Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Netflix Your Power (2 Blogs in One--Now That's Conservation!)

Another day at the museum, another opportunity to free-associate blog-style!

So, all over Los Angeles—probably all over California—there are these cryptic messages on the highways. You know those electronic signs that alert you about traffic conditions and Amber Alerts? Well, I guess their default message these days is “Flex Your Power!”

All summer long, we’ve seen them; Flex Your Power! Flex Your Power!

What the hell does that even mean?

A simple Google search explains at www.fypower.org that “Flex Your Power” is the slogan of a campaign by some of California’s utilities, businesses and government agencies united to conserve energy. When you see the slogan, you are supposed to be on alert to conserve! That’s why we’ve seen it so often this summer.

That all sounds good, but I still don’t understand what it means to “flex” my power. All I know is that I feel guilty about not going to the gym.

In other conservation news, we’re pretty excited about a program by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP). It is called, “Trees for a Green LA.” It’s a program that lets customers get free trees to landscape their homes—the idea being that more trees equals more shade to help keep homes energy efficient (and purdy!). The website is pretty cool. You actually have to read through a lesson plan and take a test to qualify for the program. If you pass the online test, that tells you how to plant & care for trees, you can choose from a pretty large selection of available trees that will be delivered to your home.

Speaking of home delivery, have I mentioned how much I love Netflix lately? If you ‘re a movie lover like I am, I can’t recommend it enough. The premise is simple: You order DVDs for rental online and Netflix mails the discs to you in a returnable postage-paid envelope. Piece of cake. For me, the best part isn’t the convenience of delivery; it is the unbelievably huge selection. This ain’t no Blockbuster, people. In the past year, I have seen all kinds of programming, much of which I never would have heard of if not for the Netflix search engine. You can search for movies by title, genre, actor or director, or just browse common group categories like “New releases,” or “Television.” And if it is on DVD, they most likely have it. I’ve seen all sorts of foreign films & TV and Documentaries that you’d never find at a local video store. Eventually, I assume all this stuff will be available “On Demand” from your cable companies, but right now, there is nothing that equals the Netflix library for the variety of programming.

Luckily for me, some of the work I do is mindless enough that I can actually watch some of these things during the course of my work-week. This has allowed me to watch some of those TV programs that people are always yapping about (like Lost for example). Have I mentioned that we NEVER watch any regular TV in my house? That’s a rant for another day, and a lifestyle choice I whole-heartedly endorse. Netflix lets me have my cake and eat it, too. Here’s a list of some choice Netflix recommendations from my recent rentals (if anyone on Earth cares!):

The Spiral Staircase: I’ve been on a film-noir kick lately, and this was the last one I watched. Creepy!
The Killers: Just watched both the 1946 and 1964 versions of this story, based on a Hemmingway short story. Both worth watching, but the 1946 version is FAR better.
The Cincinnati Kid: Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson and poker. How bad could that be?
Seven Days In May: Burt Lancaster plans a U.S. Coup in this paranoid thriller.
The Pawnbroker: A classic Sidney Lumet film about a haunted Holocaust survivor and his business in Harlem. Explosive!

The Blue Planet: This is a BBC series about ocean life. Incredible stuff you’ve never seen before. Stuff NOBODY has seen before. My favorite episode is “The Deep.” All about life in the deepest darkest oceans. I actually bought this one. My kid loves that “Fangtooth!”
New York: an 8-disc series about the city I grew up in, but evidently hardly knew about. This series is awesome. Directed by Ric Burns, brother of the famous documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns who happened to direct…
Ken Burns’ Civil War: A superb 5 disc series.
Murderball: an excellent film about the intense sport, quad-rugby and the intense players on the US team.
Empires: The Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance: We watched this before going to Florence last year--really interesting stuff! Besides the intrigue of the mafia-like power of the Medici family, this documentary is also a nice, quick overview of renaissance art and the history of Florence.
The Weather Underground: A fascinating look at a forgotten part of recent US history: our very own home-grown terrorist group! Aw!
Super-Size Me: I talked about this in another blog. Fun. Horrifying. Yum!
Why We Fight: actually, I’m not sure if I recommend this one, but it’s an interesting, if completely one-sided look at the so-called “military industrial complex” that supposedly governs every aspect of our lives! I’m not a big fan of this kind of documentary, as you can probably tell. It’s not difficult to take a position you want to espouse and then find a bunch of film to support that view without dealing with contrary opinions. Blah blah.

Sleeper Cell: I just started watching this, so I’m only 4 episodes in. What I’ve seen so far, I like. Reminds me of an updated Wiseguy.
Wiseguy: since I mentioned it, I was a big fan of this series when it first aired in the late eighties. It was a great cop show about an undercover FBI guy named Vinnie Terranova (Ken Wahl). Great supporting cast & villains. A must see! This was one of the first (if not THE first) TV show to tell stories in large arcs. The DVDs are divided by arcs—try to watch them in order to see how Vince’s character grows. One complaint: The DVD has different music from the original series as it was created. Why? Because they did not keep the rights to the pop music that they used. Unfortunate, but I don’t know if you’d miss it if you didn’t see the original.
Deadwood: Love love love this HBO original series. 2 seasons currently available. Don’t rent it if you can’t take harsh language!
The Shield: What a show! Mythic!
The Sopranos: ‘Nuff said.
Cracker: This is a BBC cop show starring Robbie Coltraine. Never heard of it before I stumbled across it on Netflix. It’s amazing.
Rescue Me: Dennis Leary’s firefighter drama. Superb.
The Office: The original BBC series, starring Ricky Gervais, that is. Funniest show ever. Haven’t seen the American version, though I hear it’s also pretty good.
Also, I’ve happily been brought up to speed on 24, Alias, CSI, Nip/Tuck, The Wire and the new Battlestar Galactica, all of which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and recommend!

C'mon, give it a try...

Netflix, Inc.


Don Hudson said...

Great suggestions on the DVDs. I think you should revisit 'The Pawnbroker'. The Quincy Jones soundtrack is totally supreme!

Marie said...

Hey, they'll plant trees for us in JC too. I'm really into that, but there's a fire hydrant in front of my house where the tree would go. Do they have that thing yet in LA where you can switch to all sustainable electrical power?

Allen Gladfelter said...

Sounds like you watch a lot of TV!

Steve Buccellato said...

I wouldn't say that I watch a lot of TV. In fact, I watch NO televised programming. Just DVDs. My reason isn't that I'm a snob, but because I am extremely suseptible to TV programming. When a TV is on--my eye is uncontrollably drawn to it. In the past, I've had cable, with the the intention of just watching movies or The Sopranos, or whtever, but in never worked. As soon as the movie was over, I would watch whatever was on after that. And after that. I'd get nothing useful done. It was terrible.

Today, I limit myself to DVDs, and therefore only watch quality stuff. My kid watches NO television, except for some appropriate DVD stuff. Unless, of course, he's at a friend's house. Most people I know seem to have the tube on 24/7.

Until recently, most of my freelance work was mindless comic book coloring. It was pretty easy to 'watch' some of these Netflix-provided TV series & stuff WHILE working. It's a little harder now that I'm drawing full-time. Poor me.

Marie: don't know about the power thing, but I will find out!

Allen Gladfelter said...

I stand corrected. Sounds like you watch a lot of DVDs of TV shows!

Steve Buccellato said...

Absolutely, Allen, if you think a dozen shows in the past decade are a lot!

Thogek said...

You "flex your power" by not flexing your power. A bit doublespeak-ish, IMO, but...