Category Archives: Actors

When Harry Met Meghan: Why Meghan Markle May Be Perfect for Harry (and for the British Monarchy)

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Full disclosure: When rumors started circulating a couple weeks ago that Prince Harry was dating an American television actress named Meghan Markle–and that she was teasing her social media followers with coy Instagram shots of Buckingham Palace and spooning bananas–I thought it was a publicity stunt, a very bad plan hatched by her media team to get some better name recognition for an actress few Americans know of.

Was I ever wrong.

I think I was more shocked with Prince Harry’s strongly worded statement to the press to leave his American girlfriend alone than I was by the outcome of our U.S. presidential election. After all, I’ve spent the last several months warning my liberal east coast friends that they were underestimating the depth of dislike for Hillary Clinton in other parts of the country, thus why I awoke Wednesday morning not at all surprised we have a Trump presidency awaiting us in January.

Like the pundits here and abroad have said, this very public declaration is an extraordinary move for anyone in the royal circle to make. Look how long it took Prince William to stand up to the press with his long-time girlfriend (and now wife) Kate MIddleton– years!–and Prince Harry stood up to it in mere months. It certainly signifies the relationship between the British prince and the American actress is very serious, and my gut says an engagement announcement is forthcoming.

I’ve thought a bit about this, and my opinion is that a Princess Meghan is just what the Royal Family needs to move forward and stay relevant. Why?

  1. She’s a working woman. Ok, she may not work in an office or be on the cusp of discovering the cure for cancer, and her day job is probably a bit more glamorous than the one you or I have, but Markle does support herself with her acting and shows some entrepreneurial spirit with her website and a clothing line. The loudest complaint I heard about the Duchess of Cambridge, and now about Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, is that she was “work shy.” Before she married Prince William, the Duchess did hold a few jobs, but not for long, and she had to rely on her parents for housing and an eventual temporary position in their own company. Bea and Eugenie are objects of ridicule for their relentless job hopping and the number of cushy vacations they manage to take each year. If Markle does become a member of the Royal Family, she’ll probably have to give up her career, but at least no one can accuse her of taking any free rides to the palace balcony.
  2. She’s philanthropic. I suspect this is one of the major attractions Prince Harry has for his new girlfriend…beyond the obvious, that she’s absolutely gorgeous! Princess Diana was revered for her charity work, and Markle looks like she has the energy and star-power to continue her legacy. As a young child, Markle traveled with her mother to developing countries, where she saw poverty up close, and this seemed to drive her philanthropy as an adult. In college she double-majored in theater and international relations (Northwestern grad, too, a great school!), and has most recently traveled to places to Rwanda and Afghanistan on behalf of UN-based organizations. If she and Prince Harry marry, she’ll be totally comfortable and passionate with the royal charity obligations she’ll undoubtedly have. Moreover, it seems that both she and Harry have similar charitable interests … a double win!
  3. She’s biracial. Markle’s mother is black, her father white. A few newspapers have made issue of this and snobbishly wondered if the very white Royal Family was ready for her. My feeling is that the Royal Family is far more welcoming and liberal than we give them credit for; it’s the old-school courtiers and the media rabble-rousers who will make race into an issue. So many families today are made up of different races that it’s time to let our institutions reflect that reality instead of holding them to a standard that’s antiquated and frankly racist.
  4. She’s American. I’ve read some snobby comments about Markle’s common American roots, but the flip side of this is that Americans are going to be far more aware and interested in the British Royal Family than ever. I wasn’t around when Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier, but I’m guessing that most Americans had never heard of Monaco until Grace became Princess Grace. The British may see the Royals as “royal scroungers” but Americans have nothing like them, so they’re what we think of when we think of England. Having one of us in their midst will make us love you a little more than we already do.
  5. She’s an actress. The press seems to think Markle’s acting background is an impediment (mostly because of some risque scenes she’s done) but I think it’s an incredible skill she’ll bring to the family business. Everyone rolls eyes about the Royal Family’s endless ribbon-cutting and wreath-laying itineraries, but after watching all ten hours of The Crown on Netflix last weekend, I got a taste of how hard it must be for the royals to always be smiling, pleasant, and conversational for hours at a time. (If you saw the mini-series, there’s a funny scene where the Queen has to have a relaxant injected into her cheek after the muscle freezes from smiling too much during a Commonwealth tour.) Markle’s acting background means she can put on a show, deliver a speech, smile, act interested, and have less of a chance forgetting her lines than someone who hasn’t had that kind of training.

