Seriously...fragrance for e-readers? While it looks like a joke, the folks at Smell of Books.com are dead serious and call their new tech-cessory "Aerosol E-Book Enhancer." With Eau to cats and Classic Musty, they may need to rethink their fragrances - How about some chocolate, beer, new car smell, or fresh baked bread? Would you buy a can of fragrance for your e-reader?
By Benjamin Kissell
What makes this gay heart weep tears of profuse anger and bitterness? No, it's not the release of another Rebecca Black song [although, that does produce much of the same reaction] or the impending release of another Twilight flick [the hordes of Twi-hards are readying]. It's the disgusting - but not unexpected - announcement on July 11th that Borders Inc is closing its doors after 40 years.
It may come as no surprise to our readers [sorry for the 3 and a half month-long absence, btw] that I was a Hoarders Slave [to borrow the Retail Hell Underground slang] and worked for Borders for several years.
I was everything from a basic cashier [read: grunt] to the Operations Supervisor at one point. I was once the Training Supervisor and Calendar Kiosks Supervisor. I did Merchandising and Inventory Floor Drops. I did just about everything at one point or another in my almost 4-years there. Despite some insane bosses [leading to blogs entitled The Devil Wears Wal-Mart, for example] and some horrible custys over the years, I was very happy there. My co-workers were a family. One. Big. Borders. Family.
And now? About 3 months after my particular Borders closed its doors forever, hundreds of other Borders Families will be broken and cast to the wind. I weep for them, as my gay heart wept for my own.
Not only does this Liquidation send almost 11,000 people out of jobs, but, it spells doom for casual and die-hard book-buyers alike. The reason? For most folks, the e-book revolution (despite it's tech-savy coolness) isn't practical. Don't get me wrong, I own an e-reader. I love my e-reader. It's great for taking on long trips when lugging around multiple paperback or hardback books would be both costly (travel fees) and just-plain-hefty, but, the pleasure of picking up a book and flipping through its pages cannot be duplicated digitally.
Many folk have blamed Borders collapse on the digital books and e-readers - it is true that they were slow to get in on the digital bandwagon and it didn't help that until 2008 Borders website directed traffic to Amazon.com - but, this assumption is both fallacy and farce.
Legitimate reporters and kvetch-bloggers everywhere [myself included] have raised voice on the subject.
One of the more insightful (and still entertaining to read) articles is by the author of Social Media is Bullshit, comedian Brandon Mendelson. On his Posterous site, White Man Says Outrageous Things For Attention, Brandon posted "How the Associated Press Got Their Story About the Death of Borders and Its Impact Wrong".
I could gnash my teeth and yell my throat raw decrying the loss, but ... I've already done that. I did most of my mourning back in February through April. I've said my private good-byes - now, I'll say a few public ones.
Bookstores have played a significant part for most of my life. When I was a todder, my Mum worked at the large (for the time) local bookstore, WaldenBooks. After she quit, we still shopped there - and hit the other bookstore in the mall [BDalton and such], the local new/used bookstores and borrowed from the public library for many years - through its consolidation and closure in the mid-2000s.
In the mid 1990s, though, a sparkling new bookstore took root in-town. In the giant new shopping complex [inappropriately named Central Park] all of these new buildings seemed to spring up, fully-formed: Target. Shoppers Food Warehouse. Best Buy. Borders. We still hit our mom-and-pop local bookstores, don't get me wrong, but, the arrival of this huge, megalithic-mythical bookstore called to us. Its siren's song of destruction - for, how can one afford to buy all of the books one wants when such a store provides such easy access to them?
I was 13 years old and really developing my bookworm and geek-like tendencies [oh, c'mon, what boy at 13 wasn't reading all of those Star Wars novels because he had a mini-crush on Luke Skywalker? Oh. I get it. Guess that was my gay-heart speaking early on.] And this humongous building, housing so many choices was intimidating and amazing. Of course, it would take until the end of my late-teens for me to break out of my niche-reads (only reading one specific style/genre or author at a time) and embrace the gargantuon offerings such a large, chain bookstore could offer. And, of course, I was almost 20 before I truly embraced one of the other loves of my life: coffee, so it would be years before I grasped the enormity of a bookstore WITH a cafe within it.
Walking through those aisles - and the layout of a mid-90s Borders is nothing like the 2011 Borders, 'twas all cubby-hole and nooks packed with small couches and stacks of books - I was in heaven. For what could be better than all of those books, movies [vhs for a long time] and cds laid out for me?
I remember looking up at those stacks upon shelves and wishing we could just move in. I loved our bi-weekly trips to the bookstore; and with their Teachers Discount, we would spend hours poring over their selection to see what qualified and what didn't and to see which coupons we could apply. Years passed like this, I went to two high schools and on to college, never losing - only increasing - my love of books and for my local Borders. It was a steady relationship.
In March 2006 I happened - while sitting on the bench in front of humor - to notice a white jacketed book with a teal dress in foil on the cover. Bitter is the New Black, it read, by Jen Lancaster. Hrmm, this? Has potential I thought. Within the month, I had discovered a whole new genre of literature I had not yet embraced - humor. "Chick lit" came next and then humorous fiction - authors like Caprice Crane, Stacey Ballis, Sophie Kinsella, Marc Acito, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Paul Ruditis and Meg Cabot joined and supplanted the places of honor on my bookshelves. Borders had once again, worked a miracle into my life.
