Wednesday, November 30, 2011
So today, I finally picked it up and read it again.
"DON'T (underlined three times) Throw This Away!!!
Warning -- on Pain of Death and Dismemberment."
Under this, in a different handwriting, in smaller letters, is this: "Why are we saving this again? Psychology experiment?"
And under that, in different handwriting, and even smaller letters:
"It's purpose will be made clearer in the coming days. All glory to the Creator!"
I finally took this home and show it to Linda and asked, "Is this yours? What does it refer to?"
She couldn't stop laughing. "I vaguely remember this...."
"Yes, but now it's become it's own Thing -- eternal and everlasting.... who would dare destroy it? though it's purpose be long forgotten. Even now I hesitate!"
What a wonderful dirty trick. Go into a store with a nice label, and put it on a random object. Then check every few months to see if it's still there....
(After which, I spent most of the day being self-conscious of my phrasing of things.)
Gee. Glad to be an inspiration, guys.
I noticed that it seems to be more about similar styles of writing or storytelling.
Not so much about the quality of the writing. Putting Terry Goodkind and George R.R. Martin together is like putting spam and steak together -- they're both technically meats.
I've put it on my computer at the store and the next time someone mentions that they "like" an author and who else would I recommend (?), I'm going to use it.
Really, though, it's pretty much what I've always done as a bookseller -- so this will just give me a gentle reminder. I'll try to tell the customer which is spam and which is steak.
I've decided to double the space I devote to "classic" books, which seem to sell consistently.
I've all but given up on used hardcover mysteries, and I'm just going to pile those at the bottom of a couple of bookcases and sell them for a flat 5.00 each.
This frees up enough room to put all my 'non-fiction' against the east wall, and gives me two bookcases to put New books into. One, as I said, for classics. The other bookcase I'm saving is the one that I'm devoting to themes; a bookshelf for Pirates, and Retro Future, and Weird Western, and Steampunk, and Robots, and Dragons.
There's still room in this Tardis.
I was joking that just getting the covers to the New Yorker was enough to pay for the subscription, with the inside cartoons as a bonus.
The last two covers have been great.
In one, the picture is of illegal immigrants Pilgrims crawling under the fence and racing for the border. Makes it's point.
The latest (which I haven't actually received yet, but which I've seen online, is a Dan Clowes (great to see great graphic novel artists get work with the big boys) picture of a 'future' bookstores. In a store full of t-shirts and toys and e-books, a clerk is pointing out to a dismayed customer a small, neglected row of books at the bottom of a rack.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
After seeing their Christmas ad campaign, I don't think it's a joke anymore.
They have a customer asking about a Nook, upon which everyone in the store dances around with an e-reader in their hands, singing that their "sole purpose" is to sell you a Nook.
"Sole purpose." Their words, not mine.
Incidentally, there are paper books in the background, as if anyone still cares. Certainly, none are trying to be sold. None are shown, except as spine out far background props to the Nook. You get the sense that there would be sooooo much more space to dance with your Nook if you didn't have these stupid bookshelves in the way. Which, come to think of it, may be the intended message.
I kid you not -- you have to see these ads to believe them. It seems to be an almost gratuitous insult to books. I have to believe that such a clear statement of intent will have to impact on their book sales -- if nothing else, in how motivated the workers there are going to be. How dispiriting to think you work in a bookstore, when you really work in an electronic hardware store.
I haven't been in B & N in a long time, but I wonder in the next few years if they won't be following Borders down to closing all their stores. I'd say, "Stop pretending that you care about being booksellers," except this ad pretty much says they've stopped caring.
But hey, if that is their attitude, then they'll leave the field to those of us who still WANT to run bookstores.
I want to add: STEAMPUNK! and NINJAS! (Ordered a bunch of new books to fill those shelves.)
If I can find enough material, I'd like to do WEIRD WESTERNS! shelf.
ZOMBIES! and VAMPIRES! and WEREWOLVES! would seem obvious, but they are pretty diffused right now amongst the humor, horror, and paranormal romance. So I'm not sure that would be the most effective way to display them, though I may have enough overflow to do both.
I've just ordered a book that comes with Word Balloon stickers -- so I can plaster the store with directions.
Any others you can think of?
But before I start talking about BIG SPOILERS/WARNING SPOILERS! I wanted to compare T.V. shows to books. Reading a book is pretty much an A to Z experience. But T.V. seems sometimes to get caught somewhere between H and N and hover there, trying to maintain the experience.
Problem is, how do you kill off main characters in a drama and still have a show?
Anyway, last night was one of those times when all the shows seem to lurch forward a bit.
In Dexter, the big Sixth Sense reveal finally happened -- not much of a reveal, actually, since it was pretty easy to guess from week one. The evil Professor Geller is a figment of Colin Hanks mind. On the other hand, they did some fancy footwork to try to fool us over the last few weeks.
Oh, and I have a new catchphrase whenever Linda says something off the wall: "You're a chair."
Homeland kind of disappointed me last week when they did the double/triple switcheroo. Is he a traitor? No? Yes? No?
I guess the answer is -- kinda, sorta?
But they redeemed themselves somewhat by showing a pretty convincing motivation for his turncoating.
Hell on Wheels is still in the initial inflation stage where the story is propelled by its newness.
Walking Dead finally had an episode where something happened, and where all the talk actually counted for something.
I suppose I'm supposed to feel some sympathy for the Hershel's viewpoint -- but, really, it's pretty hard to be on his side. So Shane's over the top reaction doesn't really look all that over the top.
Dale, too, is supposed to be a more sympathetic character -- but having him try to hide the guns? Idiotic.
The little girl coming out of the barn was very effective, though, and something I didn't see coming.
Now we have to wait until February for more episodes.
Boardwalk Empire really put together a solid episode, finally. I was getting impatient with this show. They may have killed off a non-essential character, but they did it in a very chilling way.
And I kept expecting Mrs. Schroeder to ask God for her money back.
Yes, Buster. I watch too much T.V.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
And every year I'm disappointed.
The funny thing is, I had a huge Wednesday, and I would be happy to do, say, 75% of that. It's hard to resist the Hype, even for me. I still remember how big a day this used to be.
Thing is, I think the mass market has effectively Madoff with Black Friday. Give the devil his due, they've been very effective in co-opting this day. But I still get a little excited by the prospect of B.F. and then -- well, I say, next year I won't be such a knucklehead.
Oh, well. I had some of my normal Thursday work to do, so nothing lost.
I'm writing this before the day, so we'll see how it turns out.
O.K. I made in the first hour 10:00 to 11:00, when I'm usually not open as much as I hoped to make the first two hours. So this time, coming early worked. Most of it to one customer.
So not a great result at the end of the day. Did about 60% of Wednesday total. Which I believe happened last year, too. Cameron said he didn't do much business between 5:00 and 7:00 but did some in the last hour, 7:00 to 8:00; the tree lighting?
I think I'll hold off posting this until we see what happens on Saturday. "Small Business Saturday." We'll see. I'm going to open an hour early, again, at 10:00 and do some paperwork.
(By the way, looking at pictures of the mad rush, I'm not sure that I'm sorry that corporate America Madoff with Black Friday. Wow. Maybe we should just let them have it... It's not like one day out the year should make that much difference if you are doing a good job the rest of the year...)
Came an hour early on Saturday, and it was an effective hour. Did about the same Sat. as Fri.: so much for "Small Business Saturday."
So, not a great weekend, not a disaster. I had pretty low expectations, and we came in a little below those expectations, unless Sunday is unexpectedly good.
Nevertheless we are going to beat last year for the month, which will make it 5 months in a row we've beaten last year.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I've been waking up at 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning over the last few weeks, which is a new insomnia. Usually I get back to sleep, eventually.
Anyway, I had this review pretty much written when I woke up and who am I to deny it?
BORDERSNAKES, James Crumley.
I've enjoyed Crumley books in the past. He's like a cross of Raymond Chandler, Hunter S. Thompson, and On The Road -- with a bit of Cormac McCarthy's Texas in the mix.
He writes in first person, with an engaging, authentically quirky voice.
But this book's plot seems to be all over the place. It's as though it's been weeks since I read the last chapter, instead of just days. I'm losing characters and plot lines. That could be on me, I suppose.
Meanwhile, the protagonists imbibe enough alcohol, drugs, sex, and dirty language to sink a battleship. Thing is, it feels uncomfortably like an alcoholic trying to justify his binge.
The sex part seems contrived -- beautiful women who keep coming on to these two 50ish aged guys.
It seems more like an alcoholic dream, like a couple of depraved oompa loompas.
Yet, like I said, his first person "voice" is still really engaging, so I'll be finishing the book.
