Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Police concert speaker problems

I had the good fortune to see The Police in concert again last night, here in San Diego. I'd previously seen them about a year ago up in Los Angeles. What a difference a year makes! As always, they played fantastic but last night's concert really fell flat compared to a year ago. The problem was the sound system -- they were practically unhearable. I think the problem is their speakers.

I'm pretty sure they're touring with their own complete PA setup, speakers and amplifiers. So the sound problems are probably their own fault rather than the venues; fyi - Cricket Amphitheater still sucks! I think The Police are trying to make it through the end of their concert schedule without replacing any of their speakers, even though they're totally worn-out. It's kind of a rip-off, if you ask me. Theirs has been by-far the most successful concert of the year so I know they can afford to replace $100k of speakers.

I try not to let technical problems like this bother me. But seriously, the sound system was completely overloaded and distorted throughout the entire performance. The audience was forced to 'intuit' the notes and with only partial success. Many MANY times I saw the band hit the chorus of a song and then stare in wonder as the audience failed to react -- because we couldn't hear any change in the song! I'm sure things like this also demoralize a band and bring down their performance level.

On another (funny) side-note: You know how the stereotypical concert experience used to be for everyone to hold their lighters up, sort of create a field of 'candlelight' ? Well people don't smoke like they used to. Instead, the new candlelight is created by everyone holding their cellphone-cameras aloft, creating a field of LCD-display-candlelight (and visible only to the audience behind them).

Friday, May 23, 2008

Do great artists have to pay their 'dues' first?

Here's a goofy chain of thoughts: My wife and I like to record new TV shows but delay watching them until the season is over. This allows us to watch them as fast (or slow) as we want. We learned to appreciate this after the first season of Veronica Mars, which was so great we ended-up watching the last 3 episodes in one giant late-night push -- we just HAD TO KNOW what happened next! Well, the latest series to get this treatment is the short-lived Bionic Woman on NBC. It got canned after just 8 episodes?

Anyways, so we're watching one of the few Bionic Woman episodes and in one scene the hero gets caught pretending to be a Picasso expert. The person they're trying to fool asks them, "What's your favorite piece by Picasso," and the hero's flummoxed, has no answer. At the time, I couldn't think of a favorite either. But now, a day later, I woke-up thinking about it (isn't the mind a strange thing?).

Several years ago I had the good fortune to be in Barcelona, Spain, where Picasso grew-up and where there's a museum dedicated to him. Most of his really famous artwork is elsewhere now, and this hometown museum primarily has his childhood artwork (though I think "Guernica" was also there? Maybe it was just on traveling exhibit). One early painting of his absolutely stood-out for me. He was just 14 and an art student, and he must have been studying the classic Realist painters. He painted a deathbed scene that was just stunning. Besides being absolutely photo-realistic (How??) it also immediately captures the emotion of the room, and all the people in the scene are absolutely alive with tension and grief.

So now -- confident that *I* could have fooled the bad guy (from Bionic Woman) -- I started thinking about what 'Genius' means in the Arts. Up until that point in his life, Picasso was still just an art student. I think he was regarded as a child prodigy (rightly) but no one knew if he would ever blossom into a great artist. By demonstrating such mastery of the existing paradigm, Realism, I think it allowed him carte blanche to experiment, eventually leading him to invent Cubism -- a sort of anti-Realism! I'm sure my analysis is infantile but it's my blog, so there.

I can think of at least one other example of this phenomenon, where a new artist demonstrated a mastery of the prevailing 'form' before branching-off into the creation of the new: The Beatles. My wife was surprised to learn (after college? 'cha! Where have you been???) that the Beatles recorded both the 50's-type "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" fluff AND the elaborate and philosophical later songs. She really didn't know they were the same band, and without knowing their history I could see why.

The Beatles recorded FIVE albums in their first THREE years! They basically paid their dues to their record-industry masters, and demonstrated a clear mastery of the prevailing teeny-bopper Lite Pop style. Then, when they were safely insulated from criticism, they sprang Sgt Pepper's on us. If I'm not mistaken this is widely considered the first Concept Album (or at least the first hugely successful one).

Monday, May 5, 2008

Managing videos on my new camcorder

Last week I bought a new Sony HDR-CX7 high-definition camcorder. It records to Memory Stick flash-drive and includes a docking station that both charges it and allows direct download via USB cable.The videos are stored to the memory card in the folder, /avchd/bdmv/stream/ *.mts
The problem is figuring-out how to move the files onto the computer without the camera freaking.

If I simply copy, then delete the files, they will still appear in the playlist and give an error if you try to play them. If I delete all the other data files under /avchd then the camera asks you to re-initialize the memory card. I've yet to find a way to remove the .mts files without requiring extra steps on the camera afterwards.

By comparison, with my Nikon digital camera I simply copy the .jpg files and then delete them. The camera recovers from the unexpected disappearance of the files without complaint.

P.S. Kudos to Sony on their docking station's USB interface -- the memory card is easily recognized by Ubuntu Linux. This is in stark contrast to my LG 'Muziq' phone, which has a USB interface but tries to present as both a memory card and a modem, interfering with Linux recognizing the card. It's a cool idea, to be able to use the phone as a modem, but it's only supported in Windows, blech!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I emailed Tift Merritt

Ha! I bought my wife the concert DVD for Tift Merritt, from her previous tour. But then I realized that it didn't include my favorite song, Late Night Pilgrim, from that same previous album. I checked her web-site, www.tiftmerritt.com, and found a Contact Us email. So I wrote to her and teased her, "What have you got against 'Late Night Pilgrim'?" I pointed-out that we'd just seen her in concert and she'd played my wife's favorite song but not mine, and now her DVD had skipped it, too. Hopefully she'll understand that I wasn't (too) serious!