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11:57 am - TUE 5/27/03
Regime change begins at home

Here's a good bumper sticker I saw recently: Regime change begins at home. Vote.

This quote may not seem to fit the tone of what's about to follow but I just wanted to "share it with you" before too much more time goes by and I forget about it:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you through all of time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist in any other medium and be lost. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. You do not even have to believe in yourself, or your work. It is your business to keep the channel open.

-Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille-

Mon 5/26/03 8:50 am

Just finished watching The Zero Effect, a good little movie with Bill Pullman and Ben Stiller that no one saw at the theater, including me. Rent it sometime if you go to the video store and don't already have something in mind (That's what I did).

I also have 24 Hour Party People out from Hollywood Video. It's supposed to go back today, so I just put it on. Of course, that means I'll probably do a half assed job of watching it, and an equally half-assed job of writing this entry, but what can I say? I feel the need to multi-task today...

Yesterday morning, while heading out to the grocery store, I caught my left middle finger in the outer door of my apartment building, tearing off a good-sized divot of skin.

The relatively new, large metal door doesn't as of yet have a doorknob or handle or whatever, so I put my fingers through the hole where the doorknob or handle or whatever is eventually going to be, as I've done a number of times before, to pull the door open. But this time, for whatever reason, I didn't manage to work out the delicate timing of getting my fingers out of the hole before going through the door.

(Typically, I'm much more graceful that. Suddenly, it was like a dumber, clumsier guy was operating my body. But anyway...)

Oddly enough, one of my first thoughts, as blood flowed rather freely from the wound, was of OJ Simpson, bleeding all over from a cut he supposedly sustained from a broken glass in his hotel room (The difference between the two of us is that my accident was just an accident, and not an alibi; I know it would make this entry a lot more exciting, but I'm afraid there are no dead people involved here).

As I quickly bled on my clothes, my canvas "Reading by 9" bag, and the floor–Pretty much in that order–I realized I needed to go back in my apartment and get myself cleaned up somehow; I didn't have any bandages or antiseptic or anything like that, so I ended up running a little water over the wound, cutting a dishrag in half, and taping it around my finger.

I was strangely proud of myself, I guess for having the presence of mind to do that instead of just going on to the grocery store, leaving a trail of blood in my wake, and collapsing in the frozen foods aisle.

Anyway, that's pretty much the most interesting thing that's happened to me over the past couple days (I bought bandages while at the store, which I sort of regretted later; If I had just kept the bloody dishrag on till I got to work, I could have stolen all the bandages I needed from the first aid kit there).


I'm currently reading Reefer Madness, by Eric Schlosser (The author of Fast Food Nation, which I also read).

The book is essentially three long essays on the "underground economies" of pornography, marijuana, and illegal farm labor.

I read the last essay first–the one on pornography–because I found that one most interesting.

I've been interested in pornography for a long time. And by that, I don't just mean as a consumer–though that's certainly my primary interest--but in terms of the people who get involved in "the sex trade", what it must be like to do that kind of work, and the whole cultural double-standard we've had about it throughout history.

(Another point-of-pornographic-interest: I grew up in Durand, Michigan, a cow-town outside of Flint, which just happened to be the base of operations for Harry Virgil Mohney, one of the nations top porn kingpins. Though he rates only two mentions in Reefer Madness--The book mostly follows the life and times of Reuben Sturman, a founding-father of modern-day porn--Mohney owned the Sceen Drive-In, an X-rated theater that was one of Durand's only claims to fame, along with a number of other porn theaters and strip clubs, until he was eventually brought down, as was Sturman, on charges of income tax evasion.

To me, the most interesting aspect of the story Schlosser tells is how Sturman was persecuted, prosecuted, and eventually jailed–Sturman died in prison–for a product (porn) that's now readily available on your home computer or vcr, and for practices (Hiding his money in offshore accounts, for example) that are S.O.P. with "legitimate" big business today.

Times certainly do change, don't they?

Tue 5/27/03 9:20 am

This week has gone by very quickly (Today is my "Friday")...

For the past two weeks, when my weekend was over and it was time to go back to work, I was really depressed. My weekend had "failed to satisfy", and there I was, distinctly unsatisfied, having to go right back to the salt mines.

But here's the thing–work was fine this week. By and large.

Sure, I had my "issues", as I often do (This week I seemed primarily annoyed by our wonderful customers. But more on "those @#$!! pigs", as I find myself calling them at the end of most evenings, in a moment), and not every moment was total bliss, but by and large, the week at work has passed fairly painlessly and, at least some of the time, almost pleasantly

Two things are happening at work currently; There's yet another big overhaul of the store (Something to do with "Catman", which is short for "category management"), and a visit by the Borders High Command is approaching.

John O. said recently that he thought it was "unfortunate" that the two things are happening concurrently, because they aren't really "connected" but look as if they are, so there's a big wave of cynicism about the whole process, when the "Catman" is, in his mind, actually a good thing.

