Sunday, July 30, 2006

Things I Hate

Robin over at The Other Mother suggested I do the “20 Things I Hate” meme to get out of my doldrums. The doldrums are very noticeable today because tomorrow I HAVE TO GO BACK TO WORK. Which means getting up at 5:30am as opposed to 7am.

I checked my contract and it says I don’t have to report till the 7th. But for some reason I have meeting after meeting scheduled for next week so I might as well bite the bullet and get into the routine. Texas teachers have no union with any power so when the administration says “Be There” we have to “Be There”. Or else. And “or else” does nothing toward getting the bills paid

  1. I hate the alarm at 5:30 am. I really do like my job, I just wish school didn’t start at 7am
  2. I hate the Katy Freeway (also known at Interstate 10 West). It is under a state of permanent construction.
  3. While I don’t mind getting old, in fact life gets more and more interesting with each passing day, I do hate the fact that my eyes and knees don’t work as well as they used too.
  4. And while I’m at it, I hate the fact that my metabolism doesn’t work as well as it used to either. Once upon a time, I could anything and everything. That was then, and sadly, it is no longer now.
  5. I hate folding the sheets.
  6. I hate buying clothes – especially in large department stores because the staff would rather do anything but be helpful. Houston just got a Nordstrum where I understand the staff is actually happy to assist customers. I plan to check them out the next time I need “real clothes”. Which I hope won’t be till one of my daughters marry. Which isn’t about to happen anytime soon. Which is good.
  7. I hate it when the state or any institution squanders thousands and thousands of dollars on fancy furniture, parties and trips while children haven’t health insurance and park workers are laid off to accommodate budget cuts.
  8. I hate it when parents seem to have money for cigarettes but not for glasses for their children. You’d be amazed how common this is.
  9. I hate writing book descriptions for E-bay. I love scouting for books and selling books, but writing descriptions is an almighty bore.
  10. I hate it when my computer is balky.
  11. I hate the fact that the school district is so worried about cyber predators that they throw out the baby with the bath water and ban all access to blogging sites and anything else that might cause a problem. Wouldn’t it be better to teach the kids safety rules instead?
  12. I hate this stupid war. It’s pointless. I wonder what all the Soccer Moms who supported the shrub will do when their children are called up for provide cannon fodder? With enlistments going down I wouldn’t be surprised to see the draft reappearing.
  13. I hate Hummers. What a useless excuse for a car and what a statement in selfish conspicuous consumption. Have you noticed that people who drive one are always on their cell phones and think traffic laws and traffic courtesy are for everyone but Hummer Drivers?
  14. I hate out of control children. For someone, a portion of the population who shops at thrift stores thinks nothing of letting their children turn the place into a playground. They also see nothing wrong with letting their baby or toddler scream and cry for a solid 20 minutes.
  15. I hate it when the cat pees where she shouldn’t. It’s normally when she’s mad at us. She is one smart cat.
  16. hate talking to technical support people who reside in another continent and yet try and convince me that they are stateside. The jig is up when your accent is so heavy that I have to ask you to repeat everything 3 times. That’s the main reason I didn’t replace my Dell with another Dell.
  17. I hate anything having to do with Health Insurance. Yes, I’m lucky to have it, but why does it have to be so cumbersome and difficult to deal with.
  18. I hate it when Amazon and E-bay buyers have unrealistic expectations regarding mailing times. If someone buys a book on Monday it is not going to show up in their mailbox on Tuesday. And despite what they think, I have no control over how long it takes the USPS to deliver. If I had that kind of power I wouldn’t have to work for a living.
  19. I hate ED commercials. The golf channel runs 24/7 at our house and I’ve decided that men spend way to much time worrying about that particular portion of their anatomy. I consider those commercial to be TMI to the extreme. The enlarged prostate medication commercials are just as bad.
  20. I hate it when the car breaks down. In my next life I want to live in a city with good public transportation and not own one.

You know, it worked, I do feel better! I’m not passing this on to anyone but take it and run with it you want to! It is very cathartic!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Bit to Much Time with Books?

Dallas Posted by Picasa
I’m happily wallowing in a DVD of second season of Dallas -my favorite prime time soap. One of the characters walks over to a bookshelf and pulls down a book. I notice that shelved beside it is the The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, Third edition.

