Be careful what you wish for — June 1, 2022

Be careful what you wish for

I have clear memories of longing for à la carte TV offerings. Indeed, I can remember saying on multiple occasions back in the day that I wanted the satellite or cable service to provide à la carte menus.

By the way, Merriam Webster defines à la carte as “according to a menu or list that prices items separately.”

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, who doesn’t know that?”

Well, I didn’t know the meaning until I was a grown adult and established in my career. One day, when I invited a friend to lunch at a cafeteria, she asked, “Is it à la carte?”

You live and you learn. You also start sprinkling conversation with new phrases you’ve learned. Hence, my yearning for à la carte TV.

Back to that. I sort of got what I wanted. I cut the satellite and cable cords and added a streaming service. By doing so, I saved dozens of dollars and rid my life of channels I never watched. I told myself I’d occasionally add and drop streaming channels, aka apps, for something like five bucks a month and have access to oodles of content.

I didn’t do that. Primarily because I’m cheap. Whenever someone suggested I watch a series, I’d perform a search. If said series wasn’t on my streaming service or one to which I had access, I’d hesitate. Then the suggesting someone would screech, “It’s only five dollars!”

Only?

That’s just one channel/app, though. Each one you add is roughly five bucks. Captain Obvious popping in to let you know those five bucks add up.

But it’s more than the money. All those years ago, when I longed for à la carte, I saw a future where all these channels were already on my TV, and I simply clicked on what I wanted to watch. I did not realize I would need to create accounts with passwords and payment information.

I also did not see a future where creating an account and password would be the proverbial straw that broke my proverbial back. I don’t just have to want to watch something before I’ll go to the trouble of creating an account. I need to watch it.

So, yes, I did add another app a few months ago. I should also share that it was on sale, that the series that drew me in was merely meh, and that another account user and I have found oodles of other stuff to watch on this app.

Otherwise, as of this writing, I’m even hesitating to add a free trial for another app.

It requires the creation of an account and password.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

You never know — February 16, 2022

You never know

Last week I shared my thoughts on the first few days of the Olympics. But guess what, dear readers? There’s been an entire week of the Games since I penned those thoughts. You know what that means.

  • Whilst penning the aforementioned thoughts, in which I wrote that I didn’t care for alpine skiing, I was literally watching alpine skiing. It gets better. I stayed up past midnight-thirty watching the sport…that I had stated in print I find boring. But I also find it strangely captivating. The athletes speed down mountains at 60 to 70 miles per hour. (Fun fact: Until my young friend pointed it out, I didn’t realize the graphic in the corner of the screen that legit features numbers and the letters MPH indicates the speed at which the skiers race.) Although the athletes look like they’re out of control, they know what they’re doing and I’m sure the poles serve some sort of purpose. Even if I’m not sure what it is or how the skiers maintain control. I know one thing, though. I wouldn’t even make it out of the gate.
  • I found a U.S. men’s curling match on the TV over the weekend. Recalling how much emotion I invested in the U.S. gold medal winning team (Shuster) in 2018, I told myself history would not repeat itself during this Olympiad. I lied. Twenty-four hours later, I have caught parts of two other men’s matches and one women’s match. As of this writing, I am concerned about both U.S. teams prospects for the Games. On an unrelated note, their uniforms are too busy for my liking.
  • This isn’t about the Games, per se, but NBC plays the same commercials over and over. They’re advertising movies and series that will soon make their debuts. For what it’s worth, I am not being paid to promote these shows. (Oh, how I wish I were.) But the dramatic reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air looks pretty good. I did not watch the original. I also did not watch that Tiger King nonsense, but they’ve made a movie about it, and the actress playing Carole Baskin sounds just like her. As I do not have Peacock, I will not be watching either of these programs. I am excited about The Thing About Pam, which dramatizes the 2011 murder of Betsy Faria and Betsy’s infamous “friend,” Pam Hupp. If you’re a regular viewer of Dateline, you know the thing about Pam. By the way, I’ll swear on a stack of photos of Viggo Mortensen that from the first Faria-based episode of Dateline, I knew Pam’s story did not add up. Too bad the authorities in Missouri didn’t do the math. Perhaps they could have saved one man’s freedom and another’s life.
  • Back to the Games. In separate conversations with my mom, my bestie, and my young friend, we’ve discussed the danger that looms over the winter Olympics. As my young friend says, when it comes to the Winter Games, it’s all about blades and speed, both of which can kill you. Think about it. The snowboarders jump, what, 50 feet in the air? But even when they fall, they seemingly hop up like they’re made of rubber. But under the category of you just never know: According to the medical examiner’s report, actor/comedian Bob Saget died after accidentally falling and hitting his head in a hotel room.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The Olympics now and then — February 9, 2022

The Olympics now and then

The winter Olympics started last week. As of this writing, I haven’t been able to devote much time and attention to the Games. With that said, I do have thoughts on the Olympics, which I will now share.

  • It seems like every time I tune into Olympics coverage, one of the networks is showing a women’s hockey game or the luge. And it seems like the voices of the female commentators commenting on the two disparate sports sound an awful lot alike. I said to myself, “Self, it can’t be the same woman. What are the chances that one person is that informed about hockey and the luge, and that the sports’ schedules allow her to call all these events?” Spoiler alert: It’s not the same woman. I can’t decide if the two ladies have vocal fry or if they’re just bored, but their voices annoy me.
  • Speaking of the luge…I’m not much of a fan of it or the bobsled or the skeleton. Or of alpine skiing. Make no mistake about it, I will watch the expletive out of all these sports during the Olympics. And I have mad respect for the athletes who spend decades training for these dangerous sports. I realize they’re competing at something like a million miles an hour and risking life and limb every time they squeeze into sleds or slip into skis. But watching the events is kinda boring. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow they’re going. It all looks the same to me. The luge/bobsled/skeleton would interest me more if they raced against one another. That’s why, when it comes to skiing, I prefer cross-country events like the ski and shoot aka the biathlon.
  • Whilst discussing the Games with a young friend at work, said young friend admitted she had only recently learned of the 2002 figure skating judging scandal in which the French judge alleges she was pressured to award points to the Russian pairs figure skating team. I congratulated her on educating herself on world history and told her the scandal consumed me back in the day. The Russians were awarded gold and the Canadian pair, who gave a flawless performance, the silver medal. After an investigation revealed shenanigans in the judging, the International Olympic Committee awarded a second set of gold medals to the Canadians. Separate Netflix and Peacock documentaries document the scandal. Anyway, when my young friend referenced the Canadians’ costumes, I asked, “Gray?” I cannot remember people, places, and things from my actual life circa 2002, but I can remember what color costumes the Canadians wore. I told you the scandal consumed me.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Walter the cat, winter edition — February 2, 2022

Walter the cat, winter edition

Folks, I have some good news! There’s a new Walter the cat commercial!

When we last saw the adventurous feline, he was fishing, herding cattle, treeing other cats, and gathering firewood. In other words, he was engaging in stereotypical canine behavior.

The newest advertisement, titled Walter in Winter, begins with the gray tabby growling – or was he barking? – as he brings his leash to his human, who asks, “You want to go out, Walter?”

It looks like once again, Walter will be engaging in stereotypical canine behavior. Only this time, in the snow!

Over sounds of Harry McClintock’s “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” which also played in the previous commercial, Walter and his human traverse snowy roads in a pickup. In fact, from all the shots of the pickup, I suspect the point of the commercial is to advertise the truck.

But Walter is the star. He and his human hike on a snowy road, with the human advising Walter to pace himself. They play hockey on some sort of outdoor frozen surface. Walter relieves himself against a fire hydrant when they stop at a shop for supplies. When they go camping, Walter dines on a bone, which prompts his human to ask, “Where’d you get that bone, pal?” (Seeing as there’s nothing around their tent but the truck and lots and lots of snow, that’s a reasonable question.)

When he and his human ride a snowmobile, Walter wears little goggles. When the mailman makes a delivery, Walter gives chase, which prompts his human to admonish, “No! No! No! He’s a civil servant!” Walter also leads a team of huskies. (I’m not really sure what task he, the huskies, and the human are trying to accomplish.)

Near the commercial’s end, with nothing but his little paws, Walter digs out a skier who has taken a spill or been snowed in by an avalanche. Or something. Frankly, the skier doesn’t seem too distressed. Regardless, Walter is a hero.

The skier, much like a character in the other commercial, seems flabbergasted by Walter’s canine-like behavior. After the skier mutters, “That’s incredible,” Walter’s human misinterprets his statement as a comment on the pickup – there’s that expletive truck again – and happily lists the truck’s amenities. When the skier says, “No, I meant the cat,” it’s Walter’s human’s turn to express surprise. People act like they’ve never seen a cat before, he grumbles.

His reaction is understandable. He’s used to cats being awesome.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Oh, happy day — December 8, 2021

Oh, happy day

My sisters and I have always enjoyed a close relationship. Sure, they hurl accusations of hatefulness my way and I deride Pam’s ear-splitting witch’s cackle and Kathy’s ability to fall asleep whilst holding a scalding hot cup of coffee.

No, there’s nothing like that sisterly bond.

But, a few years ago, a wedge developed between us, a wedge that threatened not only our relationship but my freedom of speech.

You see, I developed a theory, which turned into an idea for a column. I mentioned the theory to Pam, who said, “No, you can’t write about that.”

Since I value her opinion, I decided to remain silent. Yes, I decided to keep my readers in the dark. It’s a decision I grew to regret.

Anyway, a few days later, Kathy approached me and said, “Pam told me about ____. Don’t write about that.”

I held my pen for two reasons: We were celebrating the holidays and I wanted to prove to my family I’m not nearly as hateful as they believe. But I said to myself, “Self, how much longer are you going to allow them to silence you? How much longer are you going to allow them to abridge the freedom of the press?”

But after my sisters once again ordered me not to write about this controversial subject, I thought, “That’s it! No longer will I remain silent!”

So, at the risk of ruining my relationship with my sisters, I shared my theory with newspaper readers and now I’m sharing it with you: I think Fonzie and Mrs. C had an affair.

What, you ask? Arthur Fonzarelli, the cool, motorcycle-riding, leather jacket-wearing, thumbs up-giving, shark-jumping mechanic on Happy Days carrying on with the all-American housewife Marion Cunningham? Surely I jest.

Surely I don’t.

This is the Fonz. This is a man who could make a dead jukebox come back to life just by pounding on it with his fist. Do you think Marion could resist that kind of electricity?

Need more evidence? What about their nicknames for each other? She purred his first name “Arthur” as if she were auditioning for the lead in a Marilyn Monroe biopic and whenever he called her the scandalous sounding “Mrs. C.” she came running.

In a holiday-themed episode I watched around Christmas that year, Fonzie was frustrated because a blizzard left him stranded at Arnold’s restaurant and unable to reach Mrs. C. Meanwhile, she was stuck at her house, equally frustrated yet resplendent in a vibrant green floor-length dress and upswept hair. Oh, some might say her disappointment arose from her physical distance from her children and her cuckold husband, Howard. Not me. I recognize subtext when I see it.

Either my sisters refused to see the truth or they didn’t want me to share the truth with the world. For the sake of our relationship, I have chosen to believe the former.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Turkey TV — November 24, 2021

Turkey TV

When it comes to Thanksgiving TV, no sitcom approaches the hilarity of WKRP in Cincinnati’s 1978 classic “Turkeys Away.” Most of the episode sets up the reveal and Les Nessman’s description of the parking lot carnage. The episode is available on certain streaming services and cable providers. If you watch every year or if you haven’t watched in years or if you’ve never watched, do yourself a favor this Thanksgiving and find it. You will laugh and laugh.

