Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Eye to Eye

As a side bar, I once interviewed a lady who lost her vision ( went totally blind) at 15 years old. Through advances in technology, and 50 years later she had an operation to give her vision back when she was 65.  I remember that interview very well, and now I understand a little more clearly what she was feeling.

My right eye has always been extremely myopic. I could see things up close but not things farther than an arms length away.  I have had glasses and contact lense since I was 16 years old.  For many years hard and soft contact lense were a miracle to me, I could put them on in the morning and see great all day long even read with the contacts. I was an excellent patient for daily wear soft lense.   However, age causes everyone to lose short vision over time, and I was slowly developing a cataract in that right eye.  So even with glasses, readers, or contacts the short vision was dicey with flares and halo’s around lights in the night time becoming increasingly problematic. If I wanted to see a stage play clearly I had to wear contacts but to read the Playbill I had to have reading glasses. It was just one of those things you just get used to over the “snail’s pace” of time. Friends had radial keratotomy and laser surgery to correct their vision, but I was never sure it was right for me although my “prescription”seemed to be perfect for the operation.  
For the last decade I have been using contact lense for stage work, but for everyday I just had my distant correction glasses which I took off to read or do work close. For me that was easier than using readers with my contacts.  But the glare of lights at night time was really getting to me... with nothing that glasses or lenses could do to correct it.  

I have a great optomologist who noticed the cataract developing in my right eye, causing most of the problems of light and glaring.  That was the bad news, the good news: with new developments in eye surgery a patient did not have to wait until cataracts are really bad before getting rid of them. The best news was that while they were extracting the cataract they could implant a lense to make me see distance more clearly.  And it is an outpatient procedure which meant I was less than two hours in the hospital.  It was simple and virtually painless.  The IV for the procedure was the worst part. 
I feel like the lady who got her sight back. I have never seen so clearly in my right eye.  In fact the biggest problem I have had all week is adjusting to more light and more color in my perception than I have had in a long time.  I am almost over loaded with new colors and a new sense of distance.  I wake up in the middle of the night and can clearly see what time it is on the cable box clock.  This may not be a trill to some, but it is very exciting to me.

The funniest thing that happened to me during my procedure happened at the prep. I went in early in the morning and was escorted to an exam room before taken to a hospital bed.  There a nurse put a series of drops in my “surgery ready” eye.  These were in addition to the three sets of drops I had put in that eye at home already.  She would matter of factly tell me what the drops were for, i.e.  “this will dilate your eye” .... “this is an anti-inflamitory”.  Then she put a drop into my eye that started stinging like crazy, and said, “This is to numb the eye.”  I said, “It stings, than’s an oxymoron.”  She paused for a moment and said, “No it is just a mild anesthetic.”  

The lady I interviewed said that, after her surgery, if she got lost in the house she would just close her eyes so she would remember her way around. For me I just close one eye to remember. 
Happy St. Patricks day to all the Irish and wannabes.
As you were,

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

The Ape and Jay

To comply with some self emposed decorum of disclosure, Charles Peachock sent me an Audio Ape some years ago just to see if I would like it.   I used it,  loved it and gladly paid for the 2.0 Upgrade. He asked me to review the Audio Ape and this is what I came up with.

Jay Johnson and The Audio Ape

On stage, a ventriloquist controls all the voices, movements, timing, jokes and sounds coming from a puppet while pretending not to be responsible.  Some might say that’s a classic case of a control freak in denial. Well,  I‘m a ventriloquist...  Here’s my story, you decide.

Music has always been a part of my act. Over 45 years the delivery format has changed exponentially.  I have traveled with full orchestra charts, 5 piece band charts,  cued up cassette tapes, CDs, mini disks, MP3’s and thumb drives.  There is one thing, though, that hasn’t changed: Whether it is a conductor, band leader or sound person, someone has to know my act and execute the cues at the right time. 

Because of this,  over the years, my cues became simple, few and hopefully “bullet proof”. I joke that they are easy enough to be “done while mixing a Margarita”. (It’s true. I once worked a comedy club where the Bartender doubled as the audio man with the sound board behind the bar. If I heard the blender going I knew I had to wait for my cue.)   

For me, the timing of my sound cues is as important as the timing of my jokes. If you have ever experienced that “eternal stage wait” between calling for a sound cue and NOT hearing it, you know the nightmare. There have been remote control systems designed before; but, the problem with most old remote control sound systems in the past is not just their large size and short range, but you still had to travel with some sort of music player that the remote could control. Short of hiring a sound man to learn your show and travel with you, is there another way?  

Finally there is. It is a digital solution, The Audio Ape. The Audio Ape is a remote control sound system that’s small, easy, effective and controls the sound on my iPad which already travels with me.  By using the music function, programming and display capacities of the iPad (or iPhone), Audio Ape is a sound designer and audio programmer in a package that’s not much bigger than a deck of cards. 

Audio Ape interfaces with several great sound apps, my preference is GoButton.  It allows me to fade, edit, cut and stack sound cues without destroying the original tracks. I can reprogram different cues easily and control them with a touch of the Audio Ape Remote button about the size of a zippo lighter. I even modified a remote to function as an ankle switch. Now instead of trying to limit the number and complexity of my sound cues, I am looking for ways to expand them. It has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for my live performances.  With Audio Ape I can directly control, underscore, tag and orchestrate my performance with music and sound effects.

As a ventriloquist my bottom line is this: I don’t trust anyone to control the operation and timing of my puppets on stage, why would I want someone to control the operation and timing of my sound cues? Is that a control freak in denial or a professional entertainer who wants to do the best show every time? You decide.

As you were,