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December 3, 2006 - December 9, 2006 Archives

December 3, 2006


So, what did I accomplish this weekend besides being subjected to anti-Semitic slurs and pervy janitors at the Reagan Library? Well, I shut off our satellite TV service, so that's something.

Why I ditched the Dish:

1. No more "distant networks." Because we live on the wrong side of a mountain and therefore can't get L.A. television over the air, we'd been permitted to get the New York ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates. Add to that a Superstation package with New York's CW and My TV affiliates, and we effectively got New York TV across the board, handy for early viewing of prime time plus New York's always entertaining local news. Last week, because Dish Network got slapped with a permanent injunction, the Big 4 network affiliates fron New York disappeared here. No New York, no advantage over cable.

2. It didn't matter much, anyway. Between using the DVR and watching HDTV, in the past year we rarely sat down to watch prime time programming live anyway. We aren't missing anything anymore. Besides, while it was nice to have the extra shot at programming, if you miss a show there are ways to get it that didn't exist a few years ago.

3. Cost. Dish Network service for basic cable was a little cheaper than Cox Cable, but then HDTV came in. And we want HD. Cox charges an arm and a leg for HD service, nickel-and-diming you for the DVRs and the "tier" that adds ESPN and Discovery. Dish takes two arms and two legs, mostly in advance- you have to pay $199. up front for the right to lease an HD DVR, and if you want one for the second set, it's full price (oh, you can run a wire to the second set from the single DVR, but you won't get HD on that set). With Cox, it's zero up front. And if the box goes bad- and we've had two go bad- it's replaced gratis. Plus, we already had local channels and Internet service through them, so the wires were in place.

4. Channels. Other than the Superstations (which now pretty much all carry the same shows), ESPNU, and Fine Living, everything we'd ever watch is on Cox, too, for a similar price. The picture quality, now that Cox has most channels being delivered in both digital and analog form, is actually a little better than Dish. We're not missing anything. OK, we miss RFD-TV ("Big Joe's Polka Show"!) and the ability to watch cheesy Denver news, but that's it.

Really, though, the HDTV stuff's the key. Everyone is charging a lot for HD service- that's going to have to change- but requiring a big upfront expense for the receivers is just not going to work. Dish DOES have more HD channels, but a lot of them are useless, like the VOOM channels with endless repeats of movies I don't want to see. I'd like HGTV and Food Network and NFL Network and ESPN2 in HD, but I can wait for Cox to add them. I get ESPN, Discovery, TNT, Universal, and MHD, plus ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, the CW, and PBS, and, of course, HBO and Showtime. That should take care of our needs for now.

Plus, this: we were subscribers to Dish for about a decade. I was determined to quit, but I was interested in hearing what kind of deals they'd cut to keep me as a subscriber, considering that I was in the top category of their subscriber base by their own measurement (high bills for long periods and every one paid on time). The result: no deal. Oh, they'd give me a hundred dollar rebate on the receiver lease, paid in ten dollar increments for ten months (in other words, an interest-free loan of a hundred bucks to them), but that's it, no other discounts, no second receiver break, nothing they don't offer everyone else. The CSR kept reading off a script trying to entice me with the many channels I'd be missing and the all-MPEG4 receiver technology and other things that weren't making a difference to me. They didn't put up much of a fight. That's in contrast with Sprint PCS, which reacted to a deal I'd gotten with another cell phone carrier by offering a great deal for me to stay, which I did. Sprint wants my business and wouldn't let me go until I was happy. Dish Network didn't really care. Goodbye, Charlie.

So I'm back in the embraces of the Evil Cable Empire, at least until Verizon FIOS comes to town (which can't happen soon enough). Now that I've rewired the TVs and relocated my Slingbox and have it working, I'm set. Now, I gotta go up on the roof and take down those stupid dishes.

Or I could leave them there and call them "art."



By the way, did anyone see the Denver-Seattle football game tonight in HD? Was it as unwatchable were you were? On KNBC Los Angeles via Cox Cable (reception of KNSD San Diego wasn't good tonight), the macroblocking was worse than distracting. Any motion at all made the field look like a mosaic in shades of green; unless the players and camera were absolutely still, the video was a mess.

How does a network feed this stuff and not issue a public apology? If I hadn't seen well-produced HD before this, I'd think that HD was all hype. Horrible job. I don't know if it was better on stations that don't run bandwidth-wasters like KNBC does with Weather Plus on its second channel, but, really, that was awful. It came down to an exciting ending and a winning field goal with 4 seconds left, but all I could think about was how terrible the picture looked. They can do better, if they care.


