Book Report: A Few Flies and I: Haiku by Issa selected by Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert (1970)

Book coverThis is the first collection of poetry I spotted on my to-read shelves after Loveroot, and it was a good palate cleanser.

Issa was a Japanese poet from around the time of the American Revolution (he lived 1763 – 1828) who wrote in “haiku”–the translations in this book do not follow the common haiku pattern of 5/7/5 syllables, but the originals might. Some of the haikus were translated by R. H. Blyth, the source for Games Zen Masters Play. The volume is a Scholastic book, which meant it was sold in school book orders before I was born. When elementary school kids or their parents apparently bought collections of poems, simple as though they might be.

Well, the book is a lot of haikus, many about insects, and some breaths of insight from seeing flies alighting hither and yon. I read them all in one sitting, and that’s not the best way to enjoy a haiku. They should be savored one at a time, reflected on a bit. But I am a man in a hurry to make my annual book quota (70 books, of which this is the 73rd I’ve read this year, but the unofficial stretch goal is 100), so I gulped them down too quickly.

I have identified my favorite, though:

Just being here,
I am here,
and the snow falls.

I have started (long ago, but I have not worked on or completed) a military science fiction book where a space marine says, “I am here” before every action. Now I know where the quote comes from. Am I retconning? A little. Given that I have only a couple of pages of this book done, I am merely conning.

At any rate, a nice respite from more modern poems. Better if taken in moderation.

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“At least it’s not a hot day,” I said as the thermometer pegged 90 degrees.

Our AC has an issue.

On Saturday night, it was temperate enough to eat outside, and when we did, I heard our condenser outside wheezing a bit. It sounded like the fan was out of alignment perhaps. I worried about it a bit. The air conditioner this year has not cooled the house entirely; the upstairs has tended to be warm and the downstairs freezing (the house was built in the 1980s before zoned heating and cooling was a thing).

Saturday night was… warm. I awakened in the night with the blankets and sheets all kicked from me, and I was not cool at all.

On Sunday afternoon, I went into the little utility room that houses our furnace and our water softener and, more importantly to me at that time, the mop bucket I use to mop our cat litter/storage room. I discovered water around the furnace which generally means some problem with the a-coil. So I turned the air conditioning off at Nogglestead and toweled up the floor as best I could–the house is designed to maximize the living space, which really cramps access to a lot of the furnace and whatnot.

So we’re waiting for a new air conditioning company to come (the reason we’re going with a new company instead of the one that has serviced Nogglestead for the first decade is another story).

But the “roughing it” experience of a night without air conditioning in Missouri led me down memory lane. So, gentle reader, if you’re still reading, take my sweaty hand and come with me back to the 80s. The 1980s, not the temperature. Continue reading ““At least it’s not a hot day,” I said as the thermometer pegged 90 degrees.”

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Book Report: Titan A.E. by Steve Perry and Dal Perry (2000)

Book coverEver since I bought this book at the Friends of the Kirkwood Library book sale in 2008, it’s been on the tops or fronts of my bookshelves where paperbacks fit when double-stacking books. So the book has often been visible, and many times I have picked it up and thought about reading it. It was not the time, then. It was that time now. Or this week, anyway.

The book is a novelization of the 2000 animated film that I have not seen. It seems to me that a similarly flavored movie came out at about the same time, but I cannot remember what it would have been, and although I have done a bit of research, I don’t know what I might have been thinking about. Twenty years ago, I was not so into animated films that it would have made too much of an impression. Just enough, I suppose. Also, I would like to defend myself that I am not into animated films even now, thank you very much, and I have not read a comic book since my favorite comic book shop closed up last year.

At any rate, the book details the story of Cale, the son of a prominent scientist/engineer. Fifteen years after the destruction of earth by a race of energy aliens called the Drej, humanity is scattered, a refugee race without a home world. A former associate of Cale’s father shows up at the backwater junkyard asteroid where Cale is eking out an existence and dreaming of building his own ship. He wants Cale to help him find the Titan, the ship Cale’s father built before the destruction of the earth. The mixed species crew of the associate’s ship keep almost a step ahead of the Drej as they use a special ring Cale had as a guide to the Titan. When they get there, they discover the associate is working with the Drej in their quest to eliminate the Titan, which was prophesied to be the end of the Drej? Something.

You know, like the Robotech book I read in 2016, I suspect that the novelization here has a depth that the cartoon itself doesn’t. I quibble with some of the timeline: The book is set 1000 years in the future, but humanity doesn’t seem to have changed, and the earth’s destruction was fifteen years before the book, but humanity has seemingly forgotten it even though much of the human population should remember it fairly clearly.

That aside, the book is akin to Heinlein’s juvie fiction, a rocket jockey story with some interesting depth to the villains as well and perhaps a twist or two that were unnecessary. But a pleasant little read.

Apparently, the book has a couple of prequels and a comic book series prequel. The video game rendition was cancelled, though, and I guess the intellectual property lost its lustre sometime the same year. Which means it’s ripe for a reboot, amirite? This time with live action, and Matt Damon can be the father instead of voicing the son.

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Another From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Fan Self-Identifies

Homeless man lived in empty Florida stadium for weeks: cops:

A homeless man in Florida made a luxury suite in an empty stadium his home for two weeks while helping himself to food, drinks and team merchandise, police said.

You know, when I read From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I too had that sort of fantasy. As a matter of fact, I have even written the first paragraphs in a novel with a similar conceit.

Which I won’t finish now. Why bother? It’s all been done before.

Also, I couldn’t drive myself through the first couple of pages twenty-five years ago when the idea was fresh, so it would require a lot more self-discipline to complete it now.

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Book Report: Georgia O’Keeffe by Georgia O’Keeffe (1976)

Book coverI bought this book in June at ABC Books; of the seven books I bought that day, I have now read/browsed six. So it is possible that for a second year in a row, I will finish all of the books that I bought on one trip to a book store in the same year I bought them. But that’s not actually certain.

At any rate, I had not really paid much attention to her work. I knew she had a reputation for being gay, although that is in dispute, and that a lot of people see vaginas in her flowers. I think I confused her with Grandma Moses when I was young, as she was still alive but was very, very old–both she and Grandma Moses lived to about the century mark (Grandma Moses a little older, Georgia O’Keeffe a little younger). And both of their names started with G, which means to a young man not steeped in the arts, they were practically the same person.

So. Georgia O’Keeffe. She’s a little modern for my tastes, but she paints in sharp lines and bright colors, so I rank her higher than Matisse, Picasso, and the post Impressionists–even Americans like William Partride Burpee. Some of the landscapes/buildings have wavy lines where I would have preferred them straight. I like a couple of her New York series, but I’m not fond of the landscapes with the floating skulls. The more abstract work and some of the stylized flowers, meh.

Still, I’m glad to have reviewed this monograph (for which I paid TEN WHOLE DOLLARS) to increase my familiarity with her work and make me slightly more intelligent of art.

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Book Report: Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said by Dan Caddy (2015)

Book coverI forget where I saw this book listed most recently on the Internet, but I bought a copy for my former Marine brother and a copy for myself. As I had just finished an Executioner novel (Combat Stretch), I thought I would pick up something quick to read before jumping into another novel. Not that I’m reading long novels recently.

At any rate, it’s what you would expect: A couple of longer stories (which are a couple paragraphs long) interspersed against single-quotation-on-a-page sections. A lot of insults, some of which we civilians can appropriate.

As you know, gentle reader, I did not serve, but I come from a military family (Marines, not army). So I recognized at least one story–the candy bar in the toilet–that my father’s drill sergeant had done. So that’s been around a while. And I realized that I knew my mother’s boot camp nickname, but not my father’s–one assumes he had one.

I have seen a lot of ASMDSS t-shirts listed on my Facebook feed; now I know what it means.

So a quick read to be sure, and amusing enough if you’re the kind of person who likes the novels of Richard Marcinko. And maybe wonders if he regrets not signing up back when three or four years of military service sounded like a long committment, but four years of college and a decade’s worth of student loans did not.

