Cord Cutting 101

The advertisements made it seem so simple. “Break away from the clutches of subscription TV! With this simple device, that attaches to your window.”

Like most everything in life, if it seemed too simple, it probably was. Why? Because every situation was different.

“Let me know how it works. I may do this myself,” So, said my neighbors and friends. I was their test subject.

My true purpose was to bring back the local NBC station, denied because of a never-ending dispute with Direct TV. Other stations received over the air, would be added benefits.

The window antenna failed. Even with the supplied booster. Not even one channel received. It was returned for refund.

A more conventional antenna purchased to be mounted outside. It was called the “mini-yagi”. Didn’t know exactly what “yagi” were–mini or otherwise.

Mounted outside, then later in the attic, with an additional booster amplifier, success was limited.

Alternative methods to secure the elusive local NBC affiliate were plentiful. Need I mention down streaming from the internet, CATV, the other satellite provider? All of which required additional subscription charges.

There was no logic to it, at all. Some days ABC and NBC came in beautifully from the “mini-yagi,” Last Wednesday evening, my three favorite NBC dramas came in clear as crystal. Thursday, the day after, no signal.  I’ve spent too much time, money, and effort already.

As a “mini yagi” test subject, I can not make a recommendation.  Do further research, before you attempt to cut the cord.  Apparently, I reside in a “black hole” for TV signaling.  If you reside near a major metroplex, good for you.

Don’t believe advertising claims.  If the antenna is purported to have a 70 mile range–it may not always be true.  Like EPA car mileage claims, it’s only under ideal conditions.

Antennas receive broadcast signals in a straight line.  Applying “digital or HD capable” to TV antennas is somewhat of a misnomer.  Old-fashioned rabbit ear antennas would pick up digital or HD, if the broadcaster’s signal was clear.


One Step Forward…

Cast iron cookware, once considered too heavy and awkward. Perfectly good skillets and Dutch oven discarded in favor of lighter aluminum cookware, with non-stick coatings.

When properly seasoned, cast iron was also non-stick–without the chemical coating compounds. In our household, cast iron is back in favor. Last night’s cast iron skillet-baked pork chops with roasted vegetables were to die for.

On another front, I’m taking back what was taken away last summer, by warring media giants, Direct TV and Nexstar Media. Local CBS and NBC channels were removed from the lineup. NBC is still not back.

I’m installing an outside antenna for local channels. A small gimmicky inside antenna, failed to perform to my expectations last week, and was returned.  I missed NBC’s first shows of the new season.

The new antenna, looks like those on houses before the advent of satellite and pay TV.  Hopefully, local channels will be in reach, once again.  I’ll have the option to pull the plug from TV subscription services.

I’m waiting for the weather to cool next week before installation.  Everything comes back in fashion in due time.

What’s Your Frequency?

Not being able to receive programming from two of the four major US televisions networks, for going on two months, has become quite stale.

It’s no different than other abstentions of goods and services. Declaring a shortage of iceberg lettuce, then jacking up prices. Except, I am paying for services not received.

Meanwhile, Nexstar Communications and Direct TV continue their standoff. Nexstar owns a considerable amount of local TV stations–CBS, NBC, channels 44 and 55 locally. Each player in the stalemate blames the other.

Granted, summer replacement shows/reruns are nothing to brag about. I watch TV first thing in the morning, then for two hours before turning in to bed. I miss my favorite local station personalities.

I’m not a sports fanatic, but will not be given the opportunity to be one, this fall–if this stoppage continues. I’m locked into a contract with Direct TV. There would be a sizable penalty for changing.

Dish Network, the main competitor, is not immune to the same issues–rebroadcast of local stations. Tried an over the air antenna, in the past, and barely received one channel. My internet provider isn’t reliable enough for streaming. It may take some creativity on my part to solve these issues.


Why did it even matter?  This has happened many times before.  There were the original “Bo and Luke, Duke” boys and their replacements; substitutions for “John and Ponch” on “CHiPs.”

The latest in TV main character substitutions may be about to happen. Hawaii 5-0’s actors, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are leaving because of failed contract negotiations.

I am saddened to see them leave.  Their characters were strong and appealing.  What would trouble me most, would be for the network to bring in different actors to fill the same roles.

How many different characters have passed in and out of the “Law & Order” franchises over the years?  And, the series goes on.

Was anyone fooled by the two different actors that played daughter Becky Connors on the “Rosanne” show?  Network executives, no substitutions please on Hawaii 5-0.



