Monday, July 18, 2011

Borders asks court for permission to liquidate...

Borders is going to bankruptcy court Thursday to ask permission to liquidate and close its stores. If this permission is granted, the liquidation sales could start as early as Friday and all its stores will likely be closed by the end of September. It has already closed a third of its stores and was working to get out of bankruptcy, but that isn't going to happen now.

It's sad to see any bookstore close, ever. I love the Internet, but I still prefer my books physical and in my hands. I'm old-fashioned, I guess. And I don't really like even buying actual books on-line, because I don't really like buying anything online. I like to be able to see what I'm buying before I pay for it. Again, old-fashioned. What do you want? I was born in 1956. You know, back when dinosaurs walked the earth.

That said, however, I'm not as sad to see Borders going. I never liked Borders much. The stores I've been in have never been organized very well, have not always had what I was looking for, and often had uninformed and unhelpful employees.

This was not universally the case, I have to say. I was in one Borders store in Southern California a couple of years ago and was looking for a particular book that was just out in paperback. After looking in all the sections where the book, which was Zoe's Tale, by John Scalzi, could have been and not finding, I asked an employee about it. He looked in all the places I had looked, just to see if I had missed it, but it wasn't there. And then he said he thought he might have seen the boxes still in back and unpacked. He disappeared and then returned a few minutes later with a copy of the book for me.

Still, I had more bad than good experiences in Borders, including one time asking an employee in my local store here in Fresno where the anthropology section was, and being asked in return, "What's anthropology?" I finally found the section on my own, but it would have been helpful to have a magnifying glass. The section was that small.

So, I guess it's goodbye to Borders. I'll continue to shop across the street at Barnes and Noble, where the selection is better and the employees much more knowledgeable and helpful. And where the sales are much much better. Now, if they'd just get their comfy chairs back.

I've cross-posted this at I Was Just Thinking.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review: "Weird Hollywood"

So, yeah. It's been a month.

It's not that I haven't been reading. I just haven't been reading books, as in sitting down, starting at the beginning and keeping on until I hit the last page. It's mostly been reading for work, and when it hasn't been that, it's been reading for research for other projects.

But...I did just finish reading something last night. An actual book, although it's really more like a coffee table book, or at least something that can be dipped into at will without reading it from cover to cover. Which, of course, meant that I just had to sit down and read it cover to cover.

It is Weird Hollywood (Sterling, 2010) by Joe Oesterle. I found it at the library and had to pick it up. I grew up in Southern California and love it and still consider it home, so I'll read just about anything about the area. I'd also seen Oesterle's previous book, Weird California, in a bookstore once and looked through it, and been quite impressed that one of the places he had highlighted in the book was Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village. The Bottle Village was just down the street from my grandma's house (literally just a few doors down) when I was growing up, and I can remember seeing Mrs. Prisbrey pulling her wagon to or from the dump, where she picked up the materials to build her village. Seeing it in the book was a nice reminder of my childhood. People in the neighborhood saw her as eccentric, and really didn't understand why she was doing what she did, but I always thought it was kind of cool.

Anyway. There's very little in Weird Hollywood that brings back memories like that for me, although there are a couple of places in there that made me instantly homesick because they are intregal parts of my growing up. One is the Capitol Records building; another is the Hollywood sign. And mentions of places like the Griffith Park Observatory, which I visited often when I was a child. I still get homesick every time I see a picture of it.

Living up to its title, there are lots of ghost stories in the book, and sort of a tour of the cemeteries that are the resting places of they famous and infamous of the area. There are scandals in the book, and celebrities, mostly of the past, and a few UFO stories. And did you know that Los Angeles has tunnels below it that some folks think is where the Lizard People live? And if you look in just the right places, you can come across the remnants of Lemuria? I'd actually never heard the Lemuria story before.

So, yes, the title claims "weird" and it delivers it. But that's part of what makes it fun. Not everything in the book is strictly in Hollywood, of course, but as I've tried to explain to people who didn't grow up in SoCal, Hollywood isn't so much a geographigal region as it is a state of mind. With this in mind, there are a couple of places I would have liked to see in the book that weren't there. First and foremost is the Alligator Farm that used to be across the street from Knott's Berry Farm. I always loved the Alligator Farm. But maybe it's in Weird California and I just didn't see it when I was thumbing through that volume in the bookstore.

Anyway, if you enjoy the unusual, I'd defintely recommend you give this book a look.