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Author Topic: EP284: On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy  (Read 6273 times)
eytanz
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« on: March 17, 2011, 02:46:38 PM »

EP284: On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy

By Desmond Warzel
Read by Joshua McNichols

Originally published in SFReader
---

You’re listening to the Mike Colavito Show on Cleveland’s home for straight talk, WCUY 1200. The opinions expressed on this program do not reflect those of WCUY, its management, or its sponsors.

Fair warning; I’m in a mood today, folks.

We’ve got a mayor whose only talent seems to be showing up at luncheons and waving at the cameras.

Eighty bucks I had to pay yesterday for not wearing my seatbelt. Show me the seatbelts on a school bus.

I saw a Cleveland athlete on national TV last night wearing a Yankees cap.

And every day I get at least a dozen calls from schmucks who think that people like me are the problem in this city.

Tell me America’s not falling apart.

[pause]

And some of you people–including our programming director, by the way–seem to think I’m running my mouth too much and not taking enough phone calls. I’ve only been number one in radio in this city for ten straight years; what would I know?

You want calls? You got ‘em. Steven in Mayfield Heights, you’re on the air.

“Hey, what’s up, Mike?”

The rent. Art in Seven Hills, you’re on WCUY.

“How you doing, Mike. Just wondering if you caught that ball game last night?”

No. Andrea in Rocky River, go ahead.

“Hi, Mike, first-time caller.”

Well, call back tomorrow and you’ll be a second-time caller. Carol in Cleveland, what’s on your mind?

“Mike, what do you think of waterboarding?”

My wife and I waterboard all the time, and it’s improved our sex life dramatically. Chuck in Parma, you’re on the air.

“Hey, Mike, I heard your show yesterday, and I was just wondering, if you know so much about football, why you don’t take over as head coach of the Browns?”

I wouldn’t want to take the pay cut. Mina in Lakewood, you’re on the air.

“Does your wife think that waterboarding crack was funny?”

Play your cards right some night and you could find out for yourself, Mina. Tommy in Beachwood, you’re on WCUY.

“Hi, Mike, just wondering who you think the Indians should try and trade for next year.”

Your mother. Jane in Euclid, go ahead.


Rated PG: This story contains a real obnoxious dude

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 276
  • Next week… The hopes and dreams of a child, and her pet.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: April 07, 2011, 04:37:18 PM by eytanz » Logged
Tesseract
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« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2011, 12:31:14 AM »

I liked this story, it makes me feel a sense of nostalgia for my nights listening to old Art Bell broadcasts while my hands work a game of Halo. I find the radio show format is something that I can listen to over and over without getting bored and the subject matter is something that scratches the underside of my chin in the most delightful way.

The ending, however, creates a bit of a problem. Yes the "sound" may erase memory but what about electronic memory? In this modern age of computers and terabyte hard drives, most radio shows are taped in case the station has to defend themselves from the FCC; for their fans as well so that they can listen on their MP3 players. All it'll take is someone plugging in to their RSS feed one morning and suddenly the secret's out. It just seems like a War of The Worlds kind of bemusing mistake.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2011, 12:37:11 AM by Tesseract » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2011, 08:14:41 AM »

I found the story an amusing and enjoyable way to spend most of my 45-minute commute.

I particularly enjoyed the attention the author paid to the cycle of radio, and as a former traffic reporter, believe me, I'm totally used to being in the "Jones Big Ass Truck Rental And Storage Traffic Center" -- and traffic guys HATE that. This really did sound like a radio show, although -- and maybe this is a Cleveland thing -- issues and sports don't usually coexist regularly on the same show. I would expect this Colavito guy to maybe be a morning host on a sports station, rather than an afternoon guy on a "straight talk" station. Also, and this is a REAL nitpick, there are very few local non-sports personalities on during middays -- it's all Boortz, Rush, Clark, Hannity.

I think the narrator is fine, and I wouldn't mind hearing him narrate more stories... but this one required a certain style of speaking, a certain bombast, that he didn't express. I was a radio guy for a while and maybe I'm biased, but I kept rereading each of Mike Colavito's lines in my head in a Rush Limbaugh voice. I think mostly my issue was that the lines that ended in question-marks in the text were spoken as questions, whereas a radio host with this big an ego would almost NEVER ask a question -- he would speak in declaratives, as if daring the caller to disprove him.
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acpracht
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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2011, 08:57:45 AM »

I enjoyed this one and it was a nice variation from the "typical" story format of narrator plus characters. A fun one.

