Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Brief History Of The Sink

I have gotten a lot of e-mails over the past two months asking me various questions relating to what the purpose of this site is, what it's connection to the entertainment industry is, what its history is with FM radio and how it evolved over time. The following is the "short version" of the story.

It was in 1997 when post-college binge drinking ceased to be entertaining and I decided that I should take up some kind of hobby. Painting proved to me that I had the artistic talent of a three year old with cerebral palsy while roller blading brought back terrible memories of Tanya Harding. Being a mobile DJ worked for a period of time, however, I soon noticed that the people were more interested in me teaching them the "Macarena" than they were in hearing my sarcastic comments on current events. Not long after turning in my DJ equipment, I was informed by my brother, Mike, that he was leaving "The Kitchen Sink", the radio show he helped create at WXAV 88.3FM Chicago. His co-host and longtime friend, Jim, was remaining. Opportunity knocked.

I had done radio off and on at W-XAV since 1991, so coming back wasn't that big of a deal to me. The two-person show format was a relativly new experience for me, and I enjoyed being able to banter with someone of Jim's caliber. I thought that the show was consistantly funny, goofy, and well thrown together. There wasn't a lot of organization involved, and we never scripted anything ahead of time, but that's one of the things I liked about the show.

The problem with WXAV is that it only had 100 watts of power mounted on top of an old cell phone tower. That obviously didn't give us much in the way of broadcast range. Jim had been experimenting with a way to simulcast The Kitchen Sink over the Internet via Real Server. Jim was using a dial-up connection over a 56k modem, which meant that the sound quality wasn't so great, and the connection often got dropped if some fat old lady in Chicago Heights simply broke wind. At the time though, it wasn't a major concern to us and it seemed like a major technological breakthrough to me.

As all good things do, our pollution of the airwaves was brought to an end and the Kitchen Sink was forced off the air to make way for a bunch of mediocre college student shows. This, again, left me hobbyless. But Jim's hard work on the Internet Simulcast would not be in vain. Soon after our uncermonius removal from WXAV, I was making some clips of the Kitchen Sink in Real Server format when I began looking into doing my own Internet-only show. Since I had a cable-modem, I could offer better sound quality as well as archived shows to whomever dared to endure it.

Jim had decided to focus his talents on other projects, and since I had proven over the years that a one-man show centered around me is a recipe for lethargy, I needed to find a co-host. Thankfully, I had one living right next to me. Keith Pietranczyk was an old college friend of mine whom I had fill in for Jim occasionally on The Kitchen Sink. I then spent a few days producing a theme song for this new show which consisted of various TV and Radio clips set to a RU Paul song. Once this was done, Keith and I were ready to give the World Wide Web an audio enima. Since it wasn't exactly The Kitchen Sink anymore, but in my mind, the spirit of the show was the same, so it was virtually the same show. Thus I christened the show The Virtual Sink.

Keith and I worked on the show together for about a year. Basically, the show was just an excuse for us to drink beer and pontificate. We invited a lot of guests onto the show for variety's sake, and The Virtual Sink was often likened to a Gen-X cocktail party. We developed a good following, though, which included a bunch of nutty girls from Idaho who apparantly had nothing better to do on a Friday night than listen to me and Keith spouting off and playing music. That's a scary thought, but stuff like that spurred us on. It encouraged us to do stupid things like record ourselves calling up corporations and harassing them about their websites.

At the end of the first year, Keith got married and I moved off to Evanston, which meant I would be packing up the show and taking it with me. It took a few months, but I pulled the show back together with the help of my friend and new co-host, WardOfDesign. The show took a different turn. I was relying more on using a portable tape-recorder to record shows on the run. Ward added a good element to the show with his creative suggestions and his general wit. The Virtual Sink now boasted higher production values and actual scripted content. It started to feel too much like a job and not enough like a hobby, though. The show's following dropped off quite a bit and I started losing interest in it. I did an abyssmal Halloween show, and an embarassing Christmas show which dampened my enthusiasm even further. However, I did do some awesome shows, like the one that centered around Keith's Wedding, which I think is the greatest show in Virtual Sink history. Also, the Thanksgiving Video show (featuring Ward, my brother John, and my sis-in-law, Kathy) and The Virtual Sink in Maui were hilarious and technologically interesting efforts.
Ward eventually moved away, and probably took any remaining interest I had in The Virtual Sink along with him. In the Summer of 2001, I once again uprooted myself and headed further South. Ward came up with a brilliant re-design of the site, which would serve as a blog to relay my quirky thoughts on various matters to anyone interested enough to read them. I tried my hand at podcasting, but, again, the amount of production time wasn't worth the end result. And, once I began raising my daughter, the time for a hobby like The Virtual Sink gradually faded away like a cheap vodka buzz.

Years went by. Every so often, I would attempt a Virtual Sink revival only to get sidelined by some other project. I became more interested in crafting Youtube videos. It would happen from time to time that old friends who had been guests on either The Kitchen Sink or The Virtual Sink would ask me to track down a particular audio clip involving them on the show. I decided that I needed to share all of this content. And, while I was sharing old content, I might just get inspired enough to share new content. And, hence, The Virtual Sink rose from the ashes yet again.

Life is still pretty busy these days and, when I am asked if I will ever attempt to get back onto those old FM airwaves, I smirk and brush off the suggestion. But, who knows? You might one day boot up your computer and find out that I'm once again spreading my voice like colby cheese all over your ISP. Hey, it could happen!

1 comment:

  1. The X is for mediocre college students though thats why its at a college station