Friday, October 30, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Okay, it's time for another one of my silly scribblings.


I don’t want to talk about it.

Now there’s a brilliant essay for you. Seven words. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Period. It reminds me of an essay I did in grammar school titled, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.”

“My family and I went to the mountains for two weeks. We stayed in this crummy log cabin with about a million spiders, and Dad kept yelling at me not to scream and throw his good shoes at the walls. The bathroom was in this old house outdoors, and Dad kept yelling at me because I wouldn’t go in there and sit down. I didn’t do my business for three whole days. Mom yelled at me too when she caught me whizzing on some lady’s flowers. We came home ten days early because Mom and Dad were tired of yelling and I really had to take a dump. We had fun, but I just don’t want to talk about it.”

The reason I don’t talk about sex is because I don’t talk about sex. I could care less about other people’s sex lives. The same goes for celebrities and pseudo-celebrities (although I thought the Monica and Bill thing was amusing). The same goes for gays and lesbians. What people do in private is their business—not mine.

So whether my sex life is between Martha and me or just between me, it’s none of your business. If I am straight, bi-sexual, gay, or any combination of the three, it’s none of your business. If I’m a cross-dresser or get dressed in the crosswalk, it’s definitely none of your business.

I will tell you one thing, though. I didn’t marry a good Catholic girl.


“Okay, Charlie, I’ve taken both my oral and rectal temperature—”

“—I hope you took the oral temp first—”

“I’ve counted backward fourteen days, counted forward fourteen days, computed the mean, median, and mode, checked the Xs on the calendar, and I’ve been watching the moon on the Weather Channel. Everything is favorable, which means we can have sex within the next twelve minutes.”

“Gee, honey, you didn’t have to go through all that for a simple quickie. You sound like Mission Control.”

“A QUICKIE! Do you think I’m having sex with you for FUN? This is for making a little Mary or a Benedict XVI."

"Great. We can call him Bennie. Or ExVeeEye. Or better yet, 16. 16 Callahan—I like it."

"Now turn off all the lights before I take off my clothes—and don’t you dare try to peek at me either, you filthy pervert.”

This just in! A memo from Martha:

“Thank you for keeping your big trap shut for once and respecting my privacy and womanly dignity. You’re right: the story about you trying to put a conundrum on in the dark is nobody’s damn business."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

Scholastic Press, 2008
ISBN 978-0439023481
384 pages

Reading Level: Young Adult

I am not going to wait until the end of my scholarly review to tell you what I think of this book: it’s great, and to mangle a tired old clichĂ©, nearly unputdownable. Collins has written a non-stop sci-fi tale that is light on sci-fi, stars a sixteen-year-old female protagonist, and stresses personal moral beliefs without preaching.

The place is Panem, site of the former United States, and consists of twelve districts and the Capitol. The time is the near future. Collins does not employ the five basic requisites of journalism—who, what, when, where, and why—because they aren’t relevant to the story.

What is relevant is the total subjugation of the people in the districts by the Capitol. There was a thirteenth district, but because the people dared to protest the meager distribution of “food”, the Capitol, in a show of Sci-Fi wizardry, obliterated the district and every human being living in it.

The Hunger Games. Held once a year, they are the ultimate tribute to the power, greatness, and largesse of the Capitol. Chosen by lottery, each district sends two teenagers as its representatives to the Games; twenty-four to start, one to win both personal fame and extra rations for his or her district.

The other twenty-three? They are all dead, either at the hands of the other contestants or by the Capitol’s tech- nological ability to alter the playing field environment.

Amazon and reviewers have revealed way too much of the story, which I believe should be the reader’s privilege. Katniss, however, the sixteen-year-old rep from District 12, bears mentioning. She is a strong-willed girl who refuses to give up her mind and soul to the monsters who run Panem. She is determined to retain her humanness, and she will do anything to keep it—including killing if necessary.

But isn’t that a dichotomy? How, exactly, does Katniss reconcile the notion of killing in order to retain her humanity?

I’m sorry to say this, but we the readers, don’t know. This is Book One of a trilogy, so I will have to read the second one: Catching Fire, published on September 1, 2009.

I'm glad that Collins chose a female as protagonist, making this more than a "boys' book." School Library Journal recommends The Hunger Games for Grades 7 and up—despite the graphic violence—but what do I know about twelve- and thirteen-year-old kids nowadays? Or what their parents allow them to read?