I think the narrator did a fine job, although I didn't envy him the task of trying to create the "radio sound" as just one person. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something in the pauses... just a bit off somehow.

I did like the reveal of "It's this... No, it's actually this... Actually, it's more scary that what either of you are putting out..."

A minor critique of the plot: At times, the premise seemed a bit belabored. If these events are no important and cosmic, why are the major galactic players: 1) Listening to the 2-bit local radio program. 2) Bothering to call in to talk about what's actually happening, then having to backtrack with "Oh, I've said too much."

The premise obviously required it, but it just came off a tad awkward.
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matweller
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« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2011, 08:58:32 AM »

I think the narrator is fine, and I wouldn't mind hearing him narrate more stories... but this one required a certain style of speaking, a certain bombast, that he didn't express. I was a radio guy for a while and maybe I'm biased, but I kept rereading each of Mike Colavito's lines in my head in a Rush Limbaugh voice.
I think more "Joe Rogan" than "Limbaugh" but I felt the same way. I was able to sink myself into it, but it took longer than it should have since it wasn't the voice I was looking for in my mind.

In the narrator's defense, I 'll give a little behind-the-scenes and let you know he did this on a SUPER short turn-around, and when you add in the fact that he did the filter that made it sound like the callers were on the phone, his time was even shorter. I'm confident that if he'd had time to read more ahead and make more changes, he would have been fine. I'll look forward to hearing more of him in the future
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« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2011, 09:56:42 AM »

  I really enjoyed this story, but that's probably because I really enjoy this type of story; it made me think a lot of the movie "Pontypool". I felt it really caught the feel of a Jim Rome style radio show, and I liked the less-than-serious tone it took for most of the story with a sudden swerve into, and then back out of, darkness at the end.

  I only have a couple of really minor issues. I think the reading was great, but maybe not the right voice for this type of character. In my head I hear the host as have a rasp to his voice. There were a couple of points where the phone effect was either skipped, or given to the wrong voice that kind of pulled me out the story (but this is no worse that finger snaps or repeated lines that were missed in editing), and a couple of times it sounded like Joshua was trying really hard not to laugh (and I don't blame him for that). Like I said, minor and nitpicky things.

The ending, however, creates a bit of a problem. Yes the "sound" may erase memory but what about electronic memory? In this modern age of computers and terabyte hard drives, most radio shows are taped in case the station has to defend themselves from the FCC;

  I had almost this same thought. Even if everyone working on the show or listening has had their memory of the last 30-45 minutes wiped it was all still being recorded. Eventually someone is going to get curious about what they were broadcasting during that lost time, and the cat will be out of the bag.

  Also, what about people who witnessed the jet trails but were not wiped? Not everyone listens to the radio or is on their mobile all the time. It's going to seem funny to them that this large group of people has no idea that there was ever anything flying over the lake.

  The question is: is this a plothole, or were the aliens merely not as clever as they thought they were?
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jenfullmoon
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« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2011, 10:13:00 AM »

I think the narrator is fine, and I wouldn't mind hearing him narrate more stories... but this one required a certain style of speaking, a certain bombast, that he didn't express. I was a radio guy for a while and maybe I'm biased, but I kept rereading each of Mike Colavito's lines in my head in a Rush Limbaugh voice. I think mostly my issue was that the lines that ended in question-marks in the text were spoken as questions, whereas a radio host with this big an ego would almost NEVER ask a question -- he would speak in declaratives, as if daring the caller to disprove him.

I have to say that I feel the same way. This story really needed a lot of hamminess and attitude, and short turnaround or not, the narrator just didn't pull that off. He'd be fine for reading probably any other story, but this one really needed to be pumped up.
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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2011, 10:14:34 AM »

This was fun!  I like that all the voices were the narrator's, especially the women, that cracked me up.  Fun story.  Good narration.  Good fun all around.

The radio personality that came to my mind was Phil Hendrie.  He does a hoax radio show where he starts off with a mildly controversial topic or interview that just keeps getting worse.  He also does the voices himself, and his range is pretty good.  But he gets actual callers who don't realize he is spoofing, and it can be quite hilarious.
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« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2011, 10:52:09 AM »

There were a couple of points where the phone effect was either skipped, or given to the wrong voice that kind of pulled me out the story (but this is no worse that finger snaps or repeated lines that were missed in editing)...

