it anyway.
So despite the relatively small return on investment, Gary Black took the time to poke around the internet to determine whether I had a Patreon page, and not only did he find it, he bought into it. Thanks so much, Gary!
So I guess it’s time to go public. While this podcast is, indeed, a labor of love, and I’ve borne all the expenses on my own so far, it does cost me a few hundred bucks each year to deal with hosting and bandwidth (which has gone up since I’ve accumulated listeners), plus equipment, not to mention that I pay for some of the artwork that accompanies episodes, and I buy lots of books each year to aid my research. In short, it’s an expensive hobby, especially since I committed early on not to run ads.
So while I’m not at the level of begging, I am thankful for any support and/or assistance you can throw my way. If you can afford to support the show, Great. If you can’t? No harm, no foul. I still love you.
A little Q&A before we move on to the next episode:
What’s up with all the double posts, all of a sudden?
That’s a side effect of moving the show over to Blubrry from Podomatic. When Blubrry imported all the episodes, it created the duplicate posts, which it copied from Podomatic’s website. Episode 105 was never posted to Podomatic, and that’s where the duplicates stop. So I’ll have to go back and re-do all my posts to eliminate the duplicates. A pain for me, but it made the changeover more painless for you. I hope.
How did the show get its name, anyway?
It took me a while to come up with this name, but it derives from a comment I made in a Facebook group dedicated to music, called Oldies But Goodies and Good Music. Every now and again, someone would post a link to a song from the 90s or newer, and invariably there’d be a complaint from someone that it wasn’t an “oldie.” My response was usually, “It’s not how old it is, it’s how good it is.” Coincidentally, this is also the motto of Rewound.com, Allan Sniffen’s streaming oldies station. (If you have fun memories of the classic disc jockeys, you should definitely give it a listen.)
I’m going to give an extra Thank-You to Allan for helping me out with one of the first episodes I recorded. He provided me with some awesome audio that I was able to use in Episode 4 (Get Together).
Anyway, when I was searching for a name, some people made suggestions that were close but no cigar, and a couple of them were kind of close to this phrase, so I finally pulled the trigger after ensuring that the domain and show name were available.
Why do you do those stupid jokes about the “slash” and saying “ye” during the trivia question?
Those are homage.
“Slash” is a joke that Cousin Bruce Morrow has used on his SiriusXM radio show for many years. I literally grew up listening to Cousin Brucie and it’s just a hat tip to him.
“Ye” is a bit that the old Don & Mike radio show used to do once in awhile (I think it was more of a Don thing than a Mike thing). I know I’m using it incorrectly but it’s just fun.
(How am I using it incorrectly? “Ye” doesn’t mean “you,” it’s an archaic way of writing “the”, when printers and scribes used the letter y to represent the no-longer-used [even then] “þ” character, which was in fact pronounced “th”.)
Also homage: when I’m wrapping up the show and I say “That’s a full lid,” that’s a nod to The West Wing. It’s something that C.J. Cregg says when she’s telling the press corps that there will be no more news coming out of the White House for the day. It’s also something that real WH press secretaries have been known to say.
OK, what about the other weird joke, when you introduce yourself?
That’s just a little window into my soul that day. A lot of people kill time during their shows telling you about their entire lives but I can’t do that. Shoot, more people know about my life by reading my wife’s Facebook page than they do mine. But a little self-expression can’t hurt, right? Especially when it’s literally half a sentence.
How far in advance do you record the shows?
Not at all. I write over several hours’ span Saturday and Sunday, then I go into my recording space and set up my audio bits, record the show, edit it, run it through processing and post it. The writing takes the longest time to do because I’m always finding stuff, moving it around, trying to shape a coherent story. Recording, editing and uploading takes about two hours, depending on how well the initial recording goes. If I don’t have to edit, it’s a very quick process. But since I have to account for the music in the background (yes, I mix as I record), sometimes editing is a huge pain.
But I think I do a better job when I work under some kind of “get it done by Sunday night” pressure.
Do you like the songs you cover?
Not always, but I view that as a challenge. There are a couple of songs I’ve discussed which I really, really don’t like. I may understand them a little better, but I still don’t like them. However: if I can manage to make those songs interesting, then I’ve done a better-than-usual job.
