Thank you, Ann Hodgman,

for your book club discussion questions in this week's New Yorker, the most hysterical piece of book-related writing I've read since John Crace's digested read of Jodi Picoult's Handle with Care.

Letting the hoe handle suck

Last weekend I found a copy of Jeffrey Kacirk's Informal English: Curious Words & Phrases of North America for 2 bucks. Here are some highlights:

booklegger -- 1. a person who deals in forbidden books 2. a book dealer who follows unfair practices

get the mitten -- to be rejected or discarded by one's sweetheart [you reach for the hand...and get the mitten]

gosling patch -- the period in which a boy's voice is changing. Also: in the goslings: in the period of changing voice

hat of woods -- a low growth of trees on the top of a small hill

leg drama -- a ballet

let the hoe handle suck -- to loaf and talk while one is supposed to be working

long sugar/long sweetness -- molasses

sposh -- a mixture of mud and snow or water

strawberry friend -- a moocher ("Many city people visit their backwoods cousins only when strawberries are ripe to get enough free berries for a year's supply of jam. Ozarks")

tetnit -- a child born of elderly parents

Board Books for Babies of GLBTQ Parents

Though some of us might prefer to do it in wedlock, there's no law stopping queers from having babies. Looking for a good baby shower gift for GLBTQ parents-to-be, but want something a little more literary than the camp classic Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner onesie?

Tricycle Press recently released Daddy, Papa, and Me and Mommy, Mama, and Me, both board books by Lesléa Newman. Lucía Moreno Velo's Manu series books--published in Spain but available through a US distributor--are bilingual board books about a toddler with two moms.

Now, if only Fiona Watt of (also great board-books-as-gifts for babies/toddlers, whoever their parents love) That's Not My Dinosaur [Puppy/Truck/etc] fame would put out a That's Not My Mama title (That's not my mama...her dress is too frilly. That's not my mama...her lipstick is too shiny. THAT'S my mama...her mohawk is so spiky).


"And then I die. Because we all have to die."

They've been out for a while, but I only recently clicked through to view Isabella Rossellini's "Green Porno" short films hosted by the Sundance Channel. If you haven't seen them yet, I can report that oh, my, they are worth the click. Here's "Limpet":

See more from the Green Porno series here.


Three more lines

to add to my long-ago 7/10 of the 10 Lines Meme:

Urge and urge and urge,/Always the procreant urge of the world. (Whitman)

Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. (Shakespeare)

The first gaming system was the domesticated flame. (Lerner)


I wish there were (more?) poetry audiobooks. Not recordings of poetry readings. Not audio anthologies of 50 poets' 2 greatest hits, or 2 poets' 50 greatest hits. Books, in full, read aloud by readers who read aloud well. Harmonium. 77 Dream Songs. I've got The Complete Shakespeare Sonnets in audio, read by Ossie Davis, Kathleen Turner, Ruby Dee, etc., but that's it.


Our soon-to-be-outdated beliefs

Kottke points to a question posed on Reddit that has yielded some interesting answers:

So many of our grandparents were racist, and some of our parents are homophobes. Which of our own [time's] closely held beliefs will our own children and grandchildren be appalled by?

"That circumcision was once common," that some drugs are illegal while pharmaceuticals are practically pushed on us, that we smoked cigarettes, and that there was "religious overtolerance" are some of the answers posted to Reddit. I only skimmed but didn't see my number one on there: that we didn't [in most places] allow people--especially terminally ill people who feel they are being kept alive against their will and feel that they have no quality of life, but anyone, really--the right to die via assisted suicide.

Washington passed a "Death with Dignity" law this last election, and the new right to die there was recently exercised for the first time. Patient Linda Fleming, who had pancreatic cancer, said "The pain became unbearable, and it was only going to get worse. I am a very spiritual person, and it was very important to me to be conscious, clear-minded and alert at the time of my death." I am happy for her that she was able to choose to be so.



"Spotted in a men's room at Hunter College in NYC." --Urban Prankster (photo via Noah Britton's cell phone)


handicraft instructor, inchoate eyes

RunPee tells you the optimal time to run and pee while you're watching a movie, boon to all who regularly choose the largest Diet Coke the concession stand offers. I remember once running to pee after about 10 minutes of Christ dragging the cross up the hill in Mel Gibson's Passion, then returning to my seat for another 20 minutes of Christ dragging the cross up the hill (Stroll.............Pee).


