Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Assignment #10: Wild Card

Karaoke - Past, Present and Future

INTRODUCTION Karaoke was invented in Japan in the early 70's.  The first karaoke machines were in piano music in jukebox format, and then they developed karaoke machines that played 8-Track and cassette tapes. They were audio-only (no video). Lyrics were printed on paper.  Originally, karaoke was mostly in karaoke bars or karaoke "boxes" (bars with private karaoke rooms).  Eventually, they made karaoke machines for home use as well. Nowadays the home machines are cheaper, but they're mostly aimed and kids, families and parties. They're not as good as the old Singing Machines they used to make in the 90's and 2000's. Vocopro was another good brand for home use.  Laser disk karaoke came about in the late 80's, from Pioneer Electronics. They not only had the words to the songs on the screen, but videos that told a story as well. These were very popular, especially in Asia. They were very well made, too, and you can still buy them on ebay. Then they soon came out with karaoke CD+G's, which are a type of CD that puts the lyrics on the screen; and then they came out with karaoke VCD's and DVD's. Of course, long before karaoke, they had other singalong shows and records, such as "Sing Along with Mitch." Singing is fun, and singing with someone else, or with a backing track, is fun and makes you feel safer if you don't want to sing solo. For those of us who do sing well, singing with a backing track is almost like having a band. Of course, karaoke is much more interactive than just singing along. A little more history....

My Entertech Magic Mic

Gaming, early computers and streaming Nintendo and other companies also came out with karaoke games in the 80's.  Early home computers also had karaoke software.  I had an old Commodore 64 given to me by my brother that had karaoke software. The program played the MIDI background music and put the words on the computer screen. Here's a recording I made in the 90's using that software.  A company called EnterTech made a Magic Mic that you could not only plug in to your TV, but it rated you or your friends when they sang, so you could compete. You could buy chips that would give you many more songs. Someone gave me one of those as a gift, and it was pretty fun.  None of these had ways for you to record yourself singing. It was just fun singalong.  Once high speed internet was developed, streaming karaoke became popular, not only with people at home singing online, but with karaoke hosts (KJ's), instead of CD's and other fragile hardware. DISH Network and other TV cable companies have karaoke channels where you can sing along at home.  ROKU has one as well. Karaoke Revolution is a popular karaoke game that can be played across all gaming platforms: Nintendo, Wii, Playstation and X-Box.  The same software was used to create the ultra-popular video game Rock Band. Here's a list of many karaoke video games. Video

Some of my karaoke tapes

Why It's Still Around Karaoke is a thriving business worldwide.  Although many people make fun of it, bar and restaurant owners like karaoke, when it's successful, because it brings in customers on nights where they might otherwise have very little business. Unlike a live band, a karaoke host doesn't cost very much, so the venue makes a lot of profit.  Karaoke is no guarantee to bring in customers, however. It depends on whether the venue advertises enough, where it's located, how good the host is, when they hold it, and other factors.  The reason that people make fun of karaoke is that there are a lot of people who don't sing very well, yet they get up there and sing, anyway. Also, there are a lot of people who get way too drunk before they sing. Bad or drunk singers are easy fodder for comedians.  The fact is, though, that many people enjoy singing, and they enjoy watching others sing.  I predict that karaoke isn't going anywhere soon, despite some people's irrational hatred for it. Karaoke is not cool or hip -- just fun.  People are encouraged to sing, whether they sing well or not.  Everyone is supposed to clap loud for everyone, no matter what they sound like. It's very egalitarian entertainment. I always enjoy singing. The applause is great, too. Late night talk show host James Corden has made karaoke somewhat cool again with his Carpool Karaoke. Video

karaoke lyric sheets

Karaoke Online I started doing karaoke in public in the late 80's. We had a college bar down the street from our apartment, that started having karaoke weekly. Since I'm a singer, I loved it right away, even though I had a lot of stage fright at first.  Then I received a used karaoke cassette machine from my sister-in-law, so I started recording with that.  Many home karaoke machines have a cassette recorder, or another way to record your singing. Recording really helped me work on my singing and improve.  Karaoke tapes and disks weren't cheap, so I also found MIDI karaoke software such as VanBasco online as well as other MIDI karaoke sites.  Then I found some sites online about karaoke and got really into it. Karaoke.com used to have a great message board named JOLT. That's long gone, but most of us from JOLT still chat a little bit on a Facebook group. There was also a mailing list called Karaoke Universe on Yahoo. Some of the people on there were very nice, and others were not, so I left after having too many arguments.  This just goes to show you that people on the internet can argue and get angry about any subject, even karaoke! 😁  There were many other karaoke boards/groups/lists as well.  One of the main karaoke sites that developed was Karaoke Scene, which also has a magazine.  They're still around and operating, too, although not as busy as they once were. I post songs there regularly and have written some articles in their forums about singing, and for their magazine.  I've met some of my online karaoke friends and have sung with them all over the country. I have a section in my website about karaoke as well that lists many of many favorite karaoke venues and websites.

