Posted on February 28, 2018
The idea of running a video rental store has been bouncing around at Reclaim Hosting for over a year now. When we started renovating the CoWork space/Reclaim Headquarters over a year ago we realized we would soon have a vacant strip mall storefront at our disposal. I started floating the idea of a video rental store to Tim, but given he was knee-deep in actually designing and building CoWork with Lauren, those discussions were postponed. At this point it was not clear how it related to anything else we already do, namely run Reclaim Hosting and CoWork—it was just a fun idea.
Regardless of the fact, I was still toying with the idea throughout the Spring and Summer, and during my sojourn to Los Angeles last June I was bouncing the idea off my good friend Mikhail Gershovich, who being as much an 80s culture nerd as me was all Gung Ho—not the movie though*—which may have been a false sense of security. Feeling confident I broached the idea at a dinner with their friends, one being an Art History graduate student, who were quick to remind me that fetishizing the material culture of the past is not art, but rather myopic nostalgia. Which kinda killed my claim this would be something akin to an art installation, but reinforced the fact I was on the right track
People’s reaction to our building a 1980s video rental store was mixed to say the least. It was pretty much just a dream until November when the entire Reclaim Hosting team was on a company retreat in New York City. In many ways Reclaim Video lived apart from Reclaim Hosting as a kind of oddity, it was Tim who finally made the link between the two the made it all real. He noted we don’t do any advertising, and why don’t we use the Reclaim Video to anachronistically promote Reclaim Hosting. It is inline with our whole vision of web hosting as trailing-edge technology, and tries to put the long history of recent media revolutions in some perspective. It’s also an extension of the work that went into the UMW Living Room Console, which might have been one of the funnest things I was ever involved with.
But more then anything, we all agreed it was time for us to have a little fun. We’ve been working hard the last few years, and the video store provides a welcome distraction. What’s more its pretty cheap and easy, we already have the space and VHS tapes and paraphernalia are still common enough that none of it is too expensive. So, in November Reclaim Video went from fantasy to impending reality, and we started planning in earnest.
We’ve been working with Bryan Mathers to subtly rebrand Reclaim Hosting from record store to VHS store:
He’s a genius. But we wanted to work collectively on the Reclaim Video aesthetic. So while the Reclaim Hosting’s site will keep a consistent aesthetic with a nod to the expansion from record to video store, Reclaim Video as an aesthetic will be distinct. We wanted to keep it separate because this was part of the fun we wanted to reclaim —and we started with a logo which I am pretty fired up about. The first we worked on was a long, horizontal visual for the storefront sign. We spent an hour or so in the CoWork conference room bouncing around ideas three weeks back, and it was a blast. We were playing with the Red Green Blue (RGB) chromatic that defined the VHS/VCR era, and we wanted to also nod to video games with the Sega-inspired font.
From there we got a more compact/vertical icon for Reclaim Video that brings together the RGB color bar with the TV snow static. Masterful!
There’s more where that came from, but we’re gonna to have to save that for the Reclaim Video unveiling at #OER18. Oh yeah, that’s right, Reclaim Video, not Reclaim Hosting, is sponsoring OER18. The whole crew will be there in force, and we are very much looking forward to introducing those textbook wonks to the future of media!
That’s more a history of how we got to the brink of actually opening a VHS video rental store in 2018, what the store is actually going to do and how it will operate is still very much a work in progress. We want it to be equally accessible online as it is offline, and we are strongly considering renting old school gaming consoles and video games as well as the standard video fare such as VCRs, betamax players, VHS/Beta tapes, etc. We will also have a healthy laserdisc selection, as well as laserdisc players. The details of inventory are evolving, and we are going to make a real push here soon for donations as well.
Another idea Tim had that I think is awesome is creating actual memberships folks can get locally or online that will include a laminated Reclaim Hosting rental card, a t-shirt, free web hosting space with a movie review SPLOT, access to programming the in-store Reclaim Video TV remotely, and much, much more. The actual store will be an ongoing work in progress, and we’re planning to invite folks to help us think through how we make this space interactive and equally accessible remotely through the web as it would be locally in the storefront.
Anyway, I think you get the idea, Reclaim Video is a way for us to try and have some fun. It’s really that simple. It’s indulgent, it’s vestigial, and it’s definitely nostalgic. All that said, if the experience of planning it is any indicator of how much joy it could result in, it’s gonna be worth every FBI warning we have to sit through.
*Actually, the 1986 film Gung Ho about Japanese factory culture in the U.S. would be an awesome VHS donation to Reclaim Video for anyone out their feeling both nostalgic and generous.
Posted on February 27, 2018
Reclaim Video is currently under construction, and if all goes according to plan it should open sometime in Spring. I have promised a few folks a more comprehensive post about what exactly Reclaim Video is, and rest assured that’s in the works. But before I get there I needed to just post quickly about one of the gems of our VHS collection thus far: Joseph Sargent‘s 1983 horror anthology Nightmares. I’m a sucker for horror anthologies, you can trace the genre at least as far back as [[Mario Bava]]’s Black Sabbath made twenty years earlier. Another favorite horror anthology from the 70s was the made for TV movie Trilogy of Terror (1975)—which would be an awesome VHS tape donation for Reclaim Video. Probably the most famous, and arguably the best, is [[George Romero]]’s direction of [[Stephen King]]’s Creepshow (1982). And it would be hard not to think Nightmares transition from a made-for-TV horror anthology for NBC to a theatrical release in 1982 did not have something to do with the box office success of Creepshow the previous year. Regardless, it was a box office flop.
I’ve written about one particular episode of Nightmares, “The Bishop of Battle,” years ago on the bava. This particular stars [[Emilio Estevez]] as a punk* from the valley who goes to downtown LA to hustle vatos in an 80s arcade. [I remember the episode so clearly because the game he’s playing for the con is Pleiads, which was a personal favorite.] All of this to feed his increasingly disturbing obsession with the video game Bishop of Battle—and its mythical 13th level. Anyway, it’s an urban legend about video game addiction from the 80s (something I heard about all too often after being caught stealing my fair share of quarters from my parents).
This Betamax Rundown post on the movie has an excellent summary of all four episodes with some great VHS screenshots, so if you want more of the nitty gritty check it out. But real quick, the other three stories are all similarly grounded in urban myths.† The first episode Terror in Topanga features another addict (this time a cigarette smoker) who goes out after dark, despite a killer being on the loose, to get a pack of smokes. She gets them but being low on gas on the way back she stops at a creepy gas station only to mistake the attendants attempts to pull her from the car with assault rather than trying to save her life from the killer hidden in the back seat. The killer hiding in your back seat was prevalent urban legend in the 80s, and I remember reports that a psychotic killer was hiding in the backseat of peoples car at Roosevelt’s Field Mall, although I don’t think it was based on any facts. That said, I still look in the back seat of my car before jumping in after leaving it in a mall parking lot. Quick fun fact about this episode, Fear’s lead singer Lee Ving is the psychotic killer in the back seat
“The Benediction” is the third episode stars Lance Henricksen as a Catholic priest who loses his faith and leaves his parish only to be chased down by a black pick-up with tinted windows. It’s a pretty straight rip-off of Christine, and the least interesting of the 4 episodes in my opinion. I’m a fan of Henricksen, but this one never really has a hook and you see the reveal coming from a mile away—not to mention the action is kinda like a Dukes of Hazzard dust up.
The final episode deals with a gigantic, demonic rat that terrorizes a family. I love it because [[Veronica Cartwright]] has always been a favorite, and here she gets to revisit her role in Alien by looking freaked out and screaming. She is also the epitome of an 80s housewife in terms of clothes and hair, and [[Richard Masur]] plays the 80s lawyer prick brilliantly, with the period appropriate detail of him driving a Cadillac Seville that had the iconic trunk that looked like a prize-fighter’s nose. The gigantic rate ultimately ensnares their daughter after they killed its baby in a trap, and the special effects are worthy of the 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man. Anyway, this episode is remarkably similar in my mind to the final episode of Cat’s Eye (1985) titled “General,” another anthology horror movie that ends with a troll trying to steal the breath of a young girl (played by Drew Barrymore) while she sleeps.
Watching this movie on VHS again after what must be over 30 year was awesome. I’m not so sure the movie is all that good, but that is besides the point. It is pure, unadulterated 80s urban legend with some fine acting, set design (by the fact it is filmed in the 80s), and music. Also the director, Joseph Sargent, had a pretty bizarre career when it comes to movies (Jaws 3?)—most of which were forgettable—but he directed the absolutely brilliant Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), so all is forgiven. More than anything Nightmares represents the phenomenon of home video when obscure films you may not otherwise have seen found there way into your home, and by extension your imagination and memory. If you know what I am talking about and you have a film that represents something similar, please let us know. We would love to add it to our Reclaim Video collection. What’s more, you can even find it on Ebay (or elswehere) and send it to the following address to help us collect and share some of that media history:
2320 Plank Road
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Keep in mind anything you send us will be available to be rented out through our storefront—this is not a museum or an archive, but a soon to be fully functioning video store. We are also working on an online component as well, so stay tuned.
A note on the Nightmares tape, the quality was decent at best, and I think we will be running into a fair amount of this as we keep collecting old tapes. The last 3 episodes played cleanly, but the “Terror in Topanga” episodes showed some signs of tape deterioration, and even stopped the VCR twice. It will be interesting to trace the level of degradation of many of these VHS tapes.
*Speaking of punk, he listens to both Fear and Black Flag on his Walkman, which puts it a year ahead of Repo Man for breaking good LA punk to the masses.
†I love how Emilio Estevez’s character constantly references some kid in New Jersey who supposedly reached level 13 of the Bishop of Battle video game—it strikes me as quite authentic reality before the Web.
Posted on February 16, 2018
During this trip back to Fredericksburg we wanted to make some progress on the renovations of the Reclaim Video storefront. This included ripping up the carpet and tile floor as well as cleanly up the walls and painting. We also came up with a bitching logo and got the storefront sign—so I think we made great progress.
We also ordered the carpet and that will be installed in March, so what’s left is shelving, a desk, and mounting the TV. We also made some good headway on how we might manage the rentals and membership, but some of that still needs to be fleshed out. We were also able to shop for some tapes and laserdiscs, as well as get a bunch of inventory out of storage, which means we have some stock once the store is up and running.
Found the 1971 portable, black and white Motorola TV, this will be on the Reclaim Video desk for sure.
We are toying with the idea of also renting old school consoles through Reclaim Video, which I think would be kind of fun.
It was heaven to reconnect with my Panasonic Omnivision VHS player. A Cadillac of VHS machines.
The floor rip-up was a bit of a chore, but we finally got a floor stripper, and the last of it went quite smoothly.
Once the floor was done we started patching and painting the walls. We went for black on the back wall, and gray on the sides.
And the color bar along the back which will also have the logo.
Loving how the RGB color scheme came out.
We also picked up a mint Pioneer DVL-700 Laserdisc/DVD player, and I tried it out with the 80s teen guerrilla film Red Dawn.
Reclaim Video also got its first donation, the classic early 80s comedy Strange Brew. A perfect choice, and we cannot thank Tim Clarke enough, and we really hope others follow suite.
I also got a chance to watch one of the true gems of our VHS colelction thus far, the 1983 film Nightmares. I’ll blog more about this classic shortly, but in the interim enjoy the resolution!
Posted on February 13, 2018
I’ve been back in the Burg for the last 10 days working from Reclaim’s HQ on a range of stuff. As a result the bava has been a bit quiet given the push to get as much done as possible in a relatively short time frame. I’ve been able to get some of my stuff out of storage on the first day of my return, which has been on focus of the trip. I’ve been going through boxes of toys, books, movies, and more which is always a fun past time for me. I’m figuring out how to get my stuff overseas in the next month os so, but until then I am using CoWork’s unclaimed spaces as a temporary waylay station.
We have also been working quite diligently on making Reclaim Video a reality, which has been quite a blast. I’ll post more on that soon, but we did a pretty intense carpet and tile rip as well as began painting the store, which Lauren blogged about earlier today. Watching the space come together has been a dream come true—I’ve pretty much wanted to run a VHS store since I was a pre-teen, so this is pretty exciting.
I have also been doing some shopping for VHS tapes, laserdiscs, game consoles, and more. I went to Fat Kat Records 20 minutes south of here in Ladysmith and picked up a ton of mint laserdiscs as well as a mint Pioneer DVL700. I even tested it out with a showing of Red Dawn …. WOLVERINES!
I’ve also been a regular at the Library of Congress’s Packard Campus in Culpepper, VA, which has been amazing. I got to see Sense and Sensibility, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Last Picture Show, and Lawrence of Arabia , all of them in glorious 35mm. I even missed a few gems like Guess Who’s coming to Dinner, A River Runs Through It, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen—world enough and time!
But that’s alright, there’s always March!
I was a little sad to learn that Culpepper’s 1938 State Theater had closed after only being re-opened for two years. There was a major funding drive to get investors help refurbish and re-open Culpepper’s movie house at the tune of $13 million dollars, It was an impressive remodeling to restore it to its original glory. I had the good fortune to see Independence Day there in 2014. But that was then, since it has gone defunct and just a few weeks ago it was auctioned to the highest bidder for $700,000.
And later that afternoon I actually got back in the classroom after a long hiatus to talk to to an awesome group of students in Eddie Maloney’s graduate course Technology Innovation by Design, which is part of Georgetown’s new Masters program in Learning and Design. It was a thrill to talk to student who want to think critically about the future of educational design, and I’ll write more about my approach in a follow-up post. I do miss the classroom, it is always a lot of fun for me—but damn I tend to talk a lot.
Anyway, if nothing else, this post serves as a roadmap for all the posts I need to write after taking a bit of a hiatus from the blog in order to dig in a bit while here in the US. it’s been quite nice to work alongside Meredith, Lauren, and Tim in CoWork—it’s been a welcome change to reconnect in person with the awesome crew that makes Reclaim so damn good.
Posted on February 13, 2018
This past weekend, the team came together to get some painting done in CoWork and Reclaim Video. (What is CoWork? // What is Reclaim Video?) We made a lot of progress, so I thought I’d share that through photos here!
^Color for two of the walls in Reclaim Video. This shade is inspired from VHS covers that we’ve found similar to this one.
^And the painting begins!!
^We also decided to give the bathrooms in CoWork a quick facelift by painting one of the walls our signature CoWork Orange.
^This made a huge difference. Now all we need is some art in that great big space!
^We made a ton of progress in Reclaim Video as well. Gray on two sides, black on the other. Just wait until you see what we have planned for the top strips. ;) But I’ll give you a hint…
P.s. if you’d like to see the progress happening in real time, I invite you to follow along on instagram: @coworkfxbg & @reclaimvideo.
P.p.s. if you want to see how Reclaim Video originally looked, click here.
Posted on January 24, 2018
If you’re not already familiar with Reclaim Video, I suggest giving Jim’s post a read. But in short, we’ve decided to turn a storefront adjacent to our Reclaim office into a fully operational 80’s-style VHS store. We’ve already begun collecting tapes & VHS players, and have already broke ground on renovating the space:
That’s all good and well, but why? Aside from making Jim’s fantasy a reality, we’re actually using Reclaim Video as Reclaim Hosting’s first *official* marketing campaign. I’ll save details about this for future posts, but will go ahead and note that we’re planning on using VHS tapes to get the word out about Domain of One’s Own. It’s gonna be fun.
So in an effort to move towards this next chapter, we also felt that a natural next step for Reclaim would also be to update the artwork on our website; to “modernize” from a record label storefront to (you guessed it) an 80’s VHS storefront. Video killed the radio star, right?
While the actual campaign, website, and VHS storefront will stay very true to the 80’s aesthetic, we wanted reclaimhosting.com to embody these changes while still bringing about familiarity for our existing customers. We reached out to Bryan Mathers, the awesome fellow who created our existing artwork, about our ideas.
— Lauren Brumfield (@brumface) November 17, 2017
Our visual thinking session (i.e. 2 hours of us brainstorming while Bryan drew our thoughts) was insanely helpful. We were able to nail down our goals for the future & our plan for achieving them, all the while paying tribute to the individuals, organizations, and institutions who have helped us get to where we are today. We talked about building capacity, both internally and externally, but making sure this is done the right way. To stay familiar as we grow. Using the storefront metaphor: even though the “start-up” mentality seems fleeting, Reclaim will always and forever embody the idea of a local store that anyone can walk into, ask questions, speak to a knowledgeable human being, and receive quick support. As we grow, we will grow out, not up. Reclaim will never be a large, 20-story corporate building that offloads support to a third-party company across the globe. Reclaim will, instead, have several small mom & pop shops that will provide you with the same service as that original record label store.
Enter new artwork:
^You can see the similarities, right? Same font, color scheme, and even the same record squiggles. It looks like the record logo has been cut in half to make way for the VHS tape, and I love that.
Logo with Tagline
^Same feel but adds a tagline & switches out the colors.
^LOVE this piece. We’ve still got our record albums, but this time instead of those having the application names, they now have some of our shared hosting server names, which just so happen to also be band names. We’ve also made room on the shelf for some VHS tapes, or popular tools in cPanel. Intermixed with those are a few DIY tapes, which I’m all about. Want to build your site on WordPress or Omeka? Or perhaps use your own HTML? Maybe watch a Zombies movie instead?
^Here’s an up-close version so you can see titles a bit better. (Just now realizing that MediaWiki is one word, so we’ll get that fixed. :))
Which got us thinking…what if every domain was a VHS tape?
^Tim had the brilliant idea to use this as part of our new splash page when someone signs up for a domain. Their newly registered domain could automatically generate on the tape when they refresh their page.
Interactive Video Tape Versions
To say the least, I’m thrilled with the work that Bryan has done so far. And I’m pumped for what’s to come! If you’ve got ’em, I would love to hear your thoughts on growth, metaphors, or art in the comment section below. And stay tuned for more artwork. :)
Posted on December 13, 2017
After filming bits and pieces of Workshop of One’s Own, plus Reclaim Hosting’s upcoming marketing campaign, Reclaim Video, it has only seemed natural to revamp Reclaim’s Youtube Channel as well. You may remember seeing episodes from Tim’s Reclaim your Domain video series— it’s my hope that we’ll be bringing these back & adding to them over the next few months. I’d love a larger video presence in our community support documentation and DoOO admin documentation, so continuing this video series seems like the perfect place to start.
+ Reclaim Your Domain: An introductory video series that walks you through all the steps of getting an account on Reclaim Hosting and immersing yourself in the tools available to build out your domain on the web.
+ Support Guides: An archive of support guides that will be embedded within our documentation.
+ Getting Started with WordPress: WordPress-specific support guides.
New Screencasts from the Support Playlist:
Installing Omeka S on Reclaim Hosting
Creating and Managing Subdomains on Reclaim Hosting
Latest from Workshop of One’s Own:
Overview of Domain of One’s Own Platform
Thoughts? I’d love to hear feature requests for new topics, tutorials & playlists. Write them in the comments below or shoot me an email!
Posted on November 24, 2017
I saw Xtro in the theaters at the ripe age of 12, and it scarred me. It has arguably one of the more disturbing horror scenes of that era and I recall it all too well. It was a strange cult classic that I have not returned to in decades. It was panned overall, in fact Roger Ebert was definitely not a fan:
Most exploitation movies are bad, but not necessarily painful to watch. They may be incompetent, they may be predictable, they may be badly acted or awkwardly directed, but at some level the filmmakers are enjoying themselves and at least trying to entertain an audience. Xtro is an exception, a completely depressing, nihilistic film, an exercise in sadness….It’s movies like this that give movies a bad name.
But it is one of those films that once you have seen it, you can’t unsee it. It was been near 35 years, and I am wondering if it may not be time to return to this film. The urge was brought on thanks to this Italian version on VHS I picked up this morning on Ebay. I dig the wild 80s cover art. I feel myself falling down a pretty deep hole with Reclaim Video, and I love it.
Posted on July 13, 2017
I’ve been on a bit of a blogging sabbatical the last month or so. It’s been nice to take a break, but at the same time I have never had more to write about between the Domains 17 conference (total blast), a cross-country trip on Route 66 to LA, the community work Tom Woodward has been developing with Reclaim, a position paper I’ve been procrastinating, and an impending trip to Melbourne, Australia in just over a week. Life moves pretty fast when you’re a Reclaimer.
I tried to capture as much of the UMW Blogs migration as possible in my previous post (a temporary breaking of the blog hiatus) for fear it would all be lost, but that’s always the fear with blogging. the more time that passes the less that gets blogged. Not always a bad thing for the two or three remaining readers given I make no pretensions towards quality here, this blog has always been about quantity. So taking a month-long blogging break wreaks havoc on the numbers.
But let me get to the point of this post. Plainly speaking, I’m a fucking artist. I may be a successful businessman, the best edtech to ever grace that lowly field, and an emerging figure in the world of mountaineering—but in the end I’m a visionary. I see the future and the past at once and paint them in broad, digital strokes across virtualized media of all kinds. This isn’t an acquired skill really, you’re born with it. The question is how do I direct these gifts….and then it hit me like a diamond through the forehead:
That’s right, an 80s-style Video Store! But not just any video store, one setup in a Fredericksburg strip mall storefront run remotely from the Italian Alps. In fact, the recent article in the Free Lance-Star featuring Reclaim Hostings bitchin new co-working space (penned by the ever-generous Lindley Estes) frames it best:
According to his blog, Groom is playing with the idea of converting an adjacent storefront into a video rental store—a 1980s-style store that will rent VHS tapes and VCRs called Reclaim Video. he plans to run it remotely from Italy.
Is that not the best quote ever? And here you were thinking I was joking about my genius, shame on you.
#NOBODY. But let’s not stop there:
It’s part art installation, part interactive media.
“I like the idea of automating most everything, yet still being remotely present,” he said in the post. “I’m imagining it as an installation along the lines of the UMW Console, and I love the idea of having a bizarre presence in the space from 5,000 miles away.”
I love it when a post on this blog is quoted framing something I said fairly recently, but I have absolutely no recollection of it. Lindley doing her blog homework, love that!¹ On the other hand, the complete collapse of my memory is deeply concerning, thank God I still blog.
But the point of this post was to actually start thinking about the process and getting it going. I will need to do some VHS tape shopping pretty quickly here, as well as looking for furnishings before I head back to Fredericksburg in October for the first round of renovations on the space. I’m not sure it will be up and running before the Spring of 2018, but in some ways that’s good because it gives me some time to collaborate with folks—which is always where the magic comes from.
Talking with Mikhail Gershovich in early June I had a series of idea that I kinda remember, although it’s kinda hazy given given it was L.A. One thing for sure is I would love to collaborate with Michael Branson Smith and Ryan Seslow on the design of both the physical and virtual space for Reclaim Video. MBS wrote a post in early June about coding a VHS Cover Generator , that got me thinking Reclaim Video could be an online store of sorts as well. In fact, it could be a physical VHS store that you predominantly interact with online. Whether it be designing the VHS tape cover slips, or going online and deciding what plays on the physical TV in the space (or even change the channel), viewing the store/collection via video cameras, interacting with the Dr. Oblivion for video suggestions, etc. There would also be a space for folks to donate VHS tapes to the store, all of which feeds into a web-based searchable database that anyone can access. What’s more, each title would have its own space that folks can fill in details, comment on, share advice, recommendations, etc.
While the store would be remotely operated from Italy the majority of the time, it can remain open to the public by automating the locks at pre-defined hours. But when I’m in town (or even when I’m not), there would also be a running calendar of special events with various folks coming into town—kinda like guest clerks—that could highlight a series of films through online watching parties, live discussions, a podcast, arcade parties,² etc. It’s all pretty wide open, and Grant Potter already pointed me to some folks who are effectively doing this kind of thing from their living room.
So, I guess this is the first of many posts about the shaping and building of Reclaim Video. And while I was writing this post I paused to grab the domain reclaimvideo.com given it is now officially on like Donkey Kong.
I would love ideas, comments, collaborators, etc., on this one. Would folks be willing to buy a couple of their favorite VHS tapes on Ebay and ship them to Reclaim Video as a kind of contribution/archive of their 80s VHS memories? Or even bootleg contemporary tapes never made on VHS, and use MBS’s VHS art generator to create the boxes? I know this is nostalgic, but I don’t give a shit about that, what I want to know is what would make it work for you?
- In fact, a little bird told me Lindley may be leaving the Free Lance-Star soon for new career and educational ventures, and if that is true I would like to wish her all the best. She has always been so good to us at DTLT and now Reclaim Hosting, and I deeply appreciate all her awesomeness over the years—UMW’s own!
- I also want to start buying up old 80s stand-up arcade games and convert the back of Reclaim Video into an arcade, but more on that anon.