A Tale of Two Gift Cards

I’m the kind of consumer who sees things I or someone else would like, and then buys it. There doesn’t have to be a reason other than I can, and there’s no particular time of year when gift giving is imperative.

This makes me notoriously hard to shop for, though I do maintain an Amazon wish list just in case. Though no-one has yet surprised me with a thing I want, I often get things I like from those I care about.

Case in point. Last Christmas, I found a target gift card in my stocking. This is a tradition of sorts in L’s family, and I have to say that it’s one I like. Cash money is always appreciated, and very useful. Mind you, you can’t play poker or buy margaritas with a gift card, but you can buy just a little bit of happiness.

So this year, I bought Printer Ink. Printer Ink makes me happy because having it means one of my finicky printers will work for a little while. It means I can print out manuscripts for the few markets that do not yet take digital submissions, print out maps and instructions for the rare occasions that Google maps doesn’t work on a smartphone, or anything else a printer is good for.

I fully expect that printer ink to be completely dried out by the time I need to print again, but I was able to print this week, printed something, and therefore was happy.

Last year, I bought Cowboys & Aliens.


Possibly not the highest expression of holiday cheer I could have chosen. Unlike printer ink, Cowboys & Aliens will not make me smile whenever I use it. It ranks up there with Wild Wild West in the pantheon of “dafuq was that?” I own it, I chose it, and stand somewhere near my purchase. It’s the kind of movie I trot out when a friend tries to tell me Attack of the Clones is a good movie, and I must tell them, “That movie is so bad even I don’t own it, and I own (insert bad movie I own here).”

So why is this relevant? Because on the day I bought printer ink, I used another gift card, and bought things that make me happy.


You may see a trend here.

I won’t apologize for it. I like movies. I love movies. Movies are like books, but I get to see what someone else sees when they read them. It’s like stealing an imagination car, and going for a ride on a private road. And, as you might imagine, I buy a lot of them.

As of this weekend, in fact, my collection includes over 1500 spines, on VHS, LD, DVD, HD-DVD, and BD. I have iconic performances of operas, badly dubbed anime, classic science fiction, big hat dramas, and movies that make me cringe. Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas and Animalympics are full of creepy talking animals, but I love them just the same as I do Shaolin Soccer and the Godfather.

As a very wise man once said, “I like to watch.”

Were you to look at 2012 as a static release year, I purchased 31 “new” movies. 31 reasons to get off the couch and go to the store, or at least answer the door when the nice young man drops off another brown box with my name on it.

Were you to look at what actually happened between the pictures above, it’s a much different story. It’s a somewhat longish story as well, so I’ve prepared a handy graphic.


I’ll spare you the calculations. That’s 123 different types of fun (blue numbers), with a combined 292 discs (green numbers) between them.

But it’s the hidden costs of video addiction that will really make you laugh. The amount I spent on cabinetry this last year is a significant portion of the layout for spinning plastic. Sure, I had shelves already, but in childproofing the house it was very clear that classics like Reservoir Dogs, Hard Boiled and Excalibur shouldn’t be as accessible as Seasons 1 – 4 of Fraggle Rock and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. And it finally gave us the opportunity to move last year’s very necessary television upgrade across the room for a better viewing angle, which of course meant something new for it to sit on.

It’s all perfectly reasonable, when you think about it. And I’m sure you also understand the very necessary purchase of thin DVD, HD-DVD and BD cases to shelve the green numbers above in an efficient fashion.


So the next time someone asks you why writers write, you can remind them it’s because of the passions that drive us. And if they don’t believe you, refer them to this cautionary tale.

Remember, the first step to recovery is considering whether a move to a larger house is really warranted when you want to pick up that new box set.

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