Everybody Loves Raymond also aired a few classic Thanksgiving episodes during the show’s nine-season run. There was the Thanksgiving Debra decided to serve a fish instead of a turkey. There was the year Marie decided to serve a tofu turkey. Then there was the year the Barones spent the holiday in Pennsylvania with Amy’s family. These exploits played out in 2003’s “The Bird.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with the show, Everybody Loves Raymond revolved around the aforementioned Barones, specifically Raymond, his wife, Debra, Ray’s intrusive parents, Frank and Marie, and his hapless brother, Robert. Robert dated and later married the aforementioned Amy.

I’ve learned that a lot of people don’t like the show because they consider it to be mean-spirited. I, on the other hand, consider it to be a documentary.

Of all the Thanksgiving episodes, “The Bird” is the best. Whereas the Barones are loud and obnoxious, Amy and her family are quiet and reserved. As you might expect, the two families clash on Thanksgiving Day.

Firstly, Frank is offended when he discovers that Amy’s family doesn’t own a TV. Things take a darker turn when a bird crashes into the house and Amy’s mom, Pat, takes care of it.

By takes care of it, I mean she kills it.

The Barones express outrage when mild-mannered Pat puts the bird out its misery. Debra, who had taken the children out of the room to prepare for a family pageant, returns to find the respective family members sniping at one another.

Next, Ray and Amy’s brother, Peter, (Schitt’s Creek fans will recognize the actor as the man who brought Roland Schitt to life) legit remove their shirts and … you just have to watch. You also should stay alert for an ironic line Frank utters at the end of the show. You can find Everybody Loves Raymond on various networks and Peacock TV.

By the way, although “The Bird” provides 22 minutes of brilliant TV, it’s not even Everybody Loves Raymond’s greatest episode. For that, you will need to watch “The Canister.” As you might expect, that episode is all about a canister. After you watch all the Thanksgiving episodes and WKRP’s “Turkeys Away,” find it. You’ll laugh and laugh.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Hashing it out — September 29, 2021

Hashing it out

As I’m sure all of you know, Sept. 27 marked National Corned Beef Hash Day.

Then again, dear readers, you might be asking yourselves, “What the expletive is corned beef hash?”

If you’re asking yourself that question then, unlike me, you were not forced to endure The Little Rascals’ short film, All About Hash.

When I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, we watched The Little Rascals as we waited for the school bus to lumber up the holler each morning. We might also have watched The Three Stooges, but I wouldn’t swear to that in court.

I will swear in court that I never enjoyed the Stooges or the Rascals. But what could I do? I didn’t control the TV. Furthermore, we had only five channels. What else were we going to watch?

Regardless, the aforementioned hash episode has stayed with me. According to my memory, Darla was upset because her parents argued every week about…hash. It seems her mom made hash out of leftovers and her dad just could not deal.

My memory wasn’t entirely reliable. When I researched the episode for this-here post, I learned it was Mickey’s parents who argued about…hash. But when the rascals put on a radio show – I am not making that up – to teach Mickey’s parents a lesson, Darla played the mom. So, I did remember Darla being upset about…hash.

At the time, I had no idea what they were carrying on about. All these years later, I still don’t. Our friend, Wikipedia, didn’t have much information on corned beef hash, but a website called Days of the Year offered up this on the topic:

“This is a meal that became popular throughout and after the Second World War. Because of the rationing that occurred during these years, fresh meat was very limited in availability, which resulted in corned beef filling the gaps. Cooks used their creativity, experimenting with leftovers, spices, and herbs to make different dishes. Nothing was wasted during these years, with stretching meals a main priority.”

