Archive for the 'Entertainment & Media' Category

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Cedar Park Cinemark Theater Considered Obsolete

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

I’ve always been a big movie fan. Like many Americans I’ve attended movie theaters less frequently in the last few years compared to the past, and that was before I got my new HDTV. I have the standard complaints, too many lame movies, ticket prices too high, theaters not pleasant, it’ll be on Netflix in a few months.

Still, I like an occasion big screen movie, especially action movies like Transformers. I’ve found that in our area the best theater is Cinemark’s Tinsel Town in Pflugerville. It’s a large facility, with goodsized screens, comfortable chairs, and excellent audio and visual systems.

I also like Alamo Draft House. The technical quality isn’t as good as Tinseltown, but the Draft House delivers an overall pleasant experience that is fun and gives value for the money.

I live in north Austin, so I was glad to hear that Cinemark theaters had opened a new movie theater in nearby Cedar Park.

I was able to get a date tonight so we decided to see Charlie Wilson’s War at the new theater.

The movie itself was excellent, but the Cedar Park Cinemark is an obsolete facility even though it’s been open only a few weeks. This place was a throwback to the cramped little mall theaters like Austin’s long gone Northcross 6.

There was a long line it the crowded lobby to get to the single employee taking tickets for 12 screens.

Theater 9, where we saw our movie, was long and narrow. The screen was not large at all. The projection quality was low, the screen being dim and the image noisy. The sound (no Dolby or THX certifications) was OK, but no better than I have at home.

They have 12 screens yet only two 3 hole restrooms. Ladies, go before you get there because there is usually a line outside the ladies room.

The movie was great, but the experience was not worth anything like $8.50 a person for the ticket plus five dollar popcorn. Not when I have a lazy boy in front of an HDTV with a good sound system at home.

I still like to go to the movies, but I’m never going back to this theater again. Theater owners need to provide a quality experience, they need to earn the premium we pay to see movies before Netflix gets them.

It is as if the Cinemark designers were living in some kind of time warp into the past. Hey Cinemark, it’s not 1970 any more! You movie house is NOT the only place we can go to see a movie! What Cinemark offers in Cedar Park would be marginal as a dollar house.

In no way does this facility earn a premium price. I predict that when the Cedar Park Cinemark theater closes the management will blame ‘piracy’. It’s not piracy you tools, it’s your own incompetence!

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I’ve Been Everywhere

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

I’m not a big country and western fan, but I got a huge kick out of this:


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Sopranos / Betrayal

Sunday, June 10th, 2007




                      Photo by fortinbras.

fugetttaboutit

The worst non-ending of any TV show ever!

A million subplots, a million possible interesting outcomes!

We were Betrayed!!!!!!!!

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A 915 Minute Poem

Saturday, March 17th, 2007


All my life I’ve enjoyed hearing the spoken word. Perhaps it goes back to my childhood, when my Dad would tell me stories at bedtime. He made them up himself, and they were good. Early exposure to the novels of Nevil Shute re-enforced by a Grandfather who had left Texas and joined the Coldstream Guards at the start of World War I infected me with Anglophillia at a very early age.

Back in the bad old days of one newspaper, three TV channels, and no talk radio I used to listen to a lot of shortwave radio, then the only source of what we now call ‘talk radio’. When I lived in England in the 80s I always enjoyed Radio 4, located in the basement of the RF spectrum at 200khz, and mostly spoken word.

It was while I was in England I discovered the Aubrey/Maturin series of novels by Patrick O’Brian. These 20 (plus one unfinished) stories follow the careers of Captain Jack Aubrey, a ship commander of the Royal Navy in the early 1800s, and Doctor Stephen Maturin, his particular friend.

I’m not positive, but I think I started reading them because I found myself working with the Royal Navy and wanted to know more about their service. The Royal Navy is worthy of study by any student of the military. It is, after all, the oldest continually operating uniformed military service in the world.

