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Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Video Home System

I am sitting upright in a strange bed in London. Staying in strange beds has been the norm this past month and a half. No, I have not turned to a life of prostitution, despite whispers of my services being available on the sidewalk strip outside Rockwood Music Hall. May this blog put an end to the vicious rumor. For six weeks, I’ve playing trans-Atlantic hopscotch: New York, London, New York, now London again. While in New York I was sleeping in my sister’s bed, see youtube for proof. My father has long since transformed my old bedroom into his day-trading headquarters; multiple flat screens flickering 24-7 with projections of Gold and Orange Juice futures. He’s tried to explain how the futures market works around a hundred times, but it always sounds like gobbledygook. All I know is that it’s risky business. Maybe that’s why my Pop’s lair resembles an air-traffic control tower. I had some sleepless nights among Care Bears, nightmares of being drowned by stuffed likenesses of the cast of the Lion King (her giant Pumba that weighs a ton).

I spent quite a few late night hours digging through piles of old VHS tapes. Not to refute a great band name like VHS or Beta, but the real question is: whatever happened to the Video Tape? Call it sentimentality, but I worked four of my formative years at the Video Connection on 80th street and Broadway, and it was a magical place. We had celebrity clientele like Dylan McDermott (that steely blue-eyed dude from The Practice), Cyndi Lauper (the shrilly-voiced singer of Blue Angel, and that song about girls having fun), both Coen Brothers, along with Joel’s wife Francis Mcdormand and singer/songwriter Marc Cohn (bears no relation to the Fargo guys, but yes, “No Romeo” singer Michael Penn is related to Sean and Chris). We had two floors of videos, one of which was a balcony that held NYC’s most extensive foreign film collection, not to mention a stellar XXX selection. Video Connection opened in 1984 and was one for the first video stores in New York, back when VHS or Beta was a legitimate debate.

Most audiophiles will tell you that digital has nothing on analogue. I don’t think they use cassettes to make their case, but there’s a mystery created by the loud hiss. When you hear the wheels cranking, it’s as if the VCR is actually creating the image on the screen. Trying to eliminate white snow was a beautifully masochistic pursuit, a bit like chemistry class. You had to apply ‘special cleaning fluid’ to a ‘head cleaner.’ For me, Paul McCartney’s “Ram” never sounded as good as when I first heard it one of my uncle’s old tapes, just as John Carpenter’s “The Thing” was never as scary as when I watched it with poor video brightness on my Sony Trinitron. What exactly does that shape shifting creature look like? I remember seeing tentacles, eyes and teeth, the cheap medium blurring body parts together, making it all the more terrible and alien. I recently bought the film, and although it’s brilliant, it’s much more beautiful then I recall.

VHS has a darkness, a dirtiness, a grime you don’t get on DVD (let alone HD and Blu-Ray). Sometimes it makes things all the more real. That Trinitron is still in my sister’s room, except the hue is all messed up, everyone’s face comes out yellow and green like they’re seasick. Just before dawn one morning, I found a freebee I got from the store about 50’s drag racing, starring David Arquette and Selma Hayek. Apparently I taped over it with a terrible porno called “Catalina 69.” You don’t see me taping over my DVD copy Titanic. You could fit both Pee-Wee movies on there.

1 comment:

subtitulo said...

Long live VHS!!

I wonder if you still can buy a VHS player.........

The same thing is happening with the CD! Or Vinyl for that matter. Computer, MP3, iPod whatever downloading technology is taking over the world! And who can stop it =(