Thursday, April 05, 2012

A quiet sense of achievement

I am ashamed to admit that, four months after moving in to my new apartment, I still hadn't finished my unpacking. After several weeks of illness and then a month or so of being absurdly busy, I'd developed bad habits of procrastination or avoidance, settled into a modus vivendi that allowed me to ignore the messy pile of packing crates in the corner of the room.

It took a threatened appearance by my landlord (who, as is so often the way of things, then didn't show up after all) to shake me out of my inertia. The final big task was dealt with last Saturday afternoon: sorting out my huge library of DVDs. As you can see, they just about fill an entire bookshelf, so it was no mean undertaking.

In fact, they more than fill an entire bookshelf: all the music titles are filed separately with my CDs; there are two (small-ish) piles of the most urgent 'To Be Watched' titles beside the TV (some of which I bought over two years ago, and still haven't got around to; no reflection on the quality of the films - simply a function of the fact that I don't stay in that much); in the left of the picture, there's a small filing cabinet with a bunch of boxed set TV series in it; and then there's a cardboard box of films that were so disappointing I've decided I will never watch them again (obvious turkeys like 2012, Soderbergh's tedious do-over of Solaris, and the excruciating Keanu Reeves version of The Day The Earth Stood Still, but also perhaps more unexpected ones like The Sting, The English Patient, and Gangs of New York - films I really hated could well be an end-of-the-month 'Film List' for me some time soon), and should probably try to offload at a book-swap or charity store somewhere.

This wasn't just an unpacking-and-stacking exercise either (although, gawd knows, that would have taken quite long enough!). No, there is now some semblance of a cataloguing system: To Be Watched (Soon-ish), To Be Ditched, Classical Music, Modern Music, Recent Films (c. last five years) That Will Repay Viewing Again Soon, Series (Die Hard, The Matrix, The Terminator, etc.), Favourite/Cult Directors (well, anyone I've got more than 5 or 6 titles by, basically: Tarantino, the Coens, Kubrick, Kusturica, Woody Allen, Zhang Yimou), Trashy Fun (thrillers, action films, and horror comedies: undemanding entertainment when I'm feeling blue - Sin City, Machete, Watchmen, that kind of thing), Cult Comedies (I can't go more than a few months without watching Anchorman, Team America, Animal House, The Simpsons Movie...), French/Italian/Spanish Films (no particular reason for lumping those together, other than that I've got so many of them that they pretty much balance the whole of the rest of the world's contribution - I don't have enough German films, or enough Lars von Trier films, or...), Chinese Films, Other Foreign Films, Hollywood Classics Post-1960, Hollywood Classics Pre-1960, War Films, Westerns, Comedy, Horror, Family Films, and Animation. There's also a sizeable pile of English-language films that don't readily fit into any of these categories - dramas that aren't acknowledged as 'classics' - which are divided into those which are high priority for me to watch again, and and those which are low (but not NO) priority.

This is a very good reason NEVER to move again. Unfortunately, I may well have to leave this apartment - and perhaps leave China - within the next month or two.

What's that, you say? Displacement activity??


John said...

And not a legitimate copy in sight! You might be starting to have had enough of China but of the time you've spent there you've certainly embraced local customs well. ;)

Froog said...

Well, even when you see what looks like - purports to be - a 'legal' copy (in, for example, the famous Wangfujing Bookstore), it very probably isn't most of the time. But those are rare as hen's teeth and ridiculously expensive.

The local TV is shit, satellite is expensive and hard to get; if you want to be able to watch a decent film now and again, pirate copies are the only way to go.

I don't think any foreigner here is able to refrain completely. (Unless they make do with streaming over the Internet - which is, ahem, also piracy.)

Froog said...

As it happens, I do have nearly two dozen legitimate DVDS, purchased in the UK or the US; but they're not visible in this shot.

John said...

Yeah, we've discussed this before; I'm not judging at all, it just humours me. I would never buy pirated material; if the guy wants to make money from breaking the law copying discs then I'll damn well shoplift them from him. It's a code of honour amongst pirates (and thieves) you see! Goes back to the days of floppy disk games and cassette tapes (and probably even further, if I knew about such things.)

Froog said...

Well, there is no 'law' here to break!

But in areas where the law is an ass, I think it's actually a good thing to break it; and this is one such area.

IP protection isn't a matter of absolute right and wrong; it's a question of practicality, of how to achieve a good working balance between incentivizing creative endeavour and allowing the easy dissemination of creative content.

Our current notions of copyright grew up with the printing press, and worked more or less OK with that stage of technology. They came under pressure as mass production became faster and cheaper, but remained reasonably viable while content still had to take a physical form in order to be disseminated. Digital media have rendered them hopelessly anachronistic. We need a complete rethink about this area of law.