Thursday, December 29, 2011

Annual Abscondments II

If there's an overarching theme linking this year's pressed plastic victims of theft, it's that thieves and hooligans can't resist the allure of the sequel. Let's take a closer look at these treasures as we mourn our kidnapped unfortunates, who no doubt cower in the comparatively safe darkness beneath a dirt-crusted piece of furniture and pine for their absent loved ones.

Battle for L.A., The Tourist: The first half of the year went by without a hitch. It was the smoothest sailing Fernando had ever experienced. But this double-feature was nipped in late July when one of Fernando's semi-regulars decided to help himself to some property and ignored Fernando's phone calls requesting it back. Said gent is no longer one of Fernando's semi-regulars, and rest assured that a Chronicle will surface if he ever decides to return.

Carlito's Way: This wanna-be Scarface was rented by someone who was quite the regular customer. Then he went out of town on some “business,” according to his girlfriend/wife/whatever, and “happened” to have taken the film with him “by mistake.” Fernando told her it's okay, because a mailing address exists on the case so that it could be returned to him via the postal service. The woman assured Fernando that this course of action would be taken and that his film would be promptly returned.


Grown Ups: Sometimes Fernando makes mistakes in permitting some people to rent. This is one of them. Fernando has not recounted the tale of this embarrassing defeat.

Death Race 2, Step Up 3: Another twofer. Some people Fernando had never seen before came in, set up an account, rented, never returned things. The phone number he had been given was disconnected and the address that was provided had mail returned. So it goes.

Jackass 3: Part of Fernando wants to thank the schmuck who took this off his hands because he can charge the full replacement price instead of $8 resale, when he still has a copy of this selfsame movie that people refuse to purchase (perhaps because there is, in fact, a modicum of common sense in today's society). Coincidentally, this is the copy which was the subject of the Jackass 3 Saga. Rock on, magic disc, rock on.

Hoodwinked Too, Psych 9: Semi-regular rents these for her and her boyfriend, they break up, he doesn't return the movies. Neither of them have come back yet since this came to pass, and Fernando doesn't care from whom the money comes when they do. He's at fault for not returning them and she's at fault for making the piss-poor decision of shacking up with a thief. Maybe he'll half-and-half it on them?

Gulliver's Travels: Another new account steal. Fernando finds himself walking a treacherous line between welcoming new customers to the fold with an open mind and heart, and being a malicious, mistrustful bastard to anybody he's never seen before.

Scream 4, Horrible Bosses, Fast Five, Take Me Home Tonight: Okay, this one kind of stuck in Fernando's craw because this haul consisted of four pretty decent renters, the first three of which were stolen the very week they came out. This Chronicle is forthcoming as well (WHAT IS THIS FORESHADOWING?).

The Smurfs: Okay, remember the chick with the nice rack? She reformed at one juncture but then embarked on a long hiatus from the store, and when she finally returned it seemed she had hooked up with some guy and formed babby which she did not do way instain. The happy couple rented a couple of movies one day, this and Planet of the Apes. The latter movie made it back into Fernando's possession. This one did not.

At least they brought back the one which helps Fernando's finances out more.

And there we have it. 2011 began with a whimper and went out with a bang. If the Mayans are correct, 2012 will go out in the same way, but with even more extravagance and finality. Thanks for reading, and see y'all next year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Made In America

A lady enters the Dominion one day. She is unfamiliar to Fernando but she speaks to him as if she has known him for his entire life. This woman desires stocking stuffers and decided that gift certificates to the movie rental place would be a splendid way to satisfy that goal. Good thing Fernando can have such things made available.

As he is filling out the four slips of paper, the woman continues to speak at him. “Y'know, it's good doing business with an American business for a change. Everything nowadays is made in China or Taiwan and you can't get anything that's from America, for America. It's good that you're not one of those places where all your stuff comes from somewhere else.”