And frankly, there’s some appeal in hearing from listeners—and there have been several—who have told me that they will listen to some shows despite not having much love for the song identified, and manage to come away with a different way of appreciating it, or are pleasantly surprised to learn the story behind it. I’m not converting any fans any more than I convert myself, but that’s OK. Chacun à son goût, as the French say (“each to his own taste”).
OK, that’s enough procrastinating for today. Tune in tomorrow and we’ll learn about “Proud Mary” together.
Thanks for your patience as the show migrates from one server to another. As I noted on the social media, I’m working hard to make it as invisible as possible if you listen via Google or Apple or Spotify, etc. And the website here is going to look kind of weird for awhile with a lot of double posts for previous episodes, until I pick my way through and fix them, one by one. Fun, Fun, Fun!
This week, we’re taking yet another look at a few songs which you may not have known were covers, and nearly all of them were suggested by a listener named Kim, who didn’t feel that a shout-out was necessary, but obviously I don’t feel the same way. Kim had a list of songs that could work, and I said “Sure” to most of them, with a single exception, and that’s mostly because the story is a little convoluted and I may have to turn it into an episode of its own down the road a ways.
Anyway: a new hosting partner means a new player here on the webpage for you, and I do have a little bit of customizing control over it (something I didn’t previously have at all), so I’m happy to hear your suggestions. And, of course, please let me know if you hit any weird technical snags.
The show is taking a little break, but don’t worry: it’s only going to be a couple of weeks. And if you’ve already heard this weeks No Show Show, then please read all the way through anyway, because there’s going to be a Call To Action for you to participate! (You can click that link to go straight to the bottom of the page, where I have a special request to make of you.)
A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Orlando to attend the Podcast Movement conference. It was pretty much four solid days of me and three thousand other people talking almost exclusively about podcasting.
When you do a show like this, as a solo podcaster and (believe it or not) a relative introvert, sometimes you get into your own head and get locked into routines, or means of working, or some other such. And while I belong to a few podcaster groups online, there’s still nothing like getting together with actual human beings who are all as passionate about their hobby (or their business, some of them are in it for money) as you are. And so many of them have the same anxieties that you do! How do I make the show sound better? How do I build my audience? What microphone-mixer-headphones-internet provider-whatever should I buy?
The point is, I thought that this would be a good time to take a short timeout and think about the direction of the show with regard to its sound, the basic structure, my pacing, whether I want to lock into a specific show length, stuff like that. In addition, I have a couple of other podcast ideas cooking (completely unrelated to this show), and I’d like to explore just how realistic those ideas are.
From a technological standpoint, I’m also making some changes. I’ll be switching podcast hosting providers, which shouldn’t affect you at all if you listen via Apple, or Google Podcasts or Podcast Republic or other podcatching software, but it will affect the way this website behaves for a short while, because the links in EVERY post are going to have to be fixed, one at a time. At any rate, I want to ensure that all the redirects are in place so that those of you who subscribe to the show don’t miss out on anything.
Here’s the other thing I learned in Orlando, though: it’s possible to be a victim of your own success. In the broader scheme of podcasts in general, I know that I’m one of the little fish, and I’m OK with that. Those of you who are reading this are a smallish-but-dedicated group, and I’m all kinds of grateful for your listenership (is that a word?) and your feedback. But the fact is, while I’ve got that little Fair Use statement in the corner of the webpage somewhere, that’s not going to be very meaningful if a record label takes it in their head to issue a Cease & Desist letter my way.
This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on this podcast, oh no. But I do have to think a little more deeply about this project, and the next one(s) that I work on, and what all of it is going to look like.
Next up is the fact that school starts this week, and in my current position as someone who’s essentially Middle Management in a high school, I need to concentrate on the paying gig for a little bit, until the New School Year dust settles.
And then there’s another thing that’s forcing me to take some time out, but this is more of a Good News thing.
This is my current setup. And while it works pretty well, that round table actually impedes my getting some of my stuff done. So my daughter, who is a very capable person when it comes to this sort of thing, helped me design a new table that will allow me to run cables underneath (right now there’s a whole lotta electronic spaghetti back there, and organize my equipment a little better, and give me some more usable work room. And, it’s tough to see here, but the table and the black cabinet next to it aren’t the same height, so everything will match in that respect. (They won’t be the same color, though.) She’ll be building me a new work space that should make my life a lot easier moving forward. AND, should future projects involve a second personality, it’ll already be ready to go with a second microphone arm. (In fact, the one that’s here will become the third, spare arm.)
I’m giving her instructions to take a bunch of pictures so that we can follow the progress together, and I’ll be posting them to the various social media outlets, ’cause I don’t want to fade away completely on you folks.
So here’s the Call to Action:
Without you, How Good It Is would be nothing but me blathering on to nobody. You’re the thing that keeps me and this project going, and as I do my pondering about what happens next, and how it happens, your opinion is at least as important as mine. Anytime I’ve heard from a listener, whether positive or (occasionally) negative, I do think deeply about what they’ve offered me, even if it’s a request. Especially if it’s a request, because you’re just so good at thinking of stuff that I should have thought of! So please take the time to complete the Listener Survey. There are 14 questions and most of them are multiple-choice, so it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to complete. You’ll be doing me a huge favor, and you’ll be helping me to make the show a better one overall.
If all goes well with the migration and the studio makeover, the show should be back on September 22, just in time for Fall. In the meantime, however, I’ll keep you posted on updates as I move forward. Thanks so much for listening and for your patience!
Album on my re-listen radar this week is John Barleycorn Must Die, by Traffic. Wanna feel like an underachiever? Steve Winwood was 22 when this album came out, and it was the band’s FOURTH.
Every now and again I check on the stats for the podcast. For those who don’t know, that means that I can look in on how many times a show has been downloaded, how many times it’s been played through the website, how many times it’s been played through other means, and so forth.
Recently I discovered that the podcast also has geography-related statistics. I can click on a link and it gives me a world map, in which the countries where the shows have been downloaded are highlighted in blue. The darker the blue, the more downloads there have been. So there’s no surprise in noting that the show is more popular in primarily-English-speaking countries than in others.
But I also discovered that if I click on the map, it drills down a little farther. Which means that I can tell that, for the past week, the show was more popular in, say, Nashville than it was in Raleigh, NC or in New York City.
And that’s pretty much all I know. There were 64 downloads in Nashville and 34 in New York City last week. But when I ran stats this morning, something a little weird caught my eye (and I’m going to be hazy on purpose with the details, now)
In the last week or so, the show has had 23 downloads from a town in Alabama. But not only do I know what town in Alabama, the stats report told me what STREET in that town in Alabama. I’ve never seen anything like this before, and of all the places listed, this is the only one. And because the street is kind of short, I could (if I were extra-creepy) go knocking on doors and find out within a few minutes who my Big Fan in that town is. I know, it’s already creepy that I looked it up in the first place, but I was genuinely curious about that listing and whether it actually led to something.
Or, maybe everyone on that block is a fan and they’ve only downloaded a couple of episodes each. Anyway, Hello, Alabama Fan(s)! I envy your proximity to a Publix! ’cause Publix is awesome and the closest one to me is literally a hundred miles away.
Anyway, I promise to use this power only for good, not evil. Though I presume it’s just a glitch. Also, I don’t know how to use it for good OR evil.
So until very recently, this was my studio layout:
This was the space I was talking about whenever I mentioned the Bob Cratchit Studios, because it’s in my basement and it gets pretty cold down there in the winter. Oddly, it’s not especially cool in the summer, but at least it’s tolerable.
There’s been some upheaval in my life lately, and the upshot of that is that the studio had to move out of the basement and up to the second floor of the house. and it had to happen this past weekend. So right now the studio is in many, many pieces which I’ll spend this week re-assembling. But that means that there’s no show this week.
I’ve been pondering re-building the whole thing, including replacing that circular table that holds most of the equipment, but I don’t think I have the means to do that just yet. The other thing I have to think about is that when I was in the basement, I didn’t have to worry too much about vibrations coming from other parts of the house, just some stray noises like footsteps from upstairs or the dog barking at evildoers who are using the sidewalk out front. So part of my calculus will include sonic isolation, especially for that turntable.
Anyway: my plan is to be back next week, with Part Two of my focus on Shel Silverstein.