Up in the top of my closet is a cardboard box full of VHS tapes and DVDs I've collected throughout my cinema-obsessed college years. I wasn't quite a Film major because there was no such thing at my college. I was just a Journalism major with a Cinema Studies minor. Which meant I sat in every film course I could, bleeding money and burning brain cells for my degree.
And even though the cost was high, I can say I saw some amazing flicks, too many for me to even remember their obscure names or countries of origin. What I do know is they led me down holes, around corners, and deep into alleys.
And with that came my own mini collection. Wherever I could find a store selling oddball cult movies, I snatched them up. I knew to keep my eye out for the Criterion Collection choices or blaxploitation classics like Blacula, or even the few releases on Tarantino's short-lived distribution company Rolling Thunder Pictures. Or Rolling Thunder itself would have been a treasure, a revenge epic about a returning Vietnam vet, Major Charles Rane, robbed by some greedy thugs and devastated when they destroy his hand and murder his wife and son. Fitted with a hook worthy of a military-trained pirate and a war buddy of equal intensity, Rane winds up taking no prisoners.
That's the caliber of action I have stashed away in my closet, rotting on its own magnetic tape and seated, shiny discs. The cinema of Russ Meyer, a man who knew what he liked - big-breasted women in strong female roles. He kept the distribution rights for his films to himself, so now even though he has passed on, you can still only buy his movies from his estate. No Netflix or Amazon for him.
Or Blood, Guts, Bullets, and Octane from the director of Smokin' Aces and The Grey, with a title so bad-ass I could not pass it up.
There is something of an achievement to collecting. Not only does it become a challenge of quantity, it is a testament to quality. It can be a practice in awareness, keeping your eyes open for the next big win, and meditating, realizing there is no true end, no closing the book.
And even though my VHS tapes have no VCR to be played in and half of them might be full of static anyway, I can't release them back into the wild. Even though there are stacked back inside my closet, without play for years now, somehow I feel like they define me - my taste, my sense of humor, my quirkiness.
The charm of our collections is much like the charm of our stories. We hang on to bits and pieces that mean something to us in our own weird way. We tell them to the people we trust or to show off at big, fancy parties. We share them when the time is right or sometimes too much. They showcase our flaws and obsessions.
Radiolab has good stories. I've been blown away this past week, collecting, or should I say downloading, some of what they call Shorts. The Short that captured my attention the most of the bunch was Straight Outta Chevy Chase. Peter Rosenberg, DJ for Hot 97, the hip-hop radio station for the Greater New York area, was straight outta Chevy Chase, Massachusetts. He was a Jewish kid who grew up with a passion for hip-hop as it became more and more popular. He started with the Hot 97 crew in 2007. And in this Radiolab Short, he challenged the so-called rules of hip-hop when he dissed the current Queen of Hip-Hop Nicki Minaj when her songs leaned too far into the Pop realm. Without giving away the clash between the two, you can imagine the interesting discussion that can unfold when a genre of music surrounds itself with talk of race, class, and what it means to be real.
Did Radiolab have a corner in the closet? When did they decide to build on Shorts? Hosts Jad and Robert often mention how they've been dying to tell this story or that, and obviously when they finally can, it's available for the world to download and enjoy. But how long are they sitting on the beginnings? When do they know it's "done"? I can only guess there is a secret vault of nuggets they both add to on the daily - gems of stories that aren't quite stories yet. Each of them just needs a little extra bit of something.
When you pull back too, aren't they all bits? You could wake up and pivot into the unexpected. When everything is in flux, there are seeds of change floating everywhere. Take stock in what you have and what you don't, but never tell the story before you're sure you know how it goes.