Saturday, November 7, 2009

Criminal Minds Revisited, and Bootlegged!

I know I could have responded to my previous post on this topic but I have enough to say about it that it does deserve its own post. I have now seen every episode of Criminal Minds ever aired, and am totally hooked on the show which, in the previous post, I did blast, rather.

Nothing I said was untrue and I stand by it all. However, I have since been able to appreciate all of the actors and all of the characters, and their uniqueness (some of which was in question), much better for having seen more. In particular I have come to enjoy Kirsten Vangsness' Penelope Garcia, who at first reminded me of whatshername in NCIS, a show I really, REALLY dislike (I must, or I'd be watching it for the marvelous David McCallum): you know, the gothy girl. I thought Garcia was CM's answer to NCIS. She's not. She's herself, a very GOOD self, too. I also have come to appreciate Paget Bewster's Emily Prentice (and her uniqueness) quite a bit more than when I saw her as a replacement for Lola Glaudini's ever-staring Elle Greenaway based PURELY on her having long, dark hair (not to upset the balance in the full-cast picture; I saw their choice of Joe Mantegna's David Rossi as a replacement for Mandy Patinkin's Jason Gideon the same way -- dark-haired white men -- except that I was already very familiar with both actors and despite my opinion of how Mantegna may have been chosen, was glad to see him on the show; I should add that I don't hate Glaudini but she really never drew me in, even when she was the focus of the show and should have done so.) Brewster creates a much fuller character, whose depths have not even yet been plumbed by the writers, who are by and large (not without exceptions, alas) turning out better material than they once did (although an early two-parter, "The Big Game" and "Revelations" was flawless and played a large part in my becoming completely hooked on the show).

But I am not here to write a review (nor, as I may have implied, to apologize for the previous post). I am here to tell you a story about international deceit, if not intrigue.

I asked my fiancé to buy me the boxed set of the first four seasons (for those not familiar with the show, the current season is number five and only a handful of episodes have aired, so this won't be available for a while) if I could find a fantastic price. Amazon's SALE price is $135 plus shipping (or maybe shipping is free, who knows?) I've seen it go on eBbay for as little as $77 (but that was unusual; more often it has sold for $90-120). We decided $75 was our limit. Then he upped it to $80 and then to $100 (which I refused to do; that's too much, as we are impoverished; we should not even have considered spending $75 but for what was being sold and considering the going rate, that would have been a good price). I bid a few times, lost all those times.

Then I clicked on one of eBbay's sponsored links, where the same item was being sold for $49.99 plus $14 shipping. Good price, yes? Not an insignificant amount of money, if you don't happen to be rich, but less than the lowest price winning such an auction, and not itself an auction. It was also not the only sponsored link and the others were a tad higher but comparable, so I did not think it was "too low" (meaning likely a scam). The site, at, looked like any other store of its type, with a nice enough picture of the product and an assurance that it was available in both NSTC and PAL formats (a little odd since DVDs are generall classified by regions, not formats, and at any rate there was nothing on the page to permit anyone to choose between those formats). It looked okay and the price was right -- only a little under the lowest winning eBay auction I'd seen for that item. A lot less... yuou have to wonder why. A little less? You grab it!

My fiancé handed me his credit card and hovered while I paid for the item (he himself being hopeless on the computer). Easy, right? Wrong. I was briefly shown a page that said the payment would be verified in 24 hours, and then, without my clicking anything, was redirected to an order page showing the following order status: order confirmed, unpaid, unshipped.

Now, a credit card charge may take time to post, but it gets verified or rejected right away, so what was with the 24 hours to verify? While I pondered that, I received an email with a subject heading indicating that I should confirm (it didn't say precisely what, and the order page showed my order status as confirmed). I opened the email and read an affirmation that I had purchased the item, nowhere in the email was I asked to confirm anything, nor was I provided with a URL or link, nor given instructions (not even "reply to this email). I replied to the email, asking why and what I had to confirm, how to do so, if necessary, and why it would take 24 hours to confirm a credit card payment.

