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Goodbye, Netflix

I inspected my Netflix DVD queue. Just nineteen discs, and nearly half of those were parts of series. Not one of them looked all that fabulous.

The saved queue, movies not yet available on DVD, was more dismal yet. Until a few weeks ago, the saved queue had contained lots of great classic films and intriguing indies, but after years of watching their release dates remain unknown, I purged them. What was left engendered a deep, sinking MEH.

I love movies. I love Netflix. Netflix is a great service at a great price. But what it’s serving has less and less appeal.

That’s not to say there aren’t still tons of wonderful films. Within the last few months I’ve loved Isle of Dogs, Crazy Rich Asians, Black Panther, and Wonder Woman. Awesome movies, all.

But they’re so outnumbered by the films that disappoint, including gigantic Oscar contenders and winners like The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I was thrilled when my favorite writer-director, Guillermo Del Toro, won best picture this year with a science fiction epic. That never happens. Then I saw that Oscar-gobbler and found it stuffed to the (literal) gills with political correctness. Not a bad picture, and beautifully designed, but nowhere near a match for his incredible dark fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth. Just carefully constructed to push the right Academy buttons.

I looked at yesterday’s Netflix queue again and again. I changed the delivery order, seeking to put the least dull sounding movies at the top.

I thought about all those Hollywoodians loudly proclaiming their desire to end both our Second Amendment and First Amendment rights. Their mean-girl adolescent hatred for anyone who thinks or v*tes differently than they do. The sneering contempt so many of these people hold toward half the audience members who make their careers possible.

Then I canceled my subscription.

—–

This has been a long time coming. Every month when Oliver Del Signore and I email movie reviews to each other — which we’ve been doing routinely for something like 15 years! — we’ve lately discussed our shrinking Netflix queues, the growing number of duds, and the anti-rights derangement of Hollywood. Then a month of good movies will roll encouragingly along and we’ll re-think.

Still, I knew I was going to quit Netflix in the next few months. I just wasn’t expecting to do it yesterday.

I figured Netflix would give me the option of continuing to get discs until the end of December when my month’s subscription is up. Only after I clicked the Fatal Button did they tell me they’d stop sending movies immediately.

I felt cheated. Not so much of money, because there’s very little involved. But of options.

That was silly, though. I clicked to cancel; they canceled. What did I expect?

After chiding myself about my reaction, I realized what I really felt was a bleak winter landscape stretching ahead. And the prospect of living with myself without diversions.

Lately I’ve craved more solitude and deeper silence in my life. I’ve wanted to eliminate distractions and mindless entertainments, to end manufactured outrage about things happening far away and reported only through the distorting lens of the Internet.

I want it. But when it comes right down to staring silence and solitude in the face … that’s a different matter.

Last night I turned off the lights, lit a few candles, and put on a CD of “meditation music.” I found the new-agey noise cloying and turned it off after 15 minutes. I sat still a while enjoying the gentle flicker of tea lights inside pretty translucent cups. I lasted half an hour before yielding to an urgent need to grab a notebook and write. To DO something.

There’s a recent psychological study around the ‘Net that revealed that people would rather administer electrical shocks to themselves than sit quietly with their own thoughts. Like nearly all psychological findings, that may be bunk — the work of anything from poor study design to researcher bias to outright fraud. Who knows?

It may even be true, however. And in this case, I’m inclined to believe.

22 Comments

  1. James
    James December 7, 2018 9:39 am

    Odd coincidence, your posting this today, as I’ve been strongly considering dumping Netflix also. In my case, I’m a streaming subscriber, having fast internet. I’ve noticed lately that when I do watch something there, it’s out of guilt (“I’m paying for it, I’ve gotta USE it!”).

    I’m also with you on the sitting and doing nothing and meditating thing. Doesn’t work for me. I end up paying attention to the state of my own mind, a uselessly recursive activity. What thinking I do that I might dignify with the term “meditation,” I do most easily while performing some physical task that requires little to no thought in itself. Mowing grass. Shoveling snow. Washing dishes. Other people probably can, but I just can’t decide to sit down and think deep thoughts and have anything happen, other than boredom.

