The BBC in the USA


The way we used to watch television

I’ve stopped watching television. No, I haven’t turned into one of those people who chucks their TV out the nearest window and then loudly proclaims to anyone who will listen that I don’t even miss it, really, I don’t, and, anyway, I have so much more free time now, that’s, you know, free, instead of sponsored by Stains Be Gone! laundry detergent (or whatever). Instead, my television viewing, like so much of my life, has become a matter of semantics: yes, it’s true, I no longer watch television; now, here in the 21st century, I stream it.


As we do here in the future, I subscribed to the British television streaming service Acorn TV, which should not be confused with the Acorns micro-investing application, although icons for both appear on my iPhone. Let’s hope I never mix them up and lose 43¢ in the stock market when I just want to watch The Great British Bake Off.AcornTV:Acorns

I’ll stop here to say I continue to be gobsmacked by how rapidly technology is changing our lives, and how different my kids’ childhood is from my own: today, there is no gathering around the television on Sunday nights to watch, say, 21 Jump Street, just like there are no report cards brought home to be signed by proud/disappointed parents. Report cards still exist but only in electronic form, transmitted through the atmosphere to something called the Parent Portal on the school district website, which is as science fiction-y as it sounds. Shows like 21 Jump Street are still produced, I guess, but my kids are too busy following YouTube stars on Instagram to gather around the television. They know they can always catch up with television shows any time On Demand.

OK, Luddite rant over, let’s get back to Acorn TV.

If you go to Acorn TV’s website, you’ll see they promise all the best of British television, and I like British television–or so I assumed from years of watching PBS– and the subscription was free, and I thought, why not? So I signed up.

But the thing is, what PBS has been feeding us all these years, it’s not even British television. For example, the show Downton Abbey–did you know it’s only half British? The series is produced in a partnership between Carnival Films, which is based in London, and Masterpiece, the production company of WGBH, a Boston based television station that is responsible for more than two-thirds of PBS’s national programming.

(And, while we’re taking the blame credit for half of Downton Abbey, we Americans can also claim half of Winston Churchill, whose mother, Jenny, was born and raised in Brooklyn).

Can you believe it? Most of PBS programming isn’t British at all–it’s as American as, well, Winston Churchill! But all these years they’ve been leading us to believe with their fancy accents, and their fancy manor houses, and their fancy Marmite, that they’re British!

Now that I’m watching 100% British shows on Acorn TV, I can understand why television executives might want to add a bit of American before broadcasting here. Do you know that old joke about the US and Great Britain being separated by a common language? Tune into an episode of Vera, a crime drama set in the north of England, and try to follow the action without turning on the closed captioning.

Here’s another obstacle UK shows face in getting on US television: the gross error in nomenclature you may have noticed in the title of that video clip, “Vera, New Series.” Over there, they call each new batch of a particular show a series instead of a season, as we Americans do, and (I’m sure) God intended. Vera is not, in fact, a new television show at all. It’s been airing since 2011, and that video clip is promoting the 2015 season of the show. I don’t know how they got this wrong, but I suspect it’s somehow related to all those unnecessary U’s they insert all over the place. Regardless, it’s an absolute deal breaker for me as I’m too old and too easily confused to call anything other than what I’ve always been calling it, which is why I’ve owned a succession of cats all named Mitzy.

If you haven’t been dissuaded by that series/season thing and you still think you want to watch Vera, I’m afraid the only way you can is with a subscription to Acorn TV. Alternatively, you could move to the UK and watch it there. Without considering the (possibly prohibitive?) relocation expenses, that option will cost you, as well: the Brits have this thing called the television license licence fee that’s collected by the BBC to fund television, radio and online services. That will run you “£145.50 for a colour and£49.00 for a black and white” which pays for all the fancy costumes and cases of Marmite, I suppose.

As for Downton Abbey, you can watch the sixth and very last series season on Sunday nights on PBS. Check your local listings. Or don’t. I’m sure you can watch it On Demand any time. Or stream it through your robot phone, if you want.

Royalty free stock photos including an image of the old TV can be found at The screenshot of my phone is my own.






Even Our Beavers Are Different

I’m a fan of a bunch of ex-patriate blogs here on WordPress (check out Ellen Hawley’s blogroll on Notes from the UK for a great list of bloggers straddling cultures), and after years months of reading these blogs study, I think I’ve stumbled across the difference between Americans and Europeans: it’s all about beaver.

See, there are only two varieties of beaver in this world, the European Beaver which looks like this:

677480_44997684and the North American beaver, which looks like this:

As you can see*, they’re a lot alike, and, according to the scientific journal Mammal Research, both European beavers and their American cousins inhabit similar ecosystems and lead similar lives, dividing their time between chewing down trees and building up dams.

Except there’s this one perhaps not inconsequential difference: European beavers are monogamous, while American beavers sleep around.

I’m an American who writes about science law Dr. Ruth Westheimer beavers sex, so this bit of information absolutely delights me, because of course American beavers are out there slutting it up. I’m sure there’s a few whole bunch of Europeans who read this blog and are nodding their heads right along with me, but for different reasons.