I start to wonder – why is that book on the shelf? Sue Ellen hasn’t been sent away to dry out yet nor admitted she has a problem so she wouldn’t be reading it. Even though I know it, and all the books were just stuck on there by some set dresser with no thought as to what the titles were.

Then I muse “What would it worth on E-bay?”

And to make it worse, I already know the answer – not much, I’ve sold 3 of them lately! To bad it wasn' the First Edition.

Back in Cyberspace Again

Though I've not been posting them, I'm still writing my monthly article BookThink. It's great fun and makes me feel like I'm a real bookseller - as opposed to an E-bay Bottom Feeder!

Buying and Selling Children's BooksThere's No Business Like Show Business
Guusje Moore dances onto the BookThink stage today, and the theme song is children's books with a show biz angle - and a special emphasis on ballet. As always, key authors in the genre are identified and flashpoints abound. Speaking of flashpoints, Guusje also illustrates a pattern in books with special value: The best ones often possess two or more flashpoints.

There's No Business Like Show Business
Many girl's novels from the 1940s to the 1960s were written by middle and upper class white women for middle and upper class white girls. These were times when women had, wrote Betty Freidan in The Feminist Mystique, very limited options, especially in career choices.

Girl's fiction reflected these limitations. Many of us dreamed of careers in television or the movies. After all, wasn't Annette starring in the Mickey Mouse Club? And what girl didn't dream of being the next Shirley Temple or Margaret O'Brien in the movies? There was also ballet. The annual ritual of the Nutcracker Suite ballet inspired dreams of more than just sugar plums. From these dreams grew the show business genre. Yes, the chances of any child making it in the entertainment business were and still are slim to none, but what 10 year old is a realist? In any case, childhood is a time to dream big.

Many, many girls took ballet lessons and avidly read the Susie books by Lee Wyndham: Susie and the Dancing Cat, A Dance for Susie, On Your Toes Susie, Susie and the Ballet Family, and Susie and the Ballet Horse. A couple of these were published as Scholastic paperbacks, and while they aren't worth much individually, they still sell well in lots. Susie and the Ballet Horse follows the familiar rule of series books: It is the last and the hardest to find, and it commands the best price. You can easily expect to get $50 for it on eBay, and it might even break $100 if multiple bidders are competing for it. You'll notice this title has another flashpoint - "horses" - besides "ballet."

Wyndam was a prolific author who also wrote career romances. Candy Stripers, Beth Hilton: Model, Slipper Under Glass, and Golden Slippers are all common since they were available in paperback, but Lady Architect is worth a very tidy sum.

Eunice Young Smith set her Jennifer books in the mid-west at the turn of the century. Her most popular, Jennifer Dances, has a ballet theme, but her scarcest book is - following the same pattern - the final one in the series, High Heels for Jennifer.

The girls across the pond are just as ballet crazy as their American counterparts, and British kid lit feeds this passion. You'll find many of these books listed on eBay from sellers located in Australia or England. US bidders who are uncomfortable with overseas sellers will naturally gravitate to listings closer to home, especially if you emphasize that they will only have to pay USPS Media Mail rates.

Mabel Esther Allan, creator of the Ballet Family series, was the most prolific British writer in this sub-genre. As Jean Estoril she wrote another ballet series, the Drina books. Using her own name and the noms de plume Anne Pilgrim and Priscilla Hagon, she wrote many other books for girls. The Ballet Family books (The Ballet Family, The Ballet Family Again, and The Dancing Garlands) were published in this country under her own name, but overseas they sometimes appeared under Estoril. We Danced in Bloomsbury Square is part of the series: It also appears under both names, and it's another book with double flashpoints - ballet and twins.

The Drina books begin, as so many ballet series do, with Drina taking her first ballet lesson, and end with Drina as a prima ballerina. Long out of print, they have a devoted fan base and even the paperbacks sell, and sell well. Each one of them has the name 'Drina' in the title, making them easy to spot. In fact, this is a common trait of most series books: The main character's name is usually part of the title. That made it easy for children to find them on a library shelf, and today it is equally easy for a bookseller to find them at an FOL sale.

Most of the books Allan wrote as Anne Pilgrim and Priscilla Hagon are stand-alone books written for teenagers, and they too sell very, very well. I once sold a very ratty, battered, rebound, ex-library copy of Clare Goes to Holland for $50. She also wrote a number of books set in British boarding schools - a very collectible genre all of its own - as well as mysteries and young adult romances.