live band karaoke

Live Band Karaoke Another popular type of karaoke is live band karaoke. A band will play for a few hours. They know certain songs, which they put on a list from which people may choose.  The singer comes from the audience and sings with the live band.  Usually there's a monitor (TV) where you can read the lyrics while you sing.  Some bands will only play the songs on their list, but others will give it a try if you ask them to sing a song that they might know.  Live band karaoke is really great fun. It's almost as much fun as singing in your own real live band (which I've also done). I've done live band karaoke a few times in Vegas and San Diego so far, but they have it all over the country.

JOLT Forum hat

JOLT Projects Some of us in the JOLT board used to make tape projects. One person would say, "I'm going to do a project about (a particular idea or musical genre)" and then those of us who wanted to participate would record some songs and send them to that person via the mail. This was before high speed internet.  That person would then make a playlist of all of our songs and record them onto tape or CD, and then he/she would send everyone a copy. Usually they would make a nice cover or liner notes as well.  This was somewhat low-tech. The quality of the singing and recording varied widely.  It was just for fun. Our projects included music from the Beatles, Country Music, songs with a color in them, songs about the weather, and one song from each decade. Choosing a particular type of song is fun and forces you to try new songs that you wouldn't necessarily have tried otherwise.

Singer's Showcase

Online Audio Karaoke Karaoke Scene started a section of their site  named Singer's Showcase, where singers could upload their mp3's (music files of them singing along with karaoke backing).  It still exists, and some of us still submit songs to it regularly. There have been a few other similar sites besides that one, that come and go, such as DareToSing, ThisIsKaraoke and KantStopKaraoke.  Only the last one is still around. It was gone for a while but came back last year.  When you listen to the songs, they're streaming.  They're audio-only, though.  Most of these sites don't make very much money, even though they may charge you for more storage space or other benefits. There are also music sites like SoundCloud, where you're supposed to only upload original music, but many people do upload their covers or karaoke songs.

Online Video Karaoke Once we could stream videos online, the site SingSnap appeared.  You can sing live or record karaoke on that site. They have many backing tracks. You sing along with it, in your home, and you can save it if you want, for just yourself, or for others. You can choose to have audio-only, or with video.  It's a very popular site.  There are a few other sites now, too, that do the same thing, such as Sing! 

My YouTube page

Karaoke on YouTube Once YouTube appeared, people started taking videos of themselves singing with karaoke, or instruments they play, etc.  Some sing their own original music, and other sing karaoke songs (covers).  Some now-famous singers got their start doing this on YouTube. They gathered enough fans that they were signed by a record company.  You can also find many karaoke backing tracks available on YouTube. One might argue that the popularity of shows like "American Idol" and "The Voice" encourage young people to sing more online.  Everyone wants to be a star! Technology changes over time and we find ways to make karaoke easier or to sound better. I first used the karaoke machines to record my songs, but now I use software called Cool Edit Pro to record directly into the computer and mix my voice with the backing track, which makes the finished product sound better. I have many karaoke CD+G's that I bought over the years, but now it's just easier to find a track online. I don't even have a karaoke machine any more. The cheap ones have poor sound quality or no way to record, and the better ones cost a lot. When friends visit and want to sing karaoke for fun, I just hook up my laptop to the TV via the HDMI, and we can sing using YouTube or SingSnap. I connect the microphones to my guitar's amp to give it that real live karaoke bar feel.

copyright notice

Copyrights One of the problems of streaming karaoke online is copyright lawsFor KJ's who don't care about legalities, they can host karaoke with thousands of songs, which means that they'll get more singers (especially those who want to sing obscure songs).  The KJ's who buy the CD+G's or DVD's and use them legally can't easily compete with someone that has 20,000 songs.  However, the owners of the songs and recordings sometimes will sue the KJ's or their venues.  They've made examples of a few KJ's.  There are thousands of KJ's, though, so it would be impossible for them to find them all.  The companies also sue each other for copyright violation because some of the companies that manufacture CD+G and DVD disks don't have permission to use the songs or recordings, or they sold the disks in countries where they don't have permission to do so.  Because of all of these problems, fewer companies make karaoke disks, which is not good news for those who like karaoke and want to use actual karaoke disks, rather than download illegal tracks. Discussion about karaoke copyrights.

 old buttons from karaoke.com

Homemade Karaoke Many of the karaoke sites, such as SingSnap and Sing!, now allow users to put up their own (supposedly) homemade backing tracks, so at least that means that someone is making karaoke versions of the newer songs.  I don't know why this is legal, though, or whether the copyright laws just haven't yet caught up with the technology.  Many of these are also put up on YouTube.  When I say "homemade," I don't mean amateurish. They're very well made and sound a lot like the real karaoke tracks.  Today's music-making technology makes this very easy.

