Main

December 1, 2004

It's That Time Of Year

It must be getting close to Christmas.

After bugging me for the last several weeks about playing Christmas music in our cutting room, Dana finally convinced me today to put some on. For the last few hours that we were in the office we worked away to the gentle melodies of the Glenn Miller Orchestra's "In The Christmas Mood" volumes one and two.

When I was growing up there were two Time-Life cassettes of Christmas music that my parents had and for me those songs really represent the spirit of the season. Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, I think the series was called "Home For The Holidays".

Time-Life doesn't sell it anymore but thankfully a few years ago I discovered that they had a new set of CDs with nearly the same track list, "The Time-Life Treasury Of Christmas". I gave those as a gift to my mom that year and now I insist that if she's going to put on some music when I visit her, those have to go into the rotation.

Christmas music is one of those festive holiday things, but I can't take a lot of it. I hoping that we don't have to listen to it everyday for the next three weeks.

November 18, 2004

Don't Know What You've Lost 'Til It's Gone

I find it's amazing how quickly the internet has become a integral part of my life. Today at work our internet connection was down most of the day and it was remarkable the number of times I was frustrated because I couldn't go online. I have two editors working out of their homes and the picture department is on the other side of town. So it is certainly easier to exchange certain files over the net than it is to drive there in a car. Recently we've had some ADR sessions in Toronto and Montreal. With an ISDN hookup to a local stage we were able to get immediate recordings of those lines but with the internet I was able to download the original files within an hour or so of finishing the session. Even faster than FedEx overnight.

Plus Dana and I tend to have many pop culture-related conversations while we are doing our work.

"'Dance Fever USA'? That sounds a lot like that movie with Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt."

"'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun'?"

"Exactly. What was the name of the dance TV show on that?"

"I don't know. But Shannon Doherty was the younger daughter."

"Yes, but who was the geeky little brother?"

"Little brother? I don't remember that one."

"'Tune-in Tokyo'? No? Jonathan Silverman."

"Oh yeah!"

Of course it's not always that easy to remember all the names or the movies so we're often going online to look at IMDB or All Music Guide or Google searches. So without the internet today, the conversations tended more towards the oblique.

"You know. The guy. That one who did that thing."

"The guy? What thing?"

"You know, in that movie with the woman with the hair."

"Most of them do have hair."

"No. But she married that other guy."

Much less fun.

I first got on the internet when I started college in 1992. Twelve years is certainly a long time to be online. However back then it was with my 2400 baud modem---not even comparable to a 512kbps DSL connection today. I don't think I had a dedicated broadband internet connection in the office I worked in until 2000. Obviously I used the internet a lot in those eight years but it was really only sometime in the last four that it has become so pervasive, so much a part of my life that I feel a sense of loss when I don't have access to it.

November 16, 2004

Figure Out When Things Are Good Enough

Sometimes it's best just to leave well enough alone. Things might not be perfect but they're good enough. Sure, you're sitting there. Taking stock of things and you say to yourself, "Hey! I know I can make this better."

The problem is that intent does not always equal success. Good intentions are certainly good. We all like good intentions. However, when those good intentions lead to failing miserably, you have to ask yourself, "Was it really worth it? Are good intentions all they're really cracked up to be?"

I have a goatee. I'm one of those "trim around the edges" kind of goatee guys. It can get big after a while if I don't cut it back. Initially, years ago, I started growing it out because it didn't come in very full---kind of the comb-over equivalent to facial hair. Now it comes in much better.

This morning I had the brilliant idea that I might finally be able to set my trimmer to #2 and just buzz over everything. Much faster and probably cleaner looking in the long run. Easier than the trim around edges.

Unfortunately I now have a couple of bare patches on my upper lip thanks to some over-zealous clipper work. Thankfully it grows back. I'll just have to suffer through looking like an idiot for a couple of weeks until I can even it all out.

"Hello. I'm Jon. Big dummy."

November 4, 2004

Eat Your Heart Out, Jonathan Swift

This is one of the funniest damn things I've read in a while. Funny because it's so true.

"MY MODEST PROPOSAL: THE U.S.A.R."
By C. B. Shapiro 

I feel bad for the Red States. 

Yes, they won the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and most of the state houses.  But they still can't have the country they really want because the last few Blue States won't roll over.  So I am making a simple proposal:

Secession.  Divorce.  Splitsville.

Personally, I think we made a huge mistake not letting them go when we had the chance back in 1862.  Well, no time like the present to correct an old mistake.

Then, they would finally be free to have the kind of society they've always wanted; church and state can be fused so they build the kind of theocracy they've dreamt of, with Jesus at the helm.  Then the new USAR (United States of America Red) can ban books, repeal civil rights, persecute gays and have all the wars they like. They want prayer in schools?   More power to them.  They can ban abortion and post the Ten Commandments in every federal building in their country.  Bring back slavery, if they want.  We'll be free to live with our like-minded countrymen who believe in science, modernism, tolerance, religion as a personal choice, and truly want limited government intrusion in our personal lives.  Why should each side be driven mad by the other any more, decade after decade?

Call the Culture War a tie and everyone go home.

Of course, we in the U.S.A.B. get the Gross Domestic Product, businesses and universities of California, New York, Massachussetts -- basically the whole Northeast and Northwest (plus Illinois and Michigan if they want to come along).  They get Wal-Mart and Duke and most of the Nascar tracks.  But they can feel free to import movies, TV shows, financial services, and defense technology.  We'll import country music, bibles and Confederate flags.

The two countries will by necessity have open immigration policy: anyone who feels they are living in the wrong country can just move across the border, no questions asked.

Ultimately, why should I have to convince my fellow countrymen that Darwin may have had a point and that the word “liberal” is not equivalent to “godless communist?”  And why should they be forced to live in a country with morally corrupt non-believers?  I'll stay in the messy, free-thinking U.S.A.B.  And to the U.S.A.R. I say…

God bless you all, and see you at the U.N

November 3, 2004

I Woke Up Early The Day I Died

You know that part in horror movies where the hero is chased by some crazy murderer and attacked with a knife or an axe or some other implement of death and just before the killing blow lands, the hero wakes up screaming? And just as relief starts flooding through the hero's body the crazy murderer comes crashing through the door or the window or the wall and you realize that the nightmare isn't over? It's just beginning.

I woke up this morning and walked into my own horror movie when I saw the electoral votes on the TV.

October 31, 2004

A Reflection On The Little Things In Life While Picking A Lock

Pants? Check.

Wallet? Check.

iPod? Check.

Cellphone? Check.

Keys? Oh crap.

Every two or three years something happens and I manage to step outside my apartment, close the door and almost immediately discover that my keys are now on the otherside of 2 inches of wood and a Schlage lock.

I guess I was due because that was the situation I found myself in this morning just before 8am. My internal clock had me up early since we just had our time change. I was doing a little cleaning around me apartment. When I went to take the trash out, I immediately discovered that although I had managed to have nearly every other technological gadget about my person, the necessary keys were sitting on the counter.

Thankfully since I had my cellphone I was in touch with a locksmith within minutes and a half-hour later he was crouched at my door jiggling his tools in the handle.

This was obviously the first call of the day for him and he had that rumpled "I just got out of bed" look about him. But he was a friendly fellow and proceeded to wax rather philosphic while I stood around impatiently waiting for him to let me in.

"Wow! Look at that tree! It's beautiful! You know you have quite a view up here."

I guess he was working on the lock by touch and sound because he was looking past me down the hill and over the morning rooftops of Burbank.

"I bet you could just sit and stare out the window on the other side of your place looking at the mountains all day long."

"Actually that window just looks into an alley."

"Still, you know a tree like that takes a lot of work to get it to look that beautiful."

"Yeah. Probably."

"You know, you have to trim it once a year. You have to make sure all the branches are pointing up or they'll just end up breaking off."

"Ok."

"You know how much it costs to trim a tree that size."

"I have no idea."

"Five thousand bucks.'

"Wow."

"Yeah. Hey! Check out that hummingbird! You know a tree like that supports an incredible amount of life."

"Uh huh."

"All kinds of different things live in a tree like that. Imagine if all of us could live in a tree like that. The number of people it could support. That would be incredible. You know my neighbor this old guy doesn't trim his tree. The branches don't point up. They're all going 'zoom' like this and back like that. Ok, let's try this lock the other way."

"Actually it opens clockwise like how you were first going."

"I know. I'll reset it if I get it open."

"Ok."

He went on and on like that for the twenty minutes it took him to get the door open. After suggesting that I hang a shower curtain in front of my balcony to get more privacy and informing me that my neighbor's wooden shingle roof was a huge fire hazard, the lock finally popped and my cat Max who was really curious about all the racket that was going on at the door stuck his head out through the crack in the doorway.

I managed to get Max back inside before he escaped, thanked the locksmith for coming to my aid, and went on with my life with a whole new outlook.

Ok. Maybe not.

October 29, 2004

The End Is Nigh

From the AP:

Billboard to Rank Cell Phone Ringtones

... The music market tracker Billboard will begin ranking the customized mobile phone sound snippets beginning next week....

As it does with other music sales data, Billboard will publish the top 20 ringtones purchased for each week.

Is it just me or is this totally lame? I have never had much use for the Billboard charts. They certainly don't reflect the music that I'm interested in and that I buy. Of course I'm also not a 12-year-old girl. But it seems to me that this is the final nail in the coffin of Billboard's relevancy. Are the record labels so anxious to justify themselves that they have to bolster their self-esteem by keeping track of which 15 second music-bytes are the most popular on telephones? Does this mean that there is going to be a surge in the "Macarena" on the charts again? How about "Hava Nagila"?

I've got an idea. My current ringtone is the theme to "The A-Team". I think those crack commandos from the 80's deserve to be on the charts. If everyone called me my cellphone maybe we could make it to number one. The number is 818-555... oh nevermind.

October 27, 2004

A Genius Named Jon

Not me.

Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" has been very political since the 2000 election and seems to have gotten even more so with the current election. Recently though, Jon has started to take on news organizations for being puppets of the politicians, for not calling them out when they get caught in a lie.

If you've missed any of these confrontations, you really should set aside a few minutes to take a look. Jon went on CNN's "Crossfire" pleaded with them to "Stop... hurting... America." The following Monday he talked about the encounter on his own show. "Here's the thing about confronting someone on their show. They're there.... Uncomfortable!" He also spoke with a gathering a journalists for an hour about his thoughts on journalistic integrity on an episode of "American Perspectives" which aired on CSPAN. He expressed similar views on "60 Minutes".

October 26, 2004

Goodbye To Peel

This just in from Reuters:

Veteran British disc jockey John Peel, who championed new music trends like punk on mainstream radio, has died of a heart attack on holiday in Peru.

Basically every band on the planet has played on John Peel's show at one time or another. Obviously anytime you see an album that is called "The Peel Sessions" it was recorded by him. Also many that just say "Live At The BBC".

I'm very saddened to hear of his passing.

October 23, 2004

A Busy Weekend

My cousin is in town from Norway and we are going to see some sites today and then tonight I'm off to a minor league hockey game for a friend's birthday. Tomorrow will probably be some more touristy things with my cousin. I'll try to post pictures when I can.

October 22, 2004

We're On A Road To Nowhere

This is one the scariest things I've read recently. I never liked our president but I didn't realize we had such a blind zealot in the office who pushes his own personal beliefs upon this country whether they have a basis in reality or not.

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored "road map" for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman --- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress --- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

"I don't know why you're talking about Sweden," Bush said. "They're the neutral one. They don't have an army."

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: "Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army." Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. "No, no, it's Sweden that has no army."

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the shoulder. "You were right," he said, with bonhomie. "Sweden does have an army."

You might need this if you're not registered with the NY Times website.

October 17, 2004

Fall Is Here

This weekend was the first time it really felt like Autumn in Los Angeles. We had our first big rain starting late on Saturday and continuing off and on throughout Sunday. In fact we are supposed to have rain through Wednesday. I'm glad it's raining. We certainly can use it. It continually amazes me though how quickly an arid landscape like LA can flood with just a few tenths of an inch of rain. Today I drove over the Los Angeles River and it was a raging torrent. Of course not nearly as bad as when we had an El Niño several years ago, but still with what many areas of the country would consider a light rain, Los Angeles floods like crazy.

The temperature has dropped too. It is these low to mid-60s days are the Octobers I remember from my youth. Actually it's even a bit warmer than I remember. Of course those were Mid-West and New England Octobers. The kind of Octobers where you'd wake up and the orange and brown leaves that had fallen would be frozen to the ground with the first signs of frost. The kinds of Octobers where you could see your breath when you chatted with your friends while waiting at the bus stop for a ride to school. The kinds of October where if you didn't wear gloves when you picked up your pumpkin from the local patch, your hands would be ice cold in minutes and you'd spend the entire drive home blowing on them, trying to warm them up.

So it's not quite the same October that I remember as a child. But it's still Autumn.

October 11, 2004

Farewell To A Place Now Gone

Yesterday morning I met my father for breakfast in Pasadena. He was in town most of last week teaching a seminar at the Hilton, just outside of Old Town. We were saying our "goodbyes" before his flight back home to Florida. After a buffet of scrambled eggs, hash browns and some assorted melons, I left at about 9:45am to drive back to my apartment in Burbank.

As I was heading north on the 5 freeway, I noticed that the two Holiday Inn towers that dominate the surrounding buildings were obscured by some kind of haze. We have had some thick fog the last several mornings but most of it had burned off by that time. All that was left was some low-hanging clouds around the Verdugo mountains. It seemed unlikely that there would still be fog around a couple of buildings and no where else. Then I noticed what appeared to be diagonal white lines coming from the haze.

Within a minute I was close enough to realize what I was looking at: A low building south of the Holiday Inn was on fire. The haze was the smoke and the white lines were the water spraying from hoses at the top of extended ladders on fire trucks. In another minute I was coming up on the exit for Olive and passing the burning building. I had a sudden shock when I thought I knew what building it was but I had to get closer to be sure.

I got off at the Olive exit and immediately started to encounter police road blocks. Three blocks around First Street and Santa Anita were cordoned off. By driving around the perimeter I saw that my initial thought was correct. International Recording was burning. I was filled with a strange sadness. Not the sharp pain of a personal loss but still a melancholy.

International has among other things a few dub stages. Four years ago I spent a lot of time there when they mixed several films I worked on: "Play It To The Bone", "My Dog Skip", "Urbania", and "The Contender". Bill Schlegel, the owner, was always a nice enough guy to me and it was sad to see all his hard work disappear. In fact International was an even larger accomplishment for Bill than one might expect. He and a few engineers hand-built most of the components and wiring used by the two main stages. It took an enormous amount of time and energy to put together his post-production facility but it was something he could truly call his own.

International Recording is probably best known to the rest of the world as the stage where "Dances With Wolves" was mixed. In 1991, Jeffrey Perkins and Gregory Watkins mixed the sound for Kevin Costner's film and the Academy acknowledged their excellence by awarding them the Oscar for Best Sound.

I had my camera with me so I took a few pictures. Being three blocks away, I couldn't see much more than the fireman at the tops of their ladders directing streams of water into billowing clouds of black and white smoke, the news vans scattered around the scene, the policemen directing traffic and the few gawkers like myself. It seemed that there should be something more to mark this solemn moment. Something more than curious bystanders and a police officer telling me, "I don't know what it is---some kind of post-production place." Something that said, "Bill put his life into this place and now it's gone." My writing certainly doesn't do it justice but I wanted you to know.

Fireman on the ladder Two firemen fight the fire from above

October 10, 2004

Head Above Water

Well it has been a long, crazy several days for me culminating in a 26-hour marathon day in the office. But now it is done. The movie has been screened for the studio. Every one is happy. And I was finally able to get some sleep.

Little did I know when I walked into my building at 7am on Wednesday, that I would not be leaving it until 9:30am the next day. Thankfully those kind of days tend to be few and far between, but they do occasionally happen. In fact somewhere around 2am when the picture assistant showed up with a big bag of chili cheeseburgers and fries for the six of us who were trying to get the mix done, someone (I don't remember who) said, "Ah! The glamour of Hollywood!" And it's so true. If you watch E! you see the beautiful stars attending their hip parties, but in reality a lot of the work that it takes to get their faces on the screen is not pretty. It's the kind of work that knocks on your door at midnight with new videotapes, a stack of change notes, and coffee and Pop-Tarts from the local 7-Eleven.

I don't get invited to parties to rub elbows with Jim Carrey, Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts and Naomi Watts. If I'm lucky, the studio will buy me a pizza when they tell me I need to work until the wee hours of the morning to get things done. Now, I'm not saying that I hate my job. The overtime when you put in those kind of hours is certainly nice. I just want everyone to realize that in some ways my job is not all the different from yours. And in many ways it's probably a lot more frustrating. And when I'm driving home after a 26-hour day, I definitely don't like the heart-wrenching surprise when I realize that I fell asleep for a split-second while stopped at the traffic light.

The positive side to an experience like that comes when you get that phone call from the post-production supervisor saying that the studio loved the film, that people were really impressed with the sound and felt that it helped reinforce the temporary visual effects shots, that everyone is happy and that you did a great job. That's what makes it worth it. That's what brings the smile to my face. That's when I say to myself, "I am good at what I do. I would like to see someone else accomplish what we did under the same conditions. Yay, me!" And then I pat myself on the back. Ok, maybe not. But you get the idea. The difficult task that is completed successfully is more rewarding than the easy one. Hopefully though it's not all difficult tasks.

One of my favorite quotes from that day:

Oh good! Coffee! I haven't been jacked up on caffeine in a couple hours.

After sleeping through the majority of Thursday, I got up refreshed and went back to the crew I was working with a few weeks ago. I still felt a little detached from the world that day, almost as if there was a piece of gause separating my brain from the rest of my body and another one keeping me just out of reach of reality. But that feeling soon passed and things are pretty much back to normal. Cross your fingers for me, this next show should keep me on a regular 9 to 7 up until Christmas.

