Friday, February 29, 2008

Judging a Retirement Town by Its Bookstore

For any of those who have been checking my site I seem to have lost a few days. Sorry about leaving you with our friend Mr. Buckley for so long.

South Padre Island is currently working on a Comprehensive Plan and there are little eddies of opinion all over the sandbar about what the Island should look like in the future. One of the only constants is the desire to attract upper middle class early retirees - the baby boomers or the "zoomers" as one consultant called this demographic group. (Isn't everyone trying to market to the boomers?)

So I thought this article was interesting. Maybe the town should be looking at granting me some kind of tax break or other incentive to provide a needed element in attracting this very group of people to the Island!!

Judging a Retirement Town by Its Bookstore » Topretirements: "Baby boomers have begun the search for their ideal retirement communities. For many of them, the quality of the town’s bookstore is a key selection criterion."

We feel the same way – communities without good book stores are ghost towns. This article will review some of the top retirement towns in America – based on the quality of their bookstores

The article interviewed a number of authors and had them select their favorite town based on its bookstores. Here is the list. I would someday like to see South Padre Island and Paragraphs included.

Fayetteville, Arkansas: “Nightbird Books”
Little Rock, Arkansas “Sleuths Mystery Bookstore”, and “WordsWorth Books & Co.”
Blytheville, Arkansas: “That Bookstore in Blytheville” - where John Grisham signs his best-sellers.
Fairhope, Alabama “Fairhope Books”
Sedona, Arizona: “Red Coyote”
Corte Madera, California “Book Passage” – (Hallie Ephron)
Coral Gables, Florida “Books & Books “
Delray Beach, Florida: “Murder by the Beach”
Sun Valley, Idaho
Cambridge, Massachusetts: “Porter Square”, “Kate’s Mystery Books”
Portsmouth, NH: “River Run Bookstore”
Newmarket, New Hampshire: “Crackskull’s used bookstore.
Princeton, New Jersey: “Cloak & Dagger” (Roberta Isleib)
Fearington Village, North Carolina (near Chapel Hill) “Macintyre’s” (Mignon Ballard)
Edmond Oklahoma: “Best of Books”
Portland, Oregon: 2 amazing bookstores – “Murder by the Book” and “Powell’s”
Oakmont, Pennsylvania: “Mystery Lovers Bookshop” (Oakmont is a great little town right outside Pittsburgh - Name of Bookstore corrected 11/27)
Seattle, Washington” “Seattle Mystery Books” (Pamela Samuels-Young)

Bookselling and the Community

This article confirms my belief that communities need bookstores and that there is more happening in a bookstore then the retailing of books. I have said that I want to have a business that is an asset to the community and reading this was encouraging.

This is where I believe I have something to offer that Amazon cannot give the customer or the town.

Book Passage - Bookselling and the Community: "The important impact of independent bookselling can best be seen under three categories:

1. Independent bookselling as an engine for local economic growth
2. Local bookstores as a catalyst for new writers and readers
3. Bookstore activities as a focal point for community life"

Do you want to jump start your local economy? Bring in an independent bookstore. Studies show that locally-owned retailers provide a much larger boost to the local economy than chainstores. And among local retailers, independent booksellers provide an even greater catalyst for money flowing back into the community.

Hear that South Padre Island!!

If independent booksellers were forced out of business, most people - even diehard customers of independent bookstores - assume that they could find the books they want somewhere else. But that’s not likely to be the case. In the book business, more than in any other, the quality of what is created at the producer or publisher level is largely determined by how those books are sold to consumers at the retail level. If independent bookselling dies, many types of books will die with it. A World Without Independents

Without independent booksellers to perform the crucial early marketing for new authors or unconventional books, the publishing industry would most likely deteriorate very quickly into a business of celebrity authors, established best-sellers, and formula books. The implications would be dire for free speech and a vigorous debate of public issues. Books on public affairs would probably be limited only to those that reflected the political viewpoint of the people at the top of the corporate pyramid. From the point of view of new authors, could there possibly be a worse scenario than having the fate of their books decided by a pair of chainstore buyers?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr. Is Dead at 82

William F. Buckley in 2004
photo by Frank Franklin II; Associated Press

“All great biblical stories begin with Genesis,” George Will wrote in the National Review in 1980. “And before there was Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater, and before there was Barry Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was Bill Buckley with a spark in his mind, and the spark in 1980 has become a conflagration.
The New York Times

William F. Buckley died in his home today according to members of his family.

He popularized conservatism as a philosophical idea and founded the "National Review" to give a voice to a newly energized conservative movement. Agree with him or not it was impossible not to admire Buckley's intellect.

More From the New York Times:

William F. Buckley Jr., who marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse, died Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn.

