retail news in context, analysis with attitude

It isn’t terribly relevant to anything that we talk about here, but someone pointed out to me yesterday that the Christian book business has embraced two sub-genres in an effort to bolster sales. One is something called “Amish fiction,” which features romances and family sagas that appeal because of their old fashioned values; the other is “Christian vampire lit,” which is exactly what it sounds like.

So my first thought upon hearing this was that the book I’d like to read would be a combination of the genres – a good vampire story that takes place in an Amish community. In fact, that might make a pretty good teen horror movie, when you think about it.

Then again, maybe not.

Because vampires probably wouldn’t want to go to an Amish town. Because, when you think about it, that’s one place where there probably would be an ample supply of crosses and wooden stakes.




USA Today reports that a new study – possibly the first to probe the connection between commuting and health – suggests that only 17 percent of American workers either walk or bike to work each day. Those that did, however, showed higher fitness levels on treadmill tests, suggesting that even casual exercise can have beneficial effects.

The problem, of course, is that too few communities have infrastructures – walking and bike paths – that encourage such methods of commuting. Which is too bad. Maybe some of the government’s stimulus package should be spent building bike and walking paths, which would then help to lower the nation’s health care costs.

That’s what I call synergy, baby.

Just for the record, I walk to work each morning…after rolling out of bed at 5 am, I stagger about 14 steps into the kitchen, where the laptop awaits. And then, later in the day, I generally walk the quarter mile or so down to MNB World Headquarters.

Though I don't think any of these efforts are going to do me any good on the treadmill.




It is amazing what one can find on the Internet. I saw something the other day on a site called “Ethonomics Weekly,” in which it was reported that scientists will shortly be able to produce hydrogen from human urine, which could then be used to fuel hydrogen cars.

This sort of takes recycling to a new level, and sounds like a wonderful idea…especially if they could come up with a way to make the whole process happen inside the car, which would dramatically reduce the likelihood that anyone would ever run out of gas again.




Just finished one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read: “The Night of the Gun,” by David Carr.

Subtitled “A Reporter Investigates The Darkest Story Of His Life: His Own,” this is an absolutely harrowing book about the New York Times media columnist in which he frankly looks at his own drug and alcohol addiction while working as a reporter in the Minneapolis market. It is no-holds-barred, in part because Carr doesn’t trust his own memories and goes back to the scene of his personal crimes to interview people with whom he partied and crashed, people he victimized, people who were helpless as he came perilously close to completely destroying his own life. He makes no excuses, nor does he look for forgiveness; Carr is just looking to understand his own motivations and actions.

As I said, this is a profoundly disturbing read. But I couldn’t put it down, because both the story and the writing are utterly compelling. It helps that we know as we begin the book that it has a happy ending; but the journey is gripping. I cannot recommend it enough.




Sad news from Boston, where a Cambridge fixture for more than a quarter century, Kate’s Mystery Books, will close down on August 1.

Owner Kate Mattes has been a dedicated and passionate supporter of the genre, and writes ranging from Robert B. Parker to Dennis Lehane has passed through her front door.

Such changes are inevitable in a world of Kindles and superstores. But that doesn’t mean that we are richer for them.




I have a little something different to recommend on the beverage front this week…something called a St. Germain cocktail.

St. Germain is a French liqueur made, believe it or not, from elderflower blossoms. (I can't even believe I just wrote those words, but there it is. The fact is that St. Germain is refreshing and tasty and perfect for a hot summer evening, which is enough for me.)

Here’s how you make it. Nice tall glass. Two shots of Champagne (I like Prosecco) or Sauvignon Blanc. One-and-a-half shots of St. Germain. Two shots of sparkling water. Add ice. Stir. Add lemon twist as garnish.

Thank me later.




Interesting news from the BBC which reports that moderate consumption of alcohol can lower your risk of dementia…though if you veer into “high consumption,” defined as more than 14 drinks a week, you may double your dementia risk.




BTW…I also had a wonderful beer that I’d never tasted before: Captain Lawrence Pale Ale, a perfectly balanced ale that is made by a Pleasantville, NY, brewery. Great stuff.




I’m sorry. Was I saying something about dementia?




By the way, for those of you convinced that I’m wrong on the whole “movie downloads inevitably will replace DVD rentals” issue, I submit for you consideration the following from the Los Angeles Times this week:

In its bid to keep pace with rivals, Blockbuster Inc. has reached a deal with Samsung Electronics America to offer its OnDemand movie rental service through Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players and home theater systems.

The rental giant said the service, available this fall, would give Blockbuster customers the option of renting newly released movies without driving to the neighborhood video store or waiting for home delivery of a DVD through the mail. Viewers could browse, order and watch films using their remote controls -- as long as they have the right hardware, and the TV set or Blu-ray player is connected to the Internet.


Now, to be fair, Blockbuster isn’t giving up on the DVD rental business. But the folks running the company understand that the world is changing – after all, they used to rent VHS tapes. They need to be in the downloading business because that’s where the world is going.




That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

Sláinte!!
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