TV Cable a la carte

You probably saw the article earlier this month noting the Federal Communications Commission’s reversal about a la carte cable programming, or in the words of Ray Davies, “Give the people what they want.”

First off, I’m puzzled.

The story is clear that Congressional legislation is likely needed to effect the change, so it wasn’t as though the change came with the report, only the Commission’s position on cable programming. So the play it got confounded me.

Also, I’m suspicious.

I certainly don’t know if it would be cheaper or not to configure individual homes, this one with channels 1-25 and that one with channels 11-35, although it is counterintuitive to think that if they charge $50 for 100 channels, the companies will now start charging $25 for 50 channels. There are some fixed costs, I would imagine.

What I’m suspicious of is promises. The 1996 Telecommunications Act was supposed to create greater competition, and therefore lower prices for cable television. This simply has not happened.

Some analysts suggest that there will be fewer new cable cable stations, because without being bundled, people will be less likely to choose a not yet aired network.
Finally, I’m concerned.

I’m hoping that whatever is ultimately worked out makes some sort of provision for “must-carry” stations. It is local programming, generally news, that distinguishes watching TV in Detroit from Denver or Dallas. The homogenization of TV (and OK, malls and lots of aspects of American life) worries me. Maybe it’s windmill-tilting, but I like being able to turn on a TV in a hotel and actually have some idea where the heck I am, besides seeing the “On the 8s” graphic on The Weather Channel.

Oscar Poll; Dennis Weaver

The Internet Movie Database is taking an unscientific poll, asking for people’s “dark horse” pick for the Oscar:
Jake Gyllenhaal for Best Supporting Actor 1881 (18.0%)
George Clooney for Best Director 1145 (11.0%)
Matt Dillon for Best Supporting Actor 998 (9.6%)
Keira Knightley for Best Actress 858 (8.2%)
Munich for Best Picture 797 (7.6%)
Good Night, and Good Luck for Best Picture 694 (6.6%)
Terrence Howard for Best Actor 631 (6.0%)
Capote for Best Picture 585 (5.6%)
Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress 572 (5.5%)
David Strathairn for Best Actor 518 (5.0%)
Other 451 (4.3%)
Steven Spielberg for Best Director 422 (4.0%)
William Hurt for Best Supporting Actor 327 (3.1%)
Judi Dench for Best Actress 225 (2.2%)
Charlize Theron for Best Actress 161 (1.5%)
Frances McDormand for Best Supporting Actress 143 (1.4%)
Bennett Miller for Best Director 34 (0.3%)
A total of 10442 votes were collected.
(as of 3 pm today)
I voted for Knightley, even though I never saw the movie Pride and Prejudice, because my wife liked her performance so much.

When my sister Leslie and I were little, we’d limp around the house, saying “Comin’, Mr. Dillon.” Somehow, this was terribly funny when we were 7 or 8. We were watching Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode, the limping deputy to James Arness’ rugged Marshall Matt Dillon, a role he played during the first half of the long run of “Gunsmoke”.

Later, I watched the fish-out-of-water “McCloud”, who was promoted to sheriff. He seemed to always get the bad guy, despite the doubts of New York City’s finest. McCloud was a 60-minute, 90-minute and 2-hour show on NBC in the early 1970s, often in rotation with shows such as “Columbo” and “McMillan and Wife”.

As a fine working actor, he took on many other parts, including on the the Simpsons, but I can’t help but to identify him by these two pivotal roles. He died on Friday, but I only heard today.

Sunday Funnies: The Black Comic Book, Pt. 7

The last piece on The Colored Negro Black Comic Book by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon. Yes, I know it’s Monday, but if Kelly Brown can do Weird Thoughts Monday on Tuesday, and her husband Lefty can do Friday Three Questions on Saturday, who am I to be a purist?

Note: in the comic strip tradition all the words in the strip are in capitals, but for readability, I’ve deigned to write in standard English. Also the words that are in bold in the strip are in red in this text.

“B.S.”, a 4-page reply to “B.C.”

Page 1:
White caveman (sharpening spear): What are you doing?

Page 2, Panel 1:
Black caveman (holding arrow): I am inventing something called the wheel…
Page 2, Panel 2:
Black caveman: What are you doing?

Page 3:

Page 4:
Both cavemen dead, one from spear, one from arrow.
Cave boy: What did they do?
Father: They just invented brotherhood!

All they were saying was, “Give peace a chance.” There were a lot of songs about getting along at the time, notably “Friendship Train” by Gladys Knight and the Pips: “Unrest between races must come to an end.” That song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, who wrote a number of “message” songs for the Temptations.


“Brother Blackberry”, a 1 page parody of “Brother Juniper”, not in Toonopedia, but in my local newspapers when I was a kid.

Well, if God did make us in His/Her/Their image… There are lots of pictures of black Jesuses in black people’s homes I visited, even to this day.


“Likriss Sikniss”, a 1-page reflection of “Dennis the Menace”

Some things that one wants to avoid have no race.


