Sunday, July 7, 2013

Clearoutageddon Part Three: Discpocalypse Now

I don't know if anyone remembers now, but ten years ago exactly we were now in the middle of an unrelenting free CD bombardment by every newspaper publisher in the UK and Ireland - the likes of probably hadn't been seen since AOL's heyday.

To begin with, this was actually pretty cool, especially for someone like me who had a very small collection of music, limited funds and a slow-ass internet connection. From the end of 2002 until around mid 2004, you could grab up to three random compilation CDs every weekend for the price of the (mostly) crappy newspapers they came bundled with, and have a new batch generally pretty decent 70's/80's/90's tracks to check out to for next to nothing.

A few relevant ads I found while digitising some VHS tapes. That 70's CD (from 2003) was pretty rad. A few years later though, the second and third ads were pretty much where things went.

By 2004 though, things were changing - the compilations became less frequent, the number of tracks decreased and increasingly they started being phased out in favour of shitty movies, single artist live CDs (for people with no taste), random CD-ROMs and the occasional BBC sitcom episode. Even though the frequency of these give-aways lessened over the next couple of years, for a family that bought a lot of newspapers and magazines anyway, this meant there was an ever-increasing pile of shitty free discs building up that no one could quite bring themselves to throw out.

After years of languishing in the cabinet under the TV, I finally decided the time had come to do something  about the sizeable disc pile in late 2011. Working under the assumption that, well, somebody has to want these, I decided I'd give them away (for just the cost of postage) on a local classifieds site. For my own convenience though, I decided not to offer them individually, but to pull a Best Buy and force bundles of them on people. Let's take a look at what was up for grabs:

In the movie bundle, and yes, the bundles were all themed, is a bunch of stuff I'd never watch, or use, including a hot new Vinnie Jones joint, a couple of DVD movie quizzes and promo discs for Spider Man 2 and Revenge of the Sith.

This lot I dubbed the Nature/Factual bundle. Up on top are a trio of BBC/National Geographic documentaries that I imagine are probably decent, but that kind of stuff just isn't my thing. The next four discs are all from the RTÉ Guide, Ireland's answer to the Radio Times or TV Guide (and a pretty poor excuse for a magazine overall). For wildlife enthusiasts we have not one, but two dawn chorus themed discs, as well as some kind of mammal-themed CD-ROM. And for lovers of terminally dull magazine shows is an episode of RTÉ's Nationwide on DVD, for some reason. In the bottom right are two audio "volumes" of Paul Williams Crime World - undoubtedly part of The Sunday World's ongoing effort to glorify, er, I mean expose Ireland's criminal underworld.

Also in the same bundle, but thrown in at the last minute, was this trio of even lamer, even less desirable stuff I found lying around - promo DVDs for eBay and the South East of Ireland and some kind of jewellery catalogue on CD-ROM from 2003. You know, factual stuff.

But wait, there's more! Even though I'd decided to keep this at one point, when the time came to dispatch this bundle (and I got a taker for it pretty much immediately. Goodness knows why.), I decided to bung it in there too. I barley even watched the last World Cup, when was I ever going to watch this?

The music bundle! I wouldn't go so far as to call this all dross (well, apart from the Westlife disc, obviously), because a. I never listened to most of it, and b. the two discs in the upper left are actually pretty decent, the Dave Fanning one especially; they were just duplicates of ones I already had. Notable also was the Anton Whatshisface dance DVD, not only for not being a DVD, but also for being the thinnest, most flimsy optical disc I've ever seen. If disc rot turns out to be a thing, I think I've found patient zero.

The biggest bundle on offer was the kids one, but it did have the unfair advantage of inclding a bunch of discs that came in various cereal boxes, including a couple of episode of What's New Scooby-Doo? and some polar bear disc that I'm not quite sure what's on, hopefully nothing explicit, especially involving Arctic mammals.

In here also are a stack of audio CDs of various fairy tales and legends being retold by famous types including the late Ronnie Drew, and, in the very middle, the first DVD that ever entered our household - unfortunately just a compilation of clips from BBC children's TV.

And finally, the comedy bundle - the one everyone on the classifieds site seemed desperate to get their hands on. Here we've got single episode DVDs of various BBC comedies, and a compilation of clips from some others in the top left. The bottom row, on the other hand is mostly composed of Irish comedy (allegedly). In fairness, Joe Rooney had done some pretty funny stuff in the past; I can't stand Des Bishop though; and Nob Nation, well that fucking obnoxious cover was enough to consign it to the bin. Irish politics and celebrity culture being such dry wells for comic material though, I imagine it's as groan-worthy and repetitive as (the similarly-focused) Gift Grub - the little I've heard of it previously certainly was.

So that's what I had available, and after a few weeks I had, to my surprise, managed to get rid of most of the discs quite easily. Though let me tell you, the postage charges for them were a rude awakening. The music stuff though, I just couldn't shift. Apparently no one wanted to hear Samantha sing Christmas with Phil Coulter, or his Orchestra.

Having discovered another cache of discs tucked away in the meantime, and determined not to give up, I decided put up another ad, throwing the pile of (mostly) DVDs I found into a new mega bundle with the music stuff that looked like this:

Yes, that is a loose copy of The Matrix. That didn't come in a newspaper though; it was shoved into the copy of The Matrix Revisited I bought back in 2008. No time to get rid of it like the present... *slash* past. Also new to the bundle were a couple more movies, a rugby documentary, an RTÉ Guide brain-training CD-ROM (a few years late to the Dr. Kawashima party, if I recall correctly), and two great tastes that go great together: Simon Cowell and The News of the World, showing up in the form of a Britain's Got Talent DVD and a compilation of some of Simon Cowell's finest signings from Robson & Jerome to 5ive.

Continuing with the new additions, we also have a very shoddy-sounding Billy Joel CD from The Irish Star, the second part of one of the myths and legends discs I gave away with the kids stuff (I'm sure that lady will be crushed now that she knows her collection is incomplete), and yet another RTÉ Guide CD-ROM, this one having something to do with Sive, a John B. Keane play that is apparently not about cooking utensils.

I don't know if it was the irresistible lure of that loose Matrix DVD, but within minutes of putting this new ad up, I got a taker for this final lot of junk, and within a week the last of the discs were gone. Clearoutageddon phase three successfully completed.

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