Monday, March 29, 2010

States that Didn't Make the Cut

This story from National Public Radio's "Here and Now" shows some maps of states that have been proposed, but never became part of the U.S. map.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Florida Public Libraries

Since this blog is about "Celebrating" the states, I try not to include too many negative things. I could not let this slip by, though.
State Funding to Florida's Public Libraries to be Eliminated!

Other Florida Posts
Main Florida Post March 3, 2010
Florida Book March 8, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Puerto Rico Movie - Vampiros

I finally got a chance to watch a Puerto Rico movie. I wasn't able to obtain a copy of the one I had intended to watch, Manuel y Manuela, either through borrowing, renting, or buying, so I picked Vampiros instead, which I was able to get through Netflix. I can only say this about the movie. It was bad - bad writing, bad acting, bad music, bad direction. Of course it also included some gratuitous nudity, and a vampire "cat fight". The best thing I can say about this one is that I got to practice some Spanish. I learned nothing about Puerto Rican culture. Even as vampire movies go, and I've seen a lot of them, this one bites (pun intended). Unless you are a vampire movie "completeist" you can skip this one.

And I almost forgot...this movie has a library scene. After Jonathan (Jorge Dieppa) gets bitten he and his friend Miguel go to the library to do some research about vampires. They ask at the "informacion" desk and are directed to some books by Anne Rice and Bram Stoker, when they say they want information about real vampires the librarian blows them off and simply directs them to the computer to figure it out for themselves. Jonathan attacks a young woman in the stacks while Miguel is looking up information.

Other Puerto Rico Posts
Main Puerto Rico Post March 2, 2010
Puerto Rico Book April 20, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Maine - March 15, 1820

Kezar Lake - Lovell, Maine

When I was growing up in Catonsville, Maryland Maine seemed like a very exotic place to me. It was pretty far away and nestled way up in the northeast there on its own. It was a place I knew my family would never go on vacation. I was well into my thirties before I finally got "down east". James and I drove up there the summer after we moved to Massachusetts and dropped in on one of James' former professors from UMBC, John Starr, who now runs The Bayview Gallery in Brunswick along with his wife Susan Robertson-Starr. I believe he is the professor I mentioned in my Ohio post who encouraged James to pursue graduate studies. Our next foray into The Pine Tree State was about two years later when a friend invited us to spend a weekend at his sister's cabin on the New Hampshire/Maine border. This was particularly exciting for us because we got to see Kezar lake, named for the late, great Ebenezar Kezar (really!), an ancestor of James (whose middle name is also Kezar). Maine is also where the first Bohanan landed when he arrived in America from Scotland in the 18th century. You can read a bit more about the family roots on James' county map page of Maine.

I don't remember when James and I first watched The Spitfire Grill, but much of the movie stayed with me, not just the story, but the beautiful images of New England as well, which is why I decided to watch it again for this project.

Percy Talbott (played by Alison Elliot) is a young, recently-released inmate from a Maine Correctional Facility. While in jail she worked for the Maine tourism bureau and decides that Gilead, Maine is the place  to make a fresh start. She takes a job at the Spitfire Grill, owned and operated by a rather gruff Hannah Ferguson (Ellen Burstyn) and soon discovers that newcomers, especially ex-cons are not welcome in this small town. Ferguson has been trying to sell the diner for 10 years and with the help of her niece, Shelby; and Percy decides to run an essay contest and give the diner to the best entrant. Watching the movie I assumed that Gilead was not a real town, given the not-especially-positive way most of the characters are portayed, so I was surprised to find out that it is. Ultimately, though, this is a movie about redemption. I do notice that the Gilead Historical Society does not mention this movie at all on its blog. For my Unitarian Universalist readers this is the perfect movie for discussion the First Principle - the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Although the story takes place in Gilead, Maine, the movie was actually filmed in Vermont.

Last year I wrote a blog called My Year of Reading Year of Books, in which I wrote about memoirs that took place over a one-year period. There were many that I did not get to include last year, and one I didn't even know about then was Bernd Heinrich's A Year in the Maine Woods. Heinrich is a zoologist, runner, and artist who appreciates each season as it comes. Heinrich's descriptions of snowstorms are as awe inspiring as his description of burying beetles covering a dead mouse. Scattered throughout the book are some of Heinrich's sketches of plants and animals.  A not-so-secret desire of mine is to someday become a hermit, Heinrich makes this idea ever more appealing to me through this narrative. He does mention on several occasions wishing to have someone to share his cabin with though, and missing his children (one of whom is away at college, and the other lives with his mother). I must admit that I would need to have a co-hermit if I were ever to undertake such a lifestyle. I have suggested to James and Paloma that we sell everything and go live in a cabin in upstate New York, but so far they have not taken me up on it.  I think my favorite part of this book came very near the last page when Heinrich describes a taste-test he performed on white perch, yellow perch and sunfish after hearing from the locals that the yellow fish and sunfish were "trash". He discovers that they all taste the same. I think a lot about peoples' desire to have "only the best" and wonder how often what is considered "the best" is simply a matter of lore. It is certainly easier to just go along with what everyone else says, than to actually research something yourself.

It seemed we had no choice but to have lobster this evening. I was not in a mood to prepare them myself though. We took the easy way out and had lobster bisque from Costco. I have no idea if the lobster even came from Maine, but the soup was quite rich and creamy. Beyond heating it up, my only contribution was a bit of sherry. It is the perfect day for hot soup, though. The rain is falling heavily here in Massachusetts and the wind is whipping. It felt cozy to be inside with a nice warm bisque.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Florida Book

Beware the bespeckled librarian!

I don't generally read true-crime books; I find them to be a bit voyeristic, but even I was tempted to peek into the life of  a fellow polyglot librarian.  Stella Sands book, Behind the Mask: A True Story of Obsession and Savage Genius tells the story of William "Bill" Coday who seemed to his co-workers at the Broward County Main Library in Ft. Lauderdale to be a model citizen and employee. A good-looking and extremely intelligent man who spoke five languages, Coday was head of the International Languages Collection. What people did not know about him was that he had brutally murderered his young girlfriend many years before while they were living in Germany. When he failed to report to work one day in 1997, without notice, friends and co-workers were stunned to learn that his glamorous Colombian ex-girlfriend, Gloria Gomez, had been bludgeoned and stabbed to death in his apartment. After Coday confessed to the Gomez murder his lawyers worked to keep him off of death row. Six psychologists testified that Coday was mentally ill and should be spared. Throughout the trial Coday was on psychotropic drugs. For a variety of legal reasons jurors were not informed of the previous murder conviction. As with any death penalty case there were several appeals. Coday's case was actually never resovled.

As with any true story, the reader will not necessarily satisfied with the ending, which is often left ambiguous. Such is the case with this story. It seemed both that Coday was certainly smart enough to have pulled off faking a mental illness, and that the brutality of the crime could only have been by a person who was mentally ill. The book is a quick read, but did not tempt me to read any more of the genre.

Other Florida Posts
Main Florida Post March 3, 2010
Florida Public Libraries March 18, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Vermont - March 4, 1791

Q: What is a Minuteman's least favorite day of the year
A: March 4th (forth)!

I had lunch today with my delightful Vermonter friend Lori. We did not eat any Vermont food, but we did talk about Vermont. I think my first trip to Vermont was to go to the Vermont Country Store in Rutland, probably in 1998. We had been getting their catalog, and ordering from in for several years, but once we moved to New England a trip there seemed like fun. We also visited King Arthur flour, where I had k-cup coffee for the first time. We've been to the Vermont Country Store several times since then. If you look at my profile picture you will see me looking especially groovy in a dress I bought there almost 10 years ago, that I still love to wear. I bought it on sale for $7.00! Our friends Julie and Mike have 2 off-the-grid cabins in Vermont and we have been up to stay there a few times. It is peaceful, and I really don't miss the television. Their cabin is also the only place on earth in which you can play "Rock Toad" - a game invented by Mike & Julie's daughter when she was quite young. The great thing about this game is there are no winners or losers, you just keep changing which rock you stand on when "rock toad" is yelled out. The game continues until you get tired of it. Once when my daughter was assigned to write an essay about her favorite place, she chose Julie and Mike's cabin in Vermont. Julie is a beekeeper and informs me that Vermont's official state insect is the honeybee. I will be sure to serve some honey with our Vermont meal!

