It is a wonderfully cool, near autumn, mid-September, southern New Hampshire Sunday morning as I'm writing this. The sun is bright, the coffee is strong, Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volume II is playing on the stereo.
We recently received notice from Comcast that our TV service will no longer include two of the local PBS affiliates.
If you know anything about me, you know not carrying any PBS is a crime against god and nature. No more Masterpiece Mystery (let's not get into how WGBH has so butchered the Masterpiece and Mystery franchises in the past few years. Whither Cadfael? Whither Nostromo? You give me Sherlock? And not Jeremy Brett but some post adolescent schmutnuck? Not to mention that you feel a need to bleep certain words. (Really? I mean, Really?).
And while I'm here, can we please stop taking two weeks out of every month for fundraising?
No, you don't get to tell me that's an exaggeration. Two weeks out of every month is my take on it. If it's my take on it, it's my perception and because all perceptions are valid and nobody's an island, there are lots of people with the same take on it. Maybe if you stopped doing it you'd stop losing contributors?), no more Nature, no more Moyers&Company, no more Frontline, no more American Masters and you get the idea. No more excellent unedited, commercial free class movies on the local PBS affiliate's sister station, ...
Oh, the humanity.
But losing channels is nothing new. We've been at the same location since 1988 and seen our tv selections steadily and sometimes not slowly wither away.
We lost TheWeatherChannel long ago. We lost SciFi before it started showing WWE and became SyFy. We lost TBS, AMC, A&E, BBC, BBCA (The BBC stations, who sometimes use the tagline "We Speak English", are now part of the local Comcast's Hispanic package. Ah yeah), Bravo (long before it lost all value except for The Actors' Studio. We don't even know if that's still on), FX, ... We lost our Montreal station -- at least I can't find it -- and I did watch it just to keep up my ear for French. Hallmark is gone. We use to watch it for movies occasionally. Discovery is gone. It left shortly after it was taken over by Disney and began Disneyfying the science programs ("The iguanodon carefully cared for her children, nurturing and protecting them under her watchful eye for years after they hatched, all of which is demonstrated by the iguanodon tracks surrounding the nest while not stepping into it." No, there are no tracks in the nest because iguanodons don't eat whatever's between their feet or under them. "Her name was Lisa." No doubt you discovered this when you found the receipts for her tattoo.
NO! IT'S NOT SUPPOSE TO MAKE ANY SENSE! THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT!
And with each downgrade, we got a price upgrade.
More fun, every once in a while and when we're bored, we'll start at channel 2 and go up, one channel at a time, to see what we now have and have now lost.
We have CMT, but not always. No idea what gods are rewarding and punishing us on that one, but there you go.
We have lots of various shopping networks for things no sane person would purchase at the supposedly rock-bottom prices offered. We have lots of sports channels showing a variety of uninteresting (to us) sports.
We have some VH1 channels but not all. We have lots of Reggae, HipHop, Punk, Electronica, Rap, Christian, Country and Children's music stations. One Jazz, no Blues and a few Rock&Roll stations. We saw MTV's first video -- MTV was free, by the way -- as newlyweds working at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. We recently celebrated out 28th anniversary and no longer get MTV. Which is okay. They don't show many videos anymore and the ones they do show are for music that doesn't interest me.
But I can get a date, a workout or be preached to in five different languages (just not the one language I want) whenever I want.
And did I tell you about our "On Demand" selections? One is "Free Movies On-Demand" but only about half of the movies are free because you need to subscribe to the network (FX, USA, TBS, ...) showing the movie.
What does FREE mean these days? And even if you do subscribe to the host network, you're not getting the complete movie, unedited and in its original format. You're getting it in whatever format the host network thinks is most appropriate.
Sometimes I want to write those disclaimer messages you see at the start of edited movies. I'd write something like "We've removed every third scene in each act, any word that contains the letter "e", all characters that don't fit our concept of 'beautiful people' and any thirty second sequence lacking at least one totally unbelievable, denies all the laws of physics and has no relevance to the story line special-effects. Please enjoy your movie."
And the movies you do know you're suppose to pay for? That 10,000 movie selection thing? You really expect me to pay $2.99 for "Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombshell" or "A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell" or ...?
But I digress.
I just had to clear my psychic throat as it were. Now to my real complaint on this wonderfully cool, near autumn Sunday morning here in southern New Hampshire. The sun still bright, the coffee still strong and now KD Lang balladeering on the stereo.
