Oct 12, 2007

VHS on the Street

It all began as a joke, said over lunch with David Faris at (the now deceased) Joe Mercury's on the Saturday of Canada Day weekend. "Hey let's do a special issue of ESR all about VHS, and we'll call it VHS R.I.P." Sometimes things said with tongue in cheek and on the fly do evolve into wonderful events. (A similar thing happened earlier this year: Beatnik Movie Night, the one screening I planned as a joke became my best seller to date-- go figure.)

Anyhow, I put a call for submissions to the regular troops and some new friends along the way. The response I received was quick, and giddily enthusiastic. Despite the sardonic nature of the title "VHS R.I.P.", the resultant articles which appeared in my in-box were anything but. A quick read between the lines of these pieces, each documenting a peculiar aspect of how VHS infiltrated pieces of our culture, showed a reverence for the lovable ol' half-inch tape, and even a defense for it, in light of the digital revolution. In twelve weeks, "VHS R.I.P." was ready to hit the streets.

I had wanted something new for Word on the Street, knowing full well that my ongoing Spaghetti Western project was yet again not going to be ready for the fair, and thus was delighted that this project managed to slide in (literally) just under the radar to be ready for the fair. It was my hope not to turn this thing into a "night before" project, but sadly, it happened anyway, purely out of circumstance. My day job (yes readers, it's true, I don't do ESR for a living) had gotten insane in the week leading up to the fair. Having suddenly a sister company to contend with, my workload doubled, not helped by having to move out two office spaces, it was a crazy five days that I care not to relive anytime soon, but happily, I managed to get the issue out on time.

The novelty for "VHS R.I.P." was that each copy of the issue came with a different "mystery VHS Tape", whose identity was hidden behind a white cardboard sleeve. Since most of ESR's contributors are incurable collectors, I felt this was a fun way to pass onto the readers the "Hey look what I found" ideal that is so often found on these pages. The cool-looking cover for the issue was, ironically, an eleventh hour thing. The original idea for the cover was to have a snapshot of the writers in black coats and ties, as though they were mourning at a funeral, but conflicting schedules made it impossible to get everyone together, so I scrapped the idea (the gag doesn't work just with two people in the photo). And so I spent two nights futzing around with Photoshop until I wound up with this comparatively minimalist design that serendipitously complimented a secondary theme of this whole issue. The cover is rather mysterious, giving away nothing of the personal content that fills the pages in between. (And indirectly, it flirts with Brian Random's article "VHS as Object of Mystery") And even the benign white box in the bag behind the magazine appears monolithic, giving viewers little precedence as to what can be found inside.

This issue also features a record number of contributors for ESR- perhaps more than the average issue of "CineAction"... maybe even "Cinema Sewer." And so without further ado, I'd like to give my thanks to David, Brian, Jonathan Culp, Will Sloan, Jason Pankoke, Simon St. Laurent, Skot Deeming, and Dion Conflict... congrats for helping to make this all happen.

ABOVE: The G-Man in action.

And so, even on the Sunday morning of Word on the Street, I'm still scrambling to get things done, cursing and sweating all the way, and so when I arrived on the grounds at 9 AM, that feeling suddenly flashed back through my veins, reminding myself why I do this. Seeing my publication's name on the tent, looking around Queen's Park with my Tim Horton's coffee as publishers much more "pro" than I are equally immersed in setting up, I remembered that notion: "Wow, I'm here." Sales on the day were steady up until the last half, when business was down to a crawl. During the day I met some interesting people (further reminding me why I do what I do), shot the breeze with regular supporters like Brian, Dave Lamb and Barry Smight (who took my picture, above), and began to ponder why sales plummeted in the last half. My suspicion was that this year's edition of Word on the Street was a week later than usual, hence during the weekend of Nuit Blanche. Those who stayed up all night probably never got out of bed, and I'm assuming that's the reason why my help never showed up to watch the stand so I could take a break. Thank God someone from my day job showed up, so I could quickly dash to take a pee. Otherwise, no chance to shop for anything than other what was in the same tent as mine. (But hey, I did get a Guh CD for three bucks.)

Susan, God bless her soul, helped me set up at the very beginning, and then came by to guard the stuff while I went to fetch the car. Driving back to the tent, through the maze-like patterns of roadblocks and incorrect signs, I was surprised at how quickly night fell, only one hour after the fair officially ended. In sixty minutes, I felt like I was in a different world- how rapidly the environment had changed, from light to dark, bountious to empty. I was strangely moved seeing the construction guys starting to deconstruct all the tents so quickly after the sale. It was as if no one had previously existed there. This haunting feeling reminded me a lot of the ending of Fellini Roma, as the bikers move their way through an empty courtyard, accompanied only by the ghosts of memory. Similarly, I drove home a little melancholy, playing "Don't Dream It's Over" again and again on the CD player, with the window down, and the cool air hitting my face.

1 comment:


It was fun. I thought I recognized that picture. The joke is, the "The DVD (as we know it) RIP" issue is not far away, I'm sure!