Cord Cutting is getting better— but more expensive

TVHubby and I haven’t had cable in more than a decade, and we’ve been with without DirecTV for a while now. Instead, we have watched Netflix streaming (including the DVD feature) and Hulu. Then, there’s YouTube, which gets better and better, but those ads are oh, so annoying. A service that we seldom used at first, Amazon Prime, is getting better, and they are offering something quite interesting: channels ala carte. You can take a look at that here:

Join Amazon Channels Free Trial

My favorite service, still, is Netflix, but as original programming supplants purchased programing, I’m liking it less. Since we are fans of college football, I have been buying a subscription to SlingTV each fall. While it too is getting better, Sling has ads and a plethora of “infomercials” that can be watched on demand. Yep, I paid $40 for the full package, and I get the opportunity to watch ads, short and long. And, this year I keep seeing “your event is blacked out.” The on demand offerings seem quite arbitrary, as sometimes there are multiple episodes available, but on other days there are fewer. Needless to say, if this continues, I won’t even give Sling its seasonal run in the future.

Netflix is about $29 per month (for a family plan + DVDs), Hulu is $9 per month, and Sling is $40. Amazon offers benefits beyond streaming, so let’s add another $5 to the total. That makes $83 per month for online entertainment; each service overlaps a bit, yet each offers something unique. YouTube, HBOgo, CBS all-access, and others would love to have some monthly moola, so clearly there needs to be one service that provides everything (cable + DVR?) Disney has been teasing two different services in the future, one for entertainment and one for sports. If they do, the fracturing of the entertainment empire will probably get worse.

Right now, cord cutting is more and more in vogue, but one of the big players needs to add live sports. Whichever one can manage that will win enough customers to have more buying clout with networks. I’m not a gambler by nature, but I’d pick Amazon to win, Netflix to place, and Hulu to show.

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Shameless self-promotion

From Goodreads.comDirtball Cover: “extremely unique”

From Amazon.com: “Well written”

Trina Cole McQueen, the middle child of a wealthy shipping family, had been doing her duty as a pilot in the Confederation Fleet, knowing that when her service was done, she would rejoin her family. One evening, while on liberty from her ship, Trina is abducted by agents of the Confederation’s arch enemy, and soon Trina is on a one-way trip to the most primitive planet she has ever seen.

Instead of being a fighter pilot, Trina is sold as a slave, on a world where a horse is the fastest means of transportation, and weapons have blades. Culture shock ensues, but Trina is a strong woman who has every intention of surviving her experience on “Planet Dirtball,” regardless of what she must do.

Kindle Unlimited readers can journey with Trina for free, but others will only have to pay $2.99 for the trip. Check Pilar Savage’s novel via Amazon:

Link to Once Upon a Dirtball on Amazon:

Beauty and the Beast— on DVD

Beauty
Perhaps you are like me—I was interested in the latest Disney cartoon classic to live action reboot, but not enough to plunk down the money to see it in the movie cinema. So, you waited, or might still be waiting. Worth seeing? Yes or no?

Maybe. Sorry, but that is my best answer, having rented Beauty and the Beast (2017)  recently. I remember watching the animated one (on VHS!) with family members, and I thought then that it was state of the art for that style of animation. It still is, I would think. But, Pixar type technologies have, for the most part, left traditional animation of feature films in the dust of entertainment history. So, to bring this film to a new generation, Disney decided to do a combination of live action and modern CGI for the beast.

This film is very, very true to the original. Fans of the music will have no gripes, and the sets are simply amazing. The live action part of the new movie is darned good, but it is so faithful to the previous effort that it seems just a bit too “cartoony” if that makes any sense. For instance, I enjoyed the CGI teapot much more than the live actress. The same is true for most of the characters. The CGI beast, however, was just a bit to phony looking, so I liked the prince better.

If any actors stand out in the new film, my picks are Luke Evans who plays Gaston to the hilt, even if he isn’t really “as big as a barge” as the lyrics state, and Kevin Kline as Maurice, who makes the father seem eccentric enough to need his daughter to take up for him. Emma Watson does a very good job as Belle, although I don’t think she looks the part. If the credits didn’t name Ewan McGregor as Lumière, then I don’t think I would have known him, although I’ve always admired his work. Those who have stated that Disney only made this film to make money are correct, but Disney is a corporation whose main mission is to make money for its share holders, so that is not exactly a valid criticism.

So, back to the original question. Should you see it? Sure, why not? But, I must say, if I wanted to share it with children, I’d go for the original, which is still available: Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition.

Hidden Figures— review and commentary

I’m not much of a numbers person, but I know those who are, and I do admire “nerds.” The film (now on DVD) based on the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race is about space exploration, history, race relations in America, and math. I’m glad the filmmakers concentrated on the first three, because I got lost pretty quickly with the equation solved in the exposition.

