Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday's Poem

Langston's Hughes' "I, Too, Sing America":

Weird Travel Books

AbeBooks brings you an odd assortment of travel books. You won't find Theroux or Twain on this list. You will find, however, Tony Hawks' Round Ireland with a Fridge and Travel by Cargo Ship.

Borrowed Time

How do you build a public library in the age of Google? Slate has a slide show about libraries and their architecture (Harold T. Washington Library in Chicago is pictured above).

The Holocaust

There's a new way that teachers are having their students learn about the horrors of the Holocaust - through comic books. In other news in regards to the Jews during World War II, a burnt diary has been found, highlighting the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Also, there are a few bits of Anne Frank news of late:
1) There's a new photo exhibit, her father being the photographer.
2) A photo has surfaced, and is now on display, of Peter Schiff, Anne Frank's one true love.
3) Protests continue to mount in regards to the Anne Frank Musical that's having its world premiere in Madrid.

Having just returned from Paris, I must say I don't think there's a museum that has hit me more powerfully than the Memorial de la Shoah. I also visited the Memorial de la Deportation (pictured above), a small memorial on the tip of Ile de la Cite. It's a memorial to the 200,000 people deported from Vichy France to Nazi concentration camps. Somber, to be sure. More somber knowing that the site of the memorial is on the site of a former morgue.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Flying Off the Shelves

Seattle's Stranger has a funny piece about an independent bookseller and the shoplifters he chases down Seattle's city streets, highlighting the types of books that most often get stolen (most all the Beat poets, for instance).

Ah, remembrances of things past! I worked in the men's department at Lamonts, a crappy chain department store that has since (there is a God) gone bankrupt. If we assisted in the apprehension of a vile shoplifter we got a $50 gift certificate. SWEET! I'm fast, too, so I had that in my favor as well. The best catch I remember was this dude who ran out of the store with a maroon Nike hooded sweatshirt. Boom, out the door I went sprinting after him in the parking lot, not quite jumping over the hoods of cars, but weaving anyway. "I can run fast!" I yelled at the villian, "and I can run for a looonnnggg time!" He threw the sweatshirt onto the ground and leapt up this grassy embankment and into the trees. "We'll find you!" I yelled, panting. The police came soon after and, perhaps they were bored (?), but they let out the dogs to sniff him out. Sniff him out they did. He was promptly arrested, I got a $50 gift certificate and, because the sweatshirt fell into a puddle, I got a good discount on that, too.

Dr. Seuss Jettisons into the 21st Century

Publisher's Weekly has the story about Dr. Seuss's beloved books (like Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop and The Cat in the Hat) are going digital. A partnership between Dr. Seuss Enterprises and kidthing, it'll create digital versions of the books with extras such as voice-overs, sound effects and music.

I wonder what they're going to do with my favorite Seuss book.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What the Dutch Buy When They Visit their Local Boekhandel

Having just returned from the Netherlands, and having visited a couple boekhandels while I was there, I wonder - what are the Dutch peoples' favorite books? Critical Mass has the answer.

The Basics of Writing Love Letters

Smitten? Let Ladies Home Journal give you some tips on how to properly woo.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Joyeux Anniversaire, Victor Hugo

Today is the great Frenchman's birthday. Just a few days ago, in fact, I went to his old house in Paris, Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée 6, place des Vosges. It was a wonderful exhibit (though all in French) about his writings, his career, and his life. The sculpture of Hugo (pictured above) was done by none other than the genius Auguste Rodin.

For those Blogwriters Out There

12 Essential Blogwriting Tips for building a successful blog.

Win a Bookseller for a Day

Do you have some old books in your house that you've always wondered if they were worth anything? Do you have a collection of books that you're proud of but don't know if they'll, say, finance your daughter's college education? Well, AbeBooks, with Fine Books & Collections Magazine, is having a contest. You can have your collection professionally appraised by an antiquarian bookseller. They're looking for North America's most passionate book collector...Is it you?!?!

The lucky winner will have an bookseller visit their home for a day and value their collection of books for free. will pay for everything and your books will be scrutinized by an expert appraiser who will issue a formal document detailing your collection's value. The winner will also be profiled by Fine Books & Collections magazine - North America's largest magazine for book collectors - in its 'How I Got Started' column. Five runners-up will each receive a year's subscription to Fine Books & Collections magazine.

Find the contest details here.

One with a Bullet

In the New Yorker, the great T.C. Boyle reads the great Tobias Wolff (pictured). The story, "Bullet in the Brain," was published in the New Yorker in '95. Boyle reads it and then discusses Wolff with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. Enjoy.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Au Revoir, Paris. Bonjour, La Charite-sur-Loire

From a story in Deutsche Well:

Christian Valleriaux, a specialist in rare books, was the first Parisian bookseller to settle in La Charite-sur-Loire just two hours from the French capital.

