Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Some Thoughts

It's a busy time for me these days with the national deadline for new Emergency Alert System compliance arriving on June 30. It's remarkable how many broadcasters waited until, oh, May or so to even order their equipment, which is now on back order or sitting on a loading dock somewhere while the deadline looms. As the regional chairman for the EAS in this part of Ohio, I get the panic calls when station engineers can't get these things to work.

The real culprit in the panic is the equipment manufactures who decided to take the first generation of EAS encoders and decoders which were practically plug-n-play devices, and turn the second generation into a maddeningly complex tar baby requiring data entry and IT networking skills that only a hard core Linux junkie who buys a notebook with Windows and installs Ubuntu in a dual-boot configuration from a bootable CD-ROM could appreciate. (Yeah, I've done that. And sometime I'll have to tell you about my Lost Weekend free-basing Red Hat on an over-clocked Pentium III.) It also doesn't help that just about any device you order from a broadcast equipment vendor these days arrives at the station with defective parts, buggy software, and a power supply intended for use only in the former Soviet Bloc nations. Our EAS units had to be sent back to the manufacturer TWICE to correct issues that never should've made it out the door, and I've had to download and install multiple software upgrades to keep the things from developing personality disorders and joining the Sith dominated Galactic Empire. We're running software version 4.1, and the unit isn't a year old yet. I tried to print out a log of recent EAS activity and all I got was a page saying, "Must... destroy... all... humans... Kill... kill... kill..."

Anyway, it's a busy summertime in TV World, so let me just share with you a few tidbits:

Check out Mayerson on Animation and scroll down for a piece on a farewell to film. The movie you see in your local theater is most likely now actually a video projection... a digital medium that looks like film... although based on a recent trip to see "Dark Shadows" I'd say the trailers are still on film... bad splices and smudgy images aplenty. Maybe it was digital and somebody plugged in some Virtual Grindhouse post production just for fun.

I don't want to make anybody mad, but I came away from the Nik Wallenda tightrope walk over Niagara Falls feeling just a little bit like I was taken for a ride. By the time Wallenda was on the wire, it was quite clear the event was ploy to evangelize the Christian faith. Now, let me say I don't think there's anything wrong with that in and of itself. Nearly everybody gets on television with something to sell, and at least he wasn't plugging a casino or a "male enhancement" pharmaceutical product. The problem was a matter of disclosure before the event. Maybe I wasn't paying attention during all the promotional hoopla, but I wasn't expecting a Christian come-on, and that made me feel somewhat deceived and patronized, to be blunt about it.

I'll say one thing for Tim Tebow, you know who he is and what he stands for up front. He puts it out there from the word go. It might seem a bit over the top at times, but there's no deception, no punches pulled. And I can respect that. If you want to spread The Message, respect your audience enough to say from the start, "This is what I'm about." Then again, if I were on a tightrope above Niagara Falls, I would probably be praising God, too. I would also give thanks to the engineers and support crew who made sure the tightrope was keeping me up, but that's just me.

Finally, I think it's high time we formed a congressional task force to look into the dubious practice of the NBA selling the singing of the National Anthem to the highest bidder. Once upon a time, major sports franchises held auditions and awarded the singers with front row or luxury seats. Then the record companies stepped in. But now, why pay Anita Baker real money to forget the lyrics, when you can TAKE money from some stage parent who swears they've spawned the next Whitney? That would explain the onslaught of juvenile warblers we've had to endure at this year's NBA championship. Seriously. I'd rather hear an EAS test.