Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Thursday, July 12, 2018

MoviePass: Too Much of a Crazy Good Thing

Not to kick a good thing when it's down, even a crazy good thing, but I signed up for MoviePass...then canceled in disgust after futilely trying to use it. I'd taken a Lyft to the theater, since I had to be within a hundred yards on order to check in. No problem there, I was excited by thoughts of the big bucks I'd be saving if I wanted to see a movie a day for each month. Holy wow!

But the app didn't work at the theater. The film and time were shown--but I could not check in. Nor could I get any information from the app--which I learned later was having an outage. Could I contact MoviePass by phone? Uh-uh. The message said they were too busy to take calls.

My first experience with the app and MP's customer service soured me to the extent that I followed the ticket cashier's advice and considered their new AMC Stubs/A-List program. I reviewed the brochure, did some checking online...then checked for complaints against MP. This wasn't the first app outage, I learned, and their customer service received almost universal thumbs down.

I canceled with MP and signed up with AMC's A-List program...and I'm here to tell you I'm glad that I did.

MP's $9.95 monthly fee is half of AMC's fee, it's true. And MP offers a movie a day instead of 3 movies a week. But if you have anything resembling a life, how many films can you see? No, no. Forget 'can'. How many films do you really want to see? And to see these films, are you willing to travel across town on the off-chance that the damned app might be working?

Here's something I think of as much as the math: reasons to go to the theater for movies that aren't big screen blockbusters. AMC's first class approach rings all of right bells for me. I'll pay the charge for the convenience of being able to reserve tickets on my phone and waltz straight into the theater rather queuing in to purchase 'coach' tickets. There are no  blackout periods on hot new arrivals and no restrictions on premium formats: IMAX, 3D, Dolby.

Hats off, from me, to AMC with hopes that it keeps bringing me back to a great joy I'd lost:


Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Electric Cowboy

2018 is already turning into an electrifying year.

From New Year's Day through June, these changes have entered my life:
--The move to a new studio, with everything from rent to PayRange laundry paid online.
--Home internet for the first time in my life.
--Amazon's Echo Dot--with Alexa as my personal assistant and Stage Manager for my place.
--Today, a good as new used Panasonic Blu Ray Player
--Experimentation with Facebook boosts and Amazon sponsored ads.
--Savvier use of smart phone and a widening range of apps
--Acquisition of a MoviePass

As we mosey along on our timelines, it's easy to lose track of the number of ways we've grown stuck in our ruts...or the ways that we've fallen behind:
--The stunned looks I get from the young and the hip when I talk about buying DVDs.
--The even more stunned looks from younger writers when I say I write in longhand, then type it all
up and input corrections through at least five drafts.

Through the remainder of this year I want to take better advantage of some cool-sounding things that are out there. After all, the two lead characters in my new series are still in their twenties, And they'd know of these things so I'd better know too.

Immediate plans:
1) Become Alexa's Lord and Master, empowered by her wizardry.
2) Find a method of converting my scribbled manuscripts to text--Dragon Speaking, One Note, Evernote...?
3) Learn from the kids how to build a music library
4) Learn how to connect my new Blu Ray player to the ethernet
That'll do for now, I think. The new words I plan to live by are:

Know what you want, pony up--and ride, Electric Cowboy!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

On getting what we pay for

What do the following things have in common?

Armani Code Eau de Toilette
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 new replacement battery
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 new stylus
Under Armour compression t-shirt

They're all top-quality items sold as the real deal online...but not what we receive
I'd used Armani Code for years and gotten rave reviews from customers and ladies. But the ood, compliments stopped the day I started wearing the bottle bought from Amazon. It was convincingly packaged and seemed to smell the same. But it had no projection and the scent faded in only an hour.

Sure enough, I did what I should have done in the first place: :checked out the 1-star reviews. Same complaint around the board. So back I went to Macy's.

But I drew the wrong conclusion: that fake toiletries were a class unto themselves.

When my phone battery died, though, I needed a replacement fast. And when I couldn't find one in a brick and mortar store, I didn't' hesitate to order one from Amazon. Not just any old one that was listed. No, I chose a best-selling original new Samsung battery. It arrived in two days and looked like the real deal: neatly wrapped in a sealed Samsung box. But daily the charge it would hold went down: from 90% to 53%...and lower. When I had to recharge it every couple of hours, I ordered a replacement, this time expecting the worst after reading the one-star reviews. One of the reviewers posted photos of authentic Samsung batteries and packaging--with photos of the fakes. (E.g., the backside of the inner wrapping has a Samsung code. My second replacement battery had no inner wrap.)

I could go on. The 'original' styluses were junk, some of them breaking within a few days. And one clever clone maker even mimicked the Samsung shadow logo on the silver top--though they neglected to color it white.

There's no sense blaming Amazon, which can't police all of its vendors and will cheerfully refund any misadvertised merch. Besides, we have ample protection:

1) The 1 and 2-star reviews.
2) Common sense, which should remind us that we really do get what we pay for. If the Samsung store sells a stylus for $30,  we should be wary of buying it online for $9.99. Ditto an authentic Under Armour compression tee--be prepared to spend $30 if you're concerned with quality.

I'm troubled a good deal more by the growing unawareness of the difference between the real deals and their clones in fashion and in art.

Here's to the distinction, with hopes it never dies.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I dawdled, I dogged it--I did it

How you ever finally done something big that you'd put off doing forever? If so, you know you'd reached the point where you could barely recall why you'd waited so long. Perhaps the best reason for you, as for me, was that you just weren't the kind of person who did things like that.

Last week I made a call that's already had a massive impact on my life: I responded to a mailing from Century Link that offered home Wi-Fi at a reasonable monthly cost with no contract and no required bundling. Those were three of the concerns I'd had before the call. A fourth concern was resolved in the call: my fear that I'd need pricey personal help with the modem.

The modem arrived on Friday and was functioning after configuration in a call to tech support. And now, in my new studio, I could do everything I'd had to do somewhere that offered Wi-Fi.

Later that night, I realized that a fifth factor had kept me from making that call: my deeply ingrained sense of myself as a Cafe Writer.

A circumstantial gypsy, always on the go--from country to country, city to city, then back and forth from coast to coast, I'd never had a fully furnished, decent place to live. Till now. Maybe Byron's lines 'And even I/Regained my freedom with a sigh' explains why I hadn't made the call sooner.

But now that I have, I'm amazed at the blessings that have followed:
--I'm no longer dependent on cafe hours and holiday closings.
--I'm no longer forced to compete for tables with electrical outlets.
--The home internet cost is far less than my monthly Starbucks bills.
--My connection is secure.
--With my new work schedule (6 a.m. - 2 p.m.) I get home by 3, with ample time to do my thing.

I'm just missing one thing in the picture below.

That's right. It's high time to look for a cat.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

How I Became a Time Traveler

I didn't need a time machine to go back 50 years in poundage.

All it took was a Vegan diet and persistent exercise over the course of a year to take me back to my high school weight...and my long lost 32" waist.

Last year I got serious because I'd grown too old for clowning around. I changed to a physically demanding job, went completely Vegan and joined a local gym. My weight plummeted dramatically--from 200# to 145# and my waistline, of course, went down with it: from 40" to 33"...then 32-3/4".

I should have felt good for a man of my age. Maybe I should have felt great. I did not, though: the CG (crowning glory) mocked me, as did the mini-roll of lard around my waist.. I bought items for home workouts: an Iron Gym pull up bar with straps for hanging crunches and leg lifts.

The cargo pants I wore for work only came in even sizes, so I wore 34s with suspenders, worn also to hold up my loose 33" jeans. I felt a like a hick from the country. Furthermore, I felt alarmed: my waist had gone down but my weight had gone up from 145 to 150. Still, the Iron Gym bar and straps were already showing results. So possibly, just possibly...

I didn't know. I only knew that I refused to be mocked any more by the magic number.

Yesterday I went to Macy's, half hopeful the weight gain was muscle, not fat, and half braced for heartbreak


I ended up leaving with three pairs of 32" slim fit Ring of Fire jeans and a belt instead of suspenders. And all were had at ridiculous low prices.

I felt back in the day in a new kind of way and ready for brave new adventures.

And here's my highest hope for you:

Don't surrender your own crowning glory to time or circumstance for as long as I did. Don't be too quick in assuming that gravity's against you and that the odds are too high. Don't let even your best friends discourage you. There is a way, there is always a way, to realize your dreams

Spare yourself the misery of waking up daily and telling the face that you see in the mirror:

Maybe next year...or the next year...or the year or the decade that follow...

Start today with confidence that your CG awaits you!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

My Date with a Bad Redhead: Week One Summing Up

No, I haven't been invited to the Playboy Mansion yet. But week one of Rachel Thompson's The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Marketing Challenge helped me accomplish a list of cool things.
Focusing on Twitter:
--I fine-tuned my bio and display name, including a hyperlink to my new book.
--I experimented with 'pinning; a Tweet to my Twitter timeline.
--To help build my Twitter base, I began using ManageFlitter's Pro plan for $12/month. It's not quite as user friendly as my old plan from JustUnfollow. But JU is no more and CrowdFire, its replacement, didn't pass muster with me. My main issues with ManageFlitter so far are these: I'm not receiving notice when I've been followed or unfollowed. And I haven't figured out how to organize nonfollowers by date (and I don' want to unfollow anyone I've only recently followed). I've messaged MF about both scores and will update in my next report
--I've also learned o dump blank profiles and inactives.
--I'm learning how to target readers of my genre.
--Rachel provides other invaluable tips for maximizing Twitter use: the proper use of hashtags
, Hootsuite, Buzzfeed, Pablo by Buffer, etc.

The excitement continues to build in week two, which jumps straight into Facebook. The first chapter inspired me to set up an Author page. But let's save that for Week two's Summing Up.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

My Date with a Bad Redhead

While the year is still young--the year I'd called My Year--it was time for a date with a redhead.

I'd accomplished a lot in 2018
--I'd moved, finally, to a very good address.
--I'd published the lead title in my new mystery series and started work on the sequel.
--I'd succeeded with my plan to garner more revies.
--I'd just won a much better job.
--I'd added the star of my little home: an Iron Gym pull-up bar with arm straps for vertical leg lifts. And in only a couple of weeks I've seen remarkable progress in both my core and abs.


I still hadn't achieved visibility on Amazon and my sales reflected that. Luckily, a Facebook post by Claude Bouchard alerted me to a hot little book written by a bad redhead.

I felt skeptical...until I clicked the Look Inside button. This slender book gets right down to business, beginning in week one with Twitter. Day One alone taught me:
--To stop thinking of Twitter as a primarily a sales tool but more as a channel for networking and visibility, for connecting with readers.
--How to best use new option of a lengthened display name (up to 50 characters), including a hashtag.
--How to jazz up and verb my bio in  150 characters, including a link to my new book, The Big Bopper.
--How to use the Location section as space to add more copy.

                                           Image result for twitter images

My main takeaways from this first chapter: the absolute imperative of a You, not Me, approach, plus simplicity and speed from the heart of the center of Now.  Example: instead of a bio beginning with my start as Kelley Wilde in horror, the names of my trad publishers, my change of direction from horror to noir, my location, this:

Display name: Reb MacRath, #Award-winning Author
In lieu of a bio: I write short thrillers committed to the art of thinking small. At 5'4", my new hero does just that in his own unforgettable way.
In lieu of location: Of note: My first book, The Suiting, won a Stoker Award and has been called one of the world's 100 most influential horror novels.

I plan to tackle this 30-day challenge one trick, not one chapter, a day.

Here's a link to the Kindle edition, which you'll want to buy instead of the print.

The hard copy comes with a problem, I learned: the scores of useful hyperlinks embedded in the ebook are 'dead' in the printed text. You may not mind retyping, but often instead of a link that's spelled out you'll see Click here, nothing else.

Other than that, it's a terrific little book. And I can hardly wait till I graduate to week 2, in which we get to Facebook.