NPR ran this little item the other week. It’s amazing how small things have giant impact in the world.

Inventor of the Cassette Tape

Lou Ottens, who put music lovers around the world on a path toward playlists and mixtapes by leading the invention of the first cassette tape, has died at age 94, according to media reports in the Netherlands.

Of course, I made mix tapes. I had a tiny reel-to-reel recorder. My brother and I would record what we called “commercials” on it. They were something like radio plays. It was the beginning of a career. I had no idea at the time. You never do.

Welcome back to 500 Words


Greetings!

The 500 Words newsletter looks different because I’m moving it off Substack and on to another provider called Buttondown. I will post my reasoning in a blog soon. In the meantime, before I start up the next story series, here’s a mini-podcast with my youngest son. It’s about a minute and a half. Sorry for the wait for the next story series! But it won’t be long now. 1

Click here to listen.

Thanks as always for reading,

Lee


Not Tracking

Here at 500 Words you won't be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, reading and writing. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

I'm building a design-minimal but information-maximal archive of all 500 Words posts and podcasts.


  1. Now Here's Something is a silly but fun interstitial that I'm recording with my youngest son. It's up on Apple Podcasts along with the rest of the 500 Words podcast episodes. It's a way for me to tap dance (I can't actually tap dance, but you get the idea) as I spin up the next story series. ↩︎

My wife Tabby is the interviewer: Kamala Lopez Isn’t Giving Up on the Equal Rights Amendment

The award-winning filmmaker, actress and activist is on a mission to awaken women to their political power and finally get the Equal Rights Amendment added to our U.S. Constitution.

The archive for 500 Words is live. It’s a blot.im site: 500words.ink

“Barack, I’ve come to understand, is the sort of person who needs a hole, a closed-off little warren where he can read and write undisturbed.”

—Michelle Obama, writing in Becoming.

Yes, I get that.

Podcast: On a Call with Composer Joel Goodman

On a Call With ... was an informal kind of podcast that I did the mode of a phone call. Like, you know, a phone call. No video. Minimal editing. Underscore, promos, and stings: None. It’s more notebook than book, more jam than song, more sketchbook than a painting. As a listener, you get inside the minds of creative people and hear their stories in their own words.

Joel answers my questions about how he starts his workday, why bike rides are important, his sources of inspiration, where creativity comes from, and why he loves composing music. Creative work is life-affirming for him. The podcast is eleven minutes long, suitable for listening to while you are waiting for brunch to start.

More

Joel has scored more than a hundred films and TV productions that have received five Oscar nominations, 20 Emmy Awards, and 30 Emmy nominations. His music is in my podcast drama Privacy Pod, which, by the way, is casting now. You can experience Joel’s music in films like Being Elmo, many episodes of American Masters and American Experience, Obit, and also Outside the Bubble: On the Road with Alexandra Pelosi.

Small thing, but I was on the USC campus yesterday getting my first vaccination. After a year in our containment pod, I was awed by the efficiency and even cheerfulness of everyone there. My favorite moment, though, was when a young fellow, a Dude on a Skateboard, was rattling along with his mask down and an attitude showing. Didn’t take long for a no-nonsense USC security guard to catch him. He gestured pull it up, man and Mr. Dude had to comply. That was nice.

Issue 03 - Professor Rhonda Magee

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. So let’s get to it.

This week’s episode of The Glo Podcast is a deep conversation about race with Professor Rhonda Magee, author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice.

The conversation goes live on Sunday, 21 March. (Subscribe in Apple Podcasts so you don't miss it.) It weaves together activism, how to be an anti-racist, and mindfulness practices. They talk about how being “colorblind” denies race and bring in Professor Magee’s “color-insight” approach as a better path to understanding.

Professor Magee’s words resonated for me, as they may for you, because they are necessary. In the last year, systemic racism was exposed as never before in my experience. George Floyd’s murder by police, to name one murder among many, showed many of us what systemic racism looked like. In the aftermath, the protests that lit up cities and towns showed how bad things were for people of color and how easily white people could turn away from the troubles.

That’s the thing for me. How being white meant “this doesn’t matter for me in my everyday life, so it’s not my problem.”

No matter where you might place the blame for racism or how you might find solutions, Professor Magee will help you address what to do next.

She talks about how to do the work we need to do on ourselves. Her methods are spiritual, involving meditation and self-reflection. To do this, we have to confront pain, but meditation — well, that could work, right? Her intelligence and compassion give me hope. So I hope you’ll listen and get some hope, too.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, at Glo.com or wherever you get your podcasts.

In the past few months, I’ve read White Fragility, How to Be an Anti-Racist, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and I’m reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I don’t claim any special virtue by sharing these titles, just showing some of the journey I’m on. Hearing Professor Magee speak the words helped connect the dots for me.

