Support Your Local Library and Save Yourself Money

book-863418_960_720Use and support your local library! Save money! Use the Library Extension for Chrome browser.

As you browse the internet, you can see the availability of books, ebooks, audiobooks, and more at your local library. They support nearly four thousand libraries in the United States, Canada, UK, New Zealand, and Australia. With your library’s availability listed alongside popular titles, you can take advantage of hundreds of reviews and recommendations, while borrowing books from down the street.

Currently Supported Sites:
* Amazon (,,,
* AR BookFinder (
* Barnes and Noble (
* BookDepository (
* Chapters/Indigo (
* Good Reads (
* Google Books (,
* LibraryThing (

The list of supported libraries is here. It is also free! I use it all the time and have saved so much money because I don’t have to think about checking my public library to see if a title is available. It’s already laid out for you.

If you try it, let me know how you like it in the comments below.

The Heart of the World

Our scientific world-view had no trouble believing in aspirins and electricity because they worked, not because they made sense…. The question that confronts us is whether our view, that there is nothing beyond the biological and chemical machine, works. Up to now it has seemed to produce spectacular results. But the Kogi see these as short-term benefits on the way to a catastrophe. We are, to them, like people who have jumped off a mountain and, falling fast, are proclaiming our ability to fly. They believe they can see further, and that their own old-fashioned ideas will prove to be right. – Alan Eireia, The Heart of the World

About eighteen million people in over six hundred tribes lived for thousands of years in what we now call the United States alone. As of last month, sixty-two tribes and a total of 250,000 people occupy territory in sixteen of the fifty states. Most of them were forcibly relocated to the lands in which they now live. For thousands of years, the worldview of these various indigenous groups worked – because we all live in a collective home, we must all protect and nurture it. Science has confirmed what these native people have known for years, and yet we continue to ignore all the warning signs.

In the 1990s, an indigenous group called the Kogi from Colombia in South America abandoned centuries of caution and descended from their mountain homes with the objective of warning the rest of the world that we are destroying the earth. The Heart of the World book and a film were the result of this message, and the Kogi believed that Little Brother (their name for us) would heed their warnings. After all, they spoke from the heart and warned of famine, incurable diseases, and natural disasters brought on by our unsustainable activities. Life continued uninterrupted and the famine, incurable diseases, and natural disasters predicted by the Kogi occurred. This caused the Kogi to summon Alan Ereira to their home in the Sierra Nevada Santa Marta in 2011 to make a new film about the end of the world.

The film Aluna is the result of their second collaboration with Alan, only this time, they took control of the filming. The result is extraordinary, a poignant message about the interconnectedness of all things. The Kogi have spiritual leaders called Mamas, and it is through Mama Shibulata that we learn about the Kogi. We see Shibulata and the other Mamas and their children venture into the city to obtain documents so they can fly to England. These are people who do not speak Spanish, who have no signatures, no documents, no address, at least according to the Colombian authorities. They obtain their papers and fly to London where they visit an observatory and speak with an astronomer who confirms that the Kogi view of the universe seems to share some similarities with our scientific view of the universe, especially where mysterious “dark energy” is concerned.

The Kogi belief of interconnectedness appears to be literally translated in the film as they pick up their special order of gold thread in England – all four hundred kilometers of it. They return to Colombia and set on a tour of the coastal areas to run this gold thread between special sites that correspond to mountain sites that connect directly to Aluna. The point of the connection is to show Little Brother the incontrovertible evidence of our disregard for the Great Mother. Many of the sites they attempt to access are restricted as they are power plants, security installations, and mines. All around the changing landscape, the Mamas point out evidence of Little Brother’s destruction and at one point translate the Great Mother’s words as “are you going to help me or just take pictures?”  The Kogi worldview of interconnectedness is repeatedly confirmed by respected astronomers, zoologists, and ecologists. In fact, for a people without telescopes and all the scientific apparatuses we have, their understanding of astronomy is uncanny.

What strikes me again and again is that they are not shown cursing Little Brother or wishing ill on us. They only want for Little Brother to listen and understand that everything is connected. Most of their culture seems to be about concentrating on connections, and it is this belief that sends them out into the rest of the world to try to save the Great Mother.

The weaving of a mochila begins at the bottom with a spiral. Photo by L.J. Bailey.

