Wednesday, January 5, 2011

State shortchanges Denver Public

The Denver Public Library provides 50 percent more services to Colorado residents than it gets paid for by the state education department, yet the state is recommending only a 5 percent budget increase for Denver libraries next year.
Denver can do little to rectify the budget problem, city library officials said.
While the city's lobbyist at the legislature says Denver should consider barring its doors to outside residents, City Librarian Rick Ashton said a similar move in 1981 was a public relations disaster that the library can't afford to suffer again.
The education department, which oversees state library services, has requested only $1 million in compensation for Denver's library system for 1990-91, despite an authoritative study showing that Denver provides services worth at least $1.5 million.
The request for Denver is only $52,000 more than the previous year.
The department didn't think it could persuade the Joint Budget Committee to bring Denver's budget up to $1.5 million all in one year, so it decided to spread the increases over the next five years, said State Librarian Nancy Bolt.
But the $52,000 increase for next year will barely keep up with inflation, let alone bring the budget up to Denver's true costs, Ashton said.
"Our costs go up 5 percent a year, so we're not gaining anything," he said.
Under the state system, Denver's Central Library acts as a backup reference center for all libraries in the state, providing book and document loans, answers to reference queries and walk-in service to non-Denver residents working on research projects.
Use of the Central Library by non-Denver residents is growing rapidly, reflecting an overall increase in library growth. Walk-in visits by nonresidents will reach 146,500 next year, up from 136,900 this year; telephone queries will climb to 76,500 from 72,100.
The 5 percent increase for Denver next year is unacceptable, especially since the state's own study showed that Denver deserves a 50 percent increase, said Cliff Dodge, a former legislator who now lobbies for Denver on Capitol Hill.
If the state isn't willing to pay Denver its costs, perhaps the city should reconsider its role in the state library system, he said.
"Maybe that's an area where Denver shouldn't be subsidizing everyone else." But Ashton said Denver tried locking out nonresidents in 1981, with disastrous consequences. The public blamed the Denver library for the problem, not the legislature, and the outcry was overwhelming.
"That's not something I care to revisit," he said.
Denver shouldn't feel slighted by the state, Bolt said. The budget requests are based partly on political realities that also have left the state's regional library system in the red.
The regional system, which hires librarians to coordinate training and consulting for smaller libraries, needs $2.4 million to cover costs next year. The department has requested only $1.7 million. Bolt said.
"It has been very difficult to get money out of the legislature; we were trying to find a way that would get us to full funding over time," she said.
Meanwhile, the Denver library will continue to provide services to the entire state with a stretched-thin staff, a resigned Ashton said. The state's budget problems are nothing new to the Denver Central Library.
"We have not got what we're looking for for a long time."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The people and the places

