iPad manners, what's the worst video you've watched, more -- The Web Hostess

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Monica Hesse
Wednesday, August 18, 2010; 2:00 PM

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Monica Hesse: Afternoon everyone, and thanks for stopping by. This was a big week for online viewership. First, Netflix announced a deal with Epix entertainment channel, which will make the entire Epix catalog available for Netflix viewers to stream instantly, beginning September 1. Second, HBO announced that it had no plans to partner with Netflix, meaning "True Blood" and "Entourage" will remain available only on HBO's Go (Sorry vampires, telepaths and chesty Southerners.) The first deal is huge news for time-wasters everywhere. The Epix library includes big hits like "Iron Man 2" and "Dinner for Schmucks," meaning that Netflix's instant streaming will look ever more like a premium movie channel. (The company also has access to the Starz catalog). On the other hand, the influx of premium movies might mean an end to the quintessential Watch Instantly experience of watching something bizarre/obscure/bizarrely obscure Just Because It's There. I'm looking at you, "Vegas in Space." I'm looking at you, "Manos: The Hands of Fate." Heather Graham and your odd string of British comedies? I am definitely looking at you. I postulate that online viewing -- whether through Netflix, Hulu, a network Web site or even YouTube -- leads to splendidly odd viewing experiences. There's no effort or commitment (i.e. a DVD that must be returned), so we are willing to take risks that we wouldn't take on our regular queue or in Blockbuster. We can press play on "Thankskilling" while doing the laundry, and stop it 10 minutes later if it's just too bad. I'm working on an ode to the Watch Instantly experience, but I want to hear your thoughts. Will you watch different things online than you would on a physical DVD? Why or why not? And most importantly, what is the biggest trainwreck or most wonderful discovery that you have found yourself watching online? For our viral video of the week this week, we have a duel: This creepy political video in which protective moms are literally dressed as grizzly bears. And this creepy political video (a trilogy, actually) in which sheep have glowing red demon eyes. I ask you: which is weirder? Please defend your choice and cite examples.

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Re: Your postulation that online viewing leads to splendidly odd viewing experiences.: I can't count the number of terrible movies and TV shows I've watched simply because they're on the boob tube. Do you see anything different between viewing crap online vs. the tv? I don't, other than perhaps a wider catalog and slighlty more active crap selection process.

Monica Hesse: I think it is a little different, and bear with me while I use potentially faulty logic to explain why.1) The weird stuff on television is on for a fleeting timespan. If you are not parked in front of the TV between 1 and 3, then you will miss the chance to bask in the glory of "Killer Clowns from Outer Space." Online viewing, however, is always there for you, giving you more chances to catch it.2) The existence of sites like streaminginstantly.com or instantwatcher.com, which catalog the most popular streaming instantly titles, mean that you can see the weird stuff that -other- people are watching online. That might make you more inclined to watch it too, creating an ever-growing cult around "Thankskilling." TV viewing doesn't have this feedback.Feel free to poke holes in this argument now. It got kind of academic-y. I shall now throw in "problematize" for no reason.

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And the weird vid winner is. . . : Wow, the weirdness of both viral video candidates knows no bounds. As much as I admire the idea of California voters as sheep, I'll have to go with the Mom grizzlies. I mean the whole thing has the quality of Fonzi not on a jet ski but on a hot air balloon over that shark, but the key moment is when the one Mom lunges and snarls at the camera. I'm actually on their side, but I'm not sure the video is advancing the cause as much as it is suggesting there are liberals almost as nutty as Palin. Almost.

Monica Hesse: Question: Are humans dressed as animals ever an effective political campaign?Or perhaps the better question is, are they ever an effective sane political campaign?Obviously they're effective because, you know, we're talking about them.

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Metacritic: Are you a Metacritic user? I was just wondering if you had thoughts on their recent redesign, which is quite the train wreck.

