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The Streaming Shuffle ?

The Streaming Shuffle ?

streaming logos

A few days ago, we decided to cancel Hulu, one of our favorite streaming services. When I went to make the change, there was an option to pause the service for 12 weeks with no fees, so that’s what I did. The same night, I went to HBO Max, a favorite we canceled in May and cranked it up again after six months. Going into the holidays, we have months of HBO shows and movies that built up over the summer.

I call this The Streaming Shuffle and going forward, it’s how we’ll save a bit of money and always have entertainment options accumulating in the background.

For most of my adult life, this wasn’t possible. Once a choice was made about which cable or satellite service to use, you were locked in. You had their dishes and set-top boxes, which made it a hassle to switch. And that’s how the services liked it.

Now that TV is quickly transitioning to web-based streaming services, the hardware is mostly gone and so is the lock-in. The options are based on monthly subscriptions that can be turned on and off at any time. Finally, we can choose what works for us.

But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. What once came with a single service is now spread across multiple. To replicate the selection of cable or satellite you must now subscribe to a number of streaming services, each with its own monthly fee. And it adds up quickly. Here’s a quick run-down of the major players:

Cable Alternatives (local networks, plus cable channels):

  • YouTube TV
  • Hulu + Live TV
  • DirectTV Streaming

Streaming Services (each with its own libraries and licensed content)

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • HBO Max
  • Apple TV+
  • Hulu
  • Disney
  • ESPN+
  • Paramount+
  • Peacock
  • Discovery+

Today we have a wide selection of services, but they’re all fragmented and have independent pricing. It’s not reasonable to subscribe to everything, so we have to figure out the right mix for our tastes, which can mean subscribing to five different services, with five log-ins and five bills. What’s a person to do?

Here’s what we did…

We watch a lot of sports and like to have a service like cable/satellite to access local events, news, and sports channels like Fox Sports for soccer. For this, we subscribe to YouTube TV, which is a pretty impressive service. It includes an unlimited DVR service and is about $70 per month. Hulu offers something similar. 

In terms of the streaming services, some of our services will stay put. Netflix, for example, is subsidized by our T-Mobile plan. We use Amazon Prime for more than entertainment, so we’ll stick with it, too. But outside those, we’re doing the shuffle between:

  • HBO Max
  • Apple TV+
  • Hulu
  • Disney

Having just restarted HBO, it will carry us through the holidays. Meanwhile, the other services will be introducing new shows that we’ll miss, initially. Maybe in 12 weeks, Hulu will, again, be the darling, or maybe AppleTV+. That’s the beauty of the streaming shuffle: the good stuff accumulates so when you switch, it seems like there are more options and less brainless browsing. 

What are you enjoying on HBO Max right now? Reply and let me know.

I Can Recommend: Gardening Edition

I Can Recommend: Gardening Edition

Monty Don

I sometimes wonder what it is about British TV that we find so entertaining. Sure, there are charming hosts with funny aphorisms and accents. But the sheer abundance of quality shows that are unlike anything we see in the US is confounding. My guess is that it has something to do with funding from the BBC, which operates a bit like the PBS in the US.

?Gardener’s World (Amazon Prime) You can’t talk about British gardening without mentioning Monty Don and Gardener’s World. It’s a British institution that’s been going for 165 episodes. We also enjoyed Monty in Big Dreams, Small Spaces.

? Clarkson’s Farm (Amazon Prime) Like Monty Don, Jeremy Clarkson is a British legend, mostly due to his long-running and much-loved show, Top Gear. This one-season show is about him buying a huge farm and learning to make it productive with the help of local farmers in the Cotswolds. His ornery sense of humor along with the colorful locals make this show very entertaining. I now know much more about the challenges of “real” farming.

?Grow, Cook, Eat (Amazon Prime) This isn’t British, but Irish, and features a master vegetable gardener and charming sidekick who sticks up for the amateur gardener. The couple focuses on one vegetable per episode and the viewer gets to see it grow from seed to harvest to being cooked by a chef. Very practical and easy to watch, especially if your climate is like theirs.

☘️Fredrick Law Olmstead: Designing America (Amazon Prime) – This documentary is about Mr. Olmstead, but also the evolution of Central Park in New York. Our neighborhood parks in Seattle, including the boulevard in front of our house, were designed by his son and nephew and I always wanted to know more about the family and their approach to landscape architecture.

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I Can Recommend: Triggered (the Movie) ?

