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Requiem for Cygnus Destroyer, LJN Defender and IUPG March 6, 2021

Posted by Mike C. in Internet, Media, Personal, Radio, Video, Video Games.
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In June 2017, I discovered a video game-centered YouTube channel run by the enthusiastic Matt Ezero (“ezzer-o”), who bears a striking resemblance to actor and director David Hyde Pierce. Matt had three series running concurrently:

  1. Cygnus Destroyer’s Retro Reviews – the channel’s original concept, reviewing retro video games and consoles that Matt grew up playing or recently acquired
  2. The LJN Defender – an alternate take on video games published by LJN, a company that incurred the wrath of The Angry Video Game Nerd, one of Matt’s influences
  3. Innocent Until Proven Guilty (IUPG) – a balanced look at flawed video games to determine whether they are innocent or guilty (or on rare occasions, guinnocent)

I had nearly five years of content to catch up on. There wasn’t much I didn’t like. Here are the first five videos I saw upon my discovery:

My only pet peeve was the unscripted status update outros, but Matt’s transparency was admirable. He had eschewed those outros a year before I discovered the channel. He had also upgraded his game capture methods from composite for pre-HD consoles to RGB and HDMI shortly before my discovery, starting with Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker:

Naturally, I became a loyal subscriber, and when Matt started a Patreon account in 2018, I was a proud pledge.

The content kept on coming, and as a patron, I provided feedback and voted on upcoming topics. Best of all, my name was featured in the credits. For example, Sonic and the Black Knight:

Incidentally, the Wiimote/nunchuk control demonstration in that video was hilarious: “Looks fun, doesn’t it?!” I love absurd humor.

Another example, Zelda CD-i games:

My Patreon post comments were even seen in the background. This was at the end of the Simon’s Quest video:

…and Matt’s tribute to the Sega Master System:

Unfortunately, any videos he posted to Patreon – mostly episode commentaries – were unscripted, which meant small things, like repeat phrases (i.e. “so…yeah,” “kind of”) or vocal quirks, got on my nerves. Not only that, but his persona was radically different. Main channel Matt was lively; Patreon Matt was staid. (He was also a political progressive who “liked” left-wing political posts on Twitter, but his tweets were apolitical.) I wasn’t expecting the same intense personality as the videos, but it was quite a contrast, akin to the chill energy of some Twitch streamers. And that was fine.

I think the reason phrases and quirks irk me is because I worked hard to improve my speech, or at least improve my presentation in a public forum. Hearing others speak how I used to, and still do to some extent in unguarded conversations, on recorded media is unnerving. I’m such a perfectionist that I edited all the fumfering and misspeaking out of old home audio recordings (late teens, early 20s) of play-by-play of my friends bowling at nearby AMF Wantagh Lanes.

With that said, though – to use one of his phrases – I gained insight into how he made his videos. For example, overhead camera shots of him playing Nintendo Switch games in handheld mode (as in this video) were actually recorded straight ahead with an upside down perspective. He would flip the video in Vegas Pro, his video editing software of choice, so that the view was right side up.

I also had the opportunity to vote in polls to determine episode topics. Among my votes was for an IUPG on Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival.

As 2019 progressed, Matt began to experience creative burnout. To counter that, he tried an experimental unscripted video on Bubsy: Paws on Fire. My black and white, all or nothing brain figured this was the way things would be from now on. So, I unpledged and unsubscribed. YouTube recommendations pointed me to a follow-up video where he announced a pivot back to the way things were. I promptly resubscribed and repledged. The scripted redo, the second video posted after his hiatus, came out this way:

That wasn’t the end, though. Content creation continued to be a struggle for Matt. After this IUPG video on WWE 2K20 (where, ironically, he ended the video on an uplifting, positive note about future content)…:

…the burnout reached its apex. The only solution was to go unscripted in 2020 to lessen the burden. I wouldn’t have that, unpledging and unsubscribing for good. I hoped for the best for him, but what he had in mind was not what I wanted.

