Monday, 21 July 2008


I'm talking about media, by which I mean devices to store music and videos on: wax cylinders, vinyl discs, tapes, CD/DVDs, memory chips, etc.

A week ago, our upstairs neighbour loaned me a DVD ('I'm Alan Partridge', if you must know: this character is one that we completely missed during our 12-year sojourn in Dubai, although I had read a few things about him). I slapped it into the portable DVD player with 7" screen that I had bought for MamaDuck last Christmas. Wouldn't play. Tried a few other DVDs that we know have previously worked on this machine. Nada. It's buggered. But still under warranty if we can find the correct bits of paper. Never mind, our laptops can play DVDs. Well, mine just read the DVD, said it was region 2 & 4 (Spain is in region 2 and that is what my drive is set for), and then refused to play it: no reason given. Never mind, we'll try MamaDuck's lappie. The DVD player software supplied with it was a 3-month trial, and it had just expired. Fecking hell.

I was in FNAC a few days later, and had a look at DVD players. The cheapest is about 60 Euros, but I was kind of interested in some combi-jobbies that are VHS video players and DVD players in the same box. But at around 300 Euros, they're not in this month's budget.

DVD regionalisation, by the way, really, really, really, gets on my tits. If ever there was an utterly pointless bit of technology, this is it. Hollywood moguls, pay attention.

I've been thinking recently about the increasing commoditisation of recorded stuff like music and video. Time was, when an LP (Long-Playing record) was a thing to treasure. Certainly, they cost a lot of money, but they came in a 12-inch sleeve, and the artwork of these sleeves was something to admire. In some cases they became very elaborate: gatefolds, posters, lyric books and photo albums were all part of the package. And then came Musicassettes (TM: Crap Names, Inc). These were very much smaller, and the attempts of the sleeve designers to include some of the excitement of LP sleeves were all a bit meaningless in the smaller format available. Then we got CDs: a bit bigger than a cassette, but still, the Golden Age of album art was clearly long gone. Now we have MP3 files. There's no wrapper whatsoever. And so the music is just a few gazillion binary blips on a bit of silicon. The concept of the album (or even the concept of the concept album) has lost its meaning. When you can download individual tracks, you lose the artistry involved in the assembly of an album with its peaks and troughs, excitements and relaxations. It's like just having the good bits from a symphony: you miss the foreplay that makes the crescendos so much more powerful.

I got hugely nostalgic a few weekends ago when we went to Plaza de Dos de Mayo. There were stalls selling second-hand LPs. I saw Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, an early Police Album, a lot of Rolling Stones and even something by String Driven Thing (sunk without trace, but I used to like them). Problem is, we no longer have a turntable, but I know they can be got.

Last night MamaDuck put a cassette on the machine. It stopped after about 20 minutes, and I thought 'I'm sure there's more songs in that album.' Then I remembered: you have to turn it over.

Also over the weekend, MamaDuck was having a good old clearout of the trastero (our store-room, under the stairs on the landing). You'll never guess what she found, so I'll just save a bit of time and tell you. She found a VCR and a DVD player. I guess I had erased these from my memory because we had no TV. But now we do have a TV, and so we can use them again.

At least, we could use them if we had the right cables. The VCR is fine, but the DVD is a problem. I can get the video to work, using an S-VIDEO cable, but the audio used to be pumped out through a 5:1 bunch of speakers that we donated to a starving Pakistani trader back in Dubai. There's no possibility of installing 6 speakers in our micro-piso, and so I've just been down to Calle de Barquillo, which is Madrid's answer to London's Tottenham Court Road. I came back confused. Most of the stuff I saw was seriously expensive: 35 Euros and upwards, so I wanted to be totally sure that I was buying the right thing.

It looks like my options are:
Fibre-optic audio cable - but I've only seen these bundled with S-VIDEO cables.
5:1 to SCART. I think this is what I'll go for. I'm going out now, first of all to check a couple of Chino's, because they sometimes have the most esoteric stuff for one or two Euros. Failing that, it'll be the gold-plated stuff from Barquillo.

Wish me luck.


Bought a 4 RCA : 1 SCART for 2.50 Euros. Doesn't work. Off to Barquillo now.


Bought a fibre-optic audio cable for 11.50 Euros. Fits into the back of the DVD player. Doesn't fit in the TV. Bollox.


Mars said...

I was going to suggest a 3 plug RCA.

And I never understood the concept of Regions - quite stupid really.

secretdubai said...

Yeah regions is the biggest motivator to piracy that ever existed. You should be fine there though - the UK, Europe and Middle East is all region 2.

Get all the Alan Partridge series if you can - the chatshow is brilliant, as are the two series of him as a radio DJ in Norwich.

I think you'd probably also enjoy his most recent character Saxondale, a ex-roadie turned pest controller. There's a lot of Partridge in it still.

Brn said...

If you do a quick google, you can find the secret code that will change a DVD players region setting to 0, which will then play any region DVDs without trouble. I've heard of people who recently moved from a region 2 area (oh, let's say Al Ain) to a region 1 area having to do this to be able to play their DVDs that they bought there.

I second the recommendation on Alan Partridge. Also, the version of Tristram Shandy that Coogan did a couple of years ago is very funny too.

Grumpy Goat said...

...and of course Blu-Ray has regions too. A, B and C. Which don't match the DVD regions; that would be too easy.

I have yet to find a Blu-Ray multi-region player. Not coming on Planet Earth, and definitely Not Coming In Dubai.

Jayne said...

All very confusing keefieboy, altho I must admit I have heard Hubs harping on (in the past) about needing a SCART thingy, which seemed to have done the trick required of it.
As for LP', crikey I have a heap of 'em & 45 singles in storage at home - a few Beatles, Elvis & Neil Sedaka. Thanks for making me feel old!