Vintage Used to be a Noun

Oh, I don’t know. What kind of week have you been having?

Vague signs have been appearing that we may be headed for a Smurf Week. For starters, we had books arrive in two boxes on which were printed ‘LIVE FISH, THIS END UP”. I should hope so.

Somebody actually dropped off a Prada bag. I have hidden this, of course, so it doesn’t disappear in the night. It is white, made of double-reinforced paper, and had string handles: a lot classier than all those brown paper Dominick’s bags. (Yeah, somebody donated books in a Dominick’s bag that apparently dates from the early 70s. I may need a designer bag section this July.)

And I swallowed my pride and started to look up prices on, gulp, “vintage laser discs”.

I object to having the word “vintage” applied to any technology which hit the market after I graduated from high school, but I have learned to live with this. I have been complimented on my vintage eyeglasses, AND my vintage whiskers, and somebody recently whistled and said “Should you be using that vintage cellphone? I mean, won’t the Smithsonian notice it’s missing?” I wish that person had been smiling a little, to indicate that was a joke.

I am aware that there are vintage videocassettes (two different colors of plastic on the video, and a case that has it nestled like a vanilla cream in a Fannie May box). And I have heard of vintage audiocassette tapes. But those are technologies which existed back when I was still trying to memorize Avogadro’s Number, not spiffy new ideas which came out in the days when I was hunting for jobs in the fine print pages of American Libraries magazine.

The laser disc (LaserDisc was the leading brand around these parts) got its start in 1978, and is the format which eventually gave birth to the DVD as we know it today. It was a lot like a compact disc, only it was 12 inches across. To this day it has its fans, who like to cite the things it would do that a DVD will not, like skip over the FBI warning at the beginning of the show.

But it’s not the technology which really inspired the DVD of today. It was the ability of the producers of the disc to add those “extras” we all look for when we buy a DVD. Who wants to buy a movie and get just the movie? We want the director’s commentary, the star’s commentary, the scriptwriter’s commentary, the original screenplay, out-takes, alternate endings, optional subtitling, and an index which will allow us to skip right to the chapter where the heroine slips off her skirt as if she didn’t know the werewolf waits just below the windowsill outside. These things really blossomed on these 12-inch rainbow-hued beauties, more often than not recorded on both sides of the disc, so a two-disc set contained four discs worth of material.

And this, I am told, is why some cinema addicts MUST have the laser disc: even if the movie was later transferred to DVD, there is no guarantee that all those extras went with it. So I looked up the discs in the boxful somebody sent. Most of the movies there seem to run around the three dollar range but, sure enough, four of them are in the $35 to Unobtainable At Any Price category. So the game was worth the candle, I guess.

I don’t mind charging $25 or more for a disc hardly anybody can play. (It’s colLECtible). I don’t even mind calling them “vintage”.

It’s just that now I expect I’ll have to start checking out some of these vintage CDs.

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