Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More Squidoo Stuff

As I start this post, it's just past midnight on the East Coast, which is the deadline for having enough lenses for either Giant Squid (I qualified 3 months ago) or Top 100 status. I got a Twitter tweet from someone pointing out a lens by Linda JM about a book called Messenger from the Summer of Love. I took a look at it. The author mentioned in the book that back in 1967 he decided to leave Los Angeles and go to San Francisco. The lens doesn't say whether he wore flowers in his hair, but the author did head up the coast in time to catch the 3-day Monterey Pop Festival.

That gave me an idea, so I went to YouTube and entered "monterey pop festival" to see if there were enough videos to create a video lens. There were, so rather than keep looking for other lenses of my own to alter, I decided to make lens #101. As is often the case, I ended up learning quite a bit about the festival, and a little more about the performers.

Wikipedia has a list of all the performers, and there were only two, Beverly and The Group With No Name, I'd never heard of before. That's not too surprising, since I'd just finished my freshman year at Becker Junior College in Worcester, MA, where I'd gotten very interested in the student radio station. (Well, it was really a PA system broadcasting to the student lounge from the second-floor studio, but it was outfitted so we could sound like a radio station, and a guy from Worcester Poly Tech who was interested helped enormously in building a console which made it very much like a real radio station's except for the lack of broadcast transmission facilities.)

It was fun getting all the videos in place, grouped mostly in the order in which they appeared in the Monterey Pop film, with a few other performer videos appended for those who didn't make it into the film, such as Buffalo Springfield, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and The Association. All the videos I used came from the festival. I ended up with about 26, not bad for videos from a 41-year-old event.

Once I had the videos in place, I added 19 Amazon modules. For most performers I only chose one CD, but for Jimi Hendrix and Ravi Shankar there were also DVDs so I included them. Most of the CDs I chose are "best of" collections. The Jefferson Airplane called their hits collection "The Worst of Jefferson Airplane." Hey, somebody had to. I was disappointed that their "White Rabbit" videos all are from Woodstock. Of course, one of the Amazon modules features the DVDs for the film and a CD compilation of the music.

Tomorrow I'll lensroll the Summer of Love lens to my Monterey lens. I might do that with The Health Lady's very extensive lens about Woodstock.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Updating Squidoo

Since reaching 100 Squidoo lenses last Wednesday, I've been going through some of them and doing updates. Mainly I've been working on lenses that have a lot of Amazon book links in them. For many, I had been using a link created using SquidUtils. However, I found that most of the links didn't show the book cover, so the lenses didn't look nearly as good as they could've.  I wish I'd known that was going to be a problem because I spent a lot of time a few months ago switching links over to that, and now I'm switching them back.

I'm probably better off using the regular links provided by Squidoo itself since I don't get a whole lot of people buying stuff from Amazon as a result of clicking one of my links. Therefore, my commission is in the 4% area, whereas Squidoo gets about twice that and splits it with lensmasters. Also, the guy who made the SquidUtils link utility has it set so one out of five links send commission to him. So at the level I'm operating on, it doesn't make sense to use it.

The biggest task has been switching back all the links for my Hugo Award and Nebula Award lenses. There are seven Hugo lenses representing each decade of the award's life, and four for the Nebula. So I have to deal with around 50-60 books in each lens. I'm using the Amazon Spotlight module for each year's winner, and a regular Amazon module for the nominees. 

Also, I decided to put in a text link for any book that has a Kindle edition. The text link directs all the commission to me, so if someone does buy a Kindle edition, I get more money. This adds up to a lot of work. So far, I've got all the Hugo lenses done, and the one for the Nebulas for the current decade done. I already had blurbs done for Hugo Award winners, but not for the Nebulas. So for most Nebula winners, I have to write a short blurb. For some years, the same book won both awards, which makes things a bit easier.

I've also revamped Spider Robinson's lens, Sarah Vowell's, Tony Hillerman's, Nevada Barr's, Bill Bryson's and will have to revamp lenses for Molly Ivins, Jasper Fforde, and Allen Steele. I'm awfully glad I made the decision not to use the SquidUtils links with my Celtic music lenses. I have 32 regular lenses in that niche! The 16 Celtic music video lenses have links as well, but mostly just using the regular Amazon module.

I'm pleased to see some of this revamping, and sending out Twitter tweets and SquidCasts when I finish each lens, seems to have resulted in some visitors. Such work also boosts the overall lens ranking for the revamped lenses. A good lens rank is nice, but more visitors, and possible buyers, is better.