October 6, 2004

Too Many Hours In The Office

Subsisting off fast food, candy bars and coffee:

Late Night Food

Thankfully, opening a Pro Tools session with 64 voices, 40 busses, 8 sub-master auxes, 10 reverbs, 4 EQs and so much automation that your screen looks like crawling ants in Volume Graph mode on Mix Plus hardware in OS X takes a little while, so there's time for some music:

Cam On Guitar

October 1, 2004

Where Is Jon?

The good news is that I have been working a lot recently. The bad news is that it's been crazy busy and things like reading my favorite websites, writing for my own website and sleep has suffered for it. The show that I'm working on right now makes me wish I could give more details that I can about the movie. It is so goddamned funny I wish I could share with everyone. So I'll say this: there's a moving coming out next summer. It's very clever and quite funny. You should go see it.

Does that help you? ;)

We are actually cleaning up tracks from the Avid, smoothing out dialog and adding FX. This weekend and early next week we will mix everything down to stems. It's basically a mini-temp dub in the Pro Tools. This way the studio gets to see the director's cut of the movie with a decent soundtrack. It's a huge undertaking. When Cameron was given the task, it was just going to be him for 3 weeks. That's nearly impossible so the second week, he was able to bring in another editor and this final week, I came on too. Even on a small movie we might have a crew of 5 working for 3 weeks to do a temp dub. That's 15 weeks of editorial labor. On this show we're getting 6. Plus we have to do the mix ourselves. I suspect we will be seeing more and more shows like this in the future.

When I left last night I had been working for several hours on a large crowd scene. Crowds are probably one of the toughest things to cut well. Trying to keep them dynamic and interesting and have them react naturally to the events around them isn't easy. Of course there's really not time with this to spend anything like that on the crowds. I'm doing the poor man's crowd reactions. The editor already had a bed of babble and reactions in his tracks. To give the big swells when exciting things happen, I pulled a steady white-noise-like extremely large crowd cheer from the sound effect library and looped for the entire length of the scene. Then I changed the volume over time with big spiky movements to simulate large crowd cheers.

I was able to kill two birds with one stone: cut crowd reactions for a ten minute scene and mix it all in one step. Now I'm adding in small group cheers (5 to 10 people) on all the crowd close-ups to give it a little more definition and I'll call it done. It's certainly not the quality that you'd want to turn over for a final mix but for this early stage of the film, it give them a decent sounding crowd quickly.

And of course in the month that I've had my Tivo, I've managed to go a little Tivo-Crazy™. Four months ago, I could have missed an entire month of television and not cared. Now thanks to easy viewing and recording I have a hard drive full of crap I'm never going to watch and I'm already saying to myself, well maybe I should record these to DVD in case I want to watch them in the future. I'm actually up early making DVDs to free up space so that I can record the "Farscape" marathon that Sci Fi channel is running for the next couple of weeks. I could go to the store at lunch and pick up every episode of "Farscape" on DVD and not worry about this. But no. Has to be recorded on Tivo. I'm definitely going to have to sit myself down at some point and get a little more rational about the Tivo.

Well I have to jump in the shower and get off to work (after I put in one last DVD for recording). But I'll leave you with one of the funnier comics I've seen in the last week, about another fun thing that I haven't had the time to enjoy:

PVP - Star Wars: Battlefront

September 27, 2004

Movers Anonymous

Today I moved offices yet again. Boy, I sure am getting sick of playing pack-horse. My actual office just moved down the hall from the room I was in for the last two weeks. However, several editors were starting on a show today and we had to move a couple Pro Tools systems from the offices / storage rooms at Universal to Burbank. Four hours of manual labor plus several hours of assembling Pro Tools systems. Long day.

At one point we had to get a couch out of one of the rooms and move it into another. I flipped it up on it's side and started to slide it across the floor. Dana, the other assistant, got a surprised look on her face.

"Look at you."

"What?"

"Throwing couches around..."

"I used to be a mover. Didn't I tell you?"

It's true. When I was in college I had a job driving a big truck, picking up students stuff on the East Coast and driving it to Chicago. I have moved way too many boxes, trunks, microwaves, and couches in and out of houses and dorm rooms. Plus I drove pick-up trucks for several years which meant that I was always the friend to call when someone was moving.

Hi, I'm Jon and I'll be your mover today.

September 24, 2004

You Can Call My Laptop, Popeye

From the Washington Post:

[Researchers] at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have used spinach to harness a plant's ability to convert sunlight into energy for the first time, creating a device that may one day power laptops, mobile phones and more....

[They] discovered that protein building blocks called detergent peptides could be manipulated to keep the [photosynthesis] proteins alive up to three weeks while in contact with electronics.

I Am Un Chien Andalusia

Dear Pixies,

Thank you for playing a concert in Los Angeles. You rock! \m/

I am now your best friend.

Jon

Pixies 1 Pixies 2 Pixies 3

(Link to earlier post.)

September 23, 2004

If The Bard Had A Sweet Tooth...

...perhaps "Hamlet" might have been a little different:

To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the carb; For in that sleep of death what Twinkies may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal Ho-Ho, must give us pause; there's the respect that makes creme-filled treats of so long life.

Oh yeah, and the maker of Twinkies has filed for bankruptcy. Thanks, Xeni, for the wonderful Twinkie death soliloquy.

September 21, 2004

I Dub Thee, Temp

Today is the first day of our temp dub. For all you non-movie-industry-types, a temp dub is a kind of mini-mixdown of the movie's soundtrack at its current state.

The last thing that is done on a movie prior to sending it out to the lab to make lots and lots of copies for distribution to theaters is the final dub where all the various sound elements---dialog, adr, sound effects, backgrounds, foley and music---are mixed together in the presentation that you hear in the theater. The final dub on your typical Hollywood film usually takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete. (This includes a process called predubbing. I'll explain that in more detail at some point in the future.)

Before a movie goes to the final dub, there are usually 2 or 3 temp dubs during the 2 months or so of sound editorial that usually last 3 to 5 days each. Often these temp dubs are done to get a mixed track that can be played against the current picture cut for an audience test screening, also known as a "preview".

Obviously much less time is spent on a temp dub than on the final dub. Temps can definitely be described as "down and dirty". For sound editors a temp dub always represents a delicate balance between providing enough material to give a good indication of the direction the dialog editing and sound design is going, and providing too much, making it impossible to mix it all in the alloted time.

Plus there is often a time crunch just to get all the material prepared for the temp. Usually a sound crew will have two or three weeks to cut the sound for the first temp. That means two or three weeks between seeing the movie for the very first time and having a rough cut done and on a dub stage for a temp.

During the temp dub, the mixers will create stems---usually four of them: dialog, effects 1, effects 2, and music. These are typically 8 track mixdowns of the appropriate sounds, the dialog stem includes the ADR and Group ADR, the effects 1 stem includes all hard effects and sound design, the effects 2 stem is usually backgrounds and foley, etc. These stems are then mixed together to make the printmaster that is screened with the picture in a theater.

After the first temp, the time allotted to prepare for the next one decreases. Usually a week for the second and then a few days for the third. This is because most of the work is simply conforming the stems from the first temp to the new picture and then adding in the material to fill the holes.

Of course during this whole process the picture keeps changing as the director, the picture editor, the producers, and the studio all give opinions on what should be in or out of the film. "That entire scene is too long and isn't necessary for the story, let's cut it." Or "The actress is pretty good in take 4 but I think there is even more emotional impact in take 6." Or "Let's try putting the meeting between the characters in the restaurant before the party scene." And on and on and on. So of course the sound crew is continually trying to stay up to date. And those conforms take time away from straight up editing.

It can be quite an involved process.

September 19, 2004

Party With Pierogis

Yesterday was my friend's 30th birthday and in celebration her husband rented out the patio behind Warszawa, a Polish restaurant in Santa Monica. I've never had "fancy" pierogis before. I born outside of Detroit and lived there through my early childhood years, and I went to college in Chicago. I have had plenty of Polish influence and cuisine in my life over the years but this is the first time I have encountered the trendy, hipster Polish spot. It was very nice.

In fact they were nice enough to allow David to bring in CDs to play for the event and they even had a large screen and a projector so episodes of the Linda Carter "Wonder Woman" TV show played throughout much of the night.

I caught up with my friend Jim who I haven't seen in probably a year---we usually see each other at parties that David throws since he and Jim went to school together. I knew that Jim worked for several years with the writers on "Crossing Jordan". That show is shot on the Universal lot and I knew that they had their editing rooms on the second floor of the building I was in when our editorial was set up there. What I didn't realize was that all the offices for "Crossing Jordan" were up there. In the couple of months that I was in that building, walking in and out of the same front doors, I never once ran into Jim. Now I wish I had gone up to check out their offices.

The good news is that Jim has just this week started a new job as a full-fledged writer on "The Dead Zone". I was so glad about hear that. I know that he was working for years hoping that someone would eventually give him the chance and now he finally has it.

September 16, 2004

Hub Heavy

Is there a legitimate reason why USB hubs can weigh a few ounces but their power supplies need to be made out of 5 pounds of lead? Can anyone answer me this? My cellphone power supply--charger is small and light. The little white square that Apple ships with its iPods is very portable. For some reason I cannot fathom this does not seem to be possible for USB hubs.

09_16_04_1254.thumb.jpg

In this time of "every piece of audio software that I own needs a unique USB dongle to run", my USB ports are very valuable. I just picked up a new 7-port hub from Belkin that is quite slick. It has two ports on top which are perfect for dongles. Plus the hole in the middle allows easy stacking. But I swear to god, that power supply weighs as much as my PowerBook. It's not something I'd want to throw in my bag with will my other laptop goodies.

Several years ago I picked up a great little 3-port hub from Dr. Bott. It's perfect for laptops. But it is only 3-ports and even though it's pretty good about getting many USB devices to work off it, since it isn't self-powered it doesn't support everything.

There has to be something better out there.

Beneath The Radar

I couldn't get to my website for about 20 minutes this morning. Pair.com, my hosting company, now has this up on their status page:

Beginning around 8:30am today, a steadily increasing flooding attack began against a customer site. This attack temporarily affected approximately two-thirds of our hosted sites until a reconfiguration was made to separate that traffic from other customer traffic. At this time, only the targeted site is being affected. We will continue to work with our upstream providers and adjust our network filters in order to adapt to this attack, which is by far the largest we have ever seen.

My site is back up so I must not be the one hackers are so anxious to take down. The small blessings of not being very popular. ;)

Goodbye, Johnny

From the AP newswire:

Johnny Ramone, guitarist and co-founder of the seminal punk band "The Ramones" that influenced a generation of rockers, has died. He was 55.

And then there was Tommy...

September 13, 2004

The Software I Use

We got moved in to our new office today without too much trouble. I'm sharing a very small room with the ADR editor but thankfully it's only for two weeks. Tomorrow I have to finish installing the necessary software on my computer. When I was at Universal I did most of my work on my own laptop. I would just have to jump on to the other assistant's computer to digitize picture. But it's certainly nice to have a full-blown Pro Tools sitting in front of me again.

This is my list of necessary software for Pro Tools assisting:

  • Pro Tools (duh)
  • DigiTranslator
  • Titan
  • Tape
  • Change Note Assistant
  • Final Cut Pro
  • BBEdit
  • Word
  • Excel
  • Filemaker Pro
  • Toast
  • Peak
  • Soundminer
  • A Better Finder Rename
  • Quickeys
  • Retrospect
  • Lots of "home brew" AppleScripts

The only one of those programs I can't run in OS X is Tape. Damn effin' Tape. I need to find another way to print cuesheets. I'm going to try experimenting with converting sessions and printing cuesheets in Nuendo. It can't be that much more painful than Tape. Thankfully I can borrow I copy of Nuendo from the supervisor for my testing. If you're going to compare prices for printing, $1200 for Nuendo vs. $200 for Tape isn't much of a contest. Of course Nuendo is an entire sound editing program while Tape is just a piece of shit.

Moving Day

Today I'm saying 'goodbye' to Universal Studios. The show that was giving us space (not the show I'm working on right now) had an audience test screening last week and now it's hunkering down for some additional shooting and lots of editing. They're putting the sound crew on hiatus for several months.

Friday afternoon we ran around packing up rooms, breaking down Pro Tools systems, and rolling everything into two rooms that are being kept on the show so that things can be expanded quickly once it starts up again. This morning we're moving a couple of systems over to a new location in Burbank. Actually we were going to be setting up shop there in two weeks anyway since there's a little Disney project starting up then. But we had to find space for two weeks so my show can get through a temp dub and a test screening. We're taking over some temporary rooms until the main ones are ready on Sept. 27.

The good news for me is that I'll have a 5 minute commute to work.

September 9, 2004

Hello Kaiju!

Last night Cameron, Dana, Jesse and I experienced something extraordinary. We learned the true meaning of fear. We learned that "Danger Can Happen". We went to the Avalon in Hollywood for the Los Angeles premiere of "Kaiju Big Battel". I think Xeni Jardin described it best when she referred to it as part Japanese Monster Movie, part Mexican Wrestling Match, part Indie Rock Concert.

09_08_04_1958.thumb.jpg 09_08_04_2002.thumb.jpg 09_08_04_2005.thumb.jpg

The floor of the Avalon which normally holds hundreds of rock fans was dominated by a square wresting ring surrounded by a chain-link fence---the Danger Cage. Unlike your average wrestling-fare, the floor the of the Danger Cage was covered with small buildings, ready to be stomped on by giant monsters.

A little after 8pm the opening act started---a band called Darkness My Love. They weren't bad. A couple of their slower tunes had rhythms simultaneously pounded out on guitar, bass and drums while the lead guitar warbled in reverb-drenched spacey-ness, just the way I like it.

Of course we were really there to see guys running around in foam-rubber monster suits, pounding on each other and destroying the model city. We weren't disappointed.

09_08_04_2006.thumb.jpg 09_08_04_2102.thumb.jpg 09_08_04_2113.thumb.jpg

Since I've watched a lot of Godzilla movies and "Ultra-Man" TV shows in my day, I get the whole "Japanese Monster" thing. This one's a giant sea anemone mutated by nuclear fallout hell-bent on destroying Tokyo and that one was a brave astronaut accidentally killed in a tragic alien encounter but brought back to life and given super-powers and cool suit by the same alien. I was also a regular viewer of WWF back when Hulk Hogan was good and wrestling stars like Junkyard Dog, Iron Sheik, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, or pretty much anyone who showed up in a Cindy Lauper video tussled in the ring. So this event was full of things I loved as a kid.

And accordingly I had a great time. However I never went to an actual wrestling event when I was little and I realized that now I would much prefer to sit down with the heavily-edited and synchronized to music DVD, than stand in a sweltering rock club watching it live for 3 hours.

Things like the new kaiju hero Super Wrong! coming out, dancing to "Yatta!" and then getting immediately beaten in the fight or the drunken Hell Monkey falling all over himself were pretty damn funny. But the thing that was great was whenever one monster landed some "ouch that must of hurt" move on another---jumping off the top of the cage onto an opponent, punching the other so hard that they did a backflip and things like that. Unfortunately those great moves don't happen all the time and that's where for me the DVD would be better.

September 8, 2004

Hero At Large

It's very hot today. And very muggy too. We've been having this heat wave in Los Angeles and it hasn't been pleasant. I work all day long in a well air-conditioned building. So well air-conditioned that I often have a sweatshirt with me. To step from that 68°F indoor temperature to 100+°F outdoors is rather shocking.

I hopped into our cart to drive down to the ATM to get some cash for a little event I'm attending tonight. (More on that tomorrow.) Plus I figured it would be a nice change from the vending machines to see what refreshing drinks they were offering at the Universal's convenience store. Even sitting on my butt, clipping along in our cart I was sweating. It's so hot out.

The ATM and the store were uneventful but the real fun was on the way back to our building. One corner of the studio lot ins next to the lines for the Jurassic Park water ride in the theme park. Years ago a worked in a building near there and it was infuriating because that stupid John Williams theme would be in your head all day long. I came around the corner and passed by the line of tourists standing under the misters waiting to get soaked by the ride. At this point the road slopes down and passes between a sound stage on the left and back of several theme park stores and restaurants on the right. It's enough of a slope that you can feel the governor kick in and slow down the golf cart.

Even above the rattle of our puttering car I was could hear the wine of several engines. Suddenly four of the most colorfully garish ATVs I have ever seen turned the corner and started toward me. And riding those ATVs, decked head-to-toe in spandex during this lovely warmth, was Spider-Man, Green Goblin, Storm and Wolverine. I quickly dug in my pocket for my cellphone so I could snap a picture as I passed. Unfortunately the jouncing of the cart caused me to accidently hit the "Discard" button instead of "Store" and I lost it.

It was truly a classic sight. I only wish I could have shared it.

Another Week, Another Lounge

Once again I find myself sitting in the customer service lounge of Robertson Honda working on my computer. When I took my car in nearly two weeks ago for a check-up, there was one thing they couldn't complete without special-ordering a part.

I've had this recurring problem with my CR-V where the engine light comes and goes. When it first happened I looked it up in the owner's manual and found that it means there's a problem with the emissions system---usually it is no longer sealed. When I brought the car in they told me that it's usually because the gas cap isn't on tight enough. But they checked it out and found that the cap didn't seal properly and so they replaced it.

That was a year ago and it continues to be a problem. I might go months without an engine light and then one day it's on. I'll get out, turn the gas cap tighter and sometimes the light goes out. But sometimes it doesn't. And if it stays on, the next time I start my car it might be out. It's very random.

