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Reverend Father Antonio Hernández, O.M.D., A.B.F.,
Founder of the Independent Order of American Buddhist Fathers

DVD, The Curse of the 21st Century

I recall a new gadget from the mid-1970s. It had all the geeks and calculus-heads buzzing: it was called a "video recorder", later to be dubbed "VHS" ("video home system", which required a "VCR", "video cassette recorder"). This machine, the VCR, a simple cassette player/recorder like the small ones for music, was excitingly promising. We were still using gigantic record discs with movies on them; the technology was so 'dinosaur' that some movies required two discs. The disc-case had to be shoved into the player so the disc could be deposited, and the empty case yanked out again. After the movie was over, the case had to be re-jammed into the player to suck the disc back inside. It took several seconds of waiting. But to be able to watch movies on a CASETTE TAPE! It was like witnessing the invention of sliced bread.

In 1997, something ominous occurred. A new contraption called a "DVD" surged onto the stage. This ridiculous machine, which plays movies on what we recognize as "CD-Rom" disks, boasted far better sound, picture and resolution than any VCR. Everyone in love with CD-Rom disks had finally seen their dream come true- and it was SO MUCH BETTER than cruddy videocassettes!

I was one of the first people to watch a DVD in action, in 1996. The last time I watched a movie on DVD was a year ago. DVD showed no improvement over a VCR. What I did see was a draconian drop in videocassette quality, along with the fascistic promotion of the highly expensive DVDs and DVD-players. Suddenly a videocassette, which we always called "video", was virtually worthless. The DVD had all sorts of perks that the consumer could not afford to miss. Studios began deliberately filming unnecessary crap, just to be able to include it on the inevitable "special edition" DVD.

The poor cousin, the humble video, has no such extras. We are lucky if it has the proper quality and a nice box- assuming the film you want is still available on VHS. Early this year I almost succumbed to the dire (and, I might add, dutifully ENFORCED) wish to own a DVD player. Out I went, found a very good deal, bought it, and then the Box of Pandora opened: I would have to buy some kind of monstrous box and 18,000 cables. THEN HOPE I could attach it all to my television set-up and make it work. The equipment looked like space-shuttle spare parts, and would have required an engineer to rig.
I returned everything within 2 days.

There was the day, which I recall easily, when the Betamax video cassette system vanished overnight. And I mean overnight- because the "VHS" system really was better. Not that there was video quality superiority- just that the VCR was simpler (setting the clock is not as hard as everyone thinks- that's the DVD propaganda again. Try setting the "clock" on an old Betamax player!).

So why the deluge of propagandist lies, the trashing of cassettes, the crappy technology that has actually been around since the mid-1980s? Simple: TEENS. The kids these days are raised on computers, computer disks, internet videos and cartoons, music "videos" (ironic now, isn't it? Why not "music DVDs"?). These kids MUST have the latest toy, and apparently so must everyone else. Isn't it cool to give the proverbial raspberry to the poor masses, who are still stuck with pitiful VCR technology? Isn't it terrific to have your entertainment center wired like Houston Mission Control? Isn't it terrific to pay for an extra hour of garbage that completely ruins the effect a good film ought to have?

Well, to these nifty questions I scream a resounding "NO!". As I stated before, I see no improvement in DVD technology over VCR. There's no better resolution, no better sound, no better color or depth effects. There's nothing but heavy-handed propaganda and Mussolini-marketing tactics. The 21st century will become known as the "DVD Age". In my opinion it will be synonymous with "The Stupid Age".
My father has one of the original commercially available Sony VCRs, fully functional, and it's the best damned contraption I've ever watched a movie on. It's better than mine. I still own my original videocassette collection; they are all still clear and I think better than any DVD I've watched. Now, when I think about the DVD player I had in my house for less than 2 days, what a contrast…
…I looked at the damned thing in disbelief for an entire hour. Then it took me several more hours to understand that I still had to spend another $50.00 on the cables and master control box. So I had to hunt for those things. When I got back home the following day, I felt like the idiot who had been sent to look at his new "piece of real estate". It was a matter of a few hours to take everything back and get my money refunded. I used the money to buy several videocassettes I had been wanting.

In this society we are free to make our own choices- perhaps too free. This freedom dropped a little when the DVD companies saw dollar signs as superior to films, fans and even Hollywood. Hollywood had its arm twisted by this DVD craze until they began to like it. And down the toilet went the future of VHS. A few months ago I asked innocently if I could order a particular movie on VHS. They told me the tape cost $150.00. On the internet I saw that it was the same price everywhere. All I could say, over and over, was "Damn that DVD shit!" The same movie is as common as cow pats on DVD, for $30.00.

There has been talk- I listen to such talk because it's important- the talk says that the DVD will fall by the wayside when MICROVIDEOCASSETTES make their debut. Just like that year when people were screaming bloody murder about CDs, and the following year the companies panicked, announcing micro music cassettes. The cassettes never materialized, because people began to really like CDs. I like them too. But microvideocassette technology is too good to pass. Just wait for the DVD sales to drop a hair… then spring it on the public.

Well, I've admitted that I like CDs over cassettes- not for quality but convenience. I liked cassettes over 8-track, too, again because of convenience. Not because the newer thing sounded better than the older thing. I'm not proud of it, but I've admitted that I actually bought a DVD and considered hooking it up, before realizing I'd been royally had. Now I feel that if I ever even see a DVD player again, I'll shoot it on sight. I can hardly wait to see "True Grit" come out on MVC (microvideocassette).
© Reverend Antonio Hernández, O.M.D., A.B.F. December 2003

Editor's note: Beware of the con game played by the Movie companies. Are you territory One, or Two or Three or even 4A? When buying cheap DVDs in HK or elsewhere, make sure they belong to the region your computer is set to. Or then you will have to buy a DVD that plays all regions - until they encrypt the DVDs to prevent that. Otherwise I agree there's a lot of dross on the DVDs in the form of extras. Still trivia is the name of our contemporary society -is it not?

****Buy Rev Hernandez's new book here Tourettes


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