Archive for August, 2012

George Méliès: A Second Helping

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

I’m moderating a panel on George Melies today, so here’s a second helping of his films (to go along with the first set I put up):

Another hand-tinted film, this one featuring a starfish that turns into a very octopoid spider:

Does your hotel room have a black devil problem?

Some low comedy:

Disembodied tricks:

Living playing cards:

Book Acquisition: Knowing Darkness: Artists Inspired by Stephen King

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

(King, Stephen) Beahm, George. Knowing Darkness: Artists Inspired by Stephen King. Centipede Press, 2009. First edition oversized hardback (slipcase is 15 3/4″ high by 11 1/2″ wide), a Fine copy, sans dust jacket, in fine, illustrated slipcase. A huge, heavy book, only slightly shorter than the Lovecraft art volume they did. I hadn’t been planning on picking this up, nice as it is, but the publisher had a sale. And it’s nice to have all the Stephen King-related Michael Whelan works in one place (since, unlike this completely awesome and completely insane Stephen King collector, I don’t have the original paintings hanging on my wall).

Shoegazer Sunday: Abiku’s “Bocciòlo”

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

I thought that last week’s Italian shoegazer entry worked well enough that we should go back to the boot for this week’s entry, Abiku’s “Bocciòlo”L

See how easy it is to do a music video? All you need is a hot girl jogging and swimming!

Ceridian Benefit Services is a Scam

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Ceridian Benefit Services

United States Department of Labor
Dallas Regional Office
525 South Griffin St, Rm 900
Dallas, TX 75202-5025

Dear Ceridian Benefit Services,

You have asked me to fill out your “Consumer Satisfaction Survey” concerning my recent dealings with your company. This I am happy to do.

The background: My contract position ended and I elected to continue receiving health benefits from Blue Cross of Texas and sent in my COBRA payment to Ceridian Benefit Services, to whom the contract agency had farmed out their COBRA fulfillment. Despite this, when I went to get a prescription refilled, my pharmacist told me my insurance had expired.

Calling Blue Cross, they said they had not received official notice from Ceridian that my COBRA had been paid up. Calling the Ceridian Benefit Services support line (which, I now understand, goes to a call center in the Philippines), they confirm I’m paid up, say the information had been sent off, but said they would send it again.

I am now going to condense multiple calls to both Blue Cross and Ceridian, in which your representative repeatedly stated the information had been emailed/faxed/etc. to Blue Cross, and Blue Cross still had no record of it, despite getting verbal assurance on the phone that I was covered and that the information was on the way, stories that seem to change every time I called.

Only by contacting my former employer several times, and emailing, was I able, after 45 days of paying for COBRA, to get Ceridian to actually transmit the information to Blue Cross.

Moreover, my Blue Cross support representative (I was able to get the same one on the line, as opposed to different people in the Filipino call center) said that plenty of other people had experienced problems with Ceridian.

In the publishing industry, there are several firms that were infamous for “payment upon lawsuit.” Ceridian seems to be cut from the same cloth.

Moreover, my experience seems to be the norm among those having to use your “service.” On Epinion, 35 people have rated your service: one gave it four stars, the other 34 rated it one star. Let’s pull up some quotes, shall we?

I have continuously paid my continuation of services premium to Ceridian for four months. Yet I have never been ‘covered’ according to my insurance company. I have also called Ceridian during each of the four months. They have assured me that they will ‘submit a request for service update’. Which when I call to check on submission, has never happened. Last week when the third ‘request’ was submitted, I asked to speak to a supervisor. After being on hold for a while, I was told that the supervisors were all busy but that they would ‘submit a request to have a supervisor return my call’. I asked how long they thought that would take. I then reminded them that their prior ‘requests’ for things had not resulted in action being taken. In fact, my most recent ‘request for service update’ was an ’emergency request’ (their words) and was supposed to only take 24-48 hours. It has been six days and the service update has still not occured. The ‘supervisor’ called me back 48 hours after my ‘request’ and said that they service update had been made and that my coverage was active. I called Blue Shield (my original insurance co.) and my coverage was NOT.

I was laid off after a decade with my prior company, and for the first time in my life, have had to use COBRA. My understanding was that the coverage would be “seamless” — but apparently I knew nothing about Ceridian! First of all, I was provided with paperwork which indicated that I could register online — that was completely false, as they had no record of me, and when I talked to them on the phone, they told me to wait 7-10 days. (Which I understand is their standard fake answer…) So I talked to my former company’s HR people, and they told me to mail in the paperwork via regular mail, which I did. The check was promptly cashed, and eventually, they acknowledged payment in their system. But they still have yet to inform my insurance carrier of the premium payment. In the meantime, I have paid them the premium, but cannot get prescriptions filled or see doctors. I have basically paid for 2 months of nothing!!! Ceridian is a scam, which basically preys on those who lose their jobs and have no choice but to elect COBRA coverage, and the hope of Ceridian is that you will either (a) die, or (b) get a job before they get around to covering you. Either way, they pocket the money for doing nothing. Pretty neat racket, huh? I intend to file a complaint with the FTC, and if I can’t get anywhere with that, a federal class-action lawsuit — possibly even for RICO violations, as this is unconscionable in our current economy.

Ceridian is the worst company ever! Do not choose it for anything! The staff positions would be better filled with elementary school children. These people cannot enter information correctly into their computer system nor answer a phone in a professional tone. No two staff people will tell you the same thing, and each monthly bill will be a different amount. I called about my account and these morons would not let me get passed the authorization of my account because they had the wrong address entered in their system, yet somehow the bill made it to my house every month. To make it worse, instead of listening to what I was saying, the repeatedly inturrupted me asking “tell me the other address we have on file.” How should I know what address you have on file? I’ve lived in the same place for 32 years! Then they stopped my coverage for the delinquent payment of a penny, yes I said it- a penny. This company should be put out of business. I will call every better business bureau, every newspaper, even Obama to try and warn people about their service practices.

Here are some more complaints:

I sent Ceridian the amount due for Cobra. I was shocked when the drug store informed me that my insurance had been canceled, so I called Ceridian and they stated it was a billing error on their part and should be resolved in a couple of days. The representative stated that as soon as the error was corrected, Ceridian could notify my Insurance company and I would be able to get my prescription…that was 3 weeks ago and many more fruitless calls to ceridian, and still…no prescription and no insurance coverage. The representatives always saying the same thing over and over and over again…they kept giving extremely vague, senseless excuses.

I am also involved in a Ceridian nightmare and have been for the past 6 months. I still don’t have resolution.

My opinion is that Ceridian is not a “service,” it is a criminal enterprise run by thieves and engaged in systematic interstate mail and wire fraud. It is my opinion that Ceridian takes money from the recently unemployed, then, instead of passing the portion due onto the insurance company, takes that money and then fails to inform the insurance company. It is my opinion that Ceridian does this unless someone is willing to scream loud enough and long enough to convince someone outside the call center that they’re not going away, at which point someone at Ceridian is evidently authorized to actually comply with the law and inform the insurance company that COBRA has been paid.

How proud Ceridian executives must feel when they go home at night! “What did you do today, daddy?” “I stole from the unemployed, honey!”

No company should ever use Ceridian for anything, ever, and know that if forced to use them for any service, at best it will take multiple calls to get them to provide what you have already paid for, and at worst they will take your money and leave you with squat.

The Man With the Iron Fists

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Well, how did I miss this?

Swords, guns, hot Asian women, ridiculous quantities of blood, a steampunk (golem? robot?) antagonist, and completely over-the-top Kung Fu violence? Produced by Quentin Tarantino?

Yeah, I’m there.

I could do without the hip-hop soundtrack, but it’s become something of a tradition in the post-grindhouse blaxplotation kung-fu crossover, and what did you expect for the first movie directed by RZA?

Opens November 2.

