Category Archives: Complaints

Confessions of a Computer Junkie

I am an internet addict.  I once used the internet as a tool, but now spending time on the computer visiting the same sites repeatedly has become my primary form of entertainment.  Frankly, it’s not very entertaining.  I’m not reading books or watching movies the way I did before.  So, in order to break out of this bad habit, I’ve made a Lenten vow to cut the time I spend on the internet in half.  I’m not counting my work in photoshop, because that’s usually creative.  I’m also not reducing the time I spend writing, whether it’s for posts here or messages to friends.  These are too important and too satisfying.  It’s just not productive to check my visitor stats three times an hour, or twitter or facebook or email or ebay or YouTube.  So far, it’s working out okay.  I’ve read half a book in the last two days, and I’m even enjoying my time on the computer more than before.  I’m hoping that the time I spend away will result in more interesting blog posts, since the quality of what entertains me is reflected here.

I have another confession to make.  I spend way too much time on the internet correcting mistakes and submitting complaints.  I’m constantly removing my hands from the keyboard and telling myself, “You are not the internet police.  This is not your job!”  Here’s a good example.  Tonight my book club is discussing Willa Cather’s Death Comes For The Archbishop.  I got the book out of the library over the summer, kept it for nine weeks, and never got past page fifty.  We have a very good rule at book club—you can come if you haven’t read the book, but you can’t join in the discussion.  If I don’t go to enjoy the company, not to mention all the wine and snacks, then I’ll just sit at home browsing the internet again.  This morning I went to cliffsnotes.com (oh, the horror!) to read the summary in order to follow tonight’s discussion. There was a sloppy error in the synopsis, obvious even to someone who hasn’t read the book, so of course I had to submit a correction to the site.  Yesterday I complained to iTunes because I had to enter my credit card number and mailing address just to use the “like” button on an album page.  It’s bad enough that you have to waste time downloading an entire software package just to browse their store.  Spending less time on the computer will not reduce my urge to correct and complain, but I won’t have as much time to follow through.

I know I need to stay off ebay, but at least I rarely spend money there.  I have become fascinated by the selling of cancelled checks as “authenticated autographs.”  Seriously.  People are auctioning bank checks, either written to or by celebrities.  When they’re written to a celebrity, it’s the endorsement on the back that is the valued autograph.  Woe to any collector whose favorite celebrity had an accountant that used a rubber stamp!  My favorite so far is a check written by Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) to a Hollywood grocery store in 1974.  It is the amount that intrigues me.  Back in 1974, you could buy an awful lot of groceries for $560.  Was she having a party?  Somebody has already purchased this gem, but not to worry.  There are two other checks written by Montgomery that are still for sale.  I can’t help wondering about the more recent checks, with account numbers, addresses, and driver’s license numbers on them.  They haven’t been blacked out and can be seen clearly in the images posted on the internet.  There really isn’t any privacy anymore.  Of course, with paypal and online banking, handwritten checks themselves will soon become antiques from another age.

The other night, I tweeted my intention to spend less time on the internet.  I woke up to find a whole bunch of new people following me on twitter.  Is this supposed to be an affirmation or a temptation?!

Update:  I got a friendly note from the webmaster at cliffsnotes.com thanking me for my correction.  ITunes sent a customer service survey asking me for my opinion of the response I never received about my complaint!

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Filed under Complaints, Literature, The Internet

It’s Just Not Cricket

It really is disappointing to find the images I used from The Phantom of the Opera. posted only 11 hours ago, copied all over tumblr sites without permission.   It’s impossible at this point to track down and contact all the site owners, because the images have been reblogged so many times.  It’s too late to take down what’s already been posted, but I’ve decided not to upload any more POTO25 images.

Sorry, folks.

Update:  Since posting this, I’ve spent the last day hearing from so many wonderful people who shared the Phantom experience.  As I’ve said in some of the comments, the images aren’t really mine.  They belong to the Phantom production and the performers themselves.  I shouldn’t have been surprised they went viral so fast, and I hope there will be better official images published from the performance.  There are many beautiful images from the curtain call and encores, including the ones by Dan Wooller for whatsonstage.co.uk.

Fans have also posted videos on YouTube from the performance, and you could see them being filmed from the audience during the simulcast.  The quality of these videos can’t match the DVD, which won’t be released in the US until February 7, 2012.  I wish we knew why, when the UK version is releasing on November 14th.  Why wait until after Christmas when the US market has such a huge fan base?  I know the DVD would make a great Christmas present.

I’ve decided to upload images from the curtain call and finale, since so many better images have already been published.

