Silence vs. Noise Week | Bleader | Chicago Reader

Silence vs. Noise Week

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Retweet it, only louder

Posted By on 04.05.12 at 08:07 AM

A sparrow
  • John A. Anderson/Shutterstock
  • A sparrow
For the Bleader's Silence vs. Noise theme last week, I wrote about the minor phenomenon of late-night/early-morning bird chirping—a result of the same urban light pollution that helps guide home the drunks falling out of 4 AM bars the city wide. Of course, the nocturnal glow of street lamps isn't the only distraction to a songbird's mating and defense routines.

According to a recent study conducted in the Presidio district of San Francisco, sparrows have been forced over 35-some-odd years to raise their voices in order to compete with the city's escalating clamor. Researchers David Luther of George Mason and Elizabeth Derryberry of Louisiana State studied the reaction songbirds had to calls recorded in the park in 1969 and in 2005. Guess what happened?

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Minoso doc seeks final funding

Posted By on 04.01.12 at 07:47 AM

Minnie Minoso: Baseballs been very, very good to him.
A documentary on former White Sox star Minnie Minoso is threatened with silence unless it can earn a final $20,000 in funding.

TV producer Tom Weinberg is going through the fund-raising site to raise the money for final editing, starting Monday. A preview link to the project with a trailer is already online.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

3 AM tweeting, the other kind

Posted By on 03.30.12 at 06:59 AM

Late-night bars are the devil's work, and Chicago has too many of them. As the clock creeps closer to dawn, bad decisions begin dressing up all dapper like and convincing drunkards that, yes, another shot and grabbing a frozen pizza on the way home is the way to go. The formerly spry, wide-eyed me used to be the first to suggest a 4 AM den of iniquity—one ready and willing to expedite crippling hangovers—when the night needed a pick-me-up. Now, I just can't hack it.

And that's OK, because in addition to having a delicate 30-year-old body actually complete menial weekend tasks, I'm also able to avoid the eerie, discombobulating early morning chorus of the songbirds. As if having the bar lights dialed up to tanning-bed-level brightness isn't sobering enough, stumbling out the front door into 4:30 AM Chicago and hearing bird chirps bounce around alleyways and off apartment buildings is a dizzying kind of surreal.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Aching lovers, hockey thugs, etc

Posted By on 03.29.12 at 04:54 PM

What did you say?: Seann William Scott in Goon
  • "Silence versus noise was my idea!": Seann William Scott in Goon
Boy, how I hate getting scooped by my own coworkers. Here I had this great idea for a piece about The Deep Blue Sea, explaining how director Terence Davies strategically uses silence to frame and intensify the sounds and music in his story of a woman (Rachel Weisz) torn between her boring old husband and her virile young lover. Then along comes "Silence vs. Noise Week," a daily series on the Bleader that's now already well in progress. I suppose I should make some noise about it, but instead I'll just keep quiet.

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Tribune Co. plays hardball with DirecTV

Posted By on 03.29.12 at 04:33 PM

DirecTV subscribers may not see Sundays regular-season home finale for the Blackhawks.
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • DirecTV subscribers may not see Sunday's regular-season home finale for the Blackhawks.
Now this is hardball.

It was reported earlier this week that the Tribune Co. is threatening to pull its programming—primarily WGN TV and its national sibling station WGN America—from DirecTV. The Trib wants additional monetary compensation from the satellite TV company for its desirable product, including Chicago sports franchises the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks.

The Trib has set a deadline at the end of the month, putting the opening of the baseball season and the end of the NBA and NHL regular seasons in jeopardy for DirecTV subscribers. Talk about noise going silent.

Thursday the Trib got down and dirty with a wraparound "advertisement" on its front page calling for viewers to "tell DirecTV to keep WGN" and its CW Network.

