Monthly Archives: December 2011

Theme Coraline

I could not figure out why the sidebar column of cover images was appearing only on the main page of this blog, but not the individual post pages.

I hadn’t meddled with the WordPress settings for a while – and I suspect in the interim, the theme I’d been using, now mysteriously called ‘Unnamed Lite’, had been revised. Some conflict between widgets was interfering with one of the two sidebars. Simplest solution, just install another two-sidebar theme. This one is called Coraline. I edited out the php to display the background image, and hardcoded a display of my preferred image… Now I can update the cover images roll.

Holiday Notes – website updates; films; iPhone

Too many things going on recently to have had time to update the blog. But briefly–

Have not followed up on those tickets, beyond what I reported earlier.

Latest development on the website is that I’ve set up, just today, a WordPress blog for the Magazine pages — i.e., the monthly table of contents, Locus bestsellers, and New & Notable books. So now, every post I do (posted in the middle column of the website homepage) will be part of the RSS feed for the site.

I *have* read a few books lately, and my next step will be to update the book images in the right pane — now a year out of date — to indicate those books I’ve read lately.

I’ve also seen a few films this month, of which I will mention, again briefly–

J. Edgar: had its moments. DiCaprio is very good; he disappears into his role. Armie Hammer, less so; I wasn’t convinced by his attitude, for the time, or by his old age makeup, which was terrible.

Source Code (saw on DVD): technically impressive, Jake Gyllenhaal very good, as is Vera Farmiga. But the premise undercuts itself at the end, tries to have it both ways. Is it virtual reality, or multiple worlds?

The Descendants: marvelous and moving. Maybe my favorite of the year. Only a tiny bit in part because I happened to visit the north coast of Kauai about a year ago, and so recognized and empathized with those settings and local attitudes. Clooney really is terrific.

Hugo: marvelous and thrilling. I’d read the book, knew where the film was going and — perhaps because of this, because seeing something you’ve read and internalized and now see in a shared reality — made it all the more satisfying.

The Artist: pleasantly amusing, a treat for films buffs who know movie history. The Arclight theatre in Hollywood where we saw this had displays of the costumes from this movie. I noticed the heavy lifting of Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo score near the end, apparently subject of minor controversy.

The Adjustment Bureau (again on DVD): Matt Damon — like Jake Gyllenhaal, and Leonardo DiCaprio actually — is a really good actor. The film is well-made, if not rigorous in its deployment of the premise. The ending is too easy — OK, no problem, you’re good!

Shame: yes, Michael Fassbender is amazing. There are beautiful, and excruciating, scenes here. Does Fassbender’s character reform at the end? Or is he doomed to a lifetime of compulsive behavior, the way alcoholics never entirely recover, only momentarily suspended by a feeling of shame? My partner and I debated this after seeing it.

A Dangerous Method: Michael Fassbender again, in an intellectual, play-based, story about Freud and Jung and their common patient. Fascinating and engaging. Could have been longer.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: spectacular, and much more true to the original TV series — in the opening music, the setup, the tricky plot — than the earlier MI films that I saw (though I’m not sure I saw beyond the 1st one). I read newspaper articles describing how Tom Cruise *really did* do those stunts on the outside of that building in Dubai… but as I watched the film, I couldn’t quite believe that most of the scenes were not done on a soundstage somewhere… In any event, the set pieces in the film were spectacular, the plot elements satisfying closed. Highly recommended.

Finally — not as a Christmas present, but coincidentally received this past week, I have acquired an iPhone. I feel like I’ve been abruptly booted ten years into the future; though in reality, I realize I’ve been languishing in the past, while the world has moved on without me, for ten years, and now I’ve caught up. [Edit -- well, 5 years; the first iPhone was released mid-2007. Still, it seems longer.] Lots of fun; very cool. A mini 2001 obelisk in my pocket.

Consumer Alert: Fie Upon Song Ticketing

(Updated 22 Dec 11 — see footnote*)

Consumer Alert — for whatever good it will do, which may not be much.

