Thursday, December 21, 2006

Midnight Rambler

I realized recently that my attitude toward DVDs is very much like the attitude I once had, during a certain season of my youth, for baseball cards. DVD labels are like baseball teams, directors and stars are like MVPs, and the discs themselves are loaded with stats: 16:9, HD, audio commentary, trailers, foreign languages. They're lightweight, fun to handle and to watch, but the greatest fun of all is boxing them away, or putting them on a shelf (depending whether you're a hoarder or a displayer), and just knowing that you have them.

I used to love displaying my VHS pre-records on a wall in my living room, until the collection got so big, it had to be boxed up and moved to the attic. Donna was happy to reclaim the neutrality of the living room for awhile, but that space soonafter became the homebase for half my CD collection, including all my box sets. It's kind of ridiculous to pretend the room is about anything but entertainment when there's always a 53" widescreen television staring you down in there.

As the holidays draw near, Donna has made it known that she would like all the DVDs which have accumulated in recent months to leave the dining room, and make it more attractive to holiday guests. Naturally I wrestle with questions like "What's so unsightly about DVDs?" but I'm giving in and spent today starting to chip away at the accumulation by cataloguing the discs and putting them into banker's boxes. Then, risking a hernia, I carry them two at a time upstairs into the attic -- where there's already entirely too much entertainment. The most exquisite agony of doing this work, besides realizing how much time it all amounts to and the ever-decreasing odds of living long enough to enjoy it all, is being reminded of how much of one's collection is still in the shrinkwrap, and noticing that some of these cellophaned items are now relics, having been replaced on the market by expanded, remastered editions. There is, at least, the pleasure of knowing these things will be around when you need them. The question is, with so many amazing things coming out on DVD every week, what are the chances we'll ever need them? These are dangerous questions for a video magazine editor to ask, so I will now step away from the precipice and change the subject. I'm just rambling, having fun -- are you?

Last night, Donna and I had the pleasure of a dinner at Romano's Macaroni Grill with our friends Patty and Joe Busam (Rondo's Monster Kid of the Year), and afterwards, we wandered over to the Barnes and Noble bookstore next door. It had been awhile since I'd been in a DVD store, and it was a pleasure to look around and discover things by chance, in their actual three-dimensional state, rather than as a clickable title on a screen next to a thumbnail. I remembered that it was the street date for the latest batch of "Walt Disney Treasures" tin sets, and after looking all over the place, I finally found a few -- but not THE HARDY BOYS, the one I was most excited about. I decided to spring for MORE SILLY SYMPHONIES, and I'm glad I did.

I usually can't watch more than 45 minutes of cartoons at a time, but I found the shorts and commentaries in this second SILLY SYMPHONIES collection so absorbing, I was already 90 minutes into it before I looked at a clock. A big selling point for this set is that it includes the 1939 Technicolor cartoon "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood" -- which, like quite a few titles here, is uncut for the first time in many years. The controversial (ie. "politically incorrect") cartoons are separated from the main program and placed in a special area called "From The Vault," where they are preceded by an introduction by Leonard Maltin, who ably defuses them for the general viewing public... but it bothers me when I see brilliant caricatures, like the one of Fats Waller in "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood," included in a discussion of what's "wrong then and wrong now." I felt even more strongly about this when I saw Whoopi Goldberg give a similar "we're so much wiser now" spiel in THE LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION VOLUME 4. I think it's fine to precede these cartoons with historical background, but the tenor and length of the apologies we've been getting incriminates them a bit too much for my taste.

I spent this entire day cataloguing discs and listening to music. Having wrapped that up, I felt the need to write something here; after all, I encouraged you the other day to check back, and after a day like today, blogging helps me to feel less like a combination clerk and moving man. But now it's high time I pushed myself away from this computer, poured myself a favorite beverage, and spent some time in front of the other glowing screen downstairs.

Brothers and sisters of the cathode ray, children of light, who among you will return to this blog on December 22? Now night arrives with her digital remasters, so retire to your parlors and your rec rooms. Tomorrow I start assembling the VW Kennel's lists of our Favorite DVDs of 2006. I want to be ready.

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