Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's The End Of An Era...

Well, well, well....I certainly have been absent from the world of blogging, haven't I? Well don't you fret, the no ones who read this. Since I am no longer have a job, I will be blogging at all hours...whenever the mood strikes me. Yes, you read that correctly. I am unemployed. Why, you may ask? I'd be delighted to elaborate.

We had a store meeting on Sunday, October 15th at 8AM. It started like any other of our previous store meetings. Our manager Cheryl told us that in the very near future, we'd be able to check in customer online rentals at the store, and they'd then get a free in-store rental. The criteria was explained, etc. Then there was a shift in what we were told. The topic of new store policies began.

Cheryl explained that fairly soon there was to be no more joking around, fraternizing with customers or fellow employees. No longer could we hold movies for regular customers. No loitering allowed. Also, they installed a software system on a brand-new PC in the breakroom. This software would start scheduling our shifts. Initially at the employee meeting a month ago, the corporate people said that it was totally user-friendly and that store managers could edit schedules and that it was flexible with employees and their availability. Guess what? That was a LIE. Let's say the software schedules someone Monday from 8AM-10AM and they have class or a family member gets ill or hurt? If you don't show up, you're fired. How's that for treating your employees right? Cheryl even asked one of their Human Resources guys, "What about employees that have school or church?" He smirked, she said, and replied, "Well, that's where we've gone wrong - putting our employees needs in front of the customers."

When we were franchise-run, even though I was part-time I could still get insurance. No more under corporate control.

Here's one of the big ones - let's say a loved one was rushed to the hospital. The last thing on your mind would be a late DVD rental, correct? So let's hypothesize that the loved one is released a week later and all is well. When you return the item, we're now supposed to say, "Sorry but you've got to pay us." Our modus operandi was to always make the customer happy. These guys see it another way apparently. No late fees to be removed -- EVER.

They don't want us to foster friendships with our loyal regulars. They don't want us to be family to our customers or our fellow employees. They want us to be soulless automatons. I'm not naive. The main goal of a business is to make money. However, our store has proven time and again through the years that you can marry profitability and personality and get a winning combination that equals in a pleasant and welcoming environment that keeps your customers coming back time and again, knowing that they're, to borrow Cheryl's always-on-target mantra "Welcome, Wanted, & Appreciated." In the six years she's run that store, our district manager never received a single complaint. It's qualities like that that show just how dedicated we as a staff, a team, a FAMILY have endeavored to make that a video store worth frequenting. Hell, we've even had people who live across town come in and tell us that they prefer us to the video store nearest to them and don't mind driving halfway across town simply because of our superior customer service.

For that reason, among many others, we all resigned. Friday, October 27th was the last day for Cheryl, Jeff, and I. I hadn't been off since last Wednesday and I really racked up some hours this last week - 12 hours on Tuesday, 14 on Friday - so blogging has been sparse. Larry, Steve and Ana were to work this weekend, with Steve's last day on Monday (and Friday our DM had Cheryl craft a perfunctory schedule for next week, culling employees from other stores -- an *hour* before she was to leave!; she cobbled something basic together, placed it on his desk for him to finish and then she and Jeff left) Ana and Larry's being Halloween. But then things can and do change, sometimes...

So today I went up to work to print a time card today at 2PM. A "This Store Is Closed" sign was taped to the inside of the front door, along with a hand-written-in-black-permanent-marker sign on the inside of the other door that read:

"This store will re-open on Monday, October 30th.

- Management"

Puzzled, I went home and after lunch I called around (Cheryl, Jeff, Larry). I called work and our District Manager answered. After a long pause (I initially thought I was talking to Steve), I told him I planned to return rentals and wanted a time card copy. He was frazzled to say the least. Jeff said he called as well to see what was going on and also assumed our DM was Steve Roberts. Then the other line rang and our DM told Jeff to hold on, as he needed to talk to him. Jeff immediately hung up and turned off his cell phone. Hmmm...I wonder what our DM wanted to speak with Jeff about? Hmmm? ;)

Jeff, Larry, James, and I went to see Saw III Saturday night at 7PM (we ran into our former co-worker Robin and her husband, who leave home for Ohio on Monday...Saw III was a great flick, by the way) and Larry filled in the gaps...