I would still recommend his earlier books.
(O.K. That's weird. I looked him up on Wiki, and they too use the Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson as comparable authors -- Hey, I thought of it on my own!)
Friday, November 25, 2011
They turn out not to generate return business, or customer loyalty. In fact, they hurt future sales because the customer is likely to feel like they've done their shopping already.
At the same time, they also hurt margins.
They devalue product.
They make the customer cynical about real 'value.'
But. This being America. Stores do it anyway.
Cause, you know, that's the way it's done....
P.S. This not the same discussion as having real 'value'.
Or even getting a deal. I can often give a customer a deal on an item, when I know what I paid. There is something to be said for striving for a regularly "fair" price, instead of cut throat pricing (and that goes for both higher and lower prices.) In other words, I won't either overcharge you or undercharge you.
I read a book in 1987, called the Big Store, which as about Sear's resurgence. (Obviously -- it didn't take.)
Anyway, I remember the part where the new C.E.O. decided to pull out all the stops in having a bang up Christmas. So they priced everything they could competitive with other stores, tried to beat other stores in other pricing. All predicated on the idea that overall sales would make up the difference.
So the management got all excited by the news that they were having record sales all Christmas.
Until they added it all up. All the "Sale" stuff had sold, but most of the regular stuff hadn't. (Or, more accurately, the sales of the regular prices material hadn't made up the difference.)
They'd lost money. They'd emptied their stores. They had, in effect, "Given Away the Store."
I always remembered the phrase, "giving away the store," because it's easy to do. I see it all the time, in fact, often when another store seems to be selling more than seems possible, it's probably because they are being imprudent.
Even after reading this book, I didn't quite get it. I probably sold millions of dollars worth of sports cards over a 18 year period -- and had nothing to show for it. I call it, "Churning the cash."
I want "everyday regular prices" -- to paraphrase Walmart.
I recently had a woman return a book. The crime? I had charged the regular price of the book.
I doubts the deals on this day.
Sure there are a few overwhelmingly good deals, but because of limited numbers, those deals become mostly the basis for bait and switch.
There's an article today in the Bulletin: "Black Friday Doesn't Have The Best Prices, Research Shows."
My guess is that even lowered prices are simply the new baseline for prices in a month or two. In fact, chances are that prices will be cheaper in a month or two.
Hell, there are stores (furniture come to mind) were 50 and 60% off are the norm.
One final thing -- there are ALWAYS deals. More deals than you can afford.
Not that anyone will be convinced.
Besides, it's probably beside the point: according to an article yesterday, people shop because the "love crowds" and it's an excuse for a family event and stuff like that.
But never mind all that, go shopping anyway. Especially downtown. Especially on Minnesota St. Especially in that quirky little pop culture store you've always meant to go into.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
(Do I have a right to complain about the long list of store hours listed in the Bulletin -- that almost all of them were big chain stores and not local? What's with that? The article itself, had quite a few quotes from local retailers, at least.)
Geez, that sounded Grinchy. Never mind. Just have fun.
Anyway, we'll be open extended hours on Friday; 10:00 to 8:00.
Hope to see you!
But the time machine could only be used to go back as far as the invention of the machine.
So there is all the time up to the time machine, which is unchanging.
Then there is all the time after the time machine. Which becomes fractured and diffuse and confusing as people go backward again and again to fix earlier mistakes and stumble across each other (and earlier versions of themselves) and eventually no one can remember where they started.
Might make a good short story.
I think I had the dream because I've been watching Fabric of the Cosmos on Nova, which is trippy and mindblowing and confusing and makes me feel both stupid and small. How do they come up with this stuff? But which is also fascinating.
Also a good sign when I dream a story, because it means my subconscious creativity is hard at work.
Happy Turkey Day!
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
It took me a long time to learn this, and personally, I think having a satisfying workplace is at least as important as making money.
"Wait a minute!" I hear you saying. "You have to make money to survive!"
True enough, but I'd argue that you also have to have a satisfying experience to survive as a small business.
I'll say it again -- I think as many businesses quit because of 'burnout' as quit from not making money.
Sure, there are people who open small businesses with the sole purpose of making lots of money. I think that's usually a forlorn goal -- you'll make enough to get by, probably, if you do a good job and you don't burn yourself out along the way.
But other people open small businesses, in a sense, to buy their own job. To be their own boss. To be in a congenial place selling to friendly people and enjoying what they do.
What I see around me, is that people underestimate that aspect of business. They do things they don't want to do because everyone tells them they should and because it makes them more money and then they wake up one day and it isn't fun and they ask themselves why they are doing it.
I mean, why do you own a business if isn't something you like doing? So, you know, try to avoid doing things that will make you dislike what you're doing!
Every advice column you read will advise you to overextend the effort you make. So you have to maintain an inner gauge as to how much you can handle -- that extra service you just offered that brings in a few more bucks a month, is it really worth it? Extended hours? Extended menu? Extended everything?
Measure your workload, your satisfaction, the same way you measure your money.
Time, energy, space, stress....satisfaction....ARE money.
In reality, this is kind of silly to try to do.
For instance, I rarely sell independent graphic novels. Books that are well reviewed in the New York Times, and which every comic web site in the world thinks your a 'fanboy' shop if you don't carry. All well and good, but the truth is they don't sell all that great.
Same with statues, same with deluxe editions, same with heritage collections, same with designer toys.
Yet, I carry a full selection.
Lately, I've even replenished the manga and anime sections, though they more or less died off several years ago. (I've just brought in every Miyazaki movie I can, as well a Studio Ghibli, and some big movies like Steam Boy and Patlabor).
I've been keeping up the sports card and nonsport card sections for years, even though they are extremely erratic in sales.
In other words, I've created the store as I THINK IT SHOULD BE, rather than perhaps what the dictates of the marketplace would suggest.
Because the marketplace is fickle and unpredictable and ...well, I'd even have to say, treacherous.
What I'm trying to do, in some ways, is impose my own reality on the store. By force of will, I'm saying: "This is what SHOULD sell."
And I find, that indeed, if I really do an informed and curated job, that it more or less works out that way -- sometimes by accident, sometimes because I'm there to push it, sometimes because we get enough people from elsewhere who are appreciative of what I've done.
Because it's so much more satisfying this way.
Yesterday, in just two hours, I felt overwhelmed. I had to give it up as a bad day. I walked away with all the graphic novels and toys undone, the games unpriced, with some of them still on the floor.
No real harm done. Cameron was there to do business as usual. But it bugs me not to complete tasks.
I spent about 10 minutes staring at the game stacks, as if that would suddenly open a space for the excess games....
There is always a solution, I find, if I think about it long enough. Cameron calls Pegasus the "Tardis" of stores -- like the Dr. Who travel machine that looks like a telephone booth on the outside but has expanses on the inside.
I wanted to stock up on games, so that I never run out of them during the Christmas season. So that a run of buying 2 or 3 in one day, won't mean I'm out.
But where to put the extras?
Plus, I ordered everything on the Blizzard Sales list from my main supplier, which means that my overall margin in the last few weeks has dropped more than 10 percentage points, which I'll be happy to have over the long run.
But in the short run, I've probably overdone it.
This is the first Christmas in years that I decided to pursue completely. Usually, I use it as a profit making opportunity. (By profit, I mean making enough to pay off all bills, actually.)
What usually happens when I buy like this isn't that I suddenly get a 10 or 20% boost in sales. But that I get a 1 or 2% boost in sales over the course of the year. In other words, it's an investment.
It's all in the timing.
I'm getting an extra 5% in December from DC and it's my intent to order extras of every single DC evergreen I can get. Even if it means borrowing money.
So anyway, back to the original point about stress. Today is going to be a lu lu. But I'm going to shrug it off, not let it get to me. If I start feeling the tension build up, I'll walk away and sit in the corner for a few minutes.
I did make one concession. I asked Cameron to come in for a few hours, so that will help.
In return, I intend to show up on Friday morning to help out for a few hours.
Many of the problems this town has had have come from growing too big too fast. We just weren't ready for it. The crony small town politics didn't grow well. And outsiders (and elected politicians who have lived here for 5 minutes and have no memory or perspective) brought unrealistic expectations, and overblown predictions to the process.
Still doing it, actually.
On Monday, I made the mistake of watching House, Terra Nova, and Castle without dvr-ing first. So we sat through a RELENTLESS assault of Christmas Cheery ads, dancing and singing and mugging and otherwise attacking my senses. Pink and red and white all over the place, like a bloody crime scene in the snow.
My god, it was was bruising. I felt like hiding my eyes, covering my head. It was just awful.
Christmas....why are you beating me up like this?
