Cannabiz author John Geluardi November 5

| 0 comments | Wednesday, October 27, 2010

November 5th at 7 pm, journalist John Geluardi comes to Northtown Books.

His new book Cannabiz tells one the most important political and business stories of our generation: the transformation of a counterculture movement into a growth industry with staggering potential. Charting the rise of medical marijuana in California and 14 other states, award-winning journalist John Geluardi vividly recounts the movement’s early activism, its legal challenges and victories, and its emergence as a commercial and political force.

Tracing the history of marijuana in the United States, Cannabiz also reports on the industry’s key players, political allies and opponents, internal strife, and audacious aspirations—including a 2010 ballot initiative to legalize the adult use of marijuana in California. Along the way, Geluardi describes local efforts to regulate dispensaries, ranging from workable ordinances in some cities to bureaucratic paralysis in Los Angeles, where dispensaries came to outnumber McDonalds franchises. He also reports on efforts in our own Humboldt County to keep pot illegal—and prices high.

Adroitly profiling this unique industry, Cannabiz tells a distinctively American story—one whose colorful characters and fascinating details evoke Prohibition and the Gold Rush.

John Geluardi is a veteran Bay Area reporter. A staff writer for SF Weekly, he wrote features on crime, local and national politics, and culture. In 2008, he received three first-place awards from the San Francisco Penninsula Press Club for his stories on vice presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez, the legendary Caffe Trieste, and a series of San Francisco homicides the police falsely classified as suicides.

Praise for Cannabiz

“Cannabiz fully captures the vibrant and ever-evolving political and economic landscape of the budding medical marijuana industry. Geluardi accurately paints the City of Oakland as a leader in legitimizing the industry and as the Silicon Valley of cannabis.”
Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember

“Cannabiz is politically informative and culturally astute. Geluardi paints a complex picture of a transitional moment—one in which the nation’s kneejerk anti-marijuana politics and criminal justice sanctions are falling out of favor. He shows how medical marijuana, a once outlandish idea, has become mainstream, and how quickly America’s economic and political culture has adapted to this new reality.”
Sasha Abramsky, Inside Obama’s Brain and Breadline USA

Jerry Martien: At the School of Doors September 17th

| 0 comments | Friday, September 10, 2010

Jerry Martien will read and sign copies of his poetry chapbook, At the School of Doors, on Friday, September 17, at Northtown Books in Arcata at 7 pm.

The six-page poem draws on the author’s experience as a poet and teacher, a carpenter, and a doorman at Arcata’s Jambalaya Club. It is printed, folded and sewn (all by hand) so its cover and two sheets of paper open and close like doors. The edition of 150 copies is issued by Tangram, the small press imprint of Berkeley printer Jerry Reddan, who began his trade at Eureka Printing in the 1970’s.

Martien will read this and other poems of passage, followed by a discussion of art and craft, writing and earning a living, and the role of metaphor in making sense of our lives.

Martien is the author of several Tangram chapbooks and broadsides, and a collection of poetry, Pieces in Place. He has recorded two CDs, Jerry Martien and the Band of Angels, and recently The Road to Heaven with bass player Shao Way Wu. Besides his door jobs and brief stints as a nighwatchman and truck driver, he has edited small magazines, worked at Northtown Books, and taught in rural classrooms with California Poets in the Schools and in Humboldt State’s creative writing program.

The reading and discussion is free to the public.

Joesph Mattson reads from Empty the Sun, Thursday September 9th

| 0 comments | Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Here I was, doing ninety on the Santa Monica Freeway with a quart of whiskey shoved into my crotch and my dead neighbor in the trunk. It had come time to leave Los Angeles"

Thus begins Joseph Mattson's new post apocalyptic whiskey drenched novel, which culminates in a shotgun battle with God.

Thursday September 9th at 7 pm, Northtown Books welcomes Joseph Mattson to read from his new novel, Empty the Sun. The novel includes a CD soundtrack by former Humboldtian Ben Chasny (aka Six Organs of Admittance).

