Sunday, January 13, 2019

What a stupid driver

I don't like stupid drivers. You don't either. You're there in traffic and somebody is doing something stupid -- or not doing anything when they should be doing something -- and you're thinking "What a stupid driver." Well, I ran into that the other day. And, it wasn't quite like anything I had ever encountered before.

I was in traffic. Not heavy traffic, but traffic nonetheless. There was a line of cars, and we were stopped at a red light. To my left was a lane of traffic going the same way.

I looked over to my left and noticed the driver was looking down towards her steering wheel. No, not to the steering wheel, but a little below the steering wheel. Not to her lap though. Bottom of the steering wheel. I couldn't see the phone in her hand, but you could tell. You could tell.

About that time, the brake lights on the car ahead of her went off, and the car ahead of her started to move. I watched her and she was still looking down. After a second or two, enough time for the car ahead of her to have moved a couple of car lengths, she glanced up and realized she was just sitting still in traffic with no one ahead of her. Only then did she move her car forward.

"What a stupid driver," I thought. I watched her for a second and just shook my head. I turned my head toward my passenger and was about to share my thoughts, when I saw I was receiving the most curious look. That's when I noticed traffic ahead out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to look forward to confirm what I was seeing.

That's when I discovered that the car in front of my had moved several car lengths by now and I was now the one sitting still, holding up traffic.

That look from my passenger? It was quietly saying "What a stupid driver."

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Capote

I've never been a particular fan of Truman Capote. I've read some of his stuff, and yes, he was a very good writer. He could put words to paper in a way that few others, if any, could. But, I wouldn't say I was a fan. I certainly didn't dislike his writing. Of course, the fact that he didn't publish much in my lifetime contributed to this.

When I thought of Truman Capote, I thought of the character I saw on TV, on The Tonight Show and other talk shows. An odd little man with a funny voice but with interesting words.

I remember reading In Cold Blood years ago. It was a fascinating read. Not an easy read, but it was a book that you wanted to keep reading. Capote knew how to put words to paper.

The movie was very good, too. It's not a movie I like to put on and watch very often. In fact, I've seen it twice. Once, a long time ago, and more recently, within the last week or so. I had some downtime wanted to watch a movie. I launched my streaming device, and without looking, started scanning through with the remote. It stopped on In Cold Blood.

"Well, there's the feel-good movie of the year," I thought. But, I pressed Play and started watching. That got me to thinking about that horrific crime and wondering just how true the movie was. Which led me to wonder how true the book was.

Okay, right to it: the book was mostly true. I think Capote filled in some blanks from what he thought was the truth, as best he understood it. As for the movie, it was a fairly faithful adaptation of the book.

The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards -- Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Music -- but didn't win any. The American Film Institute ranked it was one of the top ten courtroom dramas. Which is how it ended up in my library.

While looking into the Clutter murders, I picked up bits and pieces about the case, including finding a copy of the Perry Smith case file. That was an interesting find. Anyway, I ended up later watching the movie Capote.

The movie was good. I enjoyed it. Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his performance. But, the whole thing was the relationship between Capote and the killer Smith. And, as much as I liked the movie, I don't like it when "true" movies stretch the truth.

In the movie, Capote visited Smith a lot in prison. But in reality, he didn't. They wrote a lot, but Capote only visited Smith three times.




Capote was there for the execution, though. However, the movie had investigator Alvin Dewey there, and included a scene where Smith thanked Dewey for being there. However, Dewey's name isn't on the list of official witnesses. Capote's was.



Another variance from the truth, more disturbing in my mind, was the method in which the writer's decided to get around this fact: Capote bribing the warden to get access.

It is true that Capote did ask for access, but he didn't do it in person, but rather by letter.


Capote was turned down, by letter.


The idea that what Capote did to get the information from Smith to complete his research into the book was not, in the mind of the writers, good enough, but they had to stretch one bit of truth, then another to make the first stretching happen.

