A little help?

Can anyone help solve a mystery here?

Every so often you hear about a film that gets a very limited release. For example, the 2006 film Zyzzyx Road was shown on one screen in one theatre for one weekend, where it officially took in $30 at the box office. Jessica Simpson’s Blonde Ambition was shown at 8 theatres in Texas, and grossed a grand total of $384.

Every time a movie is released like this, “union rules” are given as the reason the film was released at all. Why I wanna know is… what specific union rules are they talking about?

I have a good friend who was a film major and is an editor at TNT, and one drunken night he told me that the union rules require a film to be shown publicly before a member of the cast or crew can add it to their “official” resume, and this is important because their pension or retirement plans are based on how much work they get. But this doesn’t explain people who work on “direct to video” releases. Do they not get an “official credit” because the film was never officially released to theatres? It’s not that I don’t trust what my friend said, but there was so much beer involved that night that I might have misunderstood him, or maybe he didn’t quite explain it correctly.

What’s the scoop?

Friday Fun: Keeley Hawes

Keeley Hawes is the star of Ashes to Ashes, one of my favorite TV shows. She’s also been in Spooks and the feature films The Bank Job and Death at a Funeral.  She was also the lead in a made for British TV movie called Tipping the Velvet, where she played a lesbian male impersonator music hall star. Amusingly, the film was the subject of complaints from both sides of the aisle: angry fundamentalists that said the movie was far too racy, and straight men that said the movie wasn’t nearly racy enough!

Here are some pics of her. The first one is SFW, but the five pictures after the jump contain nudity… glorious nudity!

(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)

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Meeting Pointless Celebs

I used to work on the dividing line between “downtown” and “midtown” Atlanta. One of the closest record stores to my work was a branch of the local Turtles Records chain. This location – in the same strip mall as Plaza Theatre on Ponce, for you Atlanta folks – used to be where mid-level musicians would turn up for “meet and greets”.

So one day, I snuck out of work to meet… Nitzer Ebb – a one-hit wonder Eurodance band. This is like admitting to going to meet Chumbawumba, only lamer because every English speaker under the age of 40 has heard “Tubthumping”, while Nitzer Ebb were known only in the “industrial dance” scene. I still have the “Lightning Man” 12″ single they autographed for me. I doubt I could get $1 for it on eBay, even with free shipping. Looking back on it now, it’s almost amusing that I risked my job for a band that 99.999% of America has never heard of, and even their fans haven’t listen to them since 1991.

I also met Maria McKee (lead singer of 80s band Lone Justice) at the same Turtles location. McKee was better known than Nitzer Ebb, so I’m not especially embarrassed to admit that I went to meet her. However, this story is amusing for two reasons.

First, McKee was stoned off her ass. I can spot a pothead from a mile away, and I can tell you that McKee was smoking far better weed than anyone I knew. After coming out and mumbling a few hellos, she started playing a couple of acoustic numbers… only she was wearing this giant silver ring on her “strumming hand”, and at one point it flew off and nailed someone on the forehead. At first she looked completely horrified, but when the guy she hit smiled and handed it back to her she just started giggling like something out of Half Baked.

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Have you heard ‘the Hum’?

From the BBC:

For decades, hundreds of people worldwide have been plagued by an elusive buzzing noise known as “the Hum”. Some have blamed gas pipes or power lines, others think their ears are faulty. A few even think sinister forces could be at work.

“It’s a kind of torture, sometimes you just want to scream,” exclaims retired head teacher Katie Jacques.

Sitting in the living room of her home in the suburbs of Leeds, the 69-year-old grandmother describes the dull drone she says is making her life a misery.

Wow! My sister is somewhat sensitive to electrical sounds – she can hear electric motors and fluorescent lights and such. I hope this isn’t the kind of thing she has to deal with!

via BBC NEWS | Have you heard ‘the Hum’?.

The Ugly American

Back in 1989, my mother and I went to Australia. Due to the difference in time zones, we were usually out and about in the morning when we wanted to call home. So we needed a payphone.

At the time, Sydney had three types of pay phones: orange payphones, which were all over the place, but could only call within the metro Sydney area; green payphones, which were somewhat rarer, and were able to call anywhere in Australia; and silver payphones, which were located at only a few post offices and banks, and were able to call internationally.

So one morning we were out and about and decided to call home. We asked around for a “silver payphone” but no one seemed to have any idea what we were talking about. Seriously. The first dozen people we asked seemed puzzled by the very question: “You want to… dial another country… from a payphone?”, as if we’d asked how to make toast using an inkjet printer. We finally found someone who directed us towards a nearby post office… only we get there and the phone is out of order. So we ask at the post office, and once again the people there are like: “You want to call the United States… from a payphone? I don’t know if it’s even possible to call another country from a payphone!”

So we start asking around again, and still we’re getting blank stares and puzzled looks. A few people happily give us directions to nearby green payphones, because people in Sydney apparently think that Queensland is a foreign country. Anyway, we eventually find someone who directs us to a shopping arcade around 20 blocks away. And we can’t find a taxi, so we have to walk the whole way (have I mentioned that by this point it’s 95F, that we’d walked past 4,732 orange payphones, or that we’d spent 90 minutes on this seemingly simple task?).

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a la carte Cable?

Every so often I see a post on a message board wondering whatever happened to a la carte cable – the ability to pick and choose which cable channels you want instead of having to buy “packages” from your cable provider. A la carte cable will never happen, in my opinion, and for two reasons, both of which involve money.

The first has to do with “contracts of carriage”, the agreements between individual cable networks (like Bravo) and your cable provider (like Comcast or Time Warner). Almost all of the carriage contracts currently in place in the United States are based on the total number of subscribers per cable operator. For example, Bravo might let Time Warner carry their programming on its cable network for 50¢/household/month. So if Time Warner has 20 million subscribers, they’ll have to pay Bravo $10 million/month. Time Warner could, at any time, decide to switch over to a la carte programming, but their carriage contract with Bravo would still require them to pay $10/million a month. If only 200,000 households sign up for Bravo under the new plan (giving Time Warner $100,000/month in revenue), then Time Warner will have to make up the $900,000/month difference somehow. Now it’s entirely possible that Time Warner and Bravo could reach some agreement on an a la carte model when negotiating their next carriage contract (such contracts typically last 1-5 years), but guess what? Time Warner would still have to deal with all the other networks and their carriage contracts, all of which might end at different times. It’s a financial and logistical nightmare for cable companies, to say nothing of the fact that many of cable networks are bundled together.

The second reason is related to the first. Let’s say that Time Warner does go with an a la carte lineup. And let’s further say that only 200,000 subscribers opt to receive Bravo. Under the previous carriage contract (50¢/household/month), Bravo would now get $100,000 a month from Time Warner instead of $10 million a month. I’ll admit that 50¢/household/month is an unrealistically low fee for carrying Bravo… but if only 200,000 households sign up for the channel, Bravo would have to charge each subscriber $50/household/month to get the same amount of money that they got under the old contract, and that’s just not realistic, either. And that’s the worry: that smaller, “fringe” cable networks would either disappear completely, or at least have their budgets slashed, if a la carte cable were to happen.

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Controlling Access to Facebook

The exploding popularity of Facebook is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s cool that more and more of your old friends and classmates are joining up; on the other hand it’s a bit of a drag that people like your mother and boss are signing up… because this presents a problem. You can’t very well deny a friend request from good ol’ Mom or your boss… but you really don’t want them to see those pictures of you doing Jager shots off a stripper’s belly, either. What can you do?

Thankfully, Facebook has a nifty, built-in way to avoid this whole mess. It might seem lengthy at first, but it’s actually pretty easy:

1) Log in to Facebook.

2) Click the “Friends” link at the top of the page.

3) Look for the “Friends List” in the left hand sidebar. You might see a list called “Limited Profile”. If you do, click on it and add the friends you want to restrict to the list. If you don’t see a “Limited Profile” list, click “Make New List” and give it a name like “Limited Profile” or “Safe Profile” or what have you. You may add friends to the list at this time or do it later – it’s up to you.

4) Click the “Settings” button at the top right of the page. Click “Privacy Options” from the drop-down menu.

5) Click “Profile”.

6) You will now see a list of all the aspects of your Facebook profile, such as “Basic Info”, “Personal Info”, etc. Choose each part you’d like to block by clicking the drop-down box for that particular entry and selecting “Customize”. At the bottom of the pop-up window, click the box in the “Except these people” option and start typing “Limited Profile” (or the name of the list you created in step 3).

7) Repeat step 6 for every section you’d like to block your friends from seeing.

8) Click the “Save Changes” button when done.

To verify these settings, type the name of a friend from the Limited Profile list into the “See how a friend sees your profile:” box.

Note that you can have multiple lists and multiple privacy rules. So you could have a very restrictive profile for family, a “looser” profile for coworkers, and a “standard” profile for your friends.

Ashes Recap Delayed

Hey everyone! I just wanted to mention that my recap of this week’s episode of Ashes to Ashes will be delayed for a week for reasons I’d just as soon not get in to at the moment (everything’s fine, it’s just a long story).

I’ll try to have it posted by next Monday.

Thanks for understanding!

– Jim

Random Concert Experience

I don’t know why I thought of this the other day, but I did:

I never liked metal, and I especially didn’t like “hair bands”. But when my best friend and a couple of his friends decided to go see Ratt towards the end of 8th grade (May, 1985), I decided to go with them for some reason. Why not? Tickets were only $13.50 or so.

My best friend and I had been up until 5am talking on the phone the night before, so when the opening act came out (some guy from Jersey called Bon Jovi), we actually went to sleep in our seats. Our friend Neil just sat in his and quietly watched the show, while our other friend Mike went to out to the concourse to go chat up some chicks (strangely, this was just to buy him drinks, not to get laid). Shortly before Ratt went on, Mike came back and woke Richard and me up. And then the band came out. It was all good (I guess), but a few minutes into it, Mike nudged me with his shoulder and said “Look at that dumbass!”

He’d pointed to the very top row of seats in our section. There was a group of mulletheads sitting by themselves in the top row, and one of them had started dancing on top of the empty chair in front of him. Not the seat of the chair, mind you… but the top of the seat back… the inch and half thin plastic seatback. And, judging buy the way he was dancing, he was pretty loaded. So, imagine a loaded Earl Hickey with a mullet dancing on top of  a seat back. I nudged Richard, and we all laughed at the poor guy. As the show went on, we’d occasionally glance back and check on “Mullet Dancer”.

A few songs later, I was glancing back at him… and I saw him fall over. Since he was dancing on an aisle seat, he’d fallen onto the steps. And since this section of the Omni was like… 800 feet off the floor (hyperbole), I watched as he tumbled down the steps. I practically slapped my two friends to get their attention… “LOOK! LOOK! LOOK!” And that poor bastard just kept falling. It seemed as though our entire section was looking at this poor guy by the time he’d fallen halfway down the stairs… everyone was just frozen in either horror or amusement as he tumbled down the concrete steps. The steps at the Omni were tiny and there were no “landings” on them… just a giant row of concrete steps that went up and up and up. So there was no way to stop this guy.

When he hit the bottom, he was swarmed by ushers. He actually stood up under his own power, but immediately fell down. How much was drink and how much was brain damage, I’ll never know. His landing was in shadow, but I could swear that I saw blood all over his head. Whether he really was bleeding or if that was just the hyperactive imagination of an 8th grader, I’ll never know that, either.