In CJR’s last issue, author Gary Andrew Poole urged sports writers to recapture the relevance of their genre. Playboy’s, Steve Salerno delivers with a captivating look at the life and times of NFL officials. The piece is full of personality and on-the-ground action, and it’s fun to read, even for a non-football fan. Called “zebras,” professional football referees offer a fascinating perspective on the game:

With The Play developing between, Rose and Cheek search for their keys. So intent is Rose on wideout Plaxico Burress that he’s the only crew member unaware of the world of hurt Manning is in. Meanwhile, Cheek picks up Toomer, who just blew by Slaughter, in the process he spots Harrison closing on Tyree.

Suddenly Cheek sees Tyree jump. Man, he went up for that ball! Though Harrison is all over him, the play looks clean. Rose sees it too: The ball appears to be pasted cartoonishly to Tyree’s helmet. Rose thinks, If he hits the turf, I’m gonna say ‘Incomplete! Incomplete

One complaint is that many of the articles jump to the back of the book, which both interrupts the flow, and requires the reader to flip past the nude pages in the middle to pick up a story. Online, most of the magazine’s content sits behind a pay wall, so the hard copy is the best way to enjoy it. Don’t be bashful. Good journalism awaits. -Katia Bachko

Cometbus, Issue #51: The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah

There is a serious book to be written about the history of independent bookstores in Berkeley, California. It would discuss the rise of the corporate bookstore, real estate manipulations, the declining population of Berkeley in the 1970s, and the free speech movement. “The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah”, a history of the bookstores on Berkeley, California’s Telegraph Avenue, is not that kind of history.

“Electric Menorah” is the latest installment of Cometbus, a punk ‘zine published on and off since 1983 by the writer and musician Aaron Elliott. Conducting over forty interviews with East Bay businessmen, burnouts, and scenesters, Elliott has compiled a full, though largely personal, history of the Berkeley independent bookstore.

The conventional independent bookstore is, of course, run by a middle-aged woman with a B.A. from Mt. Holyoke and a husband who is a senior executive at a major company. The owner is pleasant and loves books, though her tastes may range toward the conservative: classic literature, coffee table books about English manor houses, etc.

As Elliott demonstrates, this was not the story of the Berkeley bookstore. With the notable exception of something like Mrs. Dalloway’s, owned by an elegant daughter-in-law of McGeorge Bundy, Berkeley bookstores were owned by hard-nosed types. In 1963, Moe Moskowitz and Bill Cartwright opened the first of these bookstores, Rambam, on Telegraph Avenue. The pair soon split up. Cartwright opened Shakespeare and Co., and Moe, a cigar-smoking millionaire and former anarchist, opened Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue. The two men, naturally, hated one another and their businesses were rivals.

Cometbus #51 spins out from there, telling the story of a few heavily competitive stores run by several highly eccentric men. It is a compelling story, particularly in the way that the author manages to place this narrow retail history in the broader context of the 1970s. Apparently Bob Baldock, who ran Moe’s Books for Moskowitz, was involved in the Cuban revolution as a young man, and fought with Fidel Castro in Cuba’s Sierra Maestra Mountains. Yes, that actually happened. And in between robbing a bank and setting pipe bombs in Los Angeles Police Department patrol cars, Kathy Soliah, a key figure in the Symbionese Liberation Army, worked at the Campus Textbook Exchange on Bancroft.

CJR Staff is a contributor to CJR.