Bye-bye World’s Biggest Bookstore…

And as of tomorrow, another Toronto institution will be gone for good.  Despite it’s prime location at The Centre of the Known UniverseTM, the World’s Biggest Bookstore didn’t quite live up to its billing–I’ve been to Powell’s Books in Portland, and that place was an entire city block.  Nevertheless, the WBB was to books what Sam the Record Man, which used to be around the corner, was to music.  And now neither of them are a thing anymore.

Of course, this shuttering didn’t happen overnight.  Word had been out for months that the place would be shutting down shortly–in fact, their closing sale was extended until this weekend.  By the time I got there on Saturday, the shelves were pretty barren, and everything that remained was marked down 50 to 75 per cent.  Which isn’t to say there weren’t still some good finds:

001Even with fees and taxes, that’s just 125 bucks worth of books.

As you can see, I’m mostly interested in non-fiction, although I was somewhat intrigued by Revenge of the Lobster Lover, a crime novel set on Prince Edward Island.  I also picked up a French translation of Philip Kerr’s Berlin Trilogy, cuz I don’t read enough in French anymore.  And while there was still a massive overabundance of Chris Hadfield’s autobiography as of yesterday, I couldn’t find a single copy of the Rob Ford book written by that Toronto Star reporter.  I guess they were all sold out!

It was good to find a deeply discounted copy of League of Denial, a concussion study that sent ripples through the NFL last season.  I’ll probably tackle that one first.  And having read Ozzy’s first book, I expect Dr. Ozzy to be hilarious.  Plus, I didn’t even know someone had written a book about the CFL’s U.S. expansion.  I suspect that one had been sitting on the shelves for a while.  Still remember when Baltimore beat the Stamps to win the Grey Cup.  That was awkward…

Alas, I probably don’t have as many memories of World’s Biggest as most members of the 10-book buyers club.  (There were a few folks who said they were making their third trip since the sell-off started.)  Didn’t go there very much when I first moved to the city, as reading wasn’t much fun–and I didn’t have much funds–when I was in university.  But I did used to work across the street, and around the holiday season, they’d sell off some of their most discounted stock in the food court of my building.  Y’know, stuff with torn covers, or books from a couple years ago that were no longer best-sellers.  Picked up a lot of good reads for dirt cheap that way, but I don’t remember actually setting foot in the store until a little later.

And man, when I did go, it often seemed like there were more employees than customers in a space the size of a bowling alley.  (Fun fact: it actually used to be a bowling alley before Coles bought the building in the 80′s.)  While this did lead to better service than you’d get at the overcrowded Indigo in the Eaton’s Centre, I often left wondering how this place could afford to keep the lights on.  Especially since it was also owned by Indigo, which had bought Chapters, which had bought Coles.  Isn’t consolidation fun?

Mind you, when I moved to Bay and Dundas a little less than a year ago, I found myself going to the World’s Biggest over Indigo when I wanted to buy a book.  One wasn’t really much closer than the other, although I appreciated not having to deal with the Eaton Centre crowds.  More than anything, I could usually find what I was looking for there in a matter of minutes, whereas I still get lost in the Eaton Centre Indigo sometimes.

That said, having missed its glory years, I can’t say I’ll really mourn the place.  Thanks to the closing sale, I’ve got enough new reading materials to last me the rest of the year–or at least until the end of summer–and if I need any new books, I’ll just head over to Indigo.  I mean, it’s pretty much the same selection at the same price, anyways.

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Man, I love it when an HMV goes out of business…

Last weekend, I was heading west on Queen Street West when I noticed an HMV store covered in Final Clearance Lease Expiry Up to 80% Off signs.  There was even one stating that they were selling their furniture–inquire with management.  Well, I didn’t see the need to ask about some CD racks, but I did pick up the following for a grand total of 45 bucks (including tax):

001Believe it or not, but this stuff was even cheaper than indicated on the yellow stickers…

  • Fun fact: both Soundgarden and Pantera’s major-label debuts were produced by Terry Date.  Coincidentally, so was Sir Mix-A-Lot’s–it even featured Metal Church playing that riff from “Iron Man.”  No, really!
  • Iron Maiden’s debut was not produced by Terry Date–but I somehow didn’t have a copy of it before(!?)
  • Just started reading The Story of Anvil, and man, did they bang a lotta groupies!  So did most bands from the late 70′s, apparently…
  • According to The Heavy Metal Book of Lists, only two of the top 12 Metal Songs About Serial Killers were performed by Macabre–and only one by Church of Misery.  This is the number one song.
  • I haven’t actually watched Argo yet.  Maybe this weekend?

That time when Jay Onrait got kicked into a neon sign on live TV (is now online!)

I just recently finished reading Anchorboy, a memoir from ex-TSN anchor Jay Onrait (now with Fox Sports in the States).  I gotta say, I never really watched much Sportscentre, and I kinda bought the book on a whim, but I have certainly gained an appreciation for the guy after reading it.  He has some pretty wild stories in here that are almost more rock-star than straight-laced sportscaster–although not many rock stars ever have to poop in a warehouse in New Brunswick, I suppose.

Anyways, before landing at TSN, Onrait did a stint as the host of The Big Breakfast at A Channel Winnipeg, a city where’s he’s still best remembered for one particular Olympic encounter.  Winipegger Dominque Bosshart had just won bronze in taekwondo at the Sydney Olympics, which made her an ideal morning show guest.  And what would a guest appearance from an Olympic taekwondo athlete be without a taekwondo demonstration?

As Onrait recalls in Anchorboy, “Dominique and I would talk for a minute or so about her experience in Sydney and what it’s like to return home an Olympic bronze medalist, and then she and I would stand face to face and she would demonstrate a roundhouse kick, with me holding up a thick pad about waist-high to protect myself.  No head gear, no other padding, just me and my Backstreet Boys outfit and my heavily gelled frosty tips to protect me.  What could possibly go wrong?”

Well, how about this:

(It’s a shame there’s no sound, as that’s almost half the fun!)

Alas, I would recommend you read Anchorboy, even though I just gave away the best part.  Bosshart, by the way, now coordinates the national taekwondo team.  In hindsight, Onrait could’ve used some of that coordination…

Because not all Wall Street bankers go to jail…

For what it’s worth, I have read The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort.  I’ve even read the sequel, Catching the Wolf of Wall Street, which includes insight into the stages of crack cocaine, among other things.  (Insert Rob Ford joke here.)  I probably will end up seeing the movie when it comes out in theatres–although frankly, I couldn’t think of a better way to ruin Christmas.  Frankly, Jordan Belfort is not a very good person.  Just ask the Stratton Oakmont victims who only get lip service in the book, and presumably in the film.  Hey, the New York Times already did.

Belfort’s books, while entertaining in much the same manner as a Paris Hilton reality TV show, don’t portray a protagonist that anyone can relate to or sympathize with–unless maybe you’ve built up a multi-million-dollar empire by pressuring clueless investors into manipulating the prices of small-cap stocks.  And chances are you haven’t; otherwise, like Belfort, you’d probably be sitting…on a beach in L.A. entertaining fawning feature writers.

Incidentally, one of the books Amazon recommended for me when I first perused The Wolf of Wall Street online was The Buy Side by ex-hedge-fund trader Turney Duff.  As the subtitle suggests, it’s also a tale of Wall Street excess, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale.  (For one thing, Duff’s Long Island mansion was only worth about $4-million at the height of the housing market; Belfort’s was listed at 50+.)  But while Belfort comes off as a pompous, arrogant, self-proclaimed Master of the Universe, Duff is much more relatable, a guy on Wall Street who actually wanted to be liked, not worshiped.

Unlike those who hustled their way to the top, Turney Duff moved to the big city with a journalism degree, hoping to become a writer before landing a job in the financial industry due to his devotion to Melrose Place.  What he lacked in credentials, he made up for in social skills–especially his ability to throw wild parties–and ultimately found himself on the buy side, as a head trader with a billion-dollar hedge fund.  In his best year, he brought in a bonus of $1.86-million bucks, which will certainly allow one to live a lavish lifestyle.

Suffice to say that Duff didn’t have a completely clean slate.  Although he was perhaps no more than an accessory to insider trading, he likely could’ve gone toe-to-toe with Belfort in a cocaine-hoovering contest back in his heyday.  But while Belfort’s stories often ended with him paying off officials after being physically restrained on a flight to Switzerland, Duff typically finds himself alone in a penthouse hotel suite watching porn and doing blow while his fiance and newborn daughter lie awake at home.  It’s not such a glamourous lifestyle, kids.

And that’s the difference right there.  After his second stint in rehab, Duff experiences remorse and winds up leaving Wall Street behind, even with another head-trading job seemingly in the bag.  On the other hand, Belfort only appears sorry that he got caught.  While I don’t doubt that the Martin Scorsese film will further stroke the Wolf’s ego, a Turney Duff movie would be a lot darker and more depressing, with an underlying anti-drug theme not unlike the Hollywood adaption of Jim Carroll’s The Basketball Diaries.

Leo DiCaprio really ruined a good book in that one, too.  Just saying…

All quiet on the Rob Ford front? He must be going through the Xanax phase…

Now, unlike The Crack-Smoking Mayor of This CityTM, I have never tried crack cocaine.  But you know who has?  Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street (soon to be a major motion picture).  In his second book, Catching the Wolf of Wall Street, Belfort explains the four stages of crack consumption:

“The first phase of a crack high is the euphoria phase.  This is when you feel so incredibly wonderful that you want to just scream from the fucking hilltops: ‘I love crack!  I love crack!  And all of you out there who ain’t smoking this shit don’t know what you’re missing!”

Aaaaand now I know why Mayor Ford didn’t want anyone to see that video. ;)

According to Belfort, that first phase lasts “Maybe fifteen or twenty minutes; then it’s over and you slide into phase two, which is almost as good, but not quite.  It’s called the diarrhea-of-the-mouth phase, which is somewhat self-explanatory.  In this case, however, the sort of drug-induced oral diarrhea spewed out differs from your garden-variety oral diarrhea that the typical sober bullshit artist slings at you.”

Ah, so you mean stuff like “I need fucking 10 minutes to make sure he’s dead.  It’ll be over in five minutes, brother!”  Hmm, where have I heard that before?

Belfort says the worry phase soon follows.  “This is phase three: a vicious onslaught of negative thoughts washing over you like a killer tsunami.  You worry about everything: mistakes of the past, problems of the present, and anything that might pop up in the future.”  Which explains several of the Mayor’s press conferences.

But what comes next is even worse: the suicide-contemplation phase.  Belfort says “There are only two known antidotes to it: The first is the massive consumption of benzodiazepines–preferably Xanax or Valium and Klonopin.  The second is massive quantities of sleep, on the order of two or three days.  Anything less and you still might attempt suicide.”

Here’s hoping Rob Ford’s been taking massive quantities of Xanax, then.  While he probably doesn’t deserve to be The Crack-Smoking Mayor of This CityTM anymore, he still doesn’t deserve to die.

COMMENT OF THE DAY: Sunken pirate ship? Well, she does have a lotta booty…


In their annual push to boost newsstand sales, People magazine has named Gwyneth Paltrow this year’s “World’s Most Beautiful Woman.”  Suffice to say this was not a popular choice, particularly amongst readers of the L.A. Times.  And the award for World’s Most Ridiculous Reaction goes to:


I gotta say, I laughed at the Kardashian bit, but that last sentence?  Yeah, I’m not even going to touch that one…


Juron: A curse, a swear or a naughty word, often with religious connotations (ie blasphemy).

As seen in: « Surprise, les livres destinés aux jeunes enfants qui apprennent à lire ne sont pas toujours inoffensifs et peuvent même contenir des jurons et des sacres. »

(Translation: “Surprise!  Books intended for young children who are learning to read aren’t always inoffensive and can even contain swear words and curses.”)