Monday, December 03, 2012

The Flint That I Remember....

Flint.  You can kick…you can beat it….and you can even call it names….but there’s always going to be a place in my heart for the city where I was born.  A lot has changed in the old town – but there’s plenty to remember.

The Flint that I remember was when you sat  in the stands at Whaley Park to enjoy one of the many teams that played in summer softball league and then meeting everyone at Lugi’s for pizza and beer.

The Flint that I remember was to Whiting for a Flint Symphony Orchestra concert and hearing the music of Beethoven come to life on the stage.
The Flint that I remember was sitting under the stars for the 4th of July fireworks at Kearsley Park or getting into the holiday spirit and lifting your voice in song at the Citizens Bank Christmas Carol Sing-Along.

The Flint that I remember was having to wait for Thanksgiving dinner until everyone got home from the Northern/Central game at Atwood Stadium.

The Flint that I remember was receiving a gift box that the Flint Old Newsboys on  Christmas Day when I was a kid and appreciating how much the Old Newsboys  helped Santa to make my Christmas bright.

The Flint that I remember was grabbing a couple of coneys and a side fries with gravy at Angelo’s, a  doughnut from Supreme or Dawn’s Donuts, a pasty from King Arthur’s, a fish n’ chips dinner from 3rd Avenue Fish n’ Chips and a burger and crème ale at Bill Thomas Halo Burger.

The Flint that I remember was driving downtown to Herrlich’s Drug Store on a Saturday Night/Sunday morning at around 1 to pick a copy of the Detroit Free Press or picking up the latest magazine and paperback books at Readmore.

The Flint that I remember was going to church on Sunday’s at Sacred Heart and then going to the Balkan Bakery to pick up loaves of fresh bread to enjoy with my parents homemade chicken dinners.

The Flint that I remember was being able to go to the main branch of the Flint Public Library and being entertained by looking at back copies of the Flint Journal on microfilm or asking the librarian on the second floor for a set of those clunky black headphones so you could listen to a comedy album by Nichols and May or Allan Sherman..

The Flint that I remember was the Flint Institute of Art’s summer Art Fair or a laser light show at the Planetarium.

The Flint that I remember was seeing and hearing Flint’s rock n’ roll finest come to life in the practice rooms in the Bronson-Fisher building long before they ever took to the stage.

The Flint that I remember was taking a driver’s education class at Flint Northwestern and getting that blue driver’s permit at the completion of the course.

The Flint that I remember had people like Rich Fisher and Roseanne Serra doing the news and weather on Channel 12 news.

The Flint that I remember was getting all of the latest Tiger baseball news and interviews with the players by listening to Pete Sark’s Tiger baseball reports on WFDF.

The Flint that I remember was signing up for the Citizens Bank Christmas club at Lewis Elementary School and making sure that I had my quarter every week to give to my teacher to put in my account.

The Flint that I remember was being excited about having enough money saved up ($49) to purchase by first FM stereo (table top) radio at Montgomery Ward.

The Flint that I remember was going to donkey basketball games at Lowell Jr. High and ice cream socials at Potter Elementary.

The Flint that I remember had Al Kessel throwing the grocery specials of the week to someone off screen in his television commercials.

The Flint that I remember had a guy name Zip doing sports on Channel 5 newscasts.

The Flint that I remember was going with a school group to the Shrine Circus at the IMA Auditorium every January.

The Flint that I remember was going to Uncle Bob’s Diner for a piece of pie and ice cream or a Slim Jim at Big Boy after a movie at the Capital Theater

The Flint that I remember had the local owner of the Ponderosa Steak House always being surrounded by kids in his television commercials.

The Flint that I remember had people like Diana Ross and The Supremes making a personal appearance at Maa’s in Downtown Flint before their concert at the IMA or Terry Knight and the Pack performing a concert at the Fair store in the South Flint Plaza.

The Flint that I remember was shopping for a television or an appliance at Greenley’s, a mattress for your bed at Pearless and or living room and dining room furniture from one of the many companies owned by Ron Ralston.

Names like “Blain”, “Knickerblocker”, “Al Bennett”, “Superior”, “Vern Parsell” and “Al Serra” were the name plates on the cars in the Flint that I remember….

The Flint that I remember was filled with community pride every summer for events like the Canusa games and the running of the Bob Crim 10k road race.

The Flint that I remember as a kid was getting excited whenever when we heard the clanging sounds of the bells signaling that “the ice cream boy” was nearby and how we were always warned not to touch the hot ice when grabbing our ice cream novelties from his cart.

The Flint that I remember was going downtown to the barber college to get one of those “high priced” twenty-five cent hair cuts.

Going to a grocery store in the Flint that I remember was having such places to shop as A& P,  Mansour’s, Feke and Yott, Hickory Meat Block, Thompson’s, and everybody’s favorite “Hamady’s”.

So, every time that I hear about drive-by shooting, another house that someone set on fire or all of the budget cuts seem to take place every other day in Flint today – I look back at the Flint that I remember and I hope that some day soon – it can reclaim some of things that made the city great.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When It Comes To Radio Broadcasters -- They Just Don't Make Them Like Al Tyrell Anymore

  I have worked with some incredible broadcasting legends during the twenty-five plus years that I toiled in the business.  Some of the names you would recognize from their work on air and then there were the others that worked behind the scenes who were just as important as those on the air that people turned on their radios to listen to. One of those “behind the scenes” people who made an impression on me is a salesman in Port Huron by the name of Al Tyrell.  A big bear of a man, Al Tyrell was an old school kind of salesman who didn’t have to convince you to advertise on his radio station by carrying in a bunch of rating books with numbers that you could twist and turn to say anything you want.  Nope, when Al Tyrell came into your business – he convinced you to buy advertising on his station because it worked and he made sure that it did.

