(Use of CAPS in this post courtesy of Dan Krokos).
Back home after some holiday family-visitin’. For some reason when I am travelling I don’t update my blog or twitter feed or anything very much. Part of this is sheer laziness. Part of it is the immense amount of whiskey my relatives pour into me. Part of it is the recovery time I require after flying everywhere and having TSA employees ask me, in perfect seriousness, if I have anything lodged within me that could explode under any conceivable circumstances. What, they don’t ask you those kinds of questions? Must be the protective body armor I wear whenever I fly. But I digress.
I’m an old cranky man (did I SAY I wanted my whiskey on the rocks?!?! I’LL KILL YOU!), so I accept that my childhood was vastly different from what kids today (or just in the “recent past”) experience. I remember when you had to rush out to see movies before they faded from the theaters, never to be seen again (unless you were lucky and they were run, edited and split by commercials, on TV) and had to make plans to be home at the right time in order to catch shows and specials on TV. That’s right: I remember life before VCRs, DVRs, Pay-Per-View, even the humble video rental. OH MY GOD I REMEMBER 1979. Hold me.
Anyway, I was thinking about this recently because someone asked me if I was going to see Avatar, and my answer was: Maybe, I have to think about it. And it struck me that there was a time when I wouldn’t have had the luxury. I can wait, now, and if I miss the movie in theaters I will have approximately one million more chances to watch it before I die. It’ll be on pay-per-view, or on HBO, to which I subscribe. It’ll show up on DVD. It’ll be shown on airplanes, eventually on network TV or basic cable, and I will likely shuffle from this mortal coil having seen the fucking thing 13 times whether I want to or not.
This revelation removes the sense of urgency. I can literally take all the time I want to decide if watching Avatar is something I want to do. For an old bastard like me who remembers the first time my father brought home a movie on VHS – well, it’s kind of cool. I can remember a sense of desperation when a movie was fading from the theaters and my chances of ever seeing it were slimming down towards none, and I had to make plans to hitch a ride across three states in order to attend the last showing. Nowadays I can just add it to my NetFlix queue, or buy it on 23rd street for $5. Actually, it was available on 23rd street back in November, somehow. HOT DAMN THEY HAVE INVENTED TIME TRAVEL! What a time to be alive, as Frostillicus would say.
The same is happening in slower motion with books, natch. Books have always had a greater sense of permanency than other media, seeing as they don’t require any special technology to view (or at least, they didn’t used to – DAMN YOU EBOOKS!) but they did in fact fade from the market after a while. Sure, some classics are always in the book stores, but the kind of books I read voluntarily as a kid, staying up until 4AM with a flashlight, were not always on the shelves – you had to pounce. There were libraries, of course, but libraries have budgets and have to make their best choices, and even if they do purchase a book they had to clear the shelves now and then for new stock (of course now they can has eBooks and keep every book they purchase forevers and evers – BLESS YOU EBOOKS!). So it was a similar process, just slower.
But now, even that limitation is lifting, because of the aforementioned eBooks and the fact that used books can now be tracked down on the Internet like fugitives and mailed to your house. So I don’t have to read books within the first year before they disappear – I can wait decades! This is good stuff.
Of course, life is transient and this new attitude might mean I’ll be lying in my death bed a hundred years from now (my robot body badly rusted from misuse) and I’ll suddenly realize there are 255 movies on my To-See list. So maybe I should get up and see Avatar. Well, maybe after a sandwich.