Tuesday, April 08, 2008

If Amazon Thinks I'm Gay, What About Netflix?

When I discovered Amazon.com, I thought I had found the perfect relationship. I could sit in my little office in my comfy rolly chair and browse books, books, books to my heart's content. Then, I could order whatever of these lovely books that I wanted--in hardback!--simply by clicking with my mouse. Moreover, my cute UPS guy with the dark hair and lovely tan skin would bring them right to my door!
Naturally, a bill would eventually come, but there was FREE SHIPPING, and who could possibly bitch about that? It was a wonderful, idyllic time.

And then, I ordered two books that changed everything. They were: Tipping the Velvet by Sara Waters and Truly Wilde by Joan Schenkar. The first one was a Dickensian style novel about a girl who works in a fishmonger's house and meets a male impersonator. The second was a biography of Oscar Wilde's niece. I had read reviews of them both, read excerpts of both, and found them well-written and engaging. I didn't know it then, but the technobots at Amazon were clicking and clacking away at my destiny.

The next time I signed in to Amazon, the little banner greeted me, telling me they had recommendations for me, as usual. And what recommendations they were! I could tell by the titles of some of them that they were, as Amazon tags them, definitely lesbian literature, lesbian erotica, and lesbian fiction. All intermixed among my Salem Witch trial book recommendations, classic literature recommendations, nonfiction recommendations, history (mainly Lincoln) recommendations, and my husband's construction and computer book recommendations (Rick uses my Amazon account). Clearly, Amazon and I were having relationship issues. Amazon.com thought I was a lesbian. Or, a lesbian witch carpenter. With a history fixation.

This makes me start wondering about Netflix. Which Rick and I just signed up for about a month or so ago, once he realized that I was going through serious House and Project Runway withdrawal. We sat down together and, since I am the one who is most savvy and current with movies, I started adding movies to our "queue" (which is a fancy schmancy Netflix word for "waiting list." BFD.) We noticed right away an alarming preponderance of George Clooney movies at the top of said queue. Michael Clayton, Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck are like, in the first 5 movies we've rented. So, I'm wondering...Is Netflix going to make assumptions about me based upon what looks like an obsession for George Clooney? Am I going to be inundated with recommendations for the Oceans numerical series? Will I be hounded with offers to queue up the Facts of Life television series? So, I checked in with my Netflix account just to see how judgy it was.

Oh, Netflix. How I love you so!

Netflix doesn't base our relationship on just three flings with George Clooney! NO! It takes into consideration my other ratings, my entire queue, even my moods. It knows my preference for Daniel Day-Lewis and big, epic costume dramas. It even seems to know that it was Rick and not I that queued up Walk the Line and Falling Down, and Netflix isn't holding that against me! It still remembers that we watched and loved Once, and it recommends A Passage to India and Benny and Joon. It remembers that I loved Fast Times at Ridgemont High and laughingly recommends Sixteen Candles. Netflix knows that I'm an 80s girl! Does Netflix remind me that Elizabeth: The Golden Age should soon be in my queue? It is to laugh!

Amazon and I--we have some issues to work out. It's hard to get all my books in hardcover now, and I don't like having to trust someone else. I like sticking with what I know. I'll get it together. But Netflix--it's still got the bloom of a new, exciting relationship. And it's so easy and carefree! We completely understand each other. I think this might last a long, long time.


  1. I really should get Netflix - I enjoy the hell out of movies and could really use someone who knows and loves me to recommend more. And to deliver them! The nearest Blockbuster is forever away, and so it's almost impossible for me to get a good movie when I'm looking for one.

    And my Amazon account knows I'm studying math and going to Ghana, but that's about it. We haven't been that intimate.

  2. Anonymous12:05 AM

    Hi Nance,

    Your terrific and funny (say,you did mean for it to be funny?)post reminded me of a time many years ago when my husband and I went to the library in our little town. They had maybe 1,000 books.This was in the 1950's.

    I selected the trashiest novel I could find at that time,Forever Amber, but Roy got a book on carpentry and then noticed a book about brain surgery. He took both to the librarian to be checked out.

    There he was in his plaid flannel shirt, Levis, and Wolverine work boots checking out a book on carpentry and one on brain surgery. The librarian tried very hard to be nice and asked,"Are you certain these are the books you want,Sir?"

    Without missing a beat my husband said "Yes, Indeed, I am building a small hospital."

    I often wonder what Amazon.Com would suggest for him these days.

    "Hello,Roy, If you're not Roy click here. Have we got suggestions for you."

    And then every book about subdural hematomas in America would pop up next to all the carpentry books. Just thinkin'.

  3. Oh honey... I hope you and NetFlix and Rick are very happy together.

    Although I have a wish list at Amazon, I don't feel Amazon knows the true me, and I rarely check out the recommendations. :)

  4. Damn, I went to Amazon to check out my recommendations, and bought two books.

    BTW, you can get rid of the bad recommendations, but it is tedious. You have to select 'fix' for the questionable items, and make your changes. I was able to purge books about 'six sigma', a relic from my past life.

  5. I am also amazed at Netflix being so punctual, and then asking us to tell him/her how it was in the form of those "When did you send...?" emails I get all the time. Netflix was given as a gift at Christmas time and I couldn't give it up.