Well I explained this all to them again when I brought my car in this last time and they checked it out and decided that the gas tube that runs from the outside of my car down to the tank is malformed and that caps are not fitting properly because of it. They ordered the new part. It's now in and so I sit here waiting for my ride to Universal so I can go to work.

Since I've spent so many hours in these chairs I can definitely say that Robertson Honda has fairly comfortable chairs in their lounge. ;)

September 6, 2004

Me And LBC

I spent the day down in Long Beach enjoying good-natured political arguments, BBQ chicken and a 60" HDTV with my aunt and uncle. I can't believe how hot it was down there---easily in the 90s. That's very strange, especially for this time of year. I took some pretty pictures out the window on the drive home as the sun was sinking low in the sky.

September 4, 2004

Ghost Town

You can always tell if it's the Friday before a three-day weekend on a studio lot. The place will be a ghost town. Yesterday was no different. We were cruising around in our sad little golf cart passing row after row of empty parking spaces. Streets between sound stages that normally bustled with activity were quiet.

Studio executives usually take most if not all of that day off and it starts a cascade down to all employees. Those of us who end up actually doing work on that day feel a bit like Robert Neville late in the afternoon on a cloudy day.

Yesterday I didn't really remember that it was a three-day weekend until I walked into the commissary for lunch. Usually the various food stations have long lines of people waiting for a sandwich or "make your own pasta" or some cooked meat on a bun from the grill. Normally my food for the day is determined by answering the question, "What line is shortest?" Yesterday I had my pick since all lines were nonexistent.

After collecting my penne, chicken and marinara and paying for it. I walked into the dining area. That's when it really hit me. "Oh yeah. I don't have to go to work on Monday. And I still get paid for it." There are probably 50 tables where you can sit down and each your lunch at the employee commissary at Universal. On a normal day at about 1pm 48 of those will be filled with people eating, laughing, reading and generally taking a break from the day's duties. Yesterday there were people at 4 tables. One of those was occupied by people from my own crew who had gone to lunch a little early. Another held several of the picture editors from "Battlestar Galactica" who are at the other end of the hallway in our building.

It's days like these that make me feel like the entire world around me has shrunk down to the handful of people I see every single day. The rest of the world must be empty space because these are the only people that seem to exist. It's a strange feeling. If it weren't for the trams full of tourists driving by my office window every 5 minutes on their way to see the backlot, the falling bridge, the flood, King Kong and all the other little mini-attractions, the picture would have been complete yesterday. We definitely would have been a little island of Robert Nevilles surrounded by a sea of emptiness. At least until dark.

September 1, 2004

My World Of Film Sound

Yesterday I started working again with the fine folks at Universal Studios. Yes, those damn trams full of tourists are once again driving by my window every 5 minutes.

The nature of the movie business is such nowadays that studios are extremely reluctant to release movies without screening them for several test audiences and focus groups to make sure that there will be a market for the movies. After watching a test screening, every member of the audience is handed a piece of paper with lots of questions. Some of them are simple, "On a scale of 1 to 5, how much did you enjoy the film?" Others are ask for more information, "Who was your favorite character?" or "What was your favorite scene?" And still others are directed at that ever important "word-of-mouth" advertising, "Would you recommend this movie to your friends?" or "What reasons would you give a friend to see the movie?"

In general I feel that this kind of thing tends to dumb-down movies. You're playing up to the lowest common denominator instead of asking the audience to elevate themselves. And don't get me started on the fact that Hollywood can't seem to make a single original film anymore. Go pick up a copy of the Hollywood Reporter or Variety and you'll see that every single movie that's in production at Paramount right now is either a sequel or a remake of on old movie.

Be that as it may, working on movies pays my rent and post-production sound, even though sorely ignored in the budgetting-realm, is a fun job. So stepping into the assisting chair yesterday was an interesting one for me. I didn't start this movie. Someone else did, but it was on hiatus for a while while the studio worked on it.

That's another fact of life of the film business now. And the fact that a film goes on hiatus shouldn't be taken as a positive or a negative thing. It simply is. Under normal circumstances, post-production sound usually takes three-and-a-half to fourth months to complete. But I should be hesitant to use the word "normal" because often that is no longer the case. Since studios want to maximize their return on investment many shows today have longer post schedules while the studio tries to make a movie that will appeal to the largest audience. The sound department will often go on hiatus. If studios had to ok the final budget on movies prior to giving them the greenlight, they would never get made. We have to turn in budgets with 12 to 16 weeks for post-production sound even though the reality often turns into 20 to 26 or more.

This flexible scheduling also makes it difficult because shows often overlap now. Being a good supervising sound editor you line up your next three shows. But then the schedules start pushing and everything starts falling on top of each other. Now you need to scramble and hire second crews and figure out how you'll be on two dub stages at the same time. One possibility of course would be to not look for shows until after you've completed the previous one. But that can mean a lot of downtime. There is no easy solution so every tries to make do.

And that's why I'm here. I'm taking over the assisting on a show so that the assistant who actually started it can continue on another show that began during the hiatus. Of course the fact that I can't really talk about specifics on any of this makes things a little more difficult.

After starting up this weblog I imagined that I might talk about what it's like making movies from the post-production side of things. I still want to do that, but now that I'm sitting down to actually work on (nearly) an entire show, I'm finding myself hard-pressed to find interesting things to say---interesting things that I can actually talk about.

For example I can say that while I'm typing this I'm taking some files (about 5GB of digital picture) and copying them to another drive. Oooo! I can already see that you're enthralled. And now, I'm going to delete those files from the original drive. Aaaah! I know, I know. You can hardly contain yourself.

I will come up with something. You're welcome to ask questions and I'll answer as best I can. But now I must go... there's more copying to do.

August 30, 2004

HD Has The Sharpest Pictures

You know I was at my friends' house tonight enjoying good company and great tacos. They have a monster flat screen TV and an HD Direct TV box hooked up to it. I hadn't been over there in a while and I was disappointed to discover that a couple of the very few HD channels that are offered were only showing the damn Republican National Convention.

I got to see McCain's weird-ass watery red eye in all its nauseating detail. I was unpleasantly reminded of the "vulture eye" in "The Tell-Tale Heart".

McCain and his eye 1

Yuck.

McCain and his eye 2

Ew.

August 28, 2004

Tinker Toys

I am still here. I've just been busy tinkering away behind the scenes. I've been wanting to do a major revamp of this website for a while now. Some of you may have noticed a few bits and pieces as they've been installed, like my photo moblog. I've been working on a new look to go with it---and practicing my CSS.

Here's a sneak-peek:

New design sneak-peek

It's not done yet. But the major "look and feel" is pretty much in place. Now I'm adding in all the little extras. Then it's adding the new look to all the other templates. Lots of testing to make sure I didn't miss anything. And then installing it on my website. Maybe I'll be done by the end of the weekend. That would be nice.

Of course the new Movable Type 3.1 will be out in a couple of days. I should probably wait until then so see what new fun things I can add in. But sometimes I get the urge for these things and I have to keep going no matter what.

I've also been reading "Xenocide" by Orson Scott Card. Fantastic book.

Ok, time to get back to things...

August 26, 2004

Some People Are So Very Annoying

There are several of us sitting here waiting for our cars in the customer lounge at the Robertson Honda service center. Most people are reading or just sitting. Two young men walked in about 20 minutes ago and they are quietly to each other in Spanish.

A fellow Mac-user walked in about 40 minutes ago and perhaps inspired by my own use of my laptop, pulled out his iBook and started typing away in Word. (You can tell by those annoying sounds that Microsoft products make if you don't go into the general perferences and turn them off.)

Our quiet patience was rudely interrupted a few minutes ago. A man, perhaps in his early 50s, shuffled over to the corner where the TV is mounted to the wall, and proceeded to turn it on. My fellow Mac-user was sitting right next to the television. He shot the man an ugly look, pointedly gathered up his things and moved to the other end of the lounge. I don't blame him. We were all enjoying the escape from the ever-present brain-drain of the TV.

To make things worse, the man who turned on the TV sat down in a seat, pulled out a book and began reading. I can't believe he would actually annoy everyone with the television and then not actually watch it himself.

I'm tempted to go over and turn it off.

A mother and her daughter, 8 or 9 years old, just walked in. The girl is now watching. I don't want to make things more unpleasant for her than necessary. I remember sitting in lounges like this with my mom when I was little. It's boring enough when you're an adult---in can be shear torture as a child.

That guy is still not actually watching television!

I just noticed that it's "The View" that's on. Poor girl. At least she should be enjoying some cartoons.

Brave New World

Ok, this is cool.

I took my car in for it's 20,000 mile check-up. They say it's going to take 2 hours and since I'm not working right now, I figured I might as well just sit and wait for it. Renting a car for 2 hours is silly.

Last night in anticipation of that, I finished setting up my idmonsters.dev virtual host on my laptop. I had already installed Movable Type 3, but I imported all the entries from my weblog, duplicated my templates from my regular site, and copied all the settings. Plus I installed Gallery and downloaded a copy of my albums. So I've logged into a local copy of MT and I'm working away on a newer, cooler version while I wait for my car.

But wait, it gets better... since I previously configured my laptop to log in to the internet using my cellphone as a bluetooth modem, I was able to jump online, check my email and make this post. It's slow. I wouldn't want to always be at this speed. But it works. And I'm just sitting here in the customer lounge of Robertson Honda.

It's an exciting technological world we live in.

August 21, 2004

The Long Walk

Well I'm finally home from work---8am to 1am yesterday, 9am to 12am today. It's getting tough to concentrate. Thankfully it will all be over after tomorrow when I enter back into the world of the unemployed... wait a second, maybe that's not as cool as it was sounding. :)

Hopefully that will be only for a week. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

So after these two long-ass back-to-back days, I'm walking back to my car and I have to pass through the Universal backlot to get there. They put me in this lot that's way in the back, it's pretty close to my building which is nice and even closer to my apartment than the normal entrance, but I do feel like a second class citizen at times. It's after midnight but this section of the backlot with NYC-like buildings is lit up like daylight with flood lights because they're filming something. According to one of the thousands of studio tour trams that drive by me everyday, it's XXX 2 that they're shooting. But who knows. So I'm walking by when this guard calls out to me.

"Hey, you! Stop!"

I turn around. "What?"

"You can't go there. We're filming."

"Yeah, well I have to go home." I turn and start walking away.

"Stop. Don't go any farther! They're shooting all the way to the steps there."

"Those steps lead to my car. In fact they're the only way to my car since your stupid studio decided that my great parking spot that was next my building was too good for me and put me all the way back here." Actually I didn't really say that. The thoughts were floating through my mind though. In fact the only thing that came out my mouth was, "Ok."

"Hang on." The guard proceeds to have a long discussion that I can only hear half of with someone on the other end of a walkie-talkie. "It'll be just a minute."

The minutes seem to crawl by as I stand impatiently---dying to slide behind the wheel of my car, knowing that it'll only take a few minutes to drive home and crawl in bed. (Wait a second... why am I staying up to write this?!) My anxiety must show because the guard gives me a shrug which could be sympathy or could be something along the lines of "like I care".

"It's been a really long day," I say. The guard just looks at me.

I turn back to gaze longingly at the steps that lead to my freedom when I notice a man with all-manner of tools hanging off several belts that are strapped around him walk right through the area I was so recently told I can't walk through. I turn back to the guard to lodge a protest when suddenly the walkie-talkie bursts to life with a squawk.

"You can go ahead," the guard says to me. And I walk away without another word.

August 19, 2004

What A Crazy Day!

I've been so busy the last week. Most days at work have been 8am to 10pm. I've been trying to squeeze time in for testing ecto before I go to bed but there's not a lot for that. I was having a lot of trouble posting to my weblog with ecto. I think I have all the bumps worked out. I'll write about it later when I'm sure.

I ended up doing an emergency reconfigure of my website to get ecto running. It was something I was always planning on doing but not in such a short time span. Unfortunately it's left my photo albums in such a state that my email to Gallery gateway isn't working right now. Hopefully I can get that up in the next day or so. I have some cool late-night shots of Universal's backlot on my phone right now.

And my iPod decided to take a dump. Totally the wrong time for it. I live for that thing. It's been fitful for awhile now. I've noticed it's been having more and more trouble accessing the disk properly. Sometimes I would select a song and it would take a while to start playing or it just wouldn't play. Occasionally it would go into clicking fits. Now I can't seem to get it to play things at all. And my trick of resetting it by holding down the Play and Menu buttons now just erases everything off the hard drive. Of course it's like a year and half old so it's completely out of warrantee. And it's the choice between $200 or $250 or whatever they're charging to "fix" out-of-warrantee iPod's now and $300 or $400 for a new one...

So of course I scheduled one of the three runs I had to make to the foley stage today in such a way that I could stop by CompUSA and pick up a new 4G iPod. I told you, I can't live without my iPod.

Oh yeah, and I'm still at work right now.

August 16, 2004

Never Forget

The Shoah Foundation is set up in the building I'm working in. They're all about documenting the Holocaust through survivor testimonies. It's a remarkable undertaking.

Shoah Foundation Plaque

They have this amazing robotic video server behind glass in the lobby. A rotating high-density tape storage system holds thousands and thousands, probably tens of thousands, of 8mm tapes. Videotapes? Data tapes? I'm not sure.

High denisty tape storage

A robotic arm grabs tapes from the storage racks after scanning its barcode with a laser.

Robotic arm grabs a tape.

A then turns around a places it in one of several tape drives and gently taps it in.

Robotic arm inserts a tape in the drive.

There are also several racks of enormous SGI computers. I'm assuming that someone sits down at a computer and calls up a particular testimonial. The robot is then told which tape to retrieve, grabs it, and places it in the appropriate drive.

If every tape contains the testimony of one survivor they have a lot of stories archived. If there is more than one per tape, they have an enormous amount.

Say 'Hello' to Mr. Murphy

Tape wouldn't print. Pro Tools kept crashing on "Save Session Copy In". The copier decided it wanted to smear the right half of all pages so they'd be unreadable. The printer overheated so we couldn't even print things outside of Tape. The narrow SCSI drives refused to mount. A crew member's grandmother suddenly got deathly ill. And even though someone was nice enough to give us the left-overs from Brett Ratner's dub stage for dinner, it was all Chinese food and I don't really like Chinese food.

Yes, it definitely was the night before Temp 1.

August 15, 2004

What Up With That?

So I'm over here at Universal Studios working away. This place has to have the absolute slowest internet connection I've ever seen! And it's a major film studio! I don't know if the IT guys are throttling things back so that employees can't waste bandwidth with streaming internet radio or something but it can absolutely crawl at times.

The picture department of the show I'm on is down in Hollywood. In traffic it can take a while to for a runner to get there and back with things. So we're using an FTP site to exchange things like change notes, EDLs and composition-only OMFs. Yesterday it took me 45 minutes to download 37MB!

I've got one word for that: lame. Ok, how about two? Lame ass. Actually, maybe that should be hyphenated: lame-ass. So does that make it one word or two?

August 9, 2004

Monkey Hate Clean

Who can forget the Bathroom Monkey?

"Now my bathroom's monkey clean and monkey fresh."

Koko on the other hand, doesn't hate clean. As recently mentioned by Boing Boing, Koko asked to see the dentist for a tooth ache. Feel better, Koko. Maybe the doctor will let you pick a goodie from the jar.

And while I'm on the subject of monkey business, we should all take a second to mourn the passing of Fay Wray, the beautiful blonde damsel-in-distress from King Kong.

(Sorry about the Windows Media file of "Bathroom Monkey". I know it totally sucks. I have another copy that's a muxed MPEG1 (VCD format) but Quicktime Pro was refusing to acknowledge the audio tracks when I went to convert it to MP4 and I didn't want to spend the time now looking for a demuxing program.)

August 4, 2004

For Whom The Coffee Breaks

I'm helping out a new show. Tomorrow we are going to do a temp mix on a couple of reels so that a studio executive can give notes over the weekend. Unfortunately the first reel just showed up this morning and the I haven't seen the second one yet. Might be a late night.

It's super secret but I smuggled this picture out. ;)

Secret Picture

July 30, 2004

Eat Your Heart Out On Plastic Tray

Wow! What a wacky couple of days. And it's not quite over yet. I've been in super-geek tech mode for a while now. I succumbed to temptation and decided to get a new cellphone. Motorola's überfon, the V600.

The "talking on the phone" part of it was easy. Pop the SIM out of my old phone into the new and it's all good. It's all the other goodies---the Bluetooth and the Wireless Internet that took forever. It's all working now. I'll compile all my info into a post later. I'm sure that others will find it helpful.

And now of course I'm having trouble with my ISP. That's the other thing that's been driving me nuts. Charter Pipeline has some bizarro routing bug that's popped up. Most websites work fine. However .Mac does not. In fact everything under the mac.com domain is not working for me which means I can't check my email, I can't mount my iDisk, I can't get to my mac.com website. Nothing. When I talked to Charter tech support, they could get to it fine, so something weird is going on.

Plus FTP to pair.com, the kind people who host this website, is being wonky. I can connect to the server and download anything I like off my website but I can't upload a thing. It keeps timing out. I noticed something rather suspicious in the Transmit log:

Cmd: PASV
227: Entering Passive Mode (209,68,1,138,239,245)
Cmd: STOR SciFi and Fantasy Books to Read.txt
150: Data connection accepted from 68.190.214.52:49772; transfer starting.
Could not read reply from control connection -- timed out.

Am I crazy or is the FTP port supposed to be 21? Not 49772. That's what makes me think there's a routing problem at Charter. But hey, what do I know.

I just checked again, and now everything seems to be working correctly. (knock wood) So it's only been like 17 hours of downtime for me.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot... I've also started teaching myself Perl with the help of this excellent book.

