Why is Netflix Such a Big Deal?

netflixAt the end of my last post, I mentioned that my biggest emotional problem, at the time, was the fate of one of my favorite characters in a Netflix series.

I felt odd, even guilty, about that. Because there are other things going on in my life and those of others around me, but nonetheless, it was embarrassingly true (and frankly I’m still not over it).

It was about to get worse. This series kept me up at night. But not in the way you think. No, I didn’t stay up too late watching it. On the contrary, I decided to go to bed at a decent hour because I couldn’t take it any more.

And then my brain said, “Oh you think it’s sleep time? Nope, you’re going to be up at least another two hours sulking about this, so you may as well work off some of that emotion on computer game opponents.”

Plus, I was on edge so I woke up early…

It was a stupidly grueling weekend, and I needed a nap afterwards. A couple naps. All over a TV show.

Normally, I don’t get this upset. Especially about Tommy, who I love, but I know he’s the sort of fan-favorite character that writers like to pretend to kill about once a season, just to keep things interesting. So I don’t fall for that. I enjoy worrying about him a little, but I know perfectly well that if something big was going to happen, it wouldn’t be accomplished so flippantly.

This time was different. The writers were making a giant, hairy deal out of it that stretched over I don’t even know how many episodes. They even foreshadowed it and everything, by making the same thing happen to a character close to Tommy, and then almost making it happen to him just so the audience could see how horrible it would be if it did happen. (Note to self: excellent foreshadowing technique, I must use this later.)

Plus this time it wasn’t just about him dying. I had to watch him slowly lose his free will knowing that at some point his friends were likely to have to kill him … it was awful …

I think I cried at least three separate times over this whole being-kicked-in-the-feels fest. Not to mention repeated pleas of “Lord, please not Tommy! Anybody but Tommy!” (And I mean that in the most devout way possible.)

But I had to wonder why. Was I really getting this emotional over someone who didn’t exist? Why, indeed, is Netflix such a big deal?

And this could be anything really. Hulu, Amazon Prime, whatever. Even movies, sports, movies about sports, and stories in general. But I’ll stick with Netflix because I use it most. So why does this effect us so much?

Two reasons, I think. And they’re two sides of one coin called “escapism.”

On the one hand, most of us who live in the Western world experience unprecedented levels of comfort and security.  This is a great thing. But it’s boring.

I think the fact that our news resembles entertainment speaks to exactly how bored we are. It’s not that the problems we freak out about aren’t real. But many of us are merely using them to occupy ourselves. We get mad about things, but we don’t do anything about it. Like the way I worry about Peak Oil but don’t stock up on cans of anything.

Watching my Netflix show lets me vicariously experience all the trauma and excitement of a post-apocalyptic world without any of the risk and hardship. Same thing goes for sports. You get to be on a team and share in the victory (and defeat), but you don’t have to put in any workouts, or risk any broken bones or concussions.

That is not to say we don’t still have hard things to go through, which leads me to the other side of the coin.

This time, I think I got so upset because I was attached to the character and got carried away (I may have been a little bit lonely, too). But that’s not always the case. There have been times when I’ve been crying over a story of some sort, and realized that I was actually crying for a very different reason. One that was very real. But focusing on the story was an easier way of processing the emotions being caused by something much more difficult to think about.

Stories also give us somewhere to go where we don’t have to think about whatever is troubling us in real life, at least for a little while. A break from reality, if you will. Even if it sounds kind of silly. Especially if, like me, your life isn’t that hard to begin with. But it’s still nice. The dishes will still be there after the show is over (And who knows? Maybe the soap will be more effective with my tears mixed in.)

There is a caveat to all this, though. I do believe what I’ve just typed. Netflix is cathartic, and it is a nice mental getaway. But on some level this is propaganda cooked up by my brain to rationalize how much time I spend on it. There are tons of better things we could all be doing with our time than watching Netflix. Including things that would let us deal with emotions and entertain us. But it ain’t going away, either.