Steve was to open this morning as scheduled. He, however, was having issues clocking in on the software system on the PC in the back. He called Larry, who arrived shortly thereafter. Larry called Ana in to see if she wanted more hours and she came in. Steve then said that he'd had enough and was going home. Larry replied, "Well, I'm not going to work a double all this weekend with Ana." The three of them looked at each other and agreed in unison to end their employment right then and there. They left at noon, locking the door behind them. Larry said he called Cheryl and she laughed her ass off. Larry shredded our clock in/clock out info/ and apparently the drop box somehow moved away from the window.

I have some of my 401k saved up and I plan to just relax, take some me time off to cool my jets through the end of the year and then I'll get back out there looking for employment. Think of this as a new beginning for all of us. Not a time to mourn but a time to look onward and upward.

So there you have it.

As I think about more and more, I realize that while we treated that store like a home and it truly felt like one, it was not the store that made it feel that way but instead each other that created and fostered the truly dynamic fellowship that we all felt toward each other, customer and co-worker alike.

Cheryl is having a get-together at her house next Wednesday. Pizza will be served and it'll be a great chance for all of us to let our hair down and bullshit about just how clueless our former employers are.

Expect more and more blogging. I've got alot of things to watch and all the time I need to watch them.

We ordered Showtime today so that we can watch the second season of Masters of Horror. The first one was so-so (except for Takashi Miike's Imprint); hopefully Season Two will ratchet up the quality. We're also anxious to see Dexter, the drama about a blood spatter analyst in Miami who's also a serial killer - he only kills bad people, though. It's based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. I found the novel to be lukewarm but I hope the series isn't. The showrunner, a former Sopranos writer, was fired mid-way through the season, as Showtime wanted more humor in the series. Let's hope they're not fucking up a series that hasn't even gotten going yet.

My Saw III review *IS* forthcoming. I also need to see Marie Antoinette.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

my posting delay was not my fault this time...

More on that in a second. But first it's good movie time...

Bernardo Bertolucci has earned a reputation for being one of Hollywood's most interesting filmmakers. From the now infamous Last Tango In Paris to 1900, The Last Emperor, and Stealing Beauty, Bertolucci has moved effectively from one genre to the next. Some pigeonhole him as being too attached to "controversy" but that's really a moot point. He's able to accurately convey whatever themes he sets out to, and with a style and sophistication lacking in 90% of directors today.

The Dreamers is his latest. It relates to us something from Bertolucci's own life, being in the midst of the political uprisings of Paris in 1968. Based on Gilbert Adair's novel The Holy Innocents (and scripted by Adair), The Dreamers brings us the tale of Matthew, an idealistic American traveling abroad. He just begins to soak up the culture when he meets twins Isabelle (played with a heady verve by Eva Green) and Theo (Louis Garrel). They are protesting the funding loss of the Cinémathèque Française by the government. Matthew is slowly drawn into their intoxicating world of cinema, politics, and sex. But is there a world beyond the one the siblings have made for themselves? The twins devise movie pop quizzes with sexual games as punishment (City Lights and Bande A Part are but a few titles discussed, as clips from the films interject) and all the while Paris seems to quake with dissent on the streets below.

Much has been made of The Dreamers MPAA rating. NC-17. It doesn't get thrown around alot these days. Fox Searchlight decided to buck the trend and release the film as is to theatres. It didn't play that long as most theatre chains won't play NC-17 films. I find the whole thing funny as the sexual content in the film, while graphic and intense, is nothing pornographic. Yes, you see explicit closeups of both male and female genitalia and there is implied sex but the hype is much ado about nothing. It adds a sensual and intoxicating feel to the film, as these young people discover sexuality and film in their own way. (The twins parents are only seen in fleeting glances, dropping off a check before heading off to an undisclosed destination.)

The Dreamers is a romantic and beautiful look at the chrysalis that envelopes two lost souls who seem to be unable to function outside the four walls of their own design. One person tries to help dismantle those walls (Matthew) but it seems that he just adds more bricks. All three actors provide compelling performances and help to construct a very believable environment. You can practically smell the wine and cigarettes oozing off the screen. This is one of the very best movies in a long time.

I'm at work last Thursday when I receive a phone call from my dear mother who informs me that she, in her inifinite wisdom, decided to clean up the 'ol Dell computer of unnecessary and unwanted files. HOWEVER... When the prompt came up to erase files, she hit 'Y' when it asked her if she wanted to delete all duplicates. And just like that...voila! Our computer was toast. We had to replace the drivers. After much obfuscation, hand-wringing, and very nice and helpful customer support from Dell, we finally got our computer back up and running today. The title of my message sums it up quite eloquently...I was going through major withdrawals! It's sad to admit one is a slave to technology but oh well. On the bright side, I did catch up with my reading. Books are good companions when you're bored as I rediscovered.

