Tuesday, February 28, 2006

$2 Update

Ok, so maybe not such an exciting idea.

The woman at Starbucks maybe showed a slight hesitation when I paid for my venti sugar-free vanilla (with room) Americano Tuesday morning with 2 singles and a deuce, but the reaction was barely discernible. Later that day, riding counter to the old wives' tale that 2-dollar bills are "unlucky," (see here), I dropped a Two on two shots at New York's Mega Millions $256 million jackpot. What did I win? Bupkes!

Imagine that story, had it played out the way I wanted!! And the lady who sold me the ticket didn't even react! I obviously mistook the impact my passing twofers would have on people. But, alas, I will see this out to the bitter end.

Not much else to report, I still have 18 Jeffersonian portraits riding around with me.

I am currently listening to an a amzing jazz album on my iPod, tipped off by Blender magazine's review here. Have been totally digging Miles Davis' A Tribute to Jack Johnson. Astonishing, and easy to see why they rated it 5 stars.

Amazon.com, similarly raves:

Miles Davis was a gifted composer of film soundtracks, and this is arguably his best. Certainly it's his most listenable film piece. A boxer himself, Davis had a feel for movement in the ring, and this recording overflows with the admiration he had for the grace, style, and confidence of fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson. Jack Johnson was, for a long time, Miles's favorite of his own recordings, and you can see why from the first note: guitarist John McLaughlin steps out and strides across a shuffling groove that is closer to barroom R&B than it is to rock; Davis weighs in with that clipped but plaintive sound which promises you that no matter what kind of music he takes on next, he will always be Miles. And then when--midway through the first of two long jams--Herbie Hancock muscles his way into the mix on organ, of all things, you realize that they could go on like this forever. A joyful, liberating record.

If you have any hankering for Miles, at all, this is a great recording. Listening to it for the first time was the high point of my day.

Monday, February 27, 2006

"Two-Dollar Bill"

For some insane reason, my postings have been running 50/50 with ability to see the photos at work, thus the paucity of postage in recent days.

Anyway, I recall my father telling me a story about when he was younger and he knew someone who, when they got their paycheck, would go to the bank and cash it and receive nothing but $2 bills. Everyone called him "Two Dollar Tom" or something like that.

Actually, I'm not sure 100% that this story even came via Dad. I may have just absorbed it from some other source and associated with the Ancient One, Blessed be He (Dad).

So, I have been visiting the local HSBC branch in nearby Penn Station and mentioned it to tone of the tellers, casually, "Uh, like, do ya' have any two dollar bills?" I always get strange looks.

On Thursday of last week, one of the other employees overheard me and said they had some in the vault. So today, I exchanged 4 Hamiltons for 20 Jeffersons.

And already I have interesting tales to tell. First of all, I was shocked to see that some of the bills are series 2003. Many of us thought that these were out of circulation. There's even a 1995 series.

In addition, a co-worker told me that she was advised when she worked for a bank, that she was told that the bills were taken out of circulation because, on the back
one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence appears to be African-American.
"Too much ink," she was told.

The man in question is sitting, sixth from the left. It's hard to tell, but I can see how such a rumor can get started.

Well obviously, they're still in circulation but in limited use.

The image on the back first appeared on the 1976 series. This, lifted from the U.S. Mint site:

In celebration of the United States' bicentennial, a $2 Federal Reserve Note, Series 1976, was introduced. The new design maintained the portrait of Jefferson on the face but the back was changed from Monticello to a vignette of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The $2 Federal Reserve Note features an engraving of John Trumbull's painting "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence." The original Trumbull painting portrayed 47 people, 42 of whom were signers of the Declaration (there were 56 total). However, because of a limited amount of space on the note, 5 of 47 men in the painting were not included in the engraving.

So, here is how this ties into BillyBlog. There's an urban legend that a man was resfused service at Taco Bell because the cashier or the manager refused to accept a $2 bill. The legend is discussed here.

I've decided to see what happens when I start passing these bills back into circulation. I'll report interesting anecdotes here. Should be fun!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Chef Coats

Yet another find from Fourth Avenue, from the same day I found the picture of Ernie and Bert and anonymous child.

Found, Brooklyn, 4th Avenue, February 8, 2006

There's much to talk about here. Many can recognize that this is a delivery ticket for chef coats. New Yorkers will recognize the recipient of the coats is the River Cafe, a fine restaurant situated under the Brooklyn Bridge. We went their for our a9th anniversary two years back, and it was unbelievable. Here's one of their desserts, woth a view from the dining room.

