Dream job: complaining about parking to a captive audience

Commuter Carmen has the cushiest job in radio. She gets to complain, and she gets to do it twice a week! Of course, she has to say something nice about the place she’s complaining about before she starts going off. Sometimes I wonder how she can come up with the nice things to say. It is, after all, an advertisement (in the loosest sense). It must be tough, but I’m sure that getting to tell the world about crappy parking in the same breath makes it easier. Her ads are like mini-shows, airing several times a week directly after talk radio segments or blocks of totally 100% commercial free!!! music on channels that get… not very many listeners. She doesn’t have the biggest following – her ads are less than a minute long, but she’s a kindred, bad parking-hating spirit to me.

This week, one of the two schools she reviewed was our very own University of Mary Washington. I should have hung around the parking garage or the Pizza Hut (my preferred parking areas) to try and get her autograph, but that would have been creepy. Here’s her ad!

I knew as soon as I saw the Cheesy Radio Ad assignment that I wanted to do it – it was just a matter of coming up with a character and script. At first I thought I would do something like “do YOU like (x thing)? do YOU like (y thing)? You’ll LOVE UMW!” But that seemed a little bland. Also, I wanted to complain about the commuter parking situation. I’ve literally only been able to park directly on College Ave. in the summer, and even then finding a spot is still exciting. Then there’s the issue of SNOW! In winter, the plow piles snow up into valuable spaces in lots that commuters have to share with residents. And I can tell you haven’t moved your car. It’s got 8 inches of snow on it. I’M WATCHING YOU. Then having to be terrified of sliding down Alvey Drive to my untimely doom… I just… want… a good parking spot…

Something I tried to do in this recording is use a lot of alliteration. A lot of words I chose start with or have a hard “C” sound. Commuter Carmen, considerable commuter counts, close-knit community, etc. I’m not sure what effect it had on the overall recording, but I gave it a shot. I did stumble over my words a few times. You can hear it when I try to say “historic downtown Fredericksburg, VA” – it sounds more like “issoric downtown Frerricksburg.” Yikes. I think you can also tell I’ve been having trouble with volume levels. My previous projects had some volume issues too.

Anyway, I started this project off with a script and recorded it in the Voice Memos app on my iPhone. I was able to email it to myself, but then there were some problems with the filetype! Voice Memos records audio as a .m4a, and Audacity just is not into opening .m4a files. Below is a gallery of my struggles. And HERE is a link to the FFmpeg plugin that you need for Audacity to open .m4a files. The link directs you to the LAME encoder section of the page, but just scroll down to the next section. I followed the directions on the Audacity Wiki to download it – the instructions on the wiki say to save the .exe file, which is different from the instructions on the FFmpeg download page itself. I think the Wiki’s instructions were simpler.

That process was a lot easier than I thought it would be! It only took a few minutes (it installs quickly, but I was double-checking a lot to make sure I was doing everything right). Now it was time for the actual project. The sounds I used are all from freesound.org and include highwayunderpass, Fairyland_120, Car start, and  car engine revving up to 7000 rpm (Rover 216 GSi).

You guys sound a little off

I mentioned in my about me page that I like cartoons… and one of the cartoons that I’m crazy about (like a lot of other people right now) is Steven Universe. I can’t help it. I love the songs, the gems, the fusions, and the neverending possibilities for conspiracy theories. One question gets answered and three more pop up, like a mystery hydra. It’s infuriating.

In the latest episodes, we haven’t seen much of the Crystal Gems – the three magical ladies in the intro song. “The tall one, the purple one, the hot one,” according to Mayor Dewey. I’m going to assume they’ve been sick, because that’s the only acceptable reason for not seeing them around at least sometimes. And since Steven’s gotten home, he’s caught whatever cold they have too. Or is it a magical gem disease? Whatever it is, it’s making them sound really weird.

I thought the B-Flat assignment would be a really fun one to do, especially after looking at some of the posts that former students had made. This one in particular cracked me up!! It’s so well done and it had some great pointers on how to get started on my own. It turned out to be tougher than I was expecting.  The video I used for this project was Steven Universe – Intro 2 (“Official” Instrumental and Acapella). This video was a lifesaver. In my first attempt, I had collected two individual videos (one instrumental and one isolated vocals) but when I imported them both into Audacity, the audio never lined up. I think one of the tracks was ever so slightly faster than the other. This video has both an instrumental AND an isolated vocal track in the same location… thank god. The site I used to convert the video to mp3 is onlinevideoconverter.com, and HERE is a link to the LAME plugin, which lets me export as an mp3 with no hassle!!! Below is a gallery of my final (and successful) attempt at B-flatting the Steven Universe theme.