  2. Pat
    Pat December 7, 2018 10:14 am

    Books, books, books!
    Read “Marooned” https://www.amazon.com/Marooned-Jamestown-Shipwreck-History-Americas/dp/163286777X/?tag=livifree07-20

    “Radicals for Capitalism” https://www.amazon.com/Radicals-Capitalism-Freewheeling-American-Libertarian/dp/1586485725/?tag=livifree07-20

    Or re-read: “One Good Dog” https://www.amazon.com/One-Good-Dog-Susan-Wilson/dp/0312662955/?tag=livifree07-20

    I was looking through “The Encyclopedia of Country Living” last night for a few ideas. https://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Country-Living-40th-Anniversary/dp/1570618402/?tag=livifree07-20 , by Carla Emery.
    You might find something in there for your vegetable garden, or orchard, or beekeeping. Anytime after the holidays is the time to start dreaming and planning.

    Or a good movie to see again is “The incredible Journey”; this one is two-in-one. A library might have it, or either movie separately. Nothing libertarian in it unless you count friendship, loyalty, and love!
    https://www.amazon.com/Homeward-Bound-Incredible-Journey-Francisco/dp/B000Y11B7G/?tag=livifree07-20

  3. david
    david December 7, 2018 10:42 am

    I’ve spent my entire life trying to ‘alone enough’. The first 2/3 I didn’t know how to ‘just sit’, so I was always trying to be busy so that I could have time to think. Now that I do know how to ‘just sit’, I find that life makes too many demands on me and I can’t sit as much as I want.

  4. Comrade X
    Comrade X December 7, 2018 10:57 am

    I dumped Netflix a while back but I have been cheating with Amazon Prime.

    Reading more books sound real good (trying to do it more, even gave myself a headlight for Christmas just for that) and anything that makes you want to write more methinks is a good thing too.

  5. strycat
    strycat December 7, 2018 10:57 am

    I gave up the DVD service years ago. However lately their streaming offerings have been getting pretty slim. I supplement it with Amazon Prime streaming. Although I still find the total number of things I want to watch decreasing. I blame the mediocrity and anti-rights mentality of Hollywood.

  6. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal December 7, 2018 11:31 am

    I dropped the Netflix DVDs years ago and just go with the streaming service. And I mostly watch TV series since they don’t usually have any movie I’m actually interested in. They seem to do some good stuff on their own (Their “Netflix Originals”).

    And recently I found Pluto TV and discovered they have a dedicated MST3K channel.

    Of course, the cats prefer the livestream of the “Sapsucker woods feeder cam“.

  7. RW
    RW December 7, 2018 12:40 pm

    Books help, J. Allen Boone is a favorite writer, Kinship With All Life is one of his best, leaving the tv off and being with my IW’s is time well spent. If you want to see how things have gone south since 1945 read The Secret Team by F. Prouty, will get blood pressure up.

  8. Jim Brook
    Jim Brook December 7, 2018 4:45 pm

    Like others said, books. You can also get audio books for listening. Audible.com is one possibility. You could start with All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot.

  9. larryarnold
    larryarnold December 7, 2018 6:19 pm

    I blame the mediocrity and anti-rights mentality of Hollywood.

    True. I used to like to go to a couple of movies a month. The local multicenema has good matinee prices, and midweek afternoons I can pretty much sit where I want.

    But it’s been a couple of months since there was anything I wanted to invest $6 in. I’m usually up for anything Robin Hood, but when I saw the poster for the current one it was, “That’s not a hood, it’s a ninja mask.” Then I saw a preview, which confirmed the impression. Robin NinjaMask.

    Pass. ( And apparently everyone else did, too.)

    Back when I did writer’s conferences I had a button that said, “NYC is a regional market.” Increasingly, so is Hollywood.

    At least we aren’t in Pearl Harbor, 77 years ago. Yet.

  10. ellendra
    ellendra December 7, 2018 7:22 pm

    “There’s a recent psychological study around the ‘Net that revealed that people would rather administer electrical shocks to themselves than sit quietly with their own thoughts. Like nearly all psychological findings, that may be bunk — the work of anything from poor study design to researcher bias to outright fraud. Who knows?

    It may even be true, however. And in this case, I’m inclined to believe.”

    I believe it. Most people will do absolutely anything to distract themselves from themselves. Even if it hurts.

    Just look at any person struggling with their budget, who decides to blow hundreds of dollars on a new entertainment system. Or the latest smartphone. Or video games. Or whatever their chosen distraction is.

