As if opinions about Montana's medical marijuana law weren't fiery enough already, two medical marijuana clinics in Billings were firebombed today.
We've heard it before, but this time it's apparently for good: Crystal Video is closing its doors.
In February 2009, the quirky neighborhood independent video store located on South Higgins almost closed due to economic hardship before an altruistic financial backer stepped in at the 11th hour. But despite some temporary backing, the strain of on-demand movies and access to Netflix has finally taken its toll.
Below is a statement from Jace Laakso of Crystal Video:
It is with great sadness that I announce the closing of Crystal Video. It has been an institution in Missoula for over 23 years, first as part of Crystal Theatre and then on its own since 1997. Its collection of unique international and independent films on tape and DVD has kept it afloat while other video businesses have come and gone.
Unfortunately the economy and the increased competition from numerous sources such as on-line movies, Netflicks and cable has caught up with Crystal Video. This has made it very difficult to continue operating as a small local business.
On Friday, May 14 at 1 PM, this incredible collection of videos and all assets, furniture and fixtures will go on sale. The sale will continue through two weekends and if necessary, a third weekend culminating on Sunday, May 23.
To all our dedicated customers, we thank you for your support and love of great film.
We have a call into Laakso for more information and will let you know when we learn more.
UPDATE: We spoke with Laakso earlier today. He was the first owner of Crystal Video when it opened in the same space as the Crystal Theatre (in the lobby where The Silk Road is now). He sold the shop to another owner who then sold it to Tim Huffman a year later. But Laakso still carried the contract, and last month he had to step in.
"Tim was paying me every month but basically he defaulted and so I have had to take over the business part," Laakso says. "Now I'm going to sell everything to recover my costs as well as to pay a couple of other creditors out there. I probably won't get back what I'm owed, but as long as I can get something out of the deal it would be better than nothing."
Laakso insists Huffman did what he could in a tough situation.
"I really appreciate the effort that Tim put into the store," he says. "I just want to make sure that Tim gets his props for doing the best that he could to keep the store going."
A call to Huffman has yet to be returned.
Laakso chalks up the financial issues as an inevitable result of movie accessibility, whether it be Netflix, Red Box, the ability of people to get cable movies or to download films from the Internet.
"I'm really disappointed that it's come to this," Laakso says. "It's a sad day for Missoula to lose such a great collection of foreign films and independents. But it's the economy."
In this week's installment of odd news happenings: Advice on talking with aliens, cheating to win a bass fishing tournament and the magic of the Livestock Power Mill.
It's weekend time, and to get you ready here's our weekly installment of Happiest Hour—a salute of sorts to western Montana watering holes of various flavors.
This week: Sportsman's Bar
Claim to fame: Bar owners John and Tammy Zunski are known for crazy, un-PC shenanigans. Last month, Sportsman’s Bar (aka “Sporty’s”) announced a midget toss. After bar patrons hung out for hours waiting for midgets purportedly arriving on a bus from Seattle, John finally revealed that it was all an April Fools hoax. “Midget tossing is illegal,” he noted to the partly relieved, partly disappointed crowd, which slowly dispersed.
Atmosphere: The sign on the front door says, “Entering is Consent.” Behind the bar another sign reads, “Notice: Sexual harassment in this area will not be reported. However, it will be graded.” In the corner is a claw machine where you can win flavored condoms and penis- or boob-shaped key chains, among other things. On the walls are pictures of patrons partying hard, breast flashing and all. Despite its crassness, Sporty's comes off as more playful than sleazy or threatening.
What you’re drinking: Budweiser and shots of Apple Pucker, along with snack boats of peanuts. “I touched your nuts,” said one female bartender as she hands them over to a patron.
Who you’re drinking with: Twenty-something groups of friends taking photos of themselves flipping off the camera. John Zunski, whose looks and persona earned him the nickname “Howard Stern,” DJs an array of arena rock from AC/DC to G n’ R. Longtime locals, including the town’s official Santa Claus, sit drinking at the bar. Others hang out in the backyard around a bonfire next to a life-sized purple palm tree made of lights.
How to find it: 616 Railroad Avenue in Alberton. Take I-90 west toward Coeur d’Alene for about 26 miles, and then exit 77 at Petty Creek Road. Merge onto Adams Street and then onto Railroad Avenue next to the Ghost Rails Inn.
Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
And other stories from around the alt newspaper world.
First off, Village Voice Media (they own really big weekly papers in Phoenix, New York and pretty much everywhere) announced its underwriting the ACLU of Arizona's forthcoming litigation against Senate Bill 1070, that awful anti-immigration law the state just passed. You can help.