I learned about the Kogi after meeting a woman who owns a non-exploitative business that sells handcrafted Colombian items with a portion of each purchase donated to indigenous refugees in Colombia. She sold me a mochila (or bucket bag) which was handmade by Kogi women. A group is now touring the United States on a mission to once again warn us about our unsustainable practices. Proceeds from the bags go to purchasing land in the Sierra Nevada in Colombia. The bucket bag I purchased has a design meaning “origin of the world” and is a stunning piece of weaving. I have included pictures below. Each bag begins with a spiral that begins in the bottom of the bag, and the pattern continues as the bag is worked upward.

The film is available on Youtube for free, and it runs about ninety minutes. There are 102 indigenous groups in Colombia representing eighty different languages, some of them considered language isolates, meaning that they do not belong to any known language family. You can learn about one group in this film. It is worth your time.

The design of this mochila means “origin of the world.” Photo by L.J. Bailey.


Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Air Conditioning

repair-3484790_960_720I found my old journal from my student teaching days. Although I was offered a job at that school, I declined it. I am glad I did so. I have been at the same school for several years now. I thought it would be fun to look at the beginning of my beloved teaching career and see what, if anything, has changed about the profession or about me.

Anyway, enjoy this trip down memory lane.

I went to put my lunch in the department’s refrigerator but was immediately advised not to due to rats and general unsanitary conditions. I brought my lunch bag back to the cubicle my CT [cooperating teacher] is allowing me to share with her, although I can’t imagine that it is going to be any safer there than in the refrigerator. I was also advised not to eat in the lunchroom because every year mouse droppings are reported by various teachers in and around the cafeteria area. I was also told not to sit on any of the couches because mice build their nests in them. I guess I will be sticking to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

In terms of the physical qualities of the school building itself, I guess I am surprised that it is in poor shape. I am told that other schools in the district are far worse and that this building is one of the better ones. However, four classrooms down the hall from

my CT’s room don’t have power and there is no guarantee that the power will work by Tuesday. My CT’s room doesn’t have air conditioning for some unknown reason and the windows are bolted shut, so there is no chance of getting fresh air from outside. Other teachers laugh and shake their heads over these things; none of this is a big surprise to any of them.

What about you, dear reader? Do you have any recollections from the beginning of your career that you would like to share?

An Amazon on Every Corner and Other Nightmares

Amazon should open their own bookstores in all local communities. They can replace local libraries and save taxpayers lots of money, while enhancing the value of their stock.

So began an article by a college professor who decided that libraries have little value to offer anymore in light of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and book shopping companies like amazon. After public outrage over this article boiled over from Twitter and onto The Guardian‘s site (among others), Forbes deleted its article (but it is archived here). According to Fast Company, Forbes said they deleted the article because:

Libraries play an important role in our society. This article was outside of this contributor’s specific area of expertise, and has since been removed.

Out of touch? I’ll let you decide. The writer is Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post in New York, and he also teaches at Columbia University. Why Forbes even published this article to begin with is a mystery. It isn’t even well-written.

Our public library hours in the City of Chicago were cut significantly years ago. Three out of four Chicago Public Schools students do not have access to a librarian. Around the same time the Forbes article was published, a place where I spent my formative years was talking about cutting library services to save taxpayers money. The loss of library services would impact all of us, but of course it would hurt economically disadvantaged people more. This Columbia University professor obviously never had to look for a job on a library computer or find a book he needed for a school report.

I walked to my library branch today reflecting on how we, the American people, use the library. As I entered my library branch, I glanced at the children’s computer stations and noted that every computer was in use by elementary school-aged kids of color. The screens displayed a range of activities from educational games to internet browsing to typing in Microsoft Word. I am pretty sure one kid was on YouTube watching those prank videos, but we have to allow kids to be kids, no? Maybe not in the world of Forbes magazine.

The adults’ stations were full of people of color typing in Microsoft Word or conducting Google searches. At the reference desk, one elderly woman was learning how to access electronic resources from her home computer as she has a difficult time leaving the house. Other people around the library were browsing books, DVDs, CDs, and magazines. Someone tacked up fliers about cultural events like plays, poetry readings, and musical performances on the public notices wall.

At the checkout desk, I