Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Bad Subtitling On The TV - What the Hell's Going On?

This blog update has been on my mind for a very long time now. It is in regards to the rife lack lustre subtitling on the television today where it seems all channels are pushing for quantity over quality....and it’s not working.

Although not having any hearing I hold music very, very close to my heart, it’s part of the reason why I moved to London, to get into the broadcast music industry (and am still trying, however having a profoundly deaf music nut is a bit too quirky for a lot of industry people to get their heads around it seems!). For me, and other deaf people, to follow music on the TV, the main way is through subtitling. Up until a few years back everything has been perfectly in sync with what was being sung, however subtitling technology has changed. there seems to be much more emphasis on more quantity rather than quality these days and as a result it has all gone to hell. Here, I’ll give you some examples as I go along.....

Ever since the sad demise of ‘Top Of The Pops’ there has been a rather large hole to fill at the BBC, ‘Later ....With Jools Holland’ fills this chasm. It is the BBC’s premier music show, and the one by which all other shows are now measured. So, come the Friday night broadcast, which was recorded on the previous Tuesday night, why are the subtitles not in sync with what is being sung? Here are the Scissor Sister with Any Which Way:

Now, for the able-hearing, to give you a little insight on a hard of hearing person, pop some ear mufflers on and turn the sound down a tad, now try to follow the sound of the music, lip reading the singer and try to match to the on screen subtitles....it’s difficult right? I can tell you something, it is absolutely bloody frustrating for a deaf person to follow that. The subtitles in the above video were done by Red Bee Media.

Now, I do hold Red Bee Media in very high regard as their subtitling output is astonishing and 7 times out of 10 they get it right. Sadly it’s ‘the other 3’ we have problems with. I have complained to them and they have explained things to me. I know that live performances will never be subtitled in sync, and I really do appreciate that wholeheartedly. However there is really no excuse for the repeats and highlight shows not to have the subtitles perfectly in place. I have been told by someone working in the subtitling teams that the tech edits are often delivered ‘late’.... this isn’t our (the public’s) problem, it is the broadcasters’ problem to deal with. If they’re continually late, get someone else to do this role, it’s a basic management decision so why isn’t it being done?

And oh yes, before I forget, the BBC iPlayer.... get the Jools Holland show up on the iPlayer.... oh darn, the subtitles are all over the place on there as well – new technology eh, what a load of arse!

Want to see another example? OK here’s Kasabian from Glastonbury in 2010:

The subtitles are completely out of whack and this performance was from a highlights show broadcast quite some time after the event.

Here’s Placebo from their Glastonbury performance in 1997/98 I think it was:

The subtitles are perfectly in time to Brian Molko’s vocals...’nuff said.

No more excuses! No more fobbing the deaf community off!

Here's another one, pre-recorded Jamie Cullum at the Royal Albert Hall......crap subtitles:

It’s not just the BBC, the band Hurts have recently done a promotion programme on Channel 4 and again all of the subtitles are out of sync:

This was also done by Red Bee Media. I have a terrible feeling that they are running ‘speech to text’ systems, a music programme is really not the right place to use this transcription service. You cannot experiment with music shows in this way – what’s the point? Tell me, please, what is the point? If the subtitles are completely out of sync there is absolutely no access for the deaf and hard of hearing, it’s bloody ridiculous and not to mention discriminative! I became really down with the second episode of Jools Holland, the first episode had subtitles out of sync.... I put it down to ‘teething problems’ (more on this in a moment) as the subs for the first edition of the series are usually off kilter. However to have the subtitles out of whack on the second show has absolutely no excuse whatsoever. SORT IT OUT!

