Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm H...a...p...p...y...

Back in Fernando's high school days the whole “internet” thing was just taking off and, as is the wont of high schoolers with nerdish proclivities, every attempt was made to sneak to the library and use the comparatively fast connection available at the school for assorted dubiously immoral acts. Not porn; no, that's far too blasé a target. Fernando and his crew were set on mining the glories of illicit ROM sites.

Armed with only a collection of 3.5” floppy disks, the goal was to hoard, bit by bit, any of the video games for the NES, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, and SNES that we didn't already own. Since Fernando had access to most of the big-name titles because either he or one of his friends owned them, ROM mining served to open Fernando's eyes to the less-popular or unreleased titles on those systems. And one of those titles was Earthbound.

Earthbound to put it best? It's a generally cheery stock RPG with baseball bats and psychic powers and modern hospitals subbed in for swords and magic and inns. Instead of demons and evil knights and rogue wizards you've got aliens and exploding trees and, um, hippies; instead of nicely-rendered and static two-D backgrounds in combat you've got an oscillating backdrop that looks like something one would see while on a bad LSD trip. And instead of an emperor-type Big Bad who lords over all its minions with exacting efficiency or a bumbling villain who ascends to godhood through ruthless ambition or bumbling luck, you have a certifiably insane Lovecraftian alien horror that is only defeated because you take it on while it is still in its biomechanical womb.

Fernando was derided in high school for loving the crap out of that game. Ok, the graphics are on the simplistic side and the storyline is incredibly linear. Superficially, it's a kiddie game. The colors are bright and cheerful and your protagonist is a twelve-year-old boy who, in blatant disregard of Japanese RPG tradition, has not yet become an army general. But none of those was the point as Fernando saw it.

Earthbound wriggled into Fernando's heart because it seems to be a perfect electronic microcosm to real life. Unlike most other RPGs, it doesn't have an overly idealized narrative base upon which everything else rests; quite the contrary. This game features cheery lies as a superficial facade over untold horrors, the extent of which most people in the game world are blissfully ignorant.

Despite this, the game fails to dip even a toe into the cesspit that is cynicism. Hell, the theme music of the game series is named “Pollyanna” (if that's too diabetes-ridden for your bitter self, here's a version lacking lyrics made from the contents of a sugar bowl). In Earthbound, it doesn't matter how many or what sort of eldritch beasts are creeping around the edges of reality. They'll get beaten down by bottle rockets and pyrokinesis if they so much as peek around the dimensional corner. If that's not enough punishment to encourage them to look elsewhere for entertainment, all of humanity will unite to fight them off in the end.

Fernando likes to believe the real world is like that, deep down. That in the end people are able to set aside their petty differences and work together to achieve greatness beyond what any individual could hope to accomplish. Fernando sees a little of that every day. He sees, more often, people being kept divided through blindly following the goading of others who emphasize the arbitrary differences and disconnects between groups instead of their commonalities like, and maybe this is Fernando being overly sappy, the fact that they're all people. Funny how superficial things like skin color or religion or hobbies keep us divided so effectively.

Maybe the only way to put an end to these petty squabbles is for the aliens' octopus-robots and cyborg fire-breathing eels to pay us a visit. That'd show us right quick the value of camaraderie.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


One foggy February day Fernando is updating his Chronicles when the phone rings. The caller ID reads “Wireless Caller.”

Hello, Dominion of Movies?”

The voice on the other end is a gritty male and not any of the gritty males that frequent the store. “Yes. Is Aeris Gainsborough there?” (That isn't the actual name that was used, else this exchange would have been far more fun and less creepy. The name has been altered to protect the innocent).

Bizarre request. “”

The voice on the other end remains a dry rasp. “Do you know who that is?”

I do.” She was a semiregular customer but hadn't been to the store in months now.

Have you seen her lately?”

Bizarrer. “May I ask who is calling?”

A friend,” the voice wheezes. Well, that settled it. This guy was totally trustworthy and Fernando was ready to turn over everything he asked to him.

Wait, no. It actually sent up all kinds of red flags, so Fernando turned into kind of a dick in order to salvage some utility from this conversation before it inevitably dead-ended. “That was very helpful, thanks. To answer your initial question, Aeris either is in my store or she is not.”

Is she?” the voice asks in that creepy, raspy monotone.

I'm not sure. I'm not even one hundred percent sure I'm in the store.” (Which is arguably true if anyone wants to debate the epistemological foundation of that statement).

The voice on the other end grunts in frustration and hangs up.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Familiarity Breeds ???

