Off Campus

14 October 2004

Prisoner of Leisure

Unlike my compadre, I'm neither a home-owner nor a parent, so my free time is unburdened by spackling or diapering. Family is far enough away that there are no major recurring commitments, like birthday parties or Jarts tournaments. Work tends to groove firmly in the 9-to-5 world, only rarely dipping past that magic hour. Therefore, my off-the-clock time is, for all intents and purposes, my own to play with. Time to do whatever I may fancy, from scaling the highest mountain (unlikely) to swimming the deepest sea (even less likely).

So here I am, home from work. Time to relax.

What to do? How about a DVD?

I buy DVDs like some people buy beer. (Six at a time, once a week.) The deals online never stop (Eight movies on two discs for less than twenty bucks? Gimme!) So, not being one to pass up a good deal, my cozy abode is chock full of piles of to-be-viewed discs numbering in the low double digits. I have about 30 that I've yet to watch, about seven of those are double features, another 7 are season sets of TV shows or multi-film sets. So there's no shortage of options here. Then there are the other dozen or so discs that I've borrowed from Friends - kinda feel like I should get to those first, so I can maintain my "good borrowing buddy" status with the pallies. Plus, these are discs that leave the premises as soon as I'm done with them, so, technically, by watching them I'm "cleaning house" and earning points toward Godliness.

Alone, unviewed discs represent roughly 166 hours (give or take a day) of viewing time. At about 90 minutes of DVD viewing per day, on average, I figure it will take me approximately 111 days (if I maintain a healthy lack of diet and exercise) to view them all, without buying anything new – not likely.

Sheesh! It would just be easier if I quit my job and devote all my time to getting through this stuff. I could relax, and start watching some of the 300 or so discs that are already on the know, the ones I never pop in because I feel that I have to get “The Pile” dealt with first. But, alas, a vocation-free existence would still not solve the problem, since I continually tape about 4 hours of TV shows per week (hate to pass up great stuff like INFAMOUS CLOWN MURDERS on A&E or CELEBRITY FAT FARM MONSTER CHALLENGE on the History Channel). Thankfully, with the aid of the trusty "FF" button, these can at least be watched somewhat quickly, as you can breeze through an hour of TV in about 40 minutes. However, just beyond the stacks of weekly shows is the oh, 200 hours of various flicks and TV marathons sitting, unviewed on VHS, bought used or recorded during various cable marathons. There's also that box of 30 or so laserdiscs that a pal of mine bought, and is storing at my place – so, of course, I have to/want to watch them all, before they fly the coop.

So, with ALL these choices, I'm finding myself feeling more stressed about getting through them all, rather than relaxed by the thought of enjoying them Every night when I get home, I immediately go into "clearing The Pile" mode. What do I throw in first? DVDs usually win out as, pound for pound, they loom largest on the horizon.

Length does always play a factor, in decision making. Two 90-minute films watched equals two discs (or tapes) off The Pile. As opposed to one 2+-hour feature, which only equals one less item off the list. Now, boxed sets are tricky, as you can either chip away occasionally, watch one episode per night, or try to barrel through the thing in a marathon session or two. There's only so much LAND OF THE LOST you can watch in one sitting before you're the one screaming "Daddy, do something!" at the TV, so drawing out the pleasure of the past is usually the better approach to maintaining enough sanity to make it to the next morning.

Mood also comes into play in deciding what to watch. Some nights you just don't feel like a samurai film. The only thing that will suit your mood is a nice quiet biker movie. Some nights are fit for a KING AND I, some evenings are incomplete without time spent in DETROIT ROCK CITY.

And, of course, the combination of length and mood factors can team up to put things off almost indefinately, which is why the 3+ hour cerebral Russian sci-fi film STALKER still sits unwatched on the pile, three or so years after I taped it. I do want to see it, but the mood for such cinema generally coincides with the arrival of Haley's Comet.

Books?! I try not to think too much about those. There's much more of an overall time commitment involved. Why, in the time it takes me to read an entire book, I could get through 10, 15, maybe even 20 times its volume in visual media . A week spent trying to get caught up on reading would put me at least a month behind in my viewing regimen. I've tried to chip away at my literary burdens of pleasure in bed at night, but the evening's viewing commitments leave my eyes too tired and over-stimulated to focus on what's on the page. Every day I pass a shelf bulging ominously with books I've gathered for the off chance that the power goes out on a sunny day.....they are indeed the neglected children of this cinemaholic father. They all rest silently on the shelf, gently gathering dust until the day comes when I have the time and inclination to learn a little bit more about Dean Martin or Sasquatch.

Is it right to feel so owned by the things that I willingly bring into my life to help me "relax"? I feel like the gambling addict, down to his last ten-spot on 24 Black, hoping that if he hangs in a little longer, the little white ball will rest where he wants it to, and all the time spent as a slave to chance will pay off. For me, I feel like if I can get to the bottom of The Pile, I can kick back and watch what I want, when I want, or not watch at all. Read, listen, view, or even leave the house once in a while for a non-moviegoing reason. I know I'm not alone in this struggle. Of my friends who have DVD players (which would be uh, all of them), all but the very few report similar problems of having way more viewing material than they have time to watch. Anyone else out there suffering from acute Cinemania with a side of Collectivitis? Do you heed The Call of The Piled?

I know, there are worse and more serious things to be concerned about. I do count myself fortunate that the biggest worries in my life are what to watch next. Still, relaxing shouldn't involve this much work. Films are my passion, my curse, my mistress, my teacher. So many flicks, so little time. The thought keeps nagging at me that during the time I took to write this, I could have polished off half of a double-feature DVD, or TV episode, or something, ANYTHING to make a little progress in the battle against The Pile.