Olsson's: Event News

Olsson's is a locally Owned & Operated, Independent chain of six book and recorded music stores in the Washington, D.C. area, started by John Olsson in 1972. As Event Coordinator, Tony Ritchie handles the author readings at our stores. Each week he blogs about his experiences.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Guest Blog: Andrew Getman on Sherman Alexie @ the Warehouse Theater June 6th

For those of you not in the book world, starting on May 31 and going through June 1st is a little thing we like to call Book Expo America.

I, along with a good portion of the Olsson's staff, will be hanging out in New York for the best part of this week.

That does not mean that I am going to leave you hanging out there with no one to tell you what is going on. In fact, I am taking this chance to tell you about the handsome young man that manages our airport store, Andrew Getman!

Andrew GetmanAndrew has been nice enough to donate his time to writing a little bit about an upcoming event we are holding at the Warehouse Theater. It is going... why am I telling you about it? That is why we have Andrew.

Folks, Andrew Getman:

Sherman Alexie, "Flight"

Book CoverOccasionally we come across books that remind us that we as Americans are no longer who we once were. Don DeLillo's "Falling Man" makes explicit reference to this change in our worldview, allows us to step momentarily out of our absorption with the current wartime preoccupations and reflect on the shock that set this all in motion. Sherman Alexie's Flight is another in this vein, and is worthy of consideration for another reason - it reminds us that there are teenagers growing up today who barely remember an era before 9/11, Columbine, the Unibomber, Waco, Virginia Tech, or Oklahoma City. These terrorist acts and the current war on terror are in the process of defining a generation, and Sherman Alexie brings this reality home.

Meet Zits, a more typical teenager than many of us imagine, an urban kid who has bounced from foster home to juvenile detainment center most of his youth. But while his circumstances are more rare, his alienation, frustrations, and preoccupations with violence and rebellion give voice to what many experience. He meets a mentor who seems to care, and then channels his disappointments into an act of aggression. Sound familiar?

The difference is that Zits suddenly finds himself inhabiting the bodies of people who lived through historical moments of great violence - Red River, Custer's Last Stand, an airplane about to be seized by a hijacker. As if this were a novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Alexie's character is trapped bouncing through time, forced to again and again commit violent acts or bear witness to them.

This is a simply told, but powerfully evocative book. It demands to be put on high school reading lists and be selected by book groups. Teenagers need to be exposed to these ideas, because they are living them, and adults need to be paying attention.

Join us when we hear Sherman Alexie speak, read the book for yourself, and pass it on to people young and old whom you care about.

-Andrew Getman, former teacher and store manager, Olsson's - National Airport
Thursday, May 24, 2007

New day of the week


Has another week gone by already? It seems like I just get done with a weekend and it is Monday again. I came up with a great idea and because you all are loyal readers, I thought I would send it by you to get some feedback.

CalendarI am thinking of adding an extra day in the week. I know people have tried this before to little or no results, but I think my idea is different enough from the others that it just might take off. To start with let me ask you a question. How many weeks are in a year? 52, right? And how many days are in a week? 7. How many days are in a year? 365. (stop me if my math gets off) What is 52 times 7 then? If you are playing along in your head and can't do times tables past 6 (like me) just think if 7 times 2 makes any number ending with 5. So the real answer is 364 days a year.

Looks like our math teachers lied to us just like our history teachers did and it
seems to me we have room for an extra day in the week. Don't you think?
I know that if you do the math, the little extra bit of time does not make a full sunup-to-sundown day, so here is my proposal. I propose we make a day-ette or a mini day that we can sandwich in between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. I propose we call the day "Billy" after Jimmy Carter's more famous brother and use those extra hours to soak up some culture and to avoid the "must see TV" night.

Billy CarterIn honor of "Billy", I promise to you, the loyal Olsson's event attendee, that I will schedule good events for you to attend on "Billy". We will not squander the "Billy" by sitting at our desks! We will not waste our "Billies" in front of the television! We will use our "Billies" to enrich our lives, to broaden our minds and stretch our horizons. "Billy" will now become the foundation on which we build our weekends. "Billy" will be just like Friday night, only deeper, richer and fuller. Alexis mentioned last week going on a Literary Bender and I say we kick that bender off on the smartest Day-ette of the whole week. That day, my friends, is "Billy"!

Long Live Billy! Long Live Billy! Long Live Billy!

ProtestersI can't make "Billy" happen alone. I am a very powerful and influential person, but inventing a new day is going to take some help. I am going to need you all to help me out and raise the awareness of Billy to your friends. Invite your friends and family out for Billy and show them how great Billy is. You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's kind of mental and they won't take him seriously. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking up strangers and wishing them a happy "Billy". They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking up to strangers and wishing them a happy "Billy"? Friends they may thinks it's a movement. And that is exactly what it is. A movement. Together we shall forge "Billy" out of the dregs of Thursday Evening!

I am so fired up right now I have to take a walk. I will touch base with you all next Billy.

Editor's note. Math is really not his strong point, but the days of the week do not add up correctly.

If you don't remember who Billy Carter was, look him on Google.

Thank you to Arlo Guthrie for the progression of people endorsing "Billy".
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Brady Bunch Kids

"I think I'll go for a walk outside now, the summer sun is calling my name..."

The Brady BunchSomething about nice days just make me think of the Brady Bunch Kids and all the cool music they produced. Some of you will have no idea what I am talking about, but there is a group of you who know exactly what I am getting at. Those of you not in the loop, I recommend a trip to your local Music store (and I think you know the one I have in mind) for some remedial music training.

Shampoo MohawkRight. On to workish things. I am trying out a new format to the blog for a couple weeks to see if it helps and or changes things. I have talked to the Higher ups here at Olsson's and in their heads, my blog should talk more about events and less about what I ate for lunch or was thinking about while I was in the shower making a shampoo Mohawk. (You know you do it too and if you don't you should try it.)

On the other end of the spectrum are the people who read my blog for the sole purpose of having a bit of a laugh or to see what I was thinking while I was sporting the shampoo Mohawk. In an effort to please both sides of the issue, I am going to write about events in the first part of the blog and then if you click through to my link, you can find out more of the inner workings of my head.

Garden Fresh VoicesSome event news if you are interested. My Garden Fresh Voices Series was picked up by the Book section of the Washington Post and got a special box of its own. If you haven't been paying attention, you will have to go back to see what the heck the Garden Fresh Voices Series is. In short it is a series of talks in the Dupont store with hand picked authors. We kicked off the the series last Monday night with Annie Choi and her new book Happy Birthday or Whatever. She was a very charming lady who read a small section of her memoir and stuck around to sign all the copies of the book I could dredge up. Annie is a Korean American and the first generation in her family to speak more English than Korean. She grew up in California and has a very American outlook on things. I imagine her parents are still a little "Old Country" as a friend of mine would say, and I can only imagine how hard that would be at family get-togethers. I struggle to get my parents to understand me and we speak the same language. We had a good turnout, I brought donuts and everyone had a good time. For proof, you will have to go to Annie's blog and see her thoughts.

Along with my normal duties, I have been tasked with inventing a pitch document to hand out at BEA (Book Expo America) at the end of the month in New York. It has to tell the story of Olsson's in four pages pointing out all the cool things we have ever done and will ever do. It has to be in to my editor on Wednesday so I can hand it off to Production on Thursday. I will also be inventing a time machine to enable me to get the thing finished on time. BEA is a big deal, so I should take it very seriously. All I am looking forward to is putting faces with all the names and voices I deal with every day.

TreadmillWell, that is all the interesting bits for this week. I am now going to put the cap on this 11+ hour Tuesday, go home and eat some veggies and perhaps get an hour on the treadmill so my butt doesn't get any bigger.

"I got to keep on, keep on, keep on keep on, dancing all through the night. I got to keep on, keep on, keep on doing it right..."

Ah those rascally Bradys.
Thursday, May 10, 2007

Space Wars

Back by popular demand is the lovely Ama Wertz. Enough of you wanted to hear more from her, or maybe just see if we could match her face to a book cover again, that she has been asked back. She has just moved to a new apartment, just gotten over a crazy flu bug, and just broken out her summer shoe collection. Even with all that on her plate, AND her radio program AND her work at Courthouse, she made time for this.

Thanks to Ama in advance and here she is...

Ama WertzYour Blackberry. Your PC. Your Cell phone, home security system, wireless network, ATM. GPS. All potential targets for disaster. These days, you'd have to work hard to get off the "grid" -- we're all so hopelessly connected and interdependent. When something goes wrong -- bad weather, faulty equipment, etc -- we tear our hair out and rave about the Stone Age, while mere seconds tick by. This is the hot new weakness of the new millennium (among significant others; global warming, anyone?). Apparently authors Michael Coumatos, William Scott, and William Birnes agree; they propose an attack on this weakness in their realistic fictional novel, Space Wars: the First Six Hours of World War III. When communications, reconnaissance, and weather satellites are jammed, the words "nuclear war" are passed around in whispers in all the right circles.

Enter wargames. No, not the early 80s hit film starring a young Matthew Broderick (although that movie was pretty rad when I first saw it as a kid, when computers were still so high-tech, only super geeks used them, when Hackers was considered cutting-edge), but the same premise nonetheless -- using simulated war scenarios to predict real ones. And who better to mastermind those games than former aviators and strategic military commanders? Coumatos has counter terrorism experience under his belt; Scott's a former flight and nuclear-test engineer. Space Wars reads like a high-action, military-science mystery novel, complete with jargon and all the usual meathead characters and the lone level-headed commander destined to save the world. The Pentagon is on high alert when radical Islamic terrorists attack communications and reconnaissance satellites, literally blinding the West. So the top brass start a game: military and intelligence experts are brought in to "play" a DEADSATS II wargame without knowing the information and results are to be used in a war that's already begun in space. What's most alarming is this isn't science-fiction; the technologies and vulnerabilities are real. And it takes place in 2010.

