Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shut Up, America: Capitalism's Fake War on Truth, Justice and Greed

It’s the week of Thanksgiving and that means two things: Turkeys everywhere have abandoned the Earth’s surface for the foreseeable future and barricaded themselves into their subterranean bunkers to wait out their yearly species-wide end of days. We should see them back out on the streets come the new year.
                And two: Americans everywhere are pouring through news reports about Black Friday, working themselves into a sanctimonious lather, not about the deals or lack there off, but about the hours.
                Surpassing drunken arguments with the family, Lions football, and even mind-blowing amounts of gluttony, America’s new favorite Thanksgiving tradition is complaining about what time the stores open on Black Friday, or Terrible Thursday as it’s become.
                Black Friday used to be about waking up at 2 a.m. and journeying out into the darkness, belly full of stuffing and turkey meat, to wait in line at big box stores to fight tooth-and-nail to save a few sheckles on a big screen TV.
                Now, it’s about the same, only instead of waking up before your neighborhood rooster, people don’t go to sleep. Black Friday has encroached on Thanksgiving, to the point where K-Mart opening at 6 a.m. on Turkey Day and staying open for either 41 straight hours or until employees revolt and burn the place to the ground in a bleary-eyed rage.
                Whichever comes first.
                And so it goes. Capitalism. Uncle Sam’s wet dream. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
                Except every year anymore people get all cheesed off about it. Petitions get signed, people go on TV and the internet, complaining to anyone or anything who’ll listen about closing retail stores down and protecting the virtues of pigging out together and then kicking some Native Americans in the shins like the Pilgrims did. AS A FAMILY!
                I don’t get that.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dear memories of a doomed juggernaut: Stuff that I recall from my days as a video jockey

Now that Blockbuster has decided to abandon its place in the physical world and exist solely in some sort of Internet-based, digital ether-land or whatever it is that company thinks it’s doing, (you’re dead guys, get used to it) it’s time for some reminiscing.
                I’ve already mentioned that I worked for Blockbuster for about a year back during mycollege days. Hell, those sweaters that college kids always wear tied around their necks in movies don’t pay for themselves after all
                During my time there, I experienced many things, some good, some bad and some that I just can’t chase out of my brain for whatever reason.
                Here are some of my most memorable memories from my days wearing the Blockbuster navy blue and yellow.
  • First time I ever had the police called on me. I could spend paragraphs detailing why Blockbuster’s no-late fees policy was a giant scam that did the unthinkable and managed to piss off customers even more than their original, yes-late fees policy. The long and short of it is that the company didn’t do a very good job of explaining to customers that if movies were late, they would be charged on their credit card for the full market price of the disc, usually $30 for movie and $100 for a TV show. One lady did not take kindly to Blockbuster’s attempt to destroy her credit score and after yelling at me for 20 minutes or so, she walked out of the store and called the cops. I could see the pain in the poor suburban cop’s eyes as she explained the situation to him in the parking lot. He was living the boring nightmare that his city cops friends always made fun of him for. He came back inside and I explained the policy to him, he nodded solemnly and walked back outside, to presumably tell the lady to f off and rethink his life choices.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Make it a Blockbuster life: Final thoughts on the death of a douchey icon

On Wednesday, Blockbuster announced it would begin the process of shutting down all of its remaining stores, officially bringing about the end of an era.
                This move kicked off a firestorm of Google searches as people around the country looked to see where the closest Blockbuster was to them, having assumed all the stores had already closed like three years ago.
                But no, a few resilient locations of the former juggernaut remained, limping along, refusing to die until this week.
                I worked for Blockbuster for right around a year back during my college days. During my time with the company, I met a lot of amazing people. In addition, I also learned how not to run a company, should I ever decide to start one.
                Netflix gets most of the credit for ending Blockbuster’s reign, but really, Blockbuster did that it itself. It treated its customers like garbage, because, well, where else were they going to go? It had a near-monopoly of the at-home entertainment industry for a long time and so it could basically do whatever the hell it wanted.
                You guys don’t like late fees? We hear you. Let’s get rid of them for good … and replace them with restocking fees! Oh, you don’t like that? Well, I guess you can go to Hollywood Video … oh that’s right, we killed that company. Sorry!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: 1 a.m. going on 1 a.m.: Thoughts on 'Blackfish' (Part 2)

There’s one scene in particular that’s just absolutely terrifying. Spoiler alert, by the way. It’s home video of a trainer during a whale performance at Sea World. At one point the whale, not Tilikum, decides to grab the trainer’s foot in its mouth and drag him down to the bottom of the pool. It holds him there for what must have felt like an eternity before surfacing again, never letting go of the man’s foot.
The whole time you can clearly see this guy’s face and look in his eyes as he faces almost certain death. But he never panics. You see him breathing deeply while stroking the whale and whispering to it and then it goes down again, holds him at the bottom and surfaces again.
Same thing. He doesn’t panic. He keeps breathing slowly and stroking the whale, hoping to convince it to let him go and it does. But then it grabs his other foot and pulls him down again.
As this is going on, other trainers have divided the pool in half with a huge net, the idea being that if he could get away long enough to swim over the net, the whale wouldn’t be able to follow, but that was it. That was the best they could do for this guy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: 1 a.m. going on 1 a.m.: Thoughts on 'Blackfish' (Part 1)

Over the weekend we did that whole Daylight savings time thing and “fell back” as the kids say.
Some people, smart ones, used the extra hour to catch up on sleep.
Not being one of those smart ones, I used my extra hour to get one step ahead of my Netflix queue and watch a documentary about killer whales in captivity called “Blackfish.”
The doc had previously occupied the number one spot on my Netflix DVD queue, but then it turned up on CNN late last Saturday night/early Sunday morning at midnight, so my choice was made for me.
And after watching the movie, I have to say, there’s something deeply unsettling about clicking on the guide button to check what time something ends and seeing 1 a.m. followed by another 1 a.m.
It’s the type of thing that could send you into a psychotic episode in the middle of the night when you’re fending off sleep tooth and nail.
 What about “Blackfish?”

Friday, November 1, 2013

Trick or treating: A journey into the sad death of an American institution

The happy couple. I don't look happy, but I am.

So there’s another successful Halloween mostly in the books.
                I say mostly because I’m sitting here watching my all-time favorite horror movie, “The Blair Witch Project.”
                Once Mikey gets sent to the corner, then Halloween will be officially over for yours truly.
                The first Halloween in our new house was an interesting one. I was pretty psyched out of my mind about greeting trick or treaters, making brief-but -awkward conversation with them and their parents and then sending the lot on its way with a plastic pumpkin or a pillow case or a grocery bag filled with candy.
                You know, just like George Washington intended when he built this country with his own three hands. Fun fact about George Washington, he had three hands.