I Voted Early in Florida and It Was Easy

I voted last Thursday. It was easy. I had to go pick up my daughter from daycare, and an early voting location happened to be right on the way. I left half an hour early just in case, and then drove the 1.1 miles to the Murray Hill Library. I returned three audio books (I know you’re dying to know: Don DeLillo’s The Body Artist, Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder, and Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) and then stood in a line five-people deep where I waited all of 120 seconds before entering the voting area. There, I handed over my driver license and voter registration card, confirmed my address, and waited about 45 seconds for my ballot. The woman in front of me was living at an address different from the one on her ID, but she was able to vote anyway. Easy. I overheard the process involved (she had to fill out some form) while I waited about a minute to go to a booth. Then I went to the booth and voted for Obama (I didn’t even look wistfully at Nader’s name, I swear!). I voted on some other stuff too, but the only other thing I cared about quite a bit was Florida’s proposed Amendment 2, another American Taliban scheme to define marriage. I voted “no,” of course. The whole process, including driving, took less than 20 minutes (I should mention that I had my sample ballot with me, which is a time saver of course).

Some folks I know personally have worried about early voting–will their vote be counted?–and after debacles in 2000 and 2004, who can blame them for these anxieties? However, Florida voters can go to the Florida Division of Elections website to check the early voting and absentee ballot reports. I went there, clicked on my county’s updated report, downloaded a .txt file and found my name, as well as my wife’s, and the respective times we voted. Done. I know–and have a record–that my vote will be counted. Simple. Now, go vote–you never know what surprise might pop up on November 4th.

Historic Photos of Jacksonville


In just over 200 black and white archival photographs, Turner Publishing Company’s Historic Photos of Jacksonville depicts a vision of the Bold New City of the South that might surprise even native Jacksonvillians. The pictorial narrative begins around the same time as the advent of popular photography, before the Civil War (or, the War of Northern Aggression, as some old-school Jacksonvillian’s might say), and continues into the late 1960s. University of North Florida history professor Carolyn Williams’s captions provide insightful but never obtrusive explanations and commentary for the images, and her short essays before each section help to explicate the historical contexts of each of the particular periods of Jacksonville’s history into which the book. Particularly engaging are the smoke-hazed photos of the Great Fire of 1901, a devastating blaze that reduced much of the city to ashes.


Also fascinating are the post-fire/pre-WWI images of Jacksonville. These detail an overlooked period when the city was a major tourist destination boasting a burgeoning film industry. Northern travelers would flock to luxury resorts like the St. James Hotel, where native Jacksonvillian James Weldon Johnson‘s father worked. When looking at photos of the crowded streets of downtown and the busy industry of the shipyards and train stations, it’s easy to feel a twinge of nostalgia for a time that passed before you ever lived, a time before the strip malls and suburban sprawl, a time before Jacksonville looked more-or-less like Every Other Place in America.

Historic Photos of Jacksonville will look great on your coffee table or on your shelf, preferably next to James Weldon Johnson‘s outstanding autobiography, Along This Way.

Alphonso Lingis to Speak at UNF


American philosopher and noted writer Alphonso Lingis will deliver a talk on “War and Splendor” at the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville, Florida, at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, October 3rd. Dr. Lingis is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University; his writing lyrically bridges the gaps between the liberal arts of anthropology and philosophy. Dr. Lingis’s current work, including his latest book, The First Person Singular, has focused on his travels to developing nations in Africa, South America, and Asia. By all accounts, Dr. Lingis is a fascinating speaker whose use of costumes, make-up, and music during his “lectures” creates an air of performance art. You can read more about Alphonso Lingis here. If you have the time, I highly recommend checking out Lingis’s paper “Our Uncertain Compassion.” Go here to reserve free tickets to see Dr. Lingis speak (your receipt will also provide directions. This promises to be both enlightening and entertaining–don’t miss it!

Jacksonville readers can look forward to more engaging speakers at UNF over the month of October, including resident genius Dr. Samuel Kimball and PBS documentary maker Ken Burns. Updates and info forthcoming.

