20 May 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

Deb Andolino and her son Gary always wanted to open a bookstore. Deb's the mystery fanatic, Gary's into science fiction. Last year they opened Aliens & Alibis in Columbia, South Carolina. I had a book event at their store last June. I was one of the first authors they hosted. They couldn't have been more welcoming.

The store was small, but well-lit, nicely laid out, comfortable and Deb and Gary are smart, funny and very nice to spend time with. Which is a good thing since only one person showed up for my event. It was one of those events that if I ever become a well known author, I'll tell young authors about to encourage them: "I can remember when I didn't have lines out the door of people waiting to have me sign my books, and my signature was still legible." Currently, it's a tale I trot out when talking with my other author friends and we're swapping horror stories.

At the time of the event, I worried about the ability of Aliens & Alibis to survive. It was located in a far corner of the sort of shopping center that begged the question: "is the mall half-empty or is it half-full?" Looking around, it was hard to imagine it was half-full.

Well, now the mall is even emptier. Aliens & Alibis is going out of business. I don't know if it was brave or foolish for Deb and Gary to open their store in a time when independent bookstores are dropping like flies, but I admire them for having tried. And I thank them for having hosted me on my first ever book tour. There's a new Barnes and Noble about five miles from their store. I don't know how much that has to do with their going out of business or not, but I suspect it isn't nearly so convivial place to hang out.

Elections and Bureaucrats

Here in California we are about to have an election and I'm having an even harder than usual time giving a damn. Two uninspired and uninspiring Democrats are running for the right to battle the Governator in the Fall. I don't know much about either of them. I've got the sense that they're both dull hacks with the sort of modestly corrupt political backgrounds that seem impossible to avoid these days, who will make little or no real difference if they're eventually elected.

One of the reasons they are unlikely to make any real difference is that the state government of California has its hands firmly tied behind its back by years of initiatives and referendums (that seemed like good ideas at the time) that have mandated both spending and tax relief. Every year there are even more deceptively written initiatives and referendums that in the long term do little other than further inhibit the ability of California's government to get anything done - for good or bad. This time around I'm thinking about voting No on all of them. Except that I'm going to have to be careful, because all too often they are written in a way that a No vote means you're supporting the idiotic thing they're in favor of. In which case you have to vote Yes to vote No. Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh!

As for governor, I will most likely vote for whoever runs against Arnold in November. So the only criteria I'm interested in is which of the two Democratic Party Bozos has the best chance of beating him. Somehow democracy seemed to make a lot more sense when I studied it in school.

But, the other day I took heart in the fact that dim witted bureaucrats are not merely an American phenomenon. A friend of mine works for CARE in Indonesia, mostly on reconstruction projects in the areas that were wiped out by the tsunami. He has to deal with a lot of bureaucrats from all over the world. He recently received an email from a European Commission program officer that included the following:

“Please consider however then [sic] considering changes in project activities that an amendement [sic] to the contract is to be considered an exception, to be justified on the basis that a non-amendment of the action would result in the non attainement [sic] of project objectives.”

My friend Tim describes that as: "one of the loftiest achievements of bureaucratese I have encountered." And he's encountered more than his fair share.

No comments: