TiVo Suggestions, give up already

Six years ago, I bought a TiVo. In my first week with the box, I taped The Cosby Show. The next day, the TiVo Suggestions feature recorded multiple episodes of That’s So Raven. I shut off the feature immediately.

This winter, I bought a new TiVo. The new box had HD, Netflix abilities and plenty of storage space. I left the Suggestions feature on to see how TiVo had improved the engine. Who knew what disaster awaited?

Since May 1, my TiVo’s taped a stunning array of shows I don’t watch:

The Ed Show, Hannity (three times), The O’Reilly Factor (three times), The FOX Report with Shepherd Smith, Brain Surge, Special Report with Bret Baier (twice), Tosh.0 (twice), Glenn Beck (twice), Arthur, Reno 911, The Tyra Show, The Penguins of Madagascar, Imagination Movers, Maury, The Steve Wilkos Show, The 700 Club, America’s Newsroom, Tavis Smiley (three times), Jerry Springer, Arthur (twice), Spongebob Squarepants, Special Agent Oso (five times), Little Einsteins (twice), Monk, Ugly Betty, The Singing Bee, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Meet the Press, Back to the Future, Top 20 Video Countdown, Jump Start, CMT Music, Austin City Limits, Entourage, The Venture Brothers, 48 Hours Mystery, Zeke and Luther (twice), The Early Show (twice), Inside Edition Weekend, The Insider (twice), The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (twice), Charlie Rose (four times), Chelsea Lately, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren (three times), Trackside at Darlington, Comedy Central Presents, The Colbert Report, Wheel of Fortune (twice), E! News, Hardball with Chris Matthews, The Wonder Pets, Watch What Happens Live, The Wendy Williams Show (twice), The Martha Stewart Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show, Minute to Win It, Access Hollywood.

In five moves, I can dismiss 95% of this content. So, let’s do that.

1) I never watch news or day-time talk at home. Subtract to get:

Brain Surge, Tosh.0 (twice), Arthur, Reno 911, The Penguins of Madagascar, Imagination Movers, Tavis Smiley (three times), Arthur (twice), Spongebob Squarepants, Special Agent Oso (five times), Little Einsteins (twice), Monk, Ugly Betty, The Singing Bee, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Back to the Future, Top 20 Video Countdown, Jump Start, CMT Music, Austin City Limits, Entourage, The Venture Brothers, 48 Hours Mystery, Zeke and Luther (twice), The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (twice), Charlie Rose (four times), Chelsea Lately, Trackside at Darlington, Comedy Central Presents, The Colbert Report, Wheel of Fortune (twice), The Wonder Pets, Watch What Happens Live, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show, Minute to Win It.

2) I don’t have kids and don’t watch children’s TV. Subtract to get:

Tosh.0 (twice), Reno 911,  Tavis Smiley (three times), Monk, Ugly Betty, The Singing Bee, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Back to the Future, Top 20 Video Countdown, Jump Start, CMT Music, Austin City Limits, Entourage, The Venture Brothers, 48 Hours Mystery, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (twice), Charlie Rose (four times), Chelsea Lately, Trackside at Darlington, Comedy Central Presents, The Colbert Report, Wheel of Fortune (twice), Watch What Happens Live, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show, Minute to Win It.

3) The only night talk I watch regularly is Letterman.

Reno 911, Monk, Ugly Betty, The Singing Bee, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Back to the Future, Top 20 Video Countdown, Jump Start, CMT Music, Austin City Limits, Entourage, The Venture Brothers, 48 Hours Mystery, Trackside at Darlington, Comedy Central Presents, The Colbert Report, Wheel of Fortune (twice), Minute to Win It.

4) I don’t watch game shows or music videos.

Reno 911, Monk, Ugly Betty, Back to the Future, Austin City Limits, Entourage, The Venture Brothers, 48 Hours Mystery, Trackside at Darlington, Comedy Central Presents, The Colbert Report.

5) I never watch the Cartoon Network, the Speed Channel or whatever unfortunate network 48 Hours Mystery is on.

Reno 911, Monk, Ugly Betty, Back to the Future, Austin City Limits, Entourage, Comedy Central Presents, The Colbert Report.

Not a bad selection. But the work we went through to get here! It boggles the mind how a company with such leadership in the DVR space could produce a recommendations engine so horrible. Critics argue the company’s ideas have slowed. I blame the rec engine.

Tell me, friends. How bad are your TiVo recommendations?

Word of the day: Aperitivo

There are two connections I have to this Los Angeles Times story that make me love it. Neither connection alone is close enough for me to whisper in the story’s ear, but both combined are enough for a quick dance, with beat light but present and windows open. Says the lede:

As stone fruits come into the peak of their season, I’m obsessing over Bellinis. For the uninitiated, that would be the Venetian aperitivo of Prosecco with white peach juice. The original was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice (not the one south of Santa Monica but the original watery city) sometime before the second world war, but it wasn’t named “the Bellini” until 1948.

Harry’s was — and still is — famous as a watering hole for the rich and celebrated. Hemingway, of course, popped in and drank awhile. Barbara Hutton, Peggy Guggenheim, Orson Welles and Truman Capote too. But I’m getting ahead of, or behind, myself.

