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Shadows of Former Selves - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Shadows of Former Selves

It's a little thing- but, as with the kindnesses I mentioned the other day, they fall into line with bigger ones.

We still do most of our movie-watching from physical DVDs, and while I'll occasionally Redbox something impulsively, most of them come from Netflix. Or rather, these days, from DVD.com, a Netflix Company.  This isn't quite the Qwikie divorce they tried to pull a few years ago by splitting off DVD delivery completely from their streaming and original content platforms- a move they qwikly retreated from and was universally denounced as Qwikstergate- but it is a sign of the old ways passing away.

So, unfortunately, is this: I'd noticed a while back that the red envelopes were all labeled DVD.com, but I only just noticed that the return address itself had changed:

We'd occasionally get an outlier- usually of something really obscure in their catalog- from this Ohio shipping center or one in the Carolinas or even further-flung- but almost all of them came from and went home to one in good old Rochester, New York. 

While their physical addresses were never commonly known- wouldn't want cinema buffs stalking the center on new release Tuesday, yo- I knew where this one was. I knew because a business bankruptcy client of mine gave up its space on Brighton-Henrietta Town Line Road when this upstart DVD distributor came along in the oughts.  And as quietly as they came, just as quietly did they leave, with no notice, and apparently longer ago than I would have guessed, per this reddit:

The Netflix DVD Shipping Facility in Rochester, NY has closed submitted 1 year ago by reddituser7777333

About a month ago I noticed the discs I am receiving are suddenly all coming from Columbus, OH and I am in Rochester, NY. So discs now take 3 business days in each direction when they used to take 1 business day each way. I called Netflix today and they confirmed it. I couldn't find any reference to this closure when searching on Google so I thought I would share it here. To those that wonder why anyone would want the DVD by mail service in 2017, it is because they carry the vast majority of movies and TV shows, while the streaming service only has a small subset of the movies and TV shows in existence.

True, dat. Also true that physical disks are more permanent for end-viewers than streaming rights; the former are governed (at least in the US) by something called the "first sale doctrine," which says that a copyright owner can not limit the resale or hire of a specific physical copy of a copyrighted work. That doctrine does not extend to digital "copies," however, and thus come the periodic expiry of streaming rights and the dreaded lists of "what you won't be able to Netflix after this month."

So losing the access, and enduring the longer shipping times, is bad. Having Rochester take the hit on it in favor of Columbus, Ohio hurts even more.

Especially now.


In many ways, when I first moved there in 1984 after three years in Buffalo, I saw the city as a slightly smaller version of the same basic city model- even though the two, separated only by 70-odd miles and ancient distinct statistical and media-market designations, rarely had anything to do with one another. Only the Buffalo Bills provided a permanent connection heading east; eventually, Wegmans came as close as anything Rochesterian ever has to establishing a Buffalo presence.  Both endured the collapse of their signature industries- heavy duty production like Bethlehem Steel here, legacy technology like Kodak there- and both turned to health care, finance and education as their backup plans. Both have had downtowns abandoned by retail, brutalized by urban renewal, and finally finding millennials as their possible hopes for revival- even though each wound up with private developers setting up unexpected targets for those newcomers outside the central cores (Larkinville here, East End in Rochester).

And now, each has its tallest building sitting so empty, it wouldn't take Superman to push it over- you or I could do it.

Here, the former Marine Midland HSBC Center, 40 stories of onetime bustle of finance, law and even Canadians, cleared out its final tenants in 2016 after the bank, biggest law firm and the Canadian consulate had all said, Good day, eh?  It was auctioned off last year for pennies on its original estimated value, to a developer who's promised good things but has yet to put a shovel in the ground or a light in the windows. That demise came after the onetime hometown bank was bought by a multinational conglomerate, which took away its name, its site as corporate headquarters, and finally its entire presence in the building and in most of the region.

Ten floors shorter, and a year or so later, the same sad story has come to the Flower City. Xerox Square, built a few years before the bank tower here, is 30 stories of deja vu. That onetime hometown technology powerhouse has now merged with a multinational conglomerate (Fuji, a name once so hated by Kodakers in Rochester that you couldn't find their film in a retail store), had its name taken away, its siting as corporate HQ long ago given up to Connecticut, and, as announced just last month, its entire presence in the building is gone.  The entire copier workforce, or whatever will be left of it after the Fuji merger, will be relocated to suburban Webster. Motto: Where life is worth living.

Rochester's, presumably, will be changed to something off a suicide prevention billboard.

The owners of the Xerox downtown ghost town, like that of its taller brother here, are also well-intentioned and have done good things with many smaller buildings in town. But they are also suffering from the loss of their visionary founder in a plane crash a few years back, so one doesn't know how well his heirs and successors will do at filling 30 suddenly empty stories with new ones.