Little things like that bother me when a movie is supposed to be a true story. Of course, I understand little things may be necessary, but these aren't little things. Despite this, I did enjoy the movie. I just with they enjoyed the facts more.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

More movies than I realized

I've posted from time to time about the number of movies I have, particularly when I hit some milestone of some kind. But, I didn't realize just how many movies I had. And, to explain that, I'll be covering some stuff I've covered before. You've been warned.

A lot of background


Over the years, I've purchased movies in many different ways and from many different sources. I used to have a bunch of VHS tapes. I only have a few of those left, and most of those are part of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 collection. In fact, I think that's all I have left now. I gave the other VHS tapes away years ago.

I bought a lot of DVDs over the years, too. Most of what I buy anymore is still part of the MST3K collection. Occasionally, I'll buy a DVD if something is only available that way and has been only available that way for some time.

Then, one day, I bought a digital movie. From Apple's iTunes store. It was the movie "Unbreakable" and I bought it because it was on sale, and I wanted to see what the deal was with watching movies on my iPod. The answer: it was easy to do, but hard to see. I had one of those old wheel iPods.

My old iPod, from 2007

The experience wasn't great, because of the small screen, but the image was actually as big, relatively, as looking at the TV across the room, as the picture above shows. It just seemed smaller.

Amazon


Once I realized that I could watch digital movies, and I got comfortable with the idea, I began to purchase digital content. Most of the purchases coming from Amazon, since I could tie by Amazon account to my TiVo.

In late 2010, I bought an Apple TV. Not for me, actually, but so The Wife could play her music from her computer through the fancy speaker system we had tied to the TV. She loved it, and to this day, that's how she usually listens to music when she's at home. I bought a Roku for me, since it played Amazon content (Apple TV didn't at the time), and I was looking to cut the cord from cable. I did, and bought the occasional movie as my digital library slowly increased.

Enter Apple


As I mentioned, The Wife loved Apple TV, so I started buying some movies from the iTunes store. That made it easier for her to watch digital content, as the always had the TV on Apple TV. Yes, she used TiVo some, but after we cut the cord, she hardly picked up the TiVo remote, preferring to watch stuff from Apple TV.

I'd still buy most stuff from Amazon, since I was planning on Roku being the primary streaming device. But, she never really got into Roku. After a bit, I bought from whichever was cheaper for any particular movie, Apple or Amazon. If she wanted to watch it, and it was from Amazon, I'd do the switching of inputs to Roku and play the movie. She still preferred Apple TV.

VUDU


Later, Walmart decided they wanted a piece of the action. They launched their streaming service, called VUDU. It was just another way to buy streaming content, and there was an app for Roku. But, I didn't buy anything. Until I found out about Disc To Digital.

When it was launched, you could take your DVDs to Walmart, hand them to a clerk in the electronics section, and they'd take them and so some Walmart voodoo and you'd have the movies in your VUDU account. I took my Star Trek collection to Walmart and, sure enough, I was able to watch Star Trek movies from the VUDU app on the Roku.

They added an app for your PC or Mac that allowed you to insert the DVD yourself -- no more hauling DVDs up to the Walmart store -- and do the conversion yourself. They've since added the capability to do that from your phone using the bar code on the DVD case, but they've since removed it from iOS device -- still on Android though -- and requiring GPS enabled so people don't go up to the store and scan them there without buying the discs.

M-GO


Roku partnered with a company called M-Go, which was partly owned by Dreamworks, to enter the digital sales market. I bought a movie they had on sale -- Ender's Game -- and tried it out. It worked, but it brought nothing new to the table. Well, it was kinda integrated into Roku, but apart from that, no biggie. I don't think I bought anything else from M-Go.

It's no longer called M-Go, by the way. Fandango bought it in 2016, and it's now the service FandangoNOW. Works pretty much the same, though. Well, it works better, because the infrastructure was improved, but I don't know if Dreamworks did that, or if Fandango did that. Anyway, more reliable than it was.

Disney in the middle of it


During all this time, Disney introduced a service called Disney Movies Anywhere. The idea was that if you bought, say, a Disney movie from Google (which we'll talk more about in a bit) because you had an Android phone, but then got an iPhone, you'd lose your Disney movie, since you can't play Google movies on an iOS device. Or, if you bought a Disney movie from Apple for your iPhone, but then switched to Android, you couldn't play your iTunes content on Android.

To remedy that, Disney introduced Disney Movies Anywhere, that allowed you to sync across platforms. That meant you didn't have to buy a Disney movie more than once, if you switched platforms.

It also meant, if you bought from other services, such as Amazon, you'd be able to play your Disney movies on other participating platforms. And that was where it benefitted me. I had bought some Disney stuff from Amazon, and some Disney stuff from Apple. And, to watch any of it, I had to switch to whichever device supported that platform. With Disney Movies Anywhere, I didn't need to switch devices. A purchase from any of the participating platforms meant I had the movie on all the platforms.

Movies Anywhere


Disney Movies Anywhere no longer exists. It didn't exactly die so much as it expanded. It's now called Movies Anywhere. When they converted, all the Disney movies moved over, and other studios signed on. Not all studios, though. It's not a perfect service, but it's another step in the right direction. About half the movies I have are from a participating studio. That means that about half of my movies -- actually, 44% -- are tied in with Movies Anywhere. That means I can watch them from any of the participating services.

It also means that if I buy a movie that's in the Movies Anywhere library, no matter which service I purchase from, I can watch it via any of the services. Which means I can shop around and get the best price.

That's handy, because not all movies are the same price from all services. Occasionally, iTunes will run a movie for $5 which is $10-$20 from the other services. And, sometimes, VUDU will have a $5 sale that the others aren't running. Or Fandango Now will sell a movie for $5 while the other have it higher. Or Amazon. Or Google. Speaking of which...

Google


While I once had an Android phone before moving to an iPhone, I had never purchased any content from Google. That's now changed. Sure, I have an Android phone now -- I also have an iPhone for work, but we won't go into all that now -- but I've not done a lot of shopping from the Google Play store. Until recently.

I still don't buy a lot from Google, but I do shop around, and when I find something on sale that's also in Movies Anywhere, I'll buy it. I don't generally buy something from Google that's not Movies Anywhere, but every now and then I'll slip up.

Google has also given away movies for, I don't know, reasons I suppose. And the net effect is I have 4 movies from Google that I don't also have on iTunes.

More movies that I realized


This past week, I've been off work several days, and I've been under the weather. So, while sitting indoors, bored, and not able to see anyone lest I contaminate them, I grabbed my remote and fired up a spreadsheet. It was crunch time. As in crunching numbers. here's what I found.

Because of the occasional mistake -- buying something without ensuring it's part of Movies Anywhere -- or occasional promotion -- Google or other services giving away movies for reasons -- I have more movies than I realized I had.

In total, I have 175 movies ripped from DVD or download purchases from other sources -- Rifftrax, MST3K direct purchase, etc. I reduce that number from time to time by purchasing a digital copy that is then downloaded into iTunes on a computer that functions as my streaming server. I increase that number when I get a DVD of a movie I haven't purchased digitally. Those were part of my count the last time I posted a total video number.

The rest of the movies in my local library, 1,000 as I recently posted, were downloaded purchases from the iTunes store. That means I had 1,175 movies, closing in on 1,200. Or so I thought.

I noticed that I had a movie or two in Google that wasn't in my local library. There were some VUDU movies, too. And some Amazon content. So, I decided to catalog them all. That's when I discovered I didn't have 1,175 movies, but 1,194. So, there were 19 movies that were only available from a streaming service. Six were Amazon, nine were VUDU, and four were Google. There were actually more Amazon, VUDU, or Google, but some I also had on DVD and had ripped those. So, 19 streaming only movies.

I'll eventually get those into my local library. I'll purchase them from iTunes if they go on sale for $5. I may attempt to download them and rip them, as I have purchased them and have archival rights. But, I'm not a huge fan of that. Sure, I have the capability, and I do rip some DVDs, but I'd prefer to have them as part of a library that I can take with me. Since I have an iPad, then iTunes would be the preferred service.