As someone with weekly radio shows I record well in advance, and a compulsion to photograph and recap events I attend (i.e. UPLINK last year, Smooth Jazz for Scholars every normal year), I empathize with Matt’s struggle. There are times where I can’t handle the stress and want to quit. Somehow, I get through the creation process each week with the radio shows, but with the second UPLINK last month, I just couldn’t bring myself to take notes on four panels I chose to watch and adapt those notes into a recap as I did the first time. As for the radio shows, it takes at least five times as long to create, script, record, and produce each one. Yes, like I preferred Matt do, I script out my talk breaks with freedom to ad-lib occasionally. I started doing that last summer because there was a lot of information to disseminate and I didn’t want to forget anything. I feel I have enough voice over training and natural talent where I don’t always sound like I’m reading from a script. But even with all the work that goes into a show, I’ll make a mistake or forget something and need to redo a line or few. I don’t know how long my show’s run will be, but I greatly hope I don’t get burned out.

As 2020 dragged on, I assumed it was (new) business as usual for Matt, carrying on like any content creator. Other channels I unsubscribed from over small things – like mispronouncing words and phrases (some even intentionally to trigger pedants), saying “kind of” or “sort of” every other sentence, going on anti-humor tangents, and saying “at the end of the day” instead of “ultimately” or “in the end” – continue to put out content. They do just fine without my pedantry. Not Matt. On February 7 of this year, someone commented on one of my IUPG screencap Instagram posts:

Whatever happened to him? The guy has completely disappeared. Even on his second channel. Along with social media.

The commenter was right. If you try to access the Cygnus Destroyer accounts on Twitter and Facebook, you’re told the pages no longer exist. Matt left up the YouTube channel for posterity, calling it simply “LJN Defender.”

He wrote this in the channel about tab:

This is the old channel for the LJN Defender and home to Innocent Until Proven Guilty. I’ve now stopped making these types of videos because I no longer enjoy making them, but you will always be able to watch my old content right here.

The last post in the community tab was 11 months ago. Looking at the comments for the post before that have me worried that I caused Matt’s demise.

Blindsided, I replied to the commenter:

Whoa, I had no idea. I quit following and supporting him early last year when he abandoned scripted videos. Sad to hear he’s disappeared from the public eye.

After visiting the channel, I wrote a follow-up:

And now I see that those videos aren’t even listed. It just stops at WWE 2K20. Well, I think I’ll resubscribe just so I can reacquaint myself with his videos. I was a diehard fan for three years and watched nearly every video he posted.

I did as I said, watching all 180 videos that Matt left up over the past three weeks, from the evening of February 12 through this morning. (Oddly, he removed closed captioning from the remaining videos.) I even watched unscripted ones like his second anniversary video. Along the way, I noticed that some now-unlisted videos remained in the end screen. I watched one of them. As my journey progressed, I occasionally felt wistful, knowing that the man I was watching had essentially disappeared off the face of the Earth. I also felt nostalgic for later videos, recalling what was going on in my life at the time they were published.

Wherever you are, Matt, know that you still have plenty of fans, including me, that are grateful for the seven years of content you gave us. The pedantic side of me may not like the small things from your unscripted moments, but your videos brought me joy. They were informative, enlightening, and entertaining. Thank you and God bless you.

Instrumental Invasion, 3/3/21 March 4, 2021

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Animation, Audio, Comics, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Radio, Technology, TV, Video.
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The February 24, 2021, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded one hour per day on January 28 and 29, a day earlier than planned.

The playlist was created on January 27 with annotations carrying into the 28th. Talk breaks were scripted as segments were recorded.

In the predawn hours on the 26th, I began reaching out to musicians to record liners – or drops, as I learned from Gerald Albright – for the show. Bob James contributed his within an hour of contacting him. Tom Schuman recorded his later in the day. Armed with those liners, I worked in their songs. More liners came afterward, which played a role in remixing a segment each of the last two weeks.

One pickup line was recorded on the 30th for the first segment of hour 2 because I didn’t realize I referenced Cindy Bradley in Paula Atherton‘s song and Patrick Bradley before that. That segment was remixed on February 16 after Patrick e-mailed his liner. Meanwhile, I learned there really is a Funkulator. It wasn’t a nonsense word for the sake of Paula’s song. It’s a bass pedal.

Another pickup line was recorded on the 31st when I noticed Eric Gale did play guitar on Stanley Turrentine‘s cover of “Don’t Mess with Mister T.,” and not just on the faster-paced demo. That cover is one of many discoveries I’ve had listening to SiriusXM‘s jazz channels. In this case, I heard it on Real Jazz last January. Within days, I had that album and Chet Baker‘s She Was Too Good to Me, which I discovered earlier that January after Real Jazz played “It’s You or No One.” Bob James’s presence on both albums was key to my interest and subsequent purchases.

A week before recording this show, I watched A Charlie Brown Valentine, a 2002 TV special adapted from various Peanuts comic strips, including this one. I chose “Morning, Noon & Night” as my Bob James song just so I could reference that strip. A Charlie Brown Valentine was the first Peanuts special to premiere on TV since You’re in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown eight years earlier, which I watched on VHS (via my digitized AVI file) days before recording this show.

“Pinky’s Groove” by Dan Reynolds allowed me to reference Pinky and the Brain, a show that ran while I was in high school and I love to this day. I wasn’t acquainted with Animaniacs, the show it spun off from, until 2013, but I grew to love that, as well. Heck, I love many 1990s Warner Bros. animated series. When I have time to devote to Hulu, I’ll watch the Animaniacs revival.

Click here to download this show’s aircheck MP3 or listen below:

Instrumental Invasion, 2/24/21 February 25, 2021

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Audio, Audiobooks, Health, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, News, Personal, Radio, TV, Video Games.
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The February 24, 2021, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded over three days. The first hour was recorded on January 22, the first two segments of the second hour on the 23rd, and the last segment on the 24th.

The playlist was created on January 21 while chasing lost opportunities to buy a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X from GameStop, and then Walmart. I annotated the playlist on the morning of the 22nd and drafted the script for each segment of the first hour as I recorded. I scripted the second hour’s talk breaks on the 23rd while digitizing a book on tape: How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication by Larry King with Bill Gilbert. Larry, who was one of my broadcasting heroes, succumbed to COVID-19 that morning and I wanted to revisit the audiobook that got me through the latter half of 11th grade.

For the second week in a row, I had to pad out the last talk break of hour 1, then did it for both talk breaks in the last segment of the show.

I played “Serious Business” by Jazz Funk Soul in an effort to give airplay to their first two albums: Jazz Funk Soul and More Serious Business. I had previously only played tracks from their latest, Life and Times.

As with the last segment of last week’s show, the first segment of hour 2 this week was remixed to incorporate a new liner from guitarist Nick Colionne. The talk break coming out of his song, “Nite Train,” was rerecorded to compliment a vintage WCWP liner, and the end of that break was rerecorded following news of Chick Corea’s passing.

I ended the show with “Revelation” by Yellowjackets and WDR Big Band to make up for the last ten seconds getting cut off back on December 9.

Click here to download the aircheck MP3 or listen below:

As a bonus, here’s a blooper from the first segment:

Instrumental Invasion, 2/17/21 February 18, 2021

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Audio, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Radio, Travel, Video.
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The February 17, 2021, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded one hour per day on January 19 and 20. I recorded the second hour shortly after waking up. You could hear it in my voice.

The playlist was created and annotated on January 16. The playlist scan is not in color because the scanner I used yielded bleed-through unless I switched to black and white.

