Thursday, May 31, 2007
Select moviegoers get tattletale tool
NEW YORK — Movie theaters don't have vice principals or hall monitors to enforce the rules, but they seem headed that way as they step up their battle with a big and growing problem: rude customers.
Major chains are telling managers to monitor audiences more frequently and clamp down on disruptions, including cellphone use, talking and gross littering.
The largest theater owner even is enlisting moviegoers themselves. This week, Regal Entertainment Group will significantly expand a program to give selected patrons wireless devices to anonymously alert the manager of disruptions.
"We have noticed over the years that customer etiquette has become more and more of a problem," says Dick Westerling, Regal's senior vice president of marketing and advertising. "We're doing what we can to provide a friendly environment for all moviegoers."
Summer is the peak time for complaints as kids pack theaters for the season's high-energy adventure and animation flicks.
"I don't believe that this generation of younger folk is as respectful of fellow audience members as previous generations" were, says National Association of Theater Owners President John Fithian. "Maybe that's because I'm getting older. But the sense among our members is that this is a growing issue."
Rudeness isn't limited to kids, though. "Parents who bring really small children into R-rated movies are an annoyance," Fithian says.
Theater owners must act. As HDTV and home theater sales grow, "They have to make it worth people's time to leave home and go to the movie theater," says Research Associates analyst Marla Backer.
The financial toll isn't obvious this year. Box office sales already are up 6%, with an unusually high number of potential blockbusters on tap. Shrek the Third, Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End have set a heady pace ahead of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Live Free or Die Hard, Ratatouille, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and The Simpsons Movie.
Owners still recall, though, the 2005 box office slump that led many to fear disturbances had done permanent damage.
"There's a subtle structural change going on," Backer says. "Certain people don't go to the movies anymore."
Regal will try to change that this week by introducing its Regal Guest Response System in 114 theaters, up from a test at 13 that began last year. Customers in Regal's loyalty points program will be invited to take a cellphone-size device into the theater. If something pushes their buttons — a disturbance, picture or sound glitch, someone recording the film — they can push one of four buttons to alert the manager.
"We've seen an improvement in the customer etiquette with the implementation of this program," Westerling says. "It addresses these problems on a more routine basis and in a faster manner."
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Though my job is laid back, from time to time, I REALLY want to relax (no, not like that, you dirty devils). Here's how it works: I go to the bathroom and once I've done my business, still want to stay in that quiet place (the office bathroom is self-contained, so you don't have to worry about anyone else being in the next stall or anything like that). So I'll take the time to breathe for a few minutes.
I usually like to think about where I want to eat that evening and such. Sometimes I'll text to a friend or two if the mood strikes me. I am usually quite refreshed when I return to my desk after a good bathroom sojourn.
"The problem is taking longer than we anticipated, but rest assured we're working around the clock to get MySpace back online," said David Gundy, a spokesman for the social networking site. "We're hoping to have friendship restored to our users as soon as possible."
The outage, which occurred late Saturday night, is believed to be the result of a complicated wallpaper upload for the page of a former VH1 I Love New York contestant, which triggered a chain reaction of web browser crashes and server shutdowns. Although MySpace's emergency-response team has so far been unable to reconnect any of the millions currently stranded without access to online companionship, Gundy said he remains hopeful that no profiles have been lost.
However, because the sudden lack of friends has deprived MySpace users of comments, bulletin posts, and searches for elementary school crushes, it is feared that the ordeal could inflict long-term psychological damage. In Chicago alone, an estimated 50,000 people remain trapped in their apartments, with no way of contacting the outside world about new bands, Adult Swim cartoons, or the latest video games.
"I've just been wandering in and out of my cubicle in a daze, not knowing what to say and who to talk to," said Upper Darby, PA data-entry technician Patrick "Smiley457" Mancuso, 31. "I thought about asking someone at work or in my apartment building if they'd join my friend group. But how am I supposed to tell which ones I will like and which ones I won't? It's too overwhelming."
Corey "Aqualad" Friesen, 18, of Danville, IL appeared to share Mancuso's fears about manual and analog socializing. "I vaguely remember trying to make friends pre-MySpace, but in 16 years, I only made three real friends," Friesen said. "If I have to revert back to face-to-face friend gathering, I would be middle-aged before I built that number into the double digits. I'd definitely never get back into the hundreds again."