Of course, if Markle marries into the Royal family, it won’t all be rainbows and unicorns. Surely she’ll have to give up her (paid) acting career, her social media presence, and I assume her American citizenship. And then there’s the relentless media scrutiny she’ll have to deal with, although her acting career will have prepared her for that somewhat.

What do you think? Has Harry met his match? Is she the breath of fresh air the Royals need, or a right royal headache? Please feel free to comment below. P.S. I’ll be back next week with a more personal post; I haven’t been able to log into WordPress until today because of a technical issue, but that has been fixed. Yay!

 

 

Stormy weather

Rolling thunder woke me up Wednesday a.m. Welcome July!

My sugar fast continues and I’m feeling well, a little better each day. I didn’t need a nap on Tuesday, and on top of this, two nights in a row I stayed up long past my regular bedtime of 11 to read. I do still have sugar cravings in the early evenings, but nothing like the ones I had the first day.

We continue to get O ready for camp … yesterday he got his hair cut and today his camp sheets should be arriving, which will need to be washed and folded for his trunk. This morning I woke up and realized how much I’m going to miss him while he’s away. This will be the longest O’s ever been away from me, and there’s no phone calls, no e-mailing allowed … handwritten letters only. Which I don’t mind–being the loving mom, I will write every day!–but I’m not so sure I’ll hear anything from a 13-year-old boy in return.

Was sad to read that the rumors of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s divorce were true. They seemed like a nice couple, very family oriented. Marriage is tough business, for sure, especially it seems in Hollywood.

Crafting

Lessons learned while working on the Pebble Beach shawl:

  • A lifeline is a must once I get past 100 row stitches of lace.
  • Save lace knitting for the mornings when my mind is fresh.
  • Point protectors are my friends.

I spent an hour+ on Tuesday night tinking back two rows (250+ stitches per row) to fix a massive mistake. Then I carelessly left my knitting on the couch, and when I came back found that some stitches had slipped off the needles and created a mess I couldn’t figure out without ripping back. Another hour later all was fixed but I made zero progress on the shawl as a result. On Wednesday, I put in a dental floss lifeline … took me all of five minutes.

I cut out the contrast fabrics for O’s board shorts on Tuesday night and then cut out the main fabric on Wednesday a.m. I’m normally not a big fan of using rotary cutters and weights to cut out pattern pieces, but because the microfiber was unstable, the rotary cutter made short work of the job. Later that night I got the fronts and backs of the shorts sewn up. I’m not completely happy with my topstitching, but I doubt any of the boys at camp will be scrutinizing it.

When I was catching up on my blog reading Tuesday night, I noticed that Ann at Gorgeous Fabrics gave a terrific review of Sewaholic’s Thurlow shorts/pants. As she said, “…the Thurlow’s welt pocket instructions and draft take something that other pattern companies butcher, and make it crystal clear.” I am in desperate need of some nice trousers, as well as shorts, so I promptly ordered the pattern, esp. since I’m pear-shaped and Sewaholic patterns are built for my shape. (Bonus: there was a Canada Day sale going on and I got a discount!) The shorts look a little too short for me, but I suppose I can lengthen them a bit. Once I finish O’s camp sewing, I’ll give the Thurlows a go.

By the way, I’m getting more and more comfortable with Melody the more time I spend with her. She is so quiet! And little things like speed control, automatic threading/thread cutting, needle down, and the knee life make my sewing so much more accurate and enjoyable. Every time I finish up a sewing session, I tell my husband, “I have to say it again … I LOVE MELODY.” (Half of his office in my sewing studio. Lucky him!)

A Woodland Stroll cape

Woodland Stroll Cape

Woodland Stroll Cape

Woodland Stroll Cape

I’ve been calling this latest sewing project my Sherlotta Holmes cape.

