27 May 2004

Not new and exciting, but still fun

Chances are many of you already have seen this site, but I was just thinking about how much I love Robot Frank. I found him years ago and every now and then click over there. Cracks me up every time.

Robot Frank says, "As far as I know I'm the only robot maintaining a webpage on the net. The purpose of me making this website is to inform the masses of my unfortunate robot situation, and then from there somehow go on to controlling an evil army and ultimately ruling the world."

Go on. Now. Go visit Robot Frank with all haste.

You're welcome.

She once was lost, but now is found

Police found the missing author, Helen DeWitt, alive.

If you happen by New York, don't miss this

Grand Central Partnership has transformed East 41st Street between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue into a dramatic promenade to the majestic New York Public Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library displaying bronze sidewalk plaques featuring quotes from literature and poetry known as “Library Way.”


At work this afternoon, I said that something (I have already forgotten what) makes me happy and one of my staff members told me that when I said that I reminded her of an Asian man from the television show Mad About You (which, not having watched, I don't know much about).

For some reason, that struck me as extraordinarily funny. I said, "Yeah, people often tell me I remind them of an Asian man. That must be why I'm not dating right now," which cracked up both of us, especially when she tried to backpedal that, "No! That's not what I meant!" We laughed until we cried and I let her go home a few minutes early.

Huh. Re-reading that, I guess it's one of those "guess you had to be there stories."


And speaking of Gary Paulsen...

There is a marvelous interview with him in the June issue of The Writer Magazine.

His advice to writers? "You have to read, and I mean three books a day. Read them all. Reading is the thing that will teach you."

But it's so hard to chose just one!

David McKie, of the Guardian, shares the angst caused by being asked to name his favorite author.

Hmm... I can name a few favorites: Henry Thoreau, Lewis Carroll, and Gary Paulsen come immediately to mind. I don't know if I can absolutely choose between the three, though...

26 May 2004

oh no. another missing author...

from Yahoo: "Helen DeWitt, author of the acclaimed novel "The Last Samurai," was reported missing near her home in Staten Island, police said on Wednesday." Read the rest.

What the heck is going on in New York? First Spalding Gray now Ms. DeWitt?

25 May 2004

Coming soon, to a theater near you...

"Chris Weitz is in early talks to direct His Dark Materials, the first installment of Philip Pullman's children's fantasy book trilogy at New Line..." Read the rest.

24 May 2004

Everyone loves free stuff!

Get your free bumper sticker here. They're giving away one per person, or order a whole bunch and pass 'em out to pals!

Happy Birthday, dearest Bob!

Bob Dylan is 63 years old today. I wish him as much peace and happiness as he has brought to me (and to countless others) over the years.

No time to read?

No problem!

scary stuff

Apparently, this isn't a new story, but it's one I have only just heard. From the Daytona Beach News: "Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics." Read the rest of this fine editorial. More information on this story here.

Is it any wonder?

PillsPillsPillsI am not surprised that, following my aborted "vacation," this was the result of this quiz. I'm sure I'll be back to my usual, laid-back, cheery self soon enough...

You are a devious imp. Never the same person twice, on the outside, but on the inside...well, just keep up with the medications, it'll all work out.

What's going on inside your head?
brought to you by Quizilla

Worst. Vacation. Ever.

Okay, so I was pretty excited about getting away for a few days to just have some peace and quiet, hiking through the woods and napping on the beach. I had planned to leave Thursday morning, and everything seemed to be on track. I did my Gram's grocery shopping, went to yoga, then ran back to the store for something Gram forgot.


When I got back into the car, the key would not turn in the ignition. I walked home, got the spare, and went back. Still no good. Called mine uncle, found out this is a not uncommon problem with the Focus, cried, had my car towed to Ford, spent the next many hours there, got a new ignition, *finally* got home, packed, took a 45 minute nap and six Advil, and got on the road a mere 8 hours late.

Think that could have been a sign?