During the evening, the view is even more spectacular:

You can visit their website and salivate here. Be sure to check out their menus and make reservations way in advance.

Getting back to the delivery ticket, I especially like the name of either the driver or recipient of the coats, Nellie. And how did this delivery ticket find its way to our neighborhood, 7 miles away?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Help Wanted

How's this for sophistictaed marketing?

No, not the flier, but the Post-It below, affixed to a signal box at the corner of 81st and 4th in Brooklyn:


Uh, ok.

On an unrelated note, last night gave the U.S.A. a silver medallist in Ladies' Figure Skating. The Post and the Daily News ran the same headline on the back page. Here's one version:

Congrats to all the medalists. I feel bad for Irina Slutskaya, whose bronze medal fell far below her expectations of gold. It will be interesting to see how her local press treats her. Check out this quote from (yes, I know this is a jump, but humor me) the Pravda website:


Condoleezza Rice's anti-Russian stance based on sexual problems

and they quote a man named Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal and Democratic Party of Russia:

”Complex-prone women are especially dangerous. They are like malicious mothers-in-law, women that evoke hatred and irritation with everyone. Everybody tries to part with such women as soon as possible. A mother-in-law is better than a single and childless political persona, though.

”This is really scary. Ms. Rice's personal complexes affect the entire field of international politics. This is an irritating factor for everyone, especially for the East and the Islamic world. When they look at her, they go mad.

”Condoleezza Rice needs a company of soldiers. She needs to be taken to barracks where she would be satisfied. On the other hand, she can hardly be satisfied because of her age. This is a complex. She needs to return to her university and teach students there. She could also deal with psychological analysis.

”The true reason of Ms. Rice's attack against Russia is very simple. Condoleezza Rice is a very cruel, offended woman who lacks men's attention. Releasing such stupid remarks gives her the feeling of being fulfilled. This is the only way for her to attract men's attention.”

All this because Dr. Rice made some negative comments about Russia and a gas crisis in Ukraine.

The whole piece can be read here.

And please, no tirades against me from anonymous neo-con bloggers. I am posting this, not because I dislike Doctor Rice, but because I find the comments absurdly amusing. I was looking at the Pravda site to see if they said anything about Slutskaya, and found this instead. I imagine BillyBlog will see a spike in hits today, as it attracts those Googlers typing in "Condoleeza Rice" and "sexual problems."

Have a nice weekend.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Top 20 Books, #4

Chapter 1
The Day the World Ended

Call me Jonah. My parents did, or nearly did. They called me John.

Jonah -- John -- if I had been a Sam, I would have been a Jonah still -- not because I have been unlucky for others, but because somebody or something has compelled me to be certain places at certain times, without fail. Conveyances and motives, both conventional and bizarre, have been provided. And, according to plan, at each appointed second, at each appointed place this Jonah was there.


When I was a younger man -- two wives ago, 250,000 cigarettes ago, 3,000 quarts of booze ago...

When I was a much younger man, I began to collect material for a book to be called The Day the World Ended.

The book was to be factual.

The book was to be an account of what important Americans had done on the day when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

It was to be a Christian book. I was a Christian then.

I am a Bokononist now.

I would have been a Bokononist then, if there had been anyone to teach me the bittersweet lies of Bokonon. But Bokononism was unknown beyond the gravel beaches and coral knives that ring this little island in the Caribbean Sea, the Republic of San Lorenzo.

We Bokononists believe that humanity is organized into teams, teams that do God's Will without ever discovering what they are doing. Such a team is called a karass by Bokonon, and the instrument, the kan-kan, that brought me into my own particular karass was the book I never finished, the book to be called The Day the World Ended.

Copyright © 1963 by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Much to my father's chagrin, I managed to graduate from college as an English major having never read any Kurt Vonnegut. Maybe a short story, but no novels. Nada. And Vonnegut was one of dear ol' Dad's favorites. It took Southern California Edison to cure me of my Vonnegutian ignorance.

I left college with a major in English and a minor in history and no real plan on how to utilize the degree. So I did what many of us in similar situations did. I temped. I landed a job through Volt Temporary Services as a legal document technician contracted out to Southern California Edison. I'll spare you the details. It was boring, but it was a nice commute from Pasadena to nearby Alhambra, and the people were nice. I had stopped wearing glasses in college, for some reason. After six months working with computers, I needed them again.

