Yeah, Tell Me What I Like

Here's something I don't miss: Going to Blockbuster and eying the movie titles in alphabetical order as you try not to trip over wayward toddlers whose unconcerned parents are reading out loud--at a decibel level seldom achieved by 747s during takeoff--the blurb on the back cover of "Ernest Goes to Jail" with all the reverence of a Shakespearean soliloquy. That and the stale popcorn smell, the product of management's desire to coax you into thinking, "Hey, I must be at a movie theater." Or the fact that I was so picky I'd just as often leave empty-handed as with a video. Or the rewind fees. Yeah, don't even get me started with the rewind fees.

But here's what I especially don't miss: That unctuous, wiseacre cashier with the Jesse Eisenberg playing Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network" attitude, the guy who knew everything about every movie ever made and wanted to make sure you knew it, too. Even worse?... he fancied himself as your video concierge, your cinema savant, your Dalai Lama when it came to drama. Just the movie guru for you. And even worse still?... the kid was, like, eighteen years old, tops, just recently able to legally watch R-rated flicks himself. At the time one could only imagine, with a decade's worth of seasoning, some good old-fashioned, roll up your sleeves and take the bull by the horns experience that he'd end up, I don't know... assistant manager?

And of course, as he rang up your selection you invariably got the, "Whoa, nice choice!" stamp of approval. "Thanks for the validation; how'd you snag this coveted, highly-skilled, top-of-the-food chain job anyway?" you thought but didn't utter. Totally self-assured, he'd go in for the kill. "Hey, you know what you'd definitely love?" "A ray gun?", again just a thought. "Oh do tell" is what you actually said, knowing the snarky tone was completely lost on him as he feverishly reached for a video, tossing it onto the counter alongside your pick, hands on hips, flashing a pie-eating grin. The juxtaposition of the two movies hits you like a double-dose of smelling salts. "Ahh... 'Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd'... Huh, how'd I miss that?" His smile grew broader, an eyebrow raised. "Yeah, maybe next time; I'm just gonna go with 'Lost in Translation' for now", you offered, acutely aware of how aptly the title fit the situation. So, yeah, have I mentioned?... I don't miss that.

Alright, so what gives? Why talk smack about smarmy teenage clerks in obsolete video stores when the problem has conveniently faded to black? Because it hasn't; it's actually evolved into something even more insidious. Case in point: You finish watching a Netflix series and just as credits roll you're hit with a prompt: "Check out these suggestions" and suddenly you're staring at three new original programs guaranteed to put joy in your heart, hope in your soul and a hop in your step (and add to Netflix's library thus adding to their coffers... yeah, that too). And it's not just Netflix, other streaming services do the same thing. Some don't even bother suggesting; they just take you to a show they think you'll like as if to say, "Not to worry, we've got this; you've enough on your plate, what with that recent lobotomy and all."

Ahh, yet again another case of me tilting at windmills, right? I should let it go, already; it's just a movie suggestion. Okay then, how 'bout this: You have a zillion tunes at your touch on Amazon Music and yet you're constantly being deluged with "My Soundtrack" based on artists you've listened to and other artists that, I don't know, kinda sound somewhat like them and then if you keep listening to that they'll offer other artists that sound like the artists that sound like the artists you used to listen to but don't anymore because you've got these new artists (who you're not even sure of) who will soon be forsaken for even newer ones that sorta sound like them? Is there at least a time--say, a thousand iteratations in--when it comes back full circle to the artists you loved in the first place? And if so will you still remember them?

And speaking of remembering. Buy a pair of sunglasses online and you can expect all of your social devices to inundate you with other sunglass sales until the day you die (even longer if someone cops your tablet after your demise). And it's not just stuff; it's ideas, too. Be it Google, Yahoo, Bing... all of the search engines constantly attempt to finish your thought during each and every letter stroke to the point where you start making up stuff just to mess with 'em (sorry, is that just me?). So, yeah, it's all-pervasive and it's not going away. Like... ever. They're comin' for our autonomy and aren't gonna stop until they have it. Okay, so being that it's a done deal can they at least do us a solid and give us a face to hate? You know, like Blockbuster did?