After sending this rather baffled and somewhat cranky email, I returned to the order page and found a new message: I need to confirm my order; click here to have confirmation email sent to me! Irked, I clicked, and to my guarded relif, such an email DID arrive, this time containing a link (or a url anyway, I forget whether it was clickable). I used the link or url and reached a page completely in Chinese, except for the letters HTTP and the number 404.

A moment of stunned silence, please, to match my own when I reached that informative page.

As soon as I overcame my momentary astoundment, I quickly rechecked the order page, which still told me my order was confirmed (without any messages telling me to confirm it, again or otherwise), unpaid and unshipped.

The site is entirely in English (despite that one Chinese confirmation page). The prices are all listed in U.S. dollars. There is no physical address or phone number offered under Contact Information (or anywhere else) but there is an email address -- the same one from which they sent both confirmation requests, the ridiculous one and the actual but useless one. I wrote to them asking to explain what was going on, and why even after much more than 24 hours they had not yet confirmed the payment. They wrote back saying they could not confirm the payment because the name on the card wasn't the same as the name of the person ordering the DVDs. That is when I realized they had not asked for a billing address, which would be different from my mailing address, as my fiancé was paying. They requested that I fill out a form (attached to the email) and send them a picture of both sides of my fiancé's credit card, for our security. I did not download the attachment and Ii wrote back that under no circumstances was I going to send them a picture of the card, which would at any rate prove nothing, since I had already given them the card number, expiration date and three-digit security code. Would my having the card in my possession prove I hadn't stolen it?

They backed down, and four days after payment was made, it was finally acknowledged on the order page as confirmed. It posted a day or two later to my fiancé's bank account... in a slightly higher amount. When we asked the bank what was going on they said the extra (approximately) two bucks was a currency exchange fee (as I understand it, if the price is listed in U.S. dollars, that means, in the absence of notification prior to purchase -- and we didn't get any even AFTER purchase! the order page to this DAY says we were charged $60.99!) -- THEY eat any exchange rate fees or wobbles. The banker disagreed; the customer pays the fee. (But why was that not part of the agreement? We were not buying an item whose price was listed in a foreign currency; had it been, we would have expected such a fee. Why did we need to pay a fee to convert U.S. dollars into U.S. dollars?) The banker was confused, though, about our confusion; hadn't we physically been present in a store to buy this item? After all, the card had been physically SWIPED.

Some at the company with which we were more and more regretting our interaction had made a physical copy of my fiancé's credit card. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that considered at the very least NOT NICE? I am not conversant in international law but I can't imagine there is a reasonably developed country that hasn't got some kind of law against that!

Two weeks after making this order I received notice of an attempt to deliver a package. My fiancé picked it up for me at the post office. The package was from Beijing, People's Republic of China, and had, of course, a different company name on the packing slip than the one on the website. Instead of Dvds Collection, this company now turned out to be (or claim to be) Yan Hai Electronic Commerce (Beijing) Ltd. Nowhere on the site is there any indication that the company has another name (not so much as a dba), or a physical location at all (it floats in space?)

I was quite relieved to receive the boxed set lafter all that; it looked gorgeous but when I opened it up, the DVDswere in plain plastic slips, without episode titles, and there were no episode titles or descriptions anywhere on or in the box (no literature at all). The only information on the DVDs individual labels were the season and disc number (Season 1, Disk 4, for example. I had to play each one to see what was on it, and while all the episodes from all four seasons were represented, there was something else wrong: some of the discs had proper warnings and distribution credits on them, and came with extras, and had episodes complete and uncut, including end credits, but most of the discs were VERY obviously recorded from television broadcast! The CBS or CTV logo was at the bottom of the screen for the duration of an episode, while promos for those channels' shows would pop up the way they do when you watch a tv show being broadcast, the segues (where commercials were cut) were sometimes ept and sometimes inept, and without exception the end credits were missing. Shows ended abruptly with a freeze frame on the producer credit that appears at the end of a show, without regard for whether or not the music had finished fading. It was truly shoddy.

One could argue that you get what you pay for. I would counter by saying this was not a watch sold on a street corner. It was a product sold by an ebay sponsor, for a price not so VERY much less, once shipping was added, than the lowest winning auction price, and that at ANY rate, promises should be kept. By pretending to be a legitimate company, these folks promised me the real article and I got a bootleg, and a poor one at that. Ignoring for the moment the hassle they put us through just to get the order made, consider, please, the fact that they effectively stole my fiancé's credit card! (We're dealing with it, thanks, and the idiots, not asking for a billing address, probably can't use what they have anyway.)

I am not certain how to pursue this, since the company is in China, but I am starting with a complaint to my state Attorney General's Office, and I am sure they will direct me to someone who will direct me to someone who will direct me, ad infinitum, either to the right party or to a dead end.

Meanwhile I have now seen (as I mentioned at the beginning of this post) every episode of Criminal Minds ever aired, albeit most of them I have only seen slightly butchered, and without end credits, and sans extras, even though I have the DVD boxed set. Kind of.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Saturn: Whose POV?

If I were not chronically ill and stuck in bed for extended periods of time I would not watch/listen to so much television, and you would be reading someone else's blog. But I am, and am, and do, so here we are.

Saturn has a newish commercial out, in which a man speaks past the camera, presumably (therefore) to someone we can't see -- perhaps an interviewer -- and immediately avers that when he comes home, he turns on the television and listens to pundits talking about the fact that American car manufacturers are not producing cars that Americans want to buy. He calls it a fact; I may be misquoting slightly but I have the essentials correct. He uses the word "pundits," these days a rather popular word in ads, meaning "self-professed or actual expert," used in these instances derogatorily to mean "self-professed." So why, then, does he use the word "fact"? It's odd. But he goes on to explain, again oddly, not that Americans DO want to buy some American cars, but that Saturn has recently PRODUCED some new cars. He emphasizes that the cars are not revisions of older models but totally new cars, which may be of interest but certainly has no relevance to his argument against the assertion of the so-called pundits. In fact, he never actually rebuts their assertion. He never even says anything along the lines of, "they're right; Americans don't want American cars... but they SHOULD and here is why!" He just tells us what he hears them say when he comes home from work and turns on the TV, and then drops the ball.

He ends the ad, still looking past us at the unseen recipient of his "information," by urging us to stop by and check out the new Saturns, adding that "we" have always stood by "our" cars (or some such thing). Okay... if he works for Saturn, 1. why does he have to come home and turn on the TV to find out what the "pundits" are saying and 2. why isn't he speaking directly to us when he urges us to come by and see what he's got? Lately I've been seeing this "technique" of having the speaker look past the camera used and abused half to death. SOMETIMES it works. If the intended effect is that the speaker is being interviewed by someone off-camera, or speaking to a friend, not directly to us, this works. But I think some commercial directors use it without understanding (or perhaps caring) what it means, what effect it has or anything other than that "this would be cool" (which, if it gives the wrong impression, has the wrong effect, makes not sense, it is NOT).

Semiotics aside, the whole thing is just a shifting, albeit brief, hodgepodge of non sequiturs. Makes me want to run out and buy a Saturn... NOT. Aww, that's not fair. The new cars might be quite nice. I'll never know.

Of course I don't drive. Please don't take this to mean I'm just a pundit when it comes to auto ads. I know incompetence when I see it. Find yourself a new ad agency, guys!

Addendum, 9/14/09: Well, I do not flatter myself that Saturn or its minions (no, honestly, I have nothing against Saturn; the cars even look okay!) read my blog, but the very same day I wrote this, the ad changed: it begins, audially, the same way, but with a label identifying the speaker as a Saturn dealer, and a line has been added saying outright that (proving the "pundits" wrong) Saturn makes cars that Americans want to buy. Obviously unless I fall prey to a severe and sudden case of megalomania, I must believe that others have noticed the shortcomings of the previous version of the ad.

The POV problem remains.

(And I still don't drive!)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Criminal Minds

For reasons unknown to me, I've been watching every episode of Criminal Minds available to me, and for reasons also unknown to me, the show's been extremely available lately. In the last couple of weeks I've been able to see at least two full seasons' worth of episodes... maybe more. Most have featured Mandy Patinkin; a few have been late enough to feature Joe Mantegna. I like both actors. I've witnessed the demise of Elle and the rocky introduction of Prentice. I've seen Reid with various lengths of hair.

So, you say, in that comforting tone, now now, there there, lully lully (okay, enough of that!) why shouldn't you? Knock yourself out. Nothing lasts forever. Catch it while you can. You enjoy it, you like it; go for it!

But I DON'T, that's the thing. I mean I kind of do, but it's maddening... because it is NOT a good show. The insufficiencies are overwhelming and I, who enjoy being drawn in, am pushed out by glaring booboos every step of the way. It's torment. Why am I doing this?

Because I like the IDEA of the show and because I like some of the ACTORS in the show (Patinkin, Mantegna, getting to like Gubler, never was a Dharma etc. fan but starting to appreciate Gibson, and I even like one of the sometime DIRECTORS of the show, himself also an actor who appeared (if you can call it that) in one (or two, as it's a double) of the episodes: Charles Haid. Vangsness is funny if somewhat clichéed (as written). Never felt much for Cook or Glaudini one way or the other, though Cook made a funny face the other day. Moore... I like him but (as I shall detail) I heard him blow a(n admittedly badly written) line in one episode. I haven't seen Brewster enough to feel anything. The unsubs: almost all as hammy as a fist in the face.

These ramblings being random, I'll qvetch chaotically. Here, in absolutely no order whatever, are my quibbles, large, small, medium and medium rare:

When the producers replaced dark-haired somewhat older male Patinkin, they chose dark-haired, somewhat older male Mantegna. When they replaced long-dark-locked female Glaudini, they chose guess WHAT? Long-dark-locked female Brewster. It's as if they're making sure that we, the audience, who obviously not only judge people by such superficialities but expect a cross-section of physical types, don't get CONFUSED about these folks' roles. I find this offensive, my longtime admiration for Mantegna notwithstanding.

The plots are twisty, no? Also turny, yes? So how come I, for one, can guess what's going on long before the BAU does? Am I brilliant? Well, yes, but that's beside the point. The point IS: the show wants to make you feel smart (even if you really are). I find this condescending, as, come to think of it, I also find the fact that in every show, the team members explain stuff to each other than they surely already know (or they wouldn't have made the team). This is for the benefit of the audience and probably has to be done, but does it have to be done so heavy-handedly? Can we not explain the different types of serial killers in such stodgy detail EVERY single time, but maybe work it into the dialogue some other way? Of course that would take some writing skill... which brings us to a certain line given the hapless Moore:

"Do you know what they do to guys who hurt children inside?"

Okay, badly written line there. Should be more like "Do you know what they do inside to guys who hurt children?" But we get what we get. Moore could've protested I suppose, but he'd have had to understand what he was reading to think to do that. I'm not calling him stupid. He doesn't seem stupid to me. His reading of that line was stupid:

"Do you know what they do to guys, who hurt children inside?"

Oh, does someone hurt children's insides? And do they do something different to gals?

He could've read it properly this way (it would still be awkward but it would mean what it was supposed to mean):

"Do you know what they do to guys who hurt children... inside?"

Well he should've told the writers it was crap and said what he felt like saying.

This quibble is with A&E and not with the show itself: why is it okay to show lingering closeups of mutilated corpses but not okay to say the words "ass" or "bitch" (both of which also mean certain animals, in which context they're not even deemed offensive, though I admit in no case in this show do they mean certain animals)? If I can watch someone slice a wound into a captive's arm, I should be able to hear the captive utter some fairly graphic language in response.

Oh, there are isolated (but glaring) moments I should've written down to share with you. They're lost in the recesses of my obsessed brain. That's right: obsessed. Why else would I be watching this stuff day after day, sometimes hour after hour?


I keep hoping they'll get it right. I want them to get it right. I need them to get it right.

Such a sucker!

When does Ugly Betty come back? I miss Ugly Betty! That show is PERFECT!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Where to Find my Nonbloggy Writings!

