Saturday, January 30, 2021

Five movie trailer legends in a limo!

 This is an old video but always makes me laugh. Stay with it!  To see the faces that go with the voices-PRICELESS!  Classic voice over guys including the man who was the voice of Disney.



Tuesday, January 12, 2021

"How much for that Wienerschnitzel kraut hot dog?!!! "

Working from my home voice over studio and not being a cook (I gladly ditched the cooking utensils a few years ago), I often use the Uber Eats phone app to bring me food when I get busy. I'm generally pleased with the on time delivery and the lighter fare offerings-hamburgers/hot dogs, pizza, Chinese soups, chicken and so forth. Most of it fast food, and no doubt, not particularly healthy. But it is very convenient.

Recently, I got a bit of a shock when I opened up the Uber Eats app on my phone to order one of my favorite and very simple foods- a kraut hot dog. I was working on a large e Learning narration project with a quick turnaround, and did not have the time to go to Wienerschnitzel to get it. If you're not familiar with Wienerschnitzel, it's fast food offerings times 10. Much to my surprise, for this very simple order, Uber Eats would be charging me over $11.  If you use Uber Eats, you're being hit with fee after fee . Service fee, small order fee (If your order is under $15 total, that's another $3 tacked on.) Tax, delivery fee, and here in California, they've recently added a California  Drivers Benefits fee ("This helps cover benefits like health insurance and guaranteed earnings for delivery people in your area.") Or so Uber says. And because I like the drivers who are getting their side hustle on to make some extra money, I would be tipping the driver who brings me the food. Anyway, that simple kraut dog with a very regular bun will cost you over $13 (including tip) through Uber Eats.  I get that you're going to pay for the convenience of delivery, but somehow paying $13 or more for a kraut dog with no extras other than the kraut on it and a packet of mustard is a "no go" for me. And I know that I always have the option to not buy through Uber Eats. No one has a gun to my head!

Just out of curiosity, I went to an online forum and many are talking about the very large price increases  the home food delivery companies are charging. Uber Eats leads the pack. In some cases, according to a recently released study, more than 90 percent of what it would cost to walk in and pick up your order! Undoubtedly, prices have risen substantially due to many folks staying inside at home as a result of the pandemic and ordering food in. I guess it all boils down to whether or not you're going to pay for all those extra add on fees to satisfy your appetite.






Another industry that absolutely kills with fees is banking. But you already knew that. Just look at your monthly statement. They charge you to sneeze. 


Sunday, December 13, 2020

"If you're coming to San Francisco, be sure to...

 As mentioned in other posts on this blog, pre-pandemic, I enjoy having a nice breakfast in San Francisco on Saturday and then walking through Chinatown and down to Pier 39 where most of the tourists and sea lions hang out. It's a considerable walk from where I start at the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market streets. Most of my breakfasts are fairly simple-eggs,hash browns, sausage/bacon, toast and coffee. And while I love a cup of hot coffee first thing before my city walk, it can often wreak havoc when I need to find a public restroom QUICKLY.  Recently, I added an app to my phone that is GPS driven that shows me where the closest public restrooms are from where I am, at any given time. A real life saver! Amazing. There's an app for everything. It's tough to find a PUBLIC restroom in the city. Most restrooms are for paying customers only. There use to be a small coffee shop in Chinatown I could count on to be my "saving grace" on my walks. It was the size of a few phone booths, but they DID have a public restroom if you bought a cup of coffee. Too bad it closed a number of years ago due to a lack of business. Bummer. 

So, just a heads up. Know where the public restrooms are or get the phone app. As the old Scott McKenzie song says "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair." I say,"Be sure to know where the nearest public restroom is." (Let's get our priorities in order). 


                                                                  



Thursday, December 10, 2020

A funny voicemail message

 So I have a really wonderful friend who retired well from a metro bus building company right here in San Francisco East Bay. Her name is Diane. She's an independent soul and sometimes brings me unique food dishes that she finds on her shopping trips to Trader Joe's- one of her favorite places to buy groceries. 

We chat regularly about the happenings in the news.  She has a good sense of grumpy humor (most of the time) and seems to be enjoying her well deserved retirement. And there's one thing about her that makes me laugh more than anything. And I've told her so. No, it's not the clothes she wears or her hairstyle. Or her sometimes comical takes on what's going on at any given moment around the world. (Don't get her started). No,it's her cell phone voicemail message. Yes! Her strange and funny cell phone  message! Here it is, just as she says it... "Hi, it's Diane, I can't get to the phone right now. Call me right back." I asked her, ever so politely in jest one day, to think about what the caller is hearing. I told her, "Hey Diane, I called your number and was told to call you right back. So, I immediately did and got the same  message every time. 13 times in a row! I was exhausted." (Insert chuckle here). I suggested she record a simple message like, "Hi, it's Diane. I can't get to the phone right now. Just leave your name, phone number and a brief message and I'll call you back just as soon as possible." That was met with a brief moment of awkward silence on the phone. I took that to mean "mind your own business." Which I gladly did. Truly great friends are hard to come by.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"Which way would you like it?"

 Sometimes you'll receive a script to record that contains words that can be pronounced several ways. "Data" comes to mind. Some will say it as (da-tuh. "da" as in
"apple") and others as (day-tuh). Or the word "anti." Some will go with (ant-eye) and others as (ant-ee). Both ways are acceptable. One more. "Multi." You'll hear it said as (mull-tee) OR (mull-tie). Neither is wrong. Check with the person you'll be recording for about how they want it said BEFORE you step to the mike. You'll come off as a pro. And that's the goal, right?


Thursday, November 12, 2020

"Make it conversational"

 I often see producers wanting a conversational tone in the voice over. One part of that is lowering the volume of your voice. Don't shout at the microphone! It's designed to amplify your voice.

And remember, we speak in phrases. Usually, somewhat deliberately, as we think about how to express our thoughts. When reading copy that calls for a conversational delivery, don't go racing through it without pauses. A road runner approach doesn't work for conversational.

I do a lot of educational and training narrations. Using a conversational delivery is spot on. 

Here is a link to an online tutorial I voiced having to do with publishing and plagiarism. 