"Joseph Mattson writes like a guitar player with nineteen fingers - everywhere at once, stinging, dark, and beautiful."

--Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

"Several passages induced the shiver of aesthetic bliss in my spine that Nabokov famously described as the indicator of good and true writing."

--James Greer, author of Guided by Voices: A Brief History

"Joseph Mattson is a monster of a writer"

--Beth Lisick, author of Everybody Into the Pool.

For more on the book go here.

See Joseph Mattson battle Curb Your Enthusiasm's Jeff Garlin for watermelon supremacy with music from the soundtrack for Empty the Sun by Six Organs of Admittance:

Sanae, Senryu Poet: Her Life in 5-7-5

| 0 comments | Thursday, August 26, 2010

Friday August 27th at 7 pm, Northtown Books welcome Amy and Aiko Uyeki to Northtown Books to read and sign their new book 'Sanae, Senryu Poet: Her Life in 5-7-5'.

Shizue Harada came to the United States in the 1920s following her husband in arranged marriage. She didn’t become Sanae, a writer of a Japanese poetry form called senryu, un...til she had lived a full life, working factory jobs and raising two children.

Sanae’s daughter, Aiko Uyeki, has compiled her poetry in a collection that captures Sanae’s strong Buddhist faith, her wry humor and simple wisdom, her musings about growing old and her approaching death.

Complementing these poems is the artwork of Amy Uyeki, Sanae’s granddaughter. With word and image, a picture is painted of the life of Shizue Harada, a Meiji era wife whose story mirrors many first generation Japanese Americans who left familiar shores to seek the American dream.

Please join us for this special event.

William Ayers returns Wednesday, August 18th

| 0 comments | Monday, August 16, 2010

William Ayers returns to Northtown Books with his new graphic novel To Teach Wednesday, August 18th at 7 pm. He'll be joined by his partner Bernardine Dohrn.

This new graphic novel brings to life William Ayers’s bestselling memoir To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher. From Ayers’s early days teaching kindergarten, readers follow this renowned educational theorist on his “voyage of discovery and surprise.” We meet fellow travelers f...rom schools across the country and watch students grow across a year and a lifetime.

To Teach is a vivid, honest portrayal of the everyday magic of teaching, and what it means to be a “good” teacher—debunking myths perpetuated on film and other starry-eyed hero/teacher fictions. Illuminated by the evocative and wry drawings of Ryan Alexander-Tanner, this graphic version of To Teach will engage while it instructs. It is a much-needed reminder of how curiosity, a sense of adventure, and a healthy dose of reflection can guide us all to learn the most from this world as we educate the next generation. Teacher educators and professional developers will want to use this dynamic graphic novel alongside the traditional text for a unique teaching and learning experience.

To Teach is hilarious serious and fabulous! A broad manifesto that will change many people’s lives.”
—Laurie Anderson, artist and musician

“Bill Ayers’s theories about teaching reform rest on at least two foundations. One is that the hierarchical relationship between the student and teacher should be moved out of the way, followed by simultaneous learning by teacher and student. The second is to demonstrate how some subjects blend with others (math with science) and all should be taught with their relationship in mind. Sounds good to me. A serious book, but laced with humor. It will strike most readers as a novel approach. Required reading for all educators.”
—Harvey Pekar, author, American Splendor series

Vanessa Pike-Vrtiak and Friends

| 0 comments | Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Join us at this Friday at 7 pm as Vanessa Pike-Vrtiak reads from her new book of poetry, The Thunderbird Extinction: Acapella Remedies for the Heart. She'll be raising funds to represent Humboldt at the Individual World Slam Poetry competition.

There will also be performances from Travis Lockwood, Therese FitzMaurice, David Holper, Melanie Quillen, Megan Davis, the Johnson Brothers, Hula Hoop performers, and live music.

Poet Jacqueline Suskin reads Friday, July 9th for Arts Arcata

| 0 comments | Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jacqueline Suskin, proprietor of Poem Store, brings her first book of poetry, The Collected, to Northtown Books. The event on Friday July 9th, during Arts Arcata, will include a reading by Jacqueline at 7pm.

The book is a collection of snapshots found in Florida flea markets, roadside ditches, junk shops, and trash bins. 23 poems are printed opposite the original photographs that inspired their creation. Please come and join in the celebration.

For more info on Jacqueline, go here.

Jerry Martien and Shao Way Wu June 11 at 7 pm

| 1 comments | Thursday, June 3, 2010

Poet Jerry Martien will perform selections from his new CD release 'The Road To Heaven' Friday, June 11 at 7 pm at Northtown Books. He will be accompanied by Shao Way Wu on stand up bass.

Get a taste of what they'll do here at the archives of the Mad River Anthology. The photo below is from that session.

Jerry Martien has published several books of poetry, the most recent being Pieces in Place. He is also the author of Shell Game: A True Account of Beads and Money in North America.

"Lyrics, philosophy, regional politics, ecstatic understated invocations! Finding where we stand. All with a sardonic but compassionate eye. I am deeply pleased that the poetry of Jerry Martien - I have admired it for years - is now available." Gary Snyder

Katy Tahja here Friday, May 14

| 2 comments | Thursday, May 6, 2010

At Northtown Books on Friday, May 14 at 7 pm, Katy M. Tahja will sign and talk about her new book Humboldt State University, a photographic essay on the history of HSU from Arcadia Publishing.

Covering almost 100 years, the book shares the growth of the college through the years. Tahja hand-picked more than 200 vintage images, many from the HSU library's Humboldt Room archive, to depict a century of changes. The book is arranged with chapters featuring the six presidents who guided Humboldt over the decades, areas of study, professors, social life on campus, sports, and the physical beauty of the area.
Katy M. Tahja is also the author of Rails Across the Noyo: A Rider's Guide to the Skunk Train and All Roads Lead to Comptche, and she has been a librarian and local historian on the Mendocino Coast for 35 years. Katy, husband David, and daughter Fern all graduated from Humboldt State University of a 37-year span.

Pie and Poetry!

| 1 comments | Thursday, April 29, 2010

Saturday, April 24th Northtown hosted Pie & Poetry in honor of National Poetry month.

Poet Jacqueline Suskin wrote poems to order for some, and a good time was had by all.

(Photos courtesy of Terrence McNally and the Arcata Eye).

Wherever There's A Fight - Saturday May 1st 7pm

| 0 comments | Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturday May 1st at 7 pm, Northtown Books will host an event celebrating the release of Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California by Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi.

Wherever There's a Fight captures the sweeping story of how freedom and equality have grown in California, from the gold rush right up to the precarious post-9/11 era. The book tells the stories of the brave individuals who have stood up for their rights in the face of social hostility, physical violence, economic hardship, and political stonewalling.

The book connects the experiences of early Chinese immigrants subjected to discriminatory laws to those of professionals who challenged McCarthyism and those of people who have fought to gain equal rights in California schools: people of color, people with disabilities, and people standing up for their religious freedom. The authors bring a special focus to the World War II internment of Japanese Americans, focusing on the infamous Korematsu case, which was foreshadowed by a century of civil liberties violations and reverberates in more recent times—regrettably, even today in the Patriot Act. And they follow the ongoing struggles for workers' rights and same-sex marriage.

State and federal constitutions spell out many liberties and rights, but it is the people who challenge prejudice and discrimination that transform those lofty ideals into practical realities. Wherever There's a Fight paints vivid portraits of these people and brings to light their often hidden stories.

For more info, go here:

About the Authors

Elaine Elinson was the communications director of the ACLU of Northern California and editor of the ACLU News for more than two decades. She is a coauthor of Development Debacle: The World Bank in the Philippines, which was banned by the Marcos regime. Her articles have been published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, Poets and Writers, and numerous other periodicals. She is married to journalist Rene CiriaCruz and they have one son.

Stan Yogi has managed development programs for the ACLU of Northern California since 1997. He is the coeditor of two books, Highway 99: A Literary Journey through California's Great Central Valley and Asian American Literature: An Annotated Bibliography. His work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, MELUS, Los Angeles Daily Journal, and several anthologies. He is married to nonprofit administrator David Carroll and lives in Oakland.

DIGITAL BURN: the Remaking of the Independent Bookseller


by A. Bitterman, Feb. 2010

But before I let your steam drill beat me down, I’d die with a hammer in my hand, lord, lord. I’d die with a hammer in my hand…

Nearly 20 years ago, publishing companies made a decision to tilt the scales of supply and demand knowing full well that in the process they would devastate the independent bookselling industry for years to come. Maybe even destroy it. The promise of unprecedented profits was too much to ignore.

In order to endorse and sustain the superstore model put forth by companies like Borders and Barnes & Noble, publishers employed a strategy of over-production in order to supply enough books to cover the miles and miles of new book shelves that far exceeded actual customer demand.

To make it work, publishers needed to establish an asymmetric retail environment that would function as a safety net to capture the inevitably large returns that would result from over-supplying the big box stores.
This meant creating a new kind of bargain book market that would not only offer breathtaking discounts on out-of-print remainders but on new books as well, books that were over-printed and were still being sold at the cover price in most of the traditional independent retail outlets.

The coincident emergence of online retailing helped fuel publisher confidence in the new model. Independents were caught in a death grip, wedged between the superstore and the bargain book, an unsustainable position that immediately rendered them old-fashioned, inconvenient, and over-priced in the public’s mind.

Obediently, independent booksellers pitted themselves against the superstore, in many cases because they really thought that was the enemy, but ultimately because they had no choice. How could they assail the real enemy, the publishers - their masters - who supplied them, extended credit to them, sent authors to them?

What was once a legitimate playing field for independent booksellers became a plantation almost overnight. Publishers no longer needed them and if they were to survive it would be by their own sheer grit and determination, nothing more or less. The master looked away while thousands perished.

Between 1993 and 2003, the number of independent book retailers diminished by more than half, and their consumer market share dwindled from 30+% to less than 10%. The downward trend continues, albeit more slowly, accompanied by the sound of fingernails dragging across loose rock.

But there is hope on the horizon for the independent bookseller, and it comes in a strange and perhaps unexpected form - the e-book.

Reflexively, independent booksellers by and large view the digital book as a threat not just to their livelihood but to the legacy of which they perceive themselves a vital part. It is an affront to what they have been fighting for and dying for all along.

Unlike chain stores and online retailers, independent booksellers have a sensual relationship with their product. They like real books - the way they feel, the way they smell, the way they fit in your hand. They like the history that an actual book possesses, even a bad one. A digital book has no inherent sensual value. It is like the difference between going to a baseball game and watching the game day version on your computer. There is no comparison, and the hot dogs will never taste the same.

Nonetheless, independent booksellers should be rooting for electronic media. Their survival may depend on it.

The digital book has rapidly become a source of both profit and high anxiety in recent years for all sectors of the publishing industry. With Google attempting to digitize the universe and e-book platforms multiplying seemingly day-by-day, digital piracy plagues the publishers to the tune of a billion dollars a year.

With that kind of hemorrhaging, publishers can no longer afford to accommodate the price wars they instigated back in the 90’s with printed matter. There is no safety net with digital media. It’s a high wire act with high stakes. And with no net there is no room for error when it comes to the bottom line.

With this in mind, Macmillan Publishers, with the support of their counterparts in “the big six”, recently fired a shot across the bow by fixing prices on their electronic media so that vendors like would no longer be able to slash prices and undercut their competitors. This way, publishers can ensure maximum returns regardless of their distribution outlet.

In response, Amazon issued one of the most brilliantly absurd statements in the history of public relations: “Macmillan has a monopoly over its own titles.” Which is like saying Coke has a monopoly over Coke products, or that Jesus has a monopoly over his disciples. It would be funny if it wasn’t so telling of the sort of delusional thinking that has come into fashion, particularly among online retailers and their consumers, that everything is for the taking and that nothing, including provenance, is above the market.

In any case, while industry insiders spin the Macmillan incident as a shift in power from distributors to content providers, what this really means to traditional booksellers is that publishers are finally feeling the edges of their superstore model and it’s about to bite them in the ass. They’re afraid of the what’s coming. It may have taken 20+ years, but the independent bookseller may yet be rewarded for its tenacity.

As digital media proliferates, the market share for printed material will naturally decrease over time, rendering the superstore model ineffective. It’s already happening, with Borders on life support (and no hope of recovering) and Barnes and Noble trending flat on in-store sales. One can reasonably expect to see Barnes and Noble reining in and streamlining its bricks and mortar operations in the coming years, (boasting efficiency and a new kind of “knowledge & service” that makes their new smaller stores superior to their behemoth ancestors,) and turning its attention more fully to its online retail efforts.

This will open more markets for independents already on the ground. Specialty stores will become more viable. As the weight shifts to the e-book, publishers may well choose to fix prices on printed books as well in order to protect profits in both sectors. This too will help independents gain advantage in what remains of the printed book market.

It’s worth noting here that several countries in Europe have always required fixed pricing on printed books and that the result has been the coexistence of a thriving independent bookselling industry alongside a healthy online and chain store market.

Historically, America has resisted market controls like fixed pricing because, well, it’s unAmerican. Our entire notion of freedom and progress derives from a slavish belief in free markets. We would rather see John Henry die with a hammer in his hand, and hold him up as a hero, than make room for both him and the steam drill. It’s a pathology that constantly pits old against new, and allows us to believe that the future is inevitable in whatever form it takes. We know deep down that this is not really the case because radio didn’t die with the advent of television, nor did home video replace the movie house, and bicycles are still being manufactured.

The notion that digital and printed media are mutually exclusive is a mythology better left alone. What’s really happening now is that e-books are giving new life to the printed word. Fewer and better books will be brought to press. New markets will open as the superstores retract. Small retailers will rise up and in turn provide new opportunities for publishers to really diversify their product in ways not seen for over a decade.

The temptation to engage digital media as the enemy is self-defeating. History need not be repeated. John Henry need not die. For independent booksellers, now is the time for a quiet smile and a pat on the back as publishers are forced to come to terms with the monster in the (big) box.

A. Bitterman
Reading Reptile
328 W. 63rd St.
Kansas City, MO 64113


| 4 comments | Monday, February 22, 2010

Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter is our March reading group selection. Our next meeting will be on March 14th at 5:30 here at the bookstore. Books are in and behind the counter at a 10% discount.

Here's a reading guide for the book.


| 0 comments | Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In association with EPIC, Northtown Books will host Douglas Bevington, author of The Rebirth of Environmentalism: Grassroots Activism from the Spotted Owl to the Polar Bear, for a discussion and signing Friday February 19th at 7 pm.

Bevington offers engaging case studies of three of the most influential biodiversity protection campaigns—the Headwaters Forest campaign, the “zero cut” campaign on national forests, and the endangered species litigation campaign exemplified by the Center for Biological Diversity—providing the reader with an in-depth understanding of the experience of being involved in grassroots activism.

Based on first-person interviews with key activists in these campaigns, the author explores the role of tactics, strategy, funding, organization, movement culture, and political conditions in shaping the influence of the groups. He also examines the challenging relationship between radicals and moderate groups within the environmental movement, and addresses how grassroots organizations were able to overcome constraints that had limited the advocacy of other environmental organizations.

Filled with inspiring stories of activists, groups, and campaigns that most readers will not have encountered before, The Rebirth of Environmentalism explores how grassroots biodiversity groups have had such a big impact despite their scant resources, and presents valuable lessons that can help the environmental movement as a whole—as well as other social movements—become more effective.

Here's a recent piece Bevington wrote for Counterpunch.