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Notes among silences

Posted By on 03.29.12 at 04:03 PM

Radu Malfatti: erasing notes
  • Radu Malfatti: erasing notes
As I mentioned in this week's Three Beats, 2012 is the centennial of brilliant composer and thinker John Cage. For many people Cage is just the prankster who composed 4'33", in which the performer does nothing but turn a few pages of sheet music for the duration. This radical 1952 composition shook to its foundation the public's understanding of what "noise" and "silence" meant, particularly the latter. Listen closely to "silence" and you'll realize that there's really no such thing—instead you'll experience an ever-changing symphony of small sounds, some of them generated by your own body's processes.

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The new noise: so loud we can’t even hear it

Posted By on 03.29.12 at 09:37 AM

Dear Gmail: Will you please be quiet, please?
  • Dear Gmail: Will you please be quiet, please?
Some silences are harder to find than others. Or maybe it’s that certain noises are harder to avoid? In any case, people keep trying. Quiet has become “a delicacy just for urbanites, who’ve gotten so used to fighting for silence that it now seems exotic.” Taking it a step further, soundscape ecologists (yep, those exist) have trekked deep into the Alaskan wilderness to track down a species of silence—one devoid of all things man-made—that’s all but extinct.

I get it. I understand the anthropological nostalgia attached to such a pursuit. I appreciate pristine tranquility—and its scientific significance—as much as the next person. But I still love the noise of the city. Bring on the din of traffic, the stray siren, the chugging bus. It’s the sound of life, of hustle, of progress.

But there’s another, newer noise that I find disturbing. And those of us who hear it will probably never find a way to turn it off.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

And the clock ticks on

Posted By on 03.28.12 at 07:12 AM

Mine was bright yellow.
  • Mine was bright yellow.

My aunt and uncle, one of my dad's brothers, lived in Greenfield, Iowa, where they had a farm. Greenfield's biggest claim to fame was (is?) having served as the location for the 1971 movie Cold Turkey, directed by Norman Lear and starring Dick Van Dyke. It's hard to believe that someone from Moline, Illinois, could feel like a city mouse, but there I did. The smell of hogs and hay, the acrid well water we had to brush our teeth with, my Aunt June's Sunday wig . . . We all agreed she made the world's best pancakes.

My Uncle Wilmer passed away a few years ago, but I spoke to Aunt June, who's 84, just last week, when my mom went to visit her. She told me she wasn't doing so well, "though I try," and remarked on how strange the passage of time seemed: "Your cousin Roger turns 61 this year!"

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sh is acceptable only in Scrabble

Posted By on 03.27.12 at 07:27 AM

The rest is silence -- for now
  • The rest is silence—for now
When Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was identified as the NCO who shot and stabbed to death 17 Afghani civilians, woman and children included, a curious thing happened—or didn’t: no one described him as a silent, distant brooder.

"Robert Bales was a positive person who always had a smile on his face," an army officer told a public radio reporter. Bales's high school principal told the New York Times he was “one of those kids you remember, a real extrovert.” The Times profile went so far as to call Bales “gregarious,” and so did the profile in the Los Angeles Times, where a pal from Bales’s home town in Ohio asserted, "I want people to know there is no way the guy I knew did this. You don't go from being a local hero to a monster."

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The startling truth about fan noise

Posted By on 03.27.12 at 07:05 AM

Quiet . . . quiet . . . SCREAM!
  • Domenic Gareri/
  • Quiet . . . quiet . . . SCREAM!
When Tiger Woods began his backswing on the 15th tee, the crowd was, of course, hushed. It was the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Saturday at the Bay Hill Club in Orlando. Woods had a three-stroke lead, and appeared to be cruising to his first championship since 2009.

But when Tiger reached the top of his backswing, a woman screamed. (True, her son had fainted—but couldn't she have held off a half second?) Tiger chopped downward, took a hacker's divot, and yanked the ball out of bounds. He double-bogeyed the par-four hole, his first double bogey this year in 248 holes. (He now has one more double bogey this year than most Chicago golfers.)

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