From Way Outside the Loop

It’s afternoon, time for the internet to slow down–like it always does.  When you’re completely out of the loop, as it pertains to pop culture–including music, my opinion will not be counted or missed.

The moment everyone’s been waiting for–my annual Grammy awards rant.  I don’t watch it, consequently no critiques of this year’s ceremony will be offered; only vague generalizations.

I’m not a watch the Grammies in your jammies type and never will be.  I’ll hazard a guess, that the ceremony was filled to the brim with more politicizing–ad nauseam.  The consistently good, were consistently good, and the consistently bad, were as usual, consistently bad.  That was not to say I didn’t like some of the artists.

Aren’t there an awful lot of awards shows within a short time frame?  Strange visitor from another musical era I may be; watching the Grammies, I find as appealing, as watching a documentary on the history of men’s underwear.  Cat videos?  There can never be too many.

Hoo-boy, can you believe that?  Fluffy, did all her own stunts–too.  Cat videos could be quite entertaining.  Try them–you may find yourself laughing out loud.  If there is not already–there definitely should be an Oscar category for best cat video.

They’re Only Game Shows

NBC has a new prime-time game show that requires players to agree on controversial topics.  “Divided,” which I assumed was short for “divide and conquer,” intended to capitalize on opinionated contestants–regarding current social, political, and cultural issues–without coming to blows.

I’ve only seen bits and pieces.  On one episode, a player deliberately refused to agree with the majority because there’d been an attempt to vote him out–their winnings disappeared.  I found the show to be a frustrating display of group dysfunctionality.

Game show popularity ebbs and flows.  Stalwarts, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and The Price Is Right are still around.  ABC’s “Game Night” found success with updated versions of To Tell the Truth, Pyramid, and The Match Game.

NBC’s offered “The Wall,”  a sort of “Plinko” on steroids–a vertical peg board of dizzying heights, from which chips are dropped.  Like Deal Or No Deal, potential prize amounts are staggering.  Points are given and taken away with equal frequency.

My escape is watching the Wheel with Pat and Vanna every evening at 6:30.  They need to re-check my address.  I know I should have won the $5,000 giveaway by now.

Game shows allow a 30 minute break from reality.  I prefer them to current local news.  Splattered across local televisions screens–two fugitives remained at large.  They’ve murdered three, wounded one in their latest crime spree.–


Bach, Baptists, & Persian Cats

victorian houseWillow Branch, with its eleven hundred citizens, was normally a quiet place.  Calls to the Sheriff’s department were routine–cars with loud mufflers, stray dogs, wild animals scattering trash.  The phone rang a little after seven, one summer evening.  Mrs. McNary, the caller, was frantic.  In the Sheriff’s department she was known as a “frequent flyer.”  “Now, Mrs. McNary calm down.”  “I’m sending someone out right away.”  Mrs. Gertrude McNary was eighty-seven, lived alone with “Winston Jeremiah Puffington,” her white Persian cat.  The frisky tom cat, “Mr. Puffy,” had somehow gotten himself tangled in the wires of her television set.  Deputy Jim Bell was on duty.  He grumbled on the way out the door.  “So, now I’m rescuing cats?”  The dispatcher couldn’t resist, “Call if you need back up.”  The squad room roared with laughter.  Jim wasn’t amused–left without saying another word.

Jim arrived at the familiar white, neatly kept, Victorian home with its wrap-around front porch.  Mrs. McNary met him on the porch, grabbed his arm and pulled him inside.  “I’m glad to see you.”  She sobbed.  “It’s Mr. Puffy.”  “Please hurry, before it’s too late–he could strangle or electrocute himself.”  “I’ll do everything I can,”  Said the slightly confused deputy.  “I was watching the “Huntley-Brinkley” report like I do every night.”  “I went to the kitchen for a cup of tea.” “When I got back Mr. Puffy was gone.”  “I heard scratching and growling from inside my TV set,”  “There he was, trapped, and there was nothing I could do.”  She sobbed frantically.

mr puffy

Do you have any long-cuffed leather gloves?”  Asked the deputy.  I’ve got to stay away from those sharp claws and teeth.  “No, I don’t,”  She answered.  “Eldon, next door, might?”  She quickly dialed the black rotary hallway phone.  Eldon brought leather welders gloves–which proved invaluable.  Mr. Puffy fought his would-be captors valiantly.  Eldon took the front end and Jim took the back-end, shielded by a towel wrapped around his arm.  After a few tense moments, the frisky feline was finally freed.  “Oh, thank God!”  “My poor scared baby.”  Mrs. McNary attempted to console the frightened kitty.  Mr. Puffy wasn’t the least bit grateful.  With ears laid back, tail twitching in disgust, he growled, hissed, ran under the nearest bed.

