Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Great and Only Barnum

"When entertaining the public, it is best to have an elephant." - P.T. Barnum

Candace Fleming has written an entertaining and award-winning children's biography of the showman, Phineas Taylor Barnum. While suitable for school projects, it's also a fascinating story for children (and even adults like me).

Fleming makes clever use of original documents to bring Barnum's story to life. The American Museum he created contained polar bears, the Feejee Mermaid, and the Siamese twins Chang and Ang. He combined real exhibits with humbugs (hoaxes) and let the public form their own opinion. His admission was so cheap (25 cents in 1842) that people from all walks of life could experience the wonders for themselves. Barnum is a man known mostly for his work with the circus, but that part of his career didn't even start until the last decade of his life.

Fleming does not shy away from discussing Barnum's flaws. He struggled with alcohol and he was distant from his family. He cared what people thought of him, so much so that he asked to have his obituary printed early so he could read it. He may have been larger than life, but he was also human as well.

Visitors to the American Museum expected to see this at the Feejee Mermaid exhibit.

But saw something similar to this instead.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A habit to be thankful for

One of the earliest memories of my grandfather involves him sitting at the breakfast table, reading the newspaper. He read it from cover to cover; a good sports day required a back to front reading. He was a devoted Cubs fan, so those days were rare.

Therefore, it was no surprise that I would mimic the man I so admired and started reading the newspaper at about 5. At first, it was just the comics, but gradually I read the whole paper. I felt like such a grown-up, eating my cereal and getting ink on my fingers.

The Chicago Sun-Times gave me quite an education. I grew up in a fascinating city filled with history and intrigue, happiness and despair. I read political columns by Mike Royko and learned about film from Roger Ebert. I discovered that Billie Jean King was a lesbian and a serial killer was my neighbor.

The paper left me with a thirst for knowledge, outrage at injustice, and a desire to see the world. I even worked at a Florida newspaper for almost ten years. It seems like yesterday that I sat at that kitchen table with my grandfather, sharing the newspaper. I wish I could thank him for helping chart my course.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Everyone's Loss

I just read Delia Lloyd's column about The Death of the Library. I hope it's a premature obituary because libraries are my livelihood.

I've heard the argument before: Google will render the librarian useless. But in this age of constant information, the need for someone to help you sift through the junk is even more apparent.

I'll never forget my first day at a very busy reference desk in a Pacific Northwest public library. An elderly woman handed me a slip of paper withURLs scrawled across it. Her doctor had rattled off these sites for her, to help her make a decision. She didn't even know how to use a computer, let alone pull up the information she needed. What decision did she have to make that very next week? Whether or not she should have a kidney transplant! The importance of my job really hit home that day.

For me libraries are the Great Equalizer. All are welcome: from homeless to millionaire, toddler to retiree. Your local library provides programs for all of these people, with shrinking budgets, hours and staff. If we lose our libraries, it's really a loss for us all.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My Love Letter

I remember the day I became a Floridian like it was yesterday.

It wasn't the day I moved here. It wasn't the first Christmas I went swimming. It wasn't my four long high school years when I wished I lived anywhere cooler or the years I spent in college. It was in my 20's when I lived in Miami. I was driving back to St. Pete for the umpteenth time over Alligator Alley and I looked out the window. I saw the Everglades and finally saw Beauty. I felt this ache in my heart and this need to protect Her.

I am so sorry I let you down. I became complacent. I let others do my fighting. I became cynical and thought that your days were numbered, so why should I bother? I left you behind, like a jilted lover. I came back and kept my distance.

I hope it's not too late to protect you. I hope it's not too late to say I Love You.

I just wish you could answer back and tell me what to do.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Obsession or Single-Minded Determination?

I flip through the pages of the paper and catch a glimpse at Obsession.

There's the boy who created 20,000 flash cards to prepare for the National Spelling Bee. I'm not sure I even know 20,000 words, let alone how to spell them. I was a finalist in the grammar school spelling bee, but my nerves caused me to flub such an easy word that I know I would crack under pressure way before I got to Laodicean.*

I read about Celine Dion and her crusade to have babies with her geriatric husband. That woman has devoted her life to bad music and Rene. I guess I should have seen it coming when she had her wedding veil stitched to her scalp. Nothing was going to stop her beautiful day or her beautiful life. Not a bleeding scalp or nature.

