Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dear Borders - Here's why you're bankrupt.

Dear Borders Marketers Who Made D's in Biz School:

I love Borders bookstores but there isn't one anywhere NEAR me.

However, when I was visiting North Carolina a few years ago, I shopped in a Waldenbooks, and the clerk suggested I get the Borders Rewards card and I figured, Hey, why not? Once in awhile I'm in a town that has one. You get other deals too! he, smiling, said.

So via email, I have been getting "offers" for years. Great stuff. Jewelry (don't care), discounts on cruises! (do not care), wine (who the bleep cares?!), ski equipment (oh please), clothes, but never what I needed when I needed it.

Till today!

My dear light jacket bit the dust this week. I love it. In fact, I still fancy paying to replace the zipper and keeping it, but it's a little worn after about 7-8 years of 3-season wear, so I thought, OK, need a jacket.

All of my mother's clothes are still next door and Dad said recently that it's getting to be time to find them good homes. I would love to just adopt one of her jackets. Only, I went through everything, and she never wore light jackets. Sweatshirt jackets in the yard, and blazers when she went out, but nothing similar to my late lamented jacket.

Next : the shopping dread. I've been wearing a parka and putting off the shopping. Funny how I used to love clothes shopping and now it's a chore. And I have a LOT of things I both need to do and prefer to do these days.

Today, my Borders Rewards email popped up with -- at last! -- 25% off at L. L. Bean!

You complete and utter jerks.

When I went to the offer, I got a message that the offer was "locked" and that a complex set of interlocking rules and requirements sets the rules for actually using these great offers.

People: There is nothing more deeply stupid than complex sets of interlocking rules and requirements. Give a coupon, don't give a coupon, give a smaller coupon, I give not a damn, but when you play manipulative little games with me, I guarantee you I don't play.

In this case, you wanted me to earn 50,000 (yes, I typed that correctly) points in order to have this offer "unlocked" and I needed to spend the last several years accumulating those points by clicking "offers" similar to this one, hundreds of times. Spiked-heel boots, cruises, wine, nose rings, whatever crap has no relevance to my life, just to get (50? or so?) points each time, as I waited like Rapunzel for the point-accumulation to grow like hair, long enough for your stupid Reward to crawl up and reach me.

"Rewards" is an odd term for this.

Motivating buyers by helping them feel like they're working for an actual reward isn't a bad business strategy in itself. I just got two cool Cuisinart cookware thingies by saving stamps at my local Piggly Wiggly, and I did feel like I was doing something smart and thrifty and getting a payoff for the effort.

But the amount of "kiss our ass one more time for a few more crumbs of points" you require....

Let's just say that I kinda know why you just filed Chapter 11.

Meanwhile, a couple years after I got that Borders card, my friend Catherine (Hi, Cath!) forwarded me a better sale-stuff source.

Shop-It-To-Me is quick, it's easy, you tailor to your own detailed preferences the email offers you'll receive, and the frequency with which you receive them.

Via today's email, they had a nice little Eddie Bauer jacket, not only a third off, but with a free shipping offer.

And they didn't make me do anything more than put it in my basket, type the free shipping coupon code in and pay 'em.

So Borders Folks, I hope you keep going, but I really hope you do better, and fire that section of your marketing department.

Thanks awfully (because it was awful),

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's good to hear modern rockers sing a traditional song the traditional way.

I do understand the frustration some people feel when singers put some kind of new interpretation on a standard. This is one of my personal favorites, and I was so glad to run into this version by 2 rock singers who do right by it.

I mean, it has a melody. It has lyrics.

Especially lyrics.

Original lyrics. They were probably never completely impossible to find, but the vast majority of popular singers did a version with the lyrics altered. One commenter on this video actually thinks the nice versions she's always heard were the real thing.

Here it is, original lyrics (mostly) restored by those Great Traditionalists, Rod Stewart and Cher!

And Happy Valentines Day.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

I expected worse

I'm going to go against the tide here. Admittedly, I'm not a football person, and I'm not an any-sport person when the game becomes like an Oscar ceremony that has to be dragged out for a gazillion hours of sponsor time.

But I kept hearing about this performance and so I finally pulled up the video. And thought, "Um, OK, bungled the words." That's both a not-uncommon problem, and, yes, you bet, something to strongly criticize. She's a professional singer and it's not too much to ask for her to learn the words.

Stage brain-failure can happen to anyone. I'll never forget Alan Sherman forgetting the words to his own song ("Return to Camp Granada") on live TV (Yes, that's how old I am.) Anyway, i'm skeptical as to whether Aguilera's flub was stage fright rather than laziness, so, yes, flubbing the words is criticism-worthy.

But the performance? I liked it. If she had not bungled that line, I can't help but wonder if anyone would care.

She did literally perform it, with some vocal calisthenics and emotion.

But I was expecting outright disrespectful histrionics, and all I saw was typical singer-acting to convey the strong emotion of spotting the flag after a hellacious battle. It seemed in keeping with the song.

