There it is, sitting there like a visible conscience. It’s a box. It contains a lot of packing and another box. It’s all on the nice armchair that only gets used by cats—who, I might add, are not pleased with its presence—and the occasional intrepid visitor who doesn’t mind getting up covered in cat hair. Inside the innermost box lies—or so I am told—a 100 percent region-free Blu-ray player. I’m assured it will play any region DVD and any letter code Blu-ray disc. State of the art technology at my fingertips and all that. It’s of the “so simple it operates itself” variety—no tricky settings, just pop those babies in and go. What it is not, however, is “so simple it sets itself up.” Therein lies the reason it’s resting on the chair.
Now, I’m not a complete technology neanderthal. Justin Souther can attest to the fact that I was able to explain just exactly what he needed when someone gave him a turntable and he wanted to experience vinyl for himself. That, however, is part of the problem—my basic technology knowledge was learned somewhere around 1968. In a lot of ways the underlying concepts are the same, but now I have to contend with things called fiber-optic cables and six speakers where two used to be just dinky-doo.
All this is more or less already in place—overlooking for the moment that one of the rear speakers has a break somewhere in the wire that I’ve been meaning to get around to finding for five or maybe six years. The problem I’m facing is that all this stuff that’s in place is in place for existing equipment. While this equipment is rendered sort of obsolete with this latest toy, it encompasses my Direct TV hook-up and a two machine set-up of DVD player and DVD recorder—none of which is replaced by the new machine, since it does not record. On the one hand, this isn’t a huge deal, since the new machine hooks into the TV monitor with a different cable, allowing me to leave that part alone—just changing the TV’s input setting to play things from the new player.
The problem arises from the apparent existence of only one fiber-optic input on the receiver, and I haven’t the least intention of changing cables back and forth everytime I go from one to the other. My plan then is to use the fiber optic cable on the Blu-ray player and relegate the rest of things to plain old stereo through RCA phono cables. In light of the fact that the only thing I watch on TV comes from Turner Classic Movies, even stereo is guilding the lily in at least 80 percent of the cases. At least that’s how all this plays out in theory. In short, there’s no reason I can see why this shouldn’t work. That, of course, is not necessarily interchangeable with impure practice.
But if I’m honest with myself, the real sticking point is getting involved in shifting all this junk around and wading into those masses of confused and confusing wires kept just of out view by the junk itself—not to mention my unconfirmed suspicion that some kind of hole for at least one cable is going to have be bored before this is over. And then there’s speaker wire that needs attending to. Just thinking about this prospect makes me feel the need of a nap. What I’m really hoping, of course, is that some poor sucker…I mean some kind friend of mine will volunteer to do this for me.
And once it’s done and actually working, I have to face the fact that I have a grand total of two Blu-ray discs at my disposal—King Kong (1933) and Tommy (1975). Now, I can think of much less pleasant titles to have on hand. In fact, I’ve been going through Tommy withdrawl, since I haven’t seen it since we ran it theatrically—a year ago. I bought the Blu-ray soon after that and it’s been sitting here—still wrapped—ever since. So I imagine I can get the good out of it with no trouble. Actually, the only reason I have King Kong is because it’s left over from the AFS screening in July. I really don’t expect it to be that much better than the plain DVD—there are limitations to the source material.
Of course, this will be followed by the temptation to start re-buying all sorts of things in Blu-ray—something I intend to keep in check. I expect to switch over to Blu-ray on new acquisitions, sure, but I hope to keep some perspective on this. Yeah, I figure I’ll replace certain titles. A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980), Moulin Rouge! (2001), and Across the Universe (2007) come immediately to mind. And I know how terrific the Blu-ray of Night of the Hunter (1955) looks. Plus, in the case of things like Modern Times (1936) where I’ve never had a commercial copy, I’d go for the Blu-ray. But someone’s going to have to do a good job of selling me on the necessity—or even point—of buying most 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s and, in many cases, 60s titles all over again. If anyone has a case to make to the contrary, I’m willing to listen.