Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why Are The Adverts So Loud?...

Whether you’re listening to the radio or watching TV, it seems like those ad breaks come bursting out of the speaker at double the normal volume. It’s annoying, and to make it worse, all the TV and radio stations deny that the ads are any louder than anything else. As if you can’t tell how loud things are by listening! In fact they are telling the truth, but it’s not the whole truth. To get to the bottom of it, we’ll have to explain a little bit of how programs and ads are made.

Let’s say we’re making a TV or radio program… like a sitcom or a talk-show or a nerdy story about technology. The sound of the program is mostly made up of talking. Sure, there might be some mood music, or even the occasional loud sound effect, but mostly it’s people talking. Sometimes it’s loud, sometimes it’s soft, and there are natural pauses between words and sentences. The overall effect is that it sounds like real life, allowing you to believe what you hear.

But an ad usually has a totally different focus. Most of the time they’re not trying to make a scene that sounds natural and believeable. They’re trying to get your attention. There are exceptions to this. Some ads are quiet to create a particular effect. But they’re not the ones we’re worried about, are they? So how do all of those loud ads get made?

Generally, the producers of an ad have 30 seconds to get in a lot of information, so the words don’t have those natural pauses between them… they’re all jammed in together. Then you add music, to give it some energy, and to fill in all those annoying noiseless gaps where the voice-over person takes a breath. Sometimes, the audio engineer will even “de-breath” the ad, deleting the sounds of breathing so more words can be fitted in. If necessary, the audio engineer also adds sound effects or more voices, before mixing them all together.

The final part of the process is called mastering - you may also hear it being called compression, limiting, or maximising. The audio engineer processes the ad to make it as loud as it can be for the whole 30 seconds… so there are no quiet parts, and every moment is filled with the most volume possible within the limits of a TV or radio signal. So programs are made to sound natural, with lots of quiet bits to balance out the loud bits. And ads are made to have a high impact, so they’re as loud as possible the WHOLE TIME.

But that's not all folks! Now here’s the tricky part.

A TV or radio signal can only carry so much sound. And generally, the loudest part of a program is the same volume as the loudest part of the ads around it. This is what the stations mean when they say that the ads aren’t louder than the programs – that the ad and the program have the same maximum volume. But because the ad is right up near the maximum volume the whole time, it has a much higher average volume, and human perception says it’s louder.

But what can you do about it? Unfortunately, not much. The commercial stations are paid for playing ads, and they’ll play any ad that fits their technical requirements for a good quality broadcast… even if it’s loud. And in any case, turning the whole ad break down is technically a nightmare. The people who make ads – advertising agencies and media outlets – don’t want to turn the volume down either. They’re competing for your attention after all. Can you think of a business that would like their ads to be quieter than the competition? They’ll always aim for the maximum loudness that’s technically possible.

So there’s no broad solution in the current commercial environment. But now at least you know why the ads feel so loud. And you can prepare yourself with the mute button, or just turn the damn thing off.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

For sale: Obi-Wan's Jedi cloak...

If you've got £50,000 burning a hole in your pocket you could be the new owner of Obi-Wan Kenobi's Jedi cloak. The brown hooded cloak worn by Sir Alec Guinness in the original Star Wars trilogy is up for auction and is expected to sell for between £50,000 and £60,000.

Auctioneer Bonhams is selling off costumes from various films and TV shows. Highlights include Dell and Rodney's Batman and Robin costumes from Only Fools and Horses, Dr Who clobber, and a selection of James Bond's suits.

But you could pick up Victoria Beckham's (or Adams as she was then) blue lycra catsuit from SpiceWorld for a bargain £500. Mel B's corset top could be yours for just £150 to £200.

Dr Who costumes are expected to go for between £3,000 and £20,000 - a full Tom Baker costume complete with scarf and sonic screwdriver is expected to sell for between £15,000 and £20,000. The costumes come from Angels The Costumiers, founded in 1840, which said pressure on space and rising insurance premiums were behind the sale. The company has provided costumes for 26 films which have gone on to win Oscars for "Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design". The sale is on 6 March and the costumes will be available to view in Bonhams' London showroom for about a week beforehand.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Erasure : New Album and Single...

The brand new Erasure album is to be released on the 21st May in the UK. The album's called Light At The End Of The World and the single's called I Could Fall In Love With You.

Arsenal 1-1 Bolton...

Mark and I went to the game yesterday. A disappointing first half left us one nil down. An exciting come back by the Gunners (much assisted by Toure's equalizing 78th minute header) made for a thrilling second half.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Spice World: The Movie...

Spice World: The Movie has been voted the worst movie ever in a poll of 12,000 discerning moviegoers. The MSN Movies survey also honoured Titanic with a second spot, while Grease 2 mounted the podium in third place. MSN spokesman Mike Lok said: "I'm sure most viewers would admit to getting guilty pleasure from at least one film on the list. Some movies are just so bad, they're good."
Here's the Top Ten in full:
01. Spice World The Movie
02. Titanic
03. Grease 2
04. Waterworld
05. Hostel
06. Anaconda
07. Batman & Robin
08. Gigli
09. Catwoman
10. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Equality vs The Roman Catholic Church...

They only place about 75 kids a year in total so if they decide to close (which they won't) there are plenty of other agencies who can take up the slack.

What Items Might Be Found In A Woman's Handbag?...

Why a balaclava and rawl plugs, of course.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Triplets...

On Saturday Stuart and I went down to see Sarah and the triplets. We took some snaps. What sweeties.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Arsenal 2-1 Man Utd...

There was just ten minutes to go and to Paul and me it looked like Man U were going to better us with the score lying at 0-1 down. Then everything changed with a fantastic goal from Robin van Persie and it was 1-1. A few minutes of extra time and that was how things might have been left if it wasn't for a genius 94th minute winner by Thierry Henry. Magic.

Friday, January 19, 2007

John Lewis Sign (of the Times)...

I saw this sign in the John Lewis window Oxford Street. No mention of 'weddings' I notice.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Avenue Q...

Last night Stu and I went to see the Muppet puppet musical Avenue Q at the Noel Coward Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

We had very high expectations of the show as everyone had said how fantastic it all was. There were people in the audience we knew who were back for the second and third times. So we took out seats expecting to be wowed. Which is always a mistake, of course.

Sadly, and perhaps inevitably, it didn't quite live up to those high expectations. It was good, yes. Amusing. Indeed in places rather funny. The songs were clever. But after what we'd been lead to believe (i.e. it was shocking) it just wasn't risque enough. There was little to shock in fact. The songs about racism, Internet porn, and the difficulties of life were all well and good but they simply reminded me of Flanders and Swan. Or Fascinating Aida. Or Topping and Butch. They didn't quite have the satirical bite I'd hoped. File under 'Sesame Street with amusing social commentary'.

One thing that we and the New York Critics agree on however. Avenue Q was way better than Wicked (it beat that show to the Tony for best musical award in 2004)

Best song: "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"
Funniest bit: Muppets Puppets having sex to "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love)"
Favourite Muppets Puppets: The Bad Idea Bears

If you're going to go, grab one of the half prices offers kicking around.

Brain Teaser Answers...

1. 59 people: each with £25.

2. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.

Defective Product...

The following statement was released this morning by the Trading Standards
Authority. Please read carefully and immediately report any experiences of this
defective product.

Trading standards officers have ordered the urgent recall of a defective
product found to be faulty and dangerous. Over the Christmas period, tests
proved the components in the product called "Chelsea FC" would fall apart
when placed under the smallest amount of pressure. Consumers first
experienced problems last year, when it was noticed that the product did not
work properly in Europe. Complaints were made about it malfunctioning and
then emmitting a continuous whining noise. When the product started to fall
apart in Britain the Trading standards authority took immediate action. A
spokesman warned "We particularly want to stress to parents that there is a
genuine risk of choking". Consumers have been urged to check the small print
carefully for the words "This product may contain traces of "Shevchenko".

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Brain Teasers...

1. In a football collective, the winnings amounted to £1475. There were more than 30 people in the syndicate but less than 100. Each won exactly the same number of pounds and no pence were involved. How much did each win?

2. A slight inclination of the cranium is as adequate as a spasmodic movement of one optic to an equine quadruped utterly devoid of any visionary capacity. Translate.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Adrienne Howells...

On Friday night the lovely Ian bought Stuart and I tickets to go see confessional performance drag-artist Adrienne Howells at London's gay-friendly Drill Hall. It was indeed a cosy show. Just twenty of us sat on sofas and armchairs, drank mulled wine, ate minced pies, listened to anecdotes and watched occasional home videos. Adrienne's relaxed conversational style was very inclusive and we all happily joined in the party games and interactive nature of the show. We laughed too. A lot.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Cocaine found on 99.9% of UK banknotes...

Pretty well every banknote in the UK shows traces of cocaine, forensic scientists have claimed. According to a report in the Sunday Telegraph, 99.9 per cent of the two billion notes currently in circulation have come into contact with Bolivian marching powder. Bristol-based company Mass Spec Analytical tested over "1,500 £10 and £20 notes withdrawn from banks in nine separate rural and urban locations". The company also found traces of ecstasy, heroin and cannabis, but "at far lower levels because the substances break down more quickly".

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth at the Camden Odeon. We'd been meaning to see it for a while.

Set in 1940s Spain during the violent aftermath of the Spanish Civil War Pan's Labyrinth is the story of Ofelia, a bookish and imaginative 11-year-old girl who moves with her sickly pregnant mother to live with her new father, a brutal fascist Army captain. In an attempt to retreat from this grim reality, she enters a lush fantasy world that might only exist in her own head, where she meets a wizened, half-man, half-goat creature named Pan. Here, she's given a chance to escape forever, but first has to perform three dangerous tasks. And the story soon takes a disturbing turn. Be warned though: I flinched at some of the more graphic scenes.

Bit of a must-see film though.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Morrissey in talks for Eurovision

Former Smiths singer Morrissey could represent the UK at the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest, the BBC has confirmed. Whaaaa?

Liverpool 3-6 Arsenal...

Last night Paul and I watched with increasing joy as Arsenal routed Liverpool to seal a Carling Cup semi-final clash with Spurs (probable 1st leg 17th Jan, 2nd leg 24th Jan). Julio Baptista scored four - the little love. Despite the choruses of "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the home fans, it was our boys that were cheering at the end as Arsenal sealed their first League Cup win at Anfield in stunning fashion. And to cap it all, the average age of the outfield was just 19.

Shhh! You Know Who...

The Security Service MI5 has announced that subscribers to its website can sign up for email notification of changes to the current threat level. Check out the current threat level here. See the system used to assess threats here. (Warning: Contains picture of John Reid). Or see MI5 dispel a few myths here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why are you so fat?...

Attributed to quite a few people (mainly cricketers) and oft repeated (but still funny):

- "Why are you so fat?"

- "'Cos everytime I fuck your wife she gives me a biscuit!"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Duckie: The Class Club...

On Saturday afternoon Stu, Paul, Drew, James and I went to the Barbican for the Duckie Christmas show 2006. We got socially mobile; not lower, nor middle but upper class for us. We dressed up, Paul got us green carnations cabbages and we were treated to 'Dinner-tainment' along with a traditional Christmas dinner - bubbly & Mrs Beaton, game & figgy pudding. We had opera. Middle classes had interpretive dance. The lowers had karaoke and a raffle. Sitting next to us were a lovely bunch of gals and we ended spending he rest of the day with them. Then at the pub later. And then Duckie proper.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Visited 42 countries (18%)...

Last year I went overseas a dozen times and visited a number of new countries. That brings my total to 42 I think. Where have you been?

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Katie Price and Peter Andre: the greatest album ever?...

It's official: the debut album by highly-talented popsters Katie Price and Peter Andre has been classified by Amazon reviewers as possibly the greatest album ever - a terrible shock to those of us ready to dismiss their musical talents and consign A Whole New World to the dustbin of musical history.

Here is one of the many glowing reviews:

There is one incredible moment on this album and that is the nanosecond of silence just before the first track commences. In that moment the whole universe shivers for a second. the title is literal - even eponymous. This album is not just genre defining, it represents the ending of an epoch and the opening of a whole new world.

I can only agree with other reviewers about the overwhelming emotional response I had when I knew this album had been made (well...brought to life, really, since it was something that was predestined to "BE" - like a dormant succubus aroused by cavorting nude witches). I literally retched i was so overcome. I was lightheaded with exaltation. In fact I was so delirious I crossed the road with this on my ipod and was run over by a car. Amazingly I did not feel a thing.

I have only one complaint about this meisterwerk. The Price. It's far too low. Were there to be but one copy remaining in the world, and had my own copy been mysteriously burned in a catastrophic fire in which I had been unable to risk my life rescuing it, I would gladly sell my children into slavery to buy that last remaining disc.

Thank you Peter. Thank you Katie. I am looking at the world right now and as of now it really is completely new to me. I understand none of it. I am like a new born babe. My mind is a tabula rasa and you have written new instructions upon that page. I will now carry out your instructions to the letter...

Treat yourself to more gushing reviews here.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Kylie - Showgirl: Homecoming Tour...

**Warning: Plot Spoilers**

It was an oddly titled (and at times oddly costumed) show but what a fab time I had last night treating Stuart to a night of Kylie in not-so-glitzy North London's Wembley Arena.

At times Kylie looked a little tired - but hey, we can forgive here that as she's just come out of chemo. And at times her costuming was frankly bizarre - way to many feathers, feathers, feathers. But those minor quibbles aside, it was an amazing show. There was superb staging with hidden entrances and exits all over the place. Great sound and great lighting. The choice of songs was well up to par - all the favourites and a newy penned by the Scissor Sisters. We even had a bit of Over The Rainbow (a nod to Eva Cassidy?), Yazz and The Plastic Population's The Only Way Is Up and Madonna's Vogue (along with a fabulous Bob Fosse version of Locomotion). However for me the triumph of the night was the main encore: Dr Who composer Murray Gold's music accompanying Cybermen pouring onto the stage shouting "DELETE, DELETE" breaking into Can't Get You Out Of My Head. Inspired.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

David Gest's All Star Soul Spectacular...

Last weekend Stuart treated me to David Gest'S New Year's Weekend All-Star Soul Spectacular at Cadogan Hall. It was great fun. On the list were; Peabo Bryson, Russel Thompkins Jr And The New Stylistics, Bonnie Tyler, Martha Reeves And The Vandellas, Candi Staton, Deniece Williams, Billy Paul, Freda Payne, Carl Charlton and Dorothy Mo.