The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act

(2012)

I keep falling asleep on the couch during the midnight movies . . . last nite it was On the Waterfront, my fave flick ever. I couldn’t figure out why . . . after all, one of my seizure meds discourages sleep even. Then I read Greg Burk’s latest MetalJazz and he’s going on about the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act. CALM for short. Clever.  He’s crazy about it. No longer can commercials be louder than the programs they’re interrupting. You can imagine Burk before its passage, in his EZ chair, lunging for the remote and cursing the Toyotathon.  No more, though…all is mono-volume, smooth and unsurprising as the Kansas plain. The law went into effect on December 13, about the time I began dozing off before Marlon Brando had a chance to tell Rod Steiger he coulda been a contender.  I am lulled into deep sleep curled up on the couch, surrounded by the new fluffy couch pillows (which don’t help things either). Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger and Ashley Madison and the Mattress King flowing seamlessly together.  Nothing interrupts. No more being jolted awake by those ads for the Trojan Twister and their haunting undertone that men aren’t really necessary at all. But the thing is, I always did my best writing in the wee hours, invariably after being awoken by that delicious babe describing hideous malpractices that can be sued for. She rattles them off, all kinds of scary things,  diseases and deformities and even death. She talks so fast, this chick, and never blinks. Disturbing. And I don’t even know what a vaginal mesh is.  So I’d turn off the TV and turn on the computer and out would come prose. All kinds of prose. A blog’s worth of prose. No more. Now I just sleep, wake up, straighten up the house (I always straighten up the house), read a while and go to bed, the real bed, and sleep again. No prose at all.

There goes my writing career.

On the Waterfront

Was watching On the Waterfront and when Terry Malloy fesses up to Edie (he didn’t know they were gonna knock him off, he says) there is a helluva racket in the background, a huge clattering pounding. It’s a steam pile driver, and I remember seeing one in downtown Milwaukee thirty years ago. One of the loudest sounds I have ever heard, huge bangs amplified off tall buildings. Almost painful. You had to shout to be heard. I remember being startled at the volume, but the locals didn’t seem to notice. They used to build those monsters in Milwaukee and I suppose they were part of the scenery. No one ever said the industrial revolution was quiet.

Anyway, here’s one in upstate Wisconsin somewhere, at a fair. It’s loud, but it’s hammering wood, not steel. You want to hear it slam steel. You won’t forget it. A clang like the gods themselves, almost.

OK, this was an essay about On the Waterfront and I didn’t even write about On the Waterfront. Instead I wrote about something Terry Malloy might have talked about. Method writing, I guess.

A picture may be worth a thousand words and all that, but it doesn't make a sound. Without the incredible harbor racket in this scene, the scream of the tugs, the shrieking steam blown off by giant harbor rigs and and especially that pounding, slamming, clanging incessant pile driver, you don't feel the claustrophobia at all.

A picture may be worth a thousand words and all that, but it doesn’t make a sound. Without the incredible harbor racket in this scene, the scream of the tugs or the shriek of steam blown off by giant harbor rigs, and especially that pounding, slamming, clanging incessant pile driver, you don’t feel the claustrophobia at all. You can’t tell at all how trapped these two are. You can’t tell anything at all. It’s mute.