I planned on drafting the script and recording the first hour on the 17th, then recording the second hour on the 18th. Unfortunately, I was couldn’t get any sleep the night of the 16th. After a successful night of sleep on the 17th, I drafted the script on the 18th. As noted at the top, recording occurred on the 19th and 20th.

One week after swapping it out for time, I successfully played “Starlight” by Lee Ritenour.

The last segment of hour 1 and first of hour 2 ran short, which required padding out talk breaks – particularly, the talk-up for “Big Turtle River” by Earl Klugh. On the other hand, each hour’s middle segment ran long due to wordy talk breaks. I had to fade out songs early, edit out pauses in speech, start songs under liners, and in one case, cut out a tidbit. I really wanted to share how All Night Nippon adopted a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass song as their theme: “Bittersweet Samba” from Whipped Cream & Other Delights. Here’s the outtake:

I learned the tidbit in a video on the GTV Japan YouTube channel. Here is that video:

I think Sunplaza Nakano-kun looks like Paul Shaffer.

The man behind GTV – K.J. McClain, a.k.a. Gaijillionaire (derived from the word “gaijin“) – will be speaking at UPLINK by LI Retro this Saturday at 8AM (10PM for him).

I referred to another YouTube video in the last talk break of the show, this one on the 8-Bit Keys YouTube channel:

The last segment of the show was remixed on February 2 after receiving a liner from guitarist Nick Colionne. This new liner replaced one I had repurposed from The Mike Chimeri Show. A similar remix was made for next week’s show.

As for the February 17 Instrumental Invasion, click here to download the aircheck MP3 or listen below:

Instrumental Invasion, 2/10/21 February 11, 2021

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Audio, Comedy, Country, Film, Jazz, Media, Military, Music, Personal, Radio, Travel.
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The February 10, 2021, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded on January 14 (first hour, first talk break of hour 2) and 15 (the rest of the show).

The playlist was created on January 12 with annotations starting that day and completing on the 13th, after which the script was drafted.

In the early months of Instrumental Invasion, I avoided dated references, but now, I’m mindful of when shows air. Valentine’s Day is on Sunday, so I worked that in and played relevant songs. Drummer Eric Valentine’s presence in “Sunday Strut” by Blake Aaron was coincidental.

As long as I’ve had Boney James and Rick Braun‘s Shake It Up, I’ve thought of the main theme for The Magnificent Seven while listening to “Love’s Like That,” their collaboration with Fourplay. So, I had to mention that after I played it. Unfortunately, the explanation and side-by-side comparison led me to pick a shorter Lee Ritenour song from his Dreamcatcher album. “Starlight” was out, “Storyteller” was in. That also meant I needed to share more information about “Song for Barry” after the Airmen of Note‘s cover of the Brecker Brothers song on Return of the Brecker Brothers.

The recurring theme in this show was travel: by airplane, car, and train.

I finally got to use the Game Dave liner coming out of a David Benoit song, and from the same album, so I could say “that was Gamer David Benoit.”

Now, the bad news: I was unable to aircheck the show. It’s the third time that’s happened. On August 5, it was because my cable went out two hours before air (and stayed out until the 8th). On November 4, the FM stream was down for maintenance. I was asleep at the time, but I can only assume this third blunder was due to an automatic Windows update that made the computer restart. Microsoft Edge was still open on restart and Easy MP3 Recorder apparently still conducted its timed recording even though the stream wasn’t active. Ergo, two hours of silence.

So, click here to download the “aircheck” MP3, culled from the original segment files (plus the underwriting and Legal ID from last week’s aircheck), or listen below:

February 7 snowstorm February 8, 2021

Posted by Mike C. in Football, Media, News, Personal, Photography, Sports, TV, Weather.
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Hours before Super Bowl LV, a fast-moving snowstorm gave us 5 inches of wet snow.