I’ve always been a fan of clever titles. (I wrote Once Upon a Dirtball, you know.) Hidden Figures is a perfect title, because it conveys that this is a film about math and mathematicians, some of whom were “colored” and therefore not to be taken seriously by society, but, the script makes it plain that these brilliant minds were critical to NASA’s success.

The cast is outstanding, if a bit too good looking for the fifties and early sixties. The script is even better. Some of the lines in the film are no doubt fictionalized, but the prickly encounters between Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson and their white co-workers probably did happen. One of my favorite parts in the film is when John Glenn refuses to fly until Katherine checks over the calculations necessary for bringing his capsule back safely. However, in reading about Katherine Goble Johnson’s contributions to NASA, she calls it all “team work.”

When doing a “based on real events” known to the audience, such as we all know John Glenn made it back to earth safely, maintaining suspense can be tricky. By telling the story behind the scenes, those problems are mostly eliminated. Even the climactic scenes are handled with skill as the nation pauses to watch what happens with the flight of Freedom 7.

Whether or not you are a fan of science, technology, engineering or math, I think you’ll find Hidden Figures a great way to spend an evening. As of this post, the film got 93% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. And, I don’t always agree with that site, I certainly enjoyed this film. Rent it or buy it!

Sex, Lies, and Sweet Tea— a quick review

Yep, it is a book, an ebook as well as a paperback. Kris Calvert’s story is actually well-written, and I especially enjoyed the back and forth point of view between FBI Agent, Mac Callahan, and his new found love, Samantha Peterson. Each of them sees something special in the other, right from the outset, so their relationship moves swiftly. There are a few plot twists, mostly in the romantic realm, but the story kept me swiping the pages. There’s a great supporting character, Sam’s aunt Mimi, and a few cardboard cut-outs, such as the staff at Callahan’s inherited mansion. Still, it is a good read for the money (free for Kindle readers.)

Some other reviewers have stated that it isn’t realistic. Ho-hum. If I want reality, there are better ways to get it than via a novel. I rather like my fiction to be, well, fictional. As long as the author doesn’t push things too far, of course. Ms. Calvert does challenge the reader’s patience from time to time, but overall this novel is a pleasant way to spend a few evenings, for readers of romance, mystery, or suspense. The southern setting is just like sweet tea— both tasty and refreshing.

The Magnolia Story


A friend and I were talking about how much we love the HGTV show Fixer Upper, and she was saying she had just read the book about the hosts, Chip and Joanna Gaines. When I heard that, I’m like, “Hey, can I read it?” So, the next time I saw her, she had the book for me.

Now, I have to confess that I am not a stellar housekeeper, nor am I a good decorator. However, I am genuinely inspired by the show, and I did find the book fascinating. It is told from two first person perspectives, those of Joanna and Chip. A total difference in fonts makes this quite easy to follow. Joanna begins with a discussion how she was approached (in 2012) by a television production company, wondering if the offer to film the two of them working on homes was a scam. Chip was sure it was some sort of scam, but Joanna wasn’t convinced, so she talked with them a bit more. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history, of course. We know it was real, because Fixer Upper is in season four as I write this. So, Joanna goes all the way back to when she began dating Chip.

There’s a good bit of humor, as well as some insights into how difficult their lives often were, before the cash that comes with a hit television show enabled the duo to become the owners of the very valuable portfolio of companies that all bear the name of Joanna’s favorite flower, the magnolia. While the book is about the hosts, it does indeed concentrate on their businesses.

Rather than spoil it for potential readers, I will just say that the book is a more in-depth history of a somewhat familiar story. Chip had already begun buying up and fixing up small homes before they married. While he was a student a Baylor University, Chip realized that college students needed a place to live near campus. Their first home together was one of the rentals— the first available at the end of the semester. That home was the first one Joanna decorated, on the cheap as they were pretty much broke. Soon, they realized that together they could make some money flipping houses. Over time, their reputation was so good that locals began asking them to help with remodeling projects, large and small.

Because she enjoyed home decor so much, early on, Joanna found a small shop that they were finally able to purchase, and it was there that they first used the term “Magnolia” for a business. As the family grew, their businesses both expanded and contracted, but there is a common thread of hard work, good fortune, and a belief that things would work out for the best. Much has been made of the the pair’s faith in God. For me, this seemed to be secondary to their work ethic, but it is a constant aspect of the book, which is published by W Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, which publishes religious works.

For fans of the television show, this is a very good read. Yes, I’d like even more about how Jo learned design and how Chip learned to be an expert contractor, but the book is general in nature. There is a promise in the end that there will be a Joanna Gaines design book forthcoming, so I shall have to wait.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Magnolia Story.