Mix Master

Posted: February 17, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

There is no sweeter gift than one made with love especially for you.

Among my favorite types of homemade gift is the music mix, once a mixed tape, then a mixed CD, now an online playlist. No matter its form, the charm of a music mix resides in the expression of care and understanding and delight and love.

Over many years, I have been thrilled to receive some extraordinary mixes from friends, the occasional student, and even especially for me from the man I love from time to time.

The end of the film High Fidelity perfectly captures the essence of constructing a good mix. Nick Hornby’s definition is flawless; I shall only add my idiosyncratic wrinkles. My research produced a book called Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture, which I’ll add to my reading list. Of primary importance is creating a mix specifically to please another.

A truly good mix will have a charming title, and sometimes personalized inserts. My favorites, in heavy rotation and nearing exhaustion, include the tremendously thoughtful “Up at Bat: I & II” from Holly, “Sushi Mix” from Hanna, “Living is Easy” from Kris, the “I Kiss You” series from Jen, “Oooh la la la” from Jenny, “Getting Dish Back to School” from Emily, “Summer wood” from Jeremiah, and many workout mixes from Ingrid.

mixtape

To be truly beloved, a music mix must contain music by artists that both the giver and recipient like, both separately and in common. For example, my “Sushi” mix from Hanna includes music from Queen, a band we both adore, and music from some of her particular favorites, and mine. It is a special fusion of taste.

A good mix will also include new music, fresh treats discovered by the mix maker and shared like a wonderful secret. My friends have always been cooler than me; through them, I discover cutting-edge musicians long before mass popularity.

A good mix shares hidden messages, like “I Ain’t Ever Loved A Man” by Aretha,  “Living My Life Like it’s Golden” by Jill Scott , and anthems, like “Hot for Teacher” and  “You Can Have Whatever You Like” cover by Anya Marina, and memories, “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues, and a larger sense of unity present in well-structured albums.

The songs must be selected especially for the listener; crafting a unique listening experience embodies a profound connection. Constructed as a musical collage, a good mix is a love letter, to be kept, revisited, cherished.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Yep. Another Valentine’s Day is upon us.  Last year I meant to share a great Valentine’s Day recording with Turtle reader, but I just plain forgot. So, I am getting out in front of the big day this year.

Have a listen to this short from the New York Public Radio program Radiolab. In it, the host Jad Abumrad and Robert p01n86yyKrolwich retell the story purportedly first told by the great Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes during a Symposium drinking party.  Socrates was there, and so was Socrates’ most famous pupil, Plato. He recorded Aristophanes explanation of why humans fell in love in his Socratic dialogue called, appropriately enough, The Symposium.  Enjoy the two minute clip, and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

I must admit, I find African-American History Month a bit problematic. Wait, let me restate that.  I find the reception, understanding and construction of African American History Month problematic. I’ll tell you why I feel this way in a bit, but first let me clarify some things.

You need to understand where I am coming from. I am not one of those people (usually white, which I am), who ponderously wonders, “If we have a Black History Month, why don’t we have a White History Month?” If you have ever said this, please stop now. You sound ridiculous, and you have just displayed either your bias, or your ignorance.  I’m also not one who feels African-American history, or Mexican-American history, or Women’s history somehow balkanizes the American people into different, competing groups.  Newsflash! The social, cultural and ethnic history turn of the 1960’s has not been to blame for the racial, ethnic and gender tensions in America during the past 300 years! To believe otherwise is to be either completely ignorant of American History, or to be arguing in bad faith.

No, I feel African-American history month doesn’t go far enough.

The intention of African-American history month is noble, and absolutely necessary. It exists for a very powerful reason. For much of our nation’s history,

A depiction of the 'happy slave' that was common in 19th and early 20th century history texts.

