Category Archives: Streaming

3 Ways the Writers’ Room is Changing

3 Ways the Writers’ Room is Changing

When it comes to television, the success of a show doesn’t hinge on the actors, the producers, or even the network. It’s the writers’ room.

The actors, the producers, and the network do contribute a great deal to a show dying a horrible death though. The last one on that list contributes the most. Anyone remember Firefly?

The point is, writers are what give the show it’s meat. The dialogue, the scenes, the action, the emotions, all of that is produced by the writers’ room.

The producers provide the money, and the director gives the whole production a goal. And the network makes the “smart decisions.” These smart decisions usually end a show. Anyone remember Almost Human?

Writers' RoomIt’s the writers that provide all the important parts that make a show a show.

The funny one-liners, the jokes, the turns of phrase, the speeches, and the list goes on. Without a writers’ room, the show wouldn’t exist.

Ironically, it’s the writers who get the least amount of credit.

This team of creatives sit down day after day and do the hard work of writing. While writing is seen as a creative endeavor, make no mistake, it involves hard work. I speak from experience.

And it’s so frustrating to see all the hard work of the writers get thrown away when a network decides a show “just isn’t right.”

Anyone remember Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip?

Studio 60

It starts with a well-loved sketch comedy show, Studio 60, getting shaken up. To fix the public relations disaster, the showrunner hires a well-known producer-writer duo. Played by Matthew Perry, Matt Albie is the writer. He’s got awards, he’s proven himself, he’s what the producers think will save their show.

Albie, like most writers, is always battling his creative demons.

The first Monday after being hired, Albie is tasked with writing his first episode.

Walking into the head writer’s office, he sees the previous occupant put up a neon sign. Turning it on, he finds a famous quote there.

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”

On top of it is a running clock, letting him know how much time he has until the next episode airs.

And the rest of the episode all his creative demons and writing problems are summed up with that running clock.

Should Have Gone With a Writer’s Room

The ironic part is this doesn’t accurately portray how a real television production works. And yet, it’s on television.Writers' Room

In a real studio, Albie would have leaned on his writers’ room. It was more dramatic to have him go it alone. But in real life, the less drama there is the better.

This writers’ room would have already had ideas they were working on and getting ready for them to test out. Ideas would have been bouncing around as multiple writers thought of different ways to convey an idea. Or how to make an idea better.

The writers’ room is an integral part of the production process.

Possibly the most integral part.

But it’s changing.

In this era of Peak TV, more and more shows are being produced. The vast majority of these shows are short and sometimes don’t last long.

Until recently, an idea would be pitched to a producer. If the producer liked the idea, that person would put together a budget and pull in writers to help write a pilot. The pilot would get produced and pitched to a network. If the network liked it, they’d order a set of shows along with the pilot and air it for the next season. If the show did well, it’d get picked up.

There’s a lot of “ifs” in that last paragraph.

Anywhere along the way, a show could have gotten derailed or canceled. This meant the loss of money and time invested to create it.

This was called the “pilot-model.”

Now shows are being created with more than just a pilot shot. Sometimes there is no pilot at all.

The choice for many production companies is to go with a mini-room.

Mini-Room?

Writers’ Rooms usually had a lot of writers in them.

Now the common trend is to have a room with four or five writers working on a single project to come up with possible scripts for episodes. Sometimes they hash out an overall arc. Other times its coming up with ideas to build upon for more shows and possibly later seasons.

Other times a mini-room means a group of writers will only be employed for a short time as they work to write out multiple scripts for a show so the producer has an idea of what the show will look like beyond a pilot.

Sometimes it means both.

The major complaint here is that mini-rooms do not provide a stable income for writers. By their nature, they will only last for a short time.

Another complaint is that the process doesn’t work for some producers. Either they’re used to the old way, or they’re not liking what’s coming out of the room.

On the upside, mini-rooms have their advantages.

Writers’ Rooms are Getting Smaller

An obvious point, but it bears mentioning.

With fewer writers in the room, the most common praise is “greater intimacy.” Meaning, they feel comfortable talking about heavy subject matter.

When writers feel comfortable with each other, they can get to some very deep issues and ideas. This isn’t as common with a large room of writers.

It also helps when a smaller group is hashing out ideas as it’s easier to manage. A cohesive storyline can form faster and work can pick up. What may have taken a season to write may take half or a quarter of the time.

More Writing Opportunities

With more writers’ rooms popping up, more writers are needed to fill them.Writers' Room

The pool of chances just got bigger.

Aspiring writers without the right connections would have a better shot of getting their work in front of a producer. And believe me, having connections in the business makes a world of difference when it comes to getting started.

Why do you think Miley Cyrus became famous? It couldn’t have been because her dad was Billy Ray Cyrus, right?

More Chances for Marginalized Voices

The push for more voices from different backgrounds is gaining steam.

Yet, there women and minorities are still only accounting for about a quarter of the content coming out of Hollywood.

With more writing opportunities available, through mini-rooms, more writers from these backgrounds have a chance. A chance to get their writing in front of producers.

Maybe the industry will finally shift?

We can hope.

Mini-Rooms Becoming the Norm

With any change in the industry, there are those who love and those who hate it.

The biggest argument against mini-rooms is they’re turning the industry into a gig economy.

There is some truth to that, but as more and more companies outsource and get leaner, it makes sense this would happen.

On the upside, there are more chances for aspiring writers to make an impact. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

With the wave of content still rolling strong, there will be a need for more and more writers. As well as people who will want to watch them. So make sure you have a reliable connection and decent download speed. Check out the best internet deals to save you some time and money.

As for Matt Albie of Studio 60, he did manage to pull off the show.

Though unrealistic, the ending had a touch of cosmic fate.