The website added that there are no rules when it comes to making corned beef hash and encouraged cooks to get into the spirit of the World War II era and use whatever is in their refrigerators and pantries.

As a fan of leftovers, I encourage that, too, but I will not be making hash anytime soon. I have also never had corned beef. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it. I thought I had, but I was thinking of dried beef, which comes in a jar that’s not much bigger than a container of Vick’s. (By the way, my adorable great-niece calls Vick’s “gray rub.”)

Anyway, I’m semi-obsessed with meat that comes in jars. But I guess that’s a different post for a different day. Wonder if there’s a Meat in Jar Day?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Men in tights — May 12, 2021

Men in tights

As I might have mentioned, I’m a recovering professional wrestling fan. As I also might have mentioned, my former fascination with wrestling — pronounced rasslin’ at the Goff Estate – used to surprise certain people.

I never understood why. After all, wrestling is a soap opera, featuring men in singlets and shorts. And if there’s one thing I’ve always loved, it’s a good soap opera, especially one featuring men in singlets and shorts.

Of course, the professional wrestling my siblings and I grew up watching on WTBS didn’t feature the over-the-top storylines that came to dominate the genre. It did have storylines, though. Not that I can remember any of them, but I can remember being heartbroken by the turn of a heel or when one of my favorites lost an important match.

I can also remember watching wrestling with my poppaw, the late, great Rufus Goff, but not with my dad, the late, great Burton Goff. Daddy was not a fan. He never let an opportunity pass to tell his children that the entire enterprise was fake and ridiculous and not worth our time. He’d cross his unibrow and say, “You know it’s not real.” Well, yeah. “Then why are you watching it?” Because.

Later, when we were adults and wrestling had morphed into a dazzling display of loud music and rude behavior, he would shake his head, sigh, and glance sideways at his children and grandchildren whenever he had to so much as endure a 10-second clip of a show. He must have been wondering where it had all gone wrong for him.

Perhaps I should have suggested to Daddy, a serious soap opera fan, that it was like a soap and the wrestlers were simply characters. Then again, in my analogy, I’m not sure which one would have been the Undertaker — John Black or Stefano. So, maybe it’s just as well that I kept that to myself.

Anyway, although I’m not a prude, over time, I started wincing more and more whilst watching wrestling. One night, I legit said to myself, “Self, I can’t do this anymore,” and I turned the channel. I haven’t watched in years, but I have tuned into A&E’s “Biography: WWE Legends.” They’re profiling eight legends — Steve Austin, Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, Booker T, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Mick Foley, and The Ultimate Warrior. If you’ve missed the original airings and you’re so inclined, check your local listings for the reruns.

The bios have given me a chance to discuss wrestling with my niece, Valerie, who alerted me to their existence, and to reminisce about my days as an active wrestling fan. It’s also given me the insight that if John Black and Stefano had solved their problems with a cage match, it would have spared a lot of people a lot of pain and heartache.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Make use of — April 21, 2021

Make use of

Approximately six weeks ago – after months of deliberation – I cut the cable cord and switched to a streaming service that offers live TV as well as access to a library of shows and movies.

I can’t describe the process as painless. Indeed, there are aspects of cable that I miss including their handy onscreen guide and the old people TV stations. Otherwise, streaming and I were getting along fabulously until last Sunday night.

With a baseball game on the TV and the laptop in my lap, I was living the dream. Suddenly, an alert popped up on said laptop. It seems my Internet company was warning that I was danger of reaching the limits of my Internet usage.

Oops!

The company offered an upgrade – for a price – but any longtime reader of this-here space can predict my reaction to that offer. As soon as the game concluded, I stopped streaming and did not resume until my next billing cycle began six days later.

Yes, that means I missed Aaron Rodgers’ second week as guest host on Jeopardy!

At this point, you might be asking yourself two questions, “Self, didn’t she realize all that extra streaming would result in more Internet usage? Also, self, doesn’t she have unlimited usage?”