From Dennis Cooper's blog: 69 Modern Classics Condensed via Amazon's SIPs (Statistically Improbable Phrases), a quiz. Many read nicely as is:

12. red hunting hat, tiny little kid

13. hands for the conch

19. pink hawthorn, little nucleus, little clan, little phrase

51. little china figures, judge stroked, judge nodded

57. black pickpocket, baize bag

61. handicraft instructor, inchoate eyes


From Brave New World:

"Who said that the technology and digital revolution was only for the young? When Ivy Bean heard that a 97-year-old French woman was the oldest member of Facebook she decided to join. She soon attracted 5,000 friends and has 17,775 people waiting to be her friend. Unless you know someone older, Ivy from Bradford is now the oldest Facebook member at 103 years old and has now joined Twitter and already has 9500 followers!"

The story's a few days old. I'm @IvyBean104's 14,510th follower on Twitter.

Some sample tweets from her account:

"hello all spending the morning reading wont be able to use lap top much today other residents are using it be in touch later

i am so happy i have got all these followers its really good

had a very nice lunch going to watch a film this afternoon i think we are watching the sound of music

me and my friend mabel are going to have a game of connect 4

Deal or no deal in 4hrs

@adam_lambert good luck"

by Zachary Kanin (and from The New Yorker)



One nice thing about Twitter is that you don't need an account or need to be "following" a user in order to view the user's tweets. Here's astronaut Mike Massimino's Twitter page, where you can read what he's tweeting from space. Some samples:

We see 16 sunrises and sunsets in 24 hrs, each one spectacular as the sun lights up the atmosphere in a spectrum of colors.

Just flew over the US, Baja to Miami in about 10 minutes! Beautiful Day!

Getting ready for bed, sleeping in space is cool, tie down your sleeping bag and float inside of it, very relaxing--

...and speaking of Twitter: is anyone (or everyone) you know Tweeting Too Hard?

Sculptor Heather Jansch makes lifesize horses from driftwood:

Heather Jansch


I haven't played too much with Wolfram|Alpha (the name's rhythm and the buzz about which remind me of "Keyser Söze") yet, but here are a few things I like so far:

--enter a color word--for ex., "ochre"--and you get a swatch, the 24-bit RGB values, the HTML hex code if there is one (also "nearest named HTML colors" hex codes) and swatches of "complimentary colors";

--enter the name of a school--for ex, "Oberlin College"--and you get its location on the map, info about when it was founded, enrollment and annual degrees awarded by field stats, accrediting agency, and link to the school's website;

--enter a date and the response includes, among other things, how many weeks and days ago it was (I'm 1,815 weeks--or 12,705--days old today. You?);

--enter a number of words--"5000 words"--and get back how many pages they'd amount to in a single-spaced or a double-spaced document (also the data size in MB "assuming 8-bit-coding"); and

--type in a word (in English--"manzana" gave me the unit of measurement, not the apple) and get the definition, synonym suggestions, pronunciation, and--here's the sweet part--frequency of occurrence in writing and in speech ("based on the 100-million-word British National Corpus").

I found these via trial and error, before noticing the Wolfram|Alpha examples page, which gives a much better, much quicker picture of what W|A can and can't do [grin]. Also of interest to library types might be the Wolfram|Alpha Community page, where users post what they'd like to be able to do with Wolfram|Alpha (you can subscribe to the feed).


Making it Legal: A Guide to Same-Sex Marriage--I'll wrestle you for the chance to get my hands on a library copy .

My local library offers RSS feeds, including one of just-ordered nonfiction books. I love being able to subscribe to these and see what's being ordered.

Except when I don't: yesterday I saw that the library's ordering two copies of
Nolo's Making It Legal : A Guide to Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnership and Civil Unions. Two copies. 26 libraries. Not two per library; two, period. In a major library system in a major metropolitan area. Not like gay marriage has been in the news lately or anything. We have 18 copies, for comparison, of Nolo's Patents for Beginners (product description: "Here's the primer every first-time inventor needs"), because there are nine times as many inventors in this metropolitan area as there are gay people interested in their legal rights.