What the heck does this have to do with my number 4 favorite book, Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle? There was much down time and I looked to my bookshelves to find something to read. For years, I had travelled with a box set of five slim Vonnegut tomes. The red copy below represented what my copy of Cat's Cradle looked like.

I don't know which one I started with but, in the course of a short Summer, I read everything Vonnegut had written. What can I say, I was a late bloomer.

Cat's Cradle remains to this day my favorite work. Sure, Slaughterhouse-Five is genius, as is Breakfast of Champions, but this one rocked me more than any of the others.

Amazon says this:

Cat's Cradle, one of Vonnegut's most entertaining novels, is filled with scientists and G-men and even ordinary folks caught up in the game. These assorted characters chase each other around in search of the world's most important and dangerous substance, a new form of ice that freezes at room temperature. At one time, this novel could probably be found on the bookshelf of every college kid in America; it's still a fabulous read and a great place to start if you're young enough to have missed the first Vonnegut craze.

When it first appeared in 1963, the book was reviewed by Terry Southern for the The New York Times :

Cat's Cradle is an irreverent and often highly entertaining fantasy concerning the playful irresponsibility of nuclear scientists. Like the best of contemporary satire, it is work of a far more engaging and meaningful order than the melodramatic tripe which most critics seem to consider ''serious.''

What can I say? Read this. If you already have. Read it again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Guest Submission

One of BillyBlog's loyal readers, Micah, sent this to me and I thought it most blogworthy.

It was taken at a New York manicurist. My timing is a little off this week, so my posts have been popping up in the evenings. One of these days I'll right myself.

Also, last night the Italian ice dancers redemmed themselves. However, I must dwell on a few lines of brilliant prose froman Italian newspaper:

In its Monday edition, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica described the scene: "Barbara, with horror in her stare, an emptiness inside, would have shot him immediately if she had a pistol."

"It was a shame, but also beautiful," the article added, "that long moment as they stared at one another, everyone expecting them to attack one another.

Ah, one could only have hoped!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ice Dancing! Death-stares! Glorious!

The Olympics are always a big hit in our house, and Sunday provided excitement, indeed. I love human drama. The ice dancing competition has provided one of my favorite Olympic moments so far:

Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, the Italian ice dancers, on day two of the competition, had the lead, but then they and several other competitors tumbled like dominos. I felt bad for all of them, especially the Canadians, whose fall was terrifying. But the Italians blew me away with how they conducted themselves after the mishap.

Compared to last week's heroic performance by Zhang Dan and her partner Zhang Hao, the pairs skaters from China (right), in which Zhang Dan recovered after a horrific fall and the two won silver, the Italian drama unfolded at the end of the competition.

First, here's the Italian ice dancing fall:

The commentators had been remarking how Fusar Poli was the strength of the team and that she was carrying Maragaglio through the performance. Then he goofed, and then the moment at the end of the performance, when most dancers curtsy and wave to the crowd:

Ten, twenty, almost thirty seconds of the two, facing one another, glaring at each other. Um, hello guys, there are a few million people watching. Where's the grace in defeat? The fall I believed, the staredown was priceless. Note, this pose above was after the music was over, and the home crowd was showering them with adulation.

And if that's not bad enough, I mean, my insides are withering under the scrutiny of her death-glare, one of the coaches shot daggers in the "Kiss and Cry" area:

Obviously, Maragaglio took little comfort in the knowledge that the men's 4 x 10K cross country team crushed arch-rival Norway to win the coveted gold medal in that amazing event.

I could go on and on about the Olympics, and may do so later this week, but the death-glare continues to haunt me, even in tape delay.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mystery of the Index Card

Hopefully BillyBlog won't turn into FoundFest Brooklyn, but I have been retrieving several wonderful and interesting (at least to me) things from the streets of late. I still have a few more things waiting in the wings, but let's run with this one today.

It was one of those oversized index cards, filled front and back with mysterious code names or something. Upon further investigative googling, I discovered that it is an episode listing of a Disney show called "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody," a show that wouldn't have even been on the radar were it not for two young girls under the age of ten sharing my living space.

The writing is a young person's hand, and it is interesting to see they took the time to write out the episodes, when they could have printed the list from the show's wikipedia entry.

What remains a mystery, and what is open to interpretation, is the list of pet store animals that follows, in the same handwriting, but in a different pen. Many of the entries have the mysterious postscript (G&B). A mystery, that may never be solved.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ernie & Bert and Unknown Child

Had some blogger problems at work today so I missed a Friday post.

