Sunday, March 29, 2009

Blog Friends, AKM of "The Mudflats" Needs Our Support

I've been saying to myself for a while that the best way to get news these days is to read a blog by someone who knows what they are talking about. I was just reading today another post saying the same thing -- that good, insightful blogs are written by people with particular interest and knowledge in the subject matter; their statements can easily be backed up with links; and comments provide immediate feedback and support or critique. The excellent news blogs that I read are Informed Comment about the Middle East by Juan Cole, who has lately been touring the talk shows; Small Wars Journal about U.S. military operations, contributed to by John Nagl, David Kilcullen, and others who have been on NPR (and I hope other large media venues) talking about our revised approach to Afghanistan; Paul Krugman on economics; and, since the nomination of Sarah Palin as Republican VP candidate, The Mudflats by anonymous blogger AKM.

AKM writes about Alaska politics. AKM is funny and very knowledgeable and clearly puts much time into blogging. The blog has a tremendous following as indicated by the well over 150 comments it gets on each post. And, I'd say the comments are some of the most entertaining on the 'Net, as comments go.

Lots of politicians up there take criticism from AKM. For a while, one state legislator, Mike Doogan, has been trying to find out who AKM really is. Progressive Alaska wrote about his exchange with Doogan, with Doogan asking for AKM's identity. Doogan eventually did find out who AKM is and outed him/her on Friday in an apparent attempt to intimidate AKM.

There have always been anonymous writers. Daily Kos notes that Mark Twain and George Orwell, both pseudonums, wrote political and social commentary. Ben Franklin had several pseudonyms. Doogan said that he supports freedom of speech as long as the speaker makes his/her true identity known. I don't know the legalities of all this, but Kos and others are talking about everyone's right to remain anonymous if we choose. Kos notes several statements by the Supreme Court upholding the right to "pamphleteer" anonymously. Reasons for remaining anonymous are personal -- a person could be afraid of repercussions from an employer with conflicting views, for instance. This is one big reason why voting is anonymous in our country as well.

Strangely, Doogan is a Democrat (the party AKM is generally aligned with) who was openly critical of Sarah Palin when she was made the VP candidate. He used to be a journalist who did not hesitate to skewer politicians and make enemies. As far as I know, the worst thing AKM said about Doogan was justifiably criticize his email etiquette in responding to emails from concerned citizens. But reading Doogan's emails cited by AKM shows that me might be "losing it." His obsession with AKM could be another sign of this.

Since being outed, The Mudflats has experienced a swell in traffic compounding the swell a few months ago when Palin hit the national stage and everyone needed a blogger who had been on the case of Alaska politics for a while -- except that The Mudflats had only been around since May of 08. It's rise to fame so soon is lucky and also warranted. This surge in popularity will benefit The Mudflats and backfire upon Doogan. Meanwhile, The Mudflats is happy to hear from supporters, including anonymous bloggers. Stay tuned over there for indications of how The Mudflats and its followers, Mudpuppies, rally and will not be intimidated.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

These Were All Really Nice Folks

The appearance on the Internet of this picture, taken in fall of '07, means the show Casting Call is coming to the airwaves. It's a reality TV show about casting for a small part in the movie Spring Break '83 which, apparently, is also nearing completion.

This job had the hardest audio routing I've ever had to do, though in retrospect I guess it wasn't that bad; and in some types of audio work, they do it all the time. Four microphones had to be distributed to 8 tracks on 4 cameras, isolated and mixed according to certain specifications. Then all camera headphone outputs (8 more audio feeds) had to be returned to the mixer and fed back through subgroups so I could monitor them; and the gain at every point had to be calibrated so that the levels of outgoing audio in the mixer, levels in the cameras, and levels of headphone return audio in the mixer all were the same.

I can think of a few readers who might be able to name all three of the people sitting down. You know who you are.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Tree Frogs

I'm gonna get arrested doing this someday. This was recorded in a neighborhood on the way home from dance practice tonight. I took the segments with the least traffic, but you can still hear some.

Here's a fun thing to do on a slow Saturday night. Play one of these tracks and a river track from the previous entry at the same time. Voila, noisy frogs by the riverside! Add some nighttime insects from this entry (load in a different tab or window) and play all three simultaneously for true audio wackiness!

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

River Recordings

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Live Blogging the Arrival

8:15 PM: Look at it all pure, wrapped tightly in its placenta. Once I cut the cellophane, it will start the long path to deterioration. It should last over 10 years though. It's the best mixer of its kind.

7:08 PM: I force myself to go exercise in the yard for 1/2 hour. It's cold. I should have done this in the sun earlier, but I was obsessed with cleaning.

4:56 PM: I activate the insurance policy.

4:54 PM: It's here!!!!!

4:00 PM: I'm propping edges of the futon up on a tool box so I can vacuum the floor right where it normally rests. This definitely needed to be done. I wonder if I can alleviate some of this dust with an air cleaner? Better check Consumer Reports.

3:00 PM: While taking paperbacks off shelves to dust them and the shelves, I find a stash of little black pellets. It's either mouse droppings or maybe roach droppings? We do have the occasional roach here in the upstairs, and the books are not torn up, so it's probably not mice. I spray the shelf with Lysol and wipe it down, but a few books have the edges of their pages stained with the stuff. This is a bummer.

2:00 PM: How interesting that I would find a 15-year-old 45 rpm record while waiting for audio equipment intended for digital recording to arrive. This was made by friends back in the early '90's as a demo album for their band, "Grimace Jr." Their drummer lived in the house I still live in. He now plays for Veronique Diabolique.

This is a reminder that even when we were a few years out of college, bands put their demos on records. When I worked on a movie set as cableperson on '92, the recordist there was using analog 1/4" tape. The boom operator asked him, on the prep day, if he had thought about going digital. "When the wind is blowing, and trucks are going by, and the actor can't remember his lines and it's take 92 and I have to pee, digital doesn't matter."

Soon thereafter, digital audio tape came in. Its recorders and players were very temperamental. They would go down if it was too cold; they were susceptible to humidity. I recently got a call from a young filmmaker trying to prepare a budget for a low-budget movie. He asked what we would record audio on. DAT?

"Noooo!" I said. Any DAT machine around now is several years old, and who knows when it was last maintained. For serious work, they were replaced by hard drive recorders. And now those are being replaced by flash memory recorders, though in the large film/video production world, there are few recorders that use flash memory only. Most have internal hard drives and backup to flash memory or DVD RAM.


10:07 AM: Fed Ex just drove by. Hey, hey, over here! Oh wait. It's UPS that I'm waiting for.

Damn this house is cold. Last week I could warm it up by opening windows. Today is sunny, and also has reflected fill-light from the melting snow. It's so bright I want to open a window, but I doubt it would help.

I'm reading Obamanomics by John Talbot. It talks about how people, when they get to choose a career, choose something more in line with what they want to do rather than what makes the most money. This is part of his argument that a healthy economy depends on a vibrant middle class rather than a coddled upper class. The upper class, after all, doesn't start that many new businesses. It just squirrels its money away for the future. And, I'll add the observation, the upper class doesn't necessarily hire people to do what they want or are good at anyway. They just hire people to do what the company needs, and often people working on companies feel that they are part of a dysfunctional system.

Anyway. Here I am making my first serious step toward having a career, at the age of 40. It's certainly not for the purpose of making good money. It's not commensurate with the stature of my college or the esotericism of my degree. It's nothing I ever stated that I want to do -- everything that I have stated like this has not worked out. It's what, at one time, I ended up doing. As a PA on local video productions, sometimes they would hand me the headphones. I had to use their crappy wirelesses, their single boom mic intended for outdoor use both indoors and outdoors. Their old mixers with scratchy pots and sticky VU meters. Eventually, I was being hired more to "do sound" than be a PA. But I still didn't really like the work or the constant question of where my next paycheck would come from. So I left the production business and went to work for a friend in his company on the Internets. For one year, I was happy. I could go to work and the office was there; I didn't have to load the car every morning, or drive around town picking up gear. For the second year, things started to look kind of dull. Then came the summer when all Internet employees everywhere were laid off.

Then I applied to MFA writing programs. Then I substitute taught in the notorious local school system which, after a year, didn't look all that notorious to me, though my expectations of the work were low, and I didn't accept long-term subbing gigs, because I didn't want to prepare lessons or grade tests.

Then one old client started calling me again. And I was offered a job teaching this crazy trade that I had hardly worked in for 3 years. Word got out that I was available, and work started to ooze back in.

I had a terrible experience working on the most popular show, a reality show, one fall. The wireless systems simply would not behave, and I could not understand why; nobody I was working with understood why (and I was supposed to be the one who understood anyway); and the rental company did not explain it when I called them. Months after that gig I happened to read the answer on the trade newsgroup. I realized the local company that hired me did not have the right wirelesses for the level of difficulty of a show like that. Not all wireless systems were the same -- and most were not intended to work in conjunction with more than 1 other system.

The following spring, another large wireless job came up. I came close to buying my own gear for that job. I had a preliminary conversation with an awesome dealer in Connecticut. But some folks talked me out of it, mostly because one thing I wanted to buy was a fancy new hard-drive recorder. "It will never be used," they said, meaning, most jobs just send audio to the camera and don't want it recorded separately; certainly not on a $5000 machine costing the client $100 a day. "You'll have a nice pet recorder sitting on the shelf," they said. They were right. I called the dealer and said I wouldn't be getting that gear this time. Instead, to get equipment up to that job, I had to rent from Nashville, TN. (Atlanta or New York would have worked also.)

More years went by. I kept telling the local client hiring me on reality shows that we did not have gear up to the task. Finally, with a large MTV job pending, he asked what we would need. I made up the list and made the arrangements with that awesome dealer in Connecticut. This time the deal went through. The gear arrived on the day before we needed it, a day on which I had work on a different job. So I put the new gear in my car, went to the other job and used other gear, then stayed up that night assembling the new gear for the bigger job the next day.

I loved that new gear. We used it to finish a large documentary that got some critical acclaim last year. We used it exclusively on another documentary which was destined to be fantastic until its producer changed everything.

Now that client who owns that gear spends most of his time trying to scare up fancy new documentary work. He has not hired me much recently. Other folks are using that gear and returning it in a jumbled state, with wireless receivers lying loose and sideways in the bag, not securely strapped upright like I always keep them. A DC power cable went bad on one guy and he neglected to inform anyone until I almost got screwed by it, but we were able to get a new cable in on short notice. (This cable had a connector that you can't get around here, so we didn't think we could repair it ourselves. And there probably wasn't time to repair it anyway.)

And I'm tired of going to Raleigh to pick up that gear; or tired or renting from another company in Chapel Hill.

So last December I started buying used wirlesses and a boom mic on ebay. In early February, I ordered a new boom mic and backup flash recorder with timecode from the guy in Connecticut. (I've spent a total of an hour on the phone with him, literally. We talk about each item, and he really makes sure it's what I need, based on what I'm going to use it for. The details go down to such matters as exactly what kind of shockmount I need, or how waterproof I need my lavalieres to be.) Last week I ordered the rest of the stuff; the mixer, the Loon boom, the bag, the power system, the batteries and charger, the cables and connectors which I will have to make myself over the next few days. It's 53 pounds and it's arriving today.


9:00 AM. It's quiet here, and I can hear trucks rev blocks away. Every time, I think UPS is coming. They will arrive, today, sometime between 9am and 7pm.

It is making me grow up. It's like expecting a baby. I've been reading instructions online; I've spent the better part of two days cleaning Elrond Hubbard World Headquarters, and it will need cleaning for a good part of today as well. Last week I could smell the dust in here. It was making me sneeze. I can still smell it a little, but it is better. Here is what I've been up against in my cleaning -- what it has looked like for most of the recent years:

Sights and smells of dust are worse in the halls and rooms outside my own. I will swiff these too. Housemates are supposed to do that, but they're a little slack. We need a cleaning stimulus bill.

I need it clean so that the electronics will feel welcome. And you may ask, what about the humidity when summer arrives? Well, I've got giant Ziplock bags and I will get some powerful desiccant.

Continue . . .