I got to the Dunes around 7p CST and set up at a "rustic" campsite (i.e. outhouses only, no showers, and less than half the price of the "modern" sites). Then, I decided to go for a drive down Red Arrow Highway to see what I could do in case of rain the next day. Pleasant, uneventful ride. When I got back, it was dark, so I had dinner in the tent, read Hitchhiker's Guide, and prepared to go to sleep early.

I was almost asleep when something crashed into the side of the tent. I looked and a raccoon was peeking in the window, wanting in. (The raccoons there are pretty aggressive after years of people thinking they're cute and feeding them -- despite the rangers' warnings.) I've dealt with the scary racoons before, so I grabbed my baseball bat (brought along just for this purpose), hit the side of the tent (not the racoons, just the tent), and yelled at the animal. He left.


Then it started to rain.

No big. I have camped in the rain plenty of times. Heck, once my sister and I even forgot the tent poles and just slept on the forest floor in the rain.

Then it started getting worse. Lighting and thunder crashing louder than God and turning the night into a rather frightening day. The winds picked up so I shut the windows and turned the radio on for company.

*Then* the rangers' drove around and made an announcement: "Winds are 60 miles an hour and flooding is expected. Remain at your own risk."


That pretty much finished me off. Remember, I had spent my day at the dealership and was exhausted even before that. My head was killing me and I thought that if I got no sleep I might die. So, for the first time in my life, I threw everything in the car (except the tent) and headed for a hotel.

The next morning, I went back. the tent was wet, but there was very little water inside and I figured I could salvage the rest of the trip. I spoke to a ranger who told me that the weather should warm up and it should be a pleasant rest of the day. Cool. I had some breakfast, went to the used book store, and decided to drive in to St. Joe.

(This is depressing me all over again, typing this.)

I had just decided to turn around and hit the beach when, like in a cartoon, a black curtain of cloud slid across the sky, turning day into a rather scary night. Sheets of rain poured down, making visibility pretty nonexistent. I was determined to just get back. (I don't know what I was planning to *do*, mind, I just wanted to get back.)

Then, about 30 feet in front of my car, a tree was hot by lightening and came crashing down. I screamed and took a brief detour, still doggedly determined.

During that drive -- maybe 20 miles or so? -- I came across probably 7 trees down. I was starting to consider leaving, except I *really* needed a break and some rest, which I knew wouldn't happen at home...

By the time I got back to the Park, the rain had stopped, the sun was out, and all seemed right with the world again. I didn't know what to do. If that was, indeed, the end of the storms, I would be sorry to have left. If it wasn't, then I probably wouldn't get any rest anyway, so I should just throw in the towel...

I got back to my site to discover that, despite 12-inch stakes, my tent had blown into the trees and was full of water.

I gave up.

As I drove out of the Park, I noticed that everyone but one couple had already left. And they were packing the car to go, too. So, that made me feel a little bit better.

I went home. Read a few books, saw Shrek 2, ran errands for my Gram, did some housework, got no sleep. (Silver lining -- when I called the Park on Saturday, they told me that the storms had been horrible Friday night, too.)

So... I give up. I will never catch up on sleep. Maybe after Summer Reading Club is over, I will try again.



Looks like a film about Papa Hemingway is in the works!

I used to really hate Hem, based pretty much on the way he was mean to Scott Fitzgerald (well, in my view, anyway). After taking a class about Hemingway, though, I changed my mind. I think his short stories are pretty amazing and tend to agree with his son, who says, "I know my father was a big-game hunter and a deep-sea fisherman, and I know he went off to war and boxed and drank, but I also know he was very much the artist... The fact that he went off to his room and wrote and wrote and wrote is too often ignored in works about my father. He was a complicated man. Not perfect, not at all, just very, very complicated."

Can't wait for the film!

19 May 2004

(very) brief hiatus

Lest you fret, I wanted to let you know, Gentle Readers (yes, both of you), that I will be away for a few days.