 Smule app

Karaoke Apps Sing! is not just a website, but an app for your phone or tablet. There are many karaoke apps. Some are audio-only, and some have video. The sound quality of the phone recordings have really improved, too, over the past few years. Sites like Sing! and KaraokeAnywhere are the wave of the future because they allow you to do karaoke literally anywhere, with just your phone. You can even add reverb and other effects, or duet with strangers. I've even seen KJ's who use their phone and one of these apps to host karaoke. If you can just use your phone, and login to a site, instead of having all of that equipment, that's a very low cost overhead for a KJ. Singing with your phone is now an international craze.

futuristic Maru Bar in Koreatown, NY

Future of Karaoke Videos  Although apps are very popular right now, it's hard to say what will happen with karaoke in the future. Trying to pinpoint the next fad or technological change is difficult.  There are some places, like Hawaii, where I think they'll always have live karaoke because it's just part of the culture. Some companies try to come out with new karaoke machines, like this high tech wonder. Virtual Reality is big now, and this company thinks that karaoke fits well into that. Karaoke robots may be next. Who knows? I'll be there, whatever it is, trying it out...at home and in public.

me singing at karaoke

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Assignment 9: Classmate Blog Critique

Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation
I'll be honest: I have a hard time reading other people's writing (except for professional writing that's been published, and thus proofread and edited) because rather than focusing on the content of what's being said, I start to automatically proofread what I'm reading. I get bothered by bad punctuation, grammar, spelling, writing style, etc. That's partly because I was an English teacher for a while. It's a hard habit to break. I have a lot of writing on my web site by volunteer writers, too, and I don't like to read theirs, either, because otherwise I'd spend all of my time proofreading and doing nothing else.

However, for the class blog, I tried very hard to read my classmate's blogs without focusing on these things.  I skimmed through all 13 of the blogs (well, it's really 12 since one student is not finished with most of hers).

Jamia's Blog

Quite a few of the blogs were well written; these students write much better than I did back in the '80's when I was their age and in college the first time. I especially like the blogs written by Lauren, Jamia, Forest, Justice and Houston. I think they write the best of all of the students.  However, the background graphic of Jamia's blog makes it really hard to read.  The same with some of the others' blogs. The busy background makes the text too difficult to read. (At least on my laptop) Despite that, I enjoyed Jamia's writing style because she's very humorous.

Houston's blog

All of these students write very well and in interesting styles. All five were very expressive. You could tell they were really writing from their own point of view and were passionate about the subjects. They all had a lot of interactivity and photos, too. I think some were a little short and could be longer, but I understand that not everyone is as long-winded as me.  Sometimes I, too, have trouble reaching 500 words until a "brilliant idea" strikes me!

Some of the blogs have font styles that seem to change mid-way through, or they center the text in some cases but not in others. This is a little bothersome, but not that big of a deal.

Forest's Blog

I thought Forest's design layout was the best and most readable of all of the blogs.  Blogger and Wordpress make it pretty easy to pick an attractive and readable design template.  I also enjoyed what Forest wrote about because he definitely has completely different tastes in movies and TV than I do, so it was interesting to read. Also, I like how his background was a play on words for his name "Forest."

blog cartoon
I'm glad that most of the students were able to keep up on their assignments; all but one student seemed to have all their blogs done. On the other hand, here it is, 1am the night before, and I didn't see this assignment done on anyone else's blog! Hopefully they will all finish writing it before class time and be all caught up. I know that it's hard to find time to write all of these blogs, put in the links and videos, and find photos, etc. I think they're all full-time students. I'm only a part-time student, but I do work and have other responsibilities. Today I finally got around to finishing the links for my binge-watching blog (there were a lot).  That was 2 assignments ago!

I wish all parents and schools would teach their children to start writing blogs, journals or diaries as early as possible. For one thing, it comes in handy later on when you want to remember something from your past or your childhood. You'd be surprised how easily you forget the details of your life as you get older.  I've only been doing my personal blog since 2004, but it's been very helpful whenever I try to remember when something happened or where I went.  My husband has a very good memory (way better than mine), but sometimes even he forgets, and then I consult my blog to find the answer.

Encourage writing no matter the age

The other reason that parents and teachers should convince children to start diaries/blogs/journals is that the more you write, the easier it gets, and the better you get at it. I wish I had started it back in elementary school. I briefly wrote a diary in high school. I wish I'd kept it up.  If you start writing at a young age, then you will be even better by the time you reach college, which is really invaluable. I had a hard time, believe it or not, when I was in college. I didn't have a very good education before college and had not done much writing, so it was very tough to learn how to write papers and essays for exams.  Now, writing is very easy because I've been doing it on computers since the 90's. Every little bit helps, whether it's blogs, papers, emails, fictional stories, or whatever. Just write and it will get easy. I think it also helps if you type really well, but not everyone does that. I know some excellent writers who still use two fingers to type.

