Q. Re: the gambling movie "Owning Mahoney," you said, "At least Seymour Hoffman was playing interesting games--unlike video poker and slots, like Bill Bennett." Although Bill Bennett lost over $8 million and no doubt was a fool who I have lost a great deal of respect for, your statement could not be more incorrect. Although 99.9% or more gamblers will lose money over the long term, I and many others like me have been playing video poker for many years, and some games (which pay over 100% return) can be played for profit IF one is willing to memorize and learn the proper cards to hold based on the overall payout that the machine offers for various hands. I personally have played almost 10 million hands at video poker and have never had a losing year gambling. Video poker as far as I am concerned is by far the most "interesting" game and can be the most profitable. You need only ask other professional gamblers about this to verify it. (Larry M., Las Vegas, NV)
A. I consider gambling to be entertainment, not a reasonable way to support yourself. In my experience with casinos, it is a lot more fun to play poker, blackjack, roulette, etc., than to sit for hours in solitude and isolation in front of a machine. The thought of playing 10 million hands of video poker, while there are so many friends to make, movies to see and places to visit, strikes me as depressing. The real sin of William Bennett was to condemn himself to all of those hours shut off from human life--from his friends, his family, his ideas.
Q. I don't know if you've heard yet, but Blockbuster has changed its policy and is now opting for wide screen DVDs when available. So congratulations. Scratch one more personal cause off your list. (Alan Podmore, Canoga Park, CA).
A. After years of claiming that consumers preferred sliced-and-diced movies that were either (a) missing the sides, or (b) panning back and forth like crazy to see everything, Blockbuster has joined the 21st century. Blake Lugash, Blockbuster spokesman, said in a news story, "We try to follow our customer preferences. As DVD becomes increasingly popular, they become more familiar with the features and with the benefits of letterboxing. They've learned it's a superior format to full-frame." This implies of course, that Blockbuster knew that all along. I agree with Lugash that the best policy is a two-sided disc offering both formats.
Q. As you know, I take notes via audio tape recorder at screenings. As you probably also know, Fox, Warner and now Sony are putting in a "no electronic devices" policy at their screenings. Although I've informed them that I'm only recording my verbal notes and not the movie, they won't let me bring in my recorder. They state piracy concerns, although I doubt anyone would want to hear me mumbling into the microphone. (Jim Judy, ScreenIt.com, Washington D. C.)
A. Why is it that otherwise intelligent people roll over and play dead when the magic word "security" is invoked? At a recent screening of "Finding Nemo," a security guard searched my sandwich bag from the deli. I could have had an entire arsenal of recording devices in my pockets, for all he knows. Odd, too, that these policies are enforced for advance press screenings, where all guests are presumably professionals who would lose their jobs if caught at digital piracy. Will the studios also screen Friday night multiplex crowds? Instead of spending untold fortunes on security personnel for every screening (for that is what it will take), they should simply offer a $1,000 cash reward for anyone turning in a pirate. I have a feeling that would work.
Q. In response to your recent Answer Man glossary entry--the "Two Taps" Rule--you asked if there was anyone who actually taps the car twice as their friend in the car is leaving following a conversation. Sadly, I've been doing it for the past ten years. I will be talking to a friend who pulled up to say hello. As they leave, I say my goodbye and enunciate it with two taps to roof, hood, top of car, any part that's near. Why do I do this? To be honest, I think I saw it in a movie once, began imitating it, and I've been caught ever since. (Erik Grebner. Decatur IL)
A. That Glossary entry, contributed by Mike Mascarin of Windsor, Ont., asking, "Has anyone ever done this?" inspired more responses than any other glossary entry in the column's history. Sample comments: "I do it because I'll be getting home late at night and just want my friend to know so they won't hit me. Either that or it's something I picked up from my dad." (Zachary Freiesleben, Grandville MI).
Q. In your review of "Daddy Day Care" you write about the rival school run by Anjelica Huston: "It looks to me like a pretty good school, with the kids speaking foreign languages and discussing advanced science projects. Obviously, in the terms of this movie, any school where the kids have to study is bad, just as a school where the kids can run around and raise hell is good." I agree with you that "Daddy Day Care" does not look like the best environment for children, but you cannot possibly believe the other school looks good, making 4 year-olds study SAT words, learn Portuguese, and being deprived of anything resembling fun! (Andrew Shusterm Merrick NY)
A. Which school would you send your kids to?