I plan spend the next several days doing some sorely needed napping / nothing on the beach and hiking / camping / reading in the woods of Michigan. I've got a few books -- including The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (finally!) -- to read, my tent and bathing suit, and... well, that's about it, really. No cell phone. No computer. *Maybe* a radio.

It's prob'ly a little pathetic how much I am looking forward to this, but I really do recharge after a few days of nothingness under blue skies and leafy trees. Hmm... I hope the weather is nice. I should probably check on that... Let's see...

Woo-hoo! According to the forecast, I can anticipate "scattered strong storms" but a high of 84.


Well, as long as I can spend the majority of the day outside of the tent, I don't mind being sequestered in the tent with a book for *part* of the time. I guess if it's really bad I can find somewhere to hang. (Rats. The Cook Nuclear Power Plant is no longer open to drop-in visitors. That's kinda sad.) Whatever. I'll find a winery or something.

Catch y'all when I return.

Could someone help me? Please?

I have no problem admitting that I do not really understand the whole RSS thing. Does someone who knows a bit about it have any ideas why, when I click on the Feedburner icon at the right, it only shows posts between January 18 and 25th? How do I *fix* that? If you know, please e-mail me.


Tributes to "Sparky"

A fan has posted the group of comics that was published on Saturday, May 27, 2000, in honor of the National Cartoonists Society awarding Charles Schulz a Lifetime Achievement Award. Kind of cool to have them all together.


Thanks to Amy for sending me this panel from Speed Bump:

a love letter

That's what the documentary Stone Reader struck me as.

For those of you who have not heard of the film, let me see if I can summarize...

In 1972, Mark Moskowitz bought The Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman after reading a marvelous review of it in The New York Times. He couldn't get into the book and set it aside. 25 years later he decided to try again and was riveted.

As so many bibliophiles do, once he had finished, he wanted to read everything else Dow Mossman had ever written. That's when he learned that Mossman had never written anything else and had all but disappeared after the publication of The Stones of Summer.

What followed was Moskowitz's quest to learn what had happened to Mossman in the years since the novel's publication. Along the way, he buys up copies of the novel on-line, befirends literary critics, discusses books with all manner of people, hits a few dead ends and, ultimately, solves the mystery.

As it happens, the story isn't even truly about Mossman. rather, it is about a bibliophiles passion for books and about the amazing journey he makes as a result of that.

Any of us who live and breathe books can lose ourselves in this lyrical little film.

17 May 2004

I'll miss you, Ref Grunt!

After a year of faithfully logging all the reference transactions that came his way, Ref Grunt is signing off.

15 May 2004

Beware of Greeks bearing Homeric legend...

A review of Troy from the San Francisco Gate begins thusly:

"This is not the movie for people who have read and reread the 'The Iliad' and have dreamed of the Trojan War, the clash of civilizations, the mighty armies and outsize personalities. It is more for people who want to see Brad Pitt in a tunic, some good combat scenes and a little romance."

How can you make a film of the Iliad without the gods? I have been looking forward to this film since I first heard whispers of its existence. My faith and hope were not rewarded.

However, I will say that the choice to note "inspired by" instead of "based on" before Homer's name does forgive a bit. When I saw that, I was not as angry as I had been.

I guess.

I don't want to dwell overmuch on the film. I will say, though, that I thought the character of Hector was true to the spirit portrayed by Homer. My beloved, brilliant Odysseus was, in my opinion, given the short end of the stick but since the film was focused on Achilles, I guess that was to be expected... (An aside, in the version of the Iliad I first read, it was "Achilleus." I have always preferred that spelling, never mind convention.)

After the film was over, my friend said, "You shouldn't be allowed to go to movies made from books you love." While that made me smirk, I think it is untrue. I'm not sorry I went, even if I wasn't thrilled by the film.

Heck, maybe it will lead to a few more people getting The Iliad?

Don't forget...

The Printer's Row Book Fair is coming to Chicago June 5 and 6th!