Monica Hesse: An occasional user.Not sure how I feel about the prominence of the user reviews because, after all, I am a user but I go to Metacritic because I want an un-userly professional to tell me what to think.Other than that, don't redesigns always prompt visceral hatred? It's the seventh law of Facebook that we have to hate the new interface precisely until an even newer interface is introduced, at which point we will begin loving the new/old interface and demanding to have it back.

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Online Viewing : On the discussion of online video sites, it seems you may have forgotten one -- Snagfilms.com has an impressive batch of free films. Many of them, indeed, would classify as odd viewing experiences to say the least.However, there are also many critically acclaimed works such as the last in their Summerfest online film festival, "A Fighting Chance."

Monica Hesse: Thanks! I haven't been to Snagfilms in aaages. Already intrigued by "Kiss My Snake" in which an intrepid traveler journeys to India to meet THE MOST DANGEROUS COBRA ALIVE.

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Streaming Movies: I recently saw a bus stop in the district at which a sign touted that it was equipped with a service and that one could stream a movie for a modest fee while waiting for your ride. I don't understand... wouldn't you lose that once you boarded your bus and headed out? Or do buses now take one and a half to two hours to arrive?I could see maybe charging a fee for general wi-fi high-speed browsing while you wait, but don't really understand the movie streaming service.

Monica Hesse: Where is this bus stop you speak of? Intriguing.I'm wondering if the service is akin to Amazon's Video On Demand service -- you can choose to either download the episode or stream it, and if you stream it you can choose to either stream it instantly or save it for later. Either way, once you've purchased it, you can access it at another time.

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Dead Web: So is Wired right? Is the Web dead?The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet

Monica Hesse: The argument is really more that browsers are dead, right? That more and more of our "Internet" activity isn't happening through Firefox but through a bazillion different apps or P2P connections.It's kinda deliberately inflammatory. Like me saying "There is no more cheese in the world! But we have plenty of Gouda!"

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on demand: Yeah, a few months ago was watching "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." My husband asked me why. I told him it was free on demand. The saddest part was - the reason I was watching it was that there was NOTHING else on (besides a more than 20-year-old movie).Oh, and it was thru AMC. Maybe that was sadder.

Paul Williams: This raises my problem with the abundance of online viewing choices -- sometimes it's hard to select because of the chance that there's something better on some other site, or if I just click on the "Next" button.

Monica Hesse: First of all, there is NO reason to be ashamed of Ferris Bueller, which I think we can all agree is a high-quality movie.Second of all, Paul, your online viewing experience is blatantly turning into a Price is Right showcase showdown. You keep turning down the first showcase because you hope the second will be better. But it never is. It never is.

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Transmorphers Watched Instantly: See, I'm torn. I'm fascinated by Netflix Watch Instantly's digital distribution potential. The fact we now have a world-ish delivery system to instantaneously send movies to a user is amazing. There's a ton of potential for up-and-coming filmmakers or lower budget flicks to get seen by an incredibly massive audience.HOWEVER, 90% of the time I'm getting such bursts of brilliance like Transmorphers. Or its heart racing thrill ride of a sequel, Transmorphers: Fall of Man.Yes, Transmorphers. It's a cleverly disguised (not really, not really at all) flick derivative of some Michael Bay movie.Of course, because it's now available at my house at ANY TIME I had to give it a watch. All the way through. Perhaps more than once. I find myself addicted to these flicks now.For every viewing of some Criterion flick, I've got two viewings of some movie made in a weekend with computer graphics generated by a somewhat talented 12-year old in the year 1991. I'm assuming you find yourself similarly afflicted?

Monica Hesse: Ohhhh how afflicted I am!Yesterday I met someone who said that he once found himself using Watch Instantly to watch a French claymation about a cowboy and a SEA MONSTER.I have two Kirusawa films in my queue. But guess what I'll be searching for instead?Actually, now that you've introduces us all to Transmorphers, guess what we alll will be watching instead?

