Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Voices Of Our Past Should Direct Our Future...

{Authors note:  I started this post many months ago.  Normally I would have published long before now, but living life sometimes becomes more important.  However, as each month, week and day go by, the events that I'm about to chronical become mroe and more important in my mind.  I hope you agree}

My wonderful wife invited me to this years Collie Club of America Specialty Dog Show held just outside Philadelphia, PA. As typical taking such trips, we like to visit special places or drive off the beaten path just to break up the monotony of a long drive. We visited three places that made me reflect on the greatness of our Country, the fragile nature of our Union, and the people who died during the process of struggle.

During the drive from Cincinnati up I-71 and over I-70 to I-76 (also known as the Pennsylvania Turnpike), we spotted a sign for the Flight 93 Memorial. So we hopped off at Somerset, PA and drove up the road a bit to this piece of hallowed ground.

This National Park and Memorial is still under construction, but there is a small visitors center at the end of the drive, and a walkway out to the main memorial. Throughout the entrance to the finished area are various placards showing the path of Flight 93, photos of the hero's of that died tragic day, a picture of a black cloud taken soon after the plane crashed, and other items of note. The long walk out to the 40 large marble slabs with each hero's name engraved into it was quiet and peaceful - the entire place had a "reverence" about it. You could feel the sense of loss, but also a sense of honor that seamed to emanate from the grounds. The walkway had small openings where people could leave mementos, gifts or notes to the fallen. There were many roses there that day, and a small shield from an airport police officer from Kentucky.

I thought back to that day. There was an incredible amount of coverage of the twin towers and the pentagon, but not so much of this Pennsylvania field rather high up on one of the mountains where 40 people decided they would rather die fighting than become yet another statistic during that barbaric attack on September 11th. They had to know - after finding out that three other hijacked aircraft had flown into buildings killing all aboard - that their fate was sealed if they did nothing. So they heroically chose to do SOMETHING and if nothing else, die trying to live, instead of living just to die.

The next day we took a trip into Philadelphia, and took a quick car tour of the downtown area around Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed and brave men and women gave birth to the United States. I thought back to what it might have been like to live in those times - how far removed they were from their homeland England, and the struggles they dealt with to form this new way of life based on individual freedom and liberty. To create a nation based on the "laws of nature and natures God", promoting a classless society where "all men are created equal".

A website promoting (Independence Hall) includes the statement:

"They risked everything — “their lives, their fortune and their sacred honor.” During the blistering summer of 1776, 56 courageous men gathered at the Pennsylvania State House and defied the King of England. Eleven years later, representatives from 12 states gathered to shape the U.S. Constitution, finally creating one unified nation."

Truly humbling to know what the founders of our country had endured, to remove themselves from the authority of the Crown.

Our next visit was Valley Forge National Historical Park. We took a tour of the grounds by car, getting out from time to time to see some of the small buildings that were built by the Continental Army, as well as the various encampments, the location of George Washington's tent, and the house he eventually used to plan his war strategy, cannon positions and bunkers. To know that our young nation struggled against and bested the English Crown and their well funded, well trained army, and it all started here. Breath taking.

These destinations and the stories told through history - both recent and past - reflect a common theme. They all speak to personal sacrifice of ones self for an idea of freedom, equality and the ability to pursue your own path to happiness - whichever path that may be for you.

In the case of Valley Forge and Independence Square, sacrifice for the birth of a classless society. A country where each State had its own sovereignty, yet united in its dealings to the outside world. Freedom from the tyrannical kings and princes of England, where no "authority" should be held above any state or group of states. Liberty and freedom to risk and reap our own rewards, deal with our own failures, and the chance to live our lives as we desire.

In the case of Flight 93, personal sacrifice to save a symbol of our nation. The people on that flight may never have known that the likely target of the terrorists who took over that plane was the US Capitol building. But they knew that with decisive action in the face of nearly certain death, they would go down fighting for the love of country and against the terrorists whose goal it was to destroy a part of America.

