Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Catapulted into the future - twice
I am an IT guy by day, but that doesn't mean I'm necessarily into the latest and greatest gadgets. As a matter of fact, part of me hates the latest and greatest, because it means I have to learn something new. As an example of that, I'm still using Windows XP on my work computer. It's the same operating system the users still use, so it has its benefits in that respect, but most of my co-workers have been using Windows Vista for some time, and some have even moved on to Windows 7.
This carries over to my need -- or lack thereof -- to have the latest and greatest in entertainment gadgets. On the Mac/PC spectrum, I'm a PC, so it goes without saying that I've left most of Apple's shiny new toys untouched, save the ipod. But it actually took me two to three years longer than most people to get my first one of those -- I didn't have my first ipod (the one I still use) until Christmas of 2006. You'd think, since I'm a huge movie buff, I would have been faster to snap up a DVD player, but no. By the time I got my first one, in 2003, most of my friends had already had theirs for those same two to three years.
I guess you could blame my Puritanical New England upbringing for this. It's not that I didn't see the value in an ipod or a DVD player -- not that I didn't want one. It's that I felt I didn't really deserve one. What had I done that meant I got to have a shiny new toy so soon after it was available? And so with each, I've waited until the point that I thought most other people already had the thing in question, so my purchase of it wouldn't seem like an extravagance, a luxury that I hadn't earned. (Plus, in most cases, the price goes down once something starts to saturate the marketplace.)
You may have figured out where this is going. That's right, about two or three years after most people got theirs, I now finally have my first BluRay player.
The thing is, the ability to watch BluRays wasn't even our big technological advancement of the weekend. See, even though we had it set up starting at about 7 o'clock on Saturday night, we have yet to watch an actual BluRay in our player.
That's because we got one of those BluRay players that streams Netflix on your TV. And that, my friends, was the big, gasping, forehead-slapping leap forward into a new horizon.
After we got the player set up, we debated a bit about the input cables -- whether we should take the one HDMI cable out of our cable box in order to use it for the BluRay, etc. But this was quickly forgotten as soon as the player detected our home wifi. My wife logged into her Netflix account on the TV screen, and voila -- there was her instant online queue of movies to watch. But that's not all. There were also 15-20 other genre categories of suggested movies -- and terrifically specific genres, too. Action/Adventure. Thriller. Horror. Sci-Fi. Documentaries. Foreign Films. Both Comedy and a category called "Witty Films," though we did not immediately see the distinction. TV. And each of these categories had something like 75 titles up for the offering, immediately accessible to us.
Our first impression, which we shared with each other, was that it was like we were in a hotel, choosing between a massive selection of titles, yet all of them were free. So maybe it was more like those exciting plane trips to Australia, where there's no end to the number of gratis options for your eyeballs to look at.
Just to test the connection speed, to see if there would be service interruptions because we were connected wirelessly, we threw on an episode of the original Aeon Flux series from MTV. I expected it to be about five minutes long, but because it crept up to 14, we only half-watched it as we prepared dinner. But the important thing was that it had passed the test -- no dropped service or other service issues whatsoever.
The first thing we watched completely, again from the TV category, was the pilot of Futurama. We needed something short to watch over dinner, as an amuse-bouche before the movie we planned to watch afterward. Sure, you can find Futurama on a number of different networks at any given time of the day. But when do you ever stumble across the pilot? Because of this new big-screen access to my wife's Netflix account, we could pick and choose which Futurama we watched.
I wish I could say that the movie we chose was a better first feature-length use of the technology. After a number of giddy trips through the various categories -- and it looks so pretty up on the screen, a line of movie posters passing along from left to right, with the current selection enlarged in the center -- we decided on Bruno Dumont's Twentynine Palms. Even with the limitless possibilities of the new device, I was still in killing two birds with one stone mode. See, I had gotten approved to review Twentynine Palms, and it was in my wife's instant online queue, which means she wanted to see it too. So onward we went. It was only after we'd finished what I consider to be one of the worst movies I've ever seen (which really deserves its own post -- or maybe doesn't deserve it, because that might encourage other people to subject themselves to it) that I realized there was already a review on my site for this movie. Turns out I'd been approved to review Leonardo Ricagni's 29 Palms, from 2002, not Bruno Dumont's Twentynine Palms, from 2004. Bummer, because I was super excited to rip into this movie. Instead, somebody else got to do it.
We did have a couple short service interruptions this time. To add insult to the injury of watching this particular film, one dropped signal came with less than two minutes remaining, and we almost decided just to shitcan those last two minutes. But we overcame the three minutes of being down and finished the movie. I must say, I was a little concerned about losing our connection two or three times total.
Until Sunday afternoon, when we watched Lance Hammer's excellent debut feature Ballast (also from my wife's instant online queue), and experienced nary a signal drop throughout. Score.
As for the BluRays ... well, we may wait until we get the HDMI cable thing sorted out before we sit down for an entire one. We want it to blow our minds, right? It was excited enough just to make our first two BluRay purchases. I don't know that we're going to amass a huge BluRay collection -- we're trying to be more sensible about such things, and besides, we have a child on the way -- but it was no problem deciding to purchase one BluRay as part of the ceremony of buying the player. We chose that one rather easily -- Where the Wild Things Are -- and paid the $29.99 full price for it gladly. However, I also made an impulsive second purchase when I saw that one of my favorite visual feasts of all time -- Bram Stoker's Dracula -- was on sale at Target for only $9.99. Hell, I would have paid $9.99 for it on DVD. So we bought both.
It was Bram Stoker's Dracula that I tested when we first set up the player, and it was Bram Stoker's Dracula whose opening minute did not look any different than a regular DVD. I am hoping this is just our current cabling setup, not an actual deficit in our BluRay player or our TV. I'm told that HDMI is a must for BluRay, and I'm excited to get that resolved this week.
The future ... it can be scary, and it can seem like you don't deserve it. But once you get here, it feels very, very good.