It has always been this column's mission, if not always its accomplishment, to poke around the city's cultural corners and tell you about the people and the places that share those often-ignored spaces.
We were trying to explain this to out-of-town visitors on Christmas Eve in the lobby of the Drake Hotel and in so doing, as much as we hate to admit it, sounded loftier than we meant to be. This was underscored by our inability to fully satisfy our friends' question: "What sort of people and places do you mean?"
We could recall a few, but not enough to warrant a year's worth of columns. So, in order to jog our own memory we grabbed a pile of Arts sections and decided to revisit Around Town's past. What we learned was that this has been a year of wonderfully quiet events and accomplishments and that we are proud to have chronicled a few of them.
There was Fanny Butcher who, for some 40 years, was the chief literary editor of The Tribune and whose papers found their way to the Newberry Library's estimable collection earlier this year. Butcher had died in 1987, at a ripe and still fiesty 99. In her years at The Tribune, her weekly book page was among the most influential in the nation. No mean accomplishment when one learns that the paper's owner, Col. Robert R. McCormick, thought of book coverage this way: "Readers of The Tribune don't read books."
There was Judith Gries, who was tending bar at a Halsted Street saloon called the Everleigh Club when she told us that what she really wanted to do-and was doing-was to paint furniture with distinctive patterns. She had sold a few of these items when we met her and then, a few months later, we saw her picture in this paper's home section, which called her one of the city's leading practitioners of this relatively new art.
There were John Higgins and Jason Court, painter and actor respectively, who played good samaritans when they chased-and caught-a man who had just stolen a woman's fur from an Ontario Street saloon called Howard's.
There was local filmmaker John McNaughton, who had made a movie called "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer," and fought to keep it from being butchered by distributors. He saw the film get its first commercial release this year at the Music Box Theater and saw it land in Dave Kehr's Top Ten Films of 1989 list.
There was local filmmaker Darryl Roberts who, on something less than a shoestring and with little previous movie experience, made his writing/directing/producing debut with "The Perfect Model." The film played in local theaters.
There was the rebirth of Seneca Park, a block west of the Water Tower, thanks to the work of Marc Schulman, who raised more than $300,000 to transform the slice of green into one of the city's most charming spots; a fitting tribute to his late father, Eli, a Chicago original.
There was the Live Bait Theater Company, which, in a novel way to raise funds, wrote letters to famous people asking that they donate their doodles. Amazingly, but encouragingly, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Al Hirschfeld, Whoppi Goldberg, Bill Petersen, Philip Glass and dozens of others did.
. . .we met in the last year
There was Robert Richter, one of the city's most successful makers of television commercials, whose attitude about his generally cutthroat business was wonderfully refreshing: "It's a game. It's just a game. This is really fun to do. This is not like getting a divorce or doing plumbing. These are just, after all, little pieces of fantasy."
There was Jack Kearney, the great sculptor, who has been commissioned to create five huge metal sculptures of dinosaurs that will dot a 40-acre site in West Chicago. The dinosaurs are built from the bumpers of cars of the '50s and '60s.
There was Bill Russell, who quit a secure job at The Tribune to pursue a career as an actor: "I didn't want to wake up at 65 and say, `If only I took the chance in theater."'
There was Holy Family Church, the beautiful, 130-year-old building on the city's Near West Side, that is fighting the good fight to remain the spiritual center of one of the city's most interesting neighborhoods.
There was Elephants, the candy store on Michigan Avenue, that so intrigued famous architect Stanley Tigerman that he and his staff designed the store, creating a 777-square-foot pachyderm palace.
There was Holly Fulger, the local actress who has become a TV star on "Anything But Love"; Skip Griparis, the local comic who got his first film role in "Major League." Faces on Rush Street closed.

Monday, January 3, 2011

10 resolutions Preparation is the key to traveling wisely and well

Make some New Year's resolutions today. Vow to take the pain out of travel in 1990.

Well, not all the pain. No matter where you plan to go, Murphy's Law applies: If anything can go wrong, it will. You can be certain of that. But the secret is to make life on the road as easy as possible.

Common sense is the key to coping. If you take a few minutes to think, you can help yourself resolve a problem. You can begin this process today, or tomorrow if you need a respite from pro football or the college bowl games. Here's a list of resolutions, to which you can add your own.

- I won't pack everything in my closet into a suitcase or garment bag. Unless protocol demands certain formal or spiffy attire, then don't travel as a clothes horse. No one else cares what you wear. Men can go almost anywhere in a blazer and a pair of gray or khaki slacks. Women can coordinate their travel wardrobes just as easily. The ultimate test is: If you can't lift your luggage, start unpacking; you'll be hard-pressed to find someone to carry it for you. Make a list of clothes that travel well and make you look good. Put it in a travel file. A checklist will make packing a snap.

- I'll apply for a passport in 1990 or make certain the one I have isn't about to expire. A passport is the best travel document you can have. It costs $42 and is good for 10 years. It eliminates the need for wondering if your voter registration card or birth certificate will get you across a border or back into the United States. Passport applications are available at U.S. Passport Agency offices, major post offices and from clerks of court.

- I'll find a good travel agent. Just ask a lot of questions. (If your travel agent tells you the Bahamas are in the Caribbean, try another one.) A good travel agent really can find you the lowest air fare. If you're shopping for a cruise, try an agent that specializes in cruises and can explain the differences in lines and ships. Don't book a trip and then ask questions later. Get everything explained first. Unless they provide you with extra services beyond normal ticketing and simple hotel reservations, agents charge you nothing. Their commissions come from airlines, cruise lines, hotels and other providers.

- I'll check the travel books and tapes in my public library or in my local bookstore before planning a trip. It's just plain dumb to start planning a vacation without browsing through travel sections and guidebooks or viewing travel videotapes. Also invest in a road atlas. It's amazing how much information you can get for $7.95. And when you look at distances from Chicago to various locations in New England and Canada's Maritime Provinces, for example, you'll soon see why you can't cover the whole area in a week.

- I'll make certain my camera is in working order before vacation time rolls around. Nothing quite like snapping pictures with a dead battery in your camera. If you camera requires a battery, replace it at least once a year. Shoot a roll of film and have it processed before you leave.

