Willow (1988)

Willow (1988)

One of the great joys of building Reclaim Video beyond the chance to get back to doing some art has been the chance to reflect on some of the films that defined my childhood. I was born in 1982 and grew up surrounded by VHS as the dominant format. Visiting a rental store to pick out a movie for the weekend was a ritual that my siblings and I cherished. It's interesting to me how even in the Netflix-era of on-demand there are so many films that can't be easily found and don't surface in any algorithms. So for me this is an opportunity to indulge a bit by pulling out some of the films that I can vividly remember watching multiple times and grabbing them on eBay for the store.

A few weeks ago I made it a point to get a copy of Willow. A Lucasfilm production directed by Ron Howard and staring Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer, Willow is a fantasy film with dwarves, sorcerers, dragons, and more. The effects are as excellent as you would expect with George Lucas at the helm. Check out this scene as Queen Bavmorda turns the army ready to storm the fortress into pigs.

Apparently there's even a video game for Commodore 64 https://www.mobygames.com/game/c64/willow. The film wasn't a huge box office success but did decent enough. In an era where I was entraced by the works of Jim Henson and George Lucas this movie was right up my alley. It's no Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter when it comes to fantasy films, but was a staple in the Owens household early on and it was a thrill to get a copy for Reclaim Video and watch it again.

Reclaim Video’s World Premiere at #OER18

Reclaim Video Signage

The road to Reclaim Video has been both an interesting and telling one. Less than a year ago it was still just an idea baby lurking menacingly under the surface of Crystal Lake. The “vision” was hatched while we were renovating our newly leased office space last Spring. The space is part of an 80s strip mall that effectively has two storefronts. The one we were renovating became CoWork, and the other was being used temporarily—but every time I looked at it I couldn’t help fantasizing about an 1980s video rental store. The fantasies were also inspired by the awesome experience of working on the Console Living Room exhibit we created at UMW in the Spring of 2015

Reclaim Team in NYC Diner dreaming of VHS

I think I first articulated the dark fantasies of Reclaim Video to Tim and Lauren in some kind of thinly veiled joke as early as May, but the intense preparation surrounding the conjunction of both the opening of CoWork and the launch of our first Domains conference meant it was summarily dismissed. What’s more, it was little more then “I want to turn that space into an 80s video rental store. hahahaha.” As brilliant as the idea seems now to just about everyone, hindsight is 20/20 🙂 It was not as fleshed out as one would hope, and while I kept on returning to it over and over again throughout the summer and fall, it did not become a reality until early November (so only 6 months ago). The idea came up again while we were enjoying a Reclaim NYC trip. Tim, who was trying really hard to make heads or tails of the idea, finally made the connection between Reclaim Hosting and Reclaim Video in his mind, namely evolving the record store idea [“Video killed the radio star”] as well as being a way to host a fun marketing campaign for Reclaim Hosting. And, with that, everything moved into overdrive.  We all agreed to the idea in NYC over a delicious diner breakfast (pictured above) in early November and by March we had gutted the storefront and created a full-blown video store circa 1984—it took all of 4 months once we committed. And that last point encapsulates my experience at Reclaim Hosting for almost 5 years now. There’s really little in the way of bullshit; we are a lean, mean academic hosting machine and once we decide to do something we lock-in and get it done. #TCB4life!

We’ve documented the process of getting the store up and running over the past few months, and we now have all those blog posts aggregating to Reclaim Video’s blog Room 237. Given that, I’ll spare you re-hashing that process here so I can actually get to my point.