Mr. Buckley’s winningly capricious personality, replete with ten-dollar words and a darting tongue writers loved to compare with an anteater’s, hosted one of television’s longest-running programs, “Firing Line,” and founded and shepherded the influential conservative magazine, “National Review.”

He also found time to write at least 55 books, ranging from sailing odysseys to spy novels to celebrations of his own dashing daily life, and to edit five more. His political novel “The Rake” was published last August, and a book looking back at the National Review’s history in November; a personal memoir of Barry Goldwater is due to be publication in April, and Mr. Buckley was working on a similar book about Ronald Reagan for release in the fall.

The more than 4.5 million words of his 5,600 biweekly newspaper columns, “On the Right,” would fill 45 more medium-sized books.

The complete article, video clip, and more photos are available at:

William F. Buckley Jr. Is Dead at 82 - New York Times
Thanks to Max at the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Alasa Farms

In an earlier post I explained how I sometimes wish I could use the subtle knife from Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy to travel between my worlds as easily as Will was able to move between his. But with the wonder of technology this blog can take us from the Gulf Coast to the shores of Lake Ontario with the click of a mouse. I don't think moving my stuff will be that easy but that is a subject for another day.

I found this description of Alasa Farms at the Cracker Box Palace web site. This is another group which makes its home at the farm. The article actually makes me a little homesick.

Cracker Box Palace � Farm animal sanctuary offering rescue, rehabilitation, adoption and sanctuary for abandoned, abused and neglected farm animals

Alasa Farms, a historic treasure waiting for you...

High on the rolling hills overlooking Great Sodus Bay, Alasa Farms has been an integral part of the area’s history since the early 1800’s. In 1826, a group called The United Society for the Believers of Christ’s Second Coming, more commonly known as the Shakers, purchased the almost 1400 acre property. Their community grew to a population of 148 and prospered, remaining at the site until 1836 when the property was purchased by the Sodus Canal Company. The Shakers rehabilitated many of the existing buildings and erected new ones and cleared hundreds of acres of land for farming. The property changed hands several times, and finally was purchased by Alvah Griffin Strong in 1924 and it remains in his family today. Mr. Strong, the grandson of Eastman Kodak’s first president, named the estate Alasa Farms; the name is the combination of the first two letters of the name Alvah and the first name of Asa McBride, a friend and partner

The stately Manor House, or Church Family Dwelling House as it was known within the Shaker community is a focal point of the farm. It was built in 1833 and housed as many as 60 people. It is now the residence of Mr. Griff Mangan and his wife Joni.** Mr. Mangan is a descendent of Mr. Alvah Strong. The three story home features nine bedrooms, a large meeting room that was used for prayer services, comfortable sitting rooms with open fireplaces, an enviable colonial-style kitchen, and even a bell tower. Breezy, shaded screened in porches invite you sit down and relax on hot summer days. Tours of the Manor House can be arranged with advance reservations.

The farm once featured 50 buildings, including specialty buildings like the Poultry House, Creamery and Aviary. Most notable, though, is the incredible, panoramic view of Great Sodus Bay, which has been an important part of the farm throughout its history. A writer of the 1920’s observed, "Here in his own front yard, so to speak, Mr. Strong has a water frontage of four miles and in the summer, sleek yachts, fast motor boats and other water craft dot the farm harbor. And as if this were not enough, Mr. Strong has built a large outdoor swimming pool adjoining the Manor House." The pool is still in use today, and its water supply is refreshed from the waters of Second Creek, as are the water hydrants that provide a water supply to the barns.

In 2004 the Mangan family invited the Cracker Box Palace Farm Animal Haven rescue and rehabilitation organization to move their facility to Alasa Farms and lease the barns and pastures. Once again, the farm is bustling with activity and is now a home for over 200 farm animals.

Alasa Farms won the 1999 New York State Agri-Tourism Award, and when you visit, you’ll see why! Farm tours are available for groups large and small. Special events are scheduled throughout the year (Calendar of Events) and the fall season’s Apple Pick and Picnic days are a family favorite. We invite you to visit this historic jewel in Wayne County. We’re only a 25 minute drive from Rochester. Pack a picnic, put on your hiking shoes, and enjoy an unforgettable day in the country.

**emphasis mine

ALASA Academy

I am lucky enough to have three worlds that I seem to live in simultaneously. Sodus Bay, on the southern edge of Lake Ontario became home some 15 years ago when Griff and I were married. Colorado, on the other hand, will always be my "Tara". And now, although at times it still seems like a dream, South Padre Island is where I plan to hang my hat.