July 24, 2004

Occasionally Glancing Up Through The Rain

I've been listening to a ton of Pink Floyd recently. You know how you get in those "moods"---there's that one album or maybe a particular genre is really speaking to you at the moment? I'm going through that with Pink Floyd. I'm not sure what sparked this. I've always been a fan, but I've only had the big four albums on CD. Ok, maybe the big 3 plus a smaller 4th: "Dark Side Of The Moon", "Wish You Were Here", "The Wall", and "Meddle". Oh yeah, I did have "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" for a long time too. Oh, and "Momentary Lapse Of Reason" and "The Division Bell". Oh well. So I had a few of the very well known ones and some others.

I never owned a copy of "Animals". Not sure why. I just never did. I had many other albums on cassette when I was in high school. "Final Cut", "Atom Heart Mother", etc. But something spurred this Pink Floyd kick in me so I went out and picked up pretty much all the CDs I didn't have, and for about the past month now I've been listening to them a lot. Man! What good stuff. Of course those classic albums are amazing, but there are so many good songs on their other albums. They may not be a strong on whole but there are several great tunes from "Obscured By Clouds" and that live disk of "Ummagumma" is fantastic.

My buddy Ben gave the the "Live At Pompeii: Director's Cut" DVD a while back and I hadn't gotten around to checking it out. So that's gone into heavy rotation too. I have to say, the original concert film is great. Sure, it's pretty dated with its special effects, but it all fits with the time period. And the performances are awesome. It's actually pretty similar to the "Ummagumma" live disk plus 3 songs from "Meddle"---"Echoes", "One Of These Days", and "Mademoiselle Nobs" (an early version of "Seamus" ).

I'm very disappointed with the Director's Cut of the film however. Adrian Maben did himself a big disservice by releasing that cut. He had this great concert film, and he shot a lot of interesting stuff of Pink Floyd in the studio while they were making "Dark Side". He should have simply released a separate documentary of that material. Instead he combines the two together and adds in a bunch of extra new b-roll---NASA space archive footage, newly shot footage at various Ancient Rome museum exhibits, and some really cheesy CGI outerspace planet fly-by stuff. What he winds up with is a bizarre hodge-podge of seemingly unrelated material.

If there is one thing that's bummed me out about my recent music kick, it's that I wish I'd had these albums in my collection years ago, particularly "Animals". I don't know what I was thinking. One of the best parts is when Dave Gilmour's solo kicks in right around 3:30 in "Dogs". I might just have to do another Cool Song Parts with Pink Floyd tunes.

July 23, 2004

Once Again The RIAA's Claims Are Shown To Be False

This is a good article from the UK's Guardian about a study of illegal music downloads versus music sales. (Of course I found it because of Boing Boing. Those guys have everything.)

Previously I wrote about another study, this one done by professors at Harvard and the University of Chicago that showed the same thing. It is interesting to note that two independent studies obtained the same results. And of course in both instances they were dismissed by the RIAA as inaccurate.

This latest study brings up the point that between 1999 and 2003, the price of DVD players has dropped from nearly $1000 to "next to nothing" and that DVD discs have dropped 25% in price. And during the same time the price of CDs has risen by 10%. One of their explanations for a decrease in sales is that they've moved elsewhere from CDs to DVDs.

There is also this significant quote from the article:

Some even question whether the fall in sales the RIAA quotes is real, or a product of a creative redefinition of the word "sale". Even if it is real, there is one final fly in the ointment that can't easily be explained away: during the past nine months, CD sales in America have increased by 7%, despite continued growth in file sharing.

As Strumpf says: "If file sharing is killing record sales, why are records starting to sell better?"

As I said before, it doesn't seem that downloading MP3s from Kazaa and other illegal services can truly explain the claims made by the RIAA.

July 21, 2004

Unfortunately Frank's Not Around To Save The Day

Since I've already started out the day with a political stance, I might as well continue. Paul Krugman wrote a fascinating editorial in the "New York Times" yesterday called "The Arabian Candidate" where he puts forth the idea that despite all the bumper stickers to the contrary, Al Qaeda would probably much prefer a second term Bush to Kerry.

Mr. Bush's "war on terror" has, however, played with eerie perfection into Osama bin Laden's hands - while Mr. Bush's supporters, impressed by his tough talk, see him as America's champion against the evildoers.

(The New York Times requires registration to read their online paper. With all the weblogs linking to articles from this paper and others, it's probably a good idea to start setting up accounts for yourself. However, I completely understand if you're miffed by this. Bug Me Not will help you out by giving you a username and password. Actually Cory Doctorow has an nice little blurb about the evils of registration.)

Thanks to Boing Boing (again) for leading me to Aaron Schwartz's site which lead me to the editorial.

It's Ok To Say The President Is An Idiot

I found this quote at the top of the Download for Democracy website:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

---Theodore Roosevelt

What a fantastic quote! Of course this fits perfectly with my sensibilities. This whole "love it or leave it" attitude that has been so pervasive in the American public, particularly during the George W. Bush administration and his war on terror, has really rubbed me the wrong way. In my mind it always seemed that criticism is very American. That our country was founded on the ideals of open discussion of ideas.

Aren't we the country who on July 4, 1776 said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Who decided that we would break our ties with the British monarchy because we were tired of the crown making unilateral decisions for us without regard for our own opinions.

Aren't we the same country who said on December 15, 1791, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

It says it all right there in the final clause, the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." That says to me that we can criticize the President. Before we abolished slavery, before we gave women the right to vote, we felt it was important that people could speak their mind about our government and our leaders.

So I decided to research the Roosevelt quote further. It sounds great but what was its context? We have unfortunately turned into a nation (and perhaps a world) of sound-bites. That quote seems to support an idea that I feel is important. But does it really?

America entered World War I on April 6, 1917. In September 1917, the Kansas City Star started running editorials by Theodore Roosevelt about the war. He probably seemed like a good choice. Not only was he a veteran of the Spanish-American War, but during his presidency he started to change America's tendency towards isolationism with his semi-imperial policies towards Central and South America. In fact after the Germans destroyed a field hospital on September 7, 1917, Roosevelt wrote a biting column in the paper about Germany's "calculated brutality" and their "deliberate policy of wickedness".

But if the paper was hoping to only get hawkish war cries from the ex-President they were out of luck. On May 7, 1918, he wrote the editorial which the quote above is from. The war in Europe was still raging. The armistice was not declared until November 11. And yet even during this, during wartime, Roosevelt felt it was important that we not forget that it is ok to speak out against the President and his policies. This is a longer version of the quote I found at The Theodore Roosevelt Association:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

I definitely need to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt. He sounds like he was a good man.

July 20, 2004

Why Can't I Touch The Sky?

Thirty-five years ago today Neil Armstrong stepped on to the surface of the moon. He was the first human to walk on the ground of something other than our own planet.

It's pretty remarkable to think that on May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard was the first American to leave the Earth's atmosphere. In 8 years, 2 months, and 15 days we went from our first manned flight in space to walking on the moon. What happened in the intervening years?

I'll fully admit that I'm a sci-fi fan and a space enthusiast. Sure, I'm biased. Sure, I think that sending a team of scientists to Mars would be a far greater accomplishment for humanity than overthrowing the dictator of a Middle-Eastern country. But I still ask the question, what happened to those 35 years?

How come in that time we've gone from a computer that would fill an entire building to the one that is currently sitting on my lap and has who knows how many thousands of times more computational power than its predecessor, and yet we haven't walked on Mars yet? How come we are only now just starting to explore the majestic rings of Saturn but it's only with a robotic spacecraft? How come we haven't gone to check out the oceans on Jovian moon, Europa, to see if there's life beneath the ice?

This anniversary leaves me torn. I celebrate the accomplishments of those remarkable men and women who showed us that no dream is out of reach. And I mourn the time that was squandered after our remarkable achievement.

July 19, 2004

Copyright Law And Public Domain

Yesterday I read an interesting article from Reuters by way of Boing Boing.

Fifty years after it was first released in the United States, Elvis Presley's "That's All Right" is a hit in Great Britain...

If there are no changes in European copyright law, the track will fall into public domain Jan. 1, 2005. Anyone will be able to release it without paying royalties to the owners of the master or the performer's heirs.

Copyright is a topic that I've been thinking about a lot recently. This article put a lot of things in focus for me. People are really interested in what will happen in Europe because 1955 is considered the start of the rock 'n' roll era. Every year more and more recordings will go into public domain.

January 1, 2005 will also see "Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley & The Comets and "Only You" by The Platters enter public domain in much of Europe. In 1956, a whole slew of Elvis songs: "Heartbreak Hotel", "Don't Be Cruel", "Hound Dog", "Love Me Tender" and others. Plus Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" and Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and it keeps going.

How about The Beatles? "Twist and Shout" is public domain in Europe in 2013. The Rolling Stones' "Time Is On My Side" in 2014, and "My Generation" by The Who in 2015.

Here in America, our rules are a little more strict. The single that started this off "That's All RIght" won't be public domain until 2051. Recordings that were made prior to 1977 enter public domain 95 years after they were recorded. Recordings made in 1977 or later are covered under copyright until 70 years after the artist's death.

Under that second provision of the law, the first recordings that will enter public domain in the U.S. will be in 2048 for artists that recorded songs in 1977 and died that same year. Interestingly enough, since Elvis died in 1977 his last recording, "Unchained Melody", will be public domain 3 years prior to his first.

I have actually been looking into U.S. copyright laws because of this interest I've taken in recording audiobooks. The rules for literature are a little bit different. Since Project Gutenberg is all about bringing public domain literature to the masses, they have a nice overview of U.S. copyright law.

The easy one is that anything published prior to January 1, 1923 is public domain. It quickly goes downhill from there, and gets fairly complex. Anything published prior to 1978 is under copyright for 95 years, minus some exceptions. Literature created after January 1, 1978 enters public domain 70 years after the death of the author. Literature written prior to January 1, 1978 but not published until after then falls under that same 70 year guideline so it will not enter public domain until 2048. And there are couple even crazier rules about 1989 and 1964. You can read it over at the Gutenberg site.

I would be surprised if European copyright law doesn't change this year or the next to fall more into line with the U.S. version. There are too many corporate entities that stand to lose too much money if they don't.

July 18, 2004

Working For The Man

I picked up another week of work assembling and phasing dialogue tracks for a friend. She likes the fact that I'm willing to start on Saturday so I can turn over things to her Sunday night for the editors to work on Monday. It's been taking up my time and focus but at some point I'll take a break and offer up some more insights into things.

July 16, 2004

What Is Popular?

I find it interesting to see what others consider interesting articles on my site---or at least which ones are popular. A few a pretty obvious. In one post I listed all the links Avid Quicktime Codecs. Avid does not have a very well orgainzed site and they're extremely difficult to find. After the second or third time of spending an hour and finally finding them, I put together the page so that if I ever forgot, I could go there. Of course I'm not the only one who's had that trouble so it gets a lot of visitors.

I have written a couple of things about the controversy surround the release of Movable Type 3.0. I don't think they were particularly interesting articles but in the case of one of them. I was literally the first person to respond to a post by Mena. So I hold that prime position of the very first trackback listed on that page. That draws a lot of traffic.

There are several others. Ones that happen to have that right combination of keywords that trigger it in Google. Ones that hold key positions on other pages---usually having nothing to do with the actual quality of the content of the article.

I've been running this weblog for nearly 6 months now. That's pretty short compared to a lot of other weblogs out there. My posts have changed over time. I've found certain things that interest me and I tend to write about them more than I write about others. Ideas that seemed important at first are less important now. Or in some cases are no less important in my mind but I know that others can handle it much better than I.

Recently my posts have been mostly one of 4 types: educational---here's something I figured out, let me show you how it's done, audio---since sound is my job it makes sense that it's on my mind a lot, life stories---these tend to be along the lines of "when I was a kid" though sometimes they relate current events too, things found on the net---I don't send out those chain letter emails and I don't post lots and lots of "oh I read this online". I read lots of things online. It's only a certain few things that tickle me a certain way that I decide to include in my weblog.

There are definitely a few posts that I'm particularly proud of---ones that I've thought I did a really good job on. Those aren't necessarily ones that are all that popular. In fact because this weblog is the tiniest reflection of my life, sometimes there are posts that I hold in high regard---not because of the words themselves but because of the ideas behind them. I recently had that with the audiobook I recorded. It means a lot to me. And even though I solicited for feedback I only got it from two people. And I asked them for their opinion through a separate email.

So I guess what I'm saying is that it's all a bit of a mystery to me. I try not to let it get me down when I'm really excited about something and no one else is. I also try not to dwell too much in the other direction either. I have had a couple of posts that have been hugely popular (at least for the amount of traffic that my site tends to get).

My post yesterday falls into that category. I had 183 visitors just to that post because someone felt it interesting enough that they posted it to MacSurfer. It really surprised me. They even listed it under "Editorial and Opinion". And I guess that's true. But pretty much my entire site falls in that category. If you're going to speak in your own voice (or even one that you've created) on your own website, it's actually fairly hard not to enfuse that voice with your opinions.

Is that my best post on this site? I don't think so. I won't call it filler but it was definitely just some things that were floating around in the back of my mind. Not something I would consider a major post. But then why did someone take notice of it enough that they put on MacSurfer? I have no idea.

And like I said, I try not to dwell too much on being popular. It would probably drive me crazy if I worked and worked at trying to duplicate the success of yesterday. Or especially the prior time I was posted to MacSurfer and I wound up with over 800 visitors in a day.

So I just keep on keeping on. Writing about the things I find interesting. Or passing on bits of information that I think others will find helpful. I hope a few people find it interesting and helpful.

July 13, 2004

What Kind Of Japanese Geek Are You?

This was posted over at Boing Boing:

Japanese Heirarchy

One of the funnier things I've read recently. I almost wet myself. From Midaregami. So where do those of us who just think ninjas are totally sweet fit in?

July 12, 2004

I'm A Writer Because The Pizza Delivery Person Says So

I ordered a pizza for a little nourishment this evening and it was just delivered. Thin crust. I've decided it's really the only way to go. I went to college in Chicago so I know how thick pizzas can really get but I have to say that thin is better. Thin and crispy.

But that wasn't actually the point of this little anecdote. The point was the woman who delivered my pizza asked me, "Are you a writer for television?"

I was momentarily caught off-guard.

"What?"

"Are you a writer for television?"

"Oh! Uh, no."

"Ah. Well, you look like a writer. See ya."

"Bye."

So there you go. The pizza delivery person says so.

July 9, 2004

Time Is Of The Essence

It's been quite a busy week for me, in fact it seems to have slipped right by me.

I read Terry Pratchett's "The Thief Of Time" recently. (Or more accurately, listened to it.) A couple of the main characters of the story are History Monks. They're responsible for taking care of time. The make use of devices called Spinners to adjust the flow of time. When someone is stuck in a boring lecture and time seems to crawl by, they can siphon some of that time off and use it areas where it's needed.

Thinking back on this past week made me think of that. I could have used that extra time. Or maybe one of those monks siphoned it away from me and that's why I can't seem to remember it. Actually that's not true. I remember what I did every single day this week. I'm just finding it remarkable that it passed so quickly.

When I was a kid I used to have this feeling that time passed so slowly. It seemed like forever until Christmas came around again or my next birthday. I thought it would take an eternity until I was finally able to get my driver's license.

Now I'm afraid that time slips through my fingers like water. You cup your hands. Squeeze your fingers together as tight as possible hoping to seal all the cracks but it's no use. The water still drains away. Still slides through spaces that might even been too small for you to see.

It is strange that the older we get the faster time passes before us. You blink and weeks have gone by. Stop and stretch and a year has passed.

I have spent 30 years on this planet and with any luck I'll spend another 30 here---and hopefully another 30 after that. I just wonder how long it'll actually take for those next 30 to pass me by.

July 5, 2004

This Is Not My Beautiful House

Oh come on. You know you've done it. Everyone does it. At some point, no matter how many times you tell yourself that you're not going to give in, you type your own name into the search field at Google. Just to see what pops up.

I have discovered that there are several versions of "not me" out there. Many others who---though they share my appellation---are not I.

I discovered that there is Jon Michaels, country music star. In fact you'll find the most stuff on Google about him. I think he wins the award for being the most famous of all of us.

And of course, Jon Michaels, student of electrical engineering at the University of Illinois. He's even built his own arcade game cabinet for MAME.

Don't forget Jon Michaels, the hottest DJ in South Dakota, serving all your wedding, graduation, and other party needs. There are pictures of someone with my name hanging out with Wolfman Jack on that website!

One of my favorite movie critics, Joe Bob Briggs, did a bit nearly 15 years ago about how most radio guys are named Michaels. There are a few Jon's in that list.

And would you look at that! I just found one at 93 KKNU. Jon Michaels, country radio DJ plays all the hits to relax you on your drive home from work.

There is also Jon Michaels, professional wrestler, who doesn't sound like he's very good. I quote: "Justin then mercilessly beat the hell out of Jon with a steel chair, repeatedly."

And of course this list couldn't possibly be complete unless there was a gay pornstar with my name. Thankfully he doesn't have his own website. But he did wind up on the back cover of a movie called "Mass Appeal". You'll have to click the "continue reading" link below to experience that one.

Continue reading "This Is Not My Beautiful House" »

June 29, 2004

Damn The Machine

Recently I placed an order with Amazon for a few goodies. The shipment arrived today. I got this cool Star Trek Star Chart book. (Ok, maybe it's pretty geeky, but it's also cool.) I've always been curious how it all fits together. Where's the Federation--Romulan border? In fact the Federation also has borders with the Klingons and the Cardassians. Where are they? Sure it's all a fantasy, but I have a great Atlas of Middle Earth which I love too. Those kinds of things always fascinate me.

