Monday, January 27, 2014

Netflix Kind of Sucks

            It’s Sunday night.  Seven guys are crowded around the table.  One or two are sipping on beers.  Another is making a lackluster attempt at Spanish homework.  Half-eaten Golden Buddha is sitting on the table—it’s half-eaten not because we’re full, but rather, because it was only half-edible in the first place.  Some mediocre movie is playing in the background but nobody’s really watching…one out of the seven guys always insists on watching “this great movie on Netflix.”  Unfortunately for us, only a handful of such films exist, and none of us is a particularly gifted critic.  Yet, that’s how it goes, another night…another movie.
            These are the evenings when I begin to question my lifestyle.  It’s one thing to watch a lot of movies, but it’s another thing entirely to fall into the vicious trap of scrolling through Netflix for hours on end, knowing that the prize will be a sci-fi thriller, starring a B-list actor, with a 41% on Rotten Tomatoes.  What’s even worse, however, is accepting that fact.  I know my film viewing habits weren’t always this bad.
            I’m not convinced that I watch more movies now than I did five years ago.  The difference lies in the quality of my viewing experience.  There are a number of reasons for this, foremost of which is the size of my party.  The bottom line is that there are very few movies that seven people will all love.  Even the best films usually get one or two poor reviews.  So, trying to find a free movie that will please the entire group is virtually impossible.  The decision-making process is almost unbearable, and the first fifteen minutes of the show are always tense.  At that point, we’re usually capable of deciding whether the next two hours of audiovisual entertainment will really be worth our while.
            The next issue with Netflix is that it’s free.  Of course, it’s a subscription service, and someone is paying for that Arrested Development marathon, but it’s never you.  Maybe your dad, or cousin, or roommate, or ex-girlfriend is, but no college kid is paying for his own Netflix.  This concept of free entertainment is a two-fold problem.  First, who would go to the movie theater or buy a DVD, when thousands of—albeit shitty—titles are waiting on their computer…for free?  Historically, watching a film was an activity associated with immediate payment.  Whether it was renting a VHS at Blockbuster (those were the days) or purchasing a ticket at a local cinema, there was always a currency exchange of some sort.  Then, a dollar value was directly associated with the experience—we had to consider whether renting The Bourne Supremacy was really worth $4.00.
            My final concern with this Netflix culture is the social component.  I’ve been going on movie dates since middle school—my grandparents have been going on movie dates for 60 years.  Taking a girl to the movies used to be one of my favorite things to do—that was before my friends started going to bars, and clubs, and concerts.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy other forms of entertainment and fun, I just still have a soft spot for going to the movies.  Yet, as a sophomore at a liberal arts school, movie dates have suddenly become a foreign concept to me.  The last time I checked, girls still like movies, I just never ask them to go.  For three semesters, I didn’t bother to think why not.

            So, this is the end of my rant.  The truth is I probably use Netflix more than 90% of the people who will read this.  Most of the time I really enjoy it.  Still, there are moments when I mourn the loss of Blockbuster and movie dates, because when it really comes down to it, Netflix kind of sucks.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Put Your Fucking Phone Away

You're sitting in a room with a few of your buddies. Nothing particularly interesting is going on. Maybe the TV is on or some music is playing in the background. Conversation has come to a standstill. You look around wondering why it suddenly got so boring. Surprise, surprise, every last person is on their phone.

At this point it's just natural. If all else fails, whip out your phone and waste the day away. Whether you're texting, scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, sending out meaningless snapchats, or checking the score of a basketball game, a cellphone acts as an instant escape from the people around you.

Sure, I love the convenience of my iPhone as much as the next guy, and am certainly guilty of all the aforementioned acts, but there comes a point when our current technology really frustrates me. When I'm playing FIFA and my friend pauses the game to text some girl I become openly perturbed. When I'm at dinner and the entire table is checking their twitters and watching stupid vines violence surges through my veins. I just don't understand why suddenly no one is capable of putting their social media on hold long enough to enjoy the company of real, live people.

"Hold on, I gotta text this girl back." Really? Do you? If I had a dollar for every time I heard that know how it goes. My point is that it's pretty sad that some of my friends can't even make it through a game of ping pong without checking their texts. How hard is it to tell someone that you're in the middle of something and you'll text them back later? The truth is, we all feel pressure these days to stay in touch with the world 24/7. God forbid we didn't check our email or Facebook for a week, let alone our text messages.

I used to be annoyed when my parents told me to stop texting at dinner, but now I understand why they felt almost offended at my lack of attention. Picking up your phone in the middle of a meal simply means you're more interested in the text, tweet, or snapchat that's lighting up your screen than the people sitting on the other side of the table.

The problem is simple, but the solution is much more complicated. No one wants to be the guy that tells their best friends to stop texting. One clever game that I've come across is that at the beginning of a meal everyone puts their phone in the middle of the table. The first person to check theirs pays the bill. This is just one fun way to check out of the constantly interconnected and overly public world that we live in today.

In the end, I don't care how you do it or why. Come up with your own game or just have the courtesy to keep it in your pocket. But please, every once in a while, put your fucking phone away.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sex is just that, Sex

I'm sure many of you have read Sex is Sex (admittedly, one of my more infamous posts).  At that time, as a first semester freshman, I was troubled and perhaps even angry with the social structure that surrounded me. The phenomenon of frat guys walking out of Maggie's with freshman girls time and time again made me question not only my new peers' decision making but also my own approach to meeting new acquaintances.  I was dumbfounded by the seeming powers of large biceps, Greek letters, and generous drink budgets.

More importantly, I judged girls for swarming these guys. I failed to understand why talents like charming conversation and sarcastic humor that had served me well in the past were now considered second tier. Sure, I could go to the gym or rush a fraternity, but those things took months and for the time being I was shit out of luck. I had it stuck in my head that no sane girl would look at me, and for that reason exactly, they didn't.

What I had all wrong about college girls was that I assumed they acted like they were at Maggie's all the time. I didn't quite understand that after a few too many drinks at a less than exciting pregame, for many people (guys and girls), sex is really just sex. And when a girl is walking around the bar after seven tequila shots, I don't really blame them for tracking down the only guy with abs who will tolerate their giggling and high heel induced limp long enough to take them home. The truth is, the bar isn't the right place to forge any sort of meaningful relationship. I'd even venture to say that a guy is more likely to meet his future girlfriend in the library than dancing in a short skirt in a booth.

So I guess my advice to freshman guys is, don't go out Saturday night with the goal of finding your next girlfriend. Leave that task for the classroom, dining hall, or really anywhere else on campus. Going out is for having fun with friends, both old and new. A huge part of college is trying new things and taking risks. Surprisingly often that leads to the same conclusion: sex is just that, sex.