As he watches the audience applause and the cast bow, he smiles and walks away from the window.

Only to hear the sign click.

He looks back.

The timer has rolled over and it’s counting down to next week’s episode.

Matt Groening’s “Disenchantment” Coming to Netflix

Matt Groening’s “Disenchantment” Coming to Netflix

Matt Groening, that genius of animation, has created an adult animated fantasy series on Netflix called Disenchantment.  The series centers around the misadventures of Princess Bean, a rebellious and alcoholic princess, her elf companion, Elfo, and her “personal demon” Luci.

disenchantment

In true Matt Groening fashion, the twenty-episode series (that’s the number of episodes ordered by Netflix to start with) will feature an irreverent, witty brand of humor.  Trailers for the show reveal that the series is set in a medieval fantasy kingdom called Dreamland.

The humor here seems not unlike the tongue-in-cheek jokes of The Simpsons and Futurama, with plenty of cultural and political references thrown in for good measure.

The animation style is a bright and colorful two-dimensional artwork that is fun and interesting to look at.  If Futurama and The Simpsons give any indication, there will be plenty of sight gags involved.

disenchantment

The first ten episodes of the series are scheduled for release on August 17, 2018.  Happy binge watching!

 

3 Reasons Cloud Gaming Will Be Awesome

3 Reasons Cloud Gaming Will Be Awesome

The promise of Cloud Gaming seemed to be a false promise. But now it appears Electronic Arts (EA) can revive that dream.

Back in June 2018, EA demonstrated they were able to stream high-quality games via a high-speed connection. The person on the other end simply needed a controller to hook up to the television, computer, or laptop, and they could play the game.

Just like Netflix brings movies and shows straight to the consumer, EA is working to launch their own game streaming service.

All players will need is a controller, a high-speed internet connection on their device, and of course, a subscription. Then they’ll have access to a huge array of games to play with.

This would have been nice if they’d come out with this technology a lot sooner.Cloud Gaming

That One Roommate

Before Cloud Gaming, before even Netflix streaming, I was a college student sharing a house with five other guys.

The house, affectionately dubbed “The Shack,” should have been condemned. There were roaches living there, not to mention the squirrels and cats too. The squirrels left us alone, but the roaches were constantly inciting a turf war.

The cats just used the place to procreate, and loudly.

Rent was cheap though.

Which was the point, I guess.

To make the situation more livable, TV’s were brought in, DVD players, huge selections of DVDs, and games.Cloud Gaming

One guy had an Xbox. Let’s call him Rick.

While I did my fair share of movie watching, Rick played video games.

Non. Stop.

I shouldn’t judge, he turned out to be a great guy.

And I did spend a few nights trying to beat Gears of War. I wasn’t totally immune.

Yet, if you were to walk in there, 99 times out of ten, it wasn’t me on the Xbox trying to level up in the hottest game to come out that year- Halo 3. It would have been Rick.

So the soundtrack of the house was a constant stream of explosions, gunfire, Rick shouting into his headset, and vulgar putdowns from other people playing the game as well.

This was college.

Since Rick played hours upon hours of Halo, he was good at the game. I wasn’t.

I would be lucky to get five kills in a multi-player match. And Rick wouldn’t hesitate to point this out to me any time I picked up a controller.

As if living in that cesspool wasn’t enough, I couldn’t prove myself in the last arena of true battle- online gaming.

I graduated college, got married, and soon found online gaming really wasn’t the measure of a true man.

But I digress.

I didn’t own a game console. Thus, I wasn’t good at gaming. In hindsight, this wasn’t a bad thing. I did, after all, get into books. And I couldn’t be happier.

Gaming, however, is going to change.Cloud Gaming

As more and more games come out that only emphasize their online gaming mode and not their story mode, the video game companies will need a better way to market their games.

Enter Cloud Gaming.

It’s not all bad.

And here are three reasons why.

No Consoles to Pay For

Part of the reason I never bought an Xbox or a PlayStation was the expensive price tag. And I was a poor college kid.

My parents were also not big into gaming. So I can’t blame them for not shelling out the cash to buy me one that one time I put it on my Christmas list.

With a streaming service, there’s no need to buy the console, or even the game itself. Just hook up the internet, plug in the controller, and away you go.

A streaming game service was attempted back at the start of the 2010’s.

Two companies, GoLive and Gaikai, each showed cloud gaming was a viable possibility.

The only problem was the technology required to make it work was expensive and not as available as it was today. There was also the widely accepted belief that one buys games and does not stream them. Streaming was for movies and wasn’t seen as a stable method for delivering a high-quality gaming experience.

EA has cracked that.

Now all they need is enough subscribers to make it profitable.

Subscriptions

With Cloud Gaming, you’ll only pay once a month, or once for the whole year.

Paying once a month and getting games cheaper is better than having to pay for the console and the games too. At least, I would think so. I’m no expert here, but I do know what I like. And I’d much rather pay a little bit at a time than a lot all at once.

It’s unclear if other game production companies will create their own subscription services like EA’s. But who am I kidding? Of course they will.

Once EA proves this will work, other companies are going to launch their own subscription services to make it happen and compete.

Soon the entertainment world will be one big subscription service, with subscription services to manage subscription services.

At least the games will be cheaper.

Availability to More Players

Rick, though a good guy, was still hogging the Xbox most of the time.Cloud Gaming

With a subscription service, this opens the door for even more people to plug in and play…so long as the internet speed is fast enough. There’s a way around that, just get the best internet bundles and you’ll be able to have multiple players, on multiple devices, all streaming their games at. The. Same. Time!

If there are not enough ports for the controllers, then pull out a laptop, computer, or just another TV with an internet connection. Players would then be able to join in the game and no one would have to wait their turn to play.

Cloud Gaming would make gaming accessible to a much wider audience.

