Friday, March 14, 2008

Local Authors and Story Tellers

As I have repeatedly written, this is a place with a little bit of everything. There are many writers and storytellers on this Island and in Port Isabel, way over on the other side of the causeway.

I always look forward to reading the stories that Steve Hathcock and Kay Lay write for the local papers. Read some of their informative and fun articles. Learn about local legends of buried treasure, Island mysteries and all about sea beans and other nature studies.

These two are a treasure by themselves. They exemplify the Island slogan: Be yourself, and possess the quality I think we all should strive for - a life of asking questions and full of wonder, of constantly learning something new. What is so great is they are willing to share their enthusiasm with all of us!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Latino Books Month

From the Association of American Publishers

AAP Latino Voice for America: "Latino Books Month
What is Latino Books Month?

The Association of American Publishers Publishing Latino Voices for America (PLVA) Task Force has declared May Latino Books Month.

Throughout the month of May, booksellers, librarians, and others in the book industry are encouraged to promote reading among Latinos in their communities, and to raise awareness of the rich variety of books authored by Latinos that are available, in both English and Spanish."

This is another program that seems consistent with our mission and Paragraphs should be able to work with the local ISDs and public libraries to make sure we celebrate the rich heritage these authors provide our common heritage. It may also be an area we can develop some joint events with the El Paseo Arts Council.

Reading Guernsey

I read this on the ABA Omnibus this morning

"I'm going to end this week's post by using this bookish community to offer yet another plug for the book I've been recommending since I finished it Monday night: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. It's absolutely fabulous, and I'm not the only one who thinks so!"

Maybe its because I spent a day in Guernsey a couple years ago during a family cruise. It was such a wonderful island off the southern coast of Great Britain, and I felt like I had stepped back in time a couple of decades. At a little shop I bought a signed copy of two books by the local author Molly Bihet. A Child's War, originally published in 1985, told of Molly's experiences during the occupation. She was nine years old when the Germans occupied Guernsey. The Channel Islands were the only part of Great Britain that was held by the German Army during the Second World War.
It meant a different way of growing up for the young girl. As she writes in the preface:

"I wanted to express my feelings during these difficult years of German rule and the different 'games' and unusual pastimes of a child done solely because we were hungry and restricted."

You can read more and hear her, in her own words, at the BBC Guernsey site.

So, I am anxious to read The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society, named for a book club that was born out of the need for a quick alibi when the characters were discovered by the German's breaking curfew. The authors are an aunt and niece team and it sounds like a delightful read.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Long Way Gone - Truth or Fiction?

I read this memoir and watched the Brian Lamb interview of Ishmael Beah on C-Span last year. I was riveted by this young man's story and by the almost disconnected way he described the atrocities that he perpetrated on others and the change in his demeanor when he would talk about his life before or after the war. He would begin speaking in a robotic manner, and his narrative would have a third person quality, then the twinkle in his eye would return and his enthusiasm for story-telling, dancing, music and just life would spill over with a contagious smile. Watching him, I was reminded of the resilience of human beings. Beah looked and sounded just like any other college kid, bringing home his laundry and raiding the refrigerator yet in the same conversation he calmly talked about horrors that would scar most people for life.

Then a few weeks ago I read a response from Beah to an article alleging that much of his memoir was embellished, if not actually fabricated. I didn't know what the story was other than that a Australian paper had printed articles questioning the veracity of the story.

Well, Slate has looked into the details behind the brouhaha - but I'm still left not knowing where the truth lies. Then again, if a 14-year-old even survives an ordeal like this, I suppose I am willing to allow him the benefit of the doubt and assume any misstatements of fact are due to the "fog of war, youth, pain, and loss" and not intentional attempts to mislead.

I may be naive, but I chose to believe this exceptional young man. For the full story

Thumbs up to Shelf Awareness

SPI 35th Anniversary

On March 26, 1973, a Valley Morning Star article read:
"Padre Isle Voters Back Incorporation." The election resulted in 128 of 197 voting to incorporate the town.

Today with more than 2,400 residents, and more than one million annual visitors, SPI will celebrate its 35th birthday April 10-13.

I am really glad this is going to be an annual event. Paragraphs won't be open for the birthday celebration but in future years Matey, we'll look forward to being part of the action.

This year the best I can do is sign on as a Gunner's Mate, and wish everyone a great weekend.

I'll be back later with some good pirate titles to get everyone prepared.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

$10,000 Coffee Maker?

One question I am always asked when I say I am opening a bookstore is "Are you going to sell coffee?" Well, I still don't have the answer but this post is for all you serious coffee lovers.

On Wednesday, the March 5, edition of Slate Magazine asks: Could a Coffee Maker Be Worth $10,000.

Paul Adams writes:
The New York Times used words like "cult object," "majestic," and "titillating"; the Economist called it "ingenious" and "sleek." The subject of these encomiums is, incongruously, a commercial coffee machine—the Clover 1s, an $11,000 device that brews regular coffee (not espresso) one cup at a time. Could the Clover represent that much of an advance in the state of the coffee art? I had to try it for myself.

the passionate young Clover virtuosos at Cafe Grumpy indeed remind me of wine enthusiasts; they're seriously invested in their work, nothing like the sullen soy-foamers at Starbucks or even at other independent coffee shops I frequent. On the cafe's blog, barista Ed describes his recent visit to coffee farms in Panama.

Is owning a Clover worth $11,000? Not for the individual—don't be silly. But even a smattering of Clovers in the right hands promises to broaden the way we think about coffee. The very fact that an $11,000 coffee machine is receiving such excited media attention seems like a clear sign that we're headed toward a "third wave" of coffee, an age of terroir, aided by technology that can give different beans the different careful treatments they deserve. In the foretold era, popular dark roasts, which obscure those subtleties, are scorned, and enlightened customers gladly pay exorbitantly for rare brews.

I can guarantee that the Clover will not be coming to Paragraphs, but is there anyone else interested? Coffee as the new wine, maybe a perfect fit for Zeste's or Naturally's. Maybe we could take up a collection. I would probably buy a cup or two.

Block Building Foundation

After the pilings were finished it was time to build the masonry block retaining wall, which once filled with "dirt" will be the foundation upon which my bookstore and home will be constructed.

John Silar has explained that beach sand is rounded and cannot be compacted to make a solid base and so the sand that is used to create the foundation needs to be trucked in and has sharp edges that are readily compacted.

You would think that with all the sand on the lot more wouldn't be needed. How many grades and kinds of sand, dirt and fill material are there?

Finished retaining wall. I am going to feel like I am sitting on top of the world, literally, not metaphorically.

The support posts for yard fencing have been set in the block and secured with concrete.

So let's get the fill dirt trucks rolling!

A Great Place to Live

I just came back in from spending some time on the beach and by the La Quinta pool. Where else could you have such a diverse group of people all laughing, talking together and just generally having a great time.

The spring breakers complete with guys competing over the coolest girls who welcome the attention but still keep their distance, the young Mexican families with toddler-age children who had the pool nearly to themselves - the spring breakers are too cool to actually swim -- and even a few left-over Winter Texans enjoying the sunshine; all seem to co-exist and get along without any problem even welcoming the diversity.

I do love this place!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

SPI Sand Sculptors are Travel Channel Stars

If you missed the Premier of SandBlasters III The Extreme Sand Sculpting Championship the complete schedule for future airings of the show is here:

Sand Blasters: The Extreme Sand Sculpting Championship returns for a third time to Travel Channel, with an explosive competition between man, sand, and pyrotechnics. Over the course of this grueling two-day competition, five of the eight sculptures are randomly selected for complete destruction by a Hollywood pyrotechnics crew. The ill-fated blast victims then have the remaining time to create another world-class work of art from scratch... The stress and excitement build to epic proportions as the world's greatest sand sculpting competition rages on.

Three of the sixteen individuals featured on the series are from South Padre Island, and if I may say so, they did a fabulous job of representing our Island. For those that haven't watched I won't spoil the suspense.

Team Trowel & Error

Together both on and off the sand, Lucinda and Kirk have combined their different styles to create one of the most unique teams on the beach. Last year they were blasted first, but came back to win second place with their "Instrumental" sculpture. In addition to participating in major and projects around the world, both also teach sand sculpting.

Cusco, Peru


South Padre Island, TX

Lucinda has been sculpting sand since 1987. She is widely recognized for her work promoting sand sculpting around the world, and is the author of Sandcastles Made Simple. Most recently Lucinda opened Sandbox Inn, a year-round sand castle academy where interested students can learn the art of sand sculpture.

Granada, Nicaragua


Santa Cruz, CA

"Gear-Head" Kirk Rademaker has been a working as a full-time sand sculptor since 2001. His unique linear style has earned him international acclaim. As he says, "Where everyone sees shapes, I see lines." Kirk's sculptures often incorporate machinery and stand out in a crowd. In Sand Blasters' first year, Kirk teamed up with Carl Jara and took home the Best Recovery prize after being blasted in the first round.

Team Nitty Gritty

This is Team Nitty Gritty's first trip to Sand Blasters. The father-daughter team of Amazin' Walter and Christy McDonald have made sand sculpting a family business, and together they have won numerous awards for their imaginative castles. Both sand sculpt year-round on the beaches of South Padre Island.

Quito, Ecuador


South Padre Island, TX

In more than 20 years of sand sculpting, Walter has dazzled crowds all over the world. His unique ability to sculpt gravity defying arches has earned him his "Amazin" nickname. He has won numerous People's Choice awards and in 1996, placed third at the World Championships. When he's not on the beach, Walter also works as a musician and magician.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


South Padre Island, TX

Christy got into sand sculpting seriously in 2001 and has been competing with her dad ever since. Previous to her career in sand sculpting, Christy attended clown college and has worked for the prestigious Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus on and off since 1989.

