August 26, 2011

Entertain Me

Regular Satisfying Retirement readers know my wife and I cut the cord on cable TV several months ago. We weren't watching enough to justify the cost. A month or so later we wavered in that decision, but decided to stick with the original plan. Now, we are so out of the habit of TV viewing that the few times we do watch a network show using an outside antenna, we are overwhelmed by the number of commercials and turn it off again.

In its place we use Netflix a lot, enough so that it's 60% price increase next month is still an excellent entertainment bargain for us. Recently we have discovered the whole genre of British detective shows and are becoming George Gently and Foyle's War fans. If they ever make any more Sherlock episodes we will be there.

But, what about other entertainment options? Frankly, there are more choices than there are available hours in the day. I'll highlight a few and ask you to add any gems you've discovered.

YouTube is a surprise addition to my list. Known originally as the place for odd videos of strange people doing silly, provocative, or stupid stuff, this outlet is now part of the Google family and is growing up. A decent and growing list of full length movies are now available for rent at $2 or $3. There are videos to help you cook a great meal, repair your drywall, change a tire, or take a journey through Tibet. Sports and comedy clips abound. Sure, the stupid pet tricks or girls behaving badly videos still exist. But, the focus has shifted. Many newer Blu-ray players can stream YouTube onto your big screen TV in excellent quality. If you haven't checked out You Tube in awhile you may be pleasantly surprised. With over 15 billion clips viewed per month you will not be alone.

Speaking of streaming movies, Amazon has expanded its library substantially, hoping to grab some people upset at Netflix's super-sized price increase. At the moment their movie selection is rather limited but growing rapidly. Prices range from $1.99 to $3.99 and can stream to your PC, phone, or TV. If you purchase their yearly Prime mailing package, your streaming choices are free. Apparently, they offer a few free movies on a regular basis. The day I was typing this The Kings Speech and Salt were both available to watch at no cost.

If your video interests lean toward educational or informative material, you cannot go wrong with TED. Short talks on subjects like technology, culture, the environment, business, science, retirement, and entertainment are all free. Ranging from 10-20 minutes, these presentations come from top experts and thinkers in each respective field. The material is freshened every week. You will not waste you time exploring TED. I find it fascinating and stimulating.

Don't forget the multi-media options at your library. Of course, you know DVDs and CDs are available to check out, just like any book. But, most library systems now offer some form of streaming download options. As an example, the Phoenix library system offers ebook downloads of both best sellers and classics, fiction and non-fiction. You don't have a Kindle or Nook? It doesn't matter. The software to download and read the books is free. Audio books can be downloaded directly to your computer. No longer do you need to shuffle through the 9 CDs that take you through the latest thriller. The Phoenix system even has over 2,300 DVDs for download. 

Finally, music is an important part of what is waiting to entertainment you on the Internet. Pandora is the 800 pound gorilla at the moment. An incredible service, their software allows you to create custom stations with just the music mix you want. While there is a version available for a monthly fee, the majority of us are entirely content with the free version. It contains a 15-30 second commercial every 10-15 minutes or so. If you stream Pandora through your Blu-ray player there are no commercials at all.

Now, explore beyond the obvious. There are literally hundreds of sites that offer free music and radio programming from virtually every country and music style imaginable. I like to listen to Irish music from Dublin. If I have a hankering for some New Zealand folk music I know where to click. How about a four-part series on the health problems in rural Africa? Got it. The morning drive radio show from London...available. The latest rock hits from Germany or Brazil...available 24 hours a day. Non-stop smooth jazz or new age sounds...I have close to 50 choices.

The Internet is a candy store with everything you can imagine crowding the shelves. Probably 90% of it is completely free and available anytime you want it. The biggest problem is deciding what to taste next.

OK, what have I missed as you build your satisfying retirement? What have you discovered the Internet has to offer when you want to be entertained or educated? Leave a comment, with a link to a favorite site, if you want to. Or, is there an entire corner of the Internet you like to spend time in? Share with us.

Related Posts

Exciting news: Betty and I will be featured in a national magazine in October. A four person photo/makeup/stylist crew was at our home just a few days ago. The story will be about folks who despite all the bad economic times are still enjoying a satisfying retirement. More details soon.


