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I’d Buy That For A Dollar November 30, 2008

Posted by Jim Berkin in Blogroll, Books, Food, Movies.
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Just when I thought they had packed up and gone away forever when the space became the always-dreaded seasonal Halloween store back in October, the every-book-for-a-dollar store has RETURNED to beautiful downtown Burbank! What a pleasant surprise for me as I walked to the post office & bank the other day to run some leisurely errands.

It looked like they were about 80% of the way through restocking the shelves from the boxes of books they had packed up in storage, and after about an hour of systematic browsing through the place, I came up with a few good finds: The first was another one of those “Introducing….” whatever series, this one on Stephen Hawking, which does a pretty decent job of simplifying his ideas on the origins of the universe and the nature of black holes. I put it next to their volumes on Quantum Theory & Chaos so I could have a mini-row of the incomprehensible together (perhaps I’ll put the Bruce Vilanch autobiography I got as a gag gift next to it as well, to continue the theme).

I also found & already devoured the enjoyable The United States of Arugula by David Kamp, a cultural history of how foodie culture in America has pretty much developed in the last 50 odd years or so, beginning with James Beard, continuing with Julia Child, and blossoming into our current Food Network/celebrity chef/gourmet market/every ethnic food you can imagine sold all over culture. I’ve read numerous books on culinary history, mostly ones that cover the development of various styles of cuisine or cooking in general over the ages, going back to Rome and Medieval times – this is the first one I’ve found on the modern American food & cooking culture that does a thorough (and entertaining) job on the subject. Shortly after I graduated Brown, I returned for a reunion and met Kamp. He had inherited the editing post of the only real humor publication on campus at the time from the people who had inherited it from me. I remember reading the guy’s stuff, not only for the humor publication, but also longer articles he’d written for a couple of the college magazines, and thought that he was probably the best pure writer to hold the job. Kamp’s sharp wit & impressive command of the language was obvious from the first few sentences. It’s not surprising to see he’s had a nice career at Spy and GQ and Vanity Fair. His blog is pretty good too. I doubt he remembers me, unless someone reminds him of that angry little guy who once wrote the bulletin before him who made endless jokes about wanting to nail Phoebe Cates (and I think I’d still tap that, if you’re curious).

The last two finds were a short investment guide centering on when to sell a soon-to-be falling stock by William O’Neill, the chief guru behind the Investors’ Daily. It’s heavy on chart analysis which I’ve always felt was a great example of 20-20 hindsight in action, but his general ideas on stock screening and the database his paper provides are extremely valuable. I have a vibe that this might be a good time to actually buy stocks, looking at Obama’s economic team picks and seeing that they are surprisingly not a bunch of lefto whackjobs, but then again, I’m the guy who picked Vanderbilt two weeks in a row. Don’t listen to anything I say.

On the other, more artistic end of the Wagstaff interest scale, I found a first edition hardback of the 1982 version of Danny Peary’s very first Cult Movies, a book I remember endlessly reading & rereading in college as I tried to see as many of those movies as I could, back in those pre-Netflix & Eddie Brandt days of waiting for the local repertory theater to get them or scanning the TV listings to see what was going to turn up at 2AM on Channel 5. I’ve seen most of the movies in the book, nearly all the ones I think I actually want to see, but then again, now I’m OLD.

Welcome back, dollar bookstore! Glad to see you looking healthy again.

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