We got a letter the other day from a neighbor a couple blocks away, encouraging us to sign up for an app called Nextdoor. It's kind of like Facebook, but it's designed to connect people who live in the same neighborhood, while still allowing them to connect with other neighborhoods nearby. As it said in the letter, "We use the site to share local business recommendations, reunite with lost pets, sell outgrown bikes, organize virtual book clubs and so much more."
We thought, what the heck? Sounds interesting let's give it a try. And I have to admit, so far, I'm impressed. As I was exploring the app shortly after signing up, I noticed that one of the users nearby is a neighbor whom we've never met, but whose mail often is erroneously delivered to our address by the USPS. It was so cool to actually be able to put a face to a name we've seen pop up in our physical mailbox. As I look around, so far I have noticed there's surprisingly little junk that you would find on Facebook or one of the alternative social media sites. Oh, there are a few groups listed that are devoted to a particular side of the political spectrum, but nothing too odd. Most of the people I've encountered so far are just sharing thoughts about their neighborhood, introducing themselves, or chatting about common interests.
I really think this could be a handy tool for connecting with real, live people who actually live nearby. We'll see how it all goes...
Insofar as it's possible within my cultural bubble, I try to be aware of what some of the other faith traditions in my community are celebrating. I have Muslim friends, I have Jewish friends, I have Eastern Orthodox Christian friends, etc. I don't offer holiday greetings to all of them for every single feast, festival, or fast, but sometimes, if I see that one of those things is going on, I try to spread the goodwill around in my own simple way. I have no idea if any Muslim friends actually read my blog, but just in case they do, I wish them Eid Mubarak! Have a blessed Eid-ul-Fitr!
I gave it a good try over the past few years. Well, actually, I don’t know if it really qualifies as a good try, but it was a try. I started on Podbean, with a podcast called “The Bible Bookshelf.” But that didn’t quite work out. Then, when coronavirus “lockdowns” began last year, and I found myself stuck at home much of the time, I reworked the podcast into the “Corybantic Podcast.” After a few weeks of that, I once again set aside my podcasting plans, until just recently, when I decided to give Anchor.fm a try. At first, it was great. Anchor offered tools and distribution settings that were far easier to use than Podbean had been. So I brought back the Corybantic Podcast, which I did for a few weeks.
Just a few weeks ago, I decided that my subjects were too widely varied to have a consistent podcast, so I decided to rebrand to concentrate on just one of my interests: Shakespeare. Thus was born the Willy Wigglestick podcast. But that only lasted a few episodes before I decided…it’s just not working.
I like the idea of sharing my thoughts in an audio format. But the execution is a lot less enjoyable. Writing a blog, I find I can organize my thoughts more easily. I can share links and articles that interest me, and that I want others to know about. Doing an effective podcast requires a much higher level of organization. I discovered that it was virtually impossible for me just to talk about something that interested me: I needed to write a script. I needed to edit in music. I needed ad breaks, to try to make just a little revenue. So far, after weeks of podcasting on Anchor, that ad revenue has amounted to…$.93. Yup, that’s right. 93 CENTS.
It’s just not worth it any more. I enjoy blogging, and I’m sure I will continue to blog on Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, the Bible…whatever catches my attention. But podcasting isn’t going to happen. I imagine I will leave my podcast at Anchor up for the time being. But I think it’s time to admit that consistent podcasting is outside of my skill set, as they say.
If you were one of the very small number of people who actually listened to any of my podcast episodes, I appreciate it very much. If not, well, you didn’t really miss much. It was mildly fun while it lasted, but unless I have a complete change of perspective, I don’t expect I will try it again. I may share this post on my main blog and on Anchor, as well. Thanks for reading, and I’ll continue to share my thoughts in written form, here and elsewhere!
Since we've been watching Messiah, a fascinating Netflix drama, for Sunday School, I've been thinking of Muslim friends I've made throughout the years. I hope they are all having a Blessed Ramadan!
[Originally posted on my recently rediscovered Qoheleth blog. I decided it really belongs here on my Corybanter blog.]
Now that I've tidied up around the Qoheleth blog a bit, I thought I would list my various blogs, and what they're all about. I still have never quite managed to streamline my blogging as much as I probably should, but for right now, this is what I've got...
Well, I've got three full episodes of my newly revamped Corybantic Podcast under my belt. So far, I'm mostly happy with how the episodes are turning out. Anchor.fm is considerably easier to use, and looks better, than the original version on Podbean did. There are a few little difficulties that I still haven't completely worked out to my satisfaction. While it is easier to add music to the podcast, the problem is that any background music I add continues to play through out the whole episode, unless I divide the audio into smaller clips. Currently there seems to be no simple way to do what I used to painstakingly do on the Audacity app in my Podbean days, which was to have opening music that gradually faded out as I began, and that I faded back in as I wrapped up the episode. In short, I haven't really gotten the music exactly where I want. I may end up editing most of the audio in Audacity, uploading it to Anchor, and then adding ad breaks as necessary. It will be a little more work, but I think the result will be better. I may be able to do most of the initial recording using the Anchor app, then download it for editing on Audacity. However I end up doing it, I would like to have a bit more control over how the music works.
The other difficulty at the moment is that I've been trying to use the feature on Anchor that automatically shared podcast episodes to a website on Wordpress, and for some reason, it always ends up sharing the previously recorded episode to the website, instead of the one I've just finished. That makes absolutely no sense, so I may end up ditching the Wordpress podcast website. If it worked the way it's supposed to, it would be pretty cool, but so far it's been pretty wonky.
Meanwhile, there are some people listening...not many, but some. Thus far, including ads in my episodes has brought me a whopping <does some quick calculations>...$0.55. Wow. It hardly seems worth the extra work it takes to leave a space for the ad in the recording, recording the ad myself, and following the trickle of revenue. Still, I keep thinking, what if? What if people do start listening to the podcast with any regularity? Could it eventually become a modest source of income? Eh, probably not. But I intend to stick with it for a little while, just to see if I can make it work.
Now if I can just figure out what to talk about each week!
e recently binge-watched all (or most) of the original episodes of the classic show, The Muppet Show, on Disney Plus. Despite a couple episodes that were clunkers, we thoroughly enjoyed most of the experience. It was not only a delightful nostalgia trip for those of us who watched the show on TV when we were children, but it was also proof positive of just how good that original show was. I found this article by Joshua Rivera on Polygon.com to be an insightful analysis as to why modern iterations of The Muppets don't generally work as well as the original Muppet Show and Muppet movies did.
For a long time, I've thought my very first attempt at blogging was on the Tumblr version of Corybanter, a quick welcome post from February 13, 2009, entitled "Welcome to Corybanter!" However, I've just been digging through some other blogs that I had almost completely forgotten about, including a journal I used to keep on LiveJournal.com. As it turns out, my very first post (which I've copied below) is dated December 13, 2007, over a year before that first Tumblr post. I had forgotten this, but apparently I moved my blogging to Posterous sometime around 2010, and pretty much stopped using LiveJournal. Anyway, enjoy this very first blog post from over 13 years ago...
The Reason for the Season: a Plea for Sanity
13th December 2007
none, at the moment
On both sides of the seemingly eternal argument over Christmas, there are strident emotions that seem to get nastier every year. On the Christian side, we have the folks who talk continuously about how Jesus is "the reason for the season" (such a clever little rhyme), about how "they" are trying to "get rid of Christmas," and about how saying "Happy Holidays" is basically tantamount to accepting the Mark of the Beast. Over on the secular side, we have those who are constantly complaining about how they don't want to hear a "Merry Christmas" in any public place, about how those who celebrate Christmas are trying to shove their religion down others' throats, and about how manger scenes are an infringement on their constitutional rights.
Then there are those of us who live in the middle, in a place I like to call Normal. (Actually, I really used to live in a place called Normal, a small city in central Illinois, but I digress...) Yes, I frequently alternate between "Happy Holidays" and "Merry Christmas," while cheerfully maintaining my Christian status. I have never personally met anyone who is crusading to erase Christmas from the world, and I don't think it's possible to do so, considering the importance of Christmas to the economy of America. Having worked many years now in retail, I really question the thesis that Jesus is the reason for the season, having seen very little of that much-talked-about "Christmas Spirit" among the frantic shoppers who have yelled at me and even physically threatened me over the past decade and a half. Even the term "Christmas Spirit" isn't really that wrapped up in the Christian symbolism of Christmas, and anyone who knows their church history knows that Christmas is basically a pagan feast adapted and adopted by the ruling Christians some time after Constantine's conversion.
I think it's great for Christians to enjoy the religious aspects of Christmas, to find meaning in its symbolism that resonates with their faith, but the truth is, much of Christmas as we know it really doesn't have much to do with Christian faith, and never has. Santa, the Christmas Tree, gift giving, lighting of candles, the bloated commercialism of the fourth quarter of the retail year, none of it really has a thing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ. Heck, even the date doesn't have anything to do with the birth of Jesus!
So, like I said, I choose to live here in the middle of the controversy, where my celebration of Christmas is informed by my Christian faith, but where my Christian faith doesn't live or die based on how others choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) this holiday season...or Christmas season, if you prefer. Or Kwanzaa, or Chanukah, or....whatever. Have a Merry or Happy <insert name of preferred holiday here>!!!
As a church musician, Holy Week is always a bit of a logistical challenge: there's a lot more going on, more musicians to coordinate, and it all happens in a pretty compressed timeframe. Traditionally, at the church I serve, we do a Spring Cantata on Palm Sunday, we have a Tenebrae service on Good Friday (which incorporates music and drama), and Easter Sunday has more (and bigger) music than our average service. Last year, of course, was really unusual, as we were in full "lockdown" mode in our area, so we were trying to create meaningful musical and liturgical content with a team of about ten people. This year was a big step back towards "normal," but still an interesting challenge.
At our church, we have been offering in-person services (with social distancing protocols in place) and a pre-recorded YouTube service at the same time, for the past several months. This means that, for Holy Week, we had to put together and pre-record a bunch of special music for the three services I mentioned above, and work out how the live versions of those same services would work. As it turned out, we had some tremendously rewarding and inspiring services, both online and live. Easter was particularly interesting, as we decided to have an outdoor service, in order to accommodate the larger attendance numbers we expected. (It's a good thing we did so, as we had about 4 times the number of people we've been getting at our live services for the past many months!) The Easter service was a joyous event, as the weather ended up being lovely, not too cold and not too hot.
So now I take a breath, relax for just a moment, and then jump right back in, as we keep moving forward on this road out of the odd coronavirus landscape we've lived in for the past year. Each Sunday seems like another step forward on that road. Happy Easter to everyone reading! May you have a joyous season, living in the light of the Resurrection!
Even though I've spent a good amount of time over the past couple days refraining from physical activity as much as possible, it's still been kind of busy. For one thing, it's Holy Week and I work in church music. So, as usual for church staff, the time leading up to Easter (and leading up to Christmas) is a time of heightened activity. However, I also got my second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday, and I did have some side effects that made me feel lousy for a short time. Oh, and I also twisted my ankle a week ago, so I've been trying to take things a little easier than usual, as far as physical activity goes.
Meanwhile, I've been using this forced physical inactivity as an opportunity for reviving my podcast, which used to be on Podbean, and has recently moved to Anchor.fm. (For more info on the podcast, see the home page of Corybanter.com.) I've recorded a couple episodes of the podcast, set up some advertising, set up the opportunity for my listeners to donate to the project, and created an accompanying Wordpress blog that coordinates with the podcast.
I've also been trying to simplify my blogging, something that has been a continuing challenge for several years. I suppose I would be a bit more successful as a blogger (and podcaster) if I simply chose one theme/subject and just covered that. But that's not me; my interests are a bit more diverse, and so I've chosen, for better or worse, to blog and podcast on various things that are interesting to me, whether that be Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, or dictionaries. Or something else... But I realize I can't maintain a different blog for every single thing I find interesting. I feel like I need to have the ability to blog about whatever occurs to me at any particular time, as well as maintaining a few blogs that have a particular focus.
So for now I've settled on a bit of a compromise: this blog, Corybanter.com, is what I'm thinking of as my main blog, my personal blog. It's where I can continue to share thoughts on whatever I have on my mind at any given time. I've chosen Weebly as the platform for this blog, as I find it the easiest to use effectively. At the same time, I'm maintaining (or trying to maintain) a few blogs that deal with a particular subject: Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, the Bible. AND I'm blogging over on Medium.com, and attempting to make a few bucks with their Partner Program (thus far, not a particularly profitable exercise). I'm using my original Tumblr blog as just sort of a hub to link to the other blogs, as well as an Archives for some of my earliest attempts at blogging. If that sounds confusing...well, it is. At some point, I may have to streamline even more. I just may have to pick my favorite platform and move all of my blogging to that platform. But I haven't reached that point yet.
There's a little part of me that wishes I could make blogging and podcasting my main gig. But so far I haven't quite figured out how to do that. And since I enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts online, and I'm having fun sharing my spoken thoughts in podcast form, I'm sort of dipping my toe into what I know is a vast ocean of online content. Will I ever be able to be find even a modicum of success in the endeavor? I don't know. Stay tuned to find out!
(adj.) wild and frenzied; from Greek κορυβαντες (Korybantes)