Just Sayin’

I think some people miss the point behind cutting the cable.

Cutting the cable has been around for a while. It’s an expression used when you decide to terminate cable service. That would’ve once been unthinkable. When I was a child — yeah, here we go.

I’m a boomer, in my sixties. I’ve seen the rise of the microwave and electronics. Cable television came to my neighborhood while I was in high school. Before cable, we were dependent on ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. One of those networks had two channels in our area.

Reruns were the norm. “Bonanza”, “Gunsmoke”, “Gilligan’s Island”, and “Perry Mason” came on throughout the day, along with every version of a Lucille Ball’s offerings, game shows like “Jeopardy” and “Password”, and talks shows like “The Merv Griffin Show”. As this was a rural, churchy area, so we also had a lot of gospel music sang off-key with with a twang, and plenty of Bible thumping.

Cable, then, expanded our ability to watch different reruns on other channels. We had, I think, thirty-two channels and we paid about twenty dollars a month. None were ‘premium’ channels; HBO, Showtime, and offerings like that were just being thought of and begun in those days. It didn’t come to my area until I’d left the area in 1974.

Still, cable offered us more. That was the point. Then, the point became, cable is offering the same thing over and over, or offering us things that doesn’t interest us. Upon returning to the United States after some overseas assignment, my wife and I subscribed to cable television. It was pretty good for a while. A&E was delivering fresh BBC television shows like “Ballykissangel” and “Doctor Who”. TBS provided reruns. “Original” programming was still a number of years away, along with reality shows.

Off we went to somewhere else outside the U.S. This time, upon returning, we signed up for cable, with some premium offerings.

It was no longer a sweet deal. The price had jumped to over fifty dollars a month. Pausing to put that into perspective, my income was about twenty-five thousand. Our new sports car cost fifteen thousand. Our phone bill (cell phones weren’t on the scene yet) was about twenty-five dollars a month. So fifty a month was a chunk.

Back to cable. Premium movies had already been seen, so I was paying for movie reruns, and they showed them over and over and over. The cable company boasted that we had one hundred channels. Our point was, there was nothing on that we wanted to watch.

That trend worsened, in my mind. We went to a hundred and forty plus channels, two hundred channels, dozens of premium offerings. Prices climbed, but nothing was on. By the time I cut the cable, we’d curtailed the premium offerings. No reason to subscribe because they offered so little. By then, we could rent videos, and then discs at Blockbusters and other places. Eventually, Netflix evolved.

We cut the cable ten years ago. I went with Roku and subscribed to Netflix. I remain a Netflix subscriber. I also subscribe to Hulu basic and Amazon Prime. Others come and go, usually for a month at a time. I’m not the demographic target, though; I have no interest in watching television on my phone.

I monitor streaming offerings, and frequently try them out on a trial basis. They’ve become bloated and useless. Let’s talk SlingTV as an example. They’re offering over a hundred channels for just $65 a month. But looking at them, I know that I’ll end up watching very little of that.

The same happens with countless offerings. They think signing on to more channels is a big deal. It’s not; it goes back to the same problem that plagued us when we had four channels: nothing was on that we wanted to watch.

Original programming helps the situation these days. So does stealing ideas from other countries or importing television series and movies from other countries. As we discovered with A&E, and then BBC America, the rest of the world has fantastic stuff. In example, one show that’s currently doing well in the U.S. in “The Masked Singer”. Just as “Survivor” was an import, so is “The Masked Singer”; it came from Korea.

In the end, this is another rant, innit? Just an aging American musing about the ways that the world does and doesn’t change.

At least with remotes, it’s easier to change the channel. You know what we had to do when I was in high school?

