Notes on life, art, photography and technology, by a Danish dropout bohemian.
When you drink the water, remember the river.
About fifteen years ago, ABC (a TV network in the States) had a hit show that I absolutely loved called Murder One. I was working 16 hour days and it was a low point in my life at that time, and I got to where I was really looking forward each week to watching Murder One, and it was the only show I felt I had time to watch. I really identified with the main character and turned on every plot twist.ABC was floundering as a network, and this was almost their only hit show. They started moving it around the schedule so that people that tuned into Murder One might get exposure to some of the other crappy shows, and it moved from Thursday to Tuesday to Wednesday to Friday to Sunday to Thursday. And they didn't always have enough money to make a new episode, so you might completely re-engineer your life so that you could tune in Monday at 9:00 this week and Wednesday at 8:00 the next week, and it would be a repeat of an episode from two months ago. The resolution of the first season was a complete letdown that they probably wrote in the middle of the night to shorten the production schedule by a couple episodes. I remember trying to watch that show being one of the most miserable times in my life. I missed business meetings and professional association meetings to watch that show. I missed a couple of things my kids had at school to watch that show. Then in the second season, they lost the main actor and they replaced the bald fat guy that I identified with with some GQ-esque moron that looked like he just jumped over from Baywatch, and I found myself thinking that I was not going through that shit again. Then I came across a news item where some super-executive for the network, a Disney exec, I think, since Disney owned ABC, had made some insane multi-million dollar bonus because he improved the value of the network by moving Murder One around the schedule, and something in me clicked. I realized that the schedule of my life was being decided not by me, but by some rich asshole in a skyscraper in New York while I was working 16 hour days to barely eek out a house payment and to buy the crap being advertised on his piece of shit network. And it wasn't just Murder One, it was my whole life. I went home from work at 5:00 everyday so that I could watch the evening news at 5:30. I got up at 7:30 every morning so I could watch the local weather on Chanel 3, and then I would screw around or beat off for another hour before getting ready for my every-morning at 9:00 staff meeting. I quit going to Appraisal Institute banquets on the last Thursday of every month because I might miss Seinfeld. I realized that my entire life was being run and scheduled around the programming decisions being made by rich and powerful media moguls in cities half a continent away. Something was clearly wrong with that arrangement. I made a conscious decision to not get engaged in any show being broadcast by ABC. After a while, I stopped watching episodic TV on any network, and would only watch the reruns, then I started buying DVD sets of entire seasons. I started getting news and weather on the internet, and basically withdrew from the part of society that revolved around what everybody saw on TV the night before. More on part two . . .
Part Two: And then I noticed something else. I got to where I really liked Deep Space Nine. I would watch it when I could, but it was hard to find on the schedule, and I found that I was buying each season as it came out, and spending over a hundred bucks, and making a special trip, whenever that happened. I remember spending a snowy weekend binge watching all nine seasons, which was very enjoyable, and I realized that including sales taxes and other hidden costs, I probably spent over a grand on that DVD set, and that I had done it several times with other shows. I then started buying TV DVDs on Ebay after they had been out a while, and then lately have been downloading TV stuff illegally, not because of the cost, but because of the hassle of dealing with several book cases of VHS tapes and DVDs, sticking a DVD in the player and waiting and praying that it's going to work, and then having to buy everything again when some pinhead media mogul-exec half a continent away decides that we need to all buy blue-ray players and buy all new blueray media, just like I had to re-buy all of my favorite movies on DVD a few years ago when they quit making decent VHS players. I download/steal TV shows on the internet not to rip anybody off, not because its cheaper (not entirely, although it is a lot cheaper) but because I have more CONTROL over my own life. I don't have to drive to WalMart, pay their markup, buy on Ebay and wait for a delivery, or pay a special fee to an internet service provider or cable company to get a movie 'on demand'. I think Kevin Spacey is on to something with this new concept, and they are reading their market more correctly than the entirety of the rest of the industry: I want more control over my own life, and I categorically refuse to allow it to revolve around somebody else's schedule or somebody else's business model. He is missing on one point, though. I ended up illegally downloading the first season of House of Cards, not to avoid the cost, but because you had to join Netflix, and incur a monthly bill, dinged directly on a credit card or bank account. Sure, if I was a government employee and got a guaranteed paycheck and couldn't get fired or laid off without an act of congress and had a guaranteed retirement plan, it might be different, but I'm self employed-some months I get paid, and some I don't, and in the months that I don't I end up with late fees and nasty-grams and phone calls calling me a worthless piece of shit and threatening murder and mayhem if I don't pay them first. I have spent the last several years re-arranging my life to eliminate or minimize recurring monthly payments. I will not join Netflix and incurr another monthly obligation. I don't care if I get a guaranteed orgasm at the end of every episode of House of Cards. And just like Kevin Spacey was talking about with other aspects of the show, it is not entirely about the cost, it is a CONTROL issue, it is an issue of them respecting me as a customer, and me getting a value for my money.
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