I've been having problems with Firefox not getting along that well with Squidoo lately. It'll work OK for a while, then crash. I'm not sure what the problem is, but it seems to be happening when Squidoo is open, even if I'm not working with it. So finally I decided to finish up the last lens I worked on, the Nebula one for this decade, using Safari, which I hadn't used in a while. It seems to be working fine. I may have to disable some scripts in Firefox for Squidoo and see if that helps.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

99 - Patrick Street, 100 - Liz Carroll

I reached my goal of 100 published Squidoo lenses today (Wednesday) by publishing a lens for Patrick Street, an Irish group that has been recording and touring, part-time by choice, since 1986 when they decided to stay together after a successful tour called Legends of Irish Music. Since that was published lens number 99, I kept going with a lens for Irish/American fiddler Liz Carroll, who amazed Irish and American musicians alike when she won the senior division of the All-Ireland Fiddle Championship at age 18.

Originally I'd thought I could just do a lens for Liz, then make a video showcase for her, but most of the videos I found didn't strike me as having the quality I prefer. Lots of bad lighting, shaky camerawork and hollow sound. There were a few that were OK, and I'll have to take another look to see if I can add one or two to the lens.

So I ended up looking around, and found some inspiration in Green Linnet's site. That led to the Patrick Street lens. Again, they didn't seem to have enough good videos for a showcase, but there was a series of four videos from an Irish TV show recorded last January, so I made them a part of the lens.

The photo at right shows Liz Carroll and John Doyle. She's been touring and recording with Doyle lately. He is one of the founding members of the Irish/American supergroup Solas.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Eileen Ivers lens and video showcase

I changed plans a bit and got a new Squidoo lens for Eileen Ivers done, then followed it up with a video showcase.

That puts me at 98 lenses next time Squidoo updates the lens rankings, probably tomorrow morning. I've got a couple of possibilities for lenses that I can probably get done tomorrow, so by the time the ranking updates on Thursday morning, I'll have 100. That should qualify me for the Top 100 group. The deadline for qualifying is Sept. 30, which is next Tuesday.

A Squidoo Lens for Wendy Froud

Today's lens is for Wendy Froud, wife of Brian Froud, dollmaker, author, artist, and creator of Jedi Master Yoda and the Gelflings Jen and Kira in The Dark Crystal. Together, Wendy and Brian created Toby, their son, who played the kidnapped toddler in Labyrinth.

I'd looked into creating a lens for Brian some time back but found there was already one out there. Then I took a look at it and realized it wasn't as good as I thought I could do, and since I'm trying to get my 100th lens completed this week - by Monday at the latest - I thought I'd have a go at it. It was nice to find some videos on YouTube so I could make the video showcase, and since Wendy appears in one of them, I was able to reference that in her lens.

I have encountered the Frouds at Faerieworlds each year. The first year, 2006, I bought several of Brian's books before I went and he was kind enough to autograph them. The second year I had more, plus a bottle of "Faerie Nectar" or apricot mead from a winery just outside Eugene. The label had one of Brian's faeries on the label. Now it has his autograph and a little fey creature sketch as well. I also got Wendy's book, The Art of Wendy Froud, which she autographed.

Each year I've gotten pictures of Brian, and this past time I got a picture of Brian and Wendy as they posed for another photographer. The picture of Wendy in this post and that of Brian in yesterday's post really come from the same photo that I cropped.

I've only spoken with them briefly at Faerieworlds, but they are very gracious people.

They've got a great website, of course, and it's well worth a look.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Brian Froud Squidoo lens & showcase

I'm pretty sure I can still get to 100 lenses on Squidoo on time. Today I got two closer to that goal by creating a lens for Brian Froud, who became famous with the book Faeries, co-authored in 1979 with Alan Lee. He also worked with Jim Henson on the fantasy films The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.

Once I got the lens published, I created a Brian Froud video showcase, which features two TV specials, one called, and based on, Faeries and and another one called The World of The Dark Crystal.

I'm reasonably sure that any time I typed Mr. Froud's first name I spelled it Brian and not Brain.

I need to do five more lenses by next Monday to be sure I have 100 published on September 30 to make it into the Top 100 group. Once that's done, I'll be able to go over lenses and make improvements. For now, I'm making changes if necessary, but trying to not spend much time changing existing stuff except for the Ground Fog Day lens which has some interactive things in it I need to check now and then.

On Saturday I went to the Portland Pirate Festival and took a bunch of pictures. I've looked them over and may get them up on Flickr later this week if the lensmaking goes well.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tom Tomorrow & This Modern World

Today's Squidoo lens is about editorial cartoonist Tom Tomorrow and his weekly four- to six-panel strip This Modern World. It's a strip that started out in the late 1980s as a collage of clip art with the focus on consumers and work. It developed a focus on media and politics during the first Gulf war when Tomorrow realized the strip could serve as an outlet for his anger about the war. In 2001, the cartoonist branched out into blogging with a blog also called This Modern World.

