Introducing Izotope’s Incredible Spectral De-Noise Software

A couple of the days ago Muky asked me if I could do anything to reduce the ambient noise on her ‘How to make Peanut Butter video. Sure I said. But after listening to the clip and hearing what sounded like a jet engine running nearby…I wondered what could be done.

In the past I’ve used some of the Izotope’s software to help improve audio quality but I’ve never needed to delve into the specialist restoration tools. So here was a chance to test them out.

I imported the video into Logic X, brought the movie in and instantiated RX 6 Spectral De-Noise on the audio track. This is deep, deep software so I was preparing to either check the manual or head to youtube — but just putting it on the track was all I needed to do. It was spooky.

The track went from unusable to absolutely fine in a moment. I’m still shocked at how well it worked and no doubt with some expertise it could be fine tuned even further. I felt compelled to make a quick ‘before and after’ video for others looking to clean up poor audio, and here it is. This software is incredible, not exactly cheap, but incredible:

And the final video for those wanting to make the best peanut butter in the multiverse (I should know I eat this stuff by the bucket)….


Book 21: The Secrets of Story – Matt Bird

Matt Bird has been writing about the craft of storytelling for over 30 years. ‘Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers‘ is Bird’s first book.

The Secrets of Story by Matt Bird and Eric Michael ...

As you’d expect this is a guide for writers who write fiction. There’s heavy focus on scriptwriting for TV and film here and almost all of the examples are drawn from these genres. I read the book (or at least listened via scribd) not through any burning desire to write fiction, but more through an interest in the mechanics of story— and the book does a thorough job at taking the reader through these in an engaging and humorous way.

The book then, is a comprehensive guide to writing, divided as follows:

   • Concept: Is the one-sentence description of your story uniquely appealing?
   • Character: Can your audience identify with your hero?
   • Structure and Plot: Is your story ruled by human nature?
   • Scene Work: Does each scene advance the plot and reveal character through emotional reactions?
   • Dialogue: Is your characters’ dialogue infused with distinct personality traits and speech patterns based on their lives and backgrounds?
   • Tone: Are you subtly setting, resetting, and upsetting expectations?
   • Theme: Are you using multiple ironies throughout the story to create meaning?

If I were even thinking of writing anything related to fiction, I would buy a hard copy of this book without hesitation— for me this is an essential reference for writers.

As a final note, Bird bas been blogging for many years and on (formerly ‘Cockeyed Caravan’) you’ll find a staggering collection of writing tools and free study materials to help you with your craft. Again there’s a strong focus on scriptwriting but the principles of storytelling are universal. This ‘Ultimate Story Checklist v6’ for example would be a godsend for aspiring authors trying to evaluate their own work:


Supplementing Vitamin D?

Research continues to come in relating vitamin D deficiency with severe covid-19 outcomes.

Taking a vitamin D supplement at the moment seems absolutely essential (all things considered) but I still don’t see anything at all in mainstream media.

In an attempt to get the message through, a group of researchers out of Trinity College, Dublin are asking the Irish Government to recommend vitamin D supplementation in this time of crisis.

The publication cited in the article above (The Irish Medical Journal) has a whole section on the vitamin D debate and while several point out the lack of appropriate ‘randomised control trials’ on vitamin D most agree that supplementation, especially in the elderly (who are more prone to deficiency) will save lives.

“This study further confirms this association. We call on the Irish government to update guidelines as a matter of urgency and encourage all adults to take supplements during the COVID-19 crisis. Deficiency is frequent in Ireland. Deficiency is most prevalent with age, obesity, in men, in ethnic minorities, in people with diabetes, hypertension and in nursing homes.”

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Trinity College Dublin

UVA Radiation From Sunshine Could Protect Against High ...

Third Photo of Robert Johnson Surfaces

Robert Johnson was the ‘King of Delta Blues’ — he lived just 27 short years from 1911 to 1938. His catalogue of 29 songs profoundly influenced generations of guitarists with Eric Clapton declaring him to the ‘most important blues musician who ever lived’.

Netflix’s ‘Devil at the Crossroads’ chronicles the life of Robert Johnson and it’s a life shrouded in mystery. His guitar playing went stratospheric in such a short time that many thought he sold his soul to the devil. If you have Netflix it’s worth a look.

The documentary confirmed that there were only ever two surviving photos of Johnson:



Just yesterday though, I found out that his 94-year-old step sister Mrs. Annye C. Anderson has been holding onto another for more than 70 years.