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The Products Suggest Permanence

My Facebook feed is full of ads for masks and news of people who are making masks. My mother-in-law has ordered a pile of masks for my beautiful wife and children. Springfield has a mask ordinance until October 15; Nixa and Republic do not, so Nixa and Republic get a lot more of my business these days.

Although some masks are tempting…

I refuse to buy a permanent mask. Whenever I need to go to something in Springfield, I have a single workshop dust mask hanging from one of the shifters in my truck. I slap that on at the doors of the places where I must go that require masks. I refuse to put it on in the car, and I don’t want to own a couple dozen little bits of fabric in 2021.

Because this is only temporary, ainna? Or will the proliferation of masks make it easier to make the current measures of dubious necessity and efficacy permanent?

Well, all right, I must admit I did buy a mask to coordinate with my outfit for one of my required bi-weekly trips into Springfield.

This is the Internet. You are free to believe that I do not, in fact, wear a balaclava to my martial arts school. Or you can believe that I do because although the city of Springfield might have mandated that I look silly, it did not limit the amount of silly I will look.

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Borepatch.

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Book Report: Loveroot by Erica Jong (1973)

Book coverI have mentioned before that I read Jong’s How To Save Your Own Life, her 1975 sequel to her seminal novel Fear of Flying a long time ago, before I started writing book reports on this blog. I never read Fear of Flying, though. And I’ve read some about it (mostly Wikipedia) that says Fear of Flying was an empowering bit of second-wave feminism. I guess it fit into the zeitgeist of the time, when the early boomers were coming of early middle age (well, their 30s, which was middle aged in those days), and Erica Jong became a thing.

This was her third volume of poetry. I started reading it after Fully Empowered, and the second poem in the volume is “To Pablo Neruda”. As a matter of fact, the poems refer/allude to/directly address a number of poets, including Walt Whitman, Anne Sexton (twice, and apparently Jong new her personally), Sylvia Plath, Keats, and Colette. A lot of the poems in the book deal with being a poet and the poetic impulse, so Jong is learned and takes herself very seriously.

The poetry is often vulgar and only sometimes crosses the line into earthy and sensuous, but you can only use the word “cunt” never in your poems to be anything but vulgar. Perhaps that’s the point, shocking little old bourgeois moi. Perhaps I’m judging her a little harshly because for every passage where it’s appealing that she’s good to go without using the cunt, she looks like she could be one of my immediate relatives.

So maybe that squickied the lusty appreciation of this early 1970s authentic womanly carnal expression right out of me.

Overall, aside from a few interesting moments, the poems have a very collegiate feel to them as though they were written by a sophomore at a university somewhere immersed in a creative writing program than real musings of someone growing older. I paid $4.95 (the same as the book’s cover price in 1973) for this at ABC Books in June for a first edition in a mylar cover, I don’t expect I’ll pay that much for another book by this author. If I ever buy another book by her, which is unlikely.

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I Would Have Signed This Petition

James Hong, ‘Hollywood’s most prolific actor,’ may finally get Walk of Fame star:

He has more credits than nearly anyone in Hollywood, yet he still isn’t a bona fide “star.”

In his legendary career, actor James Hong — who recently went viral as “Hollywood’s most prolific actor” — has accrued more than 600 acting credits and inspired countless careers, yet he still doesn’t have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Now, a growing group of fans is actively trying to change that for Hong, 91, whose diverse projects include “Seinfeld,” “Big Trouble in Little China” and “Blade Runner.”

Also Wayne’s World.

Hopefully he gets the star. Although, to be honest, the headline aside, I would not have signed an Internet petition because I think they’re worthless and a waste of time. I prefer to spend my worthless and waste of time on an old timey Web log.

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Book Report: Combat Stretch The Executioner #152 (1991)

Book coverNot longer after finishing the Medellín trilogy with Message to Medellín a week or so ago, I jumped back into the Executioner one-offs with this volume.