- I'll let my fingers do the walking. In the Chicago Yellow Pages, for example, under Tourist Information, you'll find the numbers of foreign, local and states tourist offices that will provide you with free brochures and maps. You can find additional listings under Consulates & Other Foreign Government Representatives.

- All members of the family will be involved in planning a family vacation. And that includes the kids. If they're old enough, they should be given some options about what they'd like to do-within reason, of course. Family vacations should be fun, but I've observed many a family not having fun. When it comes to souvenir shopping, allow children a set amount to spend, with the understanding that when that amount is spent, that's it. Also, limit the amount of toys and clothes the children can take and make them responsible for looking after their own things. (If children are old enough to read, the list approach can work.)

- I'll have the car serviced a week before the big trip. So many vacations are spoiled at the outset because everything is left to the last minute. If you know when you're going, make a checklist of things to be done. Make the day or two before departure a time to review plans, not formulate them.

- I won't become a travel snob. The old one-upsmanship routine gets old in a hurry. So you've been to Antarctica before your friends; who cares. If they're interested, they'll ask you questions. Don't bore them with hour-long slide shows.

- I'll learn a few phrases before visiting a foreign country. Saying "hello," "please" and "thank you" in a foreign tongue can go a long way in making friends. You might feel silly walking around with a phrase books, but they do come in handy.

And some suggestions

And while we're still on the subject of resolutions, I'd would like to suggest to the airlines and other carriers such as Amtrak.

They should resolve to explain the delays they heap on millions of passengers. It's no big deal to honestly explain a problem.

A few mornings ago, an American Eagle captain boarded his flight in Burlington, Ia., 15 minutes late without a word of explanation, but then attributed another 15-minute delay to air traffic over Chicago.

Several days before Christmas, frigid weather delayed all of Amtrak's trains out of Chicago. While Amtrak officials in Union Station were vague, a call to 800-USA-RAIL revealed that the California Zephyr, for example, would depart about two hours late. No reason why the waiting passengers couldn't have been told the same thing.

So let's all resolve to make travel a little easier in 1990.


GRAPHIC: Illustration by Rob Porazinski.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Under the protection of trash busters

You'll find on display in Angela Farias' office in the Stephen F. Austin building what, at first, might seem an odd assortment of items from foreign countries.
Old shampoo bottles from Brazil and Denmark. Encrusted plastic bottles from China and the Soviet Union. An all-purpose cleaner from Singapore. A dirty milk carton from Australia. A box from Venezuela.
A strange collection, you might think, for a woman who has never been to any of these countries.
Strange, that is, until you discover that Angela's passion is beaches, pristine white beaches free of litter and debris. And the oddities are pieces of trash collected from beaches by Angela, the founding director of the 3-year-old Texas Adopt-A-Beach program.
Perhaps surprisingly, the worst beach offenders are not the sun worshipers or shore walkers with their beer and soft-drink cans, suntan-lotion bottles, cigarette butts and picnic debris.
Says Angela, referring to her office collection, "Eighty percent of the trash on Texas beaches is from offshore."
Several years ago Angela was a member of a task force assigned to investigate the beach-litter problem, we learned at The Winter Beach Party fund-raiser. It was staged in behalf of Land Commissioner Garry Mauro at Palmer Auditorium on one of our recent cold nights.
Garry, Angela's boss, tells us she "has taken what we thought would be a small, extracurricular activity and turned it into a major environmental initiative. Now 23 other states have modeled programs after ours."
Angela speaks to conferences, as she did recently in New Orleans, sharing ideas on how Texas encourages citizen involvement.
She helps groups like the Oak Hill and Travis Heights Girl Scout troops adopt a mile stretch of beach. The scouts travel to the shore and clean the beach of debris three times a year.
She travels around the state promoting clean beaches by giving slide demonstrations in libraries and putting on puppet shows in schools. (Angela, wife of Farm Credit Banks loan officer Louis Farias, gets advice on her puppet show texts from their children, Jennifer Farias, 6, and Philip Farias, 3.)
Angela works with representatives of oil companies, shrimpers and seismic-vessel crews to spread the message of litter-free beaches.
Her current project is promoting the recycling of plastic. Says Angela, "Anything from plastic takes 400 years to degrade.
"I really believe in what we're doing. We're making a difference. We're teaching people to protect beaches, the ocean and the wildlife that live there."
Warns Angela, "If we continue trashing our beaches and polluting our water, we'll kill the wildlife. And the only wildlife we'll see will be in zoos, a book or Sea World."
What was the North American director of that Italian fashion house Genny doing recently in the small Central Texas town of Salado?
Travis Winberg jetted in from New York, accompanied by corporate chef Laura Portaluppi, to stage a seated dinner for 60 folks with informal modeling of Genny's spring line.
The setting was Grace Jones' O'Neil Ford-designed home.
Yes, Salado, with its 1,350 registered voters, is the American outpost for high fashion, thanks to Grace.
About 29 years ago, Grace established her chic shop by Salado Creek in the ranching town between Austin and Waco.
Much against the advice of bankers who told Grace flatly: "It won't work. You have to have traffic."
Salado, with a population of 300 at that time, didn't.
Not that sleepy historic Salado, once a stagecoach line stop, has a ton of traffic these days.
But today Grace is a member of the Salado National Bank's advisory board.
And women from all over the state and country patronize One Royal Street. That's where the couture designs Grace buys on shopping trips to Milan, Paris, New York and California are housed and sold. Somewhat ironically, we might add, in a renovated 1910 limestone building that was the village's first bank.
Grace is a Smithville native who returned to her Texas roots after a stint flying airplanes during World War II with the Women's Air Force Service Pilots and a New York modeling career.
We asked her how, against the odds, she has made her couture venture work.
"I think first you have to know your business. I know my business and love it," says Grace. "I've lived in New York and Tokyo and I like to shop where it's peaceful and they take care of me.
"I give special attention to my customers, like they did in the good old days."
Footnote: When visiting Salado, don't forget to check out Grace's sale room, where you'll find designer's duds at greatly reduced prices.
Lee Kelly puts the spotlight on people every Thursday and Sunday. Write to her at the American-Statesman, P.O. Box 670, Austin 78767.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