Fernando makes a noncommittal grunt and continues writing. No political debates, not when this woman's trying to give you twenty-five of her dollars, even if she's wrong and “Made in Taiwan” hasn't appeared on cheap plastic goods since the mid-90s, or maybe to inform her that economic globalization is here to stay and that markets needs to adapt or die out, or that the video discs through which Fernando plies a living are pressed in China or Thailand....

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Fernando was in the best of moods one day, for this was the day on which the trailer for The Hobbit was unveiled to the world. He did not quite produce manly tears of joy, but he certainly acted as might a child of four when faced with a thing which titillates the soul. Because this took place at the Dominion, by necessity a customer, one of Fernando's somewhat geekish regulars, entered in the midst of Fernando's uncouth whoops of glee.

What's that all about?” she asks as Fernando writes out the rental agreement.

Fernando clears his throat and brings himself closer to stoic normalcy. “The Hobbit!” he says with a happy giggle and perhaps a bit of arm flailing. “Comes out next year!” Then the realization that he must wait a full year before theatrical bliss sets in, and Fernando sobers a bit.

Wow. I can tell you're a little excited over this.” Then she says to Fernando words which bring him yet further down to earth. “You know there was another prequel movie that a whole lot of people were really excited about.” She affects an obnoxious nasal accent. “Meesa so happy to see you!”

This does not dissuade Fernando's merriment. “Peter Jackson is not George Lucas, and this is not Star Wars. I see what you're trying to do here, and it's not working. You won't disappoint me.”

I bet you don't hear that very often.”

Fernando stares in amazement for a moment, then bows his head in defeat. “Okay, wow. Wow.” The customer smirks at him. “But I'll just rewatch the trailer once you're gone and my shattered heart level will be restored.”

This reference flies over her head. And once she leaves, Fernando does precisely that, and all became well...nay, better, in the world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't Drop the SOPA

I haven't done one of my vaunted opinion pieces in a fair while. Now seems like as good a time as any to climb onto my SOPA-box (D'HOHOHOHO!).
For those of you who don't really follow the political shenanigans of our lofty federal legislature or keep up on internet-related news, Congress is looking to pass a bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act. Read the Wikipedia link to catch up if you haven't already (you really should), but if you're intellectually lazy the tl;dr is as follows: Congress wants to stamp down on intellectual property trafficking by allowing the Department of Justice or the holders of copyrights in question to investigate any shady dealings that may or may not have occurred on websites that may or may not have links to such violations. The arguments for passing it but basically come down to “it helps make money for the people who hold legitimate copyright on things which could be infringed.” I'll be forthright at this juncture: I think this law is stupid and an unnecessary burden upon internet citizens. I would much rather that it returned into the murky pit of Orwellian, fascistic control from whence it crawled.
I've followed some of the arguments about this bill because I have little better to do with my time, and in the spirit of true and honest American political discourse the word “capitalism” was tossed about like it was going out of style. What's more, capitalism as an economic system was, in true and honest American fashion, equivocated with morality. “More capitalist” equaled “more moral” in some instances, and in others people argued that it was somehow anti-capitalist to control the content on the internet. After all, laissez-faire is preferable to regulated. It caused a quite interesting divide (and a fair bit of trolling) between the stereotypical “liberal” and “conservative” political viewpoints.
Capitalism is all about the private accumulation of wealth which comes about through individual, rather than state, ownership of means of production. The widely-held ideal that a free market is the best market is flawed. To those who treat capitalism as an ethical framework, the best market is the market which allows maximal accumulation of capital by the individual. Freedom (political, social, or economic) is irrelevant to the discussion, except that actors should have the greatest possible freedom to amass wealth.
Unfortunately, people with vested economic interests oftentimes have vested political interests as well, and humans are greedy, self-serving fucks by nature. We like things and stuff, and the more things and stuff we have or could have, the happier we become. If a strictly regulated internet would make more money for those with a vested economic interest in that area, then that sort of internet is the way to go. Toss in a little bit of kickback to the people who make it possible and TA-DA! You have your SOPA.
What irks me the most about this whole thing is not really the fact that SOPA exists. I don't pretend to be a shining avatar of Lawful Goodness; I'm as much a bastard as any other person out there. It's that the nature of politics in this country allows for the fact that SOPA can exist so easily. If I were to offer money to one of my representatives in government in exchange for political favors, I would quickly find myself befriending gentlemen in some sort of correctional facility (insert call back to title here). Ah, but if there is enough money being thrown about, or if the perks are oblique enough to not constitute “bribery” under whatever jackassed conception of the term is written into the laws dealing with the issue, then the sailing is smoother than a milkshake made by God Himself.
Is copyright infringement a problem? Absolutely. Gutting individuals' rights in order to retain a profit margin from a bygone era on media, before the rise of Hulu or Bit Torrent or Pandora or The Pirate Bay, is not the solution. Christ, I know about better than anybody about that sort of competition. Hell, by all rights I should be supporting this piece of shit legislation simply because it would only help my profit margin. I've had to adapt my business model and my budget to account for an omnipresence of Netflix. In an ideal market, competitors adapt their products and services to meet demand or they die out as new players supplant the old.
Such a pity the real world doesn't work that way. And that is why I hate economics.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Violence in Movies, Sex in Movies Too