By the way, “Tommy” is fine. He could use a shave, imho, but he’s fine. I’ve avoided specifics (including the character’s name) for spoiler purposes, but I will tell you that he got infected with a zombie-like virus, and then he got better, and then he got worse, and then he got a lot worse, and then he died. And then he was fine.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed and cried at the same time before. And did I very non-sacrilegiously thank God for his borderline resurrection? Oh you bet I did. But that’s okay, Jesus gets me.

 

Six Months Gone

It has now been roughly half a year since I moved out on my own.

I have to admit, it isn’t quite what I thought it would be, but my independent life is still under development.

Having daydreamed about living on my own since I was about fifteen I thought I would be more prepared. But I certainly never anticipated the emotional hurdles I would face (although I thought I might spend the majority of the first week in my closet, curled up in a ball). And I have not spontaneously morphed into the super-productive, crafty person I envisaged. I’m still only that person intermittently.

But the fact is, I can’t be upset about any of this. Because my independent life is what I have made it. After all, that was the point of all this. Given that I am still so early in this process, I suppose I can’t really make demands of myself until I understand more who I am absent of other influences.

My surroundings are also not what I originally thought they would be. I had hoped to move somewhere lusher and greener, preferably near the sea. But compared to the soft, rolling hills of Metropolis, Smallville’s rugged terrain looks almost prehistoric in comparison. And it’s even drier than the dryness Metropolis is known for.

The river snakes through Smallville like a giant anaconda that occasionally breaks loose and swallows things. Happily, I am well out if it’s reach. But when I got here, the major concern was the fire beast whose handiwork enveloped my new home in a thick shroud of smoke, and resulted in an influx of refugees. There was even a possibility, however slight, that it would force me back home. Maybe even destroy all the stuff I had carefully and expensively collected and carted to my new home.

These days, the snow beast is of more concern. One of the major highways I rely on for food is so treacherous it has it’s own reality TV show. I am told there is another supply route. If this were not so, I would seriously reconsider staying here in the long term, or at least have a much larger stock of supplies set aside for the zombie apocalypse (my personal euphemism for disasters that are both devastating and likely enough for me to not want to think about too much.)

I should probably more prepping anyway, but I do know that the great river anaconda has a baby near me which I can use in emergencies, albeit one who is a bit tucked away in a gully. Although these days the amount of snow makes any concern about water irrelevant.

It does, however, highlight to me the difference between my chosen lifestyle, and those of other people.

See, I have no car. This makes me much more reliant on myself, and my physical ableness, to get around. But also less reliant on my job for financial security. Notwithstanding my other reservations about spending, the fact that I am able to avoid owning a car probably has the most to do with the sizable chunk of change I sock away every month.

This is what I wanted, but it also means that I run the same risks as a wild predator of starving to death if I become injured or otherwise disabled. (Which is really not true, a number of local grocery stores delivers and my employer has a nice disability benefit plan, not to speak of the people who would help me.)

But I still like thinking of it that way. Making expeditions out to the stores on foot and hauling back my finds, hopping over snow berms on the way, appeals to my hunter-gatherer instincts.

I didn’t expect that either, although in retrospect I might have. I also didn’t expect my proccupation with physical fitness. (Although the extra inch around my middle that appear during Christmas and Just. Won’t. Leave. might have something to do with that.) I suppose one needs hobbies. I’ve always had a lot of hobbies, but that wasn’t one of them.

In short, there are a few things still missing from my independent life, and several things that are here that I didn’t expect. It’s a mixed bag, but considering that as of this writing my biggest worry is what will happen to a particularly imperiled favorite character on Netflix, I’d say things are going pretty well.

The Pirates Movie That Should Not Have Been

(Spoiler warning, btw.)

pirates

That I like the PotC franchise used to be one of the first things people knew about me, but I gave that up to become merely a closet fan after writing a feminist essay about it*. In fact, I didn’t think of myself as much of a fan at all.

It turns out the only thing that could revive my interest in it is outrage. First, I was upset when I found out that Johnny Depp had decided to take on a role in the Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise instead of continuing to make Pirates movies.