When it was finished, O promptly renamed it The Sherlock Dench cape. 😉

I just haven’t found the energy/willpower to dress up in my self-created fashions, even though we’ve had a couple days of warmth. Today it’s back down in the 20s, our yard is still a mess with piles of dirty snow and shovels all strewn about. Who wants to see that? So I dragged my dress form downstairs and snapped a few quick shots.

The pattern comes from Liesl & Company (the women’s pattern division of Oliver & S children’s patterns). When it was released last year, I fell in love with the style and purchased it. I thought it would make the perfect light layer for fall biking.

But then my back went out and I never got around to sewing it up. It’s not really “springy,” so I’ll put it away for late September/early October, when I like to wear more autumnal colors. The wool windowpane suiting is from Fabric Mart. I lined the cape with hunter green Bemberg rayon purchased at Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA, and I used leather toggles for the front closures. Then instead of sewing buttons/buttonholes under the arms, I sewed on concealed snaps. I figured I’d be less likely to pull off a snap than I would a button, especially while cycling.

The pattern was super simple to put together. Really, a beginner could pull this off IF they went with a solid fabric. The plaid windowpane was a little fiddly to line up; moreover the wool itself was pretty slippery … the silky rayon was actually easier to sew! If I were to sew another cape, I’d use a heavier wool without an obvious pattern/plaid just to keep things easy.

I also wish I’d interlined the cape with some cotton flannel because it’s not very warm. I’d definitely need to wear a sweater underneath, but when I do that, I start looking kind of bulky. It’s definitely a garment best worn on an autumn day with just a wee bit of nip in the air.

The most hair-raising part of sewing this up wasn’t the plaid matching, but sewing on those darn leather toggles. I had one chance to do it right because once you sew through leather, that’s it … those holes are forever. Luckily I had an extra set of toggles, so I practiced on them. My advice:

  • Use a leather needle; it will pierce the leather easier than a regular needle
  • Tape or use fabric glue to hold the toggles in place
  • Sew slowly. In fact, I mostly sewed “manually” by turning the flywheel on my sewing machine by hand and maneuvering my jacket/toggle accordingly.

I also sewed the pink turtleneck underneath. Not much to say here except that I used an OOP Kwik Sew pattern (KS 2740) along with some lightweight cotton interlock purchased years ago at Fabric Fix in Manchester, NH (sadly, closed). I sewed the size large, but I should have sized down to a medium as the shoulders hang off me … but it’s fine under heavy sweaters, which is how I typically wear turtlenecks. I also drafted cuffs; the pattern doesn’t include any, but I think a turtleneck looks better with cuffs. While I was at it, I sewed another turtleneck out of navy blue cotton interlock I picked up at the $1.99 Fabric Store in Auburn, MA, in January.

In other news:

  • I’m in a bit of a knitting slump so I’m knitting dishcloths whenever I sit down to watch TV.
  • I’ve been keeping up with the new season of BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee. Did you know they’re casting for a U.S. version? Let’s hope they don’t change the format too much and make it cutthroat competitive; I like the kinder, gentler reality tv.
  • Three more days till the official start to Spring. Can’t. Wait.
  • I’m heading to Newport, RI, this weekend to visit my brother. I’ve been to every tourist site in New England except Newport for some reason. Looking forward to it as we plan to visit some of the “authentic” Irish pubs to celebrate a belated St. Patrick’s Day.

Speaking of which: Happy St. Pats!

Channeling Judi Dench

Knitted cardigan, socks; upcycled skirt

Closeup of Diane Soucy top-down cardigan

My family has crowned me with a new nickname: Judi Dench.

I’m quite honored, although I know my brother bequeathed the nickname on me to ridicule my fashion sense. I’m sorry, but I like sturdy wool sweaters, tweedy skirts, granny glasses, and my regular adornment of a simple string of pearls. Coupled with my imposing demeanor, I can see why I remind Matt of “M.” OK, that last bit is my own delusion. I’m no more imposing than sunshine on a rainy day. Or these days, a warm breeze after a long, cold winter.

O likes to inspect my daily outfits now. They are usually pronounced “too Denchy.”

I’ve been quiet, but don’t mistake that for sloth. I’ve been busy in my sewing room. This month alone, I’ve:

  • Mended three pairs of men’s pants
  • “Upcycled” the wool skirt you see above
  • Sewed a brocade A-line skirt (photos forthcoming when said warm breeze arrives)
  • Sewed two knit turtlenecks
  • Sewed a Tova blouse for the spring (photos, again, TK)
  • Knit a pair of socks

The upcycled skirt started out as a thrift store purchase from two years ago, a gorgeous lined wool Talbots skirt. It was, however, rather long and made me look more like Judi Dench’s mother, so I lopped off about eight inches and rehemmed it. It wasn’t an easy job because there’s a false wrap on the front with some piping on the seam edge, so I had to carefully rip out threads and resew some of the seams. I think it turned out quite well! I love wearing it with thick cotton tights and wooly socks.

The sweater I finished some months ago. I knit it from one of my tried-and-true cardigan patterns, the neck-down cardigan by Diane Soucy. It’s a size small, but quite roomy on me so next time I think I’ll knit the XS. (I have to chuckle at that because I look like a linebacker in this shot!) I’ve decided to accept that I like very simple, utilitarian sweaters, especially in the winter. I’ve been living in this one since November, as well as my Candide Aran, and both have held up extremely well and keep me cozy warm.

The wool came from sheep raised over at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in nearby Lincoln, Massachusetts. It’s unbleached and was spun up at Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, Vermont. The pewter buttons are recycled from a very old moth-eaten Talbots sweater.

The socks you see peeking out of my boots? Handknit from Patons’ Classic Wool from another tried-and-true pattern, Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Woodsman’s socks. These will last me through the rest of the winter. Unfortunately, the wool isn’t strong enough for socks, so they’ll develop holes in the heels. No worries; I’ll felt them and use what’s left for craft projects.

Brown turtleneck: Target; cotton tights, Marshalls; Maine Hunting Boots, LL Bean; wool socks and sweater, handknit; Talbot’s wool skirt, thrifted and upcycled; glasses, Costco; attitude, all mine.

Commence 2014 RTW Fast!

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Over the last couple weeks I’ve done more clothes shopping than I’ve done in the last two years. When I say “shopping,” though, I don’t necessarily buy anything. Instead, I’ve been trying clothes on and reminding myself that come January 1, 2014, my year of not buying any clothing* at retail commences. Bring on the Ready-to-Wear (RTW) Fast! If I want a new pair of slacks or summer t-shirts, I have to make these items by my own hand.

What have I gotten myself into?

This year is going to be a crazy-busy one for me. After a two-year hiatus, I rejoined my co-author Linda to build up our Renegade Writer brand–I’m either writing books or co-authoring them, as well as working with writers who are publishing under our Renegade Writer Press imprint. On top of this, I’m teaching my popular idea-generation-for-freelancers class and developing another class I plan to start in March. And perhaps I haven’t mentioned this here, but I write fiction under a pseudonym and I’ve got a couple books there I need to finish up. I get palpitations thinking about it all! And on top of this, there’s the knitting addiction I’ve got to feed, although after the last six weeks, my gift knitting has burned me out.

Despite my trepidation, however, I’m looking forward to January. January is one of my favorite months of the year: the days are getting longer, the holidays are over, there’s a feeling of having a fresh start and a whole new year ahead of me, and there’s those delicious Maine shrimp to look forward to at the end of the month. (Seasonal eating at its best!)

Though I love January, I’m not big on resolutions or annual goals, although I do believe in the power of goal setting–I just don’t believe in doing it at a specific time of year. Here’s what I’d like to do, though, with my RTW fasting:

* Make clothes that fit my lifestyle and not a dream vision of my lifestyle. You see, I love cocktail dresses and pencil skirts, but the truth is, I live in jeans, cardigan sweaters, skirts, and t-shirts. That said, I’d like to up the style factor on these items, get out of my comfort zone. My t-shirts, for example, don’t have to be so boring!

* Sew more pants and skirts. I have a real need here.

* Sew a beautifully tailored blouse for myself. Yes, I know … I still have to sew my husband’s (ahem) anniversary present from last May. And I will do that. But I would really like a wardrobe of blouses for myself, including one of chambray and maybe even a Liberty of London print blouse? Sigh. Maybe I’ll focus on this year being the year I master the tailored blouse, starting with the Grainline Archer shirt.

