Me and Chairman Mao
  Hello, DVD?
Ah, "Hello, DVD?" That is the majestic cry of the many DVD sellers who roam Shanghai's streets and subway stations, selling there wares out of beat-up cardboard boxes. Depending on the situation--that is, a combination of how desperate the DVD seller is and how many potential customers are in their territory (they hunt alone, never in packs)--this may be repeated three or four times as they lope along side you down the street for a block or more. If you are a male and alone, you might also be treated to a variation of this call, something along the lines of "sex porno DVD! Sex porno," words usually delivered in a low, urgent, I've-got-a-secret (secret, secret / I've got a secret) voice that is more disturbing and creepy than anything else. And if you wonder why, imagine being followed by a short, dirty, hunched-over man without all his teeth who is pawing at your arm and hissing "Dirty movie! Dirty movie!" as you are trying to walk down the block. Quite a turn on, isn't it?

That, my friends, is why it's so very important to find a good DVD store and stick with it. Sure, you pay a bit more (sometimes as much as twelve cents more!), but it's worth it to not be hassled by a roaming DVD seller on the prowl. Plus, if you go to a store enough that they remember you, they'll also steer you clear of poor quality movies, which is nice of them. Why just the other day the thoughtful lady at the DVD shop we frequent told me not to buy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because it was a bad copy. And yes, that does make me wonder things like "Why stock it at all then?" and "So who are you selling this to?" but as long as I get to save my dollar, who cares about everyone else?

Anyway, to give you an idea of just what you can get at a typical DVD shop, I've taken some pictures. A few weekends ago we dropped the princely sum of $18 US dollars and came away with the following (except Batman Begins, which we were dumb enough to buy off the street):

Not bad, huh? (If you can't tell, the boxed sets are season 1 of Veronica Mars, seasons 1 & 2 of Moonlighting, and season 2 of Deadwood.) I mean, it's not, as the kids say, "all good"--Bewitched was terrible--but the value proposition is pretty attractive. Plus, you get the packaging, which is always entertaining thanks to the text that they put on the box. Like, for example, the fact that they will put movie review quotes on the box regardless of whether or not the review is favorable or not. I picked up a movie called Heist the other day and the quotes on the back of the DVD cover were--I kid you not--"Pointless and derivative!" and "Boring!" Needless to say, I didn't make the purchase.

Sadly, I didn't have my camera for that one, but here's an example from Mr. & Mrs. Smith. As far as I could tell, someone just pulled part of a sentence out of the plot summary and went with that. I love the attribution as well ...

Here's an even more nonsensical one from War of the Worlds: meaningless large font quote to kick things off, check; random snippet from what seems to be a website dealing with the planet Mars, check; special features from a completely different movie--in this case, SpongeBob SquarePants--check; any sort of information about the movie itself, not even freaking close.

Of course, the movie is actually War of the Worlds--a surprisingly good copy even--so that's something. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, as we found out when we opened Batman Begins which, as I mentioned, we were stupid enough to buy from one of the curbside DVD sellers:

Oops. To quote Darth Vader in one of the worst parts of the new Star Wars movie, "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"
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