Round Up

31 12 2005

Cinema
Good – Just Friends
Bad – Fantastic Four
Fugly – The Safety of Objects

Cellar
Red – Ross Estate 2002 Estate Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia
White – HAwley Wines 1999 Viognier, Dry Creek Valley, CA
Sparkling – Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Brut 1995

Cocktail:
Cinnamon Apple Martini
2 oz apple vodka
1 oz apple juice
0.5 oz apple barrel schnapps
0.5 oz pomegranate juice
Mix!

Cheese:

  • Vermont Shepard:
    • sheep, Putney, VT
    • 4-6 months old, raw milk
  • Great Hill Blue
    • cow, Marion, MA
    • 10 months, raw, nonhomogenized, creamy blue
  • Maroilles
    • cow, 4 months, raw milk
    • rind cheese, Calais, northen France (Maroilles)
  • Montgomery Cheddar
    • 1-2 yrs, raw
    • clothbound so crumbly, nutty, rich flavor
  • Humboldt fog
    • perennial favorite I know! McKinleyville, CA
    • goat, pasteruized, 1-2 months, snowy white, ash in center
  • Roaring 40s
    • cow, blue cheese, pasteruized
    • Tasmania
  • Pecorino Sardo
    • sheep, raw milk, sweet
    • Sardinia, hard cheese
  • Brillat-Savarin
    • cow, pasteurized, ice cream cheese (hot cream added to curd) to raise fat content to 78% (75% is limit for triple creme)
    • Normandy
  • Durrus
    • cow, washed rind, raw milk, sweet and salty, pairs well with red wine
    • West Cork, Ireland
  • Affidelice du Chablis

    • cow, washed rind, raw milk, sweet
    • Burgundy
  • Morbier
    • cow, raw milk, 1-2 months
    • ash in center
  • Herbiette
    • goat, raw, juniper and fennel flavor, semisoft
    • Nantes, Frances
  • Garrotxa
    • 6 months, goat, pasteurized, semihard, dry
    • Catalonia, Spain
  • Mimolette
    • cow, raw, 2 years, hard waxy and smoky
  • Pleasant Ridge Gruyere
    • cow, raw milk, 1 yaear
    • super creamy

Bay Area Food

  • Adagia
    • 2700 Bancroft (@College), Berkeley
    • 510.647-2300 URL pending
    • Mediterranean
  • Olivia
    • 1453 Dwight Way (@Sacramento), Berkeley
    • 510.548-2322
    • French
  • Sea Salt
    • 2512 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley
    • 510.883-1720
    • Seafood. Disclaimer: nothing for me to eat but the others enjoyed it
  • Pizzaiolo
    • 5008 Telegraph (@51st)
    • 510.642-4888
    • Wood burning pizza

San Francisco:

  • Zuppa
    • 564 Fourth Street (@Brannan, off Freelon Alley)
    • 415.777-5900
    • Southern Italian
  • Myth
    • 470 Pacific (@ Montgomery)
    • 415.677-8986
    • small plates
  • Canteen
    • 817 Sutter Street (@ James)
    • 415.928-8870
    • American
  • Citizen Thai and the Monkey
    • 1268 Grant (@ Vallejo)
    • Thai
    • 415.364-000
  • Coco500
    • 500 Brannan (@ Fourth)
    • French
    • 415.543-2222
  • Range
    • 842 Valencia (@20th street)
    • 415.282-8283
    • California

North Bay

  • Picco
    • 320 Magnolia (@King street), Larkspur
    • 415.924-0300 (945-8900 for the pizzeria)
    • Eclectic
  • Cyrus
    • 29 North Street (@ Healdsburg Ave), Healdsburg
    • 707.433-3311
    • Prix fixe
  • Budo
    • 1650 Suscol Ave (@ Randeen Way), Napa
    • 707.224-2330
    • Japanese

Londontown:

  • Chowki
    • 2-3 Denman Street (@ Shaftesbury; tube: Piccadilly)
    • 020.7439 1330
    • Indian

Roma:

  • Popi Popi
    • Via delle Fratte di Trastevere 45
    • 06-58-95-167
    • Pizza

Chicago:

