To Read Or Not To Read, That Is The Question

I read a lot. Or let’s put it this way: averaged out over the years, I have read a lot. It kicked in pretty hard when I was in third grade. That year I read “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. The next year I read the complete “Lord Of The Rings”. And I’ve never looked back since. By the time I was in junior high and all through high school, I was devouring books. Sometimes one every couple of days.

Things slowed down a bit in college. At least in terms of pleasure reading. But of course I had to do so much reading just for my classes that it more than made up for it. Unfortunately when I entered into the mythical realm of “real life” in January of 1996 and had to get a job, things slipped to nearly a crawl. Every six months or year or so, I would get the urge and for a month, maybe two, I would read many books. But in between those frenzied periods. I wouldn’t read anything.

That isn’t to say literally “nothing”. Just no books. I remember all the efforts that educators placed on reading before I went off to college. They would often say things like “Read everyday. Read anything. Even if it’s a newspaper.” In those years since 1996. I’ve done more than my share of reading everyday–mostly in the form of the internet. Often news, much of it computer-related, but always something. Read everyday.

And I would still have my “fits”. Those periods when something would spark and I’d voraciously consume another round of pressed sheets of bound cellulous. One sticks in my mind. October 2000. I was staying in a hotel in New Hampshire attending my friends’ wedding, and visiting my family in Boston.

Late one night I was flipping through the channels and I wound up on a broadcast of “Interview With A Vampire”. I stayed up late watching the whole movie, even though I’d seen in many times before. And that was all it took. When I got back to Los Angeles, I promptly went and re-read all the Lestat novels and tracked down all the ones that had come out since my last reading. I think I even got in a few bonus H.P. Lovecraft books before my literary zeal wore itself out.

Things changed for me in September 2002. That was when Cameron and I set up the deal we have with Fox Studios. Suddenly I found myself driving an hour across town from Burbank to Century City every morning and another hour on the evening return. I quickly found myself wishing for something to fill up the time. I don’t mind driving. In fact I quite enjoy it. I just felt that I could be doing something even more constructive with the 10 (sometimes 14) hours I spent in the car every week.

In my dream world we would have voice activated computers installed in every car that would be tied into our own personal “data-space”. All my files–documents, pictures, MP3s, movies, everything–would be in this “space”. It would be accessible from any computer anywhere. I would be able to work with those files even from my car. But my dream world doesn’t exist and I digress from my story about reading.

In September 2002 with 10 hours to fill every single week, I signed up for an account at audible.com and started to enjoy the world of books on tape. Or in the case of Audible, books on MP3.

There has always been a part of me that feels that listening to a book is somehow cheating. You’re taking the easy way out. It’s like Cliff Notes or something. You’re not reallly putting the effort into the event and aren’t getting the true enjoyment out of a good book if you aren’t reading it. Well I quickly got past my internal objections by telling myself that I’ve read so many physically real books over the years, that I’ve earned the right to listen to 10 hours worth of literature every week. I’m glad I did.

Since that time I’ve “read” (translated: listened to) a lot books. It’s great. When I’m really into one I can’t want to get back into the car so that I can continue the story. Over at my page at Amazon, I’ve created a few lists to keep track of the books I’ve read. Most of the recent ones I’ve actually held in my hands since I’ve had the time, what with not working much recently. But many of the early ones I “read” via my iPod in the car. In fact right now, I’m listening to “The Callahan Chronicals” by Spider Robinson during my commute and actually reading a collection of the first four Lankhmar books by Fritz Leiber when I’m at home.

And today I discovered this place when it was announced on MacSlash that they now offer AAC files for download. Telltale Weekly: The Spoken Alexandria Project is an effort to put audiobook versions of 50 public domain texts online a year. They’re very inexpensive now, and will be offered for free after 5 years under a Creative Commons license. It looks like a great site.