Gertrude Frances McNary survived her husband Oliver by nine years.  She’d taught three generations of music students.  While a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music she fell in love with, Dr. Oliver Langston McNary, senior professor of music.  Rather than suffer disgrace from the conservative board of regents, Oliver resigned his position.  They married and settled in Willow Branch.  Oliver accepted a position as high school band and chorus director.  Oliver’s crowning achievement was an annual presentation of Handel’s “Messiah.”  The tradition lived on.  His sudden passing left her lonely and unprepared.  There had been no children.  She sang arias while hanging laundry.  Her voice had not aged well.  It didn’t matter–most villagers couldn’t distinguish between vibrato and violets, anyway.   

A Steinway baby grand piano sat prominently in the parlor.  Busts of the master composers surrounded it in a semi-circle.  Schubert and Mozart held positions of prominence.  Lace curtains rustled gently in the large bay schubertwindow.  Music students not only mastered the piano, but also learned the names of composers and their works.  Only the most skilled students were allowed to play the baby grand.  Others plunked away on the spinet.  For their final recital, graduates played selections from their favorite composer.

From the large two-story house on the bluff, Gertrude McNary kept a wary eye on the community.  Her neighbor, Eldon Price, left his attic light on one night.  Some people in the neighborhood put their rubbish bins out too early.  Mrs. McNary abhorred most popular music and television shows.  She did, however, have a strange affinity for Victor Borge.  His antics at the piano reminded her of Oliver during their courtship.  Popular music, according to her, contributed to cultural decadence.  In a town of mostly blue-collar and farm workers, she was quite a contrast–Willow Branch’s self-appointed guardian of culture.  Nothing escaped scrutiny–not even hymns at local churches.

Mrs. McNary met the new Baptist minister, Rev. Lawrence Turner, at the post office.  She accepted his invitation to attend Sunday services despite reservations.  Sunday broke bright and beautiful.  Gertrude dressed appropriately in a dark blue dress with a black hat.  Her seldom-driven dark blue ’54 Desoto sedan faithfully carried her to church.  A warm welcome awaited her.  Rev. Turner acknowledged her presence during the service.  Most of the congregation already knew her.  Margaret, the pianist, had been one of her students.  Why didn’t she play music as it was written by the original composers?  That certainly wasn’t how she was taught. 

baptist church

The service ran long.  There were too many interruptions for spontaneous amens and hallelujahs.  Jill, the pastor’s wife, sang a solo.  She had a beautiful voice–in spite of being of the Baptist persuasion.  Rev. Turner’s sermon concluded with the warning, “The fires of Hell and eternal damnation awaited unrepentant sinners.”  The invitation was given for individuals to come forward and pray for forgiveness of sins.  After the benediction, Rev. and Mrs. Turner shook hands with departing parishioners.  “I’m so glad you could join us today, Mrs. McNary.”  Said the good reverend.  “It’s nice to finally meet you.”  “I’ve heard so much about you.”  Said Mrs. Turner.

Mrs. McNary put away the dishes after lunch.  She sat quietly on the front porch swing reading.  Afternoon changed to evening.  Like most evenings, Mr. Puffy joined her on the parlor couch.  Mr. Puffy groomed himself with a front paw.  He closed his eyes as Gertrude McNary stroked his long white fur.  “Mr. Puffy, sometimes I think you’re my only friend.”  “Those Baptists were nice, but I didn’t feel comfortable.”  Mr. Puffy purred contentedly–as if he understood.  “They shouted and clapped during the service.”  …And that banging on the piano…That was the worst of all…Fire and brimstone preaching was too much like the Damoclesian sword in Greek mythology.  I think God would want us to be more dignified.  I feel much more comfortable around my fellow Episcopalians.   

Gertrude read quietly, oblivious to the setting sun.  Mr. Puffy twitched the end of his tail–watched the mantel clock pendulum.  Soon Gertrude slumped over sound asleep.  The house was dark, the clock chimed nine, she promptly awakened.  “Are you a hungry boy?”  She asked Mr. Puffy.  Mr. Puffy jumped down–followed her to the kitchen.  Mr. Puffy gobbled down his “Little Friskies” cat food.  Gertrude Frances McNary got ready for bed.  She glanced reverently at their wedding portrait.  Ollie, if there is a heaven, I know you’re looking out for me.  You were the only one I ever loved.  We understood each other.  She pulled up the blanket, reached over, and turned off the light.