During each of these events, the idea of America was under attack. And at each stage, men and women stood up and said "ENOUGH!". And yet, the idea of America is still under attack - from forces outside and inside of our nation. I'm sure some have the best of intentions or fail to see what some of us see, but the attack continues regardless. And I must mention that this is not a Democrat vs Republican thing. It is a failure of each of us to learn and understand the DETAILS of our history - WHY things have occurred, and the results of legislation meant for the "greater good".

For the last 50+ years since the administration of Woodrow Wilson, liberal progressives have pushed the United States away from the ideas of our founders. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Lincoln - they would not recognize our country and the size of this bloated Federal Government. In fact, I can hear them calling from history each time a new government program is announced, or the people we have elected to represent us vote for another entitlement package, or a new tax, or a new regulation, or appoint a new bueracrat.

If you take a hard look at the reasons we declared ourselves independent from England, you can see that we're creating the conditions that forced that declaration. Please consider:

Bold and Italicized items are from the Declaration of Independence.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
King Gorge was accused of refusing to allow the colonists to pass their own laws. How similar is that to today's Federal Government overturning various laws of individual States? How about the Federal government taking the State of Arizona to court to protect their own state?

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

The King was charged with refusing to pass or passing laws without the consent of the governed. One might suggest that organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, or any of the various Czars that have passed regulations on the American people are similar to this.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

While this charge had to do with the King of England allowing immigration and the availability of lands to new immigrants, one could argue the Federal Governments refusal to apply and enforce immigration laws as passed by the will of the people to be a similar event.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

Our founders saw great important of the separation of powers, especially as it related to the judiciary. But President Obama has verbally threatened the Supreme Court over the review of the Health Care Mandate. Earlier in his tenure, he verbally admonished - falsely I might add - the Supreme Court for a decision in the Citizens United case.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

This applied to additional military courts initiated by King George. Did anyone read the new National Defense Authorization Act that allows military arrest and detention of American citizens without trial?

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

See above...

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

Equate this statement to our dealings with the United Nations (Gun Ban Treaty, global warming initiatives), or the insistence in some areas that Sharia Law become a part of our own legal system?

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

Fanning the flames of insurrection - much like Obama's involvement with Sandra Fluke and Trayvon Martin issues, the lying and half truths he spouts as facts perhaps.  How about the involvement with the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Our leaders - and not just Obama, but many of his predecessors over the past 7 decades - have used race, class, safety, and security to strip us of our freedoms and liberty. A little liberty forfeited for a little security year over year over year for the past 60+ years has led us to the edge of a cliff - a cliff which once we traverse, we can never recover. At some point, there were be a point of no return.

The majority of the American people have been asleep through this whole process. But we are starting to awaken and even more of us are speaking up. Whether we realize it or not, our past is calling to us, begging us to return to a place where liberty and freedom - and the associated responsibility that goes with it - is more important to each of us than the perceived protection and security of an all knowing Federal government....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

For Music Gear Heads - Computer + Mainstage = Multi Effects Processor

OK - for all you musicians and computer gear heads, I thought I'd share this little tidbit of how I was able to use my computer, a firewire interface and Logic / Mainstage to create a very useful and versatile mulit-effects processor.

First, what I used:
Macbook Pro 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4 GB Memory.
Presonus Firepod 8 X 8 firewire audio interface.
Apple's Logic software with Mainstage Version 2.1.3
Various cables to connect everything.

Hollywood at the Knotty Pine

The Problem:
The band Hollywood has been playing in the greater Cincinnati area for ever, and I've known them all for over 20 years.  GREAT group of guys who love to play 80's hair metal and are really great at it.  I've been running sound for them off and on as my schedule permits for about 7 years.  They called me on Thursday to ask if I would be available Saturday to run sound, with the caveat that the venue, "had a sound system, but no effects."  A quick visit to the venue confirmed that they indeed had no effects processors of any kind.  They have a fairly nice Allen Heath 32 channel mixer and I could use  4 aux sends for outboard effects.  Perfect...

Devising A Plan:
I do have some outboard effects modules around the house, but they are in need of repair - that's out.  But then I thought, "Mainstage has a tremendous amount of outboard processors and things I could use or this - I wonder if I couldn't use one of my Firepods as an interface and set up a Mainstage project to handle the effects.

So in Mainstage, I opened up a new project for handling Vocals or other audio signals.  I chose a blank slate so I could put together exactly what I wanted.  I created 8 mono audio channels to handle the input, then created 8 aux channels to handle the effects, and I routed the incoming signal from the incoming audio channel to the outgoing effects channel.  I then added an EQ to the mono audio channel strip to handle sound shaping, and added an effect to the aux channel strip for the effect I wanted to use.

Now, you may ask, "why didn't you just add the effect to the mono audio channel strip - you can add as many as you like?"  The answer has a bit to do with how I like to run sound, but in short, I wanted to be able to mute and unmute the incoming signal to the effect so the effect will continue to ring after I muted the incoming signal (such as a reverb or delay).  This would give me the ultimate in flexibility.

So after I selected the effects I wanted, I created a control surface in Mainstage.  This would give me control over the needed parameters throughout the night.  I simply set up a "channel strip consisting of an input meter, numerous control knobs, a fader and output meter, then a mute button.  I also created a master meter, fader and mute button, then a tap tempo button for the delay surface.  It looks like this:

The Presonus Firepods and Fireboxes are most excellent interfaces.  Great quality mike preamps and very solid processing make them a great choice for people that have computers with firewire connections.  It's sad to see firewire go away in the new Macs, but hopefully I'll be able to preserve these legacy devices because they're simply wonderful.

To connect my computer to the board, I used board aux's 1-4 and plugged them into channels 1-4 of the firepod I was connected to.  Then I used the 8 channel individual outs of the firepod to send the processed signal back to the mixing board.  It was the perfect amount of flexibility, although I could have mixed everything right from Mainstage and simply used a stereo return into the board.

I also purchased a Korg nanoKontrol some time ago for use with Mainstage, and it really came in handy for this project.  I routed all of the faders and mutes in the software control surface to the nanoKontrol, as well as routing one very important control to the pot control on the nanoKontrol.  For the reverbs, it was the reverb time.  For the delay, it was the feedback level.  For the chorus and flange, it was the speed control.

Big Verb - 20 Seconds - BOOM!
For Hollywood, I really like the flexibility of multiple reverbs.  I set up two reverbs for the drum kit - one a simple reverb that I kept between 1 and 3 seconds, then a second that I keep around 5 to 10 seconds for "cannon effects".  I assigned aux one on the mixing board to feed those two channels at the same time - I used the mute functions to switch between them.

For vocals I set up another reverb that I kept between 1-2 seconds to fill out the vocals.  I set this up on Aux 2 on the mixing board.  I have the delay coming through on Aux 3 for vocals and the odd guitar solo, using tap tempo to keep it synced with the song.  Lastly, I used Aux 4 for Chorus and / or Flange - chorus to fatten up the vocals, and flange for special effects on songs like "Electric Eye" (Judas Priest).

You knew there had to be a problem or two, but honestly it was pretty fool proof.  After getting the levels set, it was like running any other outboard gear, but with the flexibility of being able to set everything up exactly like I wanted to.  One problem I experienced was a bit of latency - about 10ms at an I/O sample size of 64 samples.  But as it turned out, it wasn't noticeable in the mix.

The other was CPU usage.  When I first started, I used the large Space Designer reverb.  With three instances of that and 6 band fully parametric on each input channel, the CPU would max out causing some harsh noises.  When I changed to Platinum Verbs and disabled 3 bands of the EQ, my CPU usage went down to around 50% - totally acceptable.

