Wow, It’s Garrett Brown (Again)

If that’s all Garrett Brown had done it would be pretty impressive. But, like a TV infomercial, there’s more!

garrett-brown-steadicam.jpgI just filled out a website form and dropped a line to Garrett Brown. His name came up as I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the camera rig that allows Olympic TV coverage to follow divers from the diving board to the water. As cool as the shot is, the device is even cooler in its simple use of Sir Isaac Newton’s observations about gravity. .

I know the name Garrett Brown and have for years. He invented the Steadicam (other shooting toys too)–no small achievement. This single invention made hand held shots for movies and television ‘do-able’ as never before. He won an Oscar for it.

The Steadicam isn’t quite as simple as the Olympics camera solution, but it is noteworthy and well known in the ‘business.’ You have seen the hand held film effect it enables hundreds of times. Garrett’s not only the inventor, he’s been the steadicam operator in major motion pictures.

If that’s all Garrett Brown had done it would be pretty impressive. But, like a TV infomercial, there’s more!

Garrett Brown was the male voice on one of the most effective radio ad campaigns of all time, for Molson Beer. The commercials featured giggling dialog between Garrett and Anne Winn. I went back and listened to their “Border Guard” spot a few minutes ago. It’s still one of the most creative ad series of all time–so good it ran for 13 years.

And here it is!

Nothing To Hide

There is an independent group from Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants in England who have been monitoring the air and issuing their own forecasts which have been much more pessimistic than the official government version. Now that forecast is gone!

beijing-smog.jpgThere’s been a lot of talk about Beijing’s air quality problems, especially with the Olympics underway. What some observers have called smog has been characterized by the Chinese as mist.

The official government air quality numbers have been surprisingly good–considering the weather has created the ideal set-up for bad! Some of us have suspected they’re cooking the books. There’s really no way for me to know.

There is an independent group from Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants in England who have been monitoring the air and issuing their own forecasts which have been much more pessimistic than the official government version. Now that forecast is gone!

From Telegraph.co.uk: British scientists monitoring air quality in Beijing have been ordered to close down their website after their readings clashed with official statistics showing the city was meeting its pollution targets.

Until now, something about Beijing’s air didn’t smell right. Now it’s two things.

I’m Not Excited By The Olympics

I suspect the athletes will not suffer irreparable harm during these few weeks. I cannot say the same for Beijing’s citizens.

Maybe things will change as the games get underway, but at-the-moment I’m not excited by the Olympics. Other than one or two notable exceptions I know no names. I feel no xenophobic urge to kvell for the USA team, though it’s probably nice if we they bring home medals.

Are there any real amateurs participating in the games anymore? Our society has come around to accept that change I suppose.

China has shown itself to be incredibly adept at keeping the world’s largest population under close watch. Now it’s extending that skill set, watching the world’s largest contingent of tourists and press. No matter what is said to the contrary, the press gladly reports on its own troubles. If minders are too restrictive, you’ll hear about it.

I worry about terrorism. I’m less concerned about protest than the Chinese government probably is.

The weather and air quality have been fairly close to the worrisome scenario painted months ago. I’ve been checking meteorological observations every day, finding the dew point at Beijing’s airport in the mid and upper 70&#176s on a regular basis and visibility of 1-2 miles common.

Back in February I wrote of the potential Olympic weather:

So, when the deputy chief engineer of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau says, “Even if the rare extreme weather hits Beijing in August, people will not feel muggy. High humidity will not accompany the hot weather in August because their climax periods are different, ” I’d hide the silverware and other valuables.

Good call Geoff!

The well trained Olympic athletes will work under these conditions, just as Beijing’s citizens do. They will breath the foul air, just as Beijing’s citizens do. I suspect the athletes will not suffer irreparable harm during these few weeks. I cannot say the same for Beijing’s citizens.

Out Of Bandwidth

In England, the BBC has just started streaming TV shows through a proprietary program call iPlayer. People must be watching because the ISPs (the companies that deliver the Internet to you) are worried.

