Monday, August 23, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
"In that respect, Obama is absolutely right when he talks about ‘local laws and ordinances’. He is also perfectly justified in defending America’s constitutionally protected religious freedom.
But his reaction was characteristically legalistic, when it should have been empathetic. He concentrated on process, when he should have been focusing on politics and public reaction."
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Talking with a colleague last week led to conversation about 33 and 45 records. No one in class had ever seen a vinyl record nor understood the different formats.
Pretty much anyone under 40 has probably had no experience with either format (unless they are DJs or audiophiles). Before the compact disc or the cassette, music was pressed into black discs (originally a combination of shellac and cotton fiber but later the more familiar vinyl).
The first records pressed actually played at 78 rpm, the same speed as the cylindrical recordings of Edison’s gramophone. The quality of these early pressings initially suffered from the fragility of the materials. Early 78s could easily shatter. Later advents to create “indestructible” records increased the durability of the material but the sound fidelity suffered.
RCA and Columbia were in competition to produce a newer format that would achieve superior fidelity to the older 78 formats. The 12 inch long play 33 1/3 allowed longer jam sessions of early jazz musicians to be captured. The format would eventually allow up to 30 minutes of music to be recorded on one side. RCA Victor created the 7 inch 45 as a competitive format. The 45 was geared towards a single song (versus multiple tracks on the 33 LP) and the smaller diameter made it ideal for jukeboxes. You could hear your favorite single while at your favorite bar or dinner.
Early Elvis Presley records were originally issued on both 78 and 45 formats. The King set the tone for “pop” music to be issued on 45s and classical/jazz music would be issued on LPs. Along with jukeboxes, 45s would remain the dominated format of rock and other popular music.
The 45 format was well suited to the typical 3-4 minute duration of most pop songs. The format also indirectly drove the sound of AM radio stations. Disc jockeys could repeat the top 10 or 20 songs throughout the day and still get in the requisite commercials.
Although extended play formats were available for the 7 inch 45, pretty much the 45 was used to market early pop music to masses. Jukeboxes and AM stations were not capable of producing the hi-fidelity sound associated with the LP so music continued until the arrival the Beatles in the late 1960s.
The Beatles White Album changed everything in regards to how music would be heard. The White Album was issued in the LP format with extended tracks. This meant shorter playlists for the AM disc jockeys who were more used to the shorter 45 tracks. The White Album also proved to be the catalyst for FM rock stations. FM stations could take advantage of the superior sound quality of the LP records and unlike their AM counterparts, most early FM stations would play the extended versions of songs.
The seemingly unrelated events changed rock from primarily an AM venue to a FM venue. It started the trend towards album based music. The trend would continue through the 1980s when digital recording started the change from records to CDs. Album based music would continue despite the technology change through the mid-90s.
The 90s saw the advent of the mega conglomerates (such as Clear Channel) buy up local stations. Slowly local DJs were replaced by smooth talking personalities that were rebroadcast throughout the country. The casual listener might not even notice that the voice on the radio isn’t local but someone based in New York or Los Angeles.
At the same time, the MP3 and iPod formats allowed music lovers to produce the own playlist sans the local radio playlists. Basically the dominance of MP3/iPod has taken listeners away from the extended album format and back to an emphasis on singles from their favorite performer.
I know this was a cursory glance over music formats over the last 70 or so years. I am by no means an expert. My intent was merely to reminisce and expose some of the younger readers to formats they may have only heard about in passing. I also lament the loss of local radio programming. Increasingly music and talk formats are not the products of those that live in our neighborhoods but of a corporate marketing analysis.
To illustrate my point, let me just share my memories of a local rock station. WEBN (which still broadcasts but in my opinion is a far cry from its younger days) broadcast an eclectic mix of album rock, jazz and classical music. Yes, you read that right yardbirds. The disc jockeys pretty much played what they thought was good music without regard to genre. Frank Wood, who owned WEBN, would take the controls away from the younger staff on Sundays and play classical music. He would then turn it back over after his shift. On any given day, you might hear Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Van Morrison, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Chic Corea, or Etta James. I submit, where could you find such a varied playlist (outside your own iPod) today?
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
The college shut down last Thursday due to a water main break on Ludlow Ave. I was going in late for a meeting when I received two calls from co-workers plus one from our automated system notifying me of the closure.
I learned this week that none of the students in my program received notification and showed up for an evening class. The other faculty senators had similar experiences with their students.
Phone trees and automated notification systems are only as good as their information. Your company or agency’s notification system needs to be checked and validated even during the emergency.
The point was brought home again when on Wednesday a student came running into my office in a panic. A friend of hers was in one of the parking garages complaining of breathing problems.
The secretary called 911 while the student talked with the other student on her cell phone. The 911 dispatcher first informed my secretary that our address did not exist (remember, I work at a community college!).
Next, the dispatcher said she had to reroute the call to another dispatcher since we weren’t in her jurisdiction.
We did finally get the fire department and our campus police to respond. Later, I ran into one of the adjunct instructors for the fire program who is also a city firefighter. I shared with him the events from earlier and he just shook his head saying he wasn’t surprised. The city no longer has fire dispatchers, the 911 dispatchers are all now police dispatchers.
The dispatchers are burned out due to the abuses of the 911 system. Every call is an “emergency” so they dispatchers no longer have a sense of urgency. People have learned how to game the 911 system so they will claim “chest pains” every time they want a paramedic to run them to the ER.
We have these amazing tools and incredibly well trained and dedicated first responders but the community is allowing this to be abused. The results are now when an emergency happens, it is difficult to get help dispatched.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.