Saturday, July 30, 2011

Battlin' Banh Mi

There's a little smackdown going on in the lunch scene on Clement Street. Little Vietnam Cafe has been my go to lunch spot for a couple of years now. With a fine selection of those afforadble little Vietnamese sandwiches, along with grab and go cold rolls, it is a great place to nab a tasty lunch for under $5. They were even named Best Banh Mi by SFWeekly a few weeks ago, a category with no small amount of competition here in San Francisco. Here is what the Weekly had to say:

All the banh mi ... excel in the basic competencies: A warm, airy French roll so crisp that crumbs fly off its surface when you press down. A faint coating of sweetened mayonnaise. Enough cilantro to perfume each bite, and enough jalapeƱos to keep you pausing after every few mouthfuls.

But now there's a new kid on the block, and they got game. Cafe Bunn Mi opened a couple of weeks ago in the space left vacant when Java closed down. Aside from the more upscale interior, they've got a broader selection of banh mi, from crispy duck to smokey vegetable. Toss in possible sides like sweet potato fries and dungeness crab puffs, and game on.

I'm going to split my lunch dollar between the two of them, as I do love those cold rolls at Little Vietnam as a quick lunch option, but I do hear that crispy duck calling....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fictional felines

Clark's got a smart dog doing the cooking and household chores (when old Rascal's not contemplating the meaning of life or commenting on his owner's foibles, that is), but lemme tell ya, I've got a cat that's just as smart, if not as doting as any Canis lupus familiaris. As is clearly visible in the photo above, Tigger has a preference for tidily made beds and stacks of books. We're a lot alike in that way, the two of us.

And also like me, Tigger prefers fiction to hefty philosophical tomes weighing in on the essence of Catness or ethical treatises on the morality of mouse-catching. We both love a good yarn (get it?!) and since your ever-dutiful Green Apple staff refuses to take side in the age old cat-dog debate, we've added as thoughtful a feline fiction section as the dog shelf Clark previously mentioned.

Currently featuring:

- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- I am a Cat by Natsume Soseki
- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
- The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr by E.T.A. Hoffmann
- The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
- Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot
- Tails of Wonder and Imagination edited by Ellen Datlow

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Deep Dogs

Ever since my dog started reading books and smoking cigarettes and cooking and stuff, lemme tell ya' things have been a little different around the ol' log cabin. I'm not sure what's gotten in to him, but with the sudden change in mind I've been forced to adopt a brand new set of eyes to bring to work with me. Yes ma'am, I've got my peepers peeled for dog books nowadays. I'm not talking My Dog Tulip or the writing of Cesar Millan. Invaluable as the acclaimed dog whisperer's work may be and as much as Tulip had to teach us, what I've been sniffing out is not for the paws of men.

Rascal (my dog, above) has developed a taste for dog-fiction. That is to say, novels prominently and thoughtfully featuring a canine whose personal decisions advance or twist the plot, for better or for worse. Always excited to accommodate a blossoming market, my coworkers have aided me in hand picking the contents for our brand new deep dog-fiction shelf. If you've got a reading dog at home (or merely an interest in reading of dogs), please, take a trip down to Green Apple Books main store at 506 Clement St. After applying our keen attention to detail to the matter, I'm confident that we boast the finest and most expertly curated deep dog-fiction selection in The Bay Area, perhaps even the West Coast. I'm certain that if my dog could talk he would finally thank me, and that's nothing to woof at.

Currently featuring:
-The Art of Racing in the Rain
-Call of the Wild
-White Fang
-King: A Street Story
-Travels With Charley
-White Dog

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

And if it's not too redundant, "THANK YOU!"

Yes, the annual San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Best of the Bay" issue for 2011 has hit the streets, and topping the Reader's Poll list in the 'shopping' category for Best Overall Bookstore / Best Used Bookstore is. . . (drum-roll). . . your beloved Green Apple Books and Music!!

So again, thank you again for all of your support! It's always an honor and one that we never take lightly!

Read on!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Chairs are Where the People Go

I'll admit to initially being skeptical of--or at least not that interested in--The Chairs are Where the People Go, a book in which a novelist I knew only by name (Sheila Heti) recorded a series of monologues by a man I've never heard of (Misha Glouberman) with the idea that Glouberman would reveal to Heti just about everything he knows by expounding on some of his favorite topics, including:
  • Is wearing a suit a good way to quit smoking?
  • Is monogamy a trick?
  • Why does a computer last only three years?
  • How often should you see your parents?
  • How should we behave at parties?
At first glance, the book struck me as something of a vanity project, more suitably distributed to friends as a PDF (a joke Heti and Glouberman made at the reading) than for publication by the illustrious Faber & Faber. But when an enthusiastic co-worker asked if I'd be interested in attending a launch for the book at the JCC, I put my skepticism aside and pencilled in an evening of "Culture" on my calendar.

