by Andy Capp

Let me make one thing clear before we begin. I hate elastic waist pants.

I suppose that for the comfort alone, considering my thirty-something mid (to maxi) section, I should view the elastic waist band with the same reverence I give free coffee and donuts in the break room. However, in the four stages of elasticizing (surprise, denial, chafing, and "I'll have another deep fried lard on a stick and the Sansabelts, please!") I'm still in the denial stage.

This brings me to the subject of my Mother. I'm sure she meant well with my Christmas present last year. She also meant well on my tenth birthday when she got me the deep purple Windbreaker that I would grow into (I finally did--last week!). It was in that same Motherly spirit that Mom wrapped up a pair of "denim-like" slacks for me...complete with a slingshot waistband! I searched her face hoping for that "OOPS, I gave you your Father's present by mistake" look but, instead, found the beaming "I thought of you when I saw these" look.

It's a Mom thing. Never take a child's taste into account when you see a need, whether it's clothes they'll grow into...or never grow out of. So I did what any good son would do. I thanked her, exclaimed that they were just the ones I would have picked out, then took them home and buried them under the purple windbreaker in the bottom of my closet.

I imagine there are many good morals to this story like, "Never look a gift horse in the mouth" or "Lay off the Cherry Garcia before bedtime," but the most important moral in my mind is, "Make a list of what I really want for Christmas and send it to Mom early!"

What to put on the list? Ahh, there's the rub! I suppose that 48-track DAW complete with 9.5 gig removable drive might be a little much to ask. Actually, the list will probably be filled with book titles (yes, as will this column, you're so smart!).

I'm a big reader of books--books about audio, books about creativity, books creatively written, books that will continue my education as a writer/producer of radio.

The following are some books I've received as gifts in the past. Perhaps you'll add them to your wish list this year:

A Kick in the Seat of the Pants/A Whack on the Side of the Head/The Creative Whack Pack all by Roger Von Oech: If you've read Radio And Production for any length of time, you've read the praises of these volumes again and again. They are the Bibles of the Creative Muse, period. The Whack Pack isn't really a book, but a deck of cards filled with many of the idea starters found in the books. I've found one or both of the books in most bookstores, sometimes packaged together with the Whack Pack. They are a must for any creative person!

The Artists Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron: With the painting of cranes flying by a mountain on the cover, and the phrase, "A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity," it would be easy to pass this book by, dismissing it as New Age fluff, but in a very literal sense, don't judge this book by its cover! The Artists Way is actually a course in improving your creative self, disguised as a book. The course is broken into twelve weeks of exercises including ways to recover a sense of power, possibility, a sense of faith, and other traits that will take your creative to higher levels.

The word "Spiritual" may be menacing to some people, but these ideas will easily fit into whatever your beliefs are...even if you don't have any!

Now you might feel that you're already vastly creative and have nothing to learn from this book. That may be, but if you've ever lived through the brain wrenching hell of writer's block, even once in your life, you may want to read and use this book. Available in most bookstores.

Advanced Audio Production Techniques by Ty Ford: I had been looking for (and forward to reading) this book ever since the feature on Mr. Ford in Radio And Production some time ago, and when I received it earlier this year as a present, I wasn't disappointed.

In a mere 140 pages, Mr. Ford uncovers the mysteries of audio, what to listen for when it's wrong, and how to make it right. He explains, in human language (read: unlike your engineer), all the workings of audio gear and how to put them all together to make a workable, creative, noise-free studio. Ever wondered how some producers get a certain sound? The section on shaping sound will help you find it. If that wasn't enough, the book closes with a conversation with Louis Mills and Nelson Funk, both masters with years of production experience and great advice.

In my case, audio production has often been a confusing, self-taught maze of trial and error. This book could have saved me years of banging my head against the console trying to get it right. True, I still don't always get it right, but at least now I have a book that puts me in the right direction. You'll probably have to special order this one, but it's well worth it!

It Only Hurts When I Laugh by Stan Freberg: Stan Freberg is a creative genius, plain and simple. This is his story, told in his words. A life in radio, cartoons, film, TV, recording and advertising. Mr. Freberg has done it all and excelled at all. Granted, I'm a fan and my opinion is a bit biased, but I think this book is required reading for anyone who works in a creative field--not only educational, but funny as hell. Again, you may have to hunt for this one, but you won't be disappointed!

That's not all Folks by Mel Blanc: Another biography by another hero. The man who gave all the Warner Brothers cartoon characters a voice tells of his journey to god-like status among voice-over people. (My words, not his--actually, he seems quite humble in this book.)

I was surprised to find that Mr. Blanc had a hard time breaking into the business! Yes, the six million voice man had a hard time getting a radio job at first, and his story of determination and eventual success is inspiring to anyone who wants to break into VO work today. You can find this one at many bookstores.

There, a quick list of some of my very favorite gifts. If you have any books you think I should have on my list this Christmas, please let me know. My Mom called and asked for my waist size the other night....

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