Writer, Broadcaster

Tag: Faster Than Light

Assorted Nonsense: The Podcast

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

One day in the not too distant future, when I have time, I might try my hand at a podcast. And when I do, it might turn out something like the script I’ve pasted below. I wrote this back around 2006 and actually produced a version of it a few years later with my buddy Matt Watts, but it never saw the light of day.

The mini-radio drama referenced near the end, Born of Man and Woman, was produced by my friend and colleague Barry Morgan for the third pilot we produced for Faster Than Light, but like that pilot, it was never aired, which is a shame, because Barry’s take on the story was actually quite good. Born of Man and Woman is a great little short story if you can get your hands on it, by Richard Matheson, author of What Dreams May Come and I am Legend. As for Barry Morgan, I really miss him. What a privilege it was to know a guy like that.

This script, you will see, is rather silly, but dammit there’s a place for silly in this world. Isn’t there?

ASSORTED NONSENSE

Episode #1

PART ONE

1. SFX:                                   SHUFFLING PAPERS, CHAIRS SQUEAKING

2. JOE: (STAGE WHISPER)  Play it. Play it!

3. MATT: (STAGE WHISPER) What? 

4. JOE: (STAGE WHISPER) The theme!

5. MATT: (STAGE WHISPER) Oh.  Which button…?

6. JOE: (STAGE WHISPER) Try the red one. (FREAKS OUT) NO! No, the green one.

7. SFX: CLICK!

8. THEME: ASSORTED NONSENSE THEME BG

9. MATT:                               Hi and welcome to Assorted Nonsense.  I’m Matt Watts…

10. JOE:                                  And I’m Joe Mahoney.  Welcome to Assorted Nonsense.

11. SFX: QUACK QUACK

12. MATT:                             Every edition of Assorted Nonsense is special, of course, but today’s show is extra special because not only will you hear the usual assorted nonsense…

13. JOE:                                  You’ll hear all sorts of extra goodies, just like on your favourite Star Wars DVD.

14. MATT:                             For instance, in today’s show we’ve included two scenes so poorly written and acted…

15. JOE:                                  So unbelievably awful…

16. MATT:                             That normally they would have been deleted.

17. JOE:                                  Without question.

18. MATT:                             Today we’ve kept them in.  Just like our bloopers.  During the making of every Athorted Nonsenthe… of every Athorted… oh for the love of –

19. SFX: BLEEP!

20. JOE:                                  You need to work on that lisp.

21. MATT:                             I need some water.  Can we do that again?

22. PRODUCER:                    (OVER TALKBACK) Pick it up at “During the making of.”

23. MATT:                             Okay. Ready?

24. JOE:                                  Go for it.

25. MATT:                             During the making of every Assorted Nonsense, Joe and I make plenty of mistakes.  Normally we edit them out.  Not today.

26. JOE:                                  Today we’re keeping them in.  And if you listen closely…

27. MATT:                             Really, really closely…

28. JOE:                                  You’ll hear a special commentary track in which Matt and I comment on the very show you’re listening to —

29. MATT:                             — while you’re listening to it. 

30. JOE:                                  How cool is that?

31. MATT:                             When the show’s finished, make sure you turn it over to hear a special behind-the-scenes making of featurette. 

32. MATT:                             And as an extra special bonus, today’s show is available in the following languages: 

33. JOE:                                  English.

34. MATT: Assorted Nonsense.  Radio that answers the burning question:

35. JOE AND MATT: (TREATED HARD RIGHT AND LEFT) What the heck?

36. THEME:                          UP AND OUT

PART TWO: CONSTRUCTION SITE

1. SFX: CONSTRUCTION, BULLDOZER IN DISTANCE

2. MATT:                               Hey Joe.  What’goin’ on?  What’s all this?

3. JOE:                                    Oh hey Matt.  I’m just building my own radio show, so I can be my own boss, do my own thing.  You know, the kind of show I’ve been talking about for like forever.

