TV Without TV

The BGF has been throwing around the idea of nixing the cable for some time. It's costly, no one watches it that much, and what we do want to watch we can get online. It'd better if we didn't have it.

Would it?

If I were to break down our TV viewing patterns, it wouldn't be consistent. It's not about summer viewership being low either. There are plenty of year round shows or seasonal shows or documentaries that don't live or die by sweeps week ratings. But let's take a look by person. I won't include time slots because most of the time we DVR everything. It's rare I habitually watch a show as it airs unless I'm just too excited to watch it, or it's a news/commentary program.

Mr. Austin - In no particular order, these are the shows I watch or will be watching in the next year. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Rachel Maddow, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, Lost, Doctor Who, Fringe, Dollhouse, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, hockey games with the Avalanche, football games with UT, Air Force or the Denver Broncos, Futurama, V, The 2010 Winter Olympics, the 2010 Tour de France, the 2010 World Cup in S. Africa, possibly Day One and Flash Forward. This doesn't include random "hey what's on" episodes of The Cosby Show, M*A*S*H, Discovery Channel/History Channel/Science Channel shows or movies.

Ms. A and Miss LA - In no particular order and since they watch TV together, it makes it easy to group them together. I have no idea what they plan on watching or even if they care about what shows are coming out soon. I also may have these wrong. The Closer, The Office, 30 Rock, Entourage, Hung, In Treatment, Big Love, Raising the Bar, and Grey's Anatomy. They also watch Fraiser, Golden Girls and Will & Grace. They don't watch as much news as I do, and unless LSU is playing UT, they don't want sports either. If there's a documentary about marching band, Ms. A is all over it.

The kids. The kids watch what they want, but early in the summer, Ms. A put parental controls on the upstairs TV so on G and Y shows were allowed. Even Spongebob was off the list at Y7. This left most of LMA's tween shows out of the mix. However, they can be found watching: Phineas and Ferb, Handy Manny, Imagination Movers, Electric Company, The Mighty B, Spongebob, Wizards of Waverly Place, Ni-Hao Kai Lan, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. They like watching science shows with me; Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs are among their favorites.

So that's a few shows. Roughly 30 regular broadcasts plus more event type things that only last a few weeks. The networks are all different as well. The ladies watch TNT and HBO almost exclusively. I watch Sci-Fi (screw you I'm not calling it SyFy), Comedy Central, MSNBC and the docu-science channels. The kids watch Noggin, PBS, Nick and Nick Jr.

But here's the question. Can you get any or all these shows without cable? How much can you get with just over the air broadcasts or watching online?

Most broadcast channels offer the option to view the latest episode of most of their shows the next day. Comedy Central and MSNBC will do the same. Sci-Fi Rewind offers some of their line up, mostly about a week after and after that it's only a handful of the latest episodes. It's good if you missed it the first time around, and that's what most stations are going for. If you don't have a DVR but have access to the internet, you can catch up on a show you missed recently. No one has backlogs of MacGyver or Falcon Crest, but new and popular network shows you should be able to see.

But can you ditch cable and still watch the latest and greatest shows?

Yes and no. It's obvious you can, by the next day, watch anything from the big four. You can watch recaps or full episodes from CW, Comedy Central, and a few shows from SyFy. Even if you wanted to watch Project: Runway on Lifetime, you can catch the first episode online. Most big time sporting events have a live feed and even offer more options if they're covered by a worldwide market. Versus offered a live streaming video of the Tour de France, but you could get that from French sites as well. The World Cup will likely have multiple outlets covering it. NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB are all available in some capacity online and live. (Not sure about Nascar.) Kids channels constantly play episodes of their cartoons online. Discovery and History and Science Channel have enough content that'll keep you busy and raise your IQ without worrying about it being a new episode or a rerun. You can even watch Cosmos online.

Add YouTube and Google Video and Hulu to the mix and you'll start making a case for never having to order cable again. But, if you like having everything show up on your TV, you'll have to find a way to connect your laptop or PC/Mac to your television and that you have decent internet connection that'll allow the kind of streaming you'd want.

Also, no HD. As much as the BGF hates when I grumble about dpi quality and aspect ratio, I love HD for Discovery Channel and sports. They want TNT HD for The Closer and NBC HD for the Office so I know it's being used.

But, if you just wanted to watch the show, yes. I believe you could get away with watching many of the shows you watch now without having cable.

Don't tell Ms. A I said that, she'll cancel it today.


End of Summer

In Awe
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Thus ends the summer.

The last couple weekends have just been packed. Between shopping and derby practice and house reorganization, the BGF at Four Pines was just crazy. The adults had parties and work and practices and meet ups with friends. The kids go to see the circus and finally got their own rooms.

School starts this week.

And it starts for Ms. A too. She starts at Austin Community College today. I don't know what her classes are, but I know she's going in for a social and psychology area of study. After graduation she wants to get a teaching degree as well and go into social services.

Lil G-man starts kindergarten tomorrow as well! I got a call last week from a phone number I know I recognized but didn't know why. It was their school and my first thought when his teacher introduced herself was that one of the kids was in trouble. Then I realized they weren't in school yet.

So we get to take supplies to their room today and meet the teachers. There was an orientation last week but we missed it, scheduling issues. But that's the beauty of having a 3rd grader already in the school: We already know what to expect.

G-man is going to have either the time of his life or the worst few days ever. He's completely wrapped up in his home and his sister and his mom. Aside from the few weeks in day care and the summer he spent at the Montessori school (which seemed a lifetime ago) this will be a long time away for him. My hope is he makes a lot of new friends and is so distracted by the experience he won't have time to miss anyone.

Everyone always says, "Well, plus his sister will be there." Yes, she'll be in the building, but it's not like they go to a small school where all the kids are in the same room. She'll be in a different area of the school, have lunch and recess at a different time and likely won't see him till after school. We'll be taking him to his class by way of her class so he feels better knowing where she is, but that's probably as far as that interaction will go. I don't remember seeing my brother at school outside of the walks we took to and from each day and even then, as we got older, we went with our friends.

But G-man is a bit of a loonatic. He's hyper and moody and likes to talk in sound effects. In other words, he's a five year old boy. As much as Ms. A tried, he hasn't pick up much reading yet. He knows what the letters are and what sounds they make, but he's just now getting to the point where he knows that words are made up of letters and being able to tie them together. I hope he doesn't get frustrated in school.

I hope they don't try to make him take a nap.

Carry on.


Review: District 9 (spoilers)

The only name you'll recognize in the credits for this movie going in is that of Peter Jackson.

The name you will remember for a while long after seeing District 9 is Sharlto Copley.

The ads for District 9 oddly give away little about the major plot of the movie and that in itself was masterful. The commercials give the impression there are aliens living on Earth against their will and an all out war is taking place. We're trying to keep them here but for what reason? An interrogated alien in a dark room says in its rumble and click language that they just want to go home.

That's really all the ad says that's true. That dark questioning room isn't even in the movie.

The story starts with news recaps of the aliens and their arrival above Johannesburg, South Africa. Notably, the commentators find it odd that this hovering, city sized craft did not arrive over New York or Chicago or Tokyo or London or any other typical point of fictional alien contact. But as we later find out, there's a parallel reason to having them being plotted to arrive over a country known for apartheid.

We quickly catch up and find that the aliens are stranded, their giant mother ship inoperable (but apparently operable enough to remain about 1500ft above the city) and they have some technology we can use but not a lot of intelligence. They are called "prawns" in a derogatory manor; they resemble crustaceans and they feed and live off of human trash. They eat cat food. They are put in a shack community called District 9, but the conditions there are horrible and the neighboring denizens want them gone. MultiNational United (MNU) a fictional South African based conglomerate, organizes a move for the million and some prawns to a new tent settlement called District 10, 200 miles outside of Johannesburg. They've lived in District 9 for 20 years. Some MNU people such as Van De Merwe can understand them and they can understand us.

That's where the story picks up. We meet Wikus Van De Merwe (Copley), a middle management nerd who has been promoted to head up the great eviction of District 9. We see footage of friends, family and coworkers talking about him but you get the sense they are talking about him as if he were dead. You begin to think something horrible is about to happen, and that tension lingers throughout the movie.

The film is shot in a mix of traditional action camera work, CCTV angles, documentary footage and news clips. It chronicles Van De Merwe as he and an MNU force storm through D9 in order to serve each prawn (who likely can't read) an eviction notice. Along the way they find illegal weapons and activities and Van De Merwe's actions become callous and almost excitedly unfeeling. In a scene were he clinically but enthusiastically aborts a whole nest of fetal prawns, we begin to get the stomach churning idea of how humans really feel about these creatures. We want their weapons but can't use them. We want them gone but are unwilling to help. Our best effort seems to be segregating and forgetting about them instead of communicating with them to reach some kind of peaceable coexistence or help them go back home.

There is more to the story, but I'll let you see it for yourself. It's a lot I did not expect and will let it unfold for you as it did me, hopefully pleased by the experience. This was a hard movie to watch in that there were social implications and scenes of violence and brutality that were very visceral but undeniably human. The morality play was obvious and writer/director Neill Blomkamp pulls no punches but does not try to preach about the way human beings deal with what we fear and what we see as different. It would seem no matter what race, religion or even what planet you're from, human beings will want to segregate you and only an insane amount of conflict will change our minds. It wasn't told from a holier than thou standpoint, as though Blomkamp thought his tale was better than its viewers, but rather it was used as a backdrop to tell the story of one man coming to grips with his humanity.

Copley's performance is stunning. He came out of nowhere, apparently getting this role because he was a friend of the screenwriter. But I bet you he'll be an international star very soon. His transformation is really quite impressive and the absolute pivot for the entire film.

Don't go in expecting anything. The closest thing I can relate this to is Enemy Mine but you'll just have to see it.

My criticisms are of the nerd variety. We don't know what the aliens are really called. We don't know where they are from. The movie ends much like a typical Earth regional conflict in that it doesn't end. It was a single event in a larger conflict. We don't know why the aliens are here and we don't know if they'll ever leave.

This was one of the better movies I've seen in long time. It's a definite diamond.


Happy Birthday Cheryl

Roller Girl
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Ms. Austin turns 'leventy thfour today.

She's battered, bruised, loved, and lingered. She's played flute, done pushups on asphalt in the summer and paid someone to put ink on her back. She's owned a business, raised two kids, put up with a geek husband and found herself and a new love.

She's gonna be a roller girl. She's jumped out of an airplane. She has AP credentials. She took family wedding photos with Karl Rove. She's going back to school.

She has a head like a rotten peach and if you bump it, she sees fireworks and speaks Farsi. She both drinks too much and not enough. She quit smoking.

She's a fearless flirt, a compassionate caretaker and a stubborn sexpot. What she doesn't know, she'll learn. What she can't learn she fakes. What she can't fake, she delegates. She's quick witted, sly, clever and loves laughing really loudly.

She's loyal, supportive and giving, provided you don't give her reason not to be. She keeps her friends close and her enemies closer. She keeps her skeletons away from the closets. She's a party animal in PJs. She likes home cooked meals at outdoor festivals. She likes beer with lime. She doesn't like bagels.

She's pretty cool.

Please wish her a happy birthday.



Kind of a filler post, but this is something I always think about. Plus, Twitter is down so I have to do something.

Have you ever thought about what you'd do with Three Wishes? Let's say there really is a lamp with a genie, or let's say the most powerful organization in the world offers you hush wishes for your knowledge of how Zelda is a mind control test gone wrong. Regardless, you have three chances to ask for something; something wonderful and extravagant and fulfilling.

What do you wish for?

Ever since the movie Bedazzled came out, my thoughts on this subject have changed. More often then not, the story of the genie is always one of knowing what you have now and appreciating it or realizing that acquiring things can only lead to suffering and heartache. The genie or devil or wildly wealthy benefactor always seems to twist your words and you end up with literally what you asked for, but not in the way you'd imagined it. You want a million dollars, so you get a winning lottery ticket. The problem is, it's all taxed and you end up with 500,000 dollars, plus undue family and friend attention, and all that goes with the windfall award. You wish to be famous and suddenly you've been turned into a serial killer who's murdered 20 nuns on a 14 state spree. You wish to be in movies and you are now an unpaid intern for an independent film company.

Knowing things can be interpreted differently the broader the scope, I started thinking of ways to get these elaborate things without confusion and I ended up running mental circles and keeping track of long statements laying out exactly it was that I wanted. I didn't want there to be any misunderstanding, any room for interpretation. The wish was to be as concise and as simple as possible.

This meant wishing for simple things.

There's just too many ways you can become rich. You could be a drug lord, or running a human traffic ring or just a regular gang member. They are technically well off because they avoid paying taxes and don't generally deal with a payroll department. The point being you could be any number of salacious individuals whose power and status have made them well off. But would you want to live like that? Would a wish like this need to be more well defined or simpler?

Think about what you'd really like. Do you want to be rich or do you want to be well off? Do you want to be fabulously wealthy or comfortable? Are you willing to trade your life for another just to be able to accommodate the trappings of a large bank account?

To me the answer is sadly pedestrian. I know that money doesn't solve everything and it doesn't bring happiness. But I'm practical enough to know that when people in my house get paid, everyone relaxes for a day. The stack of bills doesn't seem as big because some get taken care of. Our gas tanks are filled, our fridge is stocked and we even some times have enough to take a night out to forget that we have to work for the next 60 years. Or we buy our selves something we've needed put have constantly put off, like an oil change or a pair of shoes or a toy for the kids.

I like my job. It affords me time off when needed, the people are nice, the company is respectable and for the most part is less susceptible to market conditions. It's not drawing or writing for a living, but it's good work. What I'd wish for is a 10% raise on my salary without changing jobs. I'm not going to live outside my means, but knowing you can leave below your means makes it even sweeter when suddenly you don't have to. All I want is to be able to take my lady out on dates, take my kids to movies, make sure people have birthday parties with presents, gas in my well tended to car, chewing gum in my dashboard when I need it and the ability to buy a breakfast sandwich once in a while. I'd like to take my family out to eat once a week. I'd like to take a weekend road trip and not worry if I can swing a hotel room.

There's a song by Ingrid Michaelson that has a line which says, "Let's get rich and buy our parents homes in the south of France - Let's get rich and give everybody nice sweaters and teach them how to dance." It's a wonderful notion and yes it's a song that requires fanciful and lyric twining of words, but the idea of being comfortable and friendly and giving with your wealth is especially endearing to me. But it again shows how careful you'd have to be wishing to be rich.

But wait, I have three wishes.

I think the easiest thing to do is to wish for something that would make you happy for a little while, but is not able to be twisted. Being rich and powerful and famous leaves the door wide open. Being happy or not worrying in general can be something twisted into a blissed-out drug induced existence. Even something like world peace can be taken wrong. An Earth without humans is a world at peace, right?

The Bhagavad Gita (among others) teaches us that material possession is unseemly and should be avoided in favor of spiritual awareness, but does allow for gradations or levels of enlightenment. Buddhism talks of moderation in all things, we can only assume that means materialism. Some schools of philosophy teach us that things don't make the self, the world does not make the self, sometimes the self doesn't even make the self. But there is, in all these cases, something to be said for creature comforts.

That said, I love Lego. I love Star Wars Lego and I'd love to wish for every set Lego put out, but that would mean I'd have no room in my house to put them up. I'd also have to be careful how to wish for it. I don't want EVERY SINGLE Star Wars Lego set because I'd be receiving every single one, removing them from other people AND ensuring I'd need a warehouse to hold them all. I'd have to say something specific, "I wish for one of each set of Star Wars LEGO." Actually, I'd probably wish for two of each so I could trade with other people for different types of sets and parts. Then for storage or display I'd figure it out on my own. I'm sure eventually I'll have enough room to have a Lego room where I can build and store, but for now having the sets would be great.

It's an exercise, a game. I'm not as greedy and materialistic as all this may seem. It's fun to think about, but you know practically that you make your own way in life and what you do along the way and how many people you can impact positively is more important that how much you have when you die. We all want what's best for our family and friends and given the opportunity, I know most of us would wish for their health and happiness.

Wait, three wishes?

Finally I'd wish for a Snickers ice cream bar because those things are delicious.

Carry on.



Originally uploaded by xadrian.
I was told by my contacts numbering in the low single digits that I have not LIVED until I've had a Shandy or another concoction of sparkling citrus or fruit juice combined with beer.

To me the two are stand alone refreshments and frankly I'd pick a fruit juice over a beer any day. I love orange juice like most people love chocolate. It makes my knees weak and every time I drink it I finish with one of those post coital sighs.

So the thought of mixing my nectar of the gods with the hoppy nectar of man was not pleasant at all. I'd instantly imagined a worst-case-scenario in which the taste would be something akin to three day old warm OJ + a beer you left out from a party last weekend. The mental image alone triggered my gag reflex.

But, being the open minded idiot that I am, and realizing I'd been putting lime juice in beers for a while, I thought I'd give it a go.

My first experiment was straight OJ + Modello. It was just half and half over about 4 cubes of ice. It wasn't bad. I can see the draw as it was refreshing at least. I've tasted worse and were I to mix in a shot of amaretto, it might work out. There was just nothing special about it and I found myself wishing I had just drank the beer or the OJ instead.

Next came what you see in this photo. Bass plus Jarritos Mango Soda and Stone IPA Ruination plus Jones Berry Lemonade.

The Bass and Jarritos was nice and I found the more soda you put in the better. It started to taste like a hard cider (of which I am a huge fan) and less like a soda beer hybrid. I didn't have enough left to try the other way of more beer and less soda, but I can safely say that a third of Bass and two thirds of Jarritos Mango was actually tasty.

This does not hold for the other combination. I would go as far as to say the other mix was the foulest mix of liquids never before seen on this Earth. Given this back snapping gag of a drink, it was decided to try them individually; maybe the choices of mix were poor. Turns out the Jones soda was fine. It was a Jones soda that tasted a little like a citrus cotton candy - possibly a little too sweet.

However, the IPA was the most horrendous thing I've voluntarily drank. It was liquid mothballs. Put some insulation, butane and a Coors in a blender and then drink it. The label actually says it's there to ruin your palette and they are not lying. Avoid this beer at all costs.

That's STONE RUINATION IPA (Indian Pale Ale.) I don't care what your hipster friends say, it's fucking disgusting.

Which meant the experiment was 1 for 2. The Jones with the Bass wasn't too bad, but that Jones soda was a little sugary and not enough fruit taste. I hope to do some more of these, but as with this test, I always follow up with a known good quantity of Hardcore or Woodchuck.