Sunday, December 12, 2010

All In Favor Say - SHUT UP!

(Roll Of DRUMS)
There's one piece of legislation headed for President Obama's desk all TV viewers want him to sign: Senate Bill 2847 – the CALM ( Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act.

Normally my hearing is pretty good, although it can't beat my dog's. His ears perk up when I'm merely thinking about going to the refrigerator door. But for most purposes, they work fine.

Maybe its a sign of aging but I've recently become aware the background music on television shows becomes thunderous right at the point of denouement.

I might have invested 47.5 minutes listening to a cop show, clicking the MUTE button of the remote when commercials begin their blaring pitch. Apart from shrieking at the screen when a character pulls some dumb-ass stunt: “Whatever you do, do NOT follow me into the Creature's Cave” or “... go down that dark passage...or enter the door leading to the cellar.” These are typical stunts written into the script to carry an audience through a chatty conversation about which detergent whitens Billy's skid-mark skivvies brighter.

The dog is pacing to go out, the digital clock indicates the show's time-slot is running out and denouncement is poised on the lips of the "never-fail to find the culprit" detective and:

BRRrrrrooom (drum-roll)...Crash of cymbal...Shriek of violins and, for good measure, an electronic tweaking vibrator.”

ALL speech is drowned out!

No matter how many times one stops play, re-winds the action to replay the sequence over and over and over, those elusive vital words drown in sound. The motive will never be known, due to the crescendo of noise at the end of the show.

Unfortunately, its seems to be prevalent in all suspense shows, when the action and background music clash at the cliff-hanger end of a segment. The current crop of mumbling actors doesn't help, either.

I recently attended the latest “Harry Potter” flick. I chose a Tuesday afternoon matinee when the auditorium is normally near empty.

Its safer that way.

The last time I went to the movies for an evening performance, noises in front and behind the seat overpowered on-screen action. A group of late-arrivals who appeared in the early minutes of plot setting, then held a megaphone discussion about which row of seats to clamber through, and whether they had enough popcorn to munch on for an hour-and-a-half, got me so wound up I missed the first half-hour of the movie. I was to busy mind-plotting various imaginary painful demises of the theatre's patrons.

And that was before the ubiquitous cell-phone era!

Nowadays, I either go solo or with carefully selected, non-talking viewers. I may make an annual visit to view in peace, a big-screen event.

However, during the Potter event at the last minute, before the interminable string of previews for films to come flashed on screen, two single moms and their knee-high toddlers, occupied half-a-dozen seats half-way along the center-aisle rows.

Every few seconds their movement; bobbing up and down retrieving items from the diaper and feed-bags, or reclaiming infant mountaineers scaling seat-backs, were a distraction.

Tension build-up, waiting for the first squawk, yelp or howl to burst from the mouths of little children, was on par with a Hitchcock classic scene buildup.

The shrieks, when they came, could not be submerged even under the surround-sound clash and thunder accompanying bursts of energy and destruction from wands waved between friend and foe in the Potter saga.

I don't know why or when deafened sound-engineers turned the volume up to compensate for their physical ailments, but theorize they are all suffering from cell-phone brain-wave meltdown. Or hip-hop headphone burnout, and are compensating for their loss of hearing.

At this stage the antique home-stereo with yesterdays records, cassettes and CD's providing background white-noise, and books, where every word can be “heard”,are beginning to look better all the time.

If I could just get the neighbor's dog to shut up!



  1. A lot of heart-felt emotion here, Jack. A problem here on TV is the 'trailer' for the next programme that gets shown half-screen on top of titles for the one that hasn't quite finished. That's before the volume goes up for the adverts.

  2. if Marx was alive today - apart from being VERY old - he'd have a hard time choosing the "opiate of the masses" given the plethora of choices.