  The main reason that the radio advertising that Al Tyrell sold worked so well was because of Al Tyrell.  Before Al stepped in front of a microphone, with that “voice from God” that he has, he would sit at his desk and personally write the commercial for his client. He didn’t use a computer or have a secretary transcribe his words – he wrote it in long hand with a pencil on yellow legal pad.

  And when it comes to writing commercials – Al didn’t have to follow some stylebook on how to write radio commercials or attend some advertising seminar where the “ones who know pass on the knowledge to those who don’t” – Al just knew what it took to make an effective radio commercial and he did it.  He knew it in his gut what to say and said it.  Plus, Al had an amazing gift for knowing how to deliver the message his advertisers wanted you to hear without a lot of fluff and minus the bullshit.  Once written – the advertisers’ message was delivered not by some screaming insincere announcer or a pimply-faced kid just out of broadcast school, but by a caring voice you could trust – Al Tyrell.

  When it came to selling radio advertising in Port Huron – there aren’t too many people who could come close to Al Tyrell in terms of sales.  There were no big or small accounts to Al Tyrell, because he treated all of his clients alike – whether it was some big agency account that bought in thousands of dollars a week or that one client that advertised for a week or two once a year.  

  I would venture a guess that Al would probably be pounding the streets selling radio advertising today, but radio changed and it’s almost like people like Al were pushed out…not because they didn’t produce – it’s they didn’t do it “the company way”. 

  Salespeople like Al Tyrell don’t come around every day.  They don’t yearn to climb the corporate ladder at some radio station – they just want to do their job – which is to sell.  Management knows that someone like Al Tyrell is going to write a lot of orders and bring a lot of money into the station – but there’s something about management that wants someone like Al to be just like everyone else – where not only do they expect you to sell – but they have you busy writing reports and projections that are nothing more than just paper for some department head to push around to justify their existence.  I think it’s safe to say that near the end of Al’s career as a radio salesperson, he was more than a little frustrated with all of the paperwork that he had to do – paperwork that took time away from him doing the job of selling and paperwork that he knew didn’t add any more money to his monthly sales figures. 

   It’s been a little more than seven years or since Al retired from selling radio in Port Huron, Michigan.  Oh, he dabbles in the industry here and there – writing and recording commercials for a few of his clients that he has served over the years – but for the most part – he’s enjoying the good life with a fishing rod on some lake with his grandson.  I’m sure he’s shared a few fish stories with his grandson – not about the ones that got away – but stories about how many fish they’re going to reel in today.

   I think it was the late Steve Allen who said that when you have to describe what makes a joke funny – the joke is no longer funny.  The same thing can be said about advertising -- once you try to analyze what makes a radio commercial great and try to do it over and over again – the next commercial might not be as good.  It’s people like Al Tyrell who knew just by instinct what made a great commercial and he delivered it time after time to a list of clients who wish that he was still doing it today.  But radio as an advertising medium has changed.  Today – it’s just facts and figures, reports and projections and the human element to the business is gone…and Al Tyrell – he’s gone too.  He’s out fishing and enjoying life while radio tries to figure if they’ll ever see the likes of someone like Al Tyrell again.    

Sunday, August 26, 2012

You Gotta Blame Somebody


   A couple of weeks ago, I had to drive into town to get some blood work done at my doctor’s office and on my way there I seen one of the saddest things in real long time.  In the dirt, on the right-hand side of the road, there was a fairly nice size Winnie The Pooh stuffed animal laying on its back with its legs in the air.  I thought that somewhere in the area a little child has lost their Pooh doll and that child would probably be crying their eyes out if they could see how Pooh ended up on the busy back road in the state of Michigan.

   Before I could get the sad thought of Pooh out of my head – there was another sight that proved even harder to shake out of my consciousness.  On this same road, no more than 300 or so feet away, my eyes gravitated to what looked like road kill right on the center double yellow line.  Much like Pooh – laying on its back with its feet in the air – but with tire marks across its stomach was none other than a stuffed Tigger doll that was about the same size as Pooh.

   How could a child’s Winnie the Pooh and Tigger doll come to meet the fate that it did?  Did someone put these dolls on the side of the road for the trash collector to pick up?  It’s a possibility, but I didn’t notice any garbage bins out on the side of the road, but you can’t rule it out. 

   When I shared this story with someone else they reasoned that some family was probably moving into a new home and they had all of their belongings in the back of a pick-up truck or a trailer and these dolls fell out of one of the boxes.  This scenario is as good as any – but I still don’t think that was how they ended up in the road – nope, my story is a little more sinister.  You see, much like the family dog that he put in a box and strapped in on the top of their car -- Mitt Romney is responsible for Winnie the Pooh and Tigger’s sad demise on some back road in Michigan

   How do I know it’s Mitt?  It certainly isn’t Barack Obama.  Obama has young kids of his own and he wouldn’t do something like that to such loveable creatures as Tigger and Pooh.  Obama would make sure that any cuts, scrapes or bruises that they might have gotten from being on the side of the road would be covered in his health care plan and he would support any group that advocated that they be allowed to marry each other.  You know I’m right – if it wasn’t Mitt Romney – who was it?