When Is The Future?

EA’s Origin Access Premiere is still in its infancy.

There will still be some kinks to work out, but as of right now, it seems to be working well. This is good news for EA as they continue their domination of the video game industry.

For those who don’t enjoy video games, or don’t object to EA on principle, there are always books to read.

As for me, I don’t see myself getting involved with video games beyond the few apps I have on my phone. Maybe when I’m older and my life slows down just a little bit I’ll have some time to just waste on a game. But I doubt that will happen any time soon.

Rick, my old roomie, did give up gaming. I’m not sure when, but it must have been some time after he got married and started working a real job. Then he had kids.

Last I spoke with him he was getting his masters and taking care of yet another baby. How he manages kids and masters level courses, I don’t know. I barely made it through my masters’ level course with one child.

A few weeks ago I was near my alma mater and thought, just briefly, if that god-forsaken Shack was still there.

Low and behold, it was.

Some other poor sap decided they’d live with the roaches, the squirrels, and the cats, in that confined space. Hopefully, they have fast, reliable internet, and a streaming service.

4 Things to Know about CBS

4 Things to Know about CBS

CBS is experiencing some amazing growth…and a couple serious problems.

The Columbia Broadcasting Service, CBS, has been home to iconic shows. Their current content offering is no different.

Yet, they’ve made a couple of big mistakes.

But let’s talk about two pieces of good news first.

CBS News To Launch Local News Service

CBSN Local, as it will be called, is a new venture by CBS to connect local news providers with cord cutters.

This is a smart move on CBS’s part.

While customers are getting rid of cable and switching entirely to streaming services, the concern for local news stations have been “who will watch us?” To combat this, CBS News will have market-specific streaming news available. Local CBS affiliates will get to produce and stream their local news while alongside CBS’s original content. This streaming service will eventually be part of CBS All Access in the future.

CBSNot all affiliates are getting their own streaming services right now. Only the largest markets will get some first. Other cities will get their own as they roll out the service more and more.

It’s a great idea, but with a downside.

What if some people, namely the author of this post, are not CBS watchers? What if they get their news from somewhere else and are fine missing the local CBS newscast?

CBS may be up a creek with that one.

Then again, that may not be an issue.

CBS All Access and Showtime OTT Subscribers are Rising

CBS All Access, their exclusive streaming service, and their subsidiary, Showtime have been showing strong numbers.

These numbers are so strong that analysts have predicted they’ll break 8 million for All Access and 8 million for Showtime by 2022. Simple math means that will be 16 million new subscribers by 2022.

That’s a big number and something to get excited about.

That is if their forecasters aren’t mistaken like Netflix’s did last July.

The good news is that CBS is adapting to the era of Peak TV better than most of their competitors.

For a broadcast channel that produces shows watched mostly by the over-50 crowd, that’s pretty impressive.

Let’s hope it’s enough to outweigh their bad decisions.

More Star Trek Without Avery Brooks

CBS debuted Star Trek: Discovery exclusively on All Access.

This new show is supposed to be a prequel to the new Trek movies that have come out under JJ Abrams. I haven’t heard much about the show itself. Nor have I had any inclination to.

And for someone who grew up watching Star Trek, that should be shocking.

While it would be easy to blame JJ Abrams for this, in truth, it’s not his fault.

It’s the fault of the executives and producers who decided he’d be a good choice to take control of the franchise. Since I don’t know their names, it’s just easier to blame Abrams for my distaste with the current direction Star Trek has been going.

It wasn’t made any better when I learned that Patrick Stewart was getting another Trek show.

Now, I don’t hate Patrick Stewart. He’s a phenomenal actor.

As Jean-Luc Picard, he brought a certain panache and dignity to the role of a captain. You’ll notice there are very few Trekkie jokes that make fun of his talking style if there are any at all.

Not to mention he did a great job as Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies, despite the horrible turn they took.

No, the issue here isn’t Patrick Stewart at all. Jean-Luc Picard was his role and he made the character what it is today. If he wants to go and make another show based on the character, then that’s his choice.

What I really want to see, and what I’ve been dying to see since 1999, is Avery Brooks step back into the role of Captain Benjamin Sisko.

Who’s Avery Brooks?

For those asking that question, I am deeply saddened.

Avery Brooks played Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space 9.

This spin-off came after The Next Generation, which is what Stewart is known for. Instead of being set on a ship, they set the show on a space station. And not just any space station, but the space station once held by an oppressive regime.

Deep Space 9 wasn’t like the other Star Trek’s, nor any others after it. It dealt with heavy issues like faith, war, and fatherhood, to name a few. DS9, as its called by its die-hard fans, also tossed out the episodic format and set up a mythic arc for the entire series. There were episodes that were “one-offs” like the time Bashir had “James Bond-like” adventure in one of the holosuites.

This idea was ahead of its time. It also made DS9 is perfect for binge-watching.

And yet, no movies, no reboots…nothing.

And why is that?

Just as Deep Space 9 was ending, I expected to see at least one movie where they brought back the entire cast, just like they did for The Next Generation. But they didn’t.

Instead, they made more movies with the TNG cast.

While those movies were fun to watch, I eagerly awaited them to finally give DS9 it’s big budget time on the screen.CBS

But they didn’t.

Instead, someone decided to never go that direction and junk all that story potential.

And for what?

A reboot of the tired old series where we see reinterpretations of characters that we’ve seen a lot of already.

Again, this has nothing to do with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, or the cast of the new Trek movies. They’re great actors, and this is not a reflection on them. Nor did I entirely hate the new Trek movies. They were entertaining at least.

It’s a reflection on the absurdity that’s allowed to reign at these production companies.

And it’s no more obvious than with this next bit of news

Les Moonves Is Still There

The CEO, who’s had multiple counts of sexual harassment against him, has been allowed to stay.

While there’s been a long list of offenders who’ve been kicked out for sexual misconduct, and even worse, Moonves name isn’t on that list.

The specifics of the case aside, it’s sending a message that with enough power, men like this can still be allowed to retain their positions of authority.

And I find that unacceptable.

While I didn’t watch a lot of CBS programming, to begin with, I doubt I’ll be doing much of it now.

Maybe one day I’ll get around to watching Patrick Stewart’s new Trek series, but I’m not forking over money to a company that refuses to do the right thing in the name of profits.

Nor will they make a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 movie.

Or reboot the series.

So much potential and such a waste.

Until then, I’ll have to make do with watching reruns of DS9 so I can see one of the best actors, nay, one of the best roll-models I’ve ever seen, get a chance to act on screen.

For the rest of us, it’s a free country. If you want to subscribe to CBS All Access, I’m okay with that. It is, after all, your right.

Just make sure you save some cash first by checking out the best cable and internet packages. Knowing that someone will be saving money will at least make me feel a little better.

And that will have to do until they finally make that Deep Space 9 movie.

3 Ways Theater Chains Can Combat Netflix

3 Ways Theater Chains Can Combat Netflix

Theaters have been steadily losing to Netflix.

Even though the latest Mission: Impossible scored a record last week, I didn’t it see it.

If it wasn’t on Netflix, then I didn’t watch it.

I’m not lazy, I’m busy. There’s a difference.

As a father of two and gainfully employed, a lot of my time is already spoken for. So is a lot of my income.

Theater ticket prices are also a lot higher than they were when I was younger. And while I am getting a steady paycheck, with two growing children, I have less money available than I used to.

There’s also the fact that Hollywood has lost its luster for me. I used to be the first one in line to catch a movie I liked. I would happily dole out the cash for popcorn and a soda.

But most movies these days just aren’t doing it for me.

I think it happened when they let JJ Abrams reboot Star Trek.

There was hope that it wouldn’t be a repeat of Lost. It was worse.

After that, it just became easier to stay in and miss the latest blockbuster.

This had been happening with increasing frequency recently. Most “experts” point to rising ticket prices, concessions, and the increasing availability of streaming movies. Maybe JJ Abrams is to blame too.Theaters

When Netflix premiered Bright last December, it marked a subtle shift; a streaming service put serious money, got serious talent, and put out a serious movie.

The movie itself wasn’t truly groundbreaking. David Ayers, though a good director, has done similar movies like that. If you’ve seen Training Day and Sabotage, you’d see most of the plot twists coming from a mile away.

While no Oscar-worthy film, Bright signifies that Netflix, and quite possibly the rest of the streaming services, are changing more than just TV watching.

The Problem

Theaters were once an experience in and of themselves.

For those who grew up without streaming services or cable in their homes, going out to catch a movie was a big deal. Since most of the population, as of right now, grew up that way, theaters still hold sway.

But not for long.

As mentioned before, they’re expensive, and they’re crowded. Having to share a movie experience with strangers isn’t as appealing as it used to be. Especially when that stranger talks during the movie and took the best seat.

And, as previously mentioned, the movies themselves haven’t all been winners. While I blamed JJ Abrams for this, I think it signifies a systemic problem overall. But that’s another argument for another post.

Instead, let’s focus on what was keeping me at home.

Netflix offering shows and movies at my fingertips with its streaming service. And with the best internet deals available, why wouldn’t I? While I waited for the latest blockbuster to be released on DVD and sent to my home, I occupied myself with classics, or just read a book.

My world didn’t end if I didn’t see the latest hit in theaters.

And getting to enjoy a film for the first time from the comfort of my couch, where I could provide my own concessions, and not have to listen to strangers talk throughout, that was worth staying in for.

Then came the kids.

Getting babysitters to watch them while I went out only to worry if they were okay the whole time really took the excitement out of the whole thing for me. Besides, I work all day, I’d like to spend as much time with them as I can. I understand there are other parents who don’t share these feelings and that’s okay, parenting isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

So how can theaters combat the rising tide of streaming services?

Embrace It

TheatersThe simplest answer, yet the hardest, is for theater chains to embrace the change and find some way to get in on the action.

Maybe they can facilitate the viewing experience in some way. Since I haven’t been to a theater in almost a year, I’m not sure I can come up with any logical solutions this way.

Fight Back

Theater chains can fight the coming wave.

But not by taking on streaming services themselves.

Instead, they need to go after the Hollywood studios who are gouging them for prices.

It’s a little known fact that Hollywood isn’t playing fair with theaters. Most theaters are forced cut a deal with the studios to get the latest flicks. The studios set the terms and the terms usually go something like this; to get the film on opening weekend, the theater must hand over 90% of their ticket sales for said movie. The next week they’ll only take 85% and so on.

Concession prices have risen in response.

By dropping prices, theaters can draw in more crowds.

By drawing in more crowds, they can justify to the studios the lower prices due to the uptick in volume.

Yet, I highly doubt the theaters will do this.

Instead, as with all change, theaters must innovate.

Here’s how.

Innovate

Ever read Ready Player One?

There was the movie, but I’m talking about the book.

Ernest Cline had come up with the idea of “Flick-Syncs.” Don’t worry, this isn’t a major plot point, just go read the book and you’ll see I’m right.

The Flick-Syncs were interactive competitions where the player would step into a role from a film. If they delivered the line at the right time, they got points. If they managed to nail the inflection and emotion, they got bonuses.

Thanks to hologram technology advancing, this may not be too far into the future.

Theaters can get in on this technology in the early stages and really drive it forward by incorporating it into their movie-going experience. They could make their theaters fully interactive and immersive experiences.

Watching a movie could become a spectator sport.

Heck, you could even get involved in it and compete against friends.

Another way they could leverage this would be to have “blind” competitions, where theater attendees could step into a role they’d never seen before- like a new release- and flex their acting chops.

This could lead to a whole new wave in the casting industry- just check the leaderboards.

An added benefit would be Hollywood could just release classics and turn them into Flick-Syncs. This way we can stop the endless barrage of reboots and sequels. We can be saved from JJ Abrams “reimagining” classics. Going to the theater would become a truly social event.

TheaterWe would just act in the movies ourselves.

I’m on a roll now with these ideas…here’s another one.

These fully interactive Flick-Sync theaters could also pair with school districts.

Imagine a day where you’re taken to the theater to experience walking in a foreign country, exploring the depths of the ocean, or even the moon? Or how about learning a math lesson within an interactive environment?

No more papers and pencils! Think of all the trees we could save!

And it would turn lessons into a competition. That would make math much more fun to learn.

I could go on an on about it, but you’re getting the picture.

I hope we will soon see theaters start to innovate beyond “softer seats” and “tastier concessions,” and into true entertainment.

We may be waiting for a long time though.

That’s okay, there’s plenty of movies and TV shows available on Netflix and I’m always guaranteed a great seat to watch them!

 

5 Tech Must-Haves for Your College Dorm Room

5 Tech Must-Haves for Your College Dorm Room

Soon classes at your local college will start. Before that happens, you’ll be moving into your dorm room. If you’re lucky and live close enough to home, then you won’t have to get a dorm room. Or if you’ve found a way to score off-campus housing.

If not, then there here are fiveCollege tech must-haves for dorm living.

1.      A Good Laptop

You will be writing, period.

What kind of writing you do is up to you…or your professor.

You might write emails to friends and family, writing social media posts, or when you have time, that paper that’s due tomorrow.

A good laptop is essential these days. All room and board charges cover Wi-Fi, so you don’t have to worry about the bill.

Be it an Apple, a Dell, HP, Toshiba, or any of the other brands, make surer you find one with 8 to 16GB of RAM, as well as a good amount of storage. Low RAM means a slow computer.

I speak from experience as my college laptop was slow. This made for some frustrating nights as I tried to write.

2.      Virtual Storage

This never happened to me, but I remember a fellow college student running full on across campus to get to the computer lab. There was a paper due that was 70% of his grade and the class was in ten minutes. So he’d downloaded it onto a flash-drive and sprinted across campus.

Virtual storage wasn’t what it is today, but there were options at the time. Us poor college students couldn’t afford it though.

Get a free Gmail account and you’ll get access to Google Drive. This way you can work on papers, save a copy to Drive, and print them out anywhere you have access to your email.

Just make sure there’s a printer installed, filled with paper and ink.

Bonus

Although a little bit more expensive, get an external hard drive.

My wife, who wrote huge papers for her honors program, kept one and it saved her sanity on more than one occasion. While virtual storage is helpful, a solid backup is added peace-of-mind.

So save yourself the stress.

And that guy who bolted across campus to print out his paper? He dropped the flash-drive on his way and couldn’t find it.

Save yourself the anxiety and get virtual storage.

3.      Bluetooth Speakers

CollegeBack in my day, it was all about the stereos with multiple-disc interchanges.

I graduated before the iPod really took off, or the iPhone came out. Not by much, mind you, but yes, I went to college in a time when Discmans were still the “it” thing.

With smaller, and portable, speakers available, you have music right there with you, no matter where you go.

Create a playlist on your phone, pair with a Bluetooth speaker, and you can take this anywhere you go. Doesn’t matter if you’re studying or at a party, you’ll be your own DJ.

Check out JBL, Canz, Bose, Sony, and other Bluetooth speaker makers to find the one that works for you and your budget.

Another plus- if someone has a Bluetooth speaker in their room and you’re not digging the music, just pair your phone to it and play your own music!

4.      Noise Cancelling Headphones

Dorms will be noisy.

Doesn’t matter the time of day, someone will be making noise.

Invest in noise-canceling headphones, it’ll help save your sanity.

You just never know when two guys next door will decide to pump up their sub-woofer to watch The Punisher. Even with headphones on, I couldn’t hear my own music. Therefore, noise-canceling would have been a good idea at the time.

Bose, Plantronics, AKG, and Beats are just some of the manufacturers who make noise-canceling headphones. And they come highly rated!

You can then shut off all outside noise while you study, or just listen to something other than your loud dormmates.

5.      A Smart TV

With smart TV’s so prevalent, you can find a good deal on one with good resolution and apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

This will help cut down on all the clutter you have to take with you. Your movies and shows will be in one place, allowing you to save shelf space for…other things.

Bonus

Get a Chromecast, Roku Firestick, or Apple TV.

These will make up for any apps or streaming services that don’t come with your smart TV. Or if you can’t get a smart TV at all, then you’ll have this as a backup.

Since most dorms come with Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to stream and download that way and never miss the next episode of your favorite TV show.

Extra Bonus

The greatest thing about college is all the freedom you get to enjoy.College

The worst thing about college…is all the freedom you get to enjoy.

You don’t have to figure it out on your own.

Dorm life has been a constant for millions of people for years. Some of those people have gone on to write books about the experience.

Find these on Amazon, Half-Price Books, BN.com, or download to your favorite eBook reader.

This way you can learn from other’s mistakes so you can avoid making the same ones yourself.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

Published in 1954, detailing the exploits of a college professor who doesn’t want the job at all. It may help you get an idea of where your professors are coming from.

Free Stuff Guide for Everyone by Peter Sander

Everything is expensive these days. When you’re in college this will be a harsh reality to contend with. Get this helpful guide so you can find the best deals, discounts, or other ways of making your dollar go farther.

