Archive for June 18th, 2009

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Today’s Moron: W.H. Smith

June 18, 2009

W.H. Smith is a British bookstore chain that has managed to pull off the worst example of marketing stupidity I’ve seen in a long time. Not since McDonald’s chose “I’d hit that” as its slogan has an advertisement been this stupidly wrong.

If you were to go a W.H. Smith over the past few days, you may have seen a promotion called Top 50 Books For Dad, which also featured the slogan “Dads are Heroes.” And there, on the shelf, among the Dan Browns and Tom Clancys and Clive Cusslers and whatever other “manly” books round out the top 50 was The Crimes Of Josef Fritzl.

Not all dads are heroes. If you don’t know what Fritzl did, look it up. I don’t want to get into it.

I have noticed a bookstore trend in recent years. I’ll be looking for something at one of my city’s two new bookstore, a massive Chapters and a smaller Smithbooks, and it’s clear the staff members aren’t readers. I’ve encountered some who aren’t sure of the distinction between “novel” and “autobiography.” It’s a big reason why I tend to spend more time in my city’s half-dozen excellent used bookstores, which are neighbours on a Victorian downtown street. I’d rather endure dust and tight squeezes to deal with a genuine book expert than be told “Cormac McCarthy, is he, what does he write, sports books?” I wish I’d made that up.

So I guess this could be what happened at W.H. Smith. A spokesperson blames the mistake on one store, saying the decision to promote the Fritzl book as a Father’s Day gift isn’t the chain’s policy. Maybe that’s the case. But someone should have noticed.

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America The Beautiful (And Geeky)

June 18, 2009

As some of you may know, my world-roaming friend Patrick, also known as Chris P. Bacon, is touring the United States. For the past two months, he’s been on a couchsurfing contintental cross-cross, seeing the sights, meeting the people, getting into adventures … He just visited Metropolis, Illinois, and sent me this hilarious postcard to go with the one he sent me from Riverside, Iowa (hometown of Captain Kirk) a couple of weeks ago.

Patrick documents his travels wonderfully, and there seems to be a new album on Facebook every day. His Journey Across America series is up to album 26 or so now, and they’ve been a real treat. But I noticed a trend after a few days: the places he’s visiting are connected by a thread of nerdery. Patrick is on the ultimate hobo fanboy adventure, and we get to share.

Here are my picks for Patrick’s Top 10 (So Far) Stops on One Nerd’s Journey

  1. Graceland. You can probably imagine my envious drool when I saw those photos. I’m a super-charged lifelong Elvis fan, but I’ve still never been to Graceland.
  2. Milwaukee. Patrick dressed like the Fonz to stand beside a life-size statue of the Fonz.
  3. Whitewater rafting in Northern California, With Actual Girls: You know, like that movie The River Wild. With Meryl Streep.
  4. Nashville: After visiting the Grand Ole Opry, Patrick sat in the General Lee. Let that sink in for a moment.
  5. Metropolis, Illinois: Patrick is the world’s biggest Superman fan, so this was a must-see for him. We had plans to go together a few years ago, but I went and kept having kids and stuff. While there, he met the mayor, who stamped his passport with the city seal.
  6. South Dakota: He saw Mount Rushmore. I’m going to Photoshop his face onto it, along with mine, David Hasselhoff’s and The Burger King’s.
  7. Riverside, Iowa: Where Captain Kirk was born in the old continuity, and where he listened to the Beastie Boys in the new.
  8. Winslow, Arizona: He stood on the corner. Yes, that corner.
  9. Victoria, British Columbia: A quick detour into Canada found Patrick reuniting with our old pal Hank, the finest rockabilly musician north of Nashville.
  10. Griffith Park, Los Angeles. Patrick went to the Bronson Cave, which was used as the Batcave in the old Adam West series, and has appeared in tons of other movies and TV shows. Including Star Trek. Sadly, it did not have a giant coin and a stuffed dinosaur inside it. Just empty beer cans, used condoms and a homeless man in a Robin costume.

This is just the tip of Patrick’s iceberg, with more adventures to come: He’s off to Washington now. Apparently the Obamas are letting him crash on an old plaid sofa in the White House bowling alley.

I’ll leave you with this treat, filmed at Bronson Cave in 1953 … an epic of science fiction suckness.

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