Sound and sound bars

I love black and white movies. Especially those made during the Studio System era (1925 to about 1950) when studios controlled every aspects of the movie making process. They held sway over scripts, actors, directors, soundtracks, everything but the actors’ most intimate thoughts.

Under the Studio System, actors were groomed from head to toe and taught how to dress, how to walk, how to dance, how to become polished performers. When “talkies” appeared (around 1927), a good voice and a clear diction became indispensable tools of an actor’s panoply.

In those days, directors paid great attention to the quality of the movie soundtrack and the sound man was a very important cog of the filmmaking process. Directors did not hesitate to do multiple takes of a scene if the sound quality was not satisfactory, and many silent era careers floundered due to unpalatable voices or poor diction.

Today paradoxically, with a proliferation of sophisticated recording devices, the sound quality of many movies is noticeably inferior to the soundtracks of the Studio System era. This is partly due to the fact that nowadays, look is more important than sound, and that some actors are not polished enough to deliver their lines properly.
And flat screen television sets tiny loudspeakers tend to exacerbate the audio problem. They are obviously not up to the task of delivering quality sound.

And that’s why (for a while) I decided to use captions to assist in comprehending my boob tube sessions.
But the problem with closed captions is that they often mask crucial shots and they are not always properly synchronized with the actors’ lines.
After putting up with this unsatisfying process, I decided to buy a “sound bar” (a slim device containing multiple speakers) to enhance the sound of my television set.

But as I found out, adding a sound bar to a television set is not an easy task.

Today, a high percentage of television viewers subscribe to cable and have multiple devices connected to their cable box. They have to bypass the remote control that originally came with their television set in favor of the remote control device provided by the cable company.

But when you connect an additional component to your cable box, you need to reprogram your remote control to accommodate the new component, and this procedure can be highly problematic.

Instructions provided with electronic components are often difficult to understand, incomplete or not solely applying to the device that you bought.
And while fiddling with the remote control device, you are always afraid of messing up what you already so painfully trained the beast to do.

That’s why after fruitlessly spending a great deal of time trying to reprogram my cable remote control device, I sent the sound bar back to its makers.

And you might also understand why I have a soft spot for easy on the eye, clear sounding black and white movies that don’t needlessly tax your already challenged hearing.

Bite me if you can!


Democracy vs. autocracy

In light of recent events, I am republishing the translation of an article that I originally wrote in French in February 2011.

A wind of madness has recently swept the Arab world. Intoxicated by the tidal waves that engulfed Tunisia then Egypt, whole populations are rising and trampling old autocracies.

The following domino effect spread to Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. Countries long time muzzled by strongmen are suddenly rebelling and demanding a more democratic form of government.

But the transition from an absolute regime to a representative system is a Herculean task. I would compare this state of affairs with the situation of a homeless person who suddenly inherits millions. Penniless yesterday, millionaire today. Can this man who lived all his life in a state of extreme poverty manage his new riches?
I very much doubt it. If he has any sense, he will look for somebody “qualified” to manage his newly found fortune, and that’s where danger lurks.

I have always been wary of the extremists (fundamentalists, Islamists, communists, Trotskyists, pétainists, fascists, papists, etc.) who swarm into the murky waters of revolutions.
These unsavory characters are waiting for the opportune moment to pounce on the carcasses of deposed states and establish (for the good of the people of course) another kind of dictatorship, often harsher than the one that was overturned.

I would not go as far as saying that Nicolas Alexandrovich Romanov was a saint, but I think that I would have preferred to live under a Romanov than a Stalin, Pol Pot or Ahmadinejad.

All the poor devils who have lived in misery injustice and fear think that a revolution will be the panacea for all their ills. Those people are eager to listen and follow any sweet sounding demagogue who will promise them heaven on earth.

Personally, I would be more inclined to listen to a realist like Winston Churchill who famously declared on May 13th, 1940 “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat” than somebody who promises me the moon.
I am ready to bet that the street vendors of Cairo or Tunis will not be better off under a democracy than under an autocracy.

Let me confess that I am always leery of being tossed from Charybdis to Scylla.
I do not mean to say that I am against the establishment of a democratic system anywhere in the world, but rather that I feel ill at ease by the inevitable vacuum created by a revolution; and especially by the unavowed convictions held by the people who are jockeying for power.

Unfortunately “freedom fighters” have a tendency to bite the hand that fed them, and often morph into mobs bent on carving their own fiefdoms rather than implementing the basic tenets of democracy.


PS: To look at pictures of recent events turn the sound on, click on the “Home” link at the top of the page, and click again on “My photos” located on the right side of the page.




Suite à une vidéo de troisième ordre crée et diffusée sur YouTube, des milliers d’énergumènes se sont précipités dans les rues pour attaquer les symboles de tous leurs maux: les ambassades des Etats-Unis.
Quand des contestataires ont une raison valable pour manifester, je n’ai pas grand-chose à dire, mais quand des crimes sont commis pour des raisons pseudo-religieuses, je ne peux rester indifférent.

Ces émeutes, incitées par des marionnettistes venimeux, sont généralement commises par des mécontents n’ayant pas grand-chose à perdre.
Souvent sans emploi ou travaillant pour un salaire de misère, pour ces déshérités toute occasion est bonne pour exprimer leur rage contre le système.

Ces manifestations « spontanées »sont  avant tout des actes de revanche commis par des gens jaloux d’une société dont ils sont exclus.
Au Moyen-Age, les manants avaient rarement l’occasion d’apprécier comment vivaient les seigneurs. Au vingt-unième siècle par contre, même dans les pays les plus sous-développés, les miséreux (grâce à la télévision) ont maintenant un aperçu des splendeurs de l’Occident.
Et c’est de là que nait leur rage. Cette rage qui n’attend qu’une occasion pour exploser et détruire les symboles d’une société dont ils sont exclus.

Les « casseurs » qui manifestent  dans ces occasions n’ont probablement qu’une connaissance limitée des doctrines de leur foi. Ils se réfugient dans la religion tout comme les manants d’autrefois se réfugiaient dans les cathédrales pour supporter leur misère.

Je ne crois pas un seul instant que c’est uniquement une ferveur religieuse extrême qui a poussé ces jeunes gens à attaquer les ambassades et les Mac-Dos.

Ces casseurs, fiers de crier leur haine pour les photojournalistes, n’hésiteraient pas une seconde si l’occasion s’en présentait, à fuir leur pays et a venir frapper aux portes de l’Occident pour quémander un asile et un travail.
Mais comme beaucoup d’amants jaloux, ils préfèrent tuer ce qu’ils ne peuvent posséder.

La misère et l’ignorance sont malheureusement des terres fertiles pour les provocateurs. Et les barbus rétrogrades qui rêvent de tenir le monde sous le joug d’une théocratie féodale en profitent.