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?
Our regional newspaper, the one I delivered when I was young, continues to make changes. Most recently they folded the local section into main section of the paper. The stated rationale was that local news was important enough to be in the main section.
Nonetheless, the changes are not all bad. As part of those changes they upgraded the features section and added two comics that I enjoy and which I hadn’t seen for a while. And on Saturdays they quietly added Miss Manners. I enjoy Miss Manners and her sharp wit. It’s nice to be able to read her smart and practical advice once again.
For those of you who are old enough, perhaps you remember the Judy Collins song from the 1970s, “Hard Times for Lovers,” and the album of the same title with that enticing nude photo of Judy on the album cover.
These days it’s hard times for newspapers.
When I was a youngster I had a paper route. I delivered The Daily Enterprise which was a morning newspaper out of Riverside. The Press was the afternoon newspaper that focused on the city of Riverside. The Daily Enterprise covered the rest of Riverside County. The combined Sunday paper was The Press-Enterprise. The paper did a good job of covering local news and treated its delivery boys (and in those days it was just boys) well. I made decent money and learned how to be responsible: I had to collect from my subscribers and then pay my bill at the end of the month.
Today it’s all motor routes and the same guy that delivers The Press-Enterprise (just one paper now) also delivers the Los Angeles Times. The Press-Enterprise is owned by the Southern California News group which also owns newspapers in Pomona, Ontario, and San Bernardino along with the Orange County Register. The coverage area is greatly expanded and local news is correspondingly diminished.
When the Dodgers headed to the World Series the local news on TV showed the front page of the Orange County Register. It was the exact same front page we had in The Press Enterprise.
But that’s the reality of today’s newspaper biz.
The Los Angeles Times recently paid a lot of attention to the sale of the alternative news weekly LA Weekly. It turns out that the sale was to a group of Orange County investors with a record of making donations to Republican candidates.
Why do I care?
I have a long history with alternative news weeklies. During my Claremont cockroach years of the mid 1970s I could walk across Arrow Highway from my Olive Street apartment and find the Village Voice at the newsstand in the strip mall there.
When I was in central Oklahoma I was classified advertising manager and later business manager at the community newspaper in Moore, Oklahoma. When that paper changed hands I responded (right as I was getting laid off) to an ad in Oklahoma City’s alternative news weekly, the Oklahoma Gazette, for a classified advertising manager. I got the job.
When my late first wife Ruth and I made plans, for a variety of reasons, to move to the San Francisco Bay Area, I saw a notice in a publication that covered the alternative news weekly scene. It said a new alternative news weekly was starting up in San Jose. This was 1985, so it was snail mail and long distance phone calls, but the publisher, David Cohen (who came from the LA Weekly), hired me sight unseen as San Jose Metro‘s first classified advertising manager.
I mostly hated the environment while at the same time was happy to be part of an alternative news weekly.
So what, exactly, is an alternative news weekly? Mark Oppenheimer had a great discussion in the LA Times about this, partially in the context of the LA Weekly sale. In short he says it’s free + local politics + local arts. Exactly right.
The sale of the LA Weekly means, in all probability, one less such outlet.