That Darn Hulu

February 14, 2014

New and regular favorites:

* Kevin Pollack’s Chat Show. Set aside two hours and just take it in. THIS is doubtless the right way to interview … he listens and converses and researches and does the social media thing. And it is not scripted. If you’re tired of your typical talk show, here you go.

* In the Thick of It. British comedy / drama about government. Hulu original. Cutting and hilarious. I don’t get every ref but I get enough.

* Absolutely Fabulous / Coupling. Classics. Jennifer Saunders does no wrong. Even the Friends turn back in the day. So cool and on the short list of people I would like to meet. And as for Coupling, much as I loved Friends, it was sometimes a little tied up in a bow for me. The Brits don’t worry about such matters. Coupling was Friends’ boozy older sibling – seen it, been there, done it.

* Anything with Chris Messina. You’ll recognize him from The Mindy Project but he is also in The Newsroom and a bunch of indy films that are excellent. Watch 28 Hotel Rooms, Monogamy, Fairhaven and all the Mindy reruns you can stomach. Relive the kiss …. because you know you want to.

* Family Ties reruns. Keatons always and forever.

That’s it for now. Happy Valentine’s Day and if you’re like me in the snow belt of the moment, watch where you’re walking and be safe.


Golden Choice

January 13, 2014

The Golden Globes were on last night, my absolute favorite awards show. Tina and Amy aside (I mean, how wonderful were they?), the fashions are more creative than other shows, people are relaxed (with good reason) and both TV and film are represented, which makes for a more substantive batch of awards and far less pomp and circumstance – basically a two for one deal that makes for an interesting mix of people.

The challenge for me: How to watch the show without cable in my home.

Turns out, not such a challenge. A Twitter handle from the UK purporting to be affiliated with Jennifer Lawrence (I won’t post it here because I haven’t verified anything) posted to the Golden Globes hash tag a link to the Canadian TV (CTV) stream of the broadcast. Worked perfectly. Clean stream, full broadcast, no hiccups or weird ads popping up.

So, bottom line: I really don’t miss cable. Sure, I see my favorite shows a day or two after they air in the U.S. (e.g. Downton, Revenge, Scandal, etc.) but who cares? With DVRs in the world, a lot of people are doing that already.

From a discovery standpoint, I’ve had a great time watching old favorites, discovering unique content in Hulu and Netflix through free trials (I’m partial to Hulu at this point, but that could change … they keep promoting these British shows called Rev – about a church – and Whites – about chefs – and both look FANTASTIC). Hulu seems to be becoming what HBO was back in 2000ish – only on the VIEWERS’ terms – and it’s pretty great.

I thought live broadcast content – particularly news – might be an issue, but it hasn’t been. The local stations all have apps so the 5 p.m., etc., broadcasts are easy enough to get (assuming you want to hear a lot about robberies, traffic snarls and way too much weather, but I digress). As for cable news networks, it hasn’t been hard to find workarounds though even they have not been top of mind. There are so many breaking news sources now – most of which I get on Twitter – that I have not felt at all deprived. (In fact, the noise level is considerably lower and that, I have to say, has not been a bad thing.)

So there you have it. The experiment continues, but honestly it’s becoming a lifestyle – and I like it a lot.

Now, as for the Globes – my picks:

Best Dressed

  • Toss-up between Kerry Washington and Emma Thompson. Everyone’s talking about Kerry and her baby bump, but Emma was not only hilarious in her presentation with the shoes and the drink but her dress and hair were stunning.

Worst Dressed

  • Drew Barrymore. Congrats on the baby, but to paraphrase one Tweeter, she looked a bit like something you’d find in a pastry shop.

Thing I Now Know I Need to See:

  • 12 Years a Slave. I expected it to be American Hustle’s year.

Best Tina / Amy Moments

  • The bit with Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick when Amy dressed up as Tina’s oldest sullen son. HILARIOUS.
  • Julia and the hot dog.
  • The intro to Leo DeCaprio presenting.

