May days


This is a repost from ESCHORAMA newsletter: creations from Jim’s workbench.

Time for another monthly check-in. Life feels different since completing my vaccination regimen. Changes to routine are rumbling like tremors underfoot, though it is hard to distinguish them from the big change that always comes at this time—the end of the academic year. Priorities shuffle. Time yawns open. Time to build, fix, tidy, and grow again.

This year particularly is tinged with mixed feelings. It was like no other, what with the teaching and zooming and living at home all the time. It feels now as if the quarantine era has concluded, and I will be back in a three-dimensional classroom come fall, at least part of the time. I think I will miss the days of having to dress presentably from the waist up only, and the coziness of my “Zoom nook.” On the other hand, aren’t we all sick of Zoom? There surely will be a good side to being around people again. I need to relearn how to do that! 

Goodbye Vinyl Essence / Hello Song Tripping 

The headline news this month pertains to podcasting. I decided to retire the old Vinyl Essence podcast, which I’ve done off and on for around ten years. A few reasons forced the decision. For one, the mission changed. It used to be a celebration and championing of vinyl records, and I shared many many tracks ripped straight from vinyl. That template morphed into a more ecumenical approach to records. My CD’s have become just as cherished as my vinyl. It felt awkward to be playing digital tracks under the banner of Vinyl Essence. Another reason had to do with technology. The wordpress site that gave access to the shows, which are archived on another web server, no longer works as smoothly as it should. The tech details are boring and not worth sharing. I got tired of the workarounds and with no means to officially license the ripped songs, the podcast was never going to pass legal muster, and chances of reaching a broader audience were limited. For a long time, I’ve wanted to utilize the convenience of a streaming platform to share music on a podcast and have it all be kosher. 

Thanks for the memories Vinyl Essence. We had a good run, 127 shows in all. (If you’re interested in accessing the show archives, let me know, and I’ll send you a link.)

A couple weeks ago, I discovered a new way to podcast. supports a Music + Talk podcast format, with music tracks selectable from the vast Spotify archive. The only catch (a significant one) is that the podcast is exclusive to Spotify, and you must use the desktop app or mobile app to access it. Spotify users with free accounts only get 30 second clips of the songs dropped into the podcast, but paid Spotify subscribers get it all.

Despite the limitations, the prospect of combining music and commentary appealed to me, so I spent mid May developing the concept for a new podcast. 

Get on the bus and go for a song trip 

The Song Tripping podcast’s concept is simple. We spin records and talk about them. It’s a mixture of commentary, interpretation, and personal tie-ins to the music.

I invited Ken Pobo to join the fun, and he graciously agreed to cohost it. Ken was a frequent contributor to the old Vinyl Essence shows, and he’s got plenty of experience DJ’ing the show Obscure Oldies on the Widener Widecast radio network. He has an enormous record collection and a broad knowledge of the genres he loves.  

In our first show (called Starting Gun) you’ll hear some backstory about the troubles I encountered coming up with a name for the damn thing. Song Tripping was the final result.

It’s short and descriptive, hopefully catchy. Each show plays a batch of songs and takes a trip with them. The name surely was inspired by Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe’s creative nonfiction tour de force about Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters, which I finished a few weeks back. (Awesome read, by the way.) I also had the Beatles songs “Day Tripper,” “Long and Winding Road” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” in mind.

We aim to make the podcast fun, trippy, and eclectic. This first trip is all about “beginnings.” I hope you find it worthy of your listening attention. Remember, you must be on the Spotify app to hear it. If you like it, please Follow/Subscribe on Spotify so you won’t miss new shows. 

English Suite podcast updates 

Over at the English Suite, I completed three podcasts in May. It has been a busy month!

I interviewed Dr. Jessica Guzman, advisor of Widener Ink, the campus literary print journal, and editor Ciana Bowers, about their revival of the magazine after Covid shut it down in 2020. 

Next, I did a recap show about the many events on campus related to National Poetry Month. There’s also a feature on Widener faculty poets (including yours truly) who shared readings of work they performed at one of the events in April. 

Finally, I completed the edits on a show that Matthew Lomas (Widener class of 2021) produced. He asked some alumni about the evolution of their writing life since graduation. Is there life after college for English majors? You bet!

Sprucing up the place

As the semester wound down, I took time to do some much needed digital upkeep, archiving and reorganizing files, and setting up my writing environment to be more streamlined. I’ve decided to go “all in” on Scrivener, using it both on the PC laptop and the iMac. I needed to upgrade the iMac from Yosemite to High Sierra in order the get the latest version of Scrivener working on the Mac, a process that put the fear of bricking my computer into me. Thankfully, miraculously, the OS did not suffer a mortal wound, and I’m writing semi-regularly again.

When I wasn’t fiddling with machines, I was painting window sills and figuring out what to do about our aging tin roof, leaky soffit, and shabby cedar siding on the back of the house (the carpenter bees and woodpeckers just love it).

House stuff. Outdoor activity. It’s what you do in May.

That’s all the news I have for this month. I hope to post a little more frequently to substack now that I’m on summer break, with updates on writing, music, and podcasting projects. Until next time, be well!

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