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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Censored for your Convenience

In the UK we have a simple system of TV censorship called The Watershed. Programmes shown before 9pm are designated suitable for family viewing, while after 9pm children should not be permitted to watch without their parents' consent and supervision. Constant public feedback helps program makers and schedulers determine if they have judge things correctly.

In the US there is no such watershed. It would be impossible, since programmes shown at 9pm on the East Coast are showing at 6pm on the West Coast. Instead there is a blanket ban on all swear words which are censored out of broadcasts, regardless of when those broads are cast. Nudity is banned, sex scenes discreetly trimmed.

So far so good. Unfortunately the censoring is done very poorly, possibly because there's so much of it to do. Swearing is, after all, a part of life, distasteful though it may be. Sometimes a word will be bleeped out, sometimes cut out altogether (leaving an awkward sound gap), sometimes replaced with a "suitable alternative". This is all done so it is nearly always possible to recognise the original word and mentally replace it. The cuts and beeps are so obvious that it draws more attention to the censored word than leaving it in.



Context doesn't matter. I'm currently watching a gory horror movie. The opening scene shows a man being run over; then the driver rolls the car wheel onto the victim's chest until his ribs break. A few minutes later the driver carries the victim's severed head into his "workshop", with other severed and bloody heads are stacked everywhere you look. Nasty stuff, but not apparently as disturbing to children as the word "shit" which is beeped out a few moments later...

* sweartime over

It all seems a bit silly to censor in such circumstances, though I understand that American parents don't want their kids learning swear words off the TV. Yet surely the children's viewing should be determined by the parents, not the broadcasters? I can only assume that blanket censorship is done to take the burden of parenting away from the actual parents.

It would make more sense to me to have the censoring option left to the discretion of the viewer, so you could block channels and programmes that you do not want your children to watch, surely not impossible with current technology, or simply not let them watch TV unsupervised.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Martin Roofer King Day

A couple of weeks ago we noticed some dirty streaks running down  the siding of the house inside our porch, and  determined to investigate as soon as we could. Today we were both home, as Beth gets Martin Luther King Jr. Day off as a Federal Holiday and I don't start my shift at WalMart until 5pm, so the time was ripe.

Having conquered the heights of Sweetwater Mountain it is obligatory to strike The Titanic Pose before further work can commence.

The problem was caused (we think) by an excessive buildup of dirt under one of the eaves. All the rain falling on the roof over the bedroom (immediately under my right hand in the photo) runs into a gutter which drains at one end onto the roof below, running down further into another gutter and finally into a downpipe. Because this section of roof is overhung by the eaves it does not get much direct rainfall, so all the tiny specks of dirt washing down had built up over time. You couldn't grow tomatoes in it, but there was plenty of soil that needed brushing and washing away into the gutter, and then scooshing with a hose to clear the gutters. Supposedly the previous owner had been on the roof back in April, but I don't think he could have cleaned this section at that time, as this seemed more like ten years' soil than ten months.

The skylight over our loft had been getting dirty too, so I gave that a scrub.

The accumulated dirt cleared away, it was time to dust the ridges with Moss-B-Gone. The idea is that the powder washes down both sides and kills any mossy growth, which in turn washes away in subsequent rain. The roof material is a composite and has a rough texture, so it is not nearly as treacherous or breakable as a tile or slate roof.

Nonetheless you will note that I stayed on the side of the roof that does not offer a juicy 30 foot drop onto concrete to the careless or slippery-footed. It had been warm and dry when we started, but a light rain began as I progressed. I checked the various chimneys and roof vents while I was up there, as occasionally in a high wind one of them rattles. We shall soon hear if my ministrations have made any difference. 

My Moss-B-Gone depleted, there was time to strike one more manly pose before returning to ground level. Hopefully the scrubbing and washing will have stopped the dirty dribbles, and when we have a warmer drier day in the Summer I'll go up again to check, and take some photos from the roof. In the meantime I feel I have earned a cup of tea and some biscuits.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Go Ducks!

A quick shout for my local college team the Oregon Ducks, who play their BCS Title Bowl game later today against Auburn. This is a big deal, the Superbowl of College Football, and I booked the day off work to ensure I can watch the whole game live.

Above is my collection of Ducks T-Shirts, lying on my Ducks snuggie. I forgot to put in my Ducks lei, a necklace made from hazelnuts painted alternately yellow and green with the yellow ones having the Oregon O on them in green, and my Ducks Baseball cap, but I'm wearing them today, plus the t-shirt on the bottom left. If the Ducks play in white tonight I'll switch to the bottom right t-shirt.

 As you can see from my spread, there are a LOT of Oregon t-shirt designs available. The official colors are green and yellow, but the Ducks are sponsored by Nike and have a wide variety of uniforms, not merely a white and a colored (green) strip, but also black, white with carbon numbers, and yellow, and that's just the shirts. For greater detail on the following link to see  the 160 uniform variations possible - assuming they don't add more!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Foreclosures in Lane County

A few streets east of us, this house (which we've dubbed the Clown House) exemplifies the anger and frustration that grips many ex-homeowners in Eugene. Maybe since we moved to Eugene we are seeing things with fresh eyes, or maybe because we bought and sold a house last year, we are very aware of houses going up for sale in the area, and pick up fliers about houses that draw our interest.

There seem to be more houses for sale than we might expect, and some are for sale due to foreclosures. The irony is that the dispossessed and evicted residents, pushed out by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and other major mortgage lenders, are usually in trouble due to unemployment, indirectly caused by the dubious business practises of the past decade of...Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So the people whose lives are being destroyed doubly blame these institutions for their plight, first for costing them their jobs and then for taking their houses. Meanwhile the government bailout of the FMs are likely to cost the US taxpayer $154 billion.

Back to the Clown House, we first noticed it before the clown face was painted, and it stuck out as the "undesireable neighbour" due to the litter in the garden, the unkempt grass, and the dark and dingy aspect of the house itself. Maybe the owners were already under the hammer and awaiting eviction. The house now stands empty as you see it, dragging down the value of any house in the neighbourhood. A select band of Realtors and their agents have the task of surveying such properties, cleaning them out, and getting them back into a saleable condition. It's a messy job as the houses have often been vandalised by their former owners, but according to a recent article in the Register-Guard, the workers are glad to still have a job. Many people don't.