But part of me is jealous. I don't know if I've ever felt that passionate about anything. Is it obsession or single-minded determination? Is there even a difference? Perhaps if I collected 20,000 sentences I would have the book I'm supposed to be writing. Perhaps if I believed in myself as much as Celine believes in her destiny as a Mother I would be published.

It's easy to mock from the sidelines. But maybe, just for today, I'll relish in their resolution.

* 2009 Spelling Bee Winning Word

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I Believe

I believe that the Glass is Half Full.
I believe in a good cup of coffee and cheese.
I believe in G-d but not that I have to be in a Church to Pray.
I believe in the Long Ball and a Low ERA.
I believe in Love at First Sight and I believe in Heartache. Love makes you stronger, but heartache makes you a Warrior.
I believe in a good beat that's easy to dance to.
I believe that hard work is the key to almost anything.
I believe in Laughter.
I believe in my Integrity and speaking my Truth.
I believe in the Golden Rule.
I believe I have some good left to do in this World.
I believe you need to fight for others when they have no Voice.
I believe in My Voice.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dewey's Read-a-Thon Wrap-Up

I had a great time participating in this year's Read-a-Thon. Thanks to everyone who organized the event, held mini-challenges, cheered and donated prizes!

I had hoped to get more reading done, but I have fun blogging, cheering and doing the challenges. That made me feel like I was part of an event and not so isolated.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Definitely 3 am hour... I didn't make it, but I did come back for the last hour!

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? The Lightning Thief was great and the Chelsea Handler book was good for the late hours.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No, everyone did a great job!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I loved the hourly updates

5. How many books did you read? Didn't finish any books, but read from 5

6. What were the names of the books you read?
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (audio)
A Family Man by Elinor Lipman (audio)

7. Which book did you enjoy most? To Kill A Mockingbird

8. Which did you enjoy least?'s a good book, but I waited too long for a non-fiction book

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I loved this year's HQ page - definitely keep that

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'll be here next time as a reader and a cheerleader!

Total Books: 5 (none finished)
Total Pages: 501
Total Mini-Challenges: 10
Total Hours Reading: 13
Total Hours Spent Cheerleading: 1
Total Hours Blogging and Doing Challenges: 5
Total Hours Breaking: 5 (3 1/2 hours of sleep - I had to work today!)
Total $$ Raised for the Straight Spouse Network: $100

Until next time!

I Made It To Hour 20

But now I must get some sleep. I would try to power on, but I do have to work all day tomorrow. I've had a great time and I will wake up for the finish in a few hours!

Since last post I switched to back to audio and "read" for 2 hours and 60 pages.

Total Books: 5 (none finished)
Total Pages: 461
Total Mini-Challenges: 9
Total Hours Spent Cheerleading: 1
Total Hours Reading: 12

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hour 17

I'm still hanging in there, but I've been tired this past hour. I switched to a lighter book, but with lots of laughs:

Total Books: 5 (none finished)
Pages Since Last Post: 94
Hours Reading Since Last Post: 2 1/2
Mini-Challenges Completed: 8
Total Hours Reading: 10
Total Pages: 401

My Movie Wish

This hour's challenge is from Lydia:

Think of your favorite book – has it been made into a movie? If not (and maybe you’ll need to go to your 2nd favorite book and so on), tell me if you’d like to see it made into a movie and pick one character from the book and give me information on which actor you’d love to see cast in the part. Make your post as fun as possible, tell me why you think the movie would be amazing and why the actor/actress you chose would be perfect in the part!

This one is so easy for me! I have been wondering ever since I read

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts

How is this not a movie?!?!?

It reads like a great adventure. Where else do you have a Zamboni driver becoming a star hockey player becoming a bank robber? Attila is a crazy, lovable drunk that you just can't help but hope will get away with his crimes.

I can see Colin Farrell or Gerard Butler in this role.

Halfway point!

I can't believe it, but I've made it through twelve hours and I'm still energized and having fun!

Besides having fun, I'm using this Read-a-Thon as an opportunity to raise money and awareness for the Straight Spouse Network. So far, I've raised $100. If you would like to make a donation please put Dewey's Read-a-Thon in the comment field.