Mrs Anderson recalls how the new photograph came to be:

There was a make-your-own-photo place on Beale Street, near Hernando Street. I’ve since learned that a man named John Henry Evans owned it. The photo place was right next door to Pee Wee’s, the bar where Mr. Handy wrote his blues. One day when I was 10 or 11 years old, I walked there with Sister Carrie and Brother Robert. I remember him carrying his guitar and strumming as we went. You just walk in, drop a nickel in the slot, pull the curtain, and do it. There was no photographer. I had my picture made. Brother Robert got in the booth, and evidently made a couple.

I kept Brother Robert’s photograph in my father’s trunk that sat in the hallway of the Comas house while we lived there with my mother after my father died. After my mother died, we could only take so many things. I took my photographs with me, wrapped in a handkerchief. I only carried a few belongings to Ma and Pops Thompson’s house. When I moved in with my sister Charlyne, I bought some furniture. I stored the photograph, along with others, in a cedar chest I bought. I’ve always had this photograph.

It shows Brother Robert the way I remember him—open, kind, and generous.He doesn’t look like the man of all the legends, the man described as a drunkard and a fighter by people who didn’t really know him. This is my Brother Robert.

The photo graces the cover of Mrs Anderson’s book: Brother Robert—Growing up with Robert Johnson which will be released on June 9th.

For a taste of Robert Johnson’s timeless blues, try ‘Crossroad Blues’ — a track that did nothing to dispel the urban myth that he sold his soul:

Hong Kong Flora Episode #1: The Red Cotton Tree

Hot on the heels of the smash-hit series ‘The birds of Hong Kong’ (there was only one post!)… welcome to my latest endeavour: ‘Hong Kong Flora’.

Tree number one is the Red Cotton Tree (Bombay Ceiba). This Asian tropical produces striking red flowers in the spring, and grows to a lofty 20 meters. Every part of the tree (bark, flower, seeds, gum, roots) is used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine and the Chinese make tea from the flowers.

The one in our local park looks like this:


Or if you’re in the spring, and you know how to use a camera, they look like this:

This tree’s highlight is the most wonderful way it disperses its seeds.

In the autumn it produces 10 cm-long pods that when ripe open to release 100s of seeds that are carried on the winds by delicate cotton-like fibres.

Gold Coast resident and budding dendrologist, Muky, recalled collecting these little cotton balls as a child with her grandmother and making pillows.

I was lucky enough to find an unopened pod under the tree and what a delight! Compressed together they feel like velvet – or a ‘baby penguin’ or Muky observed.

in this video Muky opens this very pod to the soothing sounds of carefully curated sentimental music. Enjoy:

A Song for Sunday with Bill Fay

The new music continues with my best musical discovery in the last 10 years.

Bill Fay found moderate success in the early 70s with two album releases, but he was later dropped by his record company and his records went out of print.

Fay in 72′

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Fay’s recordings developed something of a cult following and the albums came back into print.

With the support of producer Joshua Henry and some well-known musicians including Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Bill released an album of new material in 2012. He followed it up with another in 2015 and a third this year.

Bill Fay - Salt of the Earth (Official Video) - YouTube
Fay in 2020, 48 years later…

The new album is ‘Countless Branches’ and it is spectacular — and I don’t say that lightly. Fay is 76 but must be writing the music of his life. The man is a poet and his voice will break your heart.

Bill Fay

Please listen — this man is a rare treasure and the album something very special:

A Timeline of Towering Incompetence: Part 3

The risk that Trump represents (mentioned here) just went up a few notches.

Yesterday ‘The lancet’ published this large scale study of 96,000 patients hospitalised with covid-19 that analysed the impact of using hydroxychloroquine as a treatment.

Unlike some of the recent studies that have been ambiguous, the findings here were clear: If you take hydroxychloroquine you have significantly more chance of dying:

For context, remember that just a couple of weeks ago Trump was encouraging the American public at large to ‘try it‘. He even specified a combination of drugs back in March:

It transpires that this particular combination produces even more deadly results than hydroxychloroquine on its own:

For those receiving hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic — the cocktail endorsed by Trump — there was a 45 percent increased risk of death and a 411 percent increased risk of serious heart arrhythmias.

Washington Post, May 22

So even if Trump withdraws his recommendation for the drugs today (which he won’t) — people in America, and no doubt around the world, will have died as a direct result of his advice.

Can you imagine the blowback if any other world leader had made these same recommendations with the same disregard for safety and due diligence? But with Trump it’s just another dysfunctional day in the White House. Scary times.