Rather, I give it two pinkie fingers up for adults.

Friday, October 23, 2009

15 Books

I just finished telling y’all that I’m a compulsive maker of lists, and here I go again. This list is not compulsive, however; it is requestive from Peter Sandico, my creative book blogging buddy in Manila.

A few days ago, he challenged readers to list, in his comments section, fifteen books (in no more than fifteen minutes) “That will stick with them forever.” I like that wording: not favorites because, by definition, only one book can be a favorite.

I didn’t time me because I have no idea where my watch is (I’m watching out for it, though), so I cheated on the time factor. And I don’t know if this is cheating or not, but three of my selections include multiple volumes; listing just one book of a trilogy seems really dopey to me. If I'm a cheater then so be it—this is my blog and I’ll do what I want with it. [large raspberry]

On to the list. These books will stay with me forever because they either affected me emotionally or were just fantastic reads (in no particular order):

1. I Know This Much is True, Wally Lamb

2. The Snopes Trilogy, William Faulkner (3 vols., duh)

3. The Journeyer, Gary Jennings

4. The World According to Garp, John Irving

5. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

6. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

7. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

8. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

9. A Song of Fire and Ice, George R.R. Martin (4 vols.)

10. The Source, James Michener

11. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

12. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry

13. Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

14. The Dark Tower, Stephen King (7 vols.)

15. Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham

A bonus book from childhood, one that has stayed with me all my life:

16. The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper ("I think I can, I think I can, I know I can.")

[Feel free to steal!]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Listing to Starboard (or is it Port?)

I am a compulsive maker of lists. I make a list for everything, including a master list that lists all my other lists. I’ve made a million lists over the years, most of them on cocktail napkins (both wet and dry), on the back of junk mail envelopes, and in the margins of the newspaper. A ton of my lists have been washed and dried, which makes for a very clean and softened list but alas, also a very blank one.

Even if I have nothing in particular to do, I make a list:


1. Nothing in particular.
2. If something in particular comes up, I'll let me know.

* * * * *

With hindsight and regret, there is a list I never made—or ever thought of making. It is a list (best kept in a wirering notebook), of the good books I’ve read during my lifetime.

What made me think about it was a discussion of Bel Kaufman’s Up the Down Staircase on LibraryThing. “I’ve read that!” I thought, and in fact I’ve read it twice, back about the time it came out in 1964 or so. But do you think I could remember anything about it? The story, the characters, maybe a quote or two? No, on all counts. All I could do was read the discussion, keep my yap shut, and feel the frustration.

The same thing has happened with Steinbeck, Chaim Potok, The Catcher in the Rye, and On the Road. It isn’t that my memory is shot; rather, it’s a matter of reading too many books too long ago and not remembering anything but the title and author.

How nice it would have been, then, to start a book list, a book journal, when I was in high school—in conjunction with (or instead of) making lists of dates in history and the abbreviations of the elements in chemistry. The high school lists are long gone, but I sure wish I had some notes on Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There and Pinball.

Perhaps I'll be a bit smarter in my next life when I come back as a library cat named Louie.

* * * * *

Poor Martha and her grocery lists. She makes one every week, and every week when she goes shopping, the list is on the kitchen table right where she left it. Not occasionally or once in a while, but every single week. We even have a routine when she gets home:

“You, uh, forgot your shopping list,” I tell her.

“I know, but I remembered almost everything on it.”

[This part varies]
“Did you remember the double-chocolate triple-fudge brownie with quadruple-dark chocolate sauce on top ice cream? And the hot fudge for it?”

[This part doesn't vary]
“Nope. Those are the two I forgot. I did get a nice strawberry rhubarb pie, though.”

The reason she “forgot” is because the ice cream was for ME and the pie was for HER. To prove it, listen to this:

“You know I can’t eat strawberry-rhubarb pie—it lies on my chest all night,” I say.

“Well no one is forcing you to eat it. Don’t worry; it’ll get eaten before it turns green."

It would be easy to get angry, but I don’t. She’s the one who spends her time and energy shopping, schlepping the bags around, and putting the groceries up—all because I can’t do it any more. Martha does her best, and I find her list- forgetfulness kind of endearing, something that’s unique about her.

But damn, I sure miss my family-size bowl of chocolate crash cart before I put on my jammies . . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Excellent Award

I received this award from Wandering Coyote of Way-Out-West Cowpat, British Columbia (not to be confused with North Cowpat, Ontario). I considered giving her a big (((hug))), but then I reconsidered. “WC is liable to slap the shit out of me,” I thought, and I imagined her saying something like this:

“We may be friends, asshole, but nobody said anything about touching.”

