Thursday, November 13, 2008

Home movies

David Pogue today wonders why we spend so much time keeping home movies.

But one e-mail response stopped me cold:

“What makes you think you’ll have any grandchildren with the time and inclination to sit through more than a few minutes of your home videos?

“The movies an uncle shot of me and my siblings a few decades ago were projected for about 30 minutes a decade ago, and have not been looked at again by anybody.

“Home movies require a captive audience, for long periods. How many hours could you bestow on your children right now? How many hours would you expect them to sit still for them? And unlike photographs, home movies can’t really be dipped into, flipped through.

“I’m not against home movies. I just question whether the people amassing them at great length have much idea of what they require of the people in them, or who inherit them.

Good point. For years I spent time collecting our movies and putting them on to DVD. Now they just stay uncatalogued on the computer.

Pogue lists lots of reasons for this behaviour but he misses one that for us has proved important: benchmarking. Whenever we want to understand the behaviour or milestones of one of our younger children, we go to the video of the older one at the same age. Then we can work out if they are behind or ahead. Of course, from that perspective, one might ask: "then what?" The answer: then nothing. But at least we have answered the question: "why keep the movies?"

Interestingly, it turns out that we often find out just how similar our three kids are. In particular, their voices at the same age are virtually identical. Accent, expression, everything. I guess that might change as they grow but if we close our eyes it would be hard to tell which child was speaking.