I also bought the new Gun 'N Roses Velvet Revolver album. I was extremely disappointed when I saw the sticker on the front proclaiming that it was protected from copying. I hate that stuff. It needs to go away. So after several choice expletives, I slide the CD into my laptop, and held my breath...

All I can say is, you gotta love the Mac. iTunes had no problem ripping the CD. Despite the so-called copy protection on the disc I was able to make my own personal digital files. I didn't even have to hold down the Shift key to bypass the protection. (I've read that's the way around it.) And I didn't have to touch those stupid pre-ripped DRM-filled WMV files on the data portion of the CD.

The big thing that bugs me---well, the second big thing, the first is the copy protection itself---is that Amazon makes no mention on their website that the CD has the protection. They have a huge database with all kinds of field associated with each product. I really feel that they should make a note of the albums that make use of this. If I had been in a record store, I would have been able to see the sticker and decide if I wanted to buy the album. Online I had no such warning.

It all worked out, so no harm done I guess. But the big lesson of the day? Sucks to be a Windows user. :P

June 27, 2004

Instant Karma's Gonna Get You

I stopped by Barnes & Nobles this morning and picked up a couple of books on writing style---the AP one, and Strunk and White. I figured it couldn't hurt if I refreshed my memory on the best ways to put things to paper (or screen, as the case may be). Maybe gussy this place up a little bit. Comb its hair, and slip on a nice button-down shirt.

On the way back to my car, a very pregnant woman in the garage asked me if I thought her battery was dead. I told her to turn the key. When I heard the rapid click click click, and saw the lights flash in time on her dashboard, I said, "Yup, it's dead." That's when I noticed her elderly mother in and young daughter in the car. None of them spoke English very well.

I showed her how to put her car and neutral and I rolled it out of the parking spot. I pulled up my car next to hers and got out my jumper cables.

I spent nearly 2 years driving a 1977 Jeep Grand Cherokee---a car which I nicknamed "Penance". (That's a story for another time.) It was definitely a tempermental old thing. If I got one thing out of my experience with Penance it was an appreciation for all the things that could go wrong with a car. I'm not too bad with the jumper cables now. And I've learned to always carry those along with a random assortment of tools, rags, and a first aid kit in my car.

So I went to hook up the jumper cables and I immediately saw another reason why I like my Honda CR-V much better than the Toyota RAV-4, which the woman was driving. My Honda has its battery right out in the open. Easy to get to. The Toyota's battery is up in the corner, nearly under the windshield covered by the big piece of plastic that you have to remove 6 plastic screws from. It's real pain. Especially since we were partially blocking traffic in the Burbank Media Center garage.

But I finally got that off and hooked up the cables, attaching the last black cable to her engine block like I was taught all those years ago when I took my first driver's ed class. We waited 5 minutes and she tried the ignition. More clicking.

"Damn!" I thought, and my mind immediately went to the burned out alternator that I once had to replace in Penance. This might not be as simple as I thought.

A man wandered up. My car was blocking his and he wanted to leave.

"Not working?" he asked.

The woman turned the key again but the car just made clicking noises. The man walked over to her engine and moved the black clip from the engine block to the negative terminal on her battery. She turned the key again and the car immediately sprang to life.

Everyone was saved. The woman had a working car. The man was able to get out of his parking spot and I was covered in dirt from a car that had not been washed in a while. Perhaps I got a few extra points of karma for that one.

One final note on all of this...

The woman offered me $5 for helping her. Of course I refused with a "Just glad I could help." But there was a little voice of annoyance in the back of my brain.

Take notes people:

When someone helps you, the proper thing to do is to offer to compensate them. And as the helper the proper thing to do is the politely decline. However this all falls apart if the helpee doesn't offer proper compensation. That's the game.

"But you wouldn't have accepted any amount of money from her, right? So why be annoyed?"

Because there should still be a proper value to things. If I had said, "Sorry, I can't help you." Or if I didn't have jumper cables, she'd eventually have to call a towing company to give her a jump. It would have probably cost $40 or $50. So in my book, a proper amount to offer someone who helped you with a jump would be like $20. I still would have refused it---even if it was $50. It's simply acknowledging the value of the help that someone just gave you.

When I lost my cell phone, and eventually realized that I had dropped it in the cab I took to pick up my car from the repair shop, I gave the cabbie $40 for returning it to me. And I made him take it. I might have given him more if I had it on me. The phone cost me $100. It would have cost me at least that much to replace it. He did me a huge service by just meeting me at a certain place and time to return the phone. There was value in the help he gave me, and I showed a proper appreciation for it.

So there you go. Your little polite appreciation lesson of the day brought to you by Uncle Jon.

June 23, 2004

Express Yourself In 10 Easy Steps

This is my new favorite smiley:

Don't Eff With Me

It seems to exude oh-so-subtly that idea of “Don’t Eff with me and I won’t Eff with you.”

Available along with many others—these are really meant to be used as avatars more than smilies—from those “Joy of Tech” geniuses, Nitrozac and Snaggy.

June 22, 2004

Qualification: You Are An Organic Meatbag, Master.

Knights of the Old Republic is perhaps the greatest game I’ve ever played. I literally spent a month last year trying to finish it. I was in the middle of doing the sound for a movie, I think it was “Honey”—might’ve been “SWAT”, but I’m pretty sure it was “Honey”. On a normal night, I don’t get home until 8pm and I’m usually off to work at 7 or 7:30 the next morning. Sometime during that short period of time, I try to catch my 8 hours of sleep too.

So there I was, working on this show during the day, staying late when I had to, working the occasional weekend, and every single second of free time outside of that, I was playing KOTOR. Every night when I got home, the Xbox was fired up, and I was fighting against the Dark Side like the good Jedi I was. Needless to say I wasn’t getting my 8 hours for that month. And there were a few weekends too—3 if I remember correctly. I’d have to stop occasionally for food, or do laundry, or things like that but otherwise it was about the Force.

Awesome game. So much fun. And the plot twist! Bioware, the makers of the game, always puts a cool twist in their plots about 2/3 of the way into their games. I didn’t see that one coming. It rocked my work.

So how cool is that I read today over on Wil Wheaton’s site that he auditioned for Knights of the Old Republic 2? Oh that would be the greatest thing ever if he got the part. Here’s my letter to Bioware:

Dear Bioware,

You rock. I have played nearly every one of your games. The Baldur’s Gates were awesome. Of course Neverwinter Nights is the best thing to happen to D&D since D&D was invented. But the greatest of them all is Knights of the Old Republic. You need to put Wil’s voice all up and down the sequel. That would kick ass. It was cool to hear Neelix in the original. But come on, we’re talking Wesley here.

So keep making great games and I’ll keep playing them. And don’t forget Wil. He rules.

Love,

Jon

And since I’m on the “my mind is making strange connections” trip today, the funny thing is Wil joked about the new game being called “KOTOR2: Electric Boogaloo”. Of course that’s a long standing joke about the name of any sequel every since the real one “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” came out. “Honey” the movie I was working on when I played the original KOTOR game is based heavily on the storyline of “Breakin’ 2”. Not that this is really saying much. Neither are particularly good. But “Breakin’ 2” does have Ice-T doing Old School before he went all Gangsta and before he went all L&O:SVU.

Ok, it’s probably just me. But I will say this: Han did shoot first.

Truly, Truly, Truly Outrageous

The iTunes Music Store has a new music Tuesday just like every record store in the US. Tuesday is the day that the new albums come out. Ever since the introduction of iTunes 4.5, Apple has offered a free track for download on Tuesday. Sometimes it’s rock, sometimes hip hop but it’s always free.

Today I popped over to the iTMS to see what they were offering up and momentarily I was in shock. The free track this week is “They” by Jem.

“Sounds normal enough to me.” I’m sure you’re all saying. But I am not always up on the new Top 40 pop bands. I don’t listen to the radio that much. (I have had my stints with Indie 103 here in LA but the point of that station is that they don’t play the same stuff that everyone else plays. I can hear my Ramones and my Clash, and a lot of other bands that don’t get a lot of airplay anymore.) Consequently I was unaware of the existence of an artist by the name of Jem.

“Still,” you say, “that is hardly an unusal experience.”

Then let me explain. When I was a kid in the early 80s after Reagan deregulated children’s televsion and made it possible for cartoons that were basically one big commercial for toys and other merchandise that parents could buy for their kids—like Strawberry Shortcake, Masters Of The Universe, and Transformers—there was a cartoon about an all-girl rockband, called “Jem and the Holograms”. They did amazing things and were in a constant struggle against their rival band, The Misfits. (No, not that Misfits. But that would be a pretty sweet children’s cartoon. :) ) Or something like that. I never watched it. That was definitely a “girl’s” cartoon and as a 10 year old there’s a distinct line between what a girl can do and what a boy can do.

“Again, not that big of a deal,” you continue. “Yes, twenty years ago there was a cartoon about a singer named Jem and now there really is one. Strange but no biggie.”

You’re probably right, but there is one little extra personal twist to this story. My middle name is Eric. My initials are JEM. And for those who my have forgotten, there is no torment like the torment that 10 year olds can inflict on each other. (Except for maybe the torment that junior high kids can inflict, but that’s another story.) Here I was 10 years old with the initials of JEM and there’s a cartoon about a girl named Jem. Oh the taunting! (Nearly as bad as the taunting that two other students got—a girl named Reagan, and a boy named Ronald. Since of course we all knew who our president was. Kids can come up with the weirdest things to be mean to each other about.)

Anyway, it was a weird feeling seeing that song. And then when I listened to it I was extra surprised to find out that I knew the song from somewhere. I’ve definitely heard it more than once and I never knew the secret connection.

Oh, and this is more than a little disturbing.

June 17, 2004

I'm Quickly Using Up My 15 Minutes

Would you look at that! I guess I’m famous now. I’ve been quoted in eWeek. :P :)

June 16, 2004

Zombies = Power Interruptions

This is an awesome article: When the zombies take over, how long till the electricity fails?. Those of you who’ve read my take on zombie movies know that this is right up my alley.

Thanks to Boing Boing for pointing it out.

June 15, 2004

I'd Buy That For A Dollar

Actually I did.

Ok, so we never thought that the Pixies would ever reunite and starting touring again, but we were wrong. But that’s it, right? They’re just touring with material they wrote more than 10 years ago, right? Oh no.

Yesterday, the first new Pixies track, “Bam Thwok”, was released at the iTunes Music Store. In fact it’s the only place to get it. For a buck. This really isn’t something you should even have to think about. New Pixies song, one dollar. It’s easy.

In far less spectacular though still fun news, The Donnas have released an iTunes only track—their cover of the Generation X / Billy Idol tune, “Dancing With Myself”.

June 13, 2004

Lessons In Japanese

Now that I own a license to Movable Type 3, my weblog is listed on the “Recently Updated” sidebar at MT HQ whenever I post a new entry. This always results in a burst of traffic from Japan. I’m assuming that it has to do with the fact that I have Japanese characters in the name of my weblog. And it might even possibly say something meaningful.

I’m hoping that someone can answer a few questions for me. Is my Japanese even remotely close to something real? There’s an American perception (justified or not) that when you translate Japanese into English you wind up with some unusual ways of saying things. I was going for a bit of that idea when I used Apple’s Sherlock program to translate “Monsters from the Id” into “Monster Big Bad Brain” and came up with 怪獣大悪脳. I brieflly mentioned this in my comment to this previous post.

I know that 怪獣 is Kaiju. A giant monster like Godzilla. How do you write out the other characters in a Roman alphabet? And how is it pronounced? If I’m totally off base on this, how would you say “Monsters from the Id” in Japanese?

That One Person Who Spoils It For Everybody

Since I was talking about how much people can suck earlier, I thought I would share this with you. Ever been in a situation with a group of people and one of them totally sucks? I mean where that person can make things so miserable that you’re not sure if you want to shoot them or yourself first? My friend Ben recently got back from a two month trip to Japan and Australia. He relates his misadventures with a fellow camper in Australia:

I swear that as soon as he got on the bus I sensed a weirdo. He was a Canadian, not a bad thing, but right away I could tell he enjoyed refering to his homeland as a pretty important place. Over the course of the trip I learned that Australia and Canada are pretty much the same country according to ole Del, and so is New Zealand and so is Japan and so is Russia, on and on….

The next thing that became apparent was his instinctual desire to consume anything that was even remotely associated with food in such a gluttonous manner that it made me lose my appetite from almost the beginning of the trip….

As if the food and inconsiderate sharing wasn’t enough, there is one more aspect to Del that you readers at home must understand to get the full Del experience. He stank like the bejeezus….

The only good thing actually about having Delano on the trip was his ability to bring the rest of us together in our hatred…. So my new theory is that we can send him to all the places where there is turmoil, and both the warring sides, be it Palestine and Israel or Iraq and the US, Northern Ireland and England or India and Pakistan, will bond and unite over the hatred….

People Can Really Suck If They Put Their Mind To It

I got a call this morning as I was driving into work from Cameron. We are trying to finish up the sound for a scene that’s due in NY at noon on Monday. Since that’s 9am here, we basically need to get it all done tonight and load it up to the internet. (Just a side note, it was only a few years ago that this would not even be possible. We would have had to hire a courier to buy a plane ticket to NY and take a red-eye there.)

Cam is going to be a bit late coming in today because last night someone dumped an entire bucket of paint on his car! I cannot in begin to imagine what kind of person goes through life saying, “Hey, here’s an idea for someting fun…” Sure, when I was a kid we did our share of pranks—toilet papering a house or ding dong ditch—but nothing that did permanent damage. Annoying? Definitely. A pain in the ass? Probably. But throwing paint on a car is completely awful.

It’s not even like he’s driving a Hummer or something with no real value except to bleed gas and announce “Look what I can afford! Environment be damned!” He has a sporty little Jaguar. Definitely not a car that I would drive, or I should say that I would choose for myself. (Cam, one of the most generous people on the planet, let me drive his Jag for a month while my Honda was being fixed after an accident.)

Some people really suck.

Update: 9:40pm

Thankfully, the paint was water-based. Most of it is off Cameron’s car now. There’s still bits in the seams. Little spatterings here and there. Unfortunately his whole paint job on the car is scratched now since there was so much scrubbing for so long trying to get the paint off.

And in terms of the scene we’ve been cutting, we’re just about done. We’re meeting at the office at 7am to give it another once over, add in any little last minute bits, mix is down, and ship it off to NY.

June 9, 2004

Goodbye Mr. Quine

I didn't see this one from Reuters:

Guitarist Robert Quine, one of punk rock's most daring soloists, was found dead Saturday in his New York apartment. He was 61.

That's really a shame. Robert used to hang out with the Velvet Underground back in the day. In fact a couple years ago, Polydor released a collection of unofficially official live recordings that he did of them "Bootleg Series, Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes". The quality is pretty much no-fi but it does really capture the raw power of VU.

Anyone who enjoys punk and hasn't taken a look at VU really needs to. There's a story about their first album, "The Velvet Underground & Nico": that it only sold 1000 copies initially but everyone who bought one of those copies went out a formed their own band.

Quine understood that. He was one of the founding members of Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Their 1977 debut album, "Blank Generation" is one of the truly great punk rock albums.

Robert went on to work with many excellent artists including Lou Reed, Lydia Lunch, Brian Eno, Material, They Might Be Giants, Tom Waits, Matthew Sweet, and even John Zorn.

He will be missed.

June 6, 2004

Cool Song Intros

The other day Retrocrush posted their list of 50 Coolest Song Parts. Since it was listed on Fark I'm sure that everyone and their brother has already seen it. It's really a fun list to go through. I don't agree with some of their choices. (They are completely crazy with the whole Lionel Ritchie thing.) But it will definitely bring a smile to your face.

I thought I would gather up a few of my favorites. I have a hard saying anything is my "all-time favorite" so these are just some of mine.

My favorite jangly, reverb-saturated, vibrato-laden, guitar-riff driven, song intros.

"Meat Is Murder" Album Cover

"How Soon Is Now?" by The Smiths from "Meat Is Murder" (1985)

The pulsing stereo guitar goes straight from the speakers and latches itself onto your brain--refusing to let go. Not even a sudden burst of what can best be described as a "space harmonica" can save you.

"Disintegration" Album Cover

"Pictures Of You" by The Cure from "Distintegration" (1989)

The glistening chimes and doubled-up melodies from the guitars will make you want to fall in love.

"The Wedding Album" Album Cover

"Come Undone" by Duran Duran from "The Wedding Album" (1993)

You've just fallen overboard and are drowning. You can tell by the phasey riffs coming out the guitar and the occasional plopping noises. Once the bass kicks in you know you've hit bottom.

Continue reading "Cool Song Intros" »

May 31, 2004

You Are Entering Another Dimension

I wrote this on:

Friday, May 28, 2004 - 10:05pm (Central Time)

In all likelyhood, you won't be able to read this until I get back to Los Angeles. This place is literally in the middle of nowhere. There's no internet access here as far as I can tell. Though there is a port on the phone that looks like I might be able to plug a modem into. But since I don't have dialup access that's not helping me. Maybe my dad has dialup. I might be able to post this stuff from his computer.

I can't get service on my cell phone. (In fact my cousin is really pissed about that because her husband is in boot camp. He can only call her one day a week for 10 minutes and she probably won't be able to receive his call.) There is not just one, but three plastic plants in my tiny little room. And I have pictures of ducks and quail adorning the walls.

You know how you go into any hotel room anywhere and there are little individually wrapped soaps, little bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and the little shower cap? Not here. None of it. In fact the only soap I have in my room is one of those dispensers of liquid soap mounted to the wall like you get in gas station bathrooms.

It's definitely an unusual place. When I checked in, I had to pay my entire bill up front. Someone please tell me if I'm crazy for thinking this is strange. As far as I've ever experienced, you check into a hotel and give them a credit card for security. They check to make sure that you can actually pay to stay there. But you don't settle the bill until you check out. Not here. Money up front.

