Thursday, October 18, 2012

from Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists

--Herman, adding to "The Bible," his copyeditor's handbook in the newsroom.

  • literally: This word should be deleted. All too often, actions described as "literally" did not happen at all. As in, "He literally jumped out of his skin." No, he did not. Though if he literally had, I'd suggest raising the element and proposing the piece for page one.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Youngstown Cash Mob Looks Toward the New Year

Our next cash mob will be at The Encore Shop on Sat. 27 Oct. Stop by anytime between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. This charming consignment shop for women’s clothing, shoes and accessories is in a plaza at 4427 Logan Way, just a stone’s throw south of Hwy. 304.

There will also be a bake sale, sponsored by Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to raise funds for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. I had a chance to see some of the baked goods when WFMJ came to interview us, and mmmmm.

The Encore Shop carries lovely clothes for holiday events, as well as sweaters, coats, scarves and boots, and even Halloween costumes. I have my eye on a certain pair of shoes, and I look forward to the chance to browse. Between Raks and Encore, my closet is getting a terrific update.

Votes are in for the November cash mob, and our top vote getter was the Artists of the Mahoning Commons holiday sale at the historic Ward Bakery Building, 1024 Mahoning Ave.

This will be our last cash mob of 2012. In December, we’ll be promoting ‘Buy Local Holidays.’ We invite you to let us know what independent, locally owned business has the perfect gift. Send us a note and/or photo (, and we’ll post it to our Facebook page.

In 2013, we’re going to mix things up with some special cash mobs. Here’s a peek at the calendar (‘Business as usual’ means any establishment in Youngstown and first-ring suburbs):

December: Local Christmas cash mob
January: Business younger than three years old
February: Business as usual
March: Woman-owned business
April: Business as usual
May: Mahoning County outside of Youngstown and first ring suburbs
June: Business as usual
July: Activity Cash Mob
August: Business as usual
September: Black-owned business
October: Business as usual
November: Non-profit

To nominate a business, visit us on Facebook.

I hope to see you at The Encore Shop! Please take a moment to say hello, and grab an “I Cash Mobbed” sticker if you’d like one. Just like “I Voted” supports our democracy, attending a cash mob supports our local economy.

Thanks for helping us spread the word.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Daniel Handler on poetry

I’ve never had any of the problems with poetry that most people do, i.e., that it’s boring and/or incomprehensible. A voracious reader, I spent my childhood reading things for adults, and learned early to find peace in the stasis of literature. Having read The Rainbow at fourteen (I’d heard D.H. Lawrence was dirty), a Robert Hass poem feels action-packed. And as far as comprehension goes, I find poetry actually has very little mystery compared to anything else. Just this morning at the bus stop, a little electronic sign told me my bus was arriving in two minutes, then one minute, then “arriving,” although the street remained empty. Then it was gone. I’d missed a bus that had never arrived. Not a phrase in The Tennis Court Oath can touch that for sheer befuddlement.

From "Happy, Snappy, Sappy" in Poetry, January 2011

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Yorker Festival Buzz

I’m still riding the wave after a weekend in New York that included New Yorker Festival panels, talks and interviews, a dance performance, a play, a contemporary art exhibit and some incredible meals. Here in Youngstown we are lucky to live an easy trip away to this artistic playground. 

My classes are reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, so I had a compelling reason to attend the panel on “The Old Country” with Foer, Téa Obreht and Gary Shteyngart, moderated by Adam Gopnik. The language of language is in the warp of these novelists’ work. What better place to work out such questions? And what better time for a reminder that immigration has made us who we are.

We lucked out with third row seats to a panel on cities with Aleksandar Hemon, Hisham Matar, Colum McCann, and Orhan Pamuk, moderated by Willing Davidson. The writers had an interesting take on the benefits of structuring the urban novel – cities, they said, are places with a gazillion parallel narratives. It may have been beside the point to ask them to speak to the opposite of cities, or what lies beyond, but no one could name a successful contemporary pastoral (I would throw in The Prodigal Summer, Map of the World, Olive Kitteridge – you?), and their responses about what makes a rural or small town or suburban place different (novel-worthy) were lacking. But their insights were great, and as with all of the panels, I came away vowing to catch up with all they’ve written.

Paul Muldoon interviewed Patti Smith and his questions were generous and her answers genuine and engaging. She is funny – no surprise there. She sang for us and I enjoyed her music very much. She urged us to vote.

 So relevant to Youngstown was a discussion on poverty and the language of poverty called Giving Voice: The have-nots, with Abhijit Banerjee, Katherine Boo, Geoffrey Canada, and Jose Antonio Vargas, excellently moderated by George Packer. After hearing Canada, I think I better understand where he’s coming from, and will put Waiting for Superman (he is Superman) back on my Netflix queue. Packer asked him how his program could be duplicated in Youngstown, Ohio, since there is no Geoffrey Canada in Youngstown. My heart sped up! He said different segments of the Harlem Children’s Zone are being tried in other places, but I learned later that his teachers agree to work up to 80 hrs./week with no job security. He’s clear that he will fire them if they don’t perform well, but the measure of performance was not explained. Still, he has a compelling personal story – up from devastating poverty, and offering a hand (or kick!) to kids who might not have any chance. Katherine Boo’s narratives on the poor around the world and Banerjee’s work on the economics of poverty seem to be rocking the world, and I want to read them. You might have, as I did, heard Vargas on Fresh Air – he discovered as a teenager that he was an undocumented immigrant (his family came to the U.S. from the Philippines when he was a small kid), and has been courageous and vocal about the plight of other paper-less immigrants.

Finally, we attended a mesmerizing talk by Atul Gawande about failure and rescue. His argument was that it’s critical to have a plan to overcome disaster (which sounds obvious but is often overlooked). He told the story of a woman in her late 80s who came into the hospital with sudden blindness in one eye. This revealed a blocked carotid artery, and after neck surgery they discovered that some of her internal organs were shifted upwards and strangulated, a complication whose symptoms looked like conventional post-op. They were able to save her because they had a culture of questioning. Gawande walked us through the various successes and failures such as the Hudson River jet landing, the BP spill in the Gulf, and his team’s effort to compel hospitals to implement a shift in procedure that reduces hospital infection deaths to nearly zero (this claims 100,000 lives a year in the U.S.).

Typically, in any month, I spend some of my sleeping time lying awake worrying about the state of things.  But the New Yorker Festival gave me the sense that good and brilliant minds are at work looking for solutions to these sticky and tragic situations. And the theaters were packed, so there are lots of people who care, and care to know more. I feel less weighted, like this clear air that’s descended on Youngstown, lighting up the firey trees.