‘Teething problems’ is a bad phrase for me to use...looking at the first broadcast of the series with the subtitles being out of sync and the ‘Oh dear, well I suppose it is the first show so I’ll let them off’....no, hang on... these series’ have been running for many years, the BBC have had perfect subtitling in place before. There is absolutely no excuse for shoddy subtitling with ‘Later ...with Jools Holland’ in any way or form. Any music show that is pre-recorded should have subtitles in sync, if they’re not then it’s obvious that someone/some company is not pulling their weight. For the BBC I (and most people out there) pay a license fee, that, I add, is increased each and every year. I certainly do not pay my license fee for shit subtitling, we’re getting fobbed off so get it fixed please. Here's one of Garbage's performances on on a previous edition of Jools Holland that has been subtitled later on by Phil (AKA 'Muzzy Fush), perfectly in sync subtitles:

Putting the TV subtitling to one side; the following excerpt is from a Nine Inch Nails DVD which was fully encrypted with subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing: (I am unable to embed, the link is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPrsogKNcUU )

Why are so few music DVD's encrypted with subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing? It's a big market and lots of money to be had by the music companies, yet they are completely ignoring this section of the market. It's pure ignorance.

As for the more regular TV shows, I settled down the other night and glanced the new Rhod Gilbert panel based comedy show on the BBC, again it’s pre-recorded, again the subtitles are out of sync, huh???? Do the BBC not have anyone checking the quality of their broadcast programmes anymore?

Whilst we're on this subject, I also want to add that across on ITV2, you can’t have escaped the promotion for the new series of ‘Celebrity Juice’. Well certainly not here in London as it was a HUGE marketing campaign, TV adverts, papers, billboards and not forgetting all of the ‘celebrities’ on the show Tweeting about it left, right and centre..... and guess what? Oh my golly gosh, no subtitling whatsoever! Surprised? Well, considering what has already been discussed, maybe not!

It’s ridiculous, there’s no other way to describe it. These TV channels are actively alienating the deaf and hard of hearing community, I have never seen subtitling as bad as it is today and they say the technology has advanced, not in regards to the quality it hasn’t.

It must be sorted out, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, but right now.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Refurbishing an old Kona Lava Dome frame.

ALERT - This may prove a bit boring for the non-cyclists out there, sorry!

It has been on my mind for a good few years now to refurbish an older bike frame, ideally I would have loved to have worked on a Yeti 'ARC' or a Fat Chance 'Yo Eddy'. Alas these are still much sought after frames with (quite rightly) cult status, and as you can guess are still bloody expensive to buy.

Thousands of years ago, as a teenager, I made a list of what my ideal (yet realistic) bike would be and it was based around a Kona 'Lava Dome' frame, this is their mid-price range frame. It's an ideal 'work horse', tried, tested, raced and abused daily across the globe, yet carries the 'Ford Escort' moniker as they were pretty common back then. Additionally I have run a mountain bike racing team since the mid-90's (see my other blog: http://thedevelopmentracing.blogspot.com/) and we were very lucky to have been sponsored by some of the biggest equipment manufacturers in the sport back then, as a result I still had various bits and pieces left over that I wished to start using again. Where I didn't have the right parts I sourced via a website called Retrobike.co.uk and eBay, one of my mates also bought a load of Ringle equipment after the brand was sold off and he's been a god send too.

It was by a chance message to a fellow member of Retrobike that I managed to source a 2001 Kona 'Lava Dome' frame, miraculously in the right size, although not exactly classed as 'Retro' as such. I could easily see through the battered decals, scuffed paint and small dents, it was still in a great condition and just needed a bit of TLC to get it turned around.

Pretty rough lookin' eh?!

I wasn't looking at a 'weight weenie' build, where only the lightest (and frailest) parts will do, nor was I looking at this bike becoming a 'garage queen', only to be looked at and never ridden (what's the point of that?!). The parts on the bike had to suit the purpose. I'm a heavy rider, and although I have another hardtail based bike made for quite literally hurling myself down mountain sides on, this bike was/is being built for 'less demanding' cross country routes, but still being able to handle the rough stuff.

