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Messages - Bill Binkelman

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Computers, Internet and Technology / Purchase advice requested
« on: June 23, 2012, 01:05:51 PM »
This is a broader question than just about computers, but it is about Wi-Fi and technology, so here goes (I also posted this at Facebook):

I have a purchase decision to make and I'd appreciate any and all opinions. Kathryn and I have the Netflix streaming option but our Samsung Blu-ray player sucks at that part (reading reviews of the player, it seems we are not alone...many folks complain about how bad it is at that function). The connection drops all the time and the player won't even recognize the wi-fi signal most of the time, even though the TV says it's connected to the Internet - go figure. So, my two options are as follows: Buy a new Blu-ray player with wi-fi built-in - looks like Panasonic or Sony are best bets and relegate the Samsung to the bedroom where all it will do is play DVDs..OR buy a Roku device and keep the Samsung where it is (living room) but use it only for DVD/Blu-ray and depend on the Roku for my streaming applications (neither the Samsung nor Roku offers YouTube, though). There is nothing wrong with the player part of the Samsung but it's stupid to keep paying Netflix for the streaming option and not be streaming anything. So, any and all opinions are welcome. I know of no one with a Roku standalone streaming device, but CNET reviews were overall positive. Would like to make a decision soon. Thanks! Oh, I will have to disconnect the Blu-ray player whenever I use the Roku because of a lack of inputs on the TV (Samsung also is known for flaky HDMI ports...I have lost 3 of my 4 HDMI ports so far and the on which works is hooked to the Blu-ray player). So, an added inconvenience will be to disconnect one device and switch the cable to another one.  OH, one more option I suppose is to buy an Wi-Fi ready TV and put the current LR TV into the bedroom. That's the most expensive option, though.

Saw it yesterday. I loved it, yet was disappointed by it. My main gripe was the characters and their inconsistencies (Bill mentioned this).
Despite being just over two hours, the pacing of the film felt like an hour had been cut out. Aside from a few roles, character development was shallow at best. There were the "good" guys and "bad" guys, but their alliances weren't completely explained. I have no problem if they didn't explain it to keep you guessing, but the way it was portrayed felt like bad writing.

In spite of all this, if you have any interest in the film, definitely go see it. While it does leave many questions unanswered, it DOES answer the question I had ever since I watched the original Alien film so many years ago. That alone was worth the price of admission.

**********  WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS **********

An example of inconsistent characters:
Take the two who were left in the pyramid (what they called it) when the storm arrived. At first, they reacted in a realistic manner when they found the bodies stacked in the hallway. Then they entered the storage room containing the oozing vases, and the mutated worms came. Now one of the characters is completely fearless, practically begging to be killed like an idiot in a horror movie.

Another example is when David has Shaw on the table, telling her she's pregnant, and then sedates her. She wakes to find two people prepping her for hypersleep. She fights them off (why didn't they give chase?) and uses the auto-surgery machine to remove the alien.
Then she returns to find David and some others, who seem completely okay that she escaped. In my opinion, this is a clear example of something that was left on the cutting room floor.

Another comment: While I love Guy Pearce in pretty much any other film, he can't play an old man to save his life...  ::)

THIS is one of the things that every review mentions as being laughably absurd. Shaw performs self-surgery (basically she performs a Caesarian  section on herself), and STAPLES (not sews) the incision and within a very short time (instead of a few days) is RUNNING around. Come on...seriously? How can I take any movie seriously when it has a scene like that?

I will likely see this when it comes to my neighborhood second run theater (the Riverview) since (a) it'll be cheap (3 bucks) and (b) the Riverview consistently wins "best theater" awards due to screen size, sound system, etc. so I wouldn't be slumming going there. But my expectations are so low now that it would have be as bad as Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes or Joel Schumacher's  Batman and Robin for me to be STILL disappointed in it. I now only look forward to the (always praised even in negative reviews) set design, FX, etc., i.e. the film LOOKS great supposedly. But from what I have read, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (one of my ultimate guilty pleasures) makes more sense from a narrative standpoint.

Just read several dozens of reader reviews over at and they are overwhelmingly, these are "fanboys" so they were hoping for brilliance, so maybe that is part of it. Without mentioning any spoilers, what I glean from their comments is that the biggest problem with the film is that it's a lot like the TV show asks all these "questions" and throws all this stuff at you and nothing adds up...plot lines dangle and die left and right. And we're not talking about wrapping things up all neat and tidy, because I don't mind ambiguity in a movie, but it's the reason I gave up on LOST after 2.5 seasons i.e. I kept thinking "okay, but what about "x" and "y?" Based on the reviews, it seems that the last third of the film is a dire mess, with characters making decisions and acting either in an incredibly inconsistent manner OR making decisions and acting in such stupid ways that the film is like the worst haunted house movie, a la "Don't go into the basement, you idiot!" Not to mention that many things that are "important" are completely unexplained (perhaps answered in the sequel which looks like it will happen unless the movie tanks after 2-3 weeks).

