This is why we can’t have nice things

Oh yeah. Damn, am I pissed.

Welcome aboard the good ship Bear, we’ve got a high head of steam built up, all ahead full, next stop, the island of angry, scantily-clad bacon-eating bear men. 

I only said that last bit for the benefit of the search engine. It’s part of the blogging mini-game – what kind of traffic can we attract through innuendo or double entendre THIS week? WHAT?!? You’re a blogger and you’re not playing the mini-game? Uh oh.

Seriously though. This has been driving me bugshit for years, and it’s finally sent me RIGHT over the edge.

Look, I’m going to show you something. It may be something you have seen before.

This is a graphical representation of what is commonly called a “DVD disc”, which is stupidly redundant. A digital video disc disc? Really?

I’ve seen ’em. Hopefully, you have too.

Now, I don’t know how much YOU understand about how these work.

From my recent experiences, I think this covers MOST of you out there;

Time to bust your bubble.

Here is the secret, ancient truth behind the DVD;


Here is a simple procedure I’d like you to try at home.

Step 1 – Pick up a DVD disc and hold it in your hands.

Step 2 – Examine the disc. Discover that its form resembles a plane. No, not a fucking airplane. I mean that it’s got TWO SIDES.

Step 3 – Turn the disc over in your hands. See that it does, in fact, have two discrete sides. For the advanced user you can also discern an edge along the circumference, but let’s not get stupid here. We’re looking for data-bearing strata.

Step 4 – Look carefully at each side of the plane. One side will be shiny across the surface, and if you look very closely, you will see that rather than being perfectly smooth, the surface is actually grooved. At this point I would reference wax records and the needles that followed the groove, but that would date me as being really fucking old, since most of you probably don’t know what a record is, what a needle is, what needle fuzz is, what an RPM is, what ANALOG even means, which is all fine because it’s completely irrelevant to the discussion and is only mentioned because I AM that old and I can’t keep one single thought in my head without wandering all over the place getting lost in pointless digressions that detract from the original point which was OMIGOD wtf am I doing stop this stop it stop it move on holy shit are you even kidding me right now.

Step 5 – The side opposite your shiny grooved side should have some writing on it. If it has writing on it, anywhere on the surface of the disc but not if it is super shiny and has writing only on the inner rim, that side of the disc is the label side. That side can be as scratched and scored as you’d like, it doesn’t matter for shit. Knock yourself out.

Step 6 – If both sides have identical shiny grooved sides, DON’T PANIC! Some of the earliest DVDs were printed with a different version of the same movie, one version on each side. Usually widescreen on one side, and pan and scan on the other. In that case, if you look vewwy vewwy closely, you’ll see that there is writing on the inner ring on each side, sometimes saying something like “Tango and Cash Side A – Widescreen”. Now, don’t overthink this. If you can see “Tango and Cash Side A – Widescreen” facing you, then that means the other side of the disc ACTUALLY HAS THAT VERSION OF THE MOVIE.

Step 7- Embrace the idea that you hold in your hands a plane with two sides, and if you are looking at the label or a generously marked or labeled surface, then the content the label refers to is on the other side, the side that is facing away from you.

Step 8 – Look at the shiny side again. Imagine for a moment that the shiny side is the screen of your TV or monitor. You will be seeing your movie shown on that screen. Now, if the shiny is perfectly shiny, you will see a good image on the screen. If there are dots, hairs, smears, pits, cracks, holes, writing, paint, grease, scratches, warping, or BIG FUCKING CHUNKS MISSING, then it will be very difficult to see a clear image on the bleak lunar surface of your disc.


You do not need to know more than that. You don’t need to hear about tracking lasers, and drive mechanisms, and dots and dashes and binary logic and Digital to Analog converters or ANY of that shit.

All you need to know is, shiny side smooth and pretty good, shiny side all scratched, broken and pitted is BAD.


This ain’t just today, this week or this month. For years now, if I get a movie from Blockbuster, from Netflix, from Redbox or the public library, every single one of them looks like they sideline as coasters at the national frisbee finals, said frisbee competition being held at a gravel pit where the players CAN’T CATCH SHIT.