I decided to dedicate the paint job to Fat Chance bikes, one of their styles was called 'Aquafade', a forest green merged downwards into azure blue, it looks stunning. At the same time they also had a colour that was called 'Team Violet', a pale violet paint job with a red flip lacquer on the top that really pushes the colour into a clouds-at-dusk-like-hue when the sun hits the frame, it's a really beautiful colour. Sadly the effect doesn't show up very well in the photographs. I decided to take the style of the 'Aquafade' and swap the green for the 'Team Violet', it worked an absolute treat. (pics of my complete bike at the very bottom!!). It took a VERY long time to find a custom frame sprayer who was able to do the Team Violet colour, and this was also not without problems, mainly down to 'lost in translation' when explaining the colour and design. Thankfully everything was rectified in the end, the paint job was by Dave at Colourtech UK LTD in Dartford.

Top - Aquafade, bottom - Team Violet

First up, the wheel rims, no question at all, they had to be Mavic's 'D521 Ceramic' rims, these were Mavic's premier downhill rim in the 90's. By no means a light weight however they build into some of the strongest wheels going and are still highly respected rims. These have been laced to a pair of blue Ringle hubs. Ringle were a very high-end American boutique brand, favoured by the teams such as Yeti and Fat Chance, they used to sponsor my bike team (and today we've gone full circle sponsored by the new firm that took over; Sun-Ringle!) so I had various bits gathering dust, the rest I sourced from one of my mates. (A brief story of my front wheel, it used to be one of the USA Team Yeti riders, Carolyn Curl's and was laced to a deep section carbon fibre HED rim which was the mutts nuts, I'd love another pair of HED rims but they are just too hard to find these days, damn it! I sourced a pair of ex-Team Yeti wheels via one of their then colleagues Betsy, who was absolutely lovely - that's one of my little claims to downhill mountain bike fame there!).

I chose Ringle parts in 3D violet (purple to you and me) for the stem and seat post as I wanted to keep the 'Marmite' aspect of the bike going too, it's a colour not to everyone's taste, I however love it! The handle bars were bought from Rody at Groovy Cycles in the States, aptly called 'Luv Handles'! He's a fantastic bloke and is known the world over for restoring Fat Chance frames to their former glory as well as manufacturing his own (http://groovycycleworks.com/default.aspx). The bars give a better posture on the bike, much better for your back and they're just sooooooooooooooooooooooo comfortable it's unreal.

Brake levers were a bit of a pain, I wanted to keep the 'chi-chi' aspect going but most of the brands back then were really brittle. Someone contacted me on Retrobike and offered a new old stock (i.e. they had never been fitted/used) pair of CNC'd Real levers for the build, they were snapped up straight away! Perfect! The saddle was a no-brainer, Selle Italia 'Flite' titanium, it's just the saddle to fit for a retro steed, far more aesthetic than a Brooks too, have had quite a few Flites in my time and they last for years. I picked that up off eBay dirt cheap, phew.

I already had the cantilever brakes ready to fit. A New York company called Brooklyn Machine Works (http://www.brooklynmachineworks.com/) used to make 'Snot Rocket' cantilever brakes a long time before Shimano picked up on using the same idea for their 'V-brakes'! 'Snot Rockets' are completely, and deliberately, over-engineered more over they are incredibly powerful. In all of my time racing bikes I have not come across any other rim-brake set up that are as powerful as these. Sadly Brooklyn no longer make them which is a great shame. Obviously the hydraulic disk brakes option is there today and I have those on my other hardtail, on this bike however the Brooklyn's were a MUST.

Front Snot Rocket brake.

Forks are year 2000 Rock Shox 'Judy SL LT' ones, repainted to match the frame (I can't find any 'before' photo's, sorry) with the older style (and in my eyes much nicer than the modern ones) Rock Shox decals on them. These have been fully serviced by Tim Flooks (a fork servicing uber-guru) and I got some proper metal fork-adjustment caps to replace the horrible black plastic ones that came with the fork!

Shifting has been taken care of via a pair of Shimano's XT thumb shifters, I had to make my mind up between Gripshift 'SRT800 X-Ray' shifters, a twist style shifter, and thumbies...... Thumbies won, no contest really! These have been mated to Shimano's M900 series XTR front and rear derailleurs, probably the most aesthetic groupset they've ever produced, circa '94 I think it was (correct me if I'm wrong). Shimano XTR cables are also being used for both brake and gear systems.

