All posts tagged UNCLE

Browser view. I was able to fix the database’s misspelling in Track 3’s title with Mp3tag. (Click to enlarge)

I probably was drawn to listen to the original “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” soundtracks this week due to my last few posts subconsciously reminding me of that 1964 spy show’s gadgetry.

Some time back, I bought the three U.N.C.L.E. soundtrack packages (2 CDs each) from Film Score Monthly. They were compiled by Jon Burlingame, who also wrote the detailed booklets included in each set. The scores by Jerry Goldsmith, Morton Stevens, Walter Scharf, Lalo Schifrin, Gerald Fried, Robert Drasnin and Richard Shores still sound great.

I can hardly stand to put CDs into a player at this point, preferring to rip them once to my Plex server for anytime, anywhere use with Plex apps in Roku, my smartphone, or the Raspberry Pi/OSMC. My mental set has changed, as when TV came in and altered peoples’ relationship to radio.

Plex Chromecast’d from phone app to the big system.

It’s especially difficult to physically handle these sets, as 2-CD jewel boxes seem prone to breakage and droppage. Also, the fat little booklets (important for full enjoyment of the music) do not enjoy being extracted from or replaced in the cases.

I had previously ripped these CDs with Windows Media Player, but the result was a mess. WMP’s tagging of the .mp3 files was inconsistent, possibly due to the sets being limited editions. This made them poorly organized under Plex.

By now, I know about Plex naming conventions, and use a free tool, Mp3tag, to add/change the tags embedded in each .mp3. So I was ready to try again.

The first problem is with Plex seeing each CD of the pair as a separate album. To solve it:

  • Rip the first CD of the set. Then open up Mp3tag and display the folder containing the .mp3 files. Mp3tag shows you a tag called “discnumber”.
  • Select all the tracks, make their discnumber=1 and save.
  • Do the same with the ripped tracks from the second disc, making those tracks discnumber=2.
  • Then you can move all the .mp3s into a single folder, and Plex will see it as a single album with 2 CDs.

In addition, Plex needed a couple of tags to be fixed:

The “Album” and “Album Artist” tags are key.

I had to experiment with the “Album” tag. Windows Media Player had tagged it “The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Vol. 1 [Original Soundtrack Album] Disc 1” (and then Disc 2), which confused Plex, even after removing the “Disc 1/2″ part of the tag.

Ultimately, in Mp3tag, I changed all the tracks to Album=”The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Vol. 1″ and Album Artist=”Various Artists”. The latter is a catchall solution for compilation albums, and soundtrack albums not entirely composed of tracks from a single artist.

Windows Media Player had also filed the album folder under Music/Soundtrack. To correspond with my retagging, I moved all the tracks to a folder I named “The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Vol. 1″ (same as the Album tag) under the already-existing Music/Various Artists folder.

Mp3tag revealed that the music already was tagged Genre=”Soundtrack”, which is good enough for my purposes, so I deleted the now-empty Soundtracks folder.

I repeated the above for Volumes 2 and 3.

Using Mp3tag free software to fix tags for Vol.3. I dragged the key tags into view. (Click to enlarge)

The album art Plex selected for each album was a bit grainy. If you can find (or scan) a higher-resolution version, you can edit the album in Plex and add the new art under “Poster”. I also added a landscape-oriented Background image of the U.N.C.L.E. logo for each album.

(FYI, most CDs rip correctly with no alteration needed. These were exceptions.)

Not yet content, I wanted to keep all the album booklets together for use while listening.

I repurposed a UPS mailer, printing and gluing on an image found via Google.

(I always wondered why Napoleon Solo’s badge was #11, while Illya was #2. No mystery about Mr. Waverly being #1. If Solo ever complained, maybe Illya pointed out in mock solace that “11” in binary is 3 in decimal.)

Back in the dot-matrix printer era (the 1990s), I printed out an excellent online U.N.C.L.E. TV episode guide, written by Bill Koenig. At that time, I went so far as to bind it into a homemade U.N.C.L.E. folder. With the new packet,  I have a dossier.

(This guide is available at SpyCommandFeatures.wordpress.com with additional articles about the show. I added a shortcut to my phone for even easier reference.)

Homemade episode guide and CD booklet folder

Heroes & Icons (Tulsa channel 41.4) has been playing “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” I have recorded all but 4 of the 105 episodes to hard drive with my Raspberry Pi/OSMC/Windows Media Center setup. The remaining 4 should be coming up within the next month.

My next project may be to remove the commercials and convert them to .mp4 format with MCEBuddy.

Previous U.N.C.L.E. research from Tulsa TV Memories:

The T-Town Affair

U.N.C.L.E., SAGE, SABRE, Strangelove & Tulsa: Connections

And, U.N.C.L.E. HQ in the TTM aStore


Richard Kiel and TulsaTV at Trek Expo

I was sorry to hear of the death of fellow tall guy Richard Kiel this morning.

In 2006, we talked about some of his earlier roles, for example on Boris Karloff’s Thriller (see Tulsa billboard for the show and more about Richard Kiel here.)

Just last Sunday, I saw him on MeTV in the very first episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He was a really nice fellow, despite the apparent mauling I am taking in the photo.

Besides his role as “Jaws” in two Bond films, he was the “Kanamit” in a classic Twilight Zone episode with one of the most chilling denouements of the series.

Rest in peace.


…before he kills us!

Speaking of “UNCLE”, there is a perverse little 1966 black comedy/thriller called “Let’s Kill Uncle”, directed by famed schlockmeister William Castle, starring Nigel Green and Mary Badham (“Scout” in “To Kill A Mockingbird”). Channel 2 showed it often in the early 1970s.

I looked for it online recently. It was not commercially available, even on eBay. The only place I found it was on one of those Pirate Bay-type sites. Years ago, I used Bittorrent to download episodes of “Survivor” my wife had missed taping. These days, I tend to steer clear of torrent sites, but this time I didn’t, because I really wanted to see that movie again.

It took about a day for Bittorrent to piece together all the files. They were evidently saved directly from a past UK DVD release. Therefore, I treated the folder as a DVD to be ripped, using MakeMKV. I saved the resulting MKV file into the proper file structure and naming scheme for Plex Media Server. Plex supplied poster and fan art for its menu system.

Now I was able to watch the movie on any of our TVs with a Roku box over the Plex Channel. It was also available to my Raspberry Pi, using a beta release add-on called PleXBMC. There was “Uncle” again, on the big screen TV! Very fun.

The other “money” line in the movie, besides the one serving as the title of this post, was this:

(Uncle to nephew) “You’re a charming child, Barnaby, but five million dollars charming, you are not!”

I was reminded of the line a week ago while watching “CBS This Morning” with Anthony Mason (who started his career on KJRH, Channel 2 in Tulsa). Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster/operative, was conducting an in-studio focus group on pessimism about the economy.

Luntz posed this question to the group: “I write you a check for ten million dollars, and here’s the catch: you cannot return back to America. You can take anyone with you, you can live in Canada, Mexico, wherever you want to live across the globe, check for ten million dollars, but you cannot return, who would take the money, raise your hands.” At least half the group did.

Later in the segment, Luntz claimed to Mason that he would not leave for “a billion, ten billion”, which I found dubious. My feeling is that more than a few of the highly-strung creatures parading across our screens would commit avunculicide, nepoticide, or familicide for that kind of dough.

Anyway, this paraphrase might fairly be put into the mouths of the focus group hand-raisers:

“You’re a charming country, America, but ten million dollars charming, you are not!”


From “The Vulcan Affair”

A couple of old favorites returned to MeTV (23.2 broadcast, cable 73 in Tulsa) this weekend: “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and the 1950s “Superman” with George Reeves.

My Windows 7 PC-based Windows Media Center DVR has been set to record.

Unlike cable or satellite DVRs, this one captures a file you can work with. The file has the Windows Recorded TV (.wtv) file extension, yet another “container” format (like .mkv) for the uncompressed MPEG2 video data.

It can be played back using a Windows PC that is HDMI-connected to your TV, or transcoded to a compressed format like .mp4 that is streamable to your TVs. The best way to accomplish the latter is with a piece of software called MCEBuddy.

MCEBuddy can be set up to watch a specific folder where the .wtv files are saved (e.g., /Recorded TV), then automatically convert them and store them in another folder (e.g., /Videos/TV Shows). This process is CPU-intensive, so your PC needs some horsepower if you don’t want to wait hours. A friend loaned me a estate sale-acquired quad core Dell Optiplex, which gets the job done in a matter of minutes. The Optiplex saves the shows directly to my external hard drive.


Clark Kent in Tulsa

Once transcoded, the recorded shows can be streamed through your home network to other TVs in the house via the Plex Channel on a Roku box, or to a computer running XBMC, such as my Raspberry Pi on RaspBMC.

This system is a good, inexpensive way to build a library of favorite programs to remove some of the pain of cutting the cable.

George Reeves visited the local kiddie show “Kids Korral”, and Barnard Elementary School in Tulsa in the 1950s.

U.N.C.L.E. HQ in Tulsa? An analysis: The T-Town Affair.