Friday’s Free-Ranging

  1. Some people still believe COVID-19 is a hoax. Even as they’re hospitalized and intubated, they can’t believe they have COVID-19, according to nurses in several states, because COVID-19 is a hoax. Surreal.
  2. But it’s getting real. For many people, it doesn’t become real until a family member, close friend, or celebrity has it. Well, read the news. Another Pentagon official is positive, and another U.S. senator. Actor Ben Platt was positive. Do a net search and you’ll discover more. NFL teams are experiencing it at an increasing tempo. The Vegas Raiders have at least eight defensive starters on the COVID-19 list. The Steelers have several, while several others passed the protocol and can practice and play again. The Denver Broncos announced, no more fans in the stands after this Sunday. The NFL said that all teams must use intense COVID-19 protocols. That includes masks, distancing, limiting occupancy, and using Zoom for meetings.
  3. The fatality rate and positivity rates are both climbing. A NYTimes article points out that there’s not a single U.S. state or territory where COVID-19 is declining. We now experience over two hundred thousand new case a day, and it’s increasing fast. More governors are ordering mandatory masks, shutting down activities, and limiting gatherings. Except, in South Dakota, of course, home of Sturgis. Although they’re facing the nation’s highest positivity rate and fatality rate, and has become one of the nation’s most intense COVID-19 hotspots, the governor still dismisses taking any actions.
  4. And superspreader events still take place across the nation. As a for instance tale, there was a wedding in Ohio on October 31st. Of eighty-three guests, half are now positive for COVID-19, including the bride and groom. Three of their grandparents tested positive, with two grandparents ending up in the ER. Yeah, I understand that you want a special day for your wedding. It’s a celebration, but c’mon, man, have some sense. They did try, providing masks and hand sanitizer liquid, but as the bride was walking down the aisle, she realized nobody was wearing a mask.
  5. Meanwhile, out in hard-hit El Paso, they’re trying to find workers for the many temporary morgues that they’ve set up. They were using convicts for the job.
  6. Writing continues to entertain and satisfy me, so hurrah for me, right? Yeah, that’s my little ray of sunshine.
  7. Some days, I just cannot write fast enough. A scene takes maybe a minute to enter my head and bloom. Dialogue, setting, action, characters, it’s all there. It takes twenty to thirty minutes to type up such scenes, trying to get all the moments right.
  8. Getting the moments right means finding the words. I often just hammer it out, then return, correcting pacing and tenses, adding and refining details, and aligning the arc. That’s about the only way to put it.
  9. Thanksgiving in the United States is coming upon us, and we’re preparing. It’ll be the two of us at home, a huge break from the last several years. Good friends have been including us in their celebration. It’s always a good time. There will be a Zoom Thanksgiving cocktail party this year. It’s better than nothing, right?
  10. For food, we’re doing an early Sunday morning Trader Joe’s raid. Many options were investigated before deciding on this path. TJ’s ‘vulnerable shoppers’ time begins at 8 AM. We plan to be there by 8:15 with our list in hand.
  11. Contemplating our plans fires Thanksgiving memories. I was in Basic Training in 1974. Fortunately, my Uncle and his family lived nearby. I was authorized to go spend Thanksgiving with them, and watched the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions play. For Wright-Patt in Ohio, in ’75, we drove home and visited with family. When I was serving unaccompanied in the Philippines in 1976, my co-workers invited me to their house, and I had a great time. Paying it back, my wife and I often included single or unaccompanied personnel in our T-day celebrations.
  12. Memories stack up by bases and countries: Onizuka in California, Kadena on Okinawa, Rhein-Main in Germany, Osan in Korea, Randolph in Texas. When we were stationed at Shaw AFB in South Carolina in 1985, we headed north three hundred miles to my wife’s family in WV. A few hundred more miles, and we were at my mother’s place in Pittsburgh, PA. When I retired and we lived in Half Moon Bay, we joined in large Friendsgiving celebrations, just as we’ve mostly done here in Ashland.
  13. All of these places and years are memorable, though; all of them. They were different places, different people, and different experiences, but all enriched my existence.
  14. Need more coffee, as it’s time to write like crazy, at least one more time. Have four scenes circling in my head. Time for them to land on a page. Have a better one, and please wear a mask.

Friday’s Theme Music

You ever think, “Boy, I could use somebody to…” do X? Complete the sentence. Fill in the blank.