Crankset at the moment is a pair of Cook Brothers Racing RSR cranks, yet another USA boutique brand from the 90's. I absolutely adore these cranks and lusted after a pair when I was much younger, however I'm a heavy rider and worried they will break so I won't be keeping them, I shall be swapping for a pair of modern Middleburn 'RS8' cranks which are far more suitable. To my defence Middleburn are an old English boutique brand, very well respected and their equipment is nigh on bomproof. Their cranks will 'fit' into the build perfectly as the company have kept a timeless design to them since the 90's. The rings are all by Middleburn too. Bottom bracket is from TA Specialities, lightweight and strong.

Cook Bros. cranks with Brooklyn pedals.

Pedals are Brooklyn Machine Works 'Vegi-Burger' pedals, they will take your skin straight off if you slip. I also have a pair of their bigger-brother pedals, the 'Shin Burgers', which look like metal meat tenderisers and resultingly have several spatters of hardened blood stains on them! Hardcore!

That just leaves tyres and handle bar grips, tyres are modern Maxxis 'High Roller's, the design hasn't changed since the mid-90's so that lets me off. Grips are from a USA company called Oury who are absolutely lovely people to deal with, and again their design hasn't changed either since the 90's so I'm OK there too!

Have you made it this far without falling to sleep?! Marvellous!

"So, enough about all that, how does it ride then?"

Absolutely amazingly! Because I've spent time getting the parts to fit, for example the first stem was 120mm which was far too long and combined with narrow bars, the new stem is 100mm and combined with lay back bars - it's now perfect. Spend time and effort with your equipment to ensure they fit you and not just jump on any old bike expecting it to be bang-on from the word go.

Say "Cheese!"...

The sprinting is brilliant as is the climbing, my old lungs however need to be worked on, phew! I love it, it ticks all of the boxes for what I want it to do. A strong steel cross country frame with good strong parts that will handle my type of riding. Steel being the weapon of choice in that, if ever it break, which I doubt it will any time soon, it is easily fixed by a frame builder, unlike aluminium which is a faff.

"In the dark, dark woods....."

"Pride and Prejudice....hmmmmm"

Et voila!

Special thanks going out to Mark for the frame (I am not worthy), Rody for the bars, the lads at Brooklyn Machine Works for putting up with me across the years!, Nick the Ringle Guru, Tim Flooks, Gil for the amazing reproduction frame and fork decals, and many a fellow from the forums on http://www.retrobike.co.uk

*bows and doffs hat*

Monday, 23 August 2010

Damn Fine Coffee Y'hear!

Oh yes, there are many independent coffee houses in London it has to be said, and indeed a lot of good ones. However every now and again you come across one that puts the others to shame, step forward the LJ Coffee House in Soho on Winnett Street behind the Queens Theatre (Les Miserables):

Dedicated and helpful happy staff, fantastic coffee, good food, comfy chairs and a great vibe, what more could you wish for? Go and get your caffeine fix!

Oh and they have a website too: http://www.ljcoffeehouse.org.uk/community.html excellent :)

Space Age - Museum of Childhood, Leicester

Just a quick photo montage here, we dropped by on Sunday re-lived our youth and I took a few phone-cam photos.....

Admit it, you want the glasses:

Fashion always comes full circle, things are tweaked and re-branded.... "Moon Boots?!" I hear you cry, yes, the older version of today's Ugg Boots!

Can you see influence for The Golden Compass here?:

Cool logo for a t'shirt - they missed out on some sales:

R2-D2 and Eve get a bit close:

Quick, grab ya whippets and run, run I tell ye, the Daleks are invading Yorkshire:

Disney-Geek-Alert (that'll be Phil y'know!), this is the book that Disney based their 'Space Mountain' ride on:

Am I wrong to laugh at the title of this book, fnarr fnarr:

Cool Star Wars poster:

And obviously Pigs In Space must also be added, The Muppets too:

Back to Star Wars, how many people out had the toys and figurines without realising how much they would be worth today? *Puts own hand up*

Space Age potty, sorry, chair:

I have christened this chewing gum-ball vending machine robot 'Pervert The Robot', can you tell why?