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Grand Theft Auto Vice City the Untold Story

On a recent Sunday, I was looking through Craigslist ads and spotted one wanting a voice over for one of the most successful video games of all time-"Grand Theft Auto". I immediately emailed a reply and the producer emailed back with some copy for me to do a quick audition. He liked what he heard and hired me as the narrator. He puts together these types of videos and parks them on You Tube and gets thousands of views.  The one I voiced is about 80's crime and drugs. WARNING: This video is violent. So,  it's up to you.  Here's a link to the video I narrated. It runs about 13 minutes.




Monday, May 4, 2020

Slower is better for on hold messages

So no joke,over the years I have voiced hundreds and hundreds of on hold messages. It's a different style of read. Go a bit slower with your pace so the caller can take in all the information. When you are recording the on hold script and come upon the company's phone number, hours of operation, and address, slow it down. You don't want to go too fast in these sections. All in all, it's a slower voice over than say a TV commercial or radio spot where things move fast .
Remember, when recording on hold messages, slower is better! 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The passing of Don Imus

As a former radio deejay, I have been keenly aware of the  long, storied, often controversial career of Don Imus. He spent 50 years on the air which in and of itself is unheard of. He said something once that stuck with me. It had to do with the idea of mentally editing what you are going to say on the air before you open the microphone. A sort of "mental rehearsal." Know what you're going to say. Get to the point. I tried to do that throughout my career. Good advice.

He was fired 4 times. There's an old saying in radio, "If you haven't been fired a time or two, you ain't doing it right."He got fired from a station once out in Stockton, California not far from me because he said the word "hell" on the air.  Can you imagine? That was at the very start of his career before he hit the bigtime in New York. My Dad enjoyed Imus because toward the end of his career he got into frequent political chit chat on his show and would often have well known political figures in the studio. Senator Bob Dole comes to mind. My Dad loved to read about and talk politics. Things often got heated at our house.

Imus could be grouchy, mean, angry, and often funny on his show, but through it all, he was always himself.  Listeners knew what to expect when they tuned in.  At the height of his career, he was making around 4 million dollars a year. He became a very rich man, but he gave back with his charity work and "Imus Ranch" for children in need. Just recently, I saw him being interviewed on CBS Sunday morning with Jane Pauley and he became quite emotional as he mentioned he had regrets about  some things he said or did on air that were hurtful to others. Teary eyed, it was a very rare moment indeed where he showed a side of himself others had never seen.  It was like he was reviewing his life and he looked rather frail. He was without a doubt one of a kind and there will never be another Don Imus.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Seller beware on Craigslist!

It's been quite the week here in my studio. I have a decent collection of voice over books that I'm looking to hand down to an aspiring voice actor. They're all in very good shape and on Craigslist under the "For Sale" books section. Last night around midnight, I was in bed and received a text message wanting to know if the books were still available. I replied they were and not hearing back from the individual, I went back to sleep. Next morning, I received another text saying he wanted to buy them and would pay me with a money order  PLUS pay me an extra $40 for them and he needed my name and address. I had been through a similar thing on Craigslist and a huge red flag went up on this.  I texted back and told him to stop trying to scam people. He disappeared. I'm in the Bay Area and his phone number was from New Jersey. In my ad, I specifically stated "Cash Only" and "Must pick up at my place." A variation of this scam involves a bogus check he or she gives you that you can deposit at your bank's ATM, but the bank will discover it's a fraud and you will be on the hook to make good on it.

And earlier this week, I responded to a voice over ad for a job out of L.A posted on Craigslist. A few days later, I received a reply from an "Alex" who said he had a $992 voice over job for me and they were making arrangements to find a recording studio near me so I could record there and they could direct from L.A.. There was some other weird wording about "I must be of a good mind" and other strange stuff having nothing to do with voice over. I emailed him back and said I would not be able to do the job because I had seen this scam outlined before on a voice over forum I frequent. There are a lot more details to this particular scam.  Just Google "Voice over scam" and you'll see lots of links.

So, just be very careful. There are some low lifes that for some time have been trying to dupe unsuspecting voice over talents. One final thing. When I listed my stuff on Craigslist, there was this information below. A good and timely reminder.

Avoiding Scams

Deal locally, face-to-face —follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
  • Do not provide payment to anyone you have not met in person.
  • Beware offers involving shipping - deal with locals you can meet in person.
  • Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) - anyone who asks you to is a scammer.
  • Don't accept cashier/certified checks or money orders - banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
  • Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a "guarantee".
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, paypal account, etc).
  • Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing "deal" may not exist.
  • Refuse background/credit checks until you have met landlord/employer in person.
  • "craigslist voicemails" - Any message asking you to access or check "craigslist voicemails" or "craigslist voice messages" is fraudulent - no such service exists.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The voice of Porky Pig and Bob Bergen

I love the story of how the current voice of Porky Pig got the job. Of course, years ago the great master of cartoon voices, Mel Blanc, did the voice of Porky  and a ton of others. Go on You Tube and search his name and there are plenty of videos of his TV appearances. You'll be amazed. Now, about Bob Bergen. At age 14, he "cold called" Mel Blanc's house and secretly taped the conversation with Mr. Blanc.  The first thing Mel asked Bob was, "How did you get my number?" Bob was seeking out advice and Mel was kind enough to help him. Rather than me give you the specifics, you can hear this conversation on Bob's website, "BobBergen.com." Click on where it says, "Cool Clips." By the way, Bob said on a voice over forum board I frequent that every year he has to audition again to be the ongoing voice of Porky.  I'm sure it's a treasured job. One more thing, Bob's one of the nicest guys in the business. Always giving on spot advice to other voice actors and helping when  he can. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

"I'm living on the air at WKRP in.....Mansfield, Ohio"

The start of my radio career wasn't exactly like the TV show "WKRP in Cincinnati," but it had a few wacky/odd moments. (None like the famous WKRP "turkeys dropped from high above" episode. A must see on You Tube!)