One evening a guy comes into the Dominion, and despite him not having been to the store in eons Fernando immediately recognizes him for two reasons. First, the guy attended Fernando's high school a class below him. Second, he owed Fernando money.

The previous time this gentleman had rented, Fernando was but a lowly wage slave instead of Master of the Dominion. The movies went out and were gone for quite a long while, nearly a week. Fernando and the previous owners pulled out all the stops to get the man to return the two movies he had rented and, finally, their efforts bore fruit. They were deposited in the drop box by the young man's parents one day while Fernando was working.

The only problem is that the movies were ruined. Absolutely nonfunctional. The cases, both inner and outer, and the discs themselves were covered in a horrid cocktail of dirt, pine needles and peanut butter, and the whole ensemble absolutely reeked of hemp having been used in a recreational manner. Needless to say, the old keepers were not amused and rightly charged the young man replacement fees. But he had never come back to the Dominion, perhaps out of wisdom, perhaps out of shame.

But today it seems he woke up and felt like doing something futile and stupid.

So he selects a few rental tags and brings them to the counter where Fernando is waiting. The first thing out of Fernando's mouth is, “You have $45.50 in late fees. You can't rent unless you pay that off, and update all of your customer contact information, and provide a credit card number.”

What? You're serious?” he sputters.


There's no way I owe forty-five bucks. I haven't been here in forever.”

Ice Age and Quantum of Solace.”


Those are the two movies you rented about three years ago, took out to your camp or whatever, and returned ruined. You've got $45.50 in late and replacement fees. I won't rent to you until they're taken care of and all the other things I ask are provided.”

Outrage did not seem to have worked, so he tried charm. “C'mon, man. You know me, right?”

Fernando nods. “Yep.”

Come on. You know me. I promise I'll bring them back.”

You're right.”

A look of surprise crosses his face. Could his plan actually have worked? “Huh?”

You're right. I do know you. You're the guy who owes $45.50 in late and replacement fees and cannot rent until they are paid, and then some.”

I don't have that much on me right now.”

Then perhaps you should come back another day with the money in hand. Excuse me.” And Fernando begins sorting through some movies that had just been returned via the drop box just moments before.

Buddy leaves, and only time will tell if he will make another visit down the road.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Normally on Sundays Fernando tries to provide some sort of internal discussion, some personal viewpoint on a (hopefully pertinent) subject instead of the more externally-driven fare provided on other occasions. Sometimes Fernando is feeling incredibly lazy and just throws up another story because filler content (from Fernando's perspective of “Sundays should be self-driven”) is preferable to no content, and Fernando has no intention of falling prey to schedule slip in this particular endeavor.

The difficulty is that Fernando feels he cannot give a personal opinion on many of the topics that most interest him because either they are impossibly divisive or they are interests that the general reader (whoever that may be) will find boring and/or a topic not even tangentially related to the intended premise of this web log. In the former category we have, first and foremost, politics; in the latter we have politics as well as silly things like philosophizing/navel gazing or what comes to pass during Dungeons and Dragons sessions or Fernando's non-blog writings or the other facets of Fernando's non-work-related life (such as exists, anyhow). And while Fernando can certainly rant on all sorts of topics more than capably, people generally don't like to be exposed to relentless negativity, especially on topics which they may find to be undeserving of flaying. Alienation of whatever minuscule readership I have is not the way to go through life.

The above two paragraphs are Fernando's way of trying to come up with a relatively safe topic about which to provide commentary for this week. But the cycle will simply repeat next week unless inspiration tumbles into his lap, in which case it is delayed until the following week....You get the idea. That's no good solution at all as it just puts off the inevitable.

Fernando maintains a backlog of Dominion-related chronicles because there are a number of tales yet to tell. He lacks such a stash of Sunday updates or topics on which to write Sunday updates for the reasons given above.

Fernando is going to bite the bullet and attempt to internalize some hopefully provided external stimuli. In other words, what would you, the readers, want to hear about on those Sundays when Fernando doesn't have an obviously “safe” topic readily at hand? As said earlier, Fernando's great and wonderful at complaining about things and likewise horribly bad at conversational topics that aren't highly idiosyncratic. And Fernando does have readers he doesn't know personally or only knows via reputation or friends-of-friends; he sees you peeking in now and again (and even some of his known-in-real-life readers deride some of Fernando's hobbies as puerile and without merit). Surely you desire more than just passively absorbing tales of woe and joy (or maybe you don't. Maybe people pay a visit solely for the Schadenfreude-laden narratives there are to be experienced and could care less about Fernando's personal views. I guess that's fine too).