I haven’t thought those words in a long time. When I managed people, I often thought that. Juggling resources and priorities was a constant. Not too infrequently, it ended with, “Boy, I could use somebody.”

This came to mind yesterday, after Veteran’s Day in the U.S. As a veteran, I have many veteran friends. Photos of them back in the day rolled into Facebook.

So I was remembering when with some of them. One in particular was an intelligent but withdrawn guy when he worked for me. He seemed like he lacked self-confidence, that he could be a lot more than what he was showing. Another section came to me and said those words, “I could use somebody…”

This guy was the choice. The officer with the need was dubious, but my guy blossomed. From that, you could see the change in him manifest. It was something to behold. Leaving the military after eight years, he went into tech, where his talents and intelligence were applied and rewarded.

The phrase itself, “I could use somebody”, cropped up when I was shopping for cat food during my day out. A woman said that to a store employee. That then triggered a foray into mental writing as I went about my business, creating a scene that I wrote after I returned home, centered on the phrase, “I could use somebody.”

Lot of disparate thinking to reach today’s theme music. But each time the phrase, “use somebody” passed through the mental stream, my strangely wired neurons said, “Playing ‘Use Somebody’ by Kings of Leon, 2008.” So, really, this is about getting a song out of my head. I enjoy Caleb’s enunciation of the phrase in the song. It’s a good song to sing when it hits the radio and you’re alone in the car. Just sayin’.

Have a good one. Wear a mask. Cheers

Wednesday’s Theme Music

Several times a month, a song or fragment hits my auditory stream and lingers. Some call this an earworm. I call it an annoyance.

Once in a while, I post those as my theme music to get them out of my head. It seems to work. Sometimes, though, the stuck song isn’t deserving of being the day’s theme music.

That’s the case today. This song isn’t the theme song, but I’m sharing it with you. It’s from a famous movie, so you might now it.

Yes, it’s “The Thermos Song” by Steve Martin from The Jerk (1979).

I don’t want it for today’s theme music.

As The Jerk came out in 1979, I started thinking about that year. While placing myself in that moment, my mind had a perverse idea, introducing The Smashing Pumpkins’ song, “1979”, from 1996, in my head. Oh, that brain, what a rascal.

It’s been over a year since I used “1979” for a theme song. (Yeah, I looked it up.) Why not, I thought. 1979 was a simpler time for me. Not for others, of course. As we slide over the time spectrum, time and life, and their impact on us, shift. Sometimes things skip off his like a stone skimming across a still pond. Other days, news whacks us like an asteroid taking the Yucatan Peninsula.

For me, though, best memories are not the ugly ones, but the sweet ones where I remember laughing with friends, getting ready to go out, and generally worrying about things other than drought, war, pandemics, politics, and climate change. It was like a day of freedom from stress.

Not all people have such stress-free days, but I’ve had some. Some of them were back in 1979. Mind you, that wasn’t a stress-free era. We still lived under the threat of nuclear war. Mr. Jimmy Carter was POTUS, and the Iran Hostage crises was the story of the day. But besides all that, I went to the movie theater with my cousins and wife in San Antonio to watch a movie called The Jerk.

Yeah, it was a good time.

Blueberry Hunter

Quinn was a compact cat. His silky fur and bushy tail made him look larger than he was and often drew compliments. I was partial to his sharp, jade eyes. His nickname was black paws for the dark fur that covered them.

He passed away almost a year ago, succumbing to cancer. With us for about twelve years, he was a refugee from another house on the street. He’d come in during a cold and windy night when I was out calling my felines. We fed him and put him up. I put out posters. He was identified, and his people came and got him, but he kept coming back to ours until the people gave up and moved away without him. I’m flattered that he chose us.

A strong-willed feline, he prompted me to write about him numerous times. My favorite was just called “Quinn”, which I posted just over four years ago.

Life’s a rush,

When you’re Quinn.

If he’s out,

He wants in.

If he’s in,

He wants out.

And to find a way,

He’ll rush about.

He was also my inspiration for one of my favorite posts, “The Catfood”, from a few years ago. He was always a picky eater, forcing me to procure new offerings. Hence I found myself in a Walmart store contemplating chicken and waffle cat food.

I’m thinking about him today with fondness. My wife is harvesting the last of her cherry tomatoes. Plucking them from the vine, she sets them in bowls in the kitchen to ripen.

Today, she’s talking about using some of the ripe ones in an arugula-pasta-cherry tomato salad. One of our favorite dishes, it’s healthy and easy to make. Sorting tomatoes that could be use, she dropped a green one onto the floor where it disappeared from our sight.

That’s where Quinn would’ve come in. He was terrific at finding things on the floor, and then batting them around. Most frequently, blueberries were involved. We’ve picked blueberries almost every year since we’ve lived here. After picking, we set some aside for immediate use, and then freeze the rest. Freezing them meant spreading them on trays and then placing the tray in the freezer. Once they’re frozen on the tray, they’re transferred to plastic storage containers. We’d need to do that multiple times. Inevitably, blueberries would hit the floor.

Quinn would immediately rush to them and sniff the dropped berry. From the look that jumped into his face, he hated their smell. So offensive was it to him, he’d immediately start angrily whacking the blueberry around until a human interceded and took it away.

Such a fun sweetheart, he was also a bit of a slut. More than once, I saw people passing by notice him and say something. He’d hurry up to them for love and attention.

But he always returned to us, and slept snuggled up against me. I could’ve used him during this week, when tension from the combination of pandemic life and presidential elections is higher than the moon. Besides, he would find that cherry tomato that was dropped.

As it is now, we probably won’t find it until one of us steps on it or we move away.

Monday’s Theme Music

Computer issues drop-kicked my Sunday into Sourday yesterday. Naturally, I blamed 2020. Made more sense than blaming myself, or HP, Microsoft, Kaspersky, or anything else. No, this was 2020’s fault. Because, 2020 has been a helluva memorable year for all the wrong reasons, from my perspective.

Like, yesterday, I went for a short walk. Golden leaves were flaring bright against the sky blue. The air was warmish at seventy, but clearer than a new 4K television picture. Yet, given my ‘puter issues, my mood was sour. Walking out of the house and up the hill, I remembered the four small, beautiful cats who used to greet me when I came out. Pepper, Buddy, and Mimi (aka Princess) all were neighbor cats. Quinn was my own. None were big. Three were long-furred but all were sweet and happy. All were here last year, last fall. Now, all were gone, victimized by life and death, as we all will be.

Yeah, some mood, right?

It’s natural for my mind to provide theme music, background to whatever I’m doing. Yesterday’s chosen song stayed with me for today. Probably did this song as theme music before; I didn’t bother to look. Frying other matters in my head, you know?

Here is Green Day with “Wake Me When September Ends” (2005). In place of September, feel free to insert anything else. I inserted 2020, as in wake me when 2020 ends.


This Sunday

Sunday morning started with the usual Sunday morning white man with cat issues, which is replying to the demand, “Feed me, feed me, feed me, and get these other cats away from me,” in surround sound because I have three of them. They didn’t care that we’d fallen back an hour, clock-wise, here in ‘Merica. Their clocks weren’t affected.

Eventually, the beasts were fed, watered, and released back to the backyard wilds, freeing me to be me. I slid to the computer. That’s when the morning took an oomph turn. My mighty HP laptop wasn’t connecting to the net. Everything else in the household was connected; why was I selected for this cruel honor.

Something about the machine was off. Memories of being a younger person and working on my cars were awakened. I started car life with a 1965 Mercury Comet sedan. Forest green and automatic, a lively 289 V-8 was under the hood, as we said in those days. It was a stoutmobile. She’d run.

She was like my first girlfriend. I learned to do things, and did the standard stuff, from gapping and replacing plug and points (and all the wires) to brakes, muffler, and shocks, and all the fluids and fuses in between.