An interesting thing I discovered when researching the trilogy: Although the trilogy is numbers 149, 150, and 151 in the numbering, the numbering on Fantastic Fiction and in the front of the books indicates that #150 in the series is Death Load. Which makes me wonder how that happened. Was the middle book in the trilogy only available to subscribers? Who knows. Well, someone probably knows. Actually, Wikipedia says Death Load was in the main line and Evil Kingdom was in the Super Bolan line. Which probably explains why it was longer than the mainline. The copy I have of Evil Kingdom does not indicate Super Bolan at all. I wonder if that makes it a collector’s edition.

Sorry, that’s more about the series than this book. Don’t I decry series business over the individual books in my book reports? I do!

This book has Bolan working with a beautiful KGB agent to find a Japanese terrorist organization which has a super typhus that it threatens to release unless its demands are met. The KGB agent has another objective: To steal the bioweapon for the Soviet Union and kill Bolan.

In a series of set pieces, Bolan and the Russian track and engage elements of the organization at the safe houses where they’ve stored the bioweapon for dispersal. In one of the firefights, the good buys are exposed and have 72 hours to find the main stronghold and find an antitoxin before they become infectious and need to be quarantined. They find the stronghold, discover the kidnapped scientist who has already discovered the antitoxin, and get saved with thirteen minutes to spare–and the beautiful Russian agent has fallen in love with Bolan and cannot kill him, so her superior who is in love with her shows up and is disappointed.

So it’s not a bad entry in the series, but it does have some errata. At one point, Bolan discovers that the Russian agent is to poison his granola bars with arsenic using the nuts to cover the scent of almonds. As any Agatha Christie reader can tell you, arsenic doesn’t smell like almonds–cyanide does. And when teams kit up for battle, they all end up with different weapons again. I guess in a post-apocalyptic scenario, this might occur as gun collectors emerge with different guns in their collectons.

Aside from the little mistakes, not a bad entry in the series. Fear of bioweapons is as timely as ever, ainna?

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What I Did This Weekend

Saturday, I went fishing with my boys. They, or at least the younger one, have/has been eager to go fishing again as it’s not our native thing, but the youngest really likes the thought of catching a fish and eating it.

They’ve gone a couple times with their school classes to ponds and had some luck there, and we went a couple years ago on a guided fishing trip that my beautiful wife got me/us for Christmas. With a professional guide, we caught fish all day–the first bite came before the guide had baited the second hook. We only caught a single bluegill that was large enough to keep–all the bass were the wrong size to take home–and we threw the bluegill back because one bluegill does not an appetizer make.

But they’ve had some high expectations to what fishing is. In their minds, fishing is mostly catching fish. The video game representations of the same task are equally rewarding. Continue reading “What I Did This Weekend”

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Based On My Personal Experience

Which is none, by the way, as I am not yet over fifty, but when confronted with an Internet ad like this, I have to say that the answer, currently, is not a dating site on the Internet. I mean, people a couple years older than I am probably did not find their beautiful wife (erm, spouse) on the Internet (a USENET newsgroup, remember, twenty-some years ago) and were not natively born to computers as some of us in the latter Generation X were. They say that millennials and Generation Z don’t remember a time without computers and the Internet, but I do. They’ve been on the Internet their entire lives, but (as I tell my children), I’ve been on the Web its entire life.

So amongst the people I know over fifty who’ve found love (or at least married), where have they found “love”?

  • Church.
  • Work.
  • Widows/widowers marrying widows/widowers amongst their friends. Who knew their lost spouses.

Sometimes two of the three, actually.

I don’t know; maybe the generation above me or older members of my generation are clicking those links. I’d hate to think so, though–by this point in your life, you should have a good social network and be able to work it if you’re looking.

But, as I said, my experience is flawed.

  2. I am currently married to a beautiful woman whom I currently love (so when I am over fifty, too soon, I will find that love nearby most of the time).
  3. I go to church which introduces me to a different set of people than those who don’t go to church.
  4. I tend to hang out with a crowd that’s younger than I am.

So, basically, I have no clue what I’m talking about, but this is the Internet, so I get to say it as loudly as people who do have a clue. Also, experts. Which doesn’t necessarily overlap too much with “people who have a clue.” However, I am jaundiced enough to think that maybe Internet ads that merge my location with their text probably fall into that “don’t have a clue” segment.

