Friday, January 29, 2010

I know I'm slacking

It's been almost two weeks since I posted a blog (that I didn't take down two days later). I don't want to lose momentum. So I promise to write something before the end of this weekend.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My new TV, and trouble with blu-ray

I don't know if anyone cares about this stuff, which is why I'm writing about it here instead of on FB.

I bought a new flat LCD HDTV (Panasonic TC-32LX14), because my old Daewoo tube TV was crapping out (I thought. There will be more on this at the end of this blog because I like to create drama and suspense). I did a lot of research before I bought it. I went to stores and researched online.

The first thing I did was go on Craigslist. I had no idea what I was looking for, or what anything meant. So I hit the stores: Video Only, Bestbuy, and Walmart, because these are the largest electronics stores I know. I saw all kinds of TVs, and they all looked great in the stores. Some looked a little better than others to me, but I couldn't really tell the difference between the brand named units and the cheaper brands. I was able to compare sizes. I decided that I liked the 32". They were big, and yet, still portable for when I move next year. What I couldn't compare in the stores was 720p and 1080p. These numbers may confuse you as much as they did me. I'll get into it later. I stood in front of two TVs of the same brand and screen size; one with 720p, and one with 1080p; and I couldn't tell the difference. I left the stores with the brands and model numbers I was interested in, and I hit the internet.

This time, when I researched online, I had at least three windows open: Craigslist, Amazon, and Google. I wouldn't suggest buying a used TV from a person on Craigslist, but there are dealers and small stores that will advertise there. That's what I looked for. Then I would research the model numbers on Amazon, looking for reviews and to compare prices. Then I would Google the model number to find other reviews and any other sellers of each TV.

There are hundreds of reviews for every model you can imagine. The first thing I learned is that you don't want to go with an unknown brand name. Every time I found a cheaper brand, it was shredded in reviews. Most of the time, it had to do with longevity. I found one site particularly helpful. At, not only are there owner reviews, but there is an expert staff that also reviews items. In many cases of brand named items, there are even video reviews. Those were extremely helpful, since I am more of a audio learner; and having a person explaining things while pointing them out on each TV made everything more clear. I even found a couple of reviews on youtube. There is no end to the research you can do.

After all the research I did, I found that the four main competing brands are Sony, LG, Panasonic, and Samsung. Sony is all about the brand name. I found their prices the highest for every single size and resolution, and their reviews were very mixed. LG was a little better than Panasonic and Samsung, but a lot more expensive. Also, the comparable LG units were bulkier than the others. The best value was in Panasonic and Samsung. I was leaning towards Samsung, because they were slightly cheaper over all.

I did not want to buy a TV sight-unseen. So I was looking for an outlet dealer on Craigslist that carried both brands. I found more than one, but only one felt right. There was one dealer who's Craigslist ads were very shady. There was no address on any of them; and every ad ended with "All sales are final". On the other hand, HDTV Depot, in Kent, had very professional ads. Each was very simple, with a picture of the TV, a model number, the price, an address, and contact information. So I went down to Kent.

It is a little store in a tiny strip mall in the parking lot of a Home Depot (if I remember right). Inside, I was immediately greeted by a guy named Brian. I told him that I was looking for a 32" TV, and that I was torn between Panasonic and Samsung. I also told him I couldn't figure out the difference between 720p and 1080p. Brian explained to me that it's the number of lines of resolution, and that at 32", there is no recognizable difference. It is at 42" and higher, that there is a noticeable difference. Brian showed me the Panasonic 32" 720p and the same in Samsung. In this case, the Panasonic was about 10% cheaper than the Samsung. The Panasonic had a very crisp-looking picture and a sleek design. It also held it's picture perfectly at a very shallow angle. I bought it. I want to make another note that Brian at HDTV Depot was very helpful, and knew his product inside and out. I was so pleased with the experience that I posted a review on Yelp.

The second I hooked the TV up to my RCA home entertainment system, it started blinking and going dark, just like my old TV. I thought I'd been duped. I was ready to go burn the store down. Just in case, I disconnected and reconnected all the different wires and cable connections in the whole system. It turned out to be one loose wire between the cable box and the RCA receiver. There was nothing wrong with my old TV to begin with. It didn't bother me a bit. Why? I'm in love with this new TV. I've had it for a couple of weeks now, and it makes everything beautiful, especially football; and just in time for the playoffs (Superbowl Party at Mike's; and all of you many subscribers are invited).

This blog is getting pretty long winded. Let's take a commercial break... And, we're back.

My new TV makes all my DVDs look really good, but I knew I'd want to get a blu-ray player and some blu-ray movies. So it was back to doing research. This time was a easier, since I had a little more knowledge than before. I also knew I wouldn't have to visit a store in person, and could buy it online if it was cheaper, which it always is. I actually thought that I needed a new surround sound receiver, and almost spent $350 dollars on one before I found out through my research that I was just using the wrong connection. In case you don't know, for surround sound, you need to connect the audio by either "coaxial", "optical", or the best "HDMI". Mine is an older unit that has no HDMI connectivity. This will prevent me from utilizing 7.1 surround sound, but the difference is negligible in a living space as small as mine. I've had this surround sound system for more than five years, and I've been using it incorrectly this whole time. I might as well have bought a new system, because it sounds ten times better.

I did even more research about blu-ray players, because there are so many. In the affordable range. What I decided on was the Panasonic BD60K, because it was well-reviewed, it has an optical input for older surround sound systems like mine, and there is a networking tool called "Viera" that links Panasonic equipment.
I decided to buy "refurb" from an Amazon company called Warehouse Deals. If you don't know, "refurb" means the item has been returned or damaged, fixed, repackaged, then discounted. Refurb items are still under warranty. Many times, there is nothing wrong with a refurb item other than a damaged outer package. If you look at every specific entry on Amazon, each refurb unit has a description of what was wrong with it when it was sent back to the manufacturer. I bought one that was described as being returned undamaged, tested, and repackeged. I saved 10% (I paid $113), and it was delivered the next day.
It was easy to hook up, and linked right away to my TV via "Viear". I popped in "Cast Away", and was instantly impressed with how great it looked and sounded. The disk takes several seconds to load, but it's because of all the information on a blu-ray disk. There is actually more than 5X more bits of information on a blu-ray disk than a standard DVD. I could see and hear every little detail with crystal clarity, and that's with my one good eye. Everything was awesome until an hour into the movie, when the player froze, then shut itself off.
I tried everything to figure out what was wrong with it. I reset the player; I downloaded a new "firmware" from the internet; I tried different disks; I even took the batteries out of the remote to make sure that wasn't what was wrong. Nothing helped, and I couldn't find anything online that described the same issue. I did find a couple of very good "Owner Forums":, and Finally, I called Panasonic.
I hate calling manufacturers! They never have good customer service. I know there are exceptions, but I can't afford them. The woman I talked to must have had the microphone inside her mouth, because I couldn't understand a word she said. And she didn't stop talking for at least a minute. I kept trying to interupt, but she just kept going and going. When she finally finished, I said "I'm sorry, but I didn't understand any of that. I think your microphone might be a little too close to your face. Could you please give me all that again?" She used a lot of talking to tell me that the unit needs service, and that they'd fix it if I paid to have it shipped to them. I told her I wasn't going to pay to ship something twice, and wait a month to get what I paid for in the first place. I would rather just return it. That was a wasted, and frustrating 45 minutes. So I went back to Amazon.
I had a problem when I looked for my order on Amazon. I couldn't find it. So I called them. They have a call system that asks you for your number, and tells you to keep an open phone line. Perfect! Instead of waiting on hold for thirty minutes, let the service rep call me when they're available. I actually waited less than a minute. The woman's name was Amy, and she really knew her job well. She was friendly, attentive, and had the solution immediately. She told my I must have accidentally opened more than one Amazon account, which is exactly what happened. We found both accounts, and she told me how to cancel one. She also told me exactly how long it would take to process my refund: a month. Ugh! But I would rather be told a month, than have someone bullshit me. Amy was great. So much so, that I took an extra five minutes to review the call.
In the end, I bought the unit new, and am waiting for it to be delivered on either Tuesday, or Wednesday. I'm not discouraged from "refurb". I've bought refurb before, and had things work out fine. In fact, it worked out fine this time. I returned it. And I'll be getting my money back. Besides, I'm sure that they just never noticed what was wrong when they tested the player. The problem didn't reveal itself until an hour into the movie. I'm sure their tests don't take that long.
I hope I didn't bore the three of my subscribers too much. I just thought I'd post this online to help someone else who is researching any of the topics I wrote about. I love reading other people's experience when it comes to buying electronics. I learn a lot of things I won't learn from professional reviews. Those guys are still getting paid by manufacturers; so there is a little bias. Users are more brutally honest.
I'm done now. I'm really looking forward to watching my "Top Gun" blu-ray on Tuesday or Wednesday. Until then, I'll just suffer through the NFL Playoffs in HD.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Closed out 2009

My last weekend in 2009 was spent headlining Giggles for the final time under Terry Taylor management. I have no idea if Bob Davis will book me for anything. For all I know, I'll actually start making money there when Terry leaves. I have to assume that things will stay pretty much the same.

The weekend turned out to be a lot of fun. The first of six shows, I did an hour and five minutes. It was not a brilliant set. I was afraid it would be like that all weekend. It wasn't. I did sets of twenty, thirty, and forty-five. I really enjoy doing around forty minutes; anywhere from thirty-five to forty-five. I feel comfortable that I have plenty of material to cover it, and I'm not worried that I don't have the presence to hold their attention. At the same time, it's not so short that I have to pick which of my material I have to leave out. At thirty minutes, I worry that I won't get everything done that I want to. I notice that I sometimes rush through jokes because of it. The truth is, though, that thirty is where I belong right now.

There is fat I need to trim from a lot of the newer material I've worked on, and the changes I've made to some of the older stuff. When I get done doing that, my set should settle right around thirty. I'm so worried sometimes about "headlining". I worry that I need to be working on my hour. A lot of it has to do with other comics. I read their FB posts about headlining, then I hear them talking about it in the open mics. I don't know why it bothers me that these guys are earning more money than me right now. I'll do better in the long run. The truth is, they aren't funny yet, and they're learning bad habits on these shitty road runs before they get a chance to get funny. I saw one guy play the fucking harmonica at an open mic a couple of weeks ago! It's 2010. What kind of a moron is going to learn a song on the harmonica for jokes? It's one thing if you play an instrument well, and bring that talent to the comedy stage. It's something completely different when you buy some instrument because you can't write jokes. This, by the way has nothing to do with Curt Sudden. He's been doing his thing for a long time. He's not new, and learning how to play the guitar so he can fill more stage time.

I really shouldn't compare myself to them. I need to worry about me. I need to get funnier. I don't need to have an hour right now. I'm not going to go to the Midwest and get booked as a headliner right away. I need to be a killer feature, and build killer time. Why would I want to have a mediocre hour just to get work? I'd rather be considered a great feature than a shitty headliner.
I'll continue this later.