Netflix, Facebook and the loss of perspective

27 September 2011

Sorry I haven’t been around, folks.  I’m not sure what it was — a mild bug that my body was fighting off, mental preparation for the local school district’s two-week fall break (which meant my whole family would be home all day, getting in each other’s hair), one of my periodic bouts with depression, or some combination of the above with or without other factors.  But I found it very hard to write last week — and when you try to force yourself to write, I’ve found, the results are less than ideal.  So I did my best to relax and not worry about it (not my natural bent) and got back on the horse yesterday and today.

So what was I spending time on when not writing?  Reading.  I cleared out two novels; started a third (almost done); kept up on articles at Grantland, AVClub, Splitsider, Slate and Internet Monk; and watched what everyone was doing on Facebook.  It’s the latter that prompts today’s post, because I got to watch the Internet’s second major freakout in as many months.

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The continuing bargain, or “Why I STILL like Netflix”

1 September 2011

A little over a year ago, I put up a post entitled “The better mousetrap, or ‘Why I like Netflix’.”  Basically, I waxed rhapsodic about the genius of Netflix’s business plan, their superiority to the chain video stores I’d had to deal with previously, their excellent customer service, their vast selection, and so on and so on.  It was so laudatory that I’m amazed no one accused me of having been bribed to say all that.  (And no, I wasn’t bribed.)

Well, some things have changed with Netflix over the last year.  Mainly, one thing has changed: the membership price.

Several weeks ago, Netflix announced what was functionally a pretty major price hike.  Previously, they had charged $9.99 per month (plus local sales tax) for one DVD at a time, plus unlimited online movie streaming; that’s the membership level I’m at, and it’s apparently the most popular level.  Starting today, September 1, 2011, though, it’s $7.99 per month for the one DVD at a time, but no online streaming.  It’s also $7.99 per month for unlimited streaming, but no DVDs in the mail.  If you want both, like before … you have to pay both $7.99s, so, $15.98 per month.

And the howls were heard across the land …

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Oscar pre-predictions: is a little knowledge a dangerous thing?

25 February 2011

Well, Sunday night is Oscar night, and WE’RE INVITED! So that’s pretty cool.

I definitely will be watching the Academy Awards broadcast and expect it to be a load of fun, especially with two honest-to-goodness funny people like James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting.  (Anything’s better than Ricky Gervais at this point.)  But it’s more to me than just being the first time I’ll spend three straight hours watching TV since the World Series ended.  ‘Cause if you don’t know it, I like predicting the Oscar races.

In the past, I’ve done okay at it — I got 17 out of 24 right last year, 16 out of 24 the year before that, 14 the year before that.  This time I’m hoping to build on previous successes, aiming for 20 but with 18 probably being more realistic.  However, there’s been a change in my prediction preparation this year that might adversely affect my picks, and I’m a little worried about it.

You see … I’ve watched a lot more films this year.

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Projecting 2011: One month in

2 February 2011

Back on January 4, I wrote about the projects I believed God was guiding me to work on for 2011.  What struck me about them at the time was how mundane they were — no grand public gestures or insurmountable obstacles, just stuff-around-the-house kinds of things.  I was a little put out, until I realized that a) part of the purpose was to focus me by getting me to concentrate on fewer activities than usual, and b) the underlying subtext was that I was right where God wanted me for now.

So that’s all right, then.  But how am I doin’ with what God has me doin’?  Four and a half weeks into the new year, that seems like a good question to ask.  So why don’t I take a look, and see how well I’ve been keeping up …

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Projecting 2011

4 January 2011

So here we are, four days into the new year.  I’m sure that you or someone you know has made some “New Year’s resolutions,” statements on how you’re going to do things differently in 2011.  Maybe you’ve even broken one or more of them already.  Me, I don’t really do those anymore, for two reasons:

  1. My tendency is to constantly make resolutions for myself year-round, so setting aside one time of year for them would just be excessive.
  2. It doesn’t work all that well.

I look back at my resolutions for 2009 and just laugh — what with my son Sean’s Leigh’s disease, my mom’s death and my lack of willpower, none of them lasted to Labor Day.  It’s just like the bit in James 4:13-15 — you can make all the plans you want, but if God has other plans for you, your to-do list is dust in the wind.  So, no N.Y.R.s for this little black duck!

However, I’m not the type who can simply burrow through the days with no measurable long-term goal.  I used to get those from my job(s), but with being Sean’s full-time caregiver/physical therapist/doctor wrangler, that’s simply not in the picture at present.  And you can’t really set personal goals for someone else’s medical recovery, especially when said recovery is as off the charts as Sean’s is (and hopefully will continue to be).  So I realized as 2010 wound down that I needed some projects, some things that could provide goals (however unimportant) to keep the goal-shooting-for part of my personality occupied and out of trouble.

And given the events of the last couple of years, I figured picking them myself was probably the wrong move.  So I needed to talk to God and find out what He wanted me doing.  Only I wasn’t quite prepared for what He had to say …

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The better mousetrap, or “Why I like Netflix”

11 August 2010

You’ve heard the phrase, “build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door”?  The quote is usually credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson, although he died several years before the line ever appeared in print — and several years before the modern mousetrap was invented — but Emerson did say something similar:

If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.

And by and large it’s true — provided, of course, that the man is able to get the word out about his better corn, chairs or church organs.  Innovation for the better will always attract people away from the old and inferior, as long as there are no entrenched powers preventing it.  That’s why we don’t ride around on horses much anymore, or store food in the basement, or do basic research by laboriously leafing through books.  It’s much more efficient, speedy and easy to use automobiles, refrigerators and the Internet.  (That Emerson quote above — I cut and pasted it from Wikipedia.  Took me two minutes to find it and ten seconds to insert it here …)

And that’s why I can drive around my hometown and see empty storefronts that used to be video rental stores.  Because something better came along, and we created a broad hard-beaten road to it.  Or in a word, Netflix.

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Laughs and lessons from the “Satellite of Love”

18 July 2010

Two trends in my life have collided recently.  One is that with all the busyness of taking care of Sean, the rest of the family, the house and grounds, this blog and what-have-you, I have to find some way to relax at the end of the day.  Preferably one that doesn’t cost any extra money.

The other is my on-and-off relationship with popular entertainment, which means that I’ve often missed entire waves of pop culture because I’m simply occupied elsewhere.  (There’s only so many hours in the day, after all.)  For instance, I was largely unconscious of the entire grunge movement in the early ’90s and the Alanis Morrisette thing a few years later.  I’ve never watched a single episode of The West Wing, The Sopranos or Six Feet Under, and only one each of Seinfeld and Frasier.  These were part of the lives of millions of people, but had little or no impact on me.  Sometimes I get caught up after the fact; other times, I’m simply left mystified at the appeal of this or that trend and move on.  (Alanis falls into the latter category for me.  Sorry, ma’am.)

Recently I’ve discovered a one-time pop culture phenomenon that is also serving as a method of relaxation for me.  It’s a little low-budget TV show of recent vintage with the unlikely title of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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