Goodnight Dorm Room: All the Advice I Wish I Got Before Going to College by Samuel Kaplan and Keith Riegert

A funny and honest look at college. This book helps you understand the realities of college, as well as the real world, as well as giving you hints on how to adapt to dorm living and get ahead.

Dorm Room Essentials Cookbook by Gina Meyers

Everyone has to eat. But cafeteria food gets old really fast. And eating out for every meal is not feasible. This cookbook clues you in on how to make snacks, meals, and desserts on a budget and in your own dorm room.

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen

If there’s a lot of people living in a close, confined space, then the numbers dictate that one of them will be weird. Handling roommates and dormmates is a part of college life. Best to get ahead of the game and buy this book.

The College Humor Guide to College by Ethan Trex and Streeter Seidell

Who better to guy you into college than the people who parody college living?

By taking the humorous route, the book is more helpful than actual guidebooks.

 

There are more titles like these available. This list will get you started.

Make sure you get these books and read them before classes start. This way you’ll be even more prepared for college than any high school prep class could have made you.

Download the eBooks, audiobooks, or stream them to your device with reliable internet. To do that, check out the best cable and internet deals. This way you’ll save some money before you jet off to higher education.

4 Great Things Coming to AMC Networks

4 Great Things Coming to AMC Networks

AMC Networks, owner of the eponymous channel that’s home to “The Walking Dead”, “Better Call Saul”, and “Preacher”, is working on acquiring RLJ Entertainment. RLJ owns Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel, which means AMC is going to be getting bigger.

And offering more for their streaming customers!

RLJ has a huge library they’ll bring to the table. This means even more shows and movies that AMC customers will get to see through the networks bevy of channels.

The best part?

RLJ Entertainment owns 64% of the Agatha Christie Limited, the media rights and literary management company set up by the great author herself.

If this doesn’t excite you, here’s four reasons why it should.

Agatha Christie

Long hailed as the murder mystery writer, Agatha Christie wrote sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections.

Born in 1890, Agatha took up writing poems and short stories. It wasn’t until a cousin recommended a murder mystery that Agatha attempted to enter the genre. If there hadn’t been that one suggestion, the murder-mystery genre may not be what it is today.

Her writing style, use of tropes, red herrings, and characters have helped define what makes good murder mystery writing. She’s also credited with starting the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

Her works, though dated, have been adapted and many authors are updating them to reflect more modern writing styles. At least one lucky author, Sophie Hannah, has been given authority to continue writing Hercule Poirot mysteries.

Of her sixty-six works, three detectives stand out.

Tommy and Tuppence

Lesser known of her famous detectives, Agatha enjoyed writing Tommy and Tuppence novels the most. These Partners in Crime were her first detectives, and the duo aged with her.

Partners in Crime follow Tommy and Tuppence Beresford as they find themselves constantly getting involved with dastardly plots. The pair didn’t set out to solve crimes at first. Because there were no other jobs, they started up Young Adventurers Ltd. “Willing to do anything. Go anywhere…No reasonable offer refused.”

Those reasonable offers came with a mystery to solve.

While I haven’t read or watched any of the works, if its Agatha Christie, then I at least know it’s good source material. As for the adaptations of the works themselves, again, I’m in the dark here.

Given there’s been multiple interpretations of the characters, it’s safe to say the crime-solving pair are entertaining to watch.

One novel was adapted into a silent movie in 1928 then a series of radio dramas on the BBC in 1953. The late Richard Attenborough provided the voice for Tommy too!

In 1984, Partners in Crime was finally adapted for the small screen. James Warwick and Francesca Annis took on the titular roles and reprised the roles again in 1985.

No new adaptations were made until 2005, this time in France. The names of the characters were changed, though the source material remained faithful to Christie’s original vision. In 2008, another French adaptation was made.

David Walliams and Jessica Raine took on the roles in the 2015 mini-series, Partners In Crime.

No news as to whether another adaptation is in the works.

Miss Marple

Miss Marple seems to sit quietly in the background, knitting away.

This turns out to only be deception, as the elderly spinster is quietly observing, assessing, and analyzing everyone and everything around her. This is what makes her a remarkably effective sleuth.

The list of actresses who’ve played Miss Marple is practically a “who’s-who” of classic acting; Gracie Fields, Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury, Helen Hayes, Joan Hickson, and June Whitfield.

Most recently, Geraldine McEwan starred in the role in 2004 with Julia McKenzie assuming the role in 2009.

I haven’t had the chance to catch these adaptations, though I did see a stage production of A Murder is Announced when I was in college. Being a Division III school, they didn’t do too bad.

Hercule Poirot

The most well-known of Agatha’s sleuths was Hercule Poirot (pronounced “pwa-ro,” it’s Belgian French).

If it wasn’t because of his skills as a detective, then it was most definitely the mustache.

The idea for Hercule Poirot is said to not been based on any one person. There is speculation, however, that a specific Belgian refugee who fled to England and settled in the countryside is the true catalyst for Agatha’s most notable detective. There’s another claim that he was based on two other fictional detectives of the time, Hercule Popeau and Monsieur Poiret. And still another that he was based on Sherlock Holmes.

The mystery of who really inspired Agatha Christie to create the character will remain. When it comes to who did the best job of portraying the character, there is less speculation needed.

Who’s the Best Poirot?

From Charles Laughton to Hugh Laurie, there have been too many Poirot’s to list here.

In 2017 Kenneth Branagh stepped into the role for Murder on the Orient Express. Given the film’s high production budget and Branagh’s Shakespearean experience, the movie was amazing. Fun to watch, keeps you guessing (if you haven’t already read the book), and great performances by an all-star cast.

Yet, for me, the standard of Hercule Poirot will always be set by David Suchet.

