January 28, 2009

Those Two Little Words...

Bacon. Pie.

I'm Just Talkin' Bout Liam!

I had occasion to see Taken, and I have to say...

Of all the bad motherfuckers in all of the action movies...Liam Neeson could just be the baddest. Hardcore...just hardcore.

It's not going to win any awards, I think, but I sure enjoyed watching it.

What The Hell??

Thanks to Doug Ross, I got a look at the details of The Stimulus Package. Here's a look at it from The Wall Street Journal. Doug calls it "The SS Titanic of Stimulus Packages." If only it were that good. This is like the cartoon version of the Titanic, where the ship itself stays up, and the entire world around it (i.e. us) sinks.

I've gone from worried to frightened in ten seconds flat. I'm nearly speechless.

Isn't this thing supposed to actually stimulate something? Besides my ire, that is. You know what this is like? This is like loaning money to relatives who claim to have trouble paying rent and grocery bills, only to find out later that they spent it on a Playstation 3.

Hat Tip: Infidelsarecool

What's In A Name? Maybe Three To Five With Good Behavior.

According to ScienceBlog (by way of FARK) young people with unpopular names are more likely to commit crimes.

"Fauntleroy Monkeypus! You put that flamethrower down! You hear me young man?"

Yeah, I could see that.

January 27, 2009

In Walks These Three Girls In Nothing But Bathing Suits...

Black bathing suits. John Updike, dead at 76. R.I.P.

Please Pull The Karma Over, Sir!

So I'm driving through a school zone today, and at a four-way stop a guy in an SUV runs the stop sign, cutting me off. In his attempt to completely ignore my existence, he apparently also completely ignored the cop car right behind me. Suck it, Scofflaw!

I live for that shit.

January 25, 2009

So What's Not To Hate?

I'm adding a link to I Hate The Media, In part, because of this.

UPDATE: Also adding The Patriot Room.

January 22, 2009

I'm Sorry, Blockbuster Online Customer Service; I Can't Hear You!

Must be because you have you have your head up your ass.

I'm a member of both Netflix and Blockbuster Online. Looks like I may have to drop Blockbuster. I've had a few problems with the films over the years, but lately it seems to be getting worse. And the customer service? Well, it all started when I noticed something wrong with my "recommendations...."

(Cue flashback harp music)

On both online sites, you rate movies you've seen and--based on your ratings--new movies you might like are suggested. At least that's how it's supposed to work. That's how it works on Netflix. On Blockbuster Online, though, about half of my shown recommendations were movies I had already rated. It really wasn't that big of a deal...until I got involved with Blockbuster's customer service. I sent them an e-mail alerting them to what was happening. My first response was this (I changed the tracking number):

------ Please do not remove your unique tracking number! ------

That's it. Nothing else. No message. Frankly it was a little creepy. Of course I wrote back to ask what the deal was. Then I got a response which included this:

Our system is designed to not recommend movies that have previously been rated by the customer. The recommendations area should only display non-previously rated movies confirmed by the stars being only blue (yellow would indicate that they've been rated.)

There is, however, a limitation to this feature. Once the customer has rated over 1,000 movies, this function is no longer available and the customer may see previously rated items.

There is an enhancement request to up this limit to 2,000 and we hope that will be completed sometime in the near future.

I again responded, letting them know that their system wasn't working the way it was supposed to and that I hadn't rated anywhere near 1,000 films.

From the next e-mail:

Your comments are taken very seriously and we welcome them as a valuable tool needed to improve the quality of our service. I will make sure to forward your feedback to the appropriate department for review.

"Your comments are taken very seriously," which means nothing. I waited for the next e-mail:

I apologize if your issue about the rating system in our website is still not being addressed properly. Since addressing the issue through e-mail is a bit complicated, I kindly advice you to contact us at our Customer service hotline at 1-866-692-2789, we are open from Mondays to Fridays 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Central standard time. Our customer service representative will be happy to assist you and guide you through the website. We will try and come up with a solution or an answer to the recommendations issue in the websiste. We kindly appreciate your patience and understanding.

This was the nicest response yet, but seemed to still be foisting me onto someone else. I grabbed my phone.

After being on hold for about 20 minutes, listening to a recording ("We take your calls very seriously...") I finally got an agent who spoke what I'm pretty sure was English, as I recognized a few words. I briefly explained the problem, at which point she put me on hold again for five more minutes. When she came back, she told me with what I can only assume was a straight face that Blockbuster doesn't use personal recommendations. I explained to her that a previous e-mail from them explained to me that they did indeed have them. This began a strange dance where she would repeat my problem back to me ("You are saying that...") and after I affirmed the problem, she would repeat her claim that there were no recommendations. I eventually gave up, and she asked me if I would care to participate in a satisfaction survey.

You bet your ass I wanted to.

The next thing I know, I'm listening to another recording, asking me to enter my agent number followed by the number I want to transfer my customer to. Over and over and over again. Apparently she couldn't ever transfer me properly.

What started as a non-issue had grown into an "I'm pissed off at your complete lack of competence" issue. I sent yet another e-mail. This one contained this little gem from the Blockbuster help web page on recommendations:

To give you personalized recommendations, we need to know what you think about the titles you've already seen. Start rating movies and let us know what you love and what's not your style....The more movies you rate, the better we are st[sic] recommending titles that you're sure to like. Once you've rated at least 20 movies, we'll be able to provide personalized recommendations. [emphasis mine]

I also pointed out the typo. You'd think that a big company like Blockbuster could afford to hire people to find and correct those kinds of errors. I thought so, too, until I got the latest e-mail today. If anyone can figure out what this means, please let me know:

I am sorry to learn that you were having concern with the personalized recommendation in our movies in our website. I am glad that you have informed us of your concern. The star ratings or personalized recommendation in our website was replaced by the shopping cart. Because majority of our customer is asking for it because of the convenience on purchasing movies on line. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that this concern brought to you.

It was then I began to suspect that it was not a real person answering my e-mails, but one of those computer programs that's designed to sound like an actual person. I'm going to try including the phrase "open the pod bay doors" in my next e-mail and see what happens.

And here's the kicker....

Today the personal recommendation function that I've twice been told doesn't exist is working fine.

Yet Another Ceremony I Won't Be Watching...

I've given up on watching the various Hollywood awards ceremonies. Looks like this year will be no exception. While I am glad that Mickey Rourke got nominated, I have some issues with the other choices. First of all, nothing from Gran Torino? Maybe it's a slight to Clint for his (sometimes vocal) politics? Nah, that would never happen, right? In addition, although I have to see Benjamin Button for myself, everyone I've talked to has been...I guess "underwhelmed" is as good a term as any. And these are people whose opinions I trust when it comes to film.

UPDATE: Ken has a few choice things to say. Check the comments section for more from me.

UPDATE #2: Does anyone besides me think it's unusual that none of the Best Picture noms were in general release before mid-November or so? I know studios schedule the films they feel will be contenders that way, but not one from earlier in the year was worthy? It reminds me of those awful "Top 20 Whatevers of All Time" lists where nearly all of the entries are from the past couple of years. I hate those lists.

January 17, 2009

More Modifications

I think, anyway. I saw this picture, and I can't tell if this is an optical illusion, or a case of retouching gone awry. It's a picture of actress Danica McKeller. Take a look at her right leg...

That's right...you can't. It doesn't seem to be there. It could, as I said, be an optical illusion, but there doesn't seem to be enough space between her left foot and the wall behind her to hide her right one. Nor does that dress seem to be loose enough for her to have lifted her leg behind her (for whatever reason). Comments?

A (Modified) Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Megan Fox is beautiful, no doubt about it, but sometimes even the beautiful get some help. You can see from these two photos the adjustments that were made, most notably removing the edge of the tattoo on her arm, giving her more cleavage, and making her right arm thinner. Here's photo 1:

And the touched up photo 2:

And I put together a little animated GIF file to help you see the changes. (Just click on it.)

