30 November 2004

Say it ain't so, Tavis!

Talk-show host Tavis Smiley said Monday he will be leaving National Public Radio, which he said has tried hard but fallen short of reaching "a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio."

Smiley, 40, said Monday that Dec. 16 will be his last day as host of "The Tavis Smiley Show."

Read the rest.

This sucks. I love his show. He said, "NPR's own research has confirmed that NPR has simply failed to meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply don't know it exists or what it offers." Well, then, STAY! You have only been on-air for 3 years! Give it a few more!


29 November 2004

Really, Dearlings, some books will suffice

"Each year, the Pittsburgh-based bank PNC Financial Services Group Inc. does a tongue-in-cheek tally of how much all the the drummers drumming, pipers piping, turtle doves and golden rings would set you back if you bought them for your true love at today's prices....

So what are all the gifts going for this year? If they were bought repeatedly on each day as the song suggests, they'd hit $66,334, up from $65,264 last year."

Learn more.

I guess library patrons aren't always the sharpest tools in the shed...

"LIBRARIANS in West Berkshire were troubled recently by a glut of requests from customers greedy for diet books that don’t exist.

Slimmers in the area were asking for books such as Now You Can Eat All The Pies and Lose Your Bum while Sitting On It...."

For the rest of the story, click here.

Thanks to lalcorn for the link.

in memoriam

A colleague just informed me that Francess Lanz, author of a number of children's books, died last week. She was 52 years old. I'll post an obit as soon as one is available on-line.

Plath's Daughter Pleads: Let Her Rest in Peace

Sylvia Plath's daughter pleaded from the heart -- enough is enough.

Forty years after her mother committed suicide, one of the most famous poets of the 20th century still exerts an enduring, almost morbid fascination. Unrelenting analysis of her short, but tragic life shows no signs of fading.

"Leave them in peace," Frieda Hughes said of her mother, who killed herself in 1963 at the age of 30 and of her father, Ted Hughes, vilified by critics as a philanderer who drove the clinically depressed poet to suicidal despair.

Read the rest.

in memoriam

Best-selling author, Arthur Hailey, has died at his home in the Bahamas. He was 84 years old. His best known books include Airplane and Hotel. His wife said, "Arthur was a very humble man but was delighted with the letters he used to get from readers praising his books. He was incredibly proud of them."
Read more here.

Chicago artist, Ed Paschke, has also died. The Tribune says, "Ed Paschke, 65, one of the most celebrated Chicago-born painters for three decades and an artist known as much for his generosity as for his work, died in his sleep at his North Side home, apparently on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 25." Read the rest. Read more here. (The awesome photo of Paschke is by John Reilly, a Chicago photographer.)

27 November 2004

Happy Birthday!

Kevin Henkes, author and illustrator extraordinaire, celebrates a birthday today. Over the years, he has created some of the most memorable picture books of our time. The perennial favorite is, of course, Lilly's Plastic Purple Purse. I am very hopeful that Kitten's First Full Moon will be the winner of next year's Caldecott medal. It is one of the most simplistically beautiful picture books I have seen in a long while.

Happy Birthday, Kevin!

24 November 2004

Happy Birthday, dearest Jonathon!

Happy, happy birthday to my amazing Pirate nephew, Jonathon, who turns four years old today! In just under 2 weeks, I will be in Phoenix to give you a huge birthday hug. I love you!

22 November 2004

shout out

Check out my amazing and talented friend, Ayanna! I'm adding her to the list o' blogs to the right there, but she deserved a special mention all her own, so here it is -- Go read her!

and the winners are...

I know this is a bit late, but here are the winners of the National Book Awards (announced last week):

Non-Fiction: Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle

Young People's Literature: Godless by Pete Hautman

Poetry: Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003 by Jean Valentine

Fiction: The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck

21 November 2004

so sad...

Trina Schart Hyman died Saturday night following a battle with cancer. She was just 65 years old. I was able to correspond with her briefly while working on a card catalog auction (she sent us signed proofs from The Serpent Slayer) and I found her to be lovely and generous. My heart is heavy...

I am afraid to comment...

... but I am seriously giggling at the Jesus of the Week site. I especially like this little guy.

(I hope I'm not going to Hell for this! ;-)

how come no one writes books like *this* for children anymore?

When I was a little girl, one of my absolute favorite books was Der Stuwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffmann. My Grandpa Baumle gave me a German language version of the book and would translate it for me when he visited from Florida. When I was a little older, my grade-school librarian gave me the school's English language blue paperback (published by Grolier, I think?) when she noticed that I was the only one who checked it out -- and I checked it out a lot.