Although I haven't been there much lately, Alasa Farms holds a special place in my heart. Nancy Mangan, my lovely mother-in-law who owns Alasa Farms, and my husband, Griff, have a deep commitment to the community and to education.

Offering the farm facilities to targeted non-profit organizations, for use in their activities, has turned out to be a great opportunity for all involved. The ALASA Academy is a continuation of a program which originated in the 1980's to provide a summer educational experience for all ages. Now under the able direction of Sharon Maher it holds the promise of offering an alternative approach to learning for students struggling in the conventional classroom.

ALASA Academy
Alternative Learning Academy for Student Achievement

Alasa Academy � where kids count
ALASA (Alternative Learning Academy for Student Achievement) Academy
Summer Children�s Workshops 2008 �
located at the historic Alasa Farms
6540 Shaker Road, off Route 14, Sodus (Alton) �
The week-long day workshops are for children ages 6-16 �
Sessions are July 7-11; July 14-18; and July 28-Aug 1 from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
(Longer day offered this year)

This outdoor experience will include: stream walks, outdoor science experiments; animal care; journal writing; problem-solving challenges; presenters; hiking and camping activities; and much more.

For more information and/or registration forms, please contact: Sharon Maher at(315)-573-1470 or or Maryanne Whyte at (315)-573-0036 or

Check out our new web site, coming Spring 2008

** Examples of a daily schedule and activities include:

11 a.m. Workshop Examples**:
Monday � Math in Nature
Tuesday � History of the Area
Wednesday � Science Experiments
Thursday � Art in the Outdoors
Friday � Cooking in Nature

11a.m. - 2 p.m. Workshop Examples**:
Mon.�Fitness/Hiking/Animal Care
Tues.�Literary Focus/Compass Skills
Wed.�Team-building/Challenge games
Thurs.�Animal/Fossil Identification
Fri.�Personal growth/Closing ceremony

** Different content and activities for each workshop.

Thanks to Sharon Maher and the Sodus Chamber of Commerce

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Raymond Chandler on the Oscars

"Not only is the motion picture an art, but it is the one entirely new art that has been evolved on this planet for hundreds of years. It is the only art at which we of this generation have any possible chance to greatly excel."
Raymond Chandler

The writer of hard-boiled detective stories reflected on the Academy Awards in this article which appeared in the March, 1948, issue of The Atlantic.

Raymond Chandler, who had his share of novels produced for the big screen, suggests that film as an art form is not what the Academy honors but instead box office receipts. I for one, always wondered what the voters were thinking of when they selected the winners.

It isn't so much that the awards never go to fine achievements as that those fine achievements are not rewarded as such. They are rewarded as fine achievements in box-office hits. You can't be an All-American on a losing team. ... They are ballyhooed, pushed, yelled, screamed, and in every way propagandized into the consciousness of the voters so incessantly, in the weeks before the final balloting, that everything except the golden aura of the box office is forgotten.

It doesn't really seem to make much difference how the voting is done. The quality of the work is still only recognized in the context of success. A superb job in a flop picture would get you nothing, a routine job in a winner will be voted in. It is against this background of success-worship that the voting is done, with the incidental music supplied by a stream of advertising in the trade papers (which even intelligent people read in Hollywood) designed to put all other pictures than those advertised out of your head at balloting time. The psychological effect is very great on minds conditioned to thinking of merit solely in terms of box office and ballyhoo.

And in the election year of 2008 these words from1948 sound eerily familiar:

All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry's frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art.

But we do love the biggest Hollywood party of the year with all its glitz, bling and aura of self importance. Chandler puts the night in perspective:

I have to admit that Academy Awards night is a good show and quite funny in spots, although I'll admire you if you can laugh at all of it.

If you can go past those awful idiot faces on the bleachers outside the theater without a sense of the collapse of the human intelligence; if you can stand the hailstorm of flash bulbs popping at the poor patient actors who, like kings and queens, have never the right to look bored; if you can glance out over this gathered assemblage of what is supposed to be the elite of Hollywood and say to yourself without a sinking feeling, "In these hands lie the destinies of the only original art the modern world has conceived ".....

if you can do all these things with grace and pleasure, and not have a wild and forsaken horror at the thought that most of these people actually take this shoddy performance seriously;....

if you can do all these things and still feel next morning that the picture business is worth the attention of one single intelligent, artistic mind, then in the picture business you certainly belong, because this sort of vulgarity is part of its inevitable price.

But while Chandler isn't one of the Academy Awards greatest fans, he does appreciate the art form of film. The article, Oscar Night in Hollywood is available on the Atlantic website.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Interview with Horton Foote

After attending the El Paseo Arts production of The Trip to Bountiful by Horton Foote, I decided to do some more research on the playwright. I wasn't aware that he had written the screenplay for works by Faulkner and Steinbeck, as well as To Kill a Mockingbird, for which he won an Academy Award.

