It’s all about the costumes (and the candy)

Not too many costumes today because almost everyone I work with is LAME and did not dress up. I did. I got mad compliments. Point: If you don’t dress up you don’t get any compliments.

But this post isn’t about my costume because my costume was exactly the same as my costume last year (minus one cat). Rather I wanted to draw attention to what I think might be the best costume I saw this year, and I did watch the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade on TV so I saw a lot of costumes.

Anyway, I was walking to work when I saw a man on the corner walking toward me. He was wearing a brown suit with a shirt and tie. He also had thick-framed glasses. That’s not the best part. As we got closer I noticed that his shirt was open and his tie loosened. Underneath his shirt he had a Superman costume. I walked past Clark Kent (and not the moron Clark Kent from TV’s Smallville either, no this guy could have been the real deal). My favorite part was that the Superhero costume looked legit and the suit did too, like not a store-bought costume. So, if the Clark Kent I saw on Eighth Avenue at around 1:30 PM ever sees this, know that your costume was pretty cool. Unless you really were Clark Kent, then I just hope the heroics you were on your way to worked out.

On making small talk with patrons

NEVER EVER DO THIS. If the question goes beyond asking about a book or the weather save yourself some grief and do not engage. What seems like a polite way to make conversation will most likely backfire horribly.

(Retro) Case in point (from June 2007):

Should a patron begin talking about their impending wedding, just nod politely. Do not speak. And when they come back DO NOT EVER ask how the wedding was. I had thought it was being polite, but it was a horrible, bad mistake.

Over the course of a painful and embarrassing conversation I would learn that this woman’s honeymoon was canceled, and that the wedding could end in divorce or annulment since the marriage was not yet consummated. Much more than I needed to know about anyone.

(Current) Case in point:

Miss Print (to child with his father while checking out The Legend of Sleepy Hollow): “Ready for Halloween?”

Child: *nod*

Miss Print: “What’s your costume?”

Child: “A drunk.”

Miss Print: “Oh. Wow. . . .” [While father smiles awkwardly like this has happened before.]

The fashion forward recognize the fashion forward

Another retro post from August 2007 (random aside: it’s pleasant to look back on these posts and realize my confidence and my life, while not what I would have expected, is much better than it had been at that time.)

Again while walking to work:

Really cool people live in the Village (I live there, which is clearly the only support that point needs). These cool people are often artistic, which I think is why I always see people in really spiffy outfits when I’m wandering around in the neighborhood.

This particular day I was wearing a tank top (could have been any number of colors) and one of my favorite skirts–it’s ankle length, flares out and is striped with variegated fabric. It sounds like a disaster, but the effect is really neat and I always get complimented on it.

Anyway, I walking down the street to work (point of inspiration for many retro posts). While waiting for the light I noticed a man doing the same thing across the street. He had on a lime green button down shirt and red high-water pants. The coolness of this outfit was only rivaled by the ever improbably shirt, tie, and shorts combo that I saw so much of last summer (if the guy is good looking enough, that combo somehow manages to seem probable and even reasonable).

The light changed, and we walked along in our opposite directions. As we passed each other, two bohemian ships passing in the night if you will, the man took a moment to say, “Nice skirt,” to me. I thanked him and kept walking. I didn’t compliment his own outfit but I think, being how we were both looking cool, that he knew how I felt.

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles: A Chick Lit Wednesday review

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles coverThe Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (1974) by Julie Andrews Edwards (find it on Bookshop)

Julie Andrews, it is safe to say, is very cool. She told us that the hills were alive in The Sound of Music. James Garner was attracted to her in Victor/Victoria (even when he thought she was a man). More recently, Andrews has held her own next to the Plaza’s favorite resident in Eloise at the Plaza and Eloise at Christmastime. Oh, and she was Mary Poppins (and Millie) before Mary Poppins (and Thoroughly Modern Millie) got all trendy with Broadway show(s).

In between all of her amazing film credits, Julie Andrews wrote a book under her pen name Julie Andrews Edwards in 1974 called The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. I have been meaning to read it for close to a decade, but things always got in the way. After starting the book (again) last month I made a promise that I would finish it this time even if it killed me. Clearly, I lived to tell the tale.

The story starts when Ben, Tom and Lindy Potter are sent to the zoo by their parents. Initially resistant to the idea, the trip proves quite enjoyable. When the children begin to discuss truly unusual animals, a stranger butts in with a straightforward question: “If you’re looking for something really unusual, have you considered a Whangdoodle?”

The Potter children, of course, have not. Tom goes as far as to say that the Whangdoodle could not possible exist. This assertion is thrown into question when a dictionary provides a rather accurate definition of the word. The Potter’s initial interest turns into an alliance with their new friend Professor Savant to try to reach Whangdoodleland and meet the fanciful creature for themselves.

