Featured Post, or Blast from the Past

What Makes Books on First a Great Place to Visit

We are an equal opportunity great good place.  We could have a physician, a millwright, a retired schoolteacher, an unemployed housepainter ...

25 February 2010

The first Second Saturday

From Sauk Valley News, 24 February 2010
Art lovers unite: Second Saturdays prepares to launch collaboration of art, music, theater
By ILENE HALUSKA ihaluska@svnmail.com
815-284-2224, ext. 526

Local artist Lisa Higby LeFevre talks about "Second Saturdays Art Happenings," a new art and music event that kicks off March 13 at several businesses in downtown Dixon. The monthly collaboration will showcase the town's art, music and theater offerings as visitors trek from venue to venue, organizers say. (Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@svnmail.com)

DIXON – A new event will begin in a month in Dixon to "enliven the downtown and get people out walking to see what's going on in their cultural community."

"Second Saturdays Art Happenings" will showcase the town's art, music and theater offerings as visitors bop from venue to venue, organizers say.

The event will launch next month, on March 13, with activities at five downtown venues, including a hair salon and a church.

"The idea is to get people to get out and walk the streets and check out the galleries" – like a pub crawl, said artist Lisa Higby LeFevre, one of the event's organizers and owner of Distinctive Gardens.

"Traditionally, it's when all of the galleries will be open at the same time, usually once a month, and do different things on that particular night," Higby LeFevre said.

Second Saturdays is designed to get people interested in what's going on with the community's artists and galleries. People who usually are interested only in music can get a taste of the visual arts, and vice versa.

It will increase community pride, and make Dixon a more attractive place to live, organizers say.

Nontraditional venues are part of the attraction. Episcopal Church of St. Luke, for example, will present organ music and will offer its first art exhibit, paintings by the late artist Gordon Utley.

"It's exciting to have a town with an active base of artists," LeFevre said. "There's a tremendous wealth of quality art."

LeFevre suggested an art hop a few years ago, but the arts community wasn't ready for it, she said.

The idea resurfaced when The Crystal Cork Wine Shoppe and The Next Picture Show both had openings the evening of Nov. 6, and she and local photographer Rick Munson noticed how many people bounced back and forth between the two galleries. They got to talking on Facebook, talked with other artists, and the idea caught on, she said.

Each Second Saturday will feature different venues and events, and The Next Picture Show plans to participate in three of them, organizers say.

The first Second Saturday

The first Second Saturday will be held in downtown Dixon from 6 to 8 p.m. March 13.

■ The art trek begins at Crystal Cork Wine Shoppe, 219 W. First St., which will offer its quarterly show, "Dissolution," which is photography by Hope Greene; and an artist's reception for the pastels "Atmosphere" and "Time Passages," by Lisa Higby LeFevre.

■ Acrylic artist John DeLong will showcase his paintings and put on a demonstration at his business, JSalon, 208 W. First St.

■ The next stop is Trein's Jewelry, 201 W. First St., which will feature Czechoslovakian art glass and a guest artist to be announced.

■ Books on First, 202 W. First St., will present music by Maddies Farm from 7 to 9 p.m. Art exhibits are a regular feature at the coffee shop and bookstore.

■ The hop ends at Episcopal Church of St. Luke, 221 W. Third St., where the late Gordon Utley's paintings will be displayed and organ music will be performed.

To learn more

The next art walk is April 10. Groups and artists interested in participating in Second Saturdays can contact Lisa Higby LeFevre, lhlefevre@comcast.net or 815-285-0014, or Theresa Sholders, theresa@essex1.com. or 815-285-3496.

More information also is available at www.Second-Saturdays.com online.

17 February 2010

How (Possibly) Duane Reade Got Its Name

With today's announcement that Walgreen's has agreed to purchase the iconic NYC drug store Duane Reade, I get to walk down memory lane.

During the summer of 1979, I worked for the General Services Administration at Six World Trade Center (yes, part of the Twin Towers complex). Staying with my grandmother at her apartment on Hester Street in Chinatown/Little Italy, I would walk to work in the mornings as I figured that walking all the way down to WTC is almost the same as walking to Canal Street to catch a train and then, walking from Court Street or another station near the WTC, with the added benefit of saving money, getting exercise and living the City.

