BvS in 4DX

I went to see Batman vs Superman on Sunday. In 4DX. I took Kevin and his girlfriend to Gurnee Mills, and I had a few hours to kill, so I went to see a movie. I went in having no idea what the heck a “4DX” movie was, I was just curious.

As it turned out, it was a blast…Quite literally! The price is even a kick in the nuts, as it turns out! I reluctantly sprung for the $19 ticket, saying to myself “Oh, this BETTER be good…” I skipped the snacks to make up the difference and just bought a small drink. Turns out I should have skipped that too–since I ended up WEARING half of it! If you’ve been to Six Flags, you have more than likely experienced the Space Shuttle simulation–with the moving, shaking seats and the huge screen and immersive experience. THAT is what 4DX is like, except it lasts for the entire length of the movie–two and a half hours! This includes shaking and rumbling seats, surround sound AND lighting–during lightning and explosions the entire theater flashes, wind, and even misting–yes, when it rains, or someone on-screen gets splashed, YOU do too!

Holding onto my drink and trying to find just the right “safe” time to take a sip, was an ordeal in itself! At several points I even had to grab onto my cell phone and glasses which were in the cup holder attached to the seat, because I thought they might fly out of the holder and onto the floor! Explosions were the most jarring, including gunshots, giving me quite the kick at times. You certainly can’t relax and fall asleep in one of THESE movies, that’s for sure!

A few times, I even got a bit queasy when the camera, often floating above the action, made the seat “float” through the air very slowly, and the accompanying breeze added to the effect perfectly, so it really felt like I was floating along with the camera. Very cool effect–enough to make me just a teeny bit ill.

Since I have a bad eye, I’m guessing much of the 3D impact was lost on me, but I could tell they tried hard, and the movie looked great with the glasses on, though, as always with me watching 3D, my eyes eventually began to water a few times.

When it was all over, it felt like I had spent an entire three hours on a Six Flags ride! I was actually exhausted. I thought the movie itself was good, but because it was my first time in a 4DX theater, all of the effects were a bit overwhelming and distracted me from focusing on the movie itself at several key times. I guess I’m going to have to go see it again–maybe next time at a standard theater so I can follow the story.

Oh, and when you see this movie in 4DX, they say the effects are actually enhanced for the “team” you are supporting. Sunday was “Team Batman”, so the effects from Batman were enhanced more than for Superman. Good thing too, because…well…I’d better stop right here before I say too much… Go see it for yourself.  Before someone spoils it for you.

New Stephen King short story for Halloween

Bazaar_of_Bad_DreamsI’m anxiously waiting for Stephen King’s new book of short stories – The Bazaar of Bad Dreams to be released on 11/03/15.  Until then though, there’s a short story by him on the New Yorker website that I haven’t read yet:  Premium Harmony – by Stephen King.

And here’s a list of all of the stories/articles he’s published in the New Yorker in the past…but some may require a New Yorker account in order to read.

 

Spotify, you had me, then you lost me

Well, I’ve had it. Spotify and I were getting along just fine up until today. Then I started getting this popup message on my phone:

Syncing Error
I have over 10GB of space free on my phone–plenty of room for more music, and I just want a decent selection of my favorite music to be able to listen to anywhere, offline. I swear I only have a few dozen albums download onto my phone–definitely nowhere near what I would consider excessive. After wiping Spotify completely from my phone in frustration, I noted there was around 11GB of music that freed up, so I assume that’s how much space it consumed. I had it set to download in high quality. I think that’s ridiculous though. They have all the copy protection in place, allowing you to download seemingly unlimited music locally, and you have to check-in with Spotify at least once every 30 days to make sure your account is still valid, and the music is in a proprietary format no other media player can use. The system works. So why limit the number of downloads??? Nothing says anything at all about a limit on the amount of music you can download. You just get the error when you hit the barrier. There is no way I’m going to start juggling artists and albums to work with this limitation. I had enough of an issue just trying to get “Local Files” to let me put my personal music (the albums I couldn’t find in Spotify) into the Spotify app on my phone–which I still can’t see to find any time I try to search for a song or artist in my local files.

Well, at least I found out before my 30-day free trial was up, so it won’t end up costing me anything. I just wonder how many other users ended up paying for months or years, THEN ran into this wall! After googling the error message, I now see that the apparent limit is 3,333 songs per device or 10,000 songs total on your account. Agh.

I am not back to my old standby, which I never get rid of and always seem to end up coming back to: Subsonic – my personal music server, and DSub, a great Android client for Subsonic. No more limits on my downloads, except for free space, and all my music is mp3 and unprotected, so I can even access it with other apps that support MP3s. Once side benefit to this is that my favorite Alarm Clock (Alarm Clock Xtreme – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.alarmclock.xtreme&hl=en) now works properly again, allowing me to choose any artist or album to randomly wake up to each morning–very slowly ascending in volume, so I can turn it off before it gets too loud and wakes up the rest of the family!