Best Moments Overall

  • Amy making out with Bono after her name was announced.
  • Emma Thompson coming on stage to present carrying her shoes and a drink. She’s hilarious.
  • Cate Blanchett’s acceptance speech. She always looks so demure but when you hear her speak she has a HUGE personality and is really funny. I heard an interview with her on NPR the other day that was the same way. (Her American accents in her movies, too, are always spot-on.)

That is all. Enjoy the day!


Note to Facebook: I don’t miss you

December 9, 2013

Dear Facebook,

It’s been a year (roughly) since I signed off from your hallowed streams. I’m writing today to say .. I don’t miss you. I don’t miss the time sink that was updates from people who didn’t speak to me in high school but were appearing before me with how much they bench-pressed the night before or their pet’s latest frock.

I took my life back, thank you very much.

I admit – I probably didn’t manage it best I could. I pretty much let everyone in, particularly while organizing a few events. I mean, how can you be an organizer and not accept a “friend” invitation. And I realize you offer ways to “block” users from appearing in your timeline yet remain “friends” with them so they can see you – but, really, isn’t that the height of narcissism? Yeah, I want to count you as a “friend” but on my terms and my terms only. (Beyond that, why do I want to waste my time figuring out how to do it?)

In truth I didn’t define the terms of my “friend”ship with you, so it became imperative that we part ways. I didn’t put any parameters on who I accepted as a friend and as a result you became just noise.

I believe strongly in social media – the short bursts on Twitter and Instagram can be brilliant, and YouTube is fabulous (still). Google+ more than replaces you.

You see, dear Facebook, you have jumped the shark.

Be careful out there and recognize that it’s happening – all the signs are there (and I speak from experience having managed an online community born before you came along). The very public defections, the privacy concerns – who has time? Not me, that’s all I really know.

So best of luck in 2014, be smart and keep people safe.

‘Til we (never) meet again,

JK

 


And Now for Something Completely Different

December 9, 2013

‘Tis the season for warmth and cheer

For friends and family, far and near.

Traditions abound, some with a twist

Sugar plums dance, and the kids make lists.

For some there is change

Stirring beneath the snow.

For some there is travel

So it’s time to go!

Stay tuned in the near term

For I’ll have more to say.

In the meantime, enjoy

This most excellent of holidays.

 

Stay tuned …

 


I cut the cable – and I like it

December 4, 2013

I’ve debated this move for months and months, eliminating my cable bundle and going completely mobile. This week, I did – and to be honest, I wish I’d done so sooner.

My biggest concern, of course, was the quality of the experience – would the video render well? Would my pages load in good time? Would my incessant habit of having 12 windows open at a time cause the pipeline to choke?

Truth is … none of that happened. In fact, I think the quality on my mobile is better than what I had on my router. I say this with the caveat that I am not a technician or an expert in broadband – I learn quickly and do what I need to do to make things work. But I have to say – all of my fears were unfounded.

I love not being stuck in the TV networks’ structure. I get my breaking news streams from various sources – Morning Joe (and all of MSNBC), FOX, CNN, etc. And the local news I’m interested in … it’s streamed on the station’s website – live. Maybe I won’t see The Good Wife on the Sunday it runs – but in all honesty, I wasn’t watching it on Sundays before this.

New access to old shows has been fun, too – #ArrestedDevelopment, #Firefly, #FridayNightLights.

In the summer, I watch baseball most evenings, so I’ll get the MLB package on the Internet and an antenna to access local channels on my TV – I will by no means be deprived.

Like most things in life, everything comes back to The Cat in the Hat. The great Dr. Seuss once wrote “I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I Am.”

And we all know how that turned out.


Remembering Owego 20 Years Later: The Office

May 30, 2013

The paper’s office was situated in a line of buildings called River Row that backed up to the Susquehanna River. The street-level units were mostly shops. On one end, there was a bar. On the other, a huge gift store that was quite cool.

Our space was owned by the Chamber of Commerce, which had the street-level storefront. We were on the third floor (I don’t remember who was on the second). Those steps were my daily cardio.

