Monday, June 7, 2010

Internet killed the Video Store

I remember how there was no place like the video store.  Back in the days of VHS, some of those movies, to buy new actually listed for around $80-100, except for the big Blockbuster mega-hits.  And the smell of all those plastic VHS tapes and boxes always made the aroma of a video store unique to say the least.  Picking through potential movies that you may have seen hundreds of times or some rare but potentially hidden gem that might be lying in wait for you.  It was all part of the adventure.  That adventure is now gone.

It started with the death of VHS.  Don’t get me wrong, the death of VHS is a good and necessary thing.  However, with these bulky albatrosses sent on their farewell tour and the advent of the nice slim DVD, the whole world changed.  DVDs were cheaper to produce, less heavy and bulky so cheaper to ship, and faster to produce as well.  I remember the slow crawl video stores had with switching to DVD.  At first, it was really annoying because all the old movies would only be on VHS, so for awhile I never rented anything old.  Eventually the DVDs crawled into the cheap sections and soon entire stores switched over to this friendlier media.

In the meantime, while video stores dawdled with updating their inventory, some smart people apparently started up Netflix.  What a great idea it was.  They dealt exclusively in DVDs, no VHS.  Shipping was cheaper because of a thing known as media mail.  So all we had to do was log online, pick our movies, wait for them to arrive and ship them back.  Best of all, no late fees!  No more having to travel to the video store.  Sit in your home, comb through their selection and you’ve got years and years worth of viewing at a fraction of the cost. 

I still liked the video store though.  There was just something about viewing the boxes and covers and reading about them that couldn’t be beat.  But the problem was, most of these stores never adapted their prices.  Some stores did and that would always capture my business when they did $1 rentals.  Blockbuster never did that, so I rarely wanted to visit them.  There is also the need to have something RIGHT NOW.  Netflix couldn’t teleport those DVDs, so if you and your friends were talking about a movie, you had to wait for your Netflix queue or visit the evil and heinous Blockbuster and pay their hefty fees.

With the previous thoughts in mind, along came another wonderful invention which in the course of a few years has completely changed the movie rental industry.  It is called Redbox.  Now, we have a rental that only costs $1 per day, so you have instant gratification and a reasonable cost, and plenty of places to return the DVDs to, since you can return it to any Redbox location.  Genius!  A few drawbacks, such as our terrible midwest winters which sometimes freeze those touch screens so bad you can hear them screaming “WTF is this???”  That and you have a limited selection.  But overall, a wondrous invention.

Finally, add in the fact that you can watch your favorite TV show and movies in numerous ways on your computer and it is officially over for the video store industry.  The reason I’m talking about this is seeing the local Hollywood Video closing their doors.  I hadn’t even considered renting from them in years, but I sure snapped up some deals on DVDs.  But in a way, it brought back some of the nostalgia for those dark and smelly little video stores that you sifted through hoping to find a gem.  Those days are gone thanks to DVDs and the internet.  Will they ever make a comeback?  Not in their current state, possibly never.

All of this poses the curious question of, what do people who don’t have credit/debit cards do?  What do people without the internet do?  Basically, cash is being eliminated from your rental equation.  It all goes on your plastic.  If you don’t have internet, your options went even further down.  We’re almost starting to make these things all requirements for our society to function.  This has positive and negative implications on us all.  I guess we’ll find out when that ship has sailed.  It ain’t that far away!


Friday, June 4, 2010

Moville Moped Mania!

Every year or so, I try to make it back to the small town I grew up in, Moville, for their annual citywide rummage sale.  So, being a determined sort of fellow for anything waxing towards the nostalgic, I loaded up the conversion van with family in tow, eastward bound to Moville.  Well, ok, the wife loaded up the family, but I drove, which is half the battle.

When we arrived in Moville, as usual, I had trips through memory lane running rampant in my head.  Remembering days that now seem long gone.  Some buildings new, some buildings gone, some dilapidated beyond repair.  But my objective was to just rummage and find bargains, not to be one of those people who harkens back to their glory days (of which I had few).

As I was sifting through a pile of books for my boys I noticed a girl come through the alley on a moped.  Immediately this caught my attention.  I then recalled glimpsing one driving down a side road as well a few blocks back. Now, anytime I see a moped driving through Moville, I can’t help but just kind of stare and remember.  But if you don’t know, or perhaps need a refresher course, I’ll elaborate why, mostly to make sure you don’t believe I just gawk at girls on mopeds.

