Archive for November, 2009

Library Heaven in Columbus, GA

November 28, 2009

I recently spoke in Columbus Georgia. Columbus is a town that clearly struggles with harsh economic times. Everywhere you can see boarded up abandoned buildings. And yet there is  positive spirit there in the face of economic woes. The first thing that struck me was he performing arts center in a downtown area in the midst of renewal. A grand an inviting structure. But nothing could prepare me for the library.

Historically a library is the grand salon of a community. A comfortable place for  people to gather, to study, to read, to enlighten themselves. The Columbus Central library is the benchmark of what a modern library should be. Vast comfortable spaces dozens of public computers. Light streaming in from huge windows. I could live in this library.  There is huge support in the community for the arts and for the library System; things that transcend the here-and-now and look to the future.

I think to my home state of California, where libraries – particularly school libraries are severely underfunded and in some cases even shutting down.  The health of a community  can be judged not by it’s wealth but by how it chooses to spend it’s resources. By investing in it’s libraries, Columbus has invested in it’s future. It’s good to see a community with it’s heart and priorities in the right place.

Banding Together…

November 14, 2009

I attended a surreal concert on Halloween (is there any other). The band was Dead Mans Party — an Oingo Boingo tribute band. They were pretty good. But what made it surreal was the opening act. A guy called Elviss Simmons. He was a fat Elvis personator in KISS make up.elviss
He sang KISS songs the way Elvis would have, and Elvis songs the way KISS would have. Very bizarre.

But then I started thinking why stop there?  There are so many performers and bands out there it would be much more efficient if they could be genetically combined. So I’ve put
together a sample list for you:

Black sABBAth. Featuring the musical stylings of Ozzie Osbjörn.
“You can dance, you can jive… and bite off the head of a bat…”

And considering the fact that geography is being cut from most high school curriculums, why not combine all those geographical bands into Bosto-Chicag-Alabam-Kansa-Berlin?

For those of you who like abbreviations, R.E.M.E.L.O.
(“That’s me in the corner, losing my Evil Woman…”)

And isn’t it about time we combined hip-hop with 80’s pop by creating Soulja Boy George?

Eminem Mraz?  Because most candy is made by that company anyway.

Oingo Bono.
“It’s a deadman party ,who could ask for more?
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

Nickelbackstreet Boys. ‘Nuff said.

Performing for Thanksgiving we have The Cranberry-Byrds.

For some latin flavor tastefully blended with a fine female songstress, we have Medudodido.

And last, but not least, we have the dark, brooding, yet fashionably neurotic sounds of  Jim Morrisette.

(This is the end. Isn’t it ironic?)

EVERWILD – the first review is in!

November 3, 2009

everwild final coverHi, everyone!  Here’s the first review of  Everwild, due out on November 10th!  KIRKUS is one of the toughest review journals, so this kind of praise from them is a fine thing indeed!!

EVERWILD –Kirkus Reviews

Everlost is where children go when they die, if they miss their chance to go into the light or are just not ready to transition into the hereafter. It’s a world between, where lost souls search for safety, for permanence or just a feeling of belonging (not unlike real life). Mary seeks to trap children there forever as her loyal—but unwitting—followers. Nick, the Chocolate Ogre, has already discovered how to send these lost souls into the light and is determined to fight Mary before he turns completely into a chocolate statue. Allie can move back to the real world by hijacking the body of a living being, but she can’t move on into the light, even if she wanted to. In this sequel to Everlost (2006), Shusterman has once again created a world that is beautiful and imaginative yet increasingly eerie and grim. Each character grows, developing new aspects of their personality and finding out just how far they’ll go to achieve their aims, whether anyone else likes it or not. Everlost is turning into Everwild, right before readers’ eyes. A fascinating read penned by an expert hand.

Oooh – I love that last line! 🙂

Dead and Breakfast…

November 1, 2009

I spent two nights in the Haunted Mansion last month.  No, really.  It was bizarre.  When I travel, I usually just go in for a Marriott, or Comfort Suites — you know the typical, predictable hotels that are so uniform, I can’t remember what city I’m in when I wake up in the morning.haunted hotel4 But every once in a while, I’ll go for a bed-and-breakfast. Especially when I’m someplace picturesque and rural.  I’ve come across some of the coolest B&Bs around the US.  The Cobblestone Manor in Rochester Michigan, the Bonnynook inn Waxahachie, Texas.  And then there’s the Evergreen in Anderson, South Carolina.

Okay, to be fair, the Evergreen WOULD have been one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed.  It’s a pair of old plantation homes renovated to perfection.  Charming, elegant, all that.  Except for one thing.

I was the only soul on the entire property.

I arrived at night, and thought it was odd when I pulled into the isolated parking lot, that my dinky little Ford Focus rent-a-car was the only vehicle in the lot.  I had received an e-mail from the innkeeper telling me the combination to the back door.  But which back door?  On which building.  It was raining, it was dark, and I had to to circle two buildings that each had half a dozen doors to find the one that had a combination to get in.  As I was checking the doors, I started to consider that if I was attacked by oh, say, an escaped lunatic, my body might lay there on the back porch for days until I was discovered.

Once inside, there was a credit card slip and an envelope  (I gave my credit card over the phone).  And then I found my room.

haunted hotel2 You know the eight-sided room they put you in when you go into the Haunted Mansion?  The one that slowly stretches and ends with a skeleton hanging from the rafters?  This was room.   Creepy wallpaper, creepier chandelier.  The room was labeled  “The Library.”  As if it wasn’t creepy enough, for some reason the room had a door to the outside that remained locked, but shook every time the wind blew, as if some lost spirit were trying to find a way in.   I went upstairs to check out the rest of the place.  While the downstairs resembed the Haunted Mansion, the upstairs was more reminiscent of “The Shining.”   I dared myself to go into one of the dark bathrooms and pull back the shower curtain, half expecting to see a Stephen King-esque  rotting corpse.  I read the Shining when I was in 8th Grade.  I still remember the number of the room.  Room 217.  In the movie, for some reason they chaned it to 237, but for me it will always be room 217.  Whenever I travel, and end up with a hotel room that’s #217, I always have to take a moment to calm the inner child.

Back down to “The Library,”  Where Professor Plum killed Coronel Mustard with the candlestick.  The lights in my room had dimmers, but when I dimmed them, the place REEEEALLLY looked like the Haunted Mansion. So I slept with the lights on.haunted hotel1

I left early for  a school visit to Starr Iva Middle school.  Breakfast had been mysteriously left in the Evergreen’s refrigerator for me.  Fruit and two muffins.

When I arrived back at the Evergreen in the afternoon, there was a car in the parking lot!  At last a real live human!  I took a quick shower and went out to introduce myself to the person I assumed was the innkeeper.  But when I got out of the shower, the car was gone.  And there were two muffins and fruit left in the refrigerator.

I managed to sleep with only the bathroom light on that night, but every time that door to the outside rattled, I woke up.  I left in the morning, downing my muffins and fruit.  I never did see another soul on the entire property.  At least not a living one.   I did sign the guest book, though.  I wrote, in finest Jack Nicholson fashion, “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy all work and no play makes jack a dull boy all work and no play makes jack a dull boy.”   Next time, I think I’ll stay at the Marriott, where the only REDRUM is in the lobby bar.