Caffeinated Clint – 7/10/08

Happy October Rockers.

Two months left in the year. The Christmas trees are already in the department stores. The Oscar-wannabe’s are previewing. Nicole and Tom are trying to sort out a half-way mark to meet on Xmas day to exchange kids (Angelina Jolie’s doing the same – but only because one of her recent purchases isn’t working as well as she thought it would. Lucky she kept the receipt!). The flowers are starting to blossom. The barbecue invites are coming thick-and-fast. The bottle shops are selling out of coldies. The bikini prices have gone up. And everyone’s starting to think about how they want to end this fuckin’ stressful year!

But it’s not over. And we really should start off by having a good ol’ bitch.

Does it annoy anyone else when someone just can’t bebothered replying to your emails – even though they expect an immediate reply when they shoot you off one?

Me too (and you can count on the same treatment back from here on out).

Does it annoy anyone else that some fuckwits don’t consider animals worthwhile… let alone a member of a family?

Me too (I informed the driver that hit my beloved Louis that he’d died. His response? “Oh, they don’t usually die”. Karma mother-fucker – - here it comes!)

Does it anyone any of my fellow entertainment journalists (fuck, that’s a wanky word) when talent proceed to take a phone call half-way through your interview and continue to talk for a good five minutes?

Me too (But thanks for making the interview an easier transcribe than usual. And how much for some snow, joe?)

Does it annoy anyone else that the film industry is made up, for the most part, of bullshitters who’ll use you quicker than a $5 Korean hooker if you let them?

Me too (you have to play the game. I’ve learnt to. Drop me a line for tips. Will lend you the self-help CD “Tell ‘em to get fucked” by Colin Farrell).

Does it annoy anyone else that they didn’t get a better, more established, villain to replace Lex Luthor on “Smallville”?

Me too (Who is this Tess bitch, and what do we care if she discovers Clark’s secret!? How about giving Brainiac the Luthor mansion for a season?)

Does it annoy anyone else that Channel TEN in Australia have dumped “90210″?

Nah, me either. (It sucked worse than my first date).

OK, good thing I’ve got all that off-my-chest… would hate for this latest column to be anger-fuelled and littered with naughty words. Eh, Fuck It. You know it will be anyway. That’s what the Caffeinated Clint column is all about – and rim job, yes you, the guy that asked if we can spare our opinions from here on out and just report the news as boringly as possible, here’s that link for you. Email me for that other link you’re beseeching – the hairy Russian bitches with strap-on’s, one. And good luck with the warts. Must be aggravating to get them there.

You know what I was thinking about last night? (Besides hitting a courier driver over the head with a dirty shovel). Technology. And how I’ve lived through a shitload of it.

It wasn’t until I realized how many different incarnations of movie and music viewing technology I’ve been around for that I realised how old I am. I wasn’t around to see man walk on the moon, nor was I around to see Jimi Hendrix dirty on his guitar at Woodstock, but I was around for the LP…. And that was long enough ago. I’m now ‘Richard Gere – Pretty Woman’ as opposed to ‘Richard Gere – American Gigolo’. Aaargh.

The Record

I still remember my first record… or LP. It was Split Enz’s album. Remember ‘I got You?’ – I used to shake my tail to that thing, bumping the record, on a daily basis. I also remember going through my old man’s collection of LPS and twistin’ to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, an abundance of Billy Joel records, and even Bat Out of Hell (God, everyone had that album – - it must’ve been the ‘most given Xmas present of 1979′ or something). Granted, I was only about 6 or 7.

Some kids would spend their pocket money on candy or pinball machines – I would spend mine on records. I’d take my $20 down to my local record store and walk out with five or six 45s (for the uninitiated, they’re ‘singles’). And from Mondo Rock to Lionel Ritchie and A-Ha – I had ‘em all. I had to have them all. I became a collector of pop tunes. My wealthy uncle’s knew not to give me lollies or a mini snooker table.. they knew to give me music. I fondly remember getting the ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ album from one of them. What a day. I smiled more than Lindsay Lohan does after Samantha emerges from the sheets. (Though I will admit I spent a fair bit of pocket money on video-games too – I recall spending a boatload of cash on that “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” arcade game).

I still say records sound better than CDs. Many will disagree, but I think they sound crisp… just beautiful. CDs sound a little tinny… records come close to concert-good. The amount of times I played Eric Clapton’s “It’s in the way that you use it” or Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony” in the dark, and felt like I was at an underage concert sitting just below the stage…. Bedroom bliss sans Claudia Christian that was.