Anyway, I'm a lot closer to 1,200 than I realized: 6 instead of 25. I'll hit that number one day. And bore you with all the details then.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas 2018

The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2

  1. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David
  2. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
  3. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
  4. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
  5. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
  6. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
  7. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
  8. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
  9. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
  10. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
  11. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Night Before Christmas (2018)

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

-- Clement Clarke Moore, 1822

Saturday, December 22, 2018

A Thousand iTunes Movies

1,000 iTunes movies
I've mentioned several times before about my building of a movie library. I've have most of my movies loaded onto a local server that allows me to play them on a TV. If I want to watch a movie, I just pick up the remote and find the movie.

My primary movie source is iTunes and Apple TV. I have multiple streaming devices -- Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, MiBox (Android TV) -- so I have options. But for playing local content, the option I went with is Apple TV and iTunes.

Sure, I could have gone Roku and Plex or some other local streaming server. But, quite honestly, the setup for iTunes and Apple TV is very easy: You launch iTunes, and log in to Home Sharing. That's it. Nothing else needs to be done. They've made it dead simple.

Now, my understanding is that Roku and Plex is relatively easy, but while I've never done it, I have picked up that it's a little more involved than that. So, if you were to want to stream local movies, Roku is a reasonable option of you don't have an Apple TV device. It's cheaper, that's for sure.

Anyway, I'm using iTunes as the server and Apple TV as the device. And, it's a pretty good setup. My mother uses a similar setup for her movies and TV shows -- think Murder, She Wrote and stuff like that.

Where it gets complicated is that I don't just have movies I bought from the iTunes store. I also have movies that I ripped out from DVD. Those are available locally; that is, in my own house on my own network. Stuff I bought from the iTunes store can be watched on my iPhone and iPad anywhere I go, but the movies ripped from DVD can't. They can only be watched on my local network; that is, while I'm at home.

Buying movies can get expensive, though. If you've ever bought a movie, you understand what I mean. One isn't so bad. Ten, well that's another matter. One hundred? Lots of money. One thousand? Yeah, that's some money spent, right there. So, I've decided to buy movies as cheaply as I can. That means when Apple puts them on sale, of course. But, it could also mean when Amazon, VUDU, Fandango Now, Google, or Microsoft puts them on sale, too.

"How do I do that?" you ask.

No really. Go ahead and ask. I'll wait.

* * *

Well, since you asked, I linked my iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Fandango Now, Google, and Microsoft accounts with Movies Anywhere. That's a service that grew out of Disney Movies Anywhere, which was a Disney thing that let you have your Disney movies on many different platforms without having to buy it for each platform. Well, it's expanded to several movie companies, but not all.

Yes, I've mentioned this before, but a little refresher might be helpful.

Anyway, when I find one of my services running a sale on movies -- hint, they all run sales all the time -- I'll look up the movie on Movies Anywhere and see if it's in that library. About half the ones I look up are. Well, maybe a little less than half, but close enough that I think "half are."

If the movie is in the Movies Anywhere library, I'll buy it from whichever has it on sale the cheapest. My target price is $5, although I'll sometimes go as high as $8. And, if it's not on sale, I'll usually wait for it to go on sale.

I'll also rip out movies from Netflix disks -- yeah, I know that's not what you're supposed to do -- and add it to my library, then replace it with a digital copy when it goes on sale.

This morning, for instance, I saw that The Green Mile was on sale for $5. I had ripped it from Netflix some time back, but this morning, I replaced it with a purchased copy from VUDU. So, when I say I'll replace a ripped copy I don't actually own with a copy I do own, I will. Sure, they'd rather I didn't do it that way, but it's what I do. If I stopped, I'd still buy it when it went on sale. I wouldn't purchase it any earlier if I stopped, and I don't purchase it any later by doing what I do.

I also will replace movies ripped from my purchased DVDs with digital copies when they go on sale. Also this morning, The Magnificent Seven (the good one from 1960) was on sale. I've had the DVD for years. And it was one of the first movies I ripped out from DVD. It finally went on sale, and I bought it from iTunes. Because they had the best price.

And that movie hit a milestone. It's the 1,000th iTunes movie I have. That's 1,000 movies I can stream from my iPhone or iPad if I want.

