David Barr Kirtley's Blog

March 30, 2014

So I had an unpleasant encounter at the movies this weekend. At a Saturday night screening of Noah the guy in the row ahead of me and a couple seats over was using his smart phone through the first ten minutes of the movie. The glare from it was as bright as the film itself and incredibly distracting. Finally I leaned over and hissed, “Could you turn off your phone please?” He didn’t hear me. I tapped the back corner of his seat and repeated myself. (It would probably be fair to say that I tapped his seat harder than I intended, and my “tap” could reasonably be described as a “swat.”) He turned his phone off, then a moment later glared at me and growled in a dim-witted bully voice, “Don’t hit me again, do you understand?” He definitely sounded ready to fight. I said, “Yes,” and he turned back to the screen. He spent the rest of the movie talking and gesturing emphatically at the screen, seemingly exasperated and confused by the movie. I spent the rest of the movie tense and distracted, wondering if any further conflict would ensue. (At times like these you can’t help but think of Chad Oulson.) Fortunately it didn’t, but the movie was ruined for me, as was my mood for many hours afterward.


Today I spent several hours googling phrases like “glowing phone movie” to see what other people think about this sort of thing. Plenty of people are as aggravated about it as I am. Every movie screening at every theater I’ve ever seen has warned the audience not to talk or text during the movie. This particular screening featured not one but two animated shorts devoted to asking people to turn off their phones. One of these shorts features the theater’s mascot as a superhero blasting giant phones out of the sky. Obviously people watch these messages hundreds of times, so they’re hardly unaware that they’re being rude and annoying everyone around them, but they do it anyway, I guess because they’re just selfish, obnoxious dicks. The question is, is there anything you can do about it?


You can try to politely ask people to stop, but in my experience this is only intermittently successful, and risks an ugly confrontation, especially if as in my case your irritation overwhelms your attempts to be civil. I’ve seen various other strategies aired online. You can move away from the annoying person. (Though this can be a real pain and may not be practical in a crowded theater like the one I was at on Saturday.) You can complain to the theater staff. (Though this means missing a good chunk of the movie, and seems unlikely to have much effect.) You can walk out of the movie and ask for a refund. (Even if you get the refund you’ve wasted a lot of time and energy going to the theater.) I’ve seen other more severe strategies proposed, such as “pretending” to spill a drink on the offending filmgoer or taking their phone from them by force, but none of these seem particularly attractive options.


It would be nice if theaters would do something about the problem. The Alamo Draft House in Austin has a zero-tolerance policy toward talking or texting during the movie that sounds pretty good. (They even use the fact that dipshits complain about this policy as a selling point.) I don’t know if there’s anything like that in New York, but if there is I’d love to know about it. The Oatmeal has a funny take on theater design which actually contains some pretty good ideas, such as theaters giving you the option of plugging in noise-canceling headphones like you can on an airplane.


Other options include going to movies only during times and dates that you expect the theater to be mostly empty, or just not going to the movies at all. (I actually mostly stayed away from theaters for several years because I’d had so many evenings ruined by obnoxious audiences.)


It would be nice if there were some sort of private club where you could go to watch movies with other filmgoers who are committed to not talking or texting. Membership would be based on a proven track record of good manners, and could be revoked at the drop of a hat if someone lit up a smart phone during the show.

 •  flag
1 comment
1 like · like  • 
Published on March 30, 2014 17:14 • 35 views

August 12, 2013

In Episode 91 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy we discussed our favorite geeky YouTube videos. Here’s my Top 10:


1. Short film “They’re Made Out of Meat”


2. “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” music video


3. Richard Dawkins and Douglas Adams TV Appearance


4. Animated short “Noah’s Ark” by NonStampCollector


5. “Danger Planet” animated short


6. Animated short of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Terrible Old Man”


7. Animated Short “Defective Robot”


8. Animated short “Reach” by Luke Randall


9. Warren Spector interviews Richard Garriott about his game design career


10. Roger Zelazny reads an inside-joke sf story at a convention. (Only video of Zelazny I’ve ever found.)

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on August 12, 2013 09:59 • 77 views

In Episode 91 of my book podcast we interview Felicia Day and discuss the geekiest YouTube videos.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on August 12, 2013 09:47 • 61 views

July 9, 2013

If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, come out and see me at Barnes & Noble on July 14th & 17th. You’ll also have a chance to meet authors Tamora Pierce, Scott Westerfeld, and Justine Larbalestier.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on July 09, 2013 04:38 • 58 views

July 2, 2013

Episode 89 of my book podcast is up now at Wired.com! In this show we interview Lauren Beukes and talk psycho killers with guest geek Ross Lockhart.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on July 02, 2013 16:01 • 41 views

June 15, 2013

Episode 88 of my book podcast is up now at Wired.com! In this show we interview Annalee Newitz, editor of io9, and discuss rationalism in science fiction with guest geek Julia Galef.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on June 15, 2013 16:56 • 63 views

June 1, 2013

Episode 87 of my book podcast is up now on Wired.com! In this show we interview Alaya Dawn Johnson and discuss Star Trek Into Darkness with guest geeks E.C. Myers and Emily Asher-Perrin.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on June 01, 2013 05:13 • 47 views

Episode 87 of my book podcast is up now on Wired.com! In this show we interview Alaya Dawn Johnson and discuss Star Trek Into Darkness with guest geeks E.C. Myers and Emily Asher-Perrin.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on June 01, 2013 05:13 • 47 views

May 18, 2013

Episode 86 of my sci-fi podcast is up now at Wired.com! In this show we interview Rick Yancey, author of The 5th Wave, and discuss science fiction podcasting with Mur Lafferty.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on May 18, 2013 03:51 • 46 views

May 5, 2013

Episode 85 of my sci-fi podcast is up now at Wired.com! In this show we interview horror writer Joe Hill and talk recent horror movies with Wattpad sensation Brittany Geragotelis.

 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on May 05, 2013 10:57 • 62 views