And what’s that, you ask? Well, our coming out party at OER18, of course! I’m not sure when, but at some point in December or January we got the notion of transforming Reclaim Hosting’s sponsorship of OER18 into Reclaim Video’s. The conceit being that this new Ed-Tech start-up, Reclaim Video, was delivering an innovative and timely disruption to the Higher Education market: VHS!!! We approached ALT’s CEO Maren Deepwell with the idea, and she was fully onboard. Those of you who know Maren will not be surprised by this, and I fell in love with the folks at ALT when I spoke at OER16 because I deeply related with how such a small, focused crew could bring so much goodness to so many. After that we decided to do our part to help fund OER17 and now OER18, but we had no interest in the usual vendor trappings—the sordid depths of which Adam Croom’s recent post about OLCInnovate highlights quite brilliantly alarmingly. So, Reclaim Video provided us a way to still do something fun and actually be part of the conversation, even if from 30 years ago 🙂

OER18 Conference

“The lights go down in Bristol for Reclaim Video”
Image credit: Daniel Villar-Rubio’s “OER18 Conference”

OER18 took place at The Watershed, an Independent Cinema  and “Creativity Centre” in Bristol, and all the presentations were in movie theaters. As luck would have it, this was perfect for what we wanted to do. We had made a mad rush to finish the Reclaim Video storefront in March so we could create a short film that we would debut at OER18. And, we did! I’m not sure what it is titled, but it provides a kind of alternative reality wherein the employees of both Reclaim Video and Reclaim Hosting find themselves in a 1980s era storefront talking VCRs and websites. Synergy baby!

And that was how OER18 started, Maren put the tape in the VCR, lights went down, and 5 minutes of magic ensued 🙂 It was fun, and the fact there really is a Reclaim Video in Fredericskburg, Virginia that will be sending folks all over the world copies of this video on VHS tape over the next 3-6 months makes me smile. Faith in a seed.

We also had a booth, and the amazing crew at Watershed supplied us with a CRT monitor and a region-free VHS player—I think they were the most excited about Reclaim Video’s presence at the conference. The booth was awesome, and it just played films like Blade Runner, Xtro, Amadeus, and more. We also had a stack of shirts and stickers for those swag-minded retrotechs.

Another piece of the OER18 sponsorship was an ad in the program, and, well, we remixed some OG “OER.” 

Tim’s design prowess was responsible for the logo, and it’s amazing how much goodness can follow on a solid logo. What’s more, I already mentioned that a major reason for doing Reclaim Video was to have some fun. And, if you think about it, Reclaim Video is kind of a mashup of ds106 and the Living Room Console—which are two of my very favorite things. And while we fully understand Reclaim Video is not a viable business, its value as an indulgent, nostalgia-peppered space filled with fun and whimsy should not be underestimated. The space has already helped us all divert some of the intense work that running Reclaim Hosting requires into a joyous alter-ego company. Reclaim Video is a creative release that the good folks at OER18 did not bat an eye about incorporating into their proceedings—and that’s open education in action! To quote Yo La Tengo: “It’s a waste of time if I can’t smile easily.” Smiling at Reclaim Hosting (and now Reclaim Video) has not been an issue these last 4 years or so—and cultivating that fact should not be an afterthought to any venture

The Reclaim Video website designed by Michael Branson Smith

Oh yeah, we also launched an inspired website that will be a central node of Reclaim Video that Michel Branson Smith brilliantly put together for us. But I am saving that for my next post, cause the website is going to be an ongoing, evolving piece of Reclaim Video that I am very interested in taking some time and energy to think about here.

*This is a problem I have, fantasizing about the strip mall haunts of my past. Intensive therapy hasn’t helped.

Readful Things at Reclaim Video

The entire Reclaim team has been abroad for the last week, so things have been a bit quiet on the blog—but that’s about to change.  There’s much to share from the official launch of Reclaim Video last week, and a post detailing that and more is in the works. But I couldn’t wait any longer to post about some of our recent, rather unique acquisitions for Reclaim Video from the Etsy shop Readful Things—a shop that has some really fun 1980s pop culture art, including an Atari 2600 The Thing cartridge as well as a Creepshow action figure of that lunkhead Jordy Verrill:

Creepshow’s Jordy Verrill and The Thing comes to Atari 2600

The Thing 2600 cartridge may be the greatest thing ever!

The cartridge—is it real?