Upon graduating from high school in Strongsville, Ohio, I told my Dad I wanted to go to a broadcast school in Cleveland to become a radio deejay. He said, "Son, I don't know about that. It's a dog eat dog business." As usual, he was right. After considerable begging, he agreed and gave me a very reluctant nod of the head to enroll. The cool thing was that the instructors were deejays I heard on the radio in the Cleveland market. One of mine was "The Real Bob James." He was on WGAR, a very popular station at the time. Bob was very funny on air and would go on to co-found the American Comedy Network. It was a comedy service that radio deejays subscribed to for funny material they could use on their radio shows. I listened to Bob on the radio and held him in high regard. In short, I was thrilled to have him as one of my teachers. Upon graduation from the school, I started sending out my demo tape to radio stations around the country. Much to my surprise ( and my Mom and Dad's too), I got a phone call from a radio station in Mansfield, Ohio which was about 45 minutes south of where I grew up. It was a Mom and Pop AM/FM station called WCLW. They had a reputation for paying low wages and hiring guys like me who had zero on air experience but wanted to get in the radio business as a deejay. After a telephone interview, they hired me to do an afternoon show on their low wattage AM station. ("Hello. Is anyone out there?") My Mom and Dad had to have been in a mild state of shock. I actually got a job at a radio station!Thus began my very long and journeyed radio career. Even though at first I was awful on the air, I knew, with dedication, I could improve and work my way up to the better radio stations and actually make a living being on the radio. WCLW was owned by an elderly couple and their daughter Lynn ran it like a drill sergeant. One day, early into my employment there, she told me I was going to do a remote broadcast on an upcoming Sunday afternoon from a pet cemetery! The goal of the broadcast was to get people to buy a burial plot for their beloved pet. I'm thinking, "What in the world am I going to say on air about a pet cemetery of all things?" It would be the very first of many awkward on air assignments she would give me that were very much a "sink or swim"situation that eventually would make me a better broadcaster down the road. Other remote broadcasts would include a ladies clothing store in downtown Mansfield with a bubbly Julia Child- like owner on microphone with me talking about all the wonderful selections to buy. And at another broadcast chatting on air about the love making virtues of a waterbed with the inventor Charlie Hall, who was doing a live appearance at "Aquarius" waterbed store. I had many on air assignments at that first radio station that would force me to ad-lib and be on my toes. It was all quite the crash course and it turned out to be a very good thing  in preparing me to work at much bigger stations in the years ahead.

WCLW will always have a special place in my heart. It gave me my start. For that I am truly grateful. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

My love affair with... (wait for it!)...You Tube

As an avid music lover, when I'm not recording voice overs or marketing my business, I'm often on You Tube playing songs I haven't heard in years. Songs you rarely hear on the radio anymore but may have been a big part of the soundtrack of your life. Todd Rundgren's "Hello It's Me" comes to mind. It's one of those songs that never gets old no matter how many times I have heard it. I also like to read the comments below the video post of the song. It's cool to see what people are thinking with their likes or dislikes comments.

But from a voice over standpoint,  I use You Tube to check proper names that may come up in scripts I'm recording. Or product names that are not necessarily running commercials on radio or TV. I learned early on to check multiple videos for pronunciations of the same word as relying on only one video may not give you the correct pronunciation. In other posts on this blog I have recommended Forvo.com and Howjsay.com as helpful for pronunciations. Often they will not have a pronunciation for a proper name that can be found by doing a search on You Tube. Using You Tube for pronunciations has saved me a lot of time. Just make sure you double check the pronunciation.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Perhaps my most favorite voice over job...ever

I was tipped off by a good client of many years that his company was filming at locations around the world for a new, inspirational TV show called "In Pursuit of Passion." And, much to my delight, the lady who was hosting the show (Tracy) was looking for someone to narrate it. So, I emailed her and told her of my interest. She agreed to email me a script for a short audition. I did not see any film of the show beforehand so I was a bit in the dark as to the energy needed on the narration. I went with a slightly upbeat take and emailed her a link to download the MP3 audition. She got back to me and said it was a bit too cheery and upbeat. With that direction in mind ( for which I was very grateful), I recorded a second audition and sent that to her. I was happy to receive an email from her saying the second take was solid and we would go with that. There was a total of six episodes to be narrated from places like Africa and Greece. It was a fun but somewhat challenging narration as the scripts contained quite a few proper names. And of course, those needed to be said correctly. I was often able to go to Forvo.com for pronunciations. (One of my favorite sites). I was delighted when she sent me a link to see the completed episodes. The show airs in select markets here and abroad.

A funny aside. A brother of mine in Ohio called me on a weekend and said he and his lady friend were watching a show on TV and at the end in the credits my name "John Miles" came on screen. He asked if it was me.  I scratched my head and told him I didn't think so. After he described a few parts of the episode he watched, it dawned on me it was me! I had recorded the narrations for the episodes the prior year and had sort of forgotten about them. Here's a link to one of the episodes from Africa. I must say, this is in my top 5 of all-time favorite voice over jobs I have done.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Magical Mornings

I totally enjoy getting out of bed early and getting at the day. I was raised in a small country house in Ohio with one bathroom. I have quite a few siblings (8) and mornings were very hectic. There was no such thing as "sleeping in." My Dad, who was a fantastic drywall and  plaster man, made sure that we got our outside chores done-raking the apple orchard, cleaning the barn stalls where we kept a few horses, weeding the garden, and so on. And yes, he made a list of chores in the morning before he left for work and would check to see how well we had done when he came home. He was a taskmaster for sure, and as a young boy, I sometimes resented it. Later in life, I came to realize it was a good thing as I was held accountable. My Dad's motto was the familiar refrain, "If you're gonna do something, do it right, or don't do it at all."

I learned to enjoy waking up early and starting the day. That motivation has stuck with me to this day. As mentioned in another post on this blog, Dad and I would often play early Sunday morning golf. As in, still kind of dark outside and dew on the grass.  My brother and I slept in a bunk bed. I remember Dad coming in early Sunday morning and shaking me and telling me to get up as we were going golfing. It was a special ritual.

And today, as I do voice overs from my home studio, I find mornings to be very special as there is the promise of a new day and the expectation of getting things done and accomplished. Not to mention, it's quiet. And every voice over artist who records can appreciate that. Some of my most productive work has occurred at 4 or 5 AM. But don't worry, if you hire me to do a voice over and you want to listen in as I record, we don't have to go with "crack of dawn" times. I realize early mornings aren't for everyone!

Monday, July 8, 2019

"You want to be paid for your voice over? Don't be ridiculous!"

