Maybe It’s Because I’m Now 30

I had a conversation with my mother today about buying my own house. (Or more probably my own condo.) This isn’t exactly a new conversation, in fact we’ve been having it more or less regularly for the last year now. It’s a bit of a scary proposition, especially here in Los Angeles. Property values are very high–that’s why I say it’s more likely that my first purchase would be a condo. I can still live in the Los Angeles area are actually buy a condo for something around the $200,000 to $300,000 range. And by “the Los Angeles area” I mean LA proper, Hollywood, near Valley areas like Burbank, Glendale, North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks. Something on the westside might be nice. Closer to the beach means cooler weather. Of course if often means higher prices too. I have no desire to go live out in the high desert, Palmdale or some such place, just so that I can own a cheap home. And an actual house in the areas I’m talking about is going to start at half-a-million for a piece of junk.

So it probably would be a condo or a town house. Still scary though.

It’s all a moot point right now since I’m not working. That’s the other scary part about home ownership. There’s something about the notion that you can just walk away from a rental property that’s a little more comforting when you don’t have a steady income.

I love my career choice and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it doesn’t guarantee me a regular paycheck 50 weeks out of the year. Doing post-production sound for films is a very fun and a pretty geeky technical job. You get the satisfaction of knowing that you had a direct hand in presenting that final product that people shell out their $10 to see in a movie theater. You’re also completely anonymous. When I walk down the street nobody comes up to me says “Oh my god it’s YOU!”

I get paid pretty decently but if I don’t have a movie to work on, I don’t collect a check. Typically I’ll have a nice run of a year or two with next to no time off. And then I might not have another job for 3 to 5 months. That just the way it goes, and those of us who do this for a living (at least the smart ones) plan for the fact that we’ll have time off. If you take home $3000 a month after taxes when you’re working, you can’t turn around and spend $3000 a month. You just can’t. You have to plan on only spending $1500 or $2000. Otherwise you’ll never make it through the downtime.

Anyway it’s just the way my life works and it’s a little different from someone who puts on a suit and tie and sits in a cubicle all day.

So let’s review: fun job, not a guaranteed income, houses very expensive.

I’m not sure where I was going with this whole thing. I guess I am just saying that I’ve been thinking about the future a lot. It would be nice to have a place to call my own. Not call it my own because I’m throwing money at someone to let me be there, but actually mine. Maybe it’s just one of those things that happens when you enter into your third decade.

So Long And Thanks For All The Tracks

I was driving around looking for lunch–as I often do in the 12pm – 1pm timeframe–listening to Steve Jones‘ radio show on Clear Channel’s take on indie radio here in Los Angeles, 103.1 FM, when Jonesy said that J.J. Jackson had died of a heart attack last night. It was like someone hit me with a hammer.

J.J. for those you of who don’t know was one of the original MTV VJs. He, Martha Quinn, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Nina Blackwood started it all off in 1981.

I still remember that day in 1983 when we first had cable television installed in our house in Farmington Hills, MI. Tom Mitchell, my neighbor and sometimes babysitter, came in when the installers finished and said, “You have to check this out.” He turned on MTV and changed my life. I was only in 3rd grade. Tom was in high school. I looked up to him.

I proceeded to watch MTV non-stop for years. Back then they only showed videos. No gameshows. No spring break beach parties. Just lots and lots of videos. Now at the tender age of 9, I was more interested in catching the latest Weird Al Yankovic video than Duran Duran’s next big hit. But since there wasn’t a heavy rotation playlist in place at the time, I got to see a lot of different videos by a lot of different artists while waiting for the next showing of “Eat It” or “I Lost On Jeopardy”.

I spent a lot of time with J.J. and Martha and Nina and all the rest. They were my friends who showed me what was cool and fun. They told me about bands that I’d never heard of like J. Geils, The Rolling Stones, The Police, Joan Jett, David Bowie, Eurythmics, Toto and Queen. It was because of J.J. and the others that I went down to Perry’s Drug Store with my allowance that I’d saved up and bought my first cassette tape, the Ghostbusters soundtrack. Hey, I was 9! Ray Parker, Jr. was awesome.

The point is that J.J. Jackson introduced me to this amazing world of music. He exposed me to all kinds songs and artists that my parents didn’t listen to at home. (Though it’s hard to go wrong with The Beatles and Motown.) He helped me learn to appreciate a much wider range of music than was played on the local Top 40 radio station.

