Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

May 1 is Indie Day

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

This is a post by Kevin Guilfoyle, a fine writer, whose posts and thoughts are always deeply helpful to me.  Here’s a chance to see one or more of your favorite crime writers at an Independent bookstore on May 1.

A week after his first novel The Rachel Papers came out, Martin Amis saw someone reading it on a train. He didn’t say anything to the person because he assumed, now that he was a novelist, he would be constantly encountering random people enjoying his work on trains and planes and park benches and waiting rooms. It didn’t happen to him again for 15 years.This Friday, May 1, thousands will recognize the Buy Indie Day holiday by stopping in at one of their favorite independent bookstores and making a purchase. A few weeks ago, I asked readers to do that, but also to announce ahead of time where they will be going. The point, after all, is not some one-day indie bookstore stimulus package, but to remind people of their local indies and to raise awareness about the best independent booksellers around the country. You can find an indie bookstore near you here or here.  

 Below is a list of stores where a number of writers will be on Friday, not as authors promoting their books, but as readers buying a book. If one of those writers sees you holding his or her book you will likely make their day because it really doesn’t happen as often as you probably think, even for the big guys. If they don’t notice, feel free to make the first move. I will continue to update this list all week, so authors please write to me (kevin[at] if you want to be added. And I’d encourage everyone to give some love to your favorite indie bookstore by telling us in the comments where you’re going to celebrate Buy Indie Day. And tell folks on your blog. And on Facebook. And at your book club. The holidays are no fun to celebrate by yourself.

KAREN ABBOTT Sin in the Second City will be at McNally Jackson Bookstore

Tasha Alexander, Tear of Pearl, will be at the Mysterious Bookshop 

ROSECRANS BALDWIN You Lost Me There. McIntyre’s Fine Books 

SEAN CHERCOVER Big City, Bad Blood and Trigger City Partners In Crime

BARBARA D’AMATO and Michael Dymmoch will both be at the many indie dealers at Malice Domestic

Kevin Guilfoyle will be at Centuries and Sleuths in River Forest

Sara Paretsky will  be at the Seminary Co-op in Hyde Park

To see more of your favorite writers and where they’re going to be for Indie Fest, read Kevin’s complete rundown at the Chicago Outfit blog

Manifestation à la rue

Monday, April 27th, 2009

In the north of the northern hemisphere, April is the month of wild mood swings.  One day it’s 80 under a beaming sun, the next it’s 50 with a bracing rain-filled wind sweeping down from Canada–the tail end of the Alberta Clipper that freezes Chicago for three months, or, in the case of this past winter, six.

Today, April 27, is indecisive.  High winds, fast-moving clouds, jackets one moment, shirtsleeves the next.  And so, with banners threatening to take flight, and all our flyers under rocks, a group of us met outside the Field Museum in Chicago to alert Boeing’s shareholders that their company participates in torture.

Boeing owns a company called Jeppesen, and Jeppesen has been providing services to the CIA to allow them to carry prisoners to overseas countries where they will be tortured.  Here’s a copy of one of their invoices:

Taken from ACLU website: Jeppesen invoice for transporting Mohammed El-Zery from Sweden to Egypt on a Gulfstream V Aircraft

Taken from ACLU website: Jeppesen invoice for transporting Mohammed El-Zery from Sweden to Egypt on a Gulfstream V Aircraft

I think it’s an interesting corporate policy that they don’t accept checks.  Cash is a good way to do shady business, as the Mob can attest.  For more details about Jeppesen, and the ongoing ACLU suit to try to end torture, and to force the CIA to publicize their behavior, you can go here.

Boeing’s headquarters are in Chicago, and, with a group of other activists, including Catholic sisters who are committed activists for social justice, and Bob Clark from the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights,  I go each year to inform their shareholders about their company’s acts. The Field Museum, where the meetings are held, has an odd public-private relationship with Chicago–it’s not a publicly owned museum, but some of the land on which it sits is public property. Last year, we were harassed and intimidated by  security guards who pretended to be with the Chicago Park District.  With the support of Chicago police, they herded our band of protestors into a so-called First Amendment box, about half a mile from where shareholders were entering the museum.  I wrote about the experience last year for the Outfit collective blog.