The movie Shout It Out: Voices of Vermont Teens is a low-budget muscial based on interviews with over 1,000 Vermont Teens. In a movie just over 90 minutes long the themes of domestic violence, teen pregnancy, racism, interracial dating, homelessness, suicide, bullying and homosexuality were all explored with sensitivity. Of course there is only so much one can do in 90 minutes, but I would have been interested to have gotten a more in-depth look at those who bullied. There was only one-short scene in which we got to get some perspective on them. The overarching theme of this movie though was that teens want to be listened to. As an adult, I take the point. I just wish my almost-teen would listen to me, too. This is worth watching. It has to be taken for what it is though. Much of this was created by teens, including all the songwriting.

I do a lot of research about banned books. One book that appears often on the list of banned or challenged books is Buster's Sugartime by Marc Brown, part of the "Postcards From Buster" series. Most recently it was in the news in Union,Oklahoma "because it alluded to a same-sex relationship". The book is about maple-tapping season in Vermont (which is happening right now). In July 2000 Vermont was the first state to allow civil unions for same-sex couples, before any of them allowed marriage (Vermont now allows same sex couples to marry). Brown's book, published in 2006 refers to two same-sex couples, parents to some of Buster's new friends. The references to same-sex couples are made in passing, on two of the pages. Brown clearly wanted to create a story in which having two moms was normalized, and he did so.
To read more about this controvery see:

See the television episode at: (part I) (part II) (part III)

This episode was also banned from some stations

We are deferring our Vermont food fest until Saturday when our friends who summer in Vermont will able to join us. The "breakfast for dinner" menu will include pancakes with maple syrup, scrambled eggs with Cabot cheese, and Green Mountain Coffee.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Florida - March 3, 1845

Every time I hear the song "Land Down Under" by Men at Work I think of Florida. My first trip to Florida was in January of 1983 to visit a childhood friend who moved there after graduation, and I had so much fun that I went back in May of that year. I remember that "Land Down Under" played over and over again on the radio. My friend and I had birthdays one day apart, her roommate also had a May birthday and so to celebrate (we were all turning 19) we drove down to Key West, lounged around, got sunburned, and I had my first margarita. I have been to Florida several times since then. My mother and step-father lived there for a few years (and still winter there; they are there now, in fact), and our friend McKell who lives in St. Petersburg is a native Floridian (although we met her during her brief stint as an Arizonan). We have been down for visits, and there is much to love about the state. We have seen alligators, and baby sand hill cranes there, collected beautiful shells, enjoyed beaches, and bars. This is the time of year that Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and other resort areas are innundated with college students. I can't imagine what it is like for the locals right now. I do remember watching the movie Spring Break many years ago, which probably isn't too far off the mark. Sometimes when I go down there I think people move there because it seems like a big playground. But I imagine once you have to get a job, and go to parent-teacher conferences, and drive to little league, it stops being so much fun. I think I will save Florida for a vacation spot. There are enough people who live there, and too much development.

The Sunshine State seemed like a good choice for a movie because I usually like independent films, but I didn't really get this one. It did have some big name actors and actresses (Mary Steenburgen, Timothy Hutton, Angela Basset). However, I am not sure where writer/director, John Sayles, meant to be going with this. The David-and-Goliath theme of long-time residents fighting the big-time developers was resolved without judgement. There were so many characters that the movie only scratched the surface of their lives, so that when we thought something was supposed to be a profound statement, we couldn't really figure out why. We did learn a bit about Florida history from this, specifically as it related to slavery, and segregation.

I selected the book Behind the Mask: A True Story of Obsession and Savage Genius by Stella Sands for my Florida project - a true crime story about a librarian! I have only read about 60 pages though, for the reasons outlined in my Puerto Rico post. I will write a supplemental post later this month.