The reason I imagined her saying something like that is because she says something like that all the time. WC is the real deal, what you see is what you get, she says what she means, and she means what she says.

Please know, Bloggerites, that I’m not blowing my horn—hell, I don’t even own a kazoo. But I don’t take an award lightly, either. It is a symbolic thank you, and for that I’m grateful. Delighted. Even tickled pink.

You can sure as hell bet, though, that it won’t be WC doing the tickling.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


When I read a piece today titled "Home Improvement" by Robert the Skeptic, I just had to blow the dust off this old chestnut. I'm in no way, shape, or form accusing Robert of being a Peckerhead but, then again, take a gander at the photo on his banner.


Pound. Pound pound pound. Eyeball a thirty-nine inch straight line across the wall. It looks right just about HERE. Pound. Pound pound pound. Screw the screw into one wall anchor, and then screw the other screw into the other wall anchor. Hang the bulletin board. Step back and look at my handiwork. Shit. Either the left side is too low or the right side is too high. I’ll lower the right side an estimated two and three-eighths inches so it’s equally low with the left side.

Eyeball an estimated two and three-eighths inches down the wall. It looks right just about HERE. Pound. Pound pound pound. Screw the screw into the wall anchor. Hang the bulletin board on the left screw and . . . it’s still crooked as hell. Several tries and several exposed wall anchors later . . .

I call it the Peckerhead Method of Home Repair, Assembly, and General Whatnot. The Peckerhead Method involves no thinking, no planning, and no questions asked. Just plunge right in, pecker first, and to hell with the instructions.

Peckerheadism (from the Latin skullus bonerus, or head of the pecker) is unique to the male of the species for an obvious reason. The female of the species reacts to peckerheadism with extreme peckishness and often responds by henpecking. Some (without naming her name) become selectively frigid:

“The henhouse is CLOSED, buster, until you FIX those big holes you made in my good fucking wall!”

* * * * * *

We didn’t have shop in grammar school, so I learned all the basics of peckerheading by watching Dad. I learned how to be impatient and always in a big goddam hurry. I learned how to use the wrong tools. I learned how to use vulgarities, expletives, and dirty words. I learned to forget to unplug it before taking it apart.

But most of all, I learned to never follow the instructions.

One of my boyhood pastimes was putting model airplane kits together. The jet fighter models always had a little plastic pilot, and it was crucial—crucial—to glue him into his seat before assembling the fuselage; otherwise, there was no way to get him into the cockpit.

I had the largest collection of lonely little plastic pilots in the universe. Mom wanted to have my head examined because I kept grumbling about “little men” and “my desk drawer is full of them”.

“Chuckie needs to have his head examined,” Mom told Dad. That was rich. Here was the man who took all twenty or thirty tubes out of the television set, put them in a grocery bag, hauled them down to the repair shop to test them, hauled them back home, and didn’t have a clue how twenty or thirty tubes went back into the television set.

“Fuckers all look alike,” I heard him mumbling from somewhere inside the TV cabinet. So do light bulbs I wanted to add, but that would have been an overt allusion to his red-line personal wattage on the peck-o-meter; when Dad was in peckerhead mode, he was in no mood for either wisdom or levity.

* * * * *

Intelligence. Reason. Logic. Common sense. I’m lucky to possess these cerebral gifts all in one thin brain. With just a tad bit more luck, I might have been Charlie Einstein instead of Charlie Callahan.

So why oh why can’t I repair, assemble, or generally whatnot like a normal person? Why oh why do I not think, plan, or ask questions before plunging, pecker first, into a project? Most of all, why oh why is my desk drawer of life overflowing with little plastic pilots?

Because I am my father’s son, and the peckerhead never falls far from the tree.

Because peckerism is in my genes, all tangled up in the fabric of my DNA.

Because, in the end, I just pecker along the best I can.

[Ladies, please monitor your blood pressure when responding to this essay!]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

50 Things I've Never Had

This is not a meme because there is only one of me-singular, not plural-therefore, it is simply a me. I wonder who came up with that stupid term in the firstfirst placeplace.