Book Acquisitions: Jack Vance’s The Seventeen Virgins & The Bagful of Dreams

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

A science fiction bookdealer I know had some sudden veterinarian bills he had to take care of, so he let me pick up a fairly rare Jack Vance item as part of a cash-and-trade deal:

Vance, Jack. The Seventeen Virgins & The Bagful of Dreams. Underwood/Miller, 1979. One of only 111 signed hardback copies, a Fine- copy with a tiny bump to bottom front boards in a Fine dust jacket. Hewett A58b and A59b. Two Cugel the Cleaver stories. Originally published as two separate chapbooks in editions of 600 each, this hardback was done from those sets of sheets, and is probably the smallest hardback print run for any Vance book.

Discounting the Vance Integral Edition (for which there are actually more sets available) and some odd variant states (like presentation and lettered copies) this is probably the single hardest Vance hardback to find.

Ridiculously Awesome Bacon Sculptures

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

From The Austin Post, a venue of which I was previously unaware, comes ridiculously awesome bacon sculptures. Come for the full mech suit and the AK-47, stay for Patrick Bateman’s business card.

Book Acquisitions: The History of Middle Earth Volumes IV—XII

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

The week before Armadillocon, Half Price Books had their usual coupon sale, which starts out with a coupon for 40% off one item Monday-Tuesday, 30% Wednesday Thursday, etc., ending with a 50% off coupon on Sunday.

While shopping there Tuesday, I noticed that someone had sold them what appeared to be almost all of the Christopher Tolkien-edited The History of Middle Earth volumes. I asked management if they could apply my 40% coupon to all books in the series, and after looking at them they agreed. I ended up taking Volume IV-XII, because the earlier volumes either had some wear or were later printings. In fact, at the register they ended up taking 50% off each volume, each of which were $14.99, so I think I bought all of them at $7.49 each.

The UK editions precede, but the American editions aren’t particularly easy to find either. All of these are either Fine/Fine or Fine/Fine-, with some minor dust jacket wrinkles.

  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (edited by Christopher Tolkien) The History of Middle Earth Volume V: The Lost Road and Other Writing. Houghton Mifflin, 1987. First American edition.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (edited by Christopher Tolkien) The History of Middle Earth Volume IV: The Shaping of Middle Earth. Houghton Mifflin, 1986. First American edition, Fine/Fine.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (edited by Christopher Tolkien) The History of Middle Earth Volume VI: The Return of the Shadow: The History of the Lord of the Rings Part One. Houghton Mifflin, 1988.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (edited by Christopher Tolkien) The History of Middle Earth Volume VII: The Treason of Isengard: The History of the Lord of the Rings Part Two. Houghton Mifflin, 1989.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (edited by Christopher Tolkien) The History of Middle Earth Volume VIII: The War of the Ring: The History of the Lord of the Rings Part Three. Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (edited by Christopher Tolkien) The History of Middle Earth Volume IX: Sauron Defeated: The History of the Lord of the Rings Part Four. Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (edited by Christopher Tolkien) The History of Middle Earth Volume X: Morgoth’s Ring: The Later Simarillion Part One. Houghton Mifflin, 1993.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (edited by Christopher Tolkien) The History of Middle Earth Volume XI: The War of the Jewels: The Later Simarillion Part Two. Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (edited by Christopher Tolkien) The History of Middle Earth Volume XII: The Peoples of Middle Earth. Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • Happy Birthday H.P. Lovecraft!

    Monday, August 20th, 2012

    Today is H.P. Lovecraft’s birthday. In celebration, here’s a brief musical version of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”:

    I’ve done a lot of Lovecraft and Cthulhu related posts over the years. Here are some of the most notable ones:

  • A look at some of my Lovecraft reference books
  • The Decade of Weirdness: The 1970s, which includes a bit on Lovecraft’s influence on Erich Von Daniken.
  • Cthulhu for Old Spice.
  • Apple: The Most Valuable Company in the History of the World

    Monday, August 20th, 2012

    Today Apple became the most valuable publicly traded company of all time. Not bad for the once “beleaguered” company which has been declared dead more times than pretty much any other company.

    Here’s a quick history of the company pre-iPhone:

    And here’s a quick visual look at of a few of Apple’s computers over the years: