Cutting the Cord

As a poor college student, I pinch pennies whenever I can. That means Sunday night dinners at Cici’s Pizza, clothes from Target, and those god-awful compact fluorescent bulbs in my lamps.

It also means I won’t pay for cable. Not only would it be an unjustified expense to buy a bunch of channels so I can watch a few shows, but I simply don’t like to build my schedule around my television viewing. With options like DVDs, iTunes, Hulu, and soon Google TV, the benefits aren’t worth the cost.

It would appear that I am not the only one who thinks this. Cable subscriptions are dropping. Time Warner Cable forecasts a “subscriber deficit” for the third quarter, an announcement which led to a three-percent drop in TWC stock. Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon’s chairman and CEO, says such “cord-cutting” is a result of cheaper alternatives for younger, lower-income consumers who no longer desire to pay cable fees. Analyst Craig Moffett claims that this is not an issue to be concerned about yet, and that “evidence of cord-cutting remains scant.” Moffett blames the current economic condition for subscription drops, despite the fact that the recession is apparently over. (Who knew?)

Perhaps if Mr. Moffett weren’t a well-paid analyst he would realize that cord-cutting is indeed a very real occurrence among lower-income consumers. It may not be making a huge difference yet, but it would be very unwise for cable companies to ignore the potential for more frequent subscription drops in the future. Now, do I think that cord-cutting will be “the death of cable”? Of course not. People will continue to pay for cable due to the large amount of channels and shows available, but some of the poorer, less picky users will inevitably find alternatives, and cable companies may have to rethink their strategies as a result.

Am I out of my mind, or are they out of ideas?

So apparently Footloose is being remade. And apparently TNT has ordered a pilot for an updated version of Dallas. Also, At the Movies is returning to PBS — complete with a speechless Roger Ebert. Is there a single original story idea left in the media business? It would seem not. This summer we received The Karate Kid, an original story based upon… The Karate Kid. Even Avatar, This Year’s Greatest Movie of All Time, is essentially Pocahontas Dances with Wolves in Space. Television demonstrates this trend even more:  how many shows use the Law & Order formula? At least seven? As I’ve pointed out before, Fringe is The X-Files for the A.D.D. generation, and ABC tried to similarly recycle Twin Peaks into Happy Town this summer. (Yeah, I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it.) Sure, the producers latch on to the formulas that make money, but whatever happened to risk-taking? Lost was good for the first two years, until the writers ran out of ideas. House was sort of innovative, but it imitates itself too much. The only really original show currently in production that I am aware of is Mad Men — the only show I watch as it airs.

The current drivel that makes up most television programming may reel in the big bucks, but it doesn’t attract me. Maybe when the History Channel returns to history-centered programs I’ll return. But until then, why would I watch The Universe when I can watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on DVD?

An open letter

Dear women of the world:

If you are not interested, please say so. Your goal may be to “avoid drama,” but leading me on will not achieve this goal. Indeed, there is a high chance that it will have the opposite effect. I am a limerent, and when you lead me on, you only increase any attraction I may have to you. It makes nothing easier, for me, for you, or for any mutual friends we may have. Leading me on wastes both your time and mine, and it makes you look diffident and indecisive at best. At worst, I will suspect that you simply wanted another free dinner.

When you tell me you are not interested, stick to the facts. Say these simple words:  “(I’m sorry, but) I am not attracted to you.” I will not be offended by this. (I might be disappointed, but c’est la vie.) Unless they are actually relevant, do not appeal to reasons like your “dating rules,” the “distance,” or problems with your last relationship. When you eventually disprove those claims, I will be offended at your deceit and your cowardice. Do not leave me with any reason to think that you might be attracted to me now or in the future. Turn me down outright. Just say no. It will be better for both of us.

Not much love,

Me

3D: The Latest Recycled Fad

3D is an interesting experiment, both in film and in television. It was used in films during the ’50s, and again in the ’80s. It was a gimmick then, and it’s a gimmick now. Too often I’ve seen shots that gratuitously scream, “It’s a 3D film!” as in many 3D IMAX films. Due to this trend, I’ve actually tried to stay away from 3D films. I want 3D to add to my experience, not dictate it. I haven’t seen Avatar, and I have no plans to. I have, however, seen both Up and Toy Story 3 in 3D — and I loved them both. Pixar demonstrates the same care and good taste with its 3D rendering that it does with every other aspect of its films. The 3D was subtle, and I saw none of those annoying 3D! shots. In fact, after Toy Story 3, I overheard a young boy complaining to his mother: “The 3D wasn’t any good; nothing popped out at you!” She agreed.

And there’s the rub:  the tasteless, corny shots are the ones that grab audiences, and 3D makes money. If people tire of it, it may again fade into obscurity, but I think it’ll stick around in film if 3D television catches on. Still there’s a cloud in that silver lining: if 3D becomes commonplace, it is possible that things will stop popping out as us simply because they can.

Note:  The image dimness that people often mention regarding 3D is not always present, and is the fault of the theater. Many theaters simply do not purchase brighter projector lamps to compensate for the polarized glasses. I saw both the 2D and 3D versions of Up, and the 3D version was no less bright than the 2D one; however, Toy Story 3 (which I viewed in another state) was uncomfortably dim.

I’m no twit.

It took me an awfully long time to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. If I had waited any longer, I’d have had to catch a train instead. I followed my friends and a few celebrities (David Lynch, for example). I quickly found that Mr. Lynch had much to say and that I wasn’t interested in a good deal of it. I was more frequently (though by no means regularly) interested in what my friends had to say, but most of them use programs like Digsby to send identical messages through Facebook, making Twitter completely useless for me. (I don’t kid myself that anyone actually cares what I write there.) I understand that many people enjoy hearing frivolous comments from their favorite celebrities and politicians, but I’d rather read their ideas in paragraph form. Besides, why follow David Lynch on Twitter when I can follow him — and his hair — on Facebook?