True, Suchet’s mustache is more downplayed than Branagh’s. Branagh had the advantage of a big budget and having to only wear the titular facial hair for a relatively short time. Suchet, on the other hand, played the role for thirteen years. And yet, the mustache’s even more endearing than Branagh’s.

The ear-to-ear handlebars that Branagh sports are impressive, but only from a production standpoint. From a character standpoint, it’s just a defining feature. Suchet’s is where it’s at. Though subtler, his mustache adds the dramatic flair that is Poirot. To keep that kind of facial hair going for that long takes a rare level of commitment.

To get into the mindset of such a literary behemoth, Suchet took character notes. By the end of his run, he had over 90 traits written down that made Poirot Poirot. Branagh only had to stay in character for a few months.

And that closes that case.

Find Agatha Christie

It’s unclear if AMC Networks will just air reruns of the great Christie works or if they’re going to create original content from them.

Given the recent resurgence in her work, I would hope they’d opt to remake some of her work. They could even go the Holmes route and update her characters.

If that were to happen, then Vincent Cassel would be my first pick to step into the role of a new Poirot. Of course, Dame Judi Dench would be great as Miss Marple. For Tommy and Tuppence I’d name James Marsters and Lucy Davis. Hollywood may go a different direction, and they often do. It’s not the first time I’ve been ignored by Hollywood.

And it won’t be the last.

The good news is that getting access to current Agatha Christie works is simple. First, look for the best internet and cable packages. This way you’ll save money and headache when it comes to watching all the shows and movies based on Agatha Christie’s books.

Second, get to a library or a bookstore and go find Agatha’s actual work. Every library is bound to have at least one.

Third, if reading a book isn’t your thing, then get the Overdrive app or any number of audiobook apps. There’s a few that offer free titles as well.

This way you’ll get to read Murder on the Orient Express, and others, before watching the movie. This will enhance your viewing experience.

Once you’ve read an Agatha Christie, then watch a movie or a show, then it’ll be no mystery why her work has lasted so long.

Walmart to Enter the Streaming Services Ring

Walmart to Enter the Streaming Services Ring

Vudu’s getting more help from Walmart in the battle for streaming supremacy.

There’s an unseen arena out there with three big contenders; Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Smaller contestants are also in the ring, but they’re not making much of an impact. They’re content to stick to their small niches and maintain their authority there.

Vudu was one of them.

Now Walmart, having bought the company back in 2010, is looking to expand into the streaming arena and become a serious competitor.

The Champion

Though in its early phases, it seems likely Walmart will launch this new streaming service by the end of this year.

If that’s true, then Walmart has little-to-no-time to build a streaming service from the ground up. This necessitates using one of the properties they already own- Vudu.

Vudu rents and sells digital movies. The online service also launched its own ad-support streaming service, Movies On Us. These two services, while nice, are not in the same league as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.

For one, they don’t create original content.

Two, they’re just for movies and not shows.

For Vudu to compete, Walmart would need to expand the offerings inside of it…which they are. Walmart has met with content producers inside Hollywood to discuss the creation of original content. If this move is successful, Walmart will have something different to offer the viewing public instead of syndicating popular titles.

As stated before, they seek to launch this service by the end of the year. Unless Walmart has been secretly building up a streaming service, which is unlikely, then they’d have to use Vudu to do it. Vudu already has the basics in place for streaming.

The goal would now become to add the shows and viewing capabilities required for streaming services.

Walmart’s Got Other Allies

Although Walmart has Vudu and can use the online movie streaming service as the platform for a larger scale entertainment service, Walmart would still need help in handling that kind of online traffic.

Luckily, they do.

On July 17th, as Amazon Prime Day was winding down, Walmart announced a five-year partnership with Microsoft. The technology giant would provide cloud services for Walmart.

These cloud services are not just for streaming services.

Part of the deal is to help improve Walmart’s online infrastructure and presence to better compete against Amazon.

With this deal in place, and if the streaming service does launch by the end of this year, then Walmart can attack Amazon on more fronts.

And who knows, maybe Walmart will have their own artificial holiday to take on Amazon’s Prime Day?

A Decisive Move

Walmart entering the streaming entertainment field means yet another streaming service to consider.Walmart

In this Era of Peak TV, there are so many shows to watch that it’s overwhelming.

This is both good and bad.

Bad in that time is spent watching episode after episode. Sure, it’s entertaining, but you’re sacrificing time that you could also be outside enjoying nature, playing a sport, or talking to real people.

Streaming entertainment isn’t bad when it’s in moderation.

The good is that there’s bound to be something available that you’d like to watch. No matter your taste in entertainment, Peak TV has something for you to get hooked on.

Good shows have a way of touching that creative side of our brain. They provoke us to try new things, even push our own boundaries.

A better catalyst for pushing boundaries is reading a book, but we can get into that later.

With Walmart entering the streaming entertainment field, there’s going to be more options.

And not just for shows.

But when it comes to price.

There’s news that Walmart will offer this streaming service at a price lower than Netflix and Amazon.

While this seems an obvious competitive move to make on Walmart’s part, there’s a hidden advantage.

Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, though great and offer a wealth of engaging content, they’re seen as more “west coast and east coast.” These streaming giants seem to tailor their content for people who live on the east and west coasts. These parts of the country aren’t bad. They do, however, have a different set of values than those on the interior.

It appears that Walmart is seeking to create content that speaks more to middle America than the other three are.

And with a lower price point, it’s sure to get a lot of attention when it’s first launched.

Should Walmart go ahead with this move it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

A New Phase for Walmart?

Streaming services have their “personality.”

To compete against them, a company must adopt a certain “streaming persona” to compete. This is true in other areas of life, not just entertainment.

What will Walmart’s be?

