Sunday, March 30, 2008

lamenting the passing of the blockbuster era

i think there comes a point in everyone's life where you stop acknowledging the arrival of new technology. you refuse to become part of this new technology community and simultaneously become ultra-nostalgic for bygone or moribund technologies. i think this usually happens when you're an "adult" which i guess is anywhere between the age of 18 to 45 (so, unspecific.) i guess it's different for everyone. also, it's not necessarily universal at first; you may balk at certain advancements and embrace others.

for example, my mom has no idea how to use a computer. she knows the internet exists and sees how it could benefit her life, but only at the hands of others. last week i mentioned that i wanted "all the pretty horses" on DVD, and she said she had looked for it but didn't see it at the store. she said "well i could go to barnes and noble and have them order it." then i suggested i could have deliver it to her house, then she could mail it to me (since, even though it's 2008*, does not deliver worldwide.) she reacted as though this made sense but was not an option she would consider. "i'll just see if i can find it."

also, last christmas i bought her an ipod shuffle. i loaded a bunch of her CDs on her computer then filled up the shuffle with songs she wanted. she began using it at work and said she really loved it; so much that for her birthday, dale (her boyfriend) bought her another one because she wanted to have two song-set options. so, she's embracing technology, but not fully enough to realize that she could drag and drop new songs and in about three minutes have a new playlist on her original ipod. although try explaining that to someone who doesn't know the meaning of the words "drag" "drop" or "playlist."

ANYWAY, i like to consider myself "young" and "hip" and "up with the technology of the time," but i realized recently that i am already falling victim to "technology freeze." i am 23 years old and already becoming stodgy. in fact it started 5 years ago when i worked at blockbuster.

blockbuster first opened in 1985 (nerd alert. but we had to learn all of this stuff during orientation). i began working there in late summer 2001; i'd say at that point blockbuster had just hit or was just coming down from it's heyday. to give you a benchmark, this was just about the last time you could rent a movie in your choice of DVD or VHS. (by the way, who the hell else misses VHS tapes? i see no advantage to DVDs. all my DVDs are scratched. VHS tapes were indestructible. and you could always find the exact place in the movie you left off.) now, blockbuster is all but dead. 9 or 10 blockbuster stores closed in pittsburgh about two years ago; the blockbuster i used to work at in hempfield plaza is now a mattress store.

blockbuster is all but dead, and why? netflix. and ondemand. and itunes. no one wants to leave their house to go rent a movie that, for the same price, can be delivered to their living room with the press of a button.

i suppose this is logical; however, i find it depressing. i think there's something lost when you're deprived of "a trip to blockbuster." this used to be a favorite past time of my father, brother and i; almost every weekend we'd get in the car, drive to the same blockbuster where i'd later work, rent two or three of the latest releases on VHS - sometimes he'd even spring for the over-priced, tooth-rotting snacks lining the check-out.

and what's more fun than going with a significant other and spending the better part of an hour arguing about the movie that you'll end up making out through the last half of anyway? this is an especially fun experience on a first date. suddenly a simple consumer transaction can have make-or-break status on the relationship. your cinematic tastes are on display; you're under intense pressure to make an impressive decision. frankly, it renders me helpless. i play the "non-decision maker," which can be equally as damaging. no one wants to date a waffler.

but who wants this situation?

"okay, let's watch a movie. what do you want to watch?"
"well, i just got braveheart in the mail today. and charlie and the chocolate factory has been sitting on top of the tv for three weeks now. so, you pick..."

the point is, going to rent a movie is as much of the experience as actually watching it. and yeah, right now i suppose you still have a choice; if you enjoy that, you can still go down to blockbuster instead of using netflix. but it won't be that way for long. netflix is running blockbuster into the ground. one day you won't have this choice anymore, and that day will be sad.

maybe the people it affects most won't notice; i suppose that i'm not exactly feeling bereaved over the loss of the drive-in movie the way that generations before me are. so maybe my children will not even notice. they won't even ask me if they can rent movies anymore; we'll probably have a robot like in "bicentennial man" that handles all of those kind of problems while i am busy taking a nap. but maybe, when they hit their mid-twenties, movies will be sent via telepathy directly to your brain, and they will wax nostalgic about the days when you had to sit down and actually press buttons on a remote control to watch a movie.

*i like to use the phrase, "come on, it is 200_ (insert current year)" to express my dismay that certain inconveniences still occur, like the inability to have things from american websites delivered to europe without paying exorbitant postage. also, i feel it is far enough in the future that i shouldn't have to:

-wait 3 minutes for a page on internet to load, ever, no matter what kind of internet connection i'm using.
-wrestle with my ipod earphones EVERY TIME i take it out of my purse to use it.
-take the lid off and stick my hand in the back of a toilet to flush it.

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