Having seen the last Pirates film, I now think he quit one movie too late.

I will say this, Dead Men Tell No Tales (hereafter DMTNT) had some good moments. The explanation of how Jack Sparrow got his name (as opposed to being called Jack Teague) was really clever. I would have wholesomely enjoyed that flashback scene if the CGI wasn’t so awful, and if it didn’t directly contradict the other movies and Jack’s backstory in general.

DMTNT was *just* good enough to demonstrate what a great movie it could have been…if the writers hadn’t screwed it up so badly.

In all the other movies, Jack is not great at the basic, practical elements of piracy**. This is true in the fifth movie as well. Except that they missed the part that he is really, really good at being a lousy pirate. He’s like a basketball player who makes all the trick shots but can’t play on a team.

DMTNT really lost me when Jack walks into the bar and sees his wanted poster with an ever decreasing monetary reward for his capture. That’s not Jack.

Jack is the person who is at first glance mistaken (key word) for “the worst pirate” one might have heard of, and then quickly proves himself to be otherwise.

In contrast, the Jack Sparrow in DMTNT is just a smarmy drunk who used to be a good pirate, and does virtually nothing that has an impact on the plot.

And I’m sure I don’t have to remind you all of Jack’s fantastic monologues. But I will. The time in Dead Man’s Chest when he explains why what happened to Norrington was really William Turner’s fault. His speech at the Brethren Court, during which he quotes Shakespeare and speaks Latin. (Both of which imply that he has been to university at some point. The writers may not have intended this, depending on how much they know about history, but nevertheless it does.)

Where did those go? I can’t think of a single, remotely clever thing Jack says in DMTNT, let alone a monologue.

The videogame did a better job of capturing his wit. There’s one moment in particular. Captain Teague goes to break Jack out of jail and says something like, “You’d sleep through your own hanging, Jacky.”

To which Jack responds, “I always assumed they’d wake me.”

Poetry.

It’s not just Jack’s character who suffers in this movie, although those sins are in my mind the most unforgivable. The movie makes numerous logical missteps, in this case indicative of poor writing rather than fanciful leaps the other movies used to make their stories work. I will provide a short list of sins. Not a full list, because many of them I am still trying to erase from my memory, but a short list. Feel free to provide more of your own in the comments.

  • If Barbosa was Carina’s father, why didn’t he already know all about his own journal and the island it led to?
  • Speaking of Barbosa, why is he back on the fake nobility kick he clearly abandoned in On Stranger Tides?
  • In Dead Man’s Chest Tia Dalma states that Jack bartered his compass from her, contradicting the flashback scene in DMTNT.
  • Dead men tell no tales? Posidon’s trident? Really? Well, I suppose they were running out of nautical cliche’s after using up Davy Jones, mermaids and Blackbeard.***
  • Unless William Turner decided to stop ferrying dead people to the underworld, there is no reason why he would turn all barnacle-y, or act pretty much exactly like Bill Turner did in P2 and P3.
  • Speaking of the Turners, why doesn’t William take steps to free himself if there might be a way to be with Elizabeth? Why isn’t Elizabeth helping Henry to free him?
  • Also, Henry Turner? When the child of William Turner and Elizabeth makes an appearance in the easter egg at the end of At World’s End, he is listed in the credits as Young Will Turner (it’s on imdb, I checked.) His name should be Will Turner Jr.
  • Assuming Jack was 20 when he made his deal with Davy Jones (at 20, William Kidd was one of the youngest ever captains), he would be 33 at the start of Dead Man’s Chest and, adding the 18  or so years between that movie and DMTNT, he can be no younger than 51, more realistically late 50s or early 60s. Yet he still looks like a forty-something with access to make-up, modern health-care, and hair dye.
  • As a logical extension to the above, how in the blue blazes is Barbosa still even alive!? If we assume Barbosa is in his 50s when we first see him, in DMTNT he’s pushing 70, in a time period when people even in low-risk lifestyles lived to 45ish. (Pirates had an average career-length of five years.) And he has little or no gray hair either.
  • At the time of the flashback scene, what will later be called the Black Pearl is still known as the Wicked Wench, as per the name painted on the stern. Jack renamed the ship shortly after being branded a pirate and making his deal with Davy Jones. Therefore, there is no reason for the pirate-slaying Captain Salazar to be going after the Wicked Wench because Jack shouldn’t be a pirate or part of a pirate crew at this point.

 

Now, having unburdened myself of my outrage, I wash my hands of this weirdness.

 

 

*Don’t ever write a feminist essay on your favorite Hollywood movie. Now I can never unrealize that Jack Sparrow treats women like dirt and is mean to animals. However, I have also come to realize that like most Hollywood movies, pirate movies in particular are about saying “for the next two-and-a-half hours, I don’t give a crap.”

**Although the stories Elizabeth mentions in Curse of the Black Pearl suggest that he can be, unless we interpret these as well as the sort of “trick shots” we see in the movies.

***Although this I could have forgiven if the movie had been as good as the previous ones. That being said, I don’t see why the writers didn’t try inventing something original like the first movie did.

Why Bugs? Why?

BugI used to like bugs.

In fact, I was once called the Bug Lady. I was the one called upon to evict from our home critters that exceeded the recommended number of legs. I was the one who argued that they all have their place in creation, and do valuable work.

Not anymore.

Just today, I stared down a Box Elder Bug (the one in the picture) and his friends, and declared them to be the physical embodiment of evil.

Which isn’t fair. They don’t bite. They don’t infest (can’t breed indoors, apparently). They were specially created for a purpose. But unfortunately they also really, really like my warm, south-facing patio.

I’ve changed. I mean, I still don’t kill bugs (except for that one silverfish in the bathtub I thought my pet fish Amazon would enjoy. So technically, he killed it.) But I now know how the bug-haters feel. I’m not proud of it.

But Smallville bugs are different.

(It must be the kryptonite.)

The whole thing started with the Box Elder Bugs. I put out a strawberry for the birds I’d seen in the trees nearby. When I returned, however, the strawberry was covered in Box Elder Bugs.

I made a noise then, that I’d never heard myself make before. (Kind of like, Eeeeuuggh! I didn’t scream, I’ll have you know.) And then I nabbed my dustpan and knocked the bug-covered strawberry off of my patio.

It wasn’t over yet, because the Box Elder Bugs stuck around. As if to spite me, a large horsefly landed on my patio and died, so that it too could get covered in Box Elder Bugs. And then the bugs took up residence in my mint plant.

There was always at least a dozen of them on the patio at any given moment. They left after a few weeks, until today, and they’ve come back in droves. Apparently they’re back now because they’re looking for a place to spend the winter. And they’re all big red and black adults now. They’re crawling all over everything, and more keep flying in. It looks like the beginnings of a Biblical plague, which is probably what prompted the impression that they were evil.

If it had been part of a sci-fi movie though, they would have symbolized evil.

Of course, Box Elder Bugs, though fairly large for a North American insect, are not the biggest things out here. There’s also the really big beetles with giant antennae that I thought were called June Bugs. Apparently they’re not, according to google. Those guys I generally think are kind of neat, in part because they’re so big. But anything that’s dead gets creepier, including bugs.

So when I was sitting at the bus stop, and I noticed a rather large spider crawling on top of the big beetle, honestly I could not decide which was worse. The spiders here, the ones I have seen, are great. They look an awful lot like black widow spiders, except they’re about the size of a loonie. A big freaky thing eating a big freaky thing is not what you want to see on your way to church.

There are a few just random bugs, too, that don’t really seem to fit my established Metropolis ideas of what bugs are supposed to look like. There’s the medium-small brown flies, for example. Not tiny, like fruit flies, but not as big as any other fly I’ve ever seen. Just medium-small, which was not a category of fly I’ve ever seen before. And the teeny-tiny brown ants. I’ve only seen two, and both of them were in my apartment. One of them was drowned in Gary’s bathwater. (Gary is my air plant, for those who don’t know.)

I don’t mind those, really. But I really don’t like the ones that want my food. The wasps, for instance, that live on campus at the Institution of Joy and Happiness, where I work. I tried to eat outside once. It was a beautiful day.

I’m usually not bothered about bees or wasps, either. I’ve never been stung, I know they won’t bother me if I don’t bother them. These wasps didn’t read that e-mail apparently.

It would hover around me. Behind me, just to be super creepy, so I would see it chasing me when I turned around. So I left for a bit, walked quickly away. Best thing to do. Can’t swat at it, it might get mad.

And then it was gone. Everything was fine. I went back. And then it came back.

So I did it again, with the same results, and then I started freaking out a little. So I swatted at it a little, which freaked me out more, because I was sure it was getting mad.

After, a few repetitions of this nonsense, and having likely convinced several students I had gone nuts, I came to my senses and speed-walked to the nearest building to eat in peace.

But food is not always safe indoors. Sometimes you bring the bugs with you.

I knew, in theory, that fruit with holes in it could have a worm. I’d never seen it happen. Then I saw, on a pear I had, little black specks in some webbing. Mice?

No, I know what that is. It’s caterpillar poop. I’ve seen it in leaves when I collected caterpillars from their nests so I could raise them.

This was alarming. An actual wormy thing, inside my food!? But I wanted pears with cottage cheese and chocolate sauce. And I was eating those pears. That wasn’t negotiable. I got them for free. You don’t not eat free food.

So I cut it open, and that noise happened again. (Eeeeuuggh!) I thought one of the seeds was a little slug-like worm. It wasn’t, as I discovered when I got up the nerve to return to the kitchen.

There was more caterpillar poop inside. I cut out everything that had contact with the tunnel or the poop. Washed everything. It all looked like proper, eatable fruit. I wondered where the “worm” was, but everything was fine so why worry.

(As a side note, I may never eat whole fruit again. I’m cutting up everything.)

The real drama came later, after I’d enjoyed my pear and chocolate sauce, and went to put the bowl back in the kitchen.

There was a reddish thing lowering itself down from the cupboard into my fruit bowl (which is actually a colander). There was that noise again.

I didn’t even know that something like that could happen. Worms in apples, sure, I’ve heard of that. But caterpillars that go in, munch on your fruit, leave, and then come back in the creepiest way possible?

ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME!?

They do this to me on purpose, I’m sure. The bugs succeed in creeping me out, then they do something even worse just to see me freak out more. I mean, it’s happened three times.

Bugs swarming over something, look, let’s do it again only worse cause it’s on a dead bug.

Big creepy bug, look, here’s a big creepy spider too.

Caterpillars in the fruit, tada, here I go again.

And don’t even get me started about the fruit flies that drown themselves in my tea. I mean, that happened in Metropolis too, but come on I was gone for like five minutes. I’m sure Amazon the fish appreciates their sacrifice but I don’t.

I used to like bugs. If I can get a little intellectual here, I think the reason I’ve started disliking bugs has to do with the basic reasons we bother getting upset about mostly harmless bugs in the first place. It comes back to disease. Bugs congregate around filth, so we associate them with filth and disease.

Now that it is my sole responsibility to make sure that I do not die of food poisoning or accidentally ingest something toxic, bugs bother me. Because now they are my problem. Plus, I don’t know these bugs. I grew up around Metropolis bugs, but these Smallville bugs could be dangerous. You never know.

I Think This, You Think This … We Don’t Agree.

Floopin
Your debate partner

“Take away, O ass! those panniers of airy nothingness; and speak, if you can, three words that have an affinity to common sense; if it be possible for the tumid pumpkin of your skull to discover for a moment any thing like the reality of intellect” – Milton

You may have noticed that things in general in the Western World have gotten a little more political. A little more polarized.

It may well be that the only thing we all agree on is that we can’t agree on anything. Nevertheless, I have noticed that even though we think very differently about things, the way we think about these things is remarkably similar.

Let us explore some things that we all seem to believe, although our beliefs could not be more divergent.

1. The Other Side believes things that are demonstrably false.

I mean, haven’t they read the experts you’ve read? To any thinking person, the truth just has to be obvious. I mean, sure, the Other Side has experts too, but …

2. The Other Side is motivated by ideology, not facts.

Which is obvious from their weak arguments and poor logic. Obviously their “experts” are just spouting off things that they’re basically just making up that support what they believe. And yet …

3. The Other Side knows perfectly well that they are wrong.

The truth is just so obvious. They know what they’re arguing for is wrong, they just don’t want to admit it, because (they want to redistribute wealth to other countries, they hate God, they’re just racists, all they want is money.) But honestly …

4. Most people are just dumb.

I mean, how else can you explain so many people that believe things that are so obviously wrong? But at the same time …

5. We are the majority.

We may be the silent majority. Or we may be the majority leading the world towards a more tolerant future. But either way, we are the majority. Certainly we are the sane ones, unlike some people, because …

6. The Other Side are all extremists

Although we can’t deny that major changes are needed, possibly revolutionary changes. But of course it will be a revolution of sanity and kindness. Even though we don’t really care if the changes that are needed will make some people uncomfortable, because let’s face it …

7. The Other Side are mostly intolerant jerks.

This may be especially ironic, because they claim to be so tolerant. Or it may just be an obvious fact because the Other Side are -ists or -phobes or some sort or other. I mean, not everyone on our side is perfectly either, but …

8. The Other Side makes us out to be jerks when we’re not.

And this is just so that they can avoid thinking what we think. It’s not our fault, or even the result of our own behavior, for the most part. Even though …

9. We wish some people on Our Side would shush.

Because they’re kind of wackos, and make the rest of us look bad. Which does not in any way negate point numbers 7 or 8.

 

 

 

 

Ta-Da Everybody

This is not the post I thought I’d be writing. Originally, I planned to call this blog Half-Baked, with a tag-line: “Adventures in Adulting.” And I planned on this post being a proper introduction to the blog I intended to write, and telling the story of how I ended up living on my own. But then I realized that this was all rather short-sighted (although I might eventually tell that story).

Did I plan on being new at living on my own forever? Certainly not.

I also wanted to have a blog to post my creative doings on, and Half-Baked really wasn’t the place to put it. Alexis’ World, however, has enough shades of meaning to encompass everything from my attempts to make sourdough, to my views on random topics, to what the characters from my latest creative attempts are up to.

The tagline “Watch Your Step,” too, means everything from “I haven’t picked up all the clothes on my floor yet,” to “Be careful because the fantasy worlds I’ve created are flipping creepy,” to “Take care of yourself, because many people in this world are complete and utter doorknobs.”

So yes, this is still a blog written primarily so that my friends and family can keep up with what’s going on with me even though I’m “all grown up and miles away,” to quote one of my new favorite musical artists.  But it’s also a blog that can grow with me, and does not require me to take the trouble of maintaining two different blogs.

There’s another thing, too. I am Alexis Czechelski (pronounced check-el-ski). Who is that?

Even those of you who know me may well be wondering that, because as far you know, you don’t know anyone by that name. Which is true, even though you know me, and Alexis Czechelski is my name.

Impossible? No. Not if you accept that I’m being slightly facetious.

For those of you who don’t know. Alexis is my middle name, and Czechelski was my family’s ancestral name before they changed it after moving from Prussia (because Prussia was a thing back then), to Germany. So technically (not really), it is my name.

For those of you who don’t know me at all, I’m writing under a pen name. And now you know how I picked it. Lucky you.

But then since you don’t know me, you may still be asking the question: who is Alexis Czechelski?

I am a fantasy (maybe sci-fi eventually) novelist. My taste in music has confused youtube to the point where it does not know whether the ads it shows me should be in English or French. I took a BA in English literature, then a Library Tech Diploma, and then moved from Metropolis to Smallville, where I work in the library of the Institution of Higher Learning.

I’m being vague because I like telling stories. And I don’t like getting in trouble because I like to tell stories. I don’t have any yet that I think are blog-worthy. But hey, I’ve only been here a month.