An Open Letter to Spotify

Dear Spotify:

You know how some families have two children, and one child is a straight-A student who gets in to Stanford… while the other child is a ne’er do well who’s been to jail at least once and still lives at home… yet, paradoxically, the parents are always riding the successful kid’s ass?

You, Spotify, are that successful kid. You’ve grown from nothing to become the most successful music streaming service in the world. You’ve literally changed the way I consume music, and – in a very real sense – you’ve changed my life. You’re standing at the precipice of greatness.

But you’re not perfect. Nothing ever is, really. Which is why I’m constantly complaining about you. Not because you’re awful… but because you’re so close to becoming The One True Music Service. It’s like you have victory inches from your grasp, and you don’t even see it.

So here’s a laundry list of things you could do to to become truly great:

For starters, get rid of the 10,000 song limit. If you’re not familiar with how Spotify works, there’s a “Your Music” section of the app which lets you “save” albums and singles to your account. So instead of having to search for an album every time you want to hear it, you can “save” it to an easily-accessible list of albums in your account. I keep putting “save” in quotes because the app isn’t really saving anything: it just creates a shortcut to the album in your account, not unlike a browser bookmark. Spotify limits the total number of songs in “Your Music” to 10,000 for some reason (Apple Music’s limit is 100,000). There’s no engineering or data storage reason why Spotify can’t allow you to save 100,000 songs to your account, too. And, if you think about it, it actually makes sense for Spotify to raise the limit: the more music you have in your account, the more invested in Spotify you become, and the less likely you are to switch to a competing service.

Secondly, Spotify should really consider a cloud storage option. No music service has everything. Some artists sign exclusive agreements with one service. Some artists, like Peter Gabriel and Prince, eschew streaming completely. A few albums temporarily disappear while the service renegotiates its contract with a record label, much like how TV channels can disappear from cable lineups while networks and cable companies argue over carriage fees. Some albums were put out by labels that have since gone out of business, and the rights holders can’t be easily found. And most music fans have at least some music that’s “too obscure” or “too sketchy” for a streaming service. I’m not just talking about my treasured MP3s of 86, an Atlanta post-rock band from the 80s that no one remembers – I’m also talking about live bootlegs, demo tapes, etc.

Apple Music and Google Play Music both have apps that scan your local music and upload any songs missing from their catalogs. That way, all the music you’ve collected over the years – the bootlegs, the rare remixes, the fan club singles, the vinyl rips of albums that never made it to CD, much less streaming – becomes part of Apple or Google’s cloud. You can stream it to any device at any time. From the end user’s point of view, it becomes part of Apple Music or Google Play Music’s catalog.

Spotify’s solution to the problem is much less elegant. You can integrate local files into the desktop app, and you can add local files to playlists. If you sync that playlist to a mobile device – but only on the same Wi-Fi network as the desktop app – the local files will be copied to your device. So if you create a playlist which contains 2GB of local files, that playlist will take up 2GB of storage space on your device… which defeats the entire purpose of a “streaming service”. With Google Play Music – which allows you to upload up to 50,000 local songs – those files would take up zero space, ‘cos Google’s streaming it to you from the cloud.

Even worse – and this is something Redditors at /r/Spotify just don’t seem to get – once you leave your Wi-Fi network, that music is simply inaccessible. Example: my all-time favorite version of The Cure’s “A Forest” is from The Cure in Orange concert. I have In Orange on Laserdisc, and ripped that track to mp3 years ago. The song has been uploaded to my Google Play Music account. So if I’m at a friend’s house, and we’re sitting around listening to music via Bluetooth speaker and we get a random urge to hear it, I just open GPM and stream it. With Spotify, I could add it to a playlist and listen at a friend’s house… but only if I had the foresight to sync it to my phone before I left. Otherwise I’m just out of luck. I don’t know how much it would cost for Spotify to add the ability to upload 20,000 or 50,000 songs, but they need to do it. Every time I exit Spotify and open GPM just to play one song is a chance Google has to get me to switch. But if Spotify goes public sometime soon, that sweet, sweet IPO money could get something like this going.

While I’m here, Spotify please don’t stratify your accounts. If you do get around to adding cloud storage, don’t create a new “$14.99/month Spotify + Cloud” plan. Either figure out a way to include it in the $9.99/month Premium plan or increase the cost of Premium to $12.99/month. Or whatever you have to do. My point is, don’t make it more complicated. I wasn’t a paying customer when you had Free, Unlimited and Premium plans, but every time I read about it my head hurts. And I still don’t really know the difference between “Free on Mobile Phones” vs. “Free on Tablets and Other Devices” accounts. It doesn’t really matter, since I’ve got Premium… but just… keep it simple.

Speaking of “simple”, could you please post changelogs somewhere? Like any app, Spotify has bugs. It also gets new features. It sure would be nice if you published lists of bug fixes and new features with every version of the app so end users could know if that weird bug has finally been fixed. Spotify sometimes changes the way things work, and it sure would be nice to be able to go to the app’s page on Google Play and to get confirmation that yes, something has changed, and here’s how it works now.