No Time, Just the Present

"Out with the old year, in with with the new!" "Out with the old decade, in with the new!" And now begins the countdown to "Out with the old century, in with the new!" And even "Out with the old millennium, in with the new!" But who is this star of so many entrances andf exits? What is time? Book Review's New Year's greeting is a set of answers to those questions as offered in a chapter from "Zen to Go" (A Plume Book/New American Library: $14.95) by Jon Winokur, a Los Angeles writer whose most recent book is "A Curmudgeon's Garden of Love." Was the Buddha a curmudgeon? Or just strapped for time? Time is not a line, but a series of no-points. -TAISEN DESHIMARU In order to be utterly happy the only thing necessary is to refrain from comparing this moment with other moments in the past, which I often did not fully enjoy because I was comparing them with other moments of the future. -ANDRE GIDE The present moment is a powerful goddess. -GOETHE There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past. -GEORGE CARLIN The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. -KURT VONNEGUT There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now. -EUGENE O'NEILL We cannot put off living until we are ready. The most salient characteristic of life is its coerciveness: It is always urgent, "here and now" without any possible postponement. Life is fired at us point-blank. -JOSE ORTEGA Y GASSET No mind is much employed upon the present; recollection and anticipation fill up almost all our moments. -SAMUEL JOHNSON The word now is like a bomb through the window, and it ticks. -ARTHUR MILLER TOM SEAVER: Hey, Yogi, what time is it? YOGI BERRA: You mean now? The passing moment is all that we can be sure of; it is only common sense to extract its utmost value from it; the future will one day be the present and will seem as unimportant as the present does now. -W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM Time and space are fragments of the infinite for the use of finite creatures. -HENRI FREDERIC AMIEL Time is the longest distance between two places. -TENNESSEE WILLIAMS Time is the only true purgatory. -SAMUEL BUTLER I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity. -IGOR STRAVINSKY Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. -MATTHEW, 6:34 Tomorrow's life is too late. Live today. -MARTIAL Life is all memory except for the one present moment that goes by so quick you can hardly catch it going. -TENNESSEE WILLIAMS What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know. -SAINT AUGUSTINE Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. -THOREAU Only our concept of Time makes it possible for us to speak of the Day of Judgment by that name; in reality it is a summary court in perpetual session. -FRANZ KAFKA I have realized that the past and the future are real illusions, that they exist only in the present, which is what there is and all there is. -ALAN WATTS To realize the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom. -BERTRAND RUSSELL We can never finally know. I simply believe that some part of the human Self or Soul is not subject to the laws of space and time. -CARL JUNG