I caught it too: it was 2 or 3 lines and they were within seconds of each other, which is part of what made it distracting. Trust me, in better times this would have been fixed, it was just not possible to do so and meet the posting deadline.
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« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2011, 04:23:29 PM »

No disrespect meant to Joshua McNichols, but I couldn't help thinking during this story--which I loved and which I think he did a good job with--that George Hrab would have done amazing things narrating it with his usual talent for quirky voices and playing with sound. I couldn't help but think some "break music" and helicopter noise would have been good in the appropriate places. Smiley

I love the format of this story. I've never heard anything quite like it before. Strangely, it reminds me of a writing challenge my writing group was given: to write a story using only dialogue with no tags. This is...very timely as an exercise of exactly how it can be done, and done well.
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« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2011, 05:09:12 PM »

I enjoyed it for several reasons already listed. The way it was done with only one narrator for all the different characters made me think of Greater Tuna, a play involving two actors playing every citizen in a small Texas town. I thought the story was more fun this way than if it had been a full-cast production, but I agree that (time permitting) sound effects would have added to the fun. Learning that it was done on short notice only increases my respect for the narrator and the production on this one.
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« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2011, 06:45:23 PM »

Looks like I'm first to not have a great opinion of this one. The story was banal, and the "hit the reset button and make everybody forget" ending was a cheap cop-out. Boo.
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« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2011, 07:53:31 PM »

The ending, however, creates a bit of a problem. Yes the "sound" may erase memory but what about electronic memory? In this modern age of computers and terabyte hard drives, most radio shows are taped in case the station has to defend themselves from the FCC;

  I had almost this same thought. Even if everyone working on the show or listening has had their memory of the last 30-45 minutes wiped it was all still being recorded. Eventually someone is going to get curious about what they were broadcasting during that lost time, and the cat will be out of the bag.

  Also, what about people who witnessed the jet trails but were not wiped? Not everyone listens to the radio or is on their mobile all the time. It's going to seem funny to them that this large group of people has no idea that there was ever anything flying over the lake.

  The question is: is this a plothole, or were the aliens merely not as clever as they thought they were?

If you think about it more, I think the aliens were actually pretty clever.  So, yes, it was recorded.  Someone, sometime, is going to listen to the recording and say "OMG!  This is amazing!  Why don't I remember this?!?" and then, at the end of the tape, that sound will come on and they'll forget all about it (again) and go home.  How would anyone ever learn that there is a sound at the end that erases your memory without hearing it and having their memory erased?  I don't think any investigation would occur based on that. 

Of course, lots of people did see the trails... there is physical evidence.  But the US government will do it's best to suppress that, same as they always do.   Grin
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« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2011, 08:49:49 PM »

I’m glad stePH beat me to it.  I didn’t really enjoy this one.

I think part of what was off for me is that the host felt like a rather wooden caricature of a opinionated jerk talk show host (and they often feel like caricatures to begin with), and I never got a feel for any of the characters.  Plus, the narration seemed just a bit off (for the reasons others have mentioned) and I felt like it distracted a bit from the story.

I also didn’t think much of the plot – evil alien race destroying an eons old good alien race for no apparent reason tracking down the last two survivors to torture them with the knowledge of their civilizations defeat and taking time to brag to humanity about it before a big mind-wipe – it felt a bit too clichéd with none of the nice twists or fresh takes on the clichés to justify them.

I do have to say though that this did bring back fond memories of late nights listening to Art Bell.  And maybe that too is why this fell flat for me, no intentional fiction could live up to the weirdness and humor of those broadcasts.
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« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2011, 11:35:03 PM »

Can narrators post? I don't see any bright red lines before me, so, why not?

Voicing this piece was definitely a stretch for me, not the sort of piece I would have thought would be my strength, as my voice sounds a lot more Public Radio than AM radio. It's funny, I actually felt most natural when voicing the final alien at the end of the story! However, I had a blast doing it, and am glad some of you enjoyed it.

I've enjoyed all your comments on the reading, positive and negative, and look forward to hearing more in the future. That minor miss with the "telephone voice" effect - I caught it too on re-listening. Doh!