“Isn’t that just like an American?” I imagine them saying. “Even their beavers are vulgar.”

Since my knowledge of Europeans comes mostly from watching Masterpiece Theater, I could be wrong about what they might think. Perhaps when they hear about our sexy beavers they’ll think something like “How wonderful!” or “Isn’t that interesting?” rather than express disgust at our aquatic mammals who are unable to resist their baser instincts.

I guess I’ll never know for sure what Europeans think unless I travel outside the US. As readers of this blog know, I’ve been contemplating a trip to Great Britain where I could observe the inhabitants up close in their natural surroundings, just like the scientists who researched the mating habits of beavers, rather than long distance, via an episode of Downton Abbey.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading all these ex-patriate blogs, trying to prepare myself, and I’ve come away with the distinct impression that the rest of the world has a few problems with Americans. And South Americans have a problem with us even calling ourselves “Americans” because aren’t they Americans, too? What’s with these self-centered, self-absorbed, conceited, narcissistic  norteamericanos thinking they’re the only Americans that matter in the whole entire world?

Anyway, if you Google the phrase “American stereotype” you’ll find out what much of the world thinks of us. To them, Americans exist as a dazzling array of unpleasant characteristics.

  • We’re violent. We all carry guns and shoot one another at random.
  • We’re loud. We talk loud, we laugh loud, we breathe loud, we just have to announce our presence everywhere with noise.
  • We’re obnoxious/rude/uncouth/arrogant. Take your pick. Or all of the above.
  • We’re ignorant about the world, and most everything else.
  • We’re obsessed with money.

And maybe we are all of those things. All I know is that when I travel to Europe, I want to make sure that no one ever says after I leave a room, “Of course, she’s American.” Instead, I want to absolutely explode the stereotype of Americans in the minds of the Europeans I encounter. When I leave the room, I want them to say, “Can you believe she’s American?”

I'll even eat French food.

In my effort to prove that not all Americans are provincial, I’ll even eat French food.

I haven’t yet figured out how I’ll do this. Maybe I’ll wear a beret. Maybe I’ll chain smoke cigarettes out of a skinny cigarette holder. Maybe I’ll drop the names of world capitals into conversation. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to lose my accent, which sounds like I’m from New York to people who have never been to New York (I’m actually from Connecticut originally), but I’m thinking I might have to pretend to be mute, which would at least solve that “Americans are loud” thing, too.

So I’m prepared to do all that, and explain our lecherous beavers to them.

*The actual title of this photo, and I swear I am not making this up, is “Wet Beaver.”

Royalty-free stock photos, including the images in this post, can be found at

Dejar de mirar mi culo, por favor.

And the portion is too small.

Dejar de mirar mi culo, por favor.

“Hmm. Looks like she searched ‘What happened on Downton Abbey this week?’ ‘Is toenail fungus fatal?’ and ‘How do you say, “Stop looking at my ass” in Spanish?”

Do you ever wonder how you’ll explain your web searches to the police when if you’re arrested and your hard drive gets impounded?  Yeah, me, too.

I know bloggers here at WordPress get a lot of mileage out of posting the weird search engine terms that people use to stumble upon their blog (some of the favorites used to find mine include “masturbate blog” and “filthy disgusting porn”), but I’m starting to think I’m one of the weirdos plugging in those odd search terms, and not one of the normal people out there laughing at the weirdos.  This morning I searched the term “sex stories” because I was looking for a topic to blog.  And, um, I write about sex. Hence, “sex stories.”  Anyway, my search led me to the website,, which publishes original dirty erotic wank material literature submitted by perverts writers.

And they are having a contest.

At various points in my life, I have submitted my writing to contests.  Back in high school, I scored a copy of Matchbox 20’s Yourself or Someone Like You (first place was two tickets to the concert) and when I was a dark and brooding college sophomore, I published some dark and brooding poetry in a (very) amateur literary journal, but for the most part, my entries have been met with a collective “meh” from the folks who judge these sorts of things.

But the contest over at appears to be different from previous contests I have entered.  My cursory review of the rules has led me to believe submissions are not being judged on quality, but rather on quantity.  From the post announcing the contest:


  • To write as many new and original stories in as many different categories listed on the main story index in the course of the year as possible.

This is obviously where I have gone wrong with my previous entries.  Those other contests were all looking for good writing.  This contest isn’t looking for good, they’re looking for lots.  It reminds me of the old Woody Allen joke about the two women kvetching about a lousy restaurant.  The first woman says, “The food there is terrible!” and the second woman says, “And the portions are so small!”

Head on over to and check out the rules for the contest.  I have a law degree, and I didn’t fully understand them, but I’m entering the contest anyway.  I think it’s an absolutely perfect contest for porn erotica, because one of the truths about pornography/erotica is that it doesn’t have to be good, there just has to be a lot of it.

Let’s hear in the comments if you’ve ever entered a writing contest*, or if you’ve ever tried writing erotica.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG.

*You can read about a different sort of contest I entered in this post, Tales to Tell.