Sunday, January 11, 2009

R.I.P. Portable DVD Player (2005-2009)

My Polaroid personal DVD player is no more.

Ever since the summer of 2005, it's played an indispensable role in my movie viewing habits, accompanying me to the gym, on airplanes, even on our honeymoon last April. (We watched two terrible movies: The Brothers Solomon and Death at a Funeral.)

But when I went to fire it up Thursday at lunch, trying to watch the final 15 minutes of a movie in order to drop it in that day's mail, the silence was deafening. The usual blue screen came up, but the disc clamped inside wouldn't spin to life. And no amount of turning it on, and off, and on again, or pushing random combinations of buttons, would change that fact.

I tried to play surgeon today. I tried to open the thing up to see if I could poke around and find some obvious problem causing the symptom. But my screwdriver set proved unequal to the task. When I tried to turn the miniscule screws on the bottom of the player, they only damaged the heads of the screwdrivers.

And my wife tended to agree -- it wasn't worth it. The patient was dead.

Actually, I'm surprised it lasted this long. It survived some pretty good tumbles. Surprisingly, only once did it actually fall off a stairmaster at the gym -- a blow that broke some of the contacts on the battery, necessitating the purchase of a replacement battery off ebay. But even outside these several significant traumas, it just got generally banged around, a consequence of plenty of regular use. It paid for itself ages ago.

When I first bought it in July of 2005, it was with a little bit of trepidation. I'm rare to allow myself technological "luxuries" -- I didn't even own a DVD player of any kind until 2003 (although I was making use of a roommate's for awhile before that). I wondered if this made me a "high roller" of some sort, a person who damns the financial consequences of his actions. Maybe it was a $140 indulgence that should only be made by someone from the Sharper Image set.

But just consider how much use I got out of it -- and how many times it provided the crucial extra oomph I needed to get to the gym. One of the lists I keep is the order in which I've seen every movie I've seen, and the date I saw it, since I started keeping the list in March of 2002. And here we see the value of such a list: After review, I've determined that I watched all or part of approximately 144 movies on that DVD player, never mind the handful of TV shows and other pre-recorded material that crossed its heads. That's a gross of movies in 3 1/2 years, and less than $1 per movie.

Granted, I don't have a lot of fond memories of the movies I watched on that DVD player. In general, what I took to the gym were movies I either a) suspected of being bad, or b) knew I didn't need to watch on a good screen. And so it was that the absolute dregs of my to-view list were experienced there -- movies I'd requested to review because I knew I could say something funny about them. But killing two birds with one stone always made it worth it. And at times I was pleasantly surprised by a film I'd deemed worthy of no greater than a 3-by-5 inch screen, such as watching one of 2007's most underrated films, Alpha Dog, on a plane trip back from Boston.

The first movie I watched on there? Joel Schumacher's The Phantom of the Opera, whose first half was the player's inaugural run on July 16, 2005. (It probably also helped cement my notion that certain films have good enough art direction to demand a big screen, paving the way for a string of brainless comedies during workouts). The last movie watched? Appropriately enough, Gus Van Sant's Last Days, the deathly boring and tedious recap of the last few days of Kurt Cobain's life, though the main character was technically only based on Cobain. This viewing occurred on November 12 of last year -- hey, who gets to the gym during the holidays? -- so I guess the player could have technically died anytime within the last two months. (Though I'm secretly blaming its tight packing in my backpack over Christmas, where it may have been exposed to the goo inside a novelty Hulk head that broke in my bag.)

It's tempting to blame Last Days for killing my DVD player, as we blamed M. Night Shyamalan's The Village for killing our last TV. (I can definitely blame it in part for why I haven't returned to the gym since then.) But in reality, it's a lot more likely that Mr. Polaroid just died of old age, having lived a full life.

So what now? It's a good question. I mean, I can't just stop going to the gym. Needless to say -- and you are probably saying it to yourself right now -- I should probably take another good look at the video options presented by my ipod. But I don't want to go buying all these bad movies that I previously felt guilty even renting. I know the Apple store lets you rent movies these days, but I already went down that road about a year ago. I wanted to dip my toe into this possibility, but ended up finding that my rental of the execrable Flightplan could only be watched on my computer. Some kind of forced incompatibility of my ipod, despite its capacity to play videos. Boo to Apple.

I suppose I will probably just buy another one. Not only am I a hugely satisfied customer from my first experience -- I can't remember a $140 so well spent -- but I can probably get something even cheaper these days. (It's just a bummer in this economy to be forced to spend money on anything.) In fact, I can probably get something more compact and better designed as well.

Though it's certainly hard to fault the design prowess of the people at Polaroid. For 3 1/2 years, they provided me countless hours of (semi-)enjoyment.

Thanks, DVD player. I hope you've gone on to a better place, where after a lifetime of Little Man and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, you can relax with an eternity of cinema's classics.


Daddy Geek Boy said...

I know your pain. My portable DVD player died halfway through a flight from Florida to LA, just after I promised my son that when he woke up from his nap, he could watch a movie.

Thankfully a riot did not ensue.

Also, I will contact you offline about the video iPod. I can't say for sure for PC, but with a Mac there are programs where you can convert DVDs to iPod files.

Don Handsome said...

listen to daddy geek boy. its time for the ipod touch. gym friendly, lightweight, a screen you can see...$350 well spent. Right now, I'm watching movies that haven't even been made yet on mine...