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Jessica's Daily Affirmation: I realize most people have seen this by now (since it was uploaded, like, a year ago), but for those like me who are operating on a time-delay this is a must-see. Recommended especially for the half hour before a job interview.Jessica's Daily Affirmation

Paul Williams: I hope that kid never sees a double rainbow.

Monica Hesse: I hope her mom never takes away her World of Warcraft membership.

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Question: Are humans dressed as animals ever an effective political campaign?: No, but I'd bet the furries out there are really enjoying it.

Monica Hesse: God Save the Queen!If Sarah Palin knew this is where "Mama Grizzlies" would go...

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doubtful: It is doubtful that I will subscribe to any of these services and/or watch bad stuff on the computer. I don't have time now to watch the stuff on TV that I like to watch. And I have a 50" plasma for a reason. Why would I watch on my computer?I do watch the occasional sports thing on ESPN3 via streaming but that is because Aussie Rules is only available there live or almost live so I have no other choice. The sound is fine but the video resolution is not great. It's certainly not an HD viewing experience.Frankly I am baffled by people watching TV or movies on a small computer screen, or even worse a cellphone.

Monica Hesse: Because it's portable? Because we're viewing more stuff as a side-activity (while doing the laundry, while riding in the car) rather than the main event? Because we're increasingly more mobile and don't know if we'll be in the same addresses long enough for a year-long Comcast contract?I have no idea, just speculating.

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Monica Hesse: (Paul points out that "Kiss My Snake" would be a really great band name. My mind is more gutterific)

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Regarding InstaViewing...: Speaking as someone from the fresh-out-of-undergrad netherworld, my roommates and I haven't had cable or bought a new (as opposed to used) DVD in about four years.Why should we? Cable is expensive, DVDs are ridiculous unless you hit up the bargain bin, and-- maybe more than any of these-- we are now totally used to the InstaView experience.I find myself literally offended when I can't find a TV show or flick online. I don't mind paying for episodes; but I do mind not seeing them at all. Is this privileged? Hell yes. But that's what happens when you're reared on Google and Wikipedia.I want my instant answers, my instant results and my instant Southern vampires.

Monica Hesse: Curious to know how many others share your boat -- the "computer is my television" strategy. (I do, and I think P-squared does, too). My colleague Paul Farhi wrote an interesting piece on this demographic last year.And your second point is -really- interesting. I think we are reaching a point where we get genuinely torqued if something isn't immediately available, information-wise. I'm downright peeved if something doesn't have a Wikipedia entry. (Sidebar question: When's the last time you tried to research a Wikipedia-less topic? I think they're a new version of Gene Weingarten's Googlenopes. Increasingly obsolete.)

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Paul Williams: We forgot to mention the greatest site ever in the intro:unsuck-it.com

Monica Hesse: Yes we did!And I'll open the floor to your own personal pet peeves for worst office-lingo. Monetize? Optimization?

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parody: Isn't the point of the Mama Grizzly ad to poke fun at how stupid the whole Sarah Palin formulation was in the first place? The sheep are way more creepy.

Monica Hesse: Each video seems like something you might experience on a drug-induced trip, but from very different illegal substances? Acid versus peyote? I wouldn't know, I only i-dose.

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As much as I admire the idea of California voters as sheep, I'll have to go with the Mom grizzlies: Which reminds me, what ever happened to Sarah Palin's "pink elephants"? LOL!!! Or did she eventually refudiate that nomenclature?

Monica Hesse: The animals are only going to stand for this political abuse for so long before they rebel.

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"showcase showdown": It is a popular misconception that the "showcase showdown" is the endgame as it were to The Price Is Right.In actuality the showcase showdown is the spinning of the "big wheel" to determine which two contestants will make it to the Showcase which is the actual name for that phase of the show. it always bothers me that people don't know this and use the term incorrectly.I wish I knew why it bothered me, because my life would be much more calm if it didn't.

Monica Hesse: Wow! That fact that you know this is just delightful.

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The Biebs: Justin Bieber gets thwacked by a water bottle, and 4 million people watched it on YouTube in the first two days. What is so cathartic about watching Bieber Fever's failure to dodge, over and over again?