The really cool thing about Mainstage is you can create your own software control surfaces.  Having the EQ on the incoming signal really helped control some nasty frequencies that would leak through.  It meant I could get just the right sound going into the effect, so I didn't need much additional processing after the effect.

As you can see in this picture, the top 6 knobs controlled EQ functionality.  High shelf level and frequency, midrange peak (or cut) and frequency, and low shelf level and frequency.  This gave me quite a bit of control, and if I needed to adjust the "Q" or add another band, I could do that through the actual software controls.  It turns out I didn't need much of anything, which is very nice.

Next are the actual effect controls.  For the reverbs (first 3 channels, I selected a low shelf frequency to cut or boost low end through the reverb, then a wet and dry level control.  Lastly, I selected a reverb time control so I could change that on the fly.

I placed the fader and output level meter next to each other for ease of viewing on the fly.  At the bottom is a typical mute button so I could mute the incoming signal without cutting off any residual effect (reverb or delay).

So, how did it all work:
Flawlessly is the best way I could describe it!  It allowed me to have all of the effects I wanted or needed in a very nice, neat little package.  While I only used 6 effects, I had 2 spare channels ready so I could add something on the fly if necessary.  With the EQ, meters, faders and mute buttons already routed, I just needed to add some effects and select whatever controls I wanted to access through the software control surface - would take just a few minutes at most.

There you have it - I consider it a very cool success story.  :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What is Freedom?

I have been struggling for quite a while with various topics, and which ones I would like to bring forward to anyone who might care to read my thoughts and ramblings. But these days, the future has been solidly on my mind - in particular the changes that have taken place in our society over the time I've been on this earth, and changes that will certainly effect my step-kids as they finish school and head out into this world of ours. So one of the topics I wish to tackle and publicly wrestle with is the concept of "Freedom" and how the freedom we have come to expect inside the United States is being systematically removed from us right before our eyes.

What is "Freedom"?

Much of today's society has twisted the true philosophy of freedom. How many people have you seen complain that their "freedom of speech" has been infringed when they write "{insert person, place or thing here} sucks" on a public forum, only to find their statements stricken from the public record by moderators? In fact, they have forgotten the companion element of freedom, which is "responsibility". You have the "Freedom" to say whatever you want, as long as you accept the "Responsibility" of those statements.

And so it is - in my opinion - that to be free, means to be responsible. It is so evident that so many of us have either forgotten that true freedom requires the component of responsibility, or we have abdicated our freedom because we no longer wish to be responsible.

Consider the "typical" person who lives on public assistance (not the person who most would argue "truly needs help" of course). How much of their freedom have they given up, and how much responsibility do they abdicate? In the obverse, how much freedom does the person have who qualifies for public assistance, but chooses another (legal of course) way to survive? How much responsibility have they accepted? Who of the two people in these examples is more "free"?

Another grand example is how people deal with adversity or natural disaster. How many of the people who found themselves trapped in New Orleans after the hurricane were truly "free" when they opted to depend on the Government to help them? In contrast, how many people in Gulfport, MI found themselves in trouble after they opted to take responsibility for their own lives?

How about the right to bear arms? In so many places, weapons are now illegal - if not impossible - to own or carry, all in the name of freeing ourselves from danger. But at what cost? There is an incredible amount of responsibility that goes with owning and carrying a firearm, but why are we not given the freedom to accept that responsibility?

I'm sure there are literally thousands of examples, but I believe there is one single truism that you will find in nearly every example. The more responsibility you take, the more free you become. The more responsibility you release, the less free you are. It is this truism that shapes my personal and political views of today.

