Watch This (and this)

Above the robe hook in our bathroom is a smudge on the wall, from all the times I have perched a book or magazine there while brushing my teeth. I’m forever finishing a book or a long article, and in addition to providing my input junkie fix, it is an interesting exercise in keeping shaking to a minimum.

Lately, my input obsession has become more specific. I have become a bit of a viewing junkie. With a DVR that stores movies and television programs for later enjoyment on the TV or a portable device, and a Netflix subscription that provides content on my TV, computer, or iPod Touch, I can spend every waking leisure moment watching something that interests me.

Besides the monthly outlay, what exactly is all of this convenience costing me?

As a Netflix subscriber, I try to make sure my little family and I use at least $8 worth of streaming content each month. Going by Redbox prices for a single DVD rental — about $1 — I figure that comes out to eight movies. Prior to joining Netflix, before Redbox existed, we rarely if ever rented that many movies each month. Usually, walking out of a rental store with a new release required $3 or more, regardless of how many days we actually wanted to keep it. Even if we had wanted to spend the money, there just weren’t enough movies available that interested us.

Now that Netflix offers such a large selection of independent and foreign films, which I typically enjoy more than the big-budget Hollywood efforts, it is easy to find something that interests me and/or my wife without leaving our home. The wealth of television shows and kids’ movies and classic cartoons adds even more value. We never have to wait in line at the store or make a return trip.

If I’m at home working in the kitchen, I can pull up a movie, a show, or a stand-up comedy act on Netflix on the living room’s HDTV. If I need to wander to a spot where I can’t view the television, I can use my iPod Touch to pick up where I left off with the Netflix App’s convenient Resume feature. This is decidedly less useful when watching a subtitled film, as even a second with eyes off the screen can result in missed dialog.

With the DVR, I can record from up to three channels at once while watching an existing recording. This is made possible by DishNetwork’s amazing two built-in satellite tuners and one built-in off-the-air (OTA) tuner, which pulls in impeccable HD via rabbit ears in my attic. I don’t watch as much television as I once did, but I am loyal to those programs we enjoy. I’m lucky to keep up with all the “Colbert Report” recordings, much less the movies and nature specials I have on there. With the monthly fees we pay, I feel an obligation to “get our money’s worth.”

My handy PocketDish, an ingenius media player by Archos but no longer available, lets me carry along non-HD programming to view anywhere, with a skip-forward button that works just like at home. In addition to recordings pulled from the DVR, it can play video and audio files transferred from my computer. That wonder was a Christmas gift several years ago, initially meant to serve as an emergency child placater on long road trips, but has not served in that capacity in at least two years.

I used to go to bed anticipating reading several pages of a book, drowsiness setting in and sometimes making my face glad I typically don’t read heavy hardbacks. Now that time usually is sucked away by the viewing of a recording from the DVR.

I recall fondly driving to the video store and perusing the available titles for up to 45 minutes before selecting one. That habit died when our son was born, but once he was old enough to go along I enjoyed wandering the aisles.

Years ago I subscribed to a couple of magazines that I actually read from cover to cover rather than skipping around. I started two new subscriptions recently by cashing in frequent flier miles that never were going to add up to free flights. Although “Wired” and “Outside” are well-written and rich with fascinating content, I have managed to read only two or three issues while at least eight have piled up on our coffee table.

I refuse to give up on the printed word, however, because I loathe reading for leisure on a screen after spending all day looking at a computer monitor. Plus, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as reading through a proofread quality article without having to click to go to the next page and wait for it to load. For timely news I still use only radio and occasionally online resources.

Perhaps my viewing habit comes from my visceral reaction to visual imagery combined with a dwindling imagination. More than once lately I have laughed at myself while holding aloft the PocketDish or the iPod Touch, not a book or magazine, while brushing my teeth. I think maybe it isn’t so funny any more.


Comments

Watch This (and this) — 3 Comments

  1. The DVR is one of the greatest inventions! It’s great to watch a show and skip through the commercials.

    Do you watch “Through the Wormhole, with Morgan Freeman”? Great show!

  2. Dave, I agree that the DVR was a big step in the evolution of TV watching. While it freed us from “appointment TV” and commercials, it also made it very easy to build up a catalog of shows that never will be viewed. They just sit there, beckoning, and sometimes I answer their call when I should just ignore it. I haven’t seen “Through the Wormhole.” I don’t know that we get the Science Channel (only knew the station because I looked it up just now). Our TV viewing dropped precipitously after we had Benjamin, and our picking up of new shows pretty much disappeared. Example: “Rules of Engagement” and “Big Bang Theory” make us both laugh, but ever since we started recording it, we’ve watched only two episodes of each, and there are three episodes of each sitting there waiting.

  3. We’ve got an Apple TV, which connects to Netflix. A great way to watch TV series that you didn’t realize were worth watching until the series finale (or later). We’re watching “Friday Night Lights” right now.

    And I agree that the media availability makes it harder and harder to keep up. I try to look at three newspapers, a couple of news programs, a tv series or two, magazines, as well as the 4-5 books I have going at one time. My suggestion to you is to sit up reading.

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