Why streaming makes me long for Blockbuster and the VHS tape

This brave new digital age, I am told, has brought us unparalleled convenience and endless options.

Those days when people had to rely on cable and Blockbuster? The Dark Ages! Or so I am told.

What about Netflix?

I know: I’m sounding like a Luddite already. But I’m not; I’ve plunked down the monthly fee for a Netflix subscription. Maybe this streaming stuff isn’t so bad, I thought. Give it a chance. Everything I’d want to see that isn’t currently playing at the cinema will be on Netflix, right?

Actually, not so much. While the vast, vast catalog of Netflix does include a handful of high-quality series and movies, the overwhelming majority of it consists of B-grade fare that is there simply for the sake of volume. There are endless series and movies from amateurish production companies in South Korea, Poland, Romania, and Colombia. Plus all the stuff that never made the top tier of the American film industry.

I’m sure there are a few hidden gems among all those lumps of coal. But who has the time to sort all of that out?

Streaming options for a random movie

Meanwhile, what about something I know that I do want to see? I’ve been wanting to watch the World War II movie Greyhound, starring Tom Hanks, since it was released in 2020.

Four years later, Greyhound is no longer a new movie. It’s actually kind of an old one. Greyhound ought to be on Netflix, right? After all, Netflix has room for all those series dubbed from Korean, Romanian, and Spanish. They ought to have Greyhound.

Netflix doesn’t have Greyhound.

If I want to see Greyhound, I have to get an Apple TV+ subscription for $9.99/month.

Wait! I already have a Netflix subscription at $22.99 per month. (Netflix recently raised the prices of all its plans.)

But if I want to see a single 4-year-old movie, I have to get an Apple TV+ subscription, too.

My other option is decidedly un-digital and unhip: I could buy the DVD on Amazon.

That’s probably what I’ll end up doing.

Streaming options for a favorite series

The Americans, a spy drama about a family of Soviet sleeper agents in Reagan-era America, is my all-time favorite TV series. The Americans originally ran on FX from 2013 to 2018.

I wouldn’t mind watching The Americans again. It was my all-time favorite show, after all.

The Americans ought to be on Netflix, right?

No, The Americans is not on Netflix.

How about Amazon Prime Video, then? (I pay $139 per year for an Amazon Prime Membership.)

Nope. The Americans is not on Amazon Prime Video, either. (BTW, neither is Greyhound.)

If I want to see The Americans, my first option is to purchase a digital copy of each episode at $1.99 per episode. There are 75 of them in total, so that comes out to $150.

I also have the option of buying a Hulu subscription. Hulu recently licensed The Americans. The ad-free Hulu subscription costs $17.99 per month.

So far, this streaming stuff doesn’t seem all that great.

Were the 1980s better?

Before we answer that question, let’s consider why the present age might be much worse.

A few years back, someone (?) decided that we all wanted to watch TV on our 6.1-inch phone screens, instead of actual televisions.

Why? Who knows? Personally, I’d much rather watch a movie on the screen of a 55-inch Sony Bravia TV, for example. I have no interest in watching a two-hour movie on the 6.1-inch screen of my iPhone. It’s a simple matter of geometry.

The infatuation with mobile devices led inexorably to streaming. We couldn’t expect people to mess with physical media anymore. Physical media was no longer cool.

So instead we now have to manage a score of monthly streaming subscriptions. Netflix has its own walled garden. Ditto for Hulu, Apple TV+, Disney+, Paramount +, and many others.

Such is the price of so-called progress. We’re paying a lot of money, and often getting a lot less, just because the market has bought into the latest technology.

Technology is great if it makes life better. If technology makes life more inconvenient or expensive, then go back to the horse and buggy, say I.

RCA television print ad from the 1970s

And the horse and buggy wasn’t so bad. Now let’s look at the way we sourced entertainment in the backward 1980s and 1990s.

Movies appeared first in the cinema. Then, after a predictable period of 6 months or a year, they showed up in Blockbuster and other VHS/DVD rental outlets. For a nominal fee, you could borrow any title for 3 to 5 days.

Any TV show you wanted to watch was on cable. Most were on standard channels!

Easy-peasy. 

In those days, HBO was only for movies. HBO was a cable alternative to Blockbuster. But there was practically no movie that you could only get on HBO. Renting it on physical media for a few bucks was always an option.

Superior to streaming? They always had my favorite movies at Blockbuster, and for only few bucks.

So simple. And no—we never thought about watching a 2-hour movie on our landline, analog phones, either. Not when we had those big RCA and Zenith televisions, with their 27-inch screens.

That would have been almost as foolish as watching a 2-hour movie on an iPhone today, when you can watch the same movie on a modern flatscreen television, with a 55-inch screen.

-ET

Lauren Chen and the realities of OnlyFans

Last May conservative YouTuber Lauren Chen made a worthwhile video about the realities of OnlyFans, the much-hyped autoporning website.

In many ways, OnlyFans is nothing new. Amateur porn sites are as old as the Internet. Cam sites appeared as soon as the bandwidth was sufficient. Before the Internet, there were 1-900 phone sex lines.   

But these things were always confined to isolated subcultures. And while the mainstream media may have occasionally reported on their existence, there was none of the cheerleading that surrounds the OnlyFans phenomenon.

Watch Lauren Chen’s video. She spends a little too much time going on about how appalled she is by sex work of any kind. (Yes, Lauren, we get that you are not at all interested in flashing your wares online for tips. Not under any circumstances.) But virtue-signaling aside, she highlights some stark numbers.

To be in the top one percent of OnlyFans creators essentially means that you make about as much as an average fast food worker. And you do this at the cost of starring in an online library of nude photos and videos. These will exist forever, and can be dredged up by blackmailers, jealous partners, and snooping acquaintances at any time.

The stratospheric OnlyFans numbers are for celebrities, and perhaps a handful of outliers.

But what about those outliers? You’ve seen the headlines: “Nurse quits her job to make $20K per month on OnlyFans!”

Chen doesn’t mention this, but the handful of woman-next-door outliers are largely self-reported, or rather, journalist-reported. Are liberties taken with the truth? Well, what do you think?

To be clear, I’m not here to make the case for censorship, but rather for awareness. The mainstream media is selling one narrative (“Instant riches on OnlyFans await!”). The reality is something else. (You probably won’t make much money, and you’ll create numerous liabilities for yourself that will last as long as the Internet.)

-ET

Ebanie Bridges, OnlyFans, and the sorry state of manhood

I don’t understand the things that people hype nowadays. Or the things they spend good money on. Maybe I’m out of touch. And maybe the rest of the world has gone crazy.

This tale begins with Ebanie Bridges, a 36-year-old professional boxer.

Now, before you ask, I have nothing against female boxers, or female athletes in general. Not that I’m a spectator of them, mind you. But then, I don’t watch men’s sports, either. (Hint: if you’re watching more athletics than you’re participating in, you’re probably in danger of becoming a couch potato.)

The aforementioned Ebanie Bridges was recently paid £250,000 just to start an OnlyFans account. That’s a lot of money, sure. But given the number of men plunking down cash on that autoporning site in recent years, why not?

For a mere $12 per month, the desperate, sex-starved male can now view shots of Ms. Bridges in lingerie, overflowing with tattoos and cleavage. Hoo-hah. Grab your willies, guys, your computer mouses, and your credit cards.

But that’s not all. It gets even worse. According to an article in The Sun, Bridges regularly receives “odd requests from ‘paypigs’” who ask her for “gnarly things, such as her dirty socks and bathwater.”

The sad part: I have no doubt that men really are requesting such items, and paying good money for them.

I’ve read those reports of testosterone declining. The average 20-year-old man is much less manly than his grandfather was at 40, or even 50. But have millions of red-blooded men now been reduced to…OnlyFans paypigs? Apparently so.

For most of my life, I didn’t consider myself an “alpha male” in the traditional sense of that word. But such yardsticks are relative. So many men have now lowered the bar to such a degree, that even I have reached alpha male status by default.

Those pathetic shells of men who comprise the subscriber base of OnlyFans…they who plunk down their cash not for sex, even, but for onanistic pleasures on a computer screen.

Oh, and dirty socks. Those, too.

-ET