Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hi-Jinx on American Idol?

Are the sound engineers for American Idol on air broadcasts that bad or simply rank amateurs? The truth is for the last two weeks they stunk. Imo I know of several unpaid sound guys in junior colleges and churches who could work rings around those so-called professionals. But they don't belong to any broadcast union.

Watching the two hour airings this week brought deja vu memories from last week's first group of twelve show. During both broadcasts I thought the sound person(s) "riding the boards" were either deliberately sabotaging certain contestants, or learning their craft on-the-job. Either way, they did a lousy job.

What I'm speaking about is the "mix". During "live" artist performances using background vocalists and instrumentalists there should be at least four - or more - main categories of sound, plus a large number of minor categories. First and most prominent should be the artist, then the background group, then the instrumentalists and finally the concert hall. Last week and again tonight home viewers could clearly hear the concert hall, the instrumentalists and the background singers. Down somewhere in the "mud" both weeks were the first three or four - or more - artists. Just couldn't clearly hear their voices, their notes, their tones or their lyrics in order to judge how well they did. Until afterward when they began talking to the judges. Oddly, that part worked OK.

[NOTE: I am not even mentioning the obvioous short-comings in the "monitoring" process (direct sound feeds for the artist, etc.). That important function's failures were also obvious. But to keep it simple this rant is only about the sound being broadcast].

During both weeks' shows the singers further along in the sequence benefited from better broadcast acoustics, in my opinion. This gave them a tremendous advantage. But was it fair? In my opinion, no! If it had happened just one week it could have been an odd occurrence. But two weeks in a row make it a pattern. In my view it is most likely a deliberate attempt to skew the rating results. And that makes the entire series merely an underhanded, cheating set-up. Boy, am I surprised.

Oh, well. That's just Hollywood.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Smile, please!

It is official. The Monterey Bay and its environs have become overly-saturated with touristy types. See this item in the Monterey County Herald. So-called playful sea-otters of the area may have noticed this, too, and although unremarked upon in the daily paper, are apparently compiling evidence to be used for goodness knows what type of future complaint? For proof see this:

This shot, taken from a tour boat in the Elkhorn Slough on February 3, 2009, by freelance wildlife photographer Enrique Aguirre, shows a "happy critter" spotted turning the tables on a boatload of photographers who themselves were enjoying a photo shoot on the bay. At any rate, this is fair warning that whenever visiting the Monterey Bay and its sanctuary, one should now stay alert for the latest menace - nautical paparazzi.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

Found on is this graphix of a bus from the Netherlands, but it is not what it appears to be. What you think you see is not actually happening. Study the photo again if you haven't yet figured it out.

And then scroll down for the solution.

OK, scroll a little further you cheater, you!

Careful scrutiny will show red stop and taillights on both sides of the "front face" of this coach, plus high in both corners may be seen red and amber marker lights. Even in the former Holland red lights may only be displayed on the rear of a normal vehicle, so what gives?

Well, the "windshield view of the driver and interior of the bus scene" and "the headlights" are merely hi-res graphic wraps, but the license plate, route designator, manufacturer's marque and company logos are all legit. It turns out an advertiser - apparently Apeldoorn Insurance in Amsteredam - is using this simple but effective eye-catching scene to establish name recognition and competitive positioning in this marketplace. Pretty cool, I say.

No word on what the local motorists think about this situation, but the mind boggles when considering the reaction of some folks on their way back to offices after extended "business" lunches. What they think they are seeing is a city coach "backing up" at normal speeds on the regular bus route. Talk about too much information to filter. 12 Step Programs, here we come.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Reflections on [not-always] Solid Waste

One of my regular "reads" is William M. (Matt) Briggs' interesting site [His MOTTO: "All manner of statistical analyses cheerfully undertaken"] wherein the author frequently expounds on a statistician's life's work and its associated travails. Lately Matt is sounding somewhat introspective and bored, as per this post on a study comparing satisfaction factors of 200 careers. Close to the bottom of the list were "garbage collectors". Said Matt:
For the last eleven years I have seen the same two guys drive their garbage truck down my street. They are always chatting and appear happy. They are outside and not hunched in front of a computer. There’s very little stress. They get good pay and benefits and first dibs at any choice garbage1. They don’t need to shell out cash for a gym membership to “exercise”, which is better defined as work that you pay for. In every parade I’ve ever been to, it’s the garbage men following after the horses that get the biggest applause.
His comment re: one of my cherished former occupations could not in all good consciousness remain unanswered, thus the following 49er Fiction and Fact tidbits:

  • The most rewarding time of the year for G-men vis-a-vis choice of food scraps is the week after Thanksgiving. Turkey is king!
  • On average it takes a retired G-man 20 years to sort through and dispose of the "usable" trash hauled home during a 10 year collection career. When all is said and done he will actually be able to use less than 2% of the stuff.
  • A hauling company will cut 25% off their labor budget if they require drivers dump loads at local transfer stations rather than outlying landfills. Locally there's much less opportunity for drivers to be distracted wasting time looking through "good stuff" others have dumped.
  • Usual question from a new customer: "Do you deliver in River City"? Usual answer: "Sure. How many truck loads do you want"?
  • Residential hauling technique pre-1965. Open top dump-truck with running boards on both sides; at least one man on each side plus driver, stepping on running board while lifting/carrying can, lifting and dumping can at least 45" above ground, sweeping upside-down can from side to side to spread trash around, stepping down and dropping empty on ground then picking up next can and repeating as needed. Jumped on running boards and held on till next stop. Time: About 45 seconds per can. Capacity: 220 cans. Work interval between bad back episodes: five days
  • Residential hauling technique post-1965. Covered bodied compaction truck with rear loading hopper; one man plus driver, lifting and dumping can into empty hopper from ground level, dropping empty on ground and repeating as necessary. Jump on rear step, activate compaction lever and held on till next stop. Time: About 30 seconds per can. Capacity: 800 cans. Work interval between bad back episodes: forty five days

OK, that's enough for now. Too many memories. And too much turkey-ala-king.