The idea that the National Anthem has to be sung like a hymn and never "performed" bothers me. It is not a hymn.

I love my country, I live with a combat veteran who knows and feels what the flag means, but in my opinion, patriotism is not on the level with worship of God. And an anthem that grew out of a dramatic event can be, not just sung reverentially, but performed with drama.

That's just me. Her styling and her voice quality came within my parameters for dignity. Close to the edge but not over it.

I'll add that it would suit me fine if the whole celebrity National Anthem thing ended. What a fabulous opportunity it would be for some talented unknown to get this job every year. Half-time has plenty of celebrities. Enough with the celebrities.

Expectations have a lot to do with perception. Something can seem "better" when you were expecting "worse," Everything I've read had me ready for "Let's Do the Time-Warp Again," so that could affect my feeling.

On the other hand, I can't help but feel that viewer perception that the anthem was being treated disrespectfully was also affected by cutaways to players, some of whom were mugging, looking like it was wasting their time, and generally being disrespectful during it.

Anyway, for those who missed it, here it is :

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Faces to go with the names

Back in December I posted "One Hundred Christmases," about books given as Christmas gifts among my family members, starting way back. So now that i've found some photos of the earliest gift givers, I thought I'd blog them. Here are the three sisters; Bell, Iola, and Jessamine.

I never knew Bell, and I don't think I've ever seen this picture before. My mother, bless her! sorted and labeled gazillions of old photos and I'm slowly going through them. Nice to meet you, Bell! Probably a photo from, maybe, 20 years after the one of her little sisters, which follows. She was older but not this much older!

I did know both of these ladies; Jessamine was my great great aunt, and lived to age 92, when I was 18! And next to her, the middle sister, my great grandmother, Iola. She did live to a ripe old age, but died when I was 5 :

Iola a bit later; my great grandparents as newlyweds. Pretty happy, despite her rather glum expression.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Book therapy

No, this book is not therapeutic. Interesting, yes, but uplifting ... no.

This absolutely charmed me in the bookstore. Then I read it.

It's categorized as a graphic novel, though it has pages of straight-out text. Makes it look like a kids' book which it absolutely, emphatically IS NOT. Graphic novels is the best category for it.

It has a totally cool concept. A discontented young woman roams the streets at night and, one night, encounters a mysterious bookmobile that runs only at night.

It's her own personal magic bookmobile, run by her own personal otherworldly librarian. It contains every book she's ever read. Actually, it has everything she's ever read, including letters, cereal boxes, etc. Only what she's already read, nothing she should, or wants to, or would want to read. Just her past.

Is this an awesome idea? What a great way to get in touch with her lost self.

So I think it's going to be a charming story about...what? the healing power of books? revisiting your past and reconnecting with your old dreams and fantasies, and how that can help you get your life unstuck?

No. It's about how avoiding Real Life relationships and achievements by book obsession, like any retreat from reality, can be sick and destructive.

And though charming, it's not, it is food for thought, which is what a book should be. But, while getting the message, one of my thoughts was, Boy would I write a different story if I came up with this idea.

If it were up to me, the heroine, when told she really cannot just leave the regular world and live in the bookmobile, would buy an old RV and start her own, everyday-life Bookmobile.

And if she didn't go that route, still, I'd have the otherworldly librarian suggest it when she expressed her discontent with her life and asked to stay.

She couldn't supernaturally amass the books of someone's life, but she could stock her 'mobile with all the books that she loved, books that helped her and fed her soul through hard times, and she could set out to help unhappy night-wanderers by finding just the right book for them.

This, of course, is my concept, not the author's. Freedom of speech, right to say what she wants to say, yadda yadda, but I like my concept vastly better.

What I would put in such a bookmobile could be a whole post, but here's where I'd start:

The Oxford Book of Eighteenth Century Verse.

I often say that writing a novel doesn't mean I know diddly about literature. It's not modesty, it's the truth, and when I have an impression of some genre or period in literature, I'm likely to be simpleminded in the extreme and to embarrass myself by voicing it, but I'll go out on a limb and say this :

18th century poetry is, like, the Intermission in literary history, where you can take a break between the religious poets and their Journey to Death, and the Romantics and their "My Love is in The Grave" and Life's Fragility, and just go have a Coke and candy bar in the warm light of the lobby.

Sure, some poets of other eras get happy and some get serious here too, but so much of the book is loaded with humor --often deliciously biting humor-- joy, and hope. There's a whole, admittedly "the Titanic is unsinkable," kind of feeling that the amazing discoveries we're making about the cosmos are the beginning of our mastery over pain, wear and decay, injustice and conflict, everything. Life still hurts but there's light ahead; Reason will banish it all.

So far, all that optimism is quite unfulfilled, but mostly, reading this poetry is a joyful interlude.

So I'd certainly have a bunch of copies of this in stock. "Feeling low? Dip into this."