A depiction of the ‘happy slave’ that was common in 19th and early 20th century history texts.

the study of the past has not been colorblind.   It is an unfortunate truth that American historians have played a crucial role in creating, and furthering the notion of white racial dominance.  For years American history texts simply ignored, or worse, purposely distorted the African-American experience for political and racist purposes.  Though this is much less common now, it still exists. In addition, there has been, and there still are many politicians and cultural critics who wish to simply gloss over, romanticize or completely white-wash the deeply troubling ideologies of race and racism that have scarred our nation. Hence, for these people, African-American history itself is dangerous. They want positive American heroics, no matter what. If the truth of African-American history messes with this constructed heroic story, than that truth must be muzzled!

African-American history month is intended to rectify the injustice of past historiographical omissions, and shine the harsh light of facts on those who would forget our nation’s rocky, messy, often disturbingly unheroic past.  I am completely on board with both goals. However, I do have concerns. First,as mentioned above, I think it is unjust. One month is simply not enough to understand how important African American history is to the story of America. It may be a bit cliched to state that African-American history is American history, but it is no less true. This truth needs to be pushed beyond the four weeks of February. I am afraid it often is not.

Second, I worry about African-American history being simplified by how most ‘celebrate’ and receive the month.  I think it is very easy to perceive African-American history month as a 28 day celebration of quick biographical sketches that paint chosen, recognizable men and 2-3-2014-fox-newswomen as a-historical heroes. Of course, it is nice when TV stations provide snippet memories of Rosa Parks, MLK, and George Washington Carver during commercial breaks and station identifications, but, by repeatedly doing this year after year they often provide the public only the very surface story of the African-American experience.  New heroes get added to the American pantheon, but when March roles around, we all realize we are none-the-wiser to the deeper story of WHY these people should be considered heroic.  Americans need to remember the social structures, legal codes and political ideologies such heroes fought against; they need to remember these people literally put their lives on the line to speak out against hypocritical American injustice. They need to remember, period.

African-American history, along with the history of race in America, is crucial to understanding the American story. It must be about more than a litany of individual biographies, and it must take up more than 28 days. And so, over the next few weeks, I will write a set of blogs providing a glimpse of a wider ranging African-American history. These blogs will show how millions of forgotten African-American men and women were central in the creation of American freedom, American capital and American culture. I hope you will think about these stories in March, April, May and beyond.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

There are so many great theme songs from movies, television shows, videos games, and more. A bit of news came out late last week that got a lot of people talking online, and it got my favorite theme song of all-time stuck in my head. It also got me thinking about what are my favorite theme songs. While there are so many great options, here are my favorite theme songs of all-time:

Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical Order): The Big Bang Theory, Family Guy, Home Improvement, Indiana Jones, Saved by the Bell, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Stars Wars – Main Theme, Super Mario Bros., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle – 80s cartoon.

5. Star Wars – The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)

I’m not much of a Star Wars fan, but if I hear even a few notes of the Imperial March, I’ll be whistling it for no less than the next hour. Or, if I’m in a situation where whistling is unwelcome, it plays in my head on loop while I cup my hand over my mouth and breathe like Dark Vader. The Star Wars theme itself is also fabulous, but I’m going with the Dark Side on this one.

4. NBA on NBC Theme

Any basketball fan, and especially any Chicagoan, over the age of 30 should have fond memories of this John Tesh composed theme song for the NBA on NBC broadcasts. For Bulls fans, it should make you feel all warm and happy inside, because whenever we heard this tune in the 90s, it meant we were about to get 48 minutes of Michael Jordan eviscerating another team.

*Sigh* – I miss this theme. TNT, ESPN, ABC – somebody please talk to John Tesh and bring back this music before NBA broadcasts!

3. Jurassic Park

I was 11-years-old when Jurassic Park came out in 1993. I don’t know a single person of my generation who doesn’t love Jurassic Park. We were all wide-eyed kids staring at the silver screen in disbelief of the “real” dinosaurs that summer, and we all have – still to this day – an unhealthy obsession with velociraptors and T-rexes. The Jurassic Park theme could conceivably be the theme song of my generation, if it weren’t for the next song on this list….

2. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

“This is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down….”

Go ahead and finish it. You know you’re physically and mentally incapable of resisting the urge.

