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We Sleep At Night Because America's Armed Forces, Police and Fire Fighters Never Do

Category: Congress

Spring had sprung, but not anymore

Good day bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

Winter has made a brief comeback in West Tennessee, with cold temps and wetness galore. Here’s hoping sanity (and warmth) prevail soon.

*** This just in: one Congressman has brains enough to try and amend the idiocy of the law banning children’s books because of their lead content. Please let your Congressperson know if you agree that Congress should at least attempt to show some brains once in a while and amend this law. If you feel strongly, though, you should not email them; most will ignore it. One bookseller thought his Rep., Barney Frank, would be appalled by this, but it seems they discovered he is all in for this nonsense. Such representatives need to know if their constituents want this law amended to show at least a modicum of common sense.

One Congressman, at least, gets it

And a further explanation

*** Sadly, John Hope Franklin has died at age 94. For those who don’t know, Franklin was a famed black historian who more or less was the Civil Rights Movement. I met him at the Southern Festival of Books here in Memphis in 2006, when the mayor did not bother to even notice that he was in town, and his indifference helped Memphis lose the festival back to Nashville. Franklin was frail but kindly, signed anything anyone put in front of him, including my posters. A good man, I’m sorry he’s gone.

*** Being an Anthony Bourdain fan I found this short interview entertaining, if a bit tame. It’s like he’s become the Lou Reed of Food TV, edgy but not over the edge, whereas he used to be Iggy Pop. But they are both great in their own way, as so is Bourdain.

Or maybe I have fond memories of the early internet days, when he was a regular poster on the Old AOL ‘Hardboiled’ board, during the time when Gone Bamboo was fresh on the stands. Those were certainly good times for your friendly neighborhood bookseller.

Tony Bourdain lays it out

Feeling snarky

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

And the comment part needs an apology in advance. The day is again cold and overcast, downright gloomy, and Seasonal Affective Disorder is not a laughing matter. So if I’m a bit grumpy don’t blame me, blame the weather. And then do something about it.

*** As many of you know, or even if you don’t, your friendly neighborhood bookseller depends quite heavily on the US Post Office. Make that, completely depends on the USPS. And over the past few years he has noticed the level of service at his local post office plunging. It’s not good. That’s not to say that the fine people working the counter are to blame, they’re not. Some are faster than others, true, but overall they work hard and fast and BBG has no complaints. Except that there aren’t enough of them.

My post office has 5 windows and usually only two are manned at any given time, regardless of how long the line may be. Sometimes, if I’m really lucky, there are three. A few weeks ago I walked in, the place was jammed with customers, but all five windows were manned and the employees were flying around like they were possessed. I knew at soon as I walked in that some bigwig must be in the house, and so it was: the local postmaster was paying a visit. Amazing what you can do when the boss is watching.

Anyway, we now learn that the post office wants to cut back on delivery days. Unlike the private sector, where poor service that leads to lower business means somebody gets the axe and somebody else increases the quality of the service provided, the government decides that if they can’t serve you in the proper fashion and you take your business elsewhere, instead of improving themselves they will just cut back on the level of service they provide. Brilliant. Instead of delivering mail 6 days a week they want to cut back to 5. Why 5, then? Why not 4, or 3 or 1? That would save lots of money.

The truly ironic part about this linked article is how it would affect ebay sellers. You have to laugh, don’t you? Ebay, which should have been flourishing as people try to sell their stuff to makes ends meet, is dying because of gross mis-management by a con man, and now the USPS wants to cut back because of mis-management. Ebay sellers must think they have been forsaken. Glad I’m no longer one of them, although I do depend on the post office.

I think I agree with the commercial: put firefighters in charge and get out of the way.

Post Office is tired from working semi-hard and needs a break

*** Speaking of ebay, their newest, and possibly their one-day-to-be biggest competitor, Bonanzle, topped the 1 million listing mark the other day. Pretty impressive stuff. The site now has over 23,000 members and the page hits are approaching a quarter million.

*** And while we’re on the ebay thing again, the con man John Donohoe has a new scheme up his sleeve: Fulfillment by Ebay. Essentially, sellers will ship their items to a central Ebay warehouse, who will them send them to the customers. Oh boy, doesn’t that sound like a good idea. The guy who drove the stock from $34 down to the $12-13 range wants sellers to trust him to deliver the goods. Really, you have to laugh. But what’s the most humorous is that some people are going to take him seriously and actually debate the merits of this lunacy.