But Emily, you say, Making it Legal is just one book. Surely the library has other books on gay couples' rights. Maybe they're only ordering two because the library already has plenty of resources on the topic!

True. The library system does own a copy of Nolo's 2007 A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples.


An estimated 450,000 people (from a variety of sources with little discrepancy) attended the Twin Cities Pride Parade & Festival last year. Guess I better get my name on the holds list quick for the new Nolo.

[and yes, I have used official & proper channels before to express my dismay over the library's embarrassing # of GLBTQ-related books and to ask for more copies. A couple times. No dice. ]

One might think the public library would be ashamed at the need for the Quatrefoil Library in St. Paul, a GLBTQ resource outside of the public library system one needs to pay $35/year to use (but which has a decent selection of queer books & periodicals). I know it would be ashamed if such a library was needed for other groups represented by the Diversity Committee--it would be clear that the public library was not doing its job. We should not have to build our own libraries in order to have access to resources about our lives, ourselves, our rights. The next time someone asks me, "Why does there need to be something like Gay Pride? I don't go to a Straight Pride parade," one of my answers will be "We go to know that we exist, because our libraries tell us we don't."


Literary Food Porn Follow-up: Beanbender's Potatoes

Aha! I have tracked down my copy of Daniel Pinkwater's The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death and can now post the Pinkwater passage about Beanbender's potatoes I referred to earlier:

"Beanbender's was a strange-looking structure. At first, it was hard to get any idea of its shape; it just seemed to be a collection of odd-looking dark lumps in the night. Then we could see that Beanbender's was made up of a number of dead trucks and a couple of railroad cars arranged in a circle, like covered wagons in the movies, made into a circle for protection against the Indians.

All the dead trucks and railroad cars were covered with wooden shingles and banked with earth and gravel above the wheels. A number of kerosene lanterns were fastened to the outside of the circle. There was a door, with a lantern on either side, lighting up a sign painted on a board. BEANBENDER'S, it said.

When we walked into Beanbender's we were smacked in the face by a whole lot of warmth, light, and good smells. There were lots of people in the open areas made by the trucks and railroad cars. They were sitting at tables made of giant cable spools and old doors laid across sawhorses. The whole place was lighted by candles stuck in bottles and kerosene lamps, and together with the wood shingles that were tacked onto the trucks and railroad cars, the dozens of flames made a warm, reddish glow under the dark sky.

In the middle of the circle was a big iron thing--sort of a basket--and some logs were burning in it, making more friendly light, good smells, and crackling noises.

There was a guy playing a little accordion, and some people were singing along with him. People had big mugs of beer and big, crisp-looking sausages and baked potatoes in their hands. They held the sausages and the baked potatoes wrapped in a paper napkin and took bites of them between swigs of beer. Even though it was late at night, three or four little kids ran around among the tables.

It was the greatest place I had ever seen.

Winston Bongo thought so, too. Rat, of course, had been there before. 'Have a beer?' she asked.

I had tasted beer before, and I hadn't liked it. It was sour and sort of soapy tasting. I never understood why anybody wanted to drink it. However, in Beanbender's it seemed that holding a mug of beer in one's hand was the thing to do, so I went up to the bar and got one along with Rat and Winston and Captain Shep Nesterman.

Beanbender's beer was nothing like the stuff in cans that my father drinks. It had a nutty taste, and it was cold and good. The guy at the bar was Ben Beanbender, the owner of the beer garden. He didn't ask us for identification or anything. He just filled mugs from a big barrel and handed them to us. I also got a baked potato. Ben Beanbender poked a hole in one end with his thumb, slapped in a hunk of butter, salted and peppered the potato, wrapped it in a napkin, and handed it to me. It was great! The potato was almost too hot to hold, and the salty butter dribbled onto my sleeve. It tasted just fantastic with the beer. The beer and the baked potato cost fifty cents. It's the best deal in Baconburg."


Oh, this is wonderful.

"Michele Bachman" Revealed As Elaborate "Borat"-Style Hoax

Native Names map

[cross-posted from LISNews]

National Geographic has created a fantastic interactive "Native Names" U.S. map. Towns and states with native names are labeled with their names' literal translations--so you see "Shakes Himself" instead of "Kupunkamint Mountain, MT" and "They are killers" instead of Yosemite, CA. Clicking on a translated name allows you to see the native name again.


