Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season.

May the blessings of the New Year (and The Force) be with you.

-- Steve

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why is Manwolf So Loud?

Lately Linda and I have been getting a number of inquiries as to why either, 1) I'm so loud on the BlogTalkRadio broadcasts, or 2) she's so soft. No, for you conspiracy theorists, I'm not trying to overshadow her in the show.

Most of you know that until very recently, Uncanny Radio was recorded from the studios of WBSD in Burlington, Wisconsin. In the past month , though, the weather had been getting bad out here, and Linda had been reluctant to make the long trek to the studio. Well, we solved that intially by making her a guest, but that left us with a new problem: the radio station can only call one person at a time, so if I have to call Linda, I can't call anyone else. (We're working on that, but...)

Coincidentally, at the same time, a new problem cropped up when our former archive host crashed, taking our entire library of shows down with them. (Most of those shows are still unavailable.) We did, however, find a new venue to host the archives -- Blog Talk Radio. And that solution presented us with several new opportunities as well: 1) we could use their system to return to our usual 2 hosts + a guest format, 2) we could also use the system to have listeners call in as well as the guest. Seemed like a great opportunity.

The trick, though, has been working the bugs out. The simple fact is that the BTR switchboard doesn't have nearly the same number or quality of controls I have in the WBSD studio. There is a similar ability to play clips -- like our intro/exit music -- but no ability to fade them in our out; they're either on, or off at whatever level they start at. Likewise, there is no ability to control the audio level of the callers to the service -- whether they're the hosts, the guests, or the fans. People who call in end up at whatever level they call in at. Worse, the earpiece quality -- that is, what the hosts/callers hear on their earpieces -- may or may not represent what's actually being heard "on air." Often, the are drop-outs that exist only on the phone lines. (You can hear me ask Linda to repeat things numerous times in our first BTR show, in the mistaken belief that if I couldn't hear her, the audience couldn't, either.)

Further, there's not even any indication of what the audio levels actually are, so the people calling in can, perhaps, adjust the volume on their end with any accuracy. So, every week the audio level of the show is a guessing game on my part. Linda recently upgraded her phone capability (so it now pretty much matches mine), -- yet, my audio is still louder and/or "brighter." Why? We haven't figured it out yet. Maybe it's my church-bred speaking voice.

People have suggested moving my mic further from my mouth. But it's on a fixed, inflexible pivoting arm (not bendable), and I've raised it up to the level of my eyes; apparently didn't help. Next: change the mic-in level on my computer (I'm using MagicJack to call in) -- I've pushed the level down almost to nothing; apparently didn't help.

So, what to do? Well, it'd be easiest if BTR would upgrade their switchboard to include some basic mixing levels -- but who knows if they'll do that. I could try putting a small windscreen over my mic, if I can find/buy/improvise one. (That's probably worth a try.) Or I can go back into the studio at WBSD and use the tried & true methods. But that still leaves us with the problem of 2 hosts + 1 guest can only use one call-in line. And the weather precludes Linda coming in.

I'll take suggestions, but you should realize that I'm pretty good at this stuff (not perfect), and I've already tried every solution that quickly sprang to mind -- and a few that required some pretty deep thinking. I could go in and manually fix all the audio levels for the show in post-production -- but that would take literally hours, and nobody is paying me to do it. Frankly, I can't afford to put in a lot more free time on this show.

So, until we can solve this problem -- and we'll continue to work on it -- you have to ask yourself: Is Uncanny Radio worth having even with curent audio flaws, or would you rather not have the show in its current format at all?

Yours -- Steve "Manwolf" Sullivan

Friday, December 12, 2008

UFO HUNTERS - Arizona Lights

History Channel - 12/10/08

What was seen in the skies over Phoenix Arizona on the night of March 13, 1997?  Is it something alien, or a top secret government project?  That night, thousands of witnesses saw a wedge-like shape of bright lights hovering "over" the city.  Earlier in the night, a boomerang-shaped craft was seen over other parts of the state -- sometimes hovering, sometimes moving at incredible speeds.  The craft was said to be up to a mile wide.  Though witnesses claim the lights were otherworldly, the government says they were flares dropped by the Maryland National Guard (see Lights Over Phoenix in a previous review).  A councilwoman who suggested an investigation was ridiculed and harassed.  The state governor seemed about to look into it, and then brought out a man in an alien costume for a press conference, setting off more laughter and derision.  The night in question, a witness described the lights coming on in an arc, and then going out in the same order they came on in.  He says they look nothing like the flares he'd seen before.  He thinks they could have been 1) a hoax, 2) an alien craft (which he says unlikely), or 3) a military experiment.  Expert Ted plans to test the military's flare explanation.

A psychiatrist says that she'd seen such lights before in the months leading up to the sighting.  She describes the events that night as not flickering like flares, but "orbs."  Another witness and his wife first saw lights on the 10th of March.  They do not believe they're flares, either.  Ted explains that flares may look different under different atmospheric conditions.  He sets up a test using maritime parachute flares off of Longbeach, CA.  The witnesses say Ted's flares look different from what they saw -- the other lights hovered.  (This fact was disproved by Lights Over Phoenix; the lights did move, and eventually disappeared behind the mountains.)  The crew then goes on to interview witnesses of the boomerang-shaped craft with five lights.  One witness describes a huge, black shape with an undulating surface, which the show then recreates with CGI.  The show then digresses to try to compare the 1997 sightings to local petroglyphs, 1000 years old -- though crew members point out the symbols on the rocks could as easily be stars (or something else) as UFOs.  They then talk to a scientist/researcher/article writer who says there are some triangular rigid-hull experimental airships (as big as a football field) in experimental use by the military.  They may have been developed for special forces ops, and no pictures exist -- nor will such craft be revealed while they present an advantage to our military.

An interview with the former governor reveals that he was concerned about the intensity of interest in the event, and set up the "alien" interview spoof to defuse the situation. He tried too look into the incident, but got a "no comment" from the air force (which the show takes as an admission that something was there).  In an earlier interview, he also admitted that he saw the strange huge craft on the night in question.  He describes it as "otherworldly."  The crew of the show is split whether the craft is alien or conventional but secret.  The show seems to conclude that the lights could not have been flares.  Personally, I think the UH crew should have done better researsh on this point, or at least watched UFOS Over Phoenix.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

UFO HUNTERS - The Real Roswell

History Channel - 12/3/08

The UH team goes to Roswell, NM to follow up on old leads and dig up new witnesses -- while they still can.  The show starts with a recap of the Roswell story from the initial report to the Friedman research tp  the recent Air Force report debunking the incident.  Working with local researchers, the crew points out that time is running out on the witnesses -- as, one by one, they're dying off due to old age.  One new witness is Earl Fulford, who was at the Roswell airbase at the time, but never spoke about it until now.  He says he saw floating objects in the sky near the airbase before the crash; circular objects that hung motionless in the sky and then disappeared -- perhaps a week or ten days before the crash.  Later, Earl went with with members of the base to pick up unusual debris from a crash 70 miles NW of Roswell.  As part of the UH team takes Earl to see the crash site, other parts of the team research the Plains of San Augustin, site of another alleged crash during the same time period.  They also look for debris from the crash that may have been hidden in caves by local farmers.  (The team finds caves, but no debris.)

Earl describes picking up a strange metal-like substance, and -- in the most interesting part of the episode -- the team sets up an experiment to see if they can determine what he and the others recovered.  Meanwhile, another local researcher has debris from the second site that seems highly unusual; the team takes the twisted blob of something to be tested.  In the crash metal test, UH takes a handful of different metals, cardboard, and plastic-like substances.  They then have two witnesses who claim to have touched the substance -- Earl and Jesse Marcel Junior -- examine the samples in independent viewings.  Both men pick silver acetate as being very similar to what they encountered.  It has the right consistency and it springs back to its original shape when crumpled.  And while acetate was available at the time, the government document about Project Mogul, the supposed explanation for the crash, says that mylar was used in the Mogul targets, not acetate.  (Although, when I was in art school, the terms were used almost interchangably -- and what they show as acetate is what I picture when I hear the word "mylar.")  The mysterious melted substance found in the 2nd crash site turns out to be HDPE - a plastic used in Tupperware, fuel tanks, and aircraft windows.  Oddly, the plastic only melts at 250% farenheit, too hot for normal desert conditions.  (Though it seems to me that the investigators have ignored potential, manmade causes of melting -- like bonfires.)

Though the show tries to draw conclusions about the artifact found and the "memory metal" test -- seeming to imply that the things encountered had not been invented at the time they were found -- the fact that both objects had very ordinary explanations seems to me to bely this argument.  In a sad coda to the story, Earl Fulford (81) passed away before the show was aired -- adding to the show's eerie warning about the witnesses to the event dying of old age.