*** The world has changed and I can now admit this: growing up, I was a comics guy. That’s right, I read and collected comic books, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I am, however, ashamed to admit that I sold them all off long ago. At one time I had a decent copy of X-Men #1, Spiderman #3 (and up), Conan #1-up, Avengers 1-66…well, I had some great stuff. Anyway, I wish I had been as smart as the guy in the article below, keeping them until I could donate them to a library and take the tax write-off. Not that I need a tax write-off these days.

Old friends in a new home

*** There is a project to digitize the books in the Library of Congress, to make them available to everyone. Assuming that whoever puts together the website where these could be used knows what they are doing, I think this is a fine idea. But, seeing as how I’m feeling cold and snarky today, I have to wonder whether a library maintained for the use of Congress has ever been used by one of the elected leaders in the Congress today. And I have to doubt it. For the Founding Fathers, of course, it was virtually mandatory. Indeed, after the British burned the original library it was re-started by Jefferson giving his personal library to the country. Today’s politicians seem too self-absorbed, though, too busy stepping in and out of limousines and giving press conferences, to actually sit down and read something. So if this project makes the rare works in the Library of Congress accessible to those who will read them, I think that’s just dandy.

*** Keeping with today’s theme, me being cold and tired of winter and overly critical, here’s an article on something that just offends the heck out of me: authors as brands. James Patterson and Stuart Woods are two examples of this, writers who don’t so much write as disgorge material that is, supposedly, theirs, but which I suspect is thrown together by others from some passing thought the Branded Writer throws out. Maybe that’s just me being cynical, but does James Patterson have time to actually write the 40 or 50 (or however many it really is) books that come out every year with his name on them? Is it even physically possible to do this? I know they use about an 18 point font and probably don’t have more than 30,000 words per book, but still.

Oh well. Maybe I just know too many worthy authors who either can’t get published, or can’t get noticed behind the stacks of Patricia Cornwell’s latest monstrosity at the chain bookstore. I think of all the good stuff out there lost in the drek and am sad. Or maybe it’s just me. I’ll let you decide.

Authors as Corn Flakes

A small and wonderful world, despite the US Congress

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

*** The lunacy of banning children’s books as dangerous lurches forward as the US Congress wastes its time on non-issues and allows the important stuff to lie fallow. Seriously, think about this. In an age where we are doing everything we can to encourage kids to read more, the US Congress wants to ban children’s books because of their possible lead content! What? Is this some bad joke? Can this even be real?

Unfortunately, it can be and it is. You have to wonder how the world survived before do-gooders were given the power to regulate anything and everything. How long will it be before they regulate the content of the books?

The US Congress wastes time determining whether to ban children’s books over a non-issue

*** A new end-of-the-World-War-2- history has been purchased by British publisher John Murray, written by Michael Jones. This one will focus on the end in the east and will be published in 2011.

Okay, I’m a sucker for end of the war histories. Indeed, of the two books I am currently writing, one is an end of the war history focusing on the East. But by and large I have a problem with British historians about this period, because they tend to make the American commanders appear to be more idiotic than they really were, and the English less so. (Let’s be clear: there were damned few good Allied commanders in either army, at least at the very top.) Since this seems like it will deal with the Wehrmacht and the Red Army, one assumes there will be some objectivity. Let’s hope there’s no Montgomery worship.

Another new history coming soon

*** The internet has certainly changed things more than we ever expected, hasn’t it? This past Christmas I received a query about a book that I was selling, the customer wanted it for her brother as a Christmas present. She was in Boston, no problem, I had the book, all was well. But her family lives here in Memphis! Wow, small world. And she was coming home for Christmas, could I meet her and deliver the book in person so that there was no risk of it being damaged in shipping? Sure, I’ve done that a few times. I gave her my phone number to call when she hit town.

Well, when she called to make arrangements, it turned out that we were both, independently, headed for exactly the same food store at exactly the same time. Can you say ‘synchronicity?’ I met her there, delivered the book, and discovered a new and wonderful website that she recommended (because she works there), one devoted to regional histories, one I had never noticed but instantly fell in love with.

The History Press

Let’s face it, if you can’t find something here then you aren’t trying. And, what’s more, there is even a book signing event that I can promote right here and now for one of their titles. John Elkington is signing a history of the rebirth of Beale Street at Davis Kidd this coming Tuesday at 7 pm. As Memphians know, Elkington was in on this from the beginning, long before anyone even remembered that Memphis had a downtown, much less than it could be a tourist destination.

John Elkington signing info

I feel pretty certain that you can find something at History Press for your area and interest. It’s one of those sites you bookmark for future reference as the perfect place to find unusual gifts.

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