1. The Legend of Zelda

If you are not into video games, put aside any potential bias for a moment and hear me out. The Legend of Zelda is one of the longest-running, most famous, and most popular video game series of all-time. One of the reasons the game is so iconic is because its theme is so damn good.

Just last week, news surfaced that Netflix is in talks to produce a live-action Legend of Zelda series. If the show does happen, I sincerely hope each episode’s title sequence has this epic orchestral rendition of the theme playing. Do yourself a favor and listen to this beautiful version, especially if you’ve never heard it or if your memories of Zelda are restricted to sounds coming from your 1980s TV and Nintendo Entertainment System.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

It’s Monday, so I have created new to-do lists for the day and the week.

Creating a list of things to do and completing that list is an oddly satisfying part of adult life.ToDo

I’m a to-do lister from way back. My lifelong friend and long-suffering college roommate, Jenny Couch, used to roll her eyes upon finding that my daily lists began with the same items: 7:00 wake/shower 7:30 breakfast. She asked me why I needed to write “wake up” on my to-do list. Clearly, she was unaware of the enormous sense of accomplishment crossing an item off a to-do list can produce.

wellbegunRMU’s English Department Chair, Mick MacMahon, has a fabulous habit of establishing a to-do list for our regular departmental meetings. The magical aspect of Mick’s to-do list protocol involves not just crossing off the item from a list, but deleting it through erasure. I have started erasing items from my daily course agenda, which is written on the white board to indicate the plan of action for every class period. As the class unfolds, the list is diminished by our work, leaving fewer and fewer concepts to cover until we’re all done.

Like every other good thing in the world, to-do lists have received a 21st-century update via online apps. The brilliantly named Wunderlist offers a variety of public lists. Some seem worth a look, but it’s unclear how looking at a catalog of lists can enhance my productivity. The skeptical Luddite within me balks. In this behavior, I am emulating Neil Postman, who regularly asked if there actually existed a problem before technological solutions were introduced. Pen and paper serve me exceedingly well. To-do list apps may be life-changing, but it’s likely that I’ll never know.

The world is more digital than ever, but my to-do lists will remain unchanged: embodying old-school achievement, vintage productivity.

By Tricia Lunt, English faculty

Early in November, I experienced a minor fashion crisis while my friend Ingrid was visiting. I was searching my apartment for my legwarmers as she and I were getting dressed to go out for a night of fun.

“Maybe you left them at your dance recital,” was her comic comeback.

“Ha-ha-ha,” I replied.

I discovered my rascally legwarmers hiding in my boots: disaster averted.

Legwarmers’ popularity peaked in the 1980’s, largely due to the movie Flashdance and the onslaught of aerobics videos, and the attendant popular culture phenomena, my favorite being Olivia Newton John’s invitation, “Let’s Get Physical”. While I certainly enjoy a wide array of legwarmer color combinations, my go-to pair is basic black—always slimming, easily coordinated with everything.

I never wore legwarmers during their 1980’s heyday, a decade with fashion fads that are remembered entirely too fondly in my opinion. I was quite young through those years, and certainly I don’t look back at shoulder pads and acid wash jeans with longing.

1980s-fashionitem-leg-warmers

Work that look, ladies!

 

While they may have largely faded from widespread popularity, legwarmers remain ridiculously useful, particularly as a functional, alterable layer. I can add them easily, or remove them, or scrunch them down to a little fabric bunch at my ankle. They are a portable and lightweight warming option, easily fitting into pockets or purses, unlike an extra coat.

Legwarmers are a vital part of my penchant for layering throughout the year, and bundling when necessary. Over the course of the 2014 calendar year, I wore my legwarmers eleven out of twelve months. When I went to the Pacific Northwest in July, I brought my trusty legwarmers primarily because the weather report included daytime highs in the 40’s and 80’s, which is a considerable range requiring effective packing. I wore my legwarmers on my arms as extra sleeves when on chilly sunrise boat trip to The San Juan Islands, and was able to pare down to just a tank top when the afternoon emerged as a sunny 75 degree day.