4. MATT:                               I’m sorry, did you say that you’re… building a radio show?

5. JOE:                                    Yeah, that’s right.  Once I get all the pieces.

6. MATT:                               Pieces?  Radio shows come in pieces?

7. JOE:                                    Of course.  You know… radio pieces.  Themes, hosts, music, stories… you know, radio stuff.

8. MATT:                               Huh.

9. JOE:                                    Only problem is this is one a them “do-it-yourself” radio shows.  I gotta figure out how ta bolt it all together.  For instance, getting this… sub-text in place…

6. SFX:                                   DRILL

7. JOE:                                    There.

7. SFX: BULLDOZER

8. MATT:                               Joe…

7. JOE: (EXCITED) Oh hey look, they’re bringing in the theme!  Ooh, this is very exciting.  Put it over there, boys! 

8. SFX: THEME SETS DOWN WITH A THUD

9. MUSIC:                             AS IT HAPPENS THEME

16. JOE:                                  Oh. Hmm, I dunno.  I didn’t order a current affairs theme. (OFF) Guys!  Guys!  You’re gonna have to take that theme back.  Can we get something a little less… Moe Koffman-y?

25. MUSIC: THEME DEPARTS WITH BULLDOZER

11. JOE:                                  Hand me those nails?  Thanks.

12. MATT:                             Joe you can’t just… build a radio show.

13. SFX:                                 HAMMERING

14. JOE:                                  I can’t?

15. MATT:                             No.

26. JOE:                                  Here, hold this while I tweak the focus.  Thanks.

27: SFX:                                 FOCUS TWEAKING

17. MATT:                             Have you thought this thing through?

18: JOE: (STRAINING) And now for the dramatic structure…

19. MATT:                             Do you have any idea –

18. SFX:                                 JACKHAMMER

19. MATT: (YELLING) Joe, Joe listen to me!  Do you have any idea how –

20. SFX: JACKHAMMER STOPS

21. MATT:                             (STILL YELLING) big a radio…? (SIGHS, LOWERS VOICE) How big a radio show can be? 

22. JOE: Whaddaya mean?

23. MATT:                             Where ya gonna put it? 

24. JOE:                                  It’s just little, only half an hour.  Fits anywhere.

25. MATT:                             You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into, do you.  Joe… radio shows… radio shows are like cats.

26. JOE:                                  Cats?

27. MATT:                             You might even be allergic for all you know.

28. JOE:                                  I –

29. MATT:                             Do you have any idea what a radio show can do to your furniture?

30. JOE:                                  Uh —

31: MATT:                             You’re not thinking of having it declawed, are you?  ‘Cause if you are, then —

32. JOE:                                  (LIKE HE’S CRAZY) Matt, Matt.  It’s not a cat.  It’s a radio show.

33. MATT:                             (BEAT) Oh you are so wrong.  Cuz ya see Joe, a radio show is exactly like a cat.

34. JOE:                                  (LONG BEAT) Except for the fur, and the… head?

35. MATT:                             Joe, what’s the one thing that cats have more than any other creature on this planet?

36. JOE: Hairballs.

37. MATT: Attitude, Joe.  There ain’t no other creature on this planet with more attitude than a cat.  (BEAT) ‘Cept maybe a beaver but the point is that that’s what makes a cat tick.  Attitude.  For a radio show to really rock, it’s gotta have attitude. 

38. JOE:                                  Like a cat.

39. MATT:                             Or a beaver.

40. JOE:                                  And you know this because…

41. MATT:                             I used to have one.

42.  JOE:                                 A cat?

43.  MATT:                            (BEAT) A beaver.

44.  JOE:                                 Well I appreciate the advice Matt but I’m still gonna build my own radio show.  *Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna have to trim this item cause it’s already gone on way too long…

44. MUSIC: *START OVERBLOWN MUSIC BG

45. SFX: SAWING

45. MUSIC:                           FEATURE, THEN FADE BG

46. MATT: (OVERLY DRAMATIC)

And so Joe built his radio show.

