Flower photos are boring . . .

. . . yet flowers are beautiful, as are the mock orange blossoms in our front yard. They’re beautiful, so I take photos of them. But flower photos are boring, so I wish I hadn’t. But then I post them anyway, because flowers are beautiful. But I swear I won’t do it again. Until some more flowers appear, and because they are so beautiful I take boring photographs of them. Round and round we go . . .

Mock orange blossoms - click to see larger versions

St. Urbain Beer (A short, bitter finish)

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new beer in town. It’s called “St. Urbain,” available in several varieties, and its merchandising is highly evocative of that storied street right in the heart of our fair burgh. Unfortunately, it’s just another Labatt product.

That’s right. You won’t find “Labatt” anywhere on the box or label, but if you look closely it says it’s from “Oland Specialty Beers.” Oland is the Nova Scotia brewery that was bought by Labatt some 20 or so years ago. Before then, Oland was a regional brewery. Now the name persists only for marketing purposes, and as a subsidiary company that distributes so-called “specialty beers” like Keith’s and St. Urbain.

I don’t hate the big domestics (Labatt and Molson), but I don’t like them either. Despite the proliferation of craft and micro brews that have come on the market in the past 20 years, the big domestics are still the market leaders by a long shot. So why do they have to fake it by coming up with fake microbrews like St. Urbain (and, incidentally, the Rickards line, which is made by Molson)? Shut up and let the little guys have some success in the small but competitive market of craft beers.

By the way, there’s already a review of St. Urbain Blonde up on Ratebeer.com. It says:

(2.2) Boring blond body with heavy carbonation and a fading white frothy head. Fair malty/hoppy aroma that carries grassy and bready notes. I cannot say that the taste is particularly bad. However, it definitely lacks complexity. Ends with a short bitter finish. Boring.

Free digital camera!

If you want a free digital camera, just follow these easy steps:

  • Go to Cinema Guzzo in Greenfield Park.
  • Watch for someone who goes into the cinema, then goes back to his car for a minute, and then returns to the cinema.
  • Break into the car and steal the camera that he put there because he’s not allowed to take it into the screening room.

I would have been one of your victims on Friday night, except Martine and I opted instead to refund our tickets and leave. We had gone to see “Knocked Up,” only vaguely aware of the silliness brewing around Bill C-59, the “anti-camcording” bill. As a result of the bill (which has not yet been debated or passed), the cinemas are in a frenzy over the issue of “camcording” movies.

A bit of background: the media has been reporting that a lot of pirated movies seem to be coming out of Canada. Specifically, pirated moves of the “camcording” variety. That means pirate copies that were made by someone filming the movie screen with a video camera.

The cinemas are supposedly outraged over the practice, as they feel these crappy pirated versions keeps people from plunking down $12 to see the movie in a cinema. Cinema Guzzo in Greenfield park (and possibly other cinemas too, but Guzzo is the only one where I personally witnessed this), now have a security guard checking people’s bags for cameras. The guard is on the other side of the box office, with no warning signs outside. So you only find out about the bag checking after you’ve paid for your ticket.

They nailed me. I had a still camera in my bag (not a video camera). The guard gave me the option of putting my camera into a big cardboard box along with a bunch of other captured ones, or of going out to the parking lot and leaving it in the car.

Uh…

First, there is no way I’m putting my $600 Lumix DMC-LX2 into a box with no access control on it. It wasn’t even like a coat check – no chits or numbered tickets. Just toss it in the box and take your chances. (Oh, by the way, that’s another way to get a free digital camera and you don’t even have to break anything. Just go see a movie at Cinema Guzzo and on your way out walk over to the guy with the box and say “I’d like my camera back now” and grab one.)

Second, there is no way I am going to walk out to my car in front of all those people – people who are aware of the new camera policy – to pay a 15 second visit and then turn around and go back to the cinema. I might as well just pull out a bullhorn and yell THE CAMERA IS IN THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT!

If you think I’m being paranoid, I’ll remind you that there are plenty of people who make a living by hanging around parking lots waiting to spot people who park their cars, deposit something in the trunk, and then walk away. I’m not making this up, call your local police department and ask.

There are lots of things going on here, so let’s pause for a breath:

  • Parliament is about to pass a very stupid law based on flawed information from bone-headed lobbyists.
  • The cinemas are over-reacting to the issue, and acting as if cameras were firearms or something.

What really burns me about all of this is how over-blown the problem is. I can understand why the industry is upset over people distributing unauthorized copies of DVDs, because those are direct digital transfers with no loss of quality. They’re indistinguishable from the originals.

But what does a “camcorded” version of a movie look like? I’ve never seen one, but I’ll bet the image is shaky and blurry, and it’s probably twisted into a trapezoid because of the angle of the camera. The edges of the frame are probably clipped off, or there are large black borders because the camera isn’t zoomed enough. No doubt the sound is terrible.

So then the question becomes “who watches such a video?”

I can imagine it playing in a run-down cafe in some tropical jungle village, or at some beach bar in South-East Asia that’s full of Eurotrash pot heads. But no one who actually enjoys going to the cinema would bother with such a thing.

In other words, the “market” for camcorded movies is likely very small, and limited to people who wouldn’t spend $12 on a movie ticket anyway. So in fact there is no loss to the cinemas or the movie industry. It’s like screening a pirated movie to a wall of trees or a field full of sheep. It has no bearing on the box office.

Cinema Guzzo likely did not prevent anyone from camcording “Knocked Up” last Friday night, because it is unlikely anyone would have camcorded it anyway. Or if they had, the only people who would have watched the pirated version are people who wouldn’t have paid in the first place. But their ill-conceived “security” check cost them at least two tickets that night (mine and Martine’s). Cinema Guzzo is just shooting itself in the foot.

If the cinemas really want to prevent the loss of box office sales, I suggest the following game plan:

  • Stop charging $4 for a 79-cent bottle of water.
  • Stop charging enormous prices for popcorn and other “food” items.
  • Stop treating customers as if they were crime suspects.
  • Stop subjecting customers to 20 minutes of advertising and previews before the show starts.

Smog/No Smog

According to the weather person on CBC Radio 1 (Montreal), we had all of two smog alerts for the entire summer of 2006. Last week we had two smog alerts in a single week, and it’s not even summer yet.

The first photo below was taken around 5:15 PM on Thursday, May 24, 2007, from a point about mid-way across the Jacques Cartier Bridge. That was the at the end of the first smog alert day. The bottom photo was taken a few days later, around 9:00 AM on Tuesday May 29, when the smog had cleared and there was morning light.

I like the second one better. :-/

Hazy City

Not so hazy city