I hope someone here on the forum who sees the movie today will post their reaction. I find it fascinating that some of the "professional" critics in the US press are praising the films but the fanboys and geeks are trashing it - usually with SF films, it's the other way around.

CNN's obituary here:

Well, he lived to be 91, which is pretty damn good, IMO, but still it's a sad day for those of us who loved classic science fiction.  :(

I have no problem reading a lot about movies before I see them...spoilers be damned, you might say is my motto. Anyway, I have read a LOT of reaction to this film so far, from fans and critics (the fans are in Europe and have seen it already). The results are VERY mixed. It seems, oddly enough, that a lot more critics are impressed with the film while many fans (of Scott's other works) are, well, to be honest, let down/disappointed/pissed off. Apparently, the "themes" of the movie are much "heavier" than Alien (even heavier than Blade Runner, apparently). It strikes me as odd, though, that there is a huge disagreement about the film's flaws. Some find the dialogue cringe-worthy, characterization non-existent (except for Fassbender, according to most), and plot full of holes you could drive the Nostromo through. Others (mostly professional critics) find it one of those "brilliant" failures that reaches for something far beyond the usual and, even if not hitting it, is to be commended for the ambition. Almost everyone praises the visual design and "look" of the film. Soundtrack music gets a pan from almost everyone, though. I know I will see this, but not sure how soon after its release. Rotten Tomatoes is currently polling it at 78% "fresh" but, IMO, having been a fan of that site for many years, I sense that more and more the awarding of a fresh tomato is not always indicative of the review (when one reads the entire review).

I will stand by my comments from months ago. I have seen WAY too many cases of overhype killing a movie, to the point that either expectations are so high that almost no film can meet them OR that the hype wasn't warranted. I have viewed many trailers that LOOKED awesome only to have the film be mediocre. Only time will tell with this one, but I'd rather go in with medium to low expectations and be pleasantly surprised than go in thinking I am going to see something akin to 2001 and instead see something closer in quality to Dark Star.

Art and Literature, Movies and TV / Re: Samsara
« on: May 25, 2012, 06:48:37 PM »
I've been waiting for this film for ... man, too long. 5-6 years maybe? I can't wait. Fricke is a genius.

Couldn't agree more. May have to watch Baraka tonight...

Art and Literature, Movies and TV / Re: Movie trailers worth a look
« on: April 24, 2012, 10:43:48 PM »
If, like me, you are/were a fan of the Ron Fricke film, Baraka here's the trailer for his new film which he took 5 years to film, all on 70 mm film (so see it on the big screen): Samsara

And here's a link to the official site...if you have time, watch a short video on viewer reactions to Samsara from an advance screening.

I have seen too many trailers that looked equally awesome and the final film didn't deliver. Admittedly, this looks fantastic, but I will wait for opening night...I have had too many expectations dashed on the rocks of reality. A lot of films can be assembled into an amazing trailer and the resulting film is only "okay" so we will see. Also, I hope Scott knows what he is doing screwing around with the Alien mythos. Lucas did that with the prequel and we got "midocholorians."

I just watched the latest Japanese market trailer for The Avengers and this film just keeps looking better and better. Between this and The Dark Knight Rises it's gonna be a great summer for popcorn flicks. I can't believe how good the Marvel comic films have gotten. I enjoyed Thor and Captain America both and own copies of both Iron Man movies. I feel like a kid again with all this geek love from Hollywood coming out (I was a HUGE fan of silver age Marvel comics - collected them ravenously when I was in grade school 1964-68 and even the first few years in high school).

First Ralph McQuarrie (the conceptual artist who birthed the look of Star Wars) now Moebius, who was the creative genius behind part of the look of the original Alien movie (spacesuits and Nostromo interiors), as well as the original Tron and The Fifth Element, and his famous comic strips which ran in the magazine Heavy Metal, (which he co-founded) has left us. There is a write up at here:

as well as articles at venues like the the Chicago Sun Times:

and The Washington Post

I am really feeling old lately.  :(

I still have that original 'The StarWars Portfolio' collection of artwork that McQuarrie created, that literally got Star Wars off the ground back in 1976. I've always admired people like McQuarrie, Ron Cobb, Sam Didier, Syd Mead, H.R. Giger, and others, who could literally create magic from a blank canvas, and made our world a little better for showing us worlds that didn't exist until they opened the box just a bit to let us peek inside.