After that stressful experience, we called on the American Civil Liberties Union for help.  They explained in writing to the Chicago police what our First Amendment rights were for congregating, for distributing literature, and for being on public property.  

This year, we had a peaceful outing.  The ringleader of the  security staff wore his corporate outfit this year instead of pretending he was a city employee.  We don’t know whether he and his brothers worked for Boeing, or perhaps for Red Hawk, one of the 200 private quasi-military firms that do a big business in Africa and the Middle East as private military and security companies: we saw beaucoup Red Hawk vans in the museum’s private parking lot, next to the entrance where the shareholders were meeting.  

We left feeling happy that, thanks to the ACLU and our own determination, we had been able to stand up for the First Amendment.  We feel sad that President Obama isn’t willing to go further on ending U.S. participation and complicity in torture.  He has so far agreed with Mr. Bush that all documents pertaining to CIA rendition flights constitute state secrets that cannot be revealed.  He’s mute on the School of the Americas.

If you have the stomach for it, and want to know more about what has been done in our name, you could watch Taxi to the Dark Side. I can’t figure out how to upload videos into my blog, but here is an excerpt presented by Bill Moyers.

Manifestation à la rue: thanks to prodding from readers after my whine about hobbies, I started taking French lessons.  I learned last week that 30 % des françaises ont participé à une manifestation à la rue pendant leur vies.  I don’t know what percentage of Americans have participated in a demonstration during their lives, and I don’t know if it’s good or bad never to have gone out–but I came home with mixed feelings: I’d done a good deed, standing up for civil liberties.  ABut the feeling of having been out on the street means one feels one’s done enough, and then, back to the comfort of the daily routine.

Adios, Texas?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Texas Governor Perry isn’t ruling out secession as the statement of the proud and independent people of Texas to the U.S. government.  Texas is tired of paying federal taxes and getting nothing back, apparently.  And 51 percent of Texas Republicans support Perry and secession.

However, Texas has benefitted mightily from their association with the United States, and if they’re serious about leaving, then on their way out the door they should return the wealth they’ve accrued .  Texas came into the union originally because they couldn’t meet their debt obligations from their war of independence from Mexico.  They decided the easy solution was to get Uncle Sam to take on their debt.  

The fiercely independent Texans demanded that they come into the Union as a slave state and that the federal government assume their debt as a condition of participation in the United States.  Through a complicated set of transactions, including spinning off part of Texas into current-day New Mexico, and turning Texas’ low-valued land into debt collateral, the United States agreed to Texas’ terms.  Slavery continued in Texas until well past the Civil War; the state didn’t think it necessary to implement the Emancipation Proclamation, and it took President Johnson a while to decide that African-Americans could be free there.

In 1850, Texas’ $15 million in war bonds represented a quarter of the federal budget.  Inflation-adjusted, that’s $370 million.  On the other hand, one could argue that they owe us a quarter of the current federal budget. It wasn’t cheap to force them to comply with abolition.

Moving forward 130 years, when Ronald Reagan deregulated the Savings & Loan business, free-wheeling S & L managers managed to create a financial crisis that cost U.S. taxpayers $1 trillion.  Texas had led the pack with deregulation, starting in the 1960’s; half of the failed S & L’s were in Texas.  That’s another $500 billion.

And it was a president afrom the great state who mired us in a war whose off-book cost is $3 trillion and rising.cagle00luck_war_slogan_500

So–give us back our $3.87 trillion, and you can return  Texas to independence, or to Mexico, with our blessing, Governor Perry.

A brief return to euphoria

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

A friend of mine went to DC for Barack’s inauguration, and I just received her pictures.  I know the glow has faded under the unrelenting economic misery, but the pictures bring back such a happy memory, I thought I’d put up a few.


Sara actually received the invitation but couldn't attend

Sara actually received the invitation but couldn't attend

JoAnn on the mall listening to Barack

JoAnn on the mall listening to Barack


Watching the Inauguration

Watching the Inauguration



At the Home States Ball

At the Home States Ball


Shirley and friend at the Home States Ball

Shirley and friend at the Home States Ball

Judy Krug

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Judy Krug died on Saturday, April 11.  As a fierce advocate of the 1st Amendment, she began the Freedom to Read Foundation, which supports U.S. libraries in their ongoing struggle with censorship.  I didn’t know Judy well at all, but I took part each year in Banned Books Week, another of her brainchildren, where we read from and celebrated books that have been challenged or banned at libraries in the United States.  My favorite of the banned or challenged books I learned about through Judy was And Tango Makes Three.  Tango relates the true story of two male penguins in New York’s Central Park zoo, who became lovers, hatched an abandoned egg, and raised the chick.  


Judy Krug was a hero and a model for me, someone who was not afraid to speak up, not afraid to take abuse in defense of our most fundamental freedom.  All of us who cherish the written word are lessened by her death.

The family would like donations made to the Freedom to Read Foundation, at 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL  60611.

Playing through the Pain

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Passover starts at sundown on April 8.  We’re supposed to “leave the House of Bondage.”  I think about the things/feelings I’m in bondage to–my fears, my obsessions–and wonder how I can leave them and enter the House of Freedom.  

I just attended a concert by Leon Fleischer.images  Fleischer, who’s 80 now, lost the use of his right hand when he was about 35, and spent the next 30 years performing the left-handed repertoire, conducting and teaching.  When he was almost 70, a cure was found for the neurological disorder that afflicted him, and he’s now back to performing with two hands, and playing more passionately and beautifully than anyone else I’ve heard recently.

He says he never was bitter, and I wonder if that’s true.  I wonder what the process was.  I imagine panic, followed by some years of agony, and then moving to a new place in his career.

I have a friend in Houston, a poet and a woman, who was diagnosed with late-onset MS.  Her first two years with the condition, she tried to work out in psycho-therapy what fears made her fall over.  I wonder if a psychiatrist suggested to Mr. Fleischer that he was afraid of appearing in public and so had lost the use of his right hand.  Or do those suggestions only get made to women?

Every time I sit down to write, it’s with a renewed sense of inadequacy.  I just read D T Max’s portrait of David Foster Wallace in the March 9 New Yorker.  Do only great writers get to be depressed about the quality of their work?  Should someone like me just put on my big-girl underpants and move on?  What is the exit from the House of Bondage?


Thursday, April 2nd, 2009


Sisters4Science at Reavis Elementary

Sisters4Science at Reavis Elementary

I support about a dozen not-for-profits, some involved in human and reproductive rights , some in the homeless community, and some that support arts, science and sports education.  One that brings me a lot of pleasure is Sisters4Science, which is part of Project Exploration.  The programs are the brain-children of Gabrielle Lyons, an anthropologist and educator, who created them at the University of Chicago.  Both programs introduce Chicago public school kids to science, with hands on work at paleontology digs each summer, and after-school science education in 4 of Chicago’s woefully inadequate public middle schools.  Project Exploration is open to kids of both sexes, but Sisters gives girls a safe place to explore science.

At the beginning of the term, the girls vote on the projects they want to do.  Each session includes a science project, but also works with the girls on how to keep a journal of their scientific work and how to work together respectfully.  Health issues, including issues around reproduction and safe sex, are important for these as for all girls, and are included in the curriculum.

My team is hard at it

My Team is Working Hard

I recently got to visit Reavis School’s program.  The girls had already dissected sheep hearts, but the day I visited, they were doing a chemistry project with a woman chemist from a Chicago hair-products company.  A good time was had by all.


I get to work one-on-one with a budding chemist

I get to work one-on-one with a budding chemist


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April 2009