My favorite kind of pie is key lime, so today was a perfect chance for me to try to make it myself. I went all out and used Paula Deen's Key Lime Pie. I followed the directions exactly and made soft peaks and hard peaks when instructed. James was duly impressed with the perfect texture of the pie, and mentioned it without even being prompted to! It actually was not a hard recipe - the biggest challenge was finding the proper equipment: a springform pan. I knew I had one. I even remember the occasion I bought it for - James' 36th birthday when I made him a lemon cheesecake. I found the outer ring part with the other cake pans, but where was the bottom? I looked in the drawer underneath the oven where the cookie tins are kept, and it wasn't there. I then dawned on me where I might have ended up. Did I really want to look? There are some places you just don't want to have to go, and underneath the oven is one of them, yuck. But there it was, lying flat on the floor among the grime and dust. All I had to do was pull the drawer all the way out. It reminded me of the time we bought a new refrigerator. In that case we actually found a bunch of crap that belonged to the previous owner.

Although this recipe is loaded with fat, it does have a wicked-high fiber graham cracker crust!

Other Florida Posts
Florida Book March 8, 2010
Florida Public Libraries March 18, 2010

Puerto Rico - March 2, 1917 (Jones Act)

Life is what happens while you are making other plans. Death happens, too. My post today is "Reflections on a Puerto Rican Street Dog". I have not been to Puerto Rico, but 9 1/2 years ago I adopted a plain brown dog through the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Massachusetts. She was a rescue dog from the streets of San Juan - a "sato" as they are called there. Save-A-Sato is a group in Puerto Rico that rescues street dogs and ships them to the states for adoption. Our loyal dog, Clover, died last week.

Clover was a feisty little dog. For the most part she did not like men, except James, and my cousin Chris, whom she met only two weeks ago. She must have bitten at least a dozen of our friends (all men). She also was pretty aggressive toward other dogs, even those who were bigger and stronger than she was. We called her "one-woman dog" because she followed me around the house - couldn't stand to be on a different floor than I was. She was afraid of our basement for some reason, so when I went down there she would just stand at the top of the steps and whine until I came up. I thought of her more of a familiar than a pet. (If you are not sure what I mean by "familiar", well, muggles have pets.)

I have not yet seen the movie I selected for Puerto Rico (Manuela Y Manuel) or read the book I checked out from the library (When I was Puerto Rican). Part of this is due to the fact that too many celebrations came up at the same time, but it was also because we can't plan death. Tending to Clover and mourning her passing took much of my time the last week. I will write supplemental posts within the next few weeks as I catch up with my reading and viewing.

For dinner last night we ate on old favorite from The Well Filled Tortilla Cookbook by Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman. Made with chicken, walnuts, bananas, and with an orange-onion salsa these have a nice sweetness, and so many textures. Quite delicious. We hadn't had them for a while. Thanks, James for preparing them.

Some readers will correctly point out that Puerto Rico is not a state. And, by the way if I'm going to do Puerto Rico, why not Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the other U.S. territories. I guess I only have this to say - I never had a dog from those places.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory in the Caribbean Sea. The Jones Act signed by President Woodrow Wilson on March 2, 1917 gave Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship. This effectively created another population of men to draft as the U.S. prepared to enter World War I.

Barack Obama is their president, although the citizens of Puerto Rico were not given the opportunity to vote for him in the 2008 election, nor do they do not have a voting representative in Congress, nor do they not pay federal taxes. It would be unconsititutional to require them to do such:  it would be taxation without representation. This status is in fact, not what the majority of Puerto Rican citizens want. Some would like to become a state, others would like to become an independent country. This question comes for a vote before the Puerto Rican citizens occasionally, but since there are three choices (status quo, statehood, independence) there is never majority for any one of the three choices, effectively leaving the status quo. Citizens of Puerto Rico are free to move to any of the 50 States and set up residency, where they can register to vote, (and would then would be required to pay taxes).

