Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Sublime Z Returns, Only Now a Designated Master

One of the best things about being out of school, as I've observed before, is the added time for pleasure reading. When you're in any kind of academic program, especially those leading toward a degree, there tends to be a guilty feeling that wells up from deep inside whenever you read merely for the sake of reading, because there's always some additional bit of studying or reading you could instead be doing for school. And that goes double for blogging. I'm just thrilled that my close pal Anton Zuiker, a sublime wordsmith ("he wields a mean pen," as his friend Joe Cimperman has observed) and the person who has more of his life on the web than anyone I know is back to regular, almost daily, blogging since completing his master's degree in journalism this spring. Lord knows, he's got plenty to write about these days: he's a new father (again), a new homeowner (my prayers go with you, Z) and a new job-hunter. And I'm REALLY looking forward to rooming with him up in Boston in early December for what has become the best annual journalism conference in America, the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism, at Harvard. I would suggest heavy security for that event, because if a bomb ever went off at that conference, it would pretty much obliterate the craft of serious long-form literary journalism in America. Look for Anton's relaunched Zuiker Chronicles sometime soon...

Newest Blogger. Sleaze peddler/film director Quentin Tarantino, whom I would suggest should have remained a clerk at Blockbuster Video, recently began a blog (sorry, I know I should link to it, but I just can't summon the psychic energy). If you have somehow missed this seminal cultural event, here's a typical gem-like passage that you have missed, a response to a question from one fan about why a prior post was erased.
I met Justin yesterday in LA. Of course I remember! He's a cool guy! He likes Sergio Leone films, too. In response to your other question, I had to delete some of the entries because my lawyer told me it wasn't wise to call a kid negatively influenced by PULP FICTION a "dumbass," and then create a "stupid rant with way too many fucks in it for your own good."I apologize to those who read what I said yesterday, but I was a bit drunk in the evening. That's what happens I guess. It wasn't wise at all to post some of the bullshit I posted. No offense meant to anyone.
This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic, and if Tarantino wasn't considered a serious person by far too many otherwise intelligent people. His Pulp Fiction was so sick and twisted, while fumbling around in a vain attempt at some kind of theological profundity, as to leave me feeling sick. But then, it doesn't stand out much in Hollywood in that regard...

Joseph-Beth Featured in WSJ. My fav neighborhood indy bookshop, Joseph-Beth's, was nicely featured with a splash in a front-page piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (online only for subscribers). It contained some interesting details I didn't know: that the six mega-stores gross $50 million and have profit margins of 2% (or about $1 million), and that they make their largest margins on the food served at their full-service restaurants. But most interesting of all was the fact that founder Neil Van Uum (a Cleveland native and an Ignatius grad) got his start in the business through an ironic marital connection with the founders of the archrival Borders Books chain, which sold to K-Mart a decade ago. His ex-wife's brothers gave him advice on retailing and purchasing, and his father-in-law lent the couple money to open their first store, in Kentucky. The piece nicely captures the difficult balancing act Jo-Beth manages between at least seeming indy (it is, after all, a chain, if only a small one) while also beating the dreaded B chains (Borders and Barnes & Noble) at their own game, by building even larger individual locations than they have. As I told the company's marketing manager when she emailed me from Kentucky (after googling their name and finding an entry last August on Working With Words, entitled Bookstores We Have Loved), Joseph Beth does a good job at remaining just local enough to remind me of the sadly defunct best Cleveland independent bookstore ever, Joan Hulbert's Booksellers on Chagrin (where the aforementioned Anton once worked). Oh, how I would love to have that hallowed place back again...


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