The following is a find. Melanie questioned whether it was blogworthy. Any parent has a picture of a child with a costumed character, she pointed out. But when I mentioned the picture to another reader, he reacted positively. So, here we are:

Found in Brooklyn, 4th Avenue, February 8, 2006

There's something about this picture that draws me in. It's a little unsettling. It seems average, but I think it's fascinating.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

New York Media Dicking Around

Yesterday's Post and today's Daily News maintaining the highest level of journalism.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

John Dunning, redux

I finished The Sign of the Book yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Dunning's website, actually his bookstore's website provided me with this welcome news:

John will have another Janeway book coming out from Scribner in May 2006. The title is The Bookwoman's Last Fling and takes takes bookman/detective Cliff Janeway to Idaho and the horse racing world in California.

That gives everyone time to read the first four books....

Have been too caught up in the XXth Winter Olympics to be paying attention to anything else in the world. What did people do before DVR? So, have I missed anything? Have the President or Veep done anything of note lately? Or are they too busy watching the Olympics to do anything else?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day from New Slush City!

Happy V-Day.

'In a sense, a father is a daughter’s true love. No matter what circumstances come into our lives to cloud the purity of that love, a daughter cannot help but feel the echo of her father whenever her heart swells with love. At least this has been true for me. My father and I had a strange and sometimes estranged relationship throughout my life and until the end of his; but despite the awkwardness and the pain we sometimes shared in each other’s company, his love for me and mine for him was unwavering and unquestionable.

Lucky (or unlucky at times) for me, his love songs were the tangible echoes of his capacity to love even when I could not be near him. I can recall as a young girl of 6 or 7 sitting in my mother’s rocking chair hugging the vinyl album cover to Excitable Boy as "Accidentally, Like a Martyr" and "Tenderness on the Block" brought streams of tears to my eyes. Though life’s hard knocks might have made it impossible for my father to always be present and by my side, the sweet melancholy of his lyrics and his voice consoled me and reassured me that wherever he was and whatever he was doing, his love could travel through space and time.'

-Ariel Zevon
Words from the daughter of the late, great Warren Zevon. A posthumous compilation album of love songs, all previously released, has not only made its way to the stores (#922 on Amazon.com music charts), but has been advertised on the networks, and a new video is set to premiere on VH1 Classic today, every hour on the hour.

So is this sheer capitalism? Morbid profiteering on the memory of a dead musician? Perhaps, but the album is out on his own label and his daughter seems to have blessed it. Zevon was a dark, twisted soul, so I think he probably wouldn't mind the profiteering of his work, especially since a side of him is beign exposed that many don't know. He is not all "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and "Werewolves of London." His love songs are amazing and worth a listen if you take a moment to turn off the radio and find his music elsewhere.

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

The sky was on fire
When I walked to the mill
To take up the slack in the line
I thought of my friends
And the troubles they've had
To keep me from thinking of mine

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

The moon has a face
And it smiles on the lake
And causes the ripples in Time
I'm lucky to be here
With someone I like
Who maketh my spirit to shine

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

-Warren Zevon, Zevon Music BMI

Monday, February 13, 2006

Top 20 Books, #5

Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach.
"Is Orr crazy?"
"He sure is," Doc Daneeka said.
"Can you ground him?"
"I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That's part of
the rule." [...]
"And then you can ground him?" Yossarian asked.
"No. Then I can't ground him."
"You mean there's a catch?"
"Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22.
Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy."
[...] Yossarian [...] let out a respectful whistle. "That's
some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.

Ok, we are cracking the top 5 of my favorite 20 books of all time.

#5 is Joseph Heller's Catch-22.

It comes to a point when a book is so good, that it's hard to do it justice in a blog. Sheer brilliance. If you haven't read it, do so. I mean, Joseph Heller contributed a word to the English language, catch-22, which is used every day. I'm sure if I tried hard enough I could come up with other authors who have done likewise, but this seems to be the quintessential example of an author coining a word for mass usage.

I read Catch-22 first while in college, and it was such a mind-blowing work that it took over part of my life....my user ID in the computer changed from HEADBANGER to YOSSARIAN (the protagonist's name) and unltimately NAKED_IN_A_TREE, an allusion to Yossarian's attendance of another character's funeral, watching from afar, naked and sitting in a tree.

My senior seminar in English Literature was "The Psychology of the Novel" and I delivered a paper on Catch-22, using Freud to look at the psychoanalytical structure of the book.

I also had the pleasure of hearing Heller read at Congregation Ner Tamid, in Rancho Palos Verdes, that same year (1988). It was before my book-signing/collecting days, so I was content to hear him read and answer questions, as well as shake
his hand afterwards.