Cleary, legwarmers are a staple of my wardrobe. How did this happen? None of my friends regularly wear legwarmers, but I never was much of a follower when it comes to fashion. I am a fan of unique, utilitarian fashion accessories (see my abundant scarf collection). I follow the basic maxim to wear what feels and looks good, which is why I gave up high heels years ago (a cruel practice started by diminutive male aristocrats with size issues—no, thanks). I have always preferred to find my own style; legwarmers are just one pretty, peculiar part.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

I have been a sports fan my whole life, and I engage with sports everyday in some fashion, be it watching games, reading articles, or talking with family and friends.

In all my years of sports, “Deflategate” may be the dumbest controversy I have ever encountered.

For those unaware, Deflategate is the ongoing controversy surrounding the NFL’s New England Patriots, who were found to have used underinflated footballs during their offensive possessions in last Sunday’s AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts. League rules require the balls to be between 12.5-13.5 PSI. The balls used by the Patriots were found to be around 2 PSI under those requirements. In theory, deflated balls are easier to throw, catch, and handle, which could have given the Patriots a miniscule advantage, particularly in the sloppy weather in which the game was played.

Deflated-NFL-Football

Note: This is way less than 2 PSI under regulation.

Before I continue, let me preface my comments by noting I am a Miami Dolphins fan. Not only do I not have an allegiance with the Patriots, but as division rivals, I actively root against them every season. I have no pro-Pats bias.

With that said, Deflategate is so stupid that I may scream until my lungs deflate. I am already tired of hearing about it and I know it will be the focus of all NFL conversations up to and through the Super Bowl. If the Patriots win, idiots will be screaming for an asterisk to be attached to the title; if they lose, fans will be screaming about karma.

Good lord – fans and media are going to lose their collective minds and ruin the biggest game in American sports over 2 PSI of pressure.

In my best Allen Iverson voice: "Pressure? We talkin' about pressure?"

In my best Allen Iverson voice: “Pressure? We talkin’ about pressure?”

Everyone, from commentators to fans to players on the Colts, agrees that the inflation of the balls had absolutely no impact on the outcome of the Patriots 45-7 dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts.

Still, plenty of people have been whining, “It doesn’t matter if it helped the Patriots win or not. It’s the principle of the matter; they cheated! Fine them! Take away draft picks! Suspend the Patriots head coach! Put the Colts in the Super Bowl!”

Wah, wah, wah!

Shut up, you horde of hypocritical, holier-than-thou sports fans and media.

In every sport, every day, players and coaches are bending or breaking rules to get an advantage, or they are actively trying to deceive the opponents or referees to gain an advantage. Anyone who has played sports at any level who claims they never “cheated” in any fashion is either a liar or a magnificently upstanding loser

Here are some examples of common “cheating” in sports:

  • Flopping, particularly basketball and soccer. The entire purpose is to deceive the officials into calling a foul, thus giving his/her team an advantage through an illegal act.
  • In football or baseball, when a player traps a catch. (ie: The ball hits the ground and the player knows it did, but they try to sell it to everyone else as if it was caught.)
  • In football and basketball, players illegally holding/grabbing on every play, hoping that they will not get caught by the officials as they gain an unfair advantage over their opponent.

When any sports fan, myself included, sees their team commit a blatant foul or penalty that is NOT caught by the officials, we don’t get upset and demand that our team be punished for their crimes. Instead, we say, “Sweet! We got away with that one!” and appreciate that the bypassing of rules will help us to victory.

Still, people will say, “But those examples are different! That’s gamesmanship! Acts like those are part of the culture of competition. Wah, wah, wah!”

Shut up.

Let’s talk doctoring, then. In football, there are stories about doctored jerseys going back for generations, from putting grease on jerseys to make them slick, to sewing ball bearings into the fabric.

Or, how about doctored footballs? In the wake of this Deflategate absurdity, current and former NFL quarterbacks including Aaron Rodgers, Brad Johnson, and Mark Brunell have talked about how doctoring the football is the norm. Brad Johnson even paid $7500 dollars to have people doctor the balls he used during his Super Bowl victory with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003.