Yes, it was primitive technology – and you could easily fuck up your record by accidentally bumping the player – but I still think, sound-wise, it was a beautiful medium. I know many D.Js still attest to it – and many still use their records.

As many know, I started out in radio announcing. Even then, records were on the way out – but the station insisted on keeping the turntables in the on-air studios because some announcers still swore records sounded better than some of the CDs that came in. I know I’d play records constantly.

Being radio, you had to make sure that the records didn’t have any scratches, and were as clean as Michael Cera, and needless to say that ruled out a few classics (Samantha Fox’s “Touched Me” was a little tainted from memory), but by-and-large most were still able to be played. I wonder whether anyone could tell. We’d usually have a cart, or jingle, playing just before the song started – so you certainly wouldn’t have heard the needle touching down… that fine crackle before the song begins.

I was also a mobile D.J at the time – doing schools, and so on. I played records most of the time. Thing is, kids would go a bit crazy sometimes and records would jump like a cat near water…. So had to start incorporating more CDs into the mix. I tell ya though, Bizarre Love Triangle : the record sounds shit loads better than Bizarre Love Triangle : the CD. Not that the red-cordial induced kiddies much noticed.

It wasn’t until I got to FOX in the late 90s that records started to get phased out of radio stations. And I believe you’ll be hard pressed finding a turntable in a studio now. CDs are more durable, I suppose, and that’s probably part of the reason why they became the one and only carrier of tunes for air.

I miss records though. I miss rushing home and pumping Billy Joel’s ‘Matter of Trust’ up on the player. I miss carrying around a big box of grooves to the little girly’s place down the road. I miss cueing those babies up for radio play. I miss ‘scratching’ at the discos.

But alas, the record had to make way for…

TAPE

The Tape. We all thought it was the shit. It was just like a ‘Cart’ – those big, bulky bastards ma and pop used to play in their car – only smaller, and with more tracks on them. The great thing about them, as opposed to records, was that they were so compact you could shove half-a-dozen of them in your pockets. Also, you didn’t need to be as careful with them as you did records – unless you pulled the tape from the, er, tape, you weren’t going to fuck them up. They’d play fine (though I do remember having a few ‘chew’ from being left in the sun – but then that’s better than a record, which would melt like a wicked witch in the sun) and last for a good time.

I can’t remember what my first tape was – but I know “Footloose” was one of the first. I remember playing it on my ‘brand new’ tape-recorder. I also remember playing a handed-down ‘Metallica’ tape (for some reason, my grandmother had it. Don’t ask!). I also remember wanting to ‘borrow’ my friend’s Van Halen tape – indefinitely. Man that was a good album.

What was also nifty about tapes was that they sold ‘blank ones’ – thus you could not only make your own mix-tape (using your records, or via ‘high-speed dub’ from tape-to-tape) but you could record your own voice. Believe me, for that time, it was magic. Unless you owned a radio studio, you couldn’t do that before. This was a blast. You could record your own little radio shows… or simply read the football scores out on tape… or, heck, sing a song to a girly and give it to her (Never heard whether the chick liked my rendition of “Boom, Boom, Boom”). Everyone had a hard-on for tapes in the mid 80s.

And how cool were ‘cassingles’? Pretty self-explanatory, they were essentially the tape equivalent of the 45. One hit song – plus a B-Track. I believe they came about in the late 80s. I had a shit-load of them.

The one thing I didn’t like about tapes though was how they’d get stuck in the car tape player. Once they were in, they were friggin difficult to get out. Once the tape/film would start to chew, and hooked itself up to the player’s bits, you’d need a strong instrument to ply it out.

I remember – funny story – playing a ‘Wiggles’ tape in my car when I first moved to Melbourne. I was probably high or something. Few guys having a silly time.

Anyway, the tape got stuck- very stuck. It would NOT come out. I had to just leave it there.

Unfortunately, I was dating at the time – and each girl I’d take out would be forced to listen to “Mashed Potato, Mashed Potato, Cold Spaghetti, Cold Spaghetti’ as soon as they hoped in the car. Don’t even ask for the saucy details of each evening. There aren’t any.

BETA

Someone asked me the other day what my first video recorder was (speaking of how much technology deceases over time).

“Beta”, I said.

“A what-a?” she asked back.

And it’s then that I realized that this 21-year-old would never have heard of BETA, let alone seen one.

BETA was primitive video. VHS came before it – if only just – but BETA was the carrier that was planed to supersede it. It offered a slightly higher horizontal resolution (250 lines vs. 240 lines horizontal NTSC), lower video noise, and less luma/chroma crosstalk than VHS.

BETA came and went so quickly that most people only vaguely remember it.

