Friday, September 26, 2008
by Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, and Blair Underwood
started 9/17 finished 9/24
This is the second in the Tennyson Hardwick series. Hardwick is a former gigolo, current actor who solves crimes. He doesn't go out and look for detective work, they just seem to happen around him, Murder She Wrote style. I read Casanegra last year and was very pleased with it. The collaboration between these three writers works well.
In this installment, Hardwick is on the verge of losing his acting career and maybe his girlfriend because of his past. He is asked to be a bodyguard for his former college classmate, T.D. Jackson, who was recently acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her fiance (sound familiar?). Because of scheduling concerns, Hardwick must turn him down. When Jackson himself turns up dead, Hardwick is asked to investigate at the request of the family. As it turns out, he may also discover if Jackson really killed his wife or not.
Even though these books are obviously written with the end goal of being on the big screen, the authors don't ignore the nuances of creating well-rounded characters. Yes, Hardwick is impossibly attractive, smart, an expert at martial arts, and well-endowed - but he is also flawed and pulled in several directions at the same time. Chasing a murderer across the country while planning the prom for the teenage ex-prostitute you're raising is not easy!
If you haven't read Casanegra yet, go get it. You should read it before you pick this one up as several story lines continue. Fortunately, readers are responding well to this series, so the authors will write more. I can't wait for the next one.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
A couple months ago, this young woman comes up to customer service and says she lost her yellow sweater. Nobody had turned one in, but a few hours later it turned up at the registers but she was long gone. I grabbed the sweater and went to put it in lost and found. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a button and went "that looks familiar". The tag inside said Tory Burch. I was so excited, but couldn't really share it with my co-workers because none of them have a clue who Tory Burch is.
A couple of years ago I went to lunch in the mall across the street from work. This mall is pretty high end - Gucci, Armani, Saks Fifth Avenue. As I was walking through I notice a very stylish trio. They were too well put together to be Atlanta natives, because this is not a very fashionable city. Sorry, Atlantans, it isn't. I think the upcoming Real Housewives of Atlanta will prove it. I can usually spot New Yorkers and Los Angelenos a mile away. Anyway, as I passed by them I recognized one of them as Tory Burch. She was opening a store in the mall. I went back to work all excited, but that was short lived because I was met with blank stares.
Last week, I rescued that sweater from lost and found (just like I did with the digital camera last year) and brought it home. A few days later on this Monday's Oprah Winfrey show, she had on the same sweater!
I work in a bookstore. A bookstore that is not doing well because of the economy. A bookstore that has recently made a lot of successful cost-cutting decisions to remain viable. The most recent change has been to our return-policy. You now need a receipt to return any product to our stores. Our main competitor has been doing this for years. In the past we would accept product in good condition for exchange or store credit.
Now, dear reader, to you this may not be a big deal. You just see stores as places to shop. You like for those stores to be well-stocked and offer variety. But to the stores themselves, in these harsh economic times, a well-stocked store is just future money sitting on shelves. If you have future money just sitting on a shelf not being converted into now-money, why would you add more to it?
There has been mixed reaction to the policy. We've had people who accept it and our apology and leave. We've had people who want to stand and argue with us, ask for the highest up manager available and threaten us with further action. We had one guy yesterday spend 20 minutes of his life trying to return a DVD box set, pleading his case, saying how the policy was unfair, reiterating over and over how much money he spends there and would hate to take his business elsewhere - only to go to his car and produce a receipt. He could have saved precious minutes of his life by looking for that receipt before he came in the store.
A woman came in with her 8 or 9 year old son to return some books she bought over the weekend. We sent her a coupon on Tuesday and she wanted to return the books and re-buy them with the coupon. We don't do that. Never have. This ain't Macy's. The cashier told her this. The customer asked to speak to a manager. During that hour, that was me. As I got closer to her, I heard her say to her son, "...they are not going to be accommodating to us." She had obviously been getting him a little riled up about the situation, because by the time I got to the counter he was looking a little self-important with a "get her Mom" look on his face.
I smiled and asked what the problem was. I made sure to listen to her without interrupting, because I am never hell-bent on saying no until I hear the whole story. There have been times when the cashier was incorrect and I wound up saying yes to the customer. After she spoke her peace, I let her know that we don't apply current coupons on past purchases (it is in the fine print) and that especially without the receipt there was nothing I could do. Every time I said "I can't", she would interrupt me and say, "You mean you won't". This happened about 3 times. I explained the corporate policy and how our hands were tied. She tried to play the "I'll take my business elsewhere" card. She made a big to-do about putting her books back in the bag. I apologized again and said that there wasn't anything that I could do. Then her son, yelled at me "You can break the rules this one time."
I don't have children, but I can still do "The Look". The one that your parents gave you when they couldn't fully go off on you because you were in public place. My look was a combination of that one and the one that the Supernanny gives during her first visit with a family of children out of control. I felt my blood pressure boiling. My co-worker told me afterward that I actually took a step back. That step probably saved my job. We have to eat a lot of crow working in retail - the customers (more than you think) that gladly let people behind him in line go first so they can wait for a white cashier; the gentleman who visits daily wearing racist and misogynist t-shirts like a walking billboard; the gentleman who tells us weekly how bad we are and he will never shop there again, but is back the next week....any many more. But I have never been yelled at by a child.
The mother did mildly reprimand him and left. I went back upstairs to my office, worked my last hour, stopped by the grocery store, picked up some Haagan Dazs and went home. That is what I do when stuff like that happens at work. And that is why I am fat.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
When I got home, Sex and the City was in my mailbox from Netflix and I am going to get lost in that world for a couple of hours.
I'll post tomorrow.
Friday, September 19, 2008
So, those of us in the retail industry realized the economy was slipping way before it started making the news. Our sales have slipped steadily since the beginning of the year as people have less and less discretionary income. Also, returns of items started to pick up, especially those without a receipt. Lately, though, the returns are getting out of hand - it's almost like the days after Christmas!
Now there are always people who seem to clean off their bookshelves and try to bring books back to us sometimes in large shopping bags. They think we are a library and that they can just exchange their old books for new ones. On the upside, though, they are usually serious readers who take care of their books and are therefore re-saleable. No crumbs in the pages!
This new breed, however, just bring anything in and expect us take it back. Today I get called to the register to approve a return without a receipt. When I get there the customer has left the books there and is presumably browsing the store for items she wanted to get in exchange. She brought back 9 books!
What I Wouldn't Take Back:
3 books had yellow pages, dirt on the cover.
1 book was a hardcover book from the first year of Oprah's BookClub - we don't even carry it in paperback anymore.
1 book that was water damaged.
What I Did Take Back:
1 hardcover book, recently published in excellent condition
1 paperback book, recently published in excellent condition
She had a hardcover version of Bob Greene's The Best Life Diet and it's companion journal.
Both in excellent condition.
But, we don't carry the hardcover anymore; we only carry it in paperback. I refused that return.
We do carry the journal as a current title.
When people return books you always have to look through the books because people try to bring back books that have been written in (test books usually like the GRE or LSAT), or that their grandfather wrote an inscription in when he gave it to them.
I open up the journal and inside was a card that read:
"Thank you for visiting the Oprah show in November. I hope you enjoy you Best Life Diet set ...blah, blah, blah." signed - Bob Greene
That heffa got those books for free!!! She had money to go to Chicago and see the Oprah Winfrey Show, but now she is cleaning off her shelves!!??!!
Sure enough, the woman comes back to the register dressed to the nines with the new things she wanted to buy. She seemed fine with the way things turned out and wound up owing us 61 cents which she took her time digging out of her Christian Dior wallet!
I did take the journal back because I was feeling charitable. Plus our policy changes next week and no more returns without a receipt...period!! HA!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Why? Because The Wire, despite being considered by many critics as being one of the best shows in the history of television has only been nominated for an award twice in the Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. It lost in 2005 to an episode of House. I could write an episode of House. Give someone an obscure disease that no regular doctor can figure out. Make sure that person lives in Boston so they can wind up in the hospital that Dr. House works in. Now for the next 40 minutes have Dr. House scare his staff into figuring out what's wrong with the patient. While they are working, make sure that Dr. House is somewhere else in the hospital pissing off the bosses, the staff, and the family of the sick person. Right before the person dies have Dr. House run in and save their life. There. Done. Give me an Emmy.
The Wire should have been sweeping the Emmy's, winning awards left and right, Desperate Housewives style. But they have only been nominated twice for writing. Which they deserved to be, but for all five seasons. Not one nomination for acting, directing, even craft services (cuz you know that filming in Baltimore, they had the crazy seafood buffets).
Maybe I am taking this too personally. Maybe I feel slighted because I feel like I know these people. Maybe Proposition Joe's Maryland (pronounce Mer-Land) accent made me extremely homesick. Maybe watching The Wire and listening to Wale is just too much DMV (D.C. Maryland Virginia) overload for someone stuck in the Dirrty South.
This was just good television. The writing was real and gritty and even funny at times. It was so genius that the lines between the good guys and the bad guys were often blurred, forcing you to think really hard about whose side you were on. The acting was superb, considering the number of previously unknown and untried actors on the show. The storylines focused on the illegal urban drug trade and law enforcement. But the secondary stories covering politics, the newspaper business, education, and the docks taught me about those industries while entertaining me.
So, in response to the snubbing of The Wire by the Emmy's, I will be snubbing them. I won't even watch the red carpet arrivals. I'll just catch the dresses in People Magazine the next week. If I miss any especially good hosting or acceptance speeches, let me know and I will find them on You Tube later. For now, f**k 'em!
”It’s like them never giving a Nobel Prize to Tolstoy,” said Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the Slate Group and a correspondent for Slate.com. ”It doesn’t make Tolstoy look bad, it makes the Nobel Prize look bad.”
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
started 8/29 finished 9/10
I felt that it took me longer to read this book than I wanted it to, because the story moved a little slow. Surprisingly, this wasn't a bad thing because I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. Grace is a pharmaceutical scientist who switches over to sales. Who can pitch antidepressants to doctors better than the person who created it, right? But this change doesn't give her live the kick start that she envisions and she dreams of quitting and becoming a yoga teacher. Her romantic relationship failing and a chance meeting with a doctor who has his own unfulfilled dreams spurs her to chuck it all and leave her London home to travel to California for extensive yoga teacher training.
She comes home to carve out a new life building a yoga clientele from unexpected places and maybe to new love.
This novel touched me in an unexpected way. While on the surface we have nothing in common, I really identified with Grace and her search for a more meaningful life. Those close to me know that I am constantly complaining about my life and its lack of direction. (I'm starting to get on my own nerves!) I don't want to be a yoga teacher, but I would like to go on an extensive yoga retreat to kind of refocus my energies and my life. Also, like Grace, I long for a new career, but unlike her, I have no clue what that would be. I really need a life coach, but there aren't too many available to people in my (really low) tax bracket.
Anyway, enough about me, this book was a well-crafted, believable story of reformation. Although it is a work of fiction, I think that readers of Eat, Pray, Love would enjoy The Yoga Teacher.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
So I took the opportunity to clean and oil my machines and then I set up a reminder on iwantsandy.com to do it once a month.
Next up I will sew a bunch of black garments because I want more options in my work wardrobe and also so I can sew a lot and not have to change the thread!!