Literary Food Porn

A majority of the scenes I remember from favorite childhood books--the images that stick with me, the passages I once read over and over--are pure literary food porn.

I was disappointed as a teenager when I ate Turkish Delight for the first time, having always imagined Edmund selling his soul to the White Witch for something that tasted like chocolate mint meltaways (clever lad!), not a mixture of jelly and agar (dolt).

Reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I admired Jamie's automat selection, when he had no naysaying parents around, of macaroni & cheese and coffee for breakfast to the point that it stuck in my mind as an ideal breakfast for years (even after I'd eaten it for breakfast).

My favorite page in Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever featured breakfast vocabulary; I loved the baking of the enormous crusty loaf in The Giant Jam Sandwich; Paddington Bear got me interested not in bears but in marmalade and standing on tables full of teacakes. Sara Crewe sharing meat pies with Ermengarde was obviously the best scene in A Little Princess.

Searching the web just now for a description of the baked potato to be had at Beanbender's Beer Garden (from Daniel Pinkwater's The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death), an ultimate toecurler of a literary meal that I won't even try to describe myself, I was surprised to find that I had already written Pinkwater about the book and potato, in 1999, at The P-Zone: Talk to DP Forum [only today did I see his reply]:

September 24th, 1999
From: Emily Lloyd

I wanted, by my side, a copy of The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death so badly that I was about to steal one from my local library*. What a thrill to find it back in print.

Typin' with one thumb in a peppered potato,


*I work in my local library, so it was especially nice not to have to commit a crime at the workplace.


DP replies:

I think I've been in your library! Unless it's a common thing for library employees in general to work with their thumb in a baked potato. Actually, I have done so myself. It's very pleasant in cold weather.


...so I was happy to learn via Maud Newton's blog of a blog called Literary Food Porn, which has so far covered literary food descriptions from Patricia Highsmith to Laura Ingalls Wilder (they chose Little House on the Prairie; I'd choose Farmer Boy) to Gogol. Keep your lavishly illustrated Nigella Contessa cookbooks. Gimme a "huge platter of watercress sandwiches, along with a plate, a knife, a fork, a spoon, salt and pepper, a glass of water, and a linen napkin, nicely folded."

MayDay 2009 on Flickr

Flickr means never having to say "I forgot my camera" (or "I was too lazy to take pictures"). The Heart of the Beast Theatre's MayDay Parade and Festival now has a Flickr pool--957 photos of Sunday's events in Powderhorn Park have been posted so far. The below were taken by Flickr user egusto, who gave me permission to post some of my favorites from his MayDay set here:

Best costume in the parade, and the only logical way to wear neckties.

Papier-mache dung beetles rolling papier-mache balls of dung. As my brother said, "Everything I've ever made in papier-mache looked like dung."

Nobody puts River in a corner.


Fill the Gap

As institutions continue to try to make their web presences relevant and engage visitors in participation via Web 2.0 tools, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (blog) makes a genius entry into the fray. "Fill the Gap" challenges "citizen curators" to select replacement works of art for the gaps in Luce Foundation Center display cases created when works in the collection are loaned to other institutions.

From the blog: "If an object is leaving for more than twelve months, the Luce Center staff is responsible for selecting a replacement. It's a lengthier process than you might imagine. We work with the registrar, conservation, and curatorial departments to ensure that the artwork will fit in the gap (the cataloged dimensions for paintings do not include the frames!), has no outstanding conservation issues, is appropriate for the theme of the case, and has not been selected for any upcoming loans or exhibitions.

This has been a busy year so far. More than forty paintings are slated to leave the Luce Foundation Center for other exhibitions, and it is only March! For this reason, we decided to open up this process and ask our online communities for help. Using Flickr, we can share a photo of a case that needs a replacement artwork, provide information about all of the other works in the case, and challenge people to search our collections in order to find an appropriate substitution."

Smart! A repeating contest that...

*offers a prize that costs the institution nothing, but makes the winner feel a part of the institution (creates relationships) and has value as an honor;

*crowdsources the work of the institution in an exciting (challenging, a puzzle) way and saves workers' time;

*encourages a closer look at the institution's collection and may inspire feedback on searchability and collection organization; and

*goes deeper than the one-way "name our dolphin/space station" or "post a photo interpreting our theme to our Flickr stream" invitations cropping up all over the web.