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The Apocryphoral Prediction Comes True

1986-87 Fleer Basketball Cards case containing Michael Jordan rookie sells for more than $1.7M:

An unopened case of 1986-87 Fleer Basketball Cards sold for more than $1.78 million in an auction conducted by Collect Auctions on Thursday night.

The auction house described the box as “the Holy Grail of all modern items” and possibly the last one left in the sports-card collecting hobby. The case includes 12 wax boxes with 36 packs to a box.

You know, I have many of my childhood collections, and I have always maintained that one cannot get rich from the things from one’s childhood.

In spite of this incident, I’m going to hold to it. Because an unopened box likely came from a speculator or the remnants of an out-of-business collector shop somewhere. Not from someone’s childhood.

(Link via the Springfield Business Journal.)

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It Could Have Been Me

Kirkwood, Webster Groves residents walk the streets — every single one of them — in their towns:

Gabriella Ramirez, 16, and her mom, Deanna, set out to walk every single street in their town of Webster Groves. They completed their 160-mile journey in mid-June.

You know, when I lived in Old Trees, I had a baby who liked to ride in the stroller. So from the middle of 2006 to the middle of 2008, we roamed all over Old Trees for hours a day. The baby got up at 5am or so, and I’d feed him and take him for a two hour or so walk, and put him down for his morning nap. He’d wake up, have something to eat, and we’d go for our mid-day walk for a couple of hours, and then we would come home for his afternoon nap. He’d awaken somewhere in the mid-afternoon, and we would go out again for an hour or so. And maybe a little walk after dinner. We did this pretty much year-round, including 100 degree days in the summer and cold days in the winter where I’d put socks over his mittens. So we covered a lot of Old Trees, but not all of it.

We covered all of Tuxedo Park, Old Orchard, Webster Park, and Old Webster many times, but we were light on Sherwood, North Webster, and the other spots north of Lockwood (and the train tracks). Mostly because they were the most distant. A bit because some of the streets lacked sidewalks. Some, too, because North Webster is predominately black, and I have a policy of avoiding being the only one of anything anywhere (sure, some will call it RACISM, but I would feel the same about a predominately Serbian neighborhood like you find in south St. Louis).

In those days, before the iPhone and before smartphones took off, you didn’t have the ability to track the streets and your walks on an app; perhaps if I had gamified it, I would have made the effort toward completeness. And maybe got a book deal out of it. You know, the things I do, I don’t think about writing a book about. Maybe I should if I ever want to be a Real Writer.

Our walking days pretty much ended in the middle of 2008 when the youngest came along. He had an internal timer for 20 minutes, and if he was in a car seat or a stroller for longer, he would begin to wail inconsolably until he was out. This limited our walking excursions and car trips for the most part, but in Old Trees, you weren’t twenty minutes away from most things you’d need–church, shopping, and even my sainted mother’s house was just a touch over twenty minutes away. So we got by, and he got less ornery before we moved to the country.

As to walking all the local roads, well, I have not walked them as the block across the street is 4.1 miles around (4.2 on the bike), and the block we live in is 8.2 miles around by bike (or so I mapped; I haven’t done it because one side of the block is a two-lane farm road with no shoulder, no visibility, and lots of curves and hills that my beautiful wife doesn’t like to drive on, much less run or bike). So I have run on some of the major roads around, but not all of the cul-de-sacs and certainly not the private drives that abound in the neighborhood.

Still, good on these kids in Old Trees and More Old Trees on their adventures.

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Giving Recruiters A Bad Name

The Kimble Group emails me from time-to-time with interesting “career opportunities.”

Like this one I received this week:

Assistant professor and health sciences librarian at Gozanga University’s Spokane, MO, campus. Since I live within 25 miles of Spokane, Missouri, I am a hot prospect for this job because, well, no one else in their database lives within 25 miles of Spokane, Missouri.

Word to the wise, kid: Gozanga is in Spokane, Washington.

Which removes my only qualification for this opportunity.

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Homophones, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

A while back (five years ago?), my youngest son’s class collected as many homophones as they could, so my son took a lot of pleasure running through his vocabulary and ours to discover ones that his classmates had not.

