Tag Archives: Entertainment

The Netflix Recommendation: Bill Cosby is a God

For a while there, I was thinking that I wouldn’t be able to continue this series as Netflix had apparently given up on me.  In fact, I can still say that, as Netflix only recommends to me around 30 titles (most of which I have no interest in), but that’s still better than when it was at about 6 titles a few months ago.  However, while I have more recommendations, they’ve veered-off from weird to the totally absurd.  And so, we have today’s recommendation.

The Recommendation: Jesus of Nazareth

Because I enjoyed: Bill Cosby: Himself
 

netflix-jesus

See, simply recommending a documentary on Jesus to me is silly to begin with.  I’m a proud atheist-leaning agnostic, and am allergic to almost all things Jesus.  But what makes this recommendation legendary, is that it was recommended to me because I liked a film of Bill Cosby stand-up.  Did I miss something?  Did Cosby recently declare himself the new Messiah?  Does Netflix know something I don’t?  Should I be worshipping at the altar of Huxtable?

I guess it’s time to start a new religion.  I’ll have to quit my job and start writing the Gospel of Cosby.  I wonder if I can become one of Cosby’s apostle.  From now on, call me Theo.

Cheers,
Charlie

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Adventure Gardens Miniature Golf

Ever since my recent trip to The Links at Dred Scott, I’ve had a renewed interest in miniature golf.  Yeah, yeah, such a thing is mostly for kids, but when designed right, it’s a fun test of skill and creative thinking.  When designed wrong, or rather, when not really designed at all, the activity becomes annoyingly arbitrary.  Unfortunately, most courses tend to be exercises in arbitrariness, as course “designers” tend to think that it’s good enough to just add random bumps and objects.  The best courses make you have to figure out how to get the ball to the hole through skillful aim and/or planning on how to use the objects and hills to change the course of the ball.

The Links at Dred Scott only slightly fulfilled this requirement, and because of its lack, and simply because of being reminded of how much fun mini-golf can be, I’ve found myself hankering to try out some other courses.  This desire was so strong that last week I almost tried to persuade my wife to try out the course at the Mall of America, Moose Mountain Adventure Golf, while we were there, even despite the astronomical $9 per person.  Luckily, my wife made a really good point: it was such a nice day, so why would we spend it at an inside course when we could try out an outdoor course?

And so we found ourselves trying out Adventure Gardens Miniature Golf at 6335 Portland Avenue South, Richfield, MN 55423.  Some of my main complaints about The Links at Dred Scott was it utter openness, its lack of atmosphere, and its arbitrary design.  Adventure Gardens corrects almost all of these flaws.  The course is located in a city park, but is off to the side mostly surrounded by trees.  That in itself is a big plus, as it creates a feeling of walking through the woods (even if the surrounding area was completely open fields).  Additionally, the water features are actually interesting, albeit sparse.  It does have a “waterfall” type feature, as well as a running “stream” and a few pools of water.  While not exactly brilliantly designed, it did add to the experience so that it wasn’t just mini-golf, it was a summer afternoon stroll.

The course itself is generally good.  Some thought has been put into creating holes for which you had to think about how to hit the ball, so that you use hills, walls, and objects to bounce the ball to the hole.  And while there was a reasonable amount of water features, the holes did not have any issue with moisture, as The Links at Dred Scott did.

However, while the holes did offer some creative thought, a lot more planning could have gone into it.  Most of the holes are extremely short, and what seemed mildly clever and interesting at the beginning becomes a bit tiring by the later holes when the same devices are used over and over again.  Additionally, even if you do hit a clever shot, you’re unlikely to gain much on a person simply hitting the ball straight.  There’s really not enough strategy or skill required for the course.
 

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The main question is whether or not I’d return.  It’s hard to say.  The normal price for a round is about $7.  We had a 2-for-1 coupon making it far more reasonable.  Given the very short time it takes to finish a round, that the holes become uninteresting with more exposure, and because the atmosphere wears a bit thin because of the surrounding open fields, it’s hard to rationalize $14 for two people. 

The course is undoubtedly better than The Links at Dred Scott, so if it’s a choice between the two, definitely go with Adventure Gardens.  Additionally, because of the better water features and design, kids will probably have more fun with Adventure Gardens.

Next up, Moose Mountain… maybe.  Again, it is the Mall of America… and $9 per person.

Cheers,
Charlie

The Links at Dred Scott and Other Miniature Golf

I can’t exactly call myself a miniature golf aficionado, but I probably have more interest in the game than your average adult.  I used to love going to our local mini-golf course as a kid (now-closed), and I especially enjoyed the numerous miniature golf courses whenever my family went to the Wisconsin Dells.  It’s a silly game, but it does require some skill if the course is made right.

With the exception of the Valleyfair Adventure Golf, I haven’t played in years.  My wife and I rectified this situation this weekend by visiting the course we live by, and have lived by for almost three years now, for the first time.  The unfortunately named The Links at Dred Scott.

Before I get into this course, let me explain what I look for in a mini-golf course.  First, throw all of the novelty courses out.  Novelty courses consist of flat greens with large statues, windmills and such blocking the way.  These are courses of the kitsch variety.  My favorite type of course, on the other hand, is one that has many elevation changes, corners, and obstacles, but is reasonable enough so that such challenges are not arbitrary.  While I enjoy a few bumps here and there, I much prefer a fairly dramatic change in elevation in a lot of the holes.  As such, I suppose I am not much of a putt-putt fan, but rather a fan of course with imagination.

To truly stand-out as a miniature golf course, it has to have the above elements, but it also has to have an interesting ambiance.  Most often this is achieved through caves, dramatic changes in elevation from the first to last hole, and most importantly, fairly large waterfalls.

One of the courses I remember fondly from my youth, and perhaps my favorite of all time, is Timber Falls Adventure Golf in the Wisconsin Dells.  Timber Falls mixed in the above elements very well, giving the whole course a logging-type atmosphere, complete with large waterfalls and trees.  On top of that, the holes were rather creative.

Another decent course in that area is Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf (apparently all mini-golf has to be “Adventure Golf”?).  It started out well enough, with waterfalls, large hills, changes in elevation, but once they started to add many more 18-holes, all creativity fell out the window, and they ended up creating holes that were essentially only straight, with a few rocks in the middle. 

And so we come to Dred Scott, which suffers from some of the main problems as Pirate’s Cove, and even more.  To begin with, it’s really not a bad course.  In fact, it’s pretty above-average (which honestly says more about the state of mini-golf courses than it does the quality of Dred Scott).  However, it also isn’t all that good.

Click on thumbnails for larger images

The main problem with Dred Scott is that it just isn’t creative at all.  Instead of having to navigate hills and corners, the holes consist of random bumps and tiny-hills as obstacles.  Almost every single hole is straight, and there’s rarely a change in elevation.  Additionally, the course commits the great sin of relying on raising the hole up a little in order to create further “challenge” in putting the ball in.  It wouldn’t be so bad in a couple holes, but a good half of them rely almost solely on this to create challenge.  They might as well be putting greens with random bumps.

There’s also really not all that much ambience at The Links at Dred Scott.  It’s a straightforward presentation, with a few fountains to add to the experience (they call them “waterfalls,” but I reserve that term for more than just water falling a foot from one small pool to another, where it’s recycled back to the top).  Unfortunately, the fountains also somehow soak the greens, which makes judging the friction very difficult. 

It sounds like I hated the experience, but again, it’s really not that bad of a course.  It’s just rather unimaginative, and there’s no additional ambience to make it more interesting.  Kids would probably have no complaints, but your average adult might just be bored by the repetition.  The cost was $6.00, which is a bit much for less than an hour of entertainment, but still better than a lot of courses.

For a better course that’s not too far away from Dred Scott, I’d suggest the aforementioned Valleyfair Adventure Golf.  It attempts, and for the most part, succeeds in creating an interesting atmosphere, full of caves, waterfalls, and interesting holes.  Although, be warned, the last time I went, two years ago, the course seemed to be falling into disrepair.  Hopefully they’ve fixed the issue, as it was one of the better courses around.

