Bloomington’s Little Free Libraries (2)

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are two more Little Free Libraries on or just off Davis Ave. a little to the West of Bryan Park.

Here’s the one on Davis.  When it’s closed, it’s not at all clear what the green wooden box is — it almost has the look of a green electrical box — which may be a disadvantage, although I also kind of like the suspense in opening the latched box and finding out what’s inside.

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Right now its contents are hit or miss.  7 Habits of Highly Effective People, How to be a Success, the Boomer Burden.  Also a Barnes & Noble edition of Vanity Fair, Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation, and an old edition of a Horatio Alger novel. I didn’t take anything.

The box has a lovely situation next to a brook, with a bench, and in the middle of a series of gardening boxes (you can see some lettuce in the foreground of this photo).

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Right around the corner, by the corner of Davis and Franklin, is this neat tree-mounted Little Free Library:

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Since I was last there a day or two ago, it seems that someone has added several old-school 60s-70s male literary novelists: John Fowles’ A Maggot (just checked, actually 1985), Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business (everyone in my family was reading that some summer when I was 12 or so– I barely remember it but recall thinking it was great), John Barth’s The Floating Opera.

Also, this stern note: Wed. May 28- I Wonder Why Someone Took All the Books?  Uncool, folks!  Take one or maybe two and try to come back to replace them!

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Bloomington’s Little Free Libraries

The Little Free Library movement apparently began in 2009 in a town called Hudson, Wisconsin, and has spread like wildfire.

What is a Little Free Library?

It’s a “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. You can, too!

[The founders] were inspired by many different ideas:

  • Andrew Carnegie’s support of 2,509 free public libraries around the turn of the 19th to 20th century.
  • The heroic achievements of Miss Lutie Stearns, a librarian who brought books to nearly 1400 locations in Wisconsin through “traveling little libraries” between 1895 and 1914.
  • “Take a book, leave a book” collections in coffee shops and public spaces.
  • Neighborhood kiosks, TimeBanking and community gift-sharing networks
  • Grassroots empowerment movements in Sri Lanka, India and other countries worldwide.

The group’s original goal was “to build 2,510 Little Free Libraries—as many as Andrew Carnegie—and keep going.”  But “this goal was reached in August of 2012, a year and a half before our original target date. By January of 2014, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world was conservatively estimated to be nearly 15,000, with thousands more being built.”

I was delighted to come across one of these a few weeks ago near Bryan Park in Bloomington– it’s on E. Davis street, about a block and a half or so West of the park.  This one is a metal [actually painted green wood] box, if I recall correctly, with a door that shuts with a latch.  I took a book from it, although I am already forgetting what it was.  I owe them a book!

Then, the other day, I was walking home and came across this magnificent new one on the corner of First street and Highland Ave.  It has a glass door, so you can see the spines of the books from the sidewalk, enticing you to stop to look more closely; and as you can see, it has an extra bottom shelf for some guardians of the library, and a sort of visitors’ notebook.

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The collection of books was excellent, and I snagged the recent (published March 2014!) Philip Marlow re-boot, Benjamin Black (aka John Banville)’s The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel.  Not too shabby!  Today I took a dog walk back to the box and delivered what I think was a fair trade for that prize, an extra copy of Don DeLillo’s Underworld that I’ve had for ages– which you can see here.  This is clearly a pretty highbrow/ high-quality L.F.L.  There’s a copy of Wonder by R.J. Palacio, one of my kids’ favorite novels.

The proprietor of the box were doing some landscaping work around it when I showed up, and I learned that her L.F.L. is not part of Bloomington’s developing system (which the Monroe County Public Library is organizing, with help from a grant), but is a free agent. She also told me that there’s another box around the corner from the one I’ve seen on E. Davis, this one attached to a tree, like a bird house.