The office itself was a HUGE empty space flanked by a small office where our advertising sales person worked, supposedly. (I’m pretty sure I could count on two hands the number of times I saw her there and on one the number of times I spoke to her.)

The cavernous space contained two desks, each with a phone and a brick of a computer. In a small adjoining space, we had a microwave and a refrigerator. The room was so big and so empty, in fact, it echoed when anyone was on the phone.

So began my illustrious career as a journalist.

Many days I shared the space with a very bitter human, I’ll call her Sally. She’d kicked around at three or four very small papers in Upstate New York and her career nor her home were what she wanted (or expected) them to be. The out-of-town boyfriend only added to her frustration; she left town every weekend.

With no editors in the room to keep watch, she was more than happy to talk about all of it. To me.

Every day (unless she had a night meeting to cover or was in the other office) she’d walk out the door at 5 p.m. on the dot, muttering something about one of the editors or complaining about a change in one of her stories. Some days, I recall, she was so infuriated she didn’t even say “good night.”

We weren’t close, which made it rather like being assigned a bad roommate in college – you kinda don’t want to go back to the room. I left the office at lunch time as much as possible – even if I had packed a sandwich and it was raining, I’d make it a point to take a walk just to clear my head and get away. I remember having moments when we’d bond about something, but they were few and far between. For me, I was just out of school and wanted very badly to impress my editors, not listen to someone in their 30s vent about how horrible life was.

The equipment we had was just this side of hilarious in today’s terms – an instamatic camera, two old phones and laptops with dial-up modems, which we used to file our stories. Sure, the main office would send a photographer out for big stories, but for the local on-the-street reporting, we did it ourselves and the results were questionable at best. Would have been nice to have a cell phone camera then.

Officemate aside, probably my favorite story came on a snowy February night. I’d covered a local board meeting and returned to the office around 9 p.m. to file my story and meet my dad, who was coming up that night to help me buy a car. I have a vague recollection of him being rather underwhelmed at our working conditions, particularly since at that hour the heat was off.

All in all, it was a good job. I covered everything from a murder trial to meetings to festivals to tree plantings – it was certainly a strong start, even if I did have to wear gloves to file my meeting stories.


Remembering Owego 20 Years Later: The Blizzard of ‘93

May 1, 2013

It’s no secret that it snows in Central New York. Trust me, it snows. A lot.

I would say that 1993 was no different, but for sure it was. To those of us in Binghamton and surrounding cities (including Owego), March 12, 1993 was a 43-inch drift of pure disbelief.

My memories of this day are vivid even now. Those of us that were at the paper when the storm started ended up being the team to head out and gather anecdotes, see what we could see – which, honestly, wasn’t much as the snow blew around us. A state of emergency was declared, as I recall, so when we were done writing that night, we had no choice but to walk through the desolate streets of Vestal, NY (where the paper was situated) and stay at the local Best Western.

Then, as our supervisors said later in a memo to our Executive Editor commending our efforts, “returned to work wearing the same clothes with unbrushed teeth” and did the whole thing again. (Reinforcements could not get to the paper, as the roads were still horrible.)

When I got back to my car the next day, it was completely buried under snow. I actually stood on its roof.

Owego was my regular beat, so I went there to assess the situation and came up on the town’s first stop light, which was flashing red. I pumped the brake lightly, hoping to avoid skidding on the snow-covered streets. Instead, as I approached the intersection, I and my car proceeded to do a complete 360-degree slide and ended up facing the same direction I’d been heading before coming to a stop. (Luckily I was only traveling at about 15 mph, so I didn’t have far to go.)

The hilarious part, though, was a family sitting at the light in an SUV across the way. The five or six people in the car applauded my efforts. Highlight of my day.

Owego looked more like the moon that day. No one bothered to even try and shovel it. Ploughs were running up and down the streets but finding room for all that snow was near impossible. (I think they eventually put it in the Susquehanna, but don’t quote me.) Mostly, they served to pack the snow down more tightly on the roads; they were unable to scrape down to the pavement in most places. None of the sidewalks were clear, so the hearty souls that had cabin fever and had to get outside – kids, dogs, reluctant parents, etc. – walked in the middle of the street.