Whether they’re “hip and cool” or more “country,” doesn’t matter. Walmart needs to own it and commit to a direction.

The true test to see if Walmart will be able to take on Netflix and Amazon is how their content matches up. What kind of content will they create? Are they looking for big players? Or are they going to gamble on unknowns and hope that they can score big?Walmart

Until that happens, we’ll just have to wait as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the rest of the gladiators in the Colosseum duke it out with new content and package deals.

And while you wait, check your internet bill. If it’s a little high and you’re wanting to make sure in your budget for Walmart’s new streaming service, then have a look at the best internet deals.

No use fighting that battle.

Netflix Gets a Makeover!

Netflix Gets a Makeover!

Netflix is doing a “makeover” of its profile icons selection.  That’s right!  You can now choose from 100 new icons to give your profile a signature flair.  The new options include characters from its original shows like Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, Queer Eye, and others.  The company wrote in a blog post that they are “thrilled to give you a way to show your fandom and make your connection with Netflix more unique.”

netflix

The existing icons are also being updated with little changes.  Color changes to the icons (like the super hero and the penguin) as well as additional details are being made.  For example, on the mustached man with glasses icon, the sunglasses will now have a gold gradient.  Fun stuff.

netflix

These updates will be rolling out “over the next few weeks,” according to the announcement.  Additionally, Netflix has redesigned the TV interface with a new sidebar and distinct sections for shows and films.

“The new interface was based on rigorous research and testing around how we can make it easier to find titles on TVs, where navigation can feel a bit tougher when you are restricted to just a few buttons on a remote control,” wrote Stephen Garcia, Netflix’s director of product innovation, in a blog post.

With all these upgrades, the user experience can only keep getting better and better.

2 Solutions for Cable Top Boxes

2 Solutions for Cable Top Boxes

As more and more devices are integrating and folding into others, there’s one stubborn resister- the cable-top box.

No matter what the new advances in technology these days, cable-top boxes are still around. They sit there, blinking dumbly at you whether the show is loading or not. Some customers complain they’re an eye-sore, others hide them behind furniture. Though this does fix an aesthetic issue, it ends up killing your Wi-Fi.

Despite smart home devices becoming more plentiful, and easier to use, the cable top box hasn’t changed much.

Remember the First Cell Phone?

I remember the days of Saved By The Bell.

Remember Zack Morris? Remember that phone?

The cell phone began as a luxury item, much like cable. And much like the cell phone, cable has evolved.

It seemed to be stuck though.

Cell phones, on the other hand, have changed.

They began to get smaller and smaller, lighter and lighter. But they still had horrible sound quality and would drop calls. That’s when providers learned to improve cell signal quality.

Then came texting, games, mapping apps, music, and other bells and whistles.

More and more stuff kept getting shoved into this little device until they ceased to be cell phones and instead became smart phones.

Touchscreens were at first a hip new thing, now they’re a requirement for inclusion in the smartphone category.

If we’re to follow this analogy, cable top boxes are sitting at where cell phones were at the turn of the century. They have a lot of functionality in them, but there’s obvious room for improvement. Not to mention they’re still clunky and come only in one color.

Instead of moving forward, cable-top boxes have halted in their evolution.

Darwin’s Not Happy

Cable companies still make a lot of money off the cable-top box, the main reason why there hasn’t been much improvement with this technology. They’re a requirement for access and customers rent them monthly. It’s an income stream they’re not willing to get rid of. And who can blame them?

As more and more streaming services enter the market, and less and fewer people continue to pay for cable, the cable-top box needs to adapt or die.

Adapt

Cable-top boxJason Brush, the global EVP of experiences & innovation for Possible, argues the cable-top box is not living up to its potential.

With the push for TVs to be less of a TV and more of a smart hub for smart homes, cable top boxes could provide this already. Since cable-top boxes are usually the entry point for internet into a home, it makes sense to make these the hub for the smart home.

Instead of only allowing cable access, with a DVR, cable top boxes could act as the headquarters for all the smart home devices. Brush suggests making them voice-activated, or to expand the user interface to make it more intuitive. The cable top box would become so much more than just “that thing for the cable.”

By changing the gizmo into another smart home device, the cable top box would have more functionality. It’d be part of the home’s network instead of a network on its own.

Or Die

Another suggestion and the one consumers are more likely to approve of, is to have the cable-top box go the way of the dodo. That is, to become extinct.

Take the cable option and incorporate it into an app available on your smart TV.

This choice takes away a huge income stream for the cable company, so it’s the one they’re going to be the least happy with. The consumer, on the other hand, will be glad to get rid of the ugly thing and make their lives a little simpler.

With smart TVs becoming more and more integrated into the smart home, getting rid of the cable top box is a natural part of the process. TVs will absorb the duties of receiving the cable signal and managing the smart home devices. And it’ll only require one remote too!

Or heck, even an app from your phone.

The Future of Cable

Once the cable top box goes, and it will go, cable companies will need to rethink how they provide services.Cable-top box

Although streaming services are pulling in more customers every day, cable television isn’t done yet. There will always be holdouts who decide they’re going to stick with cable, no matter what.

Then there are the cable companies themselves who have spent years and years building their empires. No one walks away from something like that just because they think a new competitor is too strong.

Cable companies will find a way to adapt to the changing environment. The real question is; will they come up with a solution sooner rather than later?

The good news is cable companies are still around and with streaming services coming after them, they’re eager to cut deals to ensure they increase their subscriber base and keep current customers.

Search for the best internet bundles. These bundles put cable, internet, and sometimes phone, into one package. You’ll save money by putting your services into one spot, as well as streamline the connections into your house.

The cable top box will remain for the foreseeable future.

This isn’t a bad thing at all, except if you don’t like the design and color of it.