My mother is having her "frozen shoulder" orthoscopic surgery tomorrow. She has to be there at 5AM; however, she should be home by noon as it's considered day surgery. I will be the doting son tomorrow when she gets home, making sure she's comfortable and that painkillers and a fresh beverage or snack are always at the ready.

I'm currently watching/listening to Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. He's the current-day Edward R. Murrow, shining a blinding light into the dark crevices that slimy politicos try to hide in. There's no one out there like him on television and he's been spot-on in covering Bush's idiocies, the Mark Foley scandal, and any other political horror we've had to endure.

You can check out my blog to see what I've procured from Netflix. I've got Lucky Number Slevin and American Dreamz from work to watch.

SPIKE TV's 2006 SCREAM AWARDS are broadcast tonight at 10PM Eastern, with an encore at midnight. It'll then re-air throughout the weekend. Tune in to see the best in horror, sci-fi, and fantasy entertainment given awards. I've also heard that they'll be unveiling clips from Saw III, the upcoming April release co-directed by Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez, Grindhouse, and the first-ever DVD release of Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut.

A co-worker let me borrow Imprint, Japanese director Takashi Miike's episode of Masters Of Horror that Showtime would not air. It reconfirms Miike as a master of all things macabre and unsettling. After viewing it it is unquestionably the best episode of that Showtime series' debut season; hopefully Season 2 will up the ante. I just need to cancel HBO and re-order Showtime now.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

no luck at Target...

I went to bed at about 1:45AM or so. I woke up at 8:00 this morning. It was rather cool to have a morning to enjoy. I plan on doing that again real soon.

We have a new coffemaker. Our coffeemaker is dead. Target did not have Sean Lennon's new CD Friendly Fire, which streets today. I plan to stop by Best Buy soon to get it. Last week at Target I got Sam Raimi's 1995 film The Quick And The Dead for $5. I've never seen it but I love Raimi's work so I figured why not. As for today, I picked up new reading material at Target...

I can't wait to devour this book. I read the first few pages already. It reinforces what we all know: those in power in this country are clueless imbeciles. While I have my disagreements with Democrats from time to time, we've got to wrest control of the House and the Senate away from the Republicans this November.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Tales From The Darkside marathon on SCI FI last night. It's great to see that series return to television (re-airing, I mean).

Movie rundown...

Edmond -
it's based on the brilliant David Mamet's 1982 play of the same name. Directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator), it stars William H. Macy as a man who decides to give in to his baser instincts. The film co-stars Julia Stiles. Edmond is raw and brutal, the film that Falling Down wishes it was. Macy is spellbinding as usual. It's his movie and he runs with it, crafting a man at the end of his rope with equal parts outrage and insanity. One of the best movies of the year with a great, great ending.

Feast - fun little horror flick. Mindless b-movie cheese.

Thank You For Smoking - brilliant satire and one of the best movies of the year.

The Woods - Lucky McKee's second film might get pegged as being one-note or unfocused but it's still a great horror movie. Bruce Campbell is effective, as always.

TiVo. Lovely, lovely TiVo. How I forsake thee so much. Want to know how much? Well too bad. 'Cause you're gonna....


  • Heroes (2 episodes)
  • How I Met Your Mother (1 episode)
  • The Class (1 episode)
  • Desperate Housewives (2 episodes)
  • Ugly Betty (1 episode)
  • Doctor Who (2 episodes)
  • Six Degrees (1 episode)
  • The Office (1 episode)
  • Jericho (2 episodes)
  • Smith (2 episodes)
  • Eureka (11 episodes)
  • George Sluizer 1988 film Spoorloos (The Vanishing)
Quite the ensemble, eh? I hope to get through some of these later today and tomorrow. I've also got Art School Confidential and 12 and Holding to watch, along with my Netflix films.

Veronica Mars has its Season 3 premiere tonight on The CW. If you don't watch or haven't been watching this show -- for shame! Jump in now. It's the best show on television.

Now I'm off to Target. Our coffeemaker is dying. And perhaps they'll have Sean Lennon's new CD Friendly Fire, which streets today.

Head on over to Daily Kos for the latest on Mark Foley-gate. It's sick and full investigations need to be implemented ASAP. Whoever in D.C. -- and it looks like a hell of alot of them knew for five years (Dennis Hastert -- I'm looking at you and your ilk) -- knew that a pedophile was walking the halls of Congress needs to be ousted also.