  1. Good morning from upstate NY, where we are all watching Irene barrel up the coast, wondering if we will be in the path or not. I just wanted to tell you that "Satisfying Retirement" has become one of my top 4 or 5 blogs to read. Time has become quite limited as, after moving toward retirement and cutting my work time back to 3 days/week, I have now taken on full-time work again. Your blog has grown over the time I've been reading it, and you always have something thought-provoking to share. Thanks so much for being there. I'll look forward to seeing the article in Money!

  2. Morning Bob, Yvonne and I are still on a satellite link but the way we skip the commercials is via TIVO or at least a copy-cat version. We haven't watched live TV for almost eight years now. When a 30 second commercial zooms by in two seconds they are not nearly as annoying :)

  3. I love to keep up on learning new things. How about a free course from a major university?
    Try it!

  4. Pauline,

    As a former resident of upstate NY (Syracuse) I can imagine your focus on the storm. I would think by the time the effects of the storm reach your area it will be heavy rain and wind, but not a major hurricane. When these storms get over land they tend to lose a lot of their punch quickly.

    Your comments about the blog are deeply appreciated. For the past 14 months it has become a real passion, one that I spend a lot of time thinking about and working on. There are no ads so my pay is personal satisfaction and feedback from folks like you. I'll be praying for you and everyone along the East Coast who are in for a tough weekend.

  5. Good Morning RJ,

    My daughters are so used to the TIVO/DVR recorder setup we determined that our grandkids have never seen a live TV show...that is watching a show as it actually is aired! They are growing up believing all entertainment is available when you want it and commercials are what happens during fast forward.

  6. JBO,

    You are absolutely correct. The free, on-line courses are a tremendous resource. In addition to openculture, MIT offers an excellent range of material. One of the largest on-line resources is actually ITunes. Their ITunesU is a remarkable collection of material.

    I wrote about these sites a little over a year ago. Cut and paste to check out this post:

  7. I too got hooked on British Detective mysteries with Netflix....Touch of Frost, Midsomer Murders, Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis and more...Loved 'em. Then I discovered that my library has them all and most without a waiting list. I decided to give Netflix a rest...tired of running to the mailbox...and will enjoy the rest for free! Love your Library!

    Jane from Minnesota

  8. Hi Jane,

    I have a hard time with British comedies. Their sense of humor is different from ours. There is one notable exception: Monty Python!

    Between what Netflix streams, what comes on disc, and what the library has I'm becoming an Anglophile! I haven't dipped into a few of the series you mentioned, but not they are on my list.

    Thanks, Jane.

  9. Did you know that iTunes offers 100's of free radio channels from all over the world? I usually plug my laptop into an audio jack and blast the music over my speakers. Every single thing you can think of, including old radio shows and comedy routines, talk radio, etc. can be streamed through your computer. Jazz, Beatles, rock, oldies, Bach, opera and in every single language.

    Free is for me.

  10. I have to chime in again here about British comedies. They run a pretty wide gamut. We got hooked on a couple of series about retirement life in G.B. The first and favorite is "As Time Goes By". We have the complete DVD series and have watched it twice and will probably do a third time soon. The other is "Waiting for God". It is a little off the wall but very humorous. If you want to be an authority on retirement life you gotta watch these two.

  11. RJ,

    OK...I'll add those two comedies to our must-sample list. Sometimes i need to turn on the subtitles to understand a strong British accent!

  12. Morrison,

    About ITunes and free radio stations, No, I didn't know that. I will definitely add that to my entertainment sites on the computer. I find it quite interesting to listen to music and news from other countries.

    Batten down your hatches and best of luck as Irene takes aim at your R.I. home and your upstate house. Hopefully it will stay below the Cat 4 some people are worried about.

    And, from your post this decision to not go into the city. You'd get stuck.

  13. How exciting about the coverage of your lifestyle. Congrats.

    I don't spend much time on TV - watch Netflix via dvds on my computer. My husband did just get a streaming device. Not much on my queue is available.

    I do spend way to much time reading newspapers online from around the world. Should be writing instead.

  14. Hi Julie,

    I like reading on-line newspapers from other countries, too. It is important to get the perspective from others to help me form meaningful opinions.

    Occasionally, I also get an idea for a blog post!

  15. Bob,
    We've been using Netflix but the available show and movies available for streaming seems very limited.

  16. Ralph,

    You are absolutely right. The various studios and distributors have made it tough for Netflix to have the type of streaming library that can replace the actual in-the-mail DVD system for depth. From our perspective, they make up for it by having an amazing range of documentaries and British mystery series that we are starting to explore.

    For newer releases we depend on Redbox. At $1 it is hard to beat.


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