“Believe It or Watts!”, a 2-page riff on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”

Page 1:

Page 2 (left side)
Nude man sitting in steamy area:
Narrative: This black man has slept in a hot coal bed for fifteen years!! (Before that, he was an idiot albino from Kalamazoo!)

Page 2 (right side):
Tree carved with word “black”.
Markings found on a white birch in Caucasia, Pa. The tree is owned by Mrs. Fiona Black, whose son carved his name into it.

(In arrow): Look what can be done with Sidney Poitier’s name:
which involved the words Hi, Doris Day (from the D and O in his name), plus Rosh Hashona, apple, Ship, parsley, Altoona, Nipsey, CORE, and NAACP in crossword form

The first page was a pretty OK piece, but the second generated a Huh? from me.

And that’s it, except for these final thoughts:

Thanks to the anonymous correspondent who identified the Little King as the antecedent for “King Coal” a couple weeks ago. It has been rectified in the original posting.

The book publisher, Price/Stern/Sloan, also put out other books at the time, including You Were Born on a Rotten Day, The Power of Positive Pessimism and my favorite, the Wit and Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew, which was a title page, followed by a bunch of blank pages.

It was great to find something that the comic book fans, which I (marginally) still am, would appreciate.

The Lydster, Part 23: B.L., L.S.

Lydia’s doing OK, getting over an ear infection and a persistent cough, talking more, growing. She walked down the stairs by herself yesterday, not using the railing, but leaning on the wall, for the first time; I didn’t help her at all, but I was two steps below her, you’d better believe. Since her birthday is next month, I thought I’d write about life before Lydia.

Ever since the beginning of this millennium, we’ve been – how do you Americans put it? – “trying”. For whatever reason, it wasn’t happening. So we were “tested”, me first because it’s “easier”. So when it finally happened that Carol was pregnant, we were excited, but also stunned. I had all but given up hope, and I was OK with that. So now, we have to rearrange our focus.

One of the things I thought I would do when Carol was pregnant, then after Lydia was born, was to keep a journal for her to read when she got older. Well, the journal was used before the birth, but not at all after the fact. Indeed, this blog was created, at least in part, so that I could note Lydia’s development at least once a month.

In some ways, the best part of the early part of the pregnancy was that period of about a month between when we found out and when we told our parents. It was our little secret, wonderfully conspiratorial.

Naturally, we needed to go on vacation – who knows when we’ll be able to do THAT again? – and we picked an inn in Poland Springs, ME, (yes, near where they bottle the water), a quirky place that was quite reasonable. If they say dinner is from 5 to 6:30, you’d best be there at that time, for at 7, the room is transformed into the entertainment center. One of the particular rules is that there be no children, so we know we’re not likely to be there again anytime soon.

Carol’s friend Alison started referring to the expected baby as Little Soul, which we adopted. It beat saying “him/her”.
8/7/03 – Ultrasound. LS is 6 mm long
10/15/03- Ultrasound, LS heart beating strongly. we opt against the amniocentesis.
10/17/03- The news goes “wide” about LS.
11/7/03-Lots of people are being very generous to us, giving us clothes, toys, equipment.
11/12/03- Went to a specialist and saw a “Level 2” ultrasound. LS’s body has the right amount of fluid, the brain is the right proportion. weight: 11 ounces. Due date 3/31/04. But LS was positioned so we could not determine the gender, which was OK.

12/3/03- Putting together a CD for LS (finished 12/23). LS is “making it difficult for her mother to sleep, which is making it hard for ME to sleep.”
12/29/03- Gave Carol CD for LS’s 0th Christmas. “It is my desire that you develop an eclectic taste in music (not necessarily mine, though some overlap would be nice.)”
1/2/04- “Lots of people ask, Do we want a boy or a girl and what type of person (shy, showy, etc.) we want. Don’t care. You’ll probably be smart (it’s in the genes), but I hope you’ll really appreciate music. Doesn’t have to be the music I like, but I’m thinking you’ll come around eventually.”

I was reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to Lydia yesterday. It was a version that our babysitter Anne gave to her. It’s illustrated by Gill Guile (love that name) and published by Brimax of Newcastle, England, copyright 1995.
I thought I knew the story until I got to the last page, which reads:
“Now the three bears always make sure that the cottage door is locked when they go for a walk in the forest. They do not want anyone else eating their porridge, breaking their chairs or sleeping in their beds.”
I missed that part in the version I grew up with.

Don Knotts, R.I.P.

Someone asked about black and white vs. color movies recently, and one could make a case for each. But Don Knotts, who died yesterday, was the perfect character inside that TV set in the mostly black and white film Pleasantville.
Of course, he’s best known as Barney Fife on Andy Griffith Show, a five-time Emmy winner. The show suffered greatly after his departure. I watched religiously for the well-meaning, but inept deputy to mangle something that Sheriff Taylor would put aright. But Barney always had a good heart, right under the pocket where he usually kept that one bullet for his gun.

I even watched an episode of Matlock, just to see Andy and Don back at work.
He almost was enough to make me watch Three’s Company, but not quite.
Johnny B. notes the death of “Kolchak: the Night Stalker” star Darren McGavin.

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