Popular Posts

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dream Fufillment

Whatever your hobby is you have a dream. A dream to find or do something rare and unique. If you collect records you want to find an original copy of the Rolling Stones from '64. If you are an art collector you would love to find a sketch by Caravaggio at a garage sale.

I love books, I love reading them and collecting them. When you are a book junkie you dream of finding an out of print, forgotten, literary gem at the back of a small bookstore in Chinatown. Since there is no Chinatown in Nashua, I get many of my used books from the used book bins at my local grocery store.

I live on the edge of a park and right across that park is a grocery store called Hannaford's Supermarket. At Hannaford's there are two book bins at the front of the store. One is for trade paperbacks and hardcover books and the other is for pocket-sized paperback books. Most of the time, you can depend on finding some bestsellers from the past five years along with the hits from years past. If you are into Grisham, Clancy, Roberts, Weiner, or Picoult you won't have a problem finding something to read over a weekend trip to the beach. If your tastes are more literary you can usually find something that will keep you happy, I've found a hardcover version of Midnight's Children, a couple Vonnegut novels. Hemingway and Maya Angelou make a regular appearance. If you shop the trade paperback and hardcover side you may also find a rare gem like a foreign version of a literary favorite or an author signed ARC.

The funny thing about the bins though is that they are multi-layered. The paperback side goes down four layers and the hardcover bin goes down three. As people take books the second layer is exposed but the donations keep coming in so the lower layers are repeatedly covered up so I was always left to wonder what  treasures of the literary past might be hidden at the bottom of the bin. Fortunately my friend Andy shared my curiosity so we planned a late night mission to find out what was at the bottom of the bins.

We arrived at Hannaford's supermarket at about 10:45 on a Saturday night. The store–a huge market with a sushi bar, deli, bakery, pharmacy and hot wing buffet– stays open until midnight every night. As we were driving to the store I we discussed how to best approach the feat of going through hundreds of books stacked in multiple layers. We decided the best way was to pile them into shopping carts and I contemplated whether we should alert one of the store staff that we were just looking to see what was there and not to run out the door with a shopping cart full of books. On the way in we grabbed a cart and went to work. Each of us took a stack of hardcovers and went through them but we soon realized that we would not both get to see the entire selection so we decided the most efficient way to go was to each take a stack and read the titles as we tossed them into the cart. After the hardcovers we did the same for the paperbacks. At one point we had  two carts full of paperback books.
Andy and the Books


We did find some great covers:

We also found about 15 copies of various Welcome to Tyler romance novels. What we didn't find is anything we really wanted to read. We also found the largest collection of book paper dust in the country on the fourth layer along with various scraps of paper that had fallen out of books over whatever time period has passed since anyone else had looked a the fourth layer, a period I assume can be measured in years.
This is the portal to literary purgatory.

I took home about 5 books from the hardcover bin and Andy went home empty handed. But at least if you're ever looking for the missing copy in your welcome to Tyler collection, you know who to call. Thanks for reading and tell me what lengths you would go to for your hobby in the comments.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How to Burn Your Brand

In America we have a lovely tradition called democratic consumption. Warren Buffet can't get a better Coke than I can, Bill Gates can't get a better piece of salmon than I can and Carlos Slim can't read a better book than I can. What they can do is create an exclusive environment that I'm not allowed into so really the only thing that separates the social classes is the spaces we inhabit. Namely our cars, our offices and our houses. At least that is what we tell ourselves so that our well armed populace doesn't wreck the social order on a weekly basis.

Abercrombie and Fitch CEO, Mike Jefferies, broke our little social illusion of being one class by speaking out about clothing sizing. Now every brand is exclusionary to some degree. Democratic consumption is a myth and who you exclude is as important as who you include. If it's not size, it's price or image. There are some places where showing up with a Harley Davidson jacket will get you shunned and others where showing up without one will get you beaten.

Now I'm no CEO genius but there are plenty of plausible answers you can give about why you won't make larger size of clothing that won't get in the face of the public but will still be just as exclusionary. How about "We limit the sizes we carry in order to control inventory costs", or "We haven't expanded our sizing options because there hasn't been customer demand for larger sizes but we consider that option whenever we introduce a new line". Yes Abercrombie board, I am available for half of Jeffries' salary if you want to hire me. But stating that your aim is to exclude a certain customer base is well, unamerican and subject to backlash from the the masses that have been raised to believe that they cannot be excluded and are worthy of consuming the best of what life has to offer.

A few years ago I went out looking for a used car with a budget of $5,000. I of course dressed for success in a pair of ripped shorts and a T-shirt and since I knew some of my co-workers drove BMWs and they seem like pretty nice cars. I went to the BMW dealer. After telling my budget to the salesman I was roundly rebuffed as he explained that cheap used BMWs start at $12,000.  Now I know that BMW makes a pricey automobile and that about two thirds of the population could never drive one because of the cost alone. But because of the salesman's attitude, that experience cemented in me that BMW is the brand of insecure losers. I then went down to the KIA dealership and because the salesman had no illusions about the exclusivity of his product, he asked me questions about my income and credit and sold me a car that cost about three times as much as I initially wanted to spend.