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My Response to the Changes at Netflix

I was puzzled when a late evening email from Reed Hastings arrived in my inbox on September 18th, with the subject line “An Explanation and Some Reflections.”  I almost deleted it as junk mail.  It turned out to be an oddly-worded message from the co-founder and CEO of Netflix, the largest internet/by-mail movie rental company in the US.  Netflix recently angered subscribers by raising their rental fees and restructuring their services.  This email from Hastings was both an apology and a press release about even bigger changes coming to Netflix.  Instead of smoothing things over, this latest announcement has increased subscriber dissatisfaction.  Over 27,000 comments have been posted on the Netflix blog responding to the news.

I’m not happy with the decision to split the company into Netflix (streaming services) and Qwikster (DVDs by mail) with two independent websites and separate credit card billing.  I guess I will be switched over to Qwikster, because I’m currently only getting DVDs by mail.   That’s because what I want to watch either isn’t available streaming yet or streams so poorly, stuttering along with bad resolution, that it’s not worth paying for that kind of frustration.  The biggest hassle for folks subscribing to both services will be having to check two sites to see if a movie is available in either format.  In the past, one site showed all this information in one place.

Still, my reaction to the changes coming to Netflix has been overshadowed by my feelings about this statement by Reed Hastings: “Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD. ”  This is completely ridiculous.  Perhaps Mr Hastings is more of a businessman than a film buff, but I’m still shocked at his ignorance.  

According to the National Film Preservation Foundation, approximately 50% of all US feature films made before 1951 no longer exist.  Around 80% of all US feature films made in the 1910s and 1920s have been lost.  These figures even don’t take into account all the films made in other countries.  Some estimate that 99% of all silent films are gone.  Many went up in flames or simply deteriorated due to the instability of nitrate film stock.  Many more were deliberately destroyed because few believed that the films would have any lasting significance.  Even the films stored in archives today are at risk while they sit waiting for the funding needed for restoration.

If you’re a lover of foreign films, you know that “nearly every film ever made is published on DVD” does not apply to overseas titles available to US viewers.  Many independent films have never received a DVD distribution deal, regardless of their country of origin.  Picture all these numbers, then narrow them down to the actual number of film titles that you can rent from Netflix.  My “saved” queue of films on Netflix is almost as long as my rental queue.  These are the films with no known release date.   This list also includes titles that are currently available to buy on DVD, but Netflix doesn’t know when or if they will ever be available for rental.

What Netflix isn’t saying directly is that the US Postal Service is bankrupt and in crisis.  With threats to end Saturday delivery or shut down altogether, nobody knows how long our Post Office will be able to deliver DVDs quickly and reliably.   The closest Reed Hastings came to stating the problem in his announcement was this: “DVD by mail may not last forever, but we want it to last as long as possible.”  The folks at Netflix are obviously scrambling to switch over to streaming content in order to stay in business, leaving those of us with older equipment and bad DSL service behind.  I may have to give up my Netflix/Qwikster habit if things continue in this direction.  I’ll just have to wait and see.

Since this news announcement on September 18th, I’ve stopped receiving Netflix email notifications telling me when a DVD has been received and informing me what my next title will be.  I hope this is not the kind of customer service Qwikster will provide in the future.

I’m interested in hearing your opinion.  Please post your comments.

Update 10/10/11:  Netflix announced today that the company will not be split up.  The price increase—and the separation of DVDs and streaming into two plans—will stay in effect.  Supposedly there will be no further price increases, but we’ll see about that.  I’m just wondering what will happen to the new CEO who was going to run Qwikster.  So much for the promotion.

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Filed under Complaints, Movies, The Internet

Raoul in Phantom Confirmed

It all seems rather anti-climactic somehow.  The badly-kept secret that Hadley Fraser will play Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary production has finally been confirmed.   I’m delighted, of course, but like many fans, I’m also rather annoyed.  There was no big announcement today from Andrew Lloyd Webber that would have justified all the secrecy.   The link that Hadley Fraser tweeted was simply a DVD product listing on the Phantom website, which says “Hadley Fraser as Raoul.”  The confirmed cast members and Fraser himself  made it clear that they were under a “gag order,” but why bother?  With one week left before the three performances at the Royal Albert Hall, anticipation is high enough without these silly games.  I personally wanted confirmation of Fraser’s participation before I decided whether to buy tickets to the cinema broadcast.  I can’t help speculating that Lloyd Webber held back Fraser’s casting news because he’s not considered a big enough name, outside his enthusiastic fan base, to sell tickets.   If that’s the case, then shame on you, RUG.  If you give Fraser the role, then you should stand by his casting and shout it to the world with confidence.  I’m certain all the folks who have never heard of him (which was me six months ago) will be sitting up in their seats and taking notice.   A whole bunch of them will be searching him out and following his career.

Congratulations, Mr. Fraser!  See you at the Opera, by way of the cinema.

Hadley Fraser in Doctor Who: Army of Ghosts

Hadley Fraser finally tweets confirmation! (from Doctor Who: Army of Ghosts)

Update: A little bit late to the party, but at least Broadway.com gave Fraser a nice little write-up.  The official site for Phantom also added a news announcement, dated September 23rd.  This wasn’t the link that Hadley Fraser tweeted, and I’m not sure this really was posted on Friday morning or added later with the dates tweaked.

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Filed under Actors, Complaints, Theatre

Hadley Fraser and Some Random Stuff

Rumors are spreading that West End performer (and Ugly Bug Ball favorite) Hadley Fraser will play Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall, joining his good friend Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom.  There has been no official confirmation.  Fraser seems to be avoiding twitter, and Karimloo is teasing his followers without revealing anything.  Fraser has been hinting at a big announcement coming up, so perhaps this is what he meant.  Where did the rumor begin?  I don’t know, but Amazon’s UK site lists Fraser as Raoul on the pre-order page for the CD.  Maybe this is an error, hardly the first one at Amazon, but I hope it’s not.  I’m very impatient to know either way, because the tickets at my local cinema go on sale in a day or two.  If Fraser plays Raoul, I will definitely go to the live broadcast, since I would pay to see this guy read (or sing) the phone book.

Fraser is talented and funny, and I’ve enjoyed following his career this year.  It’s given me plenty to blog about.   Wordpress gives me really detailed stats on my visitors, and I have Fraser to thank for much of my traffic.   Sometimes it feels kind of voyeuristic to know exactly what folks have typed into a search engine when they click over to my blog.   It gets pretty bizarre!   Because I have “ugly” in my blog title, people will land here because they are using the search term “ugly” with another name or word.   When I blogged about the royal wedding, I had a lot of visitors who were searching for ugly hats and ugly princesses.  Nobody has searched for “Hadley Fraser ugly” (I’d punch them if they did), but it’s obvious that a lot of people want to know more about his personal life and his relationship status.  Well, that information isn’t here, since I prefer to discuss his work, but this interview will be of interest.

I like to think that blogging about performers like Fraser and Karimloo benefit their careers in some small way.  It may be boasting, but some of the news and links here are more current than on Fraser’s own website.  He’s got a great site, but I suspect he’s too busy to update it often.  Anyway, I’m happy to help spread the word about my favorites.  Do casting directors and producers take note when a performer they’re considering for a role has thousands of followers on twitter and facebook, not to mention blogs devoted to their every move?  Since I blog mostly for my own enjoyment, it doesn’t make a big difference to me personally, but I’d still love to know.

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I was at an improv show recently where the audience was asked, what’s your personal motto?  I have a few.  One is “Sit when you can, stand when you must.”  This comes from years of working on my feet.  Another one is “I get there in the end.”  This one is really just a rationalization for how much I procrastinate, especially when it comes to doing laundry.  Here is the motto I have the most difficulty following: “You’re more likely to find happiness in the center of your own life than around the edges of somebody else.”

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I’ve been re-watching due South, one of my favorite series, and I’m sure a longer post about the show is coming soon.  I noticed in the pilot that a stuntman driving a dog sled was a poor match for lead actor Paul Gross.  It made me think about dangerous stunts and the many times I’ve read or heard “the actors do most of their own stunts.”  I have nothing against using stuntmen.  In fact, I’m all for them.  I never want an actor or anybody else to take terrible risks just for my entertainment.  The safety of those involved is the best reason for using for digital special effects.

Speaking of digital effects, I have started to hate how artificially heightened everything looks in films lately.  Even the grass and trees look unreal in I Am Number Four.   When I watched Unstoppable on DVD, the yellow and red trains were so intensely colored, it was like a cartoon.  It was jarring in an otherwise gritty, realistic movie based on a true incident.

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The websites that I visit frequently are really getting annoying.  IMDb has so many ads and unnecessary videos to load, I can’t get quickly to the pages I need.  Zap2it has so many pop-ups, videos and ads, I feel dread in the pit of my stomach when I visit the site.  My earthlink email was freezing up every time a sidebar ad refreshed, so now I’m actually paying an extra dollar a month to NOT SEE ads in my inbox.  How insane is that?

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Your PBS Station May Be Lying

I don’t know why I have it in for PBS!  I’ve complained about the cancellation of EastEnders and the trimming down of Masterpiece.  Tonight, I want to warn all US Les Mis fans about the 2 CD set of Les Misérables that is being offered as a pledge incentive during the 25th Anniversary concert broadcast.  I don’t know about your local station, but KQED in Northern California is claiming that this Dream The Dream CD set is the concert soundtrack.  It’s not.   

The Dream The Dream  CD set is a live recording of the 25th anniversary touring production of Les Misérables.  Valjean is sung by John Owen-Jones, not Alfie Boe. Nick Jonas, Ramin Karimloo, Hadley Fraser, Lea Salonga, and Matt Lucas are NOT on this recording.  A few cast members are the same, like Katie Hall, but the rest of the roles are performed by different actors.  Now, this may still be an excellent CD set, but it’s not what the folks at KQED are claiming.  This could be a simple case of ignorance, except that I called the station and told them the difference.  On the very next pledge break, they continued telling viewers that it was the O2 concert recording.  And that’s just wrong.  Besides, the concert, and these CDs, have been used regularly for the last three months for pledge drives,  so I know I’m not the only person to bring this to their attention.  I urge you to call your station if they are also misinforming viewers.

Unfortunately at this time, there is no CD/mp3 download of the O2 concert.  If it becomes available, I will definitely post that information.

Update:  I received a response from KQED on this issue.   It sounds like they are attempting to fix the situation.  They are adding disclaimers to their fundraising breaks to note that the CDs are “a cast recording rather than a recording of the broadcast” (which I hope they make clear is a different cast), and they say they’re sending letters and emails to those members who requested the CDs “to apologize, to make the distinction, and to determine what additional steps are necessary for those members.”   In addition, I’ve been told they will investigate whether this had happened during national fundraising efforts.   

 

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Filed under Complaints, Music, Television, Theatre

No Masterpiece

When I was in fourth grade, my class had a geography bee with another fourth grade class.  It was held in their classroom, and one by one the kids were eliminated when they couldn’t find a country or city in the allotted time.  I won by finding Argentina.  The other teacher was in charge of the prize, and as I stood watching, she began to reach for one book on her desk.  She hesitated, then quickly grabbed a different one.  It was a well-worn Childcraft volume.  When I got it home, I discovered it was the free sample volume,  filled with illustrated stories and poems….but just the beginning of each.  If I wanted to find out how a story ended, I had to buy the set of books.  I was so frustrated I cried, because I knew that teacher had a real prize if one of her own students had won the bee.  What a cruel thing to do to a child, especially one who loved to read.

This is how I feel now when I try to watch Masterpiece on PBS.  I suppose over the years the dramas from the UK have had a little bit trimmed here and there to fit into a 90 minute time slot, but the cuts haven’t been noticeable.  Starting for me with Downton Abbey, I was painfully aware that 2 full hours had been trimmed from the US broadcast.   You have to order the DVD to see the full version that the Brits viewed.   The new Upstairs Downstairs had approximately 30 minutes trimmed from an already rushed series.   Masterpiece itself is now only 60 minutes instead of the usual 90, although I don’t know if this is temporary.  South Riding has lost one hour, or 25% of its original four hours.  It’s not quite the same as my geography bee prize—they’re not showing us the beginning and then making us order the DVD to see the end.   In some ways, it’s worse.  By editing scenes throughout the program, we don’t know exactly what we’ve lost.

Besides, it’s even more complicated than that.  There’s no guarantee that the DVD you rent or buy will be the full version.  It depends on who produces and releases it.  If it’s a BBC release, it will most likely be the full version.  If it’s a WGBH release, it will probably be the cut version.  With some titles, you can only get the full version if you order a region 2 DVD from the UK.  I have a region-free DVD player, a necessity for an anglophile, but money is tight and I’d rather rent than buy.  Not an option.

So, for now, I’m boycotting Masterpiece.  I don’t want to watch DVDs of programs I saw on Masterpiece trying to figure out which scenes are the ones that were missing.  I want my first exposure to these programs to be untainted, so I can sit back and get lost in the worlds they create.

My geography bee story had a happy ending.  I went to my own teacher, lovely Miss Daigle, and tearfully showed her my prize.  She understood perfectly, and she gave me a real book.

Update:  I found out later than Downton Abbey did not lose 2 hours from the US television broadcast.  It was bad math and bad reporting on the part of The Daily Mail and Telegraph.  South Riding and Upstairs Downstairs felt choppy to me, so I’m not sure about those programs.  I’m back to watching Masterpiece, but with caution and an eye on the DVDs available.

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