Sunday, 13 April 2008

he fills it only halfway and before i even argue

Sunset Boulevard. is probably the film with the most amazing collection of fun trivia, and I could make a post with a number of fun facts; about how Gloria Swanson introduced Dirk Benedict to macrobiotic diets in the 70s, how Erich von Stroheim (who played Max the butler) directed the silent film Norma and Joe watch on the projector (Queen Kelly, which had signified the end of Gloria Swanson's career in real life, just as it did Norma's in the film), or how Cecil B. DeMille greets Gloria Swanson with his real-life nickname for her - "Young Fella" - because she was braver than any man..

Instead I'll make a post about Suzanne Vega because (am I the only person who knows 'Tom's Diner' word-for-word?), I always think of that song when I watch the film. The actor mentioned in the song - "I open up the paper // There's a story of an actor // Who had died while he was drinking // It was no one I had heard of" - was William Holden, who plays Joe Gillis in the film. Apparently Holden was a heavy drinker and at the age of 63 he was home alone when he slipped on a throw rug, cut his head open on a bedside table and bled to death. Poor guy.
Anyways, Suzanne Vega's official site actually has an entire section dedicated to "fun facts" which, quite frankly, is absolute genius. Everyone should have their own "fun facts"-section.
Suzanne has been referred to as the 'Mother of the MP3' as it was her voice that was used as the model for Karlheinz Brandenburg's compression algorithm. From Business 2.0 Magazine:
'To create MP3, Brandenburg had to appreciate how the human ear perceives sound. A key assist in this effort came from folk singer Suzanne Vega. "I was ready to fine-tune my compression algorithm", Brandenburg recalls. "Somewhere down the corridor a radio was playing [Vega's song] 'Tom's Diner'. I was electrified. I knew it would be nearly impossible to compress this warm a capella voice."
Because the song depends on very subtle nuances of Vega's inflection, the algorithm would have to be very, very good to select the most important parts of the sound file and discard the rest. So Brandenburg tested each refinement of his system with 'Tom's Diner'. He wound up listening to the song thousands of times, and the result was a code that was heard around the world. When an MP3 player compresses music by anyone from Courtney Love to Kenny G, it is replicating the way that Brandenburg heard Suzanne Vega.'

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