Channel surf the internet

How we watch and listen now

If the recent digital conversion sent hordes of people running to the store for a new HD TV, it sent another horde running in the other direction: away from TV and toward the internet. Then there’s radio, trying to please many but falling short time and again. So listeners are drifting toward personalized internet radio stations.

How we listen to music and watch TV and movies has indeed changed and is still changing. Here, in this play by play of internet channel surfing, is what we’re ditching our TVs and radios for.

The new boob tube Let’s see what’s on TV. No, not that one. The one where you don’t have to wait to see something good. That’s partly why 38 million people—more than Time Warner Cable—are watching it, by latest count. The Hulu main page has plenty of suggestions, noting popular videos like the Glee pilot, The Tonight Show or Hell’s Kitchen. Or I could check in under the food category to find Bobby Flay making frozen mojitos on the Food Network. I could just as easily check in with current news, watch a documentary, soap opera, college football game or spy thriller. Instead, I get caught up in John Waters’ Cry Baby, which I haven’t seen for about 15 years. Another good thing about Hulu is it’s free, and I don’t need a membership to watch the videos. A not-so-good thing is that Hulu doesn’t have everything, and I have to wait for shows that are airing that day on regular television to be made available on the website. It also lacks the ploppability factor of watching TV from my couch, though I could get a cord to connect the TV to my laptop. Though YouTube is threatening to give Netflix a run for its money by streaming $4 movies, Netflix reigns for now. I have the rent-one-movie-at-a-time plan for $9, and the Mexican comedy Rudo y Cursi awaits my DVD player, but let’s see what’s lined up in my DVD queue. It’s the French Chef with Julia Child television series; I wanted to see the real deal after watching that super hyped (but fun) movie. Looks like I’m not the only one, as Netflix warns me it has a “very long wait.” So looking at No. 2 in my lineup is the old Coen brothers flick Blood Simple. While I’m here, I’m going to rate the last film I was sent, the British comedy Hot Fuzz, a solid three stars and look for a new movie. I could also choose from about 1,000 titles to watch instantly. I’m a little embarrassed to discover that my taste preferences have created a row of recommendations called “Movies Starring Gael Garcia Bernal.”

Can you hear me now? This was my go-to station for music in the office before my work’s tech people said it took up too much bandwidth and blocked it from my computer. Sigh. It was good while it lasted. So, at home, I can type in one of my favorite artists, and Pandora, using a type of “musical DNA” analysis, will decipher what other music I’m likely to enjoy based on that artist. Then I can create a series of personalized radio stations. Among mine are Gillian Welch, Radiohead, and Bonnie Prince Billy stations. Respectively, they’ll play artists like Emmylou Harris, Modest Mouse and Smog. The main negative for me is they don’t have classical music, but you may not mind that. Similar to Pandora, type in an artist’s name, and will come up with a radio station full of people with similar sounds. For instance, listeners at the Jolie Holland station will also hear Neko Case, Karen Dalton and Josephine Foster. Where goes beyond Pandora is with its detailed biographical information of each artist that accompanies each song, a more extensive collection of music (classical is well-represented, from Philip Glass to Yo Yo Ma), and the ability to click on a wide variety of genres, from indie folk to outlaw country to abstract hip-hop. Buy and download music, watch music videos, and get suggestions for more music and area concerts.