It’s been a month

In Arizona, May 2022

and I’m looking forward to writing new posts here on filmvisions.com. Thanks for visiting and reading!

Hiatus

Filmvisions.com is taking a hiatus for a month.

See you back here in mid June.

Your old home theatre equipment is ok

Late-2000s Panasonic TV

As a film aficionado, a.k.a. movie buff, you’d think I’d have something fancy going on in my home theatre slash media room, but, in fact, I don’t.

In actuality, my home doesn’t have a media room. (If it did, it would be a converted bedroom or some other space; maybe the garage.) Instead, I watch movies anywhere it’s convenient: typically on my phone, or in the living room (where I sport a 1080p, 50″ Panasonic plasma TV that hasn’t died yet). I screened the new spiffier version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in my home office.

Beyond the Panny, I own a couple of other TVs, but they aren’t fancy. All of my TVs are 1080p high definition (who needs 4K?). (All qualify as “flat panels”… which is the fanciest thing about them.) One was from Best Buy, the other, Walmart. Each was under $400. And you know what? They work great.

All of my TVs are “dumb”: they don’t have any streaming software built in (and even if they do, it doesn’t work). They don’t stream anything without a set-top box or streaming stick plugged in.* I’ve avoided purchasing smart TVs because the software on them is so sketchy. Slow, buggy and obsolete almost the moment it leaves the store. And besides, it’s a lot easier to buy a new $30 Amazon Fire TV Stick every other year than to worry about upgrading a whole TV because its software is slow and out-of-date.

*I’ve experimented with HD antennas, but the reception is pretty awful out where I live.

In recent years, I’ve been reticent to spend more than a few hundred dollars on a television. The reason being, in 2008 I bought the best TV you could buy: it was a Samsung something-or-other in the maximum resolution with the then-hottest picture technology. Price was north of $2500. It only lasted 9 years before it stopped powering on and I had to lug it out into a dumpster.

I’m nervous about going out and purchasing that dream 75- or 100-inch OLED panel only to see it suffer a similar fate. And even so, I’ve been resistant to upgrading any of my TVs to 4K models. 1080p looks just fine to me.

The exception is for my home office. After years of putting it off, I finally upgraded my computer monitor. It’s a 5K screen (made by LG) that I grabbed for a sizable discount at Best Buy (it was an open-box item–probably a return from another customer). The box markets the monitor as a gaming device, but I’m not a big gamer. It works well with my Windows 10 PC. I can play 4K movies on it when I want.

I do own a Blu-ray player (it’s from 2012 but runs great, and I appreciate the analog audio outputs on the back, which allow me to connect it to my 1980s sound system). Physical media (discs, as opposed to streaming) is important to me; usually, because of higher bit rates, the picture quality on physical discs exceeds that of the best streaming service.

I don’t have any plans to scrap my 10-year-old Blu-ray player for a 4K disc player. I do own a few 4K movies on physical media (the Citizen Kane Criterion Collection boxed set and last year’s excellent Star Trek boxed set), but if there’s anything I have to watch in 4K resolution, I can usually stream it over Netflix or Paramount Plus on my PC.

One great thing about the U.S. market for 4K home media: movies usually are sold with an included standard Blu-ray disc. So I can enjoy the movie in its latest/best iteration (usually with restored picture and sound) while not having to own a 4K disc player. And when I do plunk down the money to buy a 4K player, I’ll still have a few movies I can watch on it.

A note on projectors: there are some amazing ones out there; prices have been falling dramatically. I just haven’t had the occasion to try one. If I do build a media room someday, sure, I’ll probably look around for a projector to put in it.

I acquired my plasma TV secondhand. I have no idea when it was made or how old it is (if pressed, I’d say probably 2009 or thereabouts). But, it works great. I enjoy the picture quality on its 50″ screen. It’s not HDR, but it’s good enough. And even when I’m watching sports, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

This whole discussion is to say: there’s nothing wrong with a more humble home theatre/media room setup. You don’t have to have the best, the latest, the most expensive gear. Technology marches on, but my setup is pretty future proof, and it works for me.