Need writing help?

Another thing that can help with writing is to get help from other writers. For instance, here at SAU there are two writing labs, from what I'm told. One is the Writing Center. I believe the other is the Academic Enrichment Center. Some think that college students don't learn to write very well, and that may be the case. If you really want to be a writer, though, then the answer is to write, write, write! And get help if you need it.  This site gives a list of the top blogging sites.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Assignment 8: Predictions

Predictions: The Future of TV

It's probably foolish to try to predict what will happen with television.  So much has happened in the past 5, 10 and 20 years that really couldn't have been predicted with any degree of accuracy.  For a long while now, I had predicted that television networks would make all shows On Demand.  In other words, there would be no more scheduling of shows.  You would be able to watch any show, any time.  Maybe someday that will be true, but it isn't here yet. Video
TV Remote

What I could not have predicted was broadband access, streaming television, and Netflix, among other advances.  Right now, television is in a state of flux.  Besides watching shows on your actual physical TV, you can watch them any time on various devices and from various companies.  For instance, on my DISH network, I can view many broadcast and cable shows On Demand.  However, it's not all of them.  For instance, if I want to watch current ABC shows, there will only be a certain number of episodes available.  If I want to watch CBS or CW shows, I have to subscribe to CBS All Access and watch it on another device (not the television).  To watch some cable networks, or older seasons of shows, or older shows, I must subscribe to Netflix, HULU, Amazon Prime, or another service.  Or, I can download a show on iTunes, or buy a DVD.  None of these are free except for On Demand (which comes with my DISH service). You can watch most of these on a device such as a ROKU, but you still have to pay for and subscribe to each of them separately. Unless you want to buy all of these services, it's easier to just record your shows on the DVR from your cable or satellite service.  Hopefully, one day they will stop fighting each other and make things much easier for the consumer to find their favorite shows. Video

Couple watching TV

Those who can afford all of the services still have to put up with figuring out how to get them all to work.  There are just too many choices.  Good shows go on the air, but there are so many good shows that no one can keep up with them or figure out which ones they want to watch.  The shows don't get the audience that they should because no one knows about them.  Then there are people who, for one reason or another, can't afford cable, DVR or broadband streaming.  This means that fewer people are able to watch the shows that are not on broadcast networks.  Most people have a TV and can reach the basic broadcast networks.  However, that doesn't mean they're going to pay for all of the rest.  If you want to watch TV, you want the convenience of just turning on the television and changing the channel.  You don't want to figure out how to watch your ROKU, or watch on your laptop, or watch on your phone...  Especially if you're over 40.  That's why shows like NCIS are so popular.  As a TV fanatic, it makes me sad that some people can't watch shows that they would really like, if only they had the access. Video

people watching TV in a mod house

Netflix may be the closest thing we have to all On Demand shows because they have no schedule.  You can watch all of their original shows/movies any time, as well as many other TV shows/movies that have aired on other networks, or in theaters.  HULU, Amazon, and the others are doing similar things, but Netflix is in front of the pack.  They try to personalize viewers choices and predict that one day, subscribers will watch the shows tailored just for them.  It may be the end of the commercial, or it may mean fewer commercials that are more personalized.  It'll be interesting to see how it all turns out.  I hope it improves in my lifetime! Video

watching on phone

 I think that there are very few people who like to watch movies, and some TV shows, on their phone. Even the largest smartphone screen is just too small. I think most probably use their tablet or computer. I hope that one day they'll come up with a tablet or phone that has a folding screen so that you can have a small phone but then unfold it to a large screen. LG has been working on one for a few years.

woman with interactive TV

Some people think that the future of TV involves apps.  Being from an older generation (ahem), it's hard for me to wrap my mind around the integration of television with the Web and all of the apps.  To me they're separate things, even though I know you can watch TV shows on the Web and via apps.  To a younger person, there isn't much distinction.  This Techcrunch article predicts that apps are not the future of TV.  The article makes some very good points and tells us that not many people have actually cut the cord.  It shockingly points out this very obvious thing: people watch their shows because of the show itself, and not what network or device it's on.  It also suggests what the future of TV might look like if the consumer has a say (but I'm not sure we do). The Turner TV network executives seem to think that they're ahead of the game, but the content of their bad shows tells me that they're fooling themselves.

woman in futuristic chair

This article, from two years ago, suggests that the future of TV will be a combination of all the things we see now: live, On Demand, streaming, broadcast, etc., but easier for us to watch without all of the trouble and costs that we have now.  I hope these predictions are all true, so that we all get good TV, cheaper, whenever we want it, and easily.