My brothers and I *adored* these scary rhymes! One brother liked to play with fire, so we read "The Dreadful Story of Pauline and the Matches", with the kittens' pitiful cries: "Make haste, make haste! me-ow! me-o! / She'll burn to death,- we told her so." The other brother was forever sucking his fingers, which called for "The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb". From what I gather, these lines caused my brother terror for years (and never did "cure" him):

"The great tall tailor always comes
To little boys that suck their thumbs.
And ere they dream what he's about
He takes his great sharp scissors
And cuts their thumbs clean off, - and then
You know, they never grow again."

When Pyromaniac brother's son was born, we sent him an English language version of the book. I don't know if my nephew's mama will let him read the book -- many people seem appalled that we had this as children! -- but I hope one day he knows the rhymes and passes them down, too.

All this to say that I found a rockin' cool Struwwelpeter site today, enabling you to check out different translations and to read the entire book on-line.

(I dunno. Maybe we were just less sensitive in general back in the day? I mean, the Grimm tales I read with greedy gusto from the age of four or so on would cause more than a few raised eyeborws were I to bring them out in Story time...)

Give the gift of free books

Visiting the Literacy Site and clicking on the "Give Free Books" button there "generates books for children in need, funded by site sponsors and provided through our award winning charity partner, First Book. In the last three years, First Book has distributed over 20 million books to children in hundreds of communities."

So, go! Now! Every day! I will try to add a picture link up there in the sidebar to help you remember...

As a librarian, this makes absolute and perfect sense to me

"The tall shelves in Abobe Bookshop display such standard headers as Fiction, History and Gardening. But these labels mean nothing -- at least for the next few weeks.

The only organizing principle currently at work in the Mission District store is visible as soon as one walks past the metal grate and into the cozy, creaky confines: The more than 20,000 used books that line the shop's walls have been grouped according to their place in the color spectrum. Red books are by the entrance, followed, in order, by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet ones. The remaining space is left for white and black books."

Of course! Patrons are *always* looking for books based on color and size (although, sadly, often the book is a different color than the one they remembered). Read more about this ground-breaking display...

20 November 2004

seen soaped on a van window in the library parking lot when I came back from lunch...

"Bass Clarinets rock!!!!"

Well, duh.

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

The theme for the Marshall Field's Christmas windows this year will be Snow White. Yay. Hopefully, we'll make it down on Thanksgiving night to see. Should be loverly.

Did they move to the City? Well, prices *are* awfully high in the north 'burbs...

Leaving for work this morning, Science Boy and I saw two black squirrels down the street from his new apartment. I have never seen anything like that and wasn't even 100% sure what I was looking at initially. It was pretty amazing. I am gonna try to remember to take my camera *out* of my purse to take a snapshot next time! Way cool.

There's some info about the squirrels, specific to the Chicago area, here. While looking for stuff on black squirrels in general, I found this informative site about the SIB (Squirrels in Black). Also, the Cult of the Black Squirrel.

Scary stuff

From the website for the Libraries of Buffalo & Erie County:

The proposed $19 million cut represents an 80% reduction from the $24 million in library property tax received from Erie County in 2004. The loss of these local funds triggers a reduction of an additional $2.8 million in State Library Aid as well as the loss of other library operating revenue. All 52 libraries across Erie County WILL CLOSE!

Holy crap.

I don't know how serious library officials there are about actually closing all the libraries or how long they think they'll remain closed for. I do know that I think this is a brilliant (though terrifying) idea (If, indeed, it will be done as a temporary measure). So many times, we don't realize what we have until it is gone. I can think of no more powerful way to hammer home the importance of public libraries than to make patrons imagine a day (or week) without them.

It will be interesting to see if this plea for appropriate Library funding will be heeded or if the Erie County legislature will call the bluff and libraries will close. Stayed tuned...


Chris Van Allsburg seems to feel the same way about The Polar Express that I do:

"Did I feel the film was respectful and faithful to the book? Yes. Was it thrilling to behold? Yes. Would I change some things? Yes."

Like what?

He grins. "That's too long a list," he says.

I think I agree. There were lots of things I wasn't wild about, a few that downright bug the heck out of me. Overall, though, I *did* like the film. When I saw it with my best friend and her kids last week, I thought that visually, it is beautiful. I saw it in 3-D with Science Boy last night and it was even more amazing. Also, when we saw it with the kids last week, it held 2-1/2 year old Miss Belle's attention pretty well. When Santa came on screen, she actually gasped in wonder. Pretty good stuff.