Number 999 was The Green Mile. When I bought it, I didn't notice that it was number 999. After all, I bought it from VUDU. But, since it was a Movies Anywhere movie, it added it to iTunes, bringing that total to 999. And, when I bought The Magnificent Seven, I didn't immediately notice it was number 1,000 in my iTunes purchases. Around lunchtime, I picked up my Apple TV remote and noticed it then.

I love that movie. It's one of my all-time favorites. And, until about a week ago, I had forgotten that I didn't own a digital copy. As I mentioned, it was one of the first movies I ripped out from a DVD I owned. It's been in my local library so long, I forget it was a DVD copy. When I couldn't find it on my iPhone, I rechecked, and sure enough, it was a DVD version. So, I added it to my list of "get this" movies. This morning I did.

I still have 175 movies I've ripped from DVD, mostly DVDs I already owned. And, one day, as they come available and go on sale, I'll replace them with digital versions. After Christmas.

Speaking of which, I probably should start my Christmas shopping soon. Heck, I got time. The mall's open late, right?

Monday, December 17, 2018

Gone Bowling

Georgia Southern vs Eastern Michigan
Photo: Mickey Welsh / The Montgomery Advertiser
I went to a football game this past weekend. And it was great.

The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl was in Montgomery, Alabama this past Saturday night, and I was one of the 17,710 people in the stands. I was there supporting the Georgia Southern Eagles as they took on the Eastern Michigan Eagles. And the Eagles won! Which Eagles? Well, I'm happy with the outcome, if that helps.

Georgia Southern has only been to two bowl games. They started up football -- restarted, actually, after program was halted during World War II -- in 1981, hiring Georgia Defensive Coordinator Erk Russell to start the team. Starting from nothing -- literally, Georgia Southern College (at the time) had to buy a football from the K-mart across from the college to have one for their first press conference announcing the hiring of Russell -- they started play in 1982, and in 1985 were Division 1-AA (now FCS) national champions. Georgia Southern won a total of six 1-AA national championships before transitioning to 1-A/FBS in 2014. They ended their FCS/1-AA era beating Florida. Have you ever seen videos and images making fun of the University of Florida for the two players blocking each other? That was the 2013 game against Georgia Southern.


After their coach left for Army -- Jeff Monken led Army to 10 wins this season -- they hired Willie Fritz to lead them into their first year in FCS/1-A. Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt Conference championship, and the next year, went to and won their first bowl game. However, the coach left for Tulane. The next two seasons were tough, with Georgia Southern falling to 5-7 in 2016 and 2-10 in 2017. They fired their coach mid-season last year, and promoted the interim to head coach for this year. Under Chad Lunsford, they improved from last year's 2-10 to a 10-3 record this year, including the win in the Camellia Bowl. Why the biggest turnaround in 2018 college football didn't get him considered for coach of the year honors is, well, baffling to me. But, hurray for Brian Kelley, I guess.

The win in Montgomery wasn't easy, though. Eastern Michigan, despite a 7-5 record, was a tough opponent. Other than a 15-point loss to Army, the other four losses were all by a touchdown or less, with two coming in overtime. They could have easily been 9-3, and possibly 11-1. And they played with a lot of heart and a lot of guts. They took the lead with 3:33 left in the game, on a fourth-down pass for a touchdown. However, they couldn't stop Georgia Southern from driving down to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired.

It was the only Division 1-A/FBS bowl game that was close. So far, easily the best bowl game, but there are a lot of bowl games left. Still, it will be one of the best of 2018.

I was happy to make it to Georgia Southern's bowl game, and thrilled with the win. But, I was thoroughly impressed with the team from Eastern Michigan. This was only the fourth bowl game in that school's history, and it had to be a heartbreaker. Kinda like the season has been for them: close, oh so close, but not able to finish.

If they get a couple of breaks, they could be champions of the MAC next year, if the team continues to play like they did this season and this past weekend.

I'm still thrilled with Georgia Southern's win. And I know that another game against Eastern Michigan would be a tough one. But, if it came next year as a rematch, but between two conference champions, well, that would be just fine with me.