Dear Weather Gods, Inc.

Norwich, December 19th, 2011

Dear Sirs,

I am writing in reference to our order #778443 of August 17th for one (1) New England Standard Winter (SKU 11442-3), pre-paid, with free delivery to our area guaranteed no later than December 15th.

After our initial conversation you were kind enough to send us a sample, which arrived around Thanksgiving. It was exactly what we were after, the kind of quality product we have come to expect from you, and we felt assured that everything was in order.

However, it is now close to December 30th, and we are still waiting for delivery of our order. Recently, the accessory kits (Freezing Cold, SKU 445-012 and Dark & Dismal, SKU 98744-2) arrived, and I’m happy to report that they’re both working fine – but without the rest of the order, it’s all a bit pointless, really. Customers are beginning to complain – several of our younger patrons have been seen crossing “Xbox” off their Christmas list and writing in “snow” instead; customers new to the area are shrugging their shoulders in dismay, asking our sales reps, “so, what’s the big deal with this winter fun you were advertising?”

Our colleagues in the alpine business have had no option but to go to your competitors and buy the Do-It-Yourself Winter kits, which are of course both more cumbersome and more expensive in the long run. Sadly, snow-making is not even an option for us Nordic skiers.

I know you’ve had a busy fall, what with you accidentally shipping an order from the Bahamas for an Atlantic Hurricane (SKU 56009-2) to our neck of the woods; I imagine that must have taken quite a bit of work to clear up in your warehouse. But apparently, they’re now getting snow storms in Texas, and we’re concerned that your shipping department is still in some disarray.

Don’t get me wrong. We greatly value and appreciate our long-standing relationship with your company – it’s only because of your reliability as a supplier that Ford Sayre has been able to provide 75 years of skiing to kids in the Upper Valley.

All the same, I’m asking you to please try to speed up production and/or shipping on this order. I know this is a busy time of year, and we’d be happy to pay extra for expedited shipping – as a matter of fact, we’ll gladly come pick up the package directly from the factory ourselves.

Please get back to us at your convenience – we’ll be sitting by the fire, patiently waxing our skis.

Expectantly yours,

/Lars Blackmore
Ford Sayre Nordic

Peter Welch Strays to the Dark Side

flag-wireSo sad to see this happen now and again. Peter Welch, who otherwise has been on quite a roll lately, just voted along with a massive majority of his fellow members of the House of Representatives to keep secret the deliberations on the Department of Defense Authorization Bill. This is the rather sizable allowance given by us tax-payers each year to the Pentagon to ensure that the Wars on The World can go on and on forever and ever, Amen.

This year, a rider has been attached to the main spending bill with some rules on indefinite military detention for — well, pretty much anybody, anywhere, anytime for almost anything. Almost all the mentally unstable wankers in the House and Senate simply *love* the idea of endless detention, and so does the current occupant of the White House, too. So, slam dunk, you’d think, but there’s a snag. Because Sir Change-a-Lot doesn’t like that his executive power to, say, execute or detain Americans at home or abroad be regulated by anybody — least of all Congress, so he’s not too keen on the proposed language and has threatened to veto the whole deal in its current state. Let me be really clear here: It’s not that Obama has a problem with indefinite detention — he’s a huge fan, uses it all the time (when he doesn’t just decide to kill people without due process), and he and his Administration defends the use of it whenever they’re challenged on the issue. This is why he couldn’t be bothered to shut down Gitmo as he’d promised on the campaign trail, but instead proposed that it be turned into a sort of “Six Flags of the American Inquisition” in Illinois instead. He just wants it to be his very own little power as Supreme Grand Poobah of the Free World (yes, the irony there is disheartening), and his alone — One Ring and all that…

And, so, the House and the Senate now have to figure out a way to let Obama have his Preciousss while at the same time satisfying their own nasty fetish for handcuffs and waterboarding. With the vote earlier today, they decided that such a debate better be had in private, far away from the eye of the pesky public. Which is kind of ironic, given that the upshot of this latest bit of Orwellian “progress” could well be that any American anywhere could at any time be designated a “terrorist sympathizer” and without further ado or process of law be detained forever.

You’d think that might make some Americans feel compelled to follow along and listen to the arguments being made, and you’d perhaps think that Peter Welch might have supported such fundamental transparency to the legal process. But, alas, no. Along with 406 other “Representatives” of the American People, he decided that the American People (including the very people he represents) should *not* be privvy to the discussion.

And that’s really too bad.

Christ, It’s Books-a-Million!

bad_breath_bible_pictureRemember the crying we all did a few months ago when Borders Bookstores went bankrupt nationwide? Me neither. A stay of execution for our independent book stores before we all switch over to e-books, and one less soulless retailer on “death row” in West Lebanon. No great loss. 