Call me a cynic. I don't watch Dancing With The Stars, but I predicted who would win early on just from reading a few of the descriptions. Who's winning would be the most emotionally satisfying? Yep, the injured vet. Bingo.
"Reality" is such a misnomer for these shows. (From American Idol on....) Staged competitions would be a better description. Our modern day wrestling.
I know this is no great insight, but knowing this, why do people still watch?
Speaking of "stage competitions"; I haven't watched a single Republican debate and can't for the life of me imagine the appeal.
I wouldn't watch if they were Democrats, either.
Do people really believe anything is being said? Other than gatchas? Which may or may not indicate leadership abilities? Kind of like job interviews don't really predict the quality of the worker?
You know, how would Lincoln do? (By that I mean, how would he 'look'.)
God forbid you should say anything honest. You'd get drummed off the stage.
Wow. How does Oregon remain in the Top Ten with two losses?
We have mostly Juniper trees surrounding our house.
Do Junipers fall down much? From the wind? When I see pictures of fallen trees, they seem mostly to be pine or fir trees.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
One more chapter to go.
In the meantime, the events in this second to the last chapter pointed out the need for an interim chapter starring some of the characters that show up. I suspect that there will be a few more interim chapters as well.
I've more or less got the last chapter in my head, so I'm in no hurry to write it. I want it to percolate for awhile. Probably the second most important chapter to get right (after the first chapter.) Meanwhile, I can start drawing my time and continuity graphs, and character profiles and those things I'll need to do the second draft of my store right.
I'll give each chapter as I go along to Jared, to see if he has any last suggestions.
It feels really good to get this book done. Just a feeling of accomplishment, that is almost payment enough in itself. (Though that "doing it just to do it" motivations usually isn't enough to get me going, once I'm finished, it sort of turns out that "doing it" is pretty satisfying.)
I was reading some advice from some other writers about getting everything into the first draft, and then refining it. Unfortunately, I don't work that way. I tend to add lots of detail and embellishment in the second draft, which usually improves it.
I don't think I'll have to do any major plot changes, which are the biggest headache when rewriting. The polishing the writing is something that just happens when I rewrite, so what I'm looking to do is add depth and texture if possible.
This new work process has succeeded in making the story fresh for me, which is really important.
Plus -- I can't believe it -- but I used to write my books on a fricken typewriter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Community Life Section, lead article, WRITE ON, Bulletin, 11/22/11.)
This kind of thing make me uncomfortable. I always think people are going to think, "Who the hell do you think you are?"
But there are a couple of reasons to go ahead.
One reason is pretty mercenary. I'm hoping that those of you have never visited my store, will give it a try (as well as those who haven't been in the store lately.)
So there's that.
I'm also hoping people will give this blog a try -- or another try.
But a bigger reason is -- it will make my 92 year old Dad very happy.
I think he'll like it. . He'll show everyone in Bend Villa Court. So that's cool. (Assuming I don't look like a total Dick in the article....)
There's one more reason, of course, and that is The Book. But that's going to be 3 to 6 months before it's ready to show the world, and by then everyone will probably have forgotten.
Like I said, I haven't read the article yet. I just want something here for comments for people who have.
Monday, November 21, 2011
"Local OSU Sets Pace In Growth." Bulletin, 11/21/11.
I also suspect that it has gotten a real boost from the economic malaise around here. When in doubt, go back to school.
If I remember correctly, there was a few years in the middle of the boom when they weren't getting enough students, and the state was thinking of shutting it down.
I'm glad they are managing to build this institution in an atmosphere of cuts.
Such an approach to growth would have been handy with Juniper Ridge, the bus system, and the water system.
Doing what's possible, instead of building a huge new campus.
Someday, when it's time, they may have a new campus, and that will be good too.
Financial guy, Bill Valentine, gets props for predicting the housing bubble in March of 2006.
"Real Estate Contrarian Buys Back In." Bulletin, 11/21/11.
I think that was about the time that a lot of us bubble bloggers started speaking up about the bubble. (I started my blog in November, 2006, after reading Bend Economy Man, and Bend Bubble I and II for several months.)
After years of doubts -- I can remember wondering earlier in the decade where all these new people were coming from and where they were working-- I think it had become so obvious to some of us by 2006 that we began stating our doubts out loud.
Which is why is still bugs me when people running for office in the town, and so-called 'experts', are quoted in the paper as saying, "There was no way we could have foreseen the crash."
Stuff and nonsense.
I was also alarmed at the time by the crazy building of commercial property here in Bend. I think the powers that be have managed that crash under the radar mostly, but it's still hanging out there.
So this is interesting. Parents who own e-books are still buying book/books for their kids: "...they say they want their kids to be surrounded print books, to experience turning physical pages as they learn..."
"...cuddling up with..." a book.
"It's the intimacy, the intimacy of reading..."
"The shape and size of a book ar part of the reading experience."
"Size and shape 'become part of the emotional experience, the intellectual experience. There's a lot you can't standardize and stick into the electronic experience."
All of which is true.
But it's equally true for the parents.
Are they going to like the sterile world of e-books in the future? What part of their brain recognizes the value of book/books and yet discards it?
Parents are just bigger versions of their kid selves -- hopefully they haven't given up on the more important elements of reading, the elements that they recognize as crucial for their own progeny.
All those virtues listed above are still what I value in books.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
The most important graph, to me, is the building permits, which plunged from a high of 412 in 2006 to the current 45. (Not much above the low of 11.)
This graph represents the false economy of the boom. And the drastic results. New building is where new money can be generated: in so many ways. Construction, furnishing, roofs, yards, etc. etc.
And it's dead in the water, and likely to remain so.
Meanwhile, the real economy of Bend is represented in the two tourism graphs: Airport activity and lodging tax, which are up from the bottom, and not that far down from the top.
This is our present and future economy.
Tourism. And all the minimum wages jobs it provides.
You can't get hurt if you don't care.
Oregon Ducks quacked it.
OWS seems to be hitting some tipping point.
I think the kids are digging the 60's vibe, man.
I feel like I can more or less ignore the digital books. I can just keep buying book/books for the store, if I think I can sell them.
But comics? DC and Marvel own about 80% of the market share between them and they are plunging willy nilly into the digital world and I can't do a thing about it. In fact, if I want to carry their product, I also apparently have to cut my own throat by having digital as part of the package.
It's their funeral, I guess.
I just keep on diversifying.
I have games as a object lesson. Biggest thing in the world are video games -- and yet I can still manage to sell old-fashioned (well, new-fashioned, old-fashioned) boardgames.
I've been waking up in the middle of the night. Which isn't normal for me. Not sure why.
It takes me a couple hours to get back to sleep.
I don't feel particularly more worried than before. I've been staying up later, trying to avoid this, but it doesn't seem to be working.
Just one of those things, I guess.
Interesting, when you look at a picture of protesters fleeing tear gas, you can't be sure if its Egypt or America....
A year or so ago, I was drawing a neat little diagram for my customers, that explicated my analysis of the e-books.
It was a graph with two lines, that crossed in the middle.
One was the age of the ebook reader, crossed by the age of readers in general.
"When the age of the readers meets the age of the ebook reader, it will be all over."
Thing is, I had the graph backward. I can see that now. The assumption was that ebook readers would be younger, and most book readers were older, so the lines crossed in the middle, like an X.
Instead, it pretty clear that it's older, more affluent readers who are buying ebooks. So the future is already here. The lines are running parallel upward.
I think the adoption rate will slow down as those readers who are interested and can afford to go that route are absorbed.
But -- as you can see, I've been wrong before.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
The following isn't meant to be an argument for or against the Occupy Wall Street movement. (I happen to think it's important) but about the way the protest is developing and how the establishment is responding to it.
The establishment had come out of the '60's having learned to respond to mass movements very effectively. I think, in fact, that's one of the reasons there haven't been many since then. They knew better how to respond, and even more importantly, how NOT to respond.
(Well, that and the backlash by middle America against the protests. The protest movements learned from the backlash, as well. (Gay rights and feminism). But mostly, I think the establishment learned how to deal with opposition very effectively.)
One thing that was an absolute no-no in the face of non-violent protest was a forceful response.
Pouring syrup on young people sitting at a lunch counter and punching them. Letting loose dogs on them. Power blasting them with fire hoses. Pulling them off buses and beating them. Meeting them at a bridge and charging them with batons. Throwing them in jail.
Not a good idea unless you want to give the protest movement legitimacy.
Strangely enough, the second best strategy by the establishment is -- to do nothing.
You wait them out. You cooperate. You give in a little.
Even better, you "co-opt" them. That's the best strategy of all.
You say to the protest encampment, "Please pick a person who can speak for you and who we can liaison with."
Then you take that person into your sphere of influence, and you say, "Wow. I'm really impressed by your commitment to free speech. How about if we appoint you to our blue ribbon committee. Or, you know, we could pay you a small stipend to help us understand your movement."
And you keep doing that. Taking them in, watering it down, being as soft as a marshmallow. Until you own them or you've dissipated the energy. I think, really, that happened rather quickly to the Tea Party movement.
But what you don't do is dress up in black uniforms and helmets and guns bristling and pepper spray or punch them in the stomachs. This isn't a slam against the police, but against the 'look' of the authorities right now. Not a real good image. Especially if you use force.
I guess the Occupy Wall Street movement is fortunate that the current mayors and university presidents don't have anyone on staff that remembers the process of co-opting. They are helping grow the movement through their ignorance. Doing all the wrongs things all over again.
Now, if the protest movement won't also repeat past mistakes, for instance, by being foul-mouthed and violent -- maybe history won't repeat itself.
But more likely:
Here we go again.
POSTSCRIPT: I keep hearing the talking heads talking about the "winter" being enough to stop the movement. That's idiotic. Maybe the numbers will fall for a few months, but as long as they can keep it going until spring, it will come back stronger than ever.
Winter? Hey, let's say I want to get to that other field, and there is a five foot fence. Big deal, man. I'll climb the fence.
How weak do they think this protest is? (You know, unless they're right. But like I said, if they keep being filmed beating and pepper spraying protesters, I think the movements got some legs.)
I mean, the 1% problem isn't going to go away over the winter.
You don't build your business on those who just want more and more, and pay less and less, and who will go elsewhere if you don't satisfy them.
Build your business on the first group, even if it's smaller, and you've built something solid.
Build your business on the second group, and you'll be in constant misery.
Sell to the people who want to buy from you, and don't sell to the people who don't.
Let them go. Some will come back. Most won't.
So -- on to the bigger picture, say you're a town like Bend, and you're hoping to entice business to come to Bend.
Who do you want?
The people who WANT to come here?
Or the people who you have to bribe with fire sales and tax concessions and no-interest loans?
I'm telling you, it may be a slower process (sometimes slower is good) but the first type of business is the one you want, not the second type of business.
That was nothing. That was, --take it in stride, as your normal due, dudes-- type weather. That was tricycle weather, and if you can't drive it, you're not ready for the big bike. That was, walk the line and tap your nose weather, and if you can't do that, you shouldn't drive. I mean, really.
One of these years we're going to have a real winter or two or three in a row. It's bound to happen. Then what happens?
The carnage on the streets will be unimaginable.
Inordinately pleased that my wife wrote on her blog for the first time in two years. It was nice.
Damn, damn, damn. Lost most of this entry, after laboring over it. Damn.
Desperation time at Juniper Ridge? They are offering no property taxes for 3 to 5 years.
Which just points out, really, that not very many people have been expressing interest in moving there.
And if I was someone who had already moved there, I'd be asking for the same consideration.
What's next? A fire sale?
While I doubt it's enough of a saving to entice anyone who wasn't willing to come anyway, it does guarantee that Juniper Ridge doesn't benefit the tax district for another half a decade.
This to me is the equivalent of offering a huge discount on my product. I find that usually doesn't accrue to the bottom line much, and I'm better off waiting for a real sale to a real interested customer.
Isn't this just another give-away to big business on the back of small taxpayers?
Just like there is always someone in small business who is willing to sell at a loss in order to try to capture market share, and who almost always goes out of business but in the meantime devalues the product for everyone -- there will probably always be a small government desperate enough to give into big business demands. (Facebook -- give us what we want or we'll move to Prineville!)
The Bulletin used the word "heavy" in describing the snowfall, which makes me wonder about the origin of the reporter. And the editor who let that word be used.
Meanwhile, the Bulletin is asking that its interest rate on its loan be lowered to 4.5%. (The Source actually has a longer article about this than the Bulletin does...)
I'm going to surprise everyone and say -- that makes sense.
When I had to go to Consumer Credit Counseling and renegotiate my debts (I had resorted to credit cards to save my business after the comic and sports card boom and busts) I was able to lower the rates on almost all my cards, sometimes to zero. (All except #$^@ Capital One, who wouldn't budge, and who still makes me cringe every time I see their commercials with the Viking dude looking into the camera and demanding, "What's in YOUR wallet?" Whimper, whimper.)
When I came out of debt about 10 years ago, I had paid off the principle and tons of interest and penalties and still had a decent credit rating and a viable business which pays taxes and has employees and is giving me a living.
I hope the Bulletin can pull it off, because I think the local area needs a local newspaper of record.
Friday, November 18, 2011
"Yeah, next year."
"He's closer to a post office there." Uh, huh. See Mike works for the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. Apparently, they don't have post offices there.
"Do you know what Sante Fe means?" he asks. The usual preliminary to a story.
"I don't know."
Well, you have to know my 92 year old Dad. I don't think he has EVER asked me a question he didn't know the answer.
Before there was Google, there was George McGeary. Just ask the Dr.s at St. Charles. He was a legend. I grew up in a house with 10's of thousands of books most of which he had browsed, at least. Facts stuck with him. Genius I.Q. turned to the collection of facts.
Our typical dinner would be a discussion until something came up we didn't know, then it was a scramble to the encyclopedia or dictionary or some other reference book.
I always feared that look he gave me when I said I didn't know something, like -- What kind of idiot am I raising? Of course, as the years went by and I accumulated facts of my own, I realized that there were few if any people who knew as many random facts as my Dad knew.
At the same time, he was a hell of a storyteller and the 'facts' could be --- bent, let's say. Most of us in the family knew when a story he told was being embellished, but visitors to our table were totally convinced.
So when Mom would say, "George!" when he told some whopper, we'd all laugh. And our visitors would look around and say, "What?"
There was always a grain of truth to his stories -- maybe even essentially they were true, just ...you know, fixed up to make them more interesting....
So I was talking Dad home from our weekly pizza this morning in my Toyota Camry, and he says, "Your car is smaller than Linda's...."
"Yep. The smaller the woman the bigger the SUV."
"When I was a kid, they didn't have cars. Horse and buggy."
So, here's the thing. He was born in 1920. So...well, do the math. But we just nod at his stories now, even when they are a little wacky. Which have gotten wackier and wackier.
So I pull out my Iphone, and I say, "This is the same kind of new tech. The same world changing tech..."
Dad is really deaf, so I'm never sure if he understands anything I'm saying, so I tap the dashboard and point to the cell phone.
Anyway, about then, I get an inspiration. I pull over in a parking lot, and while he's saying, "Why are we here? You turned into the wrong parking lot" I look up the meaning of Sante Fe.
I enlarge the words: "HOLY FAITH" as big as I can get them, and show him.
Well, he puzzles that out. Doesn't seem that impressed. And we go on.
What my Dad could have done with Google!
Then again, he might have felt displaced.
It's not easy. It's an art. It has to work. It has to intrigue the potential reader. We'll see.
Been doing it by using the "chat" mechanism thingy, talking to Jared, my tech and promotional guy.
Chatting online is an interesting experience.
Sentences get short. Choppy.
It's like a real conversation, false starts, overlaps.
But maybe more on point, less distracting.
It's a new world, and I'm just a newbie in it.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
The more time passes, the more I think people assume that it has stabilized. But a lot of the surplus cash that was floating around when the boom went bust has probably dried up by now.
We've gained very little population in the last few years, though our city government is still acting like we're still growing rapidly. I suppose they think we'll grow rapidly in the future -- but I don't think that is any sure thing. Like, where are the jobs coming from? If it's all retirement folk, how likely are they to vote in favor of infrastructure improvements? (Hey, I'm for long term planning, but I think sometimes you have to wait for a few more confirmations about what the long term is likely to bring.)
I usually don't comment on other people's misfortune, but there are some things about the Blacksmith's bankruptcy that were interesting.
One -- the amount of money that was being invested, even recently, here in Bend -- when, like I said, I don't think the economy is going anywhere. 2.5 million dollars is a whole lot of meals, and I wonder where that money was going to come from? In that debt, was an investment from another restaurateur that I would've thought was sufficient to start a whole new restaurant or two or three.
I'd like to know more, but The Source has blocked comments -- which I think is a questionable move on the part of a public media. Public comment should be at the source of what they do. KTVZ has a few comments.
Anyway, from what little I can glean, it appears to me that all the debts are being piled on the "personal" side of the ledger, in hopes of keeping the restaurants open. I have a feeling that probably won't wash. If I was a debtor, I'd think I was more likely to get pennies on a dollar from a couple of restaurants than from a guy who has a foreclosed house and is driving a 2001 pickup.
