Comfort in Controlled Explosions (Happy July 4th)

fireworks, fountain, July 4th, Independence Day

This entry has been brought to you today by the number 4 and the chemical reaction EXPLOSIONS.

Every July 2nd is a testament to our neighborhood’s laser-precision predictability. Countless anonymous pyrophiles can’t wait to unwrap the loot from their annual fireworks shopping sprees, light ’em up and let ’em fly, even if it’s two nights ahead of calendar schedule. Also with the punctuality of an atomic clock, friends and family in other neighborhoods and states rush to their input devices and register their noise-pollution complaints online for all the world to see and Like.

Their objections are reasonable. The booms and bangs are drowning out the TV. The baby’s trying to sleep. The ruckus makes their pets skittish. July 4th isn’t meant to be a week-long celebration. The pops sound like scary gunfire. Something something fire hazard. Durn fool kids gonna blow themselves up one of these days.

I sympathize, but I don’t cosign.

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How the CALM Act Promises to End Our Regular Games of TV Volume-Control Teeter-Totter

TV volume control, CALM Act

“Left! Left! GO LEFT! The Cialis spokesman will wake the baby!”

As a habitual night-owl who does his best to permit his normalized family their precious circadian rhythms, I’ve found that watching TV in the evening requires continuous vigilance to ensure that my programs don’t detonate a virtual sonic bomb in the living room when they go to commercial. Some channels have been better than others. It took me a fair amount of trial-and-error to determine the exact volume numbers to use as my thresholds while watching NBC’s Revolution on our set — up to 19 during the show, down to 14 during commercial breaks — to minimize my disturbance of others. Up and down, back and forth, ping and pong, I’d keep dragging the onscreen cursor in a tricky balancing act, lest I invoke the wrath of the rudely awakened if I failed to compensate quickly enough.

Last weekend we found one basic-cable channel that was far more egregious about it. Some senseless marketing department apparently asserted authority over the ad volume and insisted on a difference of dozens of degrees between it and the volume level of the actual show. I enjoy Dean Winters in those GEICO skits as much as the next Sarah Connor Chronicles fan, but bludgeoning my eardrums with his insurance pitch will not clinch a GEICO sale in our household.

Thankfully, the FCC decided last year that enough was enough, that this irritation merited official government interference. Effective December 13, 2012, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act will finally take effect after a one-year grace period that a few companies obviously didn’t take seriously. The new rule according to the FCC’s official site states as follows:

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