Also nearby is the golf course at the Mall of America.  When the Mall of America originally opened, it had a miniature golf course near one of the food courts.  The attempt at mini-golf wasn’t all that bad, as they tried to create an outdoor atmosphere where most of the mall was blocked from view, but the greens had more friction than shag carpeting.  Eventually, it closed, and was replaced by a number of exceedingly commercial attractions.  Luckily, those have closed, and there is now a new miniature golf course in its place: Moose Mountain… (say it with me)… Adventure Golf.  It looks similar to the old course, but hopefully without the excessive friction.  I doubt I’ll ever bother with it, it’s in the Mall of America after all and costs and astounding $8.95 per adult, but it might be a reasonable course, even if lacking in atmosphere.

Cheers,
Charlie

June 29, 2008 Update:
I just returned from trying out Adventure Gardens Miniature Golf in Richfield.  While not a great course, it is a few steps up from The Links at Dred Scott.  If you have a choice between either, try out Adventure Gardens.  I will post a full-ish review in the next few days.

July 4, 2008 Update:
The full-ish review is now available.

The Netflix Recommendation: Netflix Has Given Up

The Recommendation:  Victor Borge’s Funniest Moments

Because I Enjoyed:  Mister Roberts, Much Ado About Nothing, The Odd Couple

Well, this is a bit that died almost before it started.  When I said Netflix didn’t know what to do with me, I thought I was exaggerating.  It turns out, Netflix truly has no clue.  Under the “Movies You’ll Love” tab (actually, it doesn’t say “Love,” instead there’s a heart.  Seriously Netflix, what the hell?) it only recommends ten movies.  Ten movies.  Netflix advertises that it has over 90,000 titles, and out of that, it can only recommend ten.  It turns out, apparently, that after rating over 800 movies, the Netflix rating system has thrown up its hands and has given up.  If you ignore the stand-up comedy DVDs, there are only six actual movie recommendations left.

Netflix seems to have the same problem with stand-up as it did with TV: if I like any particular stand-up videos, it recommends almost all of them.  Unfortunately, like TV, I don’t rent, and therefore rate, videos from comedians I know I hate.  As such, in Netflix’s eyes, I like all stand-up.

As for the movies, honestly, the ones that are left just don’t like they’re anything I would ever be interested in.  Hang ‘Em High?  I really dislike Westerns, and I’ve learned that I dislike anything Eastwood touches.

But what signals the system’s frustration more than anything, on the main page it has actually stopped recommending things for me.  Instead of saying, “Because You Enjoyed X” it says “If You Enjoyed X.”  That’s right, even though I’m signing into my account, it has decided just to randomly recommend things.  To give you a for instance, it’s actually now saying that if I enjoyed Saw, I might enjoy Saw IV.  Now, I’ll spare Netflix the “duh” here, but with all my ratings, it thinks I’ll rater Saw a 2 1/2 (a fairly awful rating for Netflix).  So it knows that I won’t enjoy Saw, let alone Saw IV.

Anyway, all that’s to bring me to today’s recommendation.  At first blush, I was taken aback by it.  Because I liked Much Ado About Nothing, a Shakespeare comedy (and it’s actually comic at that, unlike most of his comedies), Mister Roberts, a classic Henry Fonda comedy (which I honestly don’t remember liking that much, but I apparently gave it four stars), and The Odd Couple, no description necessary, I’ll enjoy Victor Borge’s Funniest Moments

Now hold on a second, I thought, because of those classic comedies, Netflix thinks I’ll like the pianist comedian who makes up really dorky political songs full of puns?!  The one which Phil Hartman did a great parody of in one of the best episodes of the great series Newsradio?

www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ys1viAbQi8

Note: I would  have embedded, but it has been disabled by the host.

And for good measure, the funniest bit of the show (which immediately follows the preceding clip).

www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aWZqqVNn0E.

