Letters to Holly

Friday, February 24

Amazon Is Magic

I got an email yesterday saying an Amazon.com order was sent back to them by the local (read: hick, yokel, Mayberry) post office. Instead of forwarding my shipment to my new address, they sent it back to Amazon. It makes no sense; just Wednesday I received mail sent to my previous address but forwarded to my new one by the PO folks. Grr. Bureaucratic inconsistency make Greg mad.

I used the email link from Amazon to contact their customer service options. Included in them is the option to have them call you. You click a button and input your phone number. You then select when you want them to call. I selected the "right now." As soon as I clicked enter, the phone rang. It's the automated Amazon system. It was instantaneous. I expected some time to be lost through programming processing. No. They called. Immediately.

So I talked to them and confirmed that the order is back to Amazon, and that's ultimately OK. I swung by Best Buy to get the items (“Angel” Season 5 and Serenity DVDs). I called Amazon solely to verify that they indeed had the order returned, so I wouldn’t buy the items, drive home, and find my order on my doorstep.

My point: Amazon customer service is muy bueno. But that immediate callback is startling. I'm shocked by its efficiency.

Your Sister is getting better. Another day of reading and napping seems to have steeled her to return to work. I cooked a quick meal of broiled pork chops and zucchini. Did you know that if zucchini is broiled or grilled, it tastes exactly like corn? Truly. We couldn’t believe it. Normally we bake of stir-fry it.

We watched the Olympics almost exclusively last night, and it was quite the show. NBC showed the women’s skate finals spread out among clips of the men’s freestyle Downhill Flail. There is, of course, a great discrepancy between the presentations for ice skating and the other winter games. While it gets a bad rap for pretension and gentility, ice skating is the closest the winter games have to artistry amid the action. I traditionally favor the summer games, especially gymnastics, but I admit that the choreography mandated in gym routines is often stiff and flat. A wrist wave here. A twirled elbow there. It’s just filler unless a gymnast has some sense of fun and comfort. Everyone else is mindlessly stirring the air between flips. But ice skating benefits from constant motion. Even if the skaters are tensing up before a spin or jump, they’re still gliding. Combine that with the blurred depth of the rink caused by camera focus and their adjustment in turn angles, and skating has continuous energy gymnastics can’t match. Of course, it can still get boring. And the costumes can be garish. And the make-up can look like it was applied during airplane turbulence.

But last night’s work was solid, even by the gals who had no shot at medaling. The most consistent improvement in women’s skating is that virtually every jump was followed by a smooth transition from jump to follow-through leg extension. That was a touch that divided the main-eventers and the runners-up. No longer it seems. Instead, the women were separated by consistency of energy. Many, many skaters gave up on their routine and diluted their planned jumps. Triples became doubles over and over, and that kept many from cracking the top five. NBC was building up American Sasha Cohen all night long and referred to a leg injury possibly resulting from a warm-up fall. They didn’t mention the obvious back pad she wore while walking backstage. Unfortunately, after all the hype, she fell 20 seconds into her routine, killing her shot at gold. She took silver, however, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. The gold went to Shizuka Arakawa, Japan’s first gold medalist in figure skating. Sarah Meier of Switzerland had the best costume, a decent picture of which I can’t find with any search engine.

This weekend marks the real beginning of the annual comic-book convention season with a huge con in New York. At this show, a seminar on graphic novel sales put into focus the growth of the market:

2001: $75 mil
2002: 110 mil
2003: 165 mil
2004: 207 mil
2005: 245 mil (estimate)

Japanese manga continues to dominate by almost 20% over the domestic superhero genre. But that’s somewhat of a skewed stat. Manga incorporates everything from heroes to fantasy to romance to robots. American fare is virtually all superhero. It’s not a fair comparison, but manga does continue to capture the teen reading market especially among girls.

Speaking of comics, I’m still reading the Nelson Mandela editorial cartoon compilation you gave me. Let me return the favor: If you haven’t kept up with Doonesbury lately, a major subplot involves lead character B.D. recovering from amputation after his service in Iraq. A collection of the initial stories is available from Amazon.com, but you can read the majority of material online for free. For modern comic strips, this is groundbreaking stuff. And speaking again of comics …

The Picture of the Day
Sony released this picture form the next Spidey movie. It comes out in May. Of 2007.

In the news

The UAE company says it will hold off active control of the U.S. ports, and the White House says this allows Congress to review the deal before making it official. Locally, N.C. Senator Libby Dole took a strong stand against the deal and then learned husband Bob was hired to lobby for the port company.

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