If you go to Craigslist and look under "Gigs" and then "Creative" category, you will often see
job leads for voice over work. I'm use to it now, but my jaw use to drop open when seeing highly
detailed specs for a voice over job with no pay. Zero. Zilch. Nada. If you do voice overs, it should make you cringe. You've paid good money to buy your recording equipment. You may well have taken voice over lessons which are far from free. Plus voice over seminars/webinars to stay sharp and current. You have ongoing business expenses. Your website updates and maintenance. Yearly taxes. And here is someone on Craigslist offering you nothing for your time, expertise, and skill set. You deserve to be paid! I just had a producer approach me on a Friday afternoon who had received one of my marketing emails and was in a rush frame of mind. He needed a 5 minute long voice over for a high tech, corporate video. I zipped him back a very fair quote to which he said "Sorry. That's too expensive for me. I can pay $100."$100 for 5 minutes of professional voice over for a corporate video is extremely low. Plus it's a high tech narration which will more than likely take extra time to record properly. I thanked him for the "opportunity" and passed on the job. Just out of curiosity, I went to Yelp to check his studio and customer comments. He had quite a few complaints about shoddy work and 1 star ratings. Not good. I'm sure he found someone who is desperate for work who recorded it. We all have choices. But sometimes it's OK to say 'Thanks. But no thanks.' Stay away from the bottom of the barrel jobs. Once word gets around you work for free or on the cheap, it will be very difficult for you to charge a fair rate. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

My 20 foot commute from bed to studio

No doubt, working from home has its advantages. Living in the Bay Area, the traffic can be beyond awful. Years ago, voice over talents needed to head out to recording studios to voice projects, now we can work from our home studios thanks to the Internet. So, sitting in traffic jams is a thing of the past. Plus, when clients/customers come calling with rush or urgent requests, we can quickly access our home studios and turn voice overs around in no time at all. If I had a dollar for every time a client or customer said they appreciated my very fast turnaround, I'd be a very wealthy man. For all its advantages, working from home has some caveats. There can be distractions. Working alone, it's important to "self police" your work before sending it out. Stay in the moment. Focus. Allow yourself some mini breaks if you're working on long projects such as e Learning or audio books.  Working from home means no more boring conference room meetings with a bunch of overly talkative sleepy heads. (I will give one former boss credit. He always ordered pizzas in during our meetings.) Rejoice in the fact that you're able to make a living from home and ditch the honking horns and road rage incidents. And water cooler talk was never really that interesting anyway.

 OK, time for another cup of coffee. Sugar and cream please!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Fame can be a fickle thing!

Mid 1980's. I'm hanging in the front reception area at country music station WIRK in West Palm Beach after my midday show. Rhonda was a fun, sassy, thirty something, African American receptionist who answered the phones and gave listeners their prizes when they came in. It's a blistering hot South Florida day when the door swings open and in come two dudes with tank tops on, flip flops, cut offs. One of them approaches Rhonda and says "I'm here to tape an interview with Terry Slane." Terry was our morning deejay and program director. I immediately notice it's country music superstar Roy Clark. And back then he was on TV... a lot. Hee Haw, commercials, TV concerts playing his electric guitar to perfection. So, Rhonda says, "Your name?" He says, "Roy Clark." She gets on her phone and calls Terry. "Hey Terry, there's a Roy... um... er... ahhh... I'm sorry sir, what's your last name again?" He pointedly says, "Clark." "Terry, a Roy Clark is here to see you." She then hangs up the phone and tells Roy that Terry is on his way up. Terry comes up and shakes Roy's hand and the other dude's hand and off they go. I chime in, "Rhonda, that's Roy Clark! How could you not recognize Roy Clark!?" She loudly says, '' I don't listen to this country music crap, John. I'm a Rhythm and Blues girl!" I fell down laughing. Later, I thought, no matter how famous you think you are, to some people you're not famous at all! The man with him was his brother in law and they were out fishing at Lake Okeechobee before coming in to do the interview.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Sibilance. Ugh!

Without a doubt, sibilance is one of the most annoying things to deal with in the audio world.  In short, it's a harshness to the ear upon voice over playback. Most often it's a sizzling "s" sound.  Of course, this is not wanted and needs to be "tamed" either during recording or in editing afterward.  Some people's voice can naturally be more sibilant than others. And the position of the mouth to the microphone can cause excessive sibilance. Too close can cause problems. Instead of speaking directly into the mic, position it at a 45 degree angle from your mouth. Experiment a bit with different microphone positions. Also, be wary of very inexpensive (cheap) microphones that can cause lots of sibilance.

In post production, there are what are called de-essers. This is a type of compression application designed specifically to deal with sibilance. Almost every digital audio recording software has some form of de-esser under the effects category. Not all de-essers are created equal. WAVES has just come out with a plug-in called, not surprisingly, "Sibilance." It's gotten good reviews and is sometimes on sale on their website.

Another option to getting rid of annoying sibilance in a recording is to manually drop down the volume (around 4 to 6 db) of those sibilant sounds. When viewing the waveform zoomed in a bit in your audio editor, a sibilant "s" will often look like a small football shape. Just highlight that with your mouse and drop the volume down as mentioned above.

Bottom line, most everyone has some sibilance when they speak. There are ways to deal with it when editing that will greatly improve the quality of your voice overs.

Friday, February 22, 2019

A mighty Craigslist ad

Back when  I was moving from radio guy to voice over guy, I was planting "seeds" to find new business/clients. I have found that emailing people and companies who need voice over to be somewhat effective. Forget about spamming and just shooting out emails all over the place. Try to find a name on the website, so you can personalize the email. Keep it brief!

Years back, I wrote a short, free, classified ad on Craigslist about my services. A gentleman emailed me and said his company (an educational one) had a lot of voice over needs. He asked about my rates and turnaround time. That got the ball rolling. To this day, years later, I continue to get quite a bit of work from them, for which I am truly grateful. You never know where the work is going to come from. Once you get the work, be your very best. There's nothing quite like a satisfied client and repeat business, for which you do not have to audition.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Haters gonna hate and the Golden State Warriors

One thing's for sure, if you're living and breathing, you have people that will go negative towards you. For. No. Apparent. Reason. Sometimes supposed friends. A family member. Your jealous brother in-law "Tim." A person you hardly know. Haters. There's no shortage of them. They create false drama to make you look bad. Inside, they feel inferior and want to knock you down a peg or two. If you start to talk about your success stories or wins, they have fingers in their ears. Volumes have been written about how to deal with the haters in your life. A common conclusion is to create distance between yourself and the hater. 