About three weeks ago I decided to order tickets for a Christmas concert by Chanticleer — a 12-member, all male, a capella, choral group — at Walt Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles. I went* to the LA Philharmonic at Walt Disney Hall website, found the concert date, reviewed available ticket prices, and selected two $75 tickets, in a section on one side of the stage (the hall has seating on all sides, including behind the stage). I clicked purchase, was advised that the total with taxes etc. would be $191, and clicked accept.

A few days later I got an email from Song Ticketing [] advising me that their databases had not been updated, and the section where I’d ordered tickets was sold out. They could provide alternate seating for the same price in another section. OK… I replied that I would accept the alternative.

I received, by Federal Express, two paper tickets. (You’d think they could have sent electronic documents that I could have printed out, but no, I had to sign a FedEx note to have the two pieces of paper delivered to a neighbor, since I’m not at home during the workday.)

It turned out the tickets they supplied were two $30 tickets in a section behind the stage.

I confirmed, when we attended the concert on the 15th, that the tickets were worth $30 each.

We were behind the stage — in only the 3rd row back, but looking at the backs the performers, for most of the concert. (It was nice that a few of the singers thought to turn around and look behind them, to acknowledge the applause from back there.)

After which, I replied to ‘Song Ticketing’ that I thought some refund was due.

They replied that they are a broker, of some sort, and have the right to sell any ticket at any price, above or below the nominal price, depending on consumer demand, and this is explained in the fine print on their website.

Now, I had ordered the tickets from the LA Philharmonic website, which does indicate an affiliation with Ticketmaster. And in fact, the paper tickets I received by FedEx said ‘Ticketmaster’ at the top. But no connection with ‘Song Ticketing’ was suggested. I never had reason to go to the Song Ticketing website, much less examine their fine print.

I did quick Google search and discovered Song Ticketing @ Pissed Consumer, which has many stories similar to mine.

Point of fact, the hall was not full. If it was sold out, there must have been 20% no-shows, in the orchestra section in front of the stage, and on the sides, where I’d tried to order tickets. Song Ticketing’s response might have been plausible had those sections actually been full.

So it strikes me as unethical, if not fraud, for Song Ticketing to supply cheap tickets in response to an order for expensive tickets, and claim this is OK because of fine print on some website I never had any reason to visit. I doubt any Song Ticketing employee would be happy if, say, they arranged a car loan for an expensive car and got delivered a cheaper car, with an email pointing out some excuse in the fine print on some website.

I replied to Song Ticketing and told them so, and Happy Holidays for your dicey ethics.

No reply.

Bottom line: I was charged $191, and got two $30 tickets.

Not sure how I could prevent this in the future. I sent a complaint to the LA Philharmonic website, and they responded that they had no affiliation with Song Ticketing.

I suppose I will never order tickets this way again. I suppose if I did try to order individual tickets like this again, I would be very aware – beware – of any contact with Song Ticketing, and try to divert their interference with a response to the original order.

However I did like the concert, and am pleased to recommend Chanticleer for any of your holiday, or male vocal, music needs. (I especially admired Matthew Knickman.) Amazon has complete collection.

* Upon investigation, trying to reproduce the Google search I used when I bought tickets in the first place (I’d set the browser to keep only 7 days of history), it seems I did *not* land on the actual LA Phil website. The Google search results showed “” at the very top — but it’s a paid ad, which I hadn’t noticed, and I must have used that to order tickets. It’s “powered by”, who sent me an email receipt when I did the initial purchase. Oddly, that result appeared at the top of my search results on one PC, but at the bottom on another, though I don’t recall ever editing Google search options in any fashion on either PC.

Anyway, LA Phil is not implicated.

***Further update 22 Dec 11 evening*** — I noticed this evening that the tickets I received — delivered, inconveniently, as two pieces of paper, by FedEx (I had to sign to have them delivered to a neighbor, since I’m at work during the FedEx delivery day) — do in fact say “ticketmaster” across the top. This confirmed my earlier conviction that I’d ordered through LA Phil/Ticketmaster. Reconsidering, it seems that I must have ordered through, which was a front for, which in turn must have ordered tickets — two $30 tickets — through Ticketmaster, and passed them off to me in exchange for my $191 credit card charge. The tickets even say “purchased by AILEEN CAMPBELL”. Who would she be, I wonder? I will follow up with them tomorrow…