He built it with his own bare hands.

He built it though it made no sense to do so. 

He built it out of spare parts left over from a misspent youth. 

He built a radio show fluent in four different languages, not a one of them spoken on Earth.

He coated it with a super special polymer material, able to withstand hurricane forces and the probing hands of small children.

He made his radio show sveglia impermeable.

He put little air holes in it so that he could breathe. 

He painted it bright orange with gigantic purple spots. 

Joe built a radio show the envy of the entire… that… some people could tune into if they wanted to. 

Joe built his radio show unaware that as he did so, elsewhere in the universe mysterious aliens plotted the fate of humanity:

PART THREE: STUDIO

1. SOUND:                             INTRO OF SHOW STARTS AGAIN

2. JOE:                                    Hi, I’m Joe.  I’m one of the people in the show that you’re listening to.

3. MATT:                               And I’m Matt, I act in the show, and I do the show’s laundry.

4. JOE:                                    As we promised a little earlier on, we’re about to do a commentary track for today’s show.  But just a commentary for the, uh, intro, the beginning of the show, because, uh…

5. MATT:                               Well the show hasn’t actually finished yet. So we can pretty much only comment on the beginning, maybe a bit of the middle, depending.

6. JOE:                                    Yeah, so here it is, this is the beginning of today’s show, which you would have heard only a few minutes ago.  I put it together late last week, if I recall, Thursday, I think, round suppertime, while eating a baloney, ah…

7. SOUND:                             SHOW PLAYS BG UNDER

8. MATT:                               So… was it you who wrote this?

9. JOE:                                    Yep.

10. MATT:                             I mean… it was you, wasn’t it?  That wrote the intro?  ‘Cause I don’t…

11. SOUND:                           BIT OF THE INTRO

12. JOE:                                  Uh huh.  Yeah.  I’d have to say that it was pretty much me, not sure what you were doing that day, playing Resident Evil or something, but… that’s the two of us reading it, though.

13. MATT:                             Yeah.

14. SOUND:                           A BIT OF THE INTRO

15. MATT:                             So were you a little pressed for time then, writing it, or…?

16. SOUND:                           A BIT OF THE INTRO

17. JOE: Whaddaya mean? 

18. MATT:                             Well it’s not very good, is it?

19. JOE:                                  You don’t think?

20. SOUND:                           BIT MORE OF SHOW

21. MATT:                             Have you heard it?

22. JOE:                                  Uh… well yeah.  Yeah, I mixed it, I put the whole thing together, so… yeah, I… you know I don’t even know where you were.

21.  MATT:                            There’s no need to get defensive.  I’m just saying that it could’ve been… better.

22. JOE:                                  Oh yeah?   Well how?  How could it’ve been better?

23. MATT:                             Well.  You know.

24. SOUND:                           BIT MORE OF THE SHOW

25. JOE:                                  No.  No I don’t know.  Why don’t you tell me?

26. SOUND:                           BIT MORE OF THE SHOW

27. MATT:                             Well you know if I’d written it.  I think if I’d written the intro it would’ve… you know… been better.

28.  SOUND: PARTICULARLY LAME PART OF THE SHOW

29. MATT:                             A lot better.  Wait… wait!

30. JOE:                                  What?

31. MATT:                             Shh!  This is my favourite part.

32. SOUND:                           EVEN MORE BANAL PART OF THE INTRO

33.  JOE:                                 I thought you said you didn’t like the intro.

34. MATT:                             What?  Oh, well I thought that I liked that one part, but… huh.

35. JOE:                                  What?

36. MATT: (DISMISSIVELY) Ah, it wasn’t as good as I thought it was.

37. SOUND:                           FEATURE INTRO

38. SOUND:                           TRANSITION

PART FOUR: SPECIAL FEATURE PRESENTATION

1. JOE: Time now for today’s Special Feature Presentation!

2. MUSIC:                                         TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX THEME

3. MATT: It’s at this point in the show that you might want to find someone or something to hold onto.

4. JOE: Why do you say that?

5. MATT: Well it’s just that I think that what we’re about to play represents a bit of a departure in tone.  You know, in the tone that I think you and I have worked so hard to establish in today’s show.

6. JOE: You mean the fact that what we’re about to play is not particularly funny.

7. MATT:                                           I mean the fact that it’s actually kind of good.

8. JOE: Oh yeah, yeah there is that. 

9. MATT: But you’re right, it’s not particularly funny either.  It’s actually kind of scary.

10. JOE: So you think this is a problem, then, this change in tone?

11. MATT: Well no, it’s just I just wouldn’t want any of our listeners to, you know, blow a gasket or something.  We’ve only got three.

12. JOE: Gaskets?

13. MATT: Listeners.

14. JOE: Ah, yes, yes this is true.  It is a well-known fact that if listeners are forced to switch too quickly from one kind of programming to another, they explode.

15. MATT: Very messy.

16. JOE: Yeah.  So, um, listeners, if you think there’s any chance at all that you might explode because of the rapid transition from sort of “funny” radio to sort of “serious” radio, you might wanna just… what.  Turn the radio off?

17. MATT: Well no, no, let’s not get carried away.  I think it would suffice if you just… you know, stood back from the radio a bit.  Probably a good idea to keep the volume down.  And then, as you get used to the change in programming, as you begin to feel more comfortable with it, then you can… try edging in a bit.  But slowly!  No sudden moves.  And if you feel like you might explode anyway, try not to do it on the carpet.

18. JOE: Perfect.  The last thing we need is one of our listeners exploding.

19. MATT: We’ve only got three.

20. JOE: And we have a responsibility to those three to keep them from exploding.

21. MATT: (WHISPER) It’s probably okay if one explodes.

22. JOE: Shh!  Okay, so without further ado here’s our special feature presentation, a little something called Born of Man and Woman.   

23. MATT: By Richard Matheson, produced by Barry Morgan.  Okay, play it.

24. JOE: Okay, ah… how do I…

25.MATT: The green button.  NO!  NO!  The red one.

26. SOUND: CLICK!

27. ITEM:       DRAMA “BORN OF MAN AND WOMAN”

  • IN:      …Door slam                                                            RUNS:  8’00” aprox 
  • OUT:  …Music

PART FIVE: THAT’S ALL SHE WROTE

1. JOE:                                    Born of Man and Woman, by Richard Matheson, adapted and produced for radio by Barry Morgan.

2. MATT: Featuring Wayne Robson, Ray Landry, and Sarah Orenstein.  A true story, based on Joe’s early childhood, if I’m not mistaken.

3. JOE:                                    (BEAT) I don’t wanna talk about it.

4. MATT:                               And that’s all she wrote, that’s our show for today.

5. THEME:                            UP AND UNDER

6. JOE:                                    For today’s show only the part of Matt Watts was played by Joe Mahoney. 

7. MATT:                               With the part of Joe Mahoney being played by Matt Watts. To complain about Assorted Nonsense, e-mail Assorted Nonsense Audience Relations at:

We have a team of operators standing by to receive your complaints.  Assorted Nonsense is written and produced by Joe Mahoney with Matt Watts.  See ya.

8. JOE:                                    Later.  

9. THEME: FEATURE, THEN DOWN FOR:

10. THEME:                          UP AND OUT

END

The Great Bookshelf Tour: Fourth Stop

Welcome to the fourth stop on the Great Bookshelf Tour of 2020, which I hope you find a bit of a distraction during these unusual times.

First up on today’s tour we have the books of illustrious Prince Edward Island based author Susan Rodgers. Susan Rodgers, you should know, is my sister, younger than me by one year, one month, and three days. I call her Sam because her initials are Susan Ann Mahoney, or at least they were before she married that Rodgers guy.

