Friday, August 30, 2013

Morals Schmorals



I rewatched The Matrix a few days ago and it reminded me of a shuda, wuda, cuda that I sometimes think about.

In 1983 I was roading a show I'd co-produced, in Southern California. It was your standard capitalistic media extravaganza, using metaphors to explain what would otherwise seem brash and greedy, to surround speeches that talked of nothing but brashness and greed.

I'd owned my studio for 4 years by then and had developed a "calling card" skill, one that identified my work uniquely. I used library music (that music written specifically for commercials and such) like others scored their own. I was a master at making prerecorded junk sound as if John Williams had penned each note to the exquisitely boring verbiage.

I also was quite adept at creating my own sound effects from whole cloth, and this particular show was a crowning glory at that point in my career.

Often a writer in that venue will use historical references to give extra importance to mundane commerce; comparing the scientists who brought us post it notes to Copernicus in an offhand, metaphorical way for example.

Why, I don't remember; but this was the story of the battle between the Monitor and Merrimac...no doubt some tale of the struggle between two like brands to see who comes out ahead or such claptrap. The part that matters is that I recreated the fight between two ironclad steamships on open water with cheering crowds of opposing soldiers on opposite shorelines...and I did a fine job if I say so. It's a skill that really only matters in film, but as I was originally trained in that media, I put it to use when I could because it was damn fun.

The show was attended by, among others, stockholders of the company; and one of those just happened to be a film company mogul of sorts. He was quite impressed at my mix and sought me out backstage after the day’s events. I actually had dinner with him as my client was preoccupied and my crew was resetting for the next day’s schedule.

When I entered dj school, it never occurred to me I'd wind up doing audio for a living. It was an accident really; a pleasurable twist of fate. So each day was another adventure and I took them as they came with no plans, no design and no expectations. I will admit to harboring a desire to work in the feature film business, but I wanted a bazillion dollars as well...so I didn't think about my "dreams" much beyond their being boredom filler.

Suddenly I was being interviewed so I discovered, for a job in da movies. The guy turned out to be a studio exec who wanted to latch onto me before I left town in two days hence, and once chatting me up for a few hours, he cut right to the chase with a monetary offer that was fairly generous on its face.

Of course there's a rub; there always is in my world.

The company he represented was one that made porn films, one attached to a distributor called Excaliber Films at the time.

Now, I have nothing against your average porn; I've been known to imbibe. But I did have two problems as I sat stunned with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

One has to do with location. I have a hard time seeing myself paying the price to live in an LA environment; or Chicago or New York for that matter. I've lived for some time on both coasts as well as a few interior states and in the end I always come back to Minnesota. I guess it's a God's country thing that I never grew out of.

But too, I don't like crowds, I get nasty in heavy traffic and a huge metropolitan area offers me nothing that I can't get in a far more quiet and peaceful area as long as I'll compromise.

The other problem has to do with perception. I'm not so sure why and no doubt it's hypocritical, but I have far less moral problem "using" porn than I would have "making" it. I'd have a tough time looking my 2.5 kids/3 car garage/paraprofessional neighbors in the eye if my sole source of income was gleaned from the proper collection of human/animal audio.

He gave me a day to think it over. I didn't need it and I'm now almost sorry to say that while I was wholly flattered, I turned him down.

Cuda...certainly. I had nothing holding me here, I was an independent vendor working with a number of firms. I was easily replaceable in the scheme of the marketing business.

Wuda...if I were a normal human being I would have taken the offer in a flash. Screw morals and besides, perhaps being sensitive to self-righteous blather about sex is one of my many problems in the first place that taking a job in the industry might have cured.

Shuda...I'm a lousy fortune teller. That said, my ex industry is a "right place at the right time/who ya know" vocation. If there were any possibility of my "breaking into" the movies as a tech, it would only have been by my working in at least a fringe market in a city that produces major film projects. In the 80's that was pretty much LA, Chi and New Yawk.

I have plenty in my past I can tag on myself as unforgivable grievances, so I avoid using my career as a whipping post. All in all I did well, had fun, made good cash and won a few dozen awards.

Who knows...had I taken the job I might be forever known as the guy who invented the sound of "Matrix bullet time". He's out there somewhere. No one really knows who he is but his peers, but I'm sure he couldn't care less about the fame. He/she's got my job, and a damn fine job it mighta been.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On the Planet of Alliteralia, a War of Words



President Transcendental was beside himself. The Grand Visionary had just been involved in his third military strategy meeting of the week and by all reports his beloved Teelund was losing his accursed war against the dread Uvullites. “You’re acting like topiaries” he screamed at his Generals; “all spiffied up and nowhere to go! Now test a theory that will totally thump the tempestuous trouble makers, by trickery, treachery or tergiversation if need be… but damn it DO IT!”

Once in his office with only his staff present, General Tamarack whispered to Colonel  Tangential “Teamwork man! We must think teamwork!’ We need an ally in this fight!”

“Whom might you suggest” the Colonel responded; “Zeeboria hates us, we’ve consistently cheated Ellebron in trade negotiations and Transcendental was none too kind when he called the Premier of Peetwania a Pothead. There’s not many letters left!”

The General scratched his syllabus a moment, then said “How about the N’s? Are they available?”

Colonel Tangential grossly glottally stopped. “Oh please General, you must be aware… No one uses the N words anymore!”

“What about the F’s”

“Sure, if you really want ”Fuck” on your team.”

“I was thinking more like ‘Fortuitous’ or even ‘Flatulence’; we need a weapon as well as words in the field!”

“You get Flatulence, you get Fuck”, said the Colonel; “they nearly always come together though Fuck is often spoken under an observers breath.”

“Well think of something Tangential!”

