"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess: San Francisco Opera" (2014) on Blu-ray -- Live Opera Recording!

In the midst of the Great Depression, the hugely successful team of George and Ira Gershwin set out to do something absolutely new:  New both for them AND for music. They contracted with the Theater Guild to create the first, "folk opera"; to be based on the 1925 novel and 1927 stage play, "Porgy", by DuBose Heyward. George Gershwin composed the music. The Libretto was produced by Heyward.  And the Lyrics by Heyward and Ira Gershwin.

It would take 50 years for it to come to be!

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Why Won't My Movie Disc Restart Where I Stopped It? OR, A Steaming Mug of BD Java!

One of the biggest, conceptual changes introduced with Blu-ray discs (and continued with UHD Blu-ray discs) was the idea the Studio could include computer program code -- software -- ON the disc, which would load and run whenever you played that disc, and which would CONTROL that playback.  No longer would disc playback be strictly limited to the "user interface" features implemented by each, different, Blu-ray player!  So long as the player could run the on-disc software, the DISC could invent its OWN user interface!  There was nothing like this for prior, SD-DVD discs.

This on-disc software would be written in a variant of the Java programming language to be called "BD-J" (Blu-ray Disc Java).  The expectations for how Studios would use BD Java were truly grand -- to begin with.  All sorts of fancy features were proposed to "enhance" the customer value of these discs.  The actual result has been rather a mixed bag.  In particular, some Studios seem to be most keen on how BD Java can be used to make a disc really difficult to copy -- something which has NOTHING to do with the customer’s experience.

In this post I'll talk about BD Java, and how it relates to the perennial complaint: My disc player won't let me do Resume Play on my movie!

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"The Seven Year Itch" (1955) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

George Axelrod's 1952 play was a major, Broadway success, and pretty much all of Hollywood was eager to cash in on it.  So much interest was expressed, the Hays Office took the unusual step of announcing, even BEFORE anyone secured the rights, that THIS material could NEVER ever be made into a film!

The problem was, the play is about a middle-aged everyman who has an adulterous fling while his wife and child are away on summer vacation, and then feels very very guilty about it in very very humorous ways.  But one of the fundamental provisions of the Production Code was that adultery could NEVER be treated as a subject for comedy or laughs!

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Check Your Speaker Distances and Polarity, OR, "A Chorus of YUMS! Ran Round the Table!"

Most Home Theater setups these days will include some variant on Surround Sound speakers.  Indeed, a major factor in the enjoyment of modern movies at home is the ability to hear an "aggressive" Surround Sound mix as it was INTENDED to be heard:  With key sounds originating from specific points all around you, and with blended sounds, such as the musical score, filling the entire sound field.

In this post I'll discuss the two most common ways people screw this up, and how to avoid doing that!

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Dealing with Radio Frequency Interference, OR "Hiss, the Villain!"

In my previous post on Ground Loops and Power Line Interference Hum, I mentioned another common complaint in Home Theater setups:  "Hiss" from your speakers.  Hiss comes from Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) -- i.e., higher frequency signals emitted by something in or near your Home Theater setup.  If these emissions get past the shielding of your electronics they can result in audible Hiss from your speakers, even when you are not playing anything!

If you'd like  more info on what's going on, and suggestions for how to deal with it, this post is for you!

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"It Happened One Night" (1934) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

What is widely considered the first ever "screwball comedy" -- and still one of the best -- was made by Frank Capra for Harry Cohn's "Poverty Row" studio, Columbia Pictures.

MGM had loaned Clark Gable for the film -- pocketing a neat $500/week profit over his contract salary of $2,000/week.  When several actresses turned down the female lead (partly due to the script at the time making the character less sympathetic), Cohn suggested Claudette Colbert.  Colbert had made a previous film with Capra which turned out poorly.  And besides she had a long planned vacation scheduled to start -- just weeks away.  So she told Cohn and Capra she'd only take the part if they paid DOUBLE her normal salary *AND* could complete her shooting in just 4 weeks .  NOT a 4 week shoot beginning some time in the future, but 4 weeks from THAT VERY DAY!  Keep in mind this was at a point when costumes and sets had yet to be created!

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"Lilies of the Field" (1963) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

There have ALWAYS been "independent" films of course.  But with the gradual breakdown of the Hollywood Studio System in the 50s and early 60s, independent filmmaking really came into its own.  Shooting for just 14 days, and with only $400K to spend, Director Ralph Nelson ended up Producing THIS flick all on his own, when no major studio wanted to take on the project!

The result (Distributed by United Artists) garnered an Oscar Nomination for Best Picture (losing out to "Tom Jones").  It also got Oscar Nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Lilia Skala), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Black & White Cinematography.  But of course what everyone remembers is that this is the film that got Sidney Poitier his only acting Oscar.

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Just Bought a New TV, eh? Time to Extinguish its Torch Mode Settings!

OK, so you just forked over the cash for a brand new TV.  You wrangled it out of the box, got it positioned in place, cabled up, plugged in, and Voila!, you've even got a picture!  Pretty cool, eh?  Time to kick back, relax, and enjoy?

Not so fast, Bunky!

One of the dirty little secrets of the Consumer Electronics biz is that the "out of box", Factory Default Settings on just about every TV ever sold are flat out WRONG for best quality viewing!  There's no real mystery behind this.  The default settings are deliberately chosen to make the TV stand out -- to catch your eye -- from a distance, when buried amidst a whole wall of competing TVs, under garish, store lighting conditions.  THESE, my friend, are the so-called (and rightfully infamous) "Torch Mode" settings.  And if you are reading this, know that your FIRST task, should you choose to accept it, is to douse all of them!

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Yikes! All my Shows are Shocking Pink / Ghastly Green!

Does the world seem rather "off" to you today?  Does everything look like you are seeing it through rose colored glasses?  Or perhaps through a refreshing glass of limeade?  And you don't even LIKE limeade?  Is that what's bothering you, Bunky?

Well congratulations!  You've stumbled into the exciting, new, high tech world of HDMI Handshake Failures!  For a handle on what's really going on -- and what to DO about it -- read on!

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