Tag Archives: TV

How to Lower Your Cable Bill

As parents, we’re very into milestones. Unfortunately, not all milestones are positive ones.

Earlier this month, I received my monthly cable TV bill from Comcast (or Xfinity or whatever the hell they call themselves now), and something in me just snapped. It was $215 for wireless Internet, a cable TV package, and a landline — part of their Triple Play package. It had been much less in the beginning, but just kept creeping up and up and up until it became another car payment.

I’m partly to blame (and by partly I mean mostly) for this, as I’m an unmitigated TV nut. I have it on constantly, even when I’m not watching it. But usually I am watching it. Everything from news to sports to movies to sitcoms — you name it, I watch it.

But even a TV freak like me has limits, and $215 was mine.

When I stepped back and took an objective look, I realized a few things. First of all, there is absolutely no earthly reason to keep a landline. Second, yes we watch a lot of TV. But most of it wasn’t cable.

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I realized we almost exclusively use Netflix when we watch TV.  For $8.99 a month (plus the one-time $35 cost for a Chromecast to stream it to my TV in HD glory), we get thousands of movies, TV shows, and documentaries that keep us and our kids completely entertained. And while we do supplement it with a few other free and paid services, Netflix is the one we use the most by far.

Will, my 6-year-old, easily logs in to Netflix and chooses from his favorite titles we have set up for him. Things like:

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The Oscar’s Oasis one is especially wacky, and we would’ve never found it had we not been tooling around on Netflix looking for new stuff. Now it’s his favorite thing to watch.

But make no mistake, Netflix is hardly for kids. In fact, I’m pretty addicted to a whole bunch of shows including the following:

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Every month Netflix swaps out new movies and shows, and you’ll never lack for things to watch. Not to mention you’ll be paying as little as $8.99 to do it instead of hundreds of dollars. If you’re OK with harnessing the power of Netflix, then you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Even though you don’t want to completely cut the cord, you need to pretend you’re willing to do so when you call the cable company.

Most of their lower cost, special offers are for new customers. If that’s you, great. If not, you need to do a little wheeling and dealing. Telling them you’re planning to leave altogether usually does the trick and lo and behold, suddenly they’ll come up with some new offer they just started running in the last 12 seconds that includes you. Hooray. If that doesn’t work, don’t worry because you still have alternatives.

When Comcast wouldn’t offer us anything better, we simply ended my time as a customer there. And then we immediately began an account in my wife’s name with some downgrades. We gave up DVR and some of the premium channels, but kept HBO and Showtime. And by doing that, we were able to keep a lot of what we had but pay way, way less for it.

How much less? We reduced our monthly cable bill by $105 a month! I don’t know about you, but that makes a significant difference to my family. It can for you as well. Good luck!

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StreamTeamBadgeI’m happy to announce I’m now part of the Netflix Stream Team. Although I’m not receiving monetary compensation for my work, I have received free products and services. However, I’ve been using Netflix for years and my opinion, as always, is 100% my own.

Visit Netflix here to learn more or sign up for streaming, and check out the Netflix Facebook page as well.

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The Best Sick Day Activity for Kids

sicktvNot to be outdone by his little brother’s hospital stay earlier this month, Will decided it was time for him to spike a fever and give us a scare. But I quickly learned there is one thing more daunting than a 104.3-degree fever — entertaining a 5-year-old who is bored and trapped inside the house.

This is tricky business. You can’t go anywhere because he’s sick and you have to limit contact with other people. You can’t take him outside because it’s New England in winter and it’s FREEZING. It also doesn’t help that Will was so tired and his energy so depleted by this 4-day fever, that he really couldn’t be on his feet for very long before he’d start fading. Yet when he sat back on the couch he’d utter the all too familiar hue and cry of kids the world over — “DAAAAAAD, I’M BORED!”

So what do you do? If you’re me, you sit that kid in front of the TV all day!

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Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, and Why This is NOT a Free Speech Issue

robertsonThe one thing that is crystal clear to me in the wake of this whole Duck Dynasty flap (flap…ducks…get it??) is some people in this country have a completely misguided view of the First Amendment.

If you haven’t heard yet, Phil Robertson – patriarch of A&E’s Duck Dynasty show – was quoted in GQ saying some not-so-flattering things about homosexuality. That Robertson feels this way is unsurprising, given that he’s a 67-year-old camo-clad uber Christian from the backwaters of Louisiana. He called being gay an illogical sin — a sentiment I completely disagree with but frankly, I’ve heard far worse.

But he wasn’t content to just stop there. When asked what, specifically, he considers sinful, Robertson said:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Got that? According to Robertson, if you start with a gay person the next logical step in the sin spiral is fornicating with an animal. Because those two things obviously go hand in hand and certainly should be mentioned in the same breath as one another.

Also, just for good measure, Robertson implies that African-Americans living in 1960s Louisiana were happier before all that pesky Civil Rights nonsense brought them legal rights and basic equality.

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Oh boy. Yikes.

The backlash from GLAAD was swift and justifiably upset. Then, as expected, came the corresponding backlash from the backlash courtesy of the Tea Party conservative Christian right, who hailed Robertson as a folk hero being criticized simply for spreading God’s message.

Honestly, I thought it would be a non-issue for A&E simply because Duck Dynasty draws 14 million viewers and is a cash cow to the network. I figured it would be a slap on the wrist for Robertson and then back to business. But late last night, A&E issued a statement condemning the star’s remarks and suspending him indefinitely from the show.

And that’s when the crazies really hit the roof.

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My Son Was on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Kids. We love ‘em, don’t we?

That’s why, as parents, we work so hard to take care of them. We nurture them as babies, providing sustenance, food and shelter. We shower them with unrelenting love and guide them as they utter their first words and take their initial wobbly steps into the world. We wrap them in a blanket of love and security as they grow, because it’s important as parents that we always make them feel safe and protected. That bond between parent and child leads to a solid foundation of trust that should never be violated.

Unless, of course, you can leverage all that trust to trick your kid on video and put him on national television.

That’s right. Will was recently featured on the late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live. It was a bit Kimmel does in which he tells parents to tell their kids they ate all the Halloween candy on video, and put the reactions on YouTube. Now I know what you’re thinking — “That’s SO mean.” Well, the counter argument is it’s also hilarious. Don’t believe me? Check out the video. Will is at 2:52.

As you can see, the reactions varied. Wildly. And since we pull no punches around here, we can just say what everyone else is thinking: some of those kids are HUGE brats! Now you could argue they’re acting out because they’re being tricked by their parents. However, I say it’s moot. If your kid starts throwing water bottles and haymakers at you simply because his candy is gone, something is rotten in the state of parental Denmark. And the whining from some of the older kids? Yikes.

And even though this is a little underhanded for parents to do, I think it’s a nice test of how your kid reacts to and handles bad news.

Now to be fair, Will did cry. But even though he was sad, he still had the wherewithal to say “I’m not mad” and keep things in perspective. But what I’m really proud of him for wasn’t shown in the Kimmel video, but in the uncut version that I put up on YouTube. Take a peek.

The part I love is towards the end. He already thinks I’ve stolen his Halloween candy, and then I ask him if I can have his future candy that he hasn’t even collected yet. I thought for sure he’d tell me to take a hike, but instead he said “A little bit, sure.”

And that, my friends, is proof that my wife is raising this kid right!

Also, check out this video from a Plainville boy who was also on the show. He’s a really sweet kid and obviously being raised right. Must be a southeastern Massachusetts thing!

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Star Wars, My Son & The Force

There are two things I hate telling people because copping to either one seems to elicit scorn, distrust and general angst:

  1. I don’t drink coffee yet I’m a total morning person
  2. I’ve never seen Star Wars

The latter is especially egregious because I’m a guy. And in case you haven’t heard, guys love Star Wars. A lot. And not just the sci-fi geeks either. Hell, even if I find someone who doesn’t like Star Wars, at least they’ve seen it. But not me.

I don’t really have a good reason, other than my parents weren’t sci-fi people so I never got into the genre growing up. At first I wanted to see it to fit in, but I started REALLY resenting that look on peoples’ faces when they found out I haven’t seen it, along with the all-too-common “What?? You HAVE to see it NOW!” So because I’m just a little bit of contrarian by nature, I made a vow to never see Star Wars just out of spite.

I won’t lie, it was difficult. Star Wars is so ingrained in today’s culture, and there are references to it everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. I’ve heard so much about “the Force,” Luke, Leia, wookies, the Death Star, Vader, Jabba, the Dark Side, Sand People, Jedis, the Empire and why it’s VITAL to remember that Han shot first in the original movie, that I felt like I had already watched the damn thing without ever having laid eyes on it. Plus I’m a Kevin Smith fan and you can’t swing a dead hooker in his movies without knocking into a Star Wars related diatribe.

But it was really put over the top when I started my job last year, and found myself surrounded by some of the nerdiest sci-fi nerds ever to inhabit Nerdville. And, of course, they were all appalled when they found out I’ve never seen the movies. But more than that, they were HORRIFIED I had no plans to show Will the holiest of holy sci-fi films.

But a few weeks ago, Will was playing with a friend who had a lightsaber. He had never seen one, so he asked his buddy what it was. And his friend proceeded to tell him every last little detail about the movies. So of course, Will ran to me and asked me first for a lightsaber, and then wanted to know when we could watch all the movies.

Yikes. The moment I was dreading. But, since I’ve never seen it myself and I didn’t want to seem close-minded, I consented.

As soon as I mentioned this at work, my boss Wendy immediately brought me the first three movies, as well as the Clone Wars cartoon for Will. He devoured them all this weekend. Seriously. This is the kid who can’t sit still for 4 seconds, yet he watched the trilogy in the span of 48 hours. He loves it. Star Wars instantly leapfrogged Spiderman, Batman, Power Rangers and everything else to claim the #1 spot in his entertainment world.

To be honest, I don’t personally think the movies are that great. They’re mildly entertaining and I’m sure 35 years ago they were absolutely astounding. But it doesn’t matter because Will loves it. So because he loves it, I love it.

But I love the cuteness it’s inspired even more. Case in point:

While making Will’s lunch, I noticed I couldn’t hear him playing in the living room. Slightly worried, I walked over to check on him. And that’s when I saw him standing next to the dog — perfectly still concentrating all of his energy — with his outstretched hand pointed at our golden retriever palm down. His face was scrunched up tight with squinted eyes, and it looked like he was muttering something.

I said nothing, I just watched in silence waiting to see what would happen next. Suddenly our dog saw me looking at her and instantly started wagging her tail with the giddy anticipation of an ear-scratch. Will stepped back, smiled, looked at me and said “Dada, I used The Force to make Haley’s tail wag. I’m a Jedi!”

OK…so maybe I like Star Wars a little bit.

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