Friday, June 26, 2009

Asparagus = Cigarettes




My job at Marketing Messages calls for a vast number of differing skills. I do voice-overs, of course, but I also produce and engineer recording sessions involving other voice-over professionals; I edit recordings; I mix recorded voice with music for our Messages-On-Hold; I put together music-only (Music-On-Hold) productions; and a few other more peripheral duties (shipping, drinking coffee, swearing.)

I mentioned editing and mixing. Those are the two jobs that occupy the greatest amount of time on our schedule, and everybody on the production team performs these tasks at one time or another. We use more than one editing platform (for instance, ProTools, Adobe Audition and Sound Forge, to name a few of those most often used) and, of course, it pays for us to know as much as possible about what can be done within each editing platform. So, we sometimes play around with different functions in order to familiarize ourselves with them, in case we should need that knowledge for a future job.

One of the cooler - or, at least, odder - functions available is the ability to reverse a recording.

Some of you are old enough to remember the furor over reversed recordings during the 1960's. Rumors of Paul McCartney's death came about because of "evidence" heard in some Beatles recordings. Supposedly, such things as "Paul is a dead man" and "Turn me on, dead man" could be heard when certain song segments were played backwards. More recently, performers as diverse as Pink Floyd, Judas Priest, Queen, and Slayer have been accused of using "backmasking" as a way of promoting unseemly and anti-social behaviors on the part of their fans.

(For more on backmasking in popular music, please see the excellent Wikipedia article on same.)

However, for our purposes here, let's put aside conjecture about the passing of quite-obviously-alive British musicians and other such nonsense. We experimented with backwards recordings because it was a way to familiarize ourselves with our recording tools, and because it presented us with interesting vocal exercises that might increase our proficiency as script readers.

Also, it was great fun.

Let me give you some examples. To begin, I've written a short pithy play about the eternal struggle of feline and canine in regards to man, entitled "Cat Dog".

CAT DOG

Setting: The South Of France During The Time Of Napoleon

Cast (in order of appearance)

Cat ................................ Sarah Colvin
Man ................................ Jim Sullivan
Dog ................................ John Hutchinson


[forward recording - Cat Dog]

Now, I'll reverse the recording.

[reverse of previous recording]

What we would then do was practice saying the reversed versions of the words until we felt we had them as close as possible to what we had been hearing on the reversed playback. Then, we would record ourselves saying those reversed words, such as we've done here...

[forwardly-recorded reverse of Cat Dog]

... and, finally, we would reverse that recording to see how close we got to the originals.

[reversed recording of forwardly-recorded reverse Cat Dog]

As you might imagine, it was not only a learning experience, but also involved us cracking up quite a bit. There's just always something comically askew with the final product, no matter how good a job is done in mimicking the backwards speech.

Now that you know the process involved, I'll play you a longer example, entitled "I Like Chinese Food". Along with my co-workers, Sarah and Hutch, I've voiced some words and whole sentences, reversed those, practiced saying them backwards, then recorded the backwards pronunciations, reversed those... well, here's an example of the entire process strung together in one continuous piece.

[I Like Chinese Food!]

We indulged in this sort of silliness quite often for a short while. As I say, it really helped us to learn more about the recording processes and it also trained us, as speakers, to verbalize odd constructions, which in turn made us less likely to stumble on unusual words or local pronunciations that appeared in actual scripts.

The weirdest thing we ever encountered while doing this was finding out that asparagus equals cigarettes. That is, when you record someone saying "asparagus", and then reverse it, the person is then saying "cigarettes". And if you record someone saying "cigarettes", then reverse that, the person says "asparagus".

Don't believe me? Take a listen.

[Asparagus? Cigarettes! Cigarettes? Asparagus!]

We all found it incredibly odd that something so healthy for you, when spoken and then reversed, could become something so hideously bad for you. It literally was an example of the reverse of a word being an actual reverse of it, healthwise.

When we discovered this, we all thought it would be incredibly funny if we found out that a whole bunch of other words, when reversed, would also be the reverse of the original word in a moral or health sense, but, alas, we've never come up with another that is so startlingly clear (although the fact that "spare ribs" is the same backwards and forwards is pretty interesting.)

If you have the ability to do reverse recordings, and you come up with a funny one, please send it my way. I'd love to hear it.

And that's all I've got for you today. Having completed this, I'm now going to do what I usually do after I finish writing. I'm going to go outside and smoke asparagus.

See you soon.


59 comments:

  1. This is absolutely fascinating and fun! What a great job you all have. Thanks for the window into what you do and how you do it. Very cool beans!

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  2. I was doubting my own ears when I heard "spare ribs" sounding the same forward and in reverse. Glad you cleared that up. Strange!

    Interesting post, Suldog.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. BTW -- there is a typo in the information about copyright. This one just jumped out at me; I wasn't looking for errors.

    "This has beep interpreted to mean that most performances at so called private clubs and fraternal organizations are "pub­lic" under the Copyright Law."

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  5. That is hilarious. I can only imagine how much you must have cracked up while playing around with these. The "spare ribs" stands right out. The whole thing kind of reminds me of playing with translators between languages and back to English. Thanks for the laughs. :)

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  6. Pat - Thank you very much for the proofreading! We've corrected that, thanks to you!

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  7. I don't know any other fun ones, but I did know about aspargus/cigarettes. This is me saying it:

    http://www.eeka.net/asparaguscigarettes.mp3

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  8. Jim, This is hilariously entertaining; I envy your job - are you hiring? ;-)
    Thanks for sharing the audio - who woulda thunk it? Great to learn about what you and the company you work for do.
    Peace, Judi

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  9. that was hilarious and interesting and enlightening. it was sorta like smoking something other than cigarettes or asparagus.

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  10. eeka:

    That's so odd. How did you find out that it was that way? In my case, we were randomly recording some words, to use in the exercise described in the blog, and I serendipitously spoke the two back-to-back. When we did the reverse playback, they stuck out like a sore thumb.

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  11. I went to a gifted school for a number of years. They'd give us all kinds of crazy projects to spend weeks on, mostly I think so that we would be kept busy and wouldn't burn down the town or anything. One of them was finding phonetic palindromes:

    selfless
    easy
    I got

    Which also led to finding words that make other words when reversed, like funny/enough, talk/Scott crew/work asparagus/cigarettes. We were doing this all using IPA at first, then eventually made reel-to-reel recordings and reversed them.

    The only funny one we ever found was asparagus/cigarettes, though.

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  12. I think the re-reversed "Here kitty kitty" was hilarious. Almost like it was spoken by a guy who was completely plastered. Heeeeey . . .

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  13. My take? The reversed English in the Chinese food bits sounded Chinese to me. Kinda-sorta. :D

    As many others have said... You have a great job... and work with some seriously fun people. Would that we all could have half as much fun at work!

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  14. Wait, you're actually PAID to do this? During an economic recession? Hire me.

    I've been doing voice overs and synch adr since I was 16 yrs old, so I know my stuff. Beginner level ProTools geek. And my reverse voice is quite sexy too. So... where do I sign?

    This was A LOL of fun (get it? Lola backwards... tee hee: which is "eat" in reverse SOMEBODY STOP ME NOW)

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  15. That was some play. You're a regular Victor Hugo. ;-)

    That is so cool to have a good voice for recordings. I love telling stories and had a little part in an audio book, but it bothers me a lot to hear my own voice.

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  16. It is great to have a job you really enjoy. I did. When I was a kid my brother bought a 45 (remember them? no? My you are young!!) of the crazy song "They're Coming to Take Me Away... The flip side was "...yawa em ekat ot gnimoc er'yeht" The label said it and that was what was on the record.

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  17. Wow. Very cool and very funny. I learned something today. Thank you. :)

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  18. What does
    supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
    sound like backwards I wonder?

    Oh! This is so very funny, Jim.
    Loved it!
    Don't forget to dopler effect!!

    What a great job you have!
    Do you require a comedy writer?
    Lola was very clever too.
    There's lots of brains scattered all over blogland!!!
    Your Brit Fan ~ Eddie

    Oh And thanks for your kind words at my place

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  19. That was so funny. Smoking asparagus. Hah! In a week or so it will be a year since I gave up asparagus. Never liked cigarettes either no matter how healthy they were. So both gone off my shopping list. ;0)

    Very entertaining, and like Pat, I am glad you cleared that up about the spare ribs! Thought I was hearing things.

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  20. Look at how many people want a job now. Keep this up and someone will outsource you for sure.

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  21. Jim, you definitely have the BEST voice. It is simply delicious...

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  22. Well now.... I certainly know where to go when I need some backwards professionally spoken.

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  23. Great job you have Jim. It takes a certain sort of mind to do this cryptic stuff! Has it a name this back-talk, speech reversal, alto-chat... thingy? Gobbledegook, I remember now.

    Love Granny

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  24. pretty interesting as Larry David would say pretty pretty interesting !1 sandy

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  25. Could never do your job but love that you do it and so well! Very interesting!

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  26. How cool! I could spend an afternoon doing this!

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  27. Here's a project for you, Jim

    Say into your equipment,
    "The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain"

    Wonder what it sounds like!
    OR

    POOP
    It may not actually sound the same backwards!!

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  28. That's CRAZY! And who would have thought that spare ribs was the same in either direction??? WOWEE! or is it EEWOW????

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  29. Great stuff! My son, who happens to be Chinese, laughed outloud at the Chinese food passage!
    This does sound like a gifted school project -- I'm sending your story to my college age kiddos...a diversion from studies...on second thought...

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  30. What a fun job! That's amazing that you came up with that.

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  31. Too cool, Jim...but I don't think I could do your job...I'd be confused and dazed and fired by noon!
    Sandi

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  32. much fun! want your job, but no way could i do it. too much!

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  33. Etoup seebabe snesnon. This is fun.

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  34. That's really interesting! It kind of puts a damper on all those who believe that Evil Satanic messages were put into songs on purpose. :)

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  35. Ha! I laughed so hard a little tear came out of my eye!

    -TimK

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  36. Hysterical....and great eye-catching photo and title, Jim. Another fascinating tidbit about your life as 'Suldog!! I KNEW I'd missed a lot by not stopping by.

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