Clover 1999-2010

Other Puerto Rico Posts
Puerto Rico Movie March 17, 2010
Puerto Rico Book April 20. 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Nebraska March 1, 1867

It is the unfortunate lot of Nebraska (one of the 8 states I have not yet been to) to share an anniversary with Ohio (March 1, 1803), a state I have actually lived in. So, while I have quite a lenghthy post about Ohio, I have virtually no reflections about Nebraska except to remember a friend from graduate school, Don, who came from Omaha. He and I both had relatives in Appleton, Wisconsin. I also remember that Julie Kotter, from the old television show "Welcome Back Kotter" came from Nebraska. Normally in a case like this, I would ask my geographer husband to guest blog for me, but indeed, Nebraska is one of only four states he has not been to.

I was glad to find this news item about Omaha libraries in my library newsletter last week, so I would have something more to post today. True to form for any library story in the popular press, the comments section contains all kinds of negative comments about what a waste of tax money libraries are. I cannot understand why newspapers have no qualms about choosing and editing letters to the editor that appear in print, but allow any post to appear in the online sources. And to those who would post those comments I would keep this in mind: If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. Libraries are truly the "people's university". There is no admissions requirements and the reading rooms, and reference assistance are generally available to all. We get these services no matter what town we are in, even if we don't pay taxes there. I have one other comment about Nebraska Libraries which is to say that I am very pleased to know that The Nebraska Library Commission uses an article I wrote (Fear and Loathing: Censorship in All its Glory) about banned books on its educational website "Intellectual Freedom and the Core Values of Librarianship".

Goodnight, Nebraska by Tom McNeal tells the story of Randall Hunsacker, who moves from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Goodnight, Nebraska after he steals and wrecks the car he finished restoring in shop class, after he discovers that his sister is having an affair with his mother's tosser of a boyfriend. The sister and boyfriend move to West Virginia, and the mother follows in hopes of getting him back. Randall is left in juvenile detention until his football coach finds him a place on the Goodnight high school football team. This book has a lot of characters. They move in and out and through the story. For some, the reader gets more insight into than others. McNeal weaves back stories about some of the charcters into the novel, for others we simply get a "bonus chapter" that gives us a glimpse into what makes them who they are. In many cases, however, we don't get a wrap up for them. Widow Lucy Witt appears to play a major role when she agrees to board Randall when he arrives in town. She discovers something she finds distasteful about Randall, and from there she simply fades from the storyline. There is no grand epilogue to let readers know what happened to all the characters, only for Randall and his wife Marcy do we get a window into their future lives. This is how life is. We only ever get a window onto others' lives. Even those we know well have a frame around them that no one else can completely see around.

The Brandon Teena Story is a documentary about the murder of trangendered Teena Brandon/Brandon Teena who was born female, but lived as a man. After transposing first and last names to create a name more appropriate to the gender, Brandon Teena moved to Falls City, Nebraska. He dated women and made friends with people who did not know his history. When rumors about his identity began, he was raped and beaten by two of his male friends and humiliated in front of his girlfriend. Transcripts and tapes of the inteview between Brandon and the sheriff show he was further humiliated when giving his statement to the police. No arrests were made, and the two men tracked Brandon to his friend Lisa Lambert's home in another town, where Brandon, Lisa, and another friend, Phil Devine, were all executed. Lisa's infant son was the only one spared in the massacre.I knew about this case from seeing the movie Boys Don't Cry, a feature film starring Hilary Swank several years ago. I recommend watching both films. It is an unfortuate truth that transgendered individuals are much more likely to die of murder than the general population.

For dessert tonight we had Nebraska Raisin Bars. These cookie bars were lighter (less dense) than other cookie bars I've had. I used more raisins and less sugar than the recipe called for. My mantra for desserts is: Less sugar, more flavor. These are tasty.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ohio - March 1, 1803

Q: What state is high in the middle, and round on both ends? A: O-HI-O.