The forecast called for snow to start before dawn, but it hadn’t started when I first looked out the window at 7:07 AM:

By the time I returned to my room at 10:13 after running on the treadmill, snow had begun:

12:02 PM:

The heaviest snow was in progress at 1:18:

2:49:

4:07:

My dad Bill took these backyard photos from the back door at 4:54 while the snow was winding down:

And this one on the front porch a few minutes later:

I took these:

By 5:07, snow blowing had commenced:

Along the way, the clouds broke:

Then, the two of us shoveled. I was finished by 5:40 and took these photos:

Meanwhile, Dad walked through the backyard for this batch of photos:

Dinner and Super Bowl LV awaited. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs by the score of 31-9. (Links: NFL, ESPN, Tampa Bay Times)

I took one more photo outside my bedroom window at 10:38, as CBS‘s post-game show was wrapping up:

The next round of snow is a quick inch or two on Tuesday, followed by a storm that could last as long as last week’s, albeit with less accumulation. We’ll see.

Instrumental Invasion, 2/3/21 February 4, 2021

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Animation, Audio, History, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Radio, Rock, Sports, Technology, TV.
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The February 3, 2021, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded over four days. The first hour was recorded on January 7, but I could only muster one second hour segment per day from January 8 to 10.

The playlist was created on January 5. Annotations began on the 5th and completed on the 6th, followed by script drafting.

This was the first show recorded through my new Zoom LiveTrak L-8 mixer. Through the recording process, I realized I need to eschew the click/pop eliminator in Adobe Audition. While it was effective with audio from the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, it will distort audio from the L-8. I didn’t realize that until the second segment of hour 2.

If you didn’t notice, the last talk break of the first segment was speed compressed.

Every show seems to have a recurring theme. This show’s theme was namesakes. There were two Paul Jacksons, two songs titled “Barcelona,” an album with the same name as a later TV series, and musicians sharing their names with a founding father, a football player, and simultaneously a football coach and race car driver.

I know my fellow fans of The Simpsons in The Gaming Historian Discord chat server will appreciate the reference to the first scene of “Bart Sells His Soul” while talking up Joe McBride‘s cover of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

Click here to download the aircheck MP3 or listen below:

10:15 AM UPDATE: I didn’t realize that there was a percussionist on Scott Wilkie‘s cover of “Eu Vim da Bahia.” The Brasil album credits are vague, but it was likely Gibi dos Santos.

I also accidentally left the top of the hour underwriting intact in the scoped aircheck. It’s worth hearing them in full just this once.

Instrumental Invasion, 1/27/21 January 28, 2021

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Animation, Audio, Christmas, Drama, Internet, Jazz, Laserdisc, Media, Music, Personal, Radio, Technology, TV, Video.
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The January 27, 2021, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded one hour per day on December 22 (between sounds of fence construction next door) and December 23, 2020. Pickups for the first segments of each hour were recorded on the 23rd (hour 1) and Christmas morning (hour 2).

The playlist was created and annotated, and the script was written on December 21.

This was the last show I recorded in 2020 before allowing myself time off for Christmas (outside of pickups) and New Year’s Day, and the last show recorded through the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. I received a Zoom LiveTrak L-8 for Christmas.

As noted on air, Anders Enger Jensen‘s “DiscoVision” ode to the early days of LaserDisc, contains samples from side 1 of the 1979 instructional disc, Operating Instructions for the MCA DiscoVision PR-7820 System. Here is that video, hosted by actor J.D. Cannon:

The Don Sebesky album I referenced while back-selling “The Traveler” by Earl Klugh is called Giant Box. I gave it the “big” prefix (“big Giant Box album”) because it was originally a double album on LP in 1973. The 2011 remaster fits neatly on one CD.

I inadvertently referenced the Butch Hartman cartoon series T.U.F.F. Puppy (this episode, in fact) when I said “no, don’t duck; that’s his name” after noting Marty Duck was part of the horn section on “At Your Service” by Oli Silk.