Next, you guys should fix the apps. On paper, Spotify’s apps are great, and work on multiple platforms, like Windows, Mac, Android, Roku and more. But each has its own share of bugs and quirks. There was a 2-3 month stretch where Spotify’s Android app would take forever to start up on Wi-Fi. It was fine over LTE, and the bug affected all my Android devices, not just my phone. And we’ve got a 200Mbps connection with a decent router that can stream multiple Netflix HD feeds over Wi-Fi no problem. The problem seemed to go away for a while, but still comes back from time to time. The Roku app still can’t scrobble. The Windows app has always taken forever to start (although I disabled the Friends pane, which speeds it up some). Just sit down with your developers and figure out a way to make them faster and more reliable. If that means a new development environment, so be it.

And lastly, a personal beef: the gift card situation in the United States. Some people prefer not using credit cards online if they don’t have to. I’ve paid for my phone service with Virgin Mobile Top-Up cards for almost 8 years, and it works because Virgin cards are available everywhere: Walmart, Target, Publix, Bi-Lo, CVS, Walgreens, Lowe’s, QuikTrip and more. There’s a 99% chance I’ll go to one of those stores at least once a month, so it’s no problem to pick one up. However, finding Spotify gift cards is almost impossible. Best Buy is the only B&M store I know of that sells them, so I have to make a special trip to buy a card. This is especially galling for two reasons: 1) Spotify cards are sold everywhere in Europe; and 2) Shops like CVS carry all sorts of “marginal” online cards. Are people still buying Facebook Game cards? Are Groupon cards a big seller? Is the Nintendo Network a big seller? If not, why aren’t Spotify cards replacing them? Again, you should be making it easier for your customers, not harder. And having options is a good thing, especially since you already have the tech on your site to redeem gift cards.

I didn’t quite say this in my opening, Spotify, so I’ll say it now: I love you. I love you with all my heart. It’s a rare day that I don’t open Spotify and listen to some tunes while running errands, or doing household chores or writing articles like these. I want you to succeed. You’re the best app that ever happened to me! I just wish you’d pay a little attention to some of the points I’ve raised. You’re a sexy supermodel, Spotify… but you’re a sexy supermodel who chews with her mouth open.


Jim Cofer

The “Random Command Prompt Flash” Issue

If you’re using Windows 10 and Office 365, you might have noticed a strange issue: for the past six weeks or so, some users have reported command-prompt windows popping up for a fraction of a second, seemingly at random. This issue may affect computers running Windows 7 or 8.x and\or Office 2016, but so far I have only seen the issue on computers running Windows 10 and Office 365.

I noticed the issue on my own computer a couple weeks ago, after the latest Office 365 update. But the random command-prompt pop-ups didn’t happen immediately after the update, so I failed to connect the two. At first, I thought it might be some kind of malware, so ran scans using multiple products… which came back clean. I checked Event Viewer, but there were no obvious issues there. I looked at Task Scheduler, but nothing appeared to be amiss there, either.

Stumped, I downloaded and installed Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), an open source video capture tool. I closed all open apps, except for a single Chrome window, which I left open on a maximized nearly blank page. I set OBS to record my screen for two hours and walked away. I returned later and played the video back on my second monitor in VLC, with the playback speed cranked up to 4x. Sure enough, I eventually saw the command-prompt flash:

Office Handler window

If you can’t make out what title bar says, it’s

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\officebackgroundtaskhandler.exe

If you’re having this issue, you should be able to make the pop-up happen any time you want to by opening Task Scheduler and going to Library > Microsoft > Office, right-clicking on


and choosing “Run”.

I don’t know how to “fix” this issue, and I assume Microsoft will address it in an upcoming Office 365 update. However, there is a workaround to prevent that damn command-prompt window from popping-up: right-click on the task and choose “Properties”. Click the “Change User or Group” button and change the user from “Users” to “System”. It’s not the most elegant solution (especially from a security perspective), but it works.

Things I Miss About Atlanta

So, this topic came up on Reddit recently, and I thought I’d share. Note that most of the things I miss are lost to time, not distance.

Yakitori Den-Chan! A yakitori bar in Buckhead. That place was such a beautiful scam: they had 3 tiers of yakitori: “vegetables” (75¢ per skewer), “common meats” ($1.50 per skewer) and “exotic meats” ($3 per skewer). You’d walk in, order one of those giant Sapporos, then order 10 skewers for around $11. But that wouldn’t fill you up, so you’d order another 25 oz. Sapporo and another round of skewers. But then you’d start looking at the exotic meats:

“Yak? I’ve never had yak before. Where else can you get yak in this city for $3? Gimme a yak skewer… and a kangaroo skewer – when will I ever get to try kangaroo again?… and a rattlesnake skewer? Why not? And a wild boar skewer… and another round of these 25 oz. Sapporos!”