How cool?:

Ahhh, the old 80's Space Invaders, fanTAStic:

....but HOW MUCH....... it used to be only 10p, rip off Britain strikes again!

Cute robot dog:

All hail David Bowie:

This should tie up a few 'certain' movies:

I didn't realise until we left the exhibition, whoooooooopsadaisy:


Obviously this exhibition is geared towards the younger generation, it would be interesting to have a much bigger exhibition in London taking in the art of say HR Giger, and including more of the movies, 2001, Alien/Aliens etc, the more sinister side of space and Sci-Fi alongside the more gentler things, could prove to be a hit.

And finally walking back down the New Walk we came across this dilapidated building:

What the hell is wrong with the Leicester City Council? Not only are they hell bent with destroying the city's heritage - for example the destruction of the Bow String Bridge and indeed one of the best 'homely' pubs in the country: The Pump And Tap that was next to it, they are letting their big homes fall into this state, shame on you Leicester Council! Mind you, having seen their offices' square:

Of drab 60's pre-cast concrete greyness, is it any real surprise?!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Hair - Gielgud Theatre, London 14th August 2010


Lissy Lovett and the Stagetext posse came up trumps when they persuaded the Gielgud Theatre to show one of the Hair performances with captions. We'd been dying to see this before it closed, it's a full transfer of the original Broadway cast transplanted into London's West End.

.....and it only took 40 years to come back!!!

Hair is in a nutshell about a group of hippies pushing for civil rights, protesting against the war in Vietnam, promoting love, peace and harmony.... and drugs, .....and promiscuous sexual freedom, .....and nudity, you get the drift, it's the full 'sex, drugs & rock 'n roll' shebang!

The cast were phenomenal, you couldn't single any one of them out as they were all superb. You are immediately transported to the 'Summer of Love' in 1967 and gain a (musical) look in (through rose coloured glasses I must say) about the East Village hippy culture at the time. Lots of people will know the songs but I feel few will know where they originate from, for example 'I Got Life' is currently on the Muller Yoghurt adverts (of all things!!)! 'Good Morning Starshine' also comes from the show, and of course 'Aquarius'.

The arty-chandelier-with-Hair-hand-graphics-taken-during-the-interval-type-picture!!:

The cast made full use of the theatre, regularly coming out into the audiences on both levels during the show, climbing over the people's seats and getting the audience fully involved with the production. They even made a point of the Stagetext captioning screen, which was placed (amazingly) centre-stage, during the show too, especially with the rather funny ad-libbed "..Say 'Raspberry!' Hubert.." segment, which was typed up almost immediately on the captioning screen - pure genius! Cue: lots of laughter across the theatre, and in the same breath it raises deaf awareness in the theatre circles, making access much more acceptable ....and that's brilliant.

The show deals with social peer-pressure, which we all go through, all of the trials, errors and judgements that go with it. It also includes several comical parental 'from the outside looking in' views too, especially with the characters Hubert and Margaret Mead. It is really easy to relate the show to today's youth, because, to be honest, it hasn't changed, it's all about growing up, social relationships, making decisions and learning from your mistakes.

The show climaxed with the whole audience being invited for a mass stage invasion and a reprise of 'Let The Sunshine In'

I have to say it was one of the best productions I've seen, I'd love to go and see it again. Sadly it's only on a short run as it's sticking with the Broadway cast. Which.... although grumbling.... is perhaps a good thing, as it is 'their' show, and a bloody good show it is too.

I gotta get outta here...!!

"...Lines form on my face and my hands, lines form from the ups and the downs, I'm in the middle, without any plans..."
'I'm Eighteen' - Alice Cooper.

