giantsloth: (sloth)
Back when I was a full-time freelancer, I interviewed one of the founders of Netflix. It wasn't for a specific assignment; he was just passing through town and someone in press relations hooked us up. I got the spiel and was so convinced that I signed up for an account with my own money. It's possible that they comped me to begin with; I don't recall--but soon enough I was happily paying my own way, and have done so continuously for well over a decade now. But now the overall story, a cliche but a true one, is the Failed Promise of the Internet. Back when it was just DVDs in the mail, I could rent titles that would never end up in a local video rental place. I poured in a ton of ratings so that the mysterious Netflix engine would figure out my tastes, and would suggest movies I'd never heard of. So now, in a world where content streams in over the network, where the most obscure movies should be available instantly, what do I get? A dumber suggestion system, and a vastly reduced selection of movies. You can stream TWIN PEAKS, for example, but no movies directed by David Lynch are streamable from Netflix. Unless you've just got to have constant content coming down the network pipe, the overall technology of circa-2001 Netflix is superior to that of today. Which is a wordy preface to this opinion piece, worth reading, by Felix Salmon:

Netflix’s dumbed-down algorithms

And yeah, gas stations used to have smiling uniformed attendants, and jumbo jets used to have piano lounges. Progress.

Five stars

Dec. 6th, 2012 03:55 pm
giantsloth: (sloth)
That social networking site, Ye Booke of Faces, is now asking me to rate things. Restaurants and bars, mostly. Ratings are completely public, it seems--unable to be made friends-only with FB's byzantine privacy controls. So I will not be doing any rating, thank you very much. "Liking" things is good enough for me; I don't need to assign some number of stars. Besides, "do you like Char-Grill?" is an easy question for me to answer. Yes, I like Char-Grill. Whereas dithering over star ratings on FB seems like a waste of my time.

Thinking about five-star ratings does something to the critical/skeptical/negative part of my brain--which most of you know is the Greater Part of my brain. Do even my most favorite spots rate a full five stars, without reservation? I can't say that they do. There's always room for improvement. If only they had half-stars. Man, I would handing out a bunch of 4.5 star ratings.
giantsloth: (Default)
If I had more time, what I would do is, get a domain name, hook a blog up to it, and then extensively document every one of the motor tours from the 1939 WPA book NORTH CAROLINA: A Guide to the Old North State. There are 33 tours, ranging in length from 35 to 613 miles. But more time is something I perpetually lack, so I have not done those things.

What we did do, yesterday, is attempt to replicate Tour 8 from the guide. We drove up to Clarksville, Virginia, then came back down to Durham on US-15. Or rather, what would've been US-15 in 1939, which is close but not exactly the same. US-15 is the old Jefferson Davis Highway, and while it's still signed as such, the granite and bronze markers are mostly gone. There's one in Clarksville at the big intersection there. There's one over the state line in NC, but it's clearly new; at least the metal tablet is. The one marker that we found that looks realistically old was in Stovall, NC. Stovall is also where we attempted to find the family cemetery near the site of John Penn's house, but failed. Penn being one of the three Signers from NC. We were driving down a dirt road through land that was marked "No Trespassing" and also clearly a place where a lot of hunting happens, and the dirt road became a mud road so instead of getting stuck we turned around. This was the first site/sight mentioned in the guide that we failed to see.

Still, there is relatively current information on that cemetery (http://cemeterycensus.com/nc/), unlike many of the other places mentioned in the guide. House of Col. William T. Gregory, who ran a general store where he gave away rather than sold things? No dice. Hester Grange, the meeting hall of a farmers club in Hester, and Indian Grave Hill, where amateur archaeologists carted off Native American relics, ditto and ditto. We stopped in Oxford, where the courthouse dates from 1838, and discovered a museum there in the old jail, with lots of wonderful artifacts (including some Native American relics). Once we got to Durham, we switched over to Geer Street, which used to be US-15, and cruised into town on that stretch, passing the Hell's Angels clubhouse and the dearly departed Hartman's Steakhouse on the way.

The allure of this project is that you WILL find some peculiar old landmark that has traveled in time relatively unscathed. We didn't find anything like that this time. What we did find was the usual mix of beauty and ugliness, poverty and riches.
giantsloth: (Default)
I can't say that I have seen that many movies that John Hughes wrote or directed, or that I know anything about the guy. Certainly, from interviews such as this one, he seems relatively cool. But The Breakfast Club was wildly important to me when I saw it oh so long ago at Mission Valley, where I still go see movies these days. While I haven't watched it in years, other than flipping by the bowdlerized version on TV, I'm guessing that it still sets a high mark as far as adults-writing-teens goes.

The other movie that came to mind was that white upper-middle-class carpe diem fave, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Again, I haven't seen that one in quite a while. But it is the exact kind of thing that makes me wonder this: if so many people love this movie, why is the world still the way it is?

There are some easy answers to that, and it is pretty much a rhetorical question. But.

giantsloth: (devil)
Boy oh boy, am I sure missing WisCon.

I think it's clear that I'm crap at posting to LJ, but in the interest of keeping up appearances, here's some stuff we've done recently ... for [livejournal.com profile] barbmg 's 29th birthday, we met [livejournal.com profile] bondgwendabond  and [livejournal.com profile] colonelrowe up in Ash City, I mean, Asheville. Drove up the hill to the Grove Park Inn, where there is a beautiful view from the veranda of the historic old hotel, although these days it's populated by golfing richnecks instead of alcoholic literary giants. Then, thanks to a tip from a local litblogger friend, down to the polar opposite of the Grove Park Inn: the Wedge microbrewery and tasting room, next to the railroad tracks next to the river, in this industrial building that's been repurposed for artists' studios. Draft beer, peanuts, nothing else. Very nice. Then back into downtown Asheville proper (no devils were spotted in the making of this trip) for dinner at Nova (which, speaking of the devil, used to be called Scratch) where we had really good tapas and really really REALLY good cocktails. SRSLY. Breakfast the next morning at vegetarian wonderland The Laughing Seed was also really good.

And then last weekend there was the inaugural Piedmont Rangers camping trip in Umstead Park. Rather surprisingly, none of the kids or adults got stabbed or burned or carried off by the deadly Umstead bears. Smores were made (gourmet smores!) and ticks were removed and of course no alcohol was drunk because that is against state park regulations.

Have I mentioned that I'm missing WisCon? (And GARF, and VARF, and...)

giantsloth: (Default)
Why yes, I do have a survival kit. And what a survival kit it is.

We just got back from pretending to be urban sophisticates in the ever-more-revitalized downtown area. Had swanky, expensive, good-but-salty supper at Poole's Luncheonette. Plunked a note on an old broken-down piano that once was played by Cab Calloway (and many others). Looked at some art, or rather, "art."

It's a good thing we did not need compass or flint and steel, because I forgot to take my survival kit.

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