What the fuck do you people DO with these things? It’s not a magic disc you stick in the player, and a movie comes out. There is, like, technology and shit in there! And let me be blunt, most DVD technology is still early days technology, where it’s a euphemism for “lots of delicate moving parts at high speed”.

I don’t get it. I’ve got DVDs I bought before there were even DVD players, back when you could get Blade Runner on DVD, and you couldn’t even get the player yet for less than $500. Don’t get me wrong, Blade Runner is the shit, and I mean the good shit not that wack shit that came from your cousin’s basement hydroponics Brew and Grow kit, but $500 to watch Blade Runner is not good either. I’ve got ancient DVDs, and they don’t loko like this.

we’re talking a time so long ago, that I bought a brand spanking new Playstation 2 to use as a DVD player, because the damn thing cost the same amount of money as the other DVD players on the market, so why the hell not? Maybe I’ll even buy a game for it some day. Now load up Empire Records and get me some popcorn.

I own DVDs from DVD technology pre-history, and do you know, I open the case and pull the things out, CAREFULLY holding them on the edges because you don’t touch the surface where the movie shit is, and the things are still shiny! SHINY!

And yet, I grab a movie that was released on DVD two weeks ago fro Redbox, and the thing looks like a buckshot mallard.

It came to a head last night, when I went to watch The Incredible Hulk.

I tried to watch it on DVD last November, but the disc had cracks on it so I returned it with notification, and then I think I chose a Harry Potter film as a replacement.

Well, I got it again from Netflix last night, determined to watch it, and this time I go to put it in all excited, got my Captain and Coke, got my easy chair, house is quiet, earphones work so I can blast the sound… the disc looks like it was, and I am not fucking joking, hit with finishing nails driven by a ball peen hammer.

I even turned the disc over, you could clearly see the impressions the nails made on the label side. That’s right, they went all the way through. Are you shitting me?

So, after yelling at Netflix on the phone, Cassie came to the rescue. Local library had TWO copies of the movie on the shelf, and were open until 9 PM.


Off I go to the library, where I grab the first copy, open the case, check the disk… and see that while it may be about the Incredible Hulk, it looks like the aftermath of a land war in China.

I grab the second copy, and look, fearing the worst. At this point, I don’t even want to know how much worse it could get. It looks almost brand new, just a couple gentle scratches. Well…. more than a few, and some weren’t all that gentle. But it’s the only game in town.

I take that movie home, I watch all the way through to the end, and right when the Hulk and the Abomination are getting into it and the chopper is down and Betty Ross is about to go up in navgas flames, BOOM! Digital hash, white noise, the thing hits a perfect storm of scratches that end the show.

Are you kidding me?

People, let me explain something.

If you keep treating these things like total crap, and seriously, I don’t understand how you do it unless you hand rental discs to your 2 year old as a toy to distract them LITERALLY with “Ooh, shiny!”, then prices will go up, libraries will cut back on DVD budgets, and we will be left to shout from the heavens…


37 thoughts on “This is why we can’t have nice things

  1. There used to be a saying “Treat it like you own it”. That used to be a good thing, people would take care of all things…

    Now days people have the same motto, unfortunately they treat their own stuff like shit, so that’s how they treat other people’s stuff ;(


    • Funny. I have never, ever heard that saying “Treat it like you own it”.

      I have however, heard the saying “Treat it like you STOLE it”, or “Drive it like you stole it”. Perhaps I had a different upbringing and circle of friends than you did.


    • I don’t think you would want dirt, dust, scratches, whatever getting on your stripper either. I think we can all agree shiny side up is better for DVDs and strippers both…


      • The BBB reserves the right to not mention strippers, on the grounds that Cassie is very skilled with daggers, poison and skinning.


  2. Triple B, you leave out the biggest flaw of them all in your rant brother, one I think Gnomeaggedon touches on. The fact that DVD players are (in my most humble and uninformed of opinions) DESIGNED to wreck your DVDs.

    Lets say you take your shiny new disk out of the case, then for some reason need to set it down for a couple seconds because maybe there was another disc in the machine and you left the case on the shelf. Being the responsible bear that you are, you most likely set it UPSIDE DOWN, as in writing down, shiny up and put your other disk away. You know, because you want nothing but pure magic lasers touching your shiny disc because you don’t want dirt, dust, scratches, whatever to get on it. This is reasonable behavior.