  • Green Zebra
    • 1460 West Chicago Ave
    • 312.243-7100
    • Vegetarian
  • Osteria Via Stato
    • 620 N State (Red LIne: Grand stop)
    • 312.642-8450
    • Italian
  • Alinea
    • 1723 Northalstead (between North and Willow)
    • 312-867-0100
    • Fusion

New York:

  • Gobo
    • 401 Ave of the Americas (between Waverly place and 8th)
    • 212.255-3902
    • vegan
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Theater Chairs

30 12 2005

I hate choosing furniture. After a few visits, everything looks the same to me. However, multiple showroom visits have foregone conclusions: (i) showroom concierges are braindead and want to sell you Scotchgard plans; (ii) leather is evil because it kills unsuspecting cows; (iii) microfiber rules.

Choosing the chair is critical to my sonic interaction with the room. Chair height determines the position of your ears and eyes relative to the speakers and screen. Fortunately, this is adjustable as speaker positions are now fixed. The chair’s width dictates how many people may fit side by side or in row (allow for leg room) and where they will be in the room. Some locations need to be avoided so the chair’s dimensions determine position. Luckily, if you design a room from scratch, it is infinitely easier to design the room, and then determine what chair you are going to use or your options become limited to specific and uncomfortable choices.

Chairs should be comfortable but not so much that you will fall asleep. Chairs with high backs will support your head but will also reflect sound bounce from the back of the room back at your ears immediately after you hear the first compression. No wing backs. This will blur sound and change in timber results. High backs also block surround sound from the rear speakers; however, so do plush pillows which I always use while watching cinema – which makes it mandarory to have ceiling flush mounted speakers to shower you with sonics parabolically inclined to propel to the primary listening position. Some designers can shorten a chairs back, if the rest of the design works for you. Do not use reclining chairs as reclination changes the position of your head, which changes the acoustics. Technically, an ottoman is a sonically better choice as your head position stays relatively fixed.

If you want to be compulsive, calculate axial modes. Start with half the speed of sound (the full speed is 1130 fps) and divide it by each of the room’s three dimensions. You are already better off if no single dimension is a multiple of the other (eg. 10 by 20 feet rooms are inherently unsound). The resulting fraction is the three fundamental resonances in the x, y and z axes. Take each fundamental resonance and multiply it by integers from 1 to 9, depending on which integer you need to get each dimension’s resonance to about 300 Hz. You can often acoustically treat frequencies above 150 Hz.

The principal position of listening (PPL) is the best sound trap. This should be where you sit. Concentrate on the speakers. Most people think the best “seat in the house” is halfway between the front left and front right speakers, centering the listener between the room’s side walls. Being halfway permits the best stereo imagery, the impression that musical and sonic events are happening at some point between the two speakers. Acoustic theory i ndicates that the room’s midpoint has numerous low freuqency response problems.

Room resonances create peaks (areas of excess sound pressure) and nulls (areas of little pressure) which can be calculated with a single speaker, a test disc, a calculator and an SPL meter. After calculating the first resonant frequency (dividing 565 by the length, width or height), place your subwoofer in the corner so you can emphasize all the room modes. Play the resonant or an adjacent frequency off of the test disc. Your room’s construction will shift the resonant frequency slightly but should be near the point you canculated. Walk around the room with the SPL meter and notice how that particular frequency gets louder and softer as you move.

The first resonance peaks for any dimension occur at room boundaries. For my 14 ft wide room, a 40.3 Hz peak occurs at each side wall. The null for this frequency is halfway between the side walls. If you sit dead center, you will hear a dip in frequency response at 40.3Hz. This spot will have a peak at the resonant frequency’s second harmonic (80.6 Hz) which will have nulls a quarter of the way from the walls. The center spot will have another dip at 120.9 Hz, the third esonance (which has nulls at one third the distance from the walls). Move your speaker along the front wall to the first reonance’s null (the middle of the room’s width). When you energize the sonic room with the resonance frequency of the width (in my case, 40.3 Hz), from the null of that frequency (the middle of the room’s width), the response is less boomy. But the speaker is also playing at the peak of the second harmonic which means when I play 80.6 Hz, the response will be even louder. Adjusting the crossover point between the subwoofer and the main speakers allows me to single out the first resonance. In general, placing the speakers (or chairs) becomes a balancing act between resonances. And I thought the physics boards was it!