I limited myself to just one. RIP, Ralph McQuarrie.

Well said, Antdude!

He was the conceptual artist for the first Star Wars trilogy. Really visionary, IMO.

Good day for the Grim Reaper...BAD day for us humans.

Everything and Nothing / Guitarist Ronnie Montrose dies...
« on: March 04, 2012, 02:55:29 PM »
Wow! I LOVED his first two albums (Montrose, and Paper Money) and played them a LOT as a teen and into my 20s and was just set to order the CD of Paper Money from Amazon. His playing on They Only Come Out at Night was fantastic and MADE that album, IMO. Really sad.
Here is Rolling Stone's article:

Now Playing / Re: Currently listening, part 1
« on: March 02, 2012, 08:55:17 AM »
Working on a mix called "1969" so I've been listening to some music from 1969.

Bowie - Space Oddity
King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King
Miles Davis - In a Silent Way
Pink Floyd - Ummagumma
Terry Riley - a rainbow in curved air

Now, that there is some choice high quality stuff! I love I T C O T C K (boy, that acronym looks strangely disturbing) and UmmaGumma is my fave P Floyd album. Nice!

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Were did TELOMERE go?
« on: February 28, 2012, 06:26:51 PM »
Chris (MacDonald, who is Telomere) never has been the most prolific artist, although his albums all contain uniformly excellent classic spacemusic. He released CDs in 1998, 2001, and 2007, so he's probably "right on schedule." Hell, Meg Bowles went 10+ years between From the Dark Earth and A Quiet Light. You can always try emailing Chris at (his label). I suspecthe is just taking his time as always.

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Under-rated Ambient
« on: February 20, 2012, 06:40:54 PM »
Meg Bowles - her 2011 release, A Quiet Light, is one of the best fusions of space and ambient in years. To release something this excellent after a more than 10 year absence is, IMO, unprecedented.

Richard Bone - I don't think he has ever gotten the level of recognition he deserves. He has had some "average works" but a lot of his stuff is superb and he is a VERSATILE artist.

Michael Allison/Darshan Ambient - If you look at his body of work, whether it be his pastoral ambient CDs like Providence, The Zen Master's Diary, or Autumn Light, or his more recent rhythmic stuff, you can't help but be VERY impressed.

Basically EVERYTHING released on APK's label. Yeah, that covers a lot of ground, but talk about maintaining CONSISTENT quality - sheesh! He's deservedly lauded here at Hypnos but APK (whether what he records himself under various pseudonyms or the other artists he chooses to release) is amazing...also his cover art is frequently beautiful and evocative.

Ben Swire - He's not the most prolific artist but both his Foundry EP, Equilibrium, and his 2010 recording, From Here to There, on Preservation are as good as glitchy yet melodic ambient gets, IMO.

Marconi Union - I haven't heard everything by this enigmatic duo, but Distance and A Lost Connection are moody, urban soundscapes suitable for late night neon-infused cruising by car.

Tristan Feldbauer (and others depending on the album) - I may be the only big fan this guy has but I cannot get enough of his blend of chill/ambient/retro-EM music. His best album, the enigmatically titled Recordings, is one of my all-time favorites. Like Swire's work, it's PERFECT for late night drives down city streets.

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Overrated Ambient
« on: February 17, 2012, 01:43:38 PM »
Like John, my preference is weigh in on ambient musicians' whose music I like or who I feel should heard by more people (such as Matthew Florianz and Pete Kelly).  If I have critical points to make, I would rather express those thoughts directly to the musicians themselves.  I think that those of us who have stuck it out in our genre for a while should try to be as supportive as we can, as it is too easy on the net to drift into negativity and flame wars.  The net is inherently limited as a medium for communication.  I also prefer not to comment on music from artists who are friends of mine, as it might perceived as shilling if the comments are positive, and poor form if the comments happen to be a little negative.


Not meaning to pick on you, Forrest, but this does get at the heart of what I was addressing, in a roundabout way. Ambient, as a community, is small and insular. We all "know" each other well enough that to slag off one person or one album could be perceived as being mean and end up being taken personally. So, in the end, the majority of albums that are dissed on forums are those by artists who would NEVER EVER visit here or any other smallish forum (e.g. ambient@hyperreal) so that's why Eno, FSOL, Aphex, etc. are usually the only ones mentioned.