Knowing nothing of Glouberman aside from his role in authoring (in a sense) this book did not stop me from forming a very specific mental image: given the folksy, anecdotal nature of the book and its light-hearted cover art, I imagined Glouberman as an elderly man, an exuberant and charismatic proprietor of a delicatessen on the Lower East Side, with tufts of hair sprouting from his ears and a proclivity to dispense witticisms and to "tell it like it is." A man who feeds pigeons and who has a penchant for conspiratorial stage whispering.

While I didn't get to interact with Misha thoroughly or at close enough proximity to comment on his ear hair or ask whether he feeds pigeons, I can certainly tell you that he is not an old Jewish man from New York. Charismatic, yes; exuberant, sure; but not old. And rather than being a New Yorker, he's Canadian, educated at Harvard, and founder of the Misha Glouberman School of Learning.

Glouberman and Heti appear to enjoy each others' company

Along with Heti, Glouberman is also an organizer of a barroom lecture series called Trampoline Hall in Toronto. The idea behind the lecture series is as simple and as "Why didn't I think of that?" as most great ideas: invite someone to give a lecture on a topic he or she is not an expert in. Examples of past topics include "Being an Asshole" (let's hope the lecturer on this topic was indeed a non-expert), "Whales," "Tumbleweed," and "How to perform surgery if you have gangreen." A full history of the series by lecture topic is available on the Trampoline Hall website.

Glouberman's introductory comments allayed any fears I had upon discovering that he was not the old thick-skinned Lower East Sider I imagined. It turns out that I was wrong, in this instance at least, to presume that someone who has a friend so enamored and devoted to one's opinions to write a "How To" book based on those opinions probably has an inflated sense of self-importance. In fact, Glouberman is funny and, in a particular way, wise, as this excerpt on "The Gym" attests.

And even with Glouberman proving the cynic in me wrong with his wit and good humor, it was still a pleasant surprise that the book launch combined Misha's musings with Trampoline Hall-style lectures by a couple of locals: the first, by longtime (and soon to be former) Believer editor Andrew Leland, on "What experimental music is for" and the second, by artist Clare Rojas, illustrator of Heti's new childrens' book We Need a Horse, published by McSweeney's, on "The Gym."

The evening's program will soon be available as a podcast on The Hub of the JCCSF's website.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The book biz and Green Apple's future

A few month's ago, when Borders first announced the closing of a third of its stores, we wrote this. Now, with Borders completely liquidating, we are prompted to re-think (yet again) the future of bookselling and Green Apple Books.

In short, we feel the same way now as we did a few months ago. In fact, we may be more bullish. Here's why:
  1. Our Google eBooks are starting to catch on. Readers really are buying eBooks for all devices (except the proprietary Kindle) from Green Apple, and returning to buy more. We'll continue to promote this new service, as we aim to put good books and readers together, no matter the format.
  2. The Borders in the Stonestown mall is closing, so we have an opportunity to win some new customers. While their going-out-of-business sale may hurt us in the short term, being the lone big bookstore west of Stanyan Street can only help Green Apple.
  3. Amazon will soon have to collect sales tax in California, and other states are following suit. It may take a few months, or a few lawsuits, but it'll happen. It's about time the playing field was levelled, and Amazon is being excoriated in the media for their tax-dodging ways. See this and this and this and this and so on.
  4. Green Apple has a small expansion in the works. Nothing big, but we planto better maximize our return on the busiest used book buy counter in theBay Area.
  5. Many behind-the-scenes improvements are shoring up Green Apple's finances, like:
  • Dodd-Frank act should lower our debit fees;
  • Our annual company-wide health plan renewal increase was in the single digits;
  • Successful GroupOn and ScoutMob offers brought in new customers; and
  • We're reducing operational costs, like phone & Internet service.
There's still and always much more to do: revamp our website to better reflect the store, get our used books inventoried for easier shopping and better buying control, and so on.

And we're still very concerned about the health of the bigger industry: without healthy publishers, Green Apple can't thrive.

As we said in February, it's ultimately up to our customers. If they want Green Apple to survive, they have to buy books (or eBooks, CDs, DVDs, LPs, greeting cards, journals) here. So far, they do. So we'll keep adapting, reading, buying, shelving, shelf-talkering, and
making goofy videos.

Thanks for reading.
a Robin Allen photo, adapted