Quiet night of quiet stars


The tilers have flung their final obscenity down at the labourers below, carried the tools back to their boss and climbed into the back of the dusty pickup. The labourers in turn insult each other’s manhood, dust themselves off and head down the hill to the less leafy suburbs of Kingston. Some have cannibalized mountain bikes; others ride hunched up on children’s BMX bikes. They freewheel slowly, zigzagging around the vicious potholes that would pitch an unwary cyclist head first over the front wheel. They join a steady stream of house helpers and gardeners walking to the bus stop in pairs or small groups. No woman walks alone. Everyone has heard the talk of the gun-toting rapist who dragged his victim into the vacant lot next to the construction site. And he gave her AIDS, ends the story.

Darkness comes on quickly, and with it the peeps and whistles of dozens of tiny frogs. To our urbanized ears, some of the peeps seemed so steady and clear that we initially could not believe that they were natural sounds.

<br /> <bgsound src="/wp-audio/FrogsCrickets.mp3" loop="true"><br />

We thought they were electronic alarm monitors. They took some time to get used to, and on more than one occasion, we wished there was an OFF switch. But now I know they’ll be one of the sounds I miss most when we leave.

The photo below represents a quiet night – squeaking, squelching frogs, an owl, a wood pigeon and a few dogs (frequently given to demented barking and howling).

Mouse over the photo and you’ll hear something resembling Saturday night, or Tuesday or Thursday, there’s no telling. When the wind blows hard, it’s impossible to tell where the noise comes from. Not that it matters. Most of the sound is transformed into groundshaking vibration and the bass is so sub- that it travels underground. So sticking the pillow over your head doesn’t help; you just bounce out of bed as if in a Tom & Jerry cartoon.

The legal cutoff time is 2 a.m., but enforcement is sloppy and is allegedly open to abuse (read here). In any case, the police seem to go easy on the streetside sound systems within our earshot, and I can sympathize. As Buju says,

What more, what oonu want de poor people do?
Every dance whe dem keep oonu mek it curfew


Tech note:

Is that it?

The hours spent splicing and trimming audio loops and rollover images, poring over Javascript to find out why the bloody music wouldn’t stop on mouseoff … it’s like slaving all Saturday in the kitchen to prepare an authentic Italian sauce, only for it to be sloshed out in 30 minutes without more than a passing comment.

Except I got the most incredible satisfaction when I did work it out. Oh yes.

Harumph! I see Internet Explorer has problems with this … Please all visitors, get firefox!

9 thoughts on “Quiet night of quiet stars”

  1. Go put the kettle on. The page should have fully loaded by the time it boils!

    You do have the Quicktime plugin installed, right?

  2. Fantastic sound effects, fantastic ! Start the frog sounds, then hover over the picture, then slide away. Then repeat. Again and again. Brilliant.

  3. You must show me how you did this… it is major cool… by the way, how do you rate yourself with web technologies in general and with wordpress themes in particular…

  4. MB, I ended up doing the photo rollover as a Flash movie in Swish, which is a simplified version of Flash. I had first tried with Dreamweaver – the simple photo switch is done in three clicks – but I couldn’t get the audio file to go on and off with the mouseover/off. Very annoying with my distorted Elephant Man loop!

    The original photos were edited in Photoshop and the audio loops in Acid.

    All my ‘puter knowledge just comes from playing around with stuff, trying to understand how they work; that includes my first fiddles with WordPress.

    Gimme a stable Internet connection and no interruptions (Mama, I’m thirsty/hungry/bored/want to go swimming etc.) and I would go a lot further!

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