Today Is My Last Day of Cable TV

I would be lying if I said I knew this day would come.

But the truth is: it was a combination of shitty misfortune and crappy circumstance that forced my hand to, after years of patronage, make the fateful call to the poor customer service representative at Time Warner Cable who had to reluctantly accept my rejection of cable TV service.

And damn are those guys a persistent bunch of pricks. Those who have gone through the same experience know what I'm talking about. But I have to hand it to "Ralph," the young gentleman who did his best, read from his script, and attempted to sell me a lower-priced bundle. No business wants to hear that a customer will no longer be visiting its store as frequently as they used to. But Ralphie, babe, you're not losing me completely. You're just not getting my $128.50 every goddamn month.

To those who know me, this recent development may come as a shock. Like most of you, I was that appointment TV watcher whose DVR rarely fell under 40% capacity because my viewing habits have drastically changed over the past decade. Out of the average ten shows I regularly watch each week, nine of them are watched either on delay, the next day, or the following week. For a while there, I was behind on four episodes of The Vampire Diaries -- gasp! And with more and more episodes of my favorite comedies and dramas being made available online (and elsewhere), getting rid of my cable package during these financially challenging times made more and more sense.

It's called sacrifice, people. And I'm making it.

Today is my last day of service, and I'm already feeling the beginnings of cold turkey creeping up on me. But with that comes an exciting sense of liberty. Of freedom. I'm feeling the chains fall to the ground, and there's nothing -- no sweet offer, no free HBO for 3 months -- that the cable gods can do to hold me down.

To the bloodsuckers at Time Warner Cable, I say this: Say hello to my little friends, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, and YouTube.

To my close friends in Los Angeles: you can count on me showing up at your place for the Oscars and Grammys next month...and for the Emmys in September.

And to those paperback novels that have been patiently waiting on my shelves (along with my poor, neglected Kindle): perhaps I will finally get to you at some point this year.

Taking deep breaths,
H

@TheFirstEcho


10 Types of Los Angeles Traffic


We get it. Traffic in L.A. can be a major bitch sometimes, and for those of us who live in this chaotic car culture of Southern California, we have to adapt to the different kinds of bumper-to-bumper grind in which we find ourselves trapped on a weekly basis. Hence why you see us behind the wheel killing time reapplying our make-up, reading the newspaper, and shamelessly lip syncing to Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" (sir in the Subaru on La Cienega, you know who you are).

Here's a few of the jams I've gotten myself into over the past decade...

1. The Hollywood Bowl Nightmare - Weekend nights from May to October at the top of Highland Avenue is not the place to be as you'll most likely be struggling to swim upstream against a current created by exiting concert attendees. Plus, you don't want to risk running down one of the hundreds of picnic basket-carrying pedestrians walking back to their parked cars on Hollywood Boulevard. I have a friend who has a condo a block away from the Bowl; none of our friends will visit him at night Fridays through Sundays.

2. The Golden Globes Clusterfuck - If you live on the Westside like me, and you need to pass through Beverly Hills where Santa Monica Boulevard crosses Wilshire on this eventful Sunday, you're screwed. Although the detour isn't all that inconvenient, it's still a challenge to weave your way through countless limousines, news vans, and paparazzi who will do anything to get a snapshot of Jennifer Lopez.

3. The Get-Out-Of-The-Way-There's-A-Police-Chase Holdup - Los Angeles is known for their high-speed pursuits, and when there's some dumbass attempting to elude the cops in a stolen Escalade (or a rickety pick-up truck), pull over to the side of the road with the rest of the innocent drivers who are already experiencing a commute from hell.

4. The Academy Awards Detour - Don't bother going anywhere near Hollywood and Highland on Oscar Sunday because you. Will. Regret. It. All of Hollywood believes that laying out the world's largest red carpet along several city blocks is more important than your need to rush home to watch the newest episode of Girls.

5. The Staples Center and Nokia Theater Exodus - The I-10 and I-110 interchange in downtown L.A. is ground zero for this grand traffic jam. Basketball games, Lady Gaga concerts, The American Music Awards -- they're all cause for avoiding any route through DTLA. My advice for anyone with a dinner reservation in Pasadena: Make it an In-N-Out night instead.

6. The 405 Freeway - Enough said (See top picture).

7. Fairfax Avenue in Little Ethiopia - The northbound stretch of street between Olympic and Pico Boulevards is one of those portals to Hell I try to avoid every chance I get. I have yet to figure out why, at any given time on any given day, traffic comes to a standstill. Perhaps it's some kind of marketing ploy created by the numerous ethnic restaurants that line up those two blocks. WTF, Little Ethiopia? WTF?

8. The West Hollywood Shutdown - This occurs twice a year: during the annual LGBT Pride Festival in June and during October's Halloween Carnivale. Sure, parking restrictions may be lifted in WeHo during these celebrations, but the line to get within these city limits is longer than the one for the men's room at The Abbey. If you MUST head into the costumed chaos, cab it to Doheny (or Crescent Heights if you're coming from the east) and walk it.

9. Santa Monica Boulevard eastbound after 3pm in West L.A. - Besides waterboarding, there is no worse torture (In conjunction with #6).

10. The Beverly Hills Bitchslap - This other particular strip of Santa Monica Boulevard in the 90210 is always clogged (blame tourists on the weekends), a gauntlet of traffic lights situated at each corner for a seven-block stretch. It's one major stop-and-go that never lets up. Tip: if you're looking to make it through every light in one sprint, try it at 1:50 in the morning. I'm convinced traffic controllers are leaving their stations at that time for a late-night snack.

That all said: Urban planners of Los Angeles, get your shit together.

Sincerely,

@TheFirstEcho


Pop Culture Rant of the Week

Dear E! Networks: It's nice to see you investing in British girl group The Saturdays (see: Chasing the Saturdays, premiering this winter). I didn't realize America time-traveled back to 2008 -- y'know, when they dropped their debut album. Granted, it was in the UK, but still, the Brits must be getting a kick out of watching us Yanks jump on a bandwagon half a decade old.

NBC's Deception is a shining example of what's wrong with most of network television. I can buy Victor Garber playing Tate Donovan's father as much as I can buy Mariah Carey wanting to be on American Idol.

Jurassic Park 4 will be hitting theaters on June 13, 2014, 21 years after the original. If Christopher Nolan gets tapped to direct this, expect morally ambiguous dinosaurs, a Hans Zimmer rendition of John Williams's majestic score, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an ambitious archaeologist who suffers from visions of his dead wife.

Destiny's Child released a new single called "Nuclear," produced by Pharrell Williams. Strangely, it has nothing to do with the arms race with North Korea and Russia, but it does sound like a whole lotta 1993 was crammed up in this joint. And that ain't such a bad thing.

Justin Timberlake announces his comeback to music. Anyone who can clearly remember 2002 is now at risk of spontaneously combusting.

Britney Spears isn't coming back to The X Factor, and she broke up with Jason Trawick. In related news, I had a nice bowel movement this morning.

I need the new Ke$ha video like I need a third nipple on my elbow.

Flu update: I watched a video of a man sneezing on a New York City subway. According to a CNN segment called "Anatomy of a Sneeze," 40,000 droplets are released in one blow. If you need me, you can find me in my airtight bubble surrounded by bottles of hand sanitizer inside my apartment.

If Pitch Perfect 2 is officially greenlit by Universal, I'd like to petition for the subtitle to be called Aca-Boogaloo.

@TheFirstEcho


Destiny's Child New Single 'Nuclear' Debuts

Beyonce, Michelle, and Kelly are serving some early 90s realness on "Nuclear," their first original track since 2005's "Lose My Breath." It's a mid-tempo jam that is, thankfully, not another female empowerment anthem (which is soooo early 2000s, don't you think?).

However, I have to wonder when this track was actually recorded, because something tells me their team sat on this for a while and waited for the right moment to capitalize on some Destiny's nostalgia. But maybe that's just the cynical pop fanatic in me...

