September 26, 2007

Now We're Talking

Harry Shearer and the Silent Debates . . . funny:

Here's the second one:

Posted by brian at 09:54 AM | Comments (1)

September 17, 2007

NYT: Good Move

I'm glad to see the New York Times is ending TimesSelect and going free. I refused to sign up for TimesSelect and had hoped that many others would refuse as well, holding out as long as it took for NYT to realize they could make more money in other ways than through the TimesSelect subscriptions.

I look forward to reading more of the Times -- particularly since I stopped reading the WSJ now that it's owned by you-know-who.

Posted by brian at 07:31 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2007

Too Hot

Three days of intense heat and no air conditioning. Looking forward to a cooler September.

Posted by brian at 09:03 AM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2007

The Case of the Blown Speaker

I went to see The Bourne Ultimatum recently at a local multiplex. I knew there was going to be trouble before the movie even began. The problem? Sound.

Even while the trailers ran, it was obvious. Somewhere in the left side of the sound space there was loud, crunching, painful distortion, particularly when deep bass sounds were part of the soundtrack.

When the movie started, the distortion was gone. For a while I thought, ah, perhaps it was a mangled left channel in the soundtrack of the trailer reel, but now that the movie had begun, the problem was gone.

Nope. As soon as the action sequences began the blown speaker could be heard. It was definitely coming from the left side of the sound . . . I looked way up high and there, far up on the theater's left wall, up by the ceiling, were surround sound speakers, one every ten feet or so, all along the wall. The one closest to the screen was definitely the source of the noise.

Given Bourne's tendency towards non-stop action and chase sequences, all of the theater's speakers were being given a serious workout. Unfortunately that meant my left ear was getting a serious workout from the loud distortion coming from that surround speaker.

Dilemma: get up and leave the auditorium, go find the manager, and report the problem, but miss some of the movie at the same time? Or, deal with the distortion and report it afterward? I decided on the latter.

When the movie ended I walked outside to the lobby and went up to one of the ticket-takers.

"Hi, I just came from theatre 1 where the movie just ended," I said as the ticket-taker listened, "and I wanted to let you know that you guys have a blown speaker that is spewing out loud distortion and making it very uncomfortable to hear the movie."

"A blown speaker?"

"Yes, that is what it sounds like. On the left side--"

The ticket-taker reached for a walkie-talkie clipped to his belt, took it in his hand, and spoke into it. "Customer's reporing bad sound in theater 1," he says.

"Who?" a voice asks on the walkie talkie. "What?"

"Sound problem in theater one" the ticket taker says.

"Which theater?


"That movie's just getting out."

He looks at me and says, "Excuse me sir, you said theater one?"


"That movie just ended," he says, as if, how could there be sound problems if the movie is over?

"Yes, I just finished watching the movie--"

"What was the problem?" He seems to have forgotten what I told him.

"Bad speaker, making loud distortion in the left side of the audio..."

"Customer says it is a left speaker" he says, into the walkie talkie.

"Left surround sound," I say, "the speaker high on the left wall closest to the screen."

"Left speaker on the screen" he says into the walkie talkie.

"No, um--" I say.

"The what?" the voice asks on the walkie talkie.

"Sir, the best thing you could do is tell Guest Services over there," he says, pointing to the Guest Services counter near the entrance to the theatre.

I walk over. Meanwhile, he's continuing to talk on the walkie-talkie. "Left speaker, some kind of audio problem."

"Movie's over," says the voice on the walkie talkie.

At Guest Services, I tell the story to another theatre employee. "I just came from theatre 1 that's showing Bourne Ultimatum, and wanted to let you know you have a really bad sound problem with one of the speakers."

"Ok sir, how can I help you?"

It's moments like this that I wonder if sound travels much, much slower, say, less than one mile per hour, inside certain retail establishments than, say, outdoors. I repeated my story.

"What theatre did you say?"

"Theater one."

"That movie just ended, sir."

Who cares if the movie just ended!? I think. "Yes, I just finished watching it."

"Yes, so you were in which theater?"

At this point I glance over to the ticket taker guy and he's still talking on the walkie talkie, and I can hear his garbled speech on the Guest Services guy's walkie talkie. Now the Guest Services guy gets involved with the walkie talkie conversation.

"Customer says the sound is not working in theatre 1."

"It's working fine" said a voice on the walkie talkie.

"No, wait," I said. "It's one specific surround sound speaker on the left wall, the one closest to the---"

Guest services guy says, "Customer says it's surround sound". But he subtly intones the "surround sound" in such a way that you think that a) they don't believe the customer knows what he's talking about, b) they don't know what they're talking about.

"Surround sound?" a voice on the walkie talkie says. "Which theater?"

"Theater one", the Guest Services guy says into the walkie talkie. At the same time the ticket taker guy says "one" as well. Anyone who's played with a CB radio knows that you can't both talk at the same time. So I'm sure the other parties on the walkie talkie conversation didn't actually hear which theater it was.

"Sorry, which?"



It was at this point I told the Guest Services guy, look, I just wanted to report that you have a blown speaker on the left front surround sound channel in theater one. I am sure I'm not the only customer who found the distortion painful to hear. I hope you guys fix it.

"Customer says it's a surround sound speaker in theater one," he says into his walkie talkie, while looking at me and nodding.

I walk. I doubt they fixed it. I figure the walkie talkie conversation went on for another 30 seconds while I walked to my car in the parking lot, at which point some other distraction happened causing all of them to forget the entire incident.

I wish there were better movie theaters around here.

Update 9/9/2007: Saw another movie at sama multiplex, and, it turned out, at the same Screen 1. Speaker stll blown.

Posted by brian at 12:20 PM | Comments (1)
brianstorms is Brian Dear's weblog. Non-spam email:

Be sure to take a look at these other fine websites:

Copyright 2002-2004 Birdrock Ventures. brianstorms is a trademark of Birdrock Ventures.