Midnight Movies

The San Marco Theater in beautiful San Marco, Jacksonville, FL will be playing two very bizarre movies over the next few weekends: El Topo and The Holy Mountain, both by weirdo director Alejandro Jodorowsky. Both movies are Eastern Westerns featuring Christ-like protagonists who negotiate surreal and brutally violent worlds. Jodorowsky’s heroes ritualistically transgress taboo, exploring and re-interpreting colonialism, mythology, sexuality, and the concept of an idealized, subjective self. The Holy Mountain is particularly worth your two hours and six bucks–who wouldn’t want to see disfigured freaks, alchemical self-improvement, genital mutilation, cannibalism, incest and (my favorite scene) frogs and iguanas dressed as Conquistadors and Indians recreating the conquest of South America? Also features full-frontal nudity and numerous executions. Soundtrack by Don Cherry.

El Topo plays March 23rd and 24th at midnight; The Holy Mountain plays March 30th and 31st at midnight.

Also playing at the San Marco Theater beginning March 18th is Old Joy, a 2006 film starring Daniel London and our favorite Palace Brother, Will Oldham. Soundtrack by Yo La Tengo.


This Saturday, the missus and I headed to the Jacksonville Fairgrounds for the annual Friends of the Library Sale. Parking was no problem, and the event was well attended but not crowded. Amidst the seemingly endless horde of V.C. Andrews and Robert Ludlum leftovers, we grabbed some great stuff.

I got an extremely handsome first edition of Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, which appears to have never been touched, let alone read. This book will fit nicely within an already-large collection of Arthur book’s I’ve never finished (with the exception of T.H. White’s version, which I devoured as a youth).


While searching through kids books, my special lady came across a hardback edition of Persepolis 2. You may recall I wrote about Satrapi’s first book of Persepolis a few weeks ago. I’m happy to report that the books now exist in a special harmony, together at peace on my shelf.

I also picked up a few books I may never get around to reading, including Ian McEwan’s Atonement. This list-topper won all kinds of awards a few years ago, despite accusations of plagiarism. I’m sure that Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is like, the best book ever: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first fifty pages several times now. I keep promising myself: next summer. The strangest thing is that I didn’t actually own this book before now. The “Oprah Book Club” sticker came off no problem, by the way. Another one that I started years ago in college, a library loan, was John Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor, a humorous tale of Americana that I couldn’t make heads or tails of as an undergrad. The book is huge; the copy I bought, despite being a paperback edition from the early 80s, has no spinal damage and appears unread. Undoubtedly it will stay this way.

Much more useful, I’m sure, will be The Dictionary of Literary Terms by J.A. Cuddon. This book is fantastic, and I’ve already put it to good use. Cuddon’s approach is exciting: he uses plenty of illustrative examples, and even puts the specialized terminology into historical context–in many ways, this book is like a crash course on the history of rhetoric.

I was thrilled (no really, thrilled) to come across two books from the 33 1/3 series. In this series, one writer takes a close look at just one musical album. I’d already read Chris Ott’s take on Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures; I was lucky enough to snap up Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland by John Perry and Prince’s Sign O’ the Times by Michaelangelo Matos. So far, John Perry’s take on Hendrix has been one of the best musical biographies I’ve ever read, which is really saying something (for the record, it’s still no contest against the immortal classic, Crazy from the Heat, by one David Lee Roth). In edition to being concise and well-written, these books are small and have a stylish design. Perfect bathroom reading material.


Of course there were other sundry books bought, and plenty abandoned (I still regret not spending the fifty cents on Bikini Planet, a pulp sci-fi that promised “Benny Hill style humor” What was I thinking?) I could hardly carry our box as it was (although, in the interest of full-disclosure, I am very physically weak).

After the book sale, we headed across Downtown to the Prime Osborn Convention Center. My father had given us free passes to the Home and Patio Show. It was shocking. People were paying five bucks to park, waiting in a line that zigzagged out the door to pay who-knows-how-much to gain entry to what amounted to a bunch of vendors trying to sell you crap. I kept shaking my head in disbelief. Down the road were thousands and thousands of books that were practically being given away, but here people were lining up and paying to be sold things. Ah…Jacksonville! You’ve gotta love it.

Friends of the Library Sale

Are you a nerd living in Jacksonville, Florida with nothing to do this weekend? Do you suffer from bibliomania? Do the stacks and stacks of (unread) books cluttering your living space do nothing to prevent you from buying even more books? If you answered in the affirmative to any of these questions, then mosey on down to (or alternately, simply drive to) the illustrious Jacksonville Fairgrounds for the Friends of the Library book sale. Located in glamorous Exhibit Hall B, the sale promises “7 tractor trailer loads of books; 50% donated; 50% hardcover; sorted; .50 & up.” It’s unclear what the exact breakdown of these books will be (are the half that are donated mutually exclusive from the half that are hardcover? You’ll just have to go and see!)