The strip appears in about 150 publications, mostly alternative ones and online at Salon.com and CREDO.com (the latter used to be Working Assets).

Tom Tomorrow is the pen name for Dan Perkins, who started the strip while living in San Francisco. He currently lives in Connecticut.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ground Fog Day

My Squidoo lens for today is Ground Fog Day. For a long time it's bothered me (granted, not a whole lot) that there's Groundhog Day on February 2 where we supposedly find out whether or not there will be six more weeks of Winter or an early Spring. Groundhog sees his shadow, more Winter.

But what about Summer? Don't people want to know if there's going to be six or so more weeks of Summer, or would they rather not know and hope it goes on forever?

Seems like a new holiday is called for on August 2, six months after (or before) Groundhog Day. It was maybe 30 years ago I came up with the idea for Ground Fog Day, where people go to a low-lying area and see if there's any ground fog.

I never did anything with the idea, although it did come to mind from time to time. This morning one of the Giant Squid Organizers, Robin (rms) had an entry in the Giant Squid Showcase about giving an idea a twist to come up with something different. An example used in the "So You Want to Be a Giant Squid?" blog was a lens by "enslavedbyfaeries" called the Mosquito Protection Society. It's pretty amusing, but it also gives information, in a backwards sort of way, on how you can prevent mosquitos from breeding, plants that repel them, and insect repellents to use.

That got me thinking, a sometimes dangerous thing, and now, several hours later, the Ground Fog Day lens is a reality. I know it's a long way until August 2, 2009, but if you read the lens, you'll see there's some details to be worked out. And who knows, maybe, like with Talk Like a Pirate Day, Dave Barry will write about it. Well, you never know.

Avast, Me Hearties!

In only two days, it'll be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Ye'd best be gettin' yer pirattitude on right smartly!

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can make a whole weekend of it because the Portland Pirate Festival is bein' held at Cathedral Park under the St. John's Bridge. For 2010 and 2011, International Talk Like a Pirate Day will coincide with the Portland Pirate Festival, assuming they hold it on the same weekends - and why wouldn't they?

I'll be at the Pirate Festival on Saturday for sure!

Magical Strings & Planxty

Tuesday's additions to my Squidoo lenses included a new Celtic Music lens and a Celtic Music Video Showcase.

The lens is for the Pacific Northwest harp and hammered dulcimer duo Magical Strings, with Philip Boulding on Celtic harp and his wife Pam on hammered dulcimer. I first heard about them in the 1980s and managed to see them once or twice live when they did East Coast tours. Since moving to Portland, I've seen Philip a couple of times, once at Faerieworlds in 2006 and again at Ye Merrie Greenwood Faire in Richland, WA in 2007.

From looking at the Magical Strings website I see there's an open studio tour on Sunday and Monday, Sept. 21 and 22. It's near Gig Harbor, WA, not far from where the Washington Renaissance and Fantasy Faire used to be held, so I'm seriously considering heading up there. I just sent off an e-mail to get more information.

The video showcase is for Planxty, the traditional Irish group from the 1970s and early 1980s that had a large influence on the development of the modern movement in traditional Irish music.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Two Video Showcases and a Lens

Since I'm trying to get to 100 published Squidoo lenses by the end of the month, and didn't do any over the weekend, I did three today. I started off with a video showcase for Scotland's Battlefield Band, then did a lens for a second Dr. Demento Hit Parade. That could've been done as a video showcase, but for some reason I did the first hit parade as a regular lens, so I stuck with the format for the second one.

After I published the second hit parade, I figured I'd just look and see if there were enough videos on YouTube for a Tom Lehrer video showcase. There were more than enough, so I dove in and added 20 of them. I messed up and put in the "Pollution" song twice, but I deleted it and substituted something I'd skipped. That was a video that uses scenes from Farscape with the relationship between John Crichton and Aeryn Sun set to "Masochism Tango."

When Squidoo updates in the morning, I'll have 87 published lenses. I have one in progress that's been that way for a while - turns out it was a much bigger subject than I bargained for, so it may be a while before that gets done. I think I may get the 100th lens published before I tackle it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Doctor Demento Hit Parade

I've deviated a bit from making more Squidoo Celtic music lenses by making a video collection of novelty and comedy songs, Doctor Demento Hit Parade. There are 25 videos and all but two are songs that appear on the double CD Dr. Demento 20th Anniversary Collection. The collection itself has 36 songs.

In looking up the good doctor on his website, I found he was a DJ and station manager for the student FM station at Reed College in Portland, OR. That sort of gives me something in common with him since I was a DJ and station manager for the station at Becker Junior College in Worcester, MA from 1966 through 1969. (I did guest spots after graduating in '68.) The major difference is the Reed station broadcast over the air, while the Becker station's output went from the second floor to the basement student lounge.

I've always been interested in novelty music since the days when my sister listened to the radio a lot when she was a teenager. Also, my father got a Spike Jones record called "60 Years of Music America Hates Best" - the title was a takeoff on a popular LP series called "60 Years of Music America Loves Best." The '50s and '60s were not only a golden era for rock 'n' roll, they were a golden era for novelty songs. It's when "Monster Mash," Alvin and the Chipmunks, "Purple People Eater" and "Flying Saucer Part One" (followed by Part Two) were recorded.

Hmmm...nobody's done a Squidoo lens for Spike Jones...yet. Think I'll get this posted and go back to lensmaking.

Monday, September 8, 2008

What have I been doing?

It's been a little over two weeks since my last blog post. So what have I been doing?

It appears I took a bit of a break from creating new Squidoo lenses. Instead I've been doing a lot of tweaking of existing lenses as a result of a lot of reading of websites, blogs and other lenses about improving the Squidoo experience. My Girls With Slingshots lens briefly got into the top 1,000 lenses on Squidoo. That's the first time I've broken into that range. It topped out in the high 300s for a day or two, maybe three. A lot of that was due to Danielle Corsetto, the GWS author, linking to the lens in her blog that appears beneath the GWS strip.

I took a few day trips. I went down to the coast to Cannon Beach to browse the shops. Last year I remember a Celtic-themed shop and hoped to find it this year, but either it's gone or I didn't walk down the right side street. But I did have some clam chowder, then walked along the beach and took a few pictures. After that I drove down to Tillamook and stopped in at the Tillamook Creamery for some ice cream. By then, it was too late to stop in for more pictures at the Tillamook Air Museum, so I went back home.

The next day I headed off to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville. It's the home of Howard Hughes' huge wooden, 8-engine Spruce Goose, which has a wingspan of just shy of 320 feet and is mostly made of birch, not spruce. Maybe it should be called the Son of a Birch?

Maybe not.

I spent most of the afternoon getting pictures of the planes with the idea of making a lens about the museum. I had already checked out AllPosters.com and found they have a fair number of posters of WWII aircraft and others represented at the museum, so I'm thinking of doing a lens that would tie in links to AllPosters. Haven't started it yet, though.

B-17 and P-51 Mustang

B-17 and P-51 Mustang
Giclee Print

Buy at AllPosters.com

Last week I went back to Tillamook to go to the Tillamook Air Museum. It's located just south of town in one of the last surviving blimp hangers from WWII. The hanger is immense. It's shaped like a Quonset Hut on steroids, with the top over 200 feet from the ground. It could house eight Navy patrol blimps at a time. Given the winter storms along the Oregon coast, it was a necessary shelter. I took a lot of pictures. I'll eventually do a lens with them as well.

During the past few days I've gotten back into creating lenses. If I can have 100 lenses by September 30, that will be another level achieved on Squidoo. Right now I have 80 published lenses and one in progress. Most of the new stuff is video showcases for groups that already had lenses. They're relatively quick and easy to put together, and it's fun watching the videos on YouTube to see if they're good enough to include. Not all are.

So far, I've created the following lenses:

  • A lens for the Irish Traditional group Téada
  • A video showcase for Téada - it was fairly easy to do it right after creating the lens
  • Video showcases for several Irish groups: Danú, Dervish and the Bothy Band
  • A lensography lens that gathers all the video showcases into one place and called Celtic Music Video Showcases

I'm going to try to create as many video showcases as I can during the rest of the month to help reach that 100-lens goal. I know there are some performers who either don't have any videos on YouTube or only a few, so I might try to make video showcases using those few of each and calling them Thistle & Shamrock and/or LiveIreland video showcases, providing the performers have had their music played in those radio/Internet venues.

Just today I was made aware that Squidoo has introduced a new Donations Module. With it, I can specify one of the charities Squidoo donates to and visitors to a lens with the module can make a donation in whatever amount they choose. I've already added it to about a half-dozen lenses and plan to add it to many more. Since about half my lenses are about Celtic music, I'm trying to decide if I should specify the same charity for all those lenses or spread them out. There's also a choice to donate to the Squidoo Charity Fund, which I assume spreads the donations around.