Bye bye Spotify!

Spotify Review

I’m trying out Spotify. After hearing so many good things about it, and having looked at a few other streaming music services, I thought I’d give this one a shot. I’m already past my 7-day trial, and now on my first free 30 days. I’m hoping to know definitively, by the time it comes to charge me the first time, whether I’m going to stick with it or go back. So far, here’s what I’ve learned:  Spotify seems to have the largest music library out of all of the streaming music services–or at least pretty close–and it’s definitely the most popular.

The Good: I love the 12-second cross-fade. I haven’t seen this feature since my old MediaMonkey days, and I really like it. It sort of feels like a DJ-blended mix when I listen this way, smoothly fading between each song. Then there’s the simple “SAVE” button on every album, which saves it to “My Music” instantly, making it easy to find anything I grab when browsing their gazillion tracks. And once you “Save” an album, the option to make it “Available Offline” appears as a toggle switch, which results in the album downloading to your device locally. You can even stay offline for up to 30 days before you have to go online again, at least to “check in” to make sure you’re still a Spotify member. Very nice. It seems they’ve got both solutions (the ability to offer their vast library to their members available for STREAMING as well as offer local downloading and saving of any content for the members who prefer to download–or can’t afford to constantly stream). The interface is pretty solid with a nice layout and options. And I believe Spotify has the largest music selection out of all of the current streaming services, so it’s probably the best one to go with, if I stick with a streaming service.

The Not-So-Bad: Just after I signed up, I spot-checked some of my old classics, just to test the waters. For the most part, everything was there and easy to find. I had an issue with a few albums though, and this one kinda bugs me: I searched for Hootie & The Blowfish’s album “Cracked Rear View”, as this is an old favorite of mine. I couldn’t find the album, though there were other Hootie songs and one other album I found, as well as a few of the songs from Cracked Rear View on other albums. So I figured out how to do “Local Files” on the PC, I dropped my old copy of Cracked Rear View into it, then created a playlist that contained the album, which showed up on my phone in Spotify, then I was able to stream and/or download it. That worked ok, but the very next day, I played around some more, and there was Cracked Rear View, in Spotify, like it had always been there. I removed it from my “Local Files”, and it’s on Spotify now. Was that just a weird coincidence, or does Spotify just monitor user searches and Local Files and act on what they find really really quickly??? If it’s the latter, that would be amazing to learn. Wow, that would be amazing. Now I’m anxious to find another one that’s missing and do the exact same thing just to prove it was a coincidence. So that’s not so bad.

The Bad: I have over 67,000 local songs and audiobooks, all purchased as MP3’s, extracted from CDs, or converted from other formats, accumulated over the years. To quickly answer my next question, I pointed “Local Files” on my PC to my entire music section. I gave it a full day to add, catalog and index it all, but it failed miserably. Spotify on my PC froze up each time I clicked on Local Folders to view them, sometimes it even worked, somewhat, and displayed the tracks, but I wasn’t able to search them so they were pretty much useless to work with. If I were going to use “Local Files”, I would have to pick and choose the exact albums to make available to Spotify. I think 67,000 songs is way too much for it to handle at this time. One other feature that most other music players that I’ve used on my android device (and Audible) have is the ability for the app to pause or at least lower its volume when it loses temporary “focus”–this is when a notification sound occurs on the system, or another application uses the audio momentarily, such as Runtastic, which has a voice coach that announces my workout progress every so often while I walk. Spotify doesn’t have this feature, and I’ve grown very fond of it over the years with all my other apps. It makes them sort of “cooperate” with each other instead of fighting for the audio all at the same volume.

So, overall, I’m fairly impressed. It has it’s flaws, but nothing so bad I find it unusable. I’ll continue giving it a solid workout for a couple more weeks before they take their first $9.99 out of my wallet.

If you use or have used Spotify, I welcome your input, tips, suggestions and/or recommendations! Thanks!

Avengers: Age of James Spader

spadertronKevin and I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron on Sunday. It was great, but I had a couple minor issues — one with the movie, one with the seating. First, the seating. We usually always go to a new movie after it’s been out a week or two, so there’s no crowd and the seating is much better. This is what we did in this case. The movie has been out a couple weeks now, so we figured we were go to go. Wrong. I guess it says something about the popularity of Marvel movies, but it was still a nearly packed theater! We like to slip a seat and put our shared tub of popcorn between us, and I like to use both left and right cup holders (one for my phone, one for my drink) and put my sweater or coat in the other seat next to me. Well, I lost my sweater seat and extra cup holder to someone needing a seat at the last minute. Luckily we were able to keep our popcorn seat, so it could have been worse I guess.  As it was I had to hold my left arm to keep it from crowding the person sitting next to me, and had to force my left leg to stay in my seat area, which caused a bit of discomfort by the middle of the movie and through the end of it. But enough about the seating.