50 Things I've Never Had

1. A dream where nothing happens. Mine are all Spielberg/Lucas blockbusters with THX surround scream.

2. Pistachio ice cream.

3. A bunny.

4. Bunny slippers.

5. A heavy metal record album. Mine are all made of light-weight vinyl.

6. A rap album made out of anything.

7. Sex on top of the refrigerator. I’m afraid of heights.

8. A riding lawn mower.

9. A lawn on which to ride a riding lawn mower.

10. Road kill.

11. Garden kill from the riding lawn mower I don’t have.

12. Ringworm.

13. Crop circles.

14. The vapors.

15. PMS.

16. A broken bone.

17. Remedial English. I only know American.

18. An infant of my own.

19. A child of my own.

20. A teenager of my own that I wish belonged to someone else.

21. Tuba lessons.

22. A personally autographed bible.

23. Labor pains.

24. A job that didn’t give me a pain.

25. Breast implants.

26. A firearm.

27. My arm on fire.

28. Just one potato chip.

29. Just one beer.

30. Cocktail hour.

31. Distemper.

32. Rabies.

33. Chest hair.

34. Farah Fawcett’s hair.

35. An Afro.

36. The heartbreak of psoriasis.

37. Capri pants.

38. A military mind.

39. A bureaucratic mind.

40. A clusterfuck (see numbers 39 and 40 in triplicate).

41. Anything designer. I don't do status or free advertising.

42. Anything made of Spandex.

43. An ability to sing.

44. An ability to dance.

45. An ability to sing while dancing, or to dance while singing.

46. Erectile dysfunction.

47. In-laws who like me.

48. A tattoo (because I was never a drunken sailor on shore leave in the South Seas.)

49. A life-long friend.

50. A hero.

[Feel free to steal!]

UPDATE: Other lists to check out!

Wandering Coyote

Barbara Zombie

A Compulsive Liar



Monday, October 12, 2009

Review: Inspector Imanishi Investigates

This is my entry in the Challenge, sponsored by Bellezza (the link will take you to the other entrants and their reviews). Since I am a mystery fan, I chose a police procedural so I could compare it to the rest of the genre. It is not classic "literature," but I learned much about Japan—which is, of course, the purpose of the Challenge.

* * * * *

Inspector Imanishi Investigates, Seicho Matsumoto; translated by Beth Cary

SOHO Crime, Trade Paper, 2003
ISBN 978-1569470190
313 pages

First Sentence: "The first train on the Keihin-Tohoku Line was scheduled to leave Kamata Station at 4:08 A.M."

Before departure, the crew inspected the train for safety and anything untoward. They found untoward: a dead body under one of the cars. The police arrive, and on page 2, the autopsy report presents the findings: male, middle-fifties, death by strangulation and post-death, a beating of the face with a rock or hammer.

The victim had been drinking, so the police canvassed the bars around Kamata Station for possible witnesses. The workers at Torys bar, nearby Kamata Station, remembered seeing the victim with a younger male companion. They all agreed on one thing: the victim spoke with an accent of the Tohoku region, a dialect with thick zu-zu sounds, and he repeated the word “Kameda” several times. It must be a person’s name, the police decided, only to find out that there were thousands of Kamedas in the northern prefectures (similar to provinces). Identifying the body, as well as the murderer, was not going to be easy.

I will stop describing the story line because everything I have written so far happens in the first 13-page chapter. By comparison, a U.S. or U.K. police procedural might easily take half the book to get this far. I found this method of wrapping up the preliminaries in a few pages more than refreshing.

There were still 300 pages left in the book, however, so what took up the space? Already declared a dead case in the first chapter, enter Tokyo police Inspector Imanishi Eitaro (surname first, given name second) to solve it.

Anyone who is familiar with Magdalen Nabb’s excellent series featuring Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia of the Italian Carabinieri will immediately relate to Imanishi. Both men cannot leave an unsolved crime go unsolved. Their lives revolve around the case, they dig incessantly for the tiniest shred of a clue, and they never cease . . . thinking.

While there were plenty of twists, turns, and especially dead ends for Imanishi, he had an advantage over Guarnaccia: coincidence. The first one is in my story description about finding witnesses close to Kamata Station—which the police do. There were subsequent murders in the book; one victim lived in the apartment building next to Imanishi, while another rented a room from his sister. While waiting at a small train depot in Akita Prefecture, Imanishi meets four young intellectuals known as the Nouveau group, who play a large part throughout the book.

While I found this a little annoying, it did not ruin my enthusiasm for the book. Keeping track of names, prefectures, cities, towns, and railway stations was a challenge, so I kept some notes and printed a map of Japan.

Written in 1961, Seicho is as fresh and relevant today as he was then. The translation by Beth Cary is skillful, avoiding the use of Western slang and euphemisms.

Best of all, though, was the modus operandi of the killer, so unique that I have never read anything even close to it. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a well-written, complex mystery, a lot of sleuthing, and a very likeable protagonist.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Please Read!

Dear Blogites,

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have fallen behind on your blogs as well as the comments you have made on mine.

Specifically, I am having some tests done for Dr. Lung, my lung doctor.

Specifically, I tripped over my oxygen line, causing me to stub my toe (the one next to my big toe on my right clod), causing the toenail to come 9/10s off, causing Surgeon General Martha to cut off the other 1/10 which hurt like hell, causing me to limp around with my toe wrapped up in gauze.

Specifically, I will be having another tooth extraction this afternoon in 3 hours, 5 minutes, and 18 seconds. But who's counting.

Since I appear to be a glutton for pain, and taking the specifics into consideration, I believe I will rest this weekend in my burlap jammies.

"Do not despair, Tribe of Blogites, for I shall returneth on the seventh day (or the eighth day, which will be Monday), and catcheth up on all things Bloggerly." (1T 1:23) (First Book of Testicles, Chapter 1, Verse 23)

If you need something to read, I suggest my review of Nora Roberts.

UPDATE, 5:15 P.M.

Not one extraction, but two. The second one was a bitch. Now I am on dry socket watch—or maybe the nice dentist said watch your socks dry.

"Do not complaineth, moaneth, nor whineth—elst thee shall be named Wussy." (1T 1:24)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Weird Kid

It's time to lighten things up again, and what's better than a piece I wrote about me? Both of these "incidents" are true.


Yes, that’s me in the photograph, Fatty Arbuckle, plopped on my fat ass. I think mommy had to sew two diapers together to get one XXL to fit me.

It was my second birthday party (June 2, 1949), but mommy wasn’t there because she was sick: two days prior, the stork brought my new sister, Pootsie. I was pissed about missing the stork but I forgot all about it, and mommy, and Pootsie, when I saw the XXL cake in front of me . . .


Before I learned to walk, I learned to playpen. It was a prison made of wood bars. On rollers. On a linoleum floor. Dumb mommy, smart baby. Somehow, baby managed to stick his fat legs through the prison bars and take himself for a roll. Without a rolling license. Oh, he couldn’t roll to New Jersey or anywhere neat like that, but his one-room world provided lots of places to explore. Like the sideboard where dumb mommy stored the . . . toilet paper!

Baby didn’t know toilet paper from a snow shovel, but who cared. Toilet paper was FUN! While baby was rolling like mad around the room the toilet paper was rolling off the roll, rolling off the roll, when one was empty grab another and roll it off the roll! It was a toilet paper extravaganza, and before long the whole place was forty-two inches deep in it! Baby was in TP heaven until dumb mommy walked in and screamed. That scared baby and he took a dump in his XXL diaper. No worries, though. There was plenty of toilet paper to wipe baby’s fat butt.


“ARE YOU TAKING YOUR BATH UP THERE?” Mom screamed from downstairs.

“YEAH MOM, CAN’TCHA HEAR THE WATER RUNNING? I screamed back, turning both faucets to “on” in the tub—but without the stopper in the drain.

We did a shitload of screaming at my house, didn't we.

To this very day, I don’t understand why I made life triply hard on myself. I went to more trouble not taking a bath than if I’d just taken the damn thing in the first place. I ran a tubful of non-existent water, I wet ten towels and the bathmat so it looked like I had dried off, I soaked the soap in the sink so it would get all slippery and shrink, I dunked my head under the faucet to get my hair wet, I sang all the arias I knew from The Barber of Seville at the top of my lungs and, to prove I was a slob, I squirted shampoo all over the bathtub tiles.

All that work, plus I actually used a washcloth so I would pass behind-the-ears-and-neck inspection.

And all along, I thought Mom was the dummy.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Book News & Snooze

Boy, am I feeling smug. My prognostication that The Lost Symbol would be a piece of crap is just that. I’ve just returned from, where 843 peeps have written reviews and 590 of them, or 70%, have given it 3 or less stars out of a possible 5. The book is selling, of course, to those readers who enjoy mediocrity. That's their decision, so enough said.