My first memory of Ohio is the summer of 1978. I was 14 years old and my mother, brother, were driving to Wisconsin to pick up my sister, who had spent the summer working at my aunt's store in Appleton. We stopped in Youngstown, Ohio the first night. After spending quite a bit of time looking for something to eat in this rust belt city we finally found a pizza place called Gina's pizza. I remember they sold t-shirts that said "Gina's pizza makes me passionate." I did not buy one though. We also searched in vain for some entertainment, but when we found the town's movie theatre, we were disappointed to see that it was boarded up. I immediately put Ohio in the number one spot of places I never wanted to live. So, imagine my reaction, when eight years later, when my husband (then-fiance), James came home one evening to announce that he had big news. His advisor had assured him that he could get him into graduate school at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio! If you say the word Ohio and draw out each syllable, and speak with a slight whine, you will have a pretty good approximation of what James heard. We intended to stay for two years while James did a Master's degree, and then move on, but the true irony is that after the first year there I decided to enroll in graduate school, too, and so we had to stay on an extra year in order for me to complete my studies! Being in graduate school sure beat working at K-Mart all to hell, which is what I did for the first few months we lived there. I whince everytime I remember getting on the intercom to speak the ubiquitous "Attention K-Mart Shoppers" and then announce a blue-light special in housewares. After a few months of that I found work as a nanny before deciding to enroll in a Master's program in Spanish Literature

Ohio had its charm and we have some good memories of it. The last year we were there we got to live in a great old farm house on 15 acres while the professors who owned it were abroad for the semester. The house was on top of a hill overlooking a creek and some more farmland. I remember once our little dog, Pablo, came home from a run smelling awful of something I never smelled before or since. He also had something sticky on his back. My theory is that he stood under a cow while it was peeing. Only in Ohio. We also have good memories of our two foster pets, Barbara (the dog) and Donna (the cat) who were the pets of the professors who owned the house. It somehow felt right to live in a big farmhouse and have two dogs and a cat. Donna used to kill field mice and bring them home. She would sit in the middle of the dining room and eat them, except for the teeny tiny liver. No worries, when she was done with her snack, Pablo would lap up what was left. The cat would never catch the mice in the house though, no challenge, I guess.We also started our first aquarium while living in Ohio, with a fish James won for me at a carnival. We had the fish for about 2 years and had to leave them behind when we moved to Arizona. We left them with the two professors, and their children, and they (all the fish) all died shortly thereafter when bleach was mistaken for bottled water.

While we were living in Oxford the movie Little Man Tate was filmed in Cincinnati, with a portion filmed on the campus of Miami University. I had not seen the movie since it first came out in 1991 (after we had left Ohio) so it was a treat to watch it again and recognize the campus landmarks. The movie is Jodi Foster's directorial debut and tells the story of Fred Tate, a-seven-year old boy genius who is the son of a working- class single parent (Foster). The conflict between Fred's emotional and intellectual needs are played out by his mother, and his teacher (Dianne Wiest). Although each tries to give him what he needs, it takes a lot of work and heartache before a balance between the two is found.

I don't remember what keywords I used in searching to come up with the book Good Roots: Writer's Reflect on Growing Up in Ohio, but what a gem of a book it turned out to be! Exactly as the title suggests it is a collection of poems and essays by writers who are from Ohio. Authors include P.J.O'Rourke, a fellow Miami University alum; and Goosebumps creator R.L. Stine, who swears he really did have a normal childhood. I read this one out loud to James and we were both taken in by it. As editor Lisa Watts points out the stories are about a time as much as a place, but Ohio just seems to be the right place to have as a backdrop for the time when children did a lot more exploring, and a lot less soccer. James used two of the essays in his Frameworks class for would-be geography teachers in Massachusetts. (Don't get him started on that, by the way). Anthony Doerr's contribution "We are Mapmakers" about the mental maps of the places we grew up and how we create them was a particular favorite, and especially useful for James' class. We didn't know there was a place called Novelty in Ohio until we read this essay. It was just the right place name for such a reflection.

One thing I never had the nerve to try when we lived near Cincinnati was Skyline chili (served 5-ways!). So what could I do, but attempt to make it myself today. It is usually served over spaghetti, which seemed a bit gross to us, but was surprisingly good and filling. I found a recipe for it in the Boston Globe magazine, of all places, in an article about Super Bowl recipes. It calls for a lot of spices and a bit of unsweetened cocoa. James did try Skyline chili once, and said that mine was better. He recalls that there was no flavor to the bowl he ate.