Monthly Archives: November 2016

How to Integrate Your PC into Your Home Theater System

The most basic way to integrate your PC with your home theater is by simply finding a way to connect your PC or Laptop to your home theater system. To do this, check to see if your HDTV has a VGA (PC monitor) input connection, if not you also have the option to purchase a device, such as a USB-to-HMDI or VGA-to-HDMI converter that can also allow a PC to be connected to an HDTV.

In addition, to connect the audio from your PC to your home theater system, check to see if your PC has an audio output connection that can be connected to your TV or to your home theater receiver. This may require an adapter plug as well.

If you are able to connect both video and audio of your PC to your TV and home theater system in this fashion, you can then use your PC’s internet access to capability to watch internet or store images and video on your TV and listen to the audio through either your TV speakers or home theater speakers.

Surround Sound

If you also have either Dolby Digital or DTS bitstream or decoding capabilities on your PC, you may be able to access the full surround sound capabilities when playing DVDs on your PC two possible ways:

1. If your PC has multi-channel outputs for a powered PC surround sound speaker system you can enjoy a basic home theater sound experience.

2. If your PC also has an optical digital audio output, you can connect it to a digital optical input on an AV receiver and enjoy a fuller home theater experience available to your PC via a standard home theater system.

 The downside to this setup is that you need to have the PC, TV, and home theater system all in the same room, in close proximity. You also are depending on the capabilities of your PC’s video card to send good-quality images to your HDTV, which does not always deliver the best result, especially on a large screen.

Media Center PCs

If your PC runs Microsoft’s XP operating system, you have access to Microsoft’s XP Media Center Edition operating system,  and you may have everything you need to make your PC a centerpiece of your home theater system, including an onboard TV tuner with provisions for connecting your cable or antenna, an onboard Digital video recorder for recording TV programs and other video sources to your hard drive for viewing or copying to DVD or CD later, and even S-video and composite video inputs for importing video from your VCR or analog camcorder.

Digital Entertainment Centers

If you don’t like the idea of a PC desktop tower taking up residence in the same room with your TV and audio system, you might consider the Digital Entertainment Center concept offered by HP and some other PC makers. The units are still fully-functional PCs where the innards of the traditional PC are combined with the Media Center Hardware (TV tuner, CD/DVD reader/writer, digital and analog video/audio inputs/outputs), as well as needed software components, and placed in a cabinet that looks somewhat like a standard home theater receiver. However, in most cases, you will need to add a surround sound amplifier (or a combination of amplifiers) to complete the home theater audio setup.

Is Music the Key to Success?

ONDOLEEZZA RICE trained to be a concert pianist. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player. The hedge fund billionaire Bruce Kovner is a pianist who took classes at Juilliard.

Multiple studies link music study to academic achievement. But what is it about serious music training that seems to correlate with outsize success in other fields?

The connection isn’t a coincidence. I know because I asked. I put the question to top-flight professionals in industries from tech to finance to media, all of whom had serious (if often little-known) past lives as musicians. Almost all made a connection between their music training and their professional achievements.

Will your school music program turn your kid into a Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft (guitar)? Or a Woody Allen (clarinet)? Probably not. These are singular achievers. But the way these and other visionaries I spoke to process music is intriguing. As is the way many of them apply music’s lessons of focus and discipline into new ways of thinking and communicating — even problem solving.

Look carefully and you’ll find musicians at the top of almost any industry. Woody Allen performs weekly with a jazz band. The television broadcaster Paula Zahn (cello) and the NBC chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd (French horn) attended college on music scholarships; NBC’s Andrea Mitchell trained to become a professional violinist. Both Microsoft’s Mr. Allen and the venture capitalist Roger McNamee have rock bands. Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, played saxophone in high school. Steven Spielberg is a clarinetist and son of a pianist. The former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn has played cello at Carnegie Hall.

“It’s not a coincidence,” says Mr. Greenspan, who gave up jazz clarinet but still dabbles at the baby grand in his living room. “I can tell you as a statistician, the probability that that is mere chance is extremely small.” The cautious former Fed chief adds, “That’s all that you can judge about the facts. The crucial question is: why does that connection exist?”

Paul Allen offers an answer. He says music “reinforces your confidence in the ability to create.” Mr. Allen began playing the violin at age 7 and switched to the guitar as a teenager. Even in the early days of Microsoft, he would pick up his guitar at the end of marathon days of programming. The music was the emotional analog to his day job, with each channeling a different type of creative impulse. In both, he says, “something is pushing you to look beyond what currently exists and express yourself in a new way.”

Mr. Todd says there is a connection between years of practice and competition and what he calls the “drive for perfection.” The veteran advertising executive Steve Hayden credits his background as a cellist for his most famous work, the Apple “1984” commercial depicting rebellion against a dictator. “I was thinking of Stravinsky when I came up with that idea,” he says. He adds that his cello performance background helps him work collaboratively: “Ensemble playing trains you, quite literally, to play well with others, to know when to solo and when to follow.”

For many of the high achievers I spoke with, music functions as a “hidden language,” as Mr. Wolfensohn calls it, one that enhances the ability to connect disparate or even contradictory ideas. When he ran the World Bank, Mr. Wolfensohn traveled to more than 100 countries, often taking in local performances (and occasionally joining in on a borrowed cello), which helped him understand “the culture of people, as distinct from their balance sheet.”

It’s in that context that the much-discussed connection between math and music resonates most. Both are at heart modes of expression. Bruce Kovner, the founder of the hedge fund Caxton Associates and chairman of the board of Juilliard, says he sees similarities between his piano playing and investing strategy; as he says, both “relate to pattern recognition, and some people extend these paradigms across different senses.”

Mr. Kovner and the concert pianist Robert Taub both describe a sort of synesthesia — they perceive patterns in a three-dimensional way. Mr. Taub, who gained fame for his Beethoven recordings and has since founded a music software company, MuseAmi, says that when he performs, he can “visualize all of the notes and their interrelationships,” a skill that translates intellectually into making “multiple connections in multiple spheres.”

For others I spoke to, their passion for music is more notable than their talent. Woody Allen told me bluntly, “I’m not an accomplished musician. I get total traction from the fact that I’m in movies.”

Mr. Allen sees music as a diversion, unconnected to his day job. He likens himself to “a weekend tennis player who comes in once a week to play. I don’t have a particularly good ear at all or a particularly good sense of timing. In comedy, I’ve got a good instinct for rhythm. In music, I don’t, really.”

Still, he practices the clarinet at least half an hour every day, because wind players will lose their embouchure (mouth position) if they don’t: “If you want to play at all you have to practice. I have to practice every single day to be as bad as I am.” He performs regularly, even touring internationally with his New Orleans jazz band. “I never thought I would be playing in concert halls of the world to 5,000, 6,000 people,” he says. “I will say, quite unexpectedly, it enriched my life tremendously.”

Music provides balance, explains Mr. Wolfensohn, who began cello lessons as an adult. “You aren’t trying to win any races or be the leader of this or the leader of that. You’re enjoying it because of the satisfaction and joy you get out of music, which is totally unrelated to your professional status.”

For Roger McNamee, whose Elevation Partners is perhaps best known for its early investment in Facebook, “music and technology have converged,” he says. He became expert on Facebook by using it to promote his band, Moonalice, and now is focusing on video by live-streaming its concerts. He says musicians and top professionals share “the almost desperate need to dive deep.” This capacity to obsess seems to unite top performers in music and other fields.

Ms. Zahn remembers spending up to four hours a day “holed up in cramped practice rooms trying to master a phrase” on her cello. Mr. Todd, now 41, recounted in detail the solo audition at age 17 when he got the second-highest mark rather than the highest mark — though he still was principal horn in Florida’s All-State Orchestra.

“I’ve always believed the reason I’ve gotten ahead is by outworking other people,” he says. It’s a skill learned by “playing that solo one more time, working on that one little section one more time,” and it translates into “working on something over and over again, or double-checking or triple-checking.” He adds, “There’s nothing like music to teach you that eventually if you work hard enough, it does get better. You see the results.”

That’s an observation worth remembering at a time when music as a serious pursuit — and music education — is in decline in this country.

Consider the qualities these high achievers say music has sharpened: collaboration, creativity, discipline and the capacity to reconcile conflicting ideas. All are qualities notably absent from public life. Music may not make you a genius, or rich, or even a better person. But it helps train you to think differently, to process different points of view — and most important, to take pleasure in listening.

Skills Needed to Be a Makeup Artist

A career as a makeup artist can be exciting and different every day. The satisfaction comes from using makeup to help people look their best or become characters far different from their usual selves. Makeup artists work in entertainment, theater, television, film, retail stores and on their own. They learn the necessary skills through courses at local colleges, universities or community colleges and on the job.

Before the Makeup

Makeup artists must learn important skills even before picking up a sponge or brush. They learn to assess a client’s skin type, including coloring, condition and sensitivity. These factors determine the type and colors of makeup to use. Learning color principles is an intricate skill that takes into account race, ethnicity, obvious skin color and undertones of color. Makeup artists must also study a client’s bone structure to decide where and how to apply types and colors of makeup to achieve the desired results.

