Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Electronic Entertainment in Belize

I recently received an email from my friend Charlie. He said he was sending 20 (TWENTY!!) DVDs, some of which were items from HBO which he is judging for the Emmys. Now Charlie knows a lot about Emmys. See here -

Anyway, he's a great friend from high school and college days, who I recently rediscovered through Facebook (yay!), and it's been wonderful reconnecting via FB and email. Of course, I was overwhelmed and grateful - big time - and excited to know we'd be enjoying some quality entertainment soon. Then I thought this topic about what we have available in the realm of DVDs, TV and music might make a good one for our blog. So here goes.

There are NO legitimate or authentic DVDs here in Belize, at least not that I've been able to find. They are all pirated. Most are made by amateurs who have access to a computer and a little bit of pirating software. One guy we met in the market in Belmopan told us that all his DVDs were originals, that he had his own burner. So what he meant was they were copies of originals. They were being sold 5 for $20 BZD (that's $10 US).

We've bought a few DVDs from various sources. We are often disappointed. Here are a few examples of what we've seen:

  • Volume so low it can barely be heard
  • Aspect ratio bolluxed up so everybody is squashed flat (a real pet peeve of mine, and I see it often with TVs where people want to see a square picture filled out on a rectangle screen.)
  • Sound not synced with the picture. On one movie, the sound was ahead of the picture by about 10 seconds at the beginning. By the end of the show, there was was more than a minute gap from when the sound played the dialog to when the picture showed them speaking it.
  • Videos taken by a camera set up in the movie theater, so you get to see everybody getting up to get popcorn and go to the bathroom. Can hear them laughing.
  • Subtitles for various languages. Since there's never a menu on the DVD, we can't remove them.
  • DVDs that just die in the middle, or worse, near the end of the movie.
Steve and I went without television for a long time here in Belize. But then basketball season came along and I really wanted to see how our Tar Heels played. We bit the bullet and bought a television. We already had cable so we could have internet access. So the TV part was already paid for; we just had to plug it up and go! Now that the NCAA tournament is over, I just watch an occasional Law & Order rerun. But I LOVE movies.

Turns out that many of the shows we see on 125 channels we get for $42BZ/month are also pirated. The local channels - I think there are 5 - often broadcast first run movies. I mean movies that are still in the theaters in the US. They often exhibit the same characteristics as the DVDs I described above.

We also have about 30 premium channels, HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc., all for that same $42 dollars. There's no guide for the channel lineup, and they change numbers frequently, so it's tough to plan for a specific movie or show. 

Below are a few screens that we see as we surf the channel line-up. I don't really understand it, but I think our cable company subscribes to DirecTV, Dish and Sky networks (as an individual??), and then broadcasts the channels out to us. Maybe that's what all cable companies do. All I know is these message aren't anything we can respond to.

DirecTV screen saver

Yes! We have American shows, Mexican, Indian, Nigerian
and Chinese programming!

No or bad signal.
Internet is very expensive - We get 600Kb/second for a monthly fee of $138 BZ. Once we worked through the initial connection kinks, it's been reasonably reliable. No good for YouTube or any streaming video. Belize blocks certain things, too. For instance, no Skyping without a VPN. And Pandora radio won't work without a VPN. Otherwise, we can do most of what we want.

A lot of people play their music from their computers, and they use the dubbing/DJ software so that they play sirens, laser gun, and other sounds over the music. So even if it does happen to be a good song that they're playing at 100 dB, you can't really hear it because of all the special effects that are laid on top of it (at 110 dB).


New Subject!! Our vacation with my dad and stepmother, Joyce. They came for a week to visit. The previous week they spent in Costa Rica, where they went zip lining through the Cloud Forest. This vacation was a little more low key than previous family visits (Dad's 85), but we definitely did some fun things and ATE WELL.  Here are a few pictures from their visit.

Drumming and dancing in Dangriga

Everybody dances
Dad and Joyce with Carla and Des (They are both friends of
mine. They love to do Zumba, too!)
Dad and Joyce doing ballroom dance in the Caribbean Sea
Joyce bought a BIG drum. With Norielee Rodriguez.

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