Thursday, August 16, 2007

The collapse of western civilization is perfectly illustrated by

the inability of much hyped technological innovation to increase productivity. A good illustration of this week down last night at the Shaw's on Lexington Street in Waltham.
A customer presented a simple coupon to the check-out clerk and because Shaw's is implementing a new high tech scanning-cash register system this caused the whole transaction to void and brought no less than Seven grocery clerks, baggers and the night manager into the mishaugas. At one point a Shaws "associate" could be seen frantically paging thru a operator's manual like a sinner looking for loopholes in the Book of Revelation.
The poor schnook with the coupon escaped with his groceries after a ten minute wait whilst seemingly half the store's heirarchy tried to figure out how to void a purchase and re-enter on their new fool-proof high speed high tech cash register-scanner system.
Calculating the transaction on an abacus would've been quicker.
Frankly the transformation of grocery check out lines into defacto ATMS with multiple payment options has in fact increased everyone's wait time. I've taken to bringing a paperback with me for the grocery check out action unthinkable a mere twenty years ago when one could get in and out of the store in under ten minutes.
Sad but this is the shape of things to come, nobody designs "upgrades" for ease of use and one and it's killing capitalism I fear.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Tragic News in East Cambridge

It is my sad duty to inform my readership of the death of Dennis J. Arruda, owner of Video Oasis, surely the BEST independent video story north of New York on July 12th of this year.
Dennis' rental inventory was an amazement, I almost always went into that store and found some obscure title that'd I'd been wanting to see...when I left (loaded with notes for future rentals and tapes) I inevitably intoned "I'll be back for it all, one tape or DVD at a time".
Dennis would chuckle, and now he is gone.
I'll miss him, he mattered, he loved the movies, loved talking about the movies and his store reflected that enduring passion. In palmier times when Jon Haber and I were free lancing for the Globe, whole articles we wrote were built around movies that were exclusively available at Video Oasis. He put us on the map, in return we always gave him a big press in our column "It's All True" our annual "Best and Worst of Boston" survey he was best video store three years running. He'd a won four years in a row but the publisher put his foot down and demanded someone else triumph that year.
Those were good times, Dennis cared, it mattered to him that he had the best video store in Boston, he was proud of the achievement and derived much mirth from the rumor that Blockbuster video never established an outpost in East Cambridge out of fear the competition from Video Oasis.
Sixteen years ago, on a cold rainy sunday in the dead of winter, I walked up a flight of stairs to Video Oasis old location at 525 Cambridge Street. I'd been driving past this store for months, as a writer on the local video beat, I was idly curious what this obscure local independent store had to offer.
Not expecting much I sauntered in passed thru one room, then another and in the third room I saw not a shelf but a WALL crammed with ultra-rare 1960's Italian gladiator movies.
I fell to my knees, I felt like Alex Haley when he finally tracked down Kunta Kinte's home village "I FOUND IT!" I thought, the first store, the best store the greatest video store...the one with all the stuff Jon and I were looking for. A place of myth, an empire of fancy but this was real and overflowing with good stuff.
Dennis never failed us, he never failed the he is gone. He had a big influence over my life and my development as a writer. I won't forget him...he took good care of me and my interests.
This has been a bad year for film in Boston, Movies on a Menu closed, the Tri Town Drive In in Leominster is rumored to be closing at the end of this season and Dennis Arruda, that axiom of independent movie rentals has gone to his final reward.
Our hearts are heavy, but we must go forward.
G'bye Dennis, you stood the watch to high times and low, we won't forget.
And just for the record "The 300 Spartans" was a much better movie than that cockamammie "300" mishaugas.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Signal Problems at Park Street"

turn my red line commute last night into a sort of below-ground glacier-race. Honestly our progress from South Station to Alewife unfavorably compares to molasses running uphill in the dead of winter.
Slow in other words...with lots and lots of stops and apologies over those awful PA speakers from the train crew.
But what really kills me is that Happy Jack recording from Dan Grabauskas that plays every five minutes in all the stations "Here at the T, SAFETY is our number one concern!"
Yup, SAFETY...cause' it's for damn sure that the MBTA has given up on speed and efficiency.