Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Waiting for the Cable Guy

I am now officially off TiVo, and if you know me, you know this is a rather big deal. I've been a major TiVo advocate since 2003, to the point where I had two TiVo DVRs in my apartment up until last week. See, there'd be times, usually in September and October, when I'd need to catch three programs at once, one of them being the Red Sox and...well, the only way I could do it was by operating a couple of TiVo boxes. And a VHS recorder. It's complicated. And a little sick. But, as I tell anyone who'll listen, television is the only thing I do. I'm kinda like the shark in JAWS except for the making babies part. Substitute "watching TV" for making babies and I am the shark in JAWS. Except I don't swim. Okay, forget the shark in JAWS. But you get the idea.

Anyway, I purchased a nice 32-inch Samsung HD TV, so I acquired the Comcast HD box and DVR and after a week or so, it became clear to me that I didn't need TiVo anymore.

But as soon as I disconnected my TiVo boxes, the Comcast DVR broke down.


The Comcast DVR box I had was the third I had picked up from the Comcast office, which happens to be down the street from my house. The first two boxes I picked up already had the Comcast TiVo software installed. Except I didn't WANT the Comcast TiVo software installed, and, beyond that, if the Comcast TiVo software is installed in the box, you can't get it to work, because you don't have the various codes you are given to activate the damn Comcast TiVo box. Unfortunately, the clerks at Comcast just take the RECONDITIONED boxes out of their plastic RECONDITIONED bags and give you the box without knowing what's already programmed, which is why it took me three trips to Comcast to get a box that was not already programmed for TiVo.

Are you still with me?

I'm not.

So I get the third box and it works and three weeks later I stop TiVo and disconnect it and my second old Comcast non-DVR box (don 't ask) and bring that to Comcast. I get home, and the Comcast DVR now does not work.

I call Comcast. This is not the Comcast that is down the street from my house. Well, it is, but the person I'm talking to is not down the street from my house. God knows where she is. But I'm telling her I can no longer get any channels on my new Comcast DVR box. She sympathizes. I have talked to many Comcast phone operators and they are programmed to sympathize. Or empathize. Somethingthize. Anyway, she feels my pain and reboots my box (insert your own joke here) and I wait for something to happen. Nothing does. She reboots my box again. (Same joke, if you like.) Again, nothing happens. She says I need to make an appointment with a service guy. It's Tuesday. First open appointment is on Saturday. Does she understand whom she's talking to? She gives me the option to take the box back to my neighborhood Comcast in the morning. I keep the appointment, but take the box down anyway, covering all bases. I re-install it. It works fine. I cancel the appointment.

Next day, I record SEINFELD, which I do almost nightly, because I like to sit in front of the TV and watch SEINFELD while I dine. Eat. Whatever. I hit the "play" on the DVR and up comes Jerry and the gang.

But they are pausing. And tiling. And stopping. And going. And freezing. It is unwatchable.

I turn to live TV. It also is
pausing. And tiling. And stopping. And going. And freezing. It also is unwatchable.

I call yet another Comcast operator. The tone of my voice gets me $20 off my next bill. Because she somethingthizes with me. She reboots my box (I am starting to enjoy this), and reboots it again. I think Comcast operators like to reboot people's boxes. Nothing works. Still freezing. Then I make another service appointment.

Get up the next day, and the TV seems fine. I cancel the appointment.

Last night, I record SEINFELD again. Again, the freezing. Live and Recorded freezing.

I call Comcast. Again with the somethingthizing. Again with the rebooting. Again with the nothing. I make another appointment.

Which is where I am now.

However, I know it's the box. I know this. It's not the connection. It's the box. I just didn't want to bring it back on my own. Not again. I wanted a cable guy to come here and bring a box to me. I have become that person.

I will tell him (or her) that when the service is rebooted, it's fine, but when I record anything, it all goes to hell.

I hope to God he (or she) buys this, because I don't want to spend an hour watching him (or her) traipsing around my cluttered apartment trying to fix something. Just give me another box. That's all I need.

Preferably a new one. But that won't happen, because, I am told, all local Comcast DVR boxes are RECONDITIONED!

I am now within 20 minutes of the scheduled two-hour slot when the cable guy (or girl) is supposed to be here.

I am afraid. I am very afraid.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In Case You Missed Them...

It's the time of year when Ten Best Lists start appearing everywhere. Such lists are essentially inconsequential, given the subjective nature of it all, but every once in a while a peek at a Ten Best List will prompt me to check out a movie or a book that I normally would bypass. Such was the case this past week when I came upon a couple of Ten Best Lists in Entertainment Weekly.

(What, you thought I kept The Economist on the magazine rack in my bathroom?)

((Before I continue, however, I want to report that a play of mine appeared on a Ten Worst List in a local newspaper a couple of years ago. I subsequently discovered that the "critic" who compiled the list had not reviewed the play for publication. In other words, he told the world my play sucked [It did not, incidentally. It's called THE BIG APPLE and it's kind of funny in a frightening sort of way.] but did not have the guts to explain why. He just stuck it on his friggin' Ten Worst List. Boom. Like that. When word got back to the "critic" that I was upset because of his cowardice, he became all huffy and harumphy and continued to refuse to write a review. Therefore, I determined that, in any future reference to this "critic," I will always identify him as a "critic" in quotation marks. It's my little rebuttal.))


My scan of the Entertainment Weekly lists sent me to two films: ADVENTURELAND and (500) DAYS OF SUMMER.

ADVENTURELAND is written and directed by Greg Mottola, and features Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. Kristen's face is splashed over the entire checkout line universe as one of those TWILIGHT people. Eisenberg's claims to fame include something called ZOMBIELAND which must have generated some kind of interest because he's "in development" with ZOMBIELAND 2. He was also in M. Night Shyamalan's THE VILLAGE, which pretty much explains why he's not a household name. In any case, ADVENTURELAND is a relatively predictable coming-of-age movie, with "relatively' being the operative phrase here. What I mean is, that while what you expect to happen pretty much happens, the honesty and humor with which Mottola and his actors find their way to their conclusion is refreshing. And Stewart, who has the smoldering good looks one would expect from the female star of a vampire movie, turns in a nicely nuanced performance in a prickly, challenging role. "Coming of age" is not really applicable here, I think, because these characters are post-college, and any "of age" has pretty much come and gone. But their little story here is genuinely compelling, and the two stars stay with Mottola's through-line stride-by-stride.

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER is an even later coming of age story, directed by Marc Webb, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Webb, and featuring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I had seen him recently hosting SNL, and, of course, I had no idea who he was or what he had done to earn that job. Turns out he was on the TV series THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN and got the SNL gig because of the success of (500) DAYS. She has been around playing annoying cuties here and there, and I think I saw her for the first time on WEEDS a few seasons ago, being cute and annoying Justin Kirk's "Andy," among others. The storyline here, we've also seen before, because it would be very difficult to tell a love story, or write a romantic comedy, which breaks new ground in terms of the basic story. What's nice here, as in ADVENTURELAND, is that the writing is truthful and really funny, as opposed to being dishonest and faux funny. Plus, where we end up is in a little different place from where we usually end up in such films (although not really--there's a tag ending that we really could have done without--although not really). Both lead actors are terrific, and even if you've been annoyed by Zooey in the past, check this out. She will probably annoy you again, but that's kind of the point, unless you put yourself into the mindset of Gordon-Levitt's character, which you will, if you're a guy. And I am. And I did. Even though my age is going, rather than coming.

While neither of these films reaches the heights of the iconic SAY ANYTHING, each has its own charm, and each would be an especially fine New Year's Eve rental for those of you not braving the lunacy outside the house.

Me, I'll be watching Woody Allen's RADIO DAYS, as always. The best New Year's Even movie ever. Well, let's call it the "sweetest, most nostalgic" New Year's Eve movie ever.

Because there is, of course, THE APARTMENT, which is KING of them all.