How Sweet It Was: "Grandma's Medicine"

   “Don’t touch these – they’re Grandma’s medicine” was the warning us kids got about Grandma’s little bottle of saccharine pills that were always on my grandparent’s table when we’d visit them in Cheboygan, Michigan

   “Grandma’s got sugar and she needs these to put in her coffee,” they’d tell us. 

   It didn’t make any sense to me – if she has “sugar” – why does she need those little pills?

   “Because they’re her medicine,” like that explanation meant anything to a young and inquisitive mind.

   Well, I’m older now and I have “sugar”, but unlike Grandma, I don’t have that little bottle of saccharine pills on my table, I’ve got a jar filled with those pink packets.  Oh, I could have the yellow or the blue packets, but I’m an old die-hard who enjoys saccharine, what I don’t like are those damn pink packets.  If you have to put the contents of those pink packets in a steaming beverage – you’ve got to fumble around which end you’re going to tear it open – do you go on the “marked” end or the unmarked end?  And sometimes all of the contents of the packet doesn’t empty out because the steam of the beverage – I want a bottle filled with those little white pills that we once knew as Grandma’s medicine. 

   I’m surprised that diabetics in this country aren’t demanding artificial sweeteners in a delivery form such as my “grandma’s medicine” – i.e. “saccharine tablets”.  A little bottle of saccharine tablets are a lot more convenient than those pink, blue or yellow packets and they would be easier to use whether you’re making a cup of coffee for yourself or a picture of sugar-free sweet tea.  And if these tablets were available today – we would be able to pass on that “don’t touch Grandpa’s medicine” warning to a whole new generation of grandchildren.  It’s only a thought.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Going To The Dogs With Rachael Ray In My Quest For Free Stuff

(l-r) Teco, me and Tinker

I’m like a lot people out there who enjoys getting free things.  I haven’t fell victim to the online e-mail hoax where people believe that Microsoft will send them a hundred bucks if you just forward a special e-mail to ten people.  The only reason I haven’t fell victim to this is because I know it doesn’t work – if it did I would have exhausted my e-mail address book sending those “please forward this e-mail” message to my friends a long time ago because I like free stuff.

In my quest for free stuff, I signed up for an online service that sends you an e-mail daily with links for all kinds of free stuff.  I have gotten all kinds of free stuff – like samples of all of Nescafe’s instant coffee blends (which were actually pretty tasty), packets of a vitamin C beverage powder, samples of Splenda and lots of other things that I can’t remember right off the top of my head. 

This week, I received a free sample of something that I was actually looking forward to receiving – a sample of one of Rachael Ray’s dog food products that she talks about on her syndicated show.  The product that I received was “Just 6” – from Rachael Ray’s line of Nutrish© brand of super premium food for dogs – and I was looking forward to serving it to my two dogs Tinker and Teco – unfortunately my dogs were that excited about seeing it in their dishes.

You wouldn’t think that dogs would have a discriminating palate – I mean – dogs sniff each other’s ass, lick their own butts and have been known to actually eat their own shit if it smells right to them – that doesn’t sound like they are too discriminating to me.  My dogs can be fussy though.  They love Old Roy’s Kibbles and Chucks from Wal-Mart and both of my dogs will actually eat their favorite kibbles and chucks and leave their least favorite pieces scattered about around their bowls – that’s discriminating.  I have served them Kibbles and Bits from Purina in the past and they’ll eat it – but they have ways of letting me know that they would rather see Old Roy from Wal-Mart in their dishes and not the more expensive blend from Purina.

I was kind of hoping that when I opened up the “Just 6” packet of dog food from Rachael Ray that my dogs would look at this food as something of a treat – I mean Rachael is selling it as a “super premium” dog food (and, I’m assuming, at a super premium price, too).  The first dog to “experience” Rachael Ray’s dog food was Tinker and her first response once the aroma of the food hit her nose was to rub her nose all around her bowl as if she was burying it and hoping that it would go away. 

When I put a bowl of “Just 6” under Teco’s nose – his first inclination was to back off from it like it was offensive to his sensitive nose (a nose that has never been offended when he’s gotten under the covers when I go to bed at night and have let loose a good ole stinky ass Dutch oven fart). 

Hey Rachael Ray – I appreciate the free dog food – but my dogs think it sucks….but if you’re interested in sending out some more free stuff – I wouldn’t mind a set of your cookware and knifes.  I promise that I won’t bury it in the backyard and I’ll let everyone know how great it is – not only because your products are great – but I like free stuff.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Just Bloggin' Around: My Latest Rants and Raves

New on your supermarket shelves -- and a must-have for any party, get-together or  just plain munching in front of the television set -- pick up a bag of new Ruffles Molten Hot Wings!  You'll thank me for them later.

Hey, if Charlie Sheen can do it – I can too – the following entry to this blog is just me ranting and raving about anything I feel like I want to rant and rave about.  Unlike Charlie Sheen – this isn’t being written by someone who’s brain has been fried with enough cocaine to give every man, woman and child in America a good buzz and I don’t have hookers and porn stars at my beckon call (just a couple of dogs and they’re getting up there in age).

Local TV News

I don’t know how you feel – but don’t you think local TV stations in America have gone a little bit overboard with “team coverage”?  Whether it’s reporting on corruption in local government or severe weather – it seems like TV stations are blowing up a report that could fill maybe five minutes and stretching it out to eternity with special “team coverage”.  It seems like they get all of their reporters zeroed in on that one story that the pool of reporters is so stretched they have to have the blonde traffic reporter go out and cover “real news” which only leads to more embarrassment for the news organization.