On Monday, MySpace co-creator Tom Anderson issued an apologetic press release on the website of MySpace's parent company, News Corporation.
"So I know alot [sic] of you couldn't check out your profiles and I just want to say sorry for all the lameness on our end," Anderson wrote. "Rock on. :)"
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
"1999" - Prince
Summertime came and the movies came fast and hard. Did you read what I just wrote? Anyway, the big kahuna for the summer of '99 was "Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace"
I'm gonna have to continue this entry in the next few days. 1999 was just too memorable to write about in one sitting.
Ramsay: So where's the fuckin' Turbot!?
Ramsay: You're going to blow fire in your face, you fucking donkey!
Ramsay: Tom has a big heart, unfortunately he's a crap cook.
Ramsay: If that was the last thing to eat in this country, I'd fucking starve.
Ramsay: (to Garrett after he only cooked one portion of quail instead of two) You're one portion short, you fucking donut.
Ramsay: (to Garrett after serving the lamb sauce) Thank you very much. Now fuck off, you fat useless sack of fucking Yankee-Dankee-Doodle shit.
Friday, May 25, 2007
I was a paperboy for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press from the summer of '85 until the spring of '87. It allowed me to have plenty of spending money at my disposal to buy cassettes and go to movies. But since I was living in Winona and delivering a Twin Cities paper, I had to cover a lot of ground to deliver 45 papers (most preferred the Winona paper). I walked close to 2 miles each morning, every morning. I would get up at about 5:30 or 6:00am, a time when I knew the papers would be on my porch. If the papers weren't there yet, I would watch TV while I waited for them to arrive. Two of the shows I watched while waiting included "What's Happening!"
and "The White Shadow".
Once the papers arrived, I put them in my official Pioneer Press bag. Since the route took about an hour, I made sure to dress warm during the winter. On the coldest days, I would wear 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, and 2 hats (one for over my head, another a ski mask to cover my face). The bag could be fairly heavy as I started the route, but as I delivered the papers, the bag gradually became lighter (Sunday papers were the worst. Due to their bulky size, I always needed to make a trip or two back home to get more papers. Sometimes my stepdad Phil would drive me around to deliver the last of 'em).
One of the places I delievered to was the Watkins retirement home. It was great to warm up in there on the coldest days. However, the Watkins home was near the beginning of the route, so I usually wasn't too cold yet. About 2/3rds into the route, there was a house that had a small porch and, on the most severe days, I would silently enter it, leave the paper there, and then warm up for a minute or two. One guy always liked having his paper wrapped in a rubber band and then put on the top of his car so that it would be there when he left for work. This one freakin' house on Franklin, I had to climb all the way to the 3rd floor to deliver his paper. Winter days were extra difficult because most people hadn't shoveled their walk yet after a snowfall the night before.
Another thing that came with the job was collecting. This is where I would go to subscribers' houses to collect their payment for 2 weeks or a month of service. I probably did this about twice a week usually in the early evening. This was a rare chance to meet the people I was delivering to each day. One of the people I collected from said she was one of my dad's teachers in school and to say hi to him. A young lady had just come out of the shower and put a robe on when I was out one night. One of my subscribers (an older gent) passed on, so obviously his subscription was stopped.
Since this was before the internet, being a paperboy, I was one of the first to get the latest news on what was going on in the world. I decided to quit the route in the spring of '87. I had grown tired of getting up early every day of the year (though there was one time in which I went out of town with my mom and had someone cover for me for a weekend). As far as spending money, my dad offered me a job working in the parts department of his RV business.
One of my last days delivering was May 25, 1987 (exactly 20 years ago today). I was delivering one of my last papers on that morning and the date caught my attention. It was on May 25th, four years previously, that I had seen "Return of the Jedi" on opening day. It was exactly ten years to the day that the original "Star Wars" had come out (today is the 30-year anniversary of the release of "Star Wars"). I wondered if there would be any media coverage of this, so that evening I watched "Showbiz Today" on CNN with Bill Tush. Sure enough, they did mention it. I hadn't really been into "Star Wars" for a few years, but the anniversary renewed my interest. I went to Goltz Pharmacy and they had a special 10th anniversary salute to the Star Wars saga.