December 4, 2006


December 18, 1962:

I loved Mr. Magoo. I loved the Magoo of the UPA theatrical shorts and the Magoo of the lesser TV show with Waldo and Presley. I did not like "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol." The problem is encapsulated in the TV Guide "Close-Up" listing:

"The myopic comedian plays it straight in his portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge...."

No, no, no. It's Mister Magoo! Mister Magoo doesn't "play it straight." Mister Magoo walks into walls, walks on beams being swung around a construction zone, mistakes a bear for his nephew. Mister Magoo does not have "a memorable score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill."

Why did they do this?

I hated this special as a kid. I hate it still. Bah humbug, indeed.


December 5, 2006


From 1962:

Kids today wouldn't understand, but View-Master, to those of us who grew up in the Sixties and Seventies, was our HDTV. It was our Internet. You got these little cardboard wheels with little slides in them, slipped them into the viewer, held it up to the light, peered in, and presto: 3-D color pictures. A little lever on the right side changed the picture, and there were plenty of different disk packages to buy- travelogues for everyplace, and stories and cartoons and all sorts of entertainment stuff. The latter had little scripts that showed through the little window between the eyepieces. They couldn't tell much of a story in a few slides, but seeing the Flintstones in 3-D, well, that was one hell of an experience for a kid like me who didn't have color TV until October 1971.

The second page of the ad shows off some of the travel options:

Italy! Mexico! France! California! New York! Philadelphia! Detroit!


Yeah, some of the View-Master stuff was of questionable value, but I looked at them all. And, truth be told, as low-tech as they were, if I had one here right now, I'd spend hours looking at the pictures, especially if they were vintage 1962. I'll bet there are a lot of fascinating scenes on those wheels that just aren't there anymore, even in Detroit.

Hey, whaddya know- they're still around!

And someone categorized all the vintage reels!

(Yeah, I looked on eBay. Tempting.)


December 6, 2006


Sunday, March 13, 1966:

I remember watching Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour on Sunday afternoons back then, although I think I preferred "G.E. College Bowl" on NBC at the same time. (I was very, very young, in case I need a defense) Ted presided over a parade of bad operatic singers, baton twirlers, tap dancers, and the like. This installment had quite the lineup. Let's look at Google and see what happened to them...


Well, not quite. I did note the existence of the Ole Olson Trio in Veblen, South Dakota, which may or may not be THE Ole Olson Trio- "Ole Olson" is not an uncommon name out there. There was a gospel, not rock, group called the Stovall Singers that recorded a couple of singles, although I can't tell if this was them. And I did track down Rockie Smith- she was a dance teacher in Arkansas who died in 2002 and bequeathed an endowment for the arts at Mississippi State. But no "American Idol" action here, even if it pretty much was "American Idol," or at least "X Factor"/"America's Got Talent" without the three judges and the text message voting.

Wikipedia says Gladys Knight, Pat Boone, Teresa Brewer, The Rock and Roll Trio, and Raul Julia were among the winners over the years. Other sources say Paul Winchell and Teresa Brewer also started there. Actually, for a show that lasted from 1948 through 1970 (1934-46 on the radio with Major Bowes), that isn't a lot of breakout talent discovered there. For every Gladys Knight, there were a lot more Zucchi Twins. Unfortunately, as campy and fun as it sounds, the show was, er, boring. Ted was dull, the acts sucked but not so badly as to be fun to watch, and, well, you would have switched to the College Bowl, too. I'll wager that I did.

Later on Sunday, before Ed Sullivan, there was "My Favorite Martian," which I watched except for the opening credits, which scared the hell out of me. But that's another story.


December 7, 2006


This week's "The Letter" All Access newsletter is all about why I just don't feel much like talking politics at the moment; after all, there are really important things to deal with, like, er, other stuff:

The holiday season is here, and that means the renewal of many traditions, not the least of which is going to holiday parties and telling people you're a forensic accountant. At least, that's what I ought to do. That way, I'd avoid another tradition, the predictable reactions when I say what business I'm in. All I need to do is say the words "talk radio" and I get:

1. "Talk radio, huh? You know who I REALLY HATE? That (name of controversial host). Can't STAND (him/her). Never listen. (He/She) can't possibly believe what (he/she) says, right? Like this afternoon- I was just tuning around the dial and happened to hear the show...." And then comes the litany of "totally wrong" and "party mouthpiece" and "none of MY friends listen."

2. "Oh! Do you know (name of extremely famous talk personality I've never met)?" No. "Oh." (Followed by disappointment, silence, and a change of topic)

3. A long, passionate political argument.

That last one is always most painful. It has always been my assumption that parties are for, you know, enjoying yourself.

