Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav and Deja Vu

As Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Louisiana coast and northern-eastern Texas gulf regions almost to the day, three years after the devastation of Katrina, my heart goes out to those who have already suffered more than anyone should have to endure.

After the levees broke in the aftermath of Katrina and rescue efforts finally began, Denver was one of many cities that opened our doors to these poor souls who had lost everything. We quickly converted some dormitories, on the old Lowry Air Force turned community college, into temporary housing for those who were being plucked off of rooftops with no place to go.

I volunteered for the Red Cross when we began to accept these "refugees" from New Orleans and I will never forget those days and nights and the people I met. Many of those at the shelter told harrowing stories of despair and courage and of watching the water rise and having nowhere to go.

There were many empty and vacant faces, in those first days, that were enough to break ones heart and then I would meet a couple of true NO free spirits who, even after losing everything and having no idea what they were going to do next, wanted to find a place where they could cook up a big pot of jambalaya to feed us, the volunteers. In the cool of the September evenings people thrust together by circumstances would gather outside and try to make some sense of their surroundings.

I listened to their stories, tried my best to help satisfy immediate needs but most often all I could do was provide a shoulder upon which to cry or maybe give an elderly woman or man a reassuring hug. None of it was enough, and I would go home feeling the enormity of the road these people had ahead of them. Many had never been outside the city limits of NO and now here they were in a converted army barracks, turned community college dorm, now shelter, in a city they probably could not have located on a map. Some were trying to find family members who had become separated from them during the rescue effort, others had family who were willing to take them in - but they had no way to get there from Denver, which seemed a million miles away from a cousin, brother, sister or friend in Baton Rouge or Jackson.

In the days that followed, a location was set up where all the agencies providing aid could be in one place and individuals from the shelter were shuttled to and from, and where those we began to discover had ended up in Denver on their own, also could come to begin the job of putting lives back together.

To imagine what they were faced with consider what was a familiar story:

Spending a day or more on a rooftop awaiting help or finally managing to wade through the flood waters and arriving at the Superdome left to experience heaven only knows what kind of conditions, then being lined up and put on buses, taken to the airport told to board a plane to an unknown destination, arriving at Denver International Airport, put back on buses and finally reaching a converted barracks, dormitory-style shelter. Once here of course you need to be checked in, name, address etc., etc., to be assigned a room. Then, once the initial shock wears off, you are shuttled to a location and left to negotiate a maze of relief organizations and governmental agencies staffed by volunteers and professionals who talk too fast, have funny accents and are difficult to understand. While each person or family was met by a volunteer who helped guide them through the process, many were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the effort.

To be honest, I found it difficult to remember which agency offered what services and what the specific requirements were for any given program. At times there were services and goods being donated, but the information was not communicated to all the relief workers. So I cannot imagine the confusion they must have been experiencing. But, amazingly and to their credit, in my work as a case-worker for the Red Cross I did not have a single person get angry, rude or demanding - and believe me, most of us would not have exhibited such resigned patience.

But it was the individuals I talked to that will make those days some of the most meaningful in my life. The couple from Alabama who explained how to dress out a racoon or possum and gave me the recipe for stew, while the young account exec from the bank who was setting up a debit card for them listened and missed a few keystrokes in the process. The very young, alcohol or drug-addicted lesbian couple who pretended to be cousins out of fear or apprehension. I remember holding the youngest one in my arms while she cried with great racking sobs and begged to go home, while her partner tried to explain to her that they had no home to go to and no money to get there even if they could, then after turning around to get them something to eat, discovering that they had disappeared - and I wonder to this day if they made it back to NO.

There were many cases from the middle class who were also dealing with loss and trying to get things straightened out, but the faces I still see are those of the disenfranchised and forgotten, and they taught me more in those few weeks than I could possibly have given to them. As Barack Obama so eloquently said the other night, it is difficult to pull oneself up by ones bootstraps if one doesn't have boots. What bothers me the most as Gustav approaches, is I wonder how many have never recovered from Katrina and now are faced with the same catasrophic sense of displacement. And with all the money wasted through incompetence, waste, and fraud, I have this overwhelming sense of sadness that we never really ceased to abandon the people that live at the margins in this wonderful city of contrasts we know as New Orleans.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bookstore and Politics - What Do You Think?

Robert Gray shares a discussion on his Fresh Eyes Now bookselling blog which examines the role of the neighborhood bookshop when it comes to political advocacy.

As those who have followed my blog may have noticed I have some trouble staying on topic and especially when it comes to politics. This may not have been an issue except that we have just been through a hard-fought primary season and are heading into what I predict to be a hotly-contested and at times vicious presidential race. The fact that Denver is hosting the Democratic National Convention and having the opportunity to experience the atmosphere and excitement around this convention which will become one of those occasions in history that becomes part of the American experience has made it hard for me to keep from "blogging the convention".

The debate in Gray's blog is a reflection on the debate I have been having with myself as I have wanted to write about the convention but was afraid of possibly offending or alienating my future customers. This is more of a problem now, because people have not had the opportunity to actually get to know me and I don't want to make the wrong first impression.

But, I am interested in the general question about the role a bookstore plays in the community. One of my core beliefs and reasons for wanting to be a bookseller is the concept that books and those places where readers congregate provide the fodder and environment for us to discover, digest, discuss and debate the ideas which shape the quality of our lives. Many of these ideas ultimately end up with politics.

So here are the questions asked by Robert Gray but rephrased to you my customer and readers. Let me know what you think.
Is a community bookstore a neutral corner or an advocacy center?

Can there be a, well, "third place" between the two when it comes to politics?

What type of political sidelines or books would you find appropriate? Do the political books a bookstore carries affect your comfort level or willingness to shop in that store.

What do you expect from your bookstore? If you sensed a spirit of advocacy would you feel excluded or offended?

If the store provided a venue where there could be a free and spirited exchange of ideas, would you be offended, feel excluded or appreciate the possibility to engage in intellectual thought and discussion?

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Denver on Display

Watching some of the television coverage about the Democratic National Convention I am struck by the beauty of my fair city.

Denver has gone through growing pains like many other metropolitan areas but I think we have handled a lot of the issues with a vision to the future. As many cities have continued their growth to the suburbs and ex-burbs Denver has made a conscious effort to move or to keep our large venues within the city center or what the locals call LoDo (lower downtown).

Specifically, Invesco Field, Pepsi Center, Coors Stadium, Elitches(Six Flags), the Convention Center, the Center for the Performing Arts, to name a few are all located within the downtown area of the city, and as I am watching an interview hosted at the C-SPAN convention studio, many of these facilities are in full view with the mountains providing a stunning backdrop.

For those people who still live in the suburbs our new light rail makes access to the downtown area fast, convenient and inexpensive. Our housing developments are beginning to become clustered around the light rail system and feature mixed use dwelling styles so small independent grocers and other necessary retail shops are incorporated as part of each condo complex and are within walking distance of a transportation hub, either light rail, bus system or some type of shuttle service. Most of our downtown areas have been revitalized with a comfortable mix of retail, residential(lofts and condos) and business interests.

I must admit I am quite proud of Colorado and Denver. Now, as long as our police and other law enforcement agencies don't get carried away while balancing the tension between security and civil liberties when dealing with protest groups - I think our many visitors will enjoy their time here and those watching should see a beautiful, modern and dynamic city.

Much as I love SPI and am looking forward to moving in October -- Denver will always be my home and I will miss much of what this city has to offer.

Tomorrow, and for the rest of the week, I plan to head downtown each day and absorb as much of the atmosphere as I can. C-SPAN will give the viewer some good insights into the city as well as convention activities.

Denver is ready for the party and I invite you to watch as much as possible -- we aren't just a cow town any more.

Great Books Programs - Lifelong Learning

From the August 20, 2008 edition of Bookselling This Week:

A funny thing happened when R.J. Julia in Madison, Connecticut, announced its new, ongoing Great Books Seminar Program -- a monthly seminar designed to provide people with the opportunity to study and discuss the great works of literature, philosophy, and history. Very quickly, post-college adults were showing up in droves to register to study the classics

Fittingly, it was a book that inspired Coady to launch the Great Books Seminar Program in March 2008. "A friend of ours, [Yale Professor] Tony Kronman wrote a book called Education's End, Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life [Yale University Press]," said Coady.

The book discusses how the most important question one can ask in life -- What is living for? -- has been removed from university classrooms and calls for its return in humanities studies. incredibly life-affirming it is to see adults participate for the pure pleasure of learning. I think this is a great opportunity for all independents. Being in a bookstore [for a class] is very exciting -- there are a lot of people who want this opportunity.

Education's End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life By Anthony T. Kronman Published by Yale University Press, 2007 ISBN 0300122888, 9780300122886 308 pages

Let us link you to your closest independent bookstore! Just enter your ZIP code below before pressing the button. If you do not enter your ZIP, an indie bookstore will be chosen for you at random and if you do not have a local bookshop this title can be shipped to you.

Anyone interested? I am a member of the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas whose founder, Mortimer Adler, was the leading proponent of a Great Books curriculum at the University of Chicago which pre-dated many of today's Great Books colleges such as St. John's College in Annapolis and Santa Fe.

A great books program for adults and the Great Books Foundation were also founded in Chicago and Adler actively promoted the idea of great books discussion groups for adults. The foundation of the Great Books Movement now serves as the basis for numerous home schooling programs and the Great Books Foundation provides teacher and book group leadership training in the shared inquiry method of discussion which is at the core of the program.

The Directed Studies Program at Yale University, discussed in Kronman's book, is another curriculum based upon similar principles, which seeks to promote the value of the Western Canon of Literature in helping students understand what it means to live a good life.

If anyone is interested in attending similar seminars I am sure Max Weisman from the Center would be pleased to help us get started.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project

I hope there was a good turnout for this today and that everyone had a good time while accomplishing some important work.

From mustlovespi on the SPI forum:

After a nationwide vote, America chose South Padre Island to become “barefoot friendly” this summer. This will be the last stop in the second year of the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project, a partnership between Barefoot Wine and the Surfrider Foundation to preserve America’s lake and ocean communities.

On the morning of Saturday, Aug. 23, the project's organizers will hold a dune restoration effort which helps alleviate erosion caused by both environmental and human factors, followed by a free celebration for volunteers will be held that evening at Tequila Sunset, featuring selections from Barefoot’s wine portfolio and a performance by musician Tristan Prettyman.

WHO: Barefoot Wine, flavorful and affordable wine and bubblies; South Texas Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, waves and beaches
Tristan Prettyman, singer/songwriter, surfer and former model

WHAT: The Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project, now in its second year, aims to make beaches and lakes across America “barefoot friendly.” Surfrider Foundation and community volunteers will help to restore South Padre Island’s sand dunes that have faced erosion both before and after the recent Hurricane Dolly. Afterwards, volunteers 21+ are invited to attend a celebration featuring Barefoot wines, surf-inspired treats and a live musical performance from Tristan Prettyman.

More here and here from Waiting for the Next Swell.

Sand Sculpture via sandyfeet

Friday, August 22, 2008

Literary Landmarks - Novel Destinations

One of the advantages of being a bookseller that I have eagerly anticipated is getting advance reading copies (ARC) of books before they are released to the general public or published in final form. Distribution of ARC's to booksellers and reviewers is a popular way for publishers to promote a new title. My problem will be finding time to read these copies, not to mention having time to review them.

My first ARC is a special book and will have a place of honor and distinction in Paragraphs. It is unique not only because it was the first ARC I received but because the author, Shannon McKenna Schmidt, interviewed me in February about the opening of Paragraphs and her article appeared in Shelf Awareness and was posted here.

Additionally, Novel Destinations is co-authored by Joni Rendon and it is always a surprise to see my name, using the same spelling, but referring to some other person, not me.

When I came upon the notice in Shelf Awareness that this book was being released, I sent a note of congratulations to Shannon and thus received my first Advanced Reading Copy in my new career as a bookseller.

Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West
By Shannon Mckenna Schmidt, Jodi Rendon, Matthew Pearl
Contributor Matthew Pearl
Published by National Geographic Society, 2008
ISBN 1426202776, 9781426202773
368 pages

For a reader and one who loves to travel in unconventional ways to unexpected destinations just perusing the Table of Contents provides one with a diverse selection of tableaus from which to choose, all equally enticing. Given the opportunity of visiting the homes of many of one's favorite authors the imagination is attracted to the possible beauty of "Atmospheric Literary Landscapes" or the serenity of "Contemplative Places" and then when needing a fright to stir things up we are offered a possible visit with the "Vampires, Ghosts, and Ravens".

Schmidt and Rendon then ask us to join the Chronicler of the Jazz Age (F. Scott Fitzgerald) and the Rugged Adventurer (Ernest Hemingway) as well as other well-known authors at home and abroad. Continuing on our travels, the authors take us to literary festivals and must see libraries. Finally, at the end of Part I, and after an exhausting trip through time and place, what more could we ask than to join some of the literary greats in Booked Up: Literary Places to Drink, Dine and Doze.

Part II of the book is titled Journeys Between the Pages and guides us to ten locales that have been "immortalized by famed novelists". Jane Austen's English countryside is balanced by the London as seen by Dickens. The Paris, of Hugo, in the Hunchback of Notre Dame gives way to Joyce's Dublin, made famous in Ulysses. The good old USA is not neglected as we travel the northeast where the Little Women grew up and stop by to visit The House of Seven Gables and then the pages of Steinbeck's epic novels spring to life in the Salinas Valley of California.

From the book jacket:
"Novel Destinations"--a new offering that guides bibliophiles to more than 500 literary sites across the United States and Europe. From the moody, windswept moors that inspired the Brontes to the Old Courthouse immortalized by Harper Lee, the authors create a veritable life-list of must-see sites from literary history--and tell travelers how to visit on your own. The book begins with thematic chapters covering author houses and museums; literary festivals and walking tours; and hotels, bars, and restaurants. Then, in-depth explorations of author and place take readers roaming Franz Kafka's Prague, James Joyce's Dublin, Louisa May Alcott's New England, and other locales. Peppered with great reading suggestions and little-known tales of literary gossip, "Novel Destinations" will appeal as a unique travel guide, an attractive gift book, and the ultimate browser's delight.

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indie bookstore will be chosen for you at random, and any of these stores can mail this title to you.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

C-SPAN Goes High Tech for Convention Coverage

Politics is not the focus on this blog but it is the season which comes around every four years when politics invades everything we do and so it is with my blogging. And with the Democratic National Convention being held in Denver next week it is hard to not want to be a part of the excitement. Actually, I am a political and news junkie.

I have been a fan of C-SPAN and Brian Lamb for 5 or 6 years after discovering BookTV one lazy Saturday afternoon when I was looking for something to watch as I settled down for a winter nap. I started noticing how the news coverage of what happened on the Hill was strikingly different than what actually transpired during debate or how sound bites could be used out of context to bolster any position. So I became intrigued with getting my information first hand.

My impression is that C-SPAN is always willing to take advantage of new technology. The first I heard about the new XM-To Go portable was on some C-SPAN program when Brian Lamb was announcing the roll-out of C-SPAN radio. Their coverage of the party conventions confirms what I always believed.

When I posted a twitter message about watching the Saddleback Presidential forum on C-SPAN I received a message inviting me to watch the coverage on the C-SPAN Convention Hub. I'm hooked!

From Techcrunch:

But today C-SPAN gets fairly cool with the launch of two new sites dedicated to the upcoming Democratic Convention in Denver and Republican Convention in Minneapolis. ...links for DNC08 and RNC08. Both are similarly formatted sites that incorporate citizen journalism via blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Qik into portals to cover convention and related news. They will complement the existing C-SPAN Politics.

Third party blog content from sites like Huffington Post, Instapundit, Gateway Pundit, RedState, etc. will be incorporated into the site and Twitter messages marked with hash marks #RNC08 or #DNC08 will also appear on the site (with moderation). C-SPAN employees will be given Qik cameras to record the action when not on main camera.

All in all, it’s a great effort to spice up coverage with user-generated, up-to-the-minute content. This may not make the cable channel more watchable, but political nuts will definitely want to bookmark the sites. It may have the most up to date news on the conventions.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shop Online at Indie Bookstores/Paragraphs

I have been searching for a way that my readers, on the island and off, can shop online at an independent bookstore until Paragraphs opens. Originally, I looked for a way for Paragraphs to sell books online even though the brick and mortar store would not yet be open. I couldn't really put that together but at an IndieBound workshop I found a temporary solution.

Paragraphs is now an affiliated store recognized by other independent IndieBound member bookstores. By clicking on the logo in the sidebar you will be supporting Paragraphs as well as an independent bookstore located within an area covered by the zip code you designate. Any of these stores will ship your chosen title to you and would welcome the opportunity to compete with Amazon.

Give it a try and let me know how it works. Be the first to patronize Paragraphs, even if it is in a roundabout way!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What Else Can Go Wrong?

The last couple of weeks are not ones I want to relive any time soon. Not only have they been immensely frustrating days but the time wasted is not insignificant and with the number of things needing to be done according to my detailed schedule I have felt my already mounting stress level going off the charts.

To begin with, after Paragraphs survived Hurricane Dolly, our basement in Colorado was flooded during a freak thunderstorm. Wading through the water and looking out the basement window, where the water was flowing into the basement from the flooded window well, I was reminded of an aquarium, except instead of fish we had a few surprised spiders wondering where this deluge had come from and trying to locate a piece of bark or some other saving ark.

Anyway, I spent several days understanding - admittedly on a smaller scale - and undertaking recovery efforts similar to my friends on the island. Getting rid of several inches of water, bleaching the walls and floors, tearing up water-soaked carpet and rounding up all the fans I could find, filled several days with unneeded hassle but eventually things were beginning to look up and I was ready to return to bookstore tasks.

Of course, when it goes bad it just goes bad!! When I turned on my laptop last Thursday morning, happy to be back on track and looking forward to thinking about Paragraphs, I was met with a black screen and a little blinking cursor in the corner. I had believed my days of DOS screens were over - but here it was just sitting and blinking like the old days - except I couldn't get any response, try as I might. Add to this frustration, the sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized that I had backed up a Quicken file after preparing this years taxes, but a complete backup was something I had neglected.

So I spent a day going through all the motions, trying to recover, repair, restore all to no avail. Finally, after a call to tech support, which left me in an even more agitated state, I resorted to taking my failing brain to my local independent computer guru. The diagnosis was a failed hard drive with a poor prognosis of data recovery. Now I know why this old machine had been making so much noise the last few months. But of course the constant grinding and whirring wasn't enough to prompt me to take the precaution of backing up this obviously overworked hard drive.

I did have some remaining hope - my email was safely archived on Google's server in the sky and my addresses, phone numbers, calendars, passwords and log-in information, booklists, and myriad other details were safely stored on my trusty Treo. This also meant that I was not completely shut off from the world. Until...

Saturday morning the unthinkable happened. My phone decided to crash. At this point I decided that there is something to be said for pencil and paper and I am still wondering if the advantages of technology are actually worth it, when faced with the trauma created when it refuses to cooperate.

Luckily, the guys at Action computers realized my nerves were shot, and they returned my laptop yesterday instead of the 5 days which Comp USA would have required so I am beginning the arduous task of reloading application software and determining what all I actually did lose. I have also recovered much of the data from my phone although it still seems to have a problem which may require professional help.

All in all, tomorrow should be the beginning of another day and hopefully circumstances will allow me to return to those tasks which are on my to do list. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Great Unread Books

There are numerous lists of must-read books out there. You know, the list of books that one must have read in order to be considered adequately educated, nominally cultured, or at least not to be seen as a complete moron.

Well, the gig is up - in The Telegraph:

Respectable authors made shameful confessions at Ways With Words festival; watch them below. Now it's your turn: which book are you most embarrassed to admit you have never read?

Do you have a must-read that for some reason has never made it off your To be Read list? Is there some book that when the title comes up in conversation you nod and act involved in the discussion out of pure embarrassment because you have never even so much as cracked the cover of the famous tome?

Step up and confess. I bet you aren't alone.

Center for the Study of The Great Ideas: Great Unread Books: Which classic are you ashamed to admit you have never read?

Friday, August 8, 2008

George Orwell Begins Blogging on Saturday

The Orwell Prize is delighted to announce that, to mark the 70th anniversary of the diaries, each diary entry will be published on this blog exactly seventy years after it was written, allowing you to follow Orwell’s recuperation in Morocco, his return to the UK, and his opinions on the descent of Europe into war in real time. The diaries end in 1942, three years into the conflict.

What impression of Orwell will emerge? From his domestic diaries (which start on 9th August), it may be a largely unknown Orwell, whose great curiosity is focused on plants, animals, woodwork, and – above all – how many eggs his chickens have laid. From his political diaries (from 7th September), it may be the Orwell whose political observations and critical thinking have enthralled and inspired generations since his death in 1950. Whether writing about the Spanish Civil War or sloe gin, geraniums or Germany, Orwell’s perceptive eye and rebellion against the ‘gramophone mind’ he so despised are obvious.

Orwell was a master of the English language and I, for one, will find his daily blog posts a welcome addition to each day. If you agree add the Orwell Diaries to your reader or bookmark the site. I will also keep a link to the diaries in the Everything Literary section of my sidebar.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Paragraphs is in the News

Appearing in the August 1, 2008 issue of the ABA Omnibus:
"In bookstore news:

* Paragraphs on Padre Blvd. is still under development after making it through Hurricane Dolly."

SPI - IndieBound?


I attended a workshop,this morning, sponsored by the American Bookseller's Association, telling us about all the exciting things that are happening with the new IndieBound program.

For several years, the ABA sponsored a marketing program for independent booksellers called BookSense. The idea behind BookSense was to harness the collective wisdom of member bookstores in making recommendations to readers and to have a greater influence in the publishing world.

Well, the time had come to spruce up the program and apparently as the Madison Avenue types reviewed what was happening in the marketplace, they discovered that the concept of supporting local businesses and independent retailers was a growing trend and movement. There has been a distinct shift away from and a general disenchantment with the big box and chain retailers.


So the new brand IndieBound was born. Initially this is still primarily focused on bookstores but the aim of the program is to allow other types of independent businesses to become linked-in to the program so the consumer can more easily locate and support his or her local shop or at least buy from an independent retailer.

The exciting part is the materials the ABA is making available. They are easily reproduced - they suggest we practice what we preach - at any local print shop, such as Toucan Graphics to name one. But the best part about these professionally designed marketing pieces is they can be easily modified and used as part of a town wide Buy Local - Support Your Independent Business program and did I mention they are free - at least with a membership to the ABA (and Paragraphs is an ABA member bookstore so we will have access to any and all of the materials).

Wouldn't it be great to see the Indie businesses of SPI come together and cross promote one another as part of a Buy Local campaign. It could also be expanded to include Port Isabel, and the nice part is the advertising and marketing materials are top of the line, with modern graphics, professional artwork and totally customizable and remember they are free to use.

I think this would be a wonderful way to invite tourists into our small businesses and maybe divert some attention away from the T-shirt shops. Buying from Indies is a national movement and I believe it meets the South Padre Island vision, if we can work together to take advantage of our uniqueness.

Of course, the other piece is to encourage independent businesses instead of focusing on bringing chain stores to the Island. Hopefully, as the development in the entertainment district at Amberjack's is brought online, this will be a consideration. I would really hate to see us trying to become another shopping mecca with Saks, Starbuck's, Bubba Gump's Shrimp, and Barnes and Noble, when we can have the same quality but provide a more unique experience by promoting and encouraging our own brand of specialty shops that better represent our own distinct community.


I have said it before, on the forum and on my blog, I believe that the first step in attracting repeat tourists is continuing to develop a community that we find it a joy to live and work in, and then to welcome our tourist friends by treating them as an important part of our local community. The trend for many travelers, is to find places where they feel part of the crowd and where there is a sense of local individuality - as opposed to the mega-resorts where everything is standard fare and it becomes difficult to determine whether one is in Maui or Hilton Head. I only hope we are wise enough to recognize this market instead of seeking those who prefer the "it's Monday this must be Maui" visitor who is seeking the nearest chain retailer for the perfect Coach handbag or Gucci watch.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

South Padre Island Welcomes You

From the Town of South Padre Island
South Padre Island is open to all, and its beautiful beaches and friendly faces await your arrival. Power has been restored to over 95% of the island and full power restoration is expected soon. Our beaches are clean and ready for sunbathing and sandcastle building. So feel free to put your feet in the sand, swim in the ocean or enjoy a meal.

The Town of South Padre Island welcomes you.

We welcome our tourists back to South Padre Island, but we ask you to ‘pardon our dust,’ said Mayor Robert N. Pinkerton Jr. Our warm, sandy beaches are open, and the weather’s fantastic.

We will continue with our usual Friday fireworks display, and it will be a special one, Pinkerton added. The display will symbolize South Padre’s grand re-opening and resilience after a rather difficult time. This is your Island, and we want you to enjoy it with us.

Information Please!

Griff loves the old time radio shows. Rochester's public radio station airs many of these broadcasts every night from 7:oo until midnight and I admit that after a time they became a sort of bedtime staple. Now, I often miss hearing the misadventures of Gildersleeve or the suspenseful Shadow before I drop off to sleep. But I had never heard Information, Please! until now.

We seem to enjoy testing ourselves on our knowledge of obscure facts or trivia. The long standing popularity of Jeopardy is an example. Trivial Pursuit and variations on the theme abound and the current public radio sensation, well that might be a little strong, let me say the current hit, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, has brought the traditional quiz show to radio.

But as this post from Britannica Blog, featuring a broadcast from the popular radio show, Information, Please! which aired from 1938-1948, shows, radio quiz programs have a long history.

From Britannica Blog:
Its format was novel: instead of quizzing contestants from the general public, listeners submitted questions to quiz the experts, and if they stumped the panel of resident eggheads, they won money and (for many years) a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica. The program became a cultural icon, spurring Information, Please! quiz books, card games, almanacs, film shorts, and countless editorial cartoons and satires. Anybody who was anybody wanted to appear on the show.

Its master of ceremonies was the warm and witty Clifton Fadiman, literary editor of the New Yorker magazine and a longtime member of Britannica’s Board of Editors. His amusing three-member panel of savants routinely included Franklin P. Adams, the popular newspaper columnist, Shakespeare expert, and member of the fashionable Algonquin Round Table of New York writers; John Kieran, the amazing Bronx-accented sportswriter, linguist and Latinist, botanist and bird-lover, and master reciter of Western poetry; and Oscar Levant, pianist, composer, actor, raconteur, and all-around wit. Fadiman and his brain trust would often be joined by a special guest panelist, usually a famous writer, political leader, or Hollywood star.

I particularly enjoy these shows because I am a fan of Fadiman's literary criticism. Several years ago I was introduced to the Great Books Foundation, founded by Mortimer Adler, and Fadiman was a major contributor to this effort, the goal of which was to bring a liberal education to the masses. In this broadcast from August 23, 1938, we hear Fadiman as host and special guest Percy Waxman of Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Click here to "Wake Up!"

For more old time radio broadcasts visit the Old Time Radio Network.

Thanks to Encyclopedia Britanica for links and graphics.