Friday, July 5, 2002

The Defoor Centre

The Defoor Centre Mall showroomAn autographed Helen Keller and letter, for sale by Henry Ramsey Old BooksAn example of fore-edge painting, for sale by Books & Cases & PrintsWe were trying to find a good used book store. We hit all the usual suspects: small shops downstairs from furniture showrooms, dusty dingy chain shops reeking of paperback glue. Then, almost by accident, we stumbled into the coolest little-known book shop in Atlanta. Only, it isn't a regular book shop and it sure isn't little. It's the Defoor Centre Mall, a showroom with over 15 used and rare book dealers all under one roof.

The Defoor Centre Mall opened on April 19, 2002 and was the brainchild of Virginia Velleca, owner of Books & Cases & Prints, and Debby Eason, the former owner of Creative Loafing and current owner of The Story. The Centre's raison d'etre: to keep the struggling small bookseller alive while also providing a venue for group meetings, literary events, and signings. The Centre also hosts an art gallery,The Story, and will soon expand to include theatre.

The Centre can cater to any book-hound's desires, whether you want to spend $1 or $30,000 (albeit, most of their customers are of the first variety). They have Megandorfer pop-ups, autographed Helen Keller and Jimmy Carters, first edition Poes, rare sport and fishing books, African-American and Southern studies, antiquaria such as bindings and plate books, fore-edge paintings, maps and charts, and enough used and rare books to satisfy even the most finicky tastes. You could spend hours trolling over it all. We did.

Glass cases protect the most valuable works from decay and Atlanta's 10 serious book thieves, but you'll still get to handle some impressive pieces. We were thrilled to handle a huge $1,000 two-volume leather bound edition of Imperial Shakespeare printed in 1844.

So take a trip over to the Defoor's worth the visit even if you're just there to look around. The Centre is located just west of I-75 off Howell Mill.
Defoor Centre Mall
1710 Defoor Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30318
Open 10:00am to 5:30pm, Monday through Saturday
The Centre is having a back room book sale July 20 to 27 where no book will price above $5. We'll be there for sure. fb

What the...

In the months following September 11, we have been told that America slept. We have listened, at least in MSNBC and CNN edited sound-bites, as FBI and CIA big-wigs winced under the biting criticism and perfect hindsight of congressional subcommittees and media experts.

But more than the intelligence community lay asleep before last September. Indeed, by October 2001 we learned that another menace had snuck up undetected on our busy and happy pre-attack nation. Enron.

Before last October I would have challenged almost anyone to explain stock options, Bermuda tax-shelters, and energy trading. Now, of course, we are all arm-chair experts. And with Worldcom and an investor crisis now driving the market south, the small-time investors, like us at Cloudjammer, have to ask: How did it get like this? What can we do to fix it?

Dubya revealed his suggestions last week when he addressed corporate responsibility to Wall Street. The solutions he suggest illustrate – painfully – the inequities of our corporate system. Some highlights:
  • Double prison terms from five to 10 years for corporate executives convicted of fraud.
  • Executives who benefit from false accounting must forfeit their fraudulent earnings.
  • CEOs much vouch for their companies' financial reports.
  • Convicted corporate leaders are barred from ever serving on publicly-held companies again.
  • Accounting firms must submit to an independent board to oversee the industry and prevent self-compromise (as in Anderson's case).
What the...

John Stewart called it last week: "Did Wall Street have any rules before this? Could you just shoot a guy for looking at you wrong?"

Seriously. How were initiatives like these never implemented before our current market crisis. Did no one at Anderson ever suggest, "Hey, maybe stock options should appear on corporate financial statements...I mean, that would be a more honest projection of profit, right?" Certainly we're all out to make money, but come on. Cheaters always get caught. Always. Right?

Not if they're actively undermining the SEC. Enter the political parties.

What we find truly unsettling is that suggestions like Bush's have been made before. As recent as 1994, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, a non-profit accounting-industry watchdog group, proposed that employee stock options appear on corporate balance sheets. A Senate resolution – authored by former vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, no less – crushed the proposal 88 to 9.