"We wanted to leave Paris," said Valleriaux, 61. "We'd had enough of paying such high rent for the store and our apartment. Besides, we were looking for better quality of life."

Booksellers are leaving Paris and arriving in La Charite-sur-Loire to create, in essence, a city of books. The village of 5,000 has 12 specialty bookstores focusing on old and rare books, original French typography, calligraphy and bookbinding.

Politician Contributions By Writers

The Brothercyst Blog has an ever-growing list. Some authors to note...

Dave Eggers--$2,300 for Obama.
Tim LaHaye-- $2,300 for Huckabee.
Anne Rice-- $4,600 for Clinton.
Jane Smiley-- $500 for Edwards.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

The attempt and not the deed
Confounds us.
- William Shakespeare, "MacBeth," Act 2, Scene 2

Someone has attempted something confounding! Indeed, the attempt to make classics accessible to those that wouldn't necessarily seek out the classics has just been proved successful. Just ask Classical Comics, who brings classics to life.

The Guardian Unlimited has the story about their new MacBeth comic book.

Quote of the Week

Easy reading is damn hard writing.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jon's Gone Old World

"I descend toward the Seine, shy, a traveler,
A young barbarian just come to the capital of the world."
- Czeslaw Milosz

Well, my friends, I am, a young barbarian, traveling to the Netherlands and France soon. My wonderful sister-in-law and husband gave me their airline miles to come visit them (they live in Rotterdam). My bags are packed, my passport is ready to be stamped and I have appropriate reading material for lazy mornings in outdoor cafes.

The trip is going to be a dream but, sadly, this blog will be slumbering while I'm out dreaming away the coming days in Europe. Fear not, faithful readers, I'll be back the end of February with, undoubtedly, countless stories of my travels.

"I just mean that I regarded Paris, with its gray-toned days and charcoal nights, merely as the chance setting for the most authentic and faithful days of my life: the colored phrase in my mind under the drizzle, the white page under the desk lamp awaiting me in my humble home."
- Vladimir Nabokov

Au Revoir!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Coen Brothers Meet Michael Chabon

How cool is this going to be? The Coen brothers are going to make a movie of Michael Chabon's novel The Yiddish Policeman's Union. The great news, care of The Guardian Unlimited.

Bill McKibben Round-Up

I've always appreciated the essayist/environmentalist Bill McKibben so wanted to throw you a few bits you might be interested in reading...

He's been interviewed recently on Booklist.

One website has a good list of links to his writings.

On YouTube you can watch a piece on McKibben and his thoughts on our global climate crisis.

And finally, his website can be found here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Quote of the Week

When I only begin to read, I forget I'm on this world. It lifts me on wings with high thoughts.
- Anzia Yezierska

Thursday, February 07, 2008

What I'm Reseaching. What I'm Writing

I've got a few things on my plate, writing-wise...

For Idaho Magazine I've begun research on the Bear River Massacre. It took place in 1863 and is the worst massacre of Native Americans in the history of our country. The US Army attacked a wintering band of Shoshone Indians at the confluence of the Bear River and Beaver Creek near Preston, Idaho. The US Army lost 27 soldiers. The Shoshone lost upwards of 400, many women and children.

For Puget Sound Magazine I get to write about something close to home - my home of Vashon Island. It'll just be destination piece, of sorts, highlighting the fact that Vashon's a nice place to spend the day.

For Distinctly Northwest I'm going to highlight the top places for camping in the Pacific Northwest (Washington/Oregon/Idaho) and also discuss the coolest new camping gadgets to take with you.

I've got some thoughts on blood sausages and Parisian jazz clubs. I'll keep you posted.

James Fuld Dies at 91

The New York Times has an obituary for James J. Fuld, a preeminent collector of rare music scores. How rare? He owned, among other near priceless items...

A 1609 edition of "Three Blind Mice"
An 18th-century version of "Yankee Doodle"
The first printed example of "Frere Jacques"
A first edition of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (pictured above)
An original printing of "The Star Spangled Banner"

And there's much much more!

The collection is being acquired by the Morgan Library and Museum.

Seeking: Old Liver-Spotted Frenchman Who Likes Isaac Asimov and Who Also May Be Packing Heat

In today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is a story of a man trying to mail gun parts hidden in books. Police are on the lookout, and you should be too!

David Sedaris Round-Up

Get pumped, fans of humor writing. David Sedaris has a new collection of essays coming out entitled When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

Further fun, he's going on 29-city tour for the book. Lucky for Sedaris fans here in the Northwest, he's got two readings here in Seattle.

