A Prime Month

I was on Amazon this week, as I tend to be from time-to-time. I was trying to order something from either there or ebay (I don’t have a moral preference), anyway, they offered me (as they do occasionally) a month’s free trial* of Amazon Prime. I’ve tended to only accept when I’m going to immediately benefit from free next-day postage, or there is a TV series fully released that I can watch the entirety of. It so happens there is; The Expanse, but more on that at a later date.

*It’s odd that they still call it a “Trial” when I’ve had a few over the years. Maybe they’re re-trialling me to see if I’ll leave my subscription active beyond the first month. Good luck there.

In my effort to get my money’s worth (out of something that’s free) I, well first, I delved into their Prime Day Deals pages. I’m pretty sure this is why they put this free trial out now, since recently the deal has been a discount only on the usual Prime price and I’d not had a completely free trial offering for some time. This is where they hooked me in, again. I don’t know what is is about these “deals”, often they’re of the “lightening” variety, but they really do succeed in luring me in in search of a bargain; it’s like my brain is convinced it will find one, and enjoys the hunt. The problem is, and embarrassingly so, I’ve found this out before, that real deals are few and far between; quite the opposite, I find page after page of crap that I can’t believe anyone would choose to buy, not unless they were brainwashed by some fad or craze. However, I had bought my last action camera during a Lightening Deal, which worked out well, but I do recall getting lost in the deal pages then also (even if Infinite Scrolling isn’t deployed here) for a well over an hour. I’ve done it on other shopping sites too when I’ve perhaps tried to qualify for free delivery to save myself money and headed off into Offers pages to stock up on things, thinking “I’ll make use of this [at some point]”. Only after much time has past do I finally concede that the “saving” wasn’t worth all that time.

An area I did have only a quick search through on this occasion was Amazon’s free Kindle books; I’ve signed up to this before, making use of a whole month’s free access, to download all of the books of interest with the intent of then reading them, eventually, in my own time. To achieve this I also had to sign up for a month’s free trial of some software to remove the DRM from those books, and to convert them for use on my Sony eReader (calibre works well here). I ended up, perhaps, reading only one of them; it wasn’t until a year or so later that I acquired a Kindle Fire which reminded me, and prompted me to read another. In any event, there is a website I get all my free books from, so Amazon’s free offering here is pointless to me.

So, I headed into Amazon’s Prime Video section and selected all of the video content, TV shows and movies that took my fancy, creating a Watchlist along the way. Here I had to be more methodical and produce a list/lists of which I have some hope of sticking to (unlike all those books I chose); I couldn’t over subscribe and find myself part the way through a TV series I was getting into right at the end of the 30 days.

So far (and I intend to update this page as I go), I have watched the first episode of Tales from the Loop and the movie Ready Player One.

Tales from the Loop was interesting from an aesthetics point of view, as I came to realise and appreciate it was styled in some decades past (I thought the 70s for the most part, but then the 80s, but I saw a Volkswagen Golf that looked to me to be from the 90s). The storyline was a confusing one where you have to figure it out for yourself only to be left with answers at the end – a story not told in its entirety – more getting emotionally involved than knowing anything for certain. There was an element of time travel which is often more my thing, but that’s always a tricky thing to explain (here they seemingly used rocks with properties of anti-gravity, rather than a flux-capacitor), so, like The Lake House, the heart strings are pulled. I’m not sure I appreciate this these days; it’s like a form of emotional manipulation. Why should I care about fictional characters on a screen more than, say, members of my own family or people of my own community? But that’s what such things do (books, TV series, Films, video games etc., the news even).

Beyond this, Tales from the Loop very much reminded me of A Town Called Eureka, along with some other things.

Moving on to Ready Player One, and this too echoes numerous other things. The obvious one being Back to the Future, both being directed by Steven Spielberg who on this occasion seemed to be having a little too much fun making shout-outs and tipping his hat to other things and people, from his own works like Jurassic Park, King Kong, Robert Zemeckis, Avatar… It ‘stunk of’ Tron, Lawnmower Man, and The Matrix too, not that this is necessarily a bad thing, or even avoidable. It also made me recall Inception which I watch again quite recently, with its dream within a dream element.

Since I’ve dabbled in the virtual world that is Second Life, I could certainly see that in it, particularly if you consider the use of Sansar and VR goggles. It became a joke in RPO that any guy chatting up/getting attached to a hot looking female avatar in the virtual world Oasis were deluding themselves if they weren’t considering she could be a fat ugly guy living mommy’s basement – the joke should be considered wisely! I think also, many a youngster (and older) will consider themselves to be the hero in the tale that wins the game (and the girl) to save the world; there’s Tron and The Matrix all over again. I’m more of the opinion that the answers and Truth, solutions and true wealth lie in the real world, but the sad thing is this virtual world is becoming more Truth for many people, with many a youngster aspiring to fame and wealth from the online world, whether it be from gaming or hosting Youtube channels.

I also considered Blade Runner 2049 since both are based in that 2045-9 period. Ready Player One seemed less believable in that year since everything but the technology solely responsible for creating and providing the Oasis (the virtual world pretty much everyone was participating in every waking hour) was of this era, not 20+ years in the future. Perhaps this was to imply that our modern day world is set to stagnate, or indeed decline, outside of those industries that are pushing for such global emergence into AI, virtual realities, and social media; I think RPO says a lot about this.

Curiously, while I was searching for “2045” I came across a thing called the “2045 Initiative”. It is focused on “combining brain emulation and robotics to create forms of cyborgs. It was founded by Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov … with the participation of Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems.” Elon Musk has talked about such things, in particular how we are heading towards a time when we wont have devices like smartphones used to enable us to dip in and out of the social media world, but we’ll have electronic implants that will keep us connected all of the time.

In some ways it seems we are not all that far from being “connected all the time”. Even when we switch our devices off how many of us are still mentally fixated on what we have been involved with there, from disputes on Facebook, or things we have seen on Youtube? I see youngsters walking around glued to their phones, and them and everyone else these days following crazes and the like which could only have been washed into their brains through the internet. I’m certainly not immune to this, but perhaps more away of it than many, since I grew up in a time without internet access and plunged into it in my teens.

Indeed, I’m not the only one talking about what is termed “The Social Dilemma”; it came to my attention on the Tentacle Croissant when they discussed a Netflix show by that name (which I’ve yet to watch), and now I’m seeing Joe Rogan talking about it too.

Ready Player One is based on a novel of the same name by Ernest Cline (which I’ll add to my virtual reading pile), there is a sequel to be released later this year (2020), and then I expect a second film.

At the end of RPO is the advice to switch off from the internet on Tuesdays and Thursday. Good luck trying to do that! Next on my list to watch is another tale from the Loop, and I’ll save the next film for the weekend.

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