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Tale of the Tape: Going Back to Physical Media

Ah, the great indoors; isn’t it just lovely in here? Similar to a sprawling park or giant city, it seems like I discover something new about my house every day. For example, when I moved my couch to pick up a popcorn kernel that fell under, I was surprised to find a slew of dust bunnies, pretzels, and pennies: a treasure trove for my dust buster. Wow, there’s just so much to discover!

But beyond what lies beneath the dark shadows under my couch, I’ve realized how much physical media I have lying around the house. In recent years, I’ve been so used to streaming practically any movie I want at the highest quality at my fingertips, yet it turns out I have a vast library sitting on my shelves that isn’t too far either.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve found myself going less on Hulu and more on my DVD, VHS, and even LaserDisc players. Granted, I’ve still been sinking my teeth into Angel through streaming, but for the most part I’ve been playing catch-up on movies I meant to watch years ago.

For instance, I’ve been building up a LaserDisc film library for quite some time, but I’ve never actually watched about a third of the films on my shelf. For those of you who don’t know, LaserDiscs were made before the DVD and were a competitor to the VHS. They are 12-inch-long discs that have two sides, similar to a record. So after 45 minutes or so, you have to get up and flip the disc. Sometimes if the film is long, there are two discs.

The other day, you could say I got up quite a lot during The Godfather Part II, which is three-and-a-half hours. I saw it years ago, but with all this time on my hands, I finally got to refresh my mind on how much of a rat Fredo was. Additionally, I got to see the other classics in my LaserDisc collection like Nobody’s Fool, The Third Man, and My Fair Lady.

While I have a lot of LaserDiscs, I realized I have plenty of DVDs too. A few days ago I at last broke the seal on a new copy I bought five years ago of the classic western El Dorado, starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. The quality was just as good as streaming, so I’ve been sifting through that library to find other candidates for the next movie night.

Even the VHS is resurging in my home (which no one has said in 20 years). I found a three-tape set of six Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes chronicling the juiciest episodes between Buffy and her love interest Angel. It was great to rewatch Buffy and her gang dust vamps in that glorious, fuzzy picture quality. Moreover, it made me feel like I was an angsty 90’s tween who just came home from school flicking on the VCR sitting on the couch with a bowl of Lucky Charms.

The same feeling goes for many of my friends. We’ve been so used to the luxuries of streaming, but over the course of quarantine we seem to be reverting to our old middle or high school ways. For example, one of my friend’s dusted off his old Guitar Hero guitar and has since been

strumming his way through the long nights (but he still can’t get ‘Through the Fire and Flames,’ that’s just impossible). Another friend has fallen back in love with Pokemon and is kicking butt in Fire Red for Gameboy Advance. And then of course, there are the Facebook moms who are sharing some old photos and videos of their kids pulling each others’ hair out (and they’re still seeing those parallels today).

Some may think I’m crazy for falling back on my old ways, yet I think it’s crazy that we’ve left some of this physical media behind to rot away. I’ve had these discs and tapes sitting on my shelves for years waiting to be popped in and enjoyed, but the internet has played the part of the favorite older sibling recently.

In these dark times, while we’re showing our love to our families and friends, we should also be spreading the sugar to our old dusty physical media. At one point in time, they were all we had. There wasn’t Hulu or YouTube, yet those times seem eons away. Maybe there’s the tape of an old movie sitting around that you used to play all the time or something you bought years ago and never got around to watching. Instead of clicking a button for a mediocre flick, try sifting through some titles you’ve meant to catch in your house already. Frankly, things are so boring today that even exploring your ancient tape collection would be considered a thrill.

So throughout these quarantine days, I will play my discs ‘til they skip or tapes ‘til they burn out. And by the time we get out of here, I might gain early acceptance into AARP (if I haven’t already).