I haven't been reading the entire time - I've been taking breaks to participate in challenges and to post on this blog. For the next hour you won't be seeing me because I will be cheering on the other readers. Before I leave, here's my midpoint breakdown:

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
2. How many books have you read so far? Currently reading 4, but haven't finished any
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Nope, it worked out this time.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I have had interruptions, but I'm being flexible and not letting it stress me out.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How easy it's been to do this!!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No, things have been great!
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Not sure yet, I'll know better at the end.
9. Are you getting tired yet? NOPE!
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? No, I'm learning from the veterans.

Total Books: 4 (none fininshed)
Pages Since Last Post: 93
Mini-Challenges Completed: 6
Total Hours Reading: 7 1/2
Total Pages: 307

If the Cover Fits...

It's time for another mini-challenge. This time around I am being challenged to find book covers that fit the following categories:






Mid-Afternoon Check-In

I'm in Hour 8 of the Read-a-Thon and things are going well.

I've read for 2 1/2 hours since the last check-in, the rest of the time blogging and participating in mini-challenges.

I continued with The Family Man and also listened to Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver during my drive. I started The Lightning Thief, but eventually settled with To Kill A Mockingbird. I'm 100 pages in now.

Books I'm Reading: 4
Pages Since Last Post: 99
Total Pages Read: 214
Total Hours: 5 1/2
Mini Challenges Completed: 4

Feed Me Seymour Mini-Challenge

The latest mini-challenge wants to know what food I've been reading about. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Miss Maudie lets Jem and Scout eat her scuppernongs. I must admit I had no idea what a scuppernong was. Turns out it is a grape native to this South. Yum!

And the nominees are....

Since I last posted, I've read for two hours. I started The Family Man by Elinor Lipman and I'm enjoying it.

I also had to shower off all the pollen from my yard work and thought about my answers to Mini Challenge #3. There are mini challenges throughout the day - you can take a break and win prizes along the way.

Here are the questions. Please list the books in which the characters reside;) I limited it to just one except for favorite book

Favorite Female Character in a book: Kate from The Perilous Gard
Favorite Male Character in a book: Louis from Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
Favorite Side Kick in a book: Not sure if he's really a "sidekick" but Larry Underwood from The Stand by Stephen King
Favorite Couple in a Book: Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Favorite Book Series: Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Favorite Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Favorite Book Cover: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Favorite Book of 2009: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Favorite Book: Night by Elie Wiesel and Autumn of the Patriarch by Garbiel Garcia Marquez

Book since last post: The Family Man by Elinor Lipman
Pages Read: 60

Total Pages: 115
Total Hours: 3
Mini Challenges Completed: 2

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

Hour 1 of the Read-a-Thon was spent reading To Kill A Mockingbird with a cup of coffee and an apricot bear claw. (My favorite!)

Now it's time to get some work done. I'll be working in the backyard while listening to A Family by Elinor Lipman. Playaways from your local library are a wonderful thing!

Book: To Kill A Mockingbird
Pages Read: 55
Total Time Spent Reading: 1 hour
Mini Challenge Completed: Miss Remmers' Review

Friday, April 9, 2010

Preparing For Dewey's Read-a-thon

The Read-a-thon starts tomorrow morning at 8 am. I had already picked out my books:

Cathy's dewey-s-read-a-thon book montage

The Lacuna: A Novel

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Lightning Thief


Does My Head Look Big In This?

The Secret Garden

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Cathy's favorite books »

Today I needed to focus on an important part: Snacks!

I have:

Blueberry Muffins and Apricot Bear Claws
Celery and hummus
Cheese and crackers
Pretzels and Sunchips
Strawberries and Bananas
Eggs, Nuts and Tuna for protein
Frozen Pizza
Chocolate Covered Blueberries and Easter Peeps

Now it's time for a good night's sleep!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Dewey's Read-a-Thon 2010

I just signed up for this year's Dewey's Read-a-Thon.

Starting at 8 am (EST) on April 10th I will be reading for 24 hours straight. During the day there will be breaks to cheer others on and to blog. And I'll be raising money for The Straight Spouse Network.

You can help me pick out books to read. (I'll be reading one classic, but otherwise I'll be keeping it light - I do have to stay up all night!) You can also stop by on April 10th and cheer me on - I know already I'll be pretty drowsy between 4-5 (am and pm). Or you can make a donation.
Just be sure to put Dewey's Read-a-Thon in the comments field.

Caffeine will also be cheerfully accepted. :)