Children's book section

Tomorrow's New York Times includes another one of their fantastic children's book sections, including articles about two of my favorite new books, The Messenger by Lois Lowry and Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willem.

Farewell, Syd Hoff

A colleague on one of the listservs I read has just informed me that Syd Hoff, the beloved author / illustrator / cartoonist passed away at his home in Miami Beach on Wednesday, May 12 of natural causes. He was 91 years old.

Mr. Hoff is perhaps best known for his many "I Can Read" books, most notably, Danny the Dinosaur. He wrote and illustrated many other books, had a syndicated comic strip, created cartoons for The New Yorker, and even had a television show ("Tales of Hoff") for a short time. Even if you didn't know his name, you recognized his art, as will our children, for years to come...

(And what a lovely tribute to Syd that as I prepare to create a tribute book display, most of the books our library owns that were written or illustrated by him are checked out.)

Update: there is now an obituary at the Miami Herald.

14 May 2004

Floyd Kalber dies

My family has always watched the ABC (channel 7) news in Chicago. Growing up, my sfavorite newscaster (yes, I have always been geeky enough to have a favorite newscaster!) was Floyd Kalber. He died yesterday at the age of 79.

12 May 2004

I think I have *met* these people!

When I was in college, I had a Black Lit class. The first day, our professor had us go around the room and introduce ourselves. I will never forget that one of the women (and, I am sorry to say, she worked in the school library) made a point of talking about how many Black friends she had, as if to prove her "street cred" or something. I will never forget the cringe-inducing quality of her little speech or the way the teacher kind of stared at her in contemptuous amazement.

These people remind me of that hapless student.

Well, of course they do!

from Yahoo: "The White House rejected any link between the abuse of Iraqi detainees by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison and the 'brutal, barbaric' beheading of US citizen Nick Berg."

Yeah. I'm sure there is absolutely no correlation there.

Excuse me while I go throw up...

Love those bunnies!

Thanks to lalcorn for directing me to The Shining in 30 Seconds (and re-enacted by bunnies).

"What animates teens about manga?"

Apparently, it's the stories.

I still don't really *get* it...

... but I finally seem to have working feeds to my site. There are links over in the right hand margin. Bot a Blog makes more sense to me, but somehow I seem utterly incapable of understanding how the feeds work anyway, so what do I know... Anyway, I hope this is helpful to those of you who have asked me for a feed.

"how many lives will it take 'til we know...?"

An excellent column out of Philadelphia today exploring the link between sadistic abuse of Iraqi prisoners and the shocking beheading of 26-year-old American, Nick Berg and why the time has come to "get the hell out":

"But I have a question: What will it take? More charred American bodies hung from bridges? More videotaped decapitations?

Just how much disgust and outrage must build before the White House and our "I'm-a-war-president" admit mistakes and face the ugly truth that so much in Iraq spins so wildly out of control?

Isn't it enough to squander every drop of international sympathy in the wake of 9/11 by attacking a nation with a "coalition" of Tony Blair and such international giants as Estonia and Honduras, the latter of which, by the way, is pulling its 370 troops out?

Isn't it enough to have waged war without that uranium from Niger or 9/11 ties to Saddam or WMDs or anything resembling a sensible exit plan - or even anything palpable gained?

Doesn't somebody somewhere along the line of command have to go? For misinformation about WMDs, for miscalculating costs (human and monetary), for misjudging outcomes, for supervising the sadistic treatment of prisoners."

11 May 2004

freaks and geeks


What Freaks and Geeks Character are you?
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"In Library's Back Pages, a Vivid History Unfolds"

A friend directed me to this fascinating article in the New York Times: "...reports were compiled annually by the librarians of the 95-year-old Seward Park branch to let the New York Public Library's central administrators know how better to meet the neighborhood's needs. But in doing so, the librarians' observations - sometimes in prosaic bureaucratese, sometimes in vivid, tender fashion - chronicled changes in the neighborhood's ethnic makeup, economics and schooling."

I especially liked the observation of the librarian who noted, "The public here lives with their books... This is the branch where a former librarian once found a fried egg in a book."


What I saw of A Wrinkle in Time last night was kind of sucky, but The New York Times didn't think so.

Madeleine L'Engle didn't like it either, though, telling Newsweek: "I expected it to be bad, and it is."

10 May 2004

It's about time...

An article from Yahoo: "The Justice Department said Monday it is reopening the investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a black teenager whose death while visiting Mississippi was an early catalyst for the civil rights movement...."

Good. I know that nothing can really fix the situation at this late date, but I just cannot wrap my brain around how someone could murder a little boy
just because he spoke to (and perhaps whistled at) a woman. For all the problems in the world today -- and God knows there are plenty! -- I simply cannot conceive of such madness as existed only 50 years ago. We've come a long way, even as we have so much farther to go...

06 May 2004

"inch by inch, row by row..."

I probably haven't had a garden since I was ten years old. After we moved from my first home mid-fifth grade, I had no interest. Later, when I had interest, I had no time. Today, I had both.

I took a day off to plant a garden. I planned a simple thing: some sunflowers, bird/butterfly friendly wildflowers, and some hydrangea.

(And, by the way, I want to go on the record as saying that I think that hydrangea are one of the prettiest things God has ever done.)

The weather was awesome: 80 degrees and sunny. I started by digging up the daylilies (we keep thinking they're gone and they keep coming back). Which brought me to the evil lilac bush that will not go away... It rarely flowers, it just takes up space. However, with hard work, persistence, time, and my hatchet, I finally got it (and I think most of its roots) out.

Despite about seven hours of hard work, I do not think that the garden will do very well. Why? Well, for starters, I have never seen so many rocks in one patch of dirt... When I was a little girl, my Gram had a very pretty flower garden in the same place I am trying to cultivate. I asked her about the rocks. She insists they have always been there and do not affect the garden.

I do not believe that.

On the other hand, I think I could find and remove rocks for a week straight and still be nowhere near rock-free.

Also, there are many tree roots pretty close to the surface. I am not even sure where they are all coming from. There were a few trees trying to grow behind the lilac, but I got those all out, too. (As I attacked the roots with my trusty hatchet, I heard Henry in my head, "For every ten people who are clipping at the branches of evil, you're lucky to find one who's hacking at the roots.")

I dunno. Maybe it doesn't matter how successful the garden is. I mean, today was an enormously satisfying day, so maybe that is enough. I got sunburned, which was kind of cool (although I will be buying some 1000 spf lotion soon). I thoroughly enjoyed all the physical labor, especially the digging and hacking. It made me feel strong. I loved the thoughts and stories that ran through my head (even if I was reminded of the parable of the Sower, which made me even more aware of how unfertile my soil is). I amused myself by singing along with a cd of Arlo Guthrie singing "The Garden Song."

If all I got out of all that work was a really good day... Well, that's pretty good.

It sure will be nice if I get some flowers, too, though. Oh, and the hydrangea is in a different part of the yard and was already flowering, so at least I have those...

05 May 2004

"Messed-Up Color"

Great article at Salon: "When my husband and I moved to a mostly black neighborhood four years ago, 8-year-old Tyrone became our friend. Then one day he asked me if I was white..." This reminded me of the moment my friend's little girl realized, in amazement, that I am white, except that this story seems infinitely sadder to me...

All Hail Frank!

My friend, Frank, besides maintaining an ultra-cool 'blog about music has added a streaming radio version of the new Magnetic Fields album to his site. Yay!

Mickey the Censor

Walt Disney Company is reportedly blocking the release of Michael Moore's new documentary, Fahrenheit 911.

Of course, all that's gonna do is make people want to see it even more... I mean, isn't that what happened when HarperCollins tried to block release of Dude, Where's My Country?

Hmm... Maybe they want a controversy...