And here’s another thing about television news that gets my goat – a newscast is a program that disseminates news it is not “a show”.  I have heard local news people and network people call their news cast “a show” and I could just scream.  If you want me to take your news cast and what you report seriously – then take your own newscast seriously by calling it a news program.  A newscast is a news cast and a show is what Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland did in the old movies to raise money for the war effort or what Ed Sullivan use to host every Sunday night on CBS.  Are you journalists or entertainers?  Journalists inform and entertainers entertain – choose sides and label what you are correctly, please.

Celebrity Apprentice

I know that “Celebrity Apprentice” is not the “must watch” reality TV show that it once was – but like a moth attracted to light – I’m attracted to “Celebrity Apprentice”.  The new season of “Celebrity Apprentice” starts tonight (March 6th) and it’s a gonna be a doozy with such celebrities as Star Jones, David Cassidy, one of the housewives from the “Real Housewives of…” reality show on Bravo, LaToya Jackson (the only member of the Jackson family who doesn’t have any discernible talent), singer Dionne Warwicke (who is no longer making any money with the psychics, former baseball player Jose Conseco, rock singer Meatloaf and everyone’s favorite celebrity crazy – Garey Busey.     

Ah, Garey Busey – we couldn’t get enough of him on “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” – now we get to watch him get all fired up in the boardroom with “the Donald”.  Busey versus the Trumpster – this is gonna be better than Big Time Wrestling.  And, you know that if he last more than one or two episodes of the series – Busey is going to do or say something so outrageous that it will give America a chance to see what Charlie Sheen is going to look like if the drugs don’t kill him. 

Is the Big Gamble Paying Off – American Idol 2011

Is it just me or is this year’s “American Idol” on Fox better than you expected it to be?  Fox had a lot riding on this year’s Idol with some of the biggest changes ever on the show beginning with the arrival of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler as new judges.  I expected Jennifer Lopez a judge in the Paula Abdul mold who wouldn’t say anything bad about the performers on the show – but Steven Tyler seems to have taken the old Paula Abdul judging approach.  It’s also surprising to see Randy Jackson taking on the Simon Cowell role where everything that he says about the performers is guaranteed to elicit boos and catcalls from the audience members.  Let’s just hope that Randy doesn’t start wearing those tight fitting t-shirts that Cowell use to wear on Idol.  The one thing that Randy doesn’t have is the wit and talent to sling barbs and insults back at Ryan Seacrest like Simon could – but Ryan doesn’t have to fight with Cowell anymore to be the center of attention on the show.

Speaking of Cowell – there are rumors going around that former Idol judge Paula Abdul will be joining him on the panel of his new Fox talent show “The X-Factor” when it premieres later this year.  The “X-Factor” job could not have come at a better time for Abdul who’s dance show on CBS tanked in the ratings and will not be picked up for another season.

Burger King vs. McDonald’s

Anybody who knows me knows that food really isn’t food unless you can order it through a  drive-thru window and it’s handed to you in a bag by some pimply high school kid trying to make a few bucks for weed.  McDonald’s advertising lately has been centering on their McNuggets and their BBQ Chipotle Angus Burger and the advertising has enticed me more than a couple of times to drive through the golden arches and the results of those visits haven’t exactly thrilled me.

Anyone who has read my Facebook status lately knows that I wasn’t exactly thrilled with McDonald’s BBQ Chipotle Angus burger.  If my memory serves me correctly I said that this burger was basically a salt lick between a bun and the barbeque sauce left a bad taste in my mouth and the smell of the sauce on was enough to make one sick.  The ads were right about the sauce – McDonald’s slops a lot of the sauce on this burger (which caused some of it to drip on my shirt) but it’s not enough to save this burger.  If I maybe be blunt – the McDonald’s BBQ Chipotle Angus burger sucks and it’s sad that a cow had to be sacrificed to become my personal “Unhappy Meal”.

Another item that has been advertised a lot on television lately has been the “Stuffed Steakhouse Burger” at Burger King – the burger that’s been stuffed with jalapeno peppers and chunks of cheddar cheese.  The way they described the burger and how it looked on TV and my love of BK’s A-1 Steakhouse burger was enough to get me to take a light fantastic trip to the BK drive-thru window – but it was a disappointing and wasted trip.  If you expect some heat from the jalapeno peppers in this burger you’re going to be let down.  You would expect a burger with all of those chunks of cheese to be cheesy – but you get more cheese taste in their dollar double cheeseburger. 

And let’s talk about chicken nuggets – is it me or has quality control at McDonald’s taken a dirt nap – because I can remember McNuggets tasting a whole lot better than the ones that I tasted recently.  At one time I could make a lunch of a twenty piece McNugget and a side of fries and leave Ronald’s place happy, but not anymore.  There seems to be more batter or something on the chicken nugget that doesn’t make them as tasty as they once were.  If I wanted the taste of batter – I would get to McDonalds in the morning and order a side or two of their pancakes – but I wanted some tasty McNuggets and I didn’t get them.