How many laws or regulations has our Government has passed over the past 5 or more decades that relieves us of some kind of responsibility? In effect, how much freedom has also been relieved? One huge issue today is healthcare. Prior to the healthcare law passed by Congress in 2010, how much responsibility did one have to have to protect themselves and their families? It is argued that people now no longer had to worry about paying for health care - they were "free" from that burden. But at what cost? According to the law, everyone now must pay for some kind of health insurance or be "taxed" because they chose not to. Freedom taken away. In all cases where a similar system has been tried, it has lead to less access to care, and a lower level of care than we have experienced in the United States. Responsibility removed - along with the freedom to choose or freedom to quality health care.

To be truly free is to be responsible for ourselves and our loved ones. This leads to true independence. And when you look back to what our Founding Fathers fought for and crafted through our Constitution, isn't that what they had in mind? They knew that true freedom required responsibility of the individual, to themselves and their families, and people who took that responsibility seriously could achieve true independence.

While this may seam to be a foreign concept to many (and I believe we have been conditioned to forget these simple concepts), I strongly believe this is the roadmap we need to follow to drive our way out of this terrible mess we find our country in today. We don't need the Federal government - or state or local government for that matter - to be the one stop shop and final regulatory say for every individual it serves, and history proves that it's certainly not sustainable. The Government cannot be all things to all people, and was it never designed to be.

The challenge many of us face now is how to turn back over a half century of "change" that has negatively effected our freedoms. While we would like to blame Democrats or Republicans, the real blame rests with those of us who have remained asleep during these changes, or have accepted the lie that these small changes and erosions of our freedoms are somehow necessary.

The question becomes - "what will you do now that you know what must be done?"

How you answer could change our world - or allow he slow, painful demise of our once great nation.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


"I'm moving through some Changes - I'll never be the same. Something you did touched me - there's no one else to blame..."
Changes by Yes - 90125

Nothing lasts forever. Whoever said that was a genius, if not obvious. But human nature being what it is, we rarely realize this bit of obviousness until we're in the middle of that change. Today, I find myself at such a crossroads - or, a "Y" as it may be. It is scary, uneasy, and exciting all at once. It also means leaving a part of myself behind as I spread my musical wings into other areas.

For anyone who has known me as a musician, you know that I've spent the last 19 years of my life playing keyboards and singing with Cincinnati's Bad Habit Band. Bad Habit has been a part of my life for so long that Jim Oldfield, Richard Sciutto, Rob Nadler, and Brian Lee Broomhall have become "Brothers By Another Mother." Because of my association with them, I have experienced so many great times, along with the pain and disappointment that any extended family experiences.

It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I announce my departure from the Bad Habit Band after 19 years with this fantastic group of musicians. It was not entirely by my choice, but my choices have led us to part ways. Confused? Don't be. Like so many other creative people, I have found it necessary to expand my horizons into other areas. However, this made booking commitments with Bad Habit difficult to impossible to keep. Jim, Rich, Rob and Brian want - no, NEED - to keep playing - and therefore have found it necessary to replace me with another keyboardist to fulfill those commitments.

As for me, I have joined DV8 as keyboardist, vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and musical director. But the point of this blog post and my subsequent posting to facebook pointing here is to not only inform the public as to what is going on, but to somehow put the last 19 years of my musical life into perspective for the multitudes of people who are fans of the Bad Habit Band, and in many cases have became personal friends of mine.

Bad Habit became a labor of love and a true melding of the talents and emotions of 5 diverse musicians - actually more than that if you include all of the drummers that we've had flow through our project over the last 19 years. Like any other "birth", we struggled and fought, cried and wrestled, but through the pain and efforts we created something that I consider truly exceptional on a musical level. Few bands could ever pull off the songs we've played at the level that we performed them. And while we may have wanted to take the easy way out on occasion, we always found our way to do songs that were exceptional on many levels. I will always be proud of our accomplishments - not because any one of us was "all that," but our combined talents made us so much better than any one of us could have been as individuals.