Because we're fed up with paying more and getting less, today we took to that purveyor of all knowledge, the internet, to look for alternatives. I started by looking for tv system provider reviews in the Nashua, NH, area.
I don't know how Google does its rankings. I looked at three pages of tv system provider sites. About a third weren't in Nashua, NH. One was in Spain. I'm just a-bettin' they won't want my business. I'm a-guessin' their cable don't quite stretch that far.
I spent an hour trying variations on the "tv" "provider" "nashua, nh" theme. I tried alternative search engines.
I discovered that Angie's list requires a signin/signup/fee before it tells you anything (they accept no business funding so this is understandable. But how come they never tell you that in their advertisements? Or is it in the 3pt print at the bottom of the screen or page?).
I also discovered that lots of sites claiming to let you know the best offers in your area all redirect to the same sourcing engine. It's kind of like discovering Geico, Progressive, etc., all base their quotes on the same behind-the-scenes tool's findings and the only thing that changes the figures is whatever company paid the most for being on top for the time period in which you searched.
And the missing links and dead pages? Let's not even go there. I mean, you can't, because they're either missing links or dead pages.
Or the pages on major provider sites that don't load or hang or crash browsers (I'm using FireFox 15 or so). Comcast won the "Pages that Wouldn't Load", by the way.
I did get one or two pages of reviews...sponsored by the system providers, something like "Shitz2BU rates Comcast 14.5 out of 15 Customer Satisfaction Points". Do some back checking and fact checking and you'll discover all the reviews including the slightly negative one were generated by a company hired by the system providers to provide reviews, not people like yourself looking for something better, something that actually offers you what you want when you want it.
I mean, that's the internet's promise, isn't it? Everything you could ever want when you want it?
That's what everyone was promised, right? The internet would be an endless 25x8x2036 information stream directly into your home or anywhere else on the planet any time, any where, any when you wanted it?
Isn't that what you were promised? Isn't it? Huh? Huh? Huh?
But here, in what one would think is a totally reasonable search, I discover the foxes are not only guarding the chicken coop, they're whoring the chickens. It's an information stream, yes, and the stream is so polluted that you drink from it at your own risk.
And the pages that do work and do load?
How would you like to go through 81 pages of crap until you get to page 82 of who knows how many more only to discover that words used in your search do not a logical phrase make? And it doesn't matter if you use quotes to specify specific groupings, search engines will find what they think you want or what's best for you. Regardless of what you undeniably know you want.
Other gems (not simply a one-of, there were many like this...of course, any marketers reading this will stop at "there were many like this" and spend feverish nights coming up with even more irritating methodologies to invade your day) were sites that started talking, singing or otherwise making noise at you for no real reason. I mean, the noiseful blather never had anything to do with what I was searching for.
Not to mention that they interrupted Billy Joel, KD Lang and most recently Elton John's Greatest Hits (putting together this post didn't take up much of Elton John, by the way, to give you an idea of how long I was being pummeled by insipid, completely worthless and for my purposes meaningless search engine results and web pages).
But were there no pages of value, Joseph?
Well, no. There weren't. That's why I'm writing this.
Many of the pages returned from searches were so amazingly complex -- and I'm not counting the myriad ads, not all of which were relevant to what I was looking for -- with so many offers for so many things yet so few that I was interested in...
And marketers are wondering why there's no brand allegiance anymore?
And for the record, Susan told me to write this after the first hour of my commenting on how useless Google, other search engines, meta-search engines, and company web sites were.
Okay, I've cleared my psychic throat. Yes, this is a rant. I don't do them often because I'm a firm believer that nobody wakes up in the morning and says to themselves first thing, "Today, I'm going to be an a-hole."
I swear, I'm a firm believer in that. I need -- need! -- to believe that everybody's out there doing the best they can with the resources they have available to them, hence don't put down someone else's best efforts.
I need to believe that. I do. I do I do I do!
But I got to tell you, after wasting an hour and a half searching that make Frankl's Search for Meaning look like a calming walk in the woods, I'm no longer so convinced.
I really have to wonder...Are there really, truly a-holes out there?
And did they all end up in online marketing design?
Or is everyone who puts up a tv channel provider web page an idiot?
Tough choices. Tough call. Impossible probabilities.
And don't forget, don't attribute to malice what can be easily explained by ignorance.
But I repeat myself...
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