As for the first question, apparently, I hadn’t realized it.

As for the second question, I’m assuming you’re new around here. On the other hand, one of my besties, a person who has known me since college, asked the same question. As if I would pony up the money for unlimited usage.

For the final week of the billing cycle, I checked my usage obsessively. Thankfully, regular net usage doesn’t utilize many bytes. To be on the safe side, though, I didn’t watch any social media videos of cats and only accidentally shared gifs last week.

But I can’t live in a silent house. The over-usage was caused, in part, because I had been utilizing streaming music services during work days instead of listening to my music. I will not make that mistake again.

A bigger problem is that I was streaming nonstop the rest of the time. In fact, occasionally I streamed on the TV in the living room whilst simultaneously streaming music on my iPad as I walked on the treadmill in the evenings. I also streamed on the TV whilst reading. And cleaning. And cooking. And weed eating. And showering. And, well, you get the point. Such is my need for background noise that one weekend I streamed a lacrosse game. Or was it a match? Beats me because I know nothing about lacrosse.

I did have the good sense to turn off the TV and the streaming device when I left the house or who knows when I would have received the alert from the company.

Thanks to that alert, I didn’t go over. But if I had gone over because of, let’s say Aaron Rodgers, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But if I had gone over because of a lacrosse game/match that I didn’t even watch? Oh, I would have kicked my own expletive for that.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

It was a week — March 31, 2021

It was a week

This week, everyone was enthralled by the saga of a man who might or might not have found shrimp tails in a box of cereal and with a big-expletive boat blocking the Suez Canal.

As for the tale of the alleged shrimp tails…all I have to say is that I only buy brand name cereal when purchasing for someone else or purchasing for myself with a coupon. And I’ve never found anything but cereal in my boxes of cereal. You can extrapolate that to mean whatever you wish.

As for the big-expletive boat…I am not nearly as enamored with this story as are my fellow galaxy mates, but I do wonder how the big-expletive boat managed to become dislodged in the canal. Where was it going? Why was it turning in the middle of said canal? I dare say that Capt. Stubing never allowed the MS Pacific Princess to become stuck in a waterway.

Regardless, I haven’t spent much time worrying over these matters because I’ve been mourning the back-to-back deaths of actress Jessica Walter and author Larry McMurtry.

Walter amassed oodles of credits during her 60-year, Emmy-award winning career. But for many of us, she came to personify Lucille Bluth, the character she played on Arrested Development. Indeed, on the afternoon of Walter’s death, a friend messaged me that Lucille Bluth had died.

In the days since Walter’s passing, I have consoled myself by watching clips of Lucille and giggled again and again at her unparalleled ability to roll her eyes, judge another character with only her eyes and a frown, and deliver a biting line. All whilst holding a martini glass.

I was still mourning the loss of Lucille Bluth/Jessica Walter when the same friend messaged me about the death of McMurtry, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove and oodles of other books.

The obituaries for McMurtry have described him as an unsentimental author of the American West. I’m simplifying it, obviously, but anyone familiar with his work would agree with that assessment. My sister, Kathy, has read dern-near every work of fiction McMurtry penned. This weekend, she told me she couldn’t finish one book in particular because it was too dark. I told her I can’t finish one series in particular because I know it will end with the death of the main character. As long as I don’t finish the last book, he will live forever.

Of course, no one lives forever, including McMurtry’s fictional characters. As I sit here, I can remember turning a page more than 20 years ago to discover the fate of a beloved character. I immediately threw the book across the room and I, a woman not prone to fits of sentimentality, began weeping. I briefly cursed McMurtry for killing the character and for letting the readers know her fate.

But he had to do so. He had to be true to his story. And such was the power of his stories and his characters that their fates still move me. I can always revisit the books, though, where I will find the characters alive and alluring.

Just as I can always re-watch Arrested Development and find Lucille judging everyone as she day drinks.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.