It's not often I get to inform AND post pictures of scantily-clad actresses. Life is good.

CLARIFICATION: I'm not the one who made these changes. I'm not sure where or for whom they were taken. My understanding is that the altered image was the one used and the other was the original photo as taken. My point was to show how nit-picky the media can be with their retouching of photos.

January 15, 2009

Where's The Happy Medium?

The other day, I noticed that the finance charge on one of my credit cards had gotten a lot higher, despite the fact that the balance on the card had not. The bank shall remain nameless. (It rhymes with Swashington Smutual.) Upon further investigation a noticed that my interest rate on the card had just about doubled. Determined to get to the bottom of things I called dear 'ol SS Bank and asked them about it. All the representative could tell me on the phone was that it had gone up, and apparently I was sent a notice, which gave me the opportunity to avoid the increase, but only by closing the account. I never got the notice, as far as I know.

A short time later, I received a letter from SS which said, basically, "We appreciate your business, but you represent an 'increased risk.'" Now, as I told the representative on the phone, I've never paid the bill late, I've always paid more than the minimum due, twice in the past year, I've paid off the complete balance (which has never been more than $1,500), and in the last six months, my salary has increased about $10,000. My credit score hovers somewhere around 700, give or take. I have to wonder: Where's the 'increased risk'?

The banks are in the mess they're in because they decided it would be a good idea to loan money to...well...anyone and everyone, regardless of circumstances. Then the roof caved in, and they demanded money from the government, which they got. Now it seems like they've gone too far the other way: they've got their money and they're sitting on it. The only people who are going to be able to get credit are the people who won't need to ask, it seems. I know, I know...the evidence is anectdotal. But I've heard a number of stories like mine, of rates increased like a thief in the night for the thinnest of reasons. I've also heard stories of people who are denied credit, who probably shouldn't be.

Can't the banks find a happy medium? You don't have to give the money away like lollipops, but you don't have to pile it in your mattress and sleep on it, either. In fact, the latter option seems about as dangerous to the economy as the former, considering the situation we're in. No credit to buy cars, houses, televisions, etc. would--I think--contribute even more to a recession/depression. But I'm no economist, so who knows. I do have one last question, though...

If we're a nation built on credit, and most of us have credit bills, then what happens if we receive our "stimulus" payment promised by our soon-to-be-president, and most of us spend that money on those credit bills, only to find the banks still aren't giving credit, or have increased the rates on the credit we already have? Will that "stimulate" anything at all?

If you're wondering about my situation, here's what happened: I called them back to give them an opportunity to correct the problem, which they passed up. So, I made a balance transfer to a card from another bank (which had a MUCH lower rate), and sent a letter to SS bank, telling them that while I have appreciated doing business with them, doubling my interest rate without adequate notification represents too much of an increased risk for me to continue to do so.

I still smile when I think about it.

January 14, 2009

Tis The Season

There's a new holiday in town...and you best get to celebratin' it. Like it or not, today is "Talk Like Jack Bauer Day." Add it to your yearly calenders. What's that? You don't want to?

"Damn it! We're running out of time! That's not the smart play here...you know I'm right."

You can also keep track of Jack and his wacky shenanigans here.

Thanks to The Insurrectionist for the heads up.

January 13, 2009

Hey, You Know What...?

Gil Grissom is leaving CSI. I know this because I've seen the commercial EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND TIMES!!!!

I like William Peterson, but for the love of God, go already!

January 12, 2009

For All You Giants Fans Out There...

Now that the Super Bowl is almost upon us, and the Giants are out of it, I thought this would help ease the pain a little. The voice-over is from an interview in which Tom Brady reacts to Plaxico "That's my gun, but I'm still happy to see you" Burress's prediction that the Giants would win the Super Bowl 23-17. It could be the greatest homemade sports video ever.

Of course, Brady wasn't the only one to react that way. ESPN had something to say about it.

(In case you were under a rock last year, the Patriots couldn't manage even 17 points. They lost to the Giants, 17-14.)