Tape Worm

There’s not enough time in a month for me to watch twenty dollars’ worth of Netflix movies, so I can’t bring myself to subscribe to that service. Economically speaking, I still prefer the old school method of putting on my shoes and heading down to the local video shop when I happen to have a free evening that might be nicely consumed watching a movie. Two Boots Video is only about four blocks away, so I haven’t got much to complain about… except when there’s no DVD copies of the movies I want.

The past few times we’ve gone, my girlfriend and I have resigned ourselves to choices in — hold yourself — videotape format. These are older movies that the store clearly has little immediate intention of upgrading to DVD format. In some cases, like Eric Rohmer’s perversely mannered “Marquise of O,” I’m even a little surprised that someone bought them in VHS format to begin with. But in other cases, it’s a disappointment to me that the store is still resigned to providing them only on crappy videotape. I’m about three episodes into Ken Burns’ beautiful, nine-part “Baseball” documentary, and it’s a shame to watch it on such an inferior medium.

Be Kind, Don’t Rewind

It’s funny how during the fifteen or so years I watched movies on videotape, I didn’t really notice how bad the picture was. Now, after only about four years or so of watching DVDs almost exclusively, I’m appalled not just by the poor visual fidelity but also by how awful is the format in general. I wanted to rewind to a certain point in one of the movies after finishing it, and was struck by the deja vu tedium of waiting for the heads to rewind and having to guess when might be the best time to hit play and see if it had rewound anywhere close to the scene I was looking for. Absolutely primitive.

The End

It had actually been so long since I had actually used my VCR that, when I first tried to play a tape, the machine summarily died on me, refusing to even eject the tape that had been sitting in there for ages. (Luckily, we have a second, just as infrequently used but still functioning VCR in the living room.) I wasn’t upset in the slightest by the VCR’s demise, even though I must have paid about US$200 for in 1994. If anything, I found it amusing.

I’ve come to think of videotape technology as inherently disposable, I guess, and had invested zero sentimentality into it. Over the course of a decade, that old machine had faithfully shown me both great and terrible cinema, had dutifully recorded television shows and unique events, and, on occasion, had allowed me private screenings of unseemly pornography. And yet, I took it down to the basement yesterday and deposited it ignominiously into the trash without a second thought. And I won’t miss it in the least.

  1. My life is consumed by videotapes – my girlfriend writes a column for the newspaper about TV, and we have maybe forty tapes delivered a week, which pile up and pile up until we finally dump them on the doorstep of the newspaper, only for the process to begin again. I HATE videotapes. I’m always standing on them. Crack. By way of contrast, we’ve been enjoying a month-long free trial of the Australian equivalent of Netflix, so there’s always a few neat cardboard slips containing whatever low-priority DVDs they’ve scraped together to send us. The thing I like about the service (apart from the neatness of the DVDs) is the way I can add something to my list whenever I think of it, rather than standing in front of a wall of titles with my mind a total blank as to what it was I’d thought – just last week – I simply HAD to watch.

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