Category: complaints

The Constant Churn of Pop Culture

I’ve been away from being able to watch new shows for the past 2.5 months, give or take. First my family was in Slovakia, and I didn’t want to watch a new show without them. Then I was with them, and we had other things to do than watch shows. Then Tomas headed to Fiddle Camp for a week, so we couldn’t watch without him, and then I was away for 3.5 weeks, so we couldn’t watch shows either. And now Denisa and Daniela have both been away on trips, so . . . yeah.

In that amount of time, I have racked up quite a list of shows that I’d really like to watch, but which I haven’t been able to watch yet:

  • We *almost* finished Stranger Things. We have the last episode to go. Maybe we can watch it . . . tomorrow night? I have no idea.
  • I haven’t seen anything of the Obi Wan show, which I get some people didn’t love, but some people didn’t love Moon Knight, either. Some people are just wrong. (Or they might be right in this case. I don’t know.)
  • Only Murders in the Building has a whole second season out that I really want to watch.
  • I haven’t seen anything of The Sandman series.
  • The third season of For All Mankind has been out for a while. Untouched by me.
  • She-Hulk is out now, right? I can’t even remember.

And that’s not even touching new series that are almost coming out, like Lord of the Rings.

Which leads me to my topic today. There are so many shows coming out these days, it feels like we’re just being flooded. Mind you, this isn’t necessarily a terrible problem to have. I love watching things, and I love having lots of things to watch. But at the same time, it feels like there’s no time to catch your breath and actually enjoy the things that are already out there.

Growing up, there were far fewer franchises, and Big Movies only came out every so often, usually over the summer or at Christmas. And so you had a lot of time to rewatch the ones you loved, and to anticipate the next thing coming. We still have that to an extent, but think of Avatar. It was one of the biggest movies ever. It came out and made a ton of money. People all raved about how awesome it looked. And then . . . nothing. Yes, there are sequels coming at last, and yes, it’s got a park in Animal Kingdom, but much of that feels forced. There didn’t seem to be this pent up demand for more Avatar. We were just given it because money.

I don’t know. I guess I’m torn between enjoying all the shows that are there and being frustrated by how quickly pop culture seems to be moving from thing to thing to thing. If I can get this behind by just stepping away from the flood of shows for three months, that just feels extreme. And these are only the shows I actually want to see.

I suppose some of it is that watching these takes much more time than just watching a movie. The fourth season of Stranger Things is around 13 hours long. When you’ve got other things to do, finding that amount of time as a family can be tricky. Some of it is also that I’d like to watch these with Tomas before he leaves on his mission, but it’s looking more and more like that’s just not going to happen, so I’m going to have to be at peace with that.

There are so many different things to watch, and with that many, it feels like there have only been more people complaining about what’s out there in terms of subject and execution. I really enjoyed Wheel of Time and (as I said) Moon Knight, but you’ve got swarms of internet folks ready to say just how awful they all were. But even then, we’re not talking about any one of them for long at all, because a month from now, the discussion will have moved on to something completely new.

I don’t know. Maybe there’s not a complaint here at all. Maybe I’m just wishing I had more time. But I can’t help remembering how things were when the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies were coming out. The anticipation/dread of what they might be like. The excitement when they arrived and were just so amazing. The years of additional rewatches since then. It’s the sort of thing that really can bring people together, even years later, as we talk about favorite movies or shows. But with so many coming so often, it just feels different to me.

Does anyone else feel the same way?


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No, Random Website, I Don’t Want to Subscribe to You

It’s a quiet day in front of your computer. You’re casually browsing the internet, minding your own business, when out of nowhere, you twitch your mouse to move up to close the tab you’re looking at.


The popup window certainly can’t be missed. You sigh, and then you go through the new routine of trying to figure out how to close that window, since each of them seems to be different. As if the websites assume if the window is harder to close, you’ll be likelier to reconsider closing it.

“You know, at first I thought this annoying popup window in the middle of my screen was obnoxious and intrusive, but now that it’s taken me a full minute to figure out how to close, it’s beginning to grow on me. Maybe I should subscribe to this website, after all.”

I have a hard time picturing anyone with half a brain actually doing that, though since so many websites are taking this approach, I have to assume that it’s been somewhat successful in getting them subscribers. My current theory on that is it’s because people mis-click somewhere along the way as they’re trying to close the popup window.

I get that times are tough for sites, and they all want a piece of the advertising dollars, and so they try to do whatever they can to get eyeballs to their articles. But it’s getting to the point with some of these websites that the actual content is so buried underneath ads and links to other articles, that it’s nigh impossible to find where the actual article starts and stops. (This is no doubt on purpose, as the site’s goal has stopped being to convey information, and instead chosen to focus on getting as many clicks as possible.)