I enjoyed reading the novels, but I did not fully appreciate them until I discovered that the entire series was available for rent as unabridged audio readings from Recorded Books LLC. I wound up listening to the entire cannon over the period of a year. For that year if I were driving, I was listening to POB. And then I listened again. The narrator, Patrick Tull, is know as ‘The Voice’ to O’Brian fans. Each novel includes a huge ensemble cast, always assembled fromt the four cornors of the world, often speaking several different languages.

Warning: There have been a number of recordings of the series by other actors over the years. Only Tull is able to give each and every character an individual voice that makes him or her come alive. I once made the heart-breaking mistake of buying one read by a pretender. Be careful. If you want to listen to O’Brian as it should be, then accept only The Voice.

I own a couple of the stories on home made CDs purchased via Audible.com. Perhaps it is my CD burner, but these copies don’t really hold up well over time. After a year or so I get lots of skipping and static.

The other day I happened to be in Borders, and noted that they are now selling the Recorded Book series on CD. The price has dropped from the average $75 that Recorded Books charges to around $45 for the retail version. They are the identical readings. I think I’m going to wind up buying them all.

Right now I’m listening to The Surgeon’s Mate. It has been long enough since the last time I experienced this story that it is almost new to me again.

I’m enjoying it immensly. It is a 915 minute poem.

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Embedded Cartoonist

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Knowing that my little squad of readers are to a person very well read, I have no need to explain why every educated person reads the DayByDay cartoon.

But I can’t help but note that artist Chris Muir is embedded in Iraq!

DayByDay

Chris could well be the 21st century version of Bill Mauldin.

My Dad, a WWII Infantryman, loved Mauldin, as did most of his service friends. Don’t be surprised if many of our WOT vets come to view Muir the same way.

Good luck Chris, keep your head down.

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Cedar Park Movie Location

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

When I worked in downtown Austin movie crews were a common sight.

I’ve never seen one near my own neighbor of Anderson Mill before now. This crew is shooting a movie with the working title of ‘Base Camp’.

I’m actually standing in Austin looking across Highway 620 into Cedar Park.

Yesterday they also had a classic late 60s Dodge Road Runner next to the Mustang, but it was gone this morning. The movie company completely redid the signage for this little store. The real store is called ‘The Texan American Store’, and it doesn’t really sell bait or block ice.

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The Path to 9/11 (updated)

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

I watched it. Three Four hours of hand held camera work made me a little queasy, but I’ve always had a sensitive stomach.

The movie itself is accurate in most respects. Certainly the big picture that prior to 9/11 we had a timid, lawyerly oriented approach to terror is correct.

It’s clear why this presentation has driven the left insane. It shows the fundamental unseriousness of the Clinton Administration.  It is a dramatization. We can’t know exactly who said what to whom.  But the big events really did happen, and our reactions were what they were.

The best comment on the left’s reaction to this TV show is on a blog called Dr Sanity:

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the psychological mechanisms involved–DISPLACEMENT and SPLITTING– both of which allow these idiots (I am allowed to call them that because this is a deliberate, self-imposed psychological state to maintain their denial, delusion, and hatred ) to behave in this clueless and revolting manner with regard to a TV miniseries.

If only some of the wasted and counterproductive energy these morons are expending could be put to some good use in this war! Instead, they comfort themselves with the fantasy that they are “standing up for the truth”. Give me a break. These people have been unwilling to face truth for some years now and have been desperately trying to pave a path back to 9/10–or even earlier to the magical, golden years of the perfect Clinton era (I.e., when they were in power).

Althouse clearly notes the presence of psychological displacement even in the title of her piece: “It’s too late to decide to attack Bin Laden, so let’s attack this TV show.”

Update: Part 2: As a pilot I almost cried when they showed a few of the many warnings concerning Muslim flight students that came from the aviation community, but were ignored.

One aspect of “Path to 9/11″ that contradicts the moonbat left’s claims that this movie was right wing propaganda is the highly favorable treatment of Richard Clarke. Clarke is shown as a hero, the man everyone, including the Vice President, turned to on 9/11 for leadership. It is hardly likely that Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove wrote the script, as the moonbats claim.

