Friday, March 30, 2007

Judging a Book by Its Cover-

The release this week of the new dust jacket art for the seventh, and last, Harry Potter book illustrates, in a dramatic fashion, how the publishers view their different markets.

The English edition aimed at kids is dramatic and action-filled-

On the other hand, the English edition aimed at adults could be a Cold War spy thriller-

Meanwhile, the American edition seems to try to cut right down the middle and be a bit of both, but leaning heavily towards the kid's market-

It seems obvious that Bloomsbury, the English publisher, takes its' adult audience a bit more seriously than Scholastic, the American publisher. That's not a new story- the very first title in the series, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" had its' title changed by Scholastic to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", because
they thought nobody in America would buy a book with the word "Philosopher" in it.

I think I like the American cover best though. In the end, the English kid's cover is too silly, and the Engish adult cover is too chilly- so the American cover must be "just right"...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Public Service Message

The Warning Signs Of Insanity

Your friends tell you that you have been acting strange lately. You discuss the subject seriously with them for several minutes, and then hit them with a sledgehammer.

Everyone you meet appears to have tentacles growing out of places that you wouldn't expect tentacles to be growing from.

You start out each morning with a 30-minute jog around the bathroom.

You write to your mother in Germany every week, even though she sends you mail from Iowa asking why you never write.

You don't pay any attention to street signs, because "they" probably switched them around to confuse you.

You wear your boxers on your head because you heard it will ward of evil dandruff spirits.

You're always having to apologize to your next door neighbor for setting fire to his lawn decorations.

People stay away from you whenever they hear you howl.

Nobody listens to you anymore, because they can't understand you through that scuba mask.

You begin to stop and consider all of the blades of grass you've stepped on as a child, and worry that their ancestors are going to one day seek revenge.

You constantly argue about politics -with your toaster.

You bronzed your collection of dead windowsill flies.

Everytime the phone rings, you shout, "Hey! An angel just got its wings!"

You like cats. Especially with mayo.

You scream "I've got a knife!" to people who try to sell you things.

You scream "I've got a knife!" to people at your family reunion.

You cry at the end of every episode of Gilligan's Island, because they weren't rescued.

You put tennis balls in the microwave to see if they'll hatch.

Whenever you listen to the radio, the music sounds backwards.

You have a pathalogical fear of fabric softener.

You wake up each morning and find yourself sitting on your head in the middle of your front lawn.

Your dentist asks you why each individual tooth has your name etched on it, and you tell him it's for security reasons.

When the waiter asks for your order, you ask to go into another room to tell him, because "the napkins have ears."

You tend to agree with everything your mother's dead uncle tells you.

You call up random people and ask if you can borrow their dog, just for a few minutes.

You like to sit in cornfields for prolonged periods of time, and pretend that you're a stalk.

You believe every single word that Dick Cheney and Ann Coulter say.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday, Monday-

A grey Monday morning here at Foggygates. Grey, misty Monday mornings make one reluctant to even leave the house. But as I sip my morning tea I'm reminded that some folk's Monday morning commutes are rougher than others. Also that, although I like a good bike ride as much as anyone, gearheads are just a little odd-

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Religious Tolerance-

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I immediately ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!"

"Why shouldn't I?" he said.

I replied, "Well, there's so much to live for!"

"Like what?"

"Well ... are you religious or atheist?"


"Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?"


"Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"


"So am I! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"


"Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist
Church of the Lord?"

"Baptist Church of God."

"As am I! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

"Reformed Baptist Church of God."

"Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?"

"Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"

To which I cried, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It's Friday!!!

And wherever you are, and whatever you're doing, the staff at Mutterings of a Mad Bookseller wants to remind you- it's never a bad time for a beer!

- - -

From ABC News this morning-

Forget rubber chicken dinners and boring ballroom events. Thursday night, Bill Clinton showed up at Soul Cycle, a new club in New York's tony upper west side neighborhood, for a spinning class turned fundraiser for his wife's campaign for the White House. About 45 people (the majority of them women) paid $2300 for the chance to sit on a stationary bike and meet the former president of the United States.

