Saturday, September 29, 2007

October Calendar

Here's the brand-new calendar for the brand-new month! Be sure to check out Saturday the 13th - that's our next show! A fundraiser for the Waukegan Public Library! Waukegan being Jack Benny's home town, you can check out the bronze statue of him just a few blocks from the library, right across the street from the now-fabulously-redone Genesee Theater. Click HERE for a few pics of the statue from the Hughes family - hmm...somehow Karen has made Mr Benny's ghost appear, and he doesn't look a day over thirty-nine!

HERE is a map to the place, in case you didn't already happen to know where this internationally famous library sits.

This is early enough in October to NOT be completely classified as a Halloween show. There will be some scary stuff, and some funny stuff. And maybe some cool historical stuff...and possibly some literary stuff, but don't worry, we'll crush it up and mix it with some honey in a spoon so it's more palatable.

Print this calendar and put it up on the fridge so you don't forget to come to the show - THANKS!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Here’s a picture of the 1937 Radio Orphan Annie Silver Star Member "Secret Message" Ring. Way back then (gee, seventy years ago!) in order to achieve Silver Star status, young consumers, er, listeners were supposed to tell at least three friends about the benefits of drinking Ovaltine, and get each friend to give them an inner seal from an Ovaltine container, and then mail in all the seals. These special members received an official folder of "Special Secrets". Each year there was a slightly different silver-plated Silver Star ring. If you happen to have one of these in your drawer at home, take care of it – it’s worth several hundred dollars these days.

Use your 1937 Radio Orphan Annie "Sunburst" Decoder Badge to solve the secret message on the ring. If you don't happen to have a 1937 decoder, you can probably figure it out with a pencil and paper, plus this decoding primer that I lifted from somewhere (I forget where). Here's a helpful hint: the secret message starts off with: "I am a Silver Star Member".

How to solve a cipher

Solving substitution ciphers might seem hard at first, especially when you have no clues to go by, but it's not as difficult at it seems.

The key is to look for familiar elements. For instance, look for two-letter words, which most likely will be words like an, so, it, to, is, etc.

Also, look for double-letter combinations within words, which most likely will be oo, ss, ee, etc.

If you see the same three-letter word combination more than once within a phrase, chances are it will be the word "the", although other words are possible.

It also helps to remember the frequency with which we use letters of the alphabet. Here are the top 10 letters of the alphabet in order of frequency: E T A O N R I S H D. In a cipher, if you see one letter used often, chances are it's E, T, A or O.

The best thing to do is just plunge ahead with a hunch and see if it leads you anywhere. For instance, if you think a particular letter equals E, put down E on all those letters and work from there. You might have to backtrack and use other letters, but that's part of the fun of solving ciphers.

Facts to remember:

Most common 2-letter words - of to in it is be as so we he by or on if me my up an go no us am

Most common 3-letter words - the and for are but not you all any can had her was one our day get has

Most common 4-letter words - that with have this will your from want been good some time very when come here just

Most frequent letters - e t a o i n s r h l d c u m f p g w y b v k x j q z

Most frequent double letters - LL EE SS OO TT FF RR NN PP CC


More than 50% of all English words begin with: T, A, O, S, or W.

* More than 50% of all English words end with: E, S, D, or T.

* When F is the final letter of a word, the letter before it is usually O.

* When H is the final letter of a word, the letter before it is often G.

* When G is the final letter of a word, it is frequently part of ING.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Building Better Bickersons

We prefer to present a relatively true-to-life Old Time Radio experience when we perform - utilizing real-world music (that's the multitalented Virginia Fitzgerald on the keyboards) and live sound effects wherever possible (not pre-recorded). And although the major impetus of our shows is that the audience has FUN, a secondary objective is that we actually educate - presenting little-known information and dispelling common myths about these great shows from the past.

Although sometimes we will make some changes to the old shows: for instance, a typical television comedy of today is paced with something like two laughs per minute. The typical OTR comedy had much more space between laughs, something like two to five minutes, depending on the show. For a Jack Benny Center fundraiser years ago, we decided to do a Drene Time "Bickersons" recreation. Now, the Bickersons (starring Kenosha, Wisconsin native Don Ameche and Frances Langford) are some of the funniest radio comedy shows ever done, especially since just about all of the adults in the audience can sympathize with both John and Blanche Bickerson, the snappily-married couple. But we thought that the pacing seemed to be just a tad slow for such hilarious bits to go over as well as they could. So our resident actor/scriptwriter Shawn Fitzgerald went ahead and created a hybrid episode, editing together the funniest bits from a dozen or so Bickersons shows. He somehow made these handfuls of unrelated comedy situations flow together as if they were originally written that way, even throwing in a few zingers of his own.

So what our audience heard that night was not actually a standard Bickersons episode, as they may have thought. It was (dare I say it?) BETTER - it had that one-two punch of multiple repeated laughs, one after the other, through the entire show...much more akin to what today's television-minded audience is used to.

So we broke our own rules a bit, to improve the show. Please don't be upset. We did it for did enjoy it, didn't you? Thought so.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Doctor WHO?!?

Here is an example of why the word "MINDLESS" is part of our name. My sister, Laura, had some trouble with the line: "...just like Doctor Watson with Sherlock Holmes." This is a tiny excerpt from our recent recording sessions, from the upcoming adventure serial "Enigma, Incorporated".

The serial is definitely NOT a comedy like this blooper might suggest, but a science-based mystery/adventure for the grown-ups: think a mix of Doc Savage, I Love A Mystery, and Pat Novak (gosh, that IS setting the bar pretty high!). We're shooting for some REAL science, along with heavy mystery and action, and some smart-mouthed characters to lighten the mood along the way.

COMING TO A BLOG NEAR YOU SOON (this one, of course!)

Tip 'O' The Fedora

And a nice big tip-of-the-hat to William Spears who just added TOTM (that's us!) to his blog, "Lit Between The Ears". In addition to scores of links to other audio drama groups and other information, the site also offers books of scripts of audio adaptations of the classics - much of which is there to read...also an interesting section on "Definitions And Usage", interesting terminology used in radio/audio drama production.

Here's a nice 1930-something ad for the "Buck Rogers" radio show: voted most popular radio program - something that we'd ALL like for our own shows, I'm sure...but where would you go to vote?