Try this page: . It lists most of the writing on my website (check the product pages; I have hidden some essays there too!) and links to my ESSAYS page which lists off-site stuff.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Controversial Ramblings

I've done it again; I've rambled about controversial issues and not bothered to do so here. Why? Well, I like my website just fine, thanks, and my index makes it pretty easy for folks to find just what they seek there, instead of, say, trying to guess what month a certain post is in, or scrolling down to try to find it (in reverse order, yet, if it's got multiple parts). So please wander HERE to read my ramble, and then wander right back to post a comment (be nice!)

Sunday, June 14, 2009


As you know if you read this blog regularly (and you should admit it, and follow it, so others can see that you do, and so I can see that you do and not think myself pathetic) I am a writer. I write whole bunches of stuff, all sorts of whole bunches, and once in a while I break down and write a little fan fiction. My usual fan fiction has been for Quantum Leap but I am a confessed Whovian and have finally written a nice, long Doctor Who fanfic story, featuring Captain Jack of Torchwood. You may find it here: SMILES. Please feel free to comment (you don't have to love it, and constructive criticism is welcome, but be nice!) as a reply to this post, since I don't actually have a guestbook.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Crappy Valentine Day

Let me get one thing straight; I do like teddy bears. I am rather particular about which ones I collect; I'm not so particular about whether my stuffed animals are bears (I like other animals as well). None of this makes me a squealing moron who'll drop her panties upon receipt of an ursine toy, and I resent the crap out of anyone who portrays me or other double-x-chromosomed in such a humiliating light. Hence my objection to Vermont Teddy Bear's choice of advertising.

It's aimed at guys. Okay, fine, no problem there. Its opinion of guys is no higher than its opinion of gals. Oops. Not good. If gals are twits, guys are halftwits, too stupid to get laid without the help of a prefab sentiment delivered by an inanimate (albeit plenty cute -- more than we can say about said guys) object.

The message is, hey, idiot, we KNOW you forgot all about V-Day, and you're too dense to know what your gal wants; furthermore, you don't know her well enough to get her something unique to her taste or desires. However, you DO want to get into her pants. So trust us. All women are the same. They will uniformly, if not actually en masse, melt into unabashed acquiescence if you spring for our adorable, overpriced product, and she'll never notice that your inspiration was not your appreciation of her personality but rather this offensive but ubiquitous TV commercial, which of course she won't see (which market research buffoon decided that women don't watch TV?)

When, in the ad, all the women in an office gush semiorgasmically over the bear received by the lucky one among them, and all the men in that office peek over their cubicle walls in absolute awe because they know some lucky stiff is going to get the promised "results," one of the less lucky ladies sighs, nay, squeals (we said it right the first time), "Where can I find a man like that?" I can only hope she was referring to the bear... the only innocent party in this offensive affair.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Coming Up at Ten....

Everyone has teasers now. You can't just get the news straight; you've got to click, or stay tuned. Okay... it's a technique to draw people in. It turns me off, but some are drawn in. Thing is, when the theatre is on fire, "What dire emergency is likely going to kill innocent people tonight? Coming up at ten, stay tuned...." doesn't work as well as "FIRE!"

AOL headlines are never "So n so's baby born with two heads"; they're always "guess whose baby was born with two heads?" Okay, that's not urgent stuff, and it's kind of lurid to start with; why is this headline news? Sorry, why is this headline tease? But last night I tuned in to ABC television a little early for Ugly Betty and was hit with "It's not only peanuts causing salmonella; coming up at ten." It was a couple minutes shy of seven, locally; if this was a national announcement, ten was two hours off, and if the announcement was local, make that three.

That's plenty of time for lots of people to eat the mystery food and get salmonella.

Quite frankly, I find that disgusting. The news should be interrupting regular programming, at least with a scrolling message, to announce for us to stay away from whatever it is that's now killing people. And the show to which I had tuned in, aired just before Ugly Betty? THE NEWS. But of course it was probably local; they save the really hot stuff for national. Who cares if people die?