Thursday, December 28, 2006

To the Devil a DVD

With some fanfare, the entertainment industry announced 'the death of the DVD' this year- a big surprise for those of us who didn't even know that the DVD was sick. Happily, reports of the DVD's death have been greatly exaggerated, with millions of people still buying them, instead of Blu- Ray DVDs or High Definition DVDs or whatever crap the industry is currently trying to shove down the throats of consumers through the usual planned obsolescence.

Ideally, the way the market works is that it's driven and responsive to the demands of consumers. So, if a great majority of us want DVDs, they manufacture DVDs. Unfortunately, they figured out some years back that they could make more money by telling us what it is that we want- manufacturing our desires- and giving us no choice in the matter. So, if ten percent of us are the sort of schmucks who are buying higher priced Blu-Ray DVDs, they announce with great fanfare that DVDs are dead and the rest of us had better get with the times. They do this all of the time.

Take albums for example. When the industry brought out CDs, they announced that the LP was dead, long before the damand for albums had actually dried up. Then they gave those of us who still bought LPs a guilt trip for being Luddites. "Come on! This is the twentieth century! Throw out that crappy record player and buy CDs! Listen to the incredible clarity of CDs! They're so much better than your stupid LPs!" Then to give the schmucks the impression that demand for LPs really had dried up, they just stopped manufacturing them, and kept the 'clarity' hyperbole coming.

The buzzword is always 'clarity'. You're supposed to feel deficient if you can't actually hear or see this clarity. The difference between VHS and DVD was supposedly in the incredible 'clarity' of DVDs. As a test, I recently rented a film on DVD that I own on video and played them back to back. Want to guess what happened? They both looked exactly as sharp and clear as each other. I suppose that video tape gets old and rots eventually and DVDs don't. So, there is that. I mean, I would hate to think that all of those people who threw out their videos for DVDs were just a bunch of tools.

And actually the LPs I own sound better than the CD versions; they sound warmer and fuller because they play an analog wave. The digital wave of CDs, which supposedly replicates the analog wave, actually leaves out certain sounds, and has holes where the computer cannot quite replicate the analog wave. Record collectors go on about this all the time, but it's true. Listen to The Cramps' "Songs the Lord Taught Us" on the original LP and then on the CD and see which one sounds more like you're listening to a rock band.

I don't think most shoppers really care one way or the other about such things. They just want to buy things. I have this horrible suspicion that there are people my age who spend most of their free time buying shit. They don't have much to say, aside from telling you what shit they've bought, and they're painfully boring otherwise. They seem to go out buying shit three or four times a week, and for no real purpose. I think it's good for them to feel like they're keeping up with the times and getting better quality each time, but they're really just maxing out their credit cards to keep buying shit. Those are the sorts of putzes who need Blu-Ray DVDs or Blackberries, or whatever other stupid bauble is for sale this week.

And the industry feeds them overhyped rehashes of the same old shit in a constant spiral of meaninglessness. There is a more than obvious similarity here with academic programs that ride the latest wave of intellectual hyperbole (politcal uses of space, discourses of gender, Atlantic studies) to sell products that even they don't have any idea what they do anymore. Let the buyer beware.

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