The few things that have been going my way so far are the travel times. The flight to Memphis was only 3.5 hours. (I forgot about figuring in the timezone difference.) And the drive to Missouri was also 3.5 hours. So that was a nice change from what I was expecting.

Well, I am completely wiped out. It's 10pm here. Only 8pm on the West Coast but all this traveling left me tired. I think I'll try to read. I'm betting I get through about 4 pages before I fall asleep.

May 27, 2004

On The Road Again

Tomorrow morning I'm getting up quite early to go to the airport. I'm flying to Memphis, TN for my uncle's wedding. The 5 hour flight to Memphis isn't the truly fun part though. The truly fun part is the 4 hour drive I have to make after the 5 hour flight to get into the remote part of Missouri where this is actually taking place. In fact I'm staying at a hotel that is half-an-hour drive from the place where the wedding is being held because that's the closest hotel.

I have to say that I like living in the "big city". Or at least in a suburb of it. I don't get this whole living out in the middle of nowhere business.

A couple of years ago my dad gave me a little hand-held GPS for Christmas. He also gave me some mapping / route planning software that interfaces with it. It's only Windows unfortunately which means I have to fire up the ol' Virtual PC to do things and use a USB to Serial Port adapter to download the information to the GPS but I'm thinking it's going to save my butt on this drive.

I'm trying to figure out the best route to take. The automatic one it's calculated is basically the same one I got from Yahoo Maps. It's a ton of little State and US Highways. 194 miles: 3 hours, 42 minutes. Or there's the way that I was told in the directions, I-55 North to US 60 East. 246 miles: 3 hours, 55 minutes.

Fifty miles farther but only 13 minutes longer. One major freeway and one major highway or the equivalent of the back roads?

When I was a junior in high school we had to read Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley" and Least Heat-Moon's "Blue Highways". I liked "TWC" but I fell in love with "Blue Highways". There's something romantic about just getting up and going. Experiencing real life as it happens, not loading up your truck with every amenity possible.

Of course at this point I'm just trying to get in and out, and not get lost. Plus I've been informed that I'm expected to be at the 6pm dinner. So it'll probably end up being the longer but more sure route.

Whatever I choose, I don't really know what the internet situation is going to be like when I get there. I have a cable modem at my place through the local cable company so I don't have dial-up any more. (When I first got it, Earthlink provided the internet layer, so I could use their dial-up. But now Charter is in control.) When I went to Las Vegas last month I had everything I needed right in my room. Broadband internet access and a printer to plug into. I just don't know about Small Town, Missouri. Needless to say, there might not be any updates until I get back to Los Angeles on Sunday night.

The things we do for family.

May 23, 2004

What's It Gonna Take?

Dear Pixies,

Please play a concert in Los Angeles. (Coachella and Lollapalooza don't count.) I think you are the coolest band ever. And you are totally sweet. If you do this I will be your best friend.

Thanks,

Jon

May 20, 2004

You're No Rock & Roll Fun

Last night I was able to make it to the Sleater Kinney show at El Rey. It was very cool. Quasi opened for them. Yes, Janet is doing double-duty on drums for both bands. This show is part of their "mini" tour before they go into the studio to record their next album.

They tried out 4 new songs at the show and I have to say, Sleater Kinney has really grown up. They've always shown a talent as very strong songwriters. But gone are the days are the sweetly simple tunes like "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone." They have been moving more and more in this direction with every album. The new songs are extremely musically complex with lots of different changes in tempo and time signature throughout.

It's great to see a band mature so nicely. As my friend, Dave, remarked at the show. "The Sleater Kinney audience isn't the same as I used to see. There's a lot of guys hanging out here." It's true. They're not the riot grrl band they started out as. They are now politically and socially minded indie rockstars. They still have an important message in many of their songs. It's just aimed at a larger audience.

You can check out their tour diary on their website. Thankfully I get to see them again tonight.

May 19, 2004

Totally Devoted To You

Let me tell you a little story:

Cameron and I have offices on the Fox Studios lot in Century City. That's where we do our sound work. We are in one of the older buildings. If you look at early pictures of the studio from the 1930s you can see our building.

When we moved in in 2002, our building definitely needed some work. We spent time cleaning things up but it still wasn't great. Thankfully our amazing building manager, Mike, came up with some money to fix the place up and in July 2003, we moved out of our rooms while the entire building was redone. New carpet. New paint. New bathroom. It's looks pretty sharp now.

Cameron and I temporarily shared a large office in another building for the few weeks it took the workers to finish the job.

Let me just make a side note here that Fox Studios is home to 20th Century Fox FIlm Studios, Fox Television, Fox Home Entertainment, and the various Fox Cable News and Sports channels. Because of this many production companies have offices on the lot: Ten Thirteen Productions you might remember from "The X-Files", Steven Bochco who created "NYPD Blue", and Joss Whedon's company, Mutant Enemy, that brought us "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel".

Now back to our story...

In a drawer in a desk in the room that Cameron and I shared, I found these. And they're awesome:

Buffy Postcard 1, Front

Buffy Postcard 1, Back

Continue reading "Totally Devoted To You" »

May 18, 2004

Insert Aphorism About Rain Here

Today was a very busy day at work. Sometimes I wonder why we even bother to plan things out ahead of time. It always changes. Of course I'd rather be organized about my job and have to modify my plans, then rely on total chaos. Chaos theory makes good quirky movie characters as played by Jeff Goldblum. It's makes real life a pain in the ass if you have deal with it.

Yesterday the plan was that we had to turn over our work by early Saturday morning for a screening on Monday. About lunch time today we found out that now the screening is Friday so the editorial is due Thursday at noon. Ouch.

Cameron's been cutting away like a mad man. I got all those new sound effects we recorded yesterday mastered and added into the library. They worked out great with this picture. I spent a large chunk of the day today auditioning sound from the library ahead of Cameron and handing him lists so that by the time he got to areas he needed to cut, I had already narrowed things down for him. Trying to speed this whole process up.

Tomorrow we're in early for more. I hope I don't have to miss the Sleater Kinney show tomorrow night.

May 15, 2004

set mt3 to "good" as string

(What can I say? I'm more of an AppleScripter than a programmer.)

I've been playing with the new Movable Type 3. It's pretty great. For those of you who haven't seen this yet, Six Apart has changed their licensing plan for the software from what was announced a few days ago.

Old Plan

  • 1 author / 3 blogs / Free
  • 3 authors / 5 blogs / $70
  • 6 authors / 8 blogs / $120
  • 9 authors / 10 blogs / $150

New Plan

  • 1 author / 3 blogs / Free
  • 5 authors / 5 blogs / $70
  • 10 authors / 10 blogs / $120
  • 13 authors / 13 blogs / $150

Plus you can add 1 author and 1 blog to any paid license for $10.

It's pretty friendly now. After seeing this new plan and thinking about it, I've decided to stick with Movable Type. In fact I've already paid for my license. I haven't updated this site yet. I'm testing the new version out in the background first and will bring the new version online when I'm ready.

The whole Export entries and Import entries function works really well. I'm able to work with an exact copy of this site in my test site with those functions. Maybe these functions have always worked well. I don't know. I never had to use them before. I'm impressed that it brings over Comments as well. I'm guessing it would do the same for Trackbacks but no one's ever done a Trackback ping to my site so I don't know.

The new Comment Management is exactly what I was looking for. It makes me very happy.

I'm also glad that they've switched to XHTML. There's actually a few bugs with the default templates. They don't validate as XHTML 1.0 Transitional. I've already put in a report about this to Six Apart along with a couple of other fixes they could do to make it possible to do XHTML 1.0 Transitional, XHTML 1.0 Strict, or XHTML 1.1 right out of the box. All the end user would have to do is put in the appropriate DOCTYPE in the template.

One other important point: they consider a weblog to be the actual site that you're looking at. So if for example you're using another weblog to feed a blog roll to your weblog, that's still only one weblog as far as licensing is concerned. That's very cool of them.

Ok, I'm off to do some more playing. Plus I have to finish reading "Crossroads of Twilight" this weekend. I don't want to be distracted when I go back to work on Monday.

May 14, 2004

MT3. Is It For Me?

The thing that everyone who has one of these websites was talking about yesterday is the new version of Movable Type. Six Apart, the company that makes the software, unveiled Movable Type 3.0 Developer Edition complete with a new licensing scheme. The uproar began.

There's a few issues here. The first is that Movable Type has sort of been free for personal websites. They strongly encouraged you to donate $20, but basically free. The version was not stripped down in anyway. You could have basically as many blogs as you wanted with as many authors as you wanted all on that one piece of software running on a server. This is no longer the case.

Now they have a licensing plan for personal websites as such:

  • 1 author / 3 blogs / Free
  • 3 authors / 5 blogs / $70
  • 6 authors / 8 blogs / $120
  • 9 authors / 10 blogs / $150

Now add to this the fact that prior to yesterday, Six Apart always maintained that MT3 would come in a free version and a Pro version. The Pro would obviously have many more features. Based on the information that they now have out about MT3, this no longer seems to be the case.

Many people were using Movable Type to publish many different weblogs with many different authors and now they're seeing that if they want to upgrade they're going to have to pay $100 or more to be able to do the same thing.

I can understand the anger and frustration. But I'm also a firm believer in paying for software. I own two copies of all my software for my two computers. Microsoft Office, Filemaker Pro, Toast, Pro Tools, etc. And having to buy lots of software for Post Production Sound, I definitely know that specialty stuff can be very expensive. Some of these companies might only sell 1000 copies of their software and they have employees to support with that. I've bought several pieces of audio software that are more than $1000 each. That's just the way it goes.

However there is a bit of a personal impact on this new Movable Type development. Literally a month ago I switched this website from iBlog to Movable Type. Right now it's setup with 1 author (me) and 1 blog (this one). Pretty easy. I'm clear to use the free version.

When you're developing changes to your website, really shouldn't play with the site itself. It's better to do a test mock-up and when that is correct, apply the changes to the original site. So you need 1 more blog for testing. 1 author, 2 blogs. Still clear.

Right now I have a fairly basic configuration of my website. I've always planned on adding in more functionality. If you look at a lot of Movable Type tutorials, you'll see that a lot of those say something like, "Make a new blog and delete all the templates." A lot of the ways that people have made Movable Type do what they want is with multiple blogs all being used by the main or actual blog itself. So I can do one of these and still be free.

And then comes in the question of multiple authors. I thought that one day my brother might want to run his own. Or maybe some friends would get together and do something. Or maybe we resurrect Right Turn Clyde. Who knows. The point is that suddenly I'm not sure if 5 weblogs is enough or 6 authors. Yes, it's not now, but do I want to lock myself into a piece of software when I find in 6 months that I need to support 20 authors and suddenly I'm looking at paying $600 for that.

I'm not quite sure what to do. I do know that when I switched to Movable Type, I had to set up a massive redirect page to handle the differences in filenames and directory structures. And that was with a site that got maybe 10 visitors a day and had about 50 entries. Now I'm getting about 40 visitors a day and I'm at nearly 90 entries, and to have to move that to a new system with new filenames and directories is a bit daunting.

I have a few things that I'd really like to be able to do with Movable Type (or with whatever my weblog software finally ends up being).

The first is better integration with BBEdit. If you're a Mac user and you haven't used BBEdit, you're missing out. Big time. (There's a piece of software I can say is completely worth the asking price.) I use BBEdit to write up my entries, check spelling (if I remember), and add all my XHTML markup. Then I copy and paste that into the MT New Entry webpage. It would be nice if it could be a bit more seamless. I already have an AppleScript in mind that would cut down on things a bit but it's not really integration. If anyone knows of something, I'd love to hear about it.

The second is a full comments management page. Having moved from iBlog, I was using Haloscan for comments. They had a page you could log into that showed all comments from all postings. You could make replies right from that page. You could also quickly make changes to many different comments from many different pages. Much easier than the page by page system that's in MT2.6.

The third would be dynamic sections. These could be blogrolls (lists of other blogs you like), books from Amazon, quotes of the day, whatever. But something that's easier to go in a change quickly. Maybe it means more Bookmarklets. I don't know. This is one area in particular where people used separate blogs to make it easier to update content.

And the fourth thing I would like to see is static pages. It's great that MT makes all this dynamic updating and commenting easy, but everyone needs static pages too. Again, people got around this with separate blogs, and again it starts cutting into the chance of a free MT3.

Maybe my hopes and desires are in the new Movable Type 3. I haven't downloaded it and tried it out. But another huge thing that's missing is the "Here's what's new in version 3" page that every other software publisher would have up. If Six Apart had that, I might know the answer to my question.

Update:
It seems that they do have a "What's New" page. It's just buried under Support instead of a big shiny link on the main page. According the the "What's New" page, they do have the comment management page I'm looking for. Yay! Not sure about the rest yet. (And I know that BBEdit integration really doesn't have anything to do with Six Apart themselves. I'd just like to see it.)

May 12, 2004

Looking At Iraq Through A Soldier's Eyes

I stumbled across this very interesting weblog written by a female soldier in Iraq. It's cool to find someone in an extraordinary situation doing something that many of us would have trouble imagining ourselves doing, and yet talking about life in a very ordinary way.

It reminds you that we're all people--whether we're soldiers or Iraqi civilians or people back home reading about stuff online. We all have similar hopes and dreams. We all have things that annoy us or make us afraid. We're not all riding old ladies like donkeys or chopping people's heads off. Most of us are just regular people trying to live our lives the best we can.

Plus she's a Buffy fan! (Did I mention that I saw Sarah Michelle Gellar and her husband when I went to see "Hellboy"? They were sitting a few rows behind me.)

May 11, 2004

My "To Hit Armor Class 0" is 12

Some time around third grade, probably about 1983, I had my first encounter with Dungeons & Dragons. My friend Dave, his older brother John, and I would play it after school with some of the other kids in the neighborhood. I still remember the day my mom took me to the local hobby shop and I bought my very own copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set in the red box. John was the person who introduced me to J.R.R. Tolkien, and that year I read "The Hobbit" for the first time. We used to spend hours making characters--using the lists in the back of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Silmarillion" for names--and playing adventures.

My brother and I had a babysitter, Tom, the one who first introduced me to MTV, who was in high school. He played but decided he was getting a bit old for the game so he sold me his copies of the original Dungeon Masters Guide, Players Handbook, and Monster Manual for $10. (In fact they're still packed away in a box in my mom's attic. Very recently she called and said, "I have this box of D&D stuff here. Can I get rid of it?" I practically choked and said, "No, I'll get it next time I'm back east.")

My mom was never very comfortable with me playing the game. At the time it was very much in the news as a stepping stone for kids to get into Satanism and eventually killing themselves. She had the book "Mazes and Monsters" in her room and at one point she even sat me down to watch the TV movie. Even a few years later when I started to get more into music and starting listening to bands like Motley Crue on the radio, she would leave newspaper clippings on my desk about kids who'd commited suicide supposedly because they listened to too much heavy metal or played a Judas Priest record backwards or some other nonsense.

She never stopped me from playing but we did have to have our "talks" every once in a while to make sure I was never taking things too far. I always told her that it was a learning experience because it taught good math skills. It wasn't much fun if you couldn't add up a bunch of numbers or figure out percentages in your head quickly. "Ok, the orc is attacking you and... uh... 2 and uh... rolled a 13... uh..."

Eventually I got too old for the game myself. Not in my heart really. But junior high is a tough time for anyone, and playing D&D with nerds was a good way to get beaten up. A lot. Thankfully SSI released their first gold box Dungeons & Dragons computer game "Pool of Radiance" about the same time. And that's when I switched from being a pen and paper player to a computer player. I've played pretty much every single D&D computer game that's come out since 1988, and a lot of other role playing games as well. (Knights of the Old Republic, totally sweet.)

Recently I've thought more about my time with D&D, and the controversies surrounding it, and was it really good at teaching math? A lot of it is because my friend Cameron has a son who's now 11. A few years ago he was way into Pokemon. Not too long ago it was Yu-Gi-Oh. And now he's been showing me websites with a Superhero action figure game. It made me think about the huge scare that tended to surround Dungeons & Dragons. Yu-Gi-Oh and these other battling monster games are not that different on a basic level. And yet they have mainstream acceptance. The main difference with D&D, at least the way that I see it, is that it is all about story telling, creative immersion, and most importantly about choices of morality. Those kinds of things are probably what really scared people, even if they hid behind denouncements of Satanism. (I found a lot of Christian websites talking about the evils of D&D while looking up links for this post.)

May 10, 2004

Weird Stuff I Found On The Net

There's a Kikkoman Soy Sauce commercial on TV here in the US which is totally insane. A mother yells "Kids! Dinner!" and they all come running from where ever they are playing. Except it's some bizarro "Crouching Tiger" thing where they run across tree tops. It can't hold a candle to this one. (Thanks to Neil Gaiman for pointing it out.)

And speaking of bizarro... I was kind of hoping this guy was doing an absurdist website--a Real Ultimate Power ninja kind of thing. Unfortunately the more I read, the more I think he's just crazy.

Getting off with Game Controllers. I'm not sure what else to say. How come I never thought about this with the rumble packs and whatnot?

May 9, 2004

How Old Will I Be When I Finally Learn?

Since I haven't been working for the past few months, I've been spending much more time outdoors than I usually do. It mostly consists of reading books in a park, but it is still outdoors. So I have managed to develop somewhat of a tan. Considering my typical color is very white--"clear" might be the appropriate word--I consider myself to be quite tan right now.

So today I go over to a friend's house to watch the Laker game out at his pool. There's a bunch of people over. Drinks. Sandwiches. And the game. The whole thing. I don't really care to watch the game but it's fun to spend time with friends. I get there just as half-time ends and pull out my book to read while everyone else cheers. I'm thinking to myself, "It's no big deal. I'm tan. I don't need to worry so much about the sun."

Now it's few hours later. I'm back home. Writing this. Looking at my bright red arms and legs, saying to myself, "When will I ever learn?"

May 7, 2004

Birthdays, Pizza & TV

Today was Dana's birthday. For those of you who don't know, Dana is Cameron's wife. And for those of you who don't know who Cameron is, we work together doing sound. For the past several years we've always gone to Little Tony's, a local pizza place with red-and-white checked table cloths on the tables, for Dana's birthday.

This year had to be a little different. She likes to watch her TV and if there's one show that she would call her favorite, it would be "Friends". So this year her birthday consisted of take-out from Little Tony's and the series finale of "Friends". I can't say that I've ever really watched the show to any extent, so the finale didn't really mean much to me.

I gave Dana the complete series of "Freaks and Geeks" on DVD. All 18 episodes. We were both big fans of that show and very sad to see it go off the air. Of course after the big finale we had to put on the Halloween episode of "Freaks and Geeks". Bill dressing up as the Bionic Woman. Classic.

What? I can't hear you. Let me switch the phone to my bionic ear.

That show described my life in junior high and high school so well. Sam being a total awkward geek. Lindsay being really smart but wanting to hang out with the cool kids. Actually if you want to read a great book, Paul Feig, the creator of the show, wrote about his life growing up in "Kick Me: Adventures In Adolescence." You can find out what actually happened to Paul when he dressed up as a woman for Halloween. Or the time he thought everyone should know his dad was a war hero so he hung a captured Nazi flag in the front window. Hilarious stuff. (Not that Nazis are funny. Life isn't quite "Hogan's Heros." But I could definitely relate to the extreme mortification he always seemed to put himself through.)

May 5, 2004

I Was So Much Older Then, I'm Younger Than That Now

Today I spent several hours teaching a friend Pro Tools 101. It was an unusual experience for me. I have taught people things before. My work study job through college was working in the various computer labs around campus teaching people how to use software they didn't know, and also doing telephone tech support. I had a lot of training in how to take a problem, break it down, and work through it in a logical progression. Plus I taught a series of classes on Pro Tools at AFI on three different school years. Teaching is something I'm some what familiar with.

This situation seemed different, at least to me. My friend has many more years in the sound business than I do. He works as a mixer. You can use Pro Tools to mix, but it's primary function, at least in Hollywood, is as an editorial system. My friend has a strong understanding of how post-sound works but we were dealing with the other aspect of it. The part that he doesn't do himself everyday at work. So most of the teaching was simply about which buttons to click, and which menus to select. He already had a firm grasp on "the why". He just needed to know "the how".

It's also a bit of a delicate situation. The sound industry has changed a lot in the eight years I've been doing it. When I first started, there were still companies cutting on 35mm film in a Moviola. Now it's all computers. Plus you can do a full 5.1 surround mix in Pro Tools itself. There are mixing jobs that people like my friend don't get anymore because the production company is unwilling to hire a couple of guys to sit in front of a $500,000 mixing console. They just want to pay an editor to work with a $20,000 computer. He and every other mixer in town has complained at some point that they lose work to people like me with our computers.

I can guarantee you that you'll get a better sounding track if you take it to my friend's dub stage, than if you hire me to do it in my computer. Unfortunately that's not always financially possible. So I was glad to help start him down that path to working with both systems.

May 3, 2004

Smell The Glove

What bridge have I been living under for the past few years? How did I miss these guys?

I went on a bit of a music shopping spree on Friday. I picked up "Swagger" and "Drunken Lullabies" by Flogging Molly. I'm still shocked that I never heard this LA band until recently. (Damn you, Clear Channel for making a radio station that I actually like!) Oh well, at least I finally found them. They play an amazing mix of traditional Irish ballads and jigs, sea chanteys, and punk rock. It's incredible stuff. "Swagger" is a fun, energetic album and even though I've only listened to a couple of tracks off "Drunken Lullabies" so far, it seems to be the same.

Loretta Lynn on the other hand is someone I have heard of, though I can't say I can name a single song by her. (Other than she is the subject of the movie "Coal Miner's Daughter" so I wouldn't be surprised if there's a song with the same name.) I'm not sure why "Van Lear Rose" caught my eye on the new releases list but I decided to read some reviews at Amazon and few other places. After several that started out along the lines of "I don't normally like country music but...", I decided to check it out. It's produced by Jack White of The White Stripes of all people. It's quite good. There's a raw feel to the songs that I like I lot more than the overly produced gloss that shines off those few tracks I've heard by Garth, Shania, and those other modern country acts.

I bought several other albums as well but I haven't listened to them yet, so I don't have much to say. But I'm looking forward to them: Eric Clapton's "Me and Mr. Johnson", Aerosmith's "Honkin' On Bobo", Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Fever To Tell" and Toots and the Maytals' "True Love".

April 29, 2004

Great Googly Moogly!

... or How To Blow Your Website Statistics Right Out Of The Water.

I'm a sound guy. They pay me to put funny noises in movies. I like to play with computers. I watch Star Trek, and I love fantasy books and video games. It's a simple life, but I enjoy it.

So I decide to put up this website because maybe there's that one other person out there who finds anything I have to say moderately interesting. Yesterday was one month to the day that I started tracking my weblog's statistics with Site Meter. In one month I had 400 visits. Something like 14 visitors a day. And I know that at least one of them is my friend, Ariel, from college.

Last night I decided to do a little playing with the new iTunes that Apple released, and I posted an article about some things I discovered. It is now after 9pm here in the West Coast and I have had 834 visits to my site! In one day! Someone must have thought my look at Lossless compression noteworthy enough to post it to MacSurfer this morning and I have had a steady stream of traffic ever since.

It's truly amazing. Maybe this graph can show you the huge difference.

Number of Visits Per Day For the Past Month

Prior to today, I had about 25% of my traffic from Macintosh computers. I know that a nice chunk of that was my own since I'm often checking and rechecking spelling, grammar, or finding an article reference in a new post. After today however... well, I'll just let this one speak for itself.

Percentage of Visitors by OS

Well I'm flattered. Thank you all for visiting. Feel free to drop by again in the future. Though I will understand if I don't have another 800+ day for a long time.

April 27, 2004

And The Winner Is

One of the fun things about keeping statistics about my website is seeing how people managed to find it. Referrals will tell me which pages linked to me when someone clicks that link to get to my site. It also tells what words someone entered into a search engine thereby finding my site. Today I believe that I have found my favorite search that resulted in someone getting to my little corner of the web:

Effect of brain eating amoeba

Thank you person from the domain il.us for visiting my site at 5:17pm PDT on April 26, 2004 after using that search phrase at askjeeves.com. I hope I was able to help.

April 19, 2004

Bright Light City Gonna Set My Soul On Fire

I'm writing this entry from Las Vegas. It's quite the town. I usually manage to make it out this way once or twice a year. Though I think this is the first time that I've ever come here for something other than gambling and booze. (And since I gave up the booze three years ago, there's only gambling.)

This hotel I'm in is very swank--The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. It's the new tower behind the original Mandalay. I'll have to take some pictures of the room before I leave. But let's put it this way: mini-suite for $170 a night. Nice.

I do, however, feel the need to let you know that I'm a big dork. So let me try to explain...

We had a nice dinner at Chartsteak at the MGM Grand, and then the friends that we've been hanging out with wanted to go to a club. They're members of the Foundation Room which is the exclusive "club with in a club" at the House of Blues. So we went there. Unfortunately the bouncer (for lack of a better term) at the door wouldn't let me in. I was wearing tennis shoes.

This kind of thing keeps happening to me. Look, I'm not a very classy guy. T-shirt, jeans, sneakers. That's the way it goes. I have a couple of pairs of nice shoes for the right occasion. I have some button-down long sleeve shirts. I even have a sports coat but those are a "need to wear" basis.

I packed very light to come out here. My standard wear. I knew I was going to be spending a lot of my time at the convention center walking around. Those clothes are perfect for that kind of thing. I threw in some shorts in case we were going to hang out by the pool and I brought a couple of long sleeve shirts for a nice dinner like we had last night. And I brought my leather jacket. See I'm from LA. All you need is a leather jacket. You can throw that on over anything and you're ready for any kind of event. I figured I had the bases covered.

In fact I had another run in with a bouncer at the Foundation Room in LA. A couple of years ago, it was summer and hot and I was doing whatever I was doing in the office. And I was wearing shorts. For the most part I don't wear them to work but if it's really hot, I might. Anyway, Cameron gets a call from a friend about going to see Cheap Trick at the House of Blues, and he asks me if I want to come. Sure. So we leave right then and I'm still in shorts. Cheap Trick is awesome, and afterwards when this friend of Cameron's tries to take us to the Foundation Room to hang with the band, they hassel me over the shorts.

So back to last night. The bouncer won't let me in. Everyone turns to me. I say, "It's fine. Have fun. I'll see you later." They ask me if I can go back to my room and change my shoes, and I have to tell them that these are the only pair I brought.

"Well, what size are you?" Kurt, one of the guys we are with, is about my height.

"I'm like a twelve in most shoes."

"Ok, come with me," Kurt says. And this is where it gets all embarassing for me and where I feel like a dork. We go back to his room. And he gives me a pair of his shoes to wear. They're not a perfect fit but they're pretty close. We get to go to the club. I get to be the butt of lots of jokes like, "You should walk a mile in another man's shoes. Oh wait-"

Maybe other people wouldn't feel embarassed about someone helping them out like that, but I do. He loaned me his shoes. I don't know. Maybe it's because I could have easily had an appropriate pair with me if I'd thought about it. Maybe a part of it is because I'm not the classy guy. Whatever it is, I still feel like a dork.

Mom always told me to make sure I was wearing clean underwear in case I got hit by a car. I should probably ammend that to bring along a pair of dress shoes, just in case.

April 10, 2004

The Horror. The Horror.

I just bought tickets for the two Sleater-Kinney shows at the El Rey here in Los Angeles from everyone's "favorite" legal scalper, ticketmaster.com. Fifteen dollar face value on each ticket. Twenty-five dollars after Ticketmaster has had its way with you. Sixty-six percent markup?! WTF?! Loan sharks offer better interest rates.

But don't worry. They're not a monopoly. That would be illegal.

Maybe It Won't Be That Long

Ok, so in just a few hours after my last post, I did some more research into various weblog and BBS software, and got Movabletype installed on my server. It's a very cool piece of software. I didn't realize. It's not all that different from iBlog--though it definitely has a lot more "bells and whistles." The authoring software just runs on the server as a set of perl scripts instead of on your local machine. But then it generates all the pages. I was thinking it was going to rely more on pages that we generated "on the fly". That's how a PHP-based system like Geeklog would work.

So this is good. I should have a pretty darn fast site with the most of the content on the pages being hard coded. All of those slow downs I experienced because of offsite content generation won't exist because it will be handled by my own server. Plus with full pages of HTML existing on my site, there shouldn't be any problems with search engines.

I've already managed to get all of my posts converted over. There's still quite a bit of work to do though. I have to get my templates working so that I have my "Halloween" style back. Plus I have to figure out if there are any plugins I want to install to add even more functionality to my site. And I have to go and make up some document referrers to point the old pages to the new ones, and a good "404 page not found" to help people transition over to the new version.

April 9, 2004

But I Don't Want To

Sometimes it would be much easier if I could just accept things they way they are.

I've really enjoyed my time getting back into web development on this site. I like being able to type up a little something, click the "Post" button and away it goes to my homepage.

But I've found certain things to be rather frustrating. This program that I'm using, iBlog, is great if you just want to type in some text or post a simple image. But if you want to get your hands dirty with a little more HTML like a bulleted list or a blockquote or whatnot, it's a bit difficult. You have to add extra tags around the HTML. And all the HTML has to be on one line with no returns. Plus iBlog isn't so great in it's Rich Text to HTML conversion. Instead of putting <p> and </p> tags around paragraphs, it uses two line breaks. <br /><br /> This isn't the best form and then when you add in block HTML which has its own line returns built in like lists or blockquotes, you get 2 blank lines instead of one between paragraphs. So then you have to delete the extra returns between paragraphs. And that in conjunction with HTML with no line returns makes very unreadable text.

Plus I have extra features of my site added by outside providers. My search engine is by Freefind. Comments are by Haloscan. The Blog Roll is by Blogrolling, and I'm listed at Technorati. Several of these services use outside Javascript so if their site is down or particularly slow, my site doesn't work well.

So of course I've been investigating other methods of running my weblog. Mac OS X is pretty cool in that it is a UNIX operating system. It comes with Apache web server and PHP already installed. So today I upgraded my PHP to the latest version and installed MySQL and I've been playing around with other ways of running my site. I'm thinking about using Geeklog. It's still going to require a lot of testing but it seems promising so far. By using that instead of iBlog, I'll be able to handle searches and comments on my own site. And quickly adding new bits of data like additions to a Blog Roll are very easy.

I haven't decided definitely on what I'm going to do. I also want to look at phpBB, and I should also check out Movabletype--though that one is perl-based. We'll see. I'm sure whatever I choose, a new roll out would still be several weeks away. So like I said, it would be much easier if I could just accept things the way they are.

I Don't Think I'm The Only One

Eyeball with heart inside

This is gross. My eyes are screwed up as it is. I got my first pair of glasses in the 3rd grade. There is NO way I'm going to put "jewelry" in the "mucous membrane" of my eyeball!

Bob Dylan in a cowboy hat

Bob Dylan is not a good looking man. I'm sorry. "Blood On The Tracks" is one of the all-time greatest albums. I have a ton of respect for the man. But he should not be juxtaposed with girls in their underwear.

April 5, 2004

We Passed Upon The Stair

Everyone and their brother is talking about the fact that 10 years ago today, Kurt Cobain killed himself. You can check out Wil Wheaton's take on it or numerous other writers over at Black Table.

I do remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard that Kurt was dead. I was in college trying to sleep after a late night party. It's almost funny that I made my post yesterday about how much I didn't like Daylight Saving Time. How difficult it was to cope with that missing hour.

April 5, 1994 I was trying really hard to cope with that missing hour, even if it was a few days before, and was losing badly. Back then I was the master of the snooze alarm. I could manage to hit snooze for 7 minute snatches of sleep for two hours straight. I don't know how my roommate put up with me.

In those brief glimpses of semi-lucidity in between the blissful dark, I dreamed that Kurt was dead. When I finally decided to give up the charade and enter waking life, I continued to have the strangest feeling that Kurt was gone. I told myself it was just a dream and ignored it.

Of course the first conversation I had with someone started out with "Did you hear..." and I realized that I had actually heard from my clock radio that he had taken his own life. It was a surreal moment--bordering on deja vu. Even if it was only caused by lack of sleep.

I didn't think much about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana at that time. I had burned out on them after the "Nevermind" deluge, and I steadfastly pretended they didn't exist. But something about his death, the near-dream-state during which I found out about it, gnawed at me.

I was about six months later that the "Unplugged" album was released. The first time I heard his acoustic version of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World", I knew I had to buy that CD. An idea had been gestating in the back of my mind for months, and it hit me when I sat down and listened to the entire album. Nirvana was a great band. I had not allowed myself to pay attention to them because of all the hype that surrounded them, and so I missed out while he was still with us.

April 4, 2004

Spring Ahead

Note to self: Don't stay up half the night watching movies when you're going into Daylight Saving Time. Losing that hour is killer.

I love Standard Time. Gaining an extra hour is like finding five bucks in the pocket of a jacket you haven't worn in a while.

Daylight Saving Time is setup to happen at 2am in the U.S. because most people are at home asleep or at least in bed at that time. When I was in college I had a late-night freeform radio show and the going into and out of DST was always an interesting experience. People who had a show that went on the air at 2am on the first Sunday in April would not be able to broadcast that week. The time just disappeared. October was the really unusual time because we had to decide what to do with that extra hour.

I wish we could always gain an hour. It would be like getting a free gift every six months.

April 1, 2004

A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

In fact it is right now.

I was out enjoying another reading in the park with a bit of lunch when it started coming down in buckets. It was pretty overcast when I went out today and a little chilly. Thankfully because of that I was in my car at the time it started raining.

I've noticed a strange thing about rain in Los Angeles. Having lived in Boston and Chicago for a number of years I have a "feeling" for what rain should be like. LA doesn't seem able to fit into that picture I have. We will go the entire summer with literally no rain. In the winter, when it does rain, I'm always amazed. The local news turns it into this big event. STORM WATCH '04 plastered all over their broadcasts. I know for a fact that Los Angeles gets FAR less rain then I ever got growing up back east. I'm used to bad weather. In fact the first time my dad ever took me out to teach me how to drive, there was 3 inches of snow on the ground. These are not conditions that Angelinos have to deal with.

And yet whenever I get caught out on the road driving in my car when it starts to rain here in LA, I always have a feeling like it's the end of the world. I just had it not an hour ago driving back home from the park. I was going about 15 MPH because I couldn't see a damn thing. Everyone was. And this is where the really weird thing comes in: I know that if I turn on the news tonight, they'll say we had 0.10" of rain. Maybe 0.20". It's completely bizarre. Back east, you have a massive downpour like that, and you'll find out it was 3 or 4 inches. I don't get it.

March 31, 2004

Goin' To Las Vegas With An Aching... In My Heart

Well, I'm already in California.

My buddy and I booked the plane tickets and hotel rooms today. We're off to Vegas on April 18 for the NAB show. This will be fun! I have never been to NAB. (National Association of Broadcasters, for those of you who don't know.) It's a huge convention for media production and post-production. Lots and lots of software and gear. Heaven for tech geeks like myself.