Eventually, of course, the town dug out, schools reopened and things returned to normal (though the drifts hung around for a VERY long time, as you might imagine). Though I went to Syracuse University and had become quite accustomed to these “large weather events,” I’d always been ensconced on “The Hill” and didn’t have to deal with them like a “real person,” the way Owego residents always had. I didn’t have to drive anywhere, I didn’t care whether schools were open or not, I didn’t have a driveway to shovel and I didn’t worry about stockpiling my pantry because Marshall Street was a short walk away.

The people of Owego were (and are) used to such disruptions. Just another day in Central New York.


Remembering Owego 20 (???) Years Later …

January 24, 2013

Twenty years ago this month, I started my first full-time, post-college, professional newspaper job in Binghamton, NY.

I still remember getting the call with the offer, standing in my parents’ foyer talking on the kitchen phone, which was a dial-up wallphone with an extended cord. I had moved out of my rental house in Syracuse, having completed my classes at the end of December, and stopped in Binghamton on the way down I-81 for the interview. The job was in a bureau about 17 miles West of the paper’s main office, a small town called Owego.

My memories of being there are mixed. The village had yet to enjoy the resurgence that came about 10 years ago when more and more New Yorkers began to flee the city for Upstate, wallets in hand and reinvented lives in mind. Its roads were understandably rough, the weather taking its toll every year. Each year the same routine would unfold – snow and ice in the winter, road repairs in the summer … and somewhere in between budget battles and debates at village meetings.

That said, there was – as I remember it now – a quaintness to it that was beyond endearing. A line of shops, which happened to house the paper’s bureau, backed up to the Susquehanna River. The county’s historical society, located in the village, was a focal point for residents proud of their village and wanting to share it with the outside world. Dedicated groups of volunteers gathered regularly to promote events taking place in the village and begged the paper to cover them.

Even the coldest winter days had a certain warmth to them – a sort of “we’re all in this together” mentality. There were times even then when I wished I had come there later in life (rather than at 21) so I would appreciate it more. My ambition at the time outweighed my interest in such matters, but that’s a story for another day.

Of course, now, the village has “arrived.” Having been named one of America’s Coolest Small Towns in 2009 (http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500174_162-4946306.html) Owego is the destination that so many there wanted it to become. Though the village has suffered mightily in recent years as a result of a flood in Sept. 2011 (http://www.google.com/search?q=owego+flood&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=QSYBUdygDInp0gG_9ICICA&ved=0CC0QsAQ&biw=1024&bih=643) it is coming back. Residents are rebuilding and businesses are renovating. The village seems to have survived disaster – not at all surprising to me, an outsider.

Throughout 2013, I’ll be remembering my time in Owego and writing about it here. If you get a chance, look it up in your travels. In the meantime, more to come …


Costco, Carts and Cars

January 3, 2013

Good morning.

It’s early and the traffic is picking up outside, people going back to work for real, not just to share stories of unwrapping and eating too much but to actually work.

Others, however, will spend today the same way I spent yesterday – at Costco with the retirees, their full carts and many, many cars.

What a trip. Mom and Dad finally got new phones. (I’m sure the Verizon folks manning the desk got a kick out of Mom’s c. 1983 flip phone.) And I learned that, though the apparel sections within the store are its largest, fitting rooms don’t exist – unless you buy the item, try it on in the rest room and return it straight away if it doesn’t fit.

Sigh.

Unlike previous visits – usually after church on Sundays – the sample selection left much to be desired, as well. The post-shopping hot dog and diet Coke made it worth it, though.

Coming later: The Technology Learning Curve.


Want an international food adventure without leaving your own home?

January 1, 2013

Check out http://globaltableadventure.com/. Sasha is eating her way around the world – 195 countries, 195 meals, 195 weeks. She’s in the S’s now …


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