Applying Makeup

Makeup artists learn to properly prepare the skin before applying makeup, using cleaning, toning and moisturizing techniques for different skin types. They practice applying foundation, blush, eye and brow liner, shadow and lip color. They also learn how to alter makeup application for work, evening and other looks. They may go beyond the basics to learn how to apply makeup for high fashion runway looks, theatrical productions, bright and low light, and indoor and outdoor events. They learn how to apply and touch up makeup for on-camera talent, for photo shoots under varied lighting conditions, and for indoor and outdoor stage performers.

Tools of the Trade

The makeup professional uses many tools, from sponges, brushes and high-tech airbrushes to a wide range of makeup types. Aspiring artists learn the uses for the many types of brushes and the pros and cons of makeup types. They may specialize in covering imperfections with makeup or covering tattoos with airbrushing. Makeup artists who work in the theater may use more than makeup to achieve a character’s look, bringing in wigs, beards, false eyelashes and prosthetic body parts.

Attributes and Traits

To be a successful makeup artist, you should be creative and artistic, enjoy experimenting with ideas and materials, and have a good eye for color. Makeup artists may work long hours, mostly on their feet, requiring both stamina and fitness. The job can be stressful at times, too, with early mornings and travel for photo shoots and late evenings for theater work. Preparing for performances can put added pressure on everyone. Good communication skills will enable you to talk effectively with producers, writers, actors and your bosses so everyone agrees on the goal.

Qualifications and Licensing

Makeup artists must have at least a high school diploma or GED, and most have also taken college courses or earned a certificate in cosmetology. It is also possible to learn makeup skills on the job. Some jobs require you to be licensed, however, and licensing requirements vary from state to state. Most states require that you pass a written exam and spend about 1,000 hours in education, either in school or on the job.

What makes South Korean entertainment click?

The booming industry behind this regional angst is the subject of “The Korean Wave: Korean Popular Culture in Global Context.” It is a new collection of academic essays, of varying quality, on the South Korean entertainment sector’s rise to prominence in East and Southeast Asia. It was edited by Yasue Kuwahara, a professor at Northern Kentucky University, and published by Palgrave MacMillan.

From Manila to Mongolia, Seoul’s television and music companies have found enthusiastic audiences. Their success reflects the cultural allure of one of the region’s most advanced economies and has opened doors for other South Korean industries, including tourism and cosmetics.

In the collection, there is the obligatory chapter on “Gangnam Style,” the tongue-in-cheek hit by rapper Psy that became the most viewed music video in Internet history.

The authors do well to focus on the new role of music consumers in helping to promote songs by sharing them online — although there is needless hyperbole in their closing statement that “Gangnam Style” “may have been a turning point in global entertainment.”

Likewise, the book gets off to a shaky start by opening with an essay, by the British professor John Walsh, that portrays the phenomenon as a “government construct.”

Walsh lists various government initiatives to support the entertainment industry. But he entirely fails to demonstrate that any of these has been instrumental in the success achieved by the country’s fiercely competitive television and music production sectors.

Where the latter have shown a keen sensitivity to the international marketplace, government interventions have often seemed clumsy. The South Korean government of Lee Myung-bak, for example, spent more than $70 million on “globalizing Korean food” — with results so questionable that the national assembly ordered a special audit.

As contributor Hyejung Ju suggests later in the book, if any government action should be cited, it was the liberalization in 2000 of the television and music sectors, which made it easier for new, small, independent companies to enter the industries and unleashed dynamic market forces.

Yet even that does not explain the enthusiasm felt for South Korean shows and songs by many Asian consumers, often to the exclusion of rival products from their own countries or from the West.

Many critics argue that the secret lies with a winning blend of seductive glamour normally associated with U.S. entertainers, expertly packaged with an underlying strain of traditional Asian family values.

Chuyun Oh puts an interesting spin on this theory with an analysis of Girls’ Generation, the most successful South Korean pop group of recent years. “They have moved beyond any specific race or ethnicity,” she says, attributing to them a “mutant multicultural Koreanness.”

This book ends with a suggestion by its editor Kuwahara that “a majority of the Japanese are not genuinely interested in Korean culture” and watch South Korean shows because they are like “a fun house mirror that shows them what the Japanese and their society are like.”

This does not bode well for hopes that Korean cultural exports could serve as a bridge between the nations at a time of deteriorating diplomatic relations. It may, however, provide reassurance for the likes of Xu Qinsong, the Chinese Communist Party official from Guangdong.