Still, if true, I give Gavin credit for putting his entire personal life on the line, unlike some other situations where it seemed the debt accruer walked away with a nest egg.
Like with the Merenda, it isn't that hard to break out a calculator and figure out how many full meals a place has to serve to break even, much less pay off a profit, much less pay off the original investment. I don't know the dynamics of a restaurant, but it seems like overblown is overblown.
I don't think that it's just that I think small. I don't doubt that the Deschutes Brewery has gained enough market share and capacity to expand the way it has, for instance. But when the money figures I read for opening a market in the Northwest Crossing, or The Decoy, or Volo, or this 2.5 million, it always seems kind of excessive. Like I said, I break out the calculator and start figuring how many meals they have to serve, and it always seems like an unreachable number.
At least they leave a beautiful shell for someone else to come along and occupy.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
We won't know if there are too many breweries until one too many breweries opens, right? That last drink which makes you clumsy.
And that will happen.
I've seen it in my own business. There was a time when there was a sports card shop on every corner. Too many comic stores, too many game stores. I actually saw a pog store open, and saw several businesses who seemed to depend on beanie babies. There are two reptile shops in Bend. Really, is there a need for two?
I've also seen over and over again, successful businesses expand and multiply, and then come crashing down.
Hey, I did it myself. Four stores, two in Bend, one in Redmond and one in Sisters. What was I thinking?
McGeary's corollary to the Peter Principle. A business will expand to its level of incompetence.
The article this morning about golfer's not showing up because of the stock market volatility?
You know what? If your business depends on a stable stock market, you're in the wrong business.
My advice nowadays would be to make your business solid, build in a margin of error, and if you've done all that first, then think about expanding. However, if you expand, it probably makes more sense to get really big, instead of slightly larger. You may fail, but at least the payoff if you succeed will be there. If you get only slightly bigger, the workload increases exponentially, and the monetary payoff will be tied up in the expansion.
Can you say the word -- burnout? Can you say the words -- risky finances?
At the same time, you won't be doing those little things that made your business a success in the first place. You won't have time. You'll have to succeed being bigger by doing things differently.
You'll be in an office, instead of on the floor. Meeting lawyers, instead of customers.
It will be a different thing altogether. I know it is the American way. But is that what you really want?
A lot of small business owners open business because they want to be in control, to make their own decisions, and to do things their way.
The bigger you get, the less that is true.
Just saying, watch out what you wish for.
It's amazing, though, how thousands of dollars worth of merchandise can simply blend in, disappear into the inventory.
Diamond has a Blizzard Sale every year, where I can save 10% to 20% on premium product that I'll sell throughout the rest of the year. As well as stocking up on Christmas.
It's an invitation to spend too much.
I'm buying all this stuff on faith that I can keep the trends going that I saw in the July through October period, but not level of business I'm doing in November. If the Jan. through May period next year falls back to last year's levels, I will have definitely overspent.
In a way, I'm trying to force the issue. Buy so much good product that it will do the positive numbers, not the negative numbers.
One of the things that the limited space of my store has done has made me use every foot of the store to try to generate sales. Every category is backed to the fullest extent; even categories that haven't been doing as well lately.
Earlier in the year, while I was concentrating on comics and graphic novels, as usual, and building on new books and board games, and trying to keep up with Magic, I was letting collector cards, anime and manga, and toys sort of coast.
So over the last few months, I've started to turn my attention back to these product lines. They do will enough to keep them in the store -- what I'm trying to do now is make them do better by resupplying them.
There is always a bit of doubt; that I'm just throwing good money after bad.
It doesn't matter how much stuff you have, or how good it is, if people aren't coming in the door.
But that's my business model these days -- get as much material as I can at affordable prices and hope it sells.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
This, after thinking about writing all day Saturday and Sunday. It seems like I think about writing for about one day for every day I actually write anything. (Not counting the vast majority of days when I neither think about nor write.)
I can't explain it. Sometimes, it's not even conscious. I just know I'm doing it. Sometimes I'm talking to myself, talking out ideas. Other times, it's further under the surface and I'm just getting glimmers of ideas.
Back in the days when I was writing full time, I had a Wishing Well metaphor in my head that I visualized, and if it was overflowing with water, or near the top, I was ready to write. If I sensed that it was depleted, I knew to avoid writing.
Anyway, mid-afternoon yesterday, I drove my car out the Badlands, and parked at a trailhead and started writing. I'm not sure why, but getting out into nature seems to help me write. Just driving the half hour to my location also helps. As does walking around.
After writing about 3 pages, I started back to Bend. Just the drive started giving me more ideas.
Since the second to the last scene I'm writing is set in the Old Mill district at twilight, I drove down there just as the sun was setting and wrote another 3 pages. I described the old trees that still exist in that part of town, I imagined my character walking over a footbridge and the river looking like a tidal pool at low tide and so on.
In other words, seeing the actual locations can really help spark the imagination.
Strangely enough, when I was writing heroic fantasy, almost all my settings were built upon Oregon terrain. If I had the protagonists climbing mountains, I went into the mountains. If I had them crossing deserts, I went out into the desert. If I had them following a river, I went to a river.
Back to the current effort:
Some of these later chapters are feeling a little sketchy.
In fact, "sketchy" is the right word for it.
Each chapter is like a preliminary sketch for a painting. Some are more detailed than others, some are more like guidelines.
Some probably stand on their own already, some are going to need a lot more work.
There is a fantasy artist I like, Royo, who also produces line-drawing sketchbooks of the same art he fully paints; and frankly, I prefer the sketches more often than not. It's like hearing a promo tape of a song and liking the early, simple version more than the completed song. (As you know, I've been listening to Daniel Johnston....)
But I know that isn't the way most readers want it -- so I'm going to need to go through these sketch chapters, one by one, and paint in the colors.
I'm glad to finish another book. It's been a long time. I really didn't have much doubt I could do it, but still....if feels good. I kept hearing others talk about writing, and it always gave me the itch, to prove "I can do that!"
Like I said yesterday, I'm going to continue the workmanlike approach for the second draft, and then go crazy on the last draft. I've warned Linda that if I get all obsessive like, I might be a little distant for a couple of months, not terribly available or responsive, so watch out.
Linda and I both write. We met in a writer's group. We give each other space to create.
Still, it's kind of a scary prospect. I'm even thinking of going on another writer's trip -- maybe not go quite so far, and maybe try to keep the expense down, but just go on a writing bender, a lost weekend.
Monday, November 14, 2011
"Smoke some pot boyz, your creativity will improve..."
Which happened to mesh with what I've been thinking about.
First off, me and pot don't mix well. I tend to get rather paranoid, and not very motivated. Plus, if I remember from my high school days, the "creativity" was rather over-rated. I remember waking up the next day seeking out my written down "profound" thoughts, and finding the word: "Cheese." Or something like that.
Plus, it's illegal. And I tend to be a bit of a stick in the mud about that.
Still --- I sometimes think I'm just, sooooo close to getting my fiction right. That I just need one more boost.
I wish for a 'performance enhancer." Much like I imagine an athlete does.
I hate drugs. O.K.? But what it - what if - you had a one half hour length of time that could make you millions? (Jeopardy, a job interview, a stock market manipulation) and you knew by taking a powerful drug you could ace it?
Of course, it wouldn't work that way. You'd be so screwed up from a drug you'd never taken before, that it probably wouldn't work. And if you took it enough to to get used to it, it becomes it's own problem. Something like that.
But you can see the temptation.
Alcohol used to be a pretty good help to me, in writing. Sometimes, just sitting down with a beer or two, I could write for hours. Sometimes, after half a bottle of wine, my mind was just spinning out ideas. But I'm noticing that -- 25 years later -- it doesn't seem to work the same way. (I rarely drink, anymore -- the cost the next day is higher than the benefit of the moment.)
Now, I just get sleepy. Or I feel bloated. Or....nothing happens, and I'm sitting there wondering, "Why did I just do that?"
But I still wish for a magic pill. Not so much for creativity, really, but for performance. The actual nuts and bolts of getting that creative image on page. Which is -- well, writing.
But then I ask myself -- what do I prove, if I do that? Wouldn't it be better for my self image to write the book with my own resources?
If it isn't good enough, at least I tried.
In the end, it's just me and a blank page. No magic pills. No magic formula. No Santa's Little Helper.
It's all up to me.
This month has really sucked, after 3 good months in a row. I think -- think -- I'll beat last year, but only because last year November was so dreadful.
When did November become the worst month? Even with the Black Friday shopping, it can't seem to raise itself from the muck.
Used to be -- September and January were the worst months for my store, and that correlated with the kids being in or out of school. As my customer base got older, this stopped being true. In fact, September is a pretty good month these days. I think that correlates with retired folk still traveling in moderate weather. I also don't see the huge percentage drops in January and February that I used to see. To which I must attribute to Winter sports visitors.
The bottomline is -- we are slow in-between tourist seasons. Late October and early November, for instance. Late April and early May for another instance.
We need the circulation from visitor's -- whether vacationers or visiting family.
It's what Bend does these days.
I recommend THE HUNGER GAMES.
"Think of your favorite book. This is... That Book... a month before you heard of it...."
"I'll think about it."
And they leave.
Or I say:
"I may be the first one to tell you about this, but I won't be the last."
"What's it about?"
"I can't tell you, because then you won't buy it..."
And they leave.
Or they say:
"I've never heard of it."
"Of course. That's why you asked. If you knew you wanted it, you'd be buying it."
Thing I always wonder -- for the 90% of the people who ignore my recommendation -- do they remember that someone told them about it? Or -- is it like a fresh discovery to them? And -- why did they ask? It's not like I was lukewarm in my recommendation....
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Big Business Monkey - Hi How Are You (1983)
Big business monkey
Big business monkey
You sold cheeseburgers with that cashier’s smile
He runs his house like a burger king manager
And the only jokes he knows
Are the ones that’ll put you down
Big business monkey
You’ll take over the world
And you can have it now
But you can’t take it with you
Everything you cling to will rot
And everything you do will be forgot
By everyone you ever tried to impress
Some of this is the way I'm doing it in a measured, cold-blooded way. This was on purpose, to be effective. But I don't seem to have a lot of emotion in there. I mean, I wanted to tell a story with Star Axe, but I also had quite of bit of empathetic feelings in there. Snowcastles and Icetowers were light, but I still was reaching for symbolic level.
So...I'm not sure, but I want to imbue the second draft with a bit more feeling and drama. I really need to totally immerse myself in the book --- totally commit. Can I find the time to do that?
I think, if I wait until January and don't have interruptions for a good few months, I could maybe really go for it.
I'm not sure the story has enough meaning -- but then again, a story has the meaning I put into it. I need to think about that.
I think a lot of the "meaning" I had in the earlier books came from my drinking, at least to some extent. I'm much more emotional when I drink, and I think I'm confusing that emotion with what was actually being accomplished on paper.
I don't think there is more emotion in those earlier manuscripts, but the illusion. It was weighted with ambition and desire and feeling and wish fulfillment.
Whereas, this book is much more workmanlike. Like a puzzle. To see if I can do it.
My original motivation for writing, I think, was to recreate those wonderful moments in books where I was excited and emotionally fulfilled. LOTR's, for instance. Watership Down. The Once and Future King.
I'm well aware of how hard it is to actually accomplish that.
But that's my goal, my motivation.
Well, I probably had that ambition from the time I was 12 years old. I wanted to own a bookstore and be a writer.
But I couldn't get anywhere, until one night, when I was about 20 years old, when I found the key to getting started. I told myself:
"Tell A Story."
I had the basic ideas for Star Axe within one night of feverish thinking.
Actually being an effective writer, however, is a whole nother thing. It took me another 5 years of writing classes and workshops before I finished my first book.
The second and third books came relatively easy. The fourth and fifth books were duds. The sixth book, I remember trying to stretch my boundaries -- trying something new. And being put through my paces by the publishers and editors -- rewriting to their specifications. And my seventh book was written while Linda and I were getting together, so there was a rosy glow.
However, my work process was so all encompassing and intrusive, that I couldn't continue once I owned a business and had a family.
So when I decided after 25 years to write another book, I knew that I wanted to take a different approach. I wanted to be effective. It wouldn't do any good to burn myself out again, if I create a 25 year writer's block.
What went wrong the first time?
I think that I immersed myself a little too much in those first drafts, constantly writing and rewriting and changing. I was totally obsessive, compulsive. I can remember going with sleep or food, of being actually dizzy when I went out into the world.
Then, when I wrote the second drafts, I tried to be more workmanlike and structured. But by then, I was worn out. I just wanted my book to go out. I wasn't really willing to put that effort into it.
I couldn't work that way anymore. Nor was it -- in the end -- truly effective.
So I tried with this new book to take a new approach. To learn from past mistakes.
The start: "Write a Story." Still the most effective key to unlocking my creativity.
So that's what I've been doing. In a measured way. About a chapter every 2 weeks. Yes, I could do it faster, but I'm purposely doing it this way. When I was stuck at page 50, I went on a writing trip, and was able to write a bunch and figure out the plot. But then I went back to the measured writing.
No drinking. No compulsive days on end, dizzying writing sessions. No obsessive rewriting over small changes.
So now, as I approach the end of the first draft (two chapters!) I'm starting to look at what I'm going to do in my second draft.
I think I'm going to continue the more workmanlike method for the second draft. I have exposed most of my story to my writer's group, and they made comments and corrections, so I'm going to use those as my springboard. Concentrate on the outline, the consistency, the writing.
And then -- when I'm ready to write the third and final draft, I'm going to totally immerse myself compulsive obsessive like. Do it in a month. No distractions. Completely committed. Imbue it with all the depth and feeling I can.
So in a sense, I'm going about this in a completely backward way from the way I used to do it. The three steps are reversed, almost.
I have more patience now -- and I've come to realize that having great emotion and depth of feeling doesn't necessarily translate into effective writing, unless I do it right.
O.K. I knew who he was -- vaguely. But I was really liking Beck's version of True Love Will Find in the End, so I went to YouTube.
But once I started really listening, I was Gobsmacked.
I loved them all. Every song. Just kept listening and listening.
At first, I wondered how they would sound with professional backup. Maybe cover versions.
Because-- I thought -- he isn't the greatest singer or musician in the world.
Except it turns out he is -- none of the covers are as good as his original songs.
This is one of those cases where I can actually understand why others don't care for him -- without being defensive. And where I could be accused of just being another hipster who likes him as a pity party. But I actually thought his music was pretty interesting. No doubt, though, it's an acquired taste.
I'm also kind of glad I discovered his music without having seen the movie. "The Devil and Daniel Johnston." (Damn Netflix streaming once again doesn't have a movie I'm looking for....)
There is a danger of romanticizing depression and craziness, and having had a major depression episode earlier in my life I know it ain't romantic in any way. But there is something about someone just -- as he says in his song -- living his "broken dreams."
So ........ I know I'm not the first or the last to find this guy, but just marking the moment.
God (nature) bestows it's gifts in mysterious ways.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
What does that say?
I suppose it wouldn't have helped if Joe Paterno had retired earlier -- the sex abuse scandal would still reflect negatively on him in a retroactive sense.
Linda said, watching House Hunters, "I can't believe the U.S. has Virgin Islands."
"I can't either. I'm can't believe the U.S. would leave them virgins for long."
Unexpectedly, I've been watching lots of documentaries on Netflix streaming. These are the kinds of movies that seem to never show up either on the cable channels or at the theaters.
"The Art of the Steal, Herb and Dorothy, Van Gogh: Brush with Genius, Objectified, Helvetica, Basqiat: Radiant Child, and several others that have dropped off my "Recently Watched" list.
I didn't realize Netflix was like Pandora, recommending movies based on what you've watched.
I tend to like documentaries about art and/or commerce. Not the kind of thing you can find, even on PBS.
Kind of funny to see what categories they think we like:
"Art and Design."
"Campy Action Thrillers."
"Gritty British Crime."
"Science and Tech Documentaries."
That all fits, right?
Friday, November 11, 2011
Oh, boo hoo.
What's today's date again? I think it's 11/11........don't help me here, I'll remember......11/11.......
Told firmly by Paul not to try to be funny. Sorry.
So here it is, 11/11/11, and home prices are still dropping.
"Oregon Economic Forecast is for 'Tepid Growth'."
You know, like so tepid you don't notice it.
Seven former mayors of Bend sign a petition to rethink the water filtration plan.
I think it's a case of -- if the current city council felt like they didn't have the money, they'd come up with a viable alternative.
It looks to me like they really didn't consider the viable alternatives, but went for the biggest option. (And a 40% increase in water rates.)
Bend always goes for the biggest option....
Paul said I was being too downbeat, lately.
Which kind of surprised me, because I'm actually feeling pretty good about things.
So a city councilor, running for county commissioner, went bankrupt.
What stood out to me was that he bought his house in 20o6.
By 2006, a bunch of us bubble bloggers were already having long discussions about how unwise it was to buy a house at those prices. I mean, it was pretty obvious. Seriously, it wasn't that hard to see, especially in Bend.