Flash forward nearly 20 years and I’m living in Los Angeles. Imagine my surprise when I turn on the radio one Sunday evening and there’s Triple-J hosting “The 7th Day” on KLOS. It’s a show that plays albums in their entirety. J.J. would introduce each album with an amazingly insightful look at the band, the impact of the album, and society at the time. He would always take a break at the point when you would have to flip over the original vinyl and talk some more about album. His presentation of The Who’s Tommy was one of the best pieces of radio I’ve ever heard.

So long J.J. You will be missed.

NOTE: I was looking for some web links to throw into this piece and I was glad to see that KLOS had a little piece on remembering J.J. Jackson. But I was sorely disappointed to see that MTV didn’t have a single thing to say about the loss.

UPDATE: It seems MTV just had to get the latest Courtney Love hijinks out before talking about J.J.

Sign the Peak Oil Statement

Com_Bat_Rac_Coon posted a link to the Citizens Committee On Oil Peak And Decline statement that is “designed to be published in national and local newspapers, news magazines, the United Nations, NGO newsletters, and any other organ of public discussion”. It would be good for everyone to read the statement and sign it. Peak Oil is going to be the single most important political, social and economic factor in the nation’s and world’s development in the next 50 years.

Get In The Ring For Round Two

I’ve mentioned before my trip to Saginaw for my cousin’s wedding. It was great to see a lot my relatives from my dad’s side of the family. I hadn’t seen some of them in 10 years or more. A big problem with the wedding is that my cousin is 21 and I’m 30. So of course it was open field day on Jon time.

“Haven’t you met a nice girl yet?”

“When are we going to see you up there?”

“I think it’s about time you settled down and gave your grandmother some grandkids.”

And now I just got an email with some of the details of my uncle’s wedding. (My dad’s brother) So it looks as though I get to go through it all again in a little over two months.

Oh joy.

Other news I received this morning is that my friends are having a baby! (Actually I already knew they were having a baby, I just got an email update with a link to the ultrasound picture. Of course this too makes me think. Do I want to be that guy? You know, that guy who sends out ultrasound pictures? It wasn’t all that long ago that I was going to Vegas for three day drinking and gambling benders. Of course I haven’t had a drink in over three years. So these days trips to Las Vegas are slightly more sedate. But still… do I want to be that guy? Well I think it’s about time I break out of this parenthetical aside.)

Actually, it’s probably time for me to wrap up this entry. But still…

What’s With All These Enterprises?

There have been many ships called Enterprise over the years. The opening credit sequence to “Star Trek: Enterprise” shows a few of them including the 19th century British warship H.M.S. Enterprize and the Space Shuttle test vehicle Enterprise.

In the Star Trek universe, we’ve been introduced to seven different starships.

Enterprise NX-01

The first Warp 5 ship is introduced in the TV show, “Star Trek: Enterprise.” In 2151, Captain Jonathan Archer, played by Scott Bakula, takes command of this ship.

U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701

This is the classic ship of the original TV series. It is commanded by Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, during his original 5 year mission from 2263 to 2269. Its previous captain, Christopher Pike, played by Jeffrey Hunter, was introduced in the episode “The Menagerie”.

After an extensive refit completed in 2271, the Enterprise takes on the entity known as V’ger in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”

In 2285, during a battle with the Klingons, the Enterprise is destroyed. (“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”)

U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701-A

The new ship commanded by Captain James T. Kirk is introduced in 2287 in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.”

It is decommissioned after the Khitomer Conference of 2293. (“Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”)

U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701-B

The Enterprise-B is commisioned in 2295 by Captain John Harriman, played by Alan Ruck. James Kirk is present during the ceremony but is lost in a space anomoly, as seen in the “Star Trek Generations.”

U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701-C

Commanded by Captain Rachel Garrett, played by Tricia O’Neil, this ship is tragically destroyed in 2344 while trying to save a Klingon outpost from an attack by Romulan Warbirds. The fate of the Enterprise-C is shown in the excellent episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” from the third season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701-D

The Enterprise-D is the ship seen in the TV series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Captain Jean-Luc Picard, played by Patrick Stewart, is in command of the Enterprise-D from 2363 to 2371.

In 2371 the ship is destroyed by Klingons in “Star Trek Generations.”