I could write an entire book about her, and our fabulous childhood together, including that incident where she heroically defended me from a pack of bullies who had stolen my mittens, and the time we got trapped on a cliff-face together (she made it off first), and so on, but that’s not what this tour is about. This tour is about books, and if you want books, Susan has written something like eighteen of them. I’ve lost count. My wife and I once marched into a bookstore and bought all of them, back when there were only nine. There, we’re done, we’ve supported her, we thought. Then she promptly wrote nine more. We’ve yet to pick those up. But we will. Maybe. Someday. Anyway, if you like angsty books about love and relationships and music and Prince Edward Island, you will LOVE Susan’s Drifters series (and related books).

Sitting in front of Susan’s books is one of my favourite books, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, by Gordon MacKenzie. A few things about this book. It was a thoughtful gift from a friend, which makes it special. I love everything about the design of this book, the illustrations in particular. If you look inside you will see that it is positively littered with the craziest drawings and sketches, all speaking to the nature of the content. I’ve long wanted to produce a book myself in this style. The book is about creativity and leadership, and it has many sage notions about all of that. There isn’t a much in the way of information online about MacKenzie himself. He’s a bit of an enigmatic figure, but video of him does exist. The books is based on a talk he used to give, which you can see online (and when you do, you’ll see just how much of the book is based on the talk). Curiously, despite the cult status of this book, hardly anybody has viewed MacKenzie’s online talk (145 views as of today). Something else I love about the book: it was originally self-published before Viking (Penguin) picked it up.

Next up, Robert J. Sawyer‘s Rollback. Rob has written even more books than my sister, and has known great success. I’ve known Rob since before he published his first novel, Golden Fleece (which I understand wasn’t actually the first one he wrote). I met Rob working on an episode of Ideas for CBC Radio. He was a guest contributor and I was the tech. He told me about his upcoming publication and that he wanted to be a professional science fiction writer. Little did he know that it was actually ME who was going to be the professional science fiction writer! Unfortunately, I turned out to be a lazy slug of mediocre ability, whereas he is a juggernaut with a big brain and actual talent. Which explains why he’s written so many successful books and I’ve written two, one of which COULD be considered successful if you fudge the criteria for success a bit.

Fast forward a few years (ahem; that would be a Sawyer pun there, if you know the man’s oeuvre). I decided to make a radio show featuring science fiction called Faster Than Light. I asked Rob if he would host it, and he agreed to. The pilot was wildly successful, but the network didn’t pick it up as a series, the Director of Programming at the time telling the Acting Head of Radio Drama that “if we put a show like that on the air, we’ll never get it off.” Oh well.

Fast forward a few more years. Rob writes Rollback. Some of the novel involves the CBC. Rob asked me to read the third draft of the novel to fact check the CBC bits. I did, and was surprised to discover that not only was the main character based on my profession at the time (a CBC Recording Engineer), but I was actually a character in the novel! So you can see that this is kind of a special book for me, beyond being an excellent story, well told, of a man restored to youth, and the impact on those around him.

And sitting beside Rollback up there is another Sawyer novel, Hominids, the first in his well-regarded Neanderthal Parallax series. I’ve actually read many of Rob’s excellent books, though not all of them are on this bookshelf (I do have other bookshelves in the house, and at the office), and I heartily recommend them all.

One day when I was about twelve I had just finished reading a good book and was looking for another of comparable quality, so I asked my father if he could recommend one. He led me downstairs to one of his bookshelves and picked out Cappy Ricks or the Subjugation of Matt Peasley by Peter B. Kyne, published in way back in 1916. What a yarn! I loved this tale of a crusty yet loveable shipping/lumber magnate and the feisty young sailor Matt Peasley he puts to work and torments on one of his boats. I’ve read it many times since. Kyne, incidentally, also wrote The Valley of the Giants (upon which the movie is based), among many other books.