In many ways, this reflects what’s happened to most print magazines these days. They’re so full of advertisements and flyers that I usually give up trying to read them. I suppose I should just be grateful that the web hasn’t caught on to print’s favorite trick: publishing the first 2/3 of the article in one spot in the magazine and then tucking the rest of it somewhere else in the magazine. (Maybe they view it as a fun perk. A game. A scavenger hunt/Where’s Waldo experience when you’ve reached a lull in the writing.)

Actually, I probably shouldn’t give that idea to web designers. Next thing I’ll be playing mini-games in the middle of articles, needing to complete a Choose Your Own Adventure just to get to the end of what I was reading.

Here’s the thing, web masters: if I find an article I like, I read it. If I begin to notice that article appears on a site where I find a lot of good content, I begin to go there more regularly. If I really like it, I subscribe to its RSS feed, to make it easier for me to find cool, good articles. If, on the other hand, the article is buried under advertisements and popup windows, I stop reading and go find something better to do with my time.

In other words, your popup jedi mindtricks are wasted on me.

I’d ask you to stop, but apparently it’s getting you subscribers, and you’re panicked that if you stopped, you’d stop getting the sheep to subscribe. So you’re scared, because money. But maybe (just maybe) you’d have *more* success if you started just focusing on quality content instead of tricks and games to gimmick your way to success.

Just a thought . . .


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The End of Fun

I’m always pretty down the day after Martin Luther King Day. Why? Because it’s official: the fun season is over. Sure, there are some things still to look forward to. Groundhog Day is coming. The Oscars are at the end of next month. But those are small islands of fun in a vast empty sea of Routine.

Each year, I’m ecstatic when September rolls around. It means we’re approaching my favorite stretch of the year: September to Mid-January. And each mid-January (today), I’m just . . . bummed. Because that favorite stretch is now over, and it won’t be back for 9 months. This year seems to be worse than normal, because I also decided to take a break from the no-sugar rule and the diet over the holidays. Each day after New Years, I’ve been telling myself that I need to start those up again. And that resolution lasts for a day or two (or maybe an hour or two), but then it gets broken. Again. And again. And even before that, it was a super fun season, since there was a Disney vacation involved. The higher the highs, the lower the lows.

I think I’ve been trying to pretend this day wasn’t really coming. That the holidays hadn’t ended. But like all good things, they’ve finally come to a close.

So here I am. Kind of counting down the days until September again, and trying to look on the bright side. I live in Maine. Summer isn’t that hot, right? (Yes. Even in the middle of January, I still much prefer winter to summer. That’s just how I roll, folks.)

What’s your favorite time of the year? What’s your least favorite?

The Double-Edged Sword of Social Platforms

I’m fairly present online. I write this blog every day, I keep track of what my friends are up to on Facebook and Twitter, I scan the news reports as they come out. I consider myself to be pretty “plugged in.” (Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so plugged in at all.)

But one thing that I’ve noticed more and more is just how often we’re upset about things online. (And yes, I note the irony of me writing an upset post about other people being upset all the time. I’m not really upset this time. Just observing something and wanting to get the thoughts down on paper.) I mean, when I go through my Facebook feed, I see a lot of the same things pop up again and again: vacation pics, family pics, life updates, and then a whole slew of outrage.

Outrage over the Democrats. Outrage over the Republicans. Yelling about needing to end Obamacare and about needing to extend it. Outrage about Columbus. Outrage about people who are outraged about Columbus. If you can think of it, then I almost guarantee someone’s upset about it *right this instant* somewhere online.

I’ve certainly contributed more than my fair share to this stream of upsettedness. (Though I’d like to think that writing in-depth blog posts about something at least contributes more to the discussion than slapping a meme on my Facebook page, I realize that we all have different ways of interacting, and it’s not for me to say that someone else’s way is better or worse than my own.) And when I take a moment to step back, I have to wonder if any of it is worth it, or if it’s all like American Idol.

I used to follow American Idol faithfully. I watched every broadcast, from the start to the finish. I would talk to friends about who I wanted to win, and express outrage (there’s that word again) when something didn’t go as I thought it should. I enjoyed the show.

And then I stopped watching.

And you know what? I didn’t miss it at all. Everything that had seemed so important while I was watching it just ended up being . . . not. Who cared who won the next season? I didn’t listen to their music anyway. What did it matter if there was another “scandal”? None of it mattered. And in the end, I think (most of us) can agree that American Idol really didn’t matter. (Sorry, Clay Aiken.)

So is all this social media outrage the same thing? Is it nothing more than a bunch of us yelling about things into an echo chamber? Sometimes it can feel that way, especially when I see stories pop up again months after I first saw them. (It makes me wonder how these things spread–from friend to friend to friend, in a ever-repeating loop? Will we still be seeing warnings about Facebook charging fees decades from now?)

I’m not saying that the issues don’t matter. Racism, sexism, abortion, gay rights, health care. All of these things certainly are important and deserve to be discussed. But is the outrage and horror that’s expressed online worth it? Does it really get anything done?

So far, I’d have to say that in general, it doesn’t. We’re all well trained to be upset about whatever there is to be upset about. Share a post. Like it. Comment on it. Then move onto the next one. But it’s like we’ve somehow confused getting upset about something for a day or two to be the equivalent of actually getting anything done. Actually making a difference.

Sometimes we’ll identify a person or persons who have particularly angered us. Who are representative of some evil we’ve identified. And the internet as a whole will tear those people to shreds. Ruin their lives. What good does that do? Anything?

I’ve seen a fair number of friends step back from Facebook or Twitter and just take a vacation from it all for a while. Almost all of them are happier away from this, from what they report when they return. That doesn’t really appeal to me, however. I enjoy these blog posts (or I wouldn’t write them.) While the outrage or thoughts I might express on them might not make a difference in the world as a whole, they certainly make a difference for me. It helps me to think things through and come to a conclusion about what I believe, and occasionally someone calls me out on an error, and I get a chance to learn I was wrong about something. I can actually change my mind.

But that’s a conversation. That’s not just yelling into the Interwebs and then moving on with your life, forgetting it all the next moment, because you’re too busy being upset about the next thing to come down the road.

This is a blog post that doesn’t seem to have a point. Drat. I suppose for me it comes down to this: social media is changing us. It’s connecting us, and dividing us in ways society hasn’t seen before. Some of that’s helpful and good. Some of it . . . not so much.

If the things you believe and say and do aren’t any different because of what you’ve seen and been exposed to online, then maybe it’s time to take a look at yourself and wonder why. Are you having conversations, or are you just nodding your head to what others are saying in a never-ending stream of agreeing-with-those-you-already-agree-with.

Deep thoughts for a Tuesday.

In Which I Pay $1,600 for Shakeology

You all know I’m on sort of a health kick (for me), right? I exercise. I don’t eat (too much) sugar. Then would it surprise you to hear that I’d recently spent $1,600 on Shakeology products? That, in fact, I’d signed up for $800 worth of Shakeology to be delivered every month?

Because it certainly surprised me.

I was sitting in my kitchen last night, going through the backlog of mail that had accumulated while we were away on vacation. Our LL Bean credit card statement was in there, so I dutifully opened it up and scanned it to make sure that–

For the love of all that’s good, why do I have a balance over $1,600?

Denisa and I love some LL Bean and all, and we had bought some backpacks there last month, but I was pretty sure the backpacks weren’t quite that expensive. The Bean can be pricey and all, but not that pricey.

“Denisa,” I asked. “Why did we spend over a grand on our Bean card?”

She was just as surprised as I was. I turned the page to see what the charges were for, and there were the lovely Shakeology purchases. $800+, recurring every month on the fourth.

Not cool.

So I called LL Bean and was speaking to a representative within a minute. They were very understanding, issued new cards to us, took off the charges, and had me fixed up and ready to go in about ten minutes. They suggested I call Shakeology and alert them as well, so I called them next.

After being on hold for a half hour, I spoke with a representative who insisted on knowing my name, zip code, and account number with them. Even after I explained I didn’t actually have an account with them, and that I wasn’t in their system. That rep had a script, by golly, and she was going to follow it no matter what. She talked over me, ignored what I had to say, and took ten minutes to figure out why I was calling.

And once she did?

“Since you don’t have an account with us, I can’t make any changes to someone else’s account.”

I blinked. “It’s my credit card. It’s under my name, with my address. I can’t stop it being used to buy stuff from you?”

Yup. That’s pretty much exactly what the story was. She did offer to send me to a different rep who might be able to look up the account by credit card, but by that point, I was done with Shakeology. I was just doing this as a favor to them, and they didn’t really seem to care. Whatever.

Long story short, my brief affair with Shakeology didn’t amount to much. I don’t have to actually pay any of that $1,600, and I was way impressed with Bean’s customer service. Real people, real help. Shakeology?

Not so much.

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