Archive for January, 2008

The beer test

Posted in Music, News, Politics, USA on January 29, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I actually clicked on a banner ad yesterday. The advertising intrigued me: “Which presidential candidate thinks like you do?” And that’s really it, that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Which one thinks like me? So, rewarding good copywriting, I clicked. There was a test, with a series of really stupid and very pointed questions. But I went through with it anyway. Who thinks like me? Apparently Dennis Kucinich, although he has a big diagonal ‘dropped out’ embossed across his face.

Being so far removed from stateside culture, I haven’t paid much attention to the election. Before I left, I was a Joe Biden supporter. He’s one of the few politicians who, when he speaks, actually says something. And he knows what’s happening in the world. But he was an impossibility, so I became an unenthusiastic Hilary Clinton supporter, which I guess is aligned with many democrats. We’re fairly romantic people, and let’s face it, we miss Bill. And on her own merits, she’s super smart and highly capable, and I think she’d be an outstanding decision maker. It would be great to have a female president, and I think it might lead to some global forgiveness of the ‘ol US of A. But there’s a quality about her that I can’t pin down.

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Travel observation 3: women

Posted in Travel on January 29, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I went to six countries in all: Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Austria. By far, the prettiest girls from that bunch live in the Czech Republic. It’s one of several areas where I think the Czechs have a distinct advantage over their former Slovak partners.

Here’s the pattern that I loved: jet black hair, beautiful pale grey or hazel eyes, gobs of black eye makeup, and a confident presence. Usually, I’m not a big fan of makeup, but it was something about the contrast of black hair/makeup with pale eyes that got to me. Sure, the hair color may be fake and Czech women aren’t the most approachable in the world, but the aesthetic still worked for me.

The problem with Czech women is that they’re too tall. Someone told me it’s because of all the hormones in the milk. Whatever the cause, I’m more fond of short women. But they’re still nice to look at.

The mic reverses itself — from subject to practitioner

Posted in Film & TV, Sound, Technology on January 27, 2008 by Elephant Talk

Here’s something only an audio geek can appreciate, but it’s not often that a film sound team becomes the focus of a Hollywood scandal.

There seems to be some controversy about whether Heath Ledger finished his ADR for Dark Knight before he died.  ADR is dialogue replacement, wherein an actor re-records his lines in sync with the film. Most of the dialogue you hear in a film is actually reconstructed in a recording studio.

This quote made me giggle: “EW placed a call to Oscar-winning sound designer and sound editor Richard King, who’s handling the Dark Knight audio work, but he declined to comment.” The sound guy getting calls from an entertainment mag. And having to decline comment. That’s funny.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens if the dialogue is not up to par. They’ll have to either do some artful cleaning of the production tracks or get someone else to do his lines, then blend Ledger’s tracks with the other actor’s. It brings up a lot of interesting questions, especially if Ledger gets nominated for some awards. How much of a performance is in the delivery of the lines? Does it matter if what we’re hearing isn’t him, but some sort of collage of him and someone else?

Sound can now accomplish incredible acts of wizardry. In this age of technology, you can lift a syllable or a breath and re-purpose it elsewhere. Maybe they’ll just reconstruct whole words for him. So is it still him?

It’ll be interesting to see… and hear… what happens.

Travel observation 2: sound

Posted in Sound, Travel on January 26, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I’ve been too kind to Europe. Time for some criticism.

The thing I didn’t care for in Europe was its soundscape. The countries I visited did a fantastic job of presenting these wonderful old town centers, with beautiful architecture and lighting, and twisting cobblestone streets. But on top of this, they had a tendency to layer the most atrocious aural violations that would taint the overall experience.

The problem with Europe is its music and the way they assault you with it. They’re either stuck in the ‘80s or embracing the cheesiest of modern pop. This happened everywhere, but it was particularly apparent in Ljubljana and Bratislava.

It’s a manifestation of a visually oriented world. Europe is proud of its age, its history. Attempts toward preserving that in city planning are based on old drawings of sculptures and buildings, and language in text that described such locations. But we have no such sonic documents. Europe is something to be seen; it is presented. At the same time, tourism is a very lucrative thing. There is money to be had. They can’t cover up all this history with endless posters, wall paintings and billboards. So merchants and barkers use sound. They blast popular music in an effort to get attention. I don’t even think it’s given a second thought. Pop music to them means there’s something groovy going on here.

What people don’t realize is that sounds are what provide an inner psychology to any kind of visual experience. Hearing a culture, while not so literal, is important to a sense of immediate place and eventual memory. One could argue that the music and noise is part of the culture, but I don’t buy this. It’s not a reflection of culture, it is entirely a device of tourism. It morphs a location into a 21st century theme park.

I found it everywhere – walking around a city center, inside a café, pub or bar, in restaurants and hostels and hotels, even at museum ticket counters. I would be so disappointed to walk into a fantastic underground pub, with heavy iron doors and low ceilings and a fireplace, and hear KISS or Britany Spears or something equally horrific.

There are two places where you can escape, and they are two of the more enjoyable places to be in Europe: inside a train or inside a church or palace. The train experience was magnificent. It was silent and beautiful. I could read a book in peace and then look over at the landscape and just stare and stare. In churches and palaces, I came to really enjoy the sound of my footsteps reverberating in these great halls. I’m thinking now of the Old Royal Palace in Prague. I walked through that hall and the wooden floor would creak and ache with age and send the sound bouncing along its walls and ceiling. I could hear its history.

At other times and in other locations I would too often turn to my iPod. It’s sad to have to cancel out the world in order to appreciate it, but it’s the only way I could give myself a feeling of presence.

Travel observation 1: moment

Posted in Personal, Travel on January 25, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I did a fair share of writing on my laptop while I was zipping around Europe. So I thought I’d start a little theme here for the next few entries — just a few admittedly self-indulgent observations. This first one is simply about travel itself…

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Life on… well… over there

Posted in News, Technology on January 25, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I got 150 hits on my site yesterday. I’m not deserving of such traffic, not by a long shot. So I did some research and it seems people were coming here for news about the fourth planet from the sun. (I’ll avoid naming it so as to not further confuse the misguided Google bots.)

This is news I don’t have. But the whole thing got me intrigued, so I did my own search. Seems as though a photo was released recently that appeared to show a human form on the planet.

Turns out it’s just a rock. It is a pretty cool photo though.

Finding ‘Lost’

Posted in Culture, Film & TV, Lost, Politics, USA on January 23, 2008 by Elephant Talk

Around the time I was getting ready to leave, I knew that once I got back it would be just about time to plug back into my televisual obsession — ABC’s Lost. It starts up again on 31 January. Like every fan, I’ve got theories as to what’s going on. I’m going to blog about that now, so if you eventually want to get into the greatest show ever but haven’t yet, don’t click on this little “read the rest of this entry” thing right here:

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