Here’s also a video about the Little Free Library story:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/72957294″>Little Free Library Story</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user13666567″>Beargrass Media</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

The whole idea could be accused of having a whiff of Portlandia-style preciosity or twee-ness to it.  But I’m a fan.  I can definitely never pass one of these without checking out its contents, and it’s fun to think about how each book got there, and where it may end up.

I will be on the lookout for the new L.F.L’s in town that should be cropping up.  Check them out!

Are you punk enough for our soy latte?: Soundtracks of the Cafes of Bloomington, IN

20120919-223190-college-tours-where-to-eat-near-indiana-university-somaSoma cafe, Bloomington; photo from Seriouseats.com

I find it interesting/ amusing that if you were placed blindfolded in one of the main downtown cafes of Bloomington, you could likely tell which one it was by hearing 20 seconds of the soundtrack.

The Scholars Inn Bakehouse (on the square): something very mainstream.  I’m here right now, and it’s been total classic hits of the corniest/ most old-school variety.  Sam Cooke’s “She was Only 16,” something by Linda Ronstadt, a Steely Dan song, “Shake Your Booty,” Creedence, etc. Absolutely zero gestures towards contemporary hipness of any kind.  It’s as if they’re aiming for visiting parents or even grandparents of IU students.  I have to admit I’m finding the bland medley somewhat soothing and non-distracting as I read, however.  (Right now, I kid you not, Seals and Crofts’ “Diamond Girl”!)

Soma.  In the back room, attempted deathly, library-like silence that can become very uncomfortable if someone actually has the temerity to have a conversation.  (I have to admit that I once participated in a conversation about Derrida (!) here as 15 people tried to work; it was kind of excruciating.)  In the front room, something very- to ridiculously hip/hipster.  Old Sonic Youth, say.  Usually great stuff, although once in a while it feels to me as if they’re trying too hard, and/or the music just gets too grating and distracting, and I wish for just a touch of Bakehouse-style corniness/ background tuneage.  A friend once characterized Soma’s vibe as: “are you punk rock enough for our soy latte?”

Starbucks.  You know what they play there.  Interestingly, this is likely to be much “hipper” than what you’ll be hearing in the (local, non-corporate) Bakehouse.  Something NPR-approved, the Shins or Neko Case or some such, perhaps.  (I generally like it.)  In case you needed to be reminded of the degree to which corporate America has adopted the signifiers of hip.

The Pourhouse.  This is perhaps the most interesting case.  The Pourhouse soundtrack seems to me to tend to cluster in a Venn Diagram overlap where “hipster/ indie/ alternative” overlaps with Christian rock.  Or, let’s say, indie-alt music that would be potentially palatable to someone who likes Christian rock.  Sufjean Stevens would be an obvious example. I find the Pourhouse overall a very pleasant place to work, and it used to be my go-to cafe, but lately I’ve cut back so thoroughly on post-breakfast caffeine that I get through the afternoons on peppermint tea, which they do not stock.

I realize I’m forgetting Rachael’s Cafe.  I haven’t been there for a while and I can’t recall offhand what they’re usually playing.

I tease out of love, cafes of Bloomington.  Rock on!

Finnish Sauna Bowdlerized!

Sarah brought home this book from our (great) local public library, the Monroe County Public Library:

Photo on 6-11-13 at 8.13 PMFinnish Sauna by Allan Konya.  London: the Architectural Press, 1987. Selling for $64 and up on Amazon.  Here’s the sole review posted there (which a perfect 15 of 15 people found “helpful”):

Allan Konya has written the most complete text on the Finnish sauna, covering the broad spectrum from the origins and rituals (something often overlooked), design and construction, materials, siting and layout. Every facet of the subject is thoroughly covered in detail and one comes away feeling he has finally understood what it takes to make a “good” sauna. This book follows quite closely the earlier text; “The International Handbook of Finnish Sauna” written by Allan Konya and Alewyn Burger. Anyone interested in designing, building or using a sauna should try to locate this book. It is the “bible” of the Finnish Sauna and is far superior to any other text on the subject. I have designed and built several saunas and still find useful information and inspiration in this book.

Not entirely sure why it caught Sarah’s eye, but anyway, when she got it home she discovered something we both found hilarious: some reader has taken it upon themselves to render the book more American-family-friendly by censoring (or Bowdlerizing), with a black Sharpie, the book’s images of nude Finns lounging in saunas.

Here are some examples:

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Only a small amount of water should be thrown at a time!

Photo on 6-11-13 at 8.15 PMPhoto on 6-11-13 at 8.15 PM #2What is that?  Is she carrying a baguette?

Photo on 6-11-13 at 8.16 PMPhoto on 6-11-13 at 8.17 PM

Wow, nothing made it but the legs on that second girl!

I hate to tell you, concerned library user circa 1988, but you have taken what was a wholesome guide to Finnish saunas and those who enjoy them, and turned it into a very kinky volume– these images have become so much more erotic, as it is now impossible not to imagine precisely what lies under the tantalizingly thorough black ink.

Now to learn more about the often-overlooked rituals of the Finnish sauna…

Ann Arbor man punched during literary argument

Too awesome!

Ann Arbor man punched during literary argument

Posted: Mon, Mar 19, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

A 34-year-old Ann Arbor man was sent to the hospital with a head injury after another man punched him on Saturday during a literary argument, according to police.

Ann Arbor police Lt. Renee Bush said the man went to a party at a home in the 100 block of North Ingalls Street at about 2 p.m. on Saturday. Bush said the man was sitting on the porch with some people he had just met, talking about books and authors.

The 34-year-old man was then approached by another party guest, who started speaking to him in a condescending manner. An argument ensued and the man was suddenly struck in the side of the head, suffering a cut to his left ear, Bush said.

The man’s glasses went flying off of his head and fell to the ground, with one of the lenses popping out of the frames, Bush said.

Police were notified of the incident at 10 a.m. Sunday when they responded to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Ann Arbor in the 500 block of North Maple Road. The man was being treated for his injuries there, she said.

The incident occurred at about 9 p.m. and the men had been drinking for several hours, Bush said.

The incident still is under investigation.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

As a friend commented, “literary criticism ain’t beanbag”!  And never forget the awesome power in this sport of “a condescending manner.”

I’d love to know more about what precisely they were arguing about.  First work of detective fiction, Edgar Allan Poe or Wilkie Collins?  Sentimentality of Uncle Tom’s Cabin a political strategy?  Emily Dickinson’s work necessarily to be read in its original manuscript/fascicle form?  Twilight vs. Hunger Games?

p.s.  To clarify, I do not think it is awesome that this poor soul went to the hospital with a head injury…

Nick Cave Soundsuits @ Cincinnati Museum of Art

We made a little Spring Break visit to Cincinnati this week, and one highlight was the show of Nick Cave “soundsuits” at the Cincinnati Museum of Art.  This is not the Australian musician Nick Cave of the Bad Seeds but the African-American, Missouri-born artist.  (At first I thought, geez, if you have the same name as an iconic/famous musician, wouldn’t you use Nicholas or something professionally? But it turns out the poor guy is only two years younger than the Australian Nick Cave.)

The soundsuits are body suits made of fur and (sometimes human) hair and decorated with buttons and various other appendages, tassels, sequins, feathers, and patterns.  They’re really beautiful, often funny & joyful, sometimes a bit scary, sometimes in the form of bears or other totemic animals.  In some ways they’re very simple — as much textile art, fashion and costuming as high-concept art; obviously influenced by drag outfits and probably New Orleans Indian Mardi Gras costumes, not to mention actual Native American or other indigenous shaman or ritual clothing.  One room was screening a video of the artist (and others?) dressed in the suits, dancing and generating the sounds and noise that they are designed to make when moving.  But in fact they worked very well as more static sculptural displays.

Part of what was neat about seeing them was the clever way they’d been integrated into the museum.  The Cincinnati Art Museum is a big, old-school, traditional 19th-century art museum with a pretty impressive collection of Old Master-type work from the last few centuries.   They scattered the soundsuits throughout the entire collection such that you follow blue arrows on the ground from room to room to come upon them integrated with the permanent collection.  They often seemed to be playing off the Japanese ceramics or 18th-century French painting or whatever it was in that room; although I never felt sure how intentionally or expressly the juxtapositions had been been planned, it often felt as if there were subtle parallels or echoes at play.

The girls really loved them too, and would gasp and exclaim when we came upon a new one.  It was definitely art an 8-year-old girl could relate to, all about the transformative power of costumes and dressing up.

Here’s a video interview of the artist with some of the suits:

*Cedar Rapids,* Eliot Coleman, and the Midwestern greenhouse dream

[image: http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-gardening/backyard-gardening/small-scale-greenhouse.aspx%5D

We watched the El Helms movie Cedar Rapids: Ed Helms is Tim Lippe, a modest, upstanding, nerdy small-town Iowa insurance salesman who is sent to a conference in the glittering fleshpots of Cedar Rapids, IA, which functions (often wittily) in the movie as a very tame/toned-down version of Las Vegas in The Hangover.  “Sometimes a girl just needs to go somewhere where she can be someone else,” a character comments; what happens in Cedar Rapids stays in Cedar Rapids.  It’s not bad… Helms and his roommate, similarly modest/upstanding/pious salesman Isiah Whitlock Jr., are both very amusing in their shocked disapproval of the wild goings-on (swearing, drinking shots, swimming in the hotel pool after hours) at the conference, embodied in their other crass roommate played by a good John C. Reilly.  There’s a funny running meta-joke about Isiah Whitlock’s nerdy (African-American) character, who is “a fan of the HBO series The Wire” and at one point puts on his best ghetto Omar imitation for purposes of intimidation; Whitlock played corrupt State Senator Clay Davis in The Wire.

Ultimately I’d categorize this as one of those movies that if you stumbled upon, you’d be pleasantly surprised; not exactly a must-see, though.  Sadly these days that probably makes it one of only a small handful of decent recent Hollywood comedies?  Sarah made a good point that the movie would make more sense if the characters were teenagers, and that it’s probably (a la Hot Tub Time Machine) intended for 40-somethings with fond memories of 1980s teen movies; I immediately could see the whole thing taking place at a senior class trip or some such.

Anyway… we were both amused when the Anne Heche character asks Helms to tell her about his dreams and fantasies, and he starts explaining his desire to build a small backyard season-extending greenhouse.  “A greenhouse?  Come on…” she says, meaning, “I want to hear about major life fantasies, not little DIY backyard projects,” but Helms says, “no, really, it can be quite affordable if you build it yourself.”

This was funny to us and hit a bit close to home because Sarah has been obsessed with this very possibility even since our friend Judith offered us her quite-awesome built-in greenhouse which she does not use.  Of course, the question is whether it would be remotely practical to move the fragile, glass-filled thing the 7 blocks to our yard, but Sarah has been scheming about it and dreaming of December fresh lettuce and greens.

I’m reading & enjoying that Melissa Coleman memoir about her upbringing on her father Eliot Coleman’s famous Maine organic Four Seasons Farm (which we visited last month; Sarah even managed to schmooze with Coleman himself a bit), THIS LIFE IS IN YOUR HANDS: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone… Elliot Coleman was an innovator in popularizing organic farming techniques that allow for vegetables throughout the winter– greenhouses and root cellars playing a key role.  Sarah would also like a root cellar of course.

In a way, that a character in this kind of Hollywood comedy would be dreaming about a backyard greenhouse can be understood as a sign of how far the influence of Eliot Coleman and his ilk has spread in the U.S., far beyond the counterculture.  Next all Tim Lippe needs are some chickens.