Friday, July 28, 2006

Rifftrax Review - *No Spoilers*

The wife and I just got thru watching the first rifftrax episode, the send up of Road House, starring Patrick Swayze. Let me start off by summing it up in one word...Hilarious!

Mike Nelson is in top form with the new rifftrax offerings. I honestly think the Road House mp3 was funnier than most of the old MST3k episodes (not as funny as Manos, The Hands of Fate, or Mitchell, but few things are).

The Purchase
The purchase was extremely easy. I basically went to the rifftrax website, clicked on the Road House link in the bottom center of the page and then clicked on the "Buy Now" button where I was whisked to PayPal to complete the transaction. The download came as a zip compressed mp3 file, that I unpacked and loaded into iTunes. The zip package also came with a text file with some simple instructions and a chapter by chapter breakdown of the DVD time and what point in the mp3 file it corresponded to. From there it was on to the iPod and off to the living room for viewing.

The Setup
We watched the DVD on a basic TV and DVD player setup and played the rifftrax mp3 (rifftrack?) on my 10Gb iPod mounted on a Bose iPod Dock behind us. Like the website said, getting the volume levels normalized was pretty painless. We did have an issue syncing up the source and DVD because both my wife and I thought that we were supposed to hit play on the iPod after the MGM lion roared for the second time, but we were supposed to hit play after the first roar. Still, it was apparent fairly quickly so we wasted about thirty seconds rectifying the problem. The other problem we had was that we had misplaced the remote to the iPod docking station during our home renovations last month and have still not found it. So, while pausing the rifftrax and the DVD should have been a simple affair, we made it a little more complicated than it should have been. Even given this, it was still fairly easy.

The intro of the mp3 is designed to introduce you to the rifftrax format and get the timing right. In addition, throughout the movie a monotone, computerized voice character "Disembaudio" repeats occasional lines from the movie as they occur to let you know how far off from the movie track you are. While it's a little disconcerting at first, you get used to it fairly quickly. And to be fair, it's not like the acting in these movies is really all that great to begin with. In addition, Disembaudio provides a decent character for Mike to interact with, a la MST3k.

Because it's difficult for the audio to start exactly in the right spot, we found that the slight drift got more pronounced as you made your way thru the movie. Still, about an hour into the movie it was a simple matter of pausing the DVD for a second to let the mp3 catch up and then we were able to enjoy the rest of the film with no issues.

The Humor
As I mentioned above, Nelson is as funny as ever, if not funnier, in this format. The fact that the movie had some nudity and "salty" language was the perfect foil for his squeeky clean brand of humor. While the rifftrax is family friendly, with no cussing, the movie is definitely not, so you may have to make a decision on whether you want to watch this with the family on a movie by movie basis.

The humor is the same as MST3k, and he does the same running gags he did with previous movies, the types of jokes that build on earlier jokes and become more hilarious, not just in the context of the movie, but in the context of the commentary itself. Example, a lot of jokes centered around the absurdity of Dalton, Patrick Swayze's character, being a "famous" bouncer. So, whenever one of the other characters talks about him in the context of having heard some story of his colorful bouncer past, Nelson usually takes the opportunity to work in a joke about how bouncers are revered as heroes in the film universe, or how Swayze does ordinary things in a "bouncer-like" way.

I was surprised by how much my wife (who is not an MST3k fan...having not seen most of the episodes) liked the rifftrack. Her comment after finishing it was that we had to get the Fifth Element commentary when it came out. The website indicates that the $1.99 rate for the commentary is a beta price, indicating that it will be raised once the site gets a following. It's unclear what the final price for the commentaries will be, but I can definitely say that at $1.99 it's a steal. I'm looking forward to seeing how the service develops as it goes on. I really do think that technical issues of syncing the playback aside, this widens the possibilities of the MST3k format quite considerably.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Qumana Test

I'm trying out Qumana after seeing it mentioned on lifehacker as their "Download of the Day." It's run on OS X and Windows.  I'm using it on WinXP and I have to admit that so far I'm impressed.  It does subtle little things like automatically inserting the last link you copied to the clipboard when you click on the hyperlink button that makes blogging a whole lot easier.

The Drop Pad looks like a neat idea as well.  I'll definitely have to try it out in the future.

Update: The WYSIWYG editor seems to be doing something wacky with my text alignment and margins.  Not quite sure why it happened, but hopefully the changes I made to the HTML source in the "Source View" editor will fix it.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Isn't this kind of the point?

The Wall Street Journal points to a trend among a small minority of Netflix users who let movies sit on their shelves unwatched for months at a time without watching them.

Having been one of those people (Ran sat on my shelf for a full 3 months before I found a four hour block to sit down and watch the movie in one sitting), I've got to wonder what all the fuss is about. I mean, part of the point of Netflix is the "no late fee" aspect of the model that allows movies to gather dust with no ill effects.

The WSJ seems to want to imply that the emperor has no clothes. I think the robes he wears are just fine, personally. [via cote]

(btw, Road House just arrived yesterday and my wife insisted on watching it once thru without the rifftrax commentary first since she'd never seen it before. After viewing a movie which, in her own words, "exceeded all my expectations of terribleness," I think she may be looking more forward to the rifftrax commentary than I am. I'd forgotten how incredibly dancy all the fight scenes are. Swayze and the guy who plays "Jimmy" don't do spin kicks...they pirhouette!)

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ask A Ninja: "Ninja Love"

You can guess what this is going to be like...but it's still funny all the way thru. I especially like the theme song and how ninjas make "quotation fingers"
"And I'll tell ya, I'm sorry ladies...but your hump and lovely lady lumps will always take a back seat to the glowing essence of the Tiger Princess Lady..."

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Monday, July 24, 2006


My "Super Best Friend" Matt clued me in to Rifftrax, a service put together by Mike Nelson, of MST3k fame that allows him to continue his lampooning commentary stylings in an online format. Basically, Mike's selling DRM-FREE mp3s of his audio commentary over various movies. You rent the appropriate DVD, and play the movie and the commentary simultaneously and get a few hours worth of entertainment. I haven't used the service yet, but I'm definitely intrigued. One of the biggest limitations of MST3k was that they were forced to use obscure films since they couldn't afford to buy the licenses for more mainstream cinema. While the low-budget films were certainly great fodder, and endlessly entertaining in their own right, I always wondered how the gang would handle more recent, bigger budget films. Hopefully, this will answer the question.

The other thing that I find amazing is that Nelson has used the internet to offer this entertainment over mainstream cinema (more value for customers) while still driving down costs of the entertainment model. Isn't technology grand?

"Roadhouse", the first movie they've provided commentary for, is next on my Netflix queue. They've got a preview clip up on the website and it's pretty damn funny. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to watch it and let you know the thoughts on the service.

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So, What's Been Goin' On?

General Errata and a Change in Direction

I've been silent for a long time on this weblog, which is usually a sign that a lot is going on. Steve, over at Sciatica has even commented on my lack of posting. My son Sean is, of course, keeping me quite busy, but it's more than that. Work is ramping up as I get accustomed to my new role and responsibilities (which keep expanding). In addition, a number of side-projects have been keeping me occupied and out of commission for the last month or so since I graduated.

The family just got back from a week in Cancun. While we were away we got hardwood floors installed. This meant moving furniture out of the house the week before we left, and then spending the week afterwards moving it back. We took the opportunity to get rid of some old furniture and buy a new living room set. My wife and I also decided it was time to do away with our hip and fashionable, cinder-block and 2x4 deskset and get real office furniture. This has all been extremely fun and exciting but what I'm most proud of is something that has been going on behind the scenes...

Ed Gets a Consulting Gig

At the beginning of this year my sister left the corporate world and started her own gift company. It was an incredibly brave decision for her to make since she was a highly compensated investment banker with a stable job, as well as a few lucrative offers on the table at competitors and clients of hers to come work for them. She decided to chuck all of that and follow her heart and do something that she felt passionate about.

While she spent a lot of time getting set up and filling out legal forms, she was also working hard with web designers on putting together an e-commerce site. At one point during the initial stages she had expressed frustration that she was spending so much time on the "nuts and bolts" of the company and so little time getting in front of customers. I suggested that she consider setting up a blog and using that as a way to initiate contact with people that would be interested in her business and services.

After consulting with her for a few hours here and there and showing her the value of sites like Technorati, delicious, and flickr, she set up an initial weblog on blogger. I gave her a couple of pointers and she just ran with it. As the whole experiment has evolved, I've been working with her on honing the online strategy and blogging and social networks have become a much bigger part of that. It's been a lot of fun watching her get the nuts and bolts of RSS, weblogs, social networks, and a whole host of other technologies. It's been equally fun watching friends and family react as they realize how she's running a business that has ramped up to profitability in under a year, has several clients queued up in the pipeline, and is selling products online before her website even goes live!

The Value Add

Needless to say she's become a believer in this whole phenomenon. She's attracted several regular readers to her site ( and the personal site was so popular that she set up a separate blog on corporate gift giving. The sites have been a great way to prescreen clients, and have also served as a way for clients to get a feel for what to expect from her prior to ever meeting her. In addition, she's managed to reach people out of her local area that she would never have had the chance to meet otherwise. Finally, it's given her the opportunity to sell products on a limited basis online while her e-commerce site has been getting set up. In short, the blog has helped hone the business and vice versa. If you get a chance you should check out some of her articles on special occasion gifts to get some ideas for those special people in your lives.

That's It?

Well, not really. I've also been working on a couple of side projects that were neglected since I started school. I'll post more on those as they become more concrete. In the meantime, I intend to make a few changes around here...

A (Slight) Change in Direction

First, I expect the posts to get longer now that I have some time to actually search for content and post more stuff. Second, I think this blog is going to have more of a business focus. One of the things I've been mulling over a lot lately is the wide gap between management and the front-line employees, and making sure that every employee in the company is working to move the ship forward.

Having said all of that, I doubt that this place is going to be all work and no play, so even if you're not into "management speak" (or as one of Cote's buddies dubbed it, "econobonics"), you'll hopefully still find things around here that are worth reading.

At the very least, you can expect more baby pics :)

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