    THEN WHAT DO YOU DO? You put it shiny side down in the tray, and the tray slides in the machine…

    Why, in all that is holy, didn’t the inventers of the first machines say “hey, you know what? Lets have them put the shiny side UP, and put the laser ABOVE the disc rather than below, so that way, per our design nothing will ever, EVER touch the face of this disc.” I mean, they had the foresight to make the DVD cases so that nothing touches the disk, only the disc center. Why would you make the player differently?

    I actually owned a DVD player a long, long time ago where when you stopped it, you could hear as the motor stopped turning that it lowered it self and the DVD spun to a stop as it rested shiny side down in the tray. It’s a fucking conspiracy man. And now you can’t change it, because it’s ingrained into people to be shiny side down.


    • I don’t know about that but I do know that designing things to only last a certain amount of time is an art form in some industries. I also know that my Xbox’s have always scratched DVD’s. Especiall if you stand them upright. That’s through three versions of the xbox 360. I’ve also had a dvd get stuck when the tray started to open.

      whether it’s bad design or or intentional a lot of them do get damaged in dvd players. .


  3. People who send back a disc severely scratched should be fined, imo. If you break the rented items, most stores would make you replace it. It should apply to scratches as well.


    • Because when they do that people go to internet forums and scream and yell that the evil video store ripped them off for what another person did. In the internet age the customer always wins those kinds of fights. So everyone suffers.

      Also the postal sorters mess up a lot of them through those paper sleeves so it’s not so easy to figure out who did it. The cost to put them in boxes and protect them would more than quadruple postage.


  4. I work in a library. I had to do a double take to see if this was a rant from a library blog or if it was in my game feed in Google Reader.

    You wouldn’t believe the state that materials are often in when they get returned to us. Scratched DVDs are so common that we expect them to be that way–seriously, we mark the item as damaged and then put it back into circulation. It takes two complaints that a disc won’t read before we’ll bother to pull anything because otherwise we wouldn’t have anything to check out.

    It’s also not uncommon to receive shattered discs–split in half or fragmented into pointy shards and then placed back into the plastic DVD case as if we wouldn’t notice.

    I saw someone mention jewel cases in one of the comments. We used to have those, but they would break even more frequently than the discs they held. When we finally replaced the hard plastic jewel cases with a more flexible (and locking) plastic case, we collected all the discarded jewel cases. Out of the few thousand I switched out, not even 50 were in decent shape.

    I won’t even get into people returning books with dead (or living…) bugs in them. We had to have the entire book drop area fumigated. Or how about what people use as bookmarks? I have discovered cash, checks, bank slips, gum sticks (out of the wrapper), and condoms (thankfully in the wrapper).

    … Sorry, BBB. I went on a bit of a rant myself. I do agree that people are needlessly hard on things they don’t own. Rental equipment apparently means disposable equipment to many people.


  5. A rant that is a work of art. 🙂
    On the plus side, I’ve had good luck on DVD’s from Netflix that I couldn’t stream. My girlfriend and I started watching Castle from season 1, and only encountered one badly scratched disc, late in season 2. I tossed it in the computer, and we were able to finish watching it on there.


  6. WTH! Dont the stores check the discs when theyre handed back? I dont think Ive ever got a disc from the video shop and it being anywhere near unwatchable… actually never, I mean the clerks here check the disc before they hand it to me to take… then they check it when its returned…

    Why arent the stores checking and charging the customers??

    Saying that, I dont have any sand paper, Ill have to use the road, and the roads here are very very rough!


  7. I haven’t read the responses to this post yet, as I’m in the middle of… (gulp) playing, um… (gulp) WoW atm.

    But I have to say, first, that I agree. People need to respect the property of others. The lack of said respect is something that grates on me quite a bit / way too often. Whether it’s DVDs, cars, games, CDs, tools, whatever.

    (Seriously, though, having worked in the retail game industry, I’ve seen that the lack of respect that people have for THEIR OWN STUFF, much less the property of others, is pretty astounding.