I'd like to take a moment to express my gratitude to my brothers:

Jim Oldfield:
Bad Habit wouldn't have been possible without Jim Oldfield, his rehearsal site (down on Seymour Ave at the time, now part of the U-Pull - U-Pay lot), his used U-Haul truck (then his white trailer), and most importantly his PA system. Jim spent an extraordinary amount of money on equipment - both front of house and monitors - to make sure Bad Habit had an edge with our sound. And not only did he spend the money on our sound system, but he set it up and tore it down many times on his own. He replaced blown speakers, damaged or stolen cables, and paid for equipment repairs, yet never charged us for the use of his equipment or the extra demands on his time. How fortunate we were! He even paid for Rich and Rob's in-ear monitors when we decided to go in that direction! He also booked the band, and when the funds were available he had t-shirts made to promote us. Thank you Jim O for all of your hard work and the efforts.

Richard Sciutto:
True Italian brothers we are - to the point where we would fight like factions from the Godfather, and yet came together in times of trouble like few people could. You may never believe me, but I have a level of respect for you that you'll never realize. The biggest fight we had was at the U-Turn in Middletown after a slammed Friday night - we were moving our gear from stage 1 to stage 2 when comments about keeping girlfriends led to a most vicious physical altercation. I'm sure everyone working at the bar that night thought we were done, but less than 20 hours later we were at the bar lifting a shot of Jack celebrating our friendship. It's how we rolled. It's how we survived. It kept us human and grounded. I wouldn't have had it any other way. ;)

Rob Nadler:
Mr. Golden Voice and the owner best guitar sound I've EVER heard short of Jay Aronoff's "Mount AmpMore", much less had the pleasure of working with. I think you have one of the best sounding studio's in the Greater Cincinnati area, in part because you have an awesome ear, and you've learned over time how to use the equipment you have to your advantage. I'll never forget the work you did when we felt it necessary to play as a 4-piece group - you continued to improve, even up to and including the last time we played together. And I expect that you'll continue to improve as long as you continue to play and stretch your abilities

Brian Lee Broomhall:
In my opinion, your the best rock drummer in Cincinnati who's never signed a professional contract with a national act. Playing with the fury of a hurricane, the explosive nature of a volcano, and the dynamic range of a symphony - in my opinion, you should be on tour with someone. Rock solid yet flashy, and nearly always in the pocket - how incredible. And what few people know is that you play guitar and bass as good or better than you play drums. I truly hope that one day you are granted the opportunity - and the freedom - to follow that musical dream to its fullest extent. Your talent really does deserve that opportunity.

To Bad Habit's other drummers - Jim Sullivan, Todd Farler, Rick Lonza, Stephen Schwarz, and Shawn Wells - all great in their own right - thank you for rising to the opportunity and making Bad Habit a part of your resume!

To Bad Habit's fans and my friends:
I want to also thank the multitude of fans that have followed Bad Habit for the last 19 years. Many of you have become my friends - THANK YOU! I hope to see you out at some of the other places that I play of course, but PLEASE keep supporting Bad Habit through this transition, and please keep supporting the bands who play great live music as well as the clubs who put their capital at risk to pay their bands a good wage. One stand out is Gary and Cole at the Knotty Pine - please continue to support these clubs and the bands that play there.

I don't know who will be replacing me on keyboards and for my purposes here it really doesn't matter, but I'm sure it is someone with the chops and skills to rise to the level that Jim O, Rich, Rob and Brian have attained after all of these years. I would bet there will be an announcement very soon, so keep your eyes posted to or the Bad Habit Band facebook page where I'm sure that info will be released.

My brothers, I wish you all continued success and I expect that things will only be better for you all moving forward. Keep playing great music and continue being the model musicians band in Cincinnati.

Never settle - ever. :)


Jim Questa

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fitting 20 lbs in a 5 lb bag…

Last Sunday (January 23rd) was the day for the broadcast of the Eukanuba National Championship and the Eukanuba World Challenge. I was wondering how they were going to cram so much of this two day event into a 2 hour TV show, so I'll use this blog post to break it down for you.