I wanted to see the movies again, so had my dad take me to the Best Buy in LaCrosse so I could buy my first VCR (a Symphonic!). I bought all 3 of the Star Wars movies (they each cost 29.99) and watched them constantly. I plastered my bedroom wall with Star Wars pictures and clippings (not unlike what the girls did after seeing "Titanic").
A few months later with mom expecting twin girls, Phil, mom, and I moved to a big house in Valley Oaks, a new subdivision on the southeast side of Winona.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I was a real rebel...
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
A couple years ago, I went out to eat with my friend, Art, and his girlfriend. It was Art's birthday and I managed to come up with a pretty good gag gift. Another friend had been prescribed some Viagra for a sexual dysfunction he had had. It passed and he no longer needed it, so I gift wrapped an unopened box and gave them to Art at Friday's. He saw the package labeled "Viagra" and thought it was empty, but was shocked when there were actually Viagra tablets inside that were still sealed. He was clueless as to how I could have obtained them unless I, well, you know.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
I remember how excited I was when I saw the first photos from "Jedi". Several months before the movie came out, there were pictures from it in "Starlog" magazine.
They whetted my appetite. What new adventures were to be had for my heroes? On that summer evening in 1983, I found out. I was then 12. I bought the soundtrack that same day before I saw the movie.
But most of my questions about "Jedi" had been answered before I went to see it on opening day. How was it that I knew all the major plot points of said pic before its release? Well, I had ordered the "Return of the Jedi" full-color storybook from my school a few weeks prior. I figured the book couldn't come out until the movie was released. Imagine my suprise when around May 20, my name was called by the teacher. He had the "Jedi" storybook for me. I was shocked. I looked at some of the pictures, but I didn't want to read much of the text. That would spoil things. Hours went by. Finally, I relented. So, sitting on my front porch, I read the children's storybook. It didn't reveal everything, just most of it. It was like talking to God. I was finally learning the answers to the questions I had been carrying around for years. Han was rescued. Yoda died. Vader was Luke's father. Vader died, but found redemption. I felt somewhat guilty for having read it, but to have the secrets of the universe ready to be revealed to you, that I could not resist. I just couldn't wait. I was still excited to see the movie, however, to see things actually transpire on screen and, thankfully, there were some scenes in the movie that weren't in that storybook, such as Anakin joining Yoda and Obi-Wan at the end of the movie. The next day was my last of elementary school and, needless to say, my childhood would soon be ending.
Friday, May 18, 2007
I'm not sure what Shanon knew about the plot beforehand, but I wasn't gonna tell him the specifics and then have him refuse to go. We sat near the front of the theatre. The movie started and unfolded (as most movies do). The time came for Jake and Heath to have their batty boy scene and I noted Shanon's reaction. He basically couldn't watch the screen at that point, as if it was literally painful for him to watch. He looked away, off to the side. Once the scene ended, he was fine for the rest of the movie (other than the part where they passioniately kissed a little bit later on, oh, and the part where they jumped into the lake buck naked). Now I'm not homosexual, but I have nothing against it. Shanon, I think, might (though he doesn't have any problems with lesbians). In sum, though downbeat, I thought it was a great movie.
A week or two later, we went to the Macaroni Grill. It was me, Shanon, and my mom and dad. The MacGrill is an upscale Italian restaurant in which the waiter covers your table with a heavy duty type of paper as you are being seated. They also give you crayons so that if you want to write on the paper while waiting for your food, you can do so. When Shanon went to the bathroom, I wrote "Shanon loves Brokeback Mountain" right near his place setting. It took a while, but he noticed it and wanted it scribbled out as soon as possible. I wouldn't give him a crayon to do so, however. He got really P.O'd and demanded it (some of the other people observing wondered what the hell he was so bent out of shape about). I finally gave it to him and he crossed it out. He wasn't out of the woods yet, though.
Cut to a few months later. I had already seen "Scary Movie 4" 3 times, but wanted to see it again. Shanon hadn't yet seen it and was more than willing to go to an evening show. About 15 minutes into the movie was a scene that parodied "Brokeback". Shanon, knowing where the scene was going, said "Oh God..." and turned away his head as two black men undressed each other and then applied lotion to their bodies.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Early reports had indicated that Favre was so upset that his team failed to close a draft-day deal for Randy Moss with the Oakland Raiders that his agent called Packers GM Ted Thompson and requested a trade to a team with capable receivers.
"Nothing against Donald [Driver] and Greg [Jennings], but if I can't throw it to Randy Moss, then I want to throw it to Antonio Freeman, Robert Brooks, and Don Beebe," Favre said. "I bet with them, I'd have more of a chance of throwing for, say, 3,899 yards and 39 touchdowns, with maybe as few as 13 interceptions. Who knows? That kind of production could even get me another MVP award, although of course that's much less important than leading the '96 Pack to another Super Bowl victory."
"Mark Chmura, though, I don't know," Favre admitted. "Decent tight end, but something about him isn't quite right."
Although the Packers had no immediate comment, head coach Mike McCarthy said the team would be "heartbroken" to part with its greatest player, although in deference to Favre's long service, and for the good of the current team, they would be willing to consider a trade package including a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft and the 1996 Brett Favre.
It's like those "Now" albums they have now where hit songs by different singers are put onto one disc. Some of the songs that I could listen to at any time by having this record included: "Dancing Queen" by ABBA, KC and the Sunshine Band's "I'm Your Boogie Man", Alan O'Day's controversial classic, "Undercover Angel", KISS's smokin' "Calling Dr. Love", Barry Manilow's "Looks Like We Made It", and Donna Summer's "I Feel Love".
One afternoon when we got back home from a trip to Winona, I was singing a Donna Summer disco song. Here is a rough transcript of what happened:
Tom (singing) "Do you wanna get funky with me, do you wanna?"
Dad: "What did you say?"
Tom: "I said, do you wanna get funky?"
Dad: "Well, don't say that word".
Tom: "What word? Funky?"
I then shrugged my shoulders and went into the house.
I now know that he was afraid if I said that word at school, people might think I was saying another that sounds awfully similar (check this out for someone who made that very mistake).
All I can say about it now is...
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
1. Friday's (for 2 reasons: the food is awesome and in there, it's ALWAYS Friday)
2. Wendy's (I just cannot get enough of they's chicken sandwich and if I'm not in the mood for fries, there's always the caesar side salad. I love bringing a mag (not mags :P) there and perusing it as I try to eat slowly. I'll proably go there after work today)
3. Da Outback (why? Because without fail, I can feel the aftertaste of their caesar salad in my mouth hours after I've ingested it plus their burgers are basically the best in town)
4. Olive Garden (their house salad kicks ass, no two ways about it, and I've enjoyed their pizza for the past decade)
5. Macaroni Grill (their meatball lasagna is the bomb plus they serve my favorite non-soda: Hi-C Fruit Punch)
I'm not gonna tag anybody (I'm so damn hungry after writing this, I can't bear to read anyone else's thoughts about food)
"To me, poker has never seemed compelling as a spectator sport, although its TV popularity indicates that a sizable portion of the viewing population disagrees with me. Director Curtis Hanson does his best to generate suspense as each new hand plays out, but this becomes a case of too much of the "sport" in a movie that is at heart a relationship drama. There's no doubt that the movie needs to show some action at the poker tables - that's where some of the most intense character development takes place - but less would have been more effective. At over two hours, the running length is bloated and there are times when the film bogs down."
On Sunday, I went on my own to the British comedy-satire, "Hot Fuzz". It pokes sophisticated fun at American action movies and did quite a good job of it (A-). I typically enjoy British movies for some reason (I may have been one, perhaps a serf, in a past life). The next film I plan to go to, "28 Weeks Later", is also a Brit flick.
And then last night, I went to, "Spidey 3". Not too many people there since it was a late show and the movie has been out for more than 10 days. Most reviews said it wasn't as good as the first 2, but I figured I'd give it a try. Boy, am I glad I did. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were great as usual (there is a heartbreaking scene that takes place between them on a bridge).
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
The restaurant had a cow just like the one pictured above attached to its main sign. It was located just a few blocks from our house of worship, so many of those in our congregation would be there as well. It was similar to an all-you-can-eat buffet (you grabbed a tray, silverware, and pop and then ordered the buffet and/or a meal). I pretty much always chose a burger and fries. On one occasion, while my dad was enjoying steak, he said that I didn't know what good food was.
He hoped that when I grew up, I would appreciate the value of a good steak. However, it never happened. I still love burgers. They're more interesting to me. Burgers aren't just meat. There's pickles, mustard, onions, cheese, and lettuce. The combination excites me and my taste buds. It even gives me a chubby from time to time.
At the end of the meal, us kids loved going to get some ice cream out of the soft serve machine. Yummy! On our way out, Dad would go up to pay the bill and always took a toothpick from the dispenser for the ride home.
A few years later, the restaurant changed its name to the Golden Corral, then a few years after that to Prime Cut. In the 90's, its name changed again, this time to the Winona Steakhouse. Despite the name changes, the restaurant stayed the same. The last time I was there was about 3 years ago. It was my birthday and I ate there with my mom, dad, and wife. A good time was had by all.
It finally went out of business about 2 years ago and is now a crematorium. That's right. They're still using the ovens, only now they're cooking a different kind of meat.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. And as we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
"In order to ensure our progress toward the goal of enlightenment, the Holy Spirit has a highly individualized curriculum for everyone. Every encounter, every circumstance can be used by Him for His purposes. He translates between our perfect cosmic self, and our worldly insanity. He enters into the illusion and leads us beyond it. He uses love to create more love, and He responds to fear as a call for love."
"Everyone is on a spiritual path; most people just don't know it."
"We're all assigned a piece of the garden, a corner of the universe that is ours to transform. Our corner of the universe is our own life — our relationships, our homes, our work, our current circumstances —exactly as they are. Every situation we find ourselves in is an opportunity, perfectly planned by the Holy Spirit, to teach love instead of fear."
"Relationships are the Holy Spirit's laboratories in which He brings together people who have the maximal opportunity for mutual growth."
"Relationships are meaningful because they are opportunities to expand our hearts and become more deeply loving."
"All attack is a call for help."
The five best qualities to have in order to be happy are to be joyful, loving, accepting, blessing, and grateful. And one shouldn't "do" things in order to "be" happy. One should "be" happy and then go from there. So what say you? Yeah, you, sitting at your computer there. Do you choose to be happy right here, right now or do you have better things to do?
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
One of my favorite memories of our Saint Bernard, Brandy, was when I brought some KFC home. I sat on the couch and opened up my box of food. I let Brandy take a look inside. She immediately put an entire wing in her mouth, bones and all. I tried to get it from her, but she swallowed the entire thing before I had a chance to do so.
Another similar incident occurred in 1999 when I lived in the Hallindale apartments near St Marys. I was walking both Zoe 1 and Brandy and Bran noticed the remains of an ice cream cone on the ground. It was mostly just the cone with a McDonalds wrapper around the bottom of it. When she put it in her mouth, I tried to get it out to take the wrapper off, but, again, she swallowed the whole thing before I had the chance.
Another time at my present home, I left a box of Old Dutch potato chips on the kitchen counter. The next morning, when I woke up, the box was open on the floor next to the couch. One of the airtight bags had been chewed open, maybe both, and and many of the chips had been eaten. I was wondering how she did it, but quickly realized that the only way possible was for her to get on her hind legs. Sometime later, I actually saw her get up on her 2 back legs to drag something off the counter. Needless to say, I didn't leave any goodies up there after that.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Friday, May 04, 2007
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I talked about my problems, about my feelings. I was also put on some "mood enhancers". The therapist said it would take several weeks for them to take effect. In the meantime, she suggested I work on my self-talk (the things I think to myself). She encouraged me to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. I found a book that was extremely helpful in this regard at the Little Professor Book Store in the Winona Mall.
Let me illustrate this. How have you been feeling as you read this? You might have been thinking, "Cognitive therapy sounds too good to be true. It would never work for me." If your thoughts run along these lines, you are feeling skeptical or even discouraged. What causes you to feel that way? Your thoughts. You create those feelings by the dialogue you are having with yourself about this book!
Conversely, you may have felt a sudden uplift in mood because you thought, "Hey, this sounds like something which might finally help me." Your emotional reaction is generated not by the sentences you are reading but by the way you are thinking. The moment you have a certain thought and believe it, you will experience an immediate emotional response. Your thought actually creates the emotion."
There was another book that I purchased a few months later which was also extremely helpful. I will give you the scoop on it next week.