The road to Whangdoodleland is not straightforward. Along the way the children have much to learn, including relearning the very ways in which they look at the world. The journey is filled with wondrous creatures both friendly and dangerous, but the children are now committed to finishing the journey one way or another regardless of the challenges thrown in their path. When the quest reaches its final climax none of the characters’ lives will ever be the same.

I liked this book, but not really as much as I had hoped. As I mentioned it took me a long time to actually start the book and, once it was started, it took a long time for me to finish it. Unfortunately, I think part of that has to do with my coming to this book at the age of 22 when I was unwilling to accept certain aspects of the story. (The feminist in me made it very difficult to appreciate parts of the end of the story.)

At the same time, the book was originally written in 1974. The text is not dated in the usual way, with references to old technology, rather it all feels very different from a 2008 novel. The children befriend a strange man in the zoo. All of the Potters seem younger and more innocent than I would have expected (from children of the same age in the present). I was able to get more into the story once I accepted those things, but it also made me sad because I started to think about what I had lost and, also, what our culture had lost in terms of faith and trust. I wish I had been able to read the book without so many questions and doubts because I do want to see things the way the Potters and Professor Savant do–I’m just not sure that way of thinking is always possible in the twenty-first century.

Every day is odd in its own way.

I learned that today from a librarian at the school library I was visiting today and I’ve decided I really like the phrase. Speaking specifically (as I like to do), today was odd in several ways.

It started when I got off the bus expecting to walk a couple of blocks to the elementary school I was observing only to find a School of Visual Arts building at the address I had written down for the school (provided by my graduate program). I was at 10th Street and 3rd Avenue. I needed to be at East 4th and Avenue C.

Chaos ensued as I raced around crazily calling 411 to find the correct location/building number (two calls were required). Several false starts and one panic-motivated cab ride later I was at the school a mere fifteen minutes late (the school librarian AKA LMS was in a meeting though so it all worked out).

But this post isn’t specifically about the site observation. Rather, it’s about the fact that I managed to come on the day that Hilary Duff (and Miss Universe and Miss USA) all came to the library. Which was crazy too. Crazy neat.

They were apparently at the library for an interview/photo op about Duff’s charity “Blessings in a Backpack” which provides food for children (in backpacks) over the weekend. All of the students at this school participate.

The Thief: A Chick Lit Wednesday review

The Thief coverThe Thief (1996) by Megan Whalen Turner (Find it on Bookshop.)

Megan Whalen Turner is one of my favorite authors. She has been since my mom procured an Advance Reader Copy of The Queen of Attolia in 2000. I devoured that book, loving every minute of it. Years later, when I began my library career, I discovered that the book was second in a series, something I had not known before. Of course, as soon as I knew about The Thief I had to read it.

Published in 1996, The Thief was selected as a Newberry Honor Book in 1997 (had the winning book been different for that year, I’d say Megan Whalen Turner had been robbed, but I hold a special place in my heart for E. L. Konigsburg’s The View From Saturday so I can’t say that). One website gives this explanation of the award: “A medal presented annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in the United States in the preceding year. The recipients must be citizens or residents of the United States.” That hopefully illustrates how big a deal it is to any readers unfamiliar with such awards.

Whalen’s second novel, The Thief is set in a world that Turner likens to ancient Byzantium in later volumes (Byzantines > Greeks). In this one, however, she acknowledeges similarities to ancient Greece. The story follows a man named Eugenides who, at the beginning of the novel, finds himself locked in the king’s prison of a foreign land.

Quietly biding his time, Gen occupies himself by marking days and practicing cat-like movements around his cell. The achingly monotonous routine is broken when the king’s scholar, the magus, recruits Gen for a hunt of sorts. The magus knows the site of an ancient and valuable treasure that would be of great value to his king. But despite his vast learning, the magus cannot get the treasure alone. He needs a skillful thief. And before his arrest, Gen “had bragged without shame about [his] skills in every wine store in the city” before his arrest outside of still another wine shop.

Given his choices, Gen unsurprisingly agrees to accompany the magus on the quest. As their party traverses the countryside on their way to this elusive treasure, it becomes clear that more is at stake than riches. This novel (and its two subsequent sequels) center around three kingdoms–Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia–whose fates, readers soon realize, are bound together more intricately than anyone might have initially thought.

Some novels are adventures, some are character-driven. The Thief is, for the most part, a quest novel although it does feature several twists and more than a little intrigue. However, without Turner’s wonderfully evocative characters none of that would matter. Eugenides is, in many ways, a star. And he knows it. Nonetheless, affection for this character is contagious–he is unbelievably sympathetic and extremely original. And clever. By the end of the novel it becomes obvious that Gen is always at least five steps ahead of everyone else and always holding all of the cards.

Told in the first person, this novel is the first I ever saw where a character said something acidly. (“That,” I said acidly, “is the way my mother told it to me.”) It seems silly to talk about one sentence from a piece of dialogue, but that kind of writing is why I love Megan Whalen Turner’s books.

In fact, if I was being completely honest, I cherish these books. Working in a library, I sifted through discards for years to acquire the complete trilogy. The books are old and dingy with processing marks aplenty, but none of that really matters because they’re also all mine.

Although it was a Newberry Honor Book for children’s literature, I’ve seen this novel categorized as YA. It’s also the kind of book that could easily appeal to boys and girls–fans of historical fiction and fantasy. In other words, this is a book for everyone.

If you enjoy The Thief, you can read more about Eugenides (and Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia) in The Queen of Attolia (2001) and The King of Attolia (2006).

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers,Soundless by Richelle Mead, Sabriel by Garth Nix, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Random Poll #1: Miss Print’s Blog

I’m moderately excited about WordPress’ new poll feature and wanted to give it a go with a meta-poll about the blog (thus being called a “meta” poll). So, here we go . . .

“No coat?”

It was really cold today. Not everyone at work noticed.

End of the day, while I was already in my coat and scarf (the coat is scratchy and a v-neck so the scarf was key). Lisa had on her work outfit of a button-down shirt and slacks and . . . a really big scarf.

Miss Print: “No coat?”

Lisa (immediately after I said this): “I know. I’m a fool.”

Miss Print to Vikki: “Wow. She said that immediately. No hesitation.” (Relates previous exchange.)

Lisa: “Don’t judge me. It was sunny looking when I left the house this morning.”

“I owe you chips. And fish.”

Being a webmaster for my technology class is a many faceted job. While helping a group member set up her FTP/webpage (not necessary! Glad I did all that work before the prof decided to clarify!) because her page would not load properly.

After getting “Sally” to upload a .htm file and then fixing a typo in her page url (she was using her last name in the link instead of her username), lo and behold the page loaded. Sally was really happy about it. We high fived and everything.

Sally: “I owe you something. I owe you chips. And fish.”

Miss Print: “Awesome.”

Sally: “Or I could try to do Celtic Dancing.” (This after mentioning I was seeing Celtic Thunder the next day.)

And Sally proceeded to Celtic dance, for real! It was really cool!

Miss Print: “That was totally worth it.”

How to Murder a Millionaire: A (mysterious) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

How to Murder a Millionaire by Nancy MartinNora Blackbird was living the good life among the posh blue bloods of Philadelphia’s Main Line. True, she and her two sisters were widows, likely as a result of the Blackbird curse, but time heals all wounds–even the unexpected ones.

Unfortunately, as any good reader will know, the sins of the parents are always visited upon the children. In How to Murder a Millionaire (2002), Nancy Martin‘s first Blackbird Sisters mystery, those sins come in the form of tax evasion.

“To squander the last dollar left in the Blackbird family fortune, my parents threw a lawn party that would have made Jay Gatsby proud.”

Nora’s older sister, Libby, received the family furniture. Emma, the youngest Blackbird, landed the Blackbird art collection. Nora, our narrator, received the family homestead.

“Perhaps under the impression that I was the most responsible member of the family–which only means I’m the one who never entered a wet T-shirt contest–Mama and Daddy gave me the Bucks County farm. Then they blew the country for a sunny resort that catered to American tax evaders, leaving stardust in their wake and me with a delinquent property tax bill for two million dollars.”

Trained as a debutante, with little practical experience in anything else, Nora has a problem. Desperate for money to support herself (and funnel into IRS pockets), Nora gets a job as a society columnist for the Philadephia Intelligencer working as an assistant to Philadephia’s most-hated society columnist. It’s a change that surprises most of Nora’s wealthy friends and associates, but for most part, life as a society writer is stirkingly similar to life as a debutante, the main difference being the presence of a ubiquitous pen and notebook.

As Nora learns on her first assignment, the presence of a dead body is also different. When Nora finds the host of her first party assignment, a family friend and wealthy art collector, dead, Nora feels compelled to investigate. Complications arise when tough-talking Emma and free-spirit Libby decide to help.

Meanwhile, Nora is left to deal with the ever-present back taxes on her own as she contemplates her options (and the definitely sexy, possible mobster’s son, willing to buy up the farm’s extra property).

While it isn’t always laugh-out-loud funny, How to Murder a Millionaire is quirky and entertaining. Martin creates memorable characters, especially the sisters who unsurprisingly are at the core of the plot. Her prose is light and fast moving. Nora’s narration pulls no punches describing Philadelphia’s elite and all of their foibles. Other reviewers have suggested that this novel is unrealistic–not being a Philadelphia debutant I cannot judge that for myself save to say that everything seems as plausible as a fictitious story can.

If you enjoy this novel, the Blackbird Sisters make their next appearance in Dead Girls Don’t Wear Diamonds.