Skip to content

Category: Uncategorized

Yet Another Book Building Application

I love Cory Doctorow’s writing. I’ve read most of his novels multiple times. But there is one area where he has caused me great tsuris over the years.

Cory has a new book out called Walkaway. I plan to pick it up soon. But you see, between my fading eyesight and the fact that I spend a lot of time in my car, I prefer to get my literature in audiobook form when possible. Most of the time, that means going through Audible, who are the 8,000 pound gorilla in the audiobook business online.

Cory doesn’t make his books available through Audible because of their “digital rights management” policies. I happen to agree with him (although as a much less popular author than he I have to deal with them). So he makes the audiobooks of most of his works available through his website, and I have bought directly from him in the past with relative ease.

But his audiobooks come in what is an inconvenient format for me: a series of individual .mp3 files breaking the book down chapter by chapter or, in two cases, CD by CD. As a guy who has built a huge folder of audiobooks over the years and still prefers to listen to them on his old iPod Classic, this is not how I prefer my books. I would rather have the single huge file that Audible offers, or that you can get by building an .M4B file for iTunes.

In previous years, this would have meant using a program called Chapter and Verse, which would take those individual files and spit out an M4B. But Chapter and Verse hasn’t been updated in years, doesn’t work with modern versions of iTunes (which it needs to convert files), and is stuck in the mindset of the old days of 32 bit systems and thus doesn’t like creating audiobooks over 8 hours when it will create anything at all.

Of course, you know me. I come from the old school where the answer to not having software that does what you want is to write it yourself. So here is a quick and dirty, yet fully functional program, for all of you.

Yet Another Book Building Application

YABBA is a front-end for two other programs, FFMpeg and AtomicParsley, which respectively convert and add metadata to your audiobook files. You select and add files to your project, rearrange them if necessary, and can retitle the individual chapters. You can add cover art and information for author, title, year of publication, and description. Then just press one button, wait a considerable amount of time (how long depends on length of the book and speed of your computer) and out will pop a fresh baked audiobook. Add it into iTunes and you are ready to go.

I wrote the program to be as intuitive and simple to use as possible. Just feed it a bunch of MP3’s and some other information and let it do its work.

I wrote this program over four days when I had nothing much better to do simply because I needed it, and am happy to share it with any and all who want it. Use and copy it all you want, just don’t charge anything for it. If you find it useful, kick back a donation through the button at the top of the page.

Download Yet Another Book Building Application: Windows 32-bit Installer, Windows 64-bit Installer, Lazarus Source Code

If you found this post by kibozing for Cory’s name, you might also want to check out “…Only to Find Gideon’s Bible,” my short story set in the universe of Cory’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. And if you read this, Cory? I’d love to record an “official” audiobook for DAOITMK; you can donate whatever fee you would normally pay a narrator to EFF if I do.


Leave a Comment

The Greatest Bit SNL Ever Did.

I’m working on a Youtube series that will debut at the end of June 2017 called Thirteen Week Theatre about short lived TV shows, both the underappreciated gems and the absolute horrible bits of tripe.

One show I’m working for it is Saturday Night Live ‘80, the retitled, revamped version of the classic show that debuted in November of that fateful year. It took me a while to track down copies of the 12 episodes that killed Jean Doumanian’s TV career (along with those of people like Ann Risley and Charles Rocket), but I found them so I could watch them again and get some footage to work with.

At the time I was foraging for VHS copies of those 12 wpisodes I decided to seek out another little-remembered SNL season: Season 7, the first full season for Dick Ebersol and which would prove to be the second year in a row that half the cast was fired by the end of the season.

I did it mainly to seek out one particular bit: one that can’t be found online because NBC rightly polices the hell out of YouTube and because Lorne won’t allow them to have much if anything from Ebersol’s reign on Hulu or the web. A bit that I had only seen once almost 36 years ago and had stuck with me until I tracked it down tonight.

In my opinion, it’s an example of what made SNL great. Probably the greatest bit they ever did.

The official title was “An Editorial Reply,” about the week when Life and Time both had Marilyn Monroe on their covers and some telefilms were in production about her life. In reality, it’s probably known better for the refrain of the musical number. Mary Gross played Marilyn in a wonderful parody of the quintessential number from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

“If Life Magazine needs my face to sell issues, then downers are a girl’s best friend.”

I can’t confirm that it was written by Michael O’Donohugh, but if it wasn’t I’ll eat my hat and worship at the feet of whoever did write it.

This bit shows the genius that SNL had in its early years. It was edgy bordering on offensive. (The “downers” that are being sung about are supposedly books about her, but it’s also an obvious swipe at how Marilyn killed herself.) It didn’t talk down to you. It presumed that you knew the original source material that was being parodied. It presumed you knew about Marilyn, who she loved and how she died.”

“Capote! Miller! Garson Kanen! Talk to me, Norman Mailer! Tell me all about me!”

It’s brash. It’s bold. It’s 3 and a half minutes that are right on target.

“If made-for-TV films ’bout me must be written
Downers are a girl’s best friend.
And writers who write on the… men I was smitten
with… make so much dough
and write as though they really know!

“Dunaway would run away
to play me, though she’d need my rear end!
This isn’t defensive!
To me, it’s offensive!
Downers are a girl’s best friend.”