Cool Song Intros

The other day Retrocrush posted their list of 50 Coolest Song Parts. Since it was listed on Fark I’m sure that everyone and their brother has already seen it. It’s really a fun list to go through. I don’t agree with some of their choices. (They are completely crazy with the whole Lionel Ritchie thing.) But it will definitely bring a smile to your face.

I thought I would gather up a few of my favorites. I have a hard saying anything is my “all-time favorite” so these are just some of mine.

My favorite jangly, reverb-saturated, vibrato-laden, guitar-riff driven, song intros.

"Meat Is Murder" Album Cover

“How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths from “Meat Is Murder” (1985)

The pulsing stereo guitar goes straight from the speakers and latches itself onto your brain–refusing to let go. Not even a sudden burst of what can best be described as a “space harmonica” can save you.

"Disintegration" Album Cover

“Pictures Of You” by The Cure from “Distintegration” (1989)

The glistening chimes and doubled-up melodies from the guitars will make you want to fall in love.

"The Wedding Album" Album Cover

“Come Undone” by Duran Duran from “The Wedding Album” (1993)

You’ve just fallen overboard and are drowning. You can tell by the phasey riffs coming out the guitar and the occasional plopping noises. Once the bass kicks in you know you’ve hit bottom.

My favorite bad-ass R&B song intros.

"Shotgun" Album Cover

“Shotgun” by Junior Walker & The All-Stars from “Shotgun” (1965)

The blast of the gun is just the start. When saxophone starts wailing all hopes of getting away from this irrestible tune are in vain.

"Greatest Hits, Vol. 2" Album Cover

“Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” by The Temptations from “Greatest Hits, Vol. 2” (1970)

The relentless bass line and the continual building of this song–echoey riff, shanking guitar, classic Motown harmony–make you want to jump out of your seat by the time the first “Ball of Confusion” hits in 4-part glory.

"Shaft" Album Cover

“Theme From ‘Shaft'” by Isaac Hayes from “Shaft” (1971)

This song epitomizes “cool”. It never stops building on to itself with high-hat, waka-chika guitar, piano, bottom-heavy bass, and a horn section that won’t quit. Shut your mouth!

Fun With High Definition Television

I wound up in Long Beach today at my aunt and uncle’s place fixing the setup on their new Panasonic 60″ LCD Projection TV. It’s a gorgeous set. And huge! The guys who delivered it didn’t take the time to, or know how to, or whatever, do the little things like auto-program the channels. I did another nice picture calibration with my Avia DVD just like I did for Cameron.

This set has a built-in High Definition (HD) decoder. So in addition to hooking it up to their DirecTV, non-HD for now, I also hooked it up to their roof antenna. I never realized how many digital stations are broadcasting now. Or at least here in Los Angeles. There’s tons! Now only a few are actually broadcasting in HD. The major networks really only do HD for Primetime and major sporting events on the weekends. KCET, a local PBS station, has a 24 hour HD channel. It looks fantastic.

The digital stations work like this: Channel 2 out here is CBS. Digital CBS comes in on channel 2.1. NBC on channel 4. Digital NBC on 4.1. But there’s quite a bit of spectrum allocated for each “channel” so stations can actually have multiple digital broadcasts on one “channel”. ABC has a digital channel 7.1 which mirrors the analog broadcast, but it also has channel 7.2 with a completely different program.

The aforementioned KCET is channel 28. Channel 28.1 is their HD show which is different from the analog signal. The digital version is actually on 28.2. In fact I found a few channels like 58, another PBS station, which actually have 4 digital broadcasts on one “channel”. And in case you don’t know, a non-HD digital broadcast is called Standard Definition (SD). Actually some of the channels like the major networks came in listed as DT (Digital Television) which I took to mean that sometimes the broadcast in SD and sometimes in HD. But I could be wrong.

In any case, it was pretty cool stuff.