I've never been to NAB. I always seem to be working on a movie when it comes around. In fact when you do film sound, like me, you always hope that you don't have to wind up on a dub stage for a mix while NAB is going on because you can never get any tech support from engineers or people at the companies who make the products we use since they're all hanging out in the Las Vegas Convention center.

I am also going to use this opportunity to check out Star Trek: The Experience at the Hilton. I've never seen that either and now that there's the new Borg 4D adventure to go along with the original one, it should be extra-super-cool.

I talked to another friend on the phone today who's spent the last 2 months hanging out in Chicago. (He's from there but lives here in LA now.) He's coming back into town on Friday for 5 days before he takes off for Australia and South-East Asia for another 2 months. We going to go see "Hellboy" the movie before he leaves. Oh yeah!

March 30, 2004

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

A recent study by professors at Harvard and the University of California shows that illegal MP3 filesharing has not hurt the record industry. They said that "downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically indistinguishable from zero...." Of course the RIAA thinks this is completely untrue.

I suspect that filesharing probably does effect sales a bit, but I refuse to believe that it is the sole cause. I would love to see album sale statistics for last 15 years or so. When did the downward trend start? Was it the day that Napster was introduced to the world or did it start a few years before? How about looking at the number of bands that been created in the last ten years by a marketing team and not by musicianship? Now how many of those same bands get in the heavy rotation on radio stations? How about looking at the actual number of major record labels. I can drive down the street, just past NBC studios and see the building that is home to WEA (Warner / Elektra / Atlantic). Three different names, one actual label. Or how about we look at the number of ber-corporations that own the majority of radio stations in this nation? Four companies? Five? Six? And how much of the market? Seventy percent? Eighty?

If the RIAA wants to get to the bottom of declining record sales, they should take a look at the record labels themselves and at the radio stations that play those albums. Steve Albini wrote an insiders look into just how much money a band makes on a major label.

The article is hosted on Negativland's website, the poster child of the anti-establishment, anti-corporation movement. Who can forget their classic U2 album?

Negativland's U2 Album Cover

Oh yeah, it was pulled from the shelves after a lawsuit. Thankfully you can download some of the tracks from their site. You'll never look at Casey Kasem the same way again.

March 26, 2004

Problems

I seem to be having a little trouble with my program. Grrr.

March 25, 2004

Runnin' Zombies

I was over at Wil Wheaton's site reading about his twisted views on life. He recently went to see Dawn of the Dead and posed the question, "When did zombies start to run?"

Well that just so happens to be something I know a little bit about. Now I definitely haven't seen every movie on the planet and especially in the last year, there are quite a few films I haven't yet watched, but I do like my B horror films. (I know what you're thinking, "How can I make movies and not watch them?" I can't explain it. I eventually do. It just sometimes takes a while.)

I have yet to go see this new version of Dawn of the Dead. It looks pretty fun. Unfortunately it's going to have a hard time competing with the original--at least in my book. I still remember the first time I saw George Romero's second zombie movie. I was in junior high spending the night at my friend Josh Marcus' house. It scared the crap out of me but I loved it. I thought the idea of living in a mall with a small group of friends was so cool. Crawling around the ventilation ducts. Making false walls. Playing with anything you wanted. It seemed like a great adventure.

Several people posted in Wil's Comments that 28 Days Later had running zombies. Here's where I'm going to have to step up and admit that I haven't watched that one yet either. I know, I know. Well now I'm resolved to do it--I'm going to pick up the DVD today, watch it tonight, and I might catch a matinee of DotD tomorrow.

Apart from all that, I do know that the punk rock classic Return of the Living Dead has a few "rushing" zombies. They can pick up the pace a bit over a short distance. But overall they're still mostly the mindless, shambling, brain-eating undead.

The first true "running" zombies appear in the sequel, Return of the Living Dead Part 2. Now this isn't a strict sequel like "the continuing adventures of the poor saps that made all through the night of horror and were finally able to see the sunrise of a new day." And it isn't a sequel like Evil Dead II--"Here's the movie I would have made the first time if I had the money." It's more of a "remember how funny those two guys who got sick and slowly turned into zombies were in the first one? Let's get those actors back and have them do the same thing only as different characters. And oh yeah, more zombies."

RotLD2 has lots and lots of zombies running through a Levittown-like suburbia. And I do mean running. It struck me the first time I saw it. It was definitely unusual because the typical zombie moans a lot and looks like it's just as likely to fall on its face as take another step--but it doesn't stop, it'll crawl after you if it has to, and that's what's so scary. The more I thought about the running zombies in Part 2, the more I realized they were even scarier. You still have the mindless persistence. They're still going to do everything they can to get you. But now you can't outpace them with a light jog. You better be ready to sprint because they sure are.

Return of the Living Dead is one my all-time favorite movies. Several years ago, before I bought a DVD player, I always said I was holding out for The Warriors and RotLD to get released. Of course I didn't end up waiting THAT long. But if I was going to recommend one zombie movie to watch it would be that one. You've got the punk rock kids hanging out in the cemetery, the split dogs coming back to life in the medical supply company, "More brains" from gooey guy with no skin, "Send more paramedics" from the midget zombie, all kinds of great stuff. It's a classic.

Part 2 is worth seeing just to see where the running started, but other then that it's not all that good. Part 3 however, is pretty awesome. It's kind of a Romeo and Juliet where he's alive and she's dead. "Honey, I love you so much- DEAR GOD! Are you eating that man's brain! That is DISGUSTING! Oh, but I do so love you." She loves him too, and she hates the fact that she wants to eat brains, but the temptation is so strong that it can be hard to resist. So of course she resorts to doing what any sane, still-in-love-with-your-boyfriend zombie would do: stick lots of pointy things into her flesh. The pain temporarily relieves the brain lust. We've all seen punks with the safety pins and metal studs sticking out of their jackets. (Some of us might have even had own jackets like that.) She looks the same only all the bits of metal are directly in her skin. Frankly it's cool... and maybe a little hot... ok, I must stop.

March 24, 2004

Who's A Big Dummy?

I am.

For those of you who aren't in Southern California and haven't been watching the weather on this coast, it has been gorgeous. The terrible 90 heat of a couple weeks ago has been replaced by wonderful breezy days in the low 70s. So today I decided to grab a little lunch, drive over to Griffith Park and enjoy the sunshine with a good book. (Actually this isn't that wacky of a decision for me. I do it quite a bit when I'm not working.)

I found a nice spot to park near the Mineral Wells picnic area, rolled down all the windows in my car, opened up the sun roof and decided to listen to a little quiet music with my lunch and book. I shut off my car but clicked the key forward to leave the stereo on. After listening to a couple of Black Keys singles I picked up at Amoeba several weeks ago, and finishing off my lunch, I decided to hunt for the perfect soundtrack to a wonderful day on my iPod. I have my iPod hooked into my car stereo with one of those cassette tape adapters. Hardly the latest example of high fidelity, but it works. (Though I do keep meaning to stop by Al & Ed's Autosound to talk to them about how we can set this thing up properly.)

I decided on The Beatles' White Album, and with the gentle sounds of "Dear Prudence" gliding from my car's speakers, I sat back to enjoy my book.

I must have really gotten into it because time slipped by and suddenly I realized that the music was long over. I wasn't quite sure how long I had been sitting there in my car enjoying the sun and breeze and the book but I knew it was probably time to head home. And that's when I discovered that my car wouldn't start.

Brilliant.

In my car from the "off" position on the ignition, one click forward with the key turns on the radio. Two clicks forward adds the air and power to the windows. Going beyond the second click will start the car. I realized that I must have shut off the car FIRST and THEN decided to put the windows down. So I put the key in the second position to do that and must not have moved it from there. So I sat in my car for two hours or so with not only the radio pulling power from the battery, but also the A/C. (I had the fan on so low that I didn't even notice it was running with all the breezes blowing through my car.)

Did I mention that I'm a genius?

Now of course this was hardly the end of the world. I was in a beautiful location with the sun shining, a cool breeze blowing and a good book to read. And since I'm currently unemployed, it's not like there was some place I absolutely had to be. So I calmly pulled out my AAA card and called them from my cell phone. Then I picked up my book and continued reading until the tow truck arrived.

The driver took one look at my car with all its windows open and the book in my hands and said, "Lost track of time, huh?" It was a little embarrassing. But the situation was quickly remedied and we were both on our way.

Next time I should just use the ear buds.

March 19, 2004

Maybe It's Because I'm Now 30

I had a conversation with my mother today about buying my own house. (Or more probably my own condo.) This isn't exactly a new conversation, in fact we've been having it more or less regularly for the last year now. It's a bit of a scary proposition, especially here in Los Angeles. Property values are very high--that's why I say it's more likely that my first purchase would be a condo. I can still live in the Los Angeles area are actually buy a condo for something around the $200,000 to $300,000 range. And by "the Los Angeles area" I mean LA proper, Hollywood, near Valley areas like Burbank, Glendale, North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks. Something on the westside might be nice. Closer to the beach means cooler weather. Of course if often means higher prices too. I have no desire to go live out in the high desert, Palmdale or some such place, just so that I can own a cheap home. And an actual house in the areas I'm talking about is going to start at half-a-million for a piece of junk.

So it probably would be a condo or a town house. Still scary though.

It's all a moot point right now since I'm not working. That's the other scary part about home ownership. There's something about the notion that you can just walk away from a rental property that's a little more comforting when you don't have a steady income.

I love my career choice and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but it doesn't guarantee me a regular paycheck 50 weeks out of the year. Doing post-production sound for films is a very fun and a pretty geeky technical job. You get the satisfaction of knowing that you had a direct hand in presenting that final product that people shell out their $10 to see in a movie theater. You're also completely anonymous. When I walk down the street nobody comes up to me says "Oh my god it's YOU!"

I get paid pretty decently but if I don't have a movie to work on, I don't collect a check. Typically I'll have a nice run of a year or two with next to no time off. And then I might not have another job for 3 to 5 months. That just the way it goes, and those of us who do this for a living (at least the smart ones) plan for the fact that we'll have time off. If you take home $3000 a month after taxes when you're working, you can't turn around and spend $3000 a month. You just can't. You have to plan on only spending $1500 or $2000. Otherwise you'll never make it through the downtime.

Anyway it's just the way my life works and it's a little different from someone who puts on a suit and tie and sits in a cubicle all day.

So let's review: fun job, not a guaranteed income, houses very expensive.

I'm not sure where I was going with this whole thing. I guess I am just saying that I've been thinking about the future a lot. It would be nice to have a place to call my own. Not call it my own because I'm throwing money at someone to let me be there, but actually mine. Maybe it's just one of those things that happens when you enter into your third decade.

March 18, 2004

So Long And Thanks For All The Tracks

I was driving around looking for lunch--as I often do in the 12pm - 1pm timeframe--listening to Steve Jones' radio show on Clear Channel's take on indie radio here in Los Angeles, 103.1 FM, when Jonesy said that J.J. Jackson had died of a heart attack last night. It was like someone hit me with a hammer.

J.J. for those you of who don't know was one of the original MTV VJs. He, Martha Quinn, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Nina Blackwood started it all off in 1981.

I still remember that day in 1983 when we first had cable television installed in our house in Farmington Hills, MI. Tom Mitchell, my neighbor and sometimes babysitter, came in when the installers finished and said, "You have to check this out." He turned on MTV and changed my life. I was only in 3rd grade. Tom was in high school. I looked up to him.

I proceeded to watch MTV non-stop for years. Back then they only showed videos. No gameshows. No spring break beach parties. Just lots and lots of videos. Now at the tender age of 9, I was more interested in catching the latest Weird Al Yankovic video than Duran Duran's next big hit. But since there wasn't a heavy rotation playlist in place at the time, I got to see a lot of different videos by a lot of different artists while waiting for the next showing of "Eat It" or "I Lost On Jeopardy".

I spent a lot of time with J.J. and Martha and Nina and all the rest. They were my friends who showed me what was cool and fun. They told me about bands that I'd never heard of like J. Geils, The Rolling Stones, The Police, Joan Jett, David Bowie, Eurythmics, Toto and Queen. It was because of J.J. and the others that I went down to Perry's Drug Store with my allowance that I'd saved up and bought my first cassette tape, the Ghostbusters soundtrack. Hey, I was 9! Ray Parker, Jr. was awesome.

The point is that J.J. Jackson introduced me to this amazing world of music. He exposed me to all kinds songs and artists that my parents didn't listen to at home. (Though it's hard to go wrong with The Beatles and Motown.) He helped me learn to appreciate a much wider range of music than was played on the local Top 40 radio station.

Flash forward nearly 20 years and I'm living in Los Angeles. Imagine my surprise when I turn on the radio one Sunday evening and there's Triple-J hosting "The 7th Day" on KLOS. It's a show that plays albums in their entirety. J.J. would introduce each album with an amazingly insightful look at the band, the impact of the album, and society at the time. He would always take a break at the point when you would have to flip over the original vinyl and talk some more about album. His presentation of The Who's Tommy was one of the best pieces of radio I've ever heard.

So long J.J. You will be missed.

NOTE: I was looking for some web links to throw into this piece and I was glad to see that KLOS had a little piece on remembering J.J. Jackson. But I was sorely disappointed to see that MTV didn't have a single thing to say about the loss.

UPDATE: It seems MTV just had to get the latest Courtney Love hijinks out before talking about J.J.

Get In The Ring For Round Two

I've mentioned before my trip to Saginaw for my cousin's wedding. It was great to see a lot my relatives from my dad's side of the family. I hadn't seen some of them in 10 years or more. A big problem with the wedding is that my cousin is 21 and I'm 30. So of course it was open field day on Jon time.

"Haven't you met a nice girl yet?"

"When are we going to see you up there?"

"I think it's about time you settled down and gave your grandmother some grandkids."

And now I just got an email with some of the details of my uncle's wedding. (My dad's brother) So it looks as though I get to go through it all again in a little over two months.

Oh joy.

Other news I received this morning is that my friends are having a baby! (Actually I already knew they were having a baby, I just got an email update with a link to the ultrasound picture. Of course this too makes me think. Do I want to be that guy? You know, that guy who sends out ultrasound pictures? It wasn't all that long ago that I was going to Vegas for three day drinking and gambling benders. Of course I haven't had a drink in over three years. So these days trips to Las Vegas are slightly more sedate. But still... do I want to be that guy? Well I think it's about time I break out of this parenthetical aside.)

Actually, it's probably time for me to wrap up this entry. But still...

March 17, 2004

Monkeys + Robots

Wil has a new show, Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! Reminds me of some of the things talked about in an old zine I worked on. Of course the new show sounds like it's going to feature robot monkeys. As we all know monkeys and robots don't usually get along, sometimes they just bicker, but often it results in all-out fighting.

March 16, 2004

Say What You Mean

I've recently seen several ads of TV supporting G.W. for prez. In fact G.W. himself says something like "Approved by George W. Bush" at the end of all of them.

One in particular caught my attention because he talked about how Kerry wanted to raise taxes by some huge amount, that he wanted to reduce the effectiveness of the Patriot Act against terrorists, and he wanted to wait for U.N. approval before going into Iraq.

I found that I was saying to myself, "Exactly. Kerry should be president." Do I like paying lots of taxes? Not particularly, but I don't believe in governing on a deficit either. The Patriot Act is scary. And oh gee, do you really think we should have waited for the entire world's support before we invaded another country?

It brought to mind a recent post about George Orwell that I read.

March 8, 2004

It's Too Damn Hot

I don't know what the weather is like where you are but here in Los Angeles it is literally 90F (32C)! In March! Yes, this is Southern California. Yes, we have warmer weather than other places. However, it is still technically winter and we are having temperatures that many places have during the summer. I just checked the weather on the South Shore of Boston (my hometown)... IT'S SNOWING! 90 on one coast, snowing on the other. Crazy.

Actually one of the big reasons I live in LA is because of the weather. I'm just not crazy about 90. 70-75 is just right. 90 is too hot. In a perfect world it would be 70F year-round.

This weather has definitely helped with my head cold. It's fairly easy to be sniffly, sneezy, and coughing when the weather is cold and damp. Much harder in the heat. Plus it has me in the mood of spring cleaning. I have done more loads of laundry today than I have done it ages. And I'm having visions of a new vacuum. I'm definitely not right in the head.

March 7, 2004

Days Go By So Slowly

Illness really isn't all that fun.

Last weekend I was in Saginaw, MI for my cousin's wedding. I won't go into all the details of the trip or the event itself, but let me just say that I had a great time with my relatives and I really don't like United Airlines' idea of acceptable regional airline service.

The point of this is that I was with a large number of people from all over the country for several days and locked up in the recycled air of 4 different planes. Somewhere along the way I managed to come down with a cold that started in my throat.

Now here I am a week later and I'm finally starting to get better--though my throat still kills me. I should probably go see the doctor tomorrow just to make sure it's not Strep or Mad Cow or Ebola or something. I'm not crazy about doctors either. I know they have a tough job but still... sitting in a waiting room for an hour, then sitting in a freezing examination room for 30 minutes with my shirt off, so that I can actually see a doctor for approximately 1 minute, 7 seconds is not my idea of a fun time.

The good thing about illness is that you have to spend so much time sitting around your place that as long as you're not completely on death's door, you'll probably get motivated to do a few things that you might not do otherwise.

I have not only managed to get my website restarted (though I still need to do some tweaking on the interface) but I have also had the chance to watch the entire Star Trek Voyager season 1 DVD set. I didn't spend all of my time staring at the idiot box. I read the fourth book of Patrick O'Brian's 19th century British Navy series, The Mauritius Command. And I read Angels & Demons by Dan Brown, which is his first book that introduces the famous Robert Langdon character from The Da Vinci Code. So now I've started on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series with the first book, The Eye of the World.

Still... days go by so slowly.

March 6, 2004

I'll Be Back

Continue reading "I'll Be Back" »