Your Viewing Pleasure

I watch a lot of movies.  Well, I used to before the pandemic stole much of my free time.  We have a closet full of DVDs.  At least they’re not VHS tapes.  The problem with VHS tapes was that they wore out with continued playing.  I’ve read that magnetic tape is still the most stable storage medium, but the DVD, with no moving parts, seemed like an improvement.  Lately we’ve had several DVDs go bad.  I’m not sure that I wanted to know there were such things as disc rot and laser rot, but there are.  And some of these were discs that weren’t cheap.  The alternative these days is streaming.  The problem is streaming services go out of business and you’re left without money and without the movie.  There’s a reason vinyl’s coming back, I guess.

Remember when you had to wait to see a movie?  When you had to either see it in a theater or wait years until it was broadcast on television on a certain channel at a specific time?  You lived your life normally, and the movie was a rare treat for those who had specific fare in mind.  Now we get movies “on demand.”  It’s death by a thousand cuts, though, since if you’re really in the mood for a film that’s not on Netflix you’ll pay to see it on Amazon Prime.  Used to be you can buy a disc—a one time expense—or was it?  Chances are in the early days you were replacing a VHS tape you’d already bought.  You may’ve sighed in relief when UltraViolet came along.  But you’d have sighed too soon.

These things bring eastern and southern Asian religions to mind.  (Consider the source.)  While I’m not an expert on the religions of east and south Asia, I’m familiar enough to know that their basic concept is that the only thing permanent is change.  Western societies are built on the demonstrably false concept that a steady state is permanent and that change comes once in a while.  In fact, our entire worldview is based on things remaining the same.  Perhaps that’s why conservatism is such a strong force in western thinking.  It is, however, an illusion.  The pandemic has given the lie to our steady-state thinking.  And if you cope, as many do, by watching movies you’ve probably signed up for a subscription service or two.  It will serve you well, for the moment.  You certainly can’t run to Blockbuster to pick up your favorite flick any more.  If only I had more time, a movie might have the answer.

Digital First

Publishers these days are all yammering about being “digital first.”  Now, I use technology when I write these days, despite the fact that I am coerced to shut down programs at 3:30 a.m., my writing time, because tech companies assume people are asleep then and that’s when upgrades happen.  Still, even as an author of the modest academic sort I know the unequalled thrill of seeing that first printed copy of my book.  Authors live for that moment.  It’s our opiate.  Publishers don’t understand that.  Five years back or so I had a novel accepted for publication.  (It never happened, but that’s a long story.)  At one point the publisher changed its mind—post-contract!—and decided that my story would be only an ebook.  They tried to make me feel better by saying they thought it would do well in that format.

Who wants to hold up a plastic device and say “Look what I wrote!”?  It makes about as much sense as smoking a plastic device.  No, writing is intended to lead to physical results.  Even those of us who blog secretly hope that someday someone will say, “Hey, I want to publish your random thoughts as a book.”  As long as it’ll be print, where do I sign?  In some fields of human endeavor there are no physical signs that a difference has been made.  Is it mere coincidence that those who work in such fields also often write books?  I suspect not.  Writing is a form of self-expression and when it’s done you want to have something to show for it.  All of that work actually led to something!

Since I work in publishing I realize that it’s a business.  And I understand that businesses exist to be profitable.  I also know that technology sits in the driver’s seat.  Decisions about the shape of the future are made by those who hold devices in higher regard than many of us do.  I’m just as glad as most for the convenience of getting necessary stuff done online.  What I wonder is why it has to be only online.  The other day I went looking for a CD—it’s been years since I bought one.  At Barnes and Noble about all they had was vinyl.  I’m cool with records, but my player died eons ago.  I had to locate a store still dedicated to selling music that wasn’t just streamed or LP.  That gooey soft spot in the middle between precomputer and 0s and 1s raining from the invisible cloud.  I went home and picked up a book.  Life, for a moment, felt more real.