When it comes to chicken nuggets – Wendy’s spicy chicken nuggets (from their value menu) with ranch dipping sauce and a side of their new natural cut fries with sea salt can’t be beat.  If you haven’t been to Wendy’s lately – it’s worth the trip there just to grab an order of their fries – they are so tasty that you don’t want to drown them with any ketchup

Quick Takes

Frito-Lay is doing some promotion with their Ruffles brand of potato chips and asking people to vote for their favorite flavors online.  They currently have two new flavors on the shelves with one of them being “Molten Hot Wings” and I don’t care what other flavors they throw out there – these chips win hands down.  Ruffle Molten Hot Wing chips actually taste like hot wings and there’s a little bite (not a whole lot) to them too.  If you see a bag of these chips on your supermarket shelves – pick up a bag or two and if you’re interested more in this Ruffles flavor promotion go to

If you’re looking for cheap buffalo hot wings (along with a delicious hot and sour soup) – take my suggestion and go to Empire Wok on M-21 Lapeer – it’s worth the trip.  Empire Wok is one of the most affordable Chinese buffets in Michigan and their food is delicious and you can’t beat the lunch or dinner prices.  A recent trip to Empire Wok for lunch ended up costing me a little more than sixteen bucks for two people and that’s with a tip included – which is pretty damn affordable.

Well…by looking at the length of today’s blog, I think it’s time for me to say goodbye or as my old friend Dave Barber would end his radio show – “It’s time for me to count my tips and say good-bye”.  So, until we meet again via the written word – keep the grin above your chin and good thoughts in your head.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Another Tale of Frustration: Dealing With DirecTV

On our last visit – I shared with you some of the frustrations that I have been having and I promised that I would share my frustrations with DirecTV and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  As many of you know – and even the casual reader of this blog can easily figure out – I love TV – what I don’t like is when I can’t watch television because of an equipment malfunction and that’s what lit the fuse in one of my recent frustrating moments.

I live in an area that is not served by cable.  Even though Comcast has wired the area everywhere around where I live – they have not wired our street where I live – plus, I wouldn’t have the rat bastards at Comcast wire my home for anything.   So, if I want to enjoy television I have only two choices – hooking up an antenna (which isn’t a great solution because I am miles from a grade A television signal) or hooking up with one of the satellite television providers.  I chose the later.  At one time, I subscribed to Dish Network – but I changed to DirecTV after Dish took one of the channels that we liked and pushed it into the next tier of programming.

I instantly liked DirecTV from the moment that they hooked us up.  DirecTV comes across as a little more professional operation than the Mom and Pop approach that Dish has.  Plus -- with DirecTV we were able to get more channels than we had with Dish and they also provided us a DVR with our service.

I never thought that a DVR was that big of a thing – only because I never owned one – I always looked at it as a glorified VCR – boy, was I wrong!  The pause feature when you’re watching something live has been a godsend for us folks with aging bladders.  With our DirecTV DVR – we can pause through any one of the ka-zillion  prescription drug commercials on the nightly news so we can take a piss and not miss a moment of Brian Williams and the news.  Can the poor folks in some third world country pause the programming on their TV set – I don’t think so! 

Well, you can imagine my frustration on a recent Sunday morning when the picture went out on our DirecTV and my girlfriend went through all of the “do-it-yourself repair” fixes that they tell you to do but to no avail.  When the do-it-yourself fixes don’t work, I know that you have to get on the horn and talk to someone directly about your problem – which is what I did. I was hoping that there was a way to fix it, because I couldn’t bare the thought of losing everything I had recorded that I had yet to watch – such as –

1)                  The last six episodes of last season’s “Rescue Me”
2)                  The last three recent episodes of “Parenthood” and “The Good Wife”
3)                  About a week and a half worth of “Conan” and “The Late Show With David Letterman” (including the episode of Letterman where he admitted having sex with an intern)
4)                  A few movies that I had yet to watch such as “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “The Dark Knight”…..

Plus, I had recorded a bunch of different episodes of “Dora the Explorer”, “The Cat in the Hat”, “Angelina Ballerina” and “Thomas the Train” for the grandchildren for when they come to visit.

DirecTV is like every other company that you call in that you have to deal with a bunch of recorded prompts to get you to a live person (who can be anywhere from in your own hometown to Bumfuck, Egypt – luckily DirecTV’s representatives are right here in the good ole USA) And just like every other company’s recorded prompts – you usually end up yelling into your phone receiver because the “prompts” didn’t catch what you told them and you have to go through the whole process again….but 4eventually you will reach a live human being.

When I finally reached a human being on the other end of the line and I told her what my problem was – she went through the whole process of what I could do to fix my DirecTV receiver.  I explained to her that we did everything but put our finger on my head and twirl around the living room and the receiver still didn’t work to which she explained that she would send us a new receiver – this is where the real fun begins.

“Mr. Frost, we can ship a new receiver to you and you can have it in a couple of days,” the DirecTV representative said on the phone.

“And will there be a charge for the receiver,” I asked.

That’s when she went on to say that there would be no charge for the receiver, but there would be a twenty-one dollar and some odd cents charge for the shipping and handling.

“That’s not acceptable,” I responded.  “You’re going to charge me shipping and handling for a receiver that I pay an additional fee for each month to receive programming that you charge me dearly for…I don’t think so.”

And that’s when I was put on hold – which eventually lead to me getting disconnected and hearing a dial tone on the end of my telephone receiver….which meant another phone call back to DirecTV and another ten minutes or so getting connected to a live person and telling that person the whole story.  And like the previous DirecTV representative – they were a little startled when I told them that I wouldn’t pay for shipping and handling for a new receiver….to which I was put on hold again.