And you know what? It’s witty and funny as hell, but for those three and a half minutes there is not a single laugh to be heard. Maybe a couple of gasps when the word “downers” is first used, but no laughs.

Yet the audience goes nuts at the end. They didn’t need to laugh out loud. The wit was enough.

No need to pull a “Debbie Downer” and try to deliver a punch line every 20 seconds. No hammering away at a catchphrase. No condescension. The sketch refuses to play to the lowest common denominator. Who cares. It isn’t too hip for the room; if it goes over your head go laugh at the “Rubik’s Teeth” commercial elsewhere in the episode. But the more you know the funnier it is. And the wittier. And the sadder.

It’s the perfect example of what SNL was supposed to be. It’s just how Lorne Michaels envisioned the show.

As Lorne prepares for his annual bloodletting, firing stars who are underperforming in an effort to keep the show under budget, and trying to once again reinvent the show without reinventing it like they did in 1980 (and 1981, and 1984, and 1985, and 1990, and 1995, and… Well, I could go on) he would do best to go back and watch some of the Ebersol years. They were uneven, they relied too much on one or two cast members per season, but they did have times when they had pure genius.

Remember that the greatest sketch SNL ever did, the quintessential “edgy” yet “highbrow” moment, the sketch that best illustrated what you wanted from the show, happened while you weren’t there.



SPOILERS for Doctor Who: “Face the Raven” and others.

Doctor Who said goodbye to another companion last week, and while many of us cheered the long overdue departure of Jenna Coleman’s Clara, the means by which she left the show continued one of the revived show’s more annoying trends: burning the companion’s bridges before dispatching them with a needlessly sad departure.

a0d8ed26a967e1beb388d240e4f46fb1b26f7c7d_hqIn the 26 years of the original series, only two companions were killed off: Katarina (who was written in specifically to die in the next adventure) and Adric (who was generally hated as a character and mourned by few). One companion (Peri) was killed off but then retconned a few episodes later to have survived. Of course, she was revealed to have gone on to marry Brian Blessed instead, so maybe death would have been preferable.

So out of 28 companions of the first seven Doctors, we have a mortality rate of 7%. Not the safest job in the Universe, surely.

If we add in companions who left the Doctor on bad terms, at best we add four more. Jamie and Zoe had their memories wiped and were sent back to their own times in The War Games. Sarah Jane Smith was abandoned in the wrong town (in the wrong country, too) with little warning by the Fourth Doctor in The Hand of Fear. And Tegan pulled a Tegan and went storming off before trying unsuccessfully to change her mind in Resurrection of the Daleks. So six out of 28, or 21%, could be described as not having a happy ending.

021Fast forward to the new series.

Rose? Stranded in another Universe with a fake Doctor.

Captain Jack? Dead, eventually, although we didn’t know it at the time. But his situation is unique so I won’t count him in these figures.

Donna? Memory wiped.

Amy and Rory? Stranded back in the past with no hope of return. And let’s not even try to count the number of times Rory “died” before that.

River? Dead.

Clara? Dead.

clara-goodbye-doctor-who-face-the-ravenOf the new series’ companions, only one could be seen as having anything other than a miserable end to her travels: Martha. And that was only because they contrived to sign her up with Torchwood and have her patch things up with the Doctor after her misery. If you count Mickey as a companion (I really don’t) you could add him as one who had a neutral ending. (But he ended up with Martha, so this could be a Peri-like situation).

death4So a possible two out of eight. That’s a 75% chance of things ending badly. And if you add Danny in as a companion (like with Mickey, I really don’t) then the mortality/misery rate jumps to 78%. Add in Adam Mitchell and it’s 80%.

Who the hell would want to step into the TARDIS if they knew those odds?

It could be said that this tendency to kill, maim, fold, spindle, and mutilate companions is just the way modern television works. Producers feel the need to work characters over just to elicit “the feels” from squeeing little fangirls. But, really, is that necessary? This isn’t just any television show, this is Doctor Who. From the beginning, this was intended to be one of the best shows on the air, and while its history (even its modern history) is checkered, overall it has a damn good track record. Even at its worst, like pizza and oral sex, it’s pretty damn terrific. So it shouldn’t feel the need to sink to these levels.

And this is not an attack on showrunner Steven Moffat. The Vast Toffee Man has come under barrage after barrage of fan criticism since before he took the job, but the tendency to grind companions into fine powder didn’t start with him; Rose and Donna’s fates were sealed by Russell T. Davies. This is a problem with the show itself, not the people running it.

And it needs to end.

We’ll have a new companion coming along next year, if not at the end of this one (the producers are being tight-lipped), so we’ll once again have a chance to set things right. Here’s hoping that the next companion actually travels with the Doctor instead of being picked up from time to time like Clara (and toward the end Amy and Rory), and when the time comes to end their story it ends with a happy ending. Let the next companion end his or her story by ending his exile like Turlough. Or becoming a warrior king like Steven. Or going back home happy like Ian, Barbara, Ben, and Polly. Or falling in love like almost everyone else.

Traveling with the Doctor is supposed to change the companion for the better. Let their stories end well.

Leave a Comment