A good model.
Excerpt from Wired's intriguingly--? accurately--? grandly? thought-provokingly-titled article Culture May Be Encoded in DNA:

Normally, male finches learn their complex courtship songs from their uncles and fathers. But if there are no vocal role models around, the song will deviate from the traditional song and be harsh to female finch ears. Each bird, then, must learn from his father or uncles, as they learned from their fathers, and so on--but this can only take us so far down the lineage.

“It’s the classic ‘chicken and the egg’ puzzle,” Mitra said. “Learning may explain how the son copies its father’s song, but it doesn’t explain the origin of the father’s song.”

Mitra’s team wanted to find out what would happen if an isolated bird raised his own colony. As expected, birds raised in soundproof boxes grew up to sing cacophonous songs.

But then scientists let the isolated birds give voice lessons to a new round of hatchlings. They found that the young males imitated the songs--but they tweaked them slightly, bringing the structure closer to that of songs sung in the wild. When these birds grew up and became tutors, their pupils’ song continued to conform, with tweaks.

After three to four generations, the teachers were producing strapping young finches that belted out normal-sounding songs.

[read whole article--includes mp3s of the different generations' songs]


Nicollet Salvation Army store, ladies' section, this afternoon

Me [silently shirt shopping, several colorful shirts draped over arm]

Man: [pulling shirt off rack a few feet away from me] You want to try this one? I can see that you like colors.

Me: No thanks. I'm good.

Man: [noticing my ring] You doing any shopping for your man today?

Me: No.

Man: Why not?

Me: Because my man is a woman.

Man: You going to Iowa?


Author Orson Scott Card has joined the board of the National Organization for Marriage, the folks who gave us "The Gathering Storm" PSA on gay marriage.

Card has long been known to be outspokenly anti-gay. It still surprises me, though, to see someone who came up with the coolly logical Ender, the Ender who held his tongue, observed from a distance, and calculated possible outcomes before acting, choose the vehicles Card does for conveying his anti-GLBTQ beliefs. You'd think Card could mount a stunning, well-reasoned argument against gay rights (I'm not sure what it would be, exactly, but), but in his political columns he jumps quickly to straight-out flailing, wildly lashing out and committing logical fallacies at every other turn. For example, from Card's 2008 article, "State Job is Not to Redefine Marriage":

A term that has mental-health implications (homophobe) is now routinely applied to anyone who deviates from the politically correct line. How long before opposing gay marriage, or refusing to recognize it, gets you officially classified as "mentally ill"?

(Go ahead, read the article. The thing about seeing an isolated Card quote on GLBTQ issues is that one is tempted to think "It can't be as bad as it sounds--the quote was taken out of context." But with Card, in context doesn't help: the article is full of soundbites like this).

This kind of fallacious thinking, this rushing-to-jump-to-conclusions, this hotheadedness and fear-mongering, is exactly what Card exposes in Ender's Game in the character of Bonzo Madrid (and in parts of Peter). How could someone who created Bonzo to knock him down and expose the flaws in his strategy keep pulling Bonzos when it comes to arguing against GLBTQ rights? What Card should be doing, if he's chosen this fight, is imagining how Ender would argue against GLBTQ rights.

I think I've mentioned before here that I don't think it's at all a stretch to see Ender's Game as a book chock-full of queer sensibility. Ender is a Third; Ender is an outsider; Ender is acutely aware of how he's different from other kids. Something about Ender bothers macho boys, who want to kill him or beat him up (Stilson, Bonzo). Ender's Game rejects poles of masculinity and femininity: Peter is not chosen for Battle School because he's too war-like and violent (traditionally seen as masculine qualities in our culture); Valentine is not chosen because she's too compassionate and gentle (traditionally seen as feminine qualities); Ender's balance of masculinity and femininity is key to his success. Petra, a female character without traditional feminine qualities, is also successful in Battle School. Then, you know, you have the soap-slippery naked wrestling in the shower scene. And a character named Dink.

Ender is all about self-control. Card's anti-GLBTQ writings seem out-of-control and desperate (again, like Bonzo). It's this that surprises me more than the content of Card's beliefs.