So, let's have a dialogue. Pull up an e-chair to this e-table. I'll bring the e-coffee/e-tea and maybe even spring for e-donuts.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Saturday Special

One Saturday evening the store is hopping like a frog that has been force-fed an entire pot of coffee, to the point that Fernando has literally nothing but a big stack of twenties and a smattering of ones in his till. A group of four high schoolers, two male and two female, drop by and browse the store for a bit before selecting a movie.

Hey, uh, tonight there aren't any specials are there?” asks the male ringleader of the group when he brings his tag to the counter.

No, unfortunately,” says Fernando. “Saturday is a soundly unspecial night.

Well, no,” he adds after a moment of reflection, “It would be free popcorn night but I'm fresh out of that. It's been really busy today.”

That's not good,” says the female ringleader of the group from slightly behind the male ringleader. “I don't think it's fair that everybody else could have gotten popcorn and we don't. I demand something special to make up for it.” And she crosses her arms and sticks out her lower lip.

Fernando exhales. “I mean...I'm not sure what I could do for you guys.”

Well, either we get something special or we're not renting.” The lip-stick-out-ness increased in might and valor.

I could dance a merry jig for you,” says Fernando suddenly, despite the fact there are about five different groups of people browsing the store and Fernando has, put charitably, the dance skills of a paraplegic and beached orca.

Her eyes twinkle mischievously. “You're serious?”

So Fernando puts his money where his mouth is and steps out from behind the counter and dances a short and hopefully merry jig. One of the other customer-groups applauds politely.

Ok, you win,” says the ringleaderess. “We'll rent. You're one heck of a salesman.”

Why, thank you,” responds Fernando. “You're one heck of a customer, complimenting me on my salesmanship.”

Your ego looks like it needed the boost after the embarrassing thing you just did,” says she. And everyone laughs and the rental is processed and the group of four leave the store. Fernando then helps the next customer group in line.

Fernando hopes the four high schoolers come back soon. He likes fun and witty customers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Free Smells

One evening Fernando is eating his dinner when a semiregular customer and her daughter come into the store. He is unable to greet them immediately because his mouth is full of deliciousness at that moment, but the mother fortunately takes initiative in the conversation.

What's that smell?” she asks, waiting patiently on Fernando's response as he works his jaws frenetically.

Fernando swallows his mouthful and says, “Jambalaya.”

It smells really good.”

I should hope so,” says Fernando, who is somewhat surprised it can be smelled in the first place, “I made it myself.”

At this point the daughter, who's eighteen or thereabouts, chimes in. “Wait. You cook?”

Of course I do.”

She looks doubtful, no doubt because Fernando is male and stereotyping exists in the world. “Is that from a box?”

Absolutely not!” Fernando exclaims in mock affront. “I cook from scratch whenever possible.”

The young woman cocks her head. “Could you give me the recipe?”

What? Uh, sure. Yeah. Let me type it up right quick for you and print it off, since you'd never be able to read my scrawl.” So the two of them browse the store and select a few movies to rent while Fernando types up his jambalaya recipe and prints it off for them before they leave. Due to the way Fernando does his cooking, the recipe is not the most precise set of instructions ever created, and he made this fact clear when he turned it over.

A few days later the daughter returns to the store to rent again, and informs Fernando that her family had prepared jambalaya according to his recipe and found it quite delectable. Fernando will take compliments wherever he finds them.

And, for the curious:

2ish teaspoons olive oil

1 lb. chicken breast

8 oz. spicy sausage

1 large onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2-3 stalks of celery, sliced

~3 teaspoons minced garlic

~2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

Cayanne pepper to taste

1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

2 cups of brown rice

4 cups of water

Heat oil in large pot and saute chicken and sausage for about 5 minutes. Stir in onion, pepper, celery, garlic, and crushed peppers. Saute for about 5 more minutes until onion is translucent. Add cayenne pepper, tomatoes, rice, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover; and cook for about 40 minutes until rice is done.

Go forth and prepare!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day

Fernando's most-loathed time of year is the month-long stretch that falls between the middle of January and mid-February. The movie releases are horrible crap; all the good summer flicks come out mid-November through December, while all the Christmastime films don't begin appearing on home video until March. The only releases that had any real box office presence are the romantic comedies that must, by necessity, be released at this time and, without fail, perform spectacularly poorly because they were rushed out to meet the release date in question. So business is somewhat slow in this time despite the generally horrible weather encouraging people to stay indoors at every opportunity.

