Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bye Bye Pleasant Street Video

Much ink has been spilled (figuratively) in recent years about how the doldrums of the music industry have meant the veritable death knell of the local record store. Thing is, in the peculiar place where I reside, you'd hardly know it. Sure, we lost one longstanding member of the record store fraternity in recent years - Dynamite Records, RIP - but we have three remaining in a town of 30,000. This is a fluke, but it's a good fluke and hopefully one that will last for a good while.

Meanwhile, another trend that seems to be generating less fanfare - at least in the media circles I inhabit - is the death of the local video store. Sure, everyone who cares knows that Blockbuster just went under and that is certainly a sign of the times. But how often do you hear about the smaller, independent video stores of the sort that have been absolutely crucial curators of film culture over the past three decades. I've been lucky enough to live near a few good ones in my time and they always enhance my quality of life, especially when you're living in a town that has no good movie theaters to speak of (i.e. Bowling Green, OH, which sucked for movie theaters but had a great local video store the name of which I cannot remember, but I sure hope it's still alive and kicking).

As of this weekend, we're losing one of these treasured resources locally, as Pleasant Street Video will be effectively closing its doors (you'll still be able to go to the place for a couple weeks but no more new rentals after July 3, from what I understand). Pleasant Street epitomized what makes a locally owned independent store such an important form of living breathing commerce, the sort of thing that no online retailer can approximate, however good its services otherwise. It's a great source for all manner of independent and foreign cinema, as any independent video store worth its salt should be. But, it's also been a veritable community center in a way that very few local retailers truly become. I don't have time now to do it justice, but I can say that even at times when I've gone two months without setting foot in the place, just knowing it was there made me a little bit happier to live where I live. And now that's it's closing, some small part of Northampton won't be the same anymore.

If you're local and not yet clued in, the store's collection is being donated to Forbes Library, which is awesome. But, it also means that the owners are not going to yield any great dividends from the sale of their extensive holdings. To offset the losses, they are accepting sponsors who are willing to pay $8 so that a selected video will be sure to be included in the turnover. If you want to know more, visit their website.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's in a Name?

Angel, a so-called "pomp metal" band from the '70s, may be one of the least "punk" bands of precisely the moment in time when "punk" became a movement of consequence. Their music is full of synthesizer swells, high-pitched male vocals, power chords and extended guitar solos. All of which makes them a hoot - and also makes it very puzzling that their lead guitarist goes by the name "Punky Meadows." Seriously, Punky? Was this a nod to punk's controversial credibility in what's otherwise a musical context that seems decidedly unpunk? Or just a random turn of phrase with no meaningful connection to the larger punk phenomenon?

(Wikipedia tells us that the man's given name is Edwin Lionel Meadows, but doesn't explain the origins of his stage name.)

I'll leave you to ponder these mysteries of life watching this fine example of Angel in action performing (well, lip-synching) "The Tower," the lead track from their self-titled debut album.