Monday, July 11, 2016

The state of the blog (with fabulous prizes!)


It seems like every time I return to the blog after an extended absence I always find myself profusely apologizing for that absence.  So I won’t ignore tradition, and I’ll get the act of contrition out of the way: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

The disappearance of posts for over two months can be attributed to a number of factors…but chiefly among them is that I have been sidelined with a lack of motivation.  A few years back, I made a casual observation that with the onslaught of the social media phenomenon, the art of blogging was in danger of being threatened; platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow individuals to accomplish pretty much the same as a blog post without having to expend a great deal of energy.  (And for someone like me—who has raised inactivity and laziness to an art form—it’s a siren song that’s mighty hard to resist.)

I don’t want to sell myself short, however: I’ve kept in the game with both blogging for Radio Spirits and my “Where’s That Been?” column at ClassicFlix…so don’t pour salt on this slug just yet.  But both of these (plus the lucrative liner note projects for RS) do keep me occupied—here’s an example: I had wanted to contribute to the Classic Film and TV Café’s “National Classic Movie Day” blogathon in May…but that event coincided with my wrapping up some liner notes for a Green Hornet set (which you should check out—it contains a number of uncirculated episodes), and when I completed that I was just too wiped to work on anything else.  (So a “mea culpa” to friend Rick for bailing on that.)

As such, until I can get back into the swing of blogging again, this post will be a “catch-up” on the comings and goings here at Rancho Yesteryear.  As the cliché goes—there’s good news and bad news.  The jubilant bulletin is that my sister Kat and her family have relocated to North Carolina (after spending the past three years in the Pacific Northwest); stemming from the fact that her partner has obtained gainful employment in the Piedmont.  To say that my mother did cartwheels (and with her recent back surgery, this was a revelation) at these developments would be an understatement, since she has missed her grandson so.

To a dee-luxe apartment in the sky.

Speaking of my nephew, he has just returned from a two-week engagement at summer camp…where it appears that every photo of him taken during that experience found him participating in some sort of water activity.  (I joked to his moms that they might want to check between his fingers and toes for webbing.)  He talked non-stop for two hours on the drive home to the new Double K Ranch, then crashed hard in the last hour.  Davis has also apparently developed a taste for Cheerwine, the bubbly cherry soda concoction that has been a regional favorite since 1917 (though it can also be purchased in other sections of the U.S. of A.)

Sister Kat hasn’t made the complete transition to NC yet; she will finish up her camp director duties for the summer and then…quien sabe?  Seriously—Mom asked her what her plans were and Kat replied: “I don’t know…but at least my hair will be perfect.”  (This is a reference to the fact that during her sojourn in the PNW, she searched high and low for a decent haircut; she missed the stylist in Athens who maintained her perfect coif, and now will have the opportunity to continue her patronage since the salon is a little closer to her new address.)

Sadly, into every life a little rain must fall.  (This is the “bad news” portion of the post, so if you want to skip the next seven paragraphs to get to the swag giveaway I won’t think any less of you.)  Los Parentes Yesteryear and I just recently celebrated our first year anniversary of moving to Pixley Winterville, and the latest bill from DISH confirmed what we had been dreading for some time: they are raising the rate on our service.  (Gigantically, as character veteran Don Barclay might say.)  Since the ‘rents and I are all subsisting on what is often referred to as “fixed incomes,” there just wasn’t going to be any way of reconciling such an increase in the family budget.  (I have railed about this in the past, as you may well be aware, but it bears repeating: both the cable TV and satellite companies are staffed with human-weasel hybrids.)

I only wish mi padre had let me conduct the negotiations with DISH, which occurred this past Saturday; I had previously done some first-rate horse trading with AT&T U-Verse when they wanted to spike our TV bill (though for reasons that I to this day can’t figure out they kept our monthly service the same once we agreed to put in an extra phone line…that we never, ever used).  But unfortunately, once my father gets on the phone, he’s transformed into one of those unpleasant old men constantly yelling at kids to stay off his lawn.  (No offense, Bill.)  He wound up cutting our TV package to the bare bone, and the two most important casualties were getTV and The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™.

I’m not going to lie to you.  I was a little pouty at this news.  (Okay, more like a lot pouty.)  I realize that “living high on the hog,” TV wise, is not a viable option for the Yesteryear Trio, but as I explained to Mom once I had finished a few stiff belts: we don’t have too many entertainment options here in B.F.E.  The only other service available to us (we’re too far out for cable, and U-verse doesn’t service our area either) is DirecTV, and they’re an even bigger band of pirates.  At the time I signed us up, I took special pains to explain to her that DISH was probably going to gouge us once the year was out.  She told me—“What else can we do?  We have to have an Internet connection, and we have to have cable.”  (A lot can happen in a year, I guess.)

