Friday, December 30, 2011

Ebert on Going to the Movies

Roger Ebert has posted his thoughts on why movies are losing money. I heartily agree with #4, refreshment prices. At the theater we go to in Charlotte it costs $12 for a medium soda and medium popcorn. I understand there will be some markup whenever you attend a concert or a movie but, Jesus Christ, $12 for a frickin' soda and some popcorn?!?!? It's not even good popcorn, they don't pop it there, they poor it out of a goddamn plastic bag. C'mon, meet us halfway here. I'll pay you $6 for a soda and some popcorn. I am going to start sneaking food in again.

He has a good point on #5. My big TV and surround sound system at home give us a pretty good show when we have a movie night. 40 inches of LCD goodness augmented by 200 watts from five large speakers? My home theater kicks it. My favorite new advertisement at the theater now is shown right before the trailers start. This new add starts out showing big loud action scenes at high volume. The screen slowly shrinks in size while the audio also loses quality. The screen morphs down into a flat screen TV and the text, "Go big or go home" appears on the screen. Yeah, that's good marketing, insult my home theater system while I am sitting in your theater. Screw you, hippy, my home theater kicks it, as I said just a second ago.

One thing about going to the movies Ebert didn't mention was the trailers. I like trailers as much as anybody, I even watch them on demand on my TV at home but when a movie is advertised as starting at 1:20 and doesn't start until 1:40 we have a problem. I find it insulting that I am essentially forced to watch 20 minutes of advertisements before I see the feature I paid to see. I am a paying customer and more than three or four trailers is an abuse by the company I contracted with to entertain me. The same thing happens when you purchase a DVD. When you buy a DVD you have to skip through several commercials. It's a big "Up yours" by the manufacturer of the DVD. "Hey," they say, "you paid $24.99 for this new Bluray DVD? Well, before you can watch what you paid to watch here's twenty minutes of shit you could give two shits about." It's insulting. You know what happens when you steal a movie off the internet? You can watch as soon as you fire it up. How about that, bootleggers treat their clients with more politeness than the movie industry.

It's good to see someone with the prestige of Roger Ebert come out and contradict the nonsense we here from the industry concerning pirating of movies. Their numbers are inflated and their attempts to push through heavy-handed legislation just because they are struggling to compete in a digital world are unfair to their customers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Nemesis Gives me a Break

Golf in the winter! What says living in the Carolinas more succinctly than "golf in the winter?" Of course in the summer nothing says living in the Carolinas more succinctly than "unable to golf after noon or you'll die of heat stroke" but you take the good with the bad. Hole #16 at Renaissance Golf Course here in Charlotte is a par 5. You can see of rough view of it here. 16 is a good driving hole since you hit off an elevated tee. Who doesn't enjoy hitting off an elevated tee? If you get a decent tee shot your next shot is going to be a layup on this hole. You will be around 200 yards from the green and unless you're paid to play golf you aren't going to drop a ball on that green because it has a creek running in front of it. If you don't get a decent drive you'll have trees on your right, between you and the drop area. If that is the case you'll be playing for bogey. After a decent second shot you will have around 50 to 100 yards to the hole. This shot isn't too hard but that creek in the front and the swamp beyond the hole make the green look mighty small. There are a couple of bunkers on the back side of the green that can save a long shot if it's not coming in too hot.

Yesterday I parred this hole for the first time. If you know my game, my parring a hole anywhere at any time is a bit of a miracle. This hole has especially been a beast. The drop area in front of the green is essentially a narrow peninsula and you have little room for error. As my friend Jon says, "It takes three good shots" to get off this hole without sacrificing a few strokes. That is what makes this hole so tough. When you know your margin for error is very small then the golf shots just get harder. That is the beauty of the game, the easiest shot in the world is the hardest if you absolutely have to hit it like you always do and know you can. Four foot putts with no break for par are the worst.