So goes Abercrombie. No longer will I look at the wearers of Abercrombie & Fitch clothing and envy their weedy frames. Instead I will feel a small twinge of pity for a fellow traveler who has decided that they need to burnish their image with a brand name.

Tell me which brand you think jumped the shark from mark of quality to desperate plea for attention in the comments.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Zip up the Bodybag

I started the A to Z challenge with a sanguine attitude. I didn't finish it at the end of April and I'm wrapping it up over a week late. I consider it a success though, I had 1,999 page views which since I started with less than 1,000 views in the entire history of the blog makes it a total success. I had a lot of fun planning out the posts but I really hated making each post fit into a letter and I just plain ran out of gas before the end.

Will I keep blogging? Yes. Will I do another challenge? Yes. Will it be a rigorous month long challenge where each post has to start with a certain arbitrary letter? No.

I plan on doing some fiction writing and blogging from time to time and please be sure to follow me on twitter @wildpokerman and say hello!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Xtreme Blogging

I've fallen behind in the A to Z challenge. Tomorrow is Y day and then we wrap it up with Z. Do I like daily blogging? Yes I do. I've been surprised by the number of readers that I've had. I've had more this month than I had in all the years before. It's interesting how saying the right thing to the right person can get the word out to people who want to read what you have to say.

Will I continue after the challenge? Absolutely. To all my fellow participants we're almost done! Thanks for stopping by and tell me how you started blogging in the comments.

Writers

One of the most gratifying things about reading is the generosity and kindness of writers. In the age of social networks it's easier than ever to connect with your favorite writers. This past year I've been using Twitter as my favorite social networking site and I've had the privilege of discovering new books and new writers. On top of that I've actually been able to meet some writers after reading their books! Here are the two that I've met, Andy Mascola and Tiffany Reisz.

Andy wrote Unmagnificent Lives  and Tiffany wrote The Siren. I read both of them in 2012 and I'm glad I did, both of the books were excellent.

Thanks for stopping by for W day and tell me how you discover new books in the comments.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Vocabulary

When I read I am a plodder. I can't just gloss over a word I don't know. I've even found that there are a lot of words that I thought I knew but really had no idea about when I took a close look at them. I just cannot go on to the next sentence unless I'm positive that I know all the words from the one prior and understand why the writer placed them there. I had to find a system to organize new words and make them mine. 

My constant companion when I am reading is my smartphone. When I come across a word I don't know, or one that I am not one hundred percent sure I own, I will look it up in an online dictionary before I continue on. Then I'll put it on a list on my phone.


When I get a few spare moments I'll transfer all the words to a book and add the definition. I don't copy the dictionary exactly and I'll add notes about how it was used to help me remember it.


Thanks for reading for V day, we're almost done! Tell me your favorite word in the comments.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Taoism

I was raised in American Fork, Utah at a time when everyone in the neighborhood could point out the houses of people who didn't belong to the Mormon church. There weren't many to memorize. In high school history we were studying ancient civilizations and there was a lesson where some bible passages helped illustrate the point. All of us in the class went over to the seminary building to get our bibles. There was not one of us in that class that wasn't enrolled in the religious classes taught next door.

Intellectually I knew that there were other religions and spiritual beliefs out there. Hey, the Bible told me there always had been! When I was 21 a girlfriend recommended I read the Tao of Pooh and it was a life changing experience.

Yes, Taoism is a religion and I can't say I've known anyone intimately that has practiced it  I couldn't tell you one thunder god from another and don't ask me if there are any holidays to observe. What I do know is that reading the Tao Te Ching was a punch in the teeth to a white boy from Mormontown. If you've never read it before get yourself clicking here. It's free to download so no excuses. Ron Hogan's version isn't a literal translation, he's read several translations and produced the awesome modern Fight Club version of the text and that's why I recommend you start with that link. Tao is about rebellion and Tao is about making the old new so there is not a more Taoistic way to create a modern version than that.

Let me quote some of my favorite passages:

Do not glorify the achievers
So the people will not squabble
Do not treasure goods that are hard to obtain
So the people will not become thieves
Do not show the desired things
So their hearts will not be confused
What does that mean? If you mess up your priorities you're going to mess up the whole system.

Heaven and Earth are impartial
They regard myriad things as straw dogs
The sages are impartial
They regard people as straw dogs 
How about that little verse. From what I've read straw dogs are little idols that were used during religious ceremonies. After the festival or ceremony was over you just have a big pile of straw. It means quit treating life so reverently, after we're done here we're just a pile of meat so treat every day as a sacred event while it lasts.
True Words
True words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
The good do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not scholarly.
The scholarly do not know.
Wham bam internalize that my man. Just get out there and do stuff.  Don't sit around thinking about it. You're going to make mistakes. Stop doing just what you know and realize that you're going to need to know a lot more to get anything worth doing done. Don't worry about helping other people, the more you help the more you're going to be rewarded.

Whenever I feel less than centered or a little bit lost or lonely I reach for the nearest copy of the Tao Te Ching and it puts me right pretty quickly. It is the most life changing book I have read.