Still, the book is ever so much more magical...

Read the rest of the Van Allsburg article.

15 November 2004

Change the world, one soda at a time

So, I love Leona's. I love Leona's mostly because it offers me yummy vegetarian options and my meat-eating friends are happy, too. This past Saturday, we went to the Leona's in Calumet City. When my friend asked for a second soda, the waiter told her that there are no free refills on soda -- each drink is $1.75! (He also told us that "Yeah, they're pretty cheap here.")

She did not get another soda. We tried and tried to think of another restaurant that charges her for soda refills, to no avail. We were honestly shocked. Since she regularly drinks 4 or 5 sodas during one meal, this is a real deal-breaker for us.

Our total bill -- dinner, dessert, wine for me, pop for her -- was $43; we left a $8 tip. So, for $51, it doesn't seem unreasonable that she could get a few sodas -- which are, after all, essentially (inexpensive) carbonated water and flavor syrup.

So, today, I e-mailed Leona's customer service and told them essentially what I just wrote above. (In fact, I cut and pasted some of my e-mail to tell y'all the story...) I also asked them to consider changing this policy and told them I was very sad that I would no longer be frequenting Leona's with this particular friend.

I didn't think this was unreasonable. I didn't complain about spending $5.00 on my glass of Merlot (or expect free refills of that). I didn't whine that adding broccoli to my pasta added $2.00 to my bill. Just free refills on soda pop. Every other restaurant in the same general price range of Leona's (and some of the more expensive ones, too) offer this. Why not them?

After a few hours, I got an e-mail back from Laura Linder, Leona’s Customer Service. She wrote:

"A lot of restaurants do offer soda refills but most of them serve their beverages in 12oz to 16oz size glasses, our sodas are served in 32oz glasses. Due to the size of the beverage we do not offer refills. We feel that a 32oz soda for $1.75 is a really good deal. Unfortunately we will not be changing our policy to include free refills."

I e-mailed the friend with whom this all started. She said, "They could use smaller glasses... 32 oz is a lot. i bet a lot of people don't even drink it all. then one person could have 1 16oz and someone else could have 3 and it would all be the same."

Yup. But, even if they continued to use large glasses...

It's not like everything on their menu is ultra cheap. We dropped over $25 each Saturday. Plus, soda is *cheap*. In Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser reports that "The fast food chains purchase Coca-Cola for about $4.25 a gallon. A medium Coke that sells for $1.29 contains roughly 9 cents' worth of syrup." (Fast Food Nation, p. 54, 286)

So what's the problem? The profit margin on soda is HUGE. How many ounces are in a gallon? Let me check... 128 fluid ounces.

I decided to find out big this medium McDonald's soft drink that Schlosser references in Fast Food Nation actually is. The answer? 21 ounces. The large soda is 32 ounces, which is equal to what Leona's serves, according to the e-mail I received.

So, Schlosser reports that syrup for a medium (21 oz.) Coke is 9 cents. He says ordering the large (32 oz.) drink increases the price of the syrup used by just 3 cents. (Fast Food Nation, p. 54) So, we have 12 cents worth of syrup for a soda that costs $1.75. (I believe that Leona's serves Pepsi products, but for the sake of the point I am trying to make here, we will assume the cost is comparable.)

Of course, larger drinks means less drinks gotten out of each gallon. If each ounce costs roughly 3.3 cents (Fast Food Nation, p. 286), then 12 cents worth of syrup (for a 32 ounce drink) would be 3.6 ounces of syrup? Is that right? I think so.

So. 128 ounces of syrup per gallon divided by 3.6 ounces of syrup per large soft drink equals... 35.5 drinks per gallon.

35.5 drinks at $1.75 each equals $62.12 made on each gallon of syrup. Subtract the cost of the syrup ($4.25) and the profit per gallon is $57.87.

That's a profit of 1361.65% per gallon of syrup.

Holy crap. Let me say that just once more:

That's a profit of 1361.65% per gallon of syrup.

Y'know, this really shouldn't be a big deal. It's just soda, pop, soft drinks, whatever you call 'em. But it kinda is a big deal. Why? Well, for one it just seems stoopid and unfair. For another, I guess I got snookered by the warm, fuzzy, non-just-concerned-about-profit vibe that Leona's gives off. Damn.

So. If you agree that this no-refills on soda policy is unjust, let the good people at Leona's know.

E-mail Laura Linder, Leona’s Customer Service.