* Finish some of the other projects I’ve started/planned for including my Woodland Stroll Cape, the Angela Kane blouse where I had to recut the collar/collar stand, and the fabric I bought for my husband’s holiday office party skirt. Unfortunately, his company decided not to have a party this year, so I’ve got three yards of taffeta and I’m not sure I want to use it for a maxi skirt. You can see where my mind is going: a cocktail dress, LOL!!!

* Knit with a purpose. I did okay with this in 2013, but I still could be better about knitting stuff I’ll actually wear i.e. shawls are fun to knit, but do I actually use them? Better to spend my time knitting cardigans, pullovers, and socks.

Those labels in the picture above are a gift I bought myself. I have some woven labels with my full name sewn on them, but they don’t really work when I give away handknits and such. I ordered these new labels just before Christmas and they arrived a few days afterwards. Nice!

OK, I’ll end this with a funny story of what it’s like hanging out with my family over the holidays. They’re a tough crowd with acidic senses of humor, and if you show any weakness (meaning you take anything they say seriously), they’ll tease you mercilessly. I’m usually the one who cracks first, thus why I’m picked on the most.

We decide to go out to dinner at a local Japanese restaurant, so I “dress up” in my hand-knit Aran cardigan and best pearls. I think I’m looking quite nice, thank you, but my brother Matt takes one look at me as we meet him in front of the restaurant and says, “Did you age 20 years? Is that sweater from the Judi Dench Collection?” I have to admit, even I thought that was pretty funny. But hey, at least when I walk into a T-Mobile store, employees don’t mistake me for a bum. Just saying, Matt.

Happy New Year! Any big plans for the holiday and following twelve months?

* I get a pass undergarments (bras/undies), shoes, belts, purses, and athletic wear.

A knitted teddy bear

Knitted teddy bear

Last week I was listening to the Knitting Pipeline podcast, and my ears pricked up when I heard Paula and friends oohing and ahhing over a cute knitted teddy bear one of them had made. As I’ve mentioned here before, my son loves stuffed animals; in fact, he had a friend over last night, and when I woke O up this morning, Goatie (stuffed goat) was tucked under his arm. He just doesn’t care if kids tease him and shrugs it off, reasoning that they’ve probably got some “childish” habits, too.

I checked out the pattern and it was, indeed, cute as all heck and reviews said it was easy to knit. Some knitters had completed all the knitting while watching a movie. That’s my kind of pattern!

My teddy was knit with a partial skein of Bernat Pipsqueak, an acrylic novelty yarn that was perfect for this project: it knits up into a soft fabric that hides a multitude of seaming sins, of which I committed many. Like many knitters, I found this to be a quick knit; I accomplished all of it while watching Skyfall on Netflix. Mmm, Daniel Craig … such a sexy Bond!

I wanted my little bear to have a Christmas-y look, so instead of knitting the scarf, I tied a tartan ribbon around his neck. As for the nose, or lack thereof … I don’t know. I kind of like him without one. He looks less threatening (O has a bear phobia). What do you think?

For the next couple days I’ve got to crank out the knitting and clean up the house. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Rainy days and Monday

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You have to be of a certain age to get that title.

This weekend I rented a car and drove down to Connecticut to spend some time with my mother, who has been very sick. My mother is the type of woman who can’t step out of the house without her hair and makeup just so (and it can take hours to reach perfection!), but she promised me this time she wouldn’t fuss if we went out because all she would be doing is sitting in the car while I did her bidding with errands. It worked out well! By the time I left Sunday afternoon, she was feeling much better. 🙂

I was able to collect my birthday present as well, and I broke my yarn diet by visiting Mystic River Yarns downtown. In under ten minutes I’d chosen a skein of Other Kingdoms sock yarn in a rich ruby red and two skeins of Jamieson’s of Shetland wool (cream and a soft blue) for my Shetland wool stash. I’m turning the sock wool into an Age of Brass and Steam kerchief, which I’ll be giving as a Christmas gift.