Star Wars: Card Trader

For nearly seven years, I was a heavy player on ToppsStar Wars: Card Trader (a mobile app offering licensed Star Wars trading cards in digital format). I was one of the early players when the app launched in 2015. I sold off my account in February 2022 with a ranking “in the top 1%” of players worldwide. My “big cards” were several Darth Vader 1/1s and, arguably, the biggest collection of Aurra Sing rare cards in the app.

Why did I walk away from SWCT? For one thing, it was a huge time sink. Honestly, I just got really tired of the daily grind of collecting free credits (one of two in-app currencies), trying to “pull” good cards, obsessing over card counts/rarity and the constant fear that the app could die at any moment (especially after Topps lost the Major League Baseball contract in 2021).

But I owned well over 2,000,000 cards (yep, that’s six zeros).

It gets down to the issue of collecting digital goods vs physical goods. Physical stuff, like posters and cardboard trading cards, you can hold in your hands. Digital media is intangible and can disappear at any moment for any reason. Lingering fear of this happening, and tiring of the daily grind of playing, is ultimately why I left SWCT.

I’m still in the digital collecting world, though. I have an account on the Quidd app, which offers Star Trek digital trading cards and other nifty stuff. And somewhere between here and Krypton, I picked up a few Superman and Batman NFTs which are stored in a digital locker somewhere.

Au revoir Facebook

I thought twice about putting up a post like this. It’s free advertising for Facebook, something Facebook does not need.

In any case, I’m done with Facebook.

The social network (I refuse to call it “Meta”) stuck me in “Facebook jail” a few days ago because I responded to a comment a friend posted to my profile. I posted a reply to his post, and boom, there was a scary-looking administrative-type message in a pop up box, right there smack dab in the middle of my computer screen. I’m not going to quote what the message said verbatim, but suffice it to say: “If you post a comment like this again, you’ll be suspended indefinitely.”

Yeah, I’ll beat them to it.

***

Facebook and I go way back. I was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut at Storrs in 2004 when Facebook was invented. Originally it was a platform for college students (you had to have an .edu email address to sign up). Graduate student? College student? Does it matter? Either way, I had the requisite credential, so it was just a matter of waiting. (The platform rolled out slowly: first to Harvard, then to the other Ivies, then to regional universities in the Northeast, and so on.)

A few months after its founding, Facebook opened up itself to UConn, and boom, I had an account. After a year or two, I had 1,200 friends. (Of course I didn’t really know any of these people. They were mostly fellow music majors and neighbors in my student apartment complex, and musicians I’d known in my days of living in New Haven.)

By 2007, I’d grown tired of Facebook’s platform, which was (and still is) all about making other people envious: who has the nicest car? Who has the hottest vacation destination? Best selfies? Etc., etc.

In 2008 I was back, this time egged on to join by coworkers at a customer service job. I promptly quit again.

In 2012, excited about then-recent events in French politics and wanting to possibly connect with social media users in Europe, I signed up again. This new account stayed around until 2019. Then I was kicked off due another post I put up. So I started a new account. Then I was able to regain my older account (the one from 2012), and that’s the one I just quit tonight (April 28-29, 2022).

***

This time it’s for good.

I’m not going to go into the general subject matter of my original post, my friend’s reply, and my reply to his reply. But to get threatened with being suspended or kicked off of Facebook for a post airing opinions I’ve seen on plenty of other Facebook users’ profiles, it felt blatantly unfair to be the one singled out. I won’t put up with that.

More things about Facebook have bothered me. The ads are trash… In the mobile app, I’d often get served ads for things like “low T” remedies, when in reality I don’t actually suffer from that particular health malady (the ads started in earnest after I got married; no clue as to why that would be!). Also, when people would post vulgar or violent or extremist or racist images or memes… and Facebook would refuse to remove them or even investigate the matter.

Life is too short for Facebook and its trash advertising and its trash (and rather buggy) apps and its scammy Messenger service and its refusal to police itself, or take corrective action on any of its real problems.

I’m moving on.

It’s hard to go. I’ll miss my friends with whom I kept in touch on the platform. The relatives I’d catch up with on occasion. My mother’s Snoopy memes. But I won’t tolerate this stupid “social network” putting me in “Facebook jail” and making an example out of me (threatening to suspend me!), especially when other users have posted things far worse than I ever did, and are still there.