Skip to main content

Deep Impact

The concept of home video entertainment is forever woven into a physical reference point for me. True, I've 'moved with the times' and listen to most music digitally these days, but somehow cannot find the ability to enter the 21st century and watch movies via streaming. I'll stick with DVDs and Blu-rays, thank you very much. This is why I always took such comfort in the existence -- despite the odds -- of That's Rentertainment DVD/Blu-ray rental store, nestled in a small(ish) space in the campus town of our fair twin cities. Alas, that is soon to be no more. After 30 years, the store will be closing later this summer.

It was three decades ago that my parents brought home our first taste of home video entertainment. They situated the VCR (VHS, not Betamax) next to the television set, and had rented a few videos to watch. For them, Alfred Hitchcock movies. For me, some episodes of the Transformers cartoon series. It boggled my mind that it was possible to watch Transformers on any occasion other than the set time it was aired on television. This, and the first occasion I had to use a smartphone, was when technology really wowed me.

Over the years, the home video format changed. We went from VHS to DVD, then to Blu-ray, and now we're in the age of streaming. Sure, some folks -- including yours truly -- still muddle about with physical copies of movies and TV shows, but a lot of people (a majority?) now have no need of venturing somewhere to procure a bit of audio/visual entertainment. Netflix can do that for them just fine. I've lamented this of late, not only for feeling behind the times, but not going unnoticed that it's another bit of childhood chipped away.

That's Rentertainment was a place of comfort. Here was, to be frank, a relic of years gone by, a place that used to exist in various permutations all over town. Blockbuster, Stars and Stripes Video, Family Video, countless others: They were dotted across the landscape. The Internet, for all it's worth, is unable to recreate the experience of browsing physical things (books, movies, etc.), of running into friends and neighbors while searching for the next film to rent. That's something we're losing as places like video stores become relegated to the past.

In truth, I should have shopped more at That's Rentertainment. Habitual late fees rather put a stop to that, but that's my issue, not theirs. Cool people worked there. You know -- people that you could interact with, as opposed to staring at a computer screen while an algorithm creeps on your history and suggests items of interest. There would be conversations with fellow patrons, as we'd discuss some of the common titles that we had rented and watched. It was neat to see a special section devoted to films that had played at Ebertfest. That's a nice, local touch that you're unlikely to find online.

I dunno. Everything has its time. Everything comes and goes. To seek permanence in a world that has let us know over and over how transient it is would be folly. And yet... I miss That's Rentertainment, and it's not even gone. In truth, I miss what it represents, an era that has gone the way of the dodo bird. Is digital streaming more efficient than the physical encumbrances of consuming the same entertainment? Perhaps. But since when has efficiency always meant that something's better?

Kudos to owner Geoff Merritt for steering such a valuable, beloved ship for so many years. Thank you to the incredible, knowledgeable, fun-to-talk-with employees for making it a neat place to visit. Thank you to the other patrons who engaged in amiable conversation about our shared love of cinema and good television over the years. A unique piece of Champaign-Urbana will be going away soon, and I, for one, am sad.


Popular posts from this blog

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …

Third Death

My father has had three funerals. The third (though perhaps not final) one, was last night.
In reality, Lewis died in 1997. Cancer. Aged 52. He had a real funeral. I was there. The next two funerals occurred only in my dreams, yet they seemed real at the time, and their impact during the waking hours was keenly felt.
You see, during the intervening nineteen years, Lewis has come back to life in my dreams, many times. It is more than simply having a dream about him. During these nighttime images, it is noted that Lewis shouldn't be there, that he died of cancer and is resting six feet under. How, then, could he be alive and, seemingly, healthy?

Thoughts on an Election

Before I get started on the ruminations of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I'll begin by saying I really have no clue as to who our next president will be. I've always fretted over the outcome of elections, regardless of the polls, and this year is no different. Especially this year. A good case can be made as to why Hillary Clinton will become our 45th president. All one has to do is look at the polls. Clinton has a comfortable lead in many states, enough to make one think that she will win handily on November 8th.
Of course, polls can be wrong. 538 gives Clinton's changes of winning in the low-mid 80 percent range. Several polls would seem to agree. Many Republicans are jumping ship from Trump. The race looks over. But of course, humanity isn't as easily predictable as polling would have us believe. Things happen. People can surprise us. And, for better or worse, I think that Donald Trump may very well become our next president.