While I was in Mystic, I had a chance on Saturday to visit Stonington Borough, a classic New England seaside village not far from my mother’s home in Mystic. I stopped in my tracks when I stepped out of the car to get a breath of fresh air at the southernmost tip of the village, where you can see three states: obviously Connecticut underfoot, Rhode Island to the east, and New York’s Fishers Island. The smell of salt air and the sound of the mournful foghorn transported me back to my childhood, where I spent summers with my maternal grandparents on the Connecticut shoreline. Memories came flooding back all day: climbing over slippery rocks with my brother, gathering mussels, periwinkles, and hermit crabs from the tide pools; afternoons scooping crabs into nets; the foghorns calling me to sleep at night. I think of myself as a Vermont girl, but I guess Atlantic has its pull on me, too.

Sunday night back home in the Boston ‘burbs, O and I watched the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead. I don’t think O has ever cried as hard over a tv show. I finally got him laughing by telling him the actors that got axed probably asked for too much money during contract negotiation time or that Martin Scorsese offered them roles they couldn’t refuse.

I finished a cardigan last week but it has been so dark and dreary I haven’t bothered with pictures. Soon, I promise. It’s a practical bit of knitwear, nothing fancy, but I love it because the wool came from Drumlin Farm Animal Sanctuary over in Lincoln. When it gets damp, it smells like sheep. When I told my mother that, she wrinkled her nose. She’s definitely not a Vermont girl!

Hello Ladies

hello_ladiesI was thrilled to read the first positive review of HBO’s “Hello Ladies” this morning. Dade Hayes, a columnist for Forbes.com, writes, “Over the winding course of its flinty, eight-episode run, the show has blossomed, becoming at once antic and deeply felt, an unusual mix of sharp wit and melancholy.”

At last, a critic gets it!

If you haven’t seen the show, it’s the brainchild of Stephen Merchant, a frequent collaborator with Ricky Gervais. (He was Gervais’s sidekick in this hilarious skit with Liam Neeson I wrote about here last year.) Merchant plays the lead, a socially awkward British web developer named Stuart Pritchard whose main goal in life seems to be scoring with a supermodel in his adopted town of LA. Critics have lambasted the show, calling it “cringeworthy” because of the outrageous and uncomfortable situations the supremely self-unaware and often unlikeable Pritchard gets himself into: telling homophobic and racist jokes during a hot tub party whose guests included a gay couple and a black editor from Vanity Fair and demanding that a bouncer return a tip when Pritchard doesn’t physically step into the club.

Basically Stuart Pritchard is an English Larry David, but for some reason the critics who loved “Curb Your Enthusiasm” can’t stomach “Hello Ladies.” I fear it’s a case where the more acidic British sense of humor is a little tough for some Americans to swallow. Case in point: “The Office,” which Merchant co-created with Gervais. I know Americans who adore Michael Scott on the U.S. version of the show, but they watch an episode of the original British version with Gervais playing David Brant, and they sit there with stony faces, occasionally shifting in their seats with physical discomfort. (I happen to like both versions for different reasons.)

Other things I love about the show: the rest of the cast! Especially the character of Jessica, Stuart’s pool-house renter and aspiring actress, who is just dorky enough that you can’t help but root for her. (The actress Christine Woods deserves kudos here. She plays Jessica with such nuance.) If you’re an “Alias” fan, Kevin Weisman‘s face will be familiar to you. He plays Stuart’s foul-mouthed frenemy who uses his disability to charm the pants of beautiful girls, much to Stuart’s annoyance. I haven’t spent a lot of time in LA, but its portrayal in “Hello Ladies” feels right to me: Like some of Merchant’s characters, I feel invisible there because I’m not blonde, buxom, and Botoxed. Bonus: soundtracks include Hall & Oates, Gerry Rafferty, and Al Stewart. Remember “Year of the Cat“? I hadn’t heard that song in years until watching “Hello Ladies.”

HBO hasn’t renewed “Hello Ladies” for a second season, and I’m nervous because critics were so hard on the first two episodes. I won’t give anything away, but last weekend was the first season finale and for those critics who thought Stuart Pritchard was entirely too self-obsessed, well … there’s a heart beating in that pigeon-chest of his. I hope the network that gave us TWO seasons of the dreadful “Mind of the Married Man” will give Stephen Merchant another year to develop this very funny — and yes, oftentimes uncomfortable — comedy. If they renew it, I’ll definitely pay Verizon for the HBO upgrade.

What do you think? Have you seen the show? Thoughts?