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of the amazing Golden State Warriors. You don't have to visit too many online sports forums to see the depth of "haterism" for the team. Pretty simple to understand. They're just so darned good.  Not to mention Steph Curry as one of the greatest of all time. Psssst! I'm not a New England Patriots fan, but I'll give QB Tom Brady his due. He, like Steph, is undeniably talented in their respective sports.

So, when you're under attack from a hater, frenemy or enemy, remember the old saying, "The best revenge is massive success." (Frank Sinatra). It works wonders for your frame of mind.





   

Thursday, February 14, 2019

My Burt Reynolds interview

The recent passing of Burt Reynolds put me in a very reflective mood. 1985-1986 were especially exciting years for me as an on air talent. I was on WIRK, a heritage country music station doing a midday show. Burt's people at his ranch in Jupiter, Florida approached our management team with the idea of building a broadcast studio in his gift/souvenir store, and  relaying the signal back to our main station, and then out across the South Florida airwaves.  I was in the right place at the right time. My daily routine consisted of driving to the main radio station in the morning, picking up commercial and music logs for that day, then driving twenty some miles up the Florida turnpike to the ranch studio to do my show. I interviewed lots of recording artists as well as celebrities-many of them friends of Burt's. One time, he showed up at the studio to do an interview with me and you would never have known you were talking to a very big movie star.  He was very real and gracious with his time. Here's a postcard I held on to through the years from his gift store. R.I.P. Burt. And thanks for being so kind.


Dolly Parton and working 9 to 5

 It was great seeing one of my favorites being honored on the recent Grammy Awards. Dolly Parton was joined on stage with other singers who helped salute her amazing career. Naturally, part of the song medley included her mega-hit "9 to 5".  I told a relative of mine recently that when you work full-time (or close to it) in voice overs, if you're looking for a 9 to 5 job, this business isn't for you. You'll have rush requests at  all hours. Being available to record is key. Not to mention, with overseas clients, you're dealing with different time zones.

Dolly is such a smart business woman. A large amount of her wealth comes from successful enterprises, including her fun, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee amusement park-"Dollywood." And royalties from songs she has written like"I Will Always Love You." 

Back in my former life as a radio deejay, I played tons of Dolly's songs. Always good stuff.
An American treasure. Still going strong at 73.

Congratulations on your long, successful career Dolly! Bravo!

Monday, October 7, 2013

San Francisco-a great place to be! (and play)

I consider myself very fortunate to live and voice here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Such diversity, things to do, wonderful weather (OK, it can be downright chilly in the city during the Summer so bring a jacket or a sweater), and I've met some fantastic folks at recording sessions who also do voice overs for a living-voice overs for a living, not a hobby. I'm up and at 'em every morning at 5AM PST and my day generally wraps at 2PM PST. But when it's time to close down the studio for the day, I'm out the door to enjoy all that this area has to offer. Golf is one of my favorite things to do and for the last nine months or so I've been coaching a twenty something, very talented basketball star. His natural ability has allowed him to quickly become a good golfer and I'm amazed how far he hits the ball. And the coaching aspect works wonders for me too at the end of a busy day.

As mentioned in another post, if you're planning on visiting San Francisco, make sure you get your tickets early for things like the Alcatraz tour. Showing up same day is no guarantee you'll be able to go.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

e Learning!

Newbies to the VO industry are often surprised to learn that around 90% of all voice over work is
non broadcast stuff-on hold messages, corporate video narration, audio book narration,
website audio, and learning voice overs. Much of my work consists of voicing learning projects. Many of the scripts that come to me are quite lengthy and detailed. After the recording comes the editing. In many cases, you'll be labeling and separating hundreds of files. I totally enjoy this segment of VO as I am helping others to learn.  And there's a large amount of learning narration work to be had. Online learning, mobile learning, and e Learning is exploding by the second.

While newcomers to this business may be attracted to the more "glamorous" jobs like TV and radio commercials, overlooking non broadcast voice over can be very costly. The key to voicing learning narrations is to speak naturally, clearly, understand key words or phrases to emphasize,
maintain a pace of speech that's not too fast nor overly slow throughout the learning modules and remembering that learners will need a bit of time to absorb what you're saying. Former radio deejays most often will find learning narrations to be challenging as everything in radio is generally said very fast. Slowing the pace of speech down, but not sounding robotic, takes some practice and self awareness. I aim for a fairly conversational tone.

It's been a while since I've posted on this blog. E learning narrations have been keeping me very busy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Award winning film I voiced

A few years back, I was called upon by producer Donald L. Vasicek to voice a very somber narration for "The Sand Creek Massacre." Don emailed me a few days ago telling me it had won numerous prestigious awards and is being distributed in North America and Asia. It has played at festivals in all states and recently was catalogued in the Smithsonian Institution. Needless to say, I was thrilled and very proud to be part of this. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Some videos I voiced for a German agency

The Internet has opened up many doorways for me and other voice talents. Going global with my voice overs has been very satisfying. I recently voiced a series of videos for Conrad Caine, a very large, international agency headquartered in Munich. Here's a link to one of the videos.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The 10 Most Irritating Phrases List

I'm posting this on a Sunday morning with "Meet the Press" on in the background. Once again, I cringe throughout the broadcast as politician after politician (and commentator) keeps saying "At the end of the day..." Is there some law that I missed that says on any nationally televised political show the phrase "At the end of the day" must be said at least 100 times? It got me to thinking, so I Googled "10 Most Irritating Phrases" and lo and behold, "At the end of the day"claimed the top spot according to an Oxford survey. Here's a link to the list.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Remembering my friend Ed McCarthy of CNN radio

What a shock I got the other day. Having some down time between voice over jobs, I Googled the name of a friend I use to work with at WIRK in West Palm Beach, Florida. Don't know why, but I had him on my mind and was curious if he was still in the business. Like me, Ed had traveled around the country from station to station and landed a great job at CNN radio in the mid 80's. Back when he worked at WIRK, he was our news director. But he was also more than that to me. He was my golfing buddy, one of the funniest people I've ever met, a darn good broadcaster, and every year he would invite his co-workers from the radio station to come by his apartment for out of this world corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. A real character with a huge laugh. When I did my Google search, it indicated he had passed away back in 2009 at a hospital in Georgia. We had not been in touch for a very long time-I continued my career in radio and then voice over, and he became a national radio correspondent at CNN Atlanta.

I'll always remember the great times we had and how I was with him on a par 3 golf course in Florida one afternoon when he made a hole in one and fell down on the grass, laughing his rear end off. He hit the world's biggest slice ball off the tee. And he used a fairway wood to make the hole in one on a VERY short hole. Most average golfers would have used a nine iron. The ball did its usual wicked slice routine and fell in the hole, much to our amazement.

R.I.P friend. Thanks for the laughs and cool memories.





Sunday, November 6, 2011

The free online talking dictionary of English pronunciation- Howjsay

Lately I've been voicing some very technical medical scripts. One of my favorite sites to go to for audio pronunciation is Howjsay. It's pretty thorough. Some of the words I've been voicing are:

Phenylacetylthiocyanate
Tetramethylazodicarboxamide
alkylisothioureas

These kinds of words can be challenging to even an experienced voice talent. Making them roll off the tongue smoothly is key and may require multiple takes until it sounds natural. Long medical words are often several words strung together so you have to kind of break the word down. Like the word "alkylisothioureas" above. (alkyl-isothioureas). Howjsay can be very helpful in actually hearing the word pronounced, or a word within the long word.  Check out the site here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Craigslist, voice over and the lure of "easy money"

Recently I received some interesting emails from voice talents in response to a post I put on Craigslist. Essentially, I was warning newbie, or simply inexperienced voice talents, to be very careful about responding to ads for voice over work. When someone puts in their ad that it's a quick and easy job, I can feel my blood pressure rising. If the craft of voice over is so easy, then why isn't everyone doing it? (Scroll down the blog in a bit and read "So you want to do voice overs?" for a humorous take.) Most of the ads for voice over work on Craigslist are way below industry standards regarding pay and some even offer no pay with the proverbial dangling carrot of possible future work, or copy and credit. Here's an actual ad posted on Craigslist casting for voice talent. Take a look. This was posted under New York Craigslist jobs. I've altered nothing including the misuse of capital letters.

"Director in search of Voice Over Actress for Great looking Short film tomorrow in mid town studio bet 3-5p. The Original actress is unavailable and we want to release this within the month. We are looking for a youthful ( mid 20's ) and sexy voice. We have a great post house ready to let us do a few hours ( which should be more then enough). The movie is 90% done. Only missing V.O and color correction. This is for credit and $50. Please respond with headshot, voice sample and contact info


it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
Compensation: $50"

Let's break this ad down and look at the specifics.

This voice seeker wants a quality voice but is offering a "whopping" $50 for two hours of time. Also, if all they need is a "youthful, mid 20's, sexy voice," why are they requesting a headshot? The ad says nothing about the actress also being on camera-it simply refers to a voice. BIG red flag. In addition, a nice looking 20 something female should be very wary about going to someone's studio alone. Bad news scenarios are rampant about Craigslist predators.

I understand that inexperienced voice talents might be desperate to land some work, but in my opinion, the majority of Craigslist ads for voice talent need to be reviewed very carefully. In the ad above, they promise "copy and credit." My question to them would be, what makes you think that your copy is something that's going to be so special that I would want to include it on my demo reel or VO resume? Another dangling carrot.

If you're an inexperienced voice talent or someone looking to explore this business, feel free to contact me for some solid input. I'll be happy to assist you. No charge.

In all fairness to Craigslist voice seekers, I have landed a few decent jobs from Craigslist, but those were few and far between.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Have you voiced anything I would know?"

It happened again yesterday at my bank. I had a check come in from a first time client that I was not able to deposit at the ATM so I went inside. I was standing in a very long teller line at Bank of America, when a customer rep asked if anyone had just a direct deposit-no cash back transaction, which mine was. So, she pulled me out of line (Yippeeee!) and we went to a service station where she handled the details. I told her for whatever reason the check was not able to be processed at the outdoor ATM.

At one point, she asked me what I do for a living. I told her that I do voice overs for TV, some radio, but LOTS of non broadcast stuff for websites, corporate videos, e learning narrations and the like. She then asked me a question I usually get when folks find out what I do for a living- "Have you done anything that I would have heard, or that made you famous?" Of course, I always chuckle inside a bit when I get asked this as it's hard to know what people have heard. I told her that I had voiced four TV spots that aired nationally on the Game Show Network in support of a show called "Think Like a Cat" that she might have seen and heard. (I have one of the spots posted in the video section on this blog.) I went on to tell her that I voice many different genres of voice over, much of it non-broadcast stuff. People are sometimes surprised to hear that roughly 90% of all voice over work is non broadcast-it's a huge part of the VO pie. (Audio book narration has exploded). Those just learning the voice over craft tend to want to gravitate toward the more glamorous stuff like TV commercials and animation voice. There's nothing wrong with that. But if you ignore all the opportunities that abound in non broadcast work, you'll be missing out on a lot.

Another thing I get often is "Oh,that's cool!' "C'mon, do some voices!" I politely decline
and hand out a business card with my website address where my online demos can be heard. Hate to be a party pooper, but...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

So how much do voice actors really make?

So, I was enjoying my morning coffee and newspaper on a Sunday at one of my favorite restaurants here in Castro Valley when I came upon the Parade Magazine insert. This particular issue was billed as their annual "How much do they make ?"survey. I've sometimes had folks ask me if the money is good for doing what I do. My initial response is it depends how accomplished you are, what niche of voice over you excel in (or don't), whether you voice full time or treat it as a hobby, how you structure your rates, whether you're a union or non union voice actor, etc. As you can see, there are lots of variables.

With a natural curiosity to see if this issue of Parade had voice actors listed, I opened the pages to find they did in fact have a listing for voice actors. The voice actress they showed from New York, New York made a "whopping" $10,000! My immediate reaction was this must be a typo. No offense to this woman, but you have to try really hard not to make more than $10,000 per year if you have decent voice acting abilities. I know non union voice actors who are making six figures. And we're not talking about celebrities paid large amounts of money to voice a commercial. We're talking people whose names and faces you would never know. My next thought was, "OK, well this is what this particular voice actress makes per year, and she might be voicing part time, but it is not a true indicator of what the average income of most voice actors is."

