Sunday, January 20, 2013

I've Noticed Something Silly

I feel like I can't go anywhere on the Internet these days without running into 90's nostalgia. All the 90's kids tend to reminisce about the toys, clothing, movies, and TV shows from their childhood. While I enjoy rediscovering something that I had forgotten about from the first decade of my life, sometimes people get a little obnoxious in their nostalgia, and I'm pretty sure they irritate the heck out of all the non-90's people. I mean, yeah, we DID have way better TV shows than kids do today, but there's no need to be obnoxious about it, and sometimes it's okay to remember the 90's in our heads and not all over the Internet.

With that said, I will now reminisce on the 90's and early 2000's.

Once upon a time in the 90's, movies for home viewing came on a tape called a VHS. It was simple and straightforward- pop in the VHS, enjoy the Disney animated film of superior quality to anything produced today (isn't it a rule that 90's kids have to brag?), and when the movie's over, stop, rewind, eject. I was very good at following the "Be kind and rewind" rule.

One day, sometime very early in the new millennium, a strange new machine came to my house. It was called a DVD player. Along with the DVD player came a small disc that looked like a CD, except instead of music, it was a movie- Shrek. The DVD was so much more than the traditional exercise of play, stop, rewind, eject. You didn't have to rewind a DVD. When you put a DVD into the DVD player, a menu popped up on the screen and you could navigate among options with the arrow buttons on your remote control. You could skip to a specific scene in the movie, put subtitles at the bottom of the screen, watch the film in different languages, watch the film with director's commentary, watch a "The making of" documentary, and (the only one of these options that I really cared about at that age) play games.

The DVD was a game-changer. When you bought a DVD, you bought more than a movie. You bought various special features. You bought the portability of a movie that could be played on laptops. You bought a case that took up less room in your entertainment center. It was great! For a while you could buy movies on either VHS or DVD, but the companies slowly transitioned to only DVD and stayed that way.

That is, until they invented the Blu-Ray.

Nowadays we have option of buying new movies on DVD or Blu-Ray. We also have the option of buying old movies on DVD or Blu-Ray. A lot of the classic movies keep getting re-released on DVD, especially the animated Disney movies I grew up with. I'm not exactly eager to buy the DVD versions because I already own all of these movies-- just on VHS.

Only one problem: Since nobody makes VHS's anymore, nobody makes a way to play VHS's anymore. It's all fine and dandy that I still own all these tapes, but if I don't have a way to watch them, then they're not doing me any good.

I've often discussed this problem with my friends, and I've noticed something silly about the way these conversations tend to go. We've all gotten so used to DVD's and the machines used to play them, which are called DVD players. Therefore, it's not altogether surprising that we ask ourselves, "Where can you find a VHS player these days?" This is very silly, because the machine used to play a VHS is not called a VHS player. It is, in fact, a VCR.

Silly us.

Thinking about modern times and the future... I'm sticking with DVDs for now, since I own a TV with a built-in DVD player. However, if in the future I acquire a larger TV without DVD-playing apparatus included, I'm going to buy a Blu-Ray player. Unless there's something even better about to come out. Like a hologram movie player. Then I'll wait for that.

Note: Earlier in the post when I said the Disney animated films of the 90's were superior to anything produced today: I don't believe that's necessarily true in all cases. In my opinion, the animated features back then are superior to many movies created now (there's a reason they call it the Disney Renaissance), but I'm personally really impressed with the new form of animation that's been the norm for the past couple years. I'm nostalgic for the old days and 2-D masterpieces, but some of the movies that Disney and Dreamworks have been cranking out these past few years have been really entertaining and nice to look at.


  1. Great article Becca. Ok, I'm a bit older than you youngsters. I can remember a time before VHS. A time when your entertainment choices were watching TV or going to a movie. And if there was something special coming on TV, everything stopped and everyone watched one of the three TV channels (ABC, CBS and NBC). There was actually a 4th channel called PBS, but they rarely had anything good like Downton Abby. Those were your choices in those days. And then VHS started out. The first models were so expensive that few people purchased them. You could actually go to the early video stores and rent a VCR along with your movies. It was such a novelty, that the neighbors and the extended family would come to your house to watch movies on those new fangled machines. A there was actually two very different types of video recorders. VHS and Betamax. Everyone considered Betamax to be a higher quality, but it just didn't catch on the way that the VHS did. But now one to the future. I don't think DVDs or Blueray will be around much longer. Everything seems to be moving to the web. Now if you want to watch a movie, you just pull it up on your computer, web enabled tv, or even your cell phone. Why have crates full of movies when you can just access the movie itself any time you want. I think the day is coming when the next generation will be sitting around and asking their friends, "where do we find a device to play all these old DVDs and Bluerays that our parents have laying around the house?" Oh, I forgot the mention the 8mm film canisters I have from my parents. I have the best intention of converting those old celluloid films to something digital. I'm afraid that whatever format I select will be soon obsolete. My guess is that the next generation will have some kind of neural interface device.

    1. PBS has had Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street since the time when it was called NET... that's all we need, right?
      Seriously though, in terms of better TV, I look at PBS' kids programming these days and I'm like "what... happened?" We had shows (Bill Nye, SquareOne, Zoom, Carmen Sandiego, Wishbone, etc.) that actually educated, with material that's even relevant for highschool classes... these days, most of those shows are gone, replaced by drivel that seems aimed at the 2-3 yr old demographic (which studies say shouldn't even be watching TV), and the few that survived have severely dumbed down their content. Don't believe me? Compare a current Sesame Street episode with, say, the Learning to Share videotape that I have around here somewhere *goes digging in bag*... or worse, watch an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine from the older, Awdry-adapted years and compare it with one of the Season 15 episodes (in which the writer, Sharon Miller, earns a "you tried" star approximately the size of the sun. But I digress.)
      The only show that really seems to have never lost its integrity in terms of script, etc. is Arthur, and they made a lot of budget cuts and changed animation companies for the new season, indicating that they may have jumped the proverbial shark as well.

      As for the 8mm film, shoot for a hard copy (DVD) and a digital file; that way, you have the file that you can transfer from computer to computer as technology progresses, while still hanging onto a hard copy that, should push come to shove, you can stick into tomorrow's Apple II GS (ask me at some point why I consider this particular computer to best define the term "dinosaur") and re-convert... even if the boot sequence takes a few months.

  2. Thoughts:
    1. VHS player is a valid term. VCR actually means videocassette recorder, and recording is not a functionality necessary for playback. With that said, though, most VHS players were VCRs, so neither term is really in error.
    2. If the issue is simply that you don't want to spend the money on updating your entire collection, then doing it again when the next revolution comes, I should point out that you should have the right to get most of them converted to a usable media format for a fairly cheap price. Check and see if there's a converter around your town anywhere (they usually either work out of record stores or advertise themselves as something like "archive your family memories!")
    3. This whole thing amuses me because my family never really gave up on the VCR. We still have it in the entertainment center and could hook it up anytime should one of us ever decide to watch the videos I had when I was five (the only important one was Lion King and I bought the diamond DVD last year) or stick one of the old home movies in the Betamax converter.
    4. Oh yes, Betamax. If you don't know what that is and would like an opportunity to read about something that sounds way more dramatic than it was, Google away.
    5. I still maintain that my favorite video equipment is the LaserDisk. It never caught on in a huge way, but what's not to love about a Giant CD Of Doom that could handle cinema-quality picture some 20 years before anyone's TVs could? We didn't have a player at home, but they used them at school, and I'm pretty sure more people remember the aforementioned Giant CD of Doom than do the actual content.
    Also, since these had a functionality very similar to DVDs, they had a lot of that special-features stuff way before DVDs were even dreamed up. Returning to the Lion King (what else can I do, it's the reference frame around which my entire childhood was built), there is a lot of great special feature stuff (like the storyboarding of the original, scrapped opening sequence from the pre-revision plot, deleted scenes, cast interviews, video of the experiential research done in Africa for the film, etc.) that didn't show up again until the 2003 DVD (and even then it was reduced and cut with some new stuff. Luckily you can find all 4 sides of the Laser Disc extras on YouTube, at least, as of summer 2012.)
    I should probably add that "altoclarinets" is the Google Account name of Danelle.

  3. Also, I think Pixar has really been keeping Disney Disney since about... 1998? Was that when Brother Bear happened? The main Mouse has put up some valiant efforts in the past few years with Princess/Frog and Tangled, but Tangled had a completely different tone than a lot of the older stuff, and Princess/Frog just was... limited. I don't know if it was time allotment concerns or oversight, or just what, but there are HUGE plotholes in that movie (for example, how is it that Naveen and Lawrence just walk into Facilier's voodoo shop and then within 5 min and with no implied communication between Lawrence and Dr. F all of a sudden the two are in cahoots to destroy Naveen? Like, what? Is there a part of the prologue that I miss every time I watch this movie in which the two make arrangements beforehand? CAN WE PLEASE GET SOME BACKSTORY OVER HERE?) It has some great characters (Charlotte especially) but the story arc is just not up to snuff with the main Disney volume. Sadly.
    Okay, actual this time.

  4. Oh dear, my "end rant" html commands seem not to be showing up. < / rant > but w/o spaces in the random holes where it seems appropriate.