The white tees were about 20 yards ahead of where they were located the last time I played there and that helped me a lot on my drive. I also got lucky with my drive. I had been driving the ball better than usual, I have found that slowing that back swing down to a crawl really helps me get the club face closed when I swing. My usual slice from hell was lurking there but I kept it at bay for most of the day. This drive the ball did slice some but the fairway has a hill on the left side and the ball rode that back down to the fairway. This put me on the left side of the fairway, just short of the bunkers. I took a healthy cut with my 8 iron and found my self on the left side of the drop area around 100 yards from the hole. My pitching wedge is money with a full swing from 110 yards but I was afraid to take anything off the swing. I decided I'd rather go long into the bunkers beyond the green rather than land in the creek. I took a full swing and took a lot of turf with me. "Shit!" I said, thinking I had chunked the ball. But, I hadn't chunked. I caught enough of the ball it went up like it should and dropped about 15 feet to the right of the hole. I lagged the ball up to about three and tapped it in. A bloody miracle. I am sure the next time I go back #16 will have me for lunch again but until then I am victorious. It is such a good feeling to walk off a green with a good score, it'll keep you coming back. You could be ass all day up to that point and ass the place up for the rest of the day afterward but, as long as you get that one string of good shots, you'll be back.

This is one reason I am really starting to enjoy playing at Renaissance. Sunset Hills is essentially a learning course. You don't really have to think too much about your shots and errant shots aren't punished too badly. When you are preparing for a day at Sunset there aren't too many holes you think about as you go in. The par 3 over a pond is the only hole I really anticipate. With Renaissance there are several holes on my mind. Some I love and some I dread. The new Revolution has that potential but right now the fairways are still too immature to give consistent challenging play. Renaissance has some issues also. The greens are pretty rough overall and there is trouble with drainage (which may be something they'll never be able to control since the course is built on a landfill) and the $40 green fee is too high considering (we played for $25 with a online deal).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Charlotte Landmarks

The Mexican restaurant that used to be a seafood restaurant. Located at the intersection of Archdale and Nations Ford Rd.
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The Bojangles Coliseum. It opened in 1955 and for a while it was considered quite an engineering marvel. People used to drive to town from around the local area just to see it. Great place to see a concert. Until 1957 it was the largest dome in the world.
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The place I get my car fixed. Autoready. Owned by A.J. He's good and he's honest.
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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

A friend recently posted on her Tumblr a description of an incident where a friend of hers says something unfortunate in front of another good friend of hers who is gay. She posted she was going to cut him some slack because he had been drinking and isn’t homophobic, he just let something slip that would have gone unnoticed at a sports bar with his buddies. Timing is everything.

After reading that I immediately thought of the two times I did the same thing. At least the two times that I remember. I am sure there are other times I have said something awkward or insensitive that I didn’t even notice. I may have done it today. I am not counting the times I intentionally said something inappropriate.

The first incident that came to mind happened while I was stationed on Okinawa while in the Marines. This was in the first couple of months of my tour there while during the first year of my four year stint. I remember sitting in a room with a mixed group of Marines watching wrestling. One of the wrestlers was black and he was at the point of the match where he had been getting beat up and he was now getting his second wind and going through the standard wrestling comeback. My observation announced to the room was, “He’s big, he’s black and he’s pissed.” No one laughed or even looked at me. After about two seconds I realized why and I could have died. I remember not rushing out of the room. I think the tensioned eased after a while and I made a dignified exit as soon as I could.

The other happened a few years ago with a library employee and friend who is Jewish. I was describing him this character that comes into my library a lot. The library user is a short adult autistic who even without the autism and the black rimmed glasses would at best be described as nerdy. I was searching for a word to describe this guy and the word I was looking for was nebbish. I just couldn’t find the word in my head so how did I describe this guy to Jewish friend? I said, “He’s a short kinda Jewish lookin’ guy.” How dumb am I? Really? Jewish lookin’ guy? Am I Mel Gibson? My friend, to his credit, let it slide.

At least I haven’t had an incident similar to what happened to Randy in that Southpark episode.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Christmas Eve

Back around 1994 I was attending UNC-Charlotte, working on that coveted Bachelor’s in English, and renting a room from a co-worker. The whole thing didn’t go well and I only lasted there about nine months before I got my first real apartment at the now condominiumized Colonial Park.

