retsuko: (Default)
I remember the very first video store I ever went to. It was Captain Video!* and it occupied the space next to CVS in a local mall that Peet's Coffee & Tea owns now. It was a pretty small place, with slanted shelves lined with empty video cases and little labels stuck on them that read "Betamax only" or "VHS only." My parents let my sister and I choose one movie for ourselves ("The Last Unicorn") while they argued back and forth over which one to rent for themselves (they ended up choosing "The Lion in Winter".) It never really occurred to me at the time, but choosing a movie and deciding when to watch it was something of a revolution for my family and many others. I only knew as the credits rolled and Mia Farrow started her awful, reedy singing that I was watching a movie at home because my sister and I felt like it, and it was pretty great.

The video store was a semi-permanent fixture of my childhood and adolescence from then on, although in very measured quantity, ever a great frustration to me. Captain Video! disappeared rather quickly (as did Betamax), but a Blockbuster showed up fairly quickly, and there was always a kind friend who had the latest thing and invited me over to watch it. I should say here that my parents are most decidedly NOT leave-the-tv-on-in-the-background people. Their relationship with video rentals was actively characterized by a wary antagonism lest videos eat up time marked out for other, more wholesome activities, and this idea persisted through my entire childhood. One summer on a balmy Cape Cod afternoon, for example, we were at the video store when another family with children about my age came in, their arms laden with tapes. My mother regarded them with active disgust and when they'd left, she said, "I bet they spent all weekend watching those and doing nothing else. I bet they didn't even talk to each other." I didn't reply. I just wished I could rent as many videos as I wanted to.

What I didn't realize was that video rental was a double edged sword. When I got into high school and friends started having driver's licenses and cars, video rentals were at the top of our lists of Fun Things To Do. After all, we could all scrounge up the $3 between us, and there was always the possibility of renting something our parents might disapprove of, an illicit but largely empty thrill. But what we didn't realize was that trips to the video store would tear friendships apart, or waste hours of valuable leisure time. I had friends with definite preferences and agendas, and nowhere was this more on display than in the video store.** There was an evening in high school where three of my friends and I spent an hour and a half at the La Jolla Blockbuster, arguing over what to watch. I can't remember what we picked in the end, or even watching it afterwards. All I remember was a looming sense of amazement that my friends were that stubborn and unwilling to compromise with one another. Renting videos with boyfriends was also a test: would he be pushy and rude, insisting on Die Hard or a horror movie that I had no interest in, or would he be polite and choose something I wanted to see, like an anime***? It was like a date at the movies, but with the possibility for judgment even greater because of the sheer amount of choice in front of us.

But for all of its shortcomings, I can't bring myself to regret all my time at the video store. I love Netflix streaming and DVD-by-mail, but nothing can compare with seeing the exact video/DVD you want and taking it immediately, the child-like, slightly narcissistic thrill of "I will watch this now because I chose it!". And like any business, getting to know the people who worked at our local Blockbuster store, was a treat, too. (Our favorite manager used to bring his dog in to work, an adorable little mutt who didn't mind me picking him up at all.) Even though the video store was an inherently commercial enterprise, it was still a part of our neighborhood. My son will grow up not knowing what this was like, and he will, no doubt, roll his eyes at me when I start to tell him. It's just weird to think that something that was such an integral part of the cultural landscape has almost vanished completely.

* According to my Mom, the owner of the shop actually had a Captain Video costume, but when pressed for details, she always claims not to remember. For the life of me, I can't remember one way or another.

** I'm sure it wasn't just me and my friends; I often think that video store employees must have overheard some epics endings to relationships brewing.

*** Blockbuster was also the avenue to some of my very first anime, although back then the notoriously violent and X-rated Urutsukudoji: Legend of the Overfiend was often shelved next to Unico: The Little Unicorn. I used to complain about the inappropriateness of this to the video store employees, with varying degrees of success.
retsuko: (gert w/ dinosaur)
I've been trying to figure out how to write about the Cirque performance I saw on Saturday night without resorting to the lazy writer's standby: you had to be there. (I think this excuse is generally the provence of writers who are too unwilling to attempt descriptions other than "it was awesome!"/"cool!".) Yet, when I start to line up what we saw and relate it in simple narrative ("there were these four guys on two high wires, riding bicycles, and doing complicated balancing formations, all while dressed a Russian/Eastern European opera characters"), it sounds kind of lackluster and silly. I also eschew words/phrases like "indescribable" and "beyond imagination!" because both are patently incorrect: I can describe the performance (just not to my satisfaction) and if the show were, in fact, beyond imagination, it would not actually exist. (Because someone had to imagine it in the first place in order to produce such a show!)