There are many, many Duane Reade drug store branch locations in NYC. The one I frequented that summer was right on my way to and from my summer job. One day, I looked up and noticed that I was crossing Duane Street. I then passed a very large Duane Reade store which took up the whole block* and thought, how cool, there's a Duane Reade at the corner of Duane Street. And, then, I had to cross another street and its name was Reade Street. Eureka!

Looking at a map of Lower Manhattan in my research for this posting, I see that Duane and Reade Streets are not perfectly parallel, but run very close to each other for several blocks in a northeasterly way. I would say the two streets are only a block apart, but this would be a Lower Manhattan "block," versus the insistent Illinoisan who tells me that *there are 8 blocks to a mile and thus, a true block =1/8 of a mile and this is a universal measure. Being a New Yorker, I knew right away from the first time he expounded on it, that this measure is not universal. On the other hand, I will concede that for the length at which Duane and Reade Streets run nearly parallel, they are not full blocks apart, which means that it is imaginable that there are more than one Duane Reade drug store locations between Chinatown and the world Trade Center. Of course, since I am talking about 1979, it is also likely that as we write & read in 2010, there are none between Duane and Reade Streets.

12 February 2010

Is Reading No Longer an "American" Pastime?

In the same week that I participated in a webinar (now that's a newly created word, eh?) about the demographics of usage of electronic devices in which a poll question was posed: What device do you use most for your entertainment? and books or even electronic books like Kindle or Nook were not included as a choice of response, I am able to bring you the following Wall Street Journal article.

11 February 2010

Electronics -- "Have they freed us for more quality moments, or simply made us busier?"

* The Wall Street Journal * BOOKSHELF * FEBRUARY 8, 2010, 6:32 P.M. ET

From Wisdom to Wi-Fi
A library is no longer a mere home for books. It is a wired-up information center.


There are many unsung heroes of ordinary life—nurses, trash collectors, accountants—whose job it is to take care of things that the rest of us take for granted. So too the librarian, that iconic figure who long presided over a sanctuary of books and guided readers, young and old, to the treasures of a vast print culture. But the profession has undergone a dramatic transformation of late because libraries themselves are not what they used to be. Today they have less to do with books per se than with computers, films, community events and children's activities. They are, above all, public portals to the world of "information," especially the online version. In "This Book Is Overdue!," Marilyn Johnson, a former staff writer for Life magazine, takes us on a tour of the modern library and introduces us to the men and women who call it their professional home.

09 February 2010

Browsing and the BBC World Service

When I am home on the weekends, "home" being Lee County, Illinois, I am able to fall asleep and wake up several times during the night to the BBC World Service offered on WNIJ, our local NPR station out of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. This begins at midnight, or "Six o'clock, GMT." That's actually how I knew that it was 2010, Auld Lang Syne time, by the BBC already telling me it was 6am.

I had wanted to share a story about "middle age writers," those writing and being published at an older age, which was defined as age 50, but I am unable to find that radio item, the BBC websites being handled differently from www.npr.org. I recall a bit of "cheating," since they spoke quite a bit with someone who is only 49, having published a book at age 48 (sorry, I was not fully awake to figure out which author was speaking). It was an interesting discussion on whether being published is as important as being read, and with electronic books, self-publishing services and the internet, perhaps writers over the age of 50 should look beyond the traditional publishing paths. I don't quite know why the piece was produced, focusing on "older beginner" writers.

Browsing the BBC website, I did find something rather interesting about Vietnamese coffee, which I share with you now. Warning: it appears that programmes become "available for listening" and then, that availability expires. There is nothing wrong with that if they are indeed selling content (I have yet to write that promised post on "content") as that's the producer's prerogative. I am simply saying that if you are reading this a year or even a few months from now, you may be out of luck.

"Browsing" is generally not in the province of the world wide web, despite that word being used for what we all do on the internet. "Browsing" involves serendipity, curiosity and satisfaction of that curiosity, handling in order to consider whether this item is the right fit for the browsing person's life. However, I will admit this once, that I really had a browsing experience online.

08 February 2010

Christopher Reid on winning the Costa Award - Times Online

Bathroom of the Vanities by Christopher Reid

The model mask, the mannequin moue,

the face I loved to catch her pulling

after sundry perfecting dabs

and micro-adjustments in front of the mirror

will never be seen, by me or the mirror, again.