When the DirecTV representative returned to the phone, I was informed that they would waive the shipping and handling fee and that I would receive the new box in a couple of days and I could hook up the new box.— to which I confronted them the fact that I would not hook up this box  and couldn’t they send someone to my home to hook it up for me.  I was informed that the instructions to hooking up the receiver are easy and I responded that I don’t care how easy the instructions were – I wasn’t hooking up their box.  I’m of the opinion that for the money that I pay DirecTV each month for programming, it only behooves them to hook up a god-damn receiver for one of their customers.  This DirecTV representative didn’t see it that way – so, I told them that they could disconnect their damn service and I’ll just get my satellite TV programming from Dish.  I was put on hold again….but not for long….but when the “voice” returned – it wasn’t the same person that I was talking to and I had to go through the whole story all over again.

So – the story was retold again for the third time.  My box doesn’t work.  I’m not paying for shipping and handling for a new receiver and I’m not going to hook up the new receiver myself – you can send a service person to hook it up or you can disconnect my service and I’ll go to Dish.  Plus, I added another wrinkle to my frustration – I had been on the phone nearly two hours with them and had been disconnect once and redirected to two other people – with me having to retell my story each and every time.  If I can’t get any satisfaction from you people at DirecTV – cancel me out and I’ll call Dish. 

I was put on hold again – but not for long – and I was forward to another department – the name escapes me right now, but this is the department that they send people that are extremely pissed and only people in this department has any authority to make it right.  This DirecTV representative apologized for all that I went through and told me that they would send a service person to my house the next day and that there would be no charge for the box or the service call – because I have been a loyal customer since 2008.  When I asked him why the first person that I talked couldn’t do what he was doing for me in the way of customer service – he didn’t have any real answer – but he apologized for all of the hassle and the inconvenience.

The next day – a local DirecTV service person arrived at my door with a brand new receiver – complete with a new remote that actually works with the flat screen television that we bought last year….and like all good stories – “and they all lived happily ever after.”

(It should be noted that my DirecTV service is bundled with my telephone service and the day after we received the new box from DirecTV…I noticed something on the DirecTV portion of our phone bill.  A week before all of my hassles with them – they decided to give me three months of Showtime, Movie Channel and Sundance as a “loyalty gift”.  Nice, huh?  If only they had some decent movies on these channels!)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Tales of My Personal Frustrations - Episode #1

The east wall at Dr. McJoke -- where none of these contraptions were used during my visit.

It’s been awhile since I have written anything in this blog, so let’s make up for some lost time and allow me to vent a little bit about frustration.  We all get frustrated – sometimes it over some of the dumbest things, such as when someone cutting you off and stealing your parking space, or going to the store and forgetting to pick up the item that you went to get in the first place, and even something like not being able to beat your best Pathwords score on Facebook can frustrate you..  Me – I get frustrated when I look at what my doctor is charging for an office call and spending two hours on the phone with DirecTV that could have been solved during the first five minutes of my phone call to them.

Recently, I spent a couple of days in the hospital because the pain in my back got so bad that I literally could not walk.  I had to have an ambulance take me to the hospital – which is a little humiliating, because it’s not some life or death reason that I had to go to the hospital – I was simply in so much pain that I couldn’t walk.  I could imagine what some of my neighbors were thinking when they saw an ambulance parked in our driveway and the gossip that they were spreading around to the other neighbors and even family members – and that kind of justified the cost of what the ambulance company was going to charge me for this trip to the hospital.

I have nothing bad to say about my hospital visit.  Not too long after I got there – they shipped me down to X-ray where they took about five or six pictures of my back and then it was back to the emergency room.  In the emergency room – I was given a shot for the pain and the warned me ahead of time that this shot would help with the pain and I would feel it….and they were right.  I have never really dabbled in the drug scene in the 60s and 70s – but if they would have had stuff like this shot back then – I would have signed up for getting wasted and fried back then.  This shot that they gave me in the hospital was great – it’s too bad they didn’t provide loud rock music and a light show to go with it – but then everyone would be going to the emergency room, right?  I know that the tuna sandwich that they gave me in the emergency room was the best tuna sandwich that I have ever had – could it have been that shot they gave me?

After going over the X-rays and the blood that they took from me they decided they were going to keep me – so, I got a nice room to myself on the fifth floor at Port Huron Hospital.  For two days – I stayed in my hospital bed watching television with an IV pumping fluids in me.  And just like any hospital visit – every time that you close your eyes and go to sleep – a nurse will come in to give you some meds or, in my case, shoot some steroids in my IV line.  It was on the second day when they saw me walk down the hall with my cane like I never had any pain in my back at all that the hospital gave me my walking papers to go home.  The hospital readjusted the meds that I had been taking and advised me to see my family doctor within a week…it’s when I went to my family doctor that the frustration began. 

Unlike the medical shows on television – my family doctor is no “McDreamy” – but he’s quickly becoming a “McJoke” and I’m really questioning where I should continue to see him after this last visit.  This visit really wasn’t a whole lot different that my usual visits with him – except – he went over the diagnosis and findings that they hospital sent over to him.  We went over the blood work that I had done a week before (which is something we do every ninety days or so) and he told me that the X-rays at the hospital showed that I have degenerative arthritis and some nasty spurs on my vertebrae – plus I was suffering from dehydration.  The hospital also recommended that I sign up for some therapy and that was the extent of the whole visit to my doctor.  Then – I get the bill!