I hope to someday see the uncensored version of “Path to 9/11″, but even this edited version was effective and powerful.

9/11,The Path to 9/11,Clinton.

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Writing about the Sopranos

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

Blogging is a pretty self-indulgent hobby, but there are some rationalizations for it. The best one I can grasp is that it is desireable to improve ones writing, and the only real way to improve ones writing is to write words on paper as often as possible.

I’m a big fan of “The Sopranos” on HBO. Several times I’ve started to write about why I like this TV show, but somehow its never come out right.

I do know that I like movies and TV that have large ensemble casts as does The Sopranos. Examples include pretty much all of the movies by John Sayles, the original ‘Hill Street Blues’, and of course The Simpsons. As a guy trying to raise a family I can identify with some of the struggles and frustrations that poor Tony suffers along the way. I envy his ability to just wack people who get on his nerves. But I find I’m just not articulate enough to really explain why I like this particular soap opera.

Fortunately, I don’t have to. Via The Volokh Conspiracy ( a law professor blog, of all places), I discovered Tim Goodman, a TV reviewer in San Francisco. He really nails this last episode. So from now if anyone asks why I like the Sopranos, I’ll just point them to to Tims blog.

Sopranos,television,tv

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Live Blogging Trump’s Apprentice

Monday, March 13th, 2006

I admit it. I’m an Apprentice fan. There really isn’t much reason for me to blog about it though, because Michael and Marjorie Carrion do such a good job with it.

But I’m sitting here watching these two teams go completely off the rails. Their task tonight is to host a GM dealer meeting which will introduce the dealers to the 2007 Chevy Tahoe.

One of them is creating some kind of faux wedding reception, that looks like a total disaster. Horses, open bar, putting green, just fluff.

The other is working on ways to sell the car, talking about its rich Corinthian leather or something. “Nature refined” is their theme. They rented a shotgun and skeet launcher, but were surprised when gun-phobic New York City wouldn’t allow such a thing in the park.

I thought these people were supposed to have prior experience in business.

Does the first team think that the dealers are there to have a kiddy park experience??????????? Sure they’d like a bar and a nice environment, but they didn’t come to New York to go to a kiddy park.

The second team seems to think its job is to sell Chevy Tahoe’s. They are not as far into left field as the kiddy ride team, but they are significantly off target. Here’s a free clue guys. The Chevy Dealers drive any car they want. They don’t really buy cars at all for themselves, they have a lot full of cars to choose from.

If there was a single business person on either team they would try an answer the real question the dealers are going to have about the car? That question is ‘How will the Chevy Tahoe increase my bottom line?’. That’s all that matters to the dealers. These guys will want to know how they can sell the Tahoe to their customers. Give them some reasons why the Tahoe is better than the competition. Show the dealers where the profit is in the Tahoe. Convince them that they should order a lot of Tahoe’s because the dealers will make a profit selling them!!!

For what its worth the kiddie park team lost big, but neither team seemed to have anyone who thought like a business person.

If Trump wants pretty ass-kissers he’s got a good crowd, but if he wants to make more money he should fire all of them.

Listen to Michael and Marjorie for the gory details about the show.

Apprentice,Trump,TV,business

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Radio Free Jim

Thursday, January 5th, 2006

All my life I’ve enjoyed radio. I discovered short wave radio when I was in about the sixth grade, I recall enjoying the big SW stations like VOA, BBC, and the Dutch station from the Netherland Antillies.

Mostly I like spoken word radio formats. When I lived in England I listened to Radio 4 a lot. (Note, that was before the BBC became ‘All America-hating rants all the time’.)

Back in the 80s and 90s I gorged on audio books on tape from Recorded Books.

I’ve never listened to broadcast music radio much because I never found a station that appealed to my oddball tastes in music.