I started watching the Talk of the Town local access show about the downtown street closures, but I can only take 10 minutes without tearing my hair out in frustration.
It seems to me that the Downtowners, the city, and the event coordinators managed to dilute the message within 5 minutes.
In fact, they made it about MESSAGE, which I don't think is the issue at all.
It's frustrating to hear another retailer say, "Well, yeah, sales are down considerably for the day, but it's still good for us."
Paul also mentioned that he thought I was done commenting about street closures.
But then everyone else brought it up.
Shut up, Paul.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
That Magic, the Gathering was on it's last legs a couple of years ago. Wizards of the Coast has just announced that volume has doubled since 2008.
O.K. I'm thinking, I'm thinking. I'm sure I've been wrong about something else.
Big one. That the internet was a waste of time. I didn't have time for it. Hah.
That the Old Mill was one shopping area too many.
That Northwest Crossing would empty out.
The Bend, overall, would lose population and people would quit moving here.
That the vacancy rate downtown would increase. (I didn't think downtown would empty out, boarded windows and all, but I thought there would be SOME consequence...)
That I would never get a cell phone. Or use it.
Still Not Sure:
Whether books and comics have any future. Or DVD's.
Whether the big box stores are Ponzi Schemes and will collapse from pressure from the internet.
Whether there will still be enough business for small independents to take their place.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
My husband won't help with the housework, what do I do?"
Wait until your worthless piece of shit husband is watching the 4rth quarter of an important game and then whack him to the side of the head with an iron frying pan.
Scream at him, 'Do the fuckin' dishes!'
That should take care of your problem, babe.
I'm being sexually harassed by a coworker, what should I do?"
Wear your most sexy dress and lure him to the balcony. Grab him by the balls and push him over the edge.
Be sure and hang onto the balls.
My neighbor's dogs won't stop barking, what do I do?"
Knock on his door and when he answers, punch him in the nose.
Tie him to his lounge chair, and take away the dog food.
Lock the door behind you...
I could go on and on with this....I have weird dreams.
Anyone else want to contribute?
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Steampunk and adventure and speculative fiction at it's best.
I love these 'out-of-time' inventions. I love good old Tesla. Einstein. Napoleon.
People who come out of nowhere. (They are also examples of why doubting Shakespeare is moronic.)
Black Swan people.
He'd pop his head in the door, and give me a moose call.
"Hooot. Hooooooot." Big laugh.
"Kinda cold today, Jeff?"
"Don't you get tired riding that bike?"
"You doin' good?
"Yeah, Dunc. Hey, Dunc.....hooot, hoooooot."
I can still hear the "Yeah, Dunc's," clipped and cheerful.
Stopped seeing him awhile back and was wondering where he went.
Monday, November 7, 2011
DC has a six month rolling average. (extra 3%)
I've qualified for the Marvel discount for a number of years now.
I was always about 25% below the DC discount, and even when I piled on reorders, I could only get to within about 5%. So I gave up, and more or less dropped back down to being about 35% below the necessary levels. (Discount levels apparently can be a de-motivator as well as a motivator.)
Anyway, I was so far below the DC level, that I quit trying.
The DC New 52 has been so dramatic that I've reached the necessary discount level with one dramatic month. Not only was it a five week month, but it just seemed like everything arrived in that time frame.
So the extra 3% went from being unreachable, to totally blowing it out of the water. I'm enough over the level that it would carry me for several months even at the old level of sales. I don't think that will be necessary, because sales --while they've dropped to more moderate numbers -- are still well above the old numbers. So...it probably means I can count on the extra 3% for the foreseeable future.
Every little bit adds up.
I qualified for another 5% discount from DC on backstock in December because I filled out a survey, so I'm going to spend some of my savings on buying up as much Evergreen product as possible. Multiple copies of Sandman and Y-the Last Man and such. Hopefully, I won't have any more instances where I have shortages for a few weeks.
Kudo's to DC for taking a risk and making it work.
I can't absorb it.
It's worth remembering that Oregon's one loss was to the team that's beat everyone else; L.S.U.
Of course, they still have to beat Stanford.
Why can't they make movies that look as cool as video games? Everytime I see an ad, I think that wonderful imagery ought to be in a full length movie. Instead, most video game movies suck.
This year has gone by so fast, I've got whiplash.
One woman, two women, three women, four,
How many women does it take,
to show Herman Cain the door.
Sunday has Dexter and Hell on Wheels and Boardwalk Empire and Once Upon a Time (for Linda) and The Good Wife and Homeland and Walking Dead.
Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Sat. have hardly anything at all.
What's with these people?
I hate to agree with a Bulletin editorial.
But it does seem that the city of Bend consistently underestimates the costs of their projects.
As well as consistently underestimating the effect of the economy on revenues.
The common characteristic is huge projects, under the mantra of building for future growth. Which may or may not be right. Thing is, it probably isn't affordable. But because they can justify it, they are going ahead and hoping revenues catch up.
Sometimes a delay isn't such a bad thing.
The motto ought to be: Do No Harm.
Speaking of Do No Harm.
This also ought to be the guiding principle to downtown street closures.
If some businesses are helped by these events, and some are hurt, the people being hurt should have greater weight, not less. If no events means neither hurt nor help, that is maybe what should happen.
I don't buy into the notion that we'll somehow lose our momentum downtown. Downtowners like to crow that we have almost no vacancies. I don't think that would stop, if we suddenly didn't close streets.
According to sources, when asked if the downtown events helped business, half the people at the downtown meeting raised their hands.
Hey, how do they know? From my keeping track, about 40% of them have only been around for a couple of years. What do they have to compare it with? They've never seen an alternative.
How do they know that summer weekends wouldn't even be BETTER without the events.
And, harsh as it may sound, I'm convinced some business owners are so out of touch with what's happening, they can't even judge it correctly.
But even if it's true that a majority of businesses are helped, like I said above, the fact that some businesses are hurt should have a strong weight. If not doing the events is neutral.
So the motto ought to be: Do No Harm.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
So, you know, it'll probably be a big hit.
What would happen if, every time the stock market went up 500 points, you sold? And every time the stock market went down 500 points, you bought?
I wonder why it seems like half my customers love Tintin and Asterix, and half my customers have never heard of them?
It's either one or the other. No vague familiarity.
Love them, or haven't heard of them.
Of course, after Christmas, EVERYONE will know who Tintin is. Because they know who Spielberg is....don't you know.
One of the more frustrating things about being "in the know" and being a "retailer" is the disconnect to those customers who "aren't in the know" but are potential customers.
"Hey, this young adult book, Hunger Games is really cool. And it's going to be BIG! when the movie comes out...."
"ummmm.....I'll think about it."
So I spend a couple of years talking up Game of Thrones, or The Walking Dead, and getting blank looks and rejection and I'm nearly begging them to give it a try -- and then the shows come out, and it seems like all of a sudden EVERYONE wants them.
I make it a habit not to recommend anything I don't actually really, really like.
But I guess the customers don't know that.
See what happens when you retire, Andy Rooney? Happens every time, I tell you.
Check out the Triumph the Comic Insult Dog video about Occupy Wall Street. On the Conan show. Or, it's over on the local The Source site. Genius.
I swore I wouldn't watch any videos or look at any pictures of The Hobbit movie-- but I couldn't resist.
It looks fantastic. Kind of seems like it will be lighter, more humorous than LOTR's; but then, so was the book.
Go, Radagast the Brown!
(I always related to Radagast, because my name, Duncan, can be translated as Brown (dark) Warrior.)
Old technology that still works. Trains and books!
Here's why I don't bother to look at the bestseller lists.
The current top 5. Publisher's Weekly.
1. The Litigators, John Grisham.
2. 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami
3. The Snow Angel, Glenn Beck.
4. The Best of Me, Nicholas Sparks.
5. The Christmas Wedding, by James Patterson and some other guy (who probably actually wrote the book.)
At least three out of the top five are utter pap, and the fourth is probably pretty workmanlike. I'll let you guess which three. (Well....Glenn Beck? Shoot me now.)
I have ordered 1Q84 by Murakami, however; as well as trying to get his back list as much as possible.
Being a card shop.
I was trying to imagine how hard being a full service card shop would be right now. One of the big three sports isn't even playing. And since Basketball is the only big league sport in Oregon, that's even more impactful.
Panini (the Italian sticker company who has exclusive rights to NBA basketball cards, and what does that say?) hasn't even bothered to put out a brand so far this year.
It's as if a third (or more) of the product that your store sells, just disappears.
What sport card shops who still survive have, is what I call Cockroachability -- not even a nuclear bomb will completely wipe them out. I suspect, mostly, because most current owners don't actually live off their business...