    Aside from that, Oh. My. Goodness… the “POLISH YOUR SANDPAPER COLLECTION” bit had me laughing very, very hard! Thanks for the post, BBB. 🙂


  8. This is one of two reasons why I don’t rent physical DVDs anymore. I have a Netflix streaming-only account, I’m a Hulu Plus subscriber, and my wife has a massive iTunes library including several movies.

    The other reason is because I’m impatient and I don’t like to wait for the disc to arrive in the mail. 🙂

    If it’s worth owning (and, even if it’s not), my personal collection of DVD and BluRay is shiny shiny. The kids get scolded for putting the things back in the wrong case. Let’s not even talk about leaving them out of the case.


  9. I used to work at a video store when we actually rented videos, and when dvd’s started hitting the store for rent, one scratch would kill a DVD, yet on the shelf were movies in vhs that were surviving 50 + rentals over its life.


  10. See, I treat my CDs and DVDs like eggs. Ones that already have a crack or two. ALL my CDs/DVDs are still nice and shiny.


    (short version- totally agree with and support this rant. ^5 BBB)

    p.s. I remember record players too. I was too young to actually use one though. 😛
    p.p.s. I still use my PS2 as a DVD player. 😛


  11. I’m pretty sure I remember TV ads from the eighties or early nineties extolling the indestructible nature of the CD, the ads even featured people cutting a steak on a CD, then putting said CD into a stereo and playing it. Maybe people took all this FAR too seriously? All that aside, people are the worst.


  12. I just love that the DVD that you used for illustration purposes was Tango and Cash – was just watching it last night 🙂


  13. And while you’re at it ppl, let’s please start treating those rental cars with a little more respect.


  14. Ha ha well put BBB, people treat discs like shit. Simply returning them to the jewel case after use instead of using them for a coffee coaster would prolong their life tenfold.

    Minor technical quibble… With CDs and DVDs data is stored on the label side, not the shiny side. The laser focuses through the clear media at the data under the label. The logic being that the scratches on the surface do not lie in the focal plane of the data thus making the medium more resilient. So your clear media protects the data on one side and the label on the other. You can test it by burning a cdr with a large file then scratching the back.

    As long as the label side isn’t scratched the disc can take a shocking level of abuse. That idiots subject the disc to that abuse is something that should be addressed through penalties.


    • When I worked for IBM, the ‘data librarian’ decided that the best way to make sure the serial number for an expensive piece of software (Autocad, I think. I don’t remember, was a long time ago now… Supposed to be like 5,000$ tho) was to scratch (Not write with a marker, SCRATCH) the serial number through the label of the CD.. .


  15. long ago there was this company called Blockbuster. VHS rental and then DVD rental was a medium margin business and their product had some reasonable lifespan. So they refurbished discs when they got scratched or bought new ones and everyone was happy.

    then the Internet taught everyone that it shouldn’t cost more than a dollar or 15 dollars a month to rent movies. Add the cost to ship the movies back and forth, pay for the million dollar sorters and the few people it takes to run them and and you’ve now got a business that generates about two dollars and 50 cents per month per subscriber. That’s why they don’t refurbish the discs, thats why you can’t have nice things. In 1970 dollars you paid 5 dollars to rent a movie for 3 days. In 2012 dollars you pay 15 dollars to rent it for a month. plus shipping back and forth.

    Enjoy your internet price model as every industry falls apart the same way.


    • Okay…. so, what you’re saying is, it’s not the fault of the individual renter for treating the disc like rubbish, the actual problem is that the evil corporation is not spending enough money repairing and replacing the destroyed discs fast enough to keep up?


      • VHS tapes are more durable than DVD for rental. The medium is protected by a plastic cover that automatically flips out of the way when it goes in the VCR, and has a lock that requires effort on your part to expose the media.

        Their business model got screwed over a little bit by the evolution to DVDs, and then completely by streaming video. That’s a separate debate from the media’s durability, though.