Monica Hesse: On the other hand, this new JB meme -- Justin Bieber slowed wayyyyy down -- is just lovely.http://blog.washingtonpost.com/clicktrack/2010/08/listen_to_justin_bieber_slowed.html

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i-pad viewing?: I was on the bus yesterday and the guy next to me was watching a movie on his i-pad. I didn't -mean- to watch over his shoulder, but it was hard not to. He was right there, and the screen was big -- not like an iphone, which I could have ignored. He seemed very annoyed with me. What's the etiquette in this situation?

Monica Hesse: Chatters? What's your vote?Both sides have an argument:On your seatmate's side, it gets awkward when you realize your i-Pad/Kindle/ereader suddenly has an audience of two. Are you supposed to ignore your seatmate? Make sure they have a decent view? Ask if they've finished the page before you turn it?On your side, it really is difficult to avert your eyes, especially if headphones are not in play.

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Netflix Watch Instantly on your TV: To the Plasma guy, some Blu Ray players will connect to your Netflix queue so you can watch them on your tv instead of the computer. That's what we do. Of course, we still have to pay Comcast their blood money for the high speed internet...

Monica Hesse: And Wii and PlayStation too, of course.

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worst office speak: I vote for "utilization" as the worst word: so long and fake sounding when "use" is shorter and more accurate. Here's a great video of the (unfortunately) late David Foster Wallace talking about how such a discussion is really about good versus evil.

Monica Hesse: Fabulous!

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Beiber: "What is so cathartic about watching Bieber Fever's failure to dodge, over and over again?"Will people stop bothering this poor girl? She just wants to sing.

Monica Hesse: A joke so easy one really shouldn't laugh. And yet: haha.

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It's Kurosawa: After the chat is over, find a copy of "Ikiru". It's about this government bureaucrat who, after his soul is sucked for decades, finally decides to fight for what matters to him. It will affect the way you think about how you live your life and what you think is important, and, no, I'm *not* kidding.

Paul Williams: How did you get in this chat?

Monica Hesse: Paul, your bouncer skills are clearly suffering.And yet, I will watch this movie. First I will fortify myself by watching "The Curse of Lizzie Borden II: Prom Night" followed by "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus."

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Manos?!: Only if I'm watching it with Joel and the bots. Mike was way too big a frat guy for me to continue watching MST3K with.

Monica Hesse: Joel/Mike; Kirk/Picard; old Darren/New Darren. It's an age-old debate.Is there anyone else in this chat who knows what we're talking about, or have we officially disappeared down the geek rabbit hole?

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Peeved: Yes. I get a little irritated if I'm telling someone about something I once saw on TV or in a (not-recent) movie, and then find that it's not available on YouTube or Hulu or something like that. I resent that USA makes its original shows available On Demand about a week sooner than on its website (because maybe I want to catch up on "Royal Pains" on my laptop, away from the TV. And I get irked when I want to identify that familiar-looking guest star on a TV show and the IMDB cast list for that episode is incomplete. So,, yes, I'm definitely spoiled.And I'm old enough that I spent my childhood watching a 13-channel TV and no remote.

Monica Hesse: We're all so spoiled. Yet I love that we want to -know- things. Best thing about the Internet.

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the dreaded comcast!: we just got rid of comcast. SO FREEING!!! (yeah for clear!!!).So, I said to my husband: hmmm...maybe we'll do that $9 a month for the movies/tv netflix thing. over the air digital tv rocks, actually. there are SO MANY channels. more than most people ever imagine.

Monica Hesse: Dreaded comcast. Hahaha.