But shortly after the last shelf had been torn out of the corpse of the old Borders store across from Wal-Mart, a sign went up announcing the pending arrival of something called BAM, which would soon be selling us… books, music, gadgets and coffee. Go figure. Plus ça change and all that. And since I reluctantly found myself down that way anyway, I dropped by to check this new thing out.

I admit that for a fleeting moment I wanted to think that BAM really stood for Bad-Ass Mo*Fo* – quite something to call your books-and-trinkets emporium – and I fancied I’d find something totally exceptional in the new space, like a Music Matters with a goth-themed coffee shop, perhaps. But my initial impression was simply “Borders reincarnated.” The same tame layout, same overall selection – same everything. Albeit with a slight twist. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but then I noticed odd things. And the more I looked, the more it seemed like Borders on ‘ludes; slightly warped, out of focus, subdued, even more saccharine and purged of all things original and edgy.

In fact, BAM stands for Books-a-Million, the name of what is now the second largest chain of book stores in the United States. Based in Alabama, the 30-year old company has over 200 stores, mainly in the South. With their recent purchase of 30 defunct Borders stores, they now have a decent showing up our way, too.

But they must do things differently down south. For instance, it’s not at all clear to me why “The Story of Hitler’s SS” would be on the “Humor” shelf along with Karl Rove’s “Courage and Consequence” and Sarah Palin’s “Going Rouge.” Sure, they all share the space with “The Ultimate Guide to Tractors,” but still…

And what really gets under your skin after a while is the Christian Fiction. Miles and goddamn miles of it. Endless book series I didn’t even know existed. I mean, sure, even as a devout non-believer I’d heard of the insufferable Left Behind tales by Tim LaHaye, but this stuff is written by authors using pseudonyms that sound vaguely like soft-core porn stars, like Ted Dekker and Randy Alcorn, There is lots of “Bargain Christian Fiction,” too – for those of little faith, perhaps.?

Oddly enough – from an atheist’s perspective, at least – the ultimate in Christian Fiction, The Bible, can’t be found on those shelves. No; at BAM that little gem has it’s very own corner of the store: an entire section given over to every conceivable flavor and variation of the same, single book, from every publisher on God’s green earth. (I try to imagine the planning meeting at a struggling book publisher. Bob, Director of Product Development: “Yeah, well, we’re not seeing a new Harry Potter anywhere, so we thought, well, what about putting out our version of The Bible? We think that’d be really awesome.” Peter, VP of Sales, Eastern Region: “What a great idea, Bob. I can’t imagine anyone else will have thought of that before – we’ll corner the market and make away like bandits.”) Who actually buys these things? I mean, every self-respecting Christian already has one, right? But do you need more than one if you do a lot of praying? Is it a status symbol to have lots of them sprinkled around the house?

BAM even offers a “camo” version of The Bible, hyped in a prominent isle-end display as the perfect companion for the outdoorsman. Other than the fake camo-patterned cover, however, it seems to be the same ol’ Bible on the inside, printed on that same ultra-flimsy parchment-style paper that surely will melt in the first thunderstorm. For $25 I’d expect more of my survival kit Bible – a can opener, at the very least.

All these Bibles (quite separate, you understand, from the section on Christian Living, and separate again from the entire section of Christian-themed journals) are located right across from the “Teen Faithpoint”, which is a sort of wanna-be hip zone with books like “Belieber” about Justin Bieber’s strong Christian faith, and a few volumes of Christian manga. No, really. Christian manga. Who knew?

And while I’m appalled at this waste of precious retail space on titles that I find laughably irrelevant, I of course get it now; it’s a southern thing. Faith is big deal down there, and that’s what BAM has built its bookstore concept around. Fair enough. I just don’t think it’ll fly in the Upper Valley, not for a second. Even with our respectable number of active churches, there’s just no market for this much Xtian merchandising. If I were a BAM shareholder – or employee, for that matter – I’d find it more than a little worrying that no-one bothered to look into that demographic detail before they bundled up their usual package of literary snake oil and headed to the Northeast.

Bit even if I can find a plausible reason for the aggressive bible thumping, I confess I’m still a tad confused about BAM’s interpretation of categories and themes. I come across Glenn Beck’s “An Inconvenient Book” sitting under Social Science, alongside “Houseplants: Windowboxes” and Isabel Stanley’s epic work on “Quilting.” But surely by now even southerners get that Beck is strictly Science Fiction, or as a competent defense lawyer would call it, “the delusional ravings of an unhealthy mind”?

I give BAM a year or two before they remainder the end-time novels and call it quits. And then who knows what we’ll get in the way of excitement to fill the empty spot at the Mall? A cult, perhaps?