Connections.

First, it’s summer, and there are peaches involved. I’ve never stood in a field of peach trees, but if I did, you might not be able to get me out.

The first thing I do after arrival at the beach every year is taste frozen yogurt made from fresh peaches. Any time of year, if I see a peach on a menu, I’m perked and listening. In media consumption, no prompting is necessary to remember the Cosby Show where they sing an old song about peaches. There’s peach pie ice cream in my freezer this moment.

Now… hold a second. Sorry, I said two connections. Make it three.

Second, one I just realized, I’m tipping a sweet white while writing this post. If I end up publishing this one morning before breakfast, please know this post was written in an early evening. The sunset says hello.

Third, I want to go to Harry’s Bar someday. You know how? I want to persuade my place of employment to restart the Imitation Hemingway Competition. I’ve wanted this for years. The competition’s been dead since 2005. A corporate sponsorship fell through. But — while it lasted — first prize was a trip to Venice, with a dinner for two at Harry’s Bar.

I tried at USAT. I pitched editors at various times without response. It’s no bother. People receive lots of e-mails. But you’d think mixing books and travel would have shot somebody’s elephant gun. No luck. With a new place of employment, I’m still meeting people and don’t know too many people very well. But maybe they too love cadence and contests.

Aperitivo, a pre-dinner drink, the cool kick that belongs to the day but proceeds something larger. In my Facebook information, I mention in books how I enjoy Hemingway’s short sentences and Faulkner’s long ones. I’ve never gotten to know the Bellini, but I think we would fit.

Lena Horne, to Gens Y + X

The legendary singer died Sunday at 92, and the first thing that came to mind was The Cosby Show. Her 1985 appearance on the show was how my generation met her and, in retrospect, what an introduction. TV may have hypnotized us all, but sometimes it did our world right.

Same with Sesame Street. When Rudy mentioned seeing Horne singing with Kermit, every kid like me got the reference. It was amazing today to read the Times’ obit and see how both the Cosby and Kermit videos fit into the intertwining travels of race and recognition during her life.

Horne made a mix of other Muppet cameos in the ’70s. None replayed like Bein’ Green, but Gen X probably knew them well. Coming from Y, my favorite — which I found this winter on the Sesame Street anniversary DVDs — was her singing with Grover. The advice still served me well.

More: At the 2:50 mark, Horne sings Sing on The Muppet Show. And, growing up very much, her signature, the full 1943 Stormy Weather.

To cut the turkey …

Until yesterday, my entire knowledge of Julia Child impersonation came from The Cosby Show, when Cliff taught Theo how to carve a turkey (and yes, there’s now an official Cosby channel on YouTube), and Dan Aykroyd on SNL (video, transcript).

Yesterday, I learned more. “Get a look at this new spread while enjoying wine and food, magic, culinary traditions, exhibits and a Julia Child impersonator,” the Post event guide said. A what now? In real life? Googling the event, the National Harbor’s Food and Wine Festival, I found details: “Mary Ann Jung of History Alive! presents Julia Child — Queen of Cuisine. The show pays tribute to the incredible energy, passion, and sense of playfulness with which Julia Child approached her greatest loves — her husband and her cooking.”

Further googling found her Child. Jung turned out to have an entire repetoire of historic characters and shows, aimed in an educational direction. Back in the day at Blessed Sacrament, we would’ve gone nuts for Jung during Week of the Arts. Here in the present day, as a fan of Cosby’s Child and Ben Franklin’s visit to The Office, I wondered if she’d considered ever teaching cooking classes as Child.

I’d pay out. Especially if the food was delicious. And there was wine.

You can’t beat a good crouton

In the salad world, anyway. Except with lots of great cheese. But croutons are great too. I got to thinking so today after skimming through the recent New York Times Magazines in quickie catch-up mode. A few issues back, the cover story followed the travails of a relationship counselor. I only got as far as the first paragraph.

“You ask me for intimacy,” Marie was telling her husband of 22 years, Clem — and, unavoidably, the therapist and four other couples in the room — “the same way you ask if I’d like croutons on my salad.” She spoke slowly, deliberately, each word chipping out of her mouth like an ax striking wood. “I don’t hear the difference.”

Clearly, this couple had other problems. But why in the name of good salad would this woman want her croutons to be worse than her marriage? Shouldn’t we hope our croutons are the best they can be, and as good as wedded bliss if possible?

I mean, I’m no expert on croutons. I learned what croutons were from the Cosby Show. You know that episode where Cliff takes Rudy and her friend to a fancy restaurant, and they hate the food, and Bud keeps asking about “krautens,” and they eventually have the waiter bring hamburgers from the fast-food place across the street, and Cliff comes home to Clair with fast-food balloons tied on his ears? That episode taught me about krautens.

But since that time, I’ve come to like croutons so much that I bought a whole bag recently. Didn’t have them with salad, just ate them out of the bag. And they were awful. Apparently the magic of the crouton came through teamwork with other parts of a salad. But I didn’t blame myself. Eating the croutons out of the bag, that was a labor of love. I wanted the croutons to be that good.