Space WarsBut let's not gloss over the real debate here -- is what they're proposing that likely? Admittedly, I'm not so convinced. See, until recently I lived perfectly fine without a computer or cell phone. I pay with cash. So let's just say I don't feel that threatened by the idea of communication chaos and lack of data, malfunctioning or dead satellites. But then again, I still toy with the idea of moving to an isolated cabin in the woods and growing my own food (I actually debated whether I could either a) learn to grow and mill my own grains, raise my own cows for milk and cheese or b) learn to live without them). So now that you've got a good idea of my personal crazy-factor, I regress: what's the real probability of this happening? Do such space weapons designed to knock out commercial satellites actually exist? Who would be capable of building and using them? And what can we do about it? Join me at 7 p.m. for a talk and book signing with co-author William Scott on Friday, May 18 at our Arlington Courthouse store and find out. I'll obviously be the one in the back asking lots of questions.
Thursday, May 03, 2007


Two things, very quick and then I am going to ramble a little.

Book CoverSaturday is May 5th. That would be Cinco de Mayo, or Mexican Independence day. In honor of this great holiday, we are having an awesome event in Courthouse. The book is Mondo Lucha a Go-Go. It talks about how the wild world of Mexican wrestling has influenced huge portions of American culture. Without Luchadores, we wouldn't have Nacho Libre and we wouldn't have that great cartoon Mucha Lucha.

Ranjan Chhibber (PhD) is a local professor at George Washington University. He is also former writer for the WWE working with all the wrestling names you know and love. Ranjan worked on the book and is going to discuss his mentor Paul Heyman and the broader implications of wrestling, Luchadores, and the beauty of a flying dropkick when delivered from the top rope. I CAN'T WAIT! Saturday. 1pm. Be there!

Wonderland BallroomThe other thing I wanted to let you all in on happens on May 10th. It is not in a store, but it is still cool. Olsson's Books and our good friends at the Wonderland Ballroom have teamed up to host Irvine Welsh. You might remember Irvine from his first book, Trainspotting, made mildly famous by the Oscar Nominated film staring some guy named Obi-Wan.

Book CoverWelsh is coming over to the states from his frozen home in Scotland to tour for his newest book, Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs. Given his writing style and the subject of his books, we are hosting him at the Wonderland Ballroom. If you haven't been to the Wonder', behind the bar they keep a framed copy of the Choose Life manifesto right from the book. They love Welsh. Not only do they like good books, they enjoy good beers and have footlong hotdogs on the menu. Not just the shorties, FOOT-longs!

So Thursday, May 10th starting at 7pm, upstairs at the Wonderland Ballroom. Welsh will step to the microphone to talk a little about his book. If you are there you can hear him talk. If you are there and buy a copy of the book (15 bucks, paperback) you will get a little ticket that you can take to the bar and trade for a dram of 12 year old scotch for one dollar. Scotch for a buck is reason alone to buy the book. Getting Irvine Welsh to sign the book and to join you in toast and the coolest bar in Columbia Heights? That is a once in a life time event. Books are available at all the stores in advance. If you try to sneak in to my event with a book from somewhere else, I will have you removed. Maybe not, but I would love if you could buy a book from Olsson's to be there.

Garden Fresh Voices Update

Garden Fresh Voices - Annie ChoiIn other news. The Garden Fresh Voices series is off to a rough start. My opening act (Jo Barrett) had to cancel due to wacky travel plans, but we're not worried. Like all Gardens, sometimes the first crop isn't the best crop. We have moved the official start day to the 7th with Annie Choi. Two weeks of non-stop events in the Dupont store. We hope to see a few of you out there. If you are there and you do see me, fell free to say 'hi'.

That is all.

Editor's Notes:

I hear that Mucha Lucha -- the show on Cartoon Network -- has been canceled. A shame.

Along with everything else, the Ranjan does, he has the coolest email address ever!

The Wonderland really is a cool bar. The beer garden is nice and the car seats inside are silly comfy. The Owner and Manager are great guys too. Mathew and Brandon. Thanks for hosting!

Obi-wan was actually a guy named Ewan. I thought his name was Obi. Strange. I thought Ewan was just a guy who rode motorcycles around the world and rode wheelies through London with Charley Boorman. I met them at Waterstone's when their book came out...
Footlong dogs at the Wonder' rock!

Jo Barrett didn't stand me up, she is trying to tour on her own dime because publishers don't send everyone on tour. I am going to reschedule her later in the month.

Annie Choi's book is "Happy Birthday or Whatever" It looks funny, but I didn't get an advance to make certain.

The Notes section is almost as long as the blog. Viva la Mexico!
Staff Photo

Tony Ritchie is settling into the job of Events Cordinator. He has been working with authors and books for the last three years, two in London at Waterstone's and one here in the U.S. He reads lots of new fiction and is partial to debut novels. He is an occasional vegetarian and a non-practising Buddhist who watches documentaries, enjoys long walks on the beach and is training for the Olympics.

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