So, Fernando has a horrible movie in his inventory called Bloodlust Zombies. It is, according to the people who have rented it, bad by every objective measure. Fernando markets it as the worst movie in the store. He makes decent profit thereby. Like a butcher's challenge meets bile fascination (come to think of it, Fernando should create a wall honoring the men and women who have survived the film's depravity....).
One day a thirty-something regular comes in and selects the film after a minimal bit of sales pitching. He takes the movie home among his other rentals and returns the next day. “That movie, the zombie one. It was way inappropriate.”
Right? Exactly as advertised!”
No, I mean there's a lot of sex in there.”
Yeah. That's part of what makes it so bad.”
We ended up turning it off because it was so inappropriate.” This is a guy who has gone through just about everything in Fernando's horror section. He waited with bated breath for each installment of the Saw series. He thought Turistas and Hostel and Savage County were great fun, if not shining avatars of home entertainment. But poorly-choreographed hanky-panky amidst a plot which is paper-thin by zombie movie plot standards (which would make it the size of, like, the Planck length) apparently crossed the line of good taste.
Er,” says Fernando, “I had no idea your conception of propriety didn't allow for that sort of rumpus. I'll keep that in mind for future reference.”
America's priorities and social acceptance between violent content and sexual content are well and truly fucked.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Music Meister

One evening a young lady and her guyfriend return some movies. “These aren't late, are they?”

Nope. It's only quarter to seven right now, and they're all older ones so I'm not too terribly concerned.”

That's what I thought!” She turns to her companion and punches him in the bicep. “I told you!”

Your thing says six,” the chap responds.

Yeah, that's because I can't be bothered to pay to have it changed. Newer ones pretty much back by seven, and before I go home for the older ones.”

The young lady says to Fernando in a lilting singsong, “So they just have to really be back by closing time?”

'One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer,'” Fernando ripostes. “And yes.”

This for some reason floors the girl. “Holy crap you know that song?”

Only that part of it and like two other lines and every end is a new beginning somethingsomething.” She and her boyfriend make merry laughing sounds and depart.

Truth be told, Fernando has never heard that actual song before. All he knows about it comes from Weird Al's cover of it in “Polka Power!”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

'Tis the Season

Fernando finds the stretch of time that encapsulates November through February displeasing. The dreary weather plays a part, to be sure, but most of his ire stems from the nonstop frenzy of commercialism and moronic fucking jewelry ads. He cannot grasp how Christmas-y things can be in full swing starting the day after Halloween (hell, some places have the Christmas aisles set up in mid-October already), and as a result the vaunted merriment of the season winds up facile and grating.