I Can Recommend: Triggered (the Movie) ?

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #97 – SMASHBURGER!

Triggered (Hulu) – Triggered is not a good movie in terms of minor things like acting. It’s clearly low budget and many elements seem overdone, from the make-up, to the petty relationship issues.

However, the premise is great: a group of campers awake from a night of partying with time bombs strapped to their chests that soon start counting down. They eventually discover that each time someone dies, that person’s remaining time is transferred to another member of the group. This creates a Hunger Games scenario with all sorts of dark motivations. The director, Alastair Orr, was inspired by the SAW series.

The film is also self-aware and works solidly within the “I Know What You Did Last Summer” genre, complete with tongue-in-cheek comedy and clever dialog. There’s an argument to be made that it is a comedy at heart. I LOL’d multiple times.

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I Can Recommend: Behind Her Eyes, Midnight Diner

I Can Recommend: Behind Her Eyes, Midnight Diner

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #96 – The Sticky Notes

Charleston, SC

My friend Dave, a Ready for Rain subscriber, recently asked how we can watch so many shows with day jobs and all that is going on with building the house. I told him that living in the guesthouse, in the winter, and during COVID, means we don’t have many other options when the work is done. We both love transitioning from a busy day into TV mode. My recommendations, like the ones below, reflect what we’re doing now. I may not be recommending so much TV in the summer, but I’ll still be commenting on whatever I find interesting or useful. For now, that’s TV.

Behind Her Eyes (Netflix Limited Series) First, let me say that I love the limited series format because it usually has a satisfying ending. This is the case with Behind Her Eyes. It’s a psychological drama that you have to watch it to the end. Also, the two female leads, Simona Brown and Eve Hewson, are amazing and distractingly attractive. Hewson is Bono’s daughter, FWIW.

Midnight Diner – Tokyo Stories (Netflix Series, subtitled) If you have any affinity for Japan, this is fun to watch. Most of the stories happen in a tiny Tokyo diner that is open from midnight to 7 am. Entertaining characters come and go, but the show is also about Japanese food. Each episode ends with a quick lessons on how to cook the dish that was served in that episode. Sachi watches it before bed because it’s so soothing. Charming, funny, and VERY Japanese.

The Biggest Little Farm (Hulu) A charming film about a couple who builds a farm that’s designed to work with nature and create a self-sustaining system. Along with a good story full of ups and downs, the nature photography is beautiful. John Chester, the co-creator of the film, is a professional videographer.

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I Can Recommend: Chef Movie, Chef Show, Nomadland

I Can Recommend: Chef Movie, Chef Show, Nomadland

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #95 – This Fireplace Sucks


The Chef Show (Netflix) – My first impression was “oh boy, another celebrity cooking show, no thanks” but a friend suggested giving it a try and we’ve enjoyed it. Jon Favreau, Chef Roy Choi and special guests cook a wide variety of dishes while Jon plays the inquisitive beginner. It’s not often about fancy food, but everyday food, done well. I also love the stop-motion sequences.

Chef (Netflix) This movie, starring Jon Favreau as a chef, inspired the TV show above. Roy Choi consulted on the movie and the story is inspired by Roy quitting a high profile job to start a food truck. Worth a watch. Food is love.

Nomadland (Hulu) This movie just won a Golden Globe for best picture (drama) and I can see why. What I love is the immersive style of production. It feels like you’re seeing life through the eyes and ears of Fern, the main character, played by Francis McDormand, as she becomes a member of a community of nomads who live out of vehicles. It’s directed by Chloé Zhao and has amazing performances by actual community members who were found as the film was being made. Zhao also won best Director, a first for a woman of color. We’ll be hearing more about her, I’m sure. More here

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I Can Recommend: In and Of Itself ✅

I Can Recommend: In and Of Itself ✅

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #94 – The Dogs of the House Project


Rainier Panorama

Derek DelGaudio’s In and Of Itself (Hulu) – I went into watching this with no context and it kind of blew my mind. It’s a film that captures a one-man stage show that was performed every day for over 500 days. It’s part philosophy, part creativity, part sleight-of-hand, part memory competition. I especially loved his description the time between sunset and darkness that his grandfather called “The time between dog and wolf”. It’s the time in the evening when you can’t tell which is which. It’s a metaphor for much of the show.

Killing Eve (Hulu) – We recently watched the movie Sideways, which we both love, and it reminded us that Sandra Oh is the star of Killing Eve. We’ve completed most of the first season and really enjoyed the cat-and-mouse spy thriller. I especially like the psychopathic Villanelle character, played by Jodie Comer. Unlike over-the-top portrayals of fictional psychopaths, Villanelle feels real.

The Dig (Netflix) – In our house, calming British dramas are common. This movie is based on a true story of an aristocratic widow in England with mysterious ancient burial mounds on her property. She enlists the help of an excavator (amateur archeologist) played by Ralph Fiennes, to find out what’s inside the mounds.

If you’re considering watching Ava (Netflix), starring Jessica Chastain, maybe keep looking.

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I Can Recommend: Alone on TV ✅

I Can Recommend: Alone on TV ✅

tracks in snow

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #93 – This is About the Ham.

Alone (Hulu) – We’ve watched six seasons of this show and look forward to more. It’s a reality show where ten survivalists are dropped off in a remote, and often cold location with a selection of supplies and camera gear. Then, they do their best to survive the longest while constantly creating videos of their lives.

It’s a simple premise that feels authentic because there are no games or petty dramas. Most contestants battle hunger, wildlife, and weather, but the real enemy is mental. Loneliness drives people crazy. The longest stay so far is 87 days. Home is one satellite phone call away.

We first learned about the show because a person on neighboring Lopez Island, Nathan Donnelly, was a contestant on season 6. Two summers ago we went camping with a group and he was there. The show had been filmed, but was not yet published. He, of course, was tight lipped about the outcome. We later learned that he was the second person from Lopez to compete. The other one was Callie North. Island people are tough. 🙂

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below:

I Can Recommend: 2-8-21 ✅

I Can Recommend: 2-8-21 ✅

sea lions and mount baker

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #92 – Hibernating in the PNW

The theme for this week’s recommendations: school girl comedies and con artists.

  • Derry Girls (Netflix) – A comedy about Catholic school teenagers in Northern Ireland during the peak of the IRA in the 80s. It’s an odd mix of history, family drama, and hilariously off-color dialogue.

  • Pen15 (Hulu) – Forgive me, but I’m recommending another comedy about school girls. This time it’s the story of two best friends in 7th grade, played by adults Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle. It’s cringy and hilarious. It gets extra points in our house because Maya is half-Japanese, like Sachi, and it’s a large part of the story.

  • Chameleon (10 episode podcast) – I love stories about con artists and this one is fascinating and easily bingeable. It follows the story of someone preying on Hollywood strivers in odd and mysterious ways.

  • The Confidence Game (Book) Speaking of con artists, I enjoyed this book by Maria Konnikova which dissects all the ways con artists take advantage of others.

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below:

I Can Recommend: 2-2-21 ✅

I Can Recommend: 2-2-21 ✅

sea lions and mount baker

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #91 – Because It’s Cool

We’ve been re-watching movies from the not-so-distant past, so that’s my focus this week.

  • Lost in Translation (Amazon) – A top ten movie for me. Scarlett Johansson (who was 17 at the time) and Bill Murray connect in Tokyo. Director Sofia Coppola beautifully captures the strange experience of being a famous American in a strange land.

  • Swingers (HBO Max) – Classic 90s L.A. comedy with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. I can’t see Favreau today without thinking he’s a grown up version of Mikey.

  • Intolerable Cruelty (Amazon) – A lesser-known and lesser-loved Coen Brother movie that we both have seen many times. Such great writing and hilarious characters. Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney star.

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below:

I Can Recommend: 1-26-21 ✅

I Can Recommend: 1-26-21 ✅

Sand Sculpture

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #90 – What Does It Want To Be?

  • Hotel Mumbai (Hulu) – A gripping and action-packed film that recounts the true story of terrorists who took over the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai for three days in 2008. Stars Dev Patel.

  • James May: Our Man in Japan (Amazon) – A charming look at Japan from the eyes of James May, who is known for being the co-host of Top Gear. Easy and fun.

  • Jungle (Amazon) – Harry Potter gets lost… wait. Daniel Radcliffe plays a young adventurer who follows a supposed guide into the Bolivian jungle with two friends. Based on the memoir of Yossi Ghinsberg. It’s a little bit like Deliverance, without the hillbillies.

  • Me Mail Apple iOS App – I collect information that I need to remember in my inbox. I send myself emails that include things like blog posts ideas, things to get at the store, etc. Me Mail is an app that makes sending an email to yourself as simple as possible – just open the app, write a message and tap a button. It lives on my home screen.

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below: