Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

A Walk Down TV Lane May 31, 2007

Filed under: 1980s,1990s,Memories,Television — Emily @ 3:40 pm

Much has changed in the way we watch tv in the past 30 years. Let’s take a look at a few of these changes:

THE REMOTE CONTROL

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When I was born in the late 1970s, the only remote controls to speak of were huge, clunky devices that somehow only had room for power on/off, volume “up” and “down,” and channel “up” and “down” buttons. Now most households have a minimum of three remotes – for each television! I have more than three remotes. There’s the main TV remote, the TiVo remote, the digital cable box remote, the VCR remote, the DVD player remote, and the sound system remote. Of course, I don’t use all six remotes. We have discovered how to be efficient, meaning we only use the TiVo, VCR, and DVD remote. Our sacrifice of the sound system remote means that we actually have to stand up and walk across the room to change the speaker settings! (Thankfully the TiVo remote controls the volume, though). Another thought about these remote controls – how many of you have at least 20 buttons on your remote that you have no clue what they are for? In my experience, DVD player remotes are most at fault when it comes to poor design and inefficiency. Moving on, the latest remote control trend is a remote that controls more than your tv – it controls everything in your house! Lighting, thermostat, security system… If someone can design a remote control that is easy to use AND is truly universal, many Americans whose cabinets and coffee tables are littered with various remotes will be very happy.

THE VCR

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Back in the mid-1980s, my family would pile into the car and drive over to the local video rental store. We would pick out our movie, take it to the counter, and rent it. But before we left, we would also pay to rent a VCR – you know, so we could watch the movie. Do you remember those days? Before we all owned VCRs? I wonder how long rental stores continued to rent out VCRs. My family splurged and purchased our very own VCR in the late ’80s and proceeded to build a personal video library that rivaled the warehouses of Blockbuster and Netflix. (At least it felt that way to us). And so began the habit of watching tv when you wanted to – by recording it on your amazing VCR! Mom kept a bountiful supply of Disney cartoons and movies to keep us entertained, and she also recorded her soap operas to watch each night. We even bought one of those snazzy Video Rewinders, so as not to overwork our precious VCR. We created a working index of all the movies, cartoons, musicals, and tv shows that we had recorded. Our system involved labeling each video tape with number stickers. Once we had exhausted 1 through 100, we started back at one, adding a B sticker behind the number. I can’t remember how many tapes we accumulated over the years, but the necessity of having an A and a B index lets you know that it was extensive. Some of the often watched titles included: Hoosiers, Superman, Indiana Jones, Bye Bye Birdie, plus a variety of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse cartoons. Good times, good times.

As the 90s progressed, so did the VCR. By the time I was in highschool, I could have won a VCR-programming speed contest, as I had the fastest remote control trigger finger in all the land. I had lots of practice, since by that time I had developed my own tv tastes, and had my own tv and VCR to feed them. If only I had known then that one day a device would come along that knew what I wanted to watch without me reminding it every week…

But before we get to DVRs, there are a couple of other stops we need to make.

CABLE TELEVISION

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When TV first started, there were very limited options of what to watch, because there were very few channels. Families sat down together to watch whatever was on. Even as recently as the early 80s, most people only had the main networks to watch: NBC, CBS, and ABC. Then things started to get more interesting. I remember getting excited about watching WGN (The Bozo Show!), TBS, ESPN… But still, for the most part, shows seemed geared toward a general audience. Then suddenly, new channels starting popping up all over the place: MTV or VH1 for music lovers, TNT and USA for fans of syndicated tv shows and movies, and even a fourth network – a little channel called Fox – that seemed more interested in being inappropriate and irreverent than the other networks.

Suddenly everyone needed a cable box, to keep track of all those channels. Ten years ago 50 channels seemed like a lot, but now, when my digital cable lineup soars into the 600s, 50 seems miniscule! I could go on for awhile about the irony that although there are so many channels to choose from, there is nothing to watch, but I won’t. Instead I will give a shout out to a few of the cable channels I have grown to love: Thanks to FX for introducing me to Buffy the Vampire Slayer 7 years ago, and continuing to air it so I can enjoy my favorite episodes again and again. Thanks to VH1 for showing music videos at least once a week, so that I can stay in touch with what’s popular. Thanks to Food Network and HG-tv for inspiring me to keep my house and my recipes interesting. And finally, thanks to TNT and USA for showing so many movies, so that if all else fails, I can always watch Signs or Never Been Kissed for the umpteenth time. Cable tv – fear it, loathe it, or love it – it’s here to stay, and it will only continue to grow!

DVD PLAYERS

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Okay, so DVD players are pretty great, but they have only indirectly changed the way most of us watch tv. The bigger effect of the DVD player was on how we watch movies, but that’s another story. There are people who have DVD Recorders, and so they have moved a step beyond the VCR. Yes, they still have to manually program their shows to record, but the picture quality is so much better. But since most people don’t own a DVD Recorder, the greatest change DVD players have had on how we watch tv is seen in the booming TV on DVD industry. Ten years ago no one owned entire series on DVD, much less waited until a show came out on video/DVD to watch it. Now, however, most shows are released on DVD within months of airing on tv. Based on my personal observations, I think that 24 has been the most popular show to watch on DVD, which makes sense, given its real time format. Many fans of the show don’t want to wait a week between each episode to see what happens next. Especially in the last few years, the trend is to “own it on DVD,” to “add to your library.” So thank you, DVD player, for allowing us to revisit our favorite shows whenever we want to.