The bathroom scales, too,

stand abandoned. No one now will be consulting

the age-fogged dial for its little fibs

and trembles of error

with precisely that peering downward frown.

Odd bottles in an orderly queue —

Issey Miyake, Parfum Tea Rose, the eternally billing

doves of L’Air du Temps — keep their caps

on, conserve their last drops of essence and aura

and wait for no one.

From A Scattering, published by Areté © Christopher Reid 2009

Christopher Reid on winning the Costa Award - Times Online

This is the problem with reading Graham Beattie. He discusses books which have yet to be available in the United States of America and has us salivating and waiting and waiting, including for this one from Christopher Reid.

04 February 2010

Definition of Marriage II

Just wanted to share with you a film which we saw last night, Tom Ford's A Single Man, based on Christopher Isherwood's novel. Artsy, yes. And, of course, I love the wordplay of the title.

This is one day in one man's life, a single day in a single man's life. But, just as one day is a culmination of an entire life, one has to question as society and the man himself questions, Has Professor George Falconer been single all his life? Or, has he only been single for a short time since the sudden death of Jim, his partner of 16 years?

There are many themes...isolation, an invisible minority, suburban L.A. life in the early 1960s..., but my main pick-up is when is a relationship real?

The sad, sad, saddest part was the telephone call from his partner's cousin, telling George of the accident and death. Jim's cousin tells George that he was calling illicitly, that Jim's parents had not wanted to notify George, and that the funeral service would be "for family only," basically discouraging George's attendance. And, Jim had taken both dogs with him home, including the female Smooth Fox Terrier as his mother was so fond of her. When George asks about the dogs, Jim's cousin says only that he knows of only one dog who had been with Jim in the car and had also died. He did not know about a second dog. And, thus, Jim's mother was able to keep a last living link to Jim and deny George the same. At least to continue after death what Jim's parents must have done in life -- totally ignore and discount an important part of their son's life -- is consistent if cruel policy.

To pound it home to us, there is a second instance of questioning George's relationship with Jim (they had no civil union option from 1946 to 1962). George's long-time friend Charlotte asks if he had never longed for "the real thing" -- a real marriage with wife and children? And, when he reacts angrily, she immediately apologizes, saying, she was just jealous of what George and Jim had. Even with a marriage which lasted 9 years, she had come to the realization that she had never had that kind of relationship, that no one had ever loved her the way Jim had loved George.

Okay, so, one can say, this is just a story! This is fiction! This is a film! This is art! This is not reality! I am not going into all that art copies life argument. I can only say that I wish it were not anywhere close to reality, but just because something is invisible does not mean it is not real.

The bond of marriage is sacred. But, what is so sacred about the word "marriage" that it becomes the exclusive province of one group, to be denied to another? When a bond is formed, what is the reason for denying it? Is fear the reason, as Professor Falconer suggests to his class, for persecution of a minority? How can allowing the words "gay" or"same-sex" residing next to "marriage" be dangerous? Do people against same-sex marriages believe such a term devalues the word and thus, the concept of "marriage"? I happen to believe it does. Why do we have to qualify a marriage? It like saying a "mixed" marriage, as if there is still something not quite right about a marriage between a black and a white, a Jew and a Christian, royalty and commoner.

Do we somehow have the right to believe that a relationship between a man and a woman is more real, more sacred and ultimately, more legitimate than one between a man and a man?

We can debate the civil and religious laws, but when it comes to human emotions, can we not be civil and invoke the Golden Rule? It should cease to amaze me, but does not, the extent of human cruelty. So, "for only family" can become the rallying cry of those who might claim and truly believe that a pet dog or cat or canary is more family than a lesbian daughter's wife or a gay son's "long-time companion," denying them the "right" to the hospital room, to the morgue, to the funeral service; to care, to claim, to grieve. Maybe this cruel denial of the existence of a real relationship is the reason why homosexuals and their advocates push so hard, beyond "civil union" and nothing short of "marriage."

02 February 2010

Oh, Lord, What Hath We Wrought in Your Name? or Living Faiths

Speaking of living languages growing and changing in ways that writers and speakers have never imagined and may or may not want, the same would hold true for many interactive creations, like faiths.