Next thing you know, you’ve ordered a couple more rounds of skewers, and your bill’s $125, which was a gigantic amount of money to blow on dinner back in 1992! And I fell for it multiple times.

Frijoleros on Peachtree – Like Tortillas, one of the first burrito places in Atlanta. Only I liked Frijoleros better. I thought Tortillas was kinda bland (sacrilege, I know). I guess I should also mention the Cotton Club while I’m here.

Jaggers at Emory was a student bar that had the best cheap eats. $3 for two “chili pups” – hot dogs generously covered in chili, cheese and onions, in a basket (it was a knife and fork job, for sure) – was the best cheap dinner ever! This place also had some of the nerdiest bathroom graffiti in town. I once saw graffiti arguing about Latin grammar, and on another visit saw graffiti where people argued over which version of the Book of Common Prayer was better.

I fell in love with Monte Cristo sandwiches at the St. Charles Deli in VaHi. I fell in love with a couple girls there, too.

Horace at Moes and Joes, Erby Walker at The Varsity.

When Junkman’s Daughter was at the corner of Euclid and Colquitt.

I went to Club Rio a couple of times – an amazing trick, since I was, like, 16 or 17 and barely needed to shave.

Bridgetown Grill. The jerk chicken and black & white soup still bless my dreams from time to time.

When Churchill Arms in Buckhead was an actual English pub. When the elderly couple ran it, it was a nice, quiet pub. They had piano singalongs on Friday nights, the average age of the patrons was probably 50, and they mostly served pale ale and Irish whiskey. In winter, you could sit on the beat-up leather sofa by a roaring fire with a glass of Jameson and a cigar and just be. In the late 90s they turned it over to their sons, who turned it into their very own goddamn frat house.

The County Cork Pub in Buckhead. This place was always off the chain Friday and Saturday nights. Always well over the fire marshal’s capacity, it was jam-packed with the good sort of people who appreciate Guinness. They also usually had an actual Irish person on stage singing the filthiest drinking songs known to man! Oh, and the popcorn machine: all the free baskets of popcorn you can eat while downing 6 (or more) pints of Guinness!

When Wax N Facts was half the size it is now. And the part where the used records are now was the “hippy furniture store”, owned by the guy who sat in a giant comfy chair reading a book, smoking a pipe and hanging out with his cat all day.

Moto’s Café was a short-lived vegetarian café near Emory that became a hipster coffeehouse after 9PM. I’m not a vegetarian, but their vegetarian lasagna was delicious, and I saw quite a few good acts there. And “hipster coffeehouse” was actually a cool thing in 1987.

While I’m on coffeehouses, Aurora Coffee and the short-lived (but much beloved by GSU hipsters) Trinity Coffee House. Coffee? Beer? Musical acts? In a 1920s building on the post-industrial wasteland of Trinity Avenue? Instant hipster cred.

Gear was a short-lived store next to Wax N Facts. They sold original t-shirts based on Soviet propaganda posters. They also sold high quality army\navy surplus clothes. I got a badass Swedish Navy jacket and a cool pair of black Israeli BDU pants there. And an Audrey Horne sweatshirt too, oddly.


Cinefest and Album88. Thanks for destroying the happy memories of my college years, GSU. You can stop wondering why I refuse to send you money now.

Calcutta Indian Restaurant in Little 5. I can’t remember if this was actually a good restaurant, but… my first job out of high school was about 30 seconds from L5P. I went there every day for lunch, and it didn’t take long to get tired of Fellini’s, Bridgetown, La Fonda, Zesto, and that crappy Chinese buffet where The Brewhouse is now. I’d never had Indian food before, so gave it a try one afternoon. And I’ve been hooked on Indian ever since!

The old George’s. I used to go to Church of Our Saviour across the street. I’d go to George’s after mass, or to pass time before Adult Confirmation class. George’s was a run-down dive, full of beer signs from the 50s that hadn’t been dusted since the 70s, booths with peeling vinyl, and the less said about the restrooms the better. It’s all… nice now. At least the burgers are still pretty good.

That weird “magick shoppe” underneath (and behind) Abbadabba’s.

The Buckhead Taco Mac. I lived about 100 yards from their front door, and could get drinks or food until 4AM. And I did, quite a few times!

I also lived directly across the street from the Oxford Books on Pharr. I’m still sad they’re gone.

I never went inside The Gold Club: strip clubs aren’t my thing. Still, there was somethin’ about rolling past the Gold Club on Piedmont on Friday or Saturday nights…

Being a 16 year-old high school kid and having a student membership at the High Museum (i.e. free admission). Remember when Ferris Bueller skipped school and went to the Art Institute? I did something like that on a lesser scale at least 10 times.

Mick’s. If only because it was “like Applebee’s, but good”. Their crowd-pleasin’ menu made it the first stop before many Georgia Tech football and basketball games, concerts and such.

Jalisco Mexican Restaurant. I think it’s still there, in the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center. This place didn’t card at all back in the 90s. When I was 19 or 20, it was the go-to place for pre-concert beer and nachos! And on some days – maybe Tuesdays? – they had $1 Tecates. Hell yeah! When my little sister was a freshman at Georgia Tech, she offered to get us tickets to a football game. To return the favor, I took her to Jalisco beforehand. I told her to just be cool and order a beer. So she did. Several, in fact. I got her good and tipsy for the game, and she seemed to have a such a great time, being away from home and “breakin’ all the rules”. Oh, and I almost got thrown out of the game myself.

The Ugly Mug Pub in Duluth. It was just a bar in a suburban strip mall… but it was right around the corner. The great food specials – a huge cut of Prime Rib, with potato and a salad for $9.95! – brought us in, but Braves games, trivia nights and everyone being home from college kept us going there.

3660 Peachtree is a condo complex in Brookhaven, a couple blocks north of Phipps Plaza. One unit was owned by the father of one of my high school classmates, and he rented it to different combinations of my former classmates for the entirety of the 1990s. My high school friends stuck together for a very long time after graduation and that condo is a big reason why. There was always a birthday party or Labor Day cookout, or someone back in town from school, or really any kind of get together there, and everyone was always invited. So it kept us together.

Last one, promise: the Shakespeare Tavern. I think it’s still there… but I dunno ‘cos I moved away 14 years ago. Even if it’s still there, there was something so charming and slapdash about how it was back in the 90s.

DOWNLOAD: Steelers 2017-18 Schedule!

The NFL released the official 2017-18 schedule today, and for the 15th straight year, I’ve got your Pittsburgh Steelers schedule ready to go!

There are a few changes. For one, I dropped all references to flextime games in the schedule since all games from week 5-17 are subject to flexing. I also added the actual location of the games (“Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA”) in hopes that Google will add a nifty image of the stadium to your Google Calendar (I did the same with my Georgia Tech calendar last season and it looked really cool). Also, home games are listed as “[visitor] vs. Pittsburgh Steelers”, while away games are listed as “Pittsburgh Steelers at [home team]”. I dunno why… I just liked it better that way. Lastly, I’ve dropped the playoff\Super Bowl dates from the calendar, mainly because I’m tired and don’t want to look it up tonight.

Both the CSV and ICS versions of the schedule are included in the zip file, so be sure to import the correct one! Click below to download:

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017-2018 Schedule

For more information (including complete instructions), click the “Continue Reading” link below!

Continue reading “DOWNLOAD: Steelers 2017-18 Schedule!”

Quote of the Day

“When you left London, the East India was a trading company. Now it is God Almighty. The Prince Regent fears it. No government in the world dares to stand up to it. It owns the land, the ocean, the fucking sky above our heads. It has more men and weapons and ships than all the Christian nations combined. You think all who submit are evil. No. We are submitting to the way the world has become. All the good men in London who fight them are washed up at Tilbury.”

– Nicholas Woodeson as
“Robert Thoyt” in Taboo

The (Manly) History of Bay Rum

There’s a saying: “everything old is new again”. Which, when it comes to fashion is totally true. Take cologne: when I was in high school in the 80s, Old Spice was the tackiest thing imaginable. No guy – no matter if he was a jock, redneck, goth, skater or nerd – woulda been caught dead wearing the stuff. Yet somehow it’s “retro” and “hip” again. Go figure.

This is great, because bay rum – the classic American cologne and aftershave – is one of my favorite scents. But I bet you didn’t know where it comes from… which is actually pretty cool.

It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that sailors in the 1500s didn’t smell great. Contrary to what you might have heard, Europeans did bathe more frequently than you probably think they did. Except sailors. Even then they knew that bathing in salt water wasn’t fun, and there usually wasn’t enough fresh water on a ship to allow people to bathe. So while there were occasional sponge baths on a ship, sailors didn’t truly “bathe” until they ended up on land somewhere.

But at some point, early in the 1500s, sailors in the Caribbean discovered the West Indian bay leaf – pimenta racemosa (this is a different plant than the “bay leaf” you put in soups and stews; that’s the bay laurel leaf, laurus nobilis). Sailors noticed that the West Indian leaf contained a pleasant smelling oil that, when rubbed on the body, had a patchouli-like effect. Say what you will about patchouli, but I’d rather smell a sailor who hasn’t bathed in 6 months drenched in patchouli than one not drenched in patchouli.

Sugar plantations soon took over the Caribbean, and by the early 1600s some plantation owners discovered that their slaves had been secretly making a weak liquor out of molasses, one of the byproducts of sugar production. Intrigued, the owners took the drink and distilled it, thus making it far stronger and removing impurities present in the original drink. Although legend says that this liquor was first made on the island of Barbados, proof exists that it was being made a bit earlier in Brazil. Either way, the drink then called rumbullion took off, first in Colonial America, then Britain, then around the world via the Royal Navy.

We don’t know who it was – some evidence suggests a sailor, other suggests it was a merchant somewhere in the Caribbean – but either way someone, somewhere got the idea of steeping West Indian bay leaves in rum. That way it could be splashed on like a cologne, and the sailor wouldn’t have to rub leaves on his skin like a weirdo.

From there, the stuff can be traced to St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A merchant – most likely a Dane named A. H. Riise – got the idea of adding citrus peel, cinnamon and cloves to the bay leaf-rum mix, then straining it and selling it as a ready-to-use cologne. Other Caribbean merchants invented their own particular blends. From there it spread to New York City, then to the rest of the United States, before heading over to Europe.

And the rest, as they say, is history. For decades, American barber shops reeked of the stuff, along with the heavenly smell of Clubman talc. Bay Rum kinda fell out of favor in the 1960s, but is an awesome, manly scent that surely deserves a Renaissance!


Georgia Tech 2017 Football Schedule

2016 was a good year for the Jackets, with big wins over Virginia Tech, georgia and Kentucky in the Gator Bowl (I refuse to call it the “Taxslayer Bowl”). Even though Justin Thomas is gone, I’m sure Tech will have a great 2017 season!

As always, I help you keep up with downloadable versions of Georgia Tech’s 2017 football schedule for Microsoft Outlook and Google\Apple devices.

Because college football start times usually aren’t known until a couple weeks in advance, the games are listed as starting at 8AM the day of. The schedule also lists the location of the game instead of the network. So “Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA”, instead of “ESPN”. This is so Google Calendar can add a groovy background image to the event on your Android device. A reminder is also scheduled for 13:00 (1:00PM ET) the day before each game.

The schedule is available in two formats: CSV (for Microsoft Outlook and Yahoo! Calendar) and iCal (for Google Calendar and Apple devices). The CSV version is compatible with Microsoft Outlook 98 or later, but has only been tested with Outlook 2016. I “tested” the iCal version by importing it into my Google Calendar (extensive QA, to be sure). Both versions are included in the zip file; please be sure to import the right one after downloading!

Georgia Tech 2017 Football Schedule

*     *     *

Here are instructions for importing the file into Outlook. Make sure to read the all the instructions before you begin, as there are some options you may wish to change before importing the calendar.

Continue reading “Georgia Tech 2017 Football Schedule”

Bad Movie Reviews: “The Concorde… Airport ’79”

Well, I “enjoyed” a blast from the past watching The Concorde… Airport ’79 last night. None of the Airport movies were that great, but IMHO this one was the worst by far. Ridiculously low budget. Horrible special effects. But the worst thing of all? A story that’s literally telegraphed within the first minute of the movie!

It begins in Paris, where a Concorde takes off for Dulles and its new owner, Federation World Airlines. As an aside, I’d almost forgotten that Concorde was built to be a “regular” plane, in the sense that airlines like Delta and Pan Am were supposed to buy them and add them to their fleets. Of course, the oil crisis and anti-SST protests nixed all that, so Concorde was dumped on to Air France and British Airways.

Anyway, as the plane approaches Dulles for landing we see a drone test being conducted on the Virginia coast by defense contractor Harrison Industries. The drone has been built to take down jet fighters, and looks like K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider in missile form. WHY DOES A MISSILE NEED BLINKY LIGHTS ON THE OUTSIDE? AND COULD THESE TWO EVENTS POSSIBLY BE RELATED SOMEHOW?

The plan is, the Federation Concorde will fly back to Paris the next morning, then on to Moscow for a “goodwill visit” ahead of the 1980 Moscow Olympics (the film was shot was pre-boycott, I guess). But wait: local hotshot reporter Maggie Whelan is taking that flight… because the NBC affiliate in DC just has money to burn, I guess.

The night before the flight, an accountant from Harrison Industries shows up at Maggie’s house alleging that company CEO, Dr. Kevin Harrison, has illegally sold weapons to Cuba, Angola, Uganda, record company executives, the New England Patriots, and every other scummy organization you can think of. The accountant tells Whelan that someone will give her documents to prove this the next morning… but then a hitman just kinda walks through the front door (without knocking? how RUDE!) and shoots him. He takes a few half-hearted shots at Maggie and leaves. And oh… did I mention that Maggie is DATING KEVIN HARRISON? What a coincidence, amirite?

So… the plot magically falls into place: Maggie is handed the documents as she’s boarding Concorde. Harrison sees this and knows the evidence is going to send him to Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass prison, so has the next drone test moved up to that morning. One of his guys rigs the drone’s software to “have a fault” (wink-wink!) and blow up the Concorde. Of course, our heroes, the pilots, save the plane. So Harrison has fighter jets sent out to take down Concorde (and hey, what private citizen DOESN’T have his own personal air force?). The pilots once again save the day and make an emergency landing at Orly.

Harrison has one last chance: instead of, ya know, immediately rushing to the NBC office in Paris and breaking the story of her boyfriend illegally selling weapons to America’s greatest enemies, Maggie decides to go sightseeing or something. Maybe get a croissant at a SUPER-CUTE café in Montmartre? I dunno. We don’t know, because the movie chooses to take this time to show the two pilots in a bar, specifically to show George Kennedy’s soft, sensitive side. HE’S TOUGH AS NAILS, BUT HIS WIFE DIED AND HE MISSES HER, YOU GUYS!

Anyway, this allows one of Harrison’s henchmen to disguise himself as a mechanic and rig the cargo door to open after the plane takes off the next morning. Yes, the next morning: although the Concorde was beat to hell evading drones and missiles – doing barrel rolls and loop-the-loops like it was a giant goddamn F-16 – and half the rubber wore off the tires making that dramatic “stops 5 feet before the end of the runway” emergency landing… it’ll be ready to fly again in less than 12 hours! If Trump really wants to build that wall, he should hire these guys! Also, Harrison must have Scrooge McDuck money to pull all this off. If I gave you an hour to get to Orly airport, find a mechanic’s outfit (complete with ID) and build a device that can press the keypad buttons on the cargo door when the plane reaches a certain altitude… could you do it? It’s not like you can go to Lowe’s and ask for a “Concorde cargo door sabotager”.

So the plane takes off for Moscow the next day and, sure enough, the cargo door opens as planned. Holes start ripping through the fuselage, causing people to almost fall out of the plane. Interestingly, the holes only appear under actors we know, not the nameless extras seated throughout the plane. Odd coincidence, that. Of course the pilots – who are goddamn national heroes by this point – manage to land the plane in a snowbank in the Alps. There are a few bumps and bruises, but everyone is OK. The movie ends with the last people getting off the plane, which fades to a shot of the Concorde flying (peacefully!) through the air. It’s like they ran out of money at the very end and the writers withheld the ending or something.

Poor Martha
You deserved better, Martha.

So… where do I even begin with this?

As mentioned, the Concorde is treated like a giant jet fighter, able to do almost anything an F-16 can… even down to evading two Exocet missiles at once! But the best part is when, in an attempt to evade one of the missiles, the pilot opens a window, sticks his arm out, and fires a flare (to throw off the heat-seeking missile, you see). Because sticking your arm out the window at MACH 2 won’t instantly break it into a hundred pieces – it’s just like tossing an empty soda bottle out the window of a moving car! And all that, as if some dinky flare is somehow gonna confuse the heat-seeking missile compared to four giant Rolls-Royce engines that have pumping out 10,000 pounds of thrust (each!) for an hour. Spoiler: it works.

And the effects… woo, boy. This is some of the worst mattework you’ll ever see: at one point, you can even see a smudged fingerprint or streak in the sky as the “plane” flies by. But that’s only scratching the surface: shadows and light rarely make any sense: why is the Concorde lit from the OPPOSITE SIDE of the sun? Why does this jet fighter retain the same lighting as it flies through the sky? Some of the planes are clearly models they didn’t even bother putting little pilots into. Explosions sometimes don’t line up with where they’re supposed to be, and most of the time they’re transparent enough so you can see through them to the undamaged plane.

Oh, and speaking of the plane… ohmygosh it’s so hideous inside. The interior walls are a sickly shade of beige that reminds me of the smoker’s lounge at Salt Lake City International Airport. There’s brown plaid on the seats and on the bulkheads. Remember the Regal Beagle from Three’s Company? Yeah, like that, only it’s a plane. Either that, or it’s like the Steak and Ale at Northlake Mall in Atlanta circa 1978, only in the sky.

But the best worst part of the film is the cast. Robert Wagner plays Evil White Guy™ Dr. Kevin Harrison. George Kennedy plays hero pilot Capt. Joe Patroni, while Alain Delon plays French pilot Capt. Paul Metrand. Aside: I liked that Kennedy used the word “boffed” early in the film; I hadn’t heard that word in years! Eddie Albert plays Eli Sands, the airline’s president; oddly, he looks like he needs to take a shit really badly throughout most of the film. Which makes it weird that Martha Raye plays a passenger with a bladder problem that actually needs to go to the bathroom several times in the film. But she often can’t, because sax player Jimmie “J.J.” Walker – and yes, he literally walks around the cabin playing the sax – is smoking joints in the bathroom. It’s kinda funny: they show him smoking out the bathroom, yet when he finally opens the door, no smoke comes out, and no one notices the smell (also, Concorde apparently only had one bathroom). Cicely Tyson plays a mom who’s taking a heart (like, an actual human heart) to her son who is awaiting emergency surgery in France; during turbulence, the cooler almost files open, but it’s saved by sports reporter Robert Palmer (John “That’s Incredible!” Davidson) who is only on the flight because he’s boffing (ha!) Russian gymnast Alicia Rogov (Andrea Marcovicci) who is going home to Moscow. Oh, and how could I forget: Charo makes an appearance as a snooty passenger with a snooty little dog. There was some kinda law back in the 70s that any ensemble TV show or movie required Charo.

So yeah… as far as the cast goes, it was almost like an episode of The Love Boat, but on a plane. But Mercedes McCambridge (the evil voice of The Exorcist) is also in it, as is David Warner (who has been in a hundred things, like Ripper Street, Wallander, Inspector Lewis, Penny Dreadful, The Secret of Crickley Hall, Mad Dogs – and, less glamorously, What’s New, Scooby-Doo?). Ed Begley Jr. shines as “Rescuer #1” (yes, really). Also, José Ferrer has a role in the TV version (which was cut from the version I saw), Harry Shearer has a voice role, and Arrested Development and Archer star Jessica Walter plays Kennedy’s dead wife in flashback, which I don’t remember at all.

So yeah… it’s a shit film. But is it is good shit film? Meh – I give it a 4 on the Shitty Film Scale, where 1 is Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and 10 is Road House. It’s worth watching – once! – for the lols, but not much else.

My Top Albums Of 2016

Sorry this post is so late – I typically try to get it out sometime in late December… but between shopping, other holiday stuff, and being sick as a dog for a couple weeks, I just didn’t have it in me to write this until now.

So… I called 2014 a “down year for music”, then called 2015 “even worse”. Well, it seems like 2016 was a bit of a “recovery year”. While it wasn’t one for the ages, I actually did have trouble picking out just ten albums for this list. And, as always, there are stats after the list.

 My Top Albums of 2016

10) Xiu Xui – Xui Xui Plays the Music of Twin Peaks – When I was a teen, I went though a “noise music” phase. Current 93, Einstürzende Neubauten, Nurse With Wound… that sort of thing. Xui Xui is just as “challenging” as those bands. They’re certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, and I certainly wouldn’t blame you for any “WTF?” comments. But while Xui Xui is “just okay” in my book, I really liked this album. The constraints of having to cover Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks soundtrack not only kept them from going totally off the rails, it actually adds something to the music to hear Xui Xui cover it. This is almost like a David Lynch fever dream. Again, I won’t fault you for not liking it, but this is certainly one of the most “innovative” albums of the year.

9) David Bowie – Blackstar – Honesty time: I love Bowie’s 70s music. He was indeed an innovator and challenger of the status quo, not just in music, but also, in his own way, of culture itself. Yet, I just couldn’t get in to any of Bowie’s work after Let’s Dance. He’s just “not my thing”. I only include this album on the list: a) to pacify any of my friends who might read this list and go nuts at its omission; and b) as an overall tribute to all the great musicians who died in 2016.

8) Memoryhouse – Soft Hate – Memoryhouse is one of those bands I really should like. After all, they kinda sound like Beach House, and I like Beach House, right? Yet, despite several honest attempts to listen to their music, it just never “clicked” with me… that is, until this year’s Soft Hate. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is, though. This album is self-released, so maybe someone at SubPop tried pushing them in a direction they didn’t want to go. I dunno. All I know is, I like this.

7) Julianna Barwick – Will – Man, Julianna Barwick hits it out of the park.. again! I can’t be arsed to check, but I’m pretty certain that all three of her albums – The Magic Place, Nepenthe and now Will – have made it to my “best of” lists in their respective release years. I could try to come up with a million adjectives to describe her music – “dreamy”, “atmospheric”, “ethereal”, “unearthly”, “angelic”, “elegiac”… but if you’ve never heard her before all you need to know is this: ya know those beautiful (but tiny) snippets of music that you used to hear between This Mortal Coil songs? She has albums full of the stuff, and it’s fantastic.

6) Warpaint – Heads Up – The ladies from L.A. are back, and with a bang, too. Heads Up is a terrific album, but most of the hype on this disc comes from the lead-off single, “New Song” which is just… ON FIRE! The rest of the album holds its own, but nothing else even approaches the awesomeness of “New Song”. Not that it could. Still, it’s a solid effort all around, rather than one of those “one great song and 10 filler songs” albums. Good job, ladies! Can’t wait to hear what’s next!

5) Ladyhawke – Wild Things – New Zealand’s Pip Brown is back! And although she’s back to her synth-heavy sound after a brief detour with the somewhat guitar-heavy Anxiety, she still has the same problem: the singles off Wild Things are fantastic songs you can listen to over and over again… but the rest of the album is pretty weak. “A Love Song” and “Sweet Fascination” are easily two of my favorite songs of the year… yet “Let It Roll”, “Hillside Avenue”, “Wild Things” and the rest of the album is just… fine, I guess. Like a good dinner at Applebee’s.