What's interesting to me how demanding sports card customers can still be. They usually give me a "treat me right or else" vibe, to which I usually give a, "here's what I got at what price, buy if you like" answer. As you can imagine, that very often doesn't work.
So I sell the occasional packs to casual customers. And the even more occasional boxes.
The price structure to sports cards is completely dysfunctional. The only way you can survive is to be MORE expensive than S.R.P., and yet, like I said, the customers expect you to be CHEAPER than S.R.P., because there are plenty of people online selling for near cost.
I've managed to eke out small profits by doing it my way, but it's constantly on the edge.
I recently had a customer think that I was raising my prices so that I could give him a 10% discount. The truth was, I was actually doing the opposite!
I was keeping my prices lower than usual because he was buying so much.
In the old days, I would've been paying enough attention to know what I had priced something the last time, but nowadays, I do a quick calculation and put the price sticker on. Since I have a fixed formula, I tend to average it out either upward or downward, depending on a number of factors that aren't always the same.
So, say I arrive at a retail target price of 73. 40. So, I'll average that out to either 69.99 or 74.99, depending. But like I said, I may not remember what I did the last time.
What gets me, I suppose, and why I'm writing this, is that this card customer automatically assumes the worst motivation.
The solution, I've decided, it to put a price on the box and not offer discounts. That way, there can be no misunderstandings. The price is what the price is.
So I raised all the prices on the boxes to the prices I normally would charge, and I'll stick with that.
Back to doing this the no fuss, no muss way.
The customer can decide. I totally understand if they don't want to pay my price. There are always a few customers who will, fortunately.
A retail store shouldn't try to be a flea market. I don't offer those kinds of automatic discounts for any other product in my store. Well, I give 10% for comic subscription customers, and I give a "Buy 5 packs and get the 6th pack free deal" to Magic customers. But that's it. Everything else is retail priced.
And now, so too are sports cards. No more unnecessary discounts.
I wonder why I was ever tempted to do so? Tradition? Industry norms? Customer pressure?
Whatever it was, it's come to an end.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
I barely keep up with the work I need to do on the days I work. I don't remember that being true when I was working more days.
Back when I worked just about every day, I got very good about pacing myself. I'd plan for orders one day, receive orders on another day, rearrange another day, pay bills another day, clean another day. It seemed almost effortless.
Now, I feel like I'm scrambling from the moment I get there. I feel like I've pretty much delegated the things I can delegated, and the things that are left to do, are the things only I can do.
I noticed once that Linda would rather work fewer but longer days, while I preferred more but shorter days.
Yep....... I'm whining about working fewer days....
Friday, November 4, 2011
"Default notices drop in October." Bulletin, 11/4/11.
It's in the banks interest to keep the current 'owners' in the sweatbox as long as they can, to wring that last ounce of moisture out of their poor desiccated bodies. Besides, that way, the banks can escape liability for the property taxes.
Any time they want them, they can get them.
I think that's all that's happening.
I can sort of tell when another blog is scraping for fodder. Takes one to know one, you know?
Anyway, there is a story over on The Beat that correlates the number of young men living in their parents basement with the strength of the entertainment industry:
"Almost one in five men between the ages of 25 to 34 are living with their parents, according to a Census Bureau report released Thursday."
59 percent of men and 50 percent of women ages 18-24 still live at home.
As well as being somewhat insulting:
We’re not saying that all comics are purchased by nerds who live in their moms’ basements. We’re just saying that a lot of people are living in their moms’ basements. Of course, they may not have the most discretionary income in the world, either. Either way, a lack of upward mobility can be a powerful influence towards escaping into a fantasy world.
All this seems pretty dubious evidence of anything but a bad economy and coddling parents.
Of course, me talking about it is probably just doubling down on the doubtful fodder scraping.
According to my math (talk about dubious!) roughly 40% of the downtown retail and restuarant spaces have folded in the last 3 years, since I started my Comings and Goings list.
Of course, even more stores have come in to take their place.
Nevertheless, 40% in 3 years.
From my perspective, it seems like hardly anyone really makes it over the long run in small business. I mean, I know that can't be right, but the more years that pass, the less long lived businesses I see.
Creative destruction, indeed.
I mean, it must benefit the economy somehow, right? Is being in business 5 years enough to be a net plus? 3 years? 1 year?
Hard to figure.
"I've been giving the store everything It wants this year," I said to Linda.
She laughs. "You make it sound like it's a very demanding person."
"No. It's the Great God Pegasus, to Whom all Glorious Sacrifice Must be Made."
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Owner says it's gotten too competitive online. And she talks about what an irony it is that she was opening a store, when just a few years ago she was encouraging her dad to close his stores and go online.
"OSU-Cascades May Offer Master's in Creative Writing." Bulletin, 11/3/11.
Just what the world needs. More pretentious writers.
Oh, the power of it all. The Greeks have complete control of my stock portfolio.
Mention a 'referendum' and the stocks go into freefall. Back off a 'referendum' and they go back up.
That can't be healthy.
As I twittereded. "Oh, stock market. You son of a bitch."
A paranoid local district attorney creates enemies which makes him paranoid which creates enemies which makes him paranoid.
That can't be good.
Another local, apparently thriving company, PV Powered, gets bought by a bigger out-of-town rival, and immediately seems to collapse.
Funny how when the parent company gets in trouble, the costs get cut at the new merger.
I hereby call it McGeary's law: A company will expand to it's level of incompetence.
Linda and I saw that four point buck in the Bulletin on our Sunday drive on the west side. It was standing in the middle of the road when we turned a corner.
It had a look, as if to say: "What's your problem, bud?"
Saw two other batches of deer that day, within a few blocks.
Rodents with hooves.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
The first was an English movie called Ironclad. I thought it was going to be a thud and blunder movie, but it actually turned out to be a fairly historically accurate story of the Siege of Rochester castle, by King John (of Magna Carta -- apparently, he didn't accept history's verdict.)
It was a cross between the Alamo and the Seven Samurai.
Where it varied from history was in the scope of the thing. They have 20 knights and soldiers holding off an army of 1000. Whereas the real battle was between about 140 knights and many more soldiers as defenders.
You kind of wonder why, if they are going to be 70% accurate, why not be 100% accurate? I don't think it was just a matter of having the hero ride off into the sunset with the damsel. I think it probably had more to due with budget constraints.
I wonder if the book, The Religion, (Siege of Malta) could ever be made affordably, and without offending Islam. That would be a great story.
Then I tried the movie The 13 Assassins.
What an awesomely cool movie. I mean, it's great. For god's sake, if you like action movies, you got to see it.
Apparently it's based on another movie with the same title, but -- really, it's more a remake of the Seven Samurai.
It had some creepy, atmospheric set-up, as befits the director of Audition, Miike, but when it gets to the action scenes -- it's incredible.
I loved the ending, when the last surviving samurai moves to throw away his sword, and at the last second hangs onto it. And the 13th assassin (who isn't samurai and proud of it) skips merrily down the street like a forest sprite, jumping over piles of bodies. Amazing.
How could I have not seen this movie yet?
Offering $25 off Nook; 40% off hardcover bestsellers.
"How do they make any money?" she asked.
I wonder if the divide I see with digital versus book/book is one of perception.
I simply don't believe that digital books are the same experience as reading a book/book. Based on my trying the two methods, I much prefer the book/book.
Others see no difference, apparently, and I'll take them at their word.
But fundamentally, I don't think books are the same as music. I don't think pirating is as big a problem, either.
I remember about 5 or 8 years ago when Topps was offering "digital" cards. If ever there was a more acquisitive group of customers than sports card collectors, I don't want to know it. I mean, that was just about the stupidest thing I'd ever heard. And yet, someone came up with the idea, and someone at Topps greenlighted it.
WTF? Really? Did they really think that would work?
Not everything digital is an improvement, just because it's digital.
I think books will be just fine.
I'm not so sure about Barnes and Noble. There was an article in the Bulletin today that fake iPads were "flooding the market;" which just points out that pirating and stealing is going to be a problem no matter what approach the manufacturers and producers take.
So, you don't stop selling something just because it might be stolen, do you?
The whole scenario about digital music and dvd's -- that if you can't beat them, join them, just seems the wrong approach. Make the physical more attractive -- but don't just give up! Lot of good it did the music publishers!
I guess I'm saying, I believe the physical book and comic still has inherent virtues, and the solution isn't to subvert the platform, but to support it.
There is a hypocrisy at the root of Barnes and Noble and Amazon; they are book sellers who don't care enough about books to support them. Now, they are content providers. But who needs them? I can put my own damn book online, if it's going to be digital. (Yes, I'm conscious of the irony but I'm not going to try to explain it...)