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Other than that, don't redesigns always prompt visceral hatred?: I've been to so many websites that leave me wondering, why don't they redesign this horrible outdated mess? But when they do, they leave out some feature you've come to rely on.One example, I order books a lot from a certain legal publisher. I used to be able to limit my search by title or author. When they redesigned it they bragged about all the new search capabilities. But they took out the feature where you could limit by title or author. And the search engine finds hits on any of your keywords, you can't limit to only items that contain ALL your terms.So now when I do a search I end up getting hundreds of hits, and they aren't ordered in any useful way. It seems that they think giving you more results is a great enhancement, but it's not if you have to wade through page after page of irrelevant hits looking for a single item you know exists. A huge step backwards from the end user's point of view.

Monica Hesse: I'm not sure that redesign wasn't intentional. Perhaps they figure that you'll buy more stuff if more stuff comes up in the search window. Sort of like the candy bars near the check-out lane.

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no cable : Ditto for us. Our TV has no cable, FIOS or antenna connected to it. We stream shows through Hulu (or network TV websites, since they often have an HD option) onto the TV from our laptop. It actually cuts down a lot on mindless TV watching because when we do stream Hulu, it's for a specific show, and when it's done, it's done.

Monica Hesse: Yes. You've rediscovered mindful television watching, rather than the television grazing that tends to happen when you sit down without purpose.Mindful television watching might, however, be an oxymoron.

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Why would I watch on my computer?: You asked a question, and then you answered it:"I do watch the occasional sports thing on ESPN3 via streaming but that is because Aussie Rules is only available there live or almost live so I have no other choice."Because that's where it's available. Also, sometimes I want to lay on my bed and watch something but I don't have a TV in my bedroom. Sometimes I forgot to set up a show to record, so I watch on my laptop. Sometimes I come into a series late and want to catch up on it.

Monica Hesse: All of your "sometimes" scenarios, added together, probably would result in a very large percentage of tv watching.

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it's a chat about the internet: I think we've already disappeared down the geek hole and started an epic dork party....

Monica Hesse: ...exacerbated by the fact that I see nothing whatsoever odd about a chat about the Internet.

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Netflix on Wii: I watch Netflix movies utilizing the Wii. My only complaint is that the whole netflix catalog isn't available through the Wii. I have to utliize my computer to browse and then add to my instant watch queue. Why do we utilize five letters for "queue" when one would suffice.

Monica Hesse: Why do we use three letters for "why" when one would suffice?

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Manos and Joel: No, you're not the only ones. I'm diehard Team Joel, though Mike did OK for a while, until Trace and others left. By the time they were dumped by Comedy Central, little but a hollow shell was transferred to SciFi.Wow, it's kinda dark in this niche, isn't it?

Monica Hesse: (For anyone completely lost and hopeless, the reference is Mystery Science Theater 3000. Which -is- available to watch instantly on Netflix!

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employment websites: I'm not sure which website it was but I have uploaded my resume to several employment search websites and suddenly I am getting texts about my resume being a match for a job so I should call Anne or Jane at such and such number. I am all about texting but this just seems weird to me. I think job recruiters should be calling people...or maybe they really just don't care that much and are being lazy at their job?

Monica Hesse: Really? This is a trend I haven't heard before. And when you call back, it's legit and not spam or phishing?I'd be interested to know the age of the recruiters. Texting is so much more prevalent in younger demographics; maybe this will be commonplace soon?

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Ancient Memes: A couple months ago you wrote a story about people who were just now "finding" youtube videos that every other person's retired gym teacher had already forwarded a jillion times. Just wanted to let you know that this morning someone sent me an "omg see this!" for the Sound of Music flash mob in the Antwerp central train station. I was polite and thanked her. The counter is now in the many millions of hits.

Monica Hesse: But really, I would watch that meme over and over again. Let's see if we can't find a link for everyone.

Paul Williams: Sound of Music | Central Station Antwerp (Belgium)

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Speaking of Justin Bieber...: ...what's your take on his act of vengeance against the kid who kept pestering him with texts, etc. He found the kid's cell number, put it up online and asked his fan base to call/text. The kid got tens of thousands of texts. And his father is anxiously waiting the bill. Frankly, it raised my opinion of Justin. He had asked the kid politely to please stop bothering him and went he didn't, went all Bieber on him.

