Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

A new year arrives and the timeless standing challenge is to make at least one resolution and follow through on it. Of course, the intended pledge could have been made any time during the prior year, should have been, but a can kicked once, then twice, then yet again never seems to run out of road.

A seemingly minor can that has plagued me for far longer than a single year has been my inability to decisively pull the plug on the exasperating streaming side of Netflix’s entertainment offerings. Despite dissatisfaction with what it so conveniently avails, I’d nevertheless keep hoping that something truly worth watching would sooner or later appear, if not today then tomorrow, if not tomorrow then next week.

There’s a reason why Netflix comprises more than a third of all Internet traffic in North America, and why streaming is 70 percent of Internet usage during peak hours. It’s basically about an inherent addictiveness e-existence brings to our lives everyday, all day long, 24-7, boosted by the heightened rush of “on demand” availability.

Originally, Netflix was ordered online but delivered via snail mail as a physical DVD. Then it offered the streaming option as an accessory feature, no extra charge. Streaming had far less selection and much inferior offerings, but it had an immediacy which the larger DVD library couldn’t provide.

Streaming selections improved in quantity but remained mostly minor entertainments with some major productions mixed in. Really choice offerings remained “Not Available On Streaming.”

Like boiling a frog by putting it in comfortable water and then slowly raising the temperature, streaming’s shortcomings eventually became accepted as how things are rather than what they could be, while its convenience worked its way towards becoming as desirable as actually watching something of real merit.

Then the inevitable rub presented itself. Streaming would no longer be included in the monthly membership fee but sold separately at the same rate as the DVD service.

Somehow, my household opted to go with the convenience of streaming over the DVD side’s superior selections. Keeping both options didn’t seem of real value as there were still brick and mortar local businesses by which to obtain new theatrical releases, classic film art and popular favorites.

Simultaneously, however, independent storefront video businesses were fighting corporate takeover on two fronts. Matt and Dave’s Video Venture was in the next town over but well worth the drive as opposed to supporting the impersonal too-big-to-fail take-it-or-leave-it Movie Gallery, Home Vision or Blockbuster business model. Unfortunately, Video Venture finally fell prey to a chain store takeover. When it closed, Bart and Greg’s DVD Explosion’s phoenix-like quixotic start-up continued to be a heroic last stand against business monopolies bent on customer compliance rather than customer satisfaction.

Like a Capraesque screenplay come to life, it was the corporate hubris of chain outlets that fell before the the onrush of e-entertainment while Brunswick’s everyman holdout not only continued to hold its own but to open a satellite venue in Bath.

Both of River Bottom Video’s incarnations became separate entities with their own business persona. For those that found their way to frequenting its quirky cinema-exalting niche off Main Street’s backdoor parking lot it was a blessed haven where impromptu unsolicited critiques and recommendations were a routine part of one’s real-world browsing experience. It was a true underground enclave that finally couldn’t make a go of it on an ever diminishing customer base. Bye, Bye Miss American Pie. Took my Chevy to the video store and it was there no more. It was a sad day indeed when Bath lost that impassioned throwback to an individualism-driven alternative opposition to corporate sameness. That’s what Main Street is all about. Real people buying and selling real things in a real-world marketplace. Hopefully, someone else can somehow resurrect that experience, especially now that Bart and Greg’s has also fallen victim to the eventual destructiveness of overwhelming take-no-prisoners e-competition.

“Resistance” is all the rage these days while our e-drivenness , good and bad, continues to be accepted as something we cannot stop, something we must all embrace as our now and future reality and the economic engine that dominates every aspect of our sociopolitical destiny. E-life has even convinced us that it is the only way to assert ourselves collectively despite all evidence that in reality it diminishes actual connectedness society-wide.

So, starting off 2018 I’ve finally disconnected from the streaming side of Netflix. That was, embarrassingly, a ridiculously difficult simple act to actually follow through on. Hopefully it will encourage me to engage in other seemingly small acts of resistance against acceptance of a continued compliance in being asked to just roll over and take what’s dished out to advance someone else’s profitability.

More and more, we are being culturally served up the equivalence of fast food rather than what is really tasteful or nutritious. Less and less is any “service” or product actually concerned with our real satisfaction but only in determining how far we can be pushed before we stop buying into product lines that only cater to the bottom line.

Gary Anderson lives in Bath.


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