My Facebook pal Kingo Gondo suggested sometime back that I look into the option of getting an outside antenna so that I could receive those substations DISH refuses to carry (MeTV, Antenna TV, etc.).  I looked into this seconds after I found out about Dad’s DISH dealings.  Helpfully, the website at which I was pricing the antenna directed me to another website that would let me know what stations we would receive.  They ask you: “Will this antenna be installed 30 feet above ground level?”

Since I wanted to avoid those hassles (I had planned on getting an indoor one) I didn’t check that box…and when I pressed the “send” button, I learned that we would only be able to receive one channel.  Okay, says I, I’ll try it again—maybe I can con someone into installing the antenna outside.  “Send.”  The answer remained…one channel.  That station is WGTA, our Heroes & Icons affiliate…which we get on DISH already.

I probably would have taken this news a little better—oh, who am I kidding; I’m a TCM junkie, and I remember the days when we didn’t have it…they were dark ones indeed—were it not for the fact that most of the crap my father watches (local news, History Channel, MSDNC) remained intact in the whittled-down package.  What a coinky-dink!  (The ‘rents did lose their beloved Braves games…though an occasional contest will show up on ESPN and “Big Fox” every now and then.  To say that my mother was pissed doesn’t even begin to cover it, though.  (Earlier today, my father switched over to TVLand—as is his habit—to watch Gunsmoke reruns and then remembered we said hasta la vista to that channel as well.)

Because I had a little time this weekend to reflect on these developments, I came away with the take that while I’m not jumping for joy at how all this turned out (particularly since I was helping out a few cable/satellite-deprived folks by grabbing and burning to disc programs/movies that had attracted their interest) perhaps there is a silver lining on all this.  After all, it’s not like I’m starved for entertainment around here.  I already socked away a lot of Tee Cee Em/getTV programming on the DVR (I think the gauge was at 49 percent), so there’s that to get through…and I have what scientists have measured as a metric “buttload” of material in the dusty Thrilling Days of Yesteryear archives.  I’m not humblebragging, you understand—it’s just that a lot of these DVDs have yet to be liberated from their shrink wrap; that’s how terrible my habit is.  I’ve been meaning to get the blog up and running again, so this might provide a much needed kick-in-the-pants.

So to celebrate the return of the blog (okay—everybody back to the post!) how about I give out some Radio Spirits freebies?  Back in August of last year, I was tapped to do the liner notes for Suspense at Work—a 10-CD collection of broadcasts from “radio’s outstanding theatre of thrills.”  The shows in this set all have a common theme: they’re set against a background of the workplace, where ambitious individuals resort to murderous mayhem to get ahead in the company…or the mundane monotony of punching a time clock is interrupted by robberies, embezzlement, etc.  You can always count on Suspense for first-rate radio drama, and some of the stars gracing these broadcasts include Bonita Granville, Edmund O’Brien, Ann Blyth, Van Heflin, Ronald Colman, and Richard Widmark.  (I’m partial to “To None a Deadly Drug,” a nail-biter from October 25, 1955 that features OTR veterans like Harry Bartell, Jack kruschen, Barbara Eiler, and Eve McVeagh.)

It’s been 2-3 months since I did a giveaway here at TDOY…so the usual “thirty-day rule” won’t apply here.  What will apply is that if you’d like an opportunity to win one of these sets (I have two to hand out) just drop me an e-mail with “Suspense at Work” in the subject header (that way I know your intentions are honorable, suh, and you’re not some bit of spam from the wrong side of the tracks) at igsjrotr(at)gmail(dot)com.  The deadline for this contest will be 11:59pm EDT next Monday, July 18; I will select two winners via the all-powerful numbers generator at Random.org and inform them of their good fortune so that they can provide me with snail-mail details (so that I might send their swag on its way).  Remember, faithful readers—Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is the phrase that pays!

10 comments:

Bill Crider said...

Thanks for the shout-out. Sorry about the Dish weasels.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Mr. Crider offered his condolences:

Thanks for the shout-out. Sorry about the Dish weasels.

When I wrote the sentence "But unfortunately, once my father gets on the phone, he’s transformed into one of those unpleasant old men constantly yelling at kids to stay off his lawn" I thought...that could really be miscontrued. So it was necessary to slip that in.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Always glad to have you back, Ivan. You are missed when you go away.

Your travails with cable TV is lamentable. Quite an education for me, though, to learn about the wheeling and dealing, as I am boggled every time we get changes in our service here. Even a new channel showing up or disappearing suddenly is enough to rattle me. "But where did it go?"