Someone earlier said something along the lines of "well, this is such a small group anyway that to denigrate anyone weakens us all.." to which I would say "Really? Has it really come to that? Are we so starved for a feeling of positive worth  and value that we aren't willing to be self-critical without feeling like we are under personal attack?" Maybe ambient doesn't have a huge fan base when compared to other genres...but IMO, there is a LOT more slagging off by fans AND OTHER ARTISTS in other genres, including in the press. Is it just because their numbers are vast compared to us or is their thicker skin or do the fans of those genres just not give a shit what someone else says?

If we actually are all involved in a communal love fest, than someone chiming in with "Ya know, I just don't get the popularity of The Magnificent Void." should not be ostracized or held up as a traitor, etc. If we are a "family" (due to our small size and feeling of inclusivity - as opposed to exclusivity - because most people don't "get us,") shouldn't we be MORE open to that kind of comment?

I appreciate all the response to my post. Sincerely. As someone who, through the years, has been criticized a lot for not writing enough overtly negative or critical reviews, it does make me scratch my head, though. But maybe I am comparing apples to oranges.  ???

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Overrated Ambient
« on: February 16, 2012, 07:52:43 PM »
With 200 views of this topic and yet only 9 replies, I think it's safe to say that ambient fans are, well to be blunt, afraid to cast stones. Maybe there are hardly ANY overrated releases (unlikely, IMO), but over the years, what I have witnessed is that ambient fans, more than fans of other genres (again IMO) are reluctant to criticize almost anything or anyone within the genre. At least in the way this question is worded. Sure, there are isolated critics (*cough* Alan Lockett *cough*) who will blast what they consider a poor ambient recording, but to actually put a name or a title to the descriptor "overrated" may be asking ambient fans, who seem to (once again, IMO) view "their" artists in a sort of paternalistic fashion, might be akin to asking cops to rat out one of their own.

Just my observation and my two cents. Long time readers of my rants know I have called out more than a few overrated albums, but I have gone public with so many over the years it would be a retread to spin them out here yet again.

I am merely commenting on the (what I think is obvious) fact that with 200 views but only a scant few opinions offered, either ambient fans think NO ONE ALBUM is overrated or they think that stating so would be Quisling-esque in its betrayal.

Or maybe it's just my creeping age and resultant cynicism. ;)

Everything and Nothing / Re: Automobile batteries
« on: January 31, 2012, 06:46:03 PM »
I spoke too soon.  It started perfectly for two days, now it's back to weak/delayed cranking after sitting out all night.  I think something is draining my battery overnight.  Taking it in for alternator/electrical system test, and if that checks out OK then it must be a "parasitic drain" from somewhere in the car.  Can't afford a new battery every 21 months.

I kinda doubt it's the alternator, but I could be wrong. My money is on something...some kind of permanently "on" due to a short or a glitch. If you lived in a cold climate, like Minnesota, that drain at this time of year would drain the entire battery overnight, most likely. In southern/warmer climates, an accessory left on wouldn't drain the battery completely for a while, especially if you are then driving it now and then and recharging it. But maybe the alternator is "kinda" bad...if it is, it has to be under warranty...HAS to be. Unless you have put on more than 50K in two years. A thorough diagnostic check of the entire charging system will reveal if it's at all related to that. OTOH, if the charging system is okay, it has to be something else...something draining the battery, I'd have to think. But, yeah, as Steve just wrote..electrical problems are the worst...they can be almost impossible to diagnose without tearing a car apart and costing a LOT of money in diagnostic fees. My power door locks are fidgety as hell on the driver's side but my mechanic, who I have used for about 15 years, said it would be cost prohibitive to track down the problem (likely a short or loose wire). Sucks, man. I feel for ya...seriously. I've owned about 20 cars in my life and repairs will just frustrate the shit out of anyone.

Everything and Nothing / Re: Automobile batteries
« on: January 29, 2012, 03:52:46 PM »
It's possible the factory installs less the good batteries as a cost saving measure. You can try Googling for info. Here is a quick result of a Google search I did about bad batteries in Mazdas

The only thing that can cause a battery to die that soon, from what I know, are:

(1) Recharged so often due to frequently letting it discharge so battery loses effectiveness over time (unlikely if you don't remember at least 10-20 times the battery died because you left lights on, etc.)
(2) Bad cells in the battery or just a bad battery...cells can go bad before the whole battery dies
(3) Charging system operating at less than normal output (unlikely, IMO....usually the charging system just flat out dies, e.g. the alternator goes out)
(4) Something is draining the battery because the device is still "on" when it shouldn't be, e.g. overhead dome lamp never shuts off, etc.

If you put in a a good aftermarket battery and it happens again in a short amount of time, then it's something in the car itself. I'd be willing to bet it's the battery. Sorry I can't be of more help.

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