4) Still Corners – Dead Blue – Man, where did these guys come from? I know, I know: the UK. But their music is almost… addictive. This is one of those albums you can listen to and think “yeah, this is OK”. But 20 minutes later, you’ve got this song or that song in your head. So you listen again. And the next thing you know, you’ve listened to the album 14 times in a row! While a song like “Down with Heaven and Hell” showcases what this band can do, there really isn’t a bad song on this disc. I’ve been a fan since 2013’s Strange Pleasures – and I’m STILL kicking myself for not paying $8 to see them at Snug Harbor because it was on a Tuesday and I’m lame. I won’t make that mistake again. This album is totally its own thing, yet I can hear echoes of the best of Cocteau Twins and other 4AD bands. It makes me happy and nostalgic at the same time.

3) Postiljonen – Reverie – I loved Postiljonen’s debut album, Skyer, so much so that it was #6 on my “best of 2013” list. But Skyer was a mix of upbeat synthpop tunes and slow, dreamy songs. I much preferred the former over the latter. Yet this Swedish band seemed to do the opposite on this disc. “Go!” is an almost-dancable tune, but the rest of the album – while eminently listenable and beautiful – is just a bit too sedate for my tastes. That’s not a knock, exactly. It just means that this disc is something you have to be in a chill-out mood for, instead of something you can do chores to.

2) Mint Julep – Broken Devotion – I’ve “been into” music for 30 years, and yet I’m still surprised how a band can appear out of nowhere and just wedge their way into the #2 spot on your “best of” list. I’d never even heard of this band, until that fateful night when Spotify recommended it to me. Wow! Thanks, Spotify! This disc is just… intricately-layered electronic nirvana with some lovely vocals thrown in to boot! It’s even one of those albums where a song starts and you think “oh, I’m not going to like this at all”… yet you do. The album has 9 lovely original songs, but I think their cover of When in Rome’s “The Promise” is the best introduction to the band one could possibly have:

1) Marsheaux – Ath.Lon – Surprise, surprise: my favorite band of the 2010s got their second #1 album of the year! Guys, I wish I could explain my love for this band to you, but the best analogy I’ve yet come up with is a teenage crush. Remember that? When your heart was so full you thought it was going to burst, and all you could think about in any given moment was her (or him)? I have that same exact feeling when I listen to this band. Hell, I even feel that way when talking about them: “yeah I never woulda thought The One would be a synthpop band from Greece, but… here we are”! And this album… well, it just might be their best one yet. I’m not 100% sold on the opening track – “Burning” – but I can listen to the rest of the album over and over and over again (and, according to, I did just that this year). This band just has… that sound, man, that certain “it”. There are a ton of electronic bands out there that sound exactly like something from the 80s. Hell, many of them even go so far as to have 80s style cover art, complete with album names written in “laser beams” above computer-generated checkerboards. But somehow, Marsheaux manages to sound so much like those early 80s electronic bands, yet fully modern at the same time. How they manage to do it I’ll never know… I just hope they never stop doing it! This is a band I’m helplessly, hopelessly deeply in love with.

“Safe Tonight”, the first single off the album:

“Like a Movie”, a split-screen video with one band member in Athens, the other in London (hence the album’s name, Ath.Lon):

My favorite song on the album, the totally dreamy “Mediterranean”:

Honorable Mentions

Chromatics – Just Like You EP
The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini – The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini
Montmartre – Hope
Nice as Fuck – Nice as Fuck
Nite Jewel – Liquid Cool
Pylon – Live
Shura – Nothing’s Real

Continue reading “My Top Albums Of 2016”

Outlook 2016’s “Unsafe Rules”

Microsoft Outlook has a robust system of rules that you can use to move, copy, delete (or alert you) when you receive an email based on a number of conditions.

One option I use quite a bit is “when I receive an email with x in the subject line, run a script”. Here’s why: I have an app that downloads files to a specific folder that cannot be changed. When the downloads are complete, I want to move those file(s) to a shared network folder. So I have Outlook set up to where if I send an email to myself with a certain string of letters and numbers, a script runs that moves the file(s) from one folder to the other (I often want to do this while away from the computer, hence the need for the Outlook rule and script).

However, it would appear that December’s updates for Office 365 removed the “run a script” option from the rules, along with a couple other “unsafe rules”. Thankfully, it appears that Microsoft didn’t remove the options, it just hid them. If, like me, you use the “run a script” option, here’s how you can re-enable it:

  1. Close Outlook, if running.
  2. Open Regedit.
  3. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook\Security 
  4. Right-click on an empty space in the right pane and choose New > DWORD Value. Name the new value EnableUnsafeClientMailRules and set its value to 1.
  5. Close Regedit; open Outlook.

At this point, go to the “Rules & Alerts” applet. You should see that the “(error)” message next to any existing “run a script” rules is gone, although you might have to check the box to actually enable the rule again.