If you've been following my blog or Jennifer's blog over the past couple of months, you'll know that the event was two evenings long. And it was interesting how they made subtle changes to the ring and the surrounding areas (such as the bloggers table, the signage, etc) between the two nights. But only now did I realize why they did it that way. During the show, they're making it appear that there are two separate rings - very nice way to do it. The ring with the Rhodamine (that's the official Eukanuba Pink color) runway is described as the "Eukanuba Ring", while the full blue arena is the "AKC Ring"

Of course, any show that is recorded can be edited for content, and at this particular event there were a couple of handlers that fell either bringing their dogs into the ring (the winner of the Breeders Stakes with her Doberman actually hurt herself and had to be replaced for the balance of the World Challenge) or after they won their breed (the handler of the whippet jumped up on the winners circle after she won, only to loose her footing and taking a dive - luckily only hurting her pride). But in this case it also allowed for the broadcast of more detail into what the judges are looking for, and some great candid shots of how loved these dogs are.

I enjoyed the mix between Todd Grisham and Gina DiNardo. If I had any complains, I would say that some of the conversations felt "forced" or "read." But one of the benefits of having someone who knows and understands dogs and confirmation the way Gina does is giving credibility to the information she's presenting. It was great the way dogs were displayed with descriptions of what the judges look for. For the typical person who loves dogs but knows nothing about dog shows, that was a huge help.
I was glad to see the special segments such as the ACE awards - a group of very special dogs working as service or therapy dogs, the junior handlers, "Meet The Breeds" segment, and "Best Bread By Exhibitor to name just a few. And they took some time to show the dogs and handlers having fun or relaxing - a very nice touch. And it was also nice that they showed some of the "qualifying" competition held in the convention center earlier in the day. I wish they would have shown the obedience winner - there were a few seconds of that segment shown, but the entire demonstration was REALLY cool.

After the show, facebook lit up with terrible reviews, but you could tell these people were more in tune with the dog show world. From someone who has studied media and the "short attention spans" of a typical audience, I understand why the show was split up the way it was. It's so hard to balance the desires of a small segment of the audience (dog show people) with the general public. But the constant shifting between "rings" kept everything moving - that's what you need to keep the average Jane or Joe watching.

So at the end of the day, I was impressed with the way the National Championship was put together for TV. Well done AKC and Eukanuba! Hopefully next year, Jen and I can be a little closer to the action with either Hank, Ivy or Izy. :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Eukanuba World Challenge

Hi everyone - Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and here's hoping for a great 2011 for everyone. Thanks to the holidays I've been a bit absent on my blogging, but I need to get the World Challenge information up so you have a chance to digest it before the 23rd of January, when it will be broadcast on ABC.

If the Eukanuba National Championship is like the Stanley Cup of dog shows, the Eukanuba World Challenge is like the Olympics of dog shows. And to prove that point, the procession of the worlds dogs into the arena for the first judging was just as opulent. Every dog, who is a champion and selected by their country to represent the best of their best, was escorted into the ring by a handler, sometimes an owner, and by someone carrying their nations flag.

Entering the ring during the opening ceremonies, the eventual winner of the Eukanuba World Challenge
"AKC Ch, Grand Ch Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Mexican, Peru Int. Latino American Ch Alex de Akido San"

First, a little background.

The World Challenge is an event sponsored by the
American Kennel Club, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (also known as the World Canine Organisation) and Eukanuba. Champion dogs from 50 countries were invited to the event for the chance to win the World Challenge trophy and $10,000.00. Judging is done a bit differently than the National Championship. The dogs invited were selected by their countries or international regions (in the case of some smaller European countries) as the best of the best. Those winners were divided into four groups (not Hound groups or Working groups as in the National Championship, but 4 groups of dogs without regard to region or breed of dog). Each group was adjudicated by judges considered to be the best in the world, and each judge will select 3 out of each group to participate in the finals. In the finals, one of the 12 will be selected to be the World Challenge winner.

