Friday, July 22, 2011

Trading One Service For Another

Like pretty much every Netflix subscriber out there, the husband and I received an email last week informing us that, "to better serve their customers," Netflix had decided to hike their prices again. Well, really they broke out their pricing to be to different plans, one for streaming movies and one for the DVD/Blu-Ray rental-by-mail service.

Bottom line: they want an additional $5 a month from us.

It's an interesting move, because Netflix's streaming plan is now $7.99 a month. Alone, that's not a bad price point for hundreds of movies and TV shows to instantly stream to your laptop, iPhone, gaming console or other internet-connected device. But since it used to be included in the price of our Blu-Ray by-mail rentals, being charge anything extra for it feels a bit insulting.

So we've decided to give Hulu Plus a shot. Hulu by itself is a fantastic service. I've been using it since it's beta days a few years back and my husband and I have been using it heavily for the past couple years to catch up on the shows we never get to watch when they air live. But Hulu Plus gives us the ability to stream those same shows to our laptop, iPhones, gaming console or other internet-connected device (sound familiar?). It also gives us access to full seasons of shows and quite a bit of other content that free Hulu users do not get.

Hulu Plus also has movies, but that selection is a bit limited. I haven't perused the movie selection in a hot minute, but last time I looked it included all the best of late 80's and early 90's cinema… thrilling.  Like Netflix, content on Hulu is served up at the studio's whim: when they decide that they tire of allowing people to enjoy their decade-old show they simply tell Hulu to remove the show and that's that.

Plain old Hulu includes ads in the shows you watch, just like watching TV except that there's only one ad, maybe 2, during each commercial break and it's almost always the same tired ads over and over again. Hulu plus also allows you the opportunity to view these ads, which is a bit annoying. If I'm paying to use your otherwise free streaming service, I should not be required to watch the ads. That gripe aside, the streaming quality is almost always nice and the player works well.

I'm not sure what to think though. Hulu Plus also costs $7.99 a month. And you can't always stream all their content on your various devices. We're basically trading a large selection of streaming movies and a smaller collection of streaming TV shows for a large collection of TV shows with a smaller collection of movies. For the same price. And adding ads to the mix. And we're doing this because Netflix decided to hike the price on us, but we'll still be spending the same amount of money in the end either way.

I'm not sold on the idea yet, but I'm definitely up for giving it a try. As it is, we watch way more TV shows than movies (of which I watch virtually none while my husband watches lots of anything that involves explosions and cheesy acting), and we do use Hulu on a daily basis whereas we use Netflix streaming occasionally to rarely. I'm just not sure whether paying for Hulu will be worth it for us either, but I suppose we won't know until we give it a shot.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Am I Bored, Or Is This Just Too Long

As I get older, I've noticed my taste for entertainment has changed, but I'm not sure what aspect has changed. Have I grown impatient of longer form entertainment, or do I just lust for more diverse entertainment options?

I've been reading Game of Thrones lately, George R. R. Martin's epic modern fantasy novel. The book is the first in a long series of book called the Song of Ice and Fire and has recently been adapted into an HBO show. The book is a monstrous 800 pages in paperback form. I suppose for a fantasy novel that is probably normal, but for someone that hasn't read a true fantasy epic in a while it seems a bit much.

I've also recently started up playing Fallout: New Vegas on my PC. The game comes with rave reviews and has a spiritual ancestor in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which is at the top of my favorite video games list. Both Oblivion and New Vegas feature huge, vast open worlds each with more than 60 hours of gameplay, and that's at the low end of game time.

With both Game of Thrones and Fallout, I've jumped head first into the venture with a lot of anticipation and excitement. I've been loving watching the HBO adaptation (we haven't finished it yet) of GoT, and I adore the idea of a post-apocalyptic spin on the Oblivion-style gameplay with updated mechanics that Fallout offers. But in both cases, I'm wondering if I didn't bite off a bit more than I care to chew with regard to the time commitment it'll take to finish them.

It's not that I'm not enjoying reading and playing. Both are fascinating and very well done. Each time I crack open the book or fire up the game, I'm enthralled by the world presented to me. But when I step away from them because I'm getting off the bus or because diner is ready or it's time for bed, I'm left wondering if I'll ever reach the end of these gynormous adventures.

That feeling, for me, is both awe-inspiring and annoying all at once.

When I was younger, I can remember burying myself in the Lord of the Rings books and relishing every moment of their often-times dense text, regardless of how long it took me to read through them. I can recall racing home from class in college to figure out what was going to happen to Yuna next in Final Fantasy X, or even coming home from work a few years later and not being bothered at all by losing my entire evening and even some of my scheduled sleep hours to dungeon crawling in Oblivion. I enjoyed the time I spent in those worlds and I did not once think that I was missing out on something else.

Now though, as I read Game of Thrones or fire up New Vegas, I find myself wondering what else is going on that I'm missing. I'm not enjoying the time spent any less, but I'm wondering if I'm cutting myself short on other experiences. I know that I can tear through the new Sookie Stackhouse book in less than a week and that I can blow through a game like Dungeon Siege 3 in less than 15 hours of game time, which then allows me to move on to something else, some new experience.

