In September of 1973, Frank Zappa released Over-Nite Sensation. The Wikipedia has it that it is, and I quote, “the seventeenth studio album by Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention“. Given the manner in which Frank Zappa‘s albums are counted, I am going to go with my gut instinct that the Wikipedia means this literally, that it is indeed the seventeenth album that Frank Zappa made with The Mothers Of Invention. Whether this means it is Frank Zappa‘s seventeenth album is unclear from the information I have read. Given the pace at which Zappa churned out albums, however, I kind of doubt it.
Over-Nite Sensation is not my favourite Frank Zappa album. The sex-oriented compositions on the album cross the line from funny or relatable and go right over into peurile. The songs Fifty-Fifty and Zomby Woof are, as songs that Frank Zappa chose not to focus on sex during go (and yes, there are plenty of those), B-level material at best. During the recording sessions, Frank Zappa decided that he wished to use backup singers for several songs. Specifically, I’m The Slime, Dirty Love, Zomby Woof, Dinah-Moe Humm, and Montana. Now, Dinah-Moe Humm joins the two songs I mentioned previously as being among the absolute worst I have heard out of Zappa so far. But an interesting story has it that at the suggestion of his road manager, Zappa contacted Ike and Tina Turner. At Ike‘s insistence, Zappa paid Tina and her backup singers, the Ikettes, no more than twenty-five dollars a song. When Tina brought Ike to the studio to hear one of the songs she recorded with Zappa, his response as he listened to the tape was apparently “what is this shit?” before leaving the studio and later insisting that Zappa not credit the Ikettes (or Tina) in the album’s release notes. Given the songs on which these women appear, this leaves a few possibilities. If the song that Ike heard was Zomby Woof, Montana, or Dinah-Moe Humm, I can perfectly understand such a reaction. Montana is not a bad song, per se, but if I were trying to explain to the Man From Mars who Frank Zappa was and had only one song with which to convince said Man From Mars of why those of us with an IQ above 120 still mourn the day Frank Zappa died, I would not touch Montana with the Big Pineapple. Dirty Love, I can take or leave, and whilst I would not be a hundred percent behind such a reaction to it, I would understand said reaction. But if the song that Ike Turner had heard before exhibiting this reaction was I’m The Slime, then that confirms the absolute worst of what I have heard others say about Ike Turner as far as I am concerned.
I’m The Slime is a complete and utter antithesis to the rest of Over-Nite Sensation. As I have spent far too many words already explaining, Over-Nite Sensation is a mediocre album at best. I’m The Slime is a work of genius. I do not mean genius in the sense of Mozart, Beethoven, or the like, that oldies who wish to keep their brains in neutral mean it. No, I mean true genius in the same sense as Black Sabbath or RoboCop. It gets more relevant with time. “Your mind… is totally controlled, it has been stuffed… into my mould,” Frank Zappa sings as the band behind him shifts into a ballroom-dancing style. As a nine or ten year old boy, I did not know what the word “orgasm” meant. But I can assure you that my eardrums, the pathways of nerves that transmit signals between my eardrums and brain, and the parts of my brain that decode said signals, were having an orgasm when I first heard this part of the song. In fact, to one degree or another, they still have an orgasm whenever this part of I’m The Slime is heard. But this is all secondary to the point that I have expended about seven hundred words without so much as touching upon yet. The televisual device that I have been using for some time now, whilst improving upon the previous device I had in some respects, has proven to be one of those purchases I sorely wish that I could go back in time and undo. And attempts to get the problems resulting in this feeling fixed or even attended to have only made it even worse.
In order to understand how this little thread in the recent history has driven me to despair, it is important to understand what the problems are and how they are described in technical terms by people who know anything about the broadcast or transmission of video signals. And in the latter case, that apparently does not include repairmen in Queensland. From day one, the very get-go, this display unit has had a problem with random noise being inserted into the video signal when playback devices are plugged into one of the HDMI video ports. When I say noise, it is important to understand that in this context, noise does not mean sound. It means that the video signal originating from the playback device, travelling through the HDMI cable, and being decoded inside the television has at some point along the line had bits of incorrect information randomly inserted into it. Through process of replugging and eliminating, I am supremely confident that the noise in question is originating in one of the HDMI ports on the television, specifically the port marked HDMI 1. Now, this noise, if you look at it on the television itself, is quite a sight. Any segment of the picture where there is a large space of uniform colour, especially black, has snow-like dots moving through it in a fairly-two frame pattern. The dots are generally white, light blue, and orange-yellow in colour. Given that HDMI is supposed to be a signal path where this kind of interference is considered unacceptable, I am understandably a bit incensed about this. So at two points, I made repeated ‘phone calls in order to get the television looked at with an eye to assessing it for repair.
