Monday, March 30, 2009

Lil' Red Riding Hood: Scientifically Understood

Fairy Tale told through Information Flow complete with graphs, population densities, and nutritional values of Granny, this video re-imagines the story of Little Red Riding Hood to have modern/technological components.

SlagsmÄlsklubben - Sponsored by destiny from Tomas Nilsson on Vimeo.

My favorite retelling of Lil' Red is in Angela Carter's collection of retold fairy tales The Bloody Chamber. The story is "The Company of Wolves." Dark, disturbing, and turns the old notions of innocence and power into a strange pretzel.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reader Review from Margit!

Helen Boosalis
Helen Boosalis: My Mother's Life in Politics, by Beth Boosalis Davis, University of Nebraska Press, 2008

The biography of Helen Boosalis reads like a lively textbook of responsive and responsible city government and a fascinating account of a Greek-American Minneapolis girl who makes good as the first female mayor of a city over 100,000, Lincoln, Nebraska. The memoir is Beth Davis's perspective on her mother's political career seen through a daughter's eyes.

Boosalis didn't start out as a politico. She and other League of Women Voters members supported revision of Lincoln's City Charter to include a strong mayor form of government. When the men didn't implement the strong mayor system, Boosalis stepped up to the plate after 16 years on the council, won the mayor's seat, and proceeded to practice what she preached: open and transparent government, opportunities for neighborhoods to take action, and a strong comprehensive plan that guided development for years.

There are numerous nuggets of wisdom gleaned from this political pioneer who became the first female president of the US Conference of Mayors and ran as the Democratic-endorsed candidate for governor of Nebraska.

Boosalis cultivated public-private partnerships in the 1981 economic recession that hit cities hard. She "encouraged city departments to use volunteers to help sustain existing programs facing budget cuts," among other innovative strategies.

Davis, herself an Evanston IL city council member, asked her mother "what she thought were the most important attributes for serving in public office." Her mother's list began with "courage, willingness to take risks; knowledge and preparation" and it goes on.

Davis tells her mother's story with "flash forwards" to the 1986 gubernatorial race, creating momentum, interest and insights into the mind and heart of a woman whose political focus throughout several decades of public service was community.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Lion Called Christian

A Lion Called Christian
I like a book that I keep thinking about long after I've shut the back cover. I like a book that makes me question my beliefs and value systems and leaves me pondering ethical tenets. A Lion Called Christian is such a book. The book tells of a pair of young Australian men who purchased a lion cub at Harrod's Department Store in London in the late 1960's. One cannot miss the irony of naming a lion Christian! I also can't help but be horrified that they could buy a lion at Harrod's.

The men kept Christian for about a year in which time he grew to be quite a sizable creature. They realized that they could not keep a full-sized lion and researched places for him to go. They didn't want him to have the fate of finishing his life in a zoo or circus. They were able to connect with George Adamson who worked with Elsa (of Born Free notoriety) and took Christian to Africa to be rehabilitated to live as a lion in the wild.

Footage of Christian seeing these men a year after he was set free in Africa has been circulating on YouTube. There is no question that he recognized his previous housemates when they came to see him. I don't want to spoil the story by telling you more about it but I'd be curious what others think about issues that are raised.

Why, after almost 40 years, is this story reemerging? What is it about it that we find so irresistible? Do animals truly have the ability to feel toward humans the love and affection that we feel toward them? Why do we expect wild animals to live among us for our joy and entertainment? (I often think of the case of a circus elephant who escaped in Honolulu and was killed by authorities because of the danger she posed when she ran through the streets.) I don't like animals being utilized in circuses but can zoos provide them a hospitable habitat? Some endangered species seem to need extra care and protection and might zoos keep them from becoming extinct?

I'm quite impressed with the maturity and selflessness shown by these young men to make the decision to try and have Christian "return" to the wild even though he and his parents were born in captivity. As much as I would want this for all wild animals, I can't imagine the feeling of letting him go knowing that he might not survive. Even though it is obviously the right thing to do, my human emotions keep surfacing when I think about doing this.

I invite you to read this book and see if it raises some questions in your mind as well. By the way, a search at Harrod's website shows that one can no longer purchase a lion there. Now, that's progress!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Modern Life: poems by Matthea Harvey

Modern Life by Matthea Harvey
"Matthea Harvey's vision of America is spooky, apocalyptic, and beautiful: proof that there is wonder in even a dark time like ours." -George Saunders says on the back cover of Modern Life put out by Graywolf Press.

-Spooky & apocalyptic: the chilling indifference and casual reference to the horrible in the sequences "The Future of Terror" and "Terror of the Future":
When we got jaded / about joyrides, we could always play games / in the kitchen garden with the prisoners. / Jump the Gun, Fine Kettle of Fish and Kick / the Kidney were our favorites.
It was time to make a home / in the hedge and try not to hear the gunshots. / So what if the grass was really green glass?

-Beautiful and Defiantly Wondrous: As stilting an image of green glass being confused with grass is, the gesture of the narrator to be aware and still making a home is touching. In another sequence of poems, we follow Robo-Boy and see the difficulty in being human as well as the difficulty of being anything else once that humanness has been imbued. Figureheads of ships without sailors, on their own and finding a truer existence; a room full of moons yearning for planets to orbit as the waiters endlessly circle the tables below.

Modern Life is a mixture of imagination in the face of desolation. The bleak, rather than being ignored or covered up is embraced as being part of the experience. In "Estamos En Vivo, No Hay Alternativo" this impulse of making the best of what we have because there is no other choice is illustrated with the request to
Dip that tiny brush into / your paintbox and mix up something nice / and muddy for me.
That is then tempered by the violent commodification of sex. Tenderness, innocence, playfulness all exist with brutality and detachment.

Harvey's writing stays aware of the lush possibilities in language as well as seeking ways to demonstrate nuanced gestures and surprising turns in the flow of an idea. In some of her prose poems, she creates new worlds, not unlike Russell Edson but not as jarring. Modern Life succeeds at making a complex statement on where we are going through the use of various voices and techniques - a very engaging read.

I first came across Matthea Harvey's poetry several years ago when I became very much engrossed in the anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century eds. Michael Dumanis & Cate Marvin. Her images, gestures and attention to language has always caught my attention. In addition to Modern Life, she has also written Sad Little Breathing Machine (also by Graywolf) and Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (Alice James Books) (two of the finest titles I've come across!).Legitimate Dangers

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Readers' Reviews Club - earn up to 15% off!

As a way to further our efforts to expand our online community to reflect some of the advantages we have in the store, we're starting a Readers' Reviews Club and offering an incentive to start sharing your thoughts and opinions on the books you love!
Now, in the store, these conversations come naturally, because we all love to talk about great books so that others can share in the great reading experiences we've encountered. That interaction is a little more difficult online, but, we hope, still very possible. So here is the announcement to prompt us all into action!

Hello fans of Northern Lights Books & Gifts!
The great thing about this page is knowing that we all love books, love community, and love independent voices. So, now we'd like to share that love a little more by offering a discount when you share your love of a book!
We're initiating a Readers' Reviews Club - to start it off, members will receive 15% off a full price in-store item OR free shipping on an online/phone purchase! -see "fine print"
How do you join?
Send us a review of a book that you've really loved! It can be anywhere from 30-300 words giving us a sense of what the book is about and why you enjoyed it! (negative/critical reviews have their place, but we really want to share books that really made a difference for us rather than steer folks away from books we didn't enjoy)

Where to send your reviews? Well there are spaces set up on the fan page on facebook where you can add your two cents for 15%! Otherwise, feel free to email us at the store: norlight at norlights dot com and we can cross post it here and on our store blog: Norlight Lit Life.

Once we see your review, we'll send you a certificate for either 15% off an in-stock, in-store item OR free shipping on an online or phone order. Then you can come into the store (or online or phone!) and find another book to love and to share!

We're really looking forward to the great reviews and books to come!

"fine print"
-This discount is available for an initial period as we really seek to get these conversations moving.
-Although we won't limit how many reviews you can post, we do have to limit how many discounts/free shipping we can offer: two per customer, per month.
-All reviews are welcome, but we'd like to focus on books that are still in print that we can offer to other customers through our store.
-We reserve the right to edit anything that we cross-post. If you would like to approve of our edits, let us know. Anything that we post will be credited to you by first name - this will be to protect your privacy. If you'd like to be credited by your full name, let us know!
-Discounts will be awarded to reviews that tell about the book and tell about why you enjoyed it and would recommend it to someone else. If it does not talk about the book, or if it seems to be lifted off the back cover (and we KNOW that none of you would ever do that - we just have to say...) we will reserve the right to withhold the discount incentive.

We look forward to hearing about, and sharing, all the books that you love! Contact us if you have any questions!