"He sort of wandered through the bikes in our small studio," said owner Julie Rice, "brushing up against handlebars and greeted everyone personally, which I think was one of the main reasons that this was so special. It was such a small setting."

Clinton told stories and took questions for more than half an hour. Spinning classes at Soul Cycle normally cost about $25. But for this special class spinners paid $2300 apiece and they never even got to see Clinton sweat. He showed up in a suit and told the class he had already worked out earlier in the day.

They weren't disappointed. Asked if they would've liked to have seen President Clinton on a bike, two donors giggled: "No, definitely not."

So let me get this straight- they found women who were willing to pay thousands of dollars to dress up in Spandex and "spin" for Bill Clinton?

- - -

According to the Associated Press-

DETROIT -- A first-term congressman from Michigan who compared parts of Iraq to Detroit and Harvey, Ill., an economically depressed Chicago suburb, defended the comments Thursday. Rep. Tim Walberg said those were just two examples of communities where safety and city services are comparable to 80 percent to 85 percent of Iraq.

Walberg, a Republican, said on Detroit radio station WJR-AM that U.S. troops in Iraq tell him the military is succeeding. "People are walking around communities (in Iraq) as safe as they are walking around _ at the very least _ in Detroit and Chicago and other places," he said.

Walberg made similar comments Monday on a Lansing radio show, drawing criticism from Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's office and Harvey Mayor Eric J. Kellogg.

So Rep. Walberg is volunteering to go on a walking tour of Iraq someday soon? Hey, I think it's a great idea. I'll contribute to a fund to buy him a plane ticket.

- - -

And now that Spring is here, I wanted to go out and buy a new grill...

eBay bans Manny Ramirez grill

You can't ever say that Boston Red Sox fans aren't enthusiastic. A gas grill, reportedly listed by Manny Ramirez, has been removed from online auction site eBay Inc. after bids spiked to nearly $100 million. Originally purchased for about $4,000 and used once, according to the Red Sox slugger's testimony, the minimum bid of $3,000 was registered shortly after 1:00 p.m. Tuesday. By midnight, the offers were out of control.

While the site offered no explanation for the listing's removal, other parts of the eBay web site warn that items may be taken down if thought to violate eBay policies. The listing had featured seven pictures of the Jenn-Air grill, two with Ramirez in the shot.

When asked by the Associated Press why he was helping sell the grill (later discovered to belong to a neighbor), the ballplayer with the $160 million contract joked "I need the money." He also promised an autographed baseball for the winning bidder.

Everyone here in Boston loves Manny. I mean, how could you not? Manny's just so, so Manny!

Play Ball!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Well, there may still be a foot of snow on the ground, and it may have been 6 degrees last night (which is like what? -105 for you celsius folks?), but today is the first day of Spring!

In celebration, Amy and I will do what we always do- dress up in our Traditional Spring Festive Garb (which looks remarkably like what we wear every day, but I assure you, it's really quite different- every Spring I change to new socks) call our nieces on the telephone, and sing, in unison, our favorite Spring Song (courtesy of The Master, Tom Leher) ...

Spring is here, Spring is here!
Life is skittles and life is beer!
I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring.
I do, don't you? 'Course you do.
But there's one thing that makes spring complete for me,
And makes every Sunday a treat for me.

All the world seems in tune
On a spring afternoon,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.
Every Sunday you'll see
My sweetheart and me,
As we poison the pigeons in the park.

When they see us coming,
the birdies all try an' hide,
But they still go for peanuts,
when coated with cyanide.
The sun's shining bright,
Everything seems all right,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.

We've gained notoriety,
And caused much anxiety
In the Audubon Society
With our games.
They call it impiety
And lack of propriety,
And quite a variety
Of unpleasant names.
But it's not against any religion-
To want to dispose of a pigeon.

So if Sunday you're free,
Why don't you come with me,
And we'll poison the pigeons in the park.
And maybe we'll do
In a squirrel or two,
While we're poisoning pigeons in the park.

We'll murder them all amid laughter and merriment,
Except for the few we take home to experiment.
My pulse will be quickenin'
With each drop of strych'nine
We feed to a pigeon.
(It just takes a smidgin!)
To poison a pigeon in the park.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Grave Matters-

The old saying is that you're not supposed to whistle in a graveyard, but the Book Elves were never ones for old sayings, even though whenever they whistle the Colonel Bogey March in unison every dog in the neighborhood starts howling.

They haven't been whistling in graveyards though, ever since last Halloween when they had a little too much hard cider and were using a shortcut through the town's 17th century burial ground, where old Len Anderson and his boy scout troop were waiting for them, hiding behind the gravestones with sheets and plastic pumpkins with those glowing red eyes...

But after they recovered from doing the 500-yard dash home in 17.6 seconds flat (and got even with Len at Christmas by putting live squirrels in his Christmas tree) they finished a new edition of our 'GRAVE MATTERS' newsletter, featuring recent acquisitions since our last GRAVE AFFAIR catalog. This issue includes books and other materials on mourning, graveyards, epitaphs and related subjects. We have printed copies available, or you can browse a fully-illustrated version on our website.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday, Monday...

It's Monday again, time to dust off the weekend cobwebs and get back to work. Of all the commuting days, Monday must be the worst. Here's an image from our "There's no way I'm carpooling with him! I think I'll just walk, thank you" file-

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Éireann go Brách

Information from the County Mayo site-

The "Kilkelly Ireland Song" now a famous ballad, draws its inspiration from a series of ten surviving letters written on behalf of Byran and Elizabeth Hunt by the local school master to their emigrant son in America. John Hunt emigrated to the States in 1855 and the letters written to him by his parents were re-discovered in an attic in Bethesda Maryland by his American descendants. Some 120 years after they were written, Peter Jones a great, great grandson of John Hunt, composed the ballad based on the contents of the letters.

- - -

Kilkelly, Ireland,
eighteen and sixty,
My dear and loving Son, John,
Your friend, schoolmaster Pat McNamara,
so good as to write these words down.
Your brothers have all gone to find work in England,
the house is so empty inside.
The crop of potatoes is sorely infected,
a third to a half of them bad.
And your sister Bridget and Patrick O'Donell
are going to be married in June.
Your mother says not to work on the railroad,
and be sure to come on home soon.

Kilkelly, Ireland,
eighteen and seventy,
my dear and loving Son, John,
hello to your missus and to your four children,
may they grow healthy and strong.
Michael has got in a wee bit of trouble,
I suppose that he never will learn.
Because of the dampness there's no turf to speak of,
and now we have nothing to burn.
Bridget is happy you named a child for her,
although she's got six of her own.
You say you found work but you don't say what kind,
or when you'll be coming home.

Kilkelly, Ireland,
eighteen and eighty,
Dear Michael and John, my sons,
I'm sorry to give you the very sad news
that your dear old mother has gone.
We buried her down at the church in Kilkelly,
your brothers and Bridget were there.
You don't have to worry, she died very quickly.
Remember her in your prayers.
And it's so good to hear that Michael's returning,
with money he's sure to buy land.
For the crop has been poor, and the people are selling,
at any price that they can.

Kilkelly, Ireland,
eighteen and ninety,
My dear and loving Son, John,
I suppose I must be close on eighty,
it's thirty years since you gone.
Because of all of the money you sent me
I'm still living out on my own.
Michael has built himself a fine house,
and Bridget's daughters are grown.
Thank you for sending your family picture,
they're lovely young women and men.
You say you might even come for a visit,
what joy to see you again!

Kilkelly, Ireland,
eighteen and ninety-two,
My dear brother, John,
I'm sorry I didn't write sooner to tell you
that Father passed on.
He was living with Bridget,
she says he was cheerful
and healthy right down to the end.
Oh, you should have seen him playing with grandchildren
of Pat McNamara, your friend.
And we buried him alongside of Mother,
down at Kilkelly churchyard.
He was a strong and a feisty old man,
considering his life was so hard.
And it's funny the way he kept talking about you,
he called for you at the end.
Oh, why don't you think about coming to visit?
We'd all love to see you again.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Catalyst has been posting about Spring in Arizona the past few days.

Although we still have some snow on the ground here, I was getting into it. This past Sunday we moved forward an hour and it's light until almost dinner time now; on Tuesday it was 70 degrees and we sat on the porch and sipped cold lemonade. The birds out at the feeder are getting into that "Spring Fling" frenzy.

Everything was going fine. I was ready for Spring!

And now, tonight, we are having one last blizzard.

It's been snowing since noontime, temps are in the 20s, and we are expecting about a foot and a half of snow, sleet and freezing rain before it all ends, sometime tomorrow afternoon.

I'm sorry, but - WTF???

Where did my Global Warming go????

This was not in the game plan on Tuesday.

Ike (my wife's horse) is quartered at a farm only about a mile and a half away, but we both drove over this evening to water and blanket him, because Amy was worried about getting the car in and out of the drive, and she was right. It's a long, dirt drive, and it has become very muddy and rutted with all the warm weather, and now that has all frozen at the surface, but with mud underneath and about 6 inches of snow and ice on top.

For a few minutes on the way out I thought we'd be walking home.

It's not like we have much to complain about, really- we both work here at home so we were not among the thousands of commuters who got stuck on the clogged roads this evening, and we have nowehere to go this weekend, except a St. Patrick's evening dinner tomorrow night at a friend's house, so it's not like I'm being incredibly inconvenienced.

But still...

Where the Hell did Spring Go????

Here's a picture of Ike, in better weather. Isn't he cute?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Speaking of showering...

Joey Polanski was writing of showers yesterday, which led me to remember a certain book cover, which led to, well...

Once upon a shower weary,
As Sue pondered, wet and dreary,
Over many an office jerk,
She resolutely did deplore.

As in the steam cloud she was napping,
Then there came a gentle tapping,
Tapping, tapping, a gentle tapping,
She heard at her shower door.

“Bob”, said she, “I’m in the shower,
And if you’ll give me just an hour,
I’ll be ready, really ready,
To face the party that’s next door.”

But still Bob continued tapping,
It was really more a rapping,
“Sue, we’re late!” cried Bob,
“Stop napping!
And open up the shower door!”

Sue turned off the shower water,
Just this once, she thought, “no quarter”,
So she opened wide the door-
And shut Bob up, forever more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fishing, S'mores & Chocolate... Why?

I think I have a bridge to sell these good folks...

Colorado Has Song in Its Heart, and Not Drugs on Its Mind
New York Times: March 14, 2007

DENVER, March 13 — The Colorado General Assembly wants to be quite clear on this point: When the singer-songwriter John Denver praised the joys of Colorado and sang about “friends around the campfire, and everybody’s high,” in 1972, he was not referring to illicit drugs. Definitely not. Don’t even think it. The high in question, lawmakers say, is really about nature and the great outdoors — the tingly feeling you get after a nice hike, perhaps.

“A high is medically the releasing of endorphins in the brain — yes, drugs cause it, but so do lots of other things,” said State Senator Bob Hagedorn, a Democrat from the suburbs of Denver who successfully led the drive on Monday to make Mr. Denver’s anthem “Rocky Mountain High” Colorado’s second state song. The tune will have joint status with “Where the Columbines Grow,” which pretty much everyone agrees is about flowers.

“We could be talking about guys who’ve been fishing all day, or kids pigging out on s’mores, with the chocolate,” Senator Hagedorn said, referring to other endorphin-producing activities. “If I thought there was anything in that song about the use of drugs or encouraging the use of drugs, I would never have run the resolution.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The Reverend and some others have been writing about science lately, which made me think of this classic letter. It's been around the internet for a few years so some of you may have read it already, but I always get a chuckle out of it.

- - -

Smithsonian Institute
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078

Dear Mr. Williams:

Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled "93211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post...Hominid skull."

We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago.

Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety that one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be "Malibu Barbie."

It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:

1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.

2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-homonids.

3. The dentition pattern evident on the skull is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time.

This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:

A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.

B. Clams don't have teeth.

It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon-dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon-dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon-dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results.

Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name Australopithecus spiff-arino.

Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't really sound like it might be Latin.

However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a Hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your Newport back yard.

We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.

Yours in Science,

Harvey Rowe
Chief Curator- Antiquities

Monday, March 12, 2007

Monday, Monday...

Today we are featuring a return of our once-popular Monday, Monday feature, a reminder to our office-bound comrades that, no matter how crappy your job is, there are people out there who have it worse...

Speaking of crappy work- according to news reports today, Mayan priests at a sacred Iximche archaeological site in Guatemala are going to have to cleanse the site to restore its' "peace and harmony" after The Decider's visit today.

On the other hand, you could be the CEO of Dick Cheney's company Halliburton, and be moving to the completely tax-free, Riviera-of-the-Middle East country of Dubai, just in time to be out of the United States when they start those pesky Congressional hearings into overcharges and fraud in Iraq Reconstruction contracts.

Surf's up!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Last Deathly Grip of Winter-

Somebody stole an hour's worth of sleep from me last night, but that's ok, because I was about done with Winter anyway. I'm not big into wintertime sports, and I very much do not ski. My one experience skiing was about 20 years ago when a "friend" who was also a ski instructor decided that the quickest way to teach me was to strap a pair of skis on my feet, drag me to the top of a local mountain only slightly smaller than the Matterhorn, point me down over the edge of a 80-degree downhill slope and push me off.

Well, perhaps I exaggerate a bit. But I'm no fan of heights, and it looked to me as if we were high enough up to be in danger of getting whacked by a passing Space Shuttle. And then there was my question of "once you get going, how do you stop?" to which my helpful friend replied that usually you hit something.

I have not been near a ski slope since. My wife used to cross-country ski, and if we had had snow for more than a few weeks this year I might have tried it. Maybe next year. But downhill skiing, no way. While I was frantically tobaggoning down that slope on my keister those many years ago, I thought I saw Death ski past me, and I know he's still out there on a slope someplace, lurking...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Too Much Book-Larning is a Dangerous Thing-


I’ve done a little research,
I just had to take a look,
Beyond the jacket blurbings,
Of this used hardcover book.

I want to share my keen excitement!
I want to share insightful views!
I want to tell prospective buyers,
Why this book’s the latest news!

Then I found one minor problem;
I discovered as I read,
That it seems, every so often,
Some things are better left... unsaid.

What to add, and what to leave out,
And with my customers be square?
I don’t want to be evasive-
But should I (for instance) share-

That the author was a drunkard?
That the author was a bum?
That he liked to catch live sparrows,
And then pickle them in rum?

That he took his neighbor Kelso,
And his auntie from up north,
And served them both as Bar-b-que
Just last July the fourth?

That the “facts” with which the author
Made his point and raked in loot,
Are, as I write, the subject of
a defamation suit?

That the drawings are just ghastly?
That the photographs are worse?
And on the title (in purple marker)
Someone’s penned an obscene verse?

That the whole book looks quite moldy?
And it appears at some past time,
That someone used it as a coaster,
For a glass or two of slime?

That the grammar is atrocious?
That the text block smells of pee?
That after holding it ten seconds,
I get odd throbbings in my knee?

That the publisher’s a Klansman?
That the covers both are gone?
And that there are nine-hundred copies,
For sale on Amazon.com?

While I yearn for full disclosure,
Too much info makes some vexed;
It might be better if I just write-
Used copy - classic text”.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Banning Makes the World Go Round...

Everybody sing- Banning Makes the World go Round, the World Go Round, the World Go Round- Banning Makes the World Go Round, It Makes the World Go Round!

Hamas bans Palestinian book

By Mohammed Daraghmeh and Dalia Nammari
Associated Press | March 6, 2007

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The Hamas-run Education Ministry has ordered an anthology of Palestinian folk tales pulled from school libraries, reportedly over mild sexual innuendo, the most direct attempt by the Islamic militants to impose their beliefs on Palestinian society.

The book ban angered and worried many Palestinians, who have feared that Hamas would use its victory in last year's election to remake the Palestinian territories according to its hard-line interpretation of Islam.

The 400-page anthology of 45 folk tales narrated by Palestinian women was first published in English in 1989 by the University of California at Berkeley. It was put together by Sharif Kanaana, a novelist and anthropology professor at the West Bank's Bir Zeit University, and by Ibrahim Muhawi, a teacher of Arabic literature and the theory of translation.

Kanaana said yesterday he believes "The Little Bird," a story in a chapter titled "Sexual Awakening and Courtship," was among reasons the book was banned because it mentions private parts. In their notes, the authors say that the bird in the story is a symbol of femininity and that sexual subjects are a principal source of humor in Palestinian folklore.

West Bank novelist Zakariya Mohammed said he feared Hamas's decision to ban the book "Speak Bird, Speak Again" was only the beginning and urged intellectuals to act. "If we don't stand up to the Islamists now, they won't stop confiscating books, songs, and folklore," he said.

Education Minister Nasser Shaer confirmed that the ministry ordered the book pulled from the school libraries, saying it is "full of clear sexual expressions."

However, Shaer denied the books were destroyed.

A senior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the issue with reporters, said 1,500 copies of the book had been pulled from school libraries and destroyed.

Hanan Ashrawi, an independent lawmaker and former Cabinet minister, said the decision to pull the book was "outrageous."

"If this is what is to come, it is extremely alarming," she said.

With Hamas slated to retain the Education Ministry under a power-sharing agreement with the more secular Fatah Party, Ashrawi called for creation of an independent body to deal with arts and education.

"Education and culture and social issues should not be handled by anybody that has a closed, ideological, doctrinal attitude," she said. "It should be in the hands of professionals."

Since taking office last year, Hamas, which advocates an Islamic Palestinian state, has largely shied away from trying to force its mores on Palestinian society. Some analysts speculated the group was too busy trying to deal with international sanctions and keep its government from collapsing to focus on banning alcohol or other similar measures.

However, in recent months Hamas-controlled ministries have begun forcing women to put on head scarves to enter. And two years ago, Hamas officials in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya sparked fears of a culture crackdown by banning a local music festival, saying the mingling of men and women at
such an event was forbidden by Islam.

In a letter sent to the Nablus school district last month, the Education Ministry said "Speak Bird, Speak Again" must be removed within a week. The letter did not explain why the book was considered objectionable.

Excerpts of the letter were read to the Associated Press by a Nablus school official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The book was first published in English. A French version, published by UNESCO, followed in 1997, and an Arabic edition in 2001, said Kanaana, who lives in Ramallah. After the Arabic edition was published, the Palestinian Culture Ministry requested 3,000 copies and had them distributed in schools, Kanaana said.

Kanaana said another of the 45 tales also contained what some might consider vague sexual innuendo . "This is our heritage; this is our life," he said of the stories.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Happy Fun Things!

I know every generation thinks that the next generation is going to Hell in a handbasket, but this time it's true. Just look at kids today- coddled and shielded from the Realities of Life.

Now back in the 50s (which is a bit before my time, but it's close enough for horseshoes) kids dealt with Reality, and it was FUN, DAMMIT.

Take, for instance, everyone's favorite 50s kids, the Happy Hollisters. Ok, ok, I didn't read them either, I was a Hardy Boys kids, but that's not the point. The point is that sports-loving Pete, peppy Pam, lanky Ricky, tomboy Holly, rompy Sue and their little dog Global Annihilati-, um, "White Nose", really knew how to have a Good Time-

Remember boys and girls- like Ronny Reagan said- Missiles are Happy Fun Things!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

30,000 Gallons of Green, Vegetable-Based Food Dye...

It’s going to be Saint Patrick’s Day soon, and since it involves food and beer, it’s one of the Book Elves favorite holidays. They’ve always thrown a big party to celebrate, but after last year’s “mishap”, and the ensuing court costs, they decided to do a dry run a few weeks ahead of time this year.

Now here’s the thing- it’s never a good idea to pair the phrases “Book Elves’ party preparations” and “30,000 gallons of green, vegetable-based food coloring”, especially if you live within a quarter mile of the Connecticut River...

But before the squadron of helicopters from the EPA Rapid Response SWAT Team descended and started fingerprinting everyone, the Book Elves finished this new catalog of books-

"RECENT ACQUISITIONS for March, 2007" is now available on our website or in printed format. It features 201 books and catalogs on furniture, silver, ceramics, glass, textiles, art, architecture and related fields, with highlights including-

-A nice 1782 book of decorative cyphers for silversmiths & engravers.

-Several important 19th century color books by George Field.

-A lovely Victorian facsimile of a 1677 London Merchant directory.

-A 1698 catalog of ancient Egyptian amulets.

-A 1750 poem about raising silkworms, with a marvelous engraved frontispiece.

-An important 1837 book of designs for gate houses and lodges, owned by a founder of the Boston Society of Arts & Crafts (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's nephew!).

-An uncommon 1862 collection of Renaissance silver designs.

-A fascinating and detailed 1840s survey of trades and manufactures in Britain.

-and much, much more!

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This month's catalog also has a special feature on fakes, forgeries and frauds, a topic which has always fascinated me.

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We’ve finally begun to get some Winter weather here at Foggygates, with several snow storms in the last three weeks. As soon as it gets cold enough for the local bears to start hibernating, we put bird feeders out in the side yard and by the back deck. (We know it’s time to take them away in the Spring when we find one of the pole feeders flattened and ripped up by the bear, but that’s another story).

At this time of year we have a huge crowd of birds at the feeders, from early in the morning until dusk. But the three pairs of cardinals, several woodpeckers, bunches of wrens, finches, doves and other assorted little birds (plus half a dozen fat squirrels) are now being joined on a regular basis by a young red-tailed hawk. He first showed up a week or so ago, sitting in the tall tree behind the carriage house, and has lately taken to sitting on the railing of the deck, or in the small fruit tree we hang the feeders on just beside it. I am afraid he may not be here for the seeds...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Geeky Monday-

Back when I was in Middle School (6th-8th grade) I was one of those science fiction geeks. I still like sci-fi, I just don't have a lot of time to read it these days. But back then my friends and I were all into it- Arthur C. Clarke was our favorite, along with Asimov, Heinlein, you know, all the greats. We also watched Space 1999 and the old, original Star Trek shows on the uhf channels. And then there was the immortal "Science Fiction Book Club"...

In Concord, our middle school offered something called "mini-courses", a period when teachers could teach about something they enjoyed- gardening, chess, yoga, the Civil War, whatever. The "mini-courses" lasted a marking quarter, and a period was set aside for them at the same time each day, four days a week. Most courses were held either once or twice a week, so you signed up for several different mini-courses each quarter.

One quarter my friend Marc and I persuaded Mrs. Lewis, our 7th grade English teacher, to sponsor us to hold our own mini-course, called the "Science-Fiction Book Club". We arranged to use our Social Studies teacher's room to meet. The only problem was that we did all this after the printer's deadline for the booklet which described the upcoming mini-courses, so "Science Fiction Book Club" was not listed in it. Our course was announced, with several other late-comers, during morning announcememts for several days before sign-up.

When sign-up time came around, Mrs. Lewis's whole room filled up, and the she got up and said-

"We have two courses to sign up for here today. Everyone who is here to sign up for my "Word Games" course, please stay where you are. Everyone signing up for the "Science Fiction Book Club", please go over and sit at the table with Marc and Forrest."

And everybody looked over at us...

and nobody moved.

Actually, it all worked out fine. We had an entire room to ourselves for two periods a week for the whole quarter, and we both signed each other off as having "passed" the course the first day, so we just sat there and read Asimov and Clarke the whole time.

But I'll never forget that entire classroom of our schoolmates, mostly girls, looking over at us as we sat, alone at our table that afternoon. Bugs under microscopes have my profound sympathy...

I remembered that incident when I was unpacking a box of books yesterday and ran across a 1950s Sci-Fi magazine cover which expresses every Middle School Sci-Fi geeks real dream-

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gimme That Old Time Religion-

A new monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to help the other monks in copying the old texts by hand. He notices, however, that they are copying from copies, not the original manuscripts. So, the new monk goes to the head monk to ask him about this, pointing out that if there were an error in the first copy, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The head monk says, "We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son."

So, the head monk goes down into the cellar with one of the copies to check it against the original. Hours go by and nobody sees him.

Finally, one of the monks goes downstairs to look for him. Hearing sobbing coming from the back of the cellar, he finds the old monk leaning over one of the original books crying. He asks the old monk what's wrong.

In a choked voice came the reply-

"The word is celebrate."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Beam Me Up, Scotty. They're Done Down Here-

Isn't it sweet when the High Moralists start getting all hot and bothered?

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Livingston Daily Press and Argus

The office of U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy has forwarded a complaint about inappropriate books assigned to Howell High School students to the FBI, a spokeswoman for Murphy said. Gina Bilaya said that while the referral is routine, it also indicates that Murphy is taking the complaint seriously.

Vicki Fyke of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education made the complaint, alleging that assignments of books by Richard Wright, Pulitzer winner Toni Morrison and Kurt Vonnegut violate laws against distribution of pornography to minors because they contain depictions of sex and rape, and obscene language. "The Freedom Writers Diary" by Erin Gruwell is also named by Fyke.

Fyke's complaint also went to county prosecutor David Morse and Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. Morse said he is finishing reading the books and hopes to have a decision by Monday.

Morse said one of the main issues is whether or not the books meet the legal definition of pornography, which includes books that only appeal to readers' prurient interest in sex, and have no literary or educational value. He said the books must be considered as a whole to make that determination, which is why he wants to finish reading them first.

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OK, on the one hand, one is tempted to say, well, at least he's reading them. But "taking the complain seriously"? Richard Wright? Kurt Vonnegut? Toni Morrison?

Are we on Candid Camera?

These are not pornographic authors -end of discussion. Or it should be. You may disagree with their politics, but there is not any question of their legitimacy as serious authors, under the letter of the law, which is where the U.S. Attorney should be operating. But instead the U.S. Attorney turned the case over to the FBI, as if the FBI has nothing at all better to do than try and figure out if Toni Morrison is a serious author. But that's not all- U.S. Attorney Murphy, who apparently thinks the FBI's time is best spent deciding whether Richard Wright writes "smut" or not, has been nominated by the President for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals.

That will make me sleep better tonight.

Is That a Rocket in Your Pocket?

Dr. Seuss hailed from our own Springfield, Massachusetts, and it's his birthday, so there have been a number of articles in the papers about his career and his books. Most of his books were quite popular, and those are the ones they talk about because hey, nobody wants to talk about failure, eh? But there were some Dr. Seuss books that didn't sell very well, and so I wanted to take a moment to share a few of those titles from my own collection of-

"Dr. Seuss Books That Never Made It"

Horton Hires a Ho.

Who Shat on Pat?

Son of Sam I am.

The Cat in the Blender.

The Fox in Socks and the Garter Belt.

Popping Caps on Mulberry Street.

The Cat in the Hat's Obscene Limerick Book.

Bartholmew Cubbins Gets a Restraining Order.

Green Eggs that Glow.

Oh, the Places You'll Sniff!

One Fish, Two Fish, Red fish, and Mommy's microwave.

Yertle the Turtle and the Tractor Trailer.

Dr. Seuss's Methamphetamine Book.

The Little Snitch Who Squealed.

The Lorax Gets Sent to Gitmo.

Are You My Parole Officer?

How the Grinch and the Secular Humanist Democrat Congress Stole Christmas.

Pop Goes Postal.