The other thing that raises Fernando's ire beyond the norm are the jewelry commercials. They appear everywhere with slowly increasing frequency until they peak during the week before February 14th. They consist of idiot men handing over useless, overpriced baubles to women while spouting pithy, meaningless declarations of “love” from their word-holes (thanks to Mister Half Face for creating this turn of phrase). Then, without fail, the two collapse into some horrific singularity of hand-holding and saliva exchanging as the jewelry company's catchphrase reverberates through all five senses simultaneously. Yes, five. Not only do you hear it and see words of it dancing across the television screen, but the world, for a brief moment, smells like poop spun into cotton candy as the selfsame taste fills one's mouth and every nerve suffers the tactile torture of giant isopods' spindly legs crawling everywhere. While covered in said poopy cotton candy.

The biggest problem Fernando has with those commercials is that they paint human relationships as things of immutable stasis, that they shall forever remain exactly as they always have been. Anybody who has even the slightest bit of worldliness should realize this is not the case. People are shallow, fickle creatures. Their proclivities flux, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. Dropping a not insignificant amount of money onto a shiny object made from metal and rocks people arbitrarily have decided are of value is, well, dumb: twisty bits of metal that sit there like a paralyzed apple snail. Fernando could make some from old coat hangers and they'd be just as functional and half the time look less stupid.

The prices on gems are truly outrageous. They're truly, truly, truly outrageous. One could get a bunch of right fancy meals for the price of one hoop of silver. So here's an idea: how about, instead of wasting cash on a silly charm bracelet, these gallant men shell out the dough for a nice dinner. Hell, they'd get additional bonus points for cooking it themselves. Or buy something with better cost-value than a piece of jewelry, like clothing or a book. But taking those options would make sense and wouldn't fuel that queer and relentless competition for material comeuppance that exists in this day and age.

In the end, though, Fernando will remain derided by silly love freaks as a bitter misanthrope who can't understand the obvious, inherent beauty specific to the fourteenth of February, and who knows even less about little things like loyalty and commitment. And he will sit back and laugh and watch when, inevitably, said love freaks' lives are upended because they put childish faith in the inherent goodness of humanity.

But, man, having bought that platinum necklace encrusted with tanzanite will make it all have been worthwhile.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Technical Difficulties

The day after the story of the car that won't start....

Hello, Dominion of Movies?”

Hi, My name is Morgana and I was in yesterday to rent a movie. I didn't have a chance to watch it last night because our DVD player broke, and we had to go to town to buy a new one. I was wondering if I could have the movie for an extra night.”

Sure, no problem. It'll just be an extra $1.50. You can pay that next time you're in or just leave the money in the case when you drop it off.”

Well, I was hoping to have it for another night for free.”

Ye gods, not again. “Um....”

Because I didn't get a chance to watch it, so I didn't get what I paid for.”

I'm sorry?”

I didn't have a chance to watch the movie at all.” Fernando was thinking to himself, and desperately wanted to say, that it would be silly for him to charge by the viewing instead of by the rental of the physical disc. There would be no way for him to ascertain if people were telling the truth when they would claim, upon returning the movie, that they had seen it zero times.

Instead, he took the somewhat tactful way out. “Right. But you'd still have the movie out an extra night.”

That's why I'm calling to let you know what happened.”

I mean, you'll have the movie out an extra night. It's renting a...a jet ski for a day and not bringing it back because the car you're using to transport it won't start. You're still going to be charged the extra amount. It's not the full daily rate, it's not the full late fee rate. It's just the extra amount you would have needed to pay to have rented the movie two nights in the first place.” It overall seemed like an apt analogy to make.

At this juncture she starts getting snippy. “I didn't know I wouldn't be able to watch the movie!”

Fernando feels about done with facile attempts at good customer service now, as he's dealing with someone who clearly is making minimal efforts at being a good customer. “Neither did I. That doesn't change the fact you'll have it out for an extra night. Things happen. Life gets in the way. If I let everyone have movies out for indefinite periods of time for every excuse under the sun, I would quickly find myself without movies to rent. Fact of the matter is, you have the only copy of this movie that I haven't already rented out today. It could well be the case that someone else would want to rent it, but can't.”

Well. Ok. Bye.” And she hangs up, as some people don't like being faced with facts.

Fifteen minutes later the movie appears in Fernando's drop box, and it is promptly rented out within twenty minutes of placing the rental tag back on the floor.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Car Troubles

One January evening, the phone rings.

Hello, Dominion of Movies.”

Hi, this is Harry Dresden. I was in yesterday and rented some movies. I won't be able to return them because my car won't start. I was wondering if I could have them for no charge for another night.”


I really wanted to get them back tonight, but my car just won't start,” the man interrupts, apparently holding the belief that repetition equals force in argumentation.