And, oh yeah, he's going to be a very busy guy because he's doing a theater tour as well in the Fall, showing up at Tacoma's Pantages Theater on October 30th.

One more thing, just for giggles, David Sedaris' appearance on Letterman:

Ever Wonder What the Ancient Rulers of Hungary Looked Like?

Wonder no more. BibliOdyssey showcases some of the famed Hungarians that can be found in Mausoleum Potentissimorum ac Gloriosissimorum Regni Apostolici Regum et Primorum Militantis Ungariae Ducum, written by Ferenc Nádasdy in 1664.

To note: They all appreciated a good mustache.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Comics Crash Course

The unbearably entertaining Whitney Matheson, who runs the show at USA Today's Pop Candy blog, has started up a comics tutorial, giving you the low-down on all things comics-related. What you should read, what sorts of comic books are out there, etc, etc. Today, the first of four parts, she discusses the 25 essential graphic novels one should read (including Joe Sacco's Palestine, pictured above).

The Sketchbooks of an Unknown Soldier

The University of Victoria has put on on their website the sketchbooks of J.M.

Very little is known about the artist other than...
+ He was a member of the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery (the regimental crest and motto appear at the top of the page)
+ He was based in France and Belgium (specifically around Ypres and Menin) between 1917-1918
+ His daughter's name was Adele
+ He survived the war (one of the images is dated 1920)
+ His initials were JM

Do you who he is? Either way, it's a fascinating look at WWI told through sketch paper.

Light Up Your World

Whose bright idea was it to come up with this groovy book light?

How to Use Reading to Become a Better Writer

A good story in a good writing site I just found, Write to Done.

American Psyche

In the Guardian Unlimited the always funny George Saunders discusses poetry.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My Writing in Lost Magazine

I have a story in the latest edition of Lost Magazine. Assassinology tells the sad story of the man who killed the man who killed Abraham Lincoln.

My Book Review in Earthwalkers Magazine

You can find a review of the book, The Best American Travel Writing 2007, edited by the wonderful Susan Orlean, on Earthwalkers Magazine. Enjoy.

My Poetry in Portland Fiction

A haiku based on the suggested word, snake.

Monday, February 04, 2008

New Yorker Caption Contest - Robbed Again!

I've been robbed once by The New Yorker. Well, now I've been robbed twice! Voting is going on now for Caption Contest #131 and the first choice, "And tomorrow there's a twenty-per-cent chance of anvils," is similar to my entry, "Tomorrow there's supposed to be intermittent showers of safe deposit boxes." Oh well. Next time I'll get in. Third time's a charm, right? We shall see. We shall see.

Touring on a Shoestring

Publisher's Weekly has a story about the weakening economy and how that is affecting travel publishing. Instead of reading Rick Steves' Paris should we, due to the fact we can't afford to go anywhere anymore, start reading Rick Steves' Nearby Strip Mall? How sad.

4th and 3 on the Sofa, Reading

Now that the Giants have won the Super Bowl and the NFL season is dormant for the season, perhaps you're not quite ready to give up on that gridiron glory until next year. Fear not, there are football books that can tide you over. AbeBooks has a roster of books for football fans, including the great Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger and just as great Paper Lion by the late George Plimpton. And the good thing about reading football books during the off season rather than playing football on a Saturday with your buddies in the mud and rain - no muscle tears and strained ligaments.

The Rise and Rise of the Brand McSweeney's

The Times Online has a profile of the tremendous organization that is McSweeney's. McSweeney's, founded by Dave Eggers, is, well, tremendous! Books, magazines (The Believer, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern), a website that cracks me up most every day, learning centers, etc, etc, etc. Of course, I'm a bit biased. I've been published on their site several times and was included in one of their humor books. But, don't take it from me alone. Read their publications/books/websites/etc and see how truly, oh, tremendous they are.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Friday, February 01, 2008

Friday's Poem

The great Willliam Stafford's poetry: "Walking With Your Eyes Shut" and "Ultimate Problems":


Michael Maslin, who does cartoons for The New Yorker, will, throughout the month of February, take readers with him on the path he took to become a New Yorker cartoonist. It's an autobiography of a cartoonist that'll be undoubtedly fun to read throughout the month.

Punctuation Marks in Language Evolution

"Like species, changes in languages can be tracked through the fate of certain words, just as mutations in key genes can tell a species' history." An interesting story is to be found in Science Magazine.

My Writing in Metro Dot Pop

Go to the bookstore when you can, check out the fashion mags, and you'll find Metro Dot Pop, "the fashion magazine for the rest of us." I have a small piece in the February issue. I wrote about an annual contest entitled Craft My Ride, a car accessory design competition. The grand prize winner of said competition wins a Scion.