(For the record, I look just the same as the woman pictured above does when I read–calm, cool, and reflective, my fist poised gently (philosophically even) under my chiseled chin, book perched  delicately in my manicured hand, thinking deep and profound thoughts)
The details:

Jacksonville Fair Grounds (Exhibit Hall B)

Friday, March 2nd 10am-8pm

Saturday, March 3rd 10am-6pm

Sunday, March 4th noon-6pm

Jack O’ Lanterns 2006



Guns n’ Roses Update

The perfect gift for someone special: check out The Axl Rose and Sidekick Cat Commemorative Dish, available at The Daily Gut.

A few days back this blog reported that Guns n’ Roses are supposed to play Jacksonville on Tuesday, October 31st–Halloween Night. As of now, the tickets are still on sale. For a mere $77.50 a ticket, you will be able to print your own ticket via an internet purchase. For an extra $10 you can even arrange parking ahead of time. Bonus! Has this event been promoted on local radio? I don’t listen to radio, other than 8 minutes of NPR over the morning drive to work. Are the people of Jax psyched? Is Axl Rose a has-been? Will they even play? Who cares?

Fun links, methinks

Ricotta Park is stealing my gig. Fair enough, considering my gig is stealing. RP does a few mini book reviews today, including a review of The Psychic Soviet by ex-Nation of Uylsses frontman Ian Svenonious. Some consider Ulysses by James Joyce to be the best book ever written in English. Not me though! (It’s Moby Dick, hands down).

Go hit up Troglogyte Mignon to see some art (you need it kid!) Her watercolors are humorous and often affecting. A sample below (reproduced with permission of the artist).

smitten-b.jpg smitten panty lovers unite troglodyte mignon art


I found BibliOdyssey when looking for other “biblio” blogs. I was crushed, green to the gills with envy. This blog is fantastic! Go get some knowledge.

Shelfari is MySpace for book nerds. Go set up a shelf and meet some people. Argue about books. Posit Hemmingway as way overrated, or find that certain somebody who also trucked their way through Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night.

If you live in Jacksonville, no doubt you already travel daily to The Urban Core and Urban Jacksonville. What’s that you say? You haven’t visited yet? Go get some awareness (local, son!) Urban Jax has a great post today on artist Dan May. Urban Core was kind enough to include this blog in his write-up of Top 10 Jacksonville Blogs (the ‘klept came in lucky number 7! woo!) Urban Core was voted the best blog in Jacksonville by local indie paper Folio Weekly.

More fun links and hi-jinks next week.

Abominable Fallout by Dan May. Copyright Dan May, 2006.

Guns and Roses to Play Jacksonville Florida on Halloween Night

Absolutely nothing to do with books, but hey whatever. Guns and Roses have rescheduled their October 20th concert in sweet home Jacksonville FL for Halloween Night. Will Axl show? Will mayhem ensue? Will there be disappointment? Apathy?

And the Gators lost?! And that brawl in Miami?!

Console yourself with this Axl Rose fan art:


James Weldon Johnson — Part II

In 1912, James Weldon Johnson anonymously published The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. It was later republished under Johnson’s name in 1927, at the acme of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man strikes me as a thoroughly postmodern move. This fictional novel is presented as the true life story of a talented man who chooses to “pass” as white so that he might have greater–or at least equal–access to opportunity in America. Autobiography is a fictional novel “passing” as another genre, autobiography. This mirroring wasn’t intended as just a fancy rhetorical device–it was a subversive, incendiary gesture on JWJ’s part, meant to question the mores of white America. In fact, after it’s initial publication, several reviews were written suggesting that the book was a hoax, the premise of these reviews being that a black man could never pass as a white man–let alone marry a white woman and become a landowner of some importance.

Ultimately, the voice in Autobiography problematizes all easy readings. The ex-colored man is a bona fide narcissist with an almost preternatural ability to succeed at everything he attempts–except of course when he is thwarted by racist social norms. The reader seems most encouraged to sympathize with the narrator at these times, when the ex-colored man’s natural and cultivated abilities are confronted or ousted by the dominant system. At other times, the narrator condescends working class blacks he terms “inferior”; he also frequently wishes to sanitize “primitive” forms of black art, such as spirituals and ragtime music, by recasting them in a classical, canonical mode. The ex-colored man clearly feels frustration that the acumen of his genius is constantly delimited by his color, but this frustration sometimes seems aimed at his fellow blacks.

All of this makes for a challenging but brisk and enjoyable read. Paired with JWJ’s real autobiography, Along This Way, a savvy reader can come up with all kinds of ironic, postmodern readings. Or straightforward readings. Or whatever. Read it yourself.

James Weldon Johnson — Part I

Everything in Jacksonville, Florida should be named after native son James Weldon Johnson.


Well, maybe not everything–that could get confusing. But as it stands, the only thing we Jacksonvillians have bearing that great man’s name is a middle school, and an obscure plaque somewhere downtown–which is great. People love plaques.

James Weldon Johnson Middle School feeds Stanton College Preparatory School, an excellent school that JWJ served as principal of from 1894 to 1902. In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I’m a proud graduate of the Stanton School (go Blue Devils!). Under JWJ’s plan, Stanton became the first black high school in Florida. In his autobiography, Along This Way, JWJ discloses the genius of his plans for educational reform: he simply asked the eighth grade class to come back again, partitioned off some rooms, and based the new high school program on the curriculum of his alma mater Atlanta University (now known as Clark). The real genius of this is that he didn’t bother to ask the all-white board of education, who undoubtedly would’ve found some way to say “no.” He just did it, and then let the board come see what he had done. Brilliant.

Why isn’t there a single prominent statue of JWJ in Jacksonville? Or a library named after him? Or even a street? It seems to me that the average Jacksonvillian simply isn’t aware of JWJ, or has only a passing knowledge of who he was, not realizing that he was born and raised here.


1. I will continue writing about James Weldon Johnson on this blog.

2. I challenge every Jacksonvillian to read a book by James Weldon Johnson.

 3. Maybe if we read his books, we’ll come to feel his genius, celebrate the fact that he is from our hometown, and honor him appropriately.

The Florida Reader

 go gators!

In The Florida Reader, edited by Lane and O’Sullivan, colonialists from three European countries fight or don’t fight with Indians, Ralph Waldo Emerson is mildly disappointed in the laziness of St. Augustine, Silvia Sunshine defines what a “cracker” person is, Hemmingway and Harry Crews come off as awful macho, and John Lee Williams advises against the consumption of “ardent spirits” in Florida’s hot climate. Also some fantastic Seminole folk tales. Here’s the second half of “Why the Rabbit is Wild”:

Then a horse and dog talked to one of the men. They talked like people. At that time the rabbit stayed with people, and he told lies all the time, but the dog and horse told the truth.One day somebody found out that the rabbit lied. At that time he was always trying to be something he wasn’t. He would go away, and when he came back he would say he had seen things that he had not seen. He would say he had seen snakes, alligators, turkeys, and turtles. The people did not know if they should believe this rabbit. So one of the men said to the rabbit, “If you find a snake, kill him and bring him back to camp. If you find an alligator, kill him and bring him back to camp as well.” The rabbit then left the camp and found a snake. He killed it and started to bring it back to show to the people. When the rabbit was bringing back the snake he saw an alligator. The alligator talked too, at that time. So the rabbit said to the alligator, knowing that the alligator could be a pretty dangerous character, “Somebody wants to see you back at the camp.” The alligator believed this and went along with the rabbit. When they had gone about half way, the rabbit tried to kill the alligator. Rabbit beat at the alligator but could not kill him. Pretty soon the alligator got tired of the battle, and he went back to his cave. Then the rabbit came home with the snake. When the man who had challenged the rabbit saw him, he was impressed. Rabbit had brought a snake, but not an alligator. But at that moment, the man thought he would like a turkey instead. So he said, “If you see a turkey, kill him and bring him home.” So the rabbit started out to get a turkey, but figured it would be better to ask someone else to do the job. So he went to a wildcat and said, “You kill a turkey for me.” Wildcat went and found a turkey and killed him. Rabbit brought the turkey back to the camp and told the man that he had killed it. The man believed the rabbit’s story, and the rabbit continued to live with the people and tell his stories. One day the rabbit wanted to get married. The man thought that because the rabbit had killed the turkey, he could provide for a family, so he married a girl. But, after the rabbit got married, he didn’t bring any food at all. The people found out that the rabbit did not kill the turkey, so they drove the rabbit away from the camp. And that is why the rabbit is wild today.