I agree with him about the cyncism, cause I'm certainly feeling it, but wanted to say "John, there's hasn't been a memo or anything saying what's going on. All most of us have seen are managers running around, doing overnights and whatnot, with a sign up offering overtime that's never handed out unless the bigwigs are coming and we have to put on the usual dog-and-pony show, so I think the cyncism is pretty understandable".

As for the "Catman", I'm not going to poop on it before I see the final results–It might be delightful and de-lovely, for all I know–but I don't think re-configuring how the books are organized on the shelf is going to matter much; The issue, in my mind, doesn't have to do with "Catman" as much as just not having the time and staff to keep up with shelving, or with "those @#$!! pigs" who come in, basically take a big dump in the store, then complain about the smell (I'm not the only one who is feeling "crapped on" by our customers lately; Last night, Ian shared his fantasy of following a customer home, taking a crap on his living room rug, and saying "How do you like it?").

I've tried to keep my gripes about Borders mostly to myself lately, because the last time I let fly, I quickly realized that even my closest friends don't really "get it", which just made me more depressed and angry; Basically, you either already know what I'm talking about, so why am I bothering to talk about it, or else you don't and never will, so why am I bothering to talk about it?

(Well, I'm "bothering to talk about it" because this is my journal, but you know what I mean...)

The other thing that hasn't been "working" for me at the store lately is our most recently promotion, which ended yesterday (Thank God!).

We were doing a promotion where if you bought three books, one of them would be 50% off. Sounds pretty good, doncha think? But not to our customers–There was so much crying and whining about the discounted book being "of equal or lesser value" that you'd have thought we were hitting them over the head and stealing their wallets! It made something that should have been fun–I actually like giving a break to people, if it seems to brighten their day–instead something that just made me feel that much cynical about "the public", at least "the public" that I get to deal with on a daily basis.

Was this promotion, or the whole idea of a store "promotion", really that tough to understand? Am I missing something? I mean, I'm not very good at math or economics, but I understand the basic idea of a "store", where the goal is to make "money" from the sale of "goods", so to me, it just makes sense that we're not going to sell you a paperback for $8.95, and let you walk out with a $100 art book for 50% off. Because then, you see, the store would lose money, and that would be a bad thing.

Anyway, it was pretty dispiriting, to hear all the pissing and moaning over what should have been, in my mind, something that was good for everyone, but there's a lot of that at this bookstore–You give people a break of some kind, and more likely than not, the thanks you get is "That's it...?". Sometimes, it seems like what people really want is for you to give them the books, then hand them a $20 out of the register before sending them on their way (But if we did that, I'll bet you anything before long customers would be saying "Barnes and Noble gives you the books, takes $50 out of the register, and gives you a coupon for a free coffee and pastry from their cafe...").

I know what you're thinking–"Didn't you start out saying you'd had a pretty good week at the store?"–and the answer is "Yes I did". But it's complicated, you see; If it weren't, I'd be out pounding the pavement for another job.

So here, for a little bit of balance, are a list of things, in no particular order, that I like about the store:

1. (And this actually is "Number One" in my thinking) The people I work with are, by and large, really cool. If everything about the store were the same, but I didn't like my coworkers as much as I do, I would be gone in a heartbeat. They make the Borders corporate crap, the low wage, the piggish/unappreciative customers, and all the rest of it, bearable.

2. I continue to like the environment. It doesn't hold a candle to Schuler Books–at least the Schuler Books I knew and loved (I can't speak of the new "superstore" in the Meridian Mall, or the one Rhoda manages on Lake Lansing road, or wherever it is)–but it's me surrounded by books and magazines and cds and dvds, and that's a good thing (When I worked at Schulers, it was just the bookstore and the café; Now that they're at the mall, they also sell cds and dvds).

3. Some time back, we started carrying comic books, which has been great; I've never grown out of my love for comic books, but at some point they started feeling like a not very "cost effective" entertainment option for a guy with not much disposable income, so I essentially gave them up. But now I can read them to my juvenile heart's delight (And going back to #1, there's a whole gang of guys here who are also comic book geeks–some much more serious about it than I am-- so if I feel a need to discuss my response to the latest "Batman" or "Hulk" comic, there's probably someone around who will be happy to engage me in a spirited discussion/debate on the subject).

4. A $30 monthly book credit is pretty nice (Though sometimes I feel like that's offset by my making such a low wage that I still can't buy the number of books/cds/dvds I would if I had an actual income to work with). And I don't know what I'm going to do when I get out of the bookstore biz and no longer have a 25% discount...though hopefully, the reason I'll have gotten out of the bookstore biz in the first place is that I'm making serious bank in the acting biz, and won't need the discount anymore.

5. For a guy who likes free stuff, there's free stuff to be had–From the free coffee and tea in the café, to the promotional books, cds, and so forth that are offered up on a semi-regular basis (I just counted, and almost half of my blues cds are promotional items from the bookstore).

Well, I could drone on–I'm feeling like I have a lot I want to say about this and that lately–but this is going to be a long entry as is, and besides, I have to go move my car before I get ready for work.



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