It’s Christmas eve and my family had just moved back to Michigan in July or August. At this point I still didn’t know a lot of people in Charlotte and I was spending Christmas essentially alone. It wasn’t really a big deal to me. The four years I spent in the Marines I only came home for the holidays once and that was during the first six months of my enlistment and only because the communications school I was attending shut down for the Christmas holiday. After that I spent two Christmases in Okinawa and one in California. I wasn’t even 22 at that point and being alone a long way from home, even during the holidays, was exciting.

In December of 1994 I would have been 26 and all my family is in Michigan and I am alone for the holidays and I’m cool with it. I’ve got books, television, cigarettes and beer. Sure, I’d prefer to be with my family but you can’t dwell on it or you’ll end up depressed and who in the hell wants to be depressed? Not me.

The person I am renting the room from cannot fathom, at all, how I could deal with being alone on the holidays so well. She hits me with a barrage like this, “Don’t you miss your family? You don’t seem to miss your family. I know I would miss my family if I couldn’t see them at Christmas. You don’t seem to. Don’t you miss your family?” Over and over and over. After about an hour of this I did start to miss my family and decided the best thing I could do is get the hell out of that condo. When I tell this story I sometimes say that I said to her when she asked if I missed my family, “I didn’t but I do now!” Let’s pretend I did say that.

But it’s Christmas eve in the bible belt, where the hell can you go? Everything is closed. Everything. Except...Smokey Joe’s. I’m not sure that evening when I remembered that Smokey Joe’s was open 365 days a year but once I did I was out the door.

For a few years Smokey Joe’s on Monroe Rd in Charlotte was the place my friends and I hung out. We liked it because it was real bar kinda bar. It’s not the place you went to watch the big game or do the singles scene. You went to Smokey Joe’s to drink with your friends. That story about the five stages of drinking that Larry Miller told? He may have been sitting at Smokey Joe’s in the early 90s. We loved it. It had a dart board that wasn’t too crowded, you could play ping pong, it had a good jukebox, a nice wooden bar, it was dark and you could get twelve ounce cups of Budweiser for fifty cents. It also had a nice mix of older and younger people there. We went so much that we got to know the bartender and other regular customers. And it was safe place. The only fight I ever saw there was between two women. It was the place we took new friends to once they were in our inner circle.

I remember it being (obviously) a slow night that Christmas eve. It wasn’t dead, it just felt like a slow day at the bar. Since I wasn’t the only person there I could pretend it wasn’t Christmas eve and enjoy myself and forget the reminder that I did miss my family. Who doesn’t miss their family when you’re alone on Christmas eve?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Arthur J. Ravenal Jr. Bridge

On Tuesday Melanie and I drove down to Charleston for a two night stay in our favorite little getaway. For those of you that don't know, Charleston is on a small peninsula between two rivers and the Cooper river on the east side has an amazing bridge that connects Charleston to the mainland. It's called the Arthur J. Ravenal Jr. Bridge. Horrible name, beautiful bridge. It reminds me of the Golden Gate Bridge because it dominates the city's skyline. You can see if from almost anywhere in the area. I wonder what name the Golden Gate Bridge would have if it was built today? The Joe Whogivesashit isn't as catchy as Golden Gate. Below are a few pictures of the bridge I found on Flickr.

This is an aerial from the south, looking north.
Charleston bridge aerial 103

This shows you how Charleston is really just a spit of land. You can see how the bridge towers over everything.
Doing The Charleston

This is taken from the visitor's center across the river from Charleston
US2011 155 Ravenel Bridge from Mount Pleasant Visitor Center

A night shot. Next time I am taking my tripod and getting a night shot.
Cooper River Bridge (night)

I took this one at sunset.
Arthur J. Ravenel Jr. Bridge at Sunset

This view makes me think of San Francisco. I took those at the Battery Park area, at the southern tip of the peninsula of Charleston. The bridge lurks over the city.