I guess a good few of you know how it feels, trapped, staring at the same four walls every day, the same conveyor belt of work, the same colleagues' faces staring back at you, the same problems, the same ignorance and you just feel utterly fed up about it all. It has been like that for a good while now, just at the old day-jobs mind you, away from work, life is fantastic! So it was a great time for an out-of-the-blue weekend getaway.

Phil had hit the nail on the head booking us into The Dormy House Hotel in Broadway, the Cotswolds, it is set in some of the most beautiful countryside of the British Isles.

The Dormy House is an old farm building that has been converted into a hotel, set well back from any main roads, it's a really lovely little haven and highly recommended. The staff are all superb and will take full care of you all weekend, so if you're looking for a break why not pay them a visit yourself?

Saturday was spent just getting the bearings, we drove down to the villagey town of Bourton-on-the-Water which turned out to be a complete (and unfortunate) tourist trap. It reminded me of Barney in the summer. I'm from an old market town up north that gets very touristy in the summer months so had plenty of (unwanted) flashbacks. We had a stroll around, it was an OK place I suppose, the houses and lanes were lovely just completely spoilt with masses of tourists and tourist tat shops. It was Round Table weekend with a duck-race going on, didn't bother to take many photo's here but here's the glancing duck-race shot:

Exciting eh?! Quite!

Headed back to the Hotel to just collapse, both of us were knackered. Had a lovely meal that evening, great food, good wine and the staff were awesome. Moved to a sitting room for coffees with neither of us realising at the time how strong the coffee was....... it lead to a very restless night with very little sleep. Come Sunday morning we were more knackered than when we arrived, eeeurgh - note to anyone going to the Dormy House, take the after-dinner coffee with great caution!

Packed up the bags on Sunday and reloaded the car, it was just a short weekend break. Headed out to a place called Chipping Campden as recommended by one of the hotel staff and it was just perfect.

Now, a word of warning: I may bore you to death here as I love architecture, you can blame my art teacher forcing me to study Banister Fletcher as part of my art a-level for that!

Going briefly back to Barney here; Barney has its fair share of charming, 'olde-worlde', buildings, for example the Market Cross, alas it has also gone down the tourist pound route and as a result has lost all of its old charm. Most of the old family run independent shops have gone and the Wednesday market isn't much to write home about, a great shame. Chipping Campden however has kept its old charm, any new builds there are built to reflect the old houses, with narrow leaded windows and period correct stone masonry. How I feel it should be! As a result took loads of pictures so will run them off here.

The Market Hall:

Random selection of old buildings that caught my eye:

Architectural detailing:

The village's old Toll Listings:

I'd love an entrance to a home like one of these two *sighs*:

As you walk around the town centre there are lots of nooks and crannies, I had a look through a key hole to see what was behind a set of old wooden gates, lo and behold a path to a secret garden (rather chuffed with this photo as it was taken through the old key-hole!):

Quite a few of the buildings on the main street were undergoing renovation, I snapped this door with paint swatches on it, it looks rather funky as it is:

If it was me, I'd be tempted to paint each wooden section a different colour (as is but tidy it up), failing that would opt for the pale blue in the top right!

At the end of the high street we came to this building and I fell in love with it - does anyone want to buy me it please?

Imagine it with a rose climber, window boxes and a planted entrance similar to the ones shown before, something to dream about!

The photographs here don't do any of the buildings justice, it was an overcast day which was a shame.

Chipping Campden has a good collection of antique shops, family run cafes, potters, silversmiths, all sorts of cottage industry goods made in situ, and not one Starbucks in sight thank god! Let it be said however, thieves are not taken kindly:

And last but not least Phil managed to pick up a little hitch-hiker before we headed back to the city (which he popped back into the foliage before we left I hasten to add):

So all in it was a lovely (yet strong-coffee-induced completely knackering) weekend, definitely going back and would recommend it to anyone reading this here blog.

It's good to just kick back, take time out and relax now and again, forgetting all about life's problems.