TIVO

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So I know the general term is DVR, but TiVo was the original DVR, at least in my house, and so I will always refer to them as such. TiVo’ing has replaced the VCR’s place in our hearts, leaving that silly old-school tape stuff for emergency situations only. Now we don’t have to worry about how much recording space is left while we’re on vacation, or if the electricity will go out and undo all our programming. TiVo knows us better than we know ourselves! Season Pass, Wishlist, Pause/Rewind live tv – these are all concepts I have come to cherish. I do still have a VCR hooked up, because I haven’t yet moved up in the world to the dual-tuner DVRs, and there are times when I need to record two things at once. All good things in time, though.

So, there you have it. A TV technology timeline of sorts: Remote controls, VCRs, DVD players, cable television, and TiVo. Are there any important TV developments that I have left out? Do you have any tv technology memories to share?

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Summer 2007 Movies May 29, 2007

Filed under: Movies — Emily @ 9:54 am

It’s almost that time of year again. The time when there’s hardly anything on tv to watch. The time when it’s too hot to go outside (at least in Texas). What to do? Perhaps rent some movies or go see something in the theater. So, here are the movies I would like to see this summer:

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – I am currently both re-reading all the books in the series AND re-watching all of the movies. I am caught up on the movies and am anxiously awaiting this big screen version of Book 5. Based on the previews, I predict it will be highly entertaining.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – I know that there were mixed reactions to the second installment, but I enjoyed it. So it is only fitting that I should see the continuation of that one. My guess is that if I were to watch both movies in one sitting, it would feel like one complete story, albeit a really really long story. I am a bit concerned about the talk that they may make yet another movie to join this franchise.
  • Evan AlmightyThis one could go either way – really funny or really stupid. But my guess is that by the end of June, the extreme heat wave will have me in such a state of delirium that any entertainment in a cold, dark theater will seem fantastic. Besides, Steve Carrell is always hilarious.
  • Bug – The name is gross, but the reviews have been surprisingly positive. This is probably one I will wait to rent, but it stands out from the other current theater dwellers.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum – I thoroughly enjoyed the two previous Bourne movies, and I expect nothing less from this one.

Unhonorable mentions: Here are some movies I have absolutely no interest in watching – EVER:

  • Delta Farce (Who thought this was a good idea?)
  • Surf’s Up (Sure, I like penguins, but not when they are trying to capitalize on the success of Happy Feet by making a silly penguin surfer movie)
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (In my opinion, the first movie should never have been made, so this sequel is completely off my radar).

And here are the movies I will probably pick up from Blockbuster during the next few months:

  • Pan’s Labyrinth – I’ve heard only good things about this fantasy thriller
  • Dreamgirls – I may watch this solely to watch Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar-winning performance. Back in the day she was my favorite American Idol contestant (back when I still watched it – her early ousting was probably one of the main reasons I lost interest in the show), so it is satisfying to see her success now.
  • The Holiday – I don’t watch very many chick flicks, but this one looks pretty good.
  • Stranger Than Fiction – I’m really looking forward to watching this one!
  • Catch and Release – Another chick flick?! I must watch any Jennifer Garner movie, even if it means I have to suffer through another Daredevil debacle. Well, I take that back. I couldn’t force myself to watch Electra. Sorry, Jennifer. I’ll watch almost any of your movies.
  • The Good Shepherd – Looks interesting, has a great cast.

Further out:

Across the Universe¬† – I just watched a preview for this movie, and it’s very intriguing. It is a movie musical set to Beatles’ songs. Sounds similar to the concept of Moulin Rouge, only with a different story. It’s release date is September 28.

What do you think? Is there anything important missing from my list? Let me know!

 

Books I Want to Read May 28, 2007

Filed under: Books — Emily @ 8:51 am

The following books fall into one of two categories, so I will divide them accordingly. Some of them are books that I own but have either never read or started reading and didn’t finish. And some are books that I simply want to read but haven’t gotten around to yet. My plan is to eventually actually finish reading some of these books, at which time I will remove them from the list. But I will probably also continue adding more books. Please feel free to make suggestions about any books I should add or remove (include a good reason for doing so).

Category One: Books on My Shelves

  • The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
  • Bee Season – Myla Goldberg
  • Cry, the Beloved Country – Alan Paton
  • Cane River – Lalita Tademy
  • Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols in Antarctica and Other Unexpected Places – Madeleine L-Engle
  • The Professor and the Madman – Simon Winchester

Category Two: Books Beyond My Shelves

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audry Niffennegger (I’m nearly halfway through this one, so this should be an easy one to finish and cross off the list)
  • Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini
  • Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser
  • The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary – Simon Winchester
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon
 

Books Worth Reading

Filed under: Books — Emily @ 8:44 am

There are so many books in the world, that you don’t want to waste time reading a so-so one. Although I know we all have different tastes, here are a few that I really enjoyed, in no particular order:

  • The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
  • If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things – Jon McGregor
  • The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  • The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
  • The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece – Edward Dolnick
  • A Painted House – John Grisham
 

My Favorite Current TV Shows May 24, 2007

Filed under: Television — Emily @ 6:24 pm
  1. Lost – Some say it has lost its magic, but I think it only gets better, and more captivating, with each episode.
  2. Battlestar Galactica – It’s like nothing else on tv.
  3. The Office – The most awkward show on tv
  4. 30 Rock – The second most awkward show on tv
  5. Friday Night Lights – Even though I don’t like football, I absolutely love this show. It’s the best family drama on tv.

What are your favorite TV shows?