Fernando, already a cynical person, retaliates against things he dislikes by taking those things which people love and subverting them. So, when December rolls around and every other store blares schlock like “Rocking Round the Christmas Tree” or whatever lyrical vomit Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift have shat out this year, Fernando loads up a holiday album by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. If there's one thing that accurately reflects the true nature of Christmas, it's the Cthulhu Mythos.

So it comes to pass that Fernando is rocking out to the absolutely splendid “Slay Ride” when one of his 30-something customers sneaks in to drop off a movie. “I didn't know you listened to Christmas music,” she says.

Fernando blinks at her. “I don't.”

She tilts her head, pressing her lips together as she pays a bit more attention to the lyrics. Then her eyes widen as the song gleefully goes on about the undead rising and consuming the flesh from bodies raw.

Fernando smiles. “See?”

That's horrible! What is that?”

Just a bit of Lovecraft-inspired joy to set the mood for this most festive of seasons.”

She gives him a queasy look, then nods and heads for the door.

“Merry solstice!” Fernando calls after her.

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Talking Turkey

Fernando is engaged with one of his customers one afternoon about the paucity of internet service providers in the area, and how Fernando has been sitting for over a month without a business internet connection because the one company that services the area with something better than 56k dial-up is a righteous dragass in opening a DSL line to the Dominion. A pair of gentlemen clad in green-and-brown camo like it was going out of style stump in and stand there behind Fernando's customer.

Well, the conversation continues on for about three more minutes because this gent is rather tech-savvy and has experienced for himself ire in attaining good internet. When at last the exchange draws to a close and Fernando bids the man a good evening, the two strangers approach. They're both in their 40s or 50s, both with perhaps two days' growth of face-stubble (because it is some silly ritual to allow one's facial hair to grow out during the hunting of deer, even if you spend the other 50 weeks of the year impeccably clean-shaven.). One of them speaks.

It's about goddamn time. You gab worse than a whole buncha women.”

Fernando presses his lips together and regards the man. “It's actually a form of building rapport with my customer base, so as to link the concept of good conversation with my business on a psychological level and predispose them to returning at a later date, thereby insuring my finances remain in the black and I can continue to live with a modicum of comfort.” Since comprehension of Fernando's brainy-words does not seem forthcoming, he clarifies, “It's talking turkey.”

Fuck you turkey hunters,” says the second man. His voice is slurred and accompanied with a miasma of stale beer Fernando detects from about six feet away. “Shooting at shit, scarin' away the bucks. Can't do shit with them out there shooting at shit.”

You realize I'm not actually a turkey hunter. Now, how can I help you?”

We want movies,” says the first man.

That's splendid. What sort were you looking for?”

Ones to watch,” the man responds. “What kind ya think?”

Fernando thinks happy thoughts and not ones that are full of disdain for idiots. “I meant action, comedy, horror...?”

Action, yeah,” says the second.

What kind?”

Whaddya mean what kind? Action kind!” the second guy says.

Thriller? Endless guns and explosions? Martial arts?”

Guns, yeah,” says the first guy. “Whatcha got?”

Well, first, I need your names, to check if you're in my records.”

Never been here before,” says the second.

Alright. Then I to fill this out right quick.” Fernando retrieves a membership application and one of his good pens. “Can I have your license please?”

The first guy feels at his abundance of pockets. “Shit, didn't bring my wallet.”

Ain't got mine,” says the other. “Can't do nothing with it anyway.”

So the one is drunk and the other forgot his license, or claims to have forgotten his license. Yep. “Then I'm afraid I can't rent to you.”

Shit, son, we'll bring 'em back!” says the first. “Won't be no problem.”

Yeah, but no. And stop calling me 'son.'” At this point one of Fernando's regulars, a married ladytype, comes in and returns a couple of movies. The sloshed guy makes no secret of ogling her backside. She leaves mighty quickly. “I'm afraid I can't help you right now. If you care to come back some other time with your information, then we can maybe work something out. Else, probably best for you to leave.”