My doctor’s normal office visit is $125 – PLUS – there’s a charge of $20 for an A1C test and $5 for then to take a glucose reading of my blood (which I already did at home an hour or so before I got it his office, but naturally they can’t accept that reading).  All of these charges come as no surprise to me – it’s what comes next that gave rise to my blood pressure and becoming outright pissed.

Along with all of the charges above – I am also charged an additional $150 – why?  The official explanation goes as follows:  “Prolong Physician service in the office or other outpatient facility requiring direct (face-to-face) patient contact beyond the usual service”. 

When I called his office and talked to the billing department – she, like the good solider that she is, told me that Doctor McJoke thought that this visit was different than previous visits.  I told her it wasn’t longer than any of my past visits and he really didn’t do that much except go over the hospitals diagnosis and give me a script for physical therapy.  The woman in billing said that when Doctor McJoke went over the hospital report – he felt that he was spending more time with me than he normally does and according to his rules or what ever, he can charge extra.  The billing manager sounded a little pissed when I asked her if I should bring a stopwatch on my next visit with to see Doctor McJoke.  She pretty much told me in her official capacity as the head of billing for Doctor McJoke that there really wasn’t much I could do about the extra charge and that’s when frustration set in.

There is something that I can do about it.  One, I can confront Dr. McJoke the next time that I come in to see him and piss him off because I’m bringing up what I have to pay him for his services.  Or two, I can tell Dr. McJoke to kiss my ass and I can find another doctor who’s a little more compassionate about his or her patient’s concerns.  That’s the decision that I have got to make, but in the meantime, I just get more and more frustrated when I think about this whole ordeal.

Next:  Frustration #2 – Dealing with DirecTV.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Let's Get Real -- A Look At My Favorite Reality TV Shows

What a week for reality TV!  Another season of “Hell’s Kitchen” on Fox-TV is coming to a close and it’s hard to believe that any one of the chefs that Chef Ramsey put through the drill this season is capable enough to put polish sausages and nachos together at a local 7-Eleven – but this coming week he’s going to pick one of the remaining two chefs to run his L.A. restaurant with a paycheck of something like $250,000. 

“Hell’s Kitchen” is one of those guilty pleasure reality TV shows.  The premise of the show is the same season after season with twelve chefs of varying skills trying to win the top prize – which is usually being the head chef at one of Chef Ramsey’s restaurants (the ones that are still open and haven’t filed for bankruptcy protection as of yet) – it’s just watching how incompetent these competing chefs are in just being able to complete a service.  Each and every season there is a chef or two that is your basic ‘fish out of water’ who is seeing the big city and bright lights in Hollywood for the very first time.  Then, you have those one or two chefs who think that they know everything who get a rude awakening when Ramsey lets them have it with a verbal tongue lashing.

There’s only one week left to “Hell’s Kitchen” and it’ll be interesting to see who he finally picks to win the whole kit-and-caboodle – but that won’t be the end of the exploits of Chef Ramsey on television – because this Wednesday night BBC America is rolling out another Gordon Ramey  reality TV cooking show.  This time – it’s not just chefs competing to win some outlandish grand prize – it will be restaurants.  Who knows what he has in store for this competition?  The only way to find out is to tune in to BBC America this week and find out – (and to sound cliché) – check your local listings for time and channel.

While I like to watch Chef Ramsey’s reality TV shows – I will admit that he is the master of “junk reality TV cooking shows” – but luckily there’s something out there for the more serious minded reality TV foodie and that’s “Top Chef” on Bravo.  I would love to see Carla Hall for season five win it all – but once I start picking favorites – they’re bound to lose.

A new season of “Top Chef” began last week and the twist to this season is that all of the chefs competing are runners up and just-about-made-it chefs from the previous seven seasons of the show.  Eighteen chefs in all will be competing to win this season’s top prize and the competition is fierce and if you’re a fan of the show – you will already rooting for your favorite chefs.  One thing that all of the chefs this season know is that you won’t be able to give the judges food that taste like crap and get away with it.

Anthony Bourdain has joined Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons at the judging table and he has already pissed off one of the chefs this season with his “spare no feelings no bullshit” comments. I know that I will never ever taste a quarter of the dishes ever presented on “Top Chef”, but I love watching this show. 

Dr. Drew's team at the Pasadena Recovery Center
Another reality show returned for its fourth season last week – “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” (Thursday nights, 10pm VH-1 and at various other times throughout the week) and I love this show.  Watching “Celebrity Rehab” is a lot like slowing down your car near a train wreck – you really shouldn’t be watching it but you’re drawn to it like a moth to a light bulb. 

If you’re looking for some really famous people going through the rehab experience on television for your entertainment pleasure – you’re not going to find a lot.  The biggest star of the bunch would have to be actor Eric Roberts, who has starred in a fair amount of movies and is also well known for being the brother of “Pretty Woman” Julia Roberts. 

Tiger Woods ex-mistress, Rachel Uchitel is another one of the people going through rehab with Dr. Drew, but you won’t hear Tiger Woods name mentioned at any time on the show, although you’ll get an earful of how she has been physically and sexually abused all though her life. 

The biggest human train wreck this season would have to be former 70s heart throb Leif Garrett who life of drug abuse makes Celebrity Rehab season one patient Jeff Conaway (of the movie “Grease” and the TV show “Taxi”) look like he’s a friggin’ eagle scout. 

