The Evolution of My Viewing Pleasure
By Jordan Waldmeier | 12/15/2014
As I sit here on my couch, stricken by boredom, my dog by my side; I decide to watch a movie. I reach for my X-Box controller, which sits on my side-table next to various other controllers, a jar of peanut butter, and a Pepsi. I turn on said video game system, and navigate to the recent apps page.”What the hell do I want to watch?” Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, Vudu, Youtube?
30 to 45 minutes later, I find myself still browsing. Of all the movies and TV shows I have access to, from the comfort of my IKEA couch, I can’t find shit to watch! And then I am stricken, as if my conscience slapped me on the back of the noggin: “You lazy bastard. Do you know what you would've had to do 20 years ago?. Nay! 5 years ago!, if you wanted to watch a movie?” So, with that, I invite you to hop in this phone booth (not "box", Whovian), travel back in time with me, and observe some of my experiences and evolution of the formats and failures of my home entertainment.
I was born in the year of the Top Gun, 1986. As the mass population eagerly awaits to hear an update on President Ronald Reagan's lasers in space defense program know as “Star Wars” (totally feasible), you would likely be caught gathered around the family rooms cathode ray-tube TV with its newly installed VCR. The videocassette recorder (yes, that’s what VCR stands for) was built for playing VHS tapes; a black brick full of magical tape. There were other formats such as betamax and laser-disc, but those were likely created for the hipster of the future to collect alongside his/her record collection. VHS dominated the market. PERIOD.
I was born into the already existing technology, so I didn't get to experience the origin and pre-VHS times of reel-to-reel. My earliest notable memory of VHS comes to me from when a close family friend gave me two tapes for Christmas circa 1989 or 1990; those movies being RoboCop and ‘89 Batman, two child-friendly films that I still hold dearly to my heart. Another great capability of VHS was the home video recording aspect. My father would record most of our family events on what looked to be John Matrix’s four-tiered rocket launcher. It always makes me feel like Clark Griswald watching old birthday parties, Christmas events, and other early childhood antics such as one titled “The Magic Show.” The cherry-on-the-top of VHS recording was being able to record directly from cable through your VCR. Was it pirating? Probably, but that word didn't exist yet.
Though, the best part of VHS has to be the hours spent in the video store. Locally, before Blockbuster came around, we had family owned stores such as Bo’s Video, Rambo’s Video, and Video Attractions. They were filled with what seemed like miles of wire-framed racks that held hundreds, possibly thousands, of black cassettes filled with the condensed magnetic tape of films throughout time; good or bad. The only “special features” these contained were Don LaFontaine voice-overed previews, for more “leave your brain at the door” popcorn flicks. It was the time of being able to get the “5-5-5” deal; 5 movies, 5 days, for $5. A time of Friday night movie marathons, where we would huddle on the couch or make pallets on the floor with plenty of homemade popcorn to go around; a time that we still try to implement these days of our busy adult lives.
In the year 2000
As I am rummaging through the $5 bin of VHS tapes at the local Wal-Mart, which seems to contain an infinite amount of copies of Speed, Con Air, The Rock, and many other mid-90’s explosively-awesome action movies; my eye is stricken by a gleam of light. Workers begin to stock, what look to be, slim-hollow cases of currently released films. I ask, “What is this? What’s inside?” “It’s a DVD,” the worker replies. DVD, Digital Video Disc, as known to be the technology that the baby-boomers gave up on. If setting the clock on the VCR was the max capacity of your technological skills, then there is no physical way you will be able to operate or understand how DVD’s work. They do not go in your relatively new CD player, nor do they fit in your computer's floppy disc drive.
I approached DVD’s as if they were a cold swimming pool, slowly easing into them, and when I was comfortable enough: I was swimming laps in a pool of discs. I purchased my first one before I even had a DVD player; It was Bryan Singers first X-Men. To me, these discs, which resemble Thor’s bifrost, became as collectible as action figures. At my peak, I owned nearly 700 DVDs; It was like crack to me. The thing that drew me into these, like a moth to flame, was the special features. Being the “movie-buff” that I am, I couldn’t get enough special features. Commentaries, making-of featurettes, deleted/extended scenes; It was like a neverending/unscheduled version of HBO’s Behind the Scenes and AMC’s Movie Magic documentary series. People said you couldn’t “wear out” DVDs like you could VHS, but tell that to my Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace special features disc.
After several years, much money spent, and being neck deep in my DVD collection; in walks the outlaw, Blu-Ray. I was completely against this “new” technology. I ran away from it like Powder’s father.”What can this do that DVD can’t?” I was being “glib.” In laymans terms, a DVD is like a single layer sponge cake, it’s delicious, but not capable of holding much substance. Whereas Blu-Ray is a princess-bride's, must have, perfect wedding cake; 8-tiers, with a uniquely rich wonderful filling in each layer. Allowing the feature to be viewed at it’s highest/cleanest resolution, along with grander special features.
It took me a while to accept that these are better than my coveted DVD’s. I finally caved and turned to the Blu side with my first purchase being Iron Man 2, with the Target exclusive limited edition Steelbook. I tried to reserve my Blu-Ray purchases to mostly comic book based films, Star Wars, Tolkien, and a few randomly awesome movies like Con Air that are meant to been seen in this revolution of resolution. In short: they are to be savored like a fine wine, whereas I would treat DVDs like schwag.
Currently, I can proudly state that Blu-Ray is my preferred format for optimum eyeball pleasure. That being said, we are now living in the time of what could possibly be the peak and everlasting means of content for home entertainment: Streaming. From the dark days of no internet, to 56k dial-up AOL days (which inspired the unintentional horror movie You’ve Got Mail), now is the time of high speed internet that has no intention of slowing down. Because of these speeds you can literally “play Mortal Kombat with a friend in Vietnam!” Oh yeah, you can watch movies, too.
With the advent of smart TV’s and Blu-Ray players, gaming systems, and other streaming devices like Roku and Google Chromecast, our reach for media seems to be infinite with apps like Hulu, Vudu, Youtube, and the ever popular Netflix. I don’t even have cable TV any more. Because of these apps, I can watch the shows and movies I want to see without all of the chuffa of the bloodsucking cable companies' scheduled programming. Thank you, science. With all of this being said, each one of these technologies hold a sentimental value in my heart. They bring back memories of the times that they existed in. From the days of the RoboCop leg-holster-like VCR’s, to the universal connection with the push of a button.
To be able to see what man is capable of in my 28-and-a-half years of life with something as simple as home entertainment, will I live to see movies like they are Star Wars holograms? Likely. Does that make me sound like a man from the 1950’s talking about flying cars? Possibly. But one has to look into the future with a blown-open mind and imagine the impossible, plausible. Never look from the top down, all you’ll see is dirt. Look up, see the stars. Eject.
About the author:
Hello universe, my name is Jordan Waldmeier. Scientifically, I am 28 years of age, as of 2014AD. I was born and raised in Sulphur, Louisiana and moved out of my mothers home at the young age of 27 and a half. Currently residing in Lake Charles, Louisiana (a whole bridge away): I am an observer of the human species, mentally taking notes on their actions around me, hopefully to be recorded to paper before they are lost by the inevitable dementia embedded in my DNA.
I am a collector of modified, petroleum formed, 6 inch scale likings of comic book superheroes and other science fiction icons. My favorite tree is one that has been processed into a 22 page full-colored comic book. Both of my parents are still alive, therefore, I am not Batman.
"Be excellent to each other."
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