  6. laura--i feel guilty right now; i've had "memoir of a geisha" for an insanely long time. i keep thinking Netflix is going to send me an email that says, "What's wrong? Why aren't you watching MoaG? It's okay if you send it back and just add it to the bottom of your queue. We won't judge."

    nancy a2--i got rid of my lesbian markers. and did you know that "tipping the velvet" is actually slang for, well, the oral pleasuring of a female? geeze. i'm just not very up on my terminology, apparently. why didn't anyone tell me?

    ck--i feel like amazon doesn't really put much work into my relationship a la my recommendations. if i look at or order ONE Lincoln book, it recommends them ALL to me. i want to just start totally fresh, but we've been together for so long...well, you know how it is.

    nancy--okay, first, it is just too scary that there is a BOOK on BRAIN SURGERY. please tell me it's not a HOW TO. but what your husband thought to say is absolutely HILARIOUS. worth keeping him just for that. and if he does windows, then oh my god, hang on to him like grim death. LOL.

    i.h.--it's okay to be a little coy with Amazon at first. i couldn't help it, though. it had everything i ever dreamed of, so i was easy. what can i say--i'm a giver.

  7. Anonymous11:35 PM


    I agree! He really is special. He has kept me laughing for 60 years.

    We will be married 58 years this September. The other day someone asked Roy how long we had been married and he replied,"I've had 38 happy years with Nancy and that's not bad out of 58!

  8. Anonymous7:12 AM

    This is a Nance classic. Love it.

    Fast Times at Ridgement High? I remember distinctly the first time I saw it and how much I loved it. Sean Penn, Phoebe Cates, Judge Whats-His-Name and a rocking soundtrack that featured Jackson Browne. That's a movie I have to see again.

  9. Anonymous9:18 AM

    If you ever expand your viewing interest beyond period films, consider the Sci-Fi classic Chinese Lesbians from Outer Space.

  10. I must say, you are the only person I know who can say that you have a "relationship" with these online retailers and I don't think you're absolutely crazy. Good luck working out the kinks :)

  11. nina--thanks, lol! Perhaps I'm just the only person you know who peddles her own brand of crazy so shamelessly that you're just used to it.

    anonymous--those sci-fi titles are killer. if there were a quiz to find the one that isn't a real sci-fi film title, i bet no one would ever get them all right. thanks for commenting! come back again.

    v-grrrl--Fast Times is one of those movies that has so many memorable lines, moments, and people in it that you almost have to own it to be a real person. I, however, do not own it. I prefer to be completely delighted every time I happen upon it on cable and watch it from whatever point it's at. I will never, ever tire of it. It's the 1980s Napoleon Dynamite. And I wasn't even a teen in the 80s. I was a new teacher.

    nancy--holy cow! congratulations on your enduring marriage. it's just wonderful. i plan on being married at least that long. i hope rick behaves himself, or he's going to have a hard time with my plan.

  12. All Amazon ever recommends to me are materials science and engineering books. Or books about anatomy or physiology. It only knows me through my academic pursuits :-(

  13. We've had Netflix forever! They are pretty good at knowing us, but like Amazon, they also have a long memory. Years ago I was take a class on American Musical Theater and I ordered musical after musical on Netflix for paper writing. If I went on Netflix right now, I know that "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" will still be sitting there waiting for me!

  14. I've noticed some weird stuff on mine too. Also Amazon spills the beans about potential gifts I'm pondering with their 'what you've looked at' area. I have to be sure to log out.

    I've movies SOOO long from Netflix that I could've bought the stupid movie like 5 times when I look at the fees.

    I loved Fast Times. I watched it over and over again. I liked Spicoli. Somebody's Baby is on my ipod....love that song.

  15. jenomena--sounds like you and amazon need to redefine the parameters of your relationship. don't you have fun anymore?

    j.--the joy of Netflix is that it remembers special things about you!

    simplypink--i know what you mean. pretty soon, MoaG's rental will be about 65$. gotta make the big decision this weekend, esp. with Good Night and Good Luck ready to go. Sigh. Sometimes we're just not in the mood, ya know?

  16. I didn't know you were a lesbian.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that...

    I kid...I kid...

  17. I so wish I had the time for Netflix.

    AMAZON... they will try to sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Since all I order these days are books for grad school, you can just imagine my recommended list. A recent recommendation, for example, was Who's afraid of Postmodernism? -Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault to Church. Now there's something you really want to read when you have a moment to relax. :-)

  18. ortizzle--i decided i had to MAKE time for netflix. i love movies and since the theaters are too damned cold (not to mention the trip to and from!), i really have been missing out these past few years. after all, how many rerun episodes of Law&Order can i stand?
    and your amazon relationship sounds like it needs LOTS of work. LOL.

    scarlet--welcome back to the Dept! i didn't know i was a lesbian, either! (that was the problem. LOL)

  19. Oh, man. Many stories like that here, except in our case we have four people always using one account, and the complications are hilarious. When what I really want is a programming book, A. sends me recommendations about the Magic Treehouse series, which my youngest kid outgrew and had read the entirety of in kindergarten (he's in middle school now). Lately it's sending me everything I don't need to know about cowboys and cowboy fiction, because I ordered a photography book for a cowgirl friend in TX. It also sends stuff based not on what I bought, but what I either accidentally or casually browsed and realized I certainly do NOT want. Heavy sigh, huff, cough. I wish A. would not waste so much time, money and bandwidth, as Milton said, "hatching vain empires." Or, the way I read it as a sleep-deprived undergrad, "etching vain vampires."


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