In his 90's, he has a new play on Broadway and was interviewed on XM radio for The American Theatre Wing - Downstage Center, in September, 2007.

The interview is available here and can be heard on-line or downloaded as a MP3 file.

American Theatre Wing - Downstage Center - Horton Foote

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Trip to Bountiful

I went to tonight's sold out performance of A Trip to Bountiful . JoAnn and her cast should feel very satisfied with the community support for this production.

It was my first visit to the Port Isabel Yacht Club. I found myself wondering how much of the current furnishings etc., are original to the building. Another item to put on my list of regional things to learn more about. Emerging from the building and becoming enveloped in the mist and fog, it was easy to imagine what a history this place must have had. The Yacht Club was constructed in 1927 when Port Isabel was just beginning incorporation. Al Capone and Amelia Earhart were early guests. If only walls could speak.

By eliminating the need for a large stage area and elaborate set, the reading theater concept worked nicely for a small "home-grown" dramatization. Director JoAnn Evans describes this theater style in the plays program:

Reader's Theater is "theatre of the imagination. It is a medium in which two or more oral interpreters through their oral reading cause an audience to experience literature.

Readers Theater differs from the conventional play in various ways. There is no attempt made to create the sense of reality on stage. A narrative voice guides us through the story. There is no set, little movement, and the actors use what is called an offstage focus. The performers do not look at each other on stage as they would in life, but visualize their characters toward the audience in front of them. They can leave the scene simply by turning away and looking down at their script. The performers create images using their voices and physical expressions, and these images are formed not on stage but in the minds of the audience and the readers themselves--that's where the action takes place. Therefore, the audience is as much involved in the performance as the readers are.

Griff is a loyal fan of old time radio and when I read the above description I was reminded of the program "Theater of the Mind". These broadcasts, the TV of the past, engaged the listener in much the same way as what JoAnn describes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hillary and Barack Fight it Out in Texas

We really do have choices to make in the presidential primaries this year and candidates for the Democrat party have brought their fight to Texas. | Texas Office Locations - Online Headquarters - Texas

I wish I could vote in the primary here - but I'll just have to be ready for the November elections. I have my voter registration card sitting right here on my desk ready to be completed and turned in!

The exciting part is that I will be in Denver for the convention and it should be a thrilling couple of days for a news and political junkie.

If anyone has attended any of the RGV rallies, I'd love to hear your comments or impressions.

Seven Months and Counting.

Now the hard work begins. I just reviewed my "Opening a Bookstore" time line to remind me of what lies ahead. It is a little mind boggling!!

In some places I am ahead of schedule and some items are wrapped up in the construction of my own building. In other areas I need to get busy, which is hard to do down here in "manana" land.

Yesterday Griff left to return to New York, so I should have time to get busy. With our strange lifestyle, when we are together, I like to spend time with him and it's hard to concentrate on business plans and stuff.

My list for six to nine months includes things like:

  1. Everything that needs to be done to finalize my business name
  2. Update business plan
  3. Obtain a SAN number from R.R. Bowker
  4. Create credit reference sheet
  5. Contact vendors on products, services and computer systems
  6. Store design and layout
  7. Finalize product categories and inventory percentage
It sounds so simple yet each item can be broken down into a million little pieces. I am glad I have the American Bookseller's Association as a resource. And, yes, like everything else there are consultants that specialize in opening independent bookstores. I have been using materials from Paz and Associates.

Right now I am waiting for a call from a graphic designer who specializes in product branding and marketing. It took me ages to finally decide on a name for the shop - and I want a logo that will stand out and serve several functions:
  1. Identify the store
  2. Reflect our mission
  3. Place the shop as to location, eliminate the need to look for street numbers - this is part of the reason I chose a distinctive architectural style
  4. Be easily reproduced in all media from low-quality newsprint to glossy ad pieces
  5. Be equally distinctive in color or black and white
I believe that a name and brand are an important part of meeting my goals for Paragraphs. I want to be more than a retail store but also a gathering place, a destination, a community institution - and I want my logo to reflect all of the above.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Give that Girl a Hand

It is great to see one of those eclectic souls, that make this sandbar a neat place to live, get some well-deserved recognition

From S. Wells blog:

As William Blake the poet might say, the soul of a city is equally important as it's inns, taverns, and economy. You can't measure the soul of a city but Sandy Feet shines here pretty darn good. 'Nuff sed.

for the complete post

Poof'n'Whiffs: Sandy Feet's Walk of Fame

Congratulations Lucinda, you deserve it.

Groundbreaking Pictures

New golden shovels ready for action

And we can't forget the important stuff

We ended up with a really nice crowd - around 50 people. It was encouraging to have such an enthusiastic reception.

From Griff, Mother, Sophie, Sadie, and me - Thank You to everyone.

I don't think Garco will be hiring her any time soon

But if they change their mind she's ready.

The Chamber of Commerce and "The Islanders" know how to make someone feel wanted.

And the Garco crew added life to the party!!

Thanks again everyone. I love this place!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Survived

I got through it OK, I think. I was really honored by the number of people that showed up. Thank you, thank you. Pictures later - I'm going to open my bottle of champagne and have a private celebration with Rosie, Griff and the girls.

But, I just want everyone to know how much I really appreciated so many people taking the time to stop by. The Islanders are great ambassadors for the Town.

Bye for now!!

What Shall I Say?

It's Tuesday afternoon and the official Groundbreaking Ceremony for Paragraphs is just a couple of hours away. In true Padre fashion, I stopped by Captain Alan Stewart's place this morning and he is preparing a sign for the occasion. Toucan Graphics also came through with some business cards on a few hours notice. Finally, a stroll down the aisles at the Blue Marlin--a cooler, wine, beer, a couple bottles of champagne--and we're set.

My problem now is what do I say? For a pathologically shy person, like me, the idea of being the center of attention is something I worry for days about. Add to that, the need to actually give some type of a talk - Oh My!! Two hours away and the terror is setting in. What if no one comes, it will be so-o-o embarrassing.

Now focus Joni. What is important about today?

  • A chance to thank the Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring this event.
  • Thank those wonderful people who end up taking some of their time to show up.
  • Introduce my financial partner who keeps me focused --Thanks, Mom
  • Introduce my husband and rock -- Love you, Griffy
  • Then there is Dennis Franke - When we couldn't decide whether to build a house in the Shores (it would have been a stretch) or have the store and house for the same money - Dennis encouraged me not to give up on my dream and go for the bookshop. He helped us find and purchase a suitable lot and provided a lot of good advice. Someday, Dennis, that home in the Shores is on the agenda. Well, maybe.
  • The design and construction management is in the able hands of John Silar from Harlingen. It took us a while to finally get started - John had preliminary plans for the building a year ago - but his patience has been extraordinary. I appreciate his expertise at getting the best quality for the best price. He also has utilized some "greener" technology which makes me feel good and will also be more energy efficient.
  • Garco Construction, the general contracting firm is from San Benito and I am really pleased with this selection. B. J. and Junior are such nice guys and now I understand why John told me that if he was building a new house of his own he would have B. J. handle the general contracting. I am sure I will test their good humor when I start making changes!!
In general though, I feel very lucky to have such a good team. I can go back to Denver and focus on the business end of things and prepare to relocate without any worries about the building construction.

But what about my vision for the store. What will my business add to the town? I believe that literature has so much more to offer us beyond it's entertainment value.

  1. A community place where people can come to debate, discuss and share ideas. Reading allows us to examine things outside our own experience and having a dialogue is the second step in taking part in the "Great Conversation" that has been going on for centuries.
  2. Work to promote literacy and the love of reading.
  3. Be a gathering place for readers and writers alike. Provide an alternative to social networking on-line by giving people a place to engage in real face-to-face conversation.
  4. Promote the ideal of life-long learning as an equal partner with exercise and diet as a source of improving our lives.

Ok, I think I have some ideas. Please don't rain!! Guess I better get going.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Trip to Bountiful

Hopefully we'll have a good turnout for our local thespians.

"El Paseo Arts Foundation and the Museums of Port Isabel


Horton Foote’s Award-Winning Texas Play

The Trip to Bountiful

Thursday - February 21 and Friday - February 22

Historic Port Isabel Yacht Club Hotel

Complimentary dessert and cash bar at 6:30 p.m.

Performance at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for the play are $15 per person and can be purchased at Passions in Port Isabel, SPI Visitors Center or by calling 772-9097.

Seven local performers (Thomasine McGlynn, Alita Bagley, Guy Blatnik, Mary Kay Hancock, Ray Tous, Andy Gonzalez, Darla Gilchrist and Jody Hughes) will take the stage to create the readers theatre style production under the direction of JoAnn Evans."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Be Mine: Poems for Valentines

What more could anyone ask for?

Woo your sweetie by pairing the perfect poem with sweets, drink, and posies. The irresistible combination is sure to result in wobbly knees, a melting heart, and a very smitten valentine.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

Drink: May Wine
Sweet: Ice Cream Sundae
Flower: Tulip"

For more ideas to melt your loved one's heart: - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More - Be Mine: Poems for Valentines:

For Mystery Lovers

Wondering what is new Mysteries?

The following were the bestselling books for January, as reported by member stores of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.

The IMBA Bestsellers: January


1. Bleeding Kansas by Sara Paretsky
2. Blue Heaven by C.J. Box
3. Touchstone by Laurie R. King
4. A Pale Horse by Charles Todd
5. Death Song by Michael McGarrity
6. The Timer Game by Susan Arnout Smith
7. Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich
8. Blasphemy by Douglas Preston
8. 'T' Is for Trespass by Sue Grafton
10. The Chameleon's Shadow by Minette Walters
10. The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry


1. The State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy
2. Death of a Maid by M.C. Beaton
3. Darkling by Yasmine Galenorn
4. Chili con Corpse by J.B. Stanley
5. The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman
6. A Deeper Sleep by Dana Stabenow
7. Getting Old Is to Die For by Rita Lakin
8. Water Like a Stone by Deborah Crombie
9. The Overlook by Michael Connelly
10. Bring Your Own Poison by Jimmie Ruth Evans

Many thanks to Shelf Awareness and the IMBA!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Green Corners Project - Thank You All

I think all these folks deserve a big round of applause from all of us who love this Island. The corner landscaping adds a lovely touch of green all along Padre Boulevard and helps make these commercial properties more attractive. Thank you to all the sponsors and hard working volunteers.

SPIRIT and The SPI Chamber of Commerce announcement:

Padre Blvd. Corners Project

Continues to Grow!

Thank you to everyone who helped make South Padre Island greener!

On Saturday, February 8, 2008, six corners were planted and maintenance was

performed on the twelve corners completed in November 2007.

Additional corners will be planted in April 2008.

To become a sponsor contact the SPI Chamber of Commerce at 956-761-4412.

Corner Sponsors

Alita Bagley, SE Corner of Huisache

Sandra Coulter, NE Corner of Cora Lee

Sierra Title Company, NW Corner of Mesquite

Just Call John, LLC, SW Corner of Huisache

Annabel Givens, SE Corner of Gardenia

San Jacinto Title Services, NW Corner of Hibiscus

Volunteer Labor

Hugh Bresett, Annabel Givens, Paula Bresett, Liz Glascock, Jackie Diermeier, Roxanne Guenzel, Jim Diermeier, Rena Hefflon, Naydene Ford, Darrell Mangham, Kirk Franklin, Murray Nelson,Trey Franklin, Kevin Tenison, John Gieseking

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tragic Loss of Valley AirCare Flight Crew

My husband, Griff Mangan, has spent most of his adult life involved in emergency medical services. He teaches first aid, trains EMT's, and is an instructor trainer. Through his association with the Wayne County New York Red Cross and the Finger Lakes Regional Emergency Medical Service Council, I have had the opportunity to meet many of these hard-working and selfless individuals. I don't know any of the statistics but I can't even imagine the number of lives saved in this country by the extraordinary services of our EMS professionals and volunteers.

So, we would like to express our sadness over the loss of the flight crew, Tuesday night, in a helicopter crash over the Laguna Madre, off South Padre Island. Our sympathies go to their families.

See more here: The Brownsville Herald

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mi Educación es la Causa is NACCS Conference Theme

I found information about this conference at RGV Life:

South Texas College plays host to the NACCS Tejas Regional Conference from Thursday, Feb. 28 through Saturday, Mar. 1, 2008 and has recruited prolific and important Mexican-American scholars and authors from across the nation to participate.

In the article, South Texas College history instructor and conference coordinator Victor Gomez says:

“We are so pleased with the response to this event and the willingness of top scholars in this field to come out and, in some cases, back home to the Valley to share their perspectives with our community. This will be an invaluable opportunity for not only local educators and students, but also the community as a whole.”

The story continues:

Participants include professors and authors from New York University, Notre Dame, Rice University, The University of Colorado at Denver, The University of California at Santa Cruz, California State, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University to name a few. Faculty and students from South Texas College, The University of Texas at Brownsville and The University of Texas-Pan American will also participate.

....The two keynote speakers will speak at the McAllen Convention Center. Rodolfo F. Acuña, the author of Occupied America: The History of Chicanos, and Martha P. Cotera, the author of Diosa y Hembra: The History and Heritage of Chicanas in the U.S., will discuss their experiences in studying, teaching and writing about the Mexican-American experience. They will share their perspectives on the opportunities for Mexican-Americans in the 21st century and how education has and will continue to be a foundation for the exploration of Mexican-American culture.

Following the keynote addresses, the community is invited to an evening of cultural activities including an author meet and greet with more than 25 Mexican-American scholars signing their books. Participating scholars include: Rodolfo Acuña, Martha Cotera, José Angel Gutiérrez, Guadalupe San Miguel Jr., Norma Cantú, Armando Alonzo, Josephine Méndez-Negrete, among other very important scholars.

This sounds like a prestigious conference. Reading the announcement made me reflect on the common perceptions which many hold about the RGV. Many times since I have been researching the idea of opening a bookstore on South Padre Island I have been warned about the reading habits of the valley population.

I can't even put a number on how many times I have been told - "the valley residents don't read" or "the culture in the valley doesn't value reading" and "the Mexican nationals who visit the island won't be interested in a bookstore". Yet, here we have a conference being held in Harlingen, attended by world class scholars and 25 Mexican-American authors will be signing books.

There seems to be a contradiction here. Does the general public do the valley community an injustice with these kind of over-generalizations? I'm sure I don't know - just a thought.

Becoming an Islander

I know it will be a while before my residence is finished and I have a lot of things to do before making my life on the island permanent - I have taken a couple of steps which make me feel more like this is "home".

The United States Postal Service has confirmed that I am enough of a resident to rent a PO Box. The gentleman at the post office could not have been more helpful, and he has remembered me the few times I have been in to ask questions or pick up mail. Two forms of ID and proof of land ownership took care of getting a box assigned to me and now I can receive mail at a real address instead of c/o the La Quinta. I imagine the desk clerks here will be glad of this change, too.

In the interest of becoming part of the small business community on the island I have also become a member of the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce. From what I have seen so far this is a very active organization and I look forward to supporting them in some of their projects.

Especially exciting is their willingness to help me with a "groundbreaking ceremony". The publicity will be great in continuing to build public interest in the future opening of a general interest bookstore on the island.

Each day I try to make a little progress. October is not very far away, especially according to Padre time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Family Matters

On a personal note:

Many congratulations from South Padre Island to Joe and Val. James Robert Mullin arrived and weighed in at a whopping 8 lbs. 6 ozs. Mother and baby are home and doing nicely, under the expert care of the new father.

We love you both and can't wait to see the new addition to the family.

115 Independent Bookstores Open in 2007

The following information was encouraging after all the doom and gloom which we generally hear from the MSM (mainstream media) about American reading habits.

"The American Booksellers Association welcomed 115 new bookstores that opened for business in 2007. This was the third year in a row that the number of bookstore openings topped one hundred.

'We're happy to report that 115 ABA member stores opened in 2007,' said ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz. 'This is very good news and an indication of a growing trend among communities that are recognizing the unique contributions of local independent businesses. These new ABA member stores offer a one-of-a-kind environment and knowledgeable owners and staff who are dedicated to serving their neighborhoods.'

The new bookstore openings were spread across 35 states, and included a branch store of Florida's Books & Books on Grand Cayman Island and a member store in La Paz, Mexico. The largest number of openings was in California, which welcomed 17 new stores; followed by eight openings in New York; seven each in Georgia and Oregon; six in Michigan; and five each in Colorado, Minnesota, and North Carolina.

The move to local independent businesses that are tailored to specific communities is a refreshing move away from the mega-retailers. This is a trend which should fit in well with the South Padre Island business community.

Anyway, I hope so!!

Children's Book for February

by Craig Bartlett and Maggie Groening

Arnold has a Valentine's Day dilemma. First he sends an anonymous valentine to six-grader Ruth, telling her to meet him at Chez Pierre. Then he receives a valentine from his French pen pal, Cecile, who wants him to meet her at Chez Paris! What's he to do? With a little help from Gerald, Arnold comes up with the perfect plan to meet his two valentines -- but will he face a surprise of his own?

Product Details
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Spotlight (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689838174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689838170
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.1 x 0.2 inches

Information from

Monday, February 4, 2008

El día de los libros

Any way South Padre Island and Port Isabel can take advantage of this? One of the missions of Paragraphs is to promote literacy in the Rio Grande Valley.

From Shelf Awareness today:

"To support the April 30 celebration of El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day 2008), the AAP and ALA for the first time together have created a recommended reading list of some 24 children's books in both English and Spanish for parents and others who choose books for children. The list includes bilingual picture books, coming-of-age stories and nonfiction, all celebrating Latin culture and Latin American identity, and is available online at

The list was created by the Publishing for Latino Voices Task Force of the Association of American Publishers and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) division of the American Library Association. The titles were chosen by the ALSC's Quicklists Consulting Committee.

Calling the list 'food for the brain,' Pat Schroeder, president and CEO of the AAP, said, 'We hope this bibliography will serve as a guide for stocking bookstores, libraries, schools, and family bookshelves in homes nationwide.'"

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl

Here we go..

It's time!!

Super Bowl, beer, chips and more. Life is Good.


Variance Hearing

Tuesday, February 5, we are scheduled to appear before the Board of Adjustments and Appeals. This is to review our request for a variance, by which we are asking that the requirement for a commercial sprinkler fire system and a residential fire sprinkler be waived.

The way I understand it, if I was only building for retail use, there would be no fire sprinkler required because of the limited square footage involved. Similarly, it is not necessary for a single family home to install a fire sprinkler system. But now, when they are combined in a mixed use building both a residential and commercial fire sprinkler system seem to be required. This will add around $35,000 to the cost of construction. Hopefully, we can convince them that it really is an excessive requirement.

The building is to be constructed mostly from non-combustible materials and the retail building and residence are separated by a courtyard and a 2-hour firewall and door. Furthermore, the residence is to be used as a single family dwelling - this is not a condo/business mixed use project, which it seems the code is addressing.

So, I will have the opportunity to meet some more islanders and promote Paragraphs. I just hope they see things our way!!

Are Artificial Reefs the Answer?

Beach erosion is a concern in all coastal areas but when one lives on a sandbar it takes on a new level of importance. South Padre Island is it's beaches. They are the reason people come here to vacation, to live and to open businesses. The beaches are also home to a huge variety of wildlife and part of the major bird migratory path in North America.

As land becomes scarce and development moves forward SPI will most likely be facing even more problems with beach erosion than it is now. Last Thursday, the Board of Alderman hosted a workshop where representatives of ASR America presented information on the use of artificial reefs to control erosion and enhance conditions for surfing, fishing and other recreational beach activities.

It is an interesting concept and one which I am sure will be debated passionately as plans for beach renourishment proceed. In a letter to the editor published in the February 1, issue of The Island Breeze, Rob Nixon, gives a thoughtful review of the issues. Rob is Spokesman and Volunteer Coordinator for SPI Surfrider Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, South Texas Chapter.

Reading Football, cont.

If you missed the comment from Bettyworm in Natick MA:

And to bring football focus to the two teams who will meet on the gridiron for Super Bowl XLII pick up "Patriot Reign: Bill Belichick, the Coaches, and the Players Who Built a Champion" by Michael Holley or "Tiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond" by Tiki Barber and Gil Reavill".

La Quinta is having a super ball party and there are lots of other parties at SPIs favorite watering holes, we just haven't decided what to do. It should be a good game!!

Kites Over SPI

There was a good turnout - on a perfect day - for the International South Padre Island KiteFest, Saturday, February 2. We had a perfect seat to watch the demonstrations. The festival continues today.

Quad-Kite Demonstration:

A local team does Phantom of the Opera:

Friday, February 1, 2008

Reading Football

As you get ready for the big game or to help ease the post-football letdown here are some books to keep the football fever hot.

From the readers at Shelf Awareness:

"Never Give Up: My Stroke, My Recovery, and My Return to the NFL" by Tedy Bruschi with Michael Holley (Wiley, $24.95)

"The Blueprint: How the New England Patriots Beat the System to Create the Last Great NFL Superpower," by Christopher Price (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's, $24.95)

"Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream" by H.G. Bissinger (Da Capo Press, $15.95)

"Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback," by George Plimpton (Lyons Press, $15.95)

"Namath: A Biography" by Mark Kriegel (Penguin, $16). "Broadway Joe, football's first TV star."

"Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL," by John Feinstein (Back Bay Books, $15.99)

"The Thin Thirty," by Shannon P. Ragland (Set Shot Press, $18.95)

"Fifth Quarter: The Scrimmage of a Football Coach's Daughter," by Jennifer Allen (Random House, $19)

And for the Texas fans Michael Merschel who writes for the Dallas Morning News adds his picks:

"Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football," by Jim Dent.

"The Blind Side," by Michael Lewis, a look inside the world of an immense -- and immensely talented -- high school athlete. Our critic said, "Mr. Lewis is a terrific reporter and a gifted prose stylist. He absorbs the vibrations of the world he immerses himself in without getting carried away."

And, of course, the just-published "Greatest Team Ever," which Cowboys fans might want to flip through while two morally inferior teams battle for the trophy that every true Dallas resident knows is the rightful property of Jerry Jones.

And in a comment Steve posts:

Here is a link to a video about Michael Lewis' book, 'The Blind Side' and that immense high school (now college) football star, Michael Oher.

Of course, I think I am in agreement with Merschel when he writes:

Your humble books editor, never one to hide his roots, will probably spend the afternoon searching YouTube for video footage of Super Bowl XXXII -- John Elway 31, Green Bay 24. Life was good.

Oh yes -- Life was really good. There is always next year, come on Jay Cutler!!