The Death of Browsing

The Death of Browsing (photo)

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This is how I know I’m getting old: I get mopey and nostalgic at the news that Best Buy plans to drastically reduce the amount of floor space in its stores devoted to CDs and DVDs. The reasons make perfect sense from an economic perspective: people are buying less CDs and DVDs than video games and iPods and cell phones. But I don’t want to look at this from an economic perspective. I want to consider it from an emotional one.

The removal of DVDs and CDs from stores like Best Buy (and the recently announced bankruptcy of Blockbuster) sounds the death knell on one of my favorite pastimes: browsing. Understand, I like buying media online. The last Blu-ray I bought came from Amazon. The last album I bought came from iTunes. I have a huge Netflix plan. I recognize that we’re moving towards a future where there won’t be any physical media, just data stored on servers and devices. And I would never deny the value of owning a single pocket-sized gadget that contains thousands of albums or books or movies. These are fine companies and services. They carry almost everything and they’re rarely out of stock.

But there are some things these online services cannot replicate, principally the pleasure of discovering something you didn’t know you were looking for in the first place. I love buying movies online, but only when I know exactly what I want: browsing a movie website is a means to an end, not an activity. It’s not leisurely, it’s focused. There’s no tactility, no admiring of box art, no considering of special features. You can’t go DVD shopping on a website with a buddy and compare notes about who’s seen what, who needs to catch up with this or that, who wishes they had held out for a better edition. I wasted spent a hefty portion of my youth doing that, and in doing so I bought a lot of movies and music that I otherwise might never have found.

That social aspect, that culture, is something that is disappearing for good, and most movie message boards with their harsh name calling and dogpile mentality are not a satisfying replacement. I often say that I did my post-graduate studies working at a video store, and it was a great place to expand my knowledge base about film. When I was growing up, there was a romance to video stores, which seemed to breed cineastes and future filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith. They also provided a fruitful setting for movies about culture, but less than two decades after they were made “Empire Records” (1995) and “High Fidelity” (2000) are rapidly becoming as dated as the stock on their fictional shelves. We’re not far away from video stores becoming the stuff of “Back in my day!” stories that crotchety old people tell their disrespectful grandchildren.

I know this is a lot of kvetching over the decision of a giant electronics store. But availability and efficiency are nothing without the human element: Netflix gave someone a million dollars to improve their recommendation algorithm, but I still trust the taste of the guy at the one video store left in my neighborhood (though Netflix’s frequently deranged suggestions are always good for a chuckle: today it thinks that because I liked “Bullitt” I should watch “Revanche.” Hoooookay.). I hope my local joint stays open for a while. They tell me they’re thinking of adding a video game section.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.