[Media Meandry] Adjust Your Tracking (2012)

Mostly throughout 2019, a shelf-full of assorted VHS tapes sat in the dining room of my apartment-mansion with barely a way to play them. I’d fallen out of interest with the hobby of collecting tapes or even watching movies. Watching Adjust Your Tracking hasn’t turned me into a passionate tapehead again. Rather, ruminating on what these collectors enjoy about the hobby has solidified what I want from movies, VHS tapes, and what I want to watch.

Rating: ★★★★☆ [4/5]

If I don’t want to watch it in five years, I’m getting rid of it.

That’s not exactly to say my VHS collection has a shelf-life of five years. I’m not interested in having a room dedicated to storing and collecting VHS tapes, or anything really, but the camera’s meandry through collection after collection is impressive because of the curative care within each collection.

They are amateur museums of a dying medium.

This not something I want from my VHS collections or any collection I own. I will own complete sets of things I truly care about, that I interact with frequently, otherwise, what’s the point of owning something that you don’t proudly display? Through each of these collection rooms, some might see freaks, but I see people that are proud of who they are and what they do, and not because they have VHS tattoos or spend money extravagantly.

I just wanna watch some movies.

In 2019, I’d planned to watch a movie each month, but only watched two movies for the whole year. This year, I’m tracking the movies I want to watch so I might remember to schedule the time to sit through some movies. I didn’t watch this with complete, uninterrupted attention. I took frequent breaks to do other things. If that’s my way of watching movies, then better that process of taking frequent breaks than suffering through boredom. If my attention gets diverted away, or I feel bored enough to not find myself enjoying the movie-watching process, then I don’t watch movies.

That’s how I ended up with so many unwatched VHS tapes.

Sorting through that shelf-full of VHS tapes, everything I wanted to watch I added to the list then boxed up. Everything I didn’t care about, I put into a different pile to sell or most likely donate. This is a more rigorous curation than any of the collectors in the movie, but the thing is, even though their primary passion is collecting VHS tapes, they’re still curating and culling the tapes they don’t care about anymore.

They have a much smaller keep to downsize ratio than me.

For me, I think my ideal situation would be having a small section of tapes, a TV, and that’s about it. Maybe I’d eventually get rid of it all? If I’ve transferred all the home movies to digital, watched all the tapes that never got DVD or Bluray transfers, then what’s left in it for me? I had a childhood rich with VHS tapes, and I enjoyed more than a few of them, but those memories are not locked away in holding most of the tapes that collected dust on that shelf.

They are instead in the proud few tapes I boxed up for later revisiting.

I’ll do the same process for my DVDs and Blurays in the upcoming months, so it’s not some kind of anti-tape mentality, but rather a general psychological de-hoarding where I would rather not own anything I would not want to interact with “soon.” That’s where the five-year scope comes in. If I haven’t wanted to watch something in five years, and if we calculate that to be sixty movies, then I could probably figure out how to watch it again. For me, I don’t need to watch something on an original tape or disc, and I’m starting to become detached by playing a videogame on the original hardware.

I still like reading books on physical paper, but that could change, too.

For these VHS collectors, their priorities are around watching movies and collecting more of them. They’re willing to dredge through uncomfortable situations, perhaps for the dramatic storytelling effect or not, to get their hands on movies that most would find trashy. I like exploitation movies and I used to love the thrill of the hunt of materialism, so I can empathize with the interviewees/interviewers as they travel around the country looking for the wild, weird, and wonderful missing pieces of their collections.

I’ll use anime as an example here.

For the interviewees, they collect within their favorite genres specifically because they want to discover new movies to watch and these are usually locked into the VHS format. For me, most of the anime I want to watch is digitized now, and there’s so much new anime being released each day, let alone each season, that I want to watch that if it’s not immediately appealing then I don’t have the time for it. I need to have a visceral reaction to wanting to watch the show, otherwise, I don’t have the time to collect it.

Years ago, I had over six crates of VHS tapes.

Now, it’s closer to two cratefuls, and I think I would be alright with having no tapes, once I’ve fully digitized all of the home videos, and watched most everything that hadn’t been digitized or rereleased in a newer format. Watching this reminded me of my priorities when it comes to collecting things. If I never used something, I never plan to use it, and it’s taking up space, why not get rid of it? Why not let someone else enjoy these tapes? Many of my tapes ended up in the neglected state that the collectors scooped them up in. My underappreciation doesn’t invalidate these items. Instead, through a careful curation process, I can begin appreciating these objects I’ve neglected for years. For the others, I might be able to pick them up again at thrift stores…

…If not, I’ve already been unable to watch many obscure, desirable anime.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal and viewing experiences.
Bias: Dan was an internet acquaintance of mine years before he made this documentary. I would still recommend the documentary, without that bias, because the interviewers invite you into their collections in exchange for staying in your head.
Inspirations: I had originally planned to downsize all my media in February 2020. It’s approaching February and my downsizing plans for January – all large computer items – didn’t quite work out, but I made progress. I’d been planning to watch this movie for a while as a way to prep myself for the media downsizing.
Related: Other Media Meandry essays, Movie Reviews, and Downsizing Zeal essays.
Screenshot: My favorite line from the movie. Not really the best at conveying the VHS collecting aspects, but, it does convey why I collect VHS tapes -for the obscure shit.
Written On: 2020 January 30 [61 minutes, minus a few breaks, from 10:11pm to 11:12pm, so probably closer to 45 minutes.]
Last Edited: 2020 January 30 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]
My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.