Monday, December 30, 2013

A Book and One Blistery Blast

Several times during the school year, teachers from Washington Junior High School bring a group of kids over to spend some after school time with me.  Teenagers frighten adults for some reason.  I learned that quickly when I began teaching high school years ago.  Small talk about careers serves as a great conversation starter when meeting new people, and new people I met always smiled and nodded appreciatively upon learning that I taught.  But, when the learned that each day, I stepped into a classroom filled with adolescents, their attitudes changed.  Their mouths opened in horror and many offered me condolences.  In general, most thought my life was in danger every minute of every hour spent in the classroom. Nothing could have been further from the truth. 

Perhaps because I taught electives  - Theatre History, Acting Lab, Speech, Creative Writing - my student population might have been a bit different than those of required classes.  My kids had drive, edge, imagination.  Above all, they were honest.  I always knew where I stood with them.  That kept me alert and I learned quickly how to adapt lessons and curriculum requirements to methods that best suited their needs (and whims) at any given moment.  

And the point is?  These WJHS kids are terrific and I wish that adults could see them as I see them.  They come in, engage in conversation while exploring.  Some are shy, at first, but that changes quickly.  Others get right to work, quizzing me to see how much I really know about books.  They have filled me in on the hot titles - The 4th Stall being the current must read.

These books are so much fun - a cross between The Godfather and "Happy Days".  Remember how Fonzie kept an office at Mel's Diner?  Same concept.  Check out the publisher's  summary of Book 1; yes, this is a series and I can't wait to move on to #2.  No pun intended.

What else am I reading?  Lots of plays.  I'm trying to narrow down a show, a murder mystery and a children's play for UW-Manitowoc.  There are too many possibilities. 

Publishers Summary: Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It’s what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys’ bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.

Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it’s going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that’s just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else’s problems is that there’s no one left to solve yours.

Amazon as Shakedown Artist?...Surely you won't be surprised to learn that Amazon is ruthless, greedy, and unethical...right?  

In a review of Brad Stone's book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon in the December issue of Harper's, deputy editor James Marcus reported on what he labeled "Amazon's newest shakedown.  Some publishers are now being pressured to pay the equivalent of 1% of their annual net sales to Amazon--levied on top of any existing fees--simply for the privilege of presenting their lists to the marketing team and buyers. In the case of the larger houses, this sum could run between $500,000 and $1 million--and failure to pay will make it awfully hard to get an Amazon buyer on the phone."

In a footnote, Marcus wrote that an Amazon spokesperson "denies this latest practice, and several publishers, when contacted by Harper's magazine, were understandably leery of revealing the specifics of their own agreements with the company. What came through clearly was a general repugnance toward Bezos' tactics. Describing Amazon's appetite for 'creative destruction' as 'somewhere between scary and disgusting,' one New York publishing executive told Harper's: 'When you go to work each morning with a battle-ax, everything looks like a head to be chopped off.' "