Rumor has it, if you slow the song down…

If you slow the song down by 800%, you’ll hear a secret message. Oddly enough, the song is Icelandic pop sensation BABBA’s Disc– I mean, Swedish supergroup ABBA’s Dancing Queen. I’ve always been a big fan of hidden messages. When I was a kid, I remember finding out about backmasking: playing records backward. Hearing Stairway to Heaven backwards for the first time scared the heck out of me. How’d they do that? Was it on purpose? Did someone just come up with those words and make me believe it? Or how about the Beatles – is Paul dead or what? He’s obviously been replaced. The songs say so when you play them backwards. It’s cold. hard. fact. Yup.

Then there are ghost voices… voices that come through when you don’t expect them, or when you ask them to. It’s even scarier to think that you could be filming a video, recording a speech or a song, and inadvertently capture someone else on the tape. It’s not you putting in a hidden message, but someone who is still hidden, and trying to come through. And you never know where you might find it. So, about that ABBA song… what did I find at 1 minute, 45 seconds into the classic refrain?

These are the steps I took to find the hidden message within.

It was kinda spooky, right?


Shifting fully out of the story (I had a hard time deciding whether to include a mini-walkthrough in the story itself… as you can see I went for it), here is some more info on how I made the clip and why I made the changes that I did. I used this website to convert the video itself to mp3 for download. The additional sounds I used for this clip are Glitch 08, static noise, and Hello?. All are from freesound.org.

As for the extra audio that I inserted – when I slowed the song down and listened to about half of it, I thought to myself… “this is kind of boring.” I have listened to a handful of other super-slowed-down songs before and enjoyed them as background music or if I was in the mood for some ambient stuff. But I didn’t think there was much I could build around it other than “here’s a song I slowed down for the assignment.” Putting in extra audio and making it a sort of ghost story made it seem a little more fun, to me at least.

Finally, here’s a gallery of how I edited in the extra audio.

What’s the scariest part about camping?

It’d been a long day full of fun outdoorsiness. We set up camp by the river, as we usually do. It was a long walk from the park’s welcome center, carrying all our gear and swatting mosquitos away for what felt like 600 years, but we finally made it to our favorite site in the late afternoon. I dipped my feet in the cool river as my best friend fished downstream. She had chided me for sitting downstream of her before, saying “I’m going to hook your foot, you idiot.” So I moved up.

We made a fire, cooked our dinner, and made s’mores. The day had caught up with us though, and we decided it was time to turn in. Our tent was, for lack of a better word, kickass. Nice and roomy, cool, and no bugs ever got in. When it rained, it never leaked. It might sound like I have low standards, but I’ve been burned (or bitten/soaked) before. Crawling into the tent, we zipped up, muffling the noise of the crickets and katydids screaming for attention. Out of habit, I swept my sleeping bag til it was totally wrinkle-free, until I was unceremoniously shushed.

Someone was out there.


As I’ve mentioned before, I loooove scary stories. And I don’t know many things that are more terrifying than being out of your element, in the dark, with only a tent between you and who-knows-what. A person? A bear? A mountain lion? BIGFOOT??? I wouldn’t be prepared for it. I’m not even outdoorsy, and I haven’t camped since I was a kid. That makes these kinds of stories extra scary to me – I have no idea what the heck to do, and I’d probably be running at 20% scared the entire time even when the sun was out. You never know if there’s gonna be a spider in your shoe. Or a snake. Or a daytime murderer.

The clips I used for this all come from Freesound.org. They include Zipper Unzip 3 (Slow), Canvas Tent 3, turning on lamp, sounds of the forest night, and footsteps, dry leaves.

The Sound Effects Story assignment turned out to be a really tough, but rewarding one I think. I remember listening to Scottlo’s radio clips and hearing him say that audio editing is really time consuming, and thinking to myself “pshh…” but oh my god. Why didn’t I listen? This is only a 50 second clip and it took me almost 2 hours to make. Plus, I forgot to document my steps, so what I did was basically remake the clip a second time so I could lay out how I made it! BLARG

I’ll link to some of the tutorials I used before I  embed my gallery of steps:
1. How to Muffle Audio in Audacity (it’s easiest to just read the top comment since the guy in the video goes on and on for 3 minutes and there are only 3 steps)
2.  Saving as an mp3 in Audacity (my mortal foe)

I had some serious issues with LAME at first, but I think it was human error. When I downloaded the zipped file, I think I exported the unzipped folders to some other location and that may have messed things up. I like to keep my programs (like Audacity, Paint.net, Gimp, etc) all in one folder, so when I sent it there it may have garbled something. I ended up going back to the website and choosing the .exe download option, then following the instructions in the tutorial that I linked above the gallery. After that it really was smooth sailing.