At least all those unemployed people can enjoy the creature comforts of a major American city. Wegmans isn't going anywhere (although they're down to one store in the city proper, same as their one store in the City of Buffalo), the arts scene is vibrant, and come April, there's always baseball.

Unless there isn't.  These people are well on their way to even screwing THAT up.

The Rochester Red Wings, under mostly that but some historic (and, as of last year, questionable) other names, are the oldest continuously operated franchise in a single city in all of US minor league sport. They are community owned and community beloved, and while our entry in the same league has a comparable history, the Buffalo Bisons are definitely second fiddle to the Bills and Sabres even when neither is playing a game during baseball season. The Wings rule the roost from April to August, and the roost, a nicely built 90s downtown facility, is somewhat smaller, definitely homier and on the whole my preferred park of the two.

But, like the slightly older one here, it's showing signs of age- and has missed out on many chances for improvement that the Bisons have embraced.  The Red Wings' scoreboards are original 90s vintage and are hideous compared to the Jumbotron-level displays in Buffalo.  There has been little to emphasize the team's history besides a few plaques.  Plus ordinary wear and tear has taken its toll, the seats are original to the construction, and the concourses get impossibly busy anytime there's anything close to a sellout.  Oh, and 2017 was the last year of the original lease.

Now in most places, cities and counties fall over themselves to attract and retain sports franchises.  The NFL has been playing this whack-a-municipole game for years, letting their franchises move if their hometown cities don't pony up with new stadiums every 20 years or so, or at least (in the most recent case of the Bills) the owning entity giving up everything in exchange for some nominal rent. Erie County pays for the Bills' stadium maintenance and security; the team gets all the parking, concession and naming rights revenue, and they even get some "working capital" walkin' around money in exchange for promising not to move to Toronto or wherever in the dead of night.

The Wings? Not so much. Their original lease gave the county all the goodies most teams take for granted, or at least heavy shares of them, but it didn't cover the entire construction expense, which was farmed into a separate county entity which has debt service that the county now doesn't want to maintain. So they began demanding more money from the team last year- until, in the face of fan protest (and with the entire county Lej up for re-election last November), they made nice-nice with the team and agreed "in principle" on a 10-year extension.

Ah, but these are Republicans. They have no principles. So it came as no real surprise that the county has pulled back and is back to demanding more moolah. The team's league has stepped in, and has told the landlord that if they don't have a deal by March 1st (at least one extending the current deal by a year), all 2018 Red Wings games will be played away from Rochester, and there will be no baseball in that historic city for the first time in over a century.

Don't let "minor league" fool you- these franchises are big-league deals. The Mets just bought the Syracuse team in the same league, in a similar ownership and lease situation, for a cool $18 million to its shareholders. They'll affiliate with them starting next year, and when that lease runs out, you can bet the Mets will demand concessions (and not just Cracker Jacks) to keep their top farm team in Central New York and not Brooklyn or Newark. Many bigger cities in the Northeast have teams at only a lower rung and would love to move up. The Wings are affiliated with the Minnesota Twins, and word is the big club would love to have their farmhands closer than Rochester.

Of course politicians are getting into the act, trying to spin the situation like a slow curve.  A top Albany Democrat from the area has blamed the county for not accessing already state-approved money that could have been put into the deal.  The Republican county regime's spokesman, named Jesse "I Swear I Am Not Making This Name Up" Sleezer, has pushed back and accused the Democrats of fearmongering.  Ask people in Cleveland and Baltimore about what happens when you don't take threats of moving seriously.

Most expect a deal will get done, but my over-under on it is the 4th of March, forcing the league to back off their deadline.  The league president is a guy named Randy Mobley, who took over for the guy who had the job in 1981 when the Wings played what remains the longest game in professional baseball history. When umpires refused to declare a curfew, an exhausted team official called the league president at home in the middle of the night, the top of the 33rd. His orders were to "call the damn thing."

Don't think he won't do it again- especially to a city which has seen far better days.

This entry was originally posted at https://captainsblog.dreamwidth.org/1513465.html. Please comment here, or there using OpenID.
3 comments or Leave a comment
weebleswobble From: weebleswobble Date: February 11th, 2018 09:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I still get Netflix dvds too.
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: February 11th, 2018 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Streaming doesn't have special features or previews or other good stuff. (Increasingly, neither do Netflix or Redbox "rental" DVDs or even ones we purchase- they're increasingly saving the "good stuff" for Blu-Ray editions.
weebleswobble From: weebleswobble Date: February 17th, 2018 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)
i dont even remember the last time a netflix dvd has special features on it. i do miss the special features.
3 comments or Leave a comment