Moving on we have another ancient tome called Lud-in-the-Mist, by Hope Mirrlees, first published in 1926. It was recommended by fellow writer Dale Sproule (former editor of the magazine TransVersions, with Sally McBride) and I’m so glad he brought it to my attention. It’s an adult fantasy about fairies that as many observers have pointed out pre-dates Lord of the Rings by many years, and quite possibly influenced such magnificent works as John Crowley’s Little, Big and Susanna Clarke‘s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, both of which I also loved.

Hmm. Lots to write about on this shelf! Next up we have another book by a friend, this time Thrice Burned, the second novel in Angela Misri‘s excellent Portia Adams mystery series, which I reviewed on this very blog, favourably, I might add. And beyond her a medical thriller by yet another friend, Stockholm Syndrome, by Melissa Yuan-Innes, writing as Melissa Yi. This is one of Melissa’s Dr. Hope Sze‘s books, selected as one of the best crime books of the year by CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter‘s Mystery panel.

And finally, kinda hard to make out there at the far right, we have The Lost Millennium, by Floren Diacu. This is a fascinating book, exploring the premise that history might be off by oh, say, one thousand years. That what we think of as the dark ages might be dark because they actually never happened! Whether this is true (spoiler alert: it’s probably not) this terrific little book provides great insight into how history is actually recorded and conveyed to the rest of us. It’s nowhere near as straightforward as you might think.

Other Stops on the Tour

The Great Bookshelf Tour: Third Stop

Third stop on the Great Bookshelf Tour, intended to be a tiny, inoffensive distraction from the strange, science-fiction-come-true travails of our lives these days.

We’re on the second shelf from the top, a land of books guarded by a friendly looking bear, a fox who appears asleep on the job, and some tiny owls. I dare any evil-minded entity to get past them. Starting on the far left, I see a Farley Mowat book I’ve yet to read. The bear is in the way and I’m too comfy on the couch to go downstairs and see what the book is called. I just looked all his books up online and still can’t figure out which book it is. He wrote a lot of books! Later, if I’m ever able to move again, I’ll wander downstairs, identify it, and name it in the comments. If I remember. Okay, never mind, I had to get up to feed the animals: turns out it’s No Man’s River, and it’s supposed to be pretty good.

Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Identity. A terrific piece of popular fiction, now a movie series, but the book is much better, I promise you. There because I’ve read it at least twice already, and probably will read it again.

His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman. Contains all three books in the series. Just finished this one about a month ago. I thought it was quite an accomplishment. Not perfect, still a heck of an achievement. Original story, memorable characters, adventure, a bold premise that would have had him burned at the stake in any other century, a smattering of science in an otherwise fantasy, and most importantly, I felt what I was reading. It’s all about emotion, you know. That alchemy of your emotions intermingled with the characters’ emotions that produces magic. Pullman achieved some magic, here.

Which brings us to Ultra, the first of the books on my shelf by a friend and colleague, in this case David Carroll, who also works at the CBC. This is David’s first book, about a young ultra-marathon runner, and it’s an excellent book. David’s an ultra-marathoner himself, so he knows of what he writes. I bought Ultra because I like to support my friends, as they have supported me, and I kept it because it’s a good book, which I will re-read one day.

Tales of Time and Space, edited by Ross R. Olney, is a collection of science fiction short stories that my parents bought me when I was a kid. There are some great stories in here by the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Silverberg, Jack Finney and so on, but my favourite is The Last Command by Keith Laumer. When I was choosing a radio play to adapt for CBC Radio’s Faster Than Light way back when, I selected The Last Command as an alternative to The Cold Equations, but the powers that be favoured The Cold Equations (which was fine, as it’s another favourite).

The rest of the books on this portion of the shelf are by Lois McMaster Bujold, all of them part of (or leading up to) the Vorkosigan saga. If you haven’t read this yet you don’t know what you’re missing. Miles Vorkogisan is one of those characters who leaps off the page. The least of them is eminently readable, the best of them special indeed. Standouts are The Warrior’s Apprentice (not here because I gave my copy away) and Memory, but try to read them all in order.

And let me know what you think.

Other Stops on the Tour

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