Send a paper letter to Leona's Restaurants Headquarters, 3931 S. Leavitt, Chicago, IL 60609.

Call the headquarters at 1-773-523-7676.

Let them know if this is a deal-breaker for you and if you will be taking your business elsewhere. Tell your friends. Change this small corner of the world.

14 November 2004

What's the gift for one year? Paper?

It is a year ago today that Book Kitten began. I didn't expect to stick with it, let alone to find some readers (thanks, you!).

It's been, and continues to be fun. Would that everything in life were so simple!

12 November 2004

I'm sorry, too

Check this out.

cheaper than cable...

Yeah, so technically you can listen to Chicago Public Radio for free. Still, if you do listen -- and can afford to -- consider pledging a few bucks now. Seriously. When I was in library school, I used to pledge a measly $5 during each pledge drive. What a bargain!

I want Aretha to come to *my* library!


"From the queen of soul to a king of comedy, celebrities are set to fete the opening of the Clinton Library. The week's excitement will come to a peak Thursday when former President Bill Clinton's library is dedicated."

Read the rest.

Seriously, Aretha, you are welcome at my library anytime. Just e-mail me and we'll set it up.


no argument from me...

"For children's fantasy writer Philip Pullman, George W. Bush would make a perfect villain in his epic sagas of good and evil." Read the rest.

Speaking of Pullman, I came across a wonderful site dedicated to the His Dark Materials series. Check it out.

more wonder from Pullman

Here's a review of Philip Pullman's latest offering, The Scarecrow and His Servant. The reviewer says, "Ultimately, this book works because, like all the best stories, it somehow reconnects the reader with a sense of humanity." Alas! the book is not yet available in the US; guess I'll be placing an Amazon UK order someday soon...

Kids' Books on NPR

NPR's Morning Edition featured a segment on children's books this Tuesday past, focusing on books that can help kids and teens deal with Life. One of my favorite books, It's Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr, was mentioned. Lots of other good stuff, too. Listen to it here.

11 November 2004

Nice. Well, no big shock, I guess ;-)

Thanks to jalcorn for helping me learn "How F**king American" I am:

She also directed me toward the site that revealed my Super Hero Name: Miss Blazin' Pants! Woo-hoo, me!

Sad news

The beautiful and talented Iris Chang is dead. The author of The Rape of Nanking apparently committed suicide.

She was just 36 years old.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Vonnegut

Today is the 82nd birthday of one of my all-time favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut.

One of my very favorite Vonnegut quotes, from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater:

Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies: Goddammit, you've got to be kind.

Here's wishing Mr. Vonnegut love and kindness and happy days ahead.

03 November 2004

You lost, now go away

WBBM News reports: "Republican Alan Keyes says he'll keep fighting against abortion and corrupt politicians in Illinois.

The Republican gave a combative speech in Chicago tonight that stopped short of conceding the race to Democrat Barack Obama, who scored an overwhelming victory in the U.S. Senate race."

The Chicago Tribune confirms, "His [Keyes] supporters cheered when he vowed to remain in Illinois and continue to fight to rebuild the Republican Party along conservative ideals."

You lost. Shut up and go away.

Do you feel sick?

I do. Of course, I have been valiantly fighting the flu or some other kind of illness the past day or so, but I suspect that is not what ails me today...

So, Science Boy and I were up until 4:30 this morning, watching election returns, hoping against hope for the best. Clearly, all our hopes were not enough. Four more years of our very own evil-doer in the White House is a terrifying prospect for me, to say nothing of what this means for the people of America overall. On the radio this morning, they said that it shows that the country is more conservative than it was four years ago. I think that it also shows that people are more disenfranchised -- for all the hoopla about young voters, they didn't go vote in any larger numbers than usual. What can be done to get people to the polls, to inspire us to vote, to make us think of more than just our own interests? Rhetorical questions, all.


I am very glad that I cannot see into the future, because I think whatever the world looks like four years from now may be more scary than I am willing to contemplate right now.

On the plus side, Barack Obama won. I am so convinced that he will be our President one day, and that gives me some measure of hope. Science Boy doubts that the country will be ready to elect an African-American in our lifetimes but I think that he is wrong. I hope that he is wrong. Looking forward to positive, more energizing candidates in the next election (Hillary is another possibility) is all that's gonna work as a salve on this day.

Damn. Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.

02 November 2004

Helpful hints

Check out Bookslut's Election Month Survival Guide and have a bottle of some libation handy to help you through the long night ahead.