The best PPL is that where there are few, if any, peaks or nulls. Place the center speaker off center always (it should be called the off-center speaker so as not to confuse the ingenue; my heart bleeds when I see off-center speakers placed in the geometric center of a room – so faux pas!). It serves to correspond with the center of the screen and allows off center listeners to hear a good soundtage. Positions at thirds or fifths of the room’s dimensions provide the fewest peaks and dips, and offer an equal amount of sound pressure for the majority of resonances. If I place the PPL at the third or two third width position, there is still a peak for the width’s third resonance (120 Hz) so the front speakers are placed in a position at one sixth of the room’s width from the wall and not at the edge. This is very key.

Lighting has nothing to do with acoustics but merely sets the mood for the screening room. It should be functional and attractive. For a theatrical effect, you can hoist wall sconces ($13 apiece from Home Depot) or down-firng track lights over the PPL and secondary listening positions. Use hanging wire lights that will not rattle. Unfortunately, the free glass and stainless steel will reflect both light and sound so I am not in favor of track lighting. A Lutron Grafik Eye will control the lighting system if you intend to use the screening room as a multipurpose room and need preset lighting conditions. I have two lighting conditions in my requirements for the screening room: OFF and ON.

To make the room sonically perfect (it cannot be, it can only be sonically near perfect), stuff the space behind the dry wall with acoustic foam or dress the walls with acoustic bars and panels. For the floor, you can use 3/4″ oriented strand board (OSB) which, I discovered was the only type available at Home Depot and is three times as expensive as 7/16″ OSB, which is recommended. All acoustic panels and bars are ugly: if you have never upholstered before, you cannot possibly imagine making beautiful acoustic treatments out of cloth, bats of Fiberglass and absorbing fiber. Pay a professional and work a weekend instead. Soundsuede makes fabric wrapped wall panels, acoustic clips, sound barriers to conceal under the dry wall and isolation clips to float the room.

Traditional movie room chairs are terrbly uncomfortable. I do not recall not squirming (and constantly readjusting) in the cinema hall. Some of the commercial ones resemble airline seating. It is ironic that they sell large volumes of these chairs. The video game rocker chairs now available are good solutions but they are not stackable and are of really poor quality (check the seams). JC Penneys sells an advanced Gamepod Virtual sensory chair which has speakers built into the wingback and a rumble zone to amplify vibrations into your ass. I shudder to think of the hassles I would undergo if it should conk out. The chair itself is extremely tedious and uncomfortable.





Quote Unquote

30 12 2005
  • “No Froot Loops!” –Saddam Hussein, getting upset at his guards when offered a substitute for his breakfast cereal of choice, Raisin Bran Crunch
  • “I sometimes feel that Alfred E. Newman is in charge in Washington. ” –Sen. Hillary Clinton, describing President Bush’s attitude toward tough issues with Newman’s catchphrase “What, me worry?”
  • “Sen. Hillary Clinton called for President Bush to begin pulling troops out of Iraq next year. And let me tell you something, when it comes to telling a president when to pull out, no one has more experience than Hillary Clinton.” –Jay Leno




D Railing

29 12 2005

D railing is the equivalent of drinking and driving. Of course, this is emailing or blogging when you’re drunk. Emailing and texting others is a further step towards anonymity in social relationships.

Some blogs I watch are:
Bitter with Baggage
Waiter Rant
Wonkette
Gizmodo
Daily Kos
Andrew Sullivan
Davezilla
Apartment Therapy
New York Times Wedding Announcements
Shocks and Stares





Push Fast

28 12 2005

New CPR guidelines released by the American Heart Association urges us to give 30 chest compressions instead of fifteen for every two (2) rescue breaths. Push ahrd, push fast is the new mantra for the new simpler guidelines. Guidelines are now the same for children and adults. This should keep the blood (flowing and the heart) pumping. Sudden heart arrest occurs when the heart stops after a heart attack or enar drowning, usually from an abnormal heart rhythm. More than 300,000 Americans die from it each year, 75-80% at home, and effective CPR can double a victim’s chance of survival. The main danger is inaction.