The first time, I was still on speaking terms with my male parental unit. Being that I had tried to explain this to the warranty people over the ‘phone before, I let him make the call on my behalf during this occasion. I still regret that. I explained to him at some length that the picture was noisy, that somehow, random noise was getting into a HDMI video signal, and experiments in trying different players had failed to fix the problem. So imagine my anguish when I am trying to tend to other household tasks whilst this call is being made, and I hear the moron say to the person on the other end, “the television is making noise”. I think my change in expression to something like being told my baby has died was even noticed by that moron. I whispered the words “video noise” to him in an effort to get him to put one and one together and reword the statement so that the person on the other end would not tell the repairman to start trying to repair the unused, unattached speakers in the television. No dice. He just repeats the words “video noise” to the person on the other end. Then he has the hide to act like he is hard done by when I angrily tell him to give me the ‘phone, and I try to explain to the operator on the other end what a noisy video signal actually means. This brings me to two subthreads. A certain band with the lovely name of Anal Cunt have a song called Van Full Of Retards. Lately, whenever I hear or even think of that song, I think of Queenslanders. And this is a critical point in why I am no longer speaking to my male parent (others will come to light soonish). He loves outback Queenslanders so much that he has basically turned into one of them, and wanted to drag me toward becoming one of them. Sorry, pa, but I happen to like being from a multicultural and intellect-friendly place in Western Sydney. No dice. So here I am, doing one thing that causes me significant distress (speaking on the ‘phone), trying to make damned sure the people on the other end understand what “noisy picture” actually means.
I will not go into how the Queensland brigade think they resolved that service call. The salient point here is that the problem was not resolved, and I tolerated the noisy picture as best as I could until the manufacturer’s warranty run out. Now covered by the extended warranty, I placed calls to the retailer I bought the set from, and told them that I had received piss-poor service in terms of getting this problem resolved, and now another one had arisen. I wanted to arrange to get the set looked at to assess how faulty it was and how the faults could be fixed. That was nearly a month ago. During a period of three weeks, the repair company in question kept asking me if they could come and get the defective unit between 0800 and 0900. The conversation went something like this. “…between eight and nine o’clock…” “No, I am sorry, I cannot do this. I have been having enormous difficulties with my sleep pattern that mean in order to be up at 0800, either a medical mishap has to occur or I have to stay up the entire night before. It cannot be done.” “…between eight and nine o’clock…” and on and on it went. Look, assholes in Queensland and WSR Electronics, I would love to not be suffering from persistent and moderate fatigue on a frequent basis. Really, I would. But resolving any serious medical issue in Queensland seems to be like pissing into a hurricane, and it seems that the longer a problem like this goes on for, the less chance one has of getting a Queenslander to help fix it. But “…between eight and nine o’clock…” seems to be the only time these sunlovers even know.
Panasonic and JB Hi-Fi, I need to speak with you frankly for a second. I was already having second thoughts about ever buying another Panasonic television set, especially one from JB Hi-Fi, when I found that this television was not capable of showing me the clear, noise-free blacks that are part and parcel of digital video. When this television began to persistently refuse to show me a picture, sometimes staying blank for a good two minutes as I tried to play one featurette, those second thoughts became severe doubt. JB Hi-Fi, unless you reassure me that when I do have a problem with a television set that I bought from you, you will not farm the investigation out to WSR Electronics ever again, I will be buying the unit elsewhere. The Good Guys tend to be much more appreciative of this kind of business. And Panasonic, there is a cloud of doubt over your entire product line now that is going to take a lot of effort to make go away. When I first heard the Frank Zappa song Flakes as a boy in my early teens, I thought that Zappa was exaggerating with his tale of an unhelpful plumber. Now, I am hoping to Odin and Thor above that if I ever do get this television back in something like the state I actually paid for, it does not blow up the next day.
The television has been taken, loaded into a van, and transported to where I have been led to believe it will be looked at and assessed to see what the best means of addressing my complaints (the ones concerning the television, anyway) will be. I was so glad to actually see it go, because I had been out of bed since 2000 hours the prior night, it was approximately 0900 this morning, and I had been keeping myself awake with doses of sugar and a Red Bull-like drink that comes in pink cans and was so much cheaper than the rest of the competition it almost seemed reasonable. I was absolutely beat.
But as a parting shot, the gentleman who came to collect the television left me with an invoice and job number thing for reference so that when I call the place it is at in order to chase up what the hell is going on with it, I can quickly get them to understand what I am talking about. But in the “job sheet”, the description made me put my head in my hands. “Sound drops” is not even in the same universe as I was describing over the ‘phone (when the picture blanks out or refuses to show, sound is often absent from the audio receiver the television is connected to). And “Random Noise Emmitted” and “noisy video signal” are two things so different as to evoke comparison with me and my sister.
I suspect that I am going to have to make a lot of angry noise of my own in order to get this problem resolved in a fashion I feel that I could have taken for granted in Parramatta. Queenslanders can all go and shove themselves.