However, I was remiss at that time in not including tocsin, an alarm bell, and toxin, a poison generally of plant or animal origin.

You would think I would have been better prepared for that pairing as a reader of suspense novels, but Alistair MacLean novels are more full of klaxons of the alarums.

(The word tocsin brought to the forefront of my mind via this Bookworm Room post.)

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Book Report: How To by Randall Munroe (2019)

Book coverI bought this book at Books-a-Million in June. I haven’t made a goal of reading the books I bought in Branson this year (unlike last year, when I read all five ending with Herschend Family Values). But we bought a copy of this book for the boys as well, and the oldest spotted on my to-read stack (those volumes from Branson this year are still stacked on the floor atop the box of books I inherited from my most recently passed aunt) and recommended the book.

Well, he hasn’t read What If?, another book with a similar premise. Wherein What If? the author speculates on crazy questions and works out the math and physics on the prospect, in How To, he takes a basic activity like being on time, digging a hole, moving a house, playing piano, and so on and then goes off on a little physics tangent exploration of the possibility. So the schtick is a little different because he’s taking things for which we already have a good solution–leave early, use a backhoe or excavator, buy a player piano–and goes tangentally off into ridiculous but physics-ally sound answers (or reasons why the answers he chooses are not physics-ally sound).

So a little less engaging than What If? from my perspective.

My boys liked it, though. Enough to recommend I read it sooner rather than later. Although I’m not sure how much they appreciated the math and physics in it. I suspect they liked it because it had a lot of cartoons in it, like their previous favorites Dog Man and Captain Underpants.

I see Munroe has published another book in the interim–Thing Explainer–that I’ll watch out for. I’m also thinking about getting a copy of What If? for that former physics teacher on my gift list. She might find it a hoot. Or not. The key in Christmas gift giving, especially to those with whom you’ll open gifts in person, is a large number of items so that, hopefully, something will delight the recipient.

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Family Video Tries Another Revenue Stream

I mentioned on Dustbury a while back that the local video stores have also started carrying CBD products and have used most of their signage since to promote that fact rather than the new releases. I guess the high speed Internet has spread out from Springfield enough that streaming media is starting to cut into video rental even out in the country. And I can’t hold myself blameless as I have not been visiting the video store much recently as the boys are watching all my Adam Sandler movies and when we get together to watch something recently, we’ve watched cheesy movies that I have watched before.

So Family Video is now offering a new benefit.

They probably get a cut from every membership in what looks to be a concierge-like service.

I get it. It pays to diversify your revenue streams especially when your mainline business starts struggling. But wouldn’t you think it better to find something almost adjacent to your core or former product offering so people kind of think of your store when they think of the product? Because after I delete this email, I’m not going to think about Family Video and telehealth services again until I stumble across this blog post years from now.

So if you’re a video store, what can you do?

  • Partner with other video stores nearby kind of like a library consortium. If you don’t have a title but your partner video store does, you can have it for your customer tomorrow at your normal or a special rate, and the other store offers you a reduced fee for the rental. It’s best to have a reputation for having everything and for having everything available when you’re a video store–especially obscure titles.
  • Movie discussion groups for people cinema buffs. You can’t actually show the film without getting exhibitor rights or something (citation needed), but you can get some people together to talk about movies every week. Like a book club. I think you could show excerpts from the movie–perhaps from YouTube instead of the DVDs–, and you could probably stock your shelves the week ahead (via your partnerships) with extra copies of the movie to discuss. Or maybe add your own copies to have available even after the discussion.
  • Movie trivia nights. Everyone likes a quiz. Perhaps add some event space to the venue to accommodate small events and perhaps screenings of local films or support for local film makers. A lot of gaming stores use a bunch of their floor space so people can come together and play games.

I mean, as a business, you could go afield of your core business, but your customers/members won’t necessarily think of you when they think of that other line of business. The more you can diversify your product offerings in adjacent to your original product offering, the better.

Of course, video store owners probably still have professional organizations and support networks that have already thought of this and can’t justify the additional almost-dead square footage in their lease or something.

But idle, ill-informed speculation is what blogging and the Internet are all about.

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