Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A celebration of VHS, a sexy TV series, and some Shiva

Illustration for article titled A celebration of VHS, a sexy TV series, and some Shiva

Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story Of The VHS Collector
People will collect just about anything, and the idea of collecting a basically obsolete format seems just about as pointless as collecting porcelain figurines. But the obsessives in the documentary Adjust Your Tracking aren’t just grabbing anything released on video—they’re trying to keep a weird pop culture era from being lost forever. Most of the movies that went straight to video during the VHS (and Beta!) boom were terrible, gory, exploitive, or all three, but that seems to be the appeal to these guys (and yes, they’re all guys). But the doc takes a loving, funny look at them, and offers plenty of glimpses into the actual movies themselves, which may be the best part of the whole thing. The white whale of collecting old videos is a movie called Tales From The Quadead Zone, which looks like it’s right up there with The Room in ineptitude. Adjust is out in a two-disc DVD set now, probably to the chagrin of the people who were interviewed for it. For them, there’s also a special-edition VHS. For real. [Josh Modell]

Masters Of Sex, season one
Showtime’s Masters Of Sex had one of the most quietly confident first seasons around last year, one that was slightly overshadowed by a bunch of other stuff airing at the same time (and an unfair belief that the series was simply trying to copy Mad Men and didn’t have anything to say of its own). Now that the show is on DVD and Blu-Ray, however, it would be a great time to catch up and realize just how good it truly is. The series chronicles the Masters and Johnson study on human sexuality, and in its first season, it took what could have been a clichéd approach—people in 1950s America were scandalized by the consideration of sex in a scientific fashion—and made it revelatory by digging deeper and examining all of the ways that intimacy binds human life together. That intimacy extended beyond the sexual, too, to things as simple as mere touch or being emotionally honest with someone. If nothing else, it’s worth it for some of the best performances on TV, with Beau Bridges and Allison Janney as a married couple facing a huge challenge, or Lizzy Caplan as the ahead-of-her-time Virginia Johnson, or Michael Sheen as the slowly disintegrating Bill Masters. It’s frequently beautiful TV, with deeply moving emotional acuity. [Todd VanDerWerff]


The Shiva Trilogy
A few summers ago, I went to India to see some family and attend a wedding, and I ended up spending a lot of money at a Mumbai airport bookstore on curiosities that I didn’t know when I would read, but I knew I had to have. There’s a rich tradition of literature written in English by Indians, for Indians, and I know almost nothing about it. So among the stack of Amar Chitra Katha comics I picked up the first novel in a trilogy: The Immortals Of Meluha, written by the singly named Amish. I bought it thinking it was genre fiction—the back matter promised armies and magic—and it was only when I started reading that I discovered it was devotional literature, of a sort. The trilogy is about Shiva, the Hindu god of strength and destruction, and imagines him as both a god and a human, walking about on Indian soil thousands of years ago. I expected to recoil from it, as I often do with anything that feels like propaganda or proselytization. Fortunately, it was neither. Amish has the good sense to introduce Shiva as a man who himself doubts faith and the supernatural, and then focuses on the history of the region—shaped by wars, ethnic conflict, and religion, as anywhere is. It’s a surprisingly lightweight introduction to ancient Indian history, including a lot of material on the roots of Hinduism and other faith structures in the Indus River Valley. As with the best books, its primary agenda is to tell a good story, and though it is extremely basic, literarily, it’s also been a fascinating little trip through populist Indian literature. [Sonia Saraiya]