By this time, I had joined the ranks of the "Hoarders Slaves" and was a bookstore drone - quickly standing out, due to my customer service and overall general gay-heart-awesomeness, and I was team lead for "Merchandising" and various other roles of 'honor'. Borders, had once again sung its siren's song and laid claim to much of my paycheck, as well as more hours of my free-time than I shall commit to evidence.
Because of this new flowering of my literary-ness, I decided to do something I had never done - go to an author's reading/signing and get a book I loved autographed by an actual author. I asked my Mum [because, what gay heart doesn't take his mother to an important event?] to join me, and we went to the Borders in Bailey's Crossroads, VA. There we met [and I embarassed myself quite nicely] the fantastic (and my literary hero, aside from Jane Austen) Jen Lancaster
I shan't bore you with a whole recanting of the story; but, suffice it to say, it was one of the happiest times I've had in my life. Jen was - and still is - an amazing storyteller and terrific person to get to know. Her memoirs (and now fiction work) are witty and sharp-tongued, as well as insightful and often thought-provoking. Of course I love her for all that, but, it doesn't hurt things that she, too, loves gay hearts. She is the self-described "Queen of fat chicks and gay guys" [Bright Lights, Big Ass, her 2nd memoir].
I've loved my experiences with you, Borders; the good, the bad, the ugly and the be-glittered. Your presence in my life has allowed this gay heart to not only blossom and grow, but, to better himself and learn new things about himself in the world.
I met the first guy I ever went on a date with while cruising the dirty magazines (at 17); I was turned down by my first should've-been-gay-but-isn't guy who worked for you [he wore corduroy pants and tight t-shirts in the mid 2000s, pre-hipster - he REALLY should've been gay]; I met and made friends with local authors and met world-famous writers all because of Borders; I've created book tours and signed books; I've been cast as the Twi-heartthrob and garnered a myriad of tween-fans.
I got to meet, for one, the talented and terrific author Freeman Hall - our host and author of the book this site is here for - and strike up a friendship for the last 2 years, now. Without Borders, and my Borders Family, I wouldn't have had that chance.
I've had so many good (and a few not-so-good) experiences with you, Borders, and I wouldn't trade any for the world.
Thank you, Borders, thank you so very much. You made this gay heart happy for 15 years. And it truly makes this gay heart weep to see you go.
[I'd like to thank my Borders Family: Glenna, Christine, Rhonda, Ken, Bob, Shelly, Annette, Little, Elizabeth, Crystal, Chris, Kacey, Nora, Kathryn, Jay, Tom, Tommy, Brittany, Kelly, Karissa, Ben, Brandon, Stephanie and the dozens of other good people I worked with at the Stafford Marketplace Borders over the years and to the hundreds I knew over the last 15 at the Central Park Borders. Thank you. This one's for you.]
Gay hearts everywhere are weeping over the news of Borders closing their doors. It will be like losing a neighborhood friend. And from what I remember, Borders was one of the first book stores to actually have a Gay and Lesbian section. A long time supporter of the community, they were also a big supporter of STUFF THAT MAKES A GAY HEART WEEP. Thank you Borders! We will miss you.
A few Retail Hell Underground bloggers have already been causalities of the company's decline, and blogged about it (click here), but my thoughts and prayers are with those book selling slaves now going into liquidation hell. Sending you all good vibes so that you'll get awesome new jobs quickly!
So as we say goodbye to Borders, I am reminded of all the good times I spent there as a custy. At The Big Fancy there was a Borders across the street and it was our escape from hell during breaks. I would spend my last dollar on David Sedaris and my coworker Cammie would buy a stack of fashion magazines. Over on Retail Hell Underground, Borders fans and former slaves are leaving their favorite memories. Click on over and read the memories or leave your own comment.
My second signing at a Borders in Arcadia, CA.
This is my first signing at the Borders in Glendale across the street from The Big Fancy where I worked. The folks pictured covering their faces are some of my embattled former coworkers who lived The Big Fancy hell with me!
One of my long time custys with her curious son asking about the book. Sometimes we are lucky enough to make friendships with custys outside of Retail Hell!
Many of the Borders managers I met when Retail Hell came out, were awesome. This is a pic from San Diego Borders store. I stopped in to sign books for them and the manager decided he wanted Retail Hell to get some front door, front table exposure on the day Dan Brown's new book came out. Sweet!
At my hometown Borders in Reno, Nevada. Pictured with my high school journalism teacher who was a tremendous influence on me. I had not seen her since high school! I will miss Melissa and the rest of the crew at Borders Reno, they were so fun and supportive and I always had a great time doing signings during the holidays.
While most of us gay hearts weep tears of blood over anything having to do with Twilight (except for maybe Taylor Lautner's half naked bod), this YouTube mash up of fan reaction to the next installment Breaking Dawn will have you breaking down with laughter. I guess I get where they're coming from, I had the same reaction downloading Lady GaGa's new album and playing it for the first time. So there you go.