But I can't say that I enjoy those experiences as much as I enjoy what I'm reading and playing now. I like them, and they are fun, but not quite as deep and rewarding. Which makes me wonder if I'm just becoming impatient. I need the reward of completing, of knowing I've finished X books/games this year and I liked them, even if saying I've completed (X-5) books/games and I LOVED them seems like the wiser thing to do with my free time.

So I can't really tell if my tastes are changing because I want to have more and varied entertainment options at the expense of better or more rewarding options, or if I just bore easier with longer-form entertainment now that I'm older. /sigh...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cruisey Eyes

An interesting phenomena occurs when you go off on a "gay vacation": you develop what my husband and I have termed Cruisey Eyes.

Quick aside: Gay Vacation defined is a vacation to attend a wholly or mostly gay-themed event, such as Bear Week that my husband and I just got home from or the cruise we're doing later this year. It can also refer to attending a non-LGBT themed event with a large group of your queer friends, thereby transforming the event from whatever it was into a Gay Vacation.

Back on point. One of the most fun things about a gay vacation is that the people attending the event quickly let their guard down from their everyday lives. At home, many gays will put up a wall to try and try to hide the most overt parts of their sexuality from the outside world, which can oftentimes lead to confusion on the streets about who is and who isn't gay.

For example, when gay men are wandering down the street at home and see an attractive man across the way, they may look but they typically cut it down to a brief glance. After all, we don't know if that man is gay himself or if others in the vicinity might take unkindly (read: violently) to witnessing us checking out another dude. So while heterosexual dudes can be a bit less discreet in their scoping of women, gay men tend to put up a wall for protection.

But what happens during gay vacations is that those walls come tumbling down. Like, fast. The subtlety many of us employ back home when checking out mens is gone the moment we arrive at our destination. Spotting a hot man can, and most likely will, involve pointing, smiling, waving, winking, cat calling, and any other number of flirty behaviors. It also usually involves a full head to toe scan from both individuals and quick introductions if both are satisfied with what they see.

So while we were in P-Town, the husband and I both developed a hard case of Cruisey Eye. We appreciated the hundreds of good-looking fellas around us, waved, winked, flirted, and said hello to many of them. That Cruisey Eye is facilitated on Gay Vacations because we know everyone there is gay. There's no fear of embarrassing yourself by trying to flirt up a straight guy because we know we're all there for the same reason.

Sadly, though, we have to come back to the real world, and in the real world, Cruisey Eye isn't appreciated as much. It takes some adjustment to get back in to the mindset that you shouldn't be openly checking out every cute guy that wanders down the street, or that giving the bank teller a flirty smile and a wink may not be appreciated. And it's a damn shame too because life is so much more fun when everyone around you is open to a little flirtation!

That's how it goes though: no more Gay Vacation means no more Cruisey Eye. I'll just have to save up my Cruisey Eye now for when I go to my Gay Gym...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oh My Hotness!

It's been hot here in Chicago the past few days. Well, for Chicagoans "hot" is anything about 72 degrees, but for some of us Southern kids, hot doesn't even come to our tongues until the thermostat reads 95. And so yesterday and this morning, I said it was officially hot!

We're down to 90-ish now, so it's cooled off a bit. To me, this is very nice weather (minus the 50%+ humidity) and I've found that anytime I say that around people born and raised up North, they look at me like I'm crazy.

The thing is that I spent most of my childhood years down South. With the exception of a 2 year stint in the upper peninsula of Michigan, my pre-teen life was spent well below the Mason-Dixon line. Even my teenage and college days were in Northern Kentucky, which is pretty Midwestern in temperament but still very Southern in Summer Heat.

To me, Summer equals Heat. Summer also equals no school, no responsibility, lounging on the back porch or playing with neighborhood friends. Therefore, by some mathematical theory thingy I've long forgotten, Summer equals awesome-happy-sunshine-time!

Sadly, as an adult, those times aren't quite as frequent as I'd like, but I simply adore spending time outdoors in the heat if only to reminisce. I've been spending my lunch hour outside, and finding ample excuses to go outside during work hours just so I can have a few moments in the heat.

So if you see me strolling down the sidewalk dripping sweat from my forehead with a big ol' smile plastered on, you'll understand: I may be perspiring like I'm losing every ounce of water I have in me, but I'm loving every single moment of it. No worries, no responsibilities, no cares… at least until I feel the cold blast of A/C hit me hard when I walk indoors.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Provincetown, The Perfect Getaway

The husband and I have been off on a vacation this past week in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  It's both of our first times here in New England, and I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying this town!

P-Town, as it's otherwise known, is a beautiful little village.  It's a beach town at the very end of Cape Cod, and it's known to be a very gay-friendly town.  Not exactly a gay specific town, but a town that is very open and accepting of many different walks of life.

We came specifically for Bear Week with a few friends, and I have to be honest when I say that I was a bit worried that this would turn into a week long party similar to Southern Decadence.  I've been pleasantly surprised that the week has been a nice balance of high and low activity time, with beach lounging, partying and friend time being balanced quite well.

If I were to have one complaint, it would be that P-Town is a bit pricey, so it's not the vacation for those looking for fun and relaxation on the cheap.  But if you prepare and budget for this place, it's amazing.  It's been exactly the vacation I've needed.

I'll leave you with a couple pictures, one of the view we saw on the dunes bike trail yesterday and one of the baby shark post being eaten we saw on our first day here.