To meet some of the other contestants follow this link:

Meet the Sculptors : Sand Blasters : TV Shows

And more from the Travel Channel Web Site:


Check out clips from Sand Blasters III to learn about the rules of the game, the behind-the-scenes preparation of The Pound Up, how this year's Sand Blaster's Rookie fared at the event, and to see sculptures exploding in spectacular super slow motion. Watch now!


Check out clips from last year's event.

And get a behind-the-scenes look at how the explosives are prepared and executed in our Behind the Pyro clip.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Best Seller List from Abe Books

The following is from Shelf Awareness:
"'s February Faves

The following were the top 10 sellers on during February, including several titles that have been given Oprah boosts and Flat Belly Diet, given a Rachael Ray boost:

1. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
3. Flat Belly Diet by Liz Vaccariello
4. The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren
5. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
6. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
10. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

[Many thanks to!]"

and my thanks to

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sounds Familiar

The latest issue of Bookselling This Week profiles the Book and Cranny bookstore in Statesboro, Georgia, and parts of the article sounded pretty familiar. Campbell's discussion of the resources she used to prepare for opening her bookstore are the same ones I am using. Since they are celebrating their first year in business this April, following in their footsteps can't be all wrong.

My FabJob Guide is full of post-it notes, looks like a highlighter rainbow, and has numerous dog-eared pages as well as a few dog-chewed corners.

Bookselling This Week: The Book and Cranny Fills a Void: "Deborah Campbell. 'I was tired of having to drive an hour and a half to buy a book.' The former Lucent Technology engineer had hoped that someone else would fill the general bookstore void, but she said, 'I waited long enough to realize I had to do it myself.'

Campbell then took a year to formulate a business plan, studied ABA resources on, downloaded a copy of the FabJob Guide to Become a Bookstore Owner, and worked closely with the local small business development center."

From the Book and Cranny Website:
Now, you aren't forced to drive to other cities or go online to find the book you want. Come in and browse -- enjoy the feel, the smell, the pleasure of searching for the latest titles, the best-selling authors, the book you didn't know you wanted until you saw it on the shelf!

We have a very exciting collection, everything from the newest bestsellers to old favorites. And if you don't see what you're looking for on the shelf, we can order it for you -- no extra charge. Most special orders arrive within 2 - 3 days (some may take a bit longer, but we will tell you up front). We receive book shipments almost daily during the week, so there is always something new for you to check out!

South Padre Island, this will be available to you, too, before the end of 2008.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In the Company of Good Books

I have a fundamental belief in the power of good books to change lives, communities, states, nations, and ultimately the world. It seems I have something in common with First Lady Laura Bush.

From Shelf Awareness:

"A nation that does not read for itself cannot think for itself. And a nation that cannot think for itself risks losing both its identity and its freedom. Ray Bradbury was right when he said, 'You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.'

'Both reading and a love of reading are learned behaviors that should be taught at home and in schools. Like many of you in this room, I've spent my life in the company of good books, because my mother taught me to love them, and my teachers taught me to read them, and my library let me take them home free. Those early experiences had a profound impact on my life, and on my career as a public school teacher and librarian, and on my present work in the U.S. and around the world.'--First Lady Laura Bush, speaking yesterday at the AAP annual meeting in New York City."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Building Pilings

Decided I needed to catch up on the construction activity because the guys are moving faster than I am getting things posted to the blog.

Along the south side of the property line, and supporting the building is a system of 9 concrete and steel pilings. drilled to a depth of 12 ft. The "concrete friction piers" are poured as air and water are forced out and the concrete is pumped down through the drill.
Connecting the concrete "hose" to the top of the drill housing.

Seasons Change on SPI

The Island seems to have its own seasons which are marked by the coming and going of the visitors instead of changes in the weather.

This is particularly noticeable as we say goodbye daily to a few more of our Winter Texan friends as they pack up to leave their temporary home at the La Quinta. But as they go, more young couples and young families have been arriving. It is actually the lull before the Spring Break storm.

The restaurants have seats available, the lobby is empty of card and game players, and the locals seem to be taking a moment to prepare for the onslaught that is set to begin next weekend.

For me, it is just a reminder of how little time I have left to accomplish all I want to finish during this time on the island.

Definition for the Day

From Today in Literature:

"ALONE: In bad company
—from Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, which began publication in serialized form in Wasp magazine on this day in 1881

Some things never change!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Retaining Wall Foundation

This is the back side of the lot and believe it or not the standing water is because of the tide! The water table is high which of course would be expected, but I certainly didn't expect it to rise and fall with the tide. Anyway, a strip about 5' deep has been excavated around the back and north side of the lot. A foundation was poured for the retaining wall which will hold sufficient fill sand to raise the building to around 8' above sea level.

North side of lot

A whole lot of steel ready to be placed in the foundation to support the retaining wall

Pouring cement

This is the final foundation along the north and back side of the lot. The steel embedded in the concrete will form the structure for a masonry retaining wall built to the same height. I don't think the fill under our house will be going anywhere. The south side will be handled differently since the building sits on the property line.