Joshua
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statisticus
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« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2011, 11:45:49 PM »

Just reading over the comments.  I quite enjoyed this story, though like others I thought the ending just a little bit too "pat" - I don't like "everybody went back to the way they were before the whole thing started" type of endings.  (OK, they don't quite - the primordial galactic baddies are out there somewhere - but no one knows this.)    I must confess I didn't spot the plot hole of recordings being made, or what happened to the people who didn't hear the sound over the radio - unless the sound wasn't coming over the radio of course.

{As an aside, I feel this sort of trope is more a hallmark of Fantasy than Science Fiction.  In Fantasy the action is generally limited, and it ends.  You have three wishes, you use them and you use them up.  You find the One Ring, you destroy it.  The worlds goes on, all the more ordinary.  Whereas in Science Fiction, as in the real world, things go _on_, and change and develop - you invent a car, and a few years later everyone has them, you start working out how to connect computers, and a few years later people are watching news updates on their phones as they ride the bus.  In SF the Genie *never* goes back into the bottle.}

That said, apart from that I enjoyed the story.  I liked the sound editing - making the phone callers sound like phone callers, though I was a bit disorientated at first that they all sounded the same apart from that. 
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« Reply #16 on: March 20, 2011, 08:46:51 AM »

I liked the sound editing - making the phone callers sound like phone callers, though I was a bit disorientated at first that they all sounded the same apart from that. 

All talk radio callers really do sound the same. There's southern guy, deep voiced guy, measured-voice-liberal-guy-that-the-host-keeps-interrupting, and New Yorker guy.

(I worked in talk for five years.)
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« Reply #17 on: March 20, 2011, 09:53:57 AM »

I think the narrator is fine, and I wouldn't mind hearing him narrate more stories... but this one required a certain style of speaking, a certain bombast, that he didn't express. I was a radio guy for a while and maybe I'm biased, but I kept rereading each of Mike Colavito's lines in my head in a Rush Limbaugh voice. I think mostly my issue was that the lines that ended in question-marks in the text were spoken as questions, whereas a radio host with this big an ego would almost NEVER ask a question -- he would speak in declaratives, as if daring the caller to disprove him.

I have to say that I feel the same way. This story really needed a lot of hamminess and attitude, and short turnaround or not, the narrator just didn't pull that off. He'd be fine for reading probably any other story, but this one really needed to be pumped up.
I thought the narrator's voice was perfect. But then, I'm a Brit, and we like our radio hosts relatively understated, so hamminess and attitude would have turned me off to this just as it would as a broadcast. I liked the story too and I think it worked because of its structure which distracted from the potential plot holes other people have noted. Those really didn't bother me because the whole was so well contained in this little microcosm of a small-town radio programme, and so well put across by the narrator. Disbelief successfully suspended for the duration. Lovely!
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« Reply #18 on: March 20, 2011, 05:36:18 PM »

Some stories require either a cast, or a skilled voice talent to pull off.  This is one of them.  The reader for this one was obviously enthusiastic, but I kept getting pulled out by how much better it could have been.

Perhaps I'm just spoiled.

Speaking to the story itself, I'm clearly in the minority for this story.  As I've said before, ask yourself: Who changes? Who grows? Who learns?  Even if you take this as a story-at-a-remove, even if you accept that the "criminal", the "warden" and the "invader" are all actual (in the story) rather than hypothetical, there's still very little actual story there, because there's very little actual change.  Even if it's a "Picasso bull," that's all it is... a bull.  It's an exercise, an attempt to see how much one can portray by implication rather than depiction.  In this story, we are invited to imagine the parts that are missing. In that way, it is similar to a Picasso work. But when Picasso does it in a painting--for example, in Guernica--there's a lot more going on.

This piece is interesting, like a Picasso bull, in what it can teach us about minimalism and unusual points of view in writing.  It's less interesting to a reader.

For me, this has been one of the episodes I accept as the price of hearing better stories elsewhen.
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Talia
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« Reply #19 on: March 20, 2011, 07:32:45 PM »

I thought the story was fantastic, and the atypical format really worked for me.

RE: recordings - remember, the story ends right after the erasure supposedly happens.

We just don't know what happens after that. Was this a grand prank on the host's part? Did a mysterious studio fire burn the place and all recordings to the ground, hiding all evidence? It's left unsaid. Speculation is fun. Smiley
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