You are no doubt aware of my fondness for The Great Courses. For many years I listened to the audio versions of the courses while walking, first on my iPod then on my iPhone. I punctuated these with the occasional DVD set. In the new world of streaming I shifted my focus to that medium. All of it entertaining and educational.
The folks at The Great Courses have done a good job of keeping up with technology and have for a while had a streaming subscription service called The Great Courses Plus. They recently rebranded it as Wondrium, and along with the traditional Great Courses lecture series they offer additional content, including documentaries and other material.
Since I’m a long-time Great Courses customer they had been pestering me to subscribe to Wonderium. Recently they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was for an annual subscription at an attractively discounted price. I took the bait.
I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been binge watching, but I’ve been doing a lot of watching. I saw a series on the Medici that was fascinating, but which I probably wouldn’t have bought outright. Similarly, I enjoyed a series on self-editing which was focused on fiction. I don’t write fiction so I would not have purchased it, but as part of the subscription it was worth my time. A lecture series on genetics and how people respond to seeing their genetic ancestry results was enlightening. I am currently enjoying the video version of a lecture series I listened to on audio a few years back about the world of the Old Testament. The visual enhancement is nice. And a series I am also watching now about effective written communication is great stuff. It will likely merit its own review here.
Wondrium allows subscribers to download the course guidebook, just as you can when you purchase a set. The only downside compared to purchasing a class from The Great Courses is that if you were to let your subscription lapse you would no longer have access return to a course you had previously watched.
That’s a minor matter compared to the advantages of a Wondrium subscription.
We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter
Harper Wave (September 19, 2017), 258 pages
Kindle edition $11.99, Amazon paperback $12.99
If you have not watched Celeste Headlee’s TED Talk “Ten Ways to Have a Better Conversation” skip this blog post and go watch it now. It will be time well spent. It has had over twenty-two million views so far. Really.
This book covers much of the same territory as her TED talk, but in an expanded form. Celeste clearly explains how to have an open conversation with anyone, no matter what their beliefs, without letting your own biases interfere. That is something I find it nearly impossible to do with those who support that blustering individual with the orange hair who currently lives in the White House. But Headlee says we can do it. She has an interesting perspective on this:
There’s no evidence that people who are aware of their own biases are better able to overcome them than those who are unaware of their biases. And no matter how much thought you give to the issue, you’re probably not aware of all the prejudices that influence your thinking. They’re called unconscious biases for a reason, after all.
She goes on to say:
The goal of an honest, respectful dialogue is to open our minds,
not to change them.
Wow. Straightforward. Simple. And so difficult.
Celeste is of a mixed-race background, and she directly addresses those issues. Her grandfather was African-American composer William Grant Still and his wife was the pianist Verna Arvey, who was white. Celeste describes the challenges they faced in that marriage. She writes about when they had to drive nonstop from the west coast to the east coast because in those years neither white nor African-American motels would rent them a room.
Headlee is an experienced, skilled interviewer on NPR, yet she honestly describes her own errors and mistakes in interviewing people.
This is a great book on how to have a conversation, but really, if you haven’t seen her TED talk go watch it before reading the book.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of our lives, even our radio listening.
When Terry and I lived in Gilroy our evening listening Monday through Saturday consisted of the internet stream from KCSM, the public radio jazz service in San Mateo. When we moved to Hemet in 2015 we began listening to the jazz stations in Los Angeles and San Diego. I wanted to avoid any nostalgia for the Bay Area.
After a couple of years, however, I switched back to KCSM. I decided that I could listen without undue melancholy or remorse, and I very much enjoy the evening hosts on the Jazz Oasis. When COVID-19 hit KCSM switched to a syndicated public radio jazz service, and we began listening to the Los Angeles jazz station, KKJZ, again. Evening host Steve Tyrell provided an upbeat mood in the midst of a time of pandemic, even if his music selections were a bit repetitious.
Recently, however, the engineering staff at KCSM figured out how to let the Jazz Oasis hosts prerecord their shows from home. It doesn’t matter that they are not live; hearing their familiar voices in the six-to-nine time slot is delightful and comforting in this stressful time.
The KCSM web site states, “Thanks to the College and our staff, especially engineers Rene Renard, Hanns Ullrich, and Chris Cortez, for helping the music to play on!” Terry and I thank them as well. Thank you, KCSM, for returning some peace and pleasure to our evenings.
I wrote here not long ago about cutting back on our streaming subscriptions. I dropped Hulu and CBS All Access. That was just before we were all told to stay home except for grocery shopping and medical appointments.
And, of course, the library is closed so that cuts off a source of DVDs for Terry. She asked me to subscribe to Acorn to which I agreed when I saw their thirty day free trial and their very attractive annual rate. (For BritBox fans, I have read that Acorn has a larger selection of shows, both BBC and ITV, and they stream the Lucy Lawless series, My Life is Murder, in which she plays a detective in England, something that Terry wanted to see.)
Given current circumstances I had to rethink dropping Hulu. They do have a great selection: Xena (speaking of Lucy Lawless), seventies comedies such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Bob Newhart, quirky series such as The Mindy Project, and originals like the new favorably reviewed mini-series Little Fires Everywhere. So, sipping a Scotch and Crystal Geyser (my standard weeknight drink) on a recent evening I reinstated my subscription. And bless their technological hearts, everything I had stored in the My Stuff section was there and preserved for me. Thank you, Hulu.
So in the words of the marvelous Miss Emily Litella, “Neevvverrr Mind!”
Terry and I first got serious about streaming video when CBS announced their CBS All Access streaming service and the launch of Star Trek: Discovery. Before that we had Netflix and Amazon Prime which we accessed via our Blu Ray players. With the launch of CBS All Access we bought a Roku device, since our Blu Ray devices didn’t know about CBS All Access.
We knew that we both had surgeries coming up: Terry with her knee replacement surgery in October 2018 and me with my gastrointestinal surgery that ultimately happened in February of last year. We added Hulu as a streaming service and bought a second Roku device for the bedroom. After my surgery and then my setback, which meant a second stay in the hospital, I added CuriosityStream.
As it turned out, neither of us watched a whole lot of streaming video during our respective recoveries. Star Trek: Discovery was a disappointment, as was the first episode of the much-anticipated Star Trek: Picard earlier this year. After some initial streaming of programs like The Mindy Project and WKRP, I rarely watched anything on Hulu, and in spite of its quality content I watched very little on CuriosityStream.
So this month we did the opposite of cord-cutting. We did some stream-narrowing. I cancelled Hulu and CBS All Access. I also cancelled CuriosityStream, but reinstated it when I got an offer for an absurdly low annual rate. That leaves us with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video along with some free services, including PBS and AllArts, which is pretty darn cool.
That will nearly cover the difference in our higher cable bill as our promotional period comes to an end.
At our house we spend a lot of money on our print newspapers. Getting a newspaper delivered has gotten quite expensive in the past couple of years, and we’re spending more than I would like, but we persist.
One reason that we persist is that newspapers are part of our daily routine. We read the Los Angeles Times and the Riverside Press-Enterprise weekday evenings when we put our feet up and enjoy our aperitifs. Another has to do with the cartoon below. Newspapers do a public service in their reporting, even if the newsrooms are severely scaled back from what they once were.
Then there’s the fact that our democracy is in danger. Newspapers can help protect it. That alone is reason enough to subscribe.
I wrote a while back about how the demise of my favorite cooking magazine, Cooking Light, happened without my noticing it after the acquisition of Time Inc. by Meredith Corporation. I commented that Eating Well, the magazine that Meredith wanted readers to pick up instead, was pale by comparison.
Looking for a replacement, I picked up a copy of Food Network Magazine at the grocery store. I really liked it and Terry did too. I liked it so much that I subscribed.
Not only does Food Network Magazine have a lot of recipes, like Cooking Light and quite unlike Eating Well, it also runs stories about our favorite Food Network personalities, which is just plain fun. The recipes in their printable format on the web are very easy to copy into my recipe database software, something that Cooking Light and the other Time Inc. magazines managed to make more difficult when they changed format a couple of years ago.
I will enjoy the new issues as they arrive.
It occurred to me that I had not seen a copy of our favorite cooking magazine, Cooking Light, for a while. I did some checking online and I discovered that the magazine published its final issue in December of last year.
Time Inc. sold its magazine business to Meredith Corporation (think Better Homes and Gardens) and Meredith started cutting back. The fine folks there decided that readers of Cooking Light would do just fine with their own Eating Well.
The thing is that Terry and I, though subscribers, never received that farewell issue of Cooking Light. We would have noticed. Big Time. For sure. It would have struck me like a lightning bolt had I actually pulled that issue out of our mailbox. I checked with Terry just in case I had missed something . She agreed that I hadn’t .
Nor did Meredith even have the courtesy to ask us if we’d like to complete our subscription term with issues of Eating Well.
There aren’t that many good cooking magazines out there, and we’ve lost one of the best.
Terry was surfing on her iPhone one evening last week when she showed me an item conveying news of the passing of long-time San Francisco Giants broadcaster Hank Greenwald.
You perhaps know that I grew up a Dodgers fan and I am today a Dodgers fan. But there was an interim period when Terry and I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area that I was a Giants fan. Hank Greenwald had everything to do with that.
Terry and I had rented a house in Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley. The house had a lot of foliage that needed attention. I don’t mind doing yard work, in fact I rather enjoy it. At the same time I need something to listen to when I’m doing yard work. The nice thing about the Giants broadcast station KNBR is that it has a strong, clear signal and baseball is a great companion for yard work.
I immediately loved Hank’s wry witty style. He not only called the game, but he had great stories and his wry humor was a delight. My engagement with Hank developed into a full-fledged Giants fanship until Terry and I moved south and childhood loyalties won the day.
Hank brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people and he will be greatly missed.
I wrote a while back about switching from Frontier to Spectrum for TV/phone/internet when Frontier did not keep its commitment for a two-year price guarantee. It was an easy decision since we can see the Dodgers on Spectrum and we’re saving $60 a month, at least for the first year.
There are differences between the two services.
Frontier was nice because DVR service was available on both TVs for no extra charge, and a program recorded on the living room TV could be watched in the bedroom. On Spectrum the TVs are independent and we have no DVR service in the bedroom.
The TV remote for Frontier had separate power buttons for TV and cable which was nice. With Spectrum you have to select TV or Cable and then hit the power button.
I think that the DVR menu for Spectrum is simpler and more straightforward than Frontier, and recorded programs start right on time instead of 45 seconds or a minute early. It looks to me as if there is a much greater choice of on-demand shows on Spectrum than on Frontier.
I love that telephone caller ID shows up on the TV on Spectrum, something we didn’t get with Frontier. I also appreciate that I can watch live TV on my computer or iPad with Spectrum. Maybe Frontier had that, but I didn’t take advantage of it.
I can see incoming land line phone calls and get my landline voicemail with the Spectrum app on my iPhone.
And with Spectrum we get the Dodgers. Did I say that?