The asshole of Celebrity Rehab’s season four patients would have to be Jason Davis – the spoil rich grand kid of businessman of Marvin Davis.  In the first two episodes Davis has done his best to piss off one-time model and reality TV start Janice Dickinson with cruel comments her looks and plastic surgery.

Even though Season four of “Celebrity Rehab” is not packed with stars – I feel that this could be one of the most interesting seasons of the show and if any one of these celebs advances to “Sober House” (another Dr. Drew VH-1 show)…I will be surprised.

[Small side note:  If you’re a fan of Dr. Drew – you be able to see him a lot more often than on his VH-1 rehab shows.  Dr. Drew has just signed on to do a nightly talk show on CNN’s HLN network after the beginning of next year.  I’m assuming his show will follow Joy Bahar’s show and air from 10-11pm.]

Well, we all know that there’s nothing more real than what we see on reality TV and I’m going to quit writing this and watch some of it.  What can you say…it’s only TV!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's Only TV: Dancing With The Stars Goes Shotgun and Other TV News

A New Way To Vote For Your Dancing With The Stars Favorite –
You Just Kill Your TV Set

How many times have you been watching television and what you were watching pissed you off so much that you have wanted to throw a brick through the TV screen?  Or better yet – the program that you were watching pissed you off so much that you wanted to do an “Elvis” and pull out a handgun and kill you TV set with a couple of pulls on the trigger?  Well...someone has done just that and it took Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol Palin’s appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” to put this guy over the edge.

An armed and intoxicated 67-year old Wisconsin man with bipolar disorder was watching “Dancing with the Stars” on Monday night and got a little angry by Bristol Palin’s appearance on the show – so angry that he fired a shotgun at his television set.  His wife got the hell out of the house and phoned the police to report the incident saying that her husband was also threatening to commit suicide.  It took the police fifteen hours to coax this man out of his house and charge him with second degree reckless endangerment and all it took was the site of  Bristol Palin on TV to do take him over the edge.  He felt that Bristol Palin was only on the show because her mother is somewhat famous (i.e.. former Republican candidate for Vice-President of the United States and half-term governor of the state of Alaska – as well as being a soccer mom and a famous Mama Grizzly) and that she wasn’t on the show for her dancing ability. 

Hey, I’m not bipolar, but I have to agree with this guy that the only reason that Bristol Palin is on DWTS is because of her Mother’s notoriety (as well as her being the unwed mother who now preaches abstinence) – the question this guy should have been asking before he blew the shit out of his television set is – how in the hell has she lasted this long?  Any one who has watched the show this season would have to agree that there have been far better dancers voted off this season than Bristol Palin.  I will give Palin credit for have improved herself on the dance floor since week one – but there is no way that she is a better dancer than former NBA star Rick Fox or pop singer Brandy (who was voted off this week). 

Personally, I would like to know who is voting for Bristol Palin?  Trust me – there are just as many people who can’t stand her Mother as there are people who think that she’s actually qualified to run for any kind of public office.  If the people who are voting for Bristol because of her mother – I want to know where the other half is on Dancing with the Star’s voting night?  Maybe Fox News will send out one of their fair and balanced news reporters to ferret out this story and report the truth.  Think again.

Trying To Make Something Old New Again

I was surprised to read on about two “new” projects in the planning stages at Warner Brothers pictures.  One of the projects in the planning stages is a remake of the old NBC-TV show “The Man From U.N.C.L.E”.  Nobody has yet to be cast to play the roles that made Robert Vaughn and David McCallum famous – I just got to question why they are even attempting a big-screen version of this TV show.  UNCLE isn’t one of those old TV shows that people get nostalgic about – but Hollywood is also doing a big screen version of the TV show “Dallas” – so maybe they think we’ll see anything these days from television in the 70s and 80s.

The other project that Warner Brothers is working on is a remake of “The Wizard of Oz” with Roger Zemeckis (“Back to The Future” and “Forrest Gump”) on board as director.  No one has been cast for this remake.  I wonder if you’ll be able to watch this new version will be Pink Floyd compactable – like the old version is for some people who like to watch the movie with the sound down and using Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” as the movie soundtrack.

NBC Is Still Having a Bad Year In Prime Time
And They Can’t Blame Leno for This One

I have very few “must see” TV shows and it looks like one of them is about to be a victim of NBC’s incompetence at building a prime time schedule that people want to watch.  It was announced yesterday that NBC will be moving a few shows around in the hopes that people will discover them.  For example – NBC will be moving my favorite show “Parenthood” to Monday nights at 10 against one of CBS’s biggest hits of this season – the remake of “Hawaii 5-0”.  It doesn’t matter to NBC that the audience for “Parenthood” has been building week-to-week against some really tough programming Tuesday nights on ABC and CBS…they’re going to move the show anyway.  All I have to say is “dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb”.  When you have a show that is a fan of the critics and is a marginal hit with the viewers – you don’t move it and make viewers of the show search for it…you let the show build. 

NBC is also going to test how scripted comedy shows in the Thursday 10pm slot will do since their scripted dramas in the 10pm slot aren’t bringing viewers to the tube.  If you’re a fan of “30 Rock” – look for it to find a new home at 10pm in the not too distant future.

And NBC is bringing back Jerry Seinfeld’s “The Marriage Ref” in January – which should give everyone enough time to find a couple of good books to read while they air this show.  As much as I loved Seinfeld – the “Marriage Ref” rubs me the wrong way.  If this is the best that Jerry can do – I recommend that he hang around in the kitchen with his wife and find more vegetables to hide in their kid’s food.