And to continue on a theme, check out this infected The Thing VHS tape seconds after administering MacReady’s blood test!

Keep it on the couch!

“There ain;t nothing in Room 237, so stay out!!!”

And last, but definitely not least—The Shining VHS tape featuring both Room 237 and the well-used typewriter.

People continue to ask how we’re going to make money on Reclaim Video, and the simple answer is we aren’t—and that’s fine. But if Readful Things keeps on making such awesome VHS art we may soon be running a significant deficit 🙂

Losin’ It, Dead Zone, Videodrome, The Day After and more

That’s an attractive Beta shelf

The Reclaim Video storefront continues to flower as we bring in more titles.Over the last two weeks we added a bunch of titles such as Losin’ It and Dead Zone to knock a couple of titles off the 1983 wish list, the other three (The Hitcher (1986), Warlock (1989), and Wolf (1994)) came as part of the Ebay lot. 

We also got some new technology to track and share new arrivals:

We also scored an uncut VHS version of Cronenberg’s 1983 Videodrome—a foundational film for Reclaim Video. And to add to the vibe of Reagan 80s fear-mongering and paranoia we secured the 1983 made-for-TV gem The Day After.

Additionally, the shelves for our featured video rack (which we scored at Goodwill for $13) arrived, and it is pretty awesome.

So, it’s been an event couple of weeks leading up to the unveiling of Reclaim Video’s website and promotional video at OER18. Reclaim Video is going public 🙂 

Reclaim Video Inventory

Over the last couple of days, I’ve taken a break from my Documentation April to categorize Reclaim Video’s ever-growing collection of VHS, Betamax, and Laserdisc. I feel like every couple of days (if not every day) we’re receiving a package in the mail enclosing one or two new VHS tapes from Jim’s wishlist. They’re always so fun to open, but then they inevitably pile up on the front desk until one of us as a moment to add them to our excel sheet. Oh yeah, we have been using excel to keep track of what we had, but Reclaim Video has quickly outgrown it. The excel list was hard to look at, hard to search through, and staying organized was virtually impossible.

What’s more, last week we received two (yes, two!) VHS donations from folks in the Fredericksburg community. Suddenly we were faced with a dilemma: how would we add these tapes to our collection without losing track of who donated what? Especially once duplicates of films are involved.. it was just getting complicated. We decided stickers on the tapes themselves was not an option, so a digital log of some sort was needed.

Enter Libib.com!

Tim found this Cloud Cataloging tool that’s made to keep track of books, movies, video games and more. I began playing around with the online version and the iPhone app and was immediately sold. The free version is perfect for anyone looking to log their personal collections, and we’ve made great use out of it for Reclaim Video so far. I imagine we’ll end up upgrading the pro version ($5/mo) to take advantage of its loaning features. We are a rental store, of course.

My favorite part of the app, without a doubt, has been the Barcode scanning feature. I’ve been able to easily scan hundreds of tapes and archive them on our new collection site, inventory.reclaimvideo.com. Movies that are recognized in the database are then automatically displayed with a ton of helpful metadata.

^Example of the metadata pulled. In addition, viewers are then able to leave reviews & I can easily keep track of how many copies are available. I wish more of the metadata was available on the public-facing site, but I’m imagining that’s part of the pro version.

In addition, we can now easily add donations & and organizing them using Tags. It’s beautiful! ^ Collections are organized by “libraries”, so Reclaim Video has three libraries: VHS, Betamax, and Laserdisc.

^Full row of 007 Betamax

Just today I finally finished logging all the Betamax & VHS currently available at Reclaim Video. I took advantage of the opportunity to organize the tapes as well, so the right half of the room is VHS, and the left is Betamax.

^The forward-facing inventory site.

I’m excited to expand this over time– not only tweet-length messages to the right sidebar, but more laserdisc logging coming soon! It’s also nice to be able to send interested Reclaim Video renters somewhere to say, “hey, this is what’s currently in stock!”

All the Right Movies

Last week was a whirlwind between a major migration, PressED Conference, and a packed-full Easter weekend. There was no real respite yesterday given we had a shared hosting server down most of the day, so attention was split to say the least. But given today has been the first chance I’ve had to take a real breath since getting back from the US almost two weeks ago, I figured a quick update on Reclaim Video was in order. We are working through the 1983 movies wishlist, and we’re off to a good start with All the Right Moves, Bad Boys, and The Osterman Weekend on VHS

Vigilante on Beta….

…and Tender Mercies on laserdisc thanks to the ever generous Pat Lockley.

What’s more, we also got the shelves in for the $14 dollar showcase rack we found at Goodwill two weeks ago, so this can be where we show-off all our 1983 movies as they come in—and I just made sure more ARE coming in 🙂

Update: Look what just came in this morning, that’s Peckinpah on VHS and LD -so good!

Reclaim Video’s 1983 Wishlist

Reclaim Video is coming along nicely. It will be officially opening sometime in the next month or so. What that looks like exactly is not entirely clear just yet, and ww would appreciate any and all ideas. We are discussing memberships that allow for unlimited rentals of VHS, Beta, Laserdiscs, as well as the video game consoles.  We are toying with getting a telepresence robot so I can help manage the space remotely, bringing in curators to run the shop, as well as an entire web-based interface for interacting with the physical space remotely. I am being vague because this is all still amorphous. But one thing I’m sure of is that we do have t-shirts, stickers, guaranteed memberships, and a custom GIF awaiting anyone willing to send us 4 of the following 95 titles from 1983. If you are game, either use the comments to commit to any 4, or send along the videos you want to contribute to jimgroom_at_gmail.com. The films can be in any of the formats noted—namely VHS, Betamax (Beta) or Laserdisc (LD)—and the the closer to 1983 the version, the better!

This is the wishlist we will working through at Reclaim over the next month or so as we start building out the collection in earnest. We’ll come out with other lists for other years as things move along, but the idea of focusing on a particular year will help us be a bit more intentional. What’s more, it offers an interesting perspective on the cultural moment—all those Robert Forster vigilante films 🙂  I’ll blog more about 1983 as we start procuring some of these. You might also me asking, why 1983? Isn’t that kind of a random year given VHS invasion can be traced back to the late 70s. Well, it is random, and it is more closely aligned with the video store I started visiting when I was 12 years-old in 1983 (East Coast Video in Oceanside, Long Island). They still rented VCRs, the tape covers were a deep blue, and it was magical to me. That’s the UR-video rental store that fuels much of what Reclaim Video is for me. But many of you have your own East Coast Video of the mind, along with your own favorites—so feel free to ignore this list, send something else all together, and/or, better yet, start your own damn video store 🙂

Update 4/3/2018: I will be crossing out any titles/formats we receive, and this is the first batch so far 🙂

All the Right Moves on VHS

Tender Mercies on LD

Vigilante on Beta

Bad Boys and Osterman Weekend on VHS

The Life of a Reclaimer is Always Intense

I am sitting at a small round table in Frankfurt Airport staring out at the tarmac which, all things being equal, I’ll soon be taxied across on my way back home to Trento. While I’m still somewhat cognizant-given I’m working between timezones on a sleepless redeye-I’ll try and record how intense the last ten days were—in fact the life of a Reclaimer is always intense! [Let’s get a drink, kid!] This trip was a whirlwind with two primary objectives: 1) help run a workshop for folks at several schools running Domain of One’s Own, and 2) get Reclaim Video as close to finished as possible. I’m thrilled (and somewhat amazed) that I can now happily say “Mission Accomplished!” —and then some. I’m reeling a bit from the intensity, but at the same time working like that makes me feel pretty alive—I can very easily feed off it, but a crash is never far behind 🙂