But, negatives aside: what a dazzling spectacle it was, and how wonderfully fun! With clowns who were actually funny, not creepy! And with three contortionists who did things I did not think were possible with the human body; acrobats, one of whom managed to do several jumps while on stilts; a woman who managed to spin seven hula hoops at once, two on one arm, two on her foot, and three around her waist; and countless others. The costumes were spectacular, particularly the opening number of the second act, which featured a series of "Day of the Dead" style skeletons, blended with a Las Vegas style dance number. The most thrilling act of the evening involved two men, dressed as devils (note: this sounds cheesy. It was not.), running in what were essentially two giant, rotating wheels on a central axis. But as they sped up, the men began to do tricks that involved leaping in and out of the spinning wheels (!), running on top of them (!!) and then jump roping on top of them (!!!). This is the part where my descriptive powers wimp out and I must say: you had to be there. The roar of the crowd when tricks succeeded, the gasps of surprise when they failed (the consequences did look pretty scary), the music, the costumes, the lighting: you had to be there. It was the most beautiful and engrossing entertainment that I've been to in a while.

[ profile] yebisu9 said at the end of the evening that Cirque was like a dream that he didn't want to end, and I felt the same way. The last time I felt that way about anything pop culture, it was seeing "Spirited Away" and realizing with a terrible sinking feeling in my stomach that Chihiro letting go of Haku's hand was a sign that I was about to wake up. This time, I saw the signs of waking up fairly early on, and prepared myself accordingly. The real world is still beautiful, but I would happily return to that dream if I had the chance.
retsuko: (sheepish)
Cadged from [ profile] bottledgoose, anyone who wants to hear my voice is welcome to listen, or just hit the transcription button for textual fulfillment. :D

Voice posts are fun, right? You get to hear funny accents if your friends are from far, far away. All we really want is to hear your voice, we don't care what you're saying. So here's a list of typical meme questions that would otherwise be boring, but when communicated aloud - well, it's entertaining. Answer these questions in your post, and encourage others with voice-posting abilities to do the same.

1) What's your name?
2) How old are you?
3) Where are you from? Are you living there right now?
4) Is it cold where you are?
5) What's the time?
6) What are you wearing?
7) What was the last thing you listened to?
8) What was the last thing you ate?
9) What was the last thing you watched on tv?
10) What's your favorite tv show? Why?
11) Quick! Find a book, or something with text on it! Flip to a random page and read some of it! GO!
12) What was the last movie you saw? How was it?
13) Do YOU think you have an accent? Talk about that.

At the end of posting this, I was given the option of "listening to my message again". I thought, gargh, no! Listening to the sound of your own voice is one of the weirdest sensations you can have. It's bad enough listening to my answering machine message as I screen calls!
retsuko: (book love)
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My parents, while expressing grave doubts about some of the stuff I read, never actually forbid anything. Any books were fair reading game, in my house, and I was brought up to regard my parents' library as the source from which I should draw my reading choices. The problems started happening when I branched out into sci-fi and fantasy, and then manga and graphic novels. My Mom, especially, was very dubious about manga at first. She was convinced I was reading a whole lot of poorly-drawn sci-fi fantasy comic books with smutty undertones. Her approach to shutting this behavior down was passive-aggressive at its best:

Me (about age 13): Check this book I got from Cal-Animage! It has summaries of untranslated manga I want to read!
Mom (flipping through pages, radiating disapproval): "The girl warrior climbs up dragon's horn." (disapproving pause) You know what really means, right?
Me: What are you talk--
Mom: That means the dragon's penis.
Me (mortified, snatching book back): MAW-UM!

My Dad's approach was far more insidious and still plagues me to this day. "What's with the eyes?" he'd say, thumbing through my latest, most treasured purchase, "This is badly drawn. What the hell's with this guy's hair? Why are their eyes so large? Tsk, so ugly."

So, while neither of them expressly forbid me from reading anything, they made their feelings on the matter pretty darn clear. In retrospect, I wish they'd not gone the passive-aggressive route and talked to me honestly about their concerns about my choice of reading material. As it was, it took me writing my Master's thesis on CLAMP and feminism to get them to take manga seriously, beyond just simple crap that I was wasting my time on.

The only adult who expressly tried to forbid me from reading something was a teacher I otherwise adored, Mrs. Biondo. One day in fifth grade, I brought in my library hardcover of The Headless Cupid by Zylpha Keatley Snider for quiet reading time, and Mrs. Biondo looked at it, told me it was too difficult for my reading level and demanded that I choose something from the classroom collection. I remember grabbing the book from her and firmly stating, "I'll read what I want to!" I suppose I was a lucky kid, growing up the way I did, able to stand up for what I wanted to read. (I still remember The Headless Cupid with great fondness.)

May 2016

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