The experience was particularly electrifying, watching these dogs and owners from all over the world walking into the ring. Each hoping to represent their countries as the best of the best - very much like the Olympics.

Eukanuba World Challenge Opening Ceremonies.

A happy St. Bernard participating in the World Challenge

An awesome Siberian Husky

-judging actually took place earlier in the day, with the judge responsible for each group secretly selecting 3 winners from their individual group. Only after each group is gathered into the main arena do the judges publicly select the top 3. One judge actually mentioned that he hadn't completely made up his mind until he saw the dogs re-stacked (displayed) that evening, which says something about how spectacular each animal really is.

Three winners selected to move on to the finals

On day two the 12 finalists were brought into the ring again. One - the Doberman from Argentina - would be selected and chosen the best of the world.

Next up - Best In Show.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


This is a continuation of my photo-blog of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championships

After learning that we will be blogging in full view of an international television audience (especially during the Eukanuba World Challenge), it was time for me to find a suit coat. I brought shirts and ties, but only a casual jacket - really not proper attire for the cameras. So it was off to the Casual Male XL for a proper jacket, then back to the hotel to rest up for a bit before heading back to the Hyatt for a pre-show cocktail party, then off to Long Beach Arena for the first night of the show.

Fronted by beauty - Left to right, Jenifer, Jennifer, Me, Dr. V and Bev holding "Flat Tyler".

Pink was the color of the night of course, and they had a wide selection of appetizers and wine spritzers. Definitely helped calm the nerves before heading out to the arena under the lights. Well, it calmed Jen's nerves - I'm used to being under the spotlight since I've played music on TV and on stage for over 40 years.

For those of you not familiar with dog shows, here's a quick primer on how dogs work their way through the event. First, each breed or variety must win their class. The class judging was held in the convention center earlier in the day.

Hank and Lorie being judged in the Smooth Collie event. The eventual winner is just to her right - a beautiful smooth collie named GCH CH Bit O Heavens Sorceress.

The winner of the Best Of Breed or Variety makes their way to their "Group". There are 7 groups:

* Sporting (examples - Pointers, Retrievers, Setters, Spaniels)
* Hound (examples - Afghans, Beagles, Greyhounds, Whippets)
* Working (examples - Akitgas, Shepherds, Mastiffs, Huskies)
* Terrier (examples - Bulls, Foxes, Scottish, Welsh)
* Toy (examples - Chihuahuas, Italian Greyhounds, Pekingese, Pugs)
* Non-Sporting (examples - Bichon Frise, Dalmatian, Poodle, Tibetan Spaniel)
* Herding (examples - Australian Shepherd, Belgian Sheepdog, Collie, German Shepherd Dog)

One representative from each group will be chosen to move to "Best Of Show", and one lucky dog (no pun intended) will win the show.

For each group the dogs and handlers are issued into the ring, then around to the back where they wait their turn to be judged. Another person is permitted just outside the back of the ring with combs, grooming supplies and other items so the dogs can be prepared for their turn with the judge.

When the next dog is called forward, a line of light appears on the carpet where the dog is to be lined up (staging for TV), and the judging begins. For smaller dogs, a table is available so the judge can stand while examining the animal.

GCH CH Bit O Heavens Sorceress preparing to be judged in group as the judge watches the prior dogs gate around the ring.

The judge will inspect the dog to see if it meets the breed standard.

The judge then sends the dog down the arena and back to watch how the dog moves.

Upon returning to the judge, the animal is to "free stack" correctly so the judge can render a final evaluation before sending the dog around the arena.

After all of the dogs are judged, they are then stacked again so the judge can make a final decision on 1st through 4th.

Next up - The Eukanuba World Challenge