The movie was awesome and I only found one thing I didn’t like. The casting of James Spader as Ultron. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of James Spader–and that’s the root for the issue. Spader’s voice is all that’s used in the movie, you don’t actually see him, but his voice is so distinct and recognizable it pulled me out of the movie fantasy. I found my self thinking less “this is a huge, intelligent robot with a computerized voice” and more “hey, I know that voice from Boston Legal, The Practice, and what else was it…ummm…yeah, that new series I haven’t watched at all yet…what was the name of it… umm… ah yes, The Blacklist!” I just couldn’t think of him as a robot. But maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, excellent movie, awesome non-stop action, good humor mixed in perfectly, and the inevitable Stan Lee cameo always comes through as great, and funny, every time. Go see it. Or, better yet, wait for the Blu-Ray and watch it in the comfort of your own home, in HD, where you have room for your drink, popcorn, and perfect leg room! I guess the still-packed theater after being out a couple weeks is just another indication of how good the movie is though.  That very rarely happens to us when going to see a movie in Kenosha.

Self-Nesting

Socself-nestks, like myself, has a routine every morning.  Right after I get up, he’s waiting patiently to go outside.  He does his business, and in a few minutes (longer if it’s warm out) he’s knocking on the door to come in.  Once he’s in the house, the routine continues to the next step.  He waits patiently, once again, watching everything I do.  He’s waiting to be “bundled”.  I have him trained for the word “Nest”.  He expects a blanket–one of HIS blankets–to be laid out smoothly for him, then he hops in and gets comfortable, and I wrap him up tightly within it, with just his head peeking out of the roll.  From that point he is fully content for hours, or until he forced from his nest by other matters or distractions.  When I saw this animated GIF today, I got quite a kick out of it!  If I could only train Socks to do this, that’s one less chore I’d have to do each morning!  But then again, I enjoy it, so I actually wouldn’t want to stop doing it anyway… Nevermind, Socks.

Oscars

lego oscarDid you watch the Oscars? What a mess. I thought the host was terrible–I hate Neil Patrick Harris, and he was as bad as I figured.  Not funny at all, and some pretty insulting jokes at times. His opening number had some great effects in it, making it look like it was live, but it was all pre-configured to look that way. Nothing else on the show impressed me.  Except the Lego Oscars that were handed out during the performance of “Everything is Awesome” from the Lego movie.  Those looked 3D printed.  Now I’m wondering if they’re on thingiverse.com.

And the Oscar everyone waits for–Best Picture — always at the very end of the show – was the final nail in the coffin: Birdman.  Seriously??? I fell asleep halfway through that movie and never got around to finishing it, it just didn’t make much sense to me. I guess I should have tried–and probably will now, just to see what happened that made it worthy of the best picture Oscar.  American Sniper won far too few awards, and Grand Budapest Hotel won far too many awards. Gawd, THAT movie was a real comedic farce. The goofy sets and comical acting was like watching the game “Clue” come to life. So many backgrounds and sets were so fake-looking I didn’t know if they were SUPPOSED to look like that, or if it was just really poorly made.  Just a ridiculously goofy movie.

And Neil Patrick Harris in his tidy whities?  Come on, I know it was a reference to Birdman, but it was still just as lame as the rest of his performance and just seemed embarrassing.  That’s about all I can say.  Since the Oscars are pretty much my “SuperBowl” for the year (I prefer the Oscars over the actual SuperBowl, and watch the SuperBowl just for the commercials), I would say this year it was just as disappointing and the playoff game that lost the Packers this year’s championship.  Just a lame year all the way around I guess.  Better luck next time!

Now I’m off to see if I can get through Birdman without falling into a near-coma again… Wish me luck!

Photomosaic of Socks

SocksPosterI created a 3-foot posted of Socks for the wall above my desk using 10,000+ photos I had on my PC as the palette.  I created it with Andrea Modaic Professional, then loaded the final image into CorelDraw and printed it as a 3-foot poster on tiled sheets of standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper.  The hardest part was using scissors to trim the proper edges, and align and tape them, but it was fun.  If you’d like to see the actual poster, up close, here’s the actual image, full size.   I gave it the option to NOT re-use any images (but some are burst shots, to they LOOK very similar) and gave it permission to horizontally flip images, but not to rotate them.  And if you’re interested in the rest of the geeky details, here they are:  Socks Mosaic Details

 

Boyhood, The Beatles and The Black Album

This holiday season we watched a movie called “Boyhood”.  One of the many great things about the movie is how it reflects many aspects of life, and in this case, passing down musical taste from generation to generation. In one scene in the movie, Ethan Hawke’s father character describes to his son (played by Ellar Coltrane) “The Black Album.” What is it? Basically, what we’re describing, a greatest hits mix-tape and “secret” Beatles record which is essentially a collection of all the best solo Beatle songs – Songs performed by all 4 Beatles BEFORE or AFTER The actual Beatles, either when they were solo or in other bands. Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater came up with the track list together. If you’ve never delved in very deep with Beatles solo albums and wished there was one more Beatles record after Let It Be, well this it the playlist for you. The whole thing acts as a mixtape that Ethan Hawke writes for his son in the movie. And there’s even liner notes that begin:

“Mason,
I wanted to give you something for your birthday that money couldn’t buy, something that only a father could give a son, like a family heirloom.  This is the best I could do. Apologies in advance. I present to you: THE BEATLES’ BLACK ALBUM.”

The Beatles - The Black AlbumAfter looking at the playlist, I drooled. I wanted this. So I spent a few days over my Christmas/New Years holiday vacation this year and actually put the REAL CDs together. I was shocked to find I was only missing 3 songs! I bought those on Amazon.com and added them to complete the albums. I spent a whopping $1.87! Then I even found a cover art image on the internet that looked perfect, and changed the cover art and metatags for the album name so it matched the album info on every track. Here’s the album cover:

I used MediaMonkey for this, which is awesome for just such mass-changes. It worked out beautifully and I now have this 3-CD set on my phone to play any time I want to. Here’s the track list if you’re interested:

Disc 1:
1. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Band on the Run”
2. George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord”
3. John Lennon feat. The Flux Fiddlers & the Plastic Ono Band, “Jealous Guy”
4. Ringo Starr, “Photograph”
5. John Lennon, “How?”
6. Paul McCartney, “Every Night”
7. George Harrison, “Blow Away”
8. Paul McCartney, “Maybe I’m Amazed”
9. John Lennon, “Woman”
10.Paul McCartney & Wings, “Jet”
11. John Lennon, “Stand by Me”
12. Ringo Starr, “No No Song”
13. Paul McCartney, “Junk”
14. John Lennon, “Love”
15. Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney, “The Back Seat of My Car”
16. John Lennon, “Watching the Wheels”
17. John Lennon, “Mind Games”
18. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Bluebird”
19. John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” 20. George Harrison, “What Is Life”

Disc 2:
1. John Lennon, “God”
2. Wings, “Listen to What the Man Said”
3. John Lennon, “Crippled Inside”
4. Ringo Starr, “You’re Sixteen You’re Beautiful (And You’re Mine)”
5. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Let Me Roll It”
6. John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band, “Power to the People”
7. Paul McCartney, “Another Day”
8. George Harrison, “If Not For You (2001 Digital Remaster)”
9. John Lennon, “(Just Like) Starting Over”
10. Wings, “Let ‘Em In”
11. John Lennon, “Mother”
12. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Helen Wheels”
13. John Lennon, “I Found Out”
14. Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney, “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey”
15. John Lennon, Yoko Ono & The Plastic Ono Band, “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)”
15. George Harrison, “Not Guilty (2004 Digital Remaster)”
16. Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney, “Heart of the Country”
17. John Lennon, “Oh Yoko!”
18. Wings, “Mull of Kintyre”
19. Ringo Starr, “It Don’t Come Easy”

Disc 3:
1. John Lennon, “Grow Old With Me (2010 Remaster)”
2. Wings, “Silly Love Songs”
3. The Beatles, “Real Love”
4. Paul McCartney & Wings, “My Love”
5. John Lennon, “Oh My Love”
6. George Harrison, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”
7. Paul McCartney, “Pipes of Peace”
8. John Lennon, “Imagine”
9. Paul McCartney, “Here Today”
10. George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass”
11. Paul McCartney, “And I Love Her (Live on MTV Unplugged)”

Mr. Mercedes

Mr Mercedes book cover

I just finished reading the Stephen King audiobook, Mr. Mercedes. It was awesome! Definitely a great audiobook that kept me in the car longer, Ingressing a lot more as a result, as I listened to it over the past couple weeks.  During this time I found out that the anonymous chat site used extensively in the book by Mr Mercedes and Bill Hodges is actually a real site!  Instead of writing my own description of what the book is about, I stole this from Google, who knows all:

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.