Tag Archives: torture

Lame Adventure 386: US Open Tennis TV Watching Strategy

In July, my thieving cable provider, Time Warner, increased the price of my service $4, raising the monthly cost to $109 including taxes and fees. This was for digital TV with no premium channels and “lite” Internet i.e., Internet so cheap and slow it could easily be mistaken for dial up’s Tai Chi practicing spawn following hip replacement surgery. That $109 tab brought me to my breaking point with these professional swindlers. I canceled my TV service, returned both the cable box and leased modem, and purchased my own modem to cease paying the Time Warner leasing fee ‑— which increased this month from $3.95 to $5.99. Next, I spent $9.04 to upgrade my Internet to Standard grade. My TV is a pre-digital era set, rendering it obsolete, so until I figure out a way to unload it, it is now an 86-pound paperweight. I signed up for Aereo, a streaming TV service where I can watch all the major broadcast networks on my computer to the tune of $8 a month. Now I spend less than $45 including taxes and fees for both Internet and TV. The $64 in savings will be applied toward my upcoming $54 rent increase October 1, so until then, I will party hard with this extra ten dollars in my pocket.  Maybe apply it toward something whimsical like a curling stone.

I seldom watch TV so I cannot say I miss it. At the moment, my most pressing TV programming concern has been accessing US Open Tennis. By upgrading my Internet, I am streaming the entire event for free via USTA.org. Sweet! Over the Labor Day weekend, I streamed CBS’s coverage via Aereo. I felt so thrilled with my cost-effective decisions, I did a happy dance, but I immediately twisted an ankle when I got images like this.

All you can watch buffering here.

All you can watch buffering.

The buffering went on so long that I completely missed the rest of that tiebreaker. So, I had a brainstorm. While watching a match on my computer via CBS, I would simultaneously stream it on my iPhone via the app for USTA!

Desperate times calling for desperate measures.

Desperate times calling for desperate measures.

Pure genius, if only my eyes could swivel like Marty Feldman’s.

Ironically, whenever a TV commercial played on CBS, there would not be any buffering at all.

Happy Hump Day from Geico.

Happy Hump Day from Geico.

I called Time Warner to investigate if my Internet upgrade was working properly.

Me: Or is Standard service supposed to work like a geriatric hamster drawing its final breaths?

Time Warner: It looks like your Internet is a bit problematic. We’re putting a 24-hour watch on it.

I wondered:

Me: Like a dying hamster deathwatch?

I asked:

Me: What exactly does that mean?

Time Warner: Every five minutes over the course of the next 24 hours, we’re going to monitor it. You can also run a speed test yourself.

I did that, too. Pictured here is my result.



I have no idea what this test is supposed to be telling me, but it streamed well.

Much of Monday’s day session got rained out.  During the rain delay my streaming was perfect. Both picture and sound were clear as a bell.

Streaming pride or the middle finger of streams?

Streaming pride or the middle finger of streams?

To take my mind off my combined Internet frustration and tennis accessing anxiety, my pal, Coco, texted me after walking past the Chobani Greek-style yogurt store in lower Manhattan.

Add this to the bulging file of useless factoids.

Add this to the bulging file of useless factoids.

When play resumed, my streaming also resumed hanging. It has occurred to me that the problem with my Internet could be that the USTA site is  globally accessible, so I am competing for my drip of stream with the entire world. I am already anticipating that when I try to stream the finals over the weekend, I will be subject to more hanging, crashing and rebooting. It seems that I just can’t win. But I suppose my pain could be worse; I could find myself subject to a lightening fast return serve from Serena Williams aimed straight at my person — as she did to Sloane Steven. Broadcaster Al Trautwig called Serena, “The Lamborghini of women’s tennis.” Speed test her, Time Warner.

Serena delivering a pain in the ego.

Serena delivering a direct hit at Sloane.

Lame Adventure 374: Disappearing Act

Over the years I have seen many plays and musicals with Milton. Nothing is better than seeing theater magic with one’s dearest friend and fellow theater whore. But every so often, we draw the short straw and see a dud. That is exactly what happened the other night when we attended the Lincoln Center Theater production of Nikolai and the Others.

Nice cover.

Nice cover. When can we go home?

Since we’re members of LCT, we get the discount ticket price, $40. Non-members pay $85. When we see theatrical gems like South Pacific for pennies on the dollar, we gloat, but when we see the theatrical equivalent of a sedative, we snore.  Or at least I did.

The play was set in the Connecticut countryside in 1948 where several prominent Russian artists living in the US have gathered for a languid talk-filled weekend. They talk, they eat, they talk more and I sleep. George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky are two of the characters. They’re collaborating on adapting “Orpheus” into a ballet. We even see a small preview of that ballet as imagined as a work-in-progress dance by the playwright Richard Nelson and the director, David Cromer. I regain consciousness for that dance segment, but when intermission finally arrives a fortnight later, I blurt:

Me: I feel like I’m being held hostage!

Milton blurts back:

Milton: If you want to leave right now, I’m completely okay with it!

Was I content with attending only $20 worth of this production? Even though I completely lost consciousness through approximately $18.47 worth of my ticket’s price, I have a natural aversion to walking out on shows that cost me my hard earned shekels. I reason that I can survive sitting though another hour of this yak-fest, but if we left early, I can also get a jump on cleaning my bathroom, a project that would be so much more stimulating. Milton senses my ambivalence about what to do. He turns Ninja and goes for the kill.

Milton:  What if you only have one hour of life left? Would you really want to spend it watching this?

What a horrible way to go, literally bored to death. I know I hate this play, but maybe there’s a pleasant surprise in the second act, maybe there’s a live animal on stage. Last month, when we saw the flaccid Broadway adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s there was a cat actor playing the cat called Cat. Milton observed about the cat that played Cat:

Milton: The cat was the only actor on stage that I liked.

Me: The cat’s what got me through it.

We later learned that we were actually watching the cat understudy for it did not look like either cat in our Playbill, Moo or Vito Vincent.

Mystery understudy cat at our performance?

Mystery understudy cat at our performance?

Back to our more recent situation with Nikolai, Milton reads his Playbill. His eyes widen in horror.

Milton: Oh, my! We just saw the short act. It runs another hour and a half after intermission!

Less than five minutes later, Milton and I are out on the street breathing in the cool night air. We embrace our liberty. Milton declares for all to hear on upper Broadway:

Milton: I much prefer breathing, walking, moving, anything to having to watch any more of that!

Me: Why was it even staged? It’s not very theatrical.

Milton: Michael Cerveris [the actor who played Balanchine] must have an expensive mortgage. Were you awake for any of it? Every time I looked over at you, you looked asleep.

Me: I enjoyed watching the actress that played the ballet dancer Maria Tallchief.

Milton: You liked her? How could you? She was so thin! All I saw when I looked at her were bones. Bones sticking out everywhere! Ugh! Eat a sandwich, please!

Me:  Date-wise, yes, I prefer women I’m not going to cut myself on, but I thought the dance sequence was good. Did you at least like the guy?

Milton: Yes, I did. He was beautiful. What buns on him!

Me: If you were so fixated on his ass, we could have stayed.

Milton: Those buns of fun weren’t enough to keep me in my seat.

When I return home, I finally read Ben Brantley’s review in the New York Times. This is my favorite passage:

“”Nikolai and the Others,” … cannot be recommended to people of limited patience. Honesty compels me to mention that there were an appreciable number of empty seats after intermission and that the elderly fellow behind me, who stayed on, snored heartily through most of the second act.”

Can of Red Bull atop trash can outside my building when I returned home. I would have needed at least three to retain some semblance of consciousness during that play.

Can of Red Bull atop trash can outside my building when I returned home. Every Nikolai audience member should receive a complimentary one with their Playbill.