The Workshop of One’s Own was Thursday and Friday of last week, and I got in late Tuesday. In fact, I even picked up a stray dog at National Airport who proved a trusty companion for the next few days 🙂 We invited Alan to Fredericksburg so he could speak to the Workshop attendees about SPLOTs, and that he did with some hardcore 70s TV commercial references! The Reclaim Hosting crew came together and re-thought the first workshop a bit: we broke it up into an intense dive into how WHM, WHMCS, and WordPress are integrated to create what we know as Domain of One’s Own. Day two we had a discussion about how various folks are approaching the project on their campus, and then jumped into tools like Omeka, Scalar, Grav, and then a longer session on SPLOTs. I think the tool overviews were not as helpful as we thought they would be, so that might be something we abandon next time. I think the workshop was effective, but we still need to have more hands-on workshopping time. So if we run another in the Fall, that will definitely be a goal!

One of the cool things Tim and Lauren put together that worked really well was an Escape Room. It was my first time doing one, and it was fun. I think it broke up the intensity of both days to some degree, and it had a great script and was really thoughtful. The quick version: a student is sucked into their computer and it is going to update in an hour and effectively overwrite the student’s existence. So, you need to find the passcode for his computer to avoid this Tron-inspired digital nightmare. Good stuff.

The workshop wiped me out, but I was still able to get a couple of movies in at the Library of Congress, Packard Campus with Alan and Mo Pelzel, specifically My Left Foot and the original Manchurian Candidate.

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I have to say I was less impressed with Manchurian Candidate my second time around, but the brief introduction by one of the curators was a pretty amazing homage to [[Janet Leigh]], which made me far more interested in her part of the film. And while this film could not be more timely (geo-political problems with Russia, China, and North Korea around psychological warfare) the whole thing kinda felt a bit flat. That said, Janet Leigh on the train was not, and ole Blue Eyes was pretty awesome too—but I don’t know, how current it felt (or we may want it too feel) was a drawback for me rather than selling point.

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Whereas My Left Foot blew me away, I think [[Daniel Day Lewis]] is the very best in the business, and he did not disappoint. The pathos of that story, the sense of people in their lives versus psychological or technical defining and controlling them was a real welcome relief.

Reclaim Video Carpet

Reclaim Video Carpet

Anyway, after some downtime Sunday morning, I started turning my mind to a bear that had been bothering me since I arrived: laying the groovy new carpet for Fredericksburg’s latest video store. Hmmmm, how to tell this one? Well, I guess tell it straight with a slant. When I was in grad school and living in NYC, which is almost 20 years ago now, I spent a fair amount of my spare time working with my brother laying floors. I learned how to install wood floors, lay tile, and even some carpet. I was better at tile and wood (because those were my brothers specialties), and while I had laid carpet with others—I neither liked it not was as comfortable with it. What’s more, if you have a funky pattern, matching up the seam can be a pain in the ass (more on this soon). So, Sunday I spent time revisiting the carpet laying process and measuring stuff out as well as calling my brother for a quick refresher course. After all of that, I felt fairly confident that we could install the carpet Monday morning, which would give us time to finish the shelves and stock the store on Tuesday. We had a tight deadline because we needed the space at least partially finished to film part of our promo video for #OER18, but that’s classified.

So, Monday morning came around and we started cutting the carpet and preparing the 12′ x 20′ piece for installation. Tim was helping me and everything was going smoothly until we folded the carpet off the wall and glued a 10′ x 20′ section with commercial grade carpet glue (leaving  2′ x 20′ piece unglued to manage the seam). That glue is powerful. After spreading, it was time to roll the carpet back and set it, but after the shift it was 2 feet off the wall. Nightmare. The next 60-90 minutes were the worst I have had in a while. We tried pulling the carpet but it was already setting so we had to go on the glue, which made a complete mess and ruined my boots and Tim’s  sneakers. What’s more, the area was too big and the glue too tacky for us to even adjust the piece. We thought we were kissing $1000 worth of carpet (our only real expense for Reclaim Video besides the awesome storefront sign) goodbye. At one point we were discussing how we salvage the carpet (which was starting to get glue on it), and I was regretting ever deciding to lay the carpet myself. Did I already mention it was a nightmare? After an hour of trudging through glue in our shoes, then our socks, and then bare feet, we finally were able to fold the carpet like a paper airplane and adjust it just right against the back wall. It fell in pretty cleanly, and we were saved! REDEMPTION!!!

Crisis avoided, and we could even get the glue off the carpet before it dried. After what turned into a 3 hour ordeal we finished putting it in and were way too shellshocked to even try and tackle cutting the second piece and thinking through the seam. We just thanked our lucky stars for actually saving the carpet and called it a day. The next day we were back at it, and this went smoother, although we miscalculated the seam by an inch or so, which means the pattern is not perfect, but there is no gap and given the carpet is pretty busy you have to be looking for our mistake. My brother would know for sure. But after our initial call for the refresher, I did not tell my brother about any of this, and I am pretty sure he doesn’t read this blog. A bit of saving face. The final product was actually better then I would have ever have dreamed while I was stepping through commercial grade glue trying to keep from completely freaking out:

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A savvy carpet pattern eye could find the seam, but for all intents and purposes the carpet is perfect for the space, and it really finished it off. Once the carpet was done on Tuesday, we worked on the baseboard, shelves, as well as moving and stocking the counters Tuesday night and all-day Wednesday during a snow storm:

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It was amazing how quickly it transformed into everything we had envisioned and more:

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And by Thursday morning we were stocking the shelves with VHS and Betamax tapes, not to mention laserdiscs:

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It was as done as it could be based on our current inventory, and I could not be more thrilled with how it came together! It made the perfect backdrop for our video work the rest of the day. The only sad part for me is soon after it was finished and we were done filming it was time for me to head back to Italy. It all went so fast! Although I did not leave before finally putting away the innumerable boxes of books that were littering the back office of Reclaim Video, so it felt good to truly get everything on my list to-do this time done.

And while parting Reclaim Video was sweet sorrow, I did snap a couple of selfies to remember it by 🙂

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A dream come true, indeed! It was an intense 10 days, but the most rewarding kind of work: helping people manage their domains and creating something fun alongside it!

Reclaim Video Progress

Since February progress on Reclaim Video has been moving at light speed. Things are really starting to come along, and the idea we’ve been throwing around for a year now is quickly becoming a reality. Here are a few of the accomplishments since mid-February:

Lauren secured some period appropriate posters for the Reclaim Video walls.

From the swag department:

Reclaim Video Sticker Template

The actual stickers

Reclaim Video T-shirts

But lest you think we’re all swag and no swarm, there has also been real progress on the storefront:

Tim has been building custom shelves

Yesterday Tim and Lauren secured the showcase and desk thanks to Craig’s List

And this morning Meredith shared this gem!

The Reclaim Video Storefront sign!

Beyond that, we are expecting the carpet today, which will be installed next week. What’s more, we’ve also been in discussions with the great Michael Branson Smith about the website. So, let it be know, Reclaim Video is happening!

We Want Your VHS!

If you have some old VHS hanging around the house, yet have gotten rid of your VCR long ago—it might be high time to let Reclaim Video take them off your hands. Rather than letting them sit around collecting dust or going to the Goodwill or even worse the dump—consider sending them to the following address:

Reclaim Video
2324 Plank Road
Fredericksburg, VA 22401

Keep in mind these tapes won’t just sit around or become part of a personal collection/archive, but rather will be available for others to enjoy. And to sweeten the pot, anyone who donates 25 or more VHS tapes gets free membership (including a laminated card) and a bitchin’ Reclaim Video t-shirt. 

If you already got rid of your VHS collection, no problem, this still applies if you send along some of your favorite 80s movies that you purchase online to the above address. We owe a great debt to Tim Clarke who went out of his way to send us the first donation to date: the 1983 Canadian classic Strange Brew

2018/365/044: Take off!

We want to encourage you to do the same, and once we get our act together your contribution will be registered on the hallowed virtual and physical walls of Reclaim Video.