Then came Jimmy Buffet’s Radio Margaritaville, one of the first and the best streaming internet music site. Finally a source of the kind of music that I like! As long as I can remember, Jimmy Buffet has been a Living God to me, and I really appreciate him putting this stream out there. I bet the music mogals sitting in their G-IVs smoking fat cigars thought he was crazy. Jimmy was crazy alright….like a fox.

When RM appeared on Sirius I was into Best Buy in a flash to buy a receiver for my car, with Jimmy’s station under button A1.

Then there were podcasts….I subscribe to a bunch of them, all spoken word formats of one kind or another.

When I run out of podcasts I tune in Radio Margaritaville. Since RM went onto Sirius he’s been playing a bit more hard rock and roll stuff and a bit less of the folk/country stuff I like. I still listen of course, and I think I understand why he’s shifted his playlist a bit. But I find I don’t like it quite as much as I did.

This morning I was listening to the Inside the Net podcast with Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur. They were interviewing a guy from Pandora Media.

I was only half listening while I was coding, but I decided to take a quick look at the site.

As a programmer of user interfaces, I liked the clean ‘Google-like’ look of the page. I was interested in the little player looking application on the page, so I hit the ‘create a new station’.

“Hmmm, no registration” I thought as I typed in ‘Jimmy Buffet’ in response to a request for an artist that I liked.

I liked the smooth sliding style of the flash interface, and I was surprised when it started streaming a Jimmy Buffet song, complete with a picture of the corresponding album cover. Clicking on the album, I got a menu that let me tell Pandora that I liked it, and I could have purchased the track from ITunes or the whole album from Amazon.

I hit the ‘guide me’ button. “Hey, this is getting to be pretty cool” I thought as I told it I also liked Paul Simon. After Jimmy finished it qued up a Paul Simon song. Then it played a song by a group (‘Simthereens’) that I’d never heard of, but I liked the song.

One after the other it streamed songs. Several were from artists totally new to me. Sometimes it qued up a twangy country song. I don’t mind country that is close to folk music, but I can only handle so much twang.

Another time it served an Aerosmith song that to me was noisey and crude. No problem though, I voted those off of my radio station. It picks songs based on the computations of some kind of artifical intelligence engine that knows all about the attributes of music.

Pandora employs humans to listen to music and describe each song to their engine in terms of quantative elements.

Users add artists to their stations, and give thumbs up and thumbs down to individual songs. Each time this happens the engine gets a better idea of the kind of music the user likes. Note that this kind of search is not popularity based, it is based on mining a database of thousands of songs, both popular and obscure.

Using humans editors to populate a search engine isn’t new. My first job in the internet space was for company called ‘Einet’ (later changed to ‘Tradewave’). I worked on their web browser, but Einet also had the very first public search engine called ‘Galaxy’. They actually employed a room full of librarians to review and index web pages. Yahoo copied this approach when they started their first search engine at http://akibone.stanford.edu . That was back when everyone was impressed when the web went over 10,000 pages. Pandora sounds like it is using a similar approach, but focused on music rather than web pages.

I’ve now wasted an hour playing with it spent an hour experimenting with its Flash based user interface, getting ideas for my own projects in the process.

Suddenly I realized that I had never registered, and I surely didn’t want to lose this. Unlike most web pages that want you to register right off the bat, Pandora never nagged me about it. Instead I sought out the registration page and signed up.

Now I have my own custom radio station!!! If you like mild rhythmic syncopation, acoustic rhythm piano, mandoins, guitar pickin’, bluegrass influence, acoustic sonority, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation, and major key tonality* then don’t walk, run to:


Radio Free Jim

Those Pandora guys are really onto something here, and unlike a lot of dot coms I think this one has a real business model that will work for users and the company. Recommended.

Hey, who knew that Sting had some music that I like!. I wonder what it’s going to serve up next!

Edited to add: Prediction: Yahoo will buy this company, if Google doesn’t.

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*I have no idea what most of those terms mean, I’ll have to ask Rob to explain this to me.

music, pandora, Jimmy Buffett, radio