Personal Video Recorders

Personal Video Recorders or Digital Video Recorders like TiVo are the coolest bit of lifestyle kit to come along since, what? The computer? The cellphone? The answering machine? These are like an answering machine for your TV. You can watch shows whenever the hell you want, skip over the annoying “messages” (commercials and late night talk show guests that bore you) and put shows on pause to answer the door, eat dinner, listen to the annoying messages on your phone answering machine, etc. We have a mixed household, with an unrepentant TV addict (me) and a devout TVphobe (my wife). The PVR allows me to record or pause what I want and watch it when she’s not around. I’ve only used ReplayTV, but TiVo is definitely the front-runner in the market now and the hands-down fave among geeks and gadget weenies ’cause of its use of Linux and a more hacker-friendly attitude from the manufacturer.

-- Gareth Branwyn  

$200 – 400 (renewed DVRs as low as $50), $13 Monthly service


Netflix rents DVDs on an all-you-can-watch subscription basis. You can rent as many movies as you want (but no more than three at a time) by paying $20 per month. That includes free shipping coming and going, a task made easy by handy mailers. Great selection, shades of the video-on-demand world coming. It’s filmaholic heaven.

-- Richard Kadrey  

CyberHome DVD 500 Player

A wonder of our globalized economy:

As everyone knows, DVD players are sold encoded to a particular region to block imported DVDs from playing. However the *cheapest* DVD players are manufactured for low-price sales world-wide, and are thus engineered with (a) easily re-programmable regional coding (only one unit to make) and (b) chips that convert PAL signals (a system used over much of the world) to NTSC signals (a system used primarily in the United States and Japan).

The CyberHome CH-DVD 500 progressive scan DVD player (available at Amazon, Target, and elsewhere) is sold for about $80. Among other machines, it can be easily reprogrammed using the remote in accordance with instructions accessible to the Google-literate. You can then watch any DVD manufactured anywhere in the world at home.
– KK

CyberHome CH-DVD 500 Progressive Scan DVD Player
$80 (used only)
Available from Amazon

There are many sources for international DVDs, including the national Amazon sites – Japan, France, UK, Germany – as well as, and, among others. A very large proportion of the titles are digitally subtitled in English, and usually indicated as such on the sites.

What can you get? Depends on what you like: British television comedies and drama, uncut and uninterrupted, years before local release if ever; Japanese animation and the new wave of Japanese horror films; the massive (ten films a month) restoration and release of the Shaw Bros. film and television library from Hong Kong; classic releases of Bergman films from Artificial Eye in London (Fanny and Alexander uncut); French noir from the fifties and sixties, and on and on. The best place I know of for international DVD obsessives is called The international forum, which has tons of shopping information and stuff about individual releases (“Von Trier’s Kingdom with subtitles out in Denmark on August 1!”: that sort of thing) is (now called DVD talk).

– Dennis Dort


Videohounds World Cinema

Great movies, maybe the best movies, are made in other countries, often in a language other than English. With the advent of DVDs, there is no need to wait until they show up in an art film house — if they ever do. This is the best guide to non-English movies in print. I prefer it because unlike other anthologies of “foreign” films, this one was written by a single author, and therefore has the benefit of comparative reviews and context. (more…)

-- KK  

Videohound’s World Cinema:The Adventurer’s Guide
to Movie Watching
Elliot Wilhelm
1999, 559 pages
Visible Ink Press

Available from Amazon

Theater Prop Handbook

How to fake just about anything. Makes use of the newest (styrofoam) and oldest (plaster) prop materials. Prop making skills are easily transferred, too. A lot of this fakery can go a long way in real life architectural and interior decorating. (more…)

-- KK  

The Theater Props Handbook
Thurston James
2000, 270 pages
Players Press Inc.
Studio City, CA

Available from Amazon