The DVD Rush

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Pre-Olympics crackdowns obliterate DVD-addict supplies

I’m feeling a little nervous. About my dwindling DVD supply. Or, more pointedly, about my kids’ DVD supply.

Like most expat families, we have every single kid-related DVD ever created by mankind in our house. But even then, the collection is seriously waning (thanks to highly questionable satellite television offerings), and with the sudden dearth of DVD suppliers in the capital, and 9 weeks of summer holidays barrelling down the middle of June, I’ve already succumbed to a bevy of nervous tics and withdrawal itches.

Yes yes, instead of holing my kids up inside in front of the brain-mangling tele, I could send them out into the searing, lung-plugging, pollution-smacking air (my daughter already has a cough like a 90-a-day smoker). OR I could let them stay inside where the air is marginally cooler and cleaner, and where I have spent months planning a cacophony of fabulously fun activities (studded around summer camps) with – I’ll admit it – frequent DVD sessions thrown in. What a terrible mother I am.

I figure that at least if I stock up on DVDs, I can have some choice over what my kids succumb to in front of the box this summer. Classic kids movies are a favorite in our house, as are vintage faves from my own childhood, like The Brady Bunch and Bewitched (, yes they deliver). Lucky for me, my kids also enormously enjoy educational television like series favorites – Planet Earth, The Human Body and Blue Planet (gotta love the BBC), not to mention National Geographic’s I Didn’t Know That. The question is, however: will I have enough variety and enough “something-new-ness” to keep their interest piqued?

I’m a big believer in planning television “events” that help keep kids more deeply entrenched in a two-hour boredom-sucking (hopefully brain-stimulating) TV binge. Although I personally love television, I don’t believe in just plopping and flopping on the couch watching whatever happens to be on (like the utter rot Cartoon Network pumps out). If your kids are going to immerse in an hour or two of TV, why not make it worthwhile?

With BBC and National G, we haul out the encyclopaedias, atlases and DK animal information books to double-check our facts, and draw pictures or do word-searches to enhance what we’ve learned (grown-ups in our house also learn plenty from National G).

For old movie classics, we can draw the shades and dive into massive bowls of popcorn and cold tins of Sprite (the latter normally reserved for parties).

For our much-adored Disney animated flicks, we invite stuffed toys to join in, artfully arranged on the couch.

For retro TV classics (we recently found Australia’s wonderfully kitsch Skippy the Bush Kangaroo series on ebay), we set up a cubby house made from chairs and blankets and/or have crumb-inducing picnics on blankets.

All these things make TV-watching a little something “more” than just filling a boredom gap.

But back to the pressing problem at hand. Admittedly, we do have quite a good DVD stash, but like Oliver says, “I want more please!”. I want to be totally assured that in moments of achingly long, 9-week, heated duress, I can pull something wildly fun and new out of my DVD stash. So a-hunting I will go. To the few remaining DVD stores not already stricken by the pre-Olympic crackdown. Many of my regular suppliers are already gone and/or heavily “supervised” or totally sketchy and unreliable (“mingtian, ba?” followed by “jintian, mei you”). You know – here one day, gone the next. A regular problem in Beijing.

Far from me to cause a DVD-snaffling frenzy or hair-pulling riots at the local DVD haunts that have survived, but just quietly – I’m stocking up now. Don’t be surprised if you see a tall Australian woman in an overcoat scurrying into dimly lit stores with secret backrooms hid behind false doors... and emerging with a very self-satisfied grin on her face...

Walt Disney does that to a girl.

First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.

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