Should Tampa Bay forfeit their Super Bowl title?

Or should the Dallas Cowboys demand an opportunity to play in this year’s Super Bowl, since they lost to Aaron Rodger’s Green Bay Packers in the playoffs? After all, Aaron may have had an over-inflated ball, which is his preference.

Be it sports or any other issue in our world, people will rail against perceived injustices in the most illogical, hypocritical ways.

For example, take another form of “cheating”: performance enhancing drugs – steroids, HGH, etc.

In baseball, many sports fans and media members will never forgive players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire for using performance enhancing drugs. They were among the greatest players of their generation, yet they will likely be ostracized forever in terms of being recognized for their on-the-field accomplishments.

In football, players who take performance enhancing drugs are penalized and suspended for several games. Yet, fans don’t blink and then welcome those players back with open arms, no different than if the same player had missed those games due to an injury. A few players on the Dolphins were suspended for illegal substances this year. All I thought, like any other Dolphins fan was, “I can’t wait until Week 5 when these guys are back to help the defense!”

My Dolphins are an irrelevent bunch of losers, though. How about a more relevant example. Before last year’s Super Bowl, the eventual champion Seattle Seahawks – who are back in the Super Bowl this year – had a league-leading five players suspended for PED usage. Raise your hand if you knew or cared? Where are the people marching on the NFL headquarters with torches in hand to demand that the Seahawks be stripped of their title? As Deflategate continues in the next two weeks, should all of the Seahawks players be tested to make sure they aren’t cheating?

Should any player or team cheat? No. I’m not advocating it. Whether it’s a holding call, PED usage, or a deflated football, if it is proven that rules were broken, then the team/player should be penalized appropriately. Then, move on with life.

However, the media has already blown up Deflategate to such absurd proportions that you’d think the Patriots had hired Jeff Gillooly to coordinate taking out Andrew Luck’s knee at halftime.

nancy-kerrigan-attack

Who saw a Jeff Gillooly reference coming in this post? Not me, and I’m writing it!

Ultimately, in this case, I think the outrage is a mix of jilted lover/jealous fan syndrome.

The Patriots and coach Bill Belichick have been caught cheating before – the “Spygate” controversy. Both Spygate and Deflategate had little to no impact on the games, but people jumped on their moral high horses. Now, like a jilted lover, people are mad that the dude who cheated on them once before and said he wouldn’t do it again has cheated again. Only, with 2 PSIs, it was less like having an affair and more like saying good afternoon to the female cashier ringing you up at the grocery store.

And, face it, fans are jealous of the Patriots. Any fan who claims otherwise is fibbing again. The Patriots are the preeminent franchise in football, if not all of sports, over the past 15 years. As a Dolphins fan, if it would help my team be dominant and go to six Super Bowls in the next 15 years, I’d go deflate some footballs right now.

So, to borrow Aaron Rodgers’ infamous line from earlier this season: relax. Enjoy the Super Bowl, which will be a great matchup between two great teams, both of whom deserve to be in the big game. And don’t worry about PSI unless you’re checking the air in your car tires.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

In Tricia Lunt’s most recent piece on the Flaneur’s Turtle, she defined guilty pleasures like so:

What makes a pleasure (or preference) guilty? It must be common, low (as in the equally problematic and xenophobic term “low brow”), or beneath us. It is most certainly not good. At best, it may be kitsch, or is it camp? In order for a pleasure to be a guilty one, we must sense that the thing itself—usually some artifact associated with pop culture—is somehow bad. Maybe we might even like it because it is bad.

At first glance, I agreed completely with her definition, particularly since it fits my most immediate personal example of a guilty pleasure: The Celebrity Apprentice.

I can’t get enough of that show. There’s just something mesmerizing about watching D-Level celebrities fight to extend their 15 minutes of fame while trying to prove that they can be semi-functioning humans by completing simple tasks like selling a pie or creating a magazine spread. And I like to marvel at how Donald Trump and his sons can be so ugly, while his daughter is so damn hot.

"One of these things is not like the others...."

Punnett squares can yield fascinating results….