I would love a signed first edition of Catch-22. However, these run over $3000, so I'll be waiting a while for that.

The film, by the way, is quite good, as well, and is pretty loyal to the book. I would definitely recommend it, despite being in the shadow of another anti-war movie of the early Seventies, a small film called "M*A*S*H*". Looking at the credits, it is amazing to see who was involved; directed by Mike Nichols, screenplay by Buck Henry, with Alan Arkin, Richard Benjamin, Art Garfunkel, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Paula Prentiss, Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, Orson Welles, Charles Grodin, and Norman Fell.

Here's another absurd excerpt:

The middle-aged big shots would not let Nately's whore leave until they made her say uncle.

"Say Uncle," they said to her.

"Uncle," she said.

"No, no. Say uncle."

"Uncle," she said.

"She still doesn't understand."

"You still don't understand, do you? We can't really make you say uncle unless you don't want to say uncle. Don't you see? Don't say uncle when I tell you to say uncle. Okay? Say uncle."

"Uncle," she said.

"No, don't say uncle. Say uncle."

She didn't say uncle.

"That's good!"

"That's very good."

"It's a start. Now say uncle."

"Uncle," she said.

"It's no good."

"No, it's no good that way either. She just isn't impressed with us. There's just no fun making her say uncle when she doesn't care whether we make her say uncle or not."

"No, she really doesn't care, doesn't she? Say 'foot.'"


"You see? She doesn't care about anything we do. She doesn't care about us. We don't mean a thing to you, do we?"

"Uncle," she said.

You can read the whole excerpt here.

I generally don't like to re-read books. Why read a book again when there are so many unread books to tackle. This book is one of the few exceptions to my rule. Readint eh excerpt makes me want to read Catch-22 again. It would be time well-spent, indeed.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Tree Snows in Brooklyn

9:15 A.M., EST, February 12, 2006

For previous pictures, of what one loyal reader calls "the most famous tree in Brooklyn," click here. I don't know about "most famous," but it's certainly our favorite.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

John Dunning

I can either talk about the Arctic Monkeys or the book I am currently reading. The Arctic Monkeys will wait. Just keep in mind, however, if you've never heard of the Arctic Monkeys, you heard about them here first.

I am reading currently John Dunning's The Sign of the Book; A Cliff Janeway Bookman Novel. This is the fourth in a series of mystery books that features the a lead protagonist who is a former Denver cop who has left the force and now runs a bookshop. He inevitably gets tangled up in some mystery that inevitably involves books and book collecting. Gee, can you imagine why I enjoy these books?

In fact, it was Dunning's The Bookman's Wake, the second Janeway novel, which I partially credit with infusing me with a book collector's mentality. I also thank my beloved wife who, on our first "paper" anniversary, gave me a signed copy of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Jailbird. The second book, because of its significance in altering my outlook on life, is my favorite and there was a long gap between that and The Bookman's Promise, which came out in 2004, and was quickly followed by The Sign of the Book in 2005.

The third book was the first I published while I was aware of Dunning, who also has written other books about, among other things, radio during World War II. Thus afforded me the opportunity two years back to finally meet the man himself, and have him sign my copy of The Bookman's Wake. He's a great personality and quite a hoot.

I don't think, like any great mystery series, you need to read the books in order, but it always helps. The latest book includes a main character Janeway met in The Bookman's Promise, which involved a "lost" book of the explorer Richard Burton.

After reading the second book, I went back and read the first one, Booked to Die which, from a collector's standpoint, is the scarcest and most collectible. All are good reads, and the latest fits into the successful formula. I am enjoying it thoroughly and would feel nothing but glee knowing BillyBlog helped one of its readers meet a new author.

You can read an excerpt of The Sign of the Book here.

I recommend them all.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Meet Bill Cohens or, Who I am Not

A little fun with ten Bill Cohens:

Bill #1

Dr. William C. Cohen, Doctor of Osteopathy, Orange, California

Bill #2

William W. Cohen, PhD., Computer Science, Associate Research Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

Bill #3

William S. Cohen, 20th Secretary of Defense, January 24, 1997 - January 20, 2001

Bill #4

William D. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Hunter College (CUNY)

Bill #5

William Cohen, Painter-Portraitist (Self-Portrait Shown)
from his website:
William Cohen is not a professional painter in the classical meaning. Born in Tunis, he was an art student for four years, before starting to work as an architect in the Tunisian Ministry of Reconstruction.