U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701-E

This is the ship first seen in 2373 in the movie “Star Trek: First Contact.” Jean-Luc Picard is still her captain. He continues to command the ship in the “Star Trek Insurrection” and “Star Trek Nemesis.”

Deva Sound Files and Damaged Resource Forks

A lot of sound recording for film and television is moving to the Deva II hard disk recorder. They’ve been around for several years but if the recent conversations I’ve had with production mixers are any indication, we fear change.

Actually I think post-production sound tends to embrace new technologies, but lets face it when you’re on the set or on location with a production, you’ve got one chance to get that recording right. So I don’t blame mixers for being a bit hesitant to jump on the non-linear digital bandwagon.

Here’s the problem:

The Deva II mirrors to a DVD-RAM disk as it records to a hard drive. Those DVD-RAM disks become the sound rolls for the production. There are two sizes of DVD-RAM disks–2.6 GB per side and 4.7 GB per side. The older 2.6 GB drives are not compatible with 4.7 GB disks.

The Deva II formats in MS-DOS FAT16 format, but if you set it to record Sound Designer II (SD2) files, these are Macintosh files with resource forks. In post-production, if you use a SCSI DVD-RAM drive, there is software that can be installed in OS 9 to give you proper access to the SD2 files. No problem.

Unfortunately SCSI DVD-RAM drives are no longer made and have not been made for about a year or so. There is a very limited supply of rental SCSI DVD-RAM drives in Los Angeles. Only Firewire DVD-RAM drives are available for purchase now. Plus according to Apple, OS 9 has been dead for about a year and half. All new Macintoshes only boot into OS X.

Thankfully OS X comes with drivers for DVD-RAM drives built-in. Plus it supports the MSDOS FAT16 format. So if you buy a Firewire DVD-RAM drive, plug it into your OS X-based Macintosh, and insert a DVD-RAM disk from a Deva II, it will pop up on your desktop. No additional software needed.

There is a problem with this. Apple’s implementation of the MSDOS FAT16 filesystem under OS X does not properly deal with resource forks. They get stripped out of the file and appear under another directory as separate files. For something like SD2 files, this means that you lose your source timecode information which is critical for doing an auto-assembly of you production dialogue track.

The easiest solution is to record all the production sound on the Deva II in the Broadcast Wave (BWF) format. This is a flat file with no resource fork so there is no problem with losing timecode. Plus Digidesign Pro Tools, the digital audio workstation that most of us in the post-production sound industry use, fully supports the BWF format.

This solution is not always available. Often you get sound rolls from the production after shooting has wrapped and there was no conversation with the production mixer. It might be in SD2 format and there’s nothing you can do to change it at that point.

I’ve developed an AppleScript that makes use of two other programs–ToggleFork and Resploder–to fix this problem. Take your DVD-RAM disk. Insert it into your Firewire DVD-RAM drive under OS X. Copy the entire disk (including all folders) over to your working hard drive (it can be SCSI, Firewire, internal, it doesn’t matter). Run my “Deva SD2 Fix” AppleScript and point to the folder that contains the Deva sound files when you are prompted. That’s it. It’s pretty simple and only take a minute or so to fix an entire sound roll.

Let me know if you have any problems with this.

Download Deva SD2 Fix.
Download ToggleFork from me.
Download Resploder from me.

NOTE: I didn’t write ToggleFork or Resploder. Other people did. Also, Apple released OS X 10.3.3 yesterday. It’s possible that MSDOS FAT16 resource fork bug was fixed in this release. I’ve been in touch with Apple trying to get this fixed for many months now. I haven’t had a chance to try out the new OS software and see if it now works.

Say What You Mean

I’ve recently seen several ads of TV supporting G.W. for prez. In fact G.W. himself says something like “Approved by George W. Bush” at the end of all of them.

One in particular caught my attention because he talked about how Kerry wanted to raise taxes by some huge amount, that he wanted to reduce the effectiveness of the Patriot Act against terrorists, and he wanted to wait for U.N. approval before going into Iraq.

I found that I was saying to myself, “Exactly. Kerry should be president.” Do I like paying lots of taxes? Not particularly, but I don’t believe in governing on a deficit either. The Patriot Act is scary. And oh gee, do you really think we should have waited for the entire world’s support before we invaded another country?

It brought to mind a recent post about George Orwell that I read.