Listen to the new track below. It will be featured on their upcoming compilation (read: neither a greatest hits nor a new album), Love Songs.
 

@TheFirstEcho


The First Great Song of 2013: Churchill's 'Change'

Something tells me that if this song becomes a hit and this band, Churchill, becomes super famous, they'll have to reshoot the crap video that was made over a year ago to accompany it.

Please don't let the odd and cheaply made visuals ruin the song for you. It really is a great piece of alt-pop that is being replayed on my iPod every day this month. And as a sidenote, I have to say I'm really digging the trend of coed alternative bands (Alphabeat, The Lumineers) leaving their impression on the pop music landscape.

Enjoy:

@TheFirstEcho


9 People I May Know

After being a proud member of various social networks and living in L.A. for more than decade, Facebook has come to the conclusion that I know certain people.

According to The Facebook Blog:

People You May Know looks at, among other things, your current friend list and their friends, your education info and your work info. If you are already friends on Facebook with some people from your last job, for example, you may find some more of your former coworkers (assuming they are visible to you in search) among the "People You May Know' suggestions.

While I think it's pretty presumptuous of Mark Zuckerberg & Co. to assume that I could be potential BFFs with individuals I have never met (or admired from afar), I frequently get a kick out of seeing the connections that exist out there, these virtual friends who could very well clog up my news feeds with more status updates I don't need in my life.

And they are...

1. Girls with whom I once partied in Vegas and enjoyed many a shenanigan here in Los Angeles and who are now proud moms of babies. Their lives are probably much more fabulous than mine, and they probably think my life is much more fabulous than theirs.

2. Girls I knew in elementary school who now resemble the Real Housewives of New Jersey (one in particular is starting channel her inner Teresa Giudice).


3. That Guy Who Makes The Same Face In Every Photo. You know the type: pursed lips, shrugged shoulders, and a perpetual look that screams, "I rock, but I swear I'm not a douche." Um, yes you are.

4. Kevin Spacey (seriously, who do I know who knows him?)

5. An A-list director with a reputation for sleeping with much younger men. No, I haven't been solicited -- I wasn't born in the 90s.

6. A distant cousin who hasn't been in the same room as me since the early 90s. I'm not the same person I was since then, and most likely, neither is he. Ergo: why bother?

7. The wardrobe stylist for Bill Maher.

8. Chris Evans's brother. Yes, I'm one degree away from Captain Muthaf**kin' America.

9. President Barack Obama...

Just kidding.

@TheFirstEcho


How I Spent My Winter Holiday Break


I...

...was forced by my mother to watch/tolerate several episodes of NCIS, introduced the role-playing game of Mafia to my entire family on Christmas night, went on an excursion with my dad to find a power box for his ancient Dell desktop, went on an after-Christmas shopping spree at the mall with my cousins, battled a nasty cold during a trip to Boston, battled a nastier snowstorm on the drive back to New York, sat in on a podcast to offer my reviews of several movies, introduced my mother to the Crawley family via the Season 1 and Season 2 DVDs of Downton Abbey, counted down to 2013 in a very crowded apartment somewhere in Soho, indulged in some Dunkin Donuts, witnessed my parents enter into the 21st century as they purchased an HDTV (I predict/hope for an iPad by the year 2015), woke up from a highly emotional dream about meeting my literary idol in my best friend’s Manhattan apartment, feasted on lobster, doubled twenty bucks on a 25-cent slot machine, reminisced about my days in London with a friend I hadn’t seen in a decade, celebrated my grandmother’s 91st birthday at the same Italian restaurant where we celebrated her 90th, Instagrammed the hell out of a dozen or so photos in one week, had brunch with a college friend in Connecticut, had brunch with a potty-mouthed lawyer friend who never fails to make me laugh (never change, Michelle), stuffed my face with carbs with an old coworker in Port Chester, and saw The Guilt Trip with my mom, which hit a little too close to home.