Translate

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cinépolis


We went to the new Cinépolis movie theater in Euless the other night. This is the first Cinépolis in Texas. The chain has theaters in California, Florida, and the northeast. It is located in the Glade Parks shopping center close to Dave and Buster's. The complex has twelve screens, a concession stand with a varied menu, and a full bar. I'll get to the food/bar in a little bit.

Being brand new, the whole place is very clean and has that new car smell. The auditorium we were in had what has become a fairly standard configuration. There are a few rows close to the screen, a large aisle where you enter the auditorium then several rows on a steeper angle to the back. We usually choose seats in the second or third row above the large dividing aisle. It is all reserved seating. The seats are comfortable recliners with electronic controls to adjust the recline and footrest. I'm not sure if the seats are leather or faux leather. They are very comfortable and have a swinging tray and cup holders in the arms.  

The lobby is spacious but rather stark and cold with several ticket kiosks on one end. I did not see a traditional manned box office or counter. There may be one, maybe at the concession stand but I wasn't looking for it since I bought our tickets online at their website. They have their own ticket website and do not use another site like Fandango. One problem I see is that you get one barcode sent to your phone (or to print) for the whole order. In our case, that was not a problem since it was only for two tickets and we arrived together. I'm not sure how that would work for a party of four or more who maybe show up at slightly different times but are on one ticket purchase order. I guess the whole group would have to congregate in the lobby before proceeding to the screening auditoriums. Keep that in mind when going with a group.

On the other end of the lobby are the concession stand and bar. There are also several tables in this area. We didn't go to the concession stand, but it looked like there were several ordering/cashier stations. The bar is rather small, maybe 10 stools. There were about 1½ bartenders. That wasn't a problem when we first arrived, but when I went for refills, there was a significant wait to be served. 


Here's the problem, although they have a decent food selection and a full bar, there is no wait service in the auditoriums. You have to go out to the lobby to get your food or drink. That's damn inconvenient if you want something after your movie starts. Especially if it takes some time to get through the line. I'm also not sure how they will control access to the screening area. Do you have to remember to take your ticket or phone with you when you go for a popcorn refill?

This is a new establishment, so maybe they'll work out some of my concerns. It is a nice place to watch a movie. It will be interesting to see what first run movies Cinépolis shows. One of my gripes now is that the two closest theaters usually show the same movies while other hits are at more distant or crappier theaters.

Here is our conclusion for at least the time being. If the movie we want to see is playing at the Bedford Movie Tavern or the Colleyville Studio Movie Grill, we'll go there first. They both have in theater servers that bring the order right to your seat. No missing parts of the movie while you get a refill or completely new order. Prices are comparable, the facilities are at least as nice if not nicer, the food and drink selections are about the same and the seats are just as plush. All three cinemas have multiple dining choices close by if you want to eat before or after the movie.  

Cinépolis is a nice addition to the area and if they show different movies than our favorite places, I'm sure we'll go again. 

wjh

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Home Again

We went to see Home Again. For those who know me, you realize this was not my choice. It is officially a chick flick. All I knew going in is that Reese Witherspoon was the star and that it was about a single mom and kids moving from New York City to Los Angeles. 

It was probably best that is all I knew. I had no clue that the three twenty-something housemate guys were an integral part of the story. It was a nice twist on the usual recently separated couple saga.

Reese is the single mom, Candace Bergan is Reeses mom and grandmother to the kids,   

The three young guys were a writer, actor, and director/promoter trying to sell their short film as the basis for a full-length feature. After a wild 40th birthday night out for Reese, everybody crashes at her house. They wind up enchanting Candace who suggests that they stay in Reese's guest house while trying to get established in Hollywood. After initial objections, the three guys become part of the family. One becomes Reese's lover despite, or maybe because of, a 13 year age difference. They all bond with the kids. 

Eventually, the separated husband, Michael Sheen, shows up and the mayhem ensues. There are also a few other side stories. One includes a weird, self-absorbed Lake Bell which I'm sure was easy for her to play. 

Here is the trailer. Many of the best lines are contained in these 2½ minutes. 


This is not a bad film, but it certainly isn't a great film. I think the operative word would be cute. My companion liked it more than I did but she didn't think it was great either. In fact, she thought it was cute. I would give it a C+ grade. 
wjh

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bedford Blues & BBQ -2017


I spent the last two evenings at the Bedford Blues & BBQ Festival. I’ve been going to this festival for several years. Thankfully, I usually get to share it with great friends. The music is always great, top line acts and always good openers. This year turned out like most others. Sunday night is the climax of the three day Labor Day weekend festival and is supposed to be the biggest name. On Saturdays and Sundays, there are acts starting around 2:00 and continuing onto about 11:00. That will cost you whopping $10 at the gate, a couple of bucks less in advance online. No better music bargain around. The mild weather was a bonus this year.

This year, Buddy Guy was the Sunday headliner. Buddy is an icon of blues and guitarists. He has influenced many of the Rock/Blues era greats, including Clapton, Hendrix, Page, etc. As has been the case for several years, the Sunday headliner is not the best performance. Buddy is good, but he is old and has tricks to extend his performance. I think he may have had a few beverages or other substances prior to going on stage. He was pretty profane and spent much time rambling and talking about the who, what, where, and when of his career. When he decided to play, it was fine, although others in his band often led. At best a good, not great performance. I've seen Buddy several times and this was probably his worst. 


Now let's get to the really good stuff. Prior to Buddy Guy on the main stage, was Marcia Ball. She is a born in Texas, raised in Louisiana musician, a solid Blues singer, and pianist. Her set was very good and probably my companion's favorite performance of the weekend. She had a solid backing band. I have seen Marcia before, as has my festival mate. She put on a great performance.

My favorite performance was the night before. Ronnie Earl was the co-headliner. His set was good. I'm not sure who she was, but the featured vocalist was great. She had a Janis Joplin quality on some songs, a little gospel on others. Good stuff.


My favorite of the weekend was Delbert McClintock. He wrapped up the Saturday lineup. As I wrote in a brief post, Delbert's voice was a little rough for the first couple of songs. Then he found his stride. His band was outstanding. A piano, two guitars, bass, drums, sax, and trumpet. Delbert added harmonica on some songs. The set was tight, very little if any talk between songs. This good ole Texas boy can still bring it. Glad I got to see this performance.

This year's BluesFest pretty much matched the other years I've been going. The Sunday night "headliner" has always been good, but never the best performance. Sometimes the highlight comes from the Saturday headliner, sometimes it comes from the Saturday of Sunday 7:00 act. 

There was one new wrinkle this year, around 8:30 on Sunday, the food vendors began to run out of food. Worse yet, a couple of the beer stands ran out of beer. That is serious. For our last round, I had to walk across the festival grounds for the only beer stand with product. It was a very good crowd on both Saturday and Sunday, but it didn't seem that much larger than other years when food and beer were not in short supply. Did I underestimate the crowd or did everybody just drink and eat more? Glad to see the vendors did well.

The Bedford Blues & BBQ Festival is always a great weekend. The music, food, and beer are always good. The crowd is friendly. Just don't only go see the Sunday headliner. Besides missing the best performances, you may have a limited choice of food and beverages.

Hope to see you there in 2018. 

wjh

Friday, September 1, 2017

Very Random Thoughts - August 2017


  • When a female gets a manicure, shouldn't it be called a womanicure?
  • Shouldn't local government office holders who pass and then defend unconstitutional laws be recalled or voted out of office? They cost their taxpaying constituents millions in legal fees and fines.
  • Are drummers mostly musicians or athletes?
  • "While supplies last", a BS marketing phrase. Believe me, they will make more if the item is selling.
  • Is it somewhat ironic that the president of Dick's is a woman?
  • Does everyone who has a terminal illness "fight a courageous battle"?
  • Appropriate for a Texas summer. In the words of the great Steven Wright - "If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?"
  • Two underused yet empowering phrases are "I don't know" and "I was wrong (or mistaken)".
  • Texas had their tax-free weekend in the middle of August. It's primarily for back to school stuff. Unfortunately, it doesn't apply to the liquor store. Don't the teachers need to stock up on booze for the school year?
  • I wonder how early in human evolution that we learned to lie? 
  • Remember when a long distance phone call was a big deal and expensive? All those family secret person-to-person codes too. Especially the one for "we made it home safely". 
  • I'm amazed at how many people apparently get most of their historical education and information from statues.
  • Many people are only for free speech when they agree with the speech.
  • Why is the call quality of an $800 2017 smartphone inferior to a 1957 rotary dial black bakelite phone? 
  • "Not available in stores", why is that? 
  • Everywhere Jim Cantore goes there is terrible weather. Keep him out of your community.
wjh

Monday, August 28, 2017

Drugs & Our (In)Justice System



I had a very enjoyable, informative, and uplifting afternoon today. Although in some ways it was frustrating because of what I heard. My podcast partner, Dennis Sherrard, and I recorded an episode today with an inspiring young woman. Her name is Sydney Friedrichs and she works for Pathfinders of Tarrant County. One of their programs is pre and post release counseling and assistance to those incarcerated for drug offenses. Sydney works with the female offenders, she has a co-worker who deals with the male offenders. 

The program is very successful. Compared to recidivism statistics for those not aided by Pathfinders, those in other states, jurisdictions or nationally, these folks rank at or near the top. Unfortunately, they can only reach a small number of those incarcerated primarily for drugs. You can hear more about the specifics of the program in Sydney's own words on the podcast. 

This post is about the stuff you didn't necessarily hear on the podcast. Dennis and I had a chance to talk with Sydney before the recording session and afterward over lunch. She has a diverse background and history, not always ideal. She is smart, articulate and most importantly, dedicated to helping others. 

For an old guy like me, this is very encouraging. We too often have only negative impressions of the younger generations. While I personally don't share those generalized views, it is nice to meet someone from those generations who truly is giving back.

I'm a Baby Boomer, one of the older ones, and overall I'm not happy with what my generation has done. We started out OK in the 1960's. We did change some social structures and norms. Unfortunately, many of us abandoned those ideals for financial security and conformity. But that's the subject for another post. 

Let's face it, drugs are a huge problem for our country. I think it is made much worse by the way we treat those who have addictions, especially how the criminal (in)justice system treats them. But again I stray from my main point.

As an old fart, I was truly inspired today. I know Sydney and her cohorts are making a valiant effort in spite of the overwhelming odds against them. We need more of these efforts which of course means more funding and acceptance by the penal and judicial systems. And of course by the public and our politicians.

Most of the young people I come in contact with are just fine. Sydney happens to be one of the outstanding ones. Give them a chance, they can't do much worse than the Boomers did.

Please, listen to the podcast. You will hear firsthand from someone on the front lines. As a society, we must do better. Please also check out the Pathfinders website to donate or help in other ways.

As always, the Two Old Guys Drinking Beer podcast is on iTunes and Google Play as well as our podcast archive website. This episode's direct link is http://2ogdb.libsyn.com/episode-13-the-interview-sydney-friedrichs?tdest_id=515247

wjh

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Too Many Choices


I was doing a little research today to see if I can save some money by cutting my cable. It's fairly complicated to get just the right channels. Some are must haves and some are wants. But that's not specifically what this post is about. While sifting through the many TV options, I realized that we seem to have a million choices for just about everything. Let's look at some examples.


For TV viewing, we used to have three or four channels. You bought a TV, connected an antenna and turned it on. When the UHF channels came along, you may have had to get a tuner if the TV was old and maybe a different antenna but it was still basically the same deal. All the channels were free. When cable TV came along, you just disconnected the antenna and connected the cable but you had to pay the cable company. When the number of cable channels exploded plus premium channels like HBO, we needed some kind of set top box but it was still one cable connection for all the channels. The bad part was that most locations had only one cable provider, no competition and no incentive to do a good job. The original satellite dishes usually required an antenna too for local channels, that meant two connections to the TV but still only one paid provider. Now we have content providers that are only available through the internet, some free and some paid. Many people have to have a cable/satellite and an internet connection. To get the content from the internet to the TV, you need some kind of device(s) and/or a newer smart TV. That device may be a Roku, ChromeCast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, X-box, Android TV, etc. Some content is not available on all these devices so you may need more than one. You will also have to pay multiple content providers directly unless you are extremely lucky and can find one provider that bundles all the channels you want. Highly unlikely. You may also need to attach an antenna again for all the local channels. After all that, you may save a few dollars a month. It's more complicated than that in practice. We now have dozens of choices but it is not as simple as connecting one antenna or one cable provider. 

TVs and other technologies are not the only products that now have a multitude of choices. Look around the grocery store. There used to be one kind of Oreo cookie and one size package, now that website lists 178 products. There are dozens of different flavors, variations, and packaging options. The same with milk. I remember when milk came in quarts either white or chocolate. It was almost all whole milk. Now we have whole, skim, 2%, 1% and non-fat. There are almond, soy, rice, and other milks. There are various flavors and sizes for each of these. Almost any type of food now has some kind of diet or low-cal variety. There may also be an organic option and of course gluten-free and non-GMO. 

All laundry detergent used to come in a box and was loose powder. Now we have liquids, tablets, dissolvable packets, with or without bleach, numerous scents or unscented, for delicate fabrics, hypoallergenic, biodegradable, and many other choices.

Everyone used to pay for things with cash, checks, or store/company specific credit cards. Then general purpose credit cards like VISA, MasterCard, and others came along. Now we have multiple e-pay and money transfer methods, and automatic deposits in conjunction with those credit cards or bank accounts. Some don't require any line of credit or even a checking account.

Pick almost any category of product or service and there will be myriad choices and numerous ways to pay for them. Choice is usually good, but having to spend an inordinate amount of time or effort to pick the right choice is not. Having to have expert knowledge to make what should be a simple choice is troubling too. Some wrong choices can be extremely expensive, some could even be deadly. 

When choices become too complicated in an area, someone will come up with easier solutions. Take the entertainment content delivery. Up until a short time ago, the choices were limited but relatively easy. You hooked up an antenna or called the cable or satellite company. Now that streaming over the internet is available it is fragmented. If you decide to cancel your expensive cable or satellite service, you will almost certainly have to deal individually with numerous providers. New bundle options are emerging both from established delivery companies like Direct-TV and Comcast and new entries into the market like YouTube, Apple, Sling, and others. There will be more. It will remain confusing for awhile, but some providers will fall by the wayside or consolidate. I expect in the not too distant future there will be a service and/or website that you plug in your location and the channels you want and it will figure out the best options. Then we'll have to choose which of those services to pick.

On balance, more choice is usually good but do we really need nine flavors of Triscuits?

Now I'm not sure how to decide which kind of Oreos to get or what milk to dunk them in.

What products or services do you think have gone overboard?

Choices, ain't they great.

wjh

Monday, August 21, 2017

Football 2017 - Preseason


It's almost time for real football to start. The high schools and colleges are in full blown practice. The NFL is already playing pre-season games. Real games in all the categories are just a couple of weeks away. So what can we expect this season? Will your teams do well, disappoint or just be bad?

My teams are Florida, South Florida, and TCU in the college ranks. Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay in the NFL. I also keep track of the local high school, L.D. Bell and my alma mater, Bishop Kenny High School. I've been a Florida Gators fan since my youth, South Florida is my alma mater. TCU is the local college and I like that a little private school plays with the big boys. I grew up in Jacksonville and I still feel connected to the hometown. I moved to Atlanta a couple of years after the Falcons began playing. They were the first NFL games I saw in person. I also used to see the players around town, even talked with several. The attachment to the Buccaneers is because of my days living in Tampa while in college. I prefer college football over the pros. The Dallas Cowboys are the local NFL team. I feel no attachment to them although I'd just as soon see them win unless they are playing one of my favorites. A Dallas win makes many of my friends in particular and the whole area in general happy. 

So how does the upcoming season look? The Florida Gators are ranked #17 and the South Florida Bulls are # 19 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll. It's unfortunate that they don't play each other this year. TCU falls just out of the Top 25 at #26. The Jaguars still look offensively challenged. The good news is that the AFC South is a weak division. The Falcons are coming off their heartbreaking Super Bowl loss and should repeat as NFC South winners. Can they shake off the disappointment and get back to the championship game? Tampa Bay should be a middle of the pack team again and on the playoff bubble. 

Overall, it looks like the same old teams at the top. Alabama, Ohio State, and FSU look to be the cream of the crop in the NCAA. New England is the favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champs. 

The Gators will know what kind of team they have right off the bat. Their first game is against #11 Michigan at a neutral site, AT&T Stadium in Arlington,TX, on September 2nd. That game will be nationally televised on ABC. Their schedule also includes #13 LSU, #15 Georgia, and #3 FSU. It looks like Florida and Georgia will battle it out for the SEC East title. Maybe the annual Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville will be the deciding game. Go Gators!
The Bulls look to have an easier time. They are the only ranked team in The American Athletic Conference (AAC). They also don't play any ranked teams in their non-conference games.
The Horned Frogs play in the Big 12 Conference, a conference with only 10 teams. They have to play #7 Oklahoma, #10 Oklahoma State, #20 Kansas State, #22 West Virginia, and #23 Texas. That's a tough schedule. 
Good luck to all my teams. Let the games begin.

wjh