From DownloadSquad: iPlayer is causing all sorts of other trouble for ISPs. The player, built for viewing and downloading popular television shows onto computers through the special application is taking a toll on the ISPs bandwidth. So much so that they are looking for compensation from the BBC, threatening to initiate traffic shaping that would slow down service and render the player unusable if they don’t pay up.

I had been thinking about this on my own before the British scare. Internet bandwidth isn’t infinite. There are choke points all over the place that can get swamped with traffic. High quality video is about the most bandwidth intensive you can run!

I wasn’t too concerned about the BBC originally. My worry is closer to home. Imagine the traffic for NBC and the Olympics.

Donald Trump’s Jet

My question: Why is this plane, Donald Trump’s plane, registered outside the United States? It seems to be based at LaGuardia Airport in New York. I hope it’s maintained there… crewed there… certified there… taxed there. I suspect it’s not.

trump-jet.jpgI’m not a huge fan of Donald Trump. I’ll admit that. Trump is the classic case of a guy born on third base who thinks he hit a triple.

In the early 60s, my grandparents sold their little Cape in Laurelton, Queens and moved to Trump Village in Brooklyn. This huge and unwieldy cluster of co-op apartments, erected for the middle class a few blocks from the ocean in Brighton Beach, was built by The Donald’s dad, Fred.

I’ve got nothing against Fred. My grandparents were glad to have this apartment to call home.

On the other hand, I remember stories of Donald as a landlord, doing his best to make life difficult for older residents in luxury Manhattan buildings, renting at below market rates under New York City’s controversial rent control laws&#185. He didn’t come off as a sweetheart to me. In fact, he came off with no heart to me.

Can I maintain a dislike for decades? I guess so.

The reason I bring this up tonight is because Helaine and I are sitting here watching the Olympics. A few moments ago a promo for The Apprentice came up, with video of Donald’s beautiful 727.

It struck me funny that it’s Trump’s plane, because the callsign is VP-BDJ. All US registered planes begin with “N”. The “VP” designation means it’s registered in a British Overseas Territory.

There are loads of photos of VP-BDJ – and it’s a beaut. The shining colors belie the age of this airplane, first delivered to American Airlines a few days before I turned 18–back in 1968!

My question: Why is this plane, Donald Trump’s plane, registered outside the United States? It seems to be based at LaGuardia Airport in New York. I hope it’s maintained there… crewed there… certified there… taxed there. I suspect it’s not.

I hate it when success is built on avoidance rather than accomplishment. That’s what I’m scared of here.

&#185 – When I went to double check the facts about Trump, an entry of mine came up first in the Google search! Did I have it wrong? Was I sustaining my own cruel fable about Mr. Trump?

As it turns out, a deeper search found this revealing story, published in the New York Times on June 4, 1983.

The Olympics

I have found myself watching very little of the Olympics. I know it’s the greatest achievement in sports – but they’re mostly rather esoteric contests with people I don’t know.

The men in the Olympics look just like the guys I didn’t get along with while growing up: tall, muscular, good looking. As a rule, my friends could not throw a ball.

In the few events I’ve seen, the stands were empty. That’s sad. Considering what Greece has paid, and will continue to pay, empty seats give a bad impression. There’s also the implication their peripheral businesses are not doing well on anticipated Olympic revenue. Restaurants and hotels which put up with the massive construction until now face no payoff.

I read this evening that the International Olympic Committee is encouraging the Greek Olympic Committee to paper the house. That’s sad.

ATHENS (AFP) – IOC (news – web sites) officials, worried by the television images being flashed around the world of athletes competing in near empty stadiums, have told the Athens Games organisers to give tickets away for free if necessary.

For years I’ve heard a story about ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 60s and 70s. When they would cover swimming, track and field, or other events that weren’t well attended, they’d make everyone sit together opposite the cameras. In this age of handheld shots, that wouldn’t work.

I’ve seen Olympic coverage on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC. I think there’s some on Bravo too, though I’m not totally sure.

I wonder how the ratings will be? Will the lack of fans in the stands along with the poor showing of the USA basketball team and dashed hopes for a record number of records in swimming turn people off? What about the ability to watch events on multiple channels? Will the affiliates get hurt?