Ah. So here's the problem. We have a transparent corporate campaign finance system in which large business, driven by sometimes-fudged profits, put members of both parties in office. The politicians, at least until this recent outrage, protected their benefactors and their own shares and count on the accounting industry to police itself. In fact, they resisted federal policing of any kind. Makes you wonder just who knew what when, eh?

But who among us can blame them? Certainly we all grieve for the millions who've lost some or most of the 401K and stock holdings. Certainly we despise the obvious and unapologetic abuse of trust, confidence, and investment. But who among us wasn't excited during the 90's boom-bubble? Our jobs and our portfolios paid well...damn well. Meanwhile Washington and Wall Street fudged a little here, changed a smidgen there, and we all came out richer.

But times change and now we're pissed.

It makes me think of a billboard that briefly hung over 85-South this past April. It was a Maker's Mark sign that showed a bottle of the liquor alone on a black field and presented the following tag line: "Disappears faster than a big-5 accounting firm." Within days the text was backed out – no doubt by Anderson apologists. As if erasing the remark would make its memory any less potent. If only Arthur Anderson had time to prepare a financial statement on the federal deficit before it's final death rattle last month. If only we'd all looked down, once in a while, and realized that the streets of our new America were not necessarily paved in gold but lined with options. fb

The Benefit of Hindsight

Accenture. It doesn't mean anything, really. It's just another made up, Latin-sounding word – all the rage with branding consultants and marketing gurus these last few years. A rash of big businesses have changed their names and become decidedly hard to remember. I like to think of them in the same vein as recording artist Prince: The company formerly known as Philip Morris, the company formerly known as Bellsouth Mobility, the company formerly known as Anderson...

Ah...Anderson. Almost two years ago my Cloudjamming comrades and I were having a winter meal at the Three-dollar Cafe in Buckhead when a brand new commercial for Accenture came on the bar-side TV. We joked and laughed about it. Here was a company, with one of the most respected names in business – Anderson – throwing great branding away. Of course, the truth of the decision is more complicated than a simple name change. And, in the end, no matter how much we might have laughed at the new name, no matter how much Anderson Consulting's marketing professionals chagrined their fate, a more auspicious and well timed identity crisis I can not recall.

In August of 2000 an international arbitrator ruled that Anderson Consulting could separate from it's parent company – the doomed accounting firm Arthur Anderson – without having to make payments to it. The caveat: Anderson Consulting would have to change it's name by the end of the year.

So began the great branding quest. 5,000 names were suggested. 3,000 trademarks and internet addresses were checked by over 70 lawyers from 24 firms. 60 languages were cross-referenced for alternate and obscene meanings. 2,000 possible names made it past this branding vanguard. The winner? A submission by Kim Petersen, a consultant in a Norwegian office.

Accenture. It is a hybrid for the words "accent" and "future."

The global managing director for Marketing & Communications at Anderson...ehem...Accenture described the move thus: ‘’We intend to make Accenture one of the most recognized business-to-business brands in the world - just as we did previously with the Andersen Consulting brand. This is an exhilarating challenge. No other firm the size of Andersen Consulting has ever attempted such a comprehensive rebranding campaign in such a short period of time.’’

It was a big challenge, indeed. Anderson...sorry...Accenture spent close to $200 million on the rebranding campaign. TV, radio, web, print. They hit it all. They were trying to drive Anderson Consulting from our minds. And it worked. And they seem to know it, too.

A recent check of the Accenture website revealed a curious development in the company's press release archives. Look back to November of 2000, the month the identity change was announced and finalized. Look back to the months before, when the then-called Anderson Consulting broke away from its rotting parent corporation. There is no mention of Arthur Anderson or Anderson Consulting, for that matter. Like some Orwellian revisionist, the marketing gurus at Accenture have succeeded where a dozen Anderson paper shredders could not. They have erased their past.

And with great timing, to boot. Late last year, when we first drafted a sketch for this article, we looked into Accenture's press releases and found great reference to their distinguishing name change and their proud Anderson heritage. Now, a few Enron/Wordcoms later, you'd never guess the company's parentage unless you knew better.

Now that's good branding. fb