Surely, even the WWJD movement did not imagine (although some within it may nod in satisfaction) of what extremist Christians have encouraged and applauded in Uganda, the death penalty for the crime of being homosexual. Only after months of sporadic news coverage and resulting negative opinion from within and without the Christian faith has founder of "superchurch" and author Rick Warren finally called the idea of killing people "unChristian."

I may not be a member of a Christian community (although, for what it's worth to you Gentle Reader, many have described me as a "christian with a small 'c'" person), but I believe I can say that What Would Jesus Do is decry this as a foul act, fomenting violence in his name and ignoring the maxims of doing unto others as you would have them do onto you (allow you to walk the streets without fear of harm from your fellow humans or your government) and live and let live. A civil society demands tolerance and understanding of others, so that nobody is persecuted. The Christians used to be persecuted, but instead of turning the other cheek as Jesus would do (at least he taught that he would and we should do; who's questioning that?), what I'm seeing is a case of uncreative turning the tables (now we're on top and we can do to all by whom we feel threatened what they did to us).

The suggestion that either this kind of response is historically and culturally Ugandan (given its history of rejecting homosexuality), a kind of "do in Rome [or Uganda] as Romans do" when it falls conveniently in with the "Christian" agenda of eliminating the "abominations" of the faith or that to remonstrate otherwise is a sign of colonial paternalism not appreciated by countries who were once colonies. These are actual reasons given for not discouraging this kind of attitude, from those who pray for "respect of human life, from conception to natural death."

Not to appear simply highlighting the very scary adnascentia of distorted Christian faiths, we could speak too of what Mohammad would think about what is happening in the name of Islam. The chief preceptor of enlightened free speech, good literature and a good cup of coffee at Books on First has just finished (and is on the verge of writing his newest blurb for the Staff Picks webpage, ahem!) has been recommending The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. Apparently, even free will is considered

Also, interesting is a recent Speaking of Faith rebroadcast, in which British Muslim Ed Husain speaks articulately about how he too at age 16 found the luring passion of faith, rationalized and intellectualized violent views, and saw his fellow seductees killed before rejecting those teachings as extreme. Most interesting was his perception that gentle, young idealistic men are the most self-sacrificing and thus, they were the most exploited. Instead of angry young idealists, these kind, loving barely men made the best candidates for suicide bombers, as they so believed in the cause and had no second thought about saving their own corporeal selves. His book about his story, The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left, which was shortlisted for the George Orwell Prize for political writing.

Definition of Marriage

My husband is an old-fashioned Catholic by upbringing. He is a self-described agnostic by faith. He attends Mass at St Mary's in Walton, IL, and we do go to Church services when we can while traveling. He says while he is skeptical about God as presented by organized religion, he is open to meeting God, and there's a lot greater probability of meeting Him in Church than in a bar. I believe a true agnostic wouldn't say that, because all sources point to the idea that God is everywhere. Church/shul/mosque/temple/meetinghouse is for the mass of humans who believe they have some connection to each other, and want to gather at a certain place at a certain time for a certain ritual with certain people in a chosen community. I can understand that comforting sense of ritual and gathering, although I don't need to be reminded every Sunday about God, and I do believe God is everywhere.

Music at Books on First

We may not be able to help with single MP3 downloads, but Books on First does still sell a CD or two (and we can order Mp3 music albums and audiobooks for you).

We currently have Merlin's new album "Freddy Garcia's Van" (I thought it was named "merlin," but that shows how much I know about the van, which apparently needed no introduction) at cost -- $7.

01 February 2010

Just Two Words

David Hoffman, Democratic Party candidate for Illinois U.S. Senator, did not show in a scheduled meeting at Books on First last Tuesday. He canceled on that morning or late enough the previous night to count as same day. Even though Books on First sent out a blast e-message to our e-list, that did not prevent several people from coming at the appointed hour. John Laesche of Hoffman's campaign came to apologize and field questions.

When a Chicago resident on that e-list first received the original e-message, announcing the visit, he had commented that he questioned the political wisdom of Hoffman, also a Chicago resident (who seriously should have upplayed his wife's downstate connections), visiting Dixon so close to the date of the primary. I think I heard him say, "Unless he also has scheduled stops in Rockford, Geneseo, the Quad Cities, Aurora, ... it doesn't seem worth the time. Nothing against Dixon, but it's hardly a population center."

"Two words," a loyal Books on First (Republican) customer responded, "Barack Obama."