Gifts that are being returned today:





Roundup DVD

27 12 2005

The screening room is nearly complete. I estimate that I will no longer be attending the cineplex. For a couple, including popcorn, some junk snack, parking, dinner and the inconvenience of listening to crying neonates just freshly disconnected (but as yet unwashed) from the umbiilcal cord, I am not in a mood of taking out a second mortgage. The documented reasons for diminishing cinema revenue are, ironically, the same for diminished attendance:

  1. social factors eroding the cinemagoing environment (talking, cell phones, crying babies)
  2. sacrificing long term relationships with cinema goers for short term profitability (no ushers, too many commercials, endless previews). It must be noted that in Londontown you could have up to 45 minutes of commercials before the feature begins.
  3. higher quality theater experience at home
  4. declining quality of mainstream motion pictures
  5. easily available long tail content alternatives (Netflix, Amazon)
  6. price
  7. demographics (aging babyboomers simply go out to the cinema less; children more interested in the video game world, which can be accommodated in the home theater setting)
  8. Hollywood’s death spiral
  9. poor marketing

The screening room needs to have optimised light and sound, for which testing is needed.

COLOR QUALITY

  • Finding Nemo: perfect digital transfer
    • Scene: First Day of School
    • Bonus: surround sound works
    • if not available, Ice Age (for whites) and Shark Tales (for blue)
  • Amelie: bright red, bright green, richly monochromatic
    • blue lamp in her all red apartment
  • Pleasantville: isolate individual colors on the wheel for fine tuning
    • first half of movie is in black and white but when the color arrives, there is no bleeding
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring: warm colors
    • soft ruddy glow for entire spectrum with good light/shadow in indoor candlelit scenes
  • Singin’ in the Rain: restoration with Warner Bros’ UltraResolution
    • scene: Broadway Melody dream dance sequence

BLACK AND WHITE

  • Citizen Kane
    • sharp contrasts with sharp focus in background and foreground
  • Casablanca (Special Edition Release)
    • digital transfer with black and white contrast standards
  • Touch of Evil (Restored edition)
    • best mono soundtrack but also dynamic lighting and good composition
  • The Third Man (Criterion Collection)
    • 22000 digital repairs to 35mm fine grain master
    • scene: final chase in sewers with shafts of light jutting through the passageways
  • Sunset Boulevard
    • subtle grays, sharp print, balanced vivid whites, gleaming detail
    • also one of only 2 movies I own (the other is Moulin Rouge!), scheduled for opening night
  • Village of the Damned/Children of the Damned (one one dual layer disc)
    • jet blacks, bright whites; detail in children’s fine blonde hair and gleam in eyes
  • Down by Law (Criterion Collection)
    • perfect contrast, sharp focus, vivid grayscale

PICTURE DETAIL

  • Alien (Collectors’ Edition)
    • scene: discovery of crashed alien vessel – walls of ship glistening with slime and dead alien detail (also the silence, first use in cinema)
  • Underworld (reference quality transfer to DVD)
    • dark damp scenes (also LOUDEST DVD in the world)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    • very sharp picture with night scenes to tune shadow detail
    • blue skies, white sands, rich flesh tones, burning sun detail
  • North by Northwest
    • superb color saturation, great widescreen detail
    • scene: hotel room where Eva-Marie Saint wears black dress with red flowers (no bleeding)
  • Seabiscuit
    • fine details with close up of any horse (hairs on back)
    • scene: Sebiscuit races War Admiral; dirt flying in slow motion. Yep, I’m anal
  • Hidalgo
    • caution: slow plot. Most of these movies are not good other than technically
    • brilliant daytime scenes (pick up grains of sand)
    • great sound in horse racing scenes
  • O Brother Where Art Thou?
    • hideous film but saturated suinlight and deep shadow, obviously digitally manipulated
    • scene: cons meet scantily clad sirens by the river bank (clear foliage, flowing river currents)
    • also surround channel works wonder in the outdoor scene
  • Hulk (reference quality picture)
    • best looking live action movie on DVD
  • Starship Troopers (Superbit Edition)
    • higher bit rate with higher quality print
    • colors pop and crisp blacks

SURROUND SOUND

  • Saving Private Ryan (true reference DVD)
    • accurate sound steering with bullets and explosion
    • scene: beach storming opening (POV is head bobbing in and out of water)
  • Master and Commander
    • battle and storm sequences aural and visual treat
    • cannonballs and shrapnel steering are period correct
    • tearing sails and crashing waves
  • Das Boot (Superbit edition)
    • sounds like the inside of a submarine – it does feel claustrophoibic
    • calibrates front and rear speakers
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (THX version)
    • aggressive surround usage especially with DTS ES over 6.1 channel system
    • scene: truck chase (similar acoustic for 6.1 and 7.1 as The Perfect Storm)
  • House of Flying Daggers
    • best soundtrackon DVD. Period
    • scene: big fight in bamboo grove: immersive rustling of leaves
    • scene: drum and pellets
  • The World is Not Enough
    • pre-credits teaser is a motorboat chase down the Thames with perfect sound steering of water splashes
  • Apollo 13 (IMAX edition)
    • single best showcase for subwoofer
    • scene: launch for deepest bass
  • Jurassic Park (Superbit Edition)
    • anytime the dinosaurs stomp
    • best multichannel demo disc – classic water rippling in glass
  • The Fast and the Furious (DTS version)
    • aggressive surround sound tracking

MUSIC REPRODUCTION

BEST IN SHOW (for all round tuning)

  • Kill Bill Volume 1
    • aurally immersive
    • scene: Uma Thurman purchases ticket to Japan
    • scene: Crazy BBs fight
    • scene: final fight with Lucy Liu
    • audio: Uma’s motorbike in center channel (with rear directional sounds)
  • Spider man 2 (Superbit edition)
    • bright comic book colors (opening credits)
    • scene: Spidey and Doc Ock on the runaway El train (subwoofer alert)
  • The Matrix (Ultimate Matrix Collection)
    • stunning sound with ample use of channels
    • left/right targeted information
    • scene: final shoot out between Neo and Agent Smith
    • scene: helicopter crash
    • scene: Neo propeling out of the window (detailed glass shatter)
  • The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
    • sharp picture
    • any big battle scene
  • Star Wars Episode Two: The Attack of the Clones
    • space fighters, lightsabers, explosions
    • music score
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
    • scene: giant robots in Manhattan
    • scene: Jude Law’s fighter plane veering
  • Super Speedway (IMAX edition)
    • scene: mario Andretti racing in the rain

ONE DVD TO TUNE THEM ALL

  • Days of Heaven
    • subtle realistic crickets and gentle breezes
    • exceptional picture quality
    • restrained DVD but great test for optimization
  • Apocalypse Now
    • scene: Ride of the Valkyries helicopter attack is the original sound tuner 🙂
    • no restraint whatsoever

Enjoy tuning your system. The following are my favored releases from FY 2005 –

OUT THERE

BLACK AND WHITES

MUSIC

  • Talking Heads – Sand in the Vaseline #14 “Once in a Lifetime”
  • David Bowie – Let’s Dance #3 “Let’s Dance”
  • Culture Club – Kissing to Be Clever #3 “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya”
  • Peter Gabriel – Security #1 “The Rhythm of the Heat”
  • Crowded House – Crowded House #6 “Something so Strong”

SONIC BOOMERS

MOVIES RECOMMENDED
January: Infernal Affairs
February: The Incredibles
March: Being Julia
April: The Interpreter
May: Team America: World Police
June: Wedding Crashers
July: Beautiful Boxer
August: The Constant Gardener
September: Big Fish
October: Millions
November: Just Friends
December: Pretty Persuasion





Christmas Londontown

26 12 2005

It’s Boxing Day! This is known in America as the “Day to Get Store Credit After Returning Unwanted Gifts”. It is known in the East Bay as “Day When Crazy People forget to Drive in the Rain and end up in the ER”. The day after Christmas is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. The term comes from the opening of the church poor boxes today – earthenware boxes with which boy apprentices collected money at the doors of their masters’ clients. We have adopted this to give gifts (in boxes) to service providers (no, not SBC) who work for us throughtout the year – the post carrier, the garbage woman, the gardener and the pool boy.The best place to be on Boxing Day is, of course, Londontown!
Lights

Holiday Fun

Tour