By Benjamin Kissell
tweenk: adj. [pronounced tween-k] (root words tween and twink) aspects of tween and twink gay culture used to influence, advertise or generally make a nuissance of onseself.
Rounding the corner in your favourite book shoppe (or the one you work at) and finding tweenk altered covers to classic literature [like the visual horror above] will make a gay heart stop, drop, roll and pound fists into the floor whilst weeping. [I swear, I didn't drop the stack of books I carried, crying out to Heaven 'Why, G*D, why?' Well, I didn't do it more than twice.]
I'm prolly the last person who will complain about the proliferation of tween/teen lit - I encourage reading in all forms, ages and types [well, except Harlequin romances, 'cos really? eww] but, when I look out into the sea of new books and see twink-esque boys playing at Mr. Darcy and The Crown Prince of Denmark? Or a cover of Wuthering Heights with the tag line of "Bella and Edward's favorite book" I draw the line.
'Tis one thing to use pop culture to make classics accessible to the modern audience - adaptations and re-interpretations - but, when one casts a Zac Efron wannabe into a sparkly paint-splotched cover to sell me Hamlet? I think this gay heart may choke on his hysterical laughter. Then shove the book down the publisher's windpipe.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
and by opposing end them?
-Hamlet (III, i)
By Benjamin Kissell
What makes a gay heart weep? Logging onto his myspace page and finding this photo tagged [yes, this photo is from August 2008, and yes, I am wearing make-up, thank you very much]. Bad enough to be coerced by a boss [read: bullied and paid] into portraying our 'favourite' [shoot me] vampire, Twilight's very own stalker extraordinaire, but finding photographic evidence? #gayheartshame
August 2008's release of Breaking Dawn introduced a whole different level of stalker-dom [Harry Potter fans are sane in comparison, FYI] as encompassed at the bookstore where I work. Being skinny(ish) with poofy hair and strong cheekbones got this gay heart into trouble.
Not only does the book advocate a new level of May/December romance [a virgin at 117? honey, that's lame, shameful and reduces a gay heart to weeping tatters] but, it practically lays itself out as the new Stalker's Handbook.
On top of the stereotypical fans, Twi-hards, a whole new breed of fanatics came out of the coffin - StalkerMoms. Mothers of the teens reading the books fell HARD for the glittery/be-dazzled vampire as well as the muscled and shirtless werewolf. Seriously. Hard. Unhelpful are the movies; casting the most foppish Brit to hop across the pond since Hugh Grant and the most muscled teen since Adonis. Randy, middle-aged mothers across the globe didn't stand a chance.
Nor does a gay heart's stomach - I may wretch.
By our fourth Twilight event (book releases/movie premiers) almost as many StalkerMoms were coming as the Twi-hard teens. For the dvd release of New Moon I posed for 17 photos with StalkerMoms. 17. Say it with me: seven-teen.
When it comes down to it, a gay heart can only take so much Twi-hard-fandom and glitter (outside of a Cher show, noone needs that much glitter) and must run away from the StalkerMoms.
Say it with me, Twi-hards: Pattinautner.
With the release of the newest Harry Potter film millions of gay hearts are weeping with joy [mine included]. And more than a few weep in consternation.
Many a gay heart grew up from tween to twink on the JK Rowling franchise. It is no surprise that on many fanpages there are fan-fictions starring Harry Potter in a gay heart role ... and that these are primarly written by teenaged straight girls [aka Future Fruit Flies and FagHags].
In these fanfics they've had Scarhead hook-up with everyone from the obvious (Ron), to the macabre (Voldemort, Snape and Lucius Malfoy), to the downright oogie (Dumbledore). [Say it with me, people; Statutory Rape].
But, if the internet is anything to go by, the most common fanfic pairing is Harry and Draco Malfoy.
When my roommates and I went to the Midnight Release of Deathly Hallows Part 1 [don't judge me] we went in-costume. [Again, don't judge me.] Johnny was Barty Crouch Jr (a Death Eater), Marguerite was Narcissa Malfoy (Lucius' wife/Draco's mother) and Melanie was a Beauxbatons student (French Wizarding School). Of course I was Harry.
The part that made this gay heart weep? When the 21 yr old girl next to me in the theatre whispered to her friend that I was "obviously fanfic Harry."
Mind you, this is because I was "obviously too sexy to be book Harry and kiss boys". [Thanks for the snap judgement, that's my job, thank you.]
Fanfic writers (and photoshoppers): slurp a cup o'coffee, push away from the keyboard, shave, throw on some nice togs and meet your gay heart friends at the local bar and have a few drinks. A cosmotini if you must. Because, as good as it is to write, when you live fanfic'ing any one thing, you limit yourself.
And make this gay heart - and many others - weep.
Of course, if you're Cassie Claire you'll just get a book deal and pen 4 NYTimes bestselling YA books [not bitter in the least]. And then, you'll make this gay heart weep with green-eyed jealousy.
PS - these are the most PG of the photos I found (seriously, Harry and Draco are up to some kinky sh*t online).