Two years ago, a police officer in a Brooklyn precinct became gravely concerned about how the public was being served. To document his concerns, he began carrying around a digital sound recorder, secretly recording his colleagues and superiors.
Gambit Weekly, the excellent alt in New Orleans, covers the tragic oil spill off the city's shores with a special report.
The Nashville Scene, meanwhile, writes about the forgotten victims of the current floods down south: the homeless.
On the lighter side, David Lipsky talks about his new book on late writer David Foster Wallace with the Pittsburgh City Paper.
The Austin Chronicle goes onto the set of a favorite TV show here in the Indy newsroom, Friday Night Lights, just before the new season premieres on NBC tonight. (Side note: Last year, Erika Fredrickson profiled Ron Fitzgerald, who has ties to Missoula and writes for the show.)
This First Friday we’re going skateboarding. The Badlander hosts the Montana Skatepark Association’s fifth annual On Deck auction, which showcases really edgy, cool, sometimes funny, often stunning art made on skateboard decks. You’ll recognize some of the names of our own local artists and get an introduction to other regional and nationwide artists, too. The live viewing and bidding starts around 5 PM and the event is one of the few that continues on long after other First Friday venues shut their doors. Even if you don’t end up bidding, watching people competitively bid on skateboard art is pretty entertaining. [Skateboard art below by Dan Kral].
Sometime during the evening we’ll stop in at Allegra Printing and Imaging (111 W. Broadway) to check out longtime Missoula artist Steve LaRance’s newest oil paintings titled Motor Oils. It’s been a while since LaRance has showed his work. Longtime Missoula residents will remember his quirky Western themed art—eggs and bacon, spurs and cowboy hats—all rendered in deep, vivid colors. Plus his Absolut Montana lithograph with a bottle of vodka flanked by a flyfishing fly and cowboy boots, among other Western images. His new work delves into Western culture but this time with roadside scenes generally including older cars and hot rods.
Finally, if you walk around downtown enough, you’ll probably end up face-to-face with the colorfully clothed facilitators and volunteers of Turning the Wheel, an intergenerational dance and theater group. We’re not sure exactly what performance art they’ll be creating, but since it's called "Seeds in the Streets," we think it has something to do with Spring. Let’s hope they can channel some good weather.
Regular Indy film critic and local filmmaker Andy Smetanka recently finished a series of commercials for us.
In case you haven't seen one while watching reruns of "Two and a Half Men," you can catch the spots right here. And, if you're looking for a fun game to play, arts editor Erika Fredrickson has a free hardcover copy of Unfinished Desires by Gail Goodwin for the person who correctly identifies the most Missoula "personalities" featured in the ads.
In late March, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula rebuffed the U.S. Forest Service's approval of the Rock Creek Mine in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness southwest of Libby. On Tuesday, Molloy filed his full, 124-page opinion (PDF) in the case.
Madama Butterfly was my first opera. I was living in the dorms at Lewis & Clark College and a guy two doors down got opera tickets from his dad for his birthday—enough for our entire dorm floor to go. We were amateurs, but by the time we'd downed a few beers, gotten all dressed up and climbed onto the bus headed for the Hampton Opera Center, we were ready to be as classy as they come.
Not that we achieved any such thing, but it didn't matter anyway. I forgot about our motley crew by the second act. And by the time "Addio Fiorito Asil" began I was pretty hooked on the performance. Maybe not enough to go see an opera for another few years, but at least enough that the story and music stayed with me, popping up in the lulls between the punk rock soundtrack of my life.
Written in 1904, Puccini's Madama Butterfly tells the story of Cio Cio San, a Japanese woman in love with an American Naval officer named Pinkerton. It's the most popular, most performed opera to date, and in August the Montana Lyric Opera (who did a semi-staged production of Verdi's Rigoletto last year) will produce a fully-staged production of it, which means you'll get the whole experience: full orchestra, fancy costumes and a cast of professional singers.
The performance runs August 11 and August 13 at 7 PM nightly, and August 15 at 5:30 PM. Early bird tickets are on sale now through June 1 for $15-35. Beginning June 2, tickets will go up to $19-39. Purchase tickets at www.MTOpera.org or call 406-541-9233.
Find Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology online, every Tuesday, two days before it hits the Indy's printed pages.
ARIES (March 21-April 19): Hip-hop music definitely needs to include more tuba playing. I think that's what's missing from it. Likewise, the sport of skateboarding would benefit from having more dogs and monkeys that can master its complexities; the state of journalism could be improved by including more babies as reporters; and you Aries folks would significantly upgrade your life by learning how to play the game of cricket. (If you believe everything I just said, you'll be equally gullible when a little voice in your head tries to convince you to seek out things you don't really need or adopt behavior that doesn't suit you.)
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