When I grew up in Moville, a friend of my dad was selling his son’s moped.  My dad saw this as a good opportunity to give me a sort of vehicle to travel around with.  It gave me all sorts of mobility, which can be valuable at the age of 13 or 14.  After my first ride on it, I was hooked.  When I got it, I couldn’t legally drive it on the road.  So what did a young man with a taste of horsepower do?  I drove it around my yard in circles and occasionally ventured out onto the gravel road.

The moped was a nice red moped, but I’m not very good with details.  It kept having different problems starting and sometimes sputtering out.  Instead of trying to constantly figure out what was wrong, my parents decided just to get me a new one, since I would be able to legally drive it and get back and forth to school now.  There was still a fondness for that first moped, but honestly, I think it was dying of the boredom of my house.  We lived on an acreage, but come on, there’s only so much you can do on that chunk of land.

One fine weekend, we decided to drive to Sheldon as they had a motorcycle dealership that sold mopeds.  Off we went and soon I had found the shiniest red moped you ever laid eyes on.  It also had a storage compartment mounted on the back of it.  Think of it like having one of those lame baskets on the back of your bicycle, or more appropriately, a fanny pack for your moped.  Cool right?  Nope, but I thought, hey this is useful!  What’s more important than useful?  For the next few years, this compartment would see little actual use as it was easy to put my school bag on the moped floorboard.

Another peculiarity about mopeds.  You have to have a flag on the back of them.  Now, there’s several trains of thought here, so bear with me.  There was the camp that said you need it long so people can see you.  Others chopped those damn things down so far you thought they were coming out of their posterior.  I was in the first camp, because if there’s one thing my mother instilled in me, it is to be careful.  So I had that flag so damned long that when you went too fast it leaned so far back that it was almost parallel to the ground, thus defeating the entire purpose of that annoying thing to begin with.  Eventually I decided to trim it a bit (not too much) so that it wouldn’t do that and mostly so I wouldn’t be ridiculed the whole time.  Then again, the storage compartment still didn’t help.

Now there were three of us (mainly) who utilized the increased mobility of the moped on almost a gang like basis.  Me, Kelly Heeren, and David Flewelling.  I can’t tell you how many adventures we went on with those mopeds.  But what I can tell you, is that at the time, we were not exactly the cool people.  Kelly (God rest his soul) at least had the stylish Vanilla Ice haircut going for him.  And I gave many a people rides to and fro.  I’ve almost never been a small guy, so this must have been quite the sight.  So that moped got more use out of it than some people do out of their cars.

The one thing that truly catapulted the moped to infamy was an incident that involved two of my best friends. Nate Higgins and Mike Stark were feuding and it probably escalated due to something about Dungeons and Dragons, bologna loving reindeer, and other such nonsense.  However, an epic moment truly occurred the second Nate uttered “3:30 after school by Wilson’s moped!”  Suddenly the moped was not just an object, but a location!  Not just a location, but a real freaking destination.  And boy was this whole thing advertised and promoted like nothing else.  The fight itself is not so important, but the moped and that saying soon evolved into legend.  To the importance of Moville, this is akin to the importance of Zeus to Greek mythology.  Pretty impressive stuff really.

So what the heck am I rambling on about?  Well, I think it should be obvious by now, and if it isn’t, my road map probably got us lost.  Not the first time that’s happened.  But the more I went around Moville today, the more I saw of one thing.  Mopeds.  Now all girls on mopeds, but mopeds nonetheless.  So this leads to one conclusion.  The reason they ride those mopeds is because of me and the ground I forged.  Much like Larry “the Cable Guy” plowed the field of tolerance towards rednecks and hillbillies, so too, I have created a lasting legacy.  These teens may not realize that the reason they’re experiencing such an amazing freedom is because I planted that seed.  They don’t know me; the stories of me are probably slight mummers in the stories their parents tell each other at night.  But I’m proud of this legacy and the traditions created.

I’m not just here to extol my virtues.  In fact, most of the moped riders I saw were girls.  So, I think that proves the fact that I am a role model for teenage girls everywhere.  No need to shower me with gifts and adorn me with titles though.  Part of me thinks, wouldn’t the ultimate twist of irony be if I opened up a store for mopeds in Moville?  And how many people would pee their pants laughing if I did?  Well, damned good thing for you all that I don’t have any money.