From the category archives:

Entertainment

I have been a Videotron customer for more than eight years.  I have my home phone, internet and TV service with them.

In that time period, they have increased the price of my bill 14 times, for a total increase of more than $24 a month more for the same services. That’s more than a 30% price increase, for those who aren’t counting. During that same time period, they’ve made serious billing errors five times, one of which cost me several months of follow-up calls, and they’ve had countless service outages. I’ve phoned up their retentions department as a matter of rote for these past few years, each time wasting my time in order to go through the motions to negotiate the discount that I know they’re going to give me anyway, like a dance where everyone knows the steps but we still have to suffer through the music.

But none of that is why I’m on the verge of finally pulling the plug (pun intended) on my cable service.

No, the simple reason is as follows: None of the TV that I want to watch is available through my cable.

Quick quiz: What are the five best shows on TV right now? The answers may vary, but in my opinion, no such list is complete without the inclusion of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Big C, Sons of Anarchy, and maybe the Colbert Report thrown in for good measure. With the exception of the last one, which airs on the Comedy Network here in Canada, I can’t actually watch any of those shows on TV.

Mad Men and Breaking Bad air on AMC, Sons of Anarchy airs on FX, and The Big C, which airs in the States on Showtime, airs on a delayed schedule on Superchannel. Guess which of those channels is carried by Videotron? That’s right, zero.

In contrast, our friends in Ontario who are slaves to the dreaded Rogers, or even the folks here who are signed up with Bell-Hell via satellite, can access almost all of these shows as they air, and be part of the Facebook and water-cooler conversations that ensue. Meanwhile, law-abiding Videotron subscribers are left waiting for the DVD release, while the less law-abiding resort to illegal downloads to get their fix of whatever show strikes their fancy. And the channels I pay for languish unwatched.

The trouble is, Videotron doesn’t care about me. I’m anglophone, and as such, I represent only a tiny segment of their customer base. For every one customer who wants to watch Mad Men, Videotron figures there are a few dozen who would rather watch Star Académie. The company has been extremely slow to add English channels to its lineup, and I don’t expect this to change anytime soon.

I’ve resisted taking the step of cancelling cable for one reason: Hockey. The one channel I watch regularly is RDS, just because it has exclusive rights to the Habs’ games, and really, there’s no point in watching a hockey game if it’s not live. RDS still doesn’t offer a streaming package, so I’ve been paying out the nose for a bunch of channels I never watch, just for the privilege of having hockey on TV. But as the price of cable keeps climbing, it’s getting harder and harder to justify this expense, especially when I could just as easily watch at my favourite pub around the corner and spend the money on a beer or chicken wings.

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are cutting the cord on cable. Will 2012 be the year when I finally follow suit? Well, let’s just say that the next time I contact the retentions department over at Videotron won’t just be a rote request for a discount.

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Barack Obama called for longer school years and getting rid of poorly performing teachers, in a speech about education that had me wondering where I’d heard that before.

Oh yeah. Here.

Let’s compare the two. Here’s Obama:

“That month makes a difference,” the president said. “It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer. It’s especially severe for poorer kids who may not see as many books in the house during the summers, aren’t getting as many educational opportunities.”

[ . . . ]

“We have got to identify teachers who are doing well. Teachers who are not doing well, we have got to give them the support and the training to do well. And if some teachers aren’t doing a good job, they’ve got to go,” Obama said.

And here’s his fictional model, Congressman Matthew Santos, played by Jimmy Smits on the West Wing, circa 2005:

“America is 49th in the world in literacy. That’s down 18 spots in the last four years. Why? Well, for starters, the 180-day school year, that’s based on the agrarian calendar. But we’re in a global economy now. Japan’s at 243 days; Germany’s at 240. ”

[ . . . ]

“… which is why we need to end teacher tenure and get rid of failing teachers.”

Life imitating art? In the case of Santos/Obama, it’s certainly not the first time.

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Colbert Nation, eh?

02.18.2010

The biggest attraction at the Olympics? Stephen Colbert, who’s been on site all week. He and Michael Bublé sang their unique take on the national anthem. He’s done mock tryouts for events. He cheered on Shani Davis of the US speedskating team (which he sponsored) when he won his gold medal. He’s getting more press [...]

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Life imitating art?

06.02.2008

Peter Funt makes the case in the Washington Post that the current US Presidential Campaign has a plot straight out of Season 7 of The West Wing.

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So sad

01.22.2008

Heath Ledger was found dead Tuesday at a downtown Manhattan apartment, and police said drugs may have been a factor. The Australian-born actor was 28. Ledger had an appointment for a massage at the residence in the tony SoHo neighborhood, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. A housekeeper who went to let him know the massage [...]

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Thoughts on the WGA strike

01.08.2008

So this whole thing is about what cut of the profits should be directed to the writers – both generally from sales, and specifically from online sales. Does that strike anyone else as odd? What ever happened to the idea that the entrepreneur takes the risk and therefore reaps the rewards? What other union has [...]

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Isn’t it comedic?

04.05.2007

Alanis parodies one of the most ridiculously awful songs of all time. Hilarious!

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Colbert wannabes to compete in Oshawa

03.15.2007

The Comedy Network is looking for Colbert lookalikes: Finalists will compete in Oshawa, Ontario on March 20, which has been declared “Stephen Colbert Day” by Mayor John Gray. The winner will get a trip to New York City to attend a taping of The Colbert Report. “There are two kinds of people in this world; [...]

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Egos

03.15.2007

So Simon Cowell thinks he’s bigger than Springsteen. But the real question is, is Springsteen bigger than Jesus?

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There’s a metaphor about people who live in glass houses or something here

02.27.2007

Most of the time, when the sordid details of celebs’ brushes with the law hit the media, I find myself none too sympathetic. But if this is true, then I can’t help but think that the paparazzi member in question got pretty much what he deserved: Police are investigating reports that James Blunt ran over [...]

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