Monthly Archives: January 2011

Where did all the bookstores go?

Bookstores, the ones built of brick and mortar anyway, are in serious trouble. The two big heavyweights, Barnes and Noble and Borders, are suffering and they’re struggling to survive.

Given that Amazon.com now sells close to 50% of all book sales in North America, it looks like the only place someone might see Barnes and Noble or Borders in ten years will be online, if at all.

Big name bookstores are looking less and less viable, at least, in their current incarnation.

This really isn’t news for anyone who’s been paying attention. Online bookstores, which cut overhead costs and cut book prices, and the popularity of ereaders are doing their damage. What’s shocking to me is how little emotion I feel about it.

It is sad that these stores are in trouble. I don’t want to see them go out of business, if only for the sake the employees who work there, but that’s about the extent of my emotional involvement. I believe it’s inevitable that the brick-and-mortar megabookstore will cease to exist at some point. Over the next ten years or so, they’ll exist in a very limited capacity, dotting the landscape like aging woolly mammoths.

The bookstores that will survive, I think, are those locally owned, used bookstores. They peddle in wares you can’t so easily get and they offer people the ability to browse in a more visceral way. That might be enough to keep them going.

My apathy comes not from a hatred of books. I love books. I want people to read lots of books, all the time. Society needs books and ideas and the written word to stay healthy. But, to that end, anything that gets people books is a good thing. Anything that makes the process easier and quicker is a good thing. Online bookstores mean you can find what you want quickly and get it (eventually). Ereaders cut that time even shorter.

There are changes, big changes coming to the book selling industry, but those changes are the result of more efficient systems taking their place. It’s not the death of books or the death of bookstores. It’s just the next step in their evolution.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Major Diskovery

I haven’t been to a used bookstore since I left Durham. I used to go to Nice Price Books when I lived down there, but lately I’ve been deprived. I missed the smell of old books and browsing through stacks, not knowing what I’m going to find. That’s the major appeal of a used bookstore: you don’t know what you’re going to find there. Books over a hundred years old, pulps from the ’50’s, that one VHS tape that you have to have even if you don’t have a VCR anymore; it could all be there, so long as you take the time to look.

So I went looking for one in the stupidest way possible: I opened the door to my apartment, picked a direction and started walking. An hour later I was in Oak Square and standing in front of Diskovery, which promised CASSETTES, RECORDS and USED BOOKS. Glory be praised, I had found a used bookstore and it’s the best bookstore EVER.

When I walked in, I quailed at the sight of so many books. There were shelves crammed with books. Books were piled knee high on the floor. There were boxes of books stacked on other boxes of books with piles of books on top of the boxes of books. The shelves were packed full two books deep. There were pulps and new hardcovers and old hardcovers and Starlogs and so much vinyl that I developed a vinyl allergy on the spot.

I picked my way past the books, trying not to knock over the piles and I saw a glass case filled with cassette tapes. I noted this, stepped forward, paused and turned back. There was a cat sleeping with the cassettes. Nonplussed, I continued deeper into the store, only to find my way blocked by another cat. I scratched its head and it let me pass.

There was so much to see that I know I missed three quarters of what’s actually there. It’s a store filled to the brim with books and it’s even organized, though not labeled. I would bump into a section and realize I was in true crime or religious studies or music.

I need to go back. I MUST go back. It’s right on the 57 line in Oak Square. Go check it out if you’re in the area.

Dylan Charles

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Jazzed

I generally consider myself fairly open minded about music. I listen to stuff that hasn’t been popular in almost fifty years. I occasionally listen to an indie rocker or two. Hell, bring on a rapper and I’ll give ‘im a try.

But the one type of music I’ve never been able to get into is jazz. It’s not for lack of trying. Or maybe it is for lack of trying. I’ve never tried too hard. I look at the sheer depth and breadth of jazz and become overwhelmed. I back away and I run away, heading for the comfort of a Bob Seger song.

There’s so many shifting contours of winding music that it seems remarkably easy to get lost. Where do I start? How do I even pick the first damn thing to listen to? Trying to grab ahold of smoke seems like an easier endeavor. John Coltrane? Miles Davis? Billie Holiday? Charlie Parker? Which person do I choose? And then which songs? Or which albums for that matter. It seems like certain albums need to be listened to in their entirety. No picking or choosing with “Kind of Blue”. Whole thing, man.

I need a Virgil is what I need. I need a guide to help step my way through this strange new landscape. This is my way of asking for recommendations.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Going the Distance

I have a huge problem with exercise: it’s not instantaneous. I’ve always had this problem.  I’d run for a few days and I’d still be winded or my time wouldn’t dramatically increase and then I’d get discouraged and stop. I couldn’t see any real progress being made and that was inordinately frustrating.

And I’m running into that same wall again. “God damn it, why aren’t I instantly in shape now? I ran for THREE DAYS.” That’s not a joke. That’s how I really feel.

What makes it even more frustrating is that I’m fully aware of how stupid that is. Getting into shape isn’t going to take three days or a week or two weeks. And it’s not something I can just attain and then stop doing. “Wellp, I done my running, I can quit till the End of Days.”