From the back of the room the General staff secretary, Corporal Topography spoke.

“The Kardashians sir; the Kardashians are always looking for a konfrontation, even if they obviously don’t know how to spell one.”

Tamarack trumpeted “Of Course man! The K’s! Topography! Get Kolonel Kaboom on the phone right this minute! We have ourselves a trump card!”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Aint Love Grand



Sean was giggling to himself. That meant no good was on its horse and preparing to ride.
 

"Them two old gits in the penthouses love each other wha? They just needs someone like we two to help 'em get all cozy like!"
 

Sabrina laughed. "You're daft Sean Hannigan" she choked out; "they hate each other ya mean. We could help 'em kill each other's more like it!"
 

Sean feigned an arrow through his heart. "I'll prove it I will, and won't you feel silly!" He picked up two small rocks from the garden and handed one to his lovely. "On the count of three, heave this at Missus Ferg's window and I'll toss mine at Mister Bicksley's. Then quick hide under the bushes and you'll witness bloody heaven on earth!"
 

Sabrina said "Me mum thinks you're insane ya know, she hates it when I go out with you, she thinks I'll come back home in a police van."
 

Grinning, Sean whispered "There's a good lass, toss the little fuckin stone wouldja? One, two, two and a half, two and a half and a quid, three!"
 

The pair ducked for cover as the rocks tinked against the facing glass two stories above the courtyard. As if on a timer, both windows opened at once and an old woman and man stuck their heads out of their respective flats and hollered. "Who's out there!" Screamed Missus Ferg. "Who did that ya dirty little bastards!" shouted Mister Bicksley.
 

There was a moment of silence while the elders craned their heads so as to spot the perpetrators, and then they stared directly at each other and frumped.
 

"Bitch!" Said Mr. Bicksley as he waved both his hands toward the woman as if to sweep her out of sight.
 

"Crank!" said Mrs. Ferg while pointing her crooked finger at the man across the way. And then both windows slammed shut.
"

Goh! You're not crazy! They're in love alright" said Sabrina, opening her eyes as wide as they'd go for dramatic effect. 
"They sound just like me parents!"
 

"Told ya missy" Sean giggled. "I've been surrounded by adults all me friggen life, I knows what love is!"
 

"Should we do it again then?"
 

"You can't rush it I'm told" he answered. "Let's wait an hour. Smoke?"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Recording Amanda



Linda's a flautist and has played continually since she was a child. A few years ago while she was still working for community education in an administration position, she decided it'd be fun to teach young kids to play beginning recorder. She took her recorder pretty seriously, in fact belonging to a recorder society wherein the members played chamber music and traded verbal snobbishness with great skill. But here we're just talking about that plastic thing that 5th graders used to get tortured with in every public school from New York to LA.
 

For two years she taught generally 6 students per term, suburban parents attempting to subsidize what experience the schools tossed away to have more money for whatever the hell it is they spend it on these days. And for the most part, it was a great way to make a few bucks, as she was caught up in the magic of seeing children enrich their lives with her help.
 

And then came "Amanda", a precocious child of 10 years whose mother was particularly attentive and agreeable when leaving her baby to learn music.
 

During her second half hour lesson, Amanda stopped playing, set down the instrument and began to scream. Two screams, then three, then a fourth; bursts that sounded much like an air horn wielded by a sailboat captain trying to wake an oncoming boater.
 

Linda's just an ordinary girl; raised on the far outskirts of the city, a cheerleader/honor student who, along with her pals would ask for extra homework when she was in school because she thought it was fun. She's a woman that still believes in the morals of the 50's that are pretty much the doormat of the new generation, and still watches a few Nick at Night reruns of some of the old shows that contained those silly values. Yea yea, she's a little naive and I've tried to train her to no avail. But I can't fault her for wanting what was in deference to what is; we all do it about something, she just does it about nearly everything lol.
 

As the echo of the screams died away and Linda stood in terror, not for a moment understanding what was wrong, Amanda turned to face her, folded her hands and said "I can get you in a lot of trouble you know. You'd better be nice to me."
 

At the end of that term we took stock of the possibilities. We detailed the charges that could be created by a vengeful child who might be upset about too much homework, too little playtime, playing songs that didn't meet their approval for instance. We began with sexual abuse, and ran the gauntlet through corporal punishment. As children have been granted "rights" of a sort, anyone accused of any of these needs to prove a negative in order to avoid legal fees through jury awards to jail time.
 

What were the odds something might happen? 1 in a million. We don't play the lottery, particularly with our lives; 1 in a million is 1 more chance than she was willing to risk.
 

Times have changed, and not for the better. Linda was a good teacher. Never again without another unrelated adult in the room at all times.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cleft This



It was Bob's first meeting as the new creative director, and things weren't going well.
"So what do you think the fee would be to use the song Rock of Ages in this spot?"

We all just stared at him a moment. Then I chimed "You mean the hymn? I have to imagine it's public domain, I'm sure it'd be free; but why would we care?"

Bob smiled, in that "I know something you don't" way that immediately says he knows nothing but his brain is working overtime to put it together.

"The product name is Crunch right? So we tag it 'Crunch of Ages', like it's been on the earth since the beginning of time! And we use that song as the jingle which would certainly attract the ears of the right wing zealots who probably don't use the product at the moment, increasing our market share by branding created name recognition alone!"

He was absolutely incompetent. We would need to work around him, all the while convincing him that whatever we come up with is his idea. But first, we needed to rid ourselves of his current mistake.

"Crunch of ages, cleft for me; Let me gorge myself in thee!" I sang an entire verse of nonsense, assuming he'd get the point. He stopped me cold. I breathed a sigh of relief. He called for a secretary that could transcribe what I was singing as I created it. We were doomed.