"It's number 478 now."

"Well, what happened to 37?"

"It's now the Reality Show Universe and Everything Else You Hate Channel."

I watch TCM and public TV. That's about it. And the local news. And the Weather Channel, which has some mysterious hold on me.

Nothing in this life is permanent, my friend, and with cable TV, even less so. I'm glad you hoarded your own stockpile of viewing for these emergencies, like so many cans of Spam in the fallout shelter.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Jacqueline greeted me as a liberator:

Always glad to have you back, Ivan. You are missed when you go away.

Thank ye kindly! I'll try not to be a stranger in future.

"It's number 478 now."

"Well, what happened to 37?"

"It's now the Reality Show Universe and Everything Else You Hate Channel."


That last bit made me choke on my English muffin with laughter. Particularly since I'm pretty sure Pa Shreve watches that.

Anonymous said...

Ivan,
How fast is your internet speed? If you have at least 3Mb/s you could get Sling TV (orange extra pkg) for $25/mo. and watch TCM live & on-demand on your computer.
If your wireless is up to snuff you could add a Roku or Fire TV and watch it on your TV.
See here, here, and here.

Also, if someone you know with a cable subscription that includes TCM visits you can watch TCM from your computer with their username.

Regards,
Barry

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Barry looked up from his magazine:

Also, if someone you know with a cable subscription that includes TCM visits you can watch TCM from your computer with their username.

It's funny you should mention that, sir. A very good friend of mine (I'll keep her identity secret, but she's a peach) has made the same offer to me. So it's something to keep in mind.

Our Internet just barely reaches the speed you recommended. (When the installer who put in our DISH system was first here, he entertained us with a non-stop rant on how shitty the speed was.) But I appreciate your jogging my memory about Sling, since I'd like to look into that option (getting a Roku or Fire TV would be even better).

Thanks for the suggestions. Now I have to prove i'm not a robot.

Anonymous said...

Ivan,

Have you seen this new Dish package? $40 per month with TCM and locals (DVR fee extra). I hope your Dad didn't sign a contract for your current package.

Regards,
Barry

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Barry rushed in, Paul Drake-style:

Have you seen this new Dish package? $40 per month with TCM and locals (DVR fee extra). I hope your Dad didn't sign a contract for your current package.

Good work, Paul...er, Barry. I saw the package on the menu options but I wasn't sure just what options were available. The 'rents and I will have to have a powwow about it, but with my Mom going through withdrawal harder than I it might not be so hard to sell.

Of course, this might end up killing the new content on the blog. I hope you're prepared for that (peering outside) crowd with the torches and pitchforks. :-)

Anonymous said...

> Barry rushed in, Paul Drake-style:

Hello Beautiful,

Still some sacrifices though. Your Dad would have to pay an extra $10 for MSNBC, but TVLand is in the base package. You might be able to get the Braves back with the Regional Action Pack, but I'm not sure. You can also add/remove the extra packages on a month by month basis even if you are on a contract.

BTW, I expect Disney/ESPN to sue Dish (like they did to Verizon) for removing their channels from the base package, so this package might not be offered for long, but you can lock it in for 2 years.

This is the closest thing to à la carte so far. I could cut my bill by more than half: just add the News Pack (FBN and Bloomberg for wife), Encore (westerns for me), and dump the locals (I have an antenna and Windows Media Center). I only wish AMC were in an extra package so I could have the satisfaction of dumping them too!

I hope Dish succeeds and this type of offering spreads to other carriers.

> Of course, this might end up killing the new content on the
> blog. I hope you're prepared for that (peering outside) crowd
> with the torches and pitchforks. :-)

As I said, some sacrifices though.

Regards,
Barry

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Barry explained further:

Still some sacrifices though. Your Dad would have to pay an extra $10 for MSNBC, but TVLand is in the base package. You might be able to get the Braves back with the Regional Action Pack, but I'm not sure. You can also add/remove the extra packages on a month by month basis even if you are on a contract.

It didn't take too long to convince Mom that this is the way to go. The Flex package cost us $34.99, and we had to add the Locals package (because my father cannot go without watching the Atlanta news at noon, 4 and 6 -- it might change!), the News package (his MSDNC fix) and the Regional Action Pack (we do get Braves games, though it's the end of baseball season -- but Mom will get her Bulldogs fix). So we ending up spending about $15 more (we had originally guesstimated $10), still, Mom couldn't sign onto it fast enough.

Thanks for passing this along, Barry. I thank you, my mother thanks you, and my father...well, he hasn't noticed the change yet but he'll catch on when the bill arrives.