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Archive for May, 2007

May is the month of my birthday, so I normally love it. HOWEVER, a few years ago it also became the month our car tags expire, and therefore, the month we have to put up with the endless aggravation and expense of passing MARTA to get them renewed.

From time to time I fantasise about having a brand-new car and just sailing through MARTA, no questions asked because I hate the whole experience.  It’s like having your car taken to the principal’s office. And now, with our current, ah, situation I have to admit that I’ve been dreading the Car Tag Renewal Dance with an extra-intense passion. There was no way we had the $500-$900 it has taken in the past three years to get the car in shape to pass inspection.

Guess what? It took $200 TOTAL for the repairs and the new tags.
And…coincidentally ( :-) ) guess what some church friends sent us in the mail four days ago?
Yep. $200 accompanied by a note which said “This is repayment from us to some friends who helped us out when we were unemployed.”
So, thanks to the Grace of God and the generousity of friends, one of the biggest stressors in my life was taken care of today.

I realise this kind of stuff sounds really corny, but I have to testify to the greatness of God.

ETA: Whoops. The original post was about my first visit to Hooters and so I was gonna make some remark about the love which flows from the Bosom of God to tie the two posts together, but I forgot. So, anyway, there you go. I made good on my “mammaries” portion of the post, anyway.

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Low Blows

I’m a libertarian. A “live and let live” kinda gal.

But there is one thing I cannot abide at all. And that’s calling for someone else’s job.

Unless the person in question is a duly elected politician, I cry “foul” whenever I see someone else’s job on the chopping block. And that’s what I dislike so much about the partisanship of the internet. Sooner or later it’s considered fair game to demand the firing/resignation of an idealistic opponent. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

It’s too easy to forget that behind the hit counts is someone with rent, groceries, credit card bills and medical expenses.

Maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of my own employment nightmare, and maybe it’s because I truly like the people in question and enjoy the NiT/VV experience. Or maybe it’s just because I don’t like to see anyone bullied. I dunno.

Regardless, I think that while disagreement is kosher, demanding that someone be deprived of his or her livelihood–especially when you are well aware of their current employment environment’s internal struggles–is just not on.

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Big News this morning for Harry Potter fans, fools and their money.
Universal Studios is set to open a Harry Potter theme park by 2009.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Universal Orlando Resort plan to open The Wizarding World of Harry Potter within Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in 2009, Tom Williams, chairman and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts, announced Thursday on TODAY. The “theme park within a theme park” is the first fully immersive Harry Potter-themed environment based on the best-selling books by J.K. Rowling and the blockbuster feature films.

Can you imagine how this would go over if Harry were to die in the last book? Not very well, I’m sure. Death does not sell roller-coaster tickets.

Will this finally get me into the Universal Studios themepark, and away from Disney World for even one precious day? I doubt it, but we’ll see.

The good news for us Disney fans is that this announcement, coupled with the fanatical success of Expedition Everest, may finally get the much-rumoured Bald Mountain coaster off the drawing board. Disney World is not a coaster-park destination per se, but they do pride themselves in having a very popular roller coaster “Mountain Range.” Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are the flakes of hot pepper on the Magic Kingdom Pizza. Disney Cast Members, fanatics and hopefuls have been tossing around rumours of a fourth “mountain” for awhile now. The Night on Bald Mountain coaster takes its name from that segment in the original Fantasia, and is said to be a villain-themed coaster. We’ve heard this rumour kicked around for at least 10 years now. I’ve personally heard it from at least four cast members at the parks and more than a dozen on-line Disneyphiles who claim to be current or former cast members.

So the news today looks as though the rumours of death for Harry Potter AND the Bald Mountain coaster were greatly exaggerated.

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It’s one of those milestones in life where you say to yourself “I’d really like the town drunk from Hoosiers to weigh in on this one.”

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I’m going to answer some (book) burning questions in today’s post, because I really want to talk about these things. The newswires are full of stories about the Death Of Books, and as Harry Potter draws ever nearer to its end, I’m betting we’ll see more coverage about the dire straits of the publishing world. Of course, these answers are just coming from me–an avid reader, author and former marketing brand manager. I’ve only ever worked on the fringes of Publishing, so I don’t know that I’m anything close to an expert. But boy, do I have opinions! Buckle up…

Why don’t people read for fun anymore?

I think there will always be readers, just as there will always be surfers, motorcycle enthusiasts and folks who collect dolls. Each one of these hobbies has enjoyed a rennaissance of faddishness at one time or another, but has then settled back down into a more realistic following. Leisure reading is a hobby about which many people can be very passionate, and other people can be occasional dabblers. For every book freak like me I’m betting there are a dozen folks who limit their leisure reading to a couple of paperbacks on the beach in summer and an occasional book throughout the year.

A few years ago I was in a bookstore with some friends. One of them came up to me and asked–very earnestly–how I knew which books were good and which ones I would enjoy. He had NO IDEA how to shop for a book. So he never went book shopping, until that day I dragged him into Barnes & Noble. It got me to thinking, because they were very good questions. I’m an avid reader. It’s gotten to the point that I can tell pretty closely whether or not I’ll like a book.

  • Did I like the author’s previous work(s)?
  • Do I like other things from this publisher/publisher’s imprint?
  • Is this in a genre or vein which has appealed to me in the past?
  • Are both the opening paragraph and a random paragraph from the middle appealing to me?
  • Does the back cover blurb sound intriguing?

Yeah, those things help me, but how do we make book-shopping more pleasurable for the more casual reader? Some ideas:

Clearly identify genres in shelf and table displays.

Different casual readers enjoy different things. Some prefer mysteries while others groove on books where floridly-named women have sex with vampires. (Go figure.) It’s got to be very frustrating to face an unlabled book display with sixty or seventy titles–none of which are clearly labeled as to genre. It’d be like walking into the frozen food section, seeing a bunch of boxes labeled “Ice Cream” and having to then open each one to decide what flavour is inside.

Do A Better Job of Cross-Marketing

What little cross-promotion currently exists is good, but is mostly limited to displays of authors’ backlists. The newest Patricia Cornwell will be on an endcap, surrounded by several older Patricia Cornwell books. Barnes & Noble and BAM have been doing a few genre-endcaps (“New In MYSTERY!”) but that’s still very limited and doesn’t do anything to burst out any center-shelf titles. How about a database of “if you like this [book/movie/tv show/style of music] you might enjoy X book by X author”? Affinity sorts work very well for most cross-promotion. As people have become more comfortable with computers and databases have evolved, this type of thing should find a home in brick and mortar bookstores. It does work to Amazon’s advantage–at least in my case.

Embrace Genre Fiction

It’s what people will buy. It’s what people enjoy. I think it’s dirty pool to complain about people not reading for fun and then refuse to publish the types of books which people think are fun.

Kill The Oprah Book Club

Yes, I know it blows out a dozen or so books a year. If you’re one of the Oprah Book Club picks, you’ve got it made. (Unless you lied about being an addict.) But, frankly, if we’re trying to encourage people to read for fun, the books Oprah chooses are NOT going to win many people over to long-time leisure reading. They.are.de.press.ing.

Create More Serialised Fiction

The books that tend to be the best in sales are the ones which have recurring characters who develop over time. People develop an affinity for the characters and spend money to find out if Charles and Mallory ever get together, if Peter and Rina Decker successfully remodel their kitchen and if Harry lives or dies. Dickens was the master of serialised fiction, and every bibliophile knows the story of the folks waiting on the docks for last installment of The Old Curiosity Shop to find out the fate of Little Nell. The two genres which traditionally have been best at exploiting the serialisation format in recent years are Science Fiction and Christian Fiction. Guess which genres are doing the best in terms of sales? Of course, I still have major issues with the way Christian Fiction Publishers are bursting their serialised material. They’re putting the least amount of story in the largest possible font and large trade paperback format; marketing a $3 minibook as a $15.95 Serial Novel. A happy medium would be nice.

I think elitism and failure to understand the casual reader are the twin enemies of modern book sales. I’m not a genre snob, but I’ll freely admit that I don’t ‘get’ people who aren’t avid readers. Sometimes in my mind it’s still recess and I’m the dorky kid with the Nancy Drew on the front porch and the non-readers are the ones trying to knock off my glasses with the kickball. But really, if the kickball kids can be convinced to part with a few ducats in exchange for the written word, I will feel quite vindicated indeed.

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It’s silly to let your life be rocked by little things, perhaps, but oh well.  That’s who I am and that isn’t gonna change.  Eat the last Pop-Tart and it’ll make me cry (just a little).   Cancel my tv program and I’ll be miffed for two days.

So how do you think I’m handling the news that my Sunday School teachers have quit and our little class is being disbanded?  Not well, I’ll tell you that.   I’ve seen this day coming for about six months now, and I’ve not been happy about it.   I like our teacher and his wife.  He’s very good and I’ve learned a lot from him.  What I don’t understand is why this means we must disband our little class.

Southern Baptists (over)use a phrase for church involvement:  Plugged-In.   It bothers me because it’s jargon-y.  Like “out of pocket” and “tipping point”, it’s one of those phrases that communicates “We all read the latest Management Technique Book!”    When a person comes to church, much is made about getting that person “plugged in”–choir, helping in the nursery, going to Sunday School.   My email last night said that they hoped we’d all find a new class we’d like to “plug into”.    It makes me feel as though we’ve shorted out a circuit-breaker or some such thing.   There were only a few of us, to be sure, but we are plugged in.

Oh well.  Someone has unscrewed the outlet from the wall, I guess.   Time for me to find a new socket.

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My personal experience at three separate universities is that some programs do have a left-leaning bias and sometimes the professors care but other times they don’t. I’ve been in a left-leaning poli sci program, a right-leaning philosophy program and a literature program with a bit of both.

I don’t think soldiers are the equivalent of the messiah but I do think dying in defense of liberty is a noble thing. I’d rather people LIVE in defense of liberty, but I understand death is an inevitable outcome of war. I think soldiers do a job I would not or cannot do, and I admire them in the same way I admire heart surgeons, garbage collectors, and kindergarten teachers. I appreciate that all these folks are made of a toughness I do not possess.

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