Continuing The Deva / SD2 / BWF Discussion

I’ve been getting quite a bit of traffic to my website the last couple of days from both the DevaII mailing list at Yahoo Groups and the rec.arts.movies.production.sound newsgroup. Hello all!

It seems that someone posted a link to my article on dealing with Sound Designer II (SD2) sound files on the FAT16 DVD-RAMs that you get from a Deva II field recorder. (And the problem of losing the resource fork.) I hope people have found it helpful.

I still don’t know for sure if Apple has fixed the FAT16 DVD-RAM driver in the OS. Two versions of OS X, 10.3.3 and 10.3.4, have come out since I wrote that piece and I haven’t started a new Deva show in that time, so I haven’t been able to test it. And the report I filed at Apple’s Bug Reporter lists it as “Closed/Duplicate” which just means “Yes, we know about it and someone else has already told us about this.”

The AppleScript I wrote to fix the broken resource fork problem could be modified to fix a broken resource fork on any file really. Assuming the problem is that it got stripped on due to a transfer to a FAT16 disk, and that you still had the resource fork.

I found this German company, Spherico, that’s written several programs for dealing with sound dailies and Final Cut Pro. Most of the programs are about bringing all the functionality of the Avid to Final Cut Pro. There is one however called CopyRestore SD2 which does the same thing as my AppleScript. It will copy the files off the DVD-RAM at the same time. Maybe it’s cooler. I don’t know. Like I said, no Deva movie to try it out on yet. It’s also $25.

They have another program BounceUsII which plays multi-channel Broadcast Wave files (BWF). Plus you can display and edit the metadata. Do mix-downs for editing against a “comp” track. Convert to and from SD2. And it’ll spit out XML for importing into Final Cut Pro. It looks pretty cool. I’ve been trying to play with it using some BWF sound effects with metadata, but it keeps giving me strange AppleScript errors. Not sure what I problem is. Anyway, you might want to check it out and see if you have better luck.

There’s another handy program I came across called BWAV Reader which shows you all the metadata and other information about Broadcast Wave files that you drop on it.

BWAV Reader Screenshot

It has this very tempting “Edit Metadata” button that when clicked simply pops up a “BWAV Writer will do what you want. Contact the author.” window. I checked the website and there’s not BWAV Writer program there. Looks like I’ll have to send him an email.

A Few Things I’ve Noticed

So I’ve only been playing with this a few hours. This isn’t the be-all, end-all of the RSS newfeed thing.

First, let me say that the My Yahoo RSS module is not very good. I don’t know where how it gets it’s automatic feeds when you search for things but they’re not quite right. The feed for my own site only seems to show the last post I made. Whereas, if you link directly to my feed (you’ll find it on the sidebar), you’ll see the last 10 posts. And it’s slow as all hell to update. It finally added the post I made about two-and-a-half hours ago. (Of course that’s because I linked it directly to my RSS feed.) Wil Wheaton’s excellent site, however, is not showing the two posts he made today so far. Maybe by default it gets feeds from Feedster or one of these other sites that compiles lots and lots of blogs.

PulpFiction doesn’t have this problem. The Lite version, which is the one I’m using, will automatically check for new feeds every half hour.

I am having two problems with it right off the bat. First, it gets really slow after being on for a while with a couple hundred posts listed. Grabbing the elevator in scrollbar and dragging up and down really chugs. I just checked it again and I’m seeing it with only 43 messages in the Inbox.

The second problem is getting overwhelmed. Quite a while back–6 months ago maybe, I don’t really remember–I tried out NetNewsWire for a bit. I had the same problem with it. Posts keep coming in. The first time you run it, there will literally be hundreds of pages to look at. It takes hours to go through things. You finally get it down to something managable and the next day you’ve got hundreds more to look at.

I think some of it has to do with the different method of working. I added a feed for MacCentral which is one of the sites I read everyday. That one site alone might easily post 30 articles in one day. If I’m going to it through the web, I see the list of articles and only click on the ones I want to read. When I’m getting a feed to an RSS reader, all 30 articles show up as unread and unless I do something about them they sit there and multiply.

I’m not sure how to get around this. Maybe certain high volume sites like MacCentral, MacMinute, Fark, Boing Boing, need to stay web browse only. So I only click on the links I want to click on. Whereas something like Wil’s site that’s only updated one or twice a day is sent to the reader. I don’t know. I’m going to have to play with this more and think about it.

Feed Me

I’m starting to look into RSS newsfeed aggregation. I know big words. Basically it’s kind of like the list of news stories you get on a lot of web portal homepages like My Yahoo, Earthlink’s Start Page, MSN, etc. Instead of reloading a thousand times a day all those websites that you read regularly to see if there’s a new article, you subscribe to the RSS feed and use a news aggregator to do the checking for you. Like checking your email. You get a little synopsis of a new post when it’s available, and clicking on “Read More” takes you to the website to read the whole post.

I’m trying to simplify things. And as much as I love Safari, there’s some kind of memory leak / resource hog bug that if I leave it running for a few hours, it’ll consume all available CPU power on my machine. So I figure if I can leave a more system friendly program running and just load Safari when I need to, that might be better.

The two big Mac OS X RSS programs are NetNewsWire and PulpFiction. PulpFiction is brand new and I’m checking that one out first. One thing that I immediately like, is that it uses Apple’s WebKit to include a built-in browser. It’s like having Safari without running Safari. I wonder if it has the same CPU problems?

I use My Yahoo as my default homepage when I browse the web. Over the years I’ve fine tuned the modules it offers to make sure that I have everthing exactly where I want it. Weather immediately in the upper left hand corner with movie releases and box office immediately below it. A news photo in the top center, and all the different Reuters, LA Times, E! Online and other feeds below that. I’ve found that it’s a good thing to take a look at that “Choose Content” button every few months because they sometimes offer up new things.

One new feature that is in beta testing is, you guessed it, an RSS newsfeed aggregator. So I’m also looking into that for keeping up with all the weblogs, Mac info, and game news that I read. Of course that means running my loved and hated Safari. But I’m really used to that. And I’m also really used to quitting it and restarting it every few hours. It’s very possible that I will prefer to stick with what’s familiar.

A New Look

Well, I’ve finished up with a “quick and dirty” version of what MFTI looked like under MT2.661 with the new MT3 templates. It’s not perfect, but it’s mostly there. (I haven’t put the title graphic back in place. I figure I’ll save that for when I have all the little “bells and whistles” in place.)

I already love the new comment approval thing in MT3. I’ve been able to stop several Casino and P**** Enlargement spams in the short time that I’ve been switched over. It’ll be great when Blacklist is working with MT3 but this is pretty good.

And the UTF-8 default is great too. I’ve had the bandly mangled Japanese name for my website for a few years now, but the text didn’t work right in the old ISO encoding. Now I can use it again. If you can tell me what this means:

怪獣大悪脳

I’ll give you a cookie.

I have noticed that the email I get when a new comment is posted doesn’t display the Unicode characters correctly in the subject.

[Monsters from the Id æªç£å§æªè] New Comment Posted

They are fine in the body. I don’t think it’s Apple Mail causing the problem. It supports Unicode. I’ll have to look into this more.

Movable Type 3.0D is here.

I have upgraded this site to MT3. You may have noticed that it looks completely different from how it looked yesterday. You may have also noticed that it looks suspiciously like the default templates that come with MT3. That’s because it is. I’ll be changing this soon. The whole backend of the site is different and I had a lot of redirect problems to work out. They should all be taken care of now. If you notice any problems, please let me know so that I can fix it.

With that out of the way I can once again focus on getting the site to look the way I want.

MT3 also means TypeKey comments. You don’t have to have a TypeKey account to post a comment but it will make the whole process much easier. It’s up to you.