When I’m watching the show, I’m happy, but I’m also looking around my living room to see if anyone is spying on me with judging eyes. I know the show is absurd, trashy TV, but I love it.

As I poked around my mind for other personal examples of guilty pleasures, I began to question if some of them fit the definition, which led me to believe that Tricia’s definition needs some expansion.

Guilty pleasures do not necessarily have to be low brow, but they must be self-identified. Also, guilty pleasures are contextual.

By self-identified, I mean that we have to feel guilty and ashamed of something for it to qualify as a guilty pleasure. People cannot dictate that something we like be a guilty pleasure.

For example, among the many drinks I like, I’m also fond of “girl drinks.” I have no problem ordering a martini or margarita or any other drink that may be frozen, fruity, or pink. Friends don’t say a word if I have a beer in hand, but I’ve had plenty of friends tease me about how much I love girly drinks. But I don’t care. I like those drinks and I’m not ashamed. So, friends can tease me or be embarrassed to be sitting at the same table with me. However, if I’m not ashamed, then that drink isn’t a guilty pleasure.

But if I was ashamed, those drinks wouldn’t be low brow. Any drink over $10 with top shelf liquor is a far cry from a PBR. Thus, guilty pleasures don’t have to be low brow.

Guilty pleasures are also contextual.

Right now, I love the popular Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson song “Uptown Funk.” It’s like Bruno is channeling The Time and James Brown. It’s such a great song, and I’m willing to tell anyone I like it.

Most of the time, anyway.

I'd still take The Time over Prince, which is another thing I'm not guilty about.

I’d still take The Time over Prince, which is another thing I’m not guilty about.

I was at my gym the other day, and as I stepped off the treadmill to head to the weights, “Uptown Funk” started blasting in my earbuds. Were I at home, in the office, in a bar, or around friends, I’d probably have started bouncing my head along, if not full-on singing and dancing. But I was in a large open space full of dudes lifting heavy stuff and I was joining their numbers. I immediately turned down my music, fearing that if a single funky note escaped my earbuds, the gaggle of protein powder gulping power lifters would all drop their Olympic weight bars to escort me out of the building for not being manly enough.

In other words, in a particular context, I became ashamed of something I wouldn’t otherwise be ashamed about.

So, there you have it – I’ve amended the definition. And now that I’ve clarified all of this, I’m going to go listen to Bruno while I have a margarita swirl. And I won’t feel guilty at all.

GuiltyPleasuresby Tricia Lunt, English faculty

To escape embarrassment, I might pretend indifference, but more often than not, I will succumb to my guilty pleasures.

I feel slightly self-conscious while watching ANTM, that’s America’s Next Top Model for those in the know. And yet, however unfortunate it may be, I still like watching the models complain and cry in response to their often inane make-overs. I like watching Tyra Banks behave as though she single-handedly runs the modeling industry. I like the exotic and moronic photo shoots because they remind me just how artistically complicated and compelling an advertisement for lip gloss can be, and just how artificial every little bit of what we consider beautiful or stylish or artistic is. The taste makers might very well be telling an elaborate joke. Every time we buy in, we serve up the punch line. Just ask the emperor’s tailor.

Another seriously guilty pleasure back for another season is Downton Abbey. I am devotee, so much so that actually put the date and time of the premiere on my calendar. Despite the fact that it airs on PBS, via the BBC, high art it ain’t. The use of mythological (sword of Damocles, anyone?) and literary references (this week’s shout-out to Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice) can’t conceal the bodice ripping underneath. Posh accents, opulent rooms, and rich costuming aside, it is a soap opera.

badtasteWhat makes a pleasure (or preference) guilty? It must be common, low (as in the equally problematic and xenophobic term “low brow”), or beneath us. It is most certainly not good. At best, it may be kitsch, or is it camp? In order for a pleasure to be a guilty one, we must sense that the thing itself—usually some artifact associated with pop culture—is somehow bad. Maybe we might even like it because it is bad.

The “guilty pleasure” leads is to an investigation of and interrogation of taste. Good taste pretends to dictate a hierarchy. Certain things like bad television, schlocky pop songs, unconvincing actors might be popular, but they are not what we know to be good.