      • And when the tape cassette goes into the player, the player flips the protective cover away from the delicate metal oxide tape. Then two little finger like devices pull the tape out of the cassette and wraps the tape around a metal cylinder that is spinning at a high rate of speed. The finger pulling stretches the tape, and the spinning cylinder heats up the tape due to friction, not to mention the metal oxide on the tape polishes the cylinder and will eventually polish the read gap off of the cylindrical “head”. Wonderful technology.


      • No what I am saying is that we as a society have been demanding things cheaper and we get what we ask for. You can’t have cheap, quality, and good customer service. When you go with cheap you get the product and nothing else.

        Up until about 5 years ago blockbuster would refurbish the scratched discs. But on a no late fees model theres no money to fix your discs that get damaged, by the post office(those postal sorters are brutal on DVD’s), customers, dvd machines, Xboxes that have had a known issue with scratching discs since launch. By mail is even worst than in store, they and Netflix pay close to the price you pay at Walmart for a disc. Then on a 15 dollar a month that includes all postage, handling and maintenance of thier distribution centers and those really expensive sorters and personel to run them they have to move that one disc about 15 times to make a small profit. Sounds pretty reasonable till you realize to be successful you have to have every bad movie made as well as the popular ones.

        If we figured it out in 1970 dollars your discs make about 10 cents vs the 5 dollars they made back then. Factored in for inflation it’s a lousy business model for the owners. That’s why they’d like to dump the dvd business and go to streaming. But Hollywood wants even more money for that and that could be another dozen threads on hollywood’s stupidity and greed.


  16. PS: I think it’s a DvD player manufacturer conspiracy. I’m pretty careful, but they still come out scratched.

    So what are you going to do:
    1) replace DvD player
    2) replace DvDs

    Meh, whatever… they promised us they were indistructable


  17. Two word…

    “nose grese”

    Apparently, so long as you are metrosexual of course and scrub and degrease 3 times a day, if you wipe your finger along your nose, then rub same finger across the scratched DvD, you fill all those scratches with a substances perfectly conducive to light transmission.

    That’s not a scratch, that’s a greasy groove!


  18. Wow….people still rent movies? 😀
    hehe, sorry – I feel with you though. I try digitalize whatever I can because of this (not illegal where I am) because yes, I apparently am a “scratcher”. the thing is, I do nothing with my CDs/DVDs besides putting them into the player or back into their case. still, my older CDs are scratched.
    maybe the same guy who’s living in the washmachine stealing’ random socks, is also secretly scratching my CDs at night??


  19. I love you BBB ❤

    It's the same on this side of the pond and is the reason I have not rented a DVD in years. I swear people use them as floor mats. That's what the AOL CDs are for dammit!


  20. I am in awe. I bow to thee, Sir Bear! I salute you!
    Tears are welling up inside.

    No, not about “why we can’t have nice things”, or “why are people behaving like that” etc – I’m too old and cynical about life, the universe, and “people”. No, I’m getting all emotional about *sniff*, well, *sniiifff!!!*…

    Sir, you are the Master, nay, King of Rants!

    I don’t know if it’s your military past or your trucking past, or if it’s just a divine intrinsic thing – but THIS, THIS is the penultimate pinnacle of rants 🙂


  21. You must come from the same background I did, where I put all those 5 1/4″ floppies back in their sleeves the moment they came out of the drive. Woe be to my daughter when she unthinkingly places an optical disk of some sort down on the brick fireplace.

    I think I am more amazed at how often a DVD that looks like it has been used to send messages by somebody scratching them in Morse code on the shiny side actually end up working. I swear we had one disk that was cracked into three pieces and was being held together by the label and the kindness of the cosmos alone. Before I could say anything my daughter, ever the optimist, dropped it in the tray and loaded it up. And it worked.

    I used to have one of those DVD polishers that basically buffs a thin layer off the shiny side, which is fine since that is actually the thick protective side and the data is actually burned up at the label end of things (I have been told, but have not verified, that you are more likely to do perm damage to a disk by writing on the label with ballpoint pen than using the disk for shuffleboard on a brick surface) and that worked very well… until it got used as a Play-Doh accessory and was never the same.

    Since then, Windex and a paper towel has gotten many a rented disk through a viewing at our house, but I still get one now and again that you really wonder what people were up to with.


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