So my answer to "How much do voice actors make?" is a lot... and sometimes, not a lot, depending upon many variables. How's that for a vague answer? Like any of these so called salary surveys, you have to take the information with a grain of salt.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shifting gears

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges any voice over talent faces who works alone from a home project studio is being able to make the necessary adjustments throughout the day to give a particular piece of copy the read it needs. My day starts very early, 4-5 AM PST, as I have East Coast clients who come to me on an almost daily basis (Hello Comcast New York/New Jersey!). I tag a fair amount of TV spots and on air promos for them. So, they might come to me needing a very uptempo tag  for a  Monday Night Football sponsorship. Then I'll have something else hit my email that calls for a very deliberate read, such as e learning where the copy needs to be voiced rather slowly, so the learner can digest what's being said. After that, an audition comes in that requires a whole different pace and feel. So, it's important to take a breath between jobs and really try to refocus. It's part of effective self directing. All day long you're shifting vocal gears if you voice a wide variety of scripts. Sometimes just opening up the door and walking outside in between jobs for a moment helps to clear your head for the right read. When you're super busy, it's easy to forget to do this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Thanks for calling!"

When I lived in North Carolina a number of years ago, I use to drive over the border three times a week to Muzak headquarters in Ft. Mill, South Carolina and voice countless on hold messages. (Yes, Muzak does a lot more than just produce elevator music.) I was one of many voice talents who would drop in throughout the week to voice from a VO booth. We had an audio engineer down the hallway who would roll scripts on a monitor in front of us and capture the on hold messages for editing and formatting later. As voice talents, our role was to come in and voice as many two-three paragraph scripts as we could in an hour. This required very good "cold reading" ability. That is to say, we didn't have a chance to see the scripts before the session, so you had to be good at voicing on the fly. If you made a mistake, you'd simply revoice the line and move on;the fix would be done in editing. There was a HUGE premium put on voice talents who could whiz through the scripts and voice say, 35-45 separate messages in an hour.  We were paid a decent hourly rate and the work was relatively stress free with nominal direction. 

Phrases like, "You're call  is important to us," "Thanks for holding...we'll be with you in a minute," and "While you're waiting, did you know...?" have been the norm for many years with little change. Of course, many folks hate to be put on hold or get caught up in an on hold hell of sorts as they feverishly push buttons to be connected to a live, breathing, human being.

I've had a few funny experiences over the years when calling businesses. Recently, here in California, I called an online auto parts supplier to follow up on an order I had placed through their website. It was very early morning and I received an hours of operation, on hold message. ("We're currently closed, but our hours of operation are from..."). I heard the voice and thought, "Boy, that guy sounds a lot like me," when it dawned on me it WAS me! Having voiced many on hold messages it's easy to lose track and some can run for quite a while before needing to be updated.

Another time, a producer/client friend of mine emailed to tell me he was with friends in the middle of a California desert getting some gas when he heard my voice overhead at the gas pump beckoning customers to come in the convenience store to get a Slurpy or cup of freshly brewed coffee. He said it kind of freaked him out as my voice came out of nowhere and he told his friends, "Hey, that's John Miles. I hired him to voice for me." This type of messaging is what is known as "overhead." You hear these messages in stores all the time.

  Many voice talents stay away from on hold work. I still enjoy it. Part of the challenge is to combine a conversational read with some enthusiasm without sounding cheesy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"The voice of Bart"

The voice of Bart Simpson-Nancy Cartwright
 
In the San Francisco Bay Area, if you were to ask someone who does the voice of Bart, he or she might ask you for clarification. Here, B.A.R.T. stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit. And as you wait on the platform for the train to come, you'll hear several voices announcing departure and arrival times. They're actually synthesized voices called, "George and Gracie." The history behind them is kind of fascinating. Read about them and hear a sample of their voices here.

Another suitable answer would be Nancy Cartwright. She's the voice of Bart Simpson. When the series first became a hit, many were surprised that Bart's voice was being done by a woman.

Years ago, Nancy took a big chance, packed up her beat up car in Dayton, Ohio, and headed to California. She was lucky enough to study under the legendary Daws Butler, a master of animation voices. He originated the voices of many famous cartoon characters, including Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound. What an education she got from Mr. Butler. Not to mention landing  the gig of a lifetime. Her book, "My Life as a Ten Year Old Boy" is a fun and informative read.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's indeed a small world

Yesterday I was hired to do a voice over for a fledgling company's website. I had auditioned for the job earlier in the day and that afternoon received an email from them that I had won the audition- they wanted to hire me to voice for them. It was a relatively short script that called for a certain amount of enthusiasm, but not too over the top. Job finished, I emailed them a link to download the audio file. Within fifteen minutes or so, I received an email from "Eran" that they liked what I did and he requested an invoice. I emailed a Pay Pal invoice, which I usually do for first time customers. The payment came through within minutes and was from Haifa, Israel. It got me to thinking once again about how the Internet has really made it a very small world. I also voice for clients in Germany, India and Japan when they need an English/American voice over. Count me in as one of those folks very grateful for the Internet and what it allows me to do every day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A new member of the family

I just added this preamp to my audio chain in my studio, and absolutely love it. A good preamp teamed with a good microphone is a must. I have to say that after reading many of the glowing, online reviews of the Grace M101, it certainly lives up to all the positive buzz. Some even saying it could sell for two to three times as much. I like that it doesn't "color" the microphone sound, in my case, a Neumann TLM 103. And the simplicity and ease of use is a winner.  The Grace Design company is based in Colorado. By the way, there was nothing wrong with my other preamp, I just like what this preamp brings to the studio. Money well spent.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Natural" and "Believable"

I wish I had a nickel for every time I saw one of the two words above in an audition spec. If you go to You Tube and click on any of the TV commercials of yesterday, say back in the 50's and 60's, you're more than likely going to hear an announcer type delivery that sounds over projected with volume, and a lot of "sell and hype" in the voice. Not to say that those don't still exist in today's advertising world ( i.e.-Hard sell auto commercials or infomercials). Now more than ever however, casting directors are looking for voice talents who can sound natural (non-hyped/ conversational), and believable, while standing or sitting in front of a microphone. That takes good old fashioned experience.

I have found  newbie voice talents tend to often make the mistake of speaking too loudly into the microphone. This results in an affected and over projected voice quality that is far from sounding natural. The key is to let the microphone do the work of amplifying your voice, and "get small" with your voice-less volume. Imagine that your best friend is standing right next to you and you're speaking to him or her. You certainly wouldn't get overly loud in their ear when speaking, so why do it when recording a voice over? Another analogy would be people who feel the need to yell into their cell phones, as if the listening party cannot hear them.