The first man assists the second to the door and they do just that.

Fucking hunters.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Fernando is processing the rental slips from a glut of customers into the computer when one of his regulars pulls in. He enters the store along with a young boy two, three years old, the sort people might find cute and endearing with his tousled blond hair and little red coat. Fernando never knew this customer had a child.

The alluring pull of Open Office Base is just slightly less powerful than the force of gravity at a black hole's event horizon, so Fernando is sucked into his work and dead to the world for a few minutes. When he finishes up and whirls the chair about to see what else is happening in life, he sees the young boy standing in the office, behind the counter, staring at Fernando in absolute silence. The boy holds in his hands a small plastic pumpkin. The father is somewhere browsing, out of Fernando's line of sight.

Fernando blinks. “Um.” He's crappy with children, for he usually treats them like fun-sized adults and society does not approve of acting towards children in that way.

The boy looks on, motionless.

I'm sorry, but you can't be back here.”

Still no response.

Um...please go back to your dad?”

The boy takes a step forward and extends the hands clasping the orange pumpkin in Fernando's direction. Fernando at this point wonders if maybe he'd pissed off an Elder God who instigated this and was now watching the show.

Oh. Um. Okay. Is that for me? Because, thanks, but you should keep it. You'd get more out of it than me.”

The boy continues staring, but his father, a glowing bastion of safety and sanity amidst chaos and despair, comes up to the counter just then with his tags. He sees his son on the other side. “Get up here!”

The boy lowers his hands like an automaton and joins his dad. The rental process completes as usual.

That boy ate Fernando's soul on that day, and he sleeps with a nightlight now.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Another Porn Story

It's around 1 PM on the first snow-laden day of the year. Fernando has come in early because he awaits the arrival of his movies, which are as usual running a bit tardy. At the moment he is entertained by Judge Judy and her no-bullshit attitude. He hears a loud truck pull into the lot. Fernando assumes it is a drop-off when he hears footsteps squelching outside.

Nothing happens for about thirty seconds. Then there comes a mighty pounding on the glass of Fernando's locked front door.

Fernando stumps over to the door to see a strange, flannel-clad, red-faced man standing there. His truck is of the large, mud-splattered variety, generously decorated with yellow Support Our Troops ribbon magnets. Fernando pops the door and stands in the blast of chilly air that sweeps through the opening. “Can I help you?”

Yeah, are you open?”

No. I don't open for another hour.”

Says there you open at two.”

Shades of the past! “Correct. But it is only one here. But seeing as you're here, now, and I'm here, now, I can make a one-time exception to the rule.”

Fernando steps aside and enters. The man prowls about. “Where's your adult section? Back there?” He makes a beeline for the door to Fernando's back room.

I don't carry porn, actually.”

This statement does not stop him from opening a door bearing a sign that reads in large, red letters “NO ENTRY: AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY. Chances are, if you're reading this, you're not authorized. No entry for you!” He peers into Fernando's inner sanctuary, where merriment and joy abound, where the despair that lingers in the business section of the store is forbidden. “What?”

I don't have any porn.”

You're the only place around here and you don't have porn?”

What is it with people and repeating the things Fernando says? “Well, yes. I just said that. It's not worth it from a budgetary or sanitary sense.”

Fine then. What if I want to rent something else?”

Do you have an account here?”

No. I'm only up here this time of year.”

Then you'll need to set up an account. That's quick and painless.”

What do you need for that?”

The usual. Name, address, driver's license--”

You're not getting my information.”

Fernando shrugs. “Then I guess you're not renting. You may want to try your argument with Family Video. They're half an hour away, but I'm pretty sure you'll get about as far with them as you did with me with the whole 'renting to a random person' thing. Have a nice day.” Fernando gestures to the front door. The guy looked impossibly pissed off, but leaves. Surprisingly, he doesn't punch anything on the way out.

Fucking hunters.