As I was about to say,” Fernando says, “these things happen. Life gets in the way. That's why the first night's late fee is the extra-night rental instead of the full shebang. Let's see had out four movies, so it'd come to $5 altogether.”

Well, I don't think that's fair. I can't get out there. I would return them if I could.”

You realize, right, that if I gave you free rentals this time because of your car troubles—which, by the way, I am not contesting in any way—that there would be precedent set for other people to claim 'car troubles' as a legitimate reason to avoid returning my property?”


That would be a bad precedent to set, wouldn't you agree? But it would also be dumb of me to ruthlessly punish people for the things that pop up unexpectedly in life. So the first night's late fee is actually just the difference that would have been paid on a two-night rental to begin with.”

So no free rental?”

No, no free rental.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pop Quiz

Assume for a moment you rent a movie, in this case a singularly generic schlocky horror film like My Bloody Valentine in 3D.

Question 1: The movie does not appear to be functioning in your DVD player. Do you

A) Phone up the business immediately to let them know they may have given you faulty goods


B) wait until the following day at 6 PM, when you return it, to inform them of its malfeasance.

Question 2: Assuming you choose option (B) above, do you then

A) Take the owner's offer of store credit equal in value to the rental, even as the supposedly nonfunctional disc is tested in the store's player before you and shown to work just fine


B) demand your money back on top of a free rental and grow petulant when the owner informs you that he already did more than he by all rights should have in offering credit because his establishment does not bear a sign reading “Movie library: Donations appreciated!”

Those who fail the quiz by choosing Option 2B win nothing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Alpha Male

One of Fernando's regulars calls him one New Release Tuesday and asks him to hold a pair of movies for her, as she is unable to come in for a few hours. Fernando does what she asks and she arrives as promised. With her is a young man Fernando has never seen before, but he can tell right away that this is some new guy-pal she has attained for two reasons.

One, he did that silly and obsessive touching/wrestling of her body about the shoulders, stomach, and lower back.

Two, he immediately went into high-octane alpha male jackass mode as soon as he entered the store.

So how much does it cost to rent here?” he asks initially, grasping her about the waist from behind and rocking her from side to side before the counter. He glares at Fernando for some reason during his gratuitous frottage of her backside.

Um, $3.50 a movie,” she responds while attempting to sign the rental form.

Jesus, really? You know you can get movies on Netflix for way cheaper?” Again, instead of looking at her during his statement, he passive-aggressively addressed Fernando with his comment, as evidenced by the direction his visage faced.

Fernando remains silent in the face of this young man's statement and instead goes about fetching the movies.

How long do you get them for?” he continues inquiring.

Just one night. But you can rent them for more then one if you want, or if you change your mind you can just pay a little bit extra when you bring them back,” she replies astonishingly accurately.

Netflix doesn't have late fees,” the gentleman retorts. “It's stupid that people pay late fees for movies. But I guess the guy needs to find a way to rip people off for more money.”

At this juncture Fernando decides to step in. “If late fees were genuinely a way to rip people off—which is to say a way of perpetrating fraud—why is it then that charging them remains legal?”

The man ceases his shameless sexual gratification and stares daggers at Fernando silently as Fernando sets the cases upon the counter and takes the young lady's money.

But Fernando does not leave things unsaid, not when he has an advantage in a conversation. “Furthermore, if you think Netflix is a better deal why is it that you're renting these movies from me, here, today?”

This time he has an answer. “Well, she wanted to see them today,” he pouts.

But Netflix is an omniscient home entertainment supplier. Surely you can ask them to have gotten you the movies in question—oh wait, you can't. Is it because there's a mailing delay on the discs—especially once one considers the throttling placed on new-new releases—or because they lack streaming of these selfsame movies? Could that be why you came to an actual brick-and-mortar retailer to rent these movies today? Because Netflix isn't perfect?”

The young man ceased his self-aggrandizement after that. He also stopped his incessant copping of feels. Double win!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Guilt Trips

A few weeks after a previous incident, a man comes in with his child and tries to rent, and Fernando has to be “the bad guy” because, fortunately, he is not an idiot and does not rent to people whose accounts exist in Limbo. He explains to the man why things stand as they do: namely a pair of movies were rented and never returned, and now there's $108 in fees looming overhead that need rectifying.

The father was a right perfect gentleman afterward. He had Fernando explain to the 4ish year old why Daddy couldn't rent. So, quite candidly but with a heavy heart, Fernando did, and the child was made very sad.

Sometimes the job sucks. Fernando placed the man on his personal shit list for that one because what was forced to transpire was not business at all.