That guy?  And then I realized, it’s not Victor Borge who does the political songs, it’s Mark Russell!  Victor Borge can actually be rather amusing sometimes.  That’s too bad, I thought, since I no longer have an excuse to include Newsradio clips in this post…

But yeah, given the fact that I enjoyed those movies, it is plausible that I would enjoy a Victor Borge best of. 

Although, how a Shakespearean comedy relates to a piano comedian is beyond me.

Cheers,
Charlie

American Idol’s David Archuleta and the Menendez Brothers

Okay, I know this betrays me as someone who watches American Idol (because of my wife, I swear!), but after watching tonight’s show, with David Archuleta wearing an argyle sweater, I’m now convinced that he has an uncanny similarity to the Menendez brothers (I would have gotten comparative sweater pictures, but alas, they are unavailable).

   lyle-l-erik-menendez200.jpg

david_archuleta_face.jpg

And considering there are rumors that Archuleta’s dad is supposed to be very strict…

Legal Disclaimer:  I am by no means implying that David Archuleta’s dad is abusive, nor am I implying the David might kill his dad one day.  With a shotgun.  Multiple rounds.  I am not implying this at all.

Real Legal Disclaimer:  No really, I’m only joking about the connection.

Real Legal Disclaimer II:  Please don’t sue.

Cheers,
Charlie

The Netflix Recommendation: Dark British Drama Equals Light Irish Comedy

The Recommendation:  Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice

Because I Enjoyed:  Waking Ned Devine

Netflix just doesn’t know what to do with me.  I don’t know how well the rating system works for most people, but for me it’s quite awful.  I’m a hard nut to crack when it comes to movies, as I frown on traditional Hollywood nonsense, but also get turned off by the more pretentious art films.  At the same time, I like movies like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover and Happiness, but also like Airheads and Tremors.  As such, Netflix thinks I’ll give basically every movie ever made, not counting truly awful Hollywood fare, around 2 1/2 to 3 stars.  Every now and then it does give something more than 3 1/2, and on those occasions, it’s usually correct.  But otherwise, the system has no idea.

The one thing Netflix does seem to think I’ll love is anything at all on TV.  And why does this happen?  It appears that if you rate a few programs highly, Netflix believes you’ll like any TV program DVD.  The worst offense was when it recommended Laguna Beach to me.  Apparently, if I like Family Guy, I’ll like Laguna Beach.

If it the AI thinks like that, Netflix just can’t work for anyone.

And so we get to today’s recommendation.  Let’s compare, shall we?  Netflix summaries:

Waking Ned Devine:

How can dead Irishman Ned Devine collect his lottery winnings? Well, longtime cronies Jackie O’Shea (Ian Bannen) and Michael O’Sullivan (David Kelly) have the answer. After discovering that Ned croaked from the shock of hitting the jackpot, Jackie and Michael mastermind a scheme to impersonate the lucky stiff and collect his prize money. Now all they need to do is persuade the rest of Tulaigh Mohr’s denizens to go along…

Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice

In this popular PBS mystery series, Derek Jacobi (Gladiator) stars as the sleuthing 12th century monk Cadfael. Once a sailor and adventurer, Cadfael has settled into a religious life at the Shrewsbury Abbey, where he flourishes as the resident gardener and amateur detective. In this episode, Cadfael is confronted by the haunting murder of a young nun and the shocking truth of his own past.

Because I like Waking Ned Devine, a light, very amusing comedy about a small Irish village and winning the lottery, I’ll like Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice, a dark and moody British TV drama about a 12th century monk investigating a haunting murder.

As one reviewer said of Cadfael, “This episode is disturbing & dark, and as cold as the snowy winter setting of the story…”  As for Waking Ned Devine, another review wrote: “Seriously though, what isn’t great about watching old men ride naked on Motorcycles?”

Well, at least there’s one thing that’s similar between these two.  Old men riding naked on motorcycles can be quite dark and disturbing.  And, to be honest, it probably was cold for David Kelly to have ridden the motorcycle while naked.

Cheers,
Charlie