* * * * *

What book has replaced Dan Brown as the #1 seller on both and Barnes & Noble? Yes, folks, it’s Sarah Palin and her book Going Rogue, An American Life, a 432 page "memoir" set for publication on November 17.

432 pages of this nutcase?

Surely Palin must have a collaborator, I thought, but neither Amazon nor B&N lists one. But then I found this in an AP story on a site called Blerp:

Palin herself has said that "Going Rogue" will give her a chance to express herself "unfiltered," a bold brand for a public figure who has likened herself to a pit bull with lipstick and once alleged that Obama was "palling around with terrorists." Palin's collaborator, Lynn Vincent, has her own history of attacking the left. She is the co-author of "Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party." [Bold is mine]

If I thought this was going to be the comedy book of the year, I might read it. But Palin is waaaay out right: Rush Limbaugh, the quintessence of truth and objectivity, is hoping she sells 5 million copies. No, folks, I’ll be passing on this one: the minute I read “Church and State” in the same sentence, I would throw it at one of Martha’s good walls.

* * * * *

Want to see something really neat? Pop over here for a minute, but then come right back here.

See, I told you. I haven't read much of him since he retired, but I will be reading this one. I just hope its 1088 pages live up to the cover and some of his older stuff.

* * * * *

Before Dennis Lehane had a huge success with Mystic River, both book and movie, he wrote five PI novels featuring Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. The locale was Boston, Lehane’s hometown, which he knows as well as Pete Hamill knows New York. Kenzie and Gennaro were a likeable team, smart-alecky (some of their scenes were hilarious), but they never scrimped on the job at hand. The stories were gritty and violent in a part of Boston known to be gritty and violent: Dorchester. The fans of the series, including me, loved them.

And then the series stopped. With the publication of Mystic River, Lehane said he was done with the duo. Forever. “There’s no way I’ll write another one,” I remember him saying quite forcefully in a magazine interview. The fans of the series, including me, were shocked.

Ten or so years later, Lehane has reconsidered: he is busy at work on a new Kenzie and Gennaro tale, but he won’t give any details. “A man can change his mind,” I remember him saying, but I can’t remember where I read it. His fans, including me, are delighted.

A Drink Before the War won a Shamus Prize for first novel. Others in the series (in order) include Darkness Take My Hand; Sacred; Gone, Baby, Gone; and Prayers for Rain.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Death to the School Library

Last December, I wrote a rant about and its e-reader, the Kindle. To quote me, I said, “. . . there is no fucking way I will ever give up real books for an e-reader . . .” I admit that's a rather strongly worded quote, but I like Bloggerville to know exactly where I stand on an issue.

Well, at least one person disagrees with me: James Tracy, the headmaster of Cushing Academy, a snooty prep school for rich kids west of Boston. I picked up this story from The Boston Globe, written by David Abel on September 4, 2009.

“This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks—the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.

“Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 to create a ‘learning center.’ In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine.

“And to replace those old pulpy devices that have transmitted information since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1400s, they have spent $10,000 to buy 18 electronic readers made by and Sony. Administrators plan to distribute the readers, which they’re stocking with digital material, to students looking to spend more time with literature."

I am aghast. 3 large TVs for what, cluster reads? 18 e-readers for several hundred students? Wait until some scholar spills his or her cappuccino on the Library Kindle: William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice will be making her choice much sooner than expected.

The real tragedy, of course, is encouraging young people to read—and not just the blockbusters like Harry Potter and The Twilight Saga. Without rows of bookshelves (called stacks in the article) and real books to browse, how will a student know that Sophie’s Choice (or any other book) even exists?

The purpose of a prep school is to teach, to prepare the rich kids for the rich universities like Harvard and Radcliffe. Classes in polo and croquet are fine, but not at the expense of English and literature.
"Jemmel Billingslea, an 18-year-old senior, thought about the prospect of a school without books. It didn't bother him.

"'It's a little strange,' he said. 'But this is the future.'"

This isn't my future, Bubba.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Quality Control Manager

(Click photo to enlarge)

He's not really the Quality Control Manager.

Our house is like China—we have no quality control.

I just gave him the title to boost his doggy ego.

He's been fascinated with the dishwasher since the day he moved in.

His real title is Superintendant of Pre-Wash Operations.

You have to keep an eye on the Superintendant, though.

He steals forks, especially if there's cake on 'em.