Saturday, November 22, 2008

That's a shame.

I understand perfectly well that the business model no longer makes a lick of sense and that there are probably better uses for the space these days, but I'm still nostalgically sorry to see the end of Harvard Square's Out of Town News. When I was in Cambridge I'd sometimes still buy some newspaper or magazine from some far-distant point, just 'cuz. Undoubtedly I wouldn't been able to find it online, but equally undoubtedly I wouldn't have happened upon it. I liked browsing the headlines of the world.

Montreal's book and magazine retailers seem to operate in an alternate universe in which the internet was never invented. I don't understand how a place like the Renaud-Bray around the corner from me can support what's probably 750 square feet of retail space on the ground floor on the main street of a major commercial district just for magazines-- and how many of the magazines are French reviews of history of the human sciences or philosophy. Little hole-in-the-wall used bookstores abound-- and the one across Mont-Royal from my house has a much larger philosophy section than does the McGill Bookstore. It's a puzzlement, and almost-certainly a temporary anomaly, but I'll enjoy it while I've got it.

Of related interest, I loved this NYT Magazine articleon the challenge to improve Netflix' recommendation software. (Related because of the switch from corner video stores where you might plausibly browse and find new things to an online system with many more choices that will nonetheless be hidden from you unless there's good recommendation software.) I love the list of movies that are proving impossible to predict or correlate: especially Napoleon Dynamite but also “I Heart Huckabees,” “Lost in Translation,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” “Kill Bill: Volume 1” and “Sideways.” Two cheers for unpredictability.