Click here to download the show’s aircheck MP3 or listen below:

Instrumental Invasion, 1/20/21 January 21, 2021

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Animation, Audio, Comedy, Film, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Radio, Weather.
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The January 20, 2021, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded one hour per day on December 19 and 20, 2020, with a pickup line recorded on the 21st.

The playlist was created on December 18 with annotations that day and the next day. The script was drafted immediately after that, followed by work on the blog recap of the winter storm that occurred on the 16th and 17th.

The 1984 and earlier segment returned to lead off the show.

I had to pad the last segments of each hour with extra liners because my talk breaks ran short.

I had fun with the “Oi Gata” etymology and British exclamation when back-selling Joe McBride‘s song.

Back on December 3, Audrey Varnas, WCWP’s FM music director, informed me of a music submission by the U.S. Air Force Band Airmen of Note. She asked if I wanted their 2020 Jazz Heritage Series album shipped to me, and I accepted. After listening, I told her the Airmen of Note are great, as they sound like all the other big bands I’ve heard. “Up and Running” won’t be the last you hear of them on Instrumental Invasion. Last Monday, I was informed that Audrey tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, her symptoms were mild, and she was resting and recovering at home. Thanks again for the recommendation, Audrey. I hope you’re feeling better.

As noted while back-selling Lee Ritenour‘s cover “Red Baron” by Vince Guaraldi, I spent six days watching various Peanuts specials – and The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show – on Blu-ray and DVD. I’ve been watching more specials since Sunday and should finish by Saturday. The inclusion of “Red Baron” allowed me to correct an error I made talking up the David Benoit version on June 3. I said it was “about a certain World War I Flying Ace” when it was really about that ace’s nemesis.

I also made reference to Galaxy Quest while talking up “Never Giving Up” by the David Wells and Chris Geith Project. I watched the film back in August, and it features the catchphrase, “never give up, never surrender!”

Click here to download the aircheck MP3 or listen below:

Instrumental Invasion, 1/13/21 January 14, 2021

Posted by Mike C. in Airchecks, Audio, Comedy, Film, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Radio, Technology.
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The January 13, 2021, Instrumental Invasion on WCWP was recorded one hour per day on December 11 and 12, 2020.

The playlist was created and annotated on December 10 and was the first playlist with 18:40 segments in mind. Hours earlier, after only a few hours of sleep, I edited all but three segments for the previous four shows from 18:45 to 18:40. I hoped that would prevent automation from cutting off the end of the last segment, which happened the night before. And so far, it has. December 9 was the last show to date with that problem.

This was also the first show where I scripted out my talk breaks in Microsoft Word prior to recording, and therefore the first time I saved a script. I tweaked each portion as recording progressed.

For the second week in a row, I swapped out the 1984 and earlier segment for a third 2017 to present segment.

Recording the Lisa Hilton liner (after I annotated the playlist) required a Rube Goldberg machine. There was no way for her to record on her own in a home studio or on an iPhone app, so we had to do it over the phone. I connected a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter to my iPhone 11, attached a male-to-male 3.5mm cable to the adapter, connected the cable to my TASCAM DR-03, plugged in headphones so I could hear Lisa, and hit record. Only Lisa’s side was audible, but that was all I needed. We spoke for nearly ten minutes with a minute or two dedicated to the liner. Afterward, I extracted the raw WAV file from the DR-03 and edited it in Adobe Audition. Once I compiled the best of each take, I hard limited, denoised, and normalized the audio.

With that long explanation out of the way, here’s the final cut:

Recording from my phone is presumably much easier on the Zoom LiveTrak L-8 mixer that I got for Christmas. I presume because I haven’t tried yet.

I like all the show’s running gags: musicians from Illinois, synth instruments on the same song as actual instruments, and the parent-child element. I’m sure Game Dave would appreciate the Ghostbusters reference in the last talk break.

Click here to download the aircheck MP3 or listen below: