You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Monday, March 29, 2010


In a best case scenario, you would finish reading this first sentence, go immediately to the web site of your local public library, click on their "Support Us" page, and donate somewhere between twenty and a thousand dollars. If that has not been the case, read on.

Over the past year I have rediscovered the Dallas Public Library, and my enthusiasm for it could be that of the born-again user. I love going in the place -- the place being my neighborhood branch. It's almost always busy. The computers are all in use, some kind of meeting is taking place in the community room, mothers are checking out twenty children's books and a dozen DVD's. I like the way people are lined up to get in at noon, and I enjoy hearing some one's incredulous response when they learn they owe five dollars in overdue charges.

But public libraries are in dire condition. One reason people line up to get in at noon is because the hours have been cut back. I was surprised that certain new books I expected to put on my reserve list would not be coming in at all, but then I read that acquisition budgets for the year were a fraction of what they had been. Libraries need money bad, and we the public should give it to them.

Libraries can make a pretty good case for themselves when city budget time comes around, but everything is subject to the axe nowadays. Most libraries have private sector foundations that also support them, but that doesn't mean they are not always in need of cash. So send them twenty bucks. (And don't fall back on that bit about "I give them tax dollars." It's not enough, and it's probably about 20 cents a year.)

Libraries could really benefit from the sort of grassroots donations that helped fuel the Obama campaign -- small amounts from large numbers of people. You can also specify that money you give goes directly to your local branch and that it be used for one of several categories. When I gave them some money last year, I asked that it go towards acquisitions of adult non-fiction, and I checked the box specifying that I would like my name on a bookplate. I assume that by now at least one or two car repair manuals or repellent memoirs by right wing politicians bear the inscription, "Made Possible by a Gift from Charles Dee Mitchell." But that's fine. That's why they call it The Public Library.

You can also give the library books and other stuff. Some one told me recently that they had considered donating books to the library until they found out that the library just "turned around and sold them." Having worked for thirty years in the used and remainder book business, I feel that I can speak with some authority here. There is a 90% chance that the majority of books you have are of little or no real value, or they are in a format the library cannot use. But for a library to put a second hand copy of a book into their system could be just as expensive as buying a new one, if not more expensive. What they need is whatever cash the donations can generate. And really what else are you going to do with them? Sell them and complain about how little you were offered? Just give them to the library. Maybe they can sell them for a couple of bucks apiece. And buy more books or paper clips.

I have taken to giving the library current magazines once a month. They seem to do a lively trade in them at a quarter a pop. And you sure don't want those things piling up around your own house.

So this is my soapbox cause. Giving to libraries is not on the level of giving to charities that save human lives, but it should be a part of your life as a citizen. It should be something you do on a regular basis. And doing it now is just three or four clicks away.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


(Please refer to A Disturbing Phone Call, posted 2/9/10)

--I've done something to my thumb.
--What do you mean?
--I don't know, I've jammed it or twisted it or something. It just hurts.
--When I pick something up or open a jar. Put any weight on it...Now.
--It's arthritis.
--Does it hurt when you rub it?
--It's arthritis.


--It could be carpal tunnel.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Who doesn't like to complain about Whole Foods?

People who don't shop there like to complain about the price -- they call it "Whole Paycheck"--and about the mildly aggressive, post-hippie attitude that pervades the premises. People who do shop there -- well, they complain about the prices and the attitude as well. But personally I have no real problem with the store. I figure if I am going to take it home and eat it, it doesn't much matter what it costs. I am not feeding a family of four. And as for the attitude, there is currently only one cashier I actively avoid.

There are, however, a couple of things.

On a spinner rack of shopping bags made from 100% recycled materials, I noticed one with the message, "I'm helping to save the planet. What are you doing?" I am sure you will agree that the only possible answer to that question is, "I am sticking this goddam bag up your self-righteous ass." I saw that bag one time over two years ago, and I haven't seen it since. I know I should have gotten over it, but I haven't.

The other has to do with signs in the parking lot and their proliferation. "Handicapped Parking"? Fine, more than just a good idea, it's the law. "10 Minute Curbside Pickup"? Very thoughtful, although the only person I've ever seen use it is the guy who comes a night with a telescope and wants to show you the moon. (Do I look like an eight-year-old?) I also think the one for pregnant women is sweet, although I worry about some one who is pregnant but not yet showing. What about that relative newlywed who has just gotten a positive result from her home pregnancy test and smiles somewhat self-consciously as she parks in the space for the first time, only to face the wrath of a women in the second trimester of her third pregnancy and driving a Sierra?

I am only put off by the sign, possibly unique to the Whole Foods I shop, that says, "This space for hybrid and eco-friendly vehicles only."

Let's look at this more closely. "Hybrids" is a clearly defined, vehicular category, but what exactly constitutes "eco-friendly"? Isn't this a matter of degree? Couldn't the driver of a Cadillac Coupe Seville ask the Hummer driver to please move his or her vehicle? And what need does the sign address? Possibly eco-friendly drivers who are either pregnant or just loading several carts-full of groceries could use the closer parking space, but beyond that what purpose is served here other than self congratulation? Who would not be embarrassed to park there?

I know who would not be embarrassed to park there. It's that person who, upon checking out, is asked, "Did you bring a bag?" and answers, "Oh, yes. Sorry, I forgot. It's up my ass."

Thursday, March 18, 2010


1) Dairy Queen.
2) Find my truck and we'll drive out.
3) The brick from the other joke.
4) Shoot the dog! Shoot the dog!
5) Sounds like a hard piece.
6) Some people just can't tell a joke.
7) With the deep felt thanks of the men of the Fighting Forty Ninth.
8) Damn, if we had brought Fergie we could have saved the Rolls.
9) Death by bongo bongo.
10) Doc, it's only a hobby.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


(Please refer to entry of February 23, A Mysterious Picture.)

I have made a return visit to the La Madeleine in Preston Center. I have still not penetrated the women's restroom but I did take a picture of the picture in question. Some answers have been revealed but new mysteries arise.

The third chair is clearly placed at the second table. Therefore, whoever has been drinking the cup of coffee is left-handed. The red wine, however, turns out not to exist. What I thought was wine is in fact the refracted image of the window sill in the woman's glass. So they are not sitting drinking wine, they are pretending to drink from empty glasses, possibly a charade for the benefit of the men at the street corner.

I planned to take the picture down and see what information was on the back, but it is surprisingly heavy. I felt the backside of the picture and it is papered over, so there would probably not have been any information in any case.

The women's room remains out of my reach. Not only are the toilets just off the kitchen doorway, they are also in full view of the table staff uses for its breaks.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


In 2009 I used the Visual Bookshelf application on Facebook to keep track of what I was reading, but for 2010 I have switched my allegiances to Good Reads.

I signed up for Visual Bookshelf the day I joined Facebook and later decided it would be an interesting way to look back after a year to see what I had been reading. It never crossed my mind to write a review or comment in any way. This seems to be a fairly common approach, except most people lose interest almost immediately and keep the same title in their Reading Now position in perpetuity.

I don't remember how I stumbled onto Good Reads back in January, but it turns out it wasn't my first time. When I went to register the site told me I had been a member since 2008. I put in whatever I was reading and had read recently and right away I noticed a higher participation from other members when it comes to reviewing and comments. And the reviews were intelligent and entertaining and continue to be so. That could be because since January I have been on a steady diet of J.G. Ballard novels, and Ballard readers may be more interesting and able to express themselves than say fans of James Patterson, Dan Brown, or Stephanie Meyer. (Although readers of Patterson, Brown, and Meyer may be equally engaged by what their fellow fans have to say about their favorite authors.)

With Good Reads, however, there is a "friends issue," as in I have none. And I don't know how to make them.

Facebook is like going to a party where you already know half the people and it's easy to meet others. At Good Reads it is the first day at a new school and I am stranded on the playground, waiting to be asked to join the game.

So I have decided to make the first move. I have found some one who is also a Ballard reader and operates a small publishing house devoted to French popular culture. He already has over three hundred friends. So what I decided I need to do is spruce up my profile and and pay a visit. The only problem is that my profile includes a link to this blog. If he reads this he might think I'm a stalker, which, hey, if you are reading this, I am not.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Monday morning is my Trailers from Hell morning. You will see it listed among my Links.

Three times a week, one of their contributors, known as the Grindhouse Gurus, comments on one of his or her favorite film trailers. The grindhouse angle and the site's name seem to relate to its original inspiration, when those in the know on exploitation and horror films would expound on one of the sensational classics of drive-in cinema. Over the years, however, you get people discussing such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole, hardly drive-in fare.

But I doubt that those behind the site feel saddled with the name. It is designed to rope you in, just like the titles and the trailers of the films they celebrate. And they really know their stuff. Eli Roth's commentary on Squirm left me nostalgic for the Texas Theater on Jefferson Blvd, and I frequently jump from the site to Netflix to see if, say, Night Call Nurses is on DVD. (It's listed as coming soon.)

If you sign up for the email announcements, you can see the latest trailer on Monday and check out the two you missed from the week before. Perfect with that first cup of coffee.

One word of warning. If for some reason you are a John Landis fan, he comes of as an idiot.