My friend and artist Matthew Schlagbaum explores the nature of “good taste” in his work. A book he’s consulted Let’s Talk about Love: A Journey to the End of Taste has some interesting things to say about Celine Dion’s worldwide popularity. Like any true artist, Matt reminds me to contemplate ideas and draw my own conclusions rather than relying on external judgments.

Countless television programs, songs, and films are dismissed as crap, but remain beloved nonetheless. Good or not, we know what we like.

 

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty.

I watched a lot of movies over the holidays. I went to the theater, visited Redbox, logged onto Netflix, and watched DVDs and Blu-Rays I own. However, there is one thing I didn’t do:

I didn’t go to a video store.

Whenever I visit my parents out in the Chicago ‘burbs, I pass by Orland Video. It’s the video store my family would go to when I was a kid, and it’s one of only two brick and mortar video stores I know of that are still open.

Whenever I drive by, I wonder how – or even why – it is still open. With on-demand digital content and video rental kiosks, who are the customers that are keeping this store alive? Even my parents, who admittedly dislike technology and were the last people I knew who still went to video stores, migrated to Redbox years ago.Orland Video

Yet, the video store is still open, with its same yellow sign glowing at the end of a stripmall – a symbol of different, older times.

I first tried Netflix during my college days. Back then, Netflix mailed out physical copies of DVDs. It was a slow and obnoxious process. Netflix had some perks, but it was still far easier and faster to drive over to the video store. When Netflix first started offering streaming services, technology hadn’t quite caught up with the concept yet. Internet speeds weren’t fast enough – at least they weren’t in my house, or anyone else’s I knew. The movie would take a dreadfully long time to load, then about ten minutes of the movie would play, and it would go right back to the loading screen. Trying to watch a 90 minute movie was more of a three or four-hour process.

However, anyone with common sense knew that as soon as streaming content got faster, the old ways – the video stores – were going to die. And this was before Redbox emerged, adding just one more nail in the video store’s coffin.

These advancements in movie-viewing technology are great: they’re easier, cheaper, and more convenient than the old ways.

Still, we’ve lost something with the demise of the video store. They were more than just a place to rent movies and video games.

They were a part of the family. On Fridays, once the school week was over, my dad and I would go to the video store to wander the aisles. I could rent movies or video games, and he would rent a movie for him and mom to watch. He’d notoriously pick anything that was labeled as “Funny” on the box, my mom wouldn’t like it, and he’d defend himself by saying, “But the box said it was hilariously funny.” The weekend was then coming to a close officially when someone, usually mom, would ask, “Did anyone remember to return the videos?”

Video stores were a part of the neighborhood community. At their peak, videos stores were everywhere, so each drew from the neighborhoods immediately around it. Thus, there was always a good chance of bumping into neighbors and friends. Also, the employees and owners would get to know all the regulars. The video store was a place for familiar faces.

Video stores were a hangout for friends. Especially in my teens, I made countless trips with my brother and his friends, or with my friends, to the video store. The trip wasn’t just about picking a movie – usually a B-movie that we suspected would be so bad it would be good. The trip was about being together, discussing movies, arguing over what to pick, and figuring out who could rent the movies since most of us had late charges on our own accounts that we didn’t want to pay.

With the rise of smartphones, there are plenty of people and studies that bemoan how the technology – which is incredibly beneficial – has led to a decrease in social interaction. I, like most anyone else, wouldn’t give up my smartphone, but it’s hard to ignore some of the negative effects the technology has had, especially for those of us who lived before smartphones were in everyone’s hands.

Similarly, video stores are another, less-often cited, example of a decline in community due to an increase in technology.

Just as I wouldn’t give up my smartphone, I wouldn’t opt to go back to the old ways of the video store. At its most basic function, the video store was to rent movies, and we now have better, faster, easier ways to do that.

But, whenever I see that old yellow sign on the video store, I can’t help but get a bit nostalgic about the fun times that have been left behind with our technological step forward.