Keeping pace with Mabel Esther Allan was fellow countrywoman Lorna Hill. Hill wrote more than 30 books, and thank goodness she wrote them all under the same name! Like Allan, she wrote series books - the Marjorie series (not about ballet), the Sadler's Wells series (this was the original name of the Royal Ballet School and is also a flashpoint; the theater was commonly referred to as "The Wells"), and the Dancing Peels series. Snap up any of these you see. It doesn't matter if they are paperback, hardback or ex-library. Her other non-ballet books are the Vicarage Children series and the Patience books, and there are three books for adults as well.

Non-series books of these prolific authors often command higher prices than series titles. Often, not as many copies were printed, or libraries didn't buy them, preferring to allocate their always insufficient budget toward the series books instead.

Noel Streatfeild, whom I've mentioned before, is best known for Ballet Shoes.
This title is still in print and not worth listing, but she wrote many other show business books. The American editions were all re-titled to include the word "shoes," including Dancing Shoes, Skating Shoes, Movie Shoes, and Family Shoes. The English editions retain the original titles: Wintle's Wonders, White Boots, The Painted Garden, and The Bell Family among them.

Little girls still dream of being ballerinas, and there are many contemporary books available to satisfy their passion. ChildrensLit has an extensive list, with pictures for those of you who are visual learners. And you'll also find lists on Amazon. The best approach for more recent titles is to use bag day sales to put together lots.

Along with ballet, there was the lure of the bright lights of Broadway. Helen Dore Boylston is best known for her Sue Barton nurse books, but she also wrote (with the help of her actress friend and neighbor Eva Le Gallienne) the Carol Page books - Carol Goes on Stage, Carol on Broadway, Carol Goes Backstage, Carol Plays Summer Stock, and Carol on Tour. These are much, much harder to find. A full set of this series might get you close to Power Seller status on eBay!

Janet Lambert, another author who has previously appeared in my columns, couldn't resist the lure of the theater in some of her Penny Parrish books. In fact, she had so much fun putting Penny on the stage that she wrote the Parri MacDonald series about Penny's daughter, who also aspires to tread the boards. Happily, if you're a reader (or sadly, if you're a bookseller), Janet Lambert has been re-printed in paperback, but her avid fans will still snap up any hardbacks that you come across.

Showboat Summer, one of the Pam and Penny books by Rosamund Du Jardin, is a summer romance book with a theater background. Again, note the double flashpoints; this time it's theater and twins.

The eight-volume Peggy Lane series, written by Virginia Hughes, was actually penned by a syndicate in the 1960s. The Girls' Series Companion sums it up rather well:
"This series is based on the premise that a girl from Rockport, Wisconsin - having no previous acting experience - can come to New York and become a stage and screen actress in a short period of time. Initially, Peggy gets some unbelievably lucky breaks that will irritate anyone who has struggled and starved to become an actor." These are more common in paperback, although Grosset & Dunlap did publish hardcover versions with quite sophisticated and distinctive cover art. Keep an eye out for later titles such as Peggy Finds the Theater, Peggy Plays Paris, or Peggy Goes Hollywood.

The crossover genre of career romance novels for young adults of course includes books on the theater and dance. Yankee Ballerina by Marie-Jeanne and Hollywood Starlet by Dixie Wilson are but two examples.

Have you noticed a trend here? Many desirable children's books have double if not triple flashpoints. I can't recall any books about an orphaned little witch who becomes a dancing sensation and then adopts a pet cat, but I am sorely tempted to write one. It would become an instant classic. In the meantime I'll keep looking for books with pictures of stage lights and tutus on the cover!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Something Else!

I really feel like writing today- I’m finally feeling ahead of myself book listing wise and I’m allowing myself to do SOMETHING ELSE!

Among the something elses is surfing Blog Explosion, reading the blogs and looking for the gold nuggets among the chaff. Trust me; there is a great deal of chaff out there in the blogsphere!

I did find Dementia Blues, written on a subject I thankfully have little experience with, but so well written than I just kept reading the posts. From experience, I know that folks with well-written blogs link to other well-written blogs so I clicked around and found, A Long and Writing Road which had one of those fun “snapshot” memes that are always enjoyable to read and complete.

1. Yourself: Contented & semi hungrey.
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend: Alternately dozing and watching golf while prone on the couch
3. Your hair: Brown with threads of gray.
4. Your Mother: In Holland visiting her sister and showing off her two granddaughters.
5. Your Father: Died 3 years ago this month.
6. Your Favorite Item: Laptop and WiFi
7. Your dream last night: Bizarre and muddled.
8. Your Favorite Drink: Coca Cola – the Real Thing or a Starbucks Latte.
9. Your Dream Home: Library or a well stocked thrift store.
10. The Room You Are In: Living Room
11. Your fear: Overstaying my welcome on this earth
12. Where you Want to be in Ten Years? Retired
13. Who you hung out with last night: My Beloved, our 5 cats and my buddies on the Internet.
14. What You’re Not: Pessimistic.
15. Your Best Friends: Few but cherished.
16. One of Your Wish List Items: Wall to wall built in bookshelves.
17. Your Gender: Female
18. The Last Thing You Did: Listed books to sell on Amazon
19. What You Are Wearing: T-shirt & shorts
2o. Your favorite weather: Houston in March – not to hot, not to cold, which is unlike Houston the rest of the year.
21. Your Favorite Book? Changes every week if not every day!
22.Last thing you ate? Lentil & rice salad with feta cheese.
23. Your Life: busy, active and fulfilling.
24. Your mood: Cheerful.
25. The last person you talked to on the phone: Sister in law.
26. Who are you thinking about right now? That a margarita or cold beer with some Tex-Mex would taste really good!

Whom am I passing this one too? Nobody, but if you feel so inclined go for it!

Books Books Books Can One Overdose on Books?

Lately my life appears to be all books, all the time! Not only do I spend my workday surrounded by them, they occupy my nights and weekends too.

The big difference between the school year and the summer is that along with reading children’s books, selling books, scouting for books, packing books and listing books I add reading adult books to my list of literary mania. Some I read for pleasure, some are professional and some are both. Summer is my time to explore new authors and come up with new lessons to for the upcoming school year.

Persephone Books Posted by Picasa

In the new author department, I’ve actually discovered a new publisher - Persephone Books of London, England. In their own words: “ Persephone prints mainly neglected fiction and non-fiction by women, for women and about women. The titles are chosen to appeal to busy women who rarely have time to spend in ever-larger bookshops and who would like to have access to a list of books designed to be neither too literary nor too commercial. The books are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking and impossible to forget .”

I came across Persephone while prowling Amazon – Persephone is responsible for the re-appearance of one my favorite authors, Noel Streatfeild. I’ve all her children’s books and while I knew she started out as an adult author I’ve never read any of her gown up books. So I’m most ways through Saplings, which I’m thoroughly enjoying, though it’s odd to read a sex scene written by an author I avidly read as a child. Sort of the same feeling one gets when one realizes that yes, one’s parents did actually “do it” !

I have since bought a few more of their offerings and I’m delighted with their choices. The books are also physically very attractive, with sturdy silver covers and unique endpapers.

In the professional books section, Judy Freeman, who is every school librarian & school teachers best friend produced a new 4th edition of her hefty tome Books Kids Will Sit Still For. I stumbled across the first and second editions at a library sale so now I have a full set. It's a companion of Books Kids Will Sit Still For 2. Not only does she include the most detailed book lists and bibliographies on the planet; for good measure, she includes a hundred or so pages of lesson and activity ideas. It is an entire library programs wrapped up in 900+ pages!

The Librarian & Teacher Bible Posted by Picasa

When I am not reading I am listing books. Summer time is catch up time. It’s when I start hauling the boxes of books purchased at the spring Friend of the Library Sales out of the garage and getting them into my auction program. Summers are always slow on E-bay so I put them in the hopper and upload them when the holiday buying season begins in September.

Books, Books, Books! Posted by Picasa

So, can one overdose on books? Maybe, but it hasn’t happened yet!

Hunched Shoulders

Ah, the joys of summer and leisure time – I treated myself to a pedicure.
Here in Houston, Vietnamese immigrants staff almost all of the strip center nail saloons.
The man of the family runs the cash register and guards all the money while the women beautify the customers.

Sitting there, being pampered I noticed the bent over shoulders of the woman who was working on me.

A century ago, the immigrant women were bent over sewing machines as they worked in the garment sweatshops. The garment industry is now outsourced to the Orient and today’s immigrants are hunched over the feet of the descendants of those exploited workers. And the exploitation still continues.

I wonder, when the 22nd century rolls around what task the hunched and bent shoulders will be doing?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Is He or Isnt He?

I have never given much credence to conspiracy theories. Figured that those were the province of the crackpots, the crazy folks, the wild eyed ones.

An amazing number of intelligent, sane, literate people really do believe that Ken Lay isn’t dead. Sane literate people whom I know and respect and who are my friends and family. I find myself agreeing with them. It is a scary feeling – am I suddenly in my dotage? I am not old enough for that stage of life yet (like all Baby Boomers I am not embracing old age)!

Go to Goggle and type in “Ken Lay is Not Dead” – and up come hundreds of hits.
The conspiracy blogs are buzzing. When the news came out that Lay was to be cremated, with no viewing the blogs began to sound like a hive a angry of bees.

It was all just so “coincidental”, the timing is all so perfect. Ken Lay, was much to his surprise convicted. Despite claims that he has no money he manages a vacation in a small town near Aspen. Conveniently, he dies there, far away from big city media and the one of the best high tech medical centers in the nation.

Lay has the money, he has the political connections (after all, he’s Kenny Boy to the The Shrub ), he has the smarts, he has the cunning and he has the nerve. Anyone who testifies with a straight face that he did not know what was going on in his own company and thinks he can bamboozle the jury with his story has nerve aplenty.

I bet John Grisham already has already finished his first draft!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ken Lay is the new Elvis

According to the local news Houston Talk Radio is all abuzz that Ken Lay isn't really dead. He's faked his own death and it's all part of a big conspiracy so that he won't have to go to prison.
He's taken all the money and run away to Argentina or Costa Rica. He called in his political markers and George Bush & the CIA helped him get away. He's sitting on a beach somewhere sipping Pina Coladas and laughing his ass off.

KHOU- TV has a section for readers comments and there are many like this one:
"My first reaction was that his death was staged and he's on his way to Argentina for a little plastic surgery. "

Fascinating theory - and the scary part is that nobody would be surprised if it was true!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ken Lay 1942-2006

Well, he cheated the system yet again. Yes of course I'm sorry for his family, sorry he's dead but I think he got off easy and so did his family.

But all the people who lost their jobs, lost their life savings and lost their idenity will never finish picking up and putting together the pieces of their lives. They know Ken Lay will never have to do any of that any more.

Oddly, the news media are busy returning him to sainthood. They appear to be bending over backward not to speak ill of the dead. Yesterday he was a crook, today he's a "good man". Go figure.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Chick Flicks

I went to the movies yesterday. While this is a regular occurrence for most folks, for me it's as rare as a Blue Moon. Saw The Devil Wears Prada - and it was just as I expected, perfect eye candy for the eyes and brain candy for the brain. Think Sex and the City without the sex (and the superior writing).

The director was obviously a fan of Pretty Woman, as he borrowed heavily from that films Ugly Ducking theme and clothing montages.

Meryl Streep does a fantastic job, though she does make arch virgao Miranda Priestly actually vunerable and human for a few moments, which isn't at all how the character is portrayed in the book. In the book she's the boss from hell from start to finish.

Anne Hathway is credible as the young, fashion impaired assitant who bails when when she discovers herself becoming an urber bitch.

And that's what bothered me - all her friends are on her case for "changing" and her boyfriend dumps her. She's right out of college, that's what you do when you are 22 or 23, find out who you are, try on different jobs and personalities and wardrobes - and try to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. At the end she decides not to sell her soul to the devil and returns to her old, though not quite as frumpy self. Of course it's Hollywood and it has to have a heart tugging "ahoy" ending, but I think most 23 year olds would have been seduced by the power and continued on their stiletto clad path.

The joy of the movie is the clothes - even for polo and jeans wearing person such as myself and the location shots. Someone involved with this film adores New York City and Paris and it shows.
It's the movie equivalent of a beach book and was a perfect way to while away rainy summer afternoon.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Mission Accomplished!

After 2 days worth of work, 4 full trash bags to the garbage can, 3 grocery bags to the Food Bank and 3 boxes of surplus stuff to FreeCycle the kitchen and pantry are finally put back together again.

1 Posted by Picasa

What a job!

2 Posted by Picasa

But it was worth it. Even the junk drawer is organized!

done! Posted by Picasa