This time, I’m glad I have a bigger goal than just “get into shape.” I want to box. I want to step into the ring and see how that feels, so I can either let it go or keep at it. And because I have something very specific to set my eyes on, I think I can keep this up. Even on those days when I feel like I should be doing better. Even on those days when I’m panting and I’m feeling every cigarette and every day I just sat in a chair for ten hours and every double quarterpounder (with cheese!).

All this so I can let some big dude whale on me for three, three minute rounds.

I am not sane.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Sporting: Baseball, Boxing and Sports Not Starting with a B

Ringside Fascination

This is going to sound a little bit silly, but I’m not sure why I want to box. I have no clue where my fascination in the sport comes from. I’m not sure why I’ve read two books on boxers (Unforgivable Blackness and Sweet Thunder) and ordered two more (Hard Times Man and King of the World). I’m not sure why I enjoy watching fights that are a century old and especially when I know the outcome already.

Normally, it doesn’t bother me too much when I don’t know where my interests spring from. “I wonder why I love zombies,” I’ll think to myself and then go back to watching the Dawn of the Dead remake for the tenth time. But now that I’ve actually decided to step into the ring, I feel like maybe I should take a step back and look at what’s drawing me into boxing before I let someone rap me upside the head a few times.

Partly, I can’t help but admire boxers like Jack Johnson and Sugar Ray Robinson. Both were men who fought with their thinkin’ smarts just as much as with their gloves. And Jack Johnson did whatever the hell he wanted, in a time when doing so could have gotten him a lynched. He denied the rest of the world.

They both acted fearless, going back time and again to hurt and be hurt. And that’s damned appealing: folks who meet up with a brick wall and say, “Hell with you wall” and knock it right down.

Couple that with my desire to get fit and fighting trim and I guess it starts to make some kind of sense. But I want to go to a fight. One where I don’t know the outcome ahead of time. Maybe I’ll find a way to work that in before I put on some gloves myself.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Sporting: Baseball, Boxing and Sports Not Starting with a B

Dressing the Part

Today I made my first step toward my boxing goal. I went to the store and purchased running shoes.

As  mentioned last time, I’m no where near in shape. So I thunk to myself. What would be the best way to start getting into shape?

Why running of course. With running I could increase my endurance and also start getting into the habit of, you know, exercising. I figure it’s the best way to start some good habits without breaking the bank with a gym membership or expensive equipment.

First things first, I need proper shoes.

I went into City Sports with a list of potential shoe candidates. Or, at least, I thought I had. It turns out I left that at home. So I ended up staring at the Wall of Shoes without a clue. Until City Sports Employee (I’ll call him Tobey since he reminded me of Tobey Maguire), came up and asked me if I needed help.

Once it was determined that I knew nothing about running, he asked if I knew what kind of shoe I needed.

“I need…stable…shoe.”

“Ok, well these are our stability shoes. They’re more for overpronators.”

“Oh I have normal arch! I step on paper and it’s normal!”

“Well, someone with a normal arch usually isn’t an overpronator, but if you take off your shoes and socks I can see what type of step you have.”

So it turns out I’m an overpronator (when I step, I turn my foot inward, causing my arch to flatten more than is normal) and I need stability shoes (shoes with extra support for people with freak feet). A stability shoe helps to correct for my tendency to step wrong and keep me from needlessly injuring myself while running.

After trying on three different shoes, I picked the Saucony Progrid 3, which just felt damn nice. Which is what I’m wearing on my feet right now, cause why the hell not?

So now I have the right shoes (hopefully).  Now I just need to see if I’m capable of sticking to an exercise schedule. Which means drafting an exercise schedule. I have two weeks to get into some kind of shape before I try out a free boxing class. Excitement!

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Sporting: Baseball, Boxing and Sports Not Starting with a B

On Boxing

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m going to take up boxing this year. As I also mentioned in that earlier post, it’s because I watched Rocky a whole mess of times. That’s only about 90% of the reason why however.

I’ve never been in shape, except for that one time that I took a running class in college. That was about four or five years ago now and I only dimly remember what it’s like to run from Point A to Point B without contemplating a nap midway. Coupling this with a series of life decisions that at best could be called “disastrous for my health,” and I am not the pillar of godly healthiness that you might think I am.

So that’s part of it.

“But Dylan!” I hear you saying, “There are other ways to get into shape besides having someone punch you in the head repeatedly!”

“That is true,” I’d say, as I pat you on the head condescendingly, “But I’m using my built-in obsessively competitive nature to bolster my desire to get into shape. One will inform the other. I know that I’m incapable of just exercising. So I’ve got to give myself end goals and a reason to get into shape.”

As part of this process, I’m going to be keeping a journal of sorts on the blog. So you’ll be with me up to the point that I throw my recently purchased boxing gloves on the floor saying, “I quit!”

I think we’re going to have fun!

Later today, I’m buying my first set of running shoes and we’ll see how it goes from there.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Sporting: Baseball, Boxing and Sports Not Starting with a B