And there's a lesson in this. I'm far from disinterested in politics, but there's a time and a place for the knock-down, drag-out argument. And, increasingly, I'm just not in the mood to hear it, not just at the parties but anywhere. It's not because of the content of the arguments, it's because I have other things on my mind. So I'm not in the mood for it at a party, but I'm not always in the mood for it when I'm listening to the radio, either. Am I alone in this? I don't think so.

That's something that you, as a host, need to understand, especially at this time of year. You know that there's a small core of listeners who want to hear nothing but hardcore political talk, but there's a much larger group that isn't thinking about the war or Congress or anything on the front page right now. It's holiday time, and there are more immediate and pressing issues on their minds, like, say, buying gifts for the family, what to tip the postman, how to handle the in-laws' pending visit, how to get a damn Wii when every store you've checked is sold out, and where you put that Star Wars Christmas album. In short, you're approaching the time of year when people have a lot on their minds that don't involve politics.

So do you just stop talking about politics? Not if that's what your bread-and-butter is. All I'm suggesting is that it won't hurt you to talk about the "other stuff"- what to tip, the trouble with gift-giving, how to cope with the family gatherings, how frustrating it is that the lights won't stay up on the rain gutters and keep blowing out fuses, why, even after 40 years, you still end up watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" every year. Talk about that stuff because that's what your listeners are thinking about. Ask yourself why stations that go with all-holiday music always see a spike in the ratings. 'Tis the season, folks. It's where people's minds have gone. Might as well join 'em.

Even though it 'TIS the season, All Access News-Talk-Sports is NOT going on vacation. Not yet, anyway. And that means more creamy show-prep goodness in the Talk Topics column, which so far this week has items about the hazards of making coleslaw while driing, the joys of catching the Drunk Train home late at night, a license plate for the ages, Wal-Mart's latest bargain, the impending demise of the spare tire, some epic criminal nicknames, someone who took the phrase "cat burglar" too literally, why that tasty Florida grouper sandwich may not be a grouper sandwich after all, a story with the phrase "22 Shih Tzus," the world of "retro gamers" (think Pong and Tecmo Bowl), and Britney Spears' southern exposure, plus coverage of "real news" like the Iraq panel and, er, Britney Spears' southern exposure. And you get "10 Questions With..." KLAC/Los Angeles morning co-host and TV sports star Fred Roggin and the Talent Toolkit with three websites for all sorts of gift ideas and th e rest of All Access with the industry's first/best/most accurate news coverage and Paul Cartellone's incredibly complete Industry Directory and lots of columns and Mediabase charts job listings and lots of other stuff, all free. How cool is that? (Very.)

Next week: I realize that I have to go get gift cards as tips for the postman, gardeners, trashmen, pool guy, the guy who cuts my hair, the Times carrier, the Daily Breeze carrier, and the guy who trims Ella the World's Most Famous Cat's toenails. What? What's going to be in the Letter? Who knows? I have other things on my mind.


December 8, 2006


Long, frustrating day, so I'm gonna have to be short tonight. And the Sixers situation imploded tonight, so it's just not a night to write and think much, but the whole A.I. thing made me long for the good old days when point guards passed instead of shooting 35 or 40 times a night, when they played hard instead of blowing off practices and team functions, the days of guys like, well, like this:

I'll bet he kinda misses those days, too. Back then, all the problems came from the combustible forward out of Auburn....


December 9, 2006


Today was taken up mostly by a matinee of "Casino Royale," which can be summed up as Text Message Bond. Really, there's text messaging galore in this thing. The code for destruction? Texted. Meeting arrangements? Texted. Martinis? Texted, not stirred. Okay, not the last one, but I haven't seen a plot as propelled by texting as this one. The race to make a movie about instant messaging is on. Throw in the change in the pivotal card game at the titular venue from baccarat in the book and original (parody) movie to- oy- Texas Hold 'Em and you've got a movie that will seem dated beyond words a few years from now.

That being said, Daniel Craig makes a good Bond- I'd agree with those who say he's the best since Connery- and there are plenty of scenes of places you'd want to go, plus a lot of absolutely absurd action (the first sequence after the credits, a race through a construction site, is positively Bugs Bunny-esque. It's everything you want in 007. And at matinee prices, what the hell, it's worth an afternoon.

Besides, no way in Hell was I gonna go see "Apocalypto."


About December 2006

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in December 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 26, 2006 - December 2, 2006 is the previous archive.

December 10, 2006 - December 16, 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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