Monica Hesse: I'd feel better about it if it was a slightly more hooligan-ish singer. I mean, you pester Avril Lavigne with texts, you expect a response like that. Girl looks like she might cut you. But the Biebs projects such an air of softness and sweetness and prettiness. It feels like a bait-and-switch.

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Why ask Y: coz we're nt txtN

Monica Hesse: Well, only when we're responding to people about jobs they've applied for.

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Watch Instantly: Best discovery: an odd (but great) little movie called "TiMER" on Netflix Watch Instantly. Developed a new actor crush (John Patrick Amedori) as a result.

Monica Hesse: I just watched that! Hated the ending, though.You should email me off-chat so that we may dish about this movie, as we are potentially the only people in the world who have seen it.

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Watching things instantly: I won't be satisfied until my brain is hooked up directly to Netflix's Instant Queue, a la the Borg. Further, I won't be truly satisfied until Netflix releases every season of The Simpsons for instant viewing.

Monica Hesse: You can't be assuaged with Family Guy? FG just hit the Watch Instantly queue (or "q," as we say in these parts). It's already at the top of lots of Watch Instantly lists.

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mindful television watching: Yyyyeah, I mean, you notice I didn't say what shows we do watch... :)

Monica Hesse: Until you've done all 10 seasons of Law & Order: SVU, you have nothing to worry about.

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But the Biebs projects such an air of softness and sweetness and prettiness. It feels like a bait-and-switch.: This is what they always say about serial killers.

Monica Hesse: Oy!

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website redesign: YEAH!!! zappos redesigned and now it's so much more difficult to just find 'wide' shoes. before, i could just search on 'wide' and they'd show me all the wide shoes in my size. NOW you have to know what each manufacturer *calls* wide, so I have to search like, oh, 5 times, one for each wide 'type'. it's annoying.

Monica Hesse: Argh, that does sound frustrating. Had a similar experience with a major retailer recently -- I was looking for a metallic dress that I knew they sold, but had to wade through pages of metal objects. Grills, aluminum foil, bear traps.

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Instant availability: I recently watched a documentary called "Go Tigers", about the Massilon (Ohio) Tigers high school football team during the 1999-2000 season. It's one of the best documentaries I've ever seen, and I don't think I would have ever known it existed if I hadn't been bored one day and scrolled through Netflix's Instant View feature. I really, really like being able to view those unknown films.

Monica Hesse: Thanks for the recommendation. Love sports movies. Hate sports.

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You should email me off-chat...: "You should email me off-chat so that we may dish about this movie, as we are potentially the only people in the world who have seen it."Well now we're all going to watch this one instead of that transmorpher thing.

Monica Hesse: It can be a little movie club. Like a book club but, you know, easier.

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And I get irked...: "And I get irked when I want to identify that familiar-looking guest star on a TV show and the IMDB cast list for that episode is incomplete. So,, yes, I'm definitely spoiled. And I'm old enough that I spent my childhood watching a 13-channel TV and no remote."Can I just say that I hate that this person just described me to a tee?

Monica Hesse: You and almost everyone else on this chat.

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New pet peeve: Facebookers who post one of those compressed URL's (bitly, etc.) without any cue about the content or domain. You could be clicking on a snuff film or an episode from the Mod Squad. "Check this out" doesn't really help me.

Monica Hesse: Oh, definitely bad form. If you're going to request a click, then you must clue people in to what they're clicking on.

Paul Williams: Remind me next week -- I think there's a browser plugin for this.

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worst office speak: Prioritize. Always used as a put-down.

Monica Hesse: As in, "You need to learn to prioritize and stop spending so much time talking about Transmorphers."As if there's anything wrong with that!However, our time has come to an end today, so I'm signing off for now.You can always email me at hessem@washpost.com or -- I'm getting fancy! -- follow me on Twitter. I'm making an effort to update a few times a day with interesting Internet ephemera so we don't have to save everything up for the weekly chats. Love to carry the discussion with you over there.GSTQ!


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