And if they had a BETA machine, chances are they still do – you couldn’t sell those players. They were poison.

Though my father had a VHS player (first video he brought home? “Swiss Family Robinson”, followed shortly after by “The Apple Dumpling Gang”), us kids had a BETA machine to play with.

It was huge. Bigger than Dom DeLuise. And as heavy as the lyrics in a Doors song. It was an ugly monstrosity.

The tapes though were small – smaller than VHS – and for what it’s worth, a little cooler looking than VHS (reminiscent of a DVD to a Video).

We had a lot of BETA tapes – “Police Academy 2 : Their First Assignment” used to be play a hell of a lot, “Footloose” got a belting, and even a copy of “Teen Wolf” got a little shop-soiled – which, at the end of the day, were as hard to get rid off as the player itself.

BETA lost the video-format war before it even picked a weapon – and suddenly, you couldn’t find any BETA releases in your local video library at all. I remember my grandmother bringing a bunch of movies over for us to watch – one being the 80s classic “Electric Dreams”, another being “Bad Boys” with Sean Penn – and the sadness we felt as we tried to crunch the oversized VHS’s into our BETA machine.

What went wrong? Sony believed that having better quality recordings was the key to success, whereas it soon became clear that consumer desire was focused more intently on recording time and compatibility for easy transfer of information.

By 1980, VHS controlled 70% of the North American market. The large economy of scale allowed VHS units to be introduced to the European market at a far lower cost than the rarer Betamax units. In the UK, Betamax held a 25% market share in 1981, but by 1986 it was down to 7.5% and continued to decline further. By 1984, forty companies utilized the VHS format in comparison with Beta’s twelve. Sony, who were the flag-flyers for the BETA format, finally conceded defeat in 1988 when it too began producing VHS recorders.

CD

Though I’ve always loved records, I won’t deny how exciting it was to get my first CD player. Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” rocked on that little Pye player!

And I’ll also admit it made my job a lot easier in my radio-announcing days… CDs were a lot easier and faster to cue up than records. It’d take less than a second to whack a CD in, cue a track up and play it… unlike records, which’d constantly catch you out (It was also difficult to tell the track-length of a record, making toilet breaks a stressful endeavour).

VHS

Oh what a glorious day it was when we got our first VHS player. The possibilities were endless. Not only could we now timer-record those episodes of “Silver Spoons” and “ALF” but we’d be able to actually rent movies again. Yes, “Electric Dreams” would now fit snugly into the machine!

For the next decade or so, VHS and I went steady like Pitt and Lewis (until our awful break-up over DVD). I’d pick up ex-rentals wherever and whenever I could, I’d keep my favourite episodes of “Class of ‘96″ (remember that one?) on tapes, and I’d hire many, many, many movies. It was a mission of mine to hire every darn VHS in store at one time. I probably near succeeded too. God I remember watching some crap as a youngster.

The thing that sucked about VHS though were the price of buying a new tape. When I worked in a video store I would occasionally order a copy of a movie for myself- day and date. Unlike DVD, where that would probably set you back $30 or so, a brand new day-and-date VHS copy of a movie would sometimes set you back – drumroll! – $120. I shit you not. A sealed copy of “Weekend at Bernie’s” or “Major League” – two early acquisitions of mine; I also remember picking up “Child’s Play”, “Say Anything” and “The Running Man” – would set ya back over a hundred bucks. Isn’t it insane. Sure, you could wait a few months and buy an ex-rental copy down the track… but even then, you’d probably be paying $30 or $40 – and for a tape that’s been watched about 300 times.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the cost of the tapes played a part in ending VHS. But then, DVD was pretty damn special…

DVD

What can I say? Until Blu-Ray (I refuse to replace my DVD collection with Blu-Ray releases.. at this stage) it was the bomb. I still think it is. And probably will be the medium that stays around for another decade or two. Its compact, its good quality and it’s cheap to produce. There will always be some form of DVD around.

Can’t remember what my first taste of DVD was – though I remember buying copies of ”The Sixth Sense”, ”American Pie” and ”Go!” Pretty early on – but I never had a laserdisc player so to go from VHS to DVD was a big, exciting leap.

I love it that DVD movies are so damn cheap too. You can sometimes find new releases for as little as $8. Just yesterday I saw a shop selling copies of “Cloverfield”, released earlier this year, for under $10. Amazing. I bought the entire “Alien” series – special edition formats – for $5-a-piece about a month ago. It’s insane. But again, the studios still make a nice profit because DVDs are so cheap to produce.

Anyway my furry friends, that’s the end of this instalment. Be Good. And Use Deodorant.