  11. Unidentified Victim
    Unidentified Victim December 8, 2018 6:49 am

    No clue what your local resources are, but my local library does quite well in the DVD department, and is outstanding on books; when I run across a book mention on Al Gore’s InterTubes that sounds interesting, and think “they won’t have it” overwhemingly I find it in the collection, and they really do heed the “suggest a new book” entries, though procurement may take a while, and lacking that, the interlibrary loan department is Aces on both books and DVDs.

    I dumped JunkFlix a long while back as “just not worth the effort” and do not plan to renew Amazon Prime when it comes due. 2-day shipping isn’t, thanks to their heavy use of incompetent USPS, and for those video offerings in which I may be interested, a single month of Prime once a year allows catch-up.

  12. Alfson
    Alfson December 8, 2018 8:07 am

    I find archery does it for me. The relaxation that is. From the kitchen to the far wall of the dining area is about 5 yards. Large cardboard box stuffed with rags and plastic grocery bags for a back stop.

  13. Claire
    Claire December 8, 2018 9:08 am

    Intriguing responses. I don’t know whether I’m surprised so many of you have made similar changes, or are in the process. I wish all you fellow travelers well.

    david — I’m envious you’ve learned to “sit properly,” even as life keeps you from doing it as much as you like.

    As to books, libraries, and DVD — We do have a wonderful local library system here, and yes I do have both books and DVDs on hold there (including Marooned, suggested by Pat). But I’m not looking for more things to fill my time. Right now, I need to empty my time to find whatever creativity or other resources might be lurking there — or not lurking there, which is a definite fear.

    As to streaming — I will miss Netflix original series (which I’ve gotten only after the looooong waits for them to make it to DVD), just as I also miss Amazon originals now that I no longer have Prime. But my Internet connection, though decent for my other uses, is clunky with streaming. And again, I want to remove myself for a while from entertainments — even wonderful ones like Stranger Things, The Crown, Westworld, Orange is the New Black, and that final season of House of Cards.

    Alfson — Indoor archery sounds very Zen. I’ve never tried that and probably wouldn’t with a cat and a dog around. But I have shot a pellet gun indoors using a target arrangement similar to what you describe. That was Zen, too. 🙂

    Ellendra — I hear you. I shake my head at such people, even as I feel the same impulses in myself.

    And last but not least, Comrade X — I’d be glad if more and better writing came of what I’m trying to do. Can’t promise a thing, but will hopefully await …

  14. MP
    MP December 8, 2018 11:59 am

    What about painting, Claire? I find most kinds of artwork meditative, as long as I can do them in solitude. But then again, nothing is meditative if someone is talking to you.

    This phenomenon isn’t a new thing, though. I remember a TV show from the 70s (“Rhoda”, I think, but I’m not sure) where Cloris Leachman played a character who struggled with just being alone and quiet by herself in one episode. I was still a middling teen at the time, but it made enough of an impression on me that people struggled with that that I still remember it.

  15. ExpatNJ
    ExpatNJ December 8, 2018 12:23 pm

    Claire –

    I believe that you made the right choice in getting rid of Netflix.
    I urge everyone to free themselves from that noose around their necks.

    The ‘entertainment industry’ seeks to entertain us – and, therefore, maintain us – in our homes. This is to control us. After all, the American Revolution was NOT conceived on a sofa in front of the boob tube; it was conceived in colonial pubs and taverns. If we are at home, we are not out organizing to restore rule of law, the Constitution, and a Bill of Rights culture in our country. The citizens in France today are one example of a People no longer enslaved by the media. More inspiration:

    “Well it’s a nice, soft night, so I think I’ll go and join me comrades and talk a little treason.”

    – ‘Michaleen Oge Flynn’ (played by Barry Fitzgerald), “The Quiet Man”, movie, 1952, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045061 [quote often wrongly attributed to John Wayne].

  16. maDDtraPPer
    maDDtraPPer December 8, 2018 12:47 pm

    Um torrent much? I am a movie hoarder and yes a pirate on the stormy seas. I still have a monsterous DVD and Blu-ray collection.

  17. Claire
    Claire December 8, 2018 3:18 pm

    maDDtraPPer — I don’t pirate. Even with my growing contempt for Hollywood, I believe creators should be paid for their work.

    MP — I do hope that art emerges from this. But doing art carries a lot of emotional baggage and pressure for me. It’s something I have to force myself to do and do with trepidation, neither relaxing nor meditative.

    ExpatNJ — I don’t know whether to LOL or raise a fist and cheer. But … yeah.

  18. maDDtraPPer
    maDDtraPPer December 9, 2018 8:22 am

    Remember back in the day when DVD’s first came out? The advertisement was a disk dropping and rolling and ended with a dog picking it up and carrying back or something like that and it still worked? Well we both know it was all lies. Those pirates have been and still are stealing from us for decades. I feel no guilt. In fact I’ve bought more media because I downloaded something I have never heard of before and liked it than I ever did pre torrent days. Also a pet peeve when you used to like a song and buy the CD and the rest of the album was a steaming pile of DS. But I respect you for your stance and would support it if the artist got more of what actually is spent on stuff, or weren’t making millions and millions of dollars and whining about it anyways.

  19. Zendo Deb
    Zendo Deb December 9, 2018 8:49 am

    My local library has a decent collection of movies. They don’t have as many foreign/art films as I could wish, but they do have all of the Hollywood films. Some of the older disks are fairly abused, and I usually clean them before I put them in a disk player.

    The downside? They don’t have Bluray. But that means instead of sitting in front of the TV (with the BD player) I watch them (or have them in the background) on my PC while I’m doing something else. Most movies are too long, to devote time to (and not worth it.) When a movie comes along like Wonder Woman, I will see that in the theater anyway, because some things are worth it. (That is one or 2 movies a year.)

  20. Zendo Deb
    Zendo Deb December 9, 2018 8:58 am

    Meditation is hard, which is why almost no one does it. I’ve settled on reading, and not just the popular pulp of the day, though I do read some of that. Without the distraction of social media – which is more anti-social than anything – there are time for the classics. In small bites. Joyce. Dostoevsky, Milton.

    And hobbies.

    On the subject of music… I have found that the jazz saxophone players of the mid-to-late 20th Century are soothing. Mostly. Coltrane jumps to mind, if you screen out some of the experimental stuff.

    I also like some of the modern German folk music – Faun, Omnia, and a few others. It isn’t instrumental, but the fact that I don’t understand the lyrics (much) really helps.

    A friend has settled on the music of Baroque – Bach being the person most know – with some later chamber music thrown in.

    I find I need something, or all I hear is the refrigerator, the dehumidifier in the basement the summer, or the furnace fan in the winter.

  21. David Gross
    David Gross December 9, 2018 4:58 pm

    If your local library offers Kanopy (http://kanopy.com/) it’s got a very good selection of streaming movies.

  22. E. Garrett Perry
    E. Garrett Perry December 9, 2018 11:06 pm

    We’re debating quitting NetFlix as well. The catalogue in the EU is even more paltry than Stateside, they dropped Top Gear, didn’t renew White Rabbit Project, have never had any more of Mythbusters than Seasons 4&5, and yet somehow kept a racist garbage fire like Iron Fist going for -how- long?!

    The streaming-service situation is getting totally out of hand. Amazon, Netflix, Hulu…and Disney, Apple and nearly half a dozen others are projected to launch in the next 18mo: each with their own exclusive catalogue, pricing structure, and “premium channels” for when they actually run something interesting. Wanna watch Star Wars? Subscribe to Disney. Marvel? Same. Whoops, you want to see Deadpool 2? Back over to Netflix, Disney doesn’t want Deadpool- too raunchy. And this isn’t even touching the frantic race to find the next Game Of Thrones that HBO touched off a few years back and which is rapidly de-tuning their previously very high standards. I doubt you could make Deadwood nowadays, but Narnia and Middle Earth are both getting rush-out-the-door streaming series of which the fans and lawyers are very leery indeed.

    The whole appeal of Netflix was the one-stop-shop and the interesting, diverse catalogue. Nowadays we’re back to the Mall Food Court situation of 15yrs ago: loads of offerings, mostly low-quality if reasonably tasty, but expensive and hard to tell apart, with little to help you decide between psuedo-Indian and psuedo-pizza except where you happen to be standing when you finally say “screw it, I guess this works.”

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