Quick tip:  Recording with headphones off (or maybe just one ear outside the phones), can help you to achieve a more natural sound. What happens is many folks get too caught up listening to themselves through the headphones, which can result in an unnatural sounding voice over. I realize that in studio settings where producers/directors are giving you direction from outside the booth, you'll need to have them on to hear. But if you're voicing from a home studio and self directing, try taking the headphones off sometimes. I think you'll find that  helps to make your reads more natural. Still, there are many  experienced voice talents who can sound natural with headphones on while recording. My advice so far is mainly intended for those just beginning their voice over endeavors and struggling with this issue.

Another part of making the voice over sound natural and believable is not overly enunciating the words. If you're voicing a "real person" type script , you'll want to aim for  more conversational diction. Pronouncing  with over emphasis will make you sound very stilted, unnatural and amateurish. On the other hand, you're not aiming for sloppy either. You have to kind of split the difference. Grab those audition scripts and practice! Sounding natural while in front of a microphone is an acquired skill.

Friday, July 30, 2010

"Where's the beef?"

I see they've come out with the top 10 advertising icons of all time and Clara Peller, the "Where's the Beef?" Wendy's spokesperson made the list. No surprise there. I had a moment of reflection, as back in the 80's, in my "former life" as a radio broadcaster, I had a chance to interview her. I was on the air in West Palm Beach on a Saturday morning when a call came in from a photographer friend of mine who had a knack for taking pics of celebrities. He happened to be visiting with Clara and her son, who were staying at a Palm Beach Gardens hotel. Sam asked me if I would be interested in doing a short interview with her on the air as she was in town for the Senior Olympics. At that time, everyone was running around saying "Where's the beef?". Folks were wearing t-shirts with that slogan on it. If you were around then you no doubt remember. It was insane! So, I told him that I'd be happy to put her on, figuring it might be somewhat comical. There was one small problem though. Her son informed me that she was extremely hard of hearing and doing the interview over the phone might be difficult, to say the least. I told him that I had an in studio reel to reel tape recorder patched into the phone line and I could roll tape, and then do an edit before putting the interview on the air. That in mind, he put her on the phone and I opened by asking her what brought her to the Palm Beaches, so she could talk about the Olympics. From the beginning, I knew I was in deep trouble when my questions were answered with absolute silence and she would occasionally bark, "Where's the beef?,"as if on command. (Think of one of those play dolls with the string you pull to hear a mechanical sounding voice). Her son grabbed the phone extension and said perhaps if I asked him the questions, he could ask her and I'd have enough stuff on tape I could use. So that's what we did.  I  edited out the pauses and gaffes and eventually put the very brief interview on the air, my listeners none the wiser. I later learned that Clara was in fact so hard of hearing that when they filmed the Wendy's commercials, someone hidden from sight would tap her on the leg from behind the counter to cue her to say her famous line, "Where's the beef?"


Thursday, July 29, 2010

"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

No doubt, the headline above applies to many businesses, but since I'm in the voice over world, I'll touch a bit on what I know. As a politician has said more than a time or two, "Let me be brief."

"El Cheapo" voice overs are aplenty. With the explosion of affordable, digital audio equipment, many are hanging up the "I'm a professional voice over talent" shingle. Problem is, when it comes time to deliver the goods, they fall short. And not just in their abilities, but in the actual sound quality of the audio.

Getting good, clean audio in a home studio set up is not quite as easy as it may seem. For one, each recording space has a unique room tone. That is to say, XYZ microphone will sound differently if it's used in this room versus that one.  Some record from voice over booths. Others create an isolated space with proper acoustical treatment. I use products from this company. Then there's the additional challenge of blocking outside noise if you're recording in a busy neighborhood. When I moved into my new studio location several years ago, my main goal was to find a very quiet location, so buffering outside noise would be minimal. I was very fortunate to find a cool spot that literally sits near a quiet creek. Love it!

If you're planning on hiring a voice talent and having them record a paragraph or two of your script as an audition, listen to the audio with headphones on. This will highlight any audio deficiencies that may not be audible through your speakers. Things like computer fan noise, excessive echo flutter bouncing off walls, or let's hope not, but even barking dogs in the background, will be readily noticeable.

I'll wrap this post up by saying that I have made more than a few dollars from producers who have phoned me in a mild panic because they hired a low priced talent and needed a quick fix on a voice over.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"9,223,372,036,854,775,808"

So I'm voicing some technical e learning scripts having to do with Java 8 that contain numbers references foreign to almost everybody. Today, this number, 9,223,372,036,854,775,808, came up in the script several times.

So glad this company is great at providing pronunciation keys, as upon first seeing this number on the script, my mind knotted up and went into a deep freeze. Whah?!!!!

Here's how the above should be said- Nine quintillion, two hundred twenty three quadrillion, three hundred seventy two trillion, thirty six billion, eight hundred fifty four million, seven hundred seventy five thousand, eight hundred and eight.

And yes, it took me a number of takes to say it (several times) and make it roll off the tongue. While you're at it, why not give it a try.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The San Francisco Treat

I enjoy walking in San Francisco, especially on weekends when the streets are extra busy with tourists and locals. I live in East Bay, so I hop on BART (our rapid transit service), right near my studio, and zip on up to the city in about 30 minutes or so. Couldn't be more convenient. I like to get off at the Powell and Market cable car turnaround to start my walk. Such interesting characters! Street performers are always there, and the ever present line of tourists waiting patiently to take a cable car ride up Powell Street and down to Fisherman's Wharf. (The going rate is $5). If you're looking for exercise, there's no better place to walk than the hills of San Francisco. And they're not for the faint of heart. It's just a whole lot of fun to walk and people watch at the same time, plus the health benefits are obvious. After a good long walk up and down the streets, your legs will be screaming for relief.

If you ever plan to visit our great city, by all means, email or call in advance. I'd be happy to take you on a "leisurely stroll." (And I also know some terrific restaurants where we can take a momentary rest.).

UPDATE: Here's a link to a story just published in our San Francisco Chronicle about a man who walked every street, alley, cul-de-sac (you name it), in the city. It took him 500 hours over the course of seven years!