Missing Information

The most common thing that businesses leave off their websites (or hide so deep as to be effectively left off) is their address and phone number. Go take a look and you’ll see what I mean. It’s like telling customers “go away, we don’t want to talk to you!”

For airlines, especially smaller ones with a limited market, the most frequently left out important information is “here’s where where why fly.”

JetBlue doesn’t suffer from this problem: click our cities on the front page and, presto!, you get a route map.

America West on the other hand makes it pretty well impossible to find out where they fly. There is a route map available, but to find it you have to look under About AWA / Company Profile / Route Map. Yes, of course, that’s just where you thought it would be.

It’s Drive-in Season!

Brackley Drive-in Projection Room My favourite client, at least in terms of how I get paid, is Brackley Drive-in. While other clients might pay me more (and with real money!), the Drive-in pays me with a season pass for Catherine and I.

And as it’s the middle of May and getting warm, I’m happy to announce the opening of the Brackley Drive-in for another year: the season opens this Friday, May 10 with a double bill of Changing Lanes and We Were Soldiers.

And if that’s not enough, we’ve updated the Drive-in website (handily available at www.drivein.ca for your browsing pleasure) too with a new “contemporary 50s” look.

So go get your coupons, clean out the car, load the blankets and the flashlights and head out the Brackley Point road on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday for the show. All “they are my client” bias aside, you will have a great time.

Tie EQ to Genre

My iTunes audio player on my iBook has a nifty graphic equalizer that lets me adjust the tone of the music it plays. I can do this manually, or I can select from a list of presets like “Latin” and “Pop”.

It’s surprising to me (an audio amateur, if that) how much better I can make music sound if I adjust the EQ to the genre. For example, right now I’m listening to Radio Free Tiny Pineapple playing Bachelor No. 2 by Aimee Mann. If I set the EQ to “Rock” the song sounds rich and full-bodied whereas if I set the EQ to “Acoustic” it sounds more reserved and barren.

What I’m wondering is this: is anyone working on hooking up the meta-data stored in MP3 files to the EQ settings in an audio player, so that I can say, for example “if genre equals bluegrass the set EQ to lots of treble.” Or whatever?

Surfing the Misspelling Madness

Earlier in this space I commented on how there appeared to be a large number of people searching on Google for information about Toby McGuire.

This, in turn, prompted two things: some weird discussion, mostly involved words like “hot” and “cute” and raising this site to the number one search result on Google for keywords “Toby McGuire.”

The thing is, as a helpful correspondent informed me, Toby McGuire is actually spelled Tobey Maguire, which presumably explains a lot of the above.

It looks like MSN corrects for this problem and Google does not.

In any case, if you’re looking for information on Toby, err, Tobey, why not try here or here.

Suddenly Halifax

3:14 p.m. — I decide that I can afford to take off a weekend of work and go with Catherine and Oliver to Halifax. Announce this fact to Catherine.
3:17 p.m. — Realize I can’t bear to take the bridge. Consult ferry website and find that last reasonable ferry from Wood Islands leaves at 5:00 p.m. Announce this to Catherine. General panic ensues.
3:55 p.m. — By some miracle we are all packed and in the car and on the way to Wood Islands. We don’t appear to have forgotten anything.
4:35 p.m. — Arrive Wood Islands. Get disabused of the notion that it is one hour from our house to Wood Islands (perhaps a holdover from when we lived on the other side of Charlottetown?). Purchase ferry tickets.
5:20 p.m. — Board the 5:00 p.m. ferry. Perhaps Wood Islands on different time zone?
5:45 p.m. — Realize ferry is much nicer way to travel than, well, pretty well anything. Brief longing for days of Borden ferry.
6:40 p.m. — I emerge from washroom to not be able to find Catherine and Oliver. Ferry has docked. Run down to lower deck. Nope, not there. Run up three flights of stairs to find them waiting for me. Ferry work can be exhausting.
9:00 p.m. — Arrive Halifax. Check in at Radisson Halifax (good weekend-only rate).
9:05 p.m. — Find that parking at Radisson is valet only. Fear that am turning into chichi yuppie. Realize is true.
9:10 p.m. — Find our room is bigger than our old house: living room, kitchen, bedroom, hugh bathroom. Wonder why we every stayed at the Maranova (which also has “Suites” in the name, but which was more, well, grotty. Quite grotty, actually).

8:00 a.m. — Rise, shine (give God the glory, glory, etc.).
9:00 a.m. — Enjoy very nice Radisson continental buffet breakfast. Am impressed that they serve real Tropicana orange juice.
11:00 a.m. — Visit to Chinese Grocery first recommended by Alan. Much purchased.
Noon — Visit to Atlantic News to shop for magazines. Take tremendous satisfaction from the fact that Catherine and I can collectively spend $77 on magazines and both enjoy and appreciate the experience thoroughly.
2:30 p.m. — Lunch at Pete’s Frootique. Random shopping for tasty things you can’t buy on PEI. Depressing 15 minute interlude at cash as case of Whoop Ass causes register to go into melt down. Note with interest that QuickCams are installed at knee height, wired into a VDU on the cash register screen, to catch dog food theft, etc.
3:30 p.m. — Coffee and dessert at the suburban outpost of the Italian Grocery. Realize that the “Mega Cheesecake Brownie” is intended for a small cub troup, and not for one person. Feel exploded. Purchase random things you can’t buy on PEI.
4:30 p.m. — Return to Radisson. Oliver and I go to frigid pool and go through the motions of swimming. Mostly Oliver wants to swim over to the ladder and get out. Think Radisson should consider putting more money into their pool area, as it is more “depressing urban bathroom” than “delightful vacation respite” in style and function.
7:00 p.m. — Supper at I Love Sushi on Blower Street. Very good.
8:30 p.m. — Walk on Barrington Street and down to Waterfront. Annoyed by what appears to be the pumping of archaeological sludge from the basement of a building under renovation into the street, which leaves a strong stench over the entire downtown.

6:00 a.m. — Oliver wakes up. Catherine decides to enforce the “we are all equal when on vacation” clause and I retrieve Oliver from crib (way across the other side of the cavern that is our room). Realize that it is still impossible to sleep in same bed as Oliver, what with fears of rolling over on him, etc.
10:00 a.m. — Another tasty breakfast.
Noon — Visit Pier 21, an historic site that purports to be a testament to 43 years of Canadian immigration. It’s very nice to have such a thought. Alas the museum itself is standard issue “highly interactive, completely immmersive” experience crap, and leaves much to be desired. Most annoying problem: they actually have some interesting documents on display, but they’re in glass cases, and artfully “montaged” over each other, so you can’t really read them. Thoughts of Founders Hall dance in my head. Brief stop in gift shop while waiting for world class fully-immersive multimedia show to start. Gift shop has same useless junk that all such shops have. Sad. Oliver lasts 5 minutes in darkened fully-immersive room wearing headphones then erects a level 9 freakout. Leave.
1:30 p.m. — Try to locate an Indian or Indian-influenced restaurant to each lunch at. Find all are closed. Sad. End up eating at The Med on Barrington. Good Shish. Catherine, alas, overwhelmed by hunger and unable to order. Leave Halifax for home immediately.
3:30 p.m. — Stop at Shell in Truro for gas. Intrigued by the offer of exciting new “Fast Pay” option; appears to offer ability to pay with air miles car à la Speedpass. Turns out to just be regular old “pay with your credit card at the pump.”
8:00 p.m. — Stop at Cape Jourmaine to pee in shadow of bridge. Cape Jourmaine is closed. Confident that Gateway Village will be open, proceed over bridge. Gateway Village closed. Pee at Esso. Motor on home.
8:45 p.m. — Pull into driveway. Realize there is much evidence to suggest we left in a hurry. Glad to be on Island soil again.

Downtown Arts and Culture

A bunch of people who, in the final analysis, could probably most accurately be grouped under the category “boring older white people who like trees and old buildings” gathered in the Carriage House at Beaconsfield on Thursday night to discuss arts and culture in downtown Charlottetown.

Instigated by Catherine Hennessey and her followers as part of a regular series of meetings of downtown residents, the putative purpose of the meeting was to develop some sort of “vision” for arts and culture in the downtown into the future.

Charlottetown’s cultural institutions were all well-represented: David Mackenzie from the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Judy Whitaker from the PEI Council of the Arts, Chris Severance from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, my consort Catherine Miller from the PEI Crafts Council, Kier Kenny from the Kier Gallery and Harry Holman from Culture, Heritage, Recreation & Sport all made brief presentations about the role of their organizations in downtown Charlottetown.

The evening began with an exercise for the audience: we were each given three cards, and asked to respond to the questions “What is your favourite thing about downtown Charlottetown,” “What is your favourite thing about arts and culture in downtown Charlottetown,” and “What is the heart and soul of downtown Charlottetown.” Later in the evening, after the aforementioned presentations, our responses were read aloud, anonymously.

This is where things got depressing.

If the hall contained the cultural braintrust of downtown Charlottetown, then we are in trouble, for it quickly became apparent from the responses to the questions that what people like about downtown Charlottetown is that it is a quiet, peaceful safe little place with lots of trees and old buildings where you can walk pretty well everywhere. Several people mentioned that they like the Confederation Centre of the Arts. City Cinema came up once. There was a mention of church music.

If the role, or at least one of the roles, of arts and culture is to stir things up, to make us feel and think and learn about ourselves and others, then, at least reflected through the eyes of those gathered last night, we have a culture drought Charlottetown.

We’ve a community well suited to living a pleasant uneventful life, sometimes punctuated by some lively church music, or perhaps taking in Anne at the Centre. But that, we appeared to reflect last night, is about it.

This is not (thank God) entirely true, of course: there are some very interesting people making very interesting art, thinking provoking thoughts living right here downtown. But we hide them out of view, for the most part, and certainly don’t invite them into our institutions and embrace and support them.

My suggestion, at evening’s end, was that if we are to foment a vision for arts and culture in downtown Charlottetown, we should start with the premise that we should take what we reflected on and revealed about the place, and seek to do the opposite.

In other words to take risks, support that which makes us afraid, embrace artists who make us feel uncomfortable (at least some of the time) and generally seek to have a cultural environment that works more to teach us about the rich, textured, fractured, sorrowful, joyful modern world of today than to gently lull us to sleep in our pleasant walkable community.

City Cinema gets Reinvented

City Cinema Website The year after Derek Martin opened City Cinema here in Charlottetown in 1993, I approached him with the idea of creating a website to display the cinema schedule. Derek was game, and so was born, in collusion with Island Services Network, one of the first commercial websites on the Island.

And it’s been trucking along ever since, using fundamentally the same “show these films in a calendar” code that I wrote back then.

Last month Derek wondered if he could start selling advance tickets online using PayPal. I was intrigued by the idea, and eagre to upgrade the cinema’s website anyway, and today you can see the results: the new City Cinema website went live this morning at 2:00 a.m.

It’s not a dramatic reinvention. The main purpose of the site is to tell you what’s playing, and so we don’t bury that information under some obscure link, it is the front page of the site. I’ve widened the layout a little (assuming bravely that enough people have upgrade from standard 640x480 screen that this is now safe to do), tried to clean up the design some, added some links to the Internet Movie Database where appropriate, and, of course, have added the aforementioned ability to purchase advance tickets.

Stay tuned more additional upgrades in the days and weeks to come, a set of email alerts that you’ll be able to configure to tell you what’s playing.

In the meantime, please support Derek and City Cinema; while many other cinemas of this type have gone by the wayside (Wormwoods in Halifax was another client for a while, and I will forever lament the death of the Broadway in Hamilton), Derek has stuck by the project and made a go if it.