I think, because of that car, I’ve always since tried to fix things myself. Tried is a key verb in that sentence. (Is it a verb? I don’t know. I used to know these things.)

Details of what I did and the results will be avoided. No need to restore my stress levels by recalling those excoriating details. I worked on the computer for hours, returning it to connectivity. Doing so demanded a need to run recovery, a Microsoft Windows 10 process that’s not as nice as it sounds. Lots of personal files were removed (yeah, they said that wouldn’t happen, and they were wrong), along with apps and programs that I’d installed.

I had back ups of files, and MS does have some file recovery stuff. Eventually, though, I had almost everything. For some reason, I lacked the bible for the latest novel in progress. Don’t know what happened to that doc.

Reading old files slowed the process. Oh, there was The Soul Stone written years ago, never submitted nowhere. I read and enjoyed its first pages, along with Spider City, Everything Not Known, Everything in Black and White, and some stranger works, and the first draft of the self-published words, like the Lessons with Savanna series and Returnee. All still there, waiting for me to turn my attention back to them and do something more with them.

Not on this Sunday, though.

Monday’s Theme Music

Owe this song choice today to the second season of Fargo. That was the season about the Sioux City massacre, introducing us to Molly Solverson as a child, and her father, the medically retired state trooper. Keith Carradine played Lou Solverson (Molly’s father) in season one; Patrick Wilson played the younger iteration of him in season two. The story of this year is briefly mentioned by Lou Solverson in year one.

Anyway, the song is “I Got A Line On You” by Spirit came out in 1968. I had to look that year up. I was twelve then, and the song was a regular on rock stations for a long time. Yet, I’ve not heard it in a while, until Fargo brought it back to mind last night.

BTW, I enjoy Fargo. Its characters and non-linear style speaks to me. Each of the seasons I’ve watched featured strong casts. Year one included Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman as main characters, along with Colin Hanks and Allison Tolman. Jordan and Peele show up as FBI agents. Stephen Root is a murder victim.

Year two includes Ted Danson, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Jean Smart. All do the impressive job that you expect of them, along with Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan. My favorite, though is Zahn McClarnon. Although I’ve seen him in multiple films and television shows through the years, he really stood out as Matthias in Longmire. Where we knew exactly who he was in Longmire, he’s enigmatic, smart, and unreadable in Fargo, yet manages to portray sad weariness.

Okay, on with the music. This is a fun live version. Hope you enjoy it as I did, as a sharp look back to what was. Please wear your masks. Cheers

Friday’s Theme Music

When I was growing up in the sixties, music was usually heard on the AM bands on my transistor radio, bedroom radio/alarm clock, or in the car. This was augmented by Mom’s music on her console stereo, and my sisters’ music on the older sister’s portable phonograph. It was red and gray suitcase with a record player inside.

By the end of the sixties, we were listening to more sources, including cassette tapes and 8-tracks. FM was coming on a purveyor of pop culture, though.

Overseas in the military, I depended on the Armed Forces Radio and Television Services. We had a heavy dose of popular songs. I listened to some local radio but not understanding the language was often a turnoff.

By the time I returned to the United States from overseas for the last time, it’d all changed. CDs were on the scene. Digital and the net were rapidly emerging. Radio stations became more segmented. I had three primary music stations in the SF Bay Area. One each for alt rock, classic rock, and top forty rock, which included pop. I had buttons for country and western, young country, R&B, soul, rap, gospel, along with the news, sports, and talk stuff. It was an amazing plethora.

Yeah, just thinking and remembering, that’s all. Today is sooo different.

All of was triggered by Genesis as my theme choice yesterday. Early Genesis with Peter Gabriel was much different than Phil Collins’ Genesis but I enjoy both. Fascinating how Peter and Phil also found solo success, along with Mike Rutherford of Genesis.

As they were all on my mind, I’m going with another Phil choice. This one combines Phil Collins with Phil Bailey of Earth, Wind, and Fire. Here’s “Easy Lover” from 1984.

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