Thanks for reading. See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES


Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Issue 02 - Premiere - How the River Flows

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. So let’s get to it.

In this issue of The Waveform we start with the Rolling Stones and make our way into the forest.

Chuck Leavell was a member of the Allman Brothers Band and was the principal touring keyboardist and de facto musical director of The Rolling Stones. He’s performed on every Stones studio album released since 1983 except one. (Trivia question: Which one? Email me if you need to know.)

Turns out, Chuck likes forests same as he likes music. He’s into water conservation. So when my clients, the folks from Keeping Forests, asked him to provide music for their new podcast, he said yes. When you listen, the first sound you hear is Chuck on the piano.

Titled How the River Flows, the podcast is an instruction manual for forest landowners and stewards of the land. It’s a ten-episode conversation about how to protect nature. We interviewed policy makers from all over the country, foresters, and scientists. Foresters, I can now tell you from experience, are chill people. (Must be because they are in nature so often.)

Have a listen to the premiere episode of How the River Flows on Apple, Spotify, on the Keeping Forests website, or wherever you get your podcasts.

In Praise of Forests

Forests are noble organisms. They do the work of water purification naturally and with no fuss. They provide serenity. We humans endanger them with our invasive ways. We cut them down and we poison forests with industrial development.

In the West, where I live, most forest land is owned by the government. Not so in the South, where most forests are privately held. Keeping Forests helps landowners in the southeastern U.S. see the value in conserving their forests.

Production

Because there are many stakeholders in this project, each episode of How the River Flows has a different host. Many of them never hosted a podcast before. They sound like pros, though, because we had prep time, good scripts, and rehearsals. The podcast is hosted at Simplecast and the interviews were done remotely using Squadcast

Credits

I was the producer on all episodes. Natalie Gregory was the assistant producer. Editing by Bogui Adjorlolo. Additional editing and mix by Brendan Welch. Music by Chuck Leavell. Funded by the United States Endowment for Forestry and Communities.

Thanks for listening. See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES


Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

miscellany - current Mood on a Monday

When you live with a magazine publisher, there are always deadlines to meet. Sometimes there are heavy negotiations about what will go into the next issue. There are copywriters to wrangle, indie artists to charm into contributing their work for the next issue, editors to calm, and copyeditors to negotiate with. It’s an involved process, particularly when the publisher is eight and hasn’t yet done his homework.

Cats Jumping on the Couch

Cats Jumping on the Couch started as a pandemic project. Now we feel the cycle is coming to a close after four issues. This one is the last, at least for a while.

If you have a five-to-nine-year old in your house, or know a few, the magazine has comics, puzzles, and stories. It’s been fun to produce and a growth experience of all of us, but especially for its eight-year-old publisher.

Cats Jumping on the Couch Spring Issue

Cats Jumping on the Couch

Issue 01 - Introducing The Glo Podcast

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. So let’s get to it.

The Glo Podcast is Live.

I’ve been advising on the launch of a podcast about self-care from Glo. The Glo folks are an amazing team centered on improving your life. If I had to describe their work in a Zoom session or in a crowded cafe (the second scenario is, of course, imaginary), I would say they have created a platform for yoga, Pilates, and mindfulness that you can access online.

The Glo Podcast goes big with this idea by asking questions about self-care, deepening your sense of self and inspiring you to take action for a better world. Derik Mills, co-founder and co-CEO of Glo, is the host. We’re working on episodes about managing burnout, getting more sleep, dealing with anxiety, and discovering more resilience.

The first guest is Tina Lifford. You know her from starring roles in Queen Sugar, Scandal, and Parenthood. She is deeply involved in practicing and teaching mindfulness and resilience. Her book, The Little Book of Big Lies - A Journey Into Inner Fitness, was named one of Forbes’ 21 Books That Will Make 2021 Your Best Year Yet. Her episode premieres on Sunday, March 14.

Get started with the trailer. It’s just a couple of minutes and will give you an idea where all this is going.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, at Glo.com or wherever you get your podcasts.


A Feature, not a Bug.

Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

See you next time on The Waveform,

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

This is The Waveform. It’s a newsletter you can follow.

Writing Report

Feels good to be on track. Closing in on the end game. And then it starts all over again, because there is no end game here, just a horizon goal as Craig Mod says.

####Layoffs at the Huffington Post

The clip below, from Today in Tabs, sums up a decade and a half of media in a paragraph. The unholy bedfellows (wunderkind, socialite, New York media kingmaker, fascist), the expansion, the stock deals, and finally the layoffs. (Jonah Peretti did those layoffs in a virtual “all hands” meeting.) I was one of those unpaid writers on Huffpost for a long while. It really helped my blog get popular. I recognized that I was sweatshop labor and played along for “the exposure.”