Then, after leading a very busy professional life, William Cohen gave himself the right to paint, first of all portraits (they are his specialty) then reproductions of famous Masters, a field in which he is excellent (Renoir, Monet, Dali, George de La Tour. He is also keen on animal themes and landscapes.)

Bill #6

William Cohen, C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law, Emeritus, Stanford University

Bill #7

DR. WILLIAM J. COHEN, Dentist, Chicago, Illinois

Bill #8

William S. "Bill" Cohen, Associate Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of Kentucky

Bill #9

William A. Cohen, PhD, Major General, USAFR, Ret., President, The Institute of Leader Arts

Bill #10

William Cohen, Historian, Professor Emeritus, Hope College, Holland, Michigan


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Subway Stickies

I get off the R train at 95th Street in Brooklyn, the last stop on the line. Often there is already a train in the station, as there are two tracks there. Late in the day, as rush hour is ending, some trains go out of service for the day. Such was the case on Tuesday, when I snapped this picture. Someone had stuck post-its to the inside of one of the windows. The pastels contrasted neatly with the cold metal of the train and its windows with scratched-in graffiti.

Is this blogworthy? Check out a new feature on BillyBlog....look for the blue box on the sidebar and vote on whether you think this picture was worth the megapixels. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lois-Ann Yamanaka

On Monday night, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Lois-Ann Yamanaka reading from her new book Behold the Many at the 92nd Street Y in New York. This is the fourth or fifth time I have heard Lois read, and she gets better every time. Behold the Many is her sixth novel. She has also written a book of poetry and a children's book. A complete list is here.

Over the years, Lois and I have drummed up an acquaintanceship (yes, that's a real word). I would love to say "friendship" but I do not want to be presumptuous. I've never been to her house or sat and had coffee with her, but we have exchanged letters and cards, and she has commented favorably on poems I have sent her. My mom sees her occasionally in Hawai'i at a literary event here and there.

Anyway, so I heard her read Monday and the new book is amazing. Carol Haggas from Booklist said the following:

A mystical, magical, and, at times, macabre world unfolds in Yamanaka's elegiac tale of three sisters outcast from their family and society in turn-of-the-century Hawaii. Reminiscent of Father Damien's leper colony on the island of Molokai, Oahu's St. Joseph's orphanage is a bleak haven of last resort for children afflicted with the tuberculosis that is devastating the Kalihi Valley. As first Leah, then Aki, and finally Anah contract the disease, the sisters are banished by their monstrous father and forsaken by their powerless mother, left to fend for themselves under the callous negligence of the orphanage's nuns. Of the three sisters, only Anah will survive, but when she leaves St. Joseph's on her eighteenth birthday, she, her future husband, and their burgeoning family are destined to be haunted by the ghosts of Anah's long-dead siblings and the boy who once loved her. Redolent with the island's lush and languid atmosphere, Yamanaka's richly atmospheric novel paints a chillingly spectral portrait of souls tormented by love and guilt.

You can read the first review here. I have been a fan ever since I saw her perform "Boss of the Food" on the PBS documentary United States of Poetry. The poem can be read here on that show's website. If you do anything, read the poem. Those of you from Hawai'i should read all her stuff. Doing so brings me back home.

And go see her read. Tell her I sent you!

Seattle Public Library
Beacon Avenue Branch
2821 Beacon Avenue South
Seattle WA
2/8/2006 7:00 PM

A Clean Well-Lighted Place
601 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco CA
2/9/2006 7:00 PM

Cody's Books
2454 Telegraph Ave.
Berkeley CA
2/10/2006 7:30 PM

Moon News Bookstore
315 Main Street
Half Moon Bay CA
2/10/2006 12:00 PM

Japanese American Museum
369 East First St.
Los Angeles CA
2/11/2006 11:00 AM

Native Books
Ward Warehouse
1050 #A8
Honolulu HI
3/2/2006 7:00 PM

Booklines Hawaii
269 Pali'I Street
Mililani HI
3/3/2006 6:00 PM

270 Dairy Rd. Ste. 190
Kahului HI
3/4/2006 1:00 PM

1200 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu HI
3/26/2006 2:00 PM

Here's a photo from after the event:

I should also mention that Lois was introduced by renowned author Jessica Hagedorn, who provided a glowing introduction. Lois' reading was preceded by that of Chinese author Ha Jin, who is also a phenomenal writer. Read his book Waiting. It's excellent too! All in all, a splendid event.