I can recommend the newsletter Today in Tabs to everyone. Rusty captures the complexity of things and also makes you laugh.

Jonah Peretti co-founded The Huffington Post in 2005, along with wealthophilic socialite Arianna Huffington, New York media financier and ex-AOL executive Ken Lerer, and fascist media trendsetter Andrew Breitbart. The site was sold to AOL for $315 million in 2011, and acquired back from AOL parent Verizon last year in exchange for “a stock deal” and “an undisclosed cash investment in BuzzFeed.” Peretti originally met Lerer and Huffington as an MIT Media Lab grad student, after he went viral for attempting to order custom Nike shoes with the word “sweatshop” printed on them, ostensibly as a commentary on Nike’s employment practices. The Huffington Post carried work from unpaid writers until 2018.

Issue 00 - Introducing The Waveform

Dear Friends,

Every now and then, my newsletter would show up in your inbox with new podcast releases and other news. There’s a lot of news to share in the coming weeks, so I thought I would get real with this. The newsletter even has a title now. It’s called The Waveform. You’ll see some changes. It will look different. There’s something else too, under the hood.

No tracking.

MailChimp, my previous mailing list provider, is really into tracking us all, just like Google is, and Facebook. MailChimp knows when you open a newsletter. Gmail scans your emails to analyze and sell your buying patterns to marketers. Digital marketing is getting more creepy by the day. I don’t want to be followed all over the internet. I don’t want Facebook building a profile on me. I don’t want some algorithm mapping my behavior. You’re saying, “Nice sentiment, Lee, but in the connected world, we’ll never escape this sort of mapping entirely.”

At Red Cup, I want to keep tracking to a minimum. I left Facebook a couple of years ago. I’ve removed Google Analytics from the websites I manage. Red Cup is still on Gmail and I’m working out how to leave. (The usefulness of Google Docs makes it hard.) For personal email, I’ve moved over to Hey.com, which doesn’t track anything.

I still use Substack to publish an emailed blog about taking creative risks. Substack tracks opens. I’ve asked them if I can turn that off and they said they’re considering it.

Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Thanks for reading along with me, and see you next time on The Waveform,

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

Miscellany - Eating weirdness during the pandemic

Cooking more. Snacking more. Will we go back to the way we were? I don’t think so. From The Atlantic:

If you pore over the food-business news from the past year, there’s little question that lots of people have changed their habits in one way or another. For instance, many people are buying more snacks—in January, Frito-Lay said that some of its marquee brands, such as Tostitos and Lay’s, had finished the year with sales increases of roughly 30 to 40 percent.

Season 2 of Same Same But Tech is launching soon. It’s a podcast about how technology bends culture. open.spotify.com/episode/1…

The Future of Food - Season 3 Supercut

That’s a wrap on Season Three of The Future of Food. We examined how restaurants were coping with their survival during these pandemic times. I looked for answers from many perspectives. I started with the founder of a listing service for restaurants delivering to neighborhoods or open for pickup, learned what it was like to be a waitress who reminded people to wear masks, looked at the supply chain and its failures, and examined some rather strange tech solutions, like using flies as a protein replacement. (Don’t try that at home.) Plant-based meat, we learned, certainly has a future.

On the very practical side of things, I was surprised to learn that ghost kitchens, those industrial-sized kitchens that operate privately, probably in your neighborhood, without a storefront or signage, and without customers who will sit at their tables, may help some restaurants make a culture-shaking transition. Restaurants may transform from places that we go to eat in to places where we go to pick up food to eat somewhere else.

You could argue that much is lost when you configure a restaurant that way. No more servers suggesting a bottle of wine with your meal, no more running into friends at your favorite neighborhood establishment, no more surprise specials when you open the menu. But the pandemic has put many neighborhood places into financial crisis. Many will not survive. Restaurants were always a risky business They look even more risky now. To survive will mean to invent something new.

Ghost kitchens may represent the restaurant laboratory many chefs and investors need. Thing of this for context: There was a time, seemingly long ago, when you could sample a talented chef’s best experimental dish from a food truck. Stealthily, in many big cities, food trucks became the vanguard of culinary experimentation for some. There was freedom to spread out into new cultures and culinary histories. Freedom to try something you’d never tried before and let it become your favorite street food. Ghost kitchens may fill that gap by becoming the places where chefs can experiment and you can get to eat the benefits.

Thanks to everyone for listening to all three seasons of The Future of Food. A podcast is nothing without its listeners. I’m grateful for your support. Next, the feed will get quiet as we take a break to work on Season Four. We’re changing the name of the show to The Future of Food Justice.

We’re going to be addressing racism, diversity and social justice in food. We’re be bringing you stories about cultural appropriation of food and ask who writes culinary history. It’s an ambitious development slate. I have a great team helping bring Season Four to life and I look forward to producing it for you. Stay tuned.

If you liked this episode, or any other, consider giving us some stars on Apple podcasts. It really helps us build our audience and make the podcast successful.

New Interview Series About Voices, Leadership, and Legacy of Women

My wife is starting a new interview series with powerful women. The first up is with Natasha Johnson. It’s called Natasha Johnson Doesn’t Speak Up Because She’s Comfortable.

The series is spotlighting the voices, leadership and feminine legacy of women artists, activists and social changemakers.

In the interim

✏️I’m working to spin up the next series of short-form fiction for 500 Words but in the meantime my son and I have spun up a short-form podcast called Now Here’s Something. The first topic is cats. https://500words.ink/p/introducing-now-heres-something 500 Words 😺

Writing Report

The words accrue as I work moment by moment and minute by minute. I’m on track for the end of the month. Then I will have some room to open it up in March in time for my first draft deadline of the 30th.

Does this become just chasing a number? Yes, of course. Anything to spur this onward.

miscellany

Dear Apple, have you heard of this company called Nike? When you order something, they make it and then they ship it to you promptly. Check it out.

Currently reading: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa 📚

500 Words - The Counter Narrative #8

This is a series of stories, a counter narrative from the future, numbered in sequence. If you’re a subscriber, you will receive them in order. If you’re not, and you’ve found them online, then start at #1 and read up. Today is the final story in the series. It is about powering down.

“I like hearing his voice,” the daughter said. She held something in her hands. Her brother tried to see it. She pulled it away.

“You’re having second thoughts?” her brother said. He was a builder, a maker, and he was the younger and he liked to mock her. She gave him the look she always gave him when he teased her. He turned down the volume on the voice coming from the glowing device.

This created a sudden silence. The daughter said, “No, no second thoughts. I don’t want them to fine us or do something worse. They called him inessential.”

Inessential. The word hung in the air around them.

The other two children were there, but so far silent. They looked at the glowing object that represented their father and tried to see it for more than an object. All four of them were together again because it was important to meet now. They had a decision before them.

Only three of them had met their father. The youngest only knew him by the glowing object. Having never met the actual man, he wanted more. He reached for the volume knob and turned it up all the way.

There was a moment. Then their father’s voice filled the room.

“Listen to the parts of the music that other people can’t hear.”

The third child, who rarely spoke, let out a giggle and said, “Listen like a dog? To the high parts?”

They all laughed and all spoke at once. “Not like a dog!” “Well, if other people can’t hear it…” “A sound only dogs can hear…” “It’s too high…”

They let their jokes dissipate and waited for the glowing object to say something else. They each had their own memories of him. The daughter, he showed her how to work cameras. The maker son, his father would take apart music for him like it was a beautiful machine. The third son died before they would exchange words, but he returned for these meetings. The youngest only knew him from this glowing orb. He looked up at its light and said, “this isn’t life extension. This isn’t really him. When we power it down, there won’t even be this thing.”

The glowing machine spoke again. “Don’t always listen to the hand playing the melody. Listen to the other hand.”

With a sigh, the maker son reached for the volume knob and turned it down. To soften the blow for his sister of silencing their father’s voice, he said, “Dad said his soul was free.”

“His soul was free,” she agreed.

“A procedure. That’s all it was,” said the youngest.

“But it worked!” said the maker son. “He helped solve a lot of problems for the world. He left the world a better place.”

“Now you’re the one having second thoughts,” said the daughter.

“I am not!” It came out wrong. He backed off. “He would understand what we are trying to do. What we have to do.” The machine before them understood it had to be part of its own demise.

In it, they had all the information they needed about him. They had his love for their mothers. They had the instructions for creating The Reversal. They had a step-by-step plan to lead the resistance. Still, they could not know the man. They needed contact with a person. This would be the next mountain to climb. They had saved the Earth. Next, they must save themselves.

The machine had not spoken again. It was waiting for them while they were waiting for it. A special kind of a moment passed. There was a tiny click that maybe nobody heard.

“I am going to power it down,” the daughter finally said. She pressed a button and they waited.

There was one more Polaroid. She held it in her other hand.

miscellany

My composition is greatly aided both 20 years’ worth of mnemonic slurry of semi-remembered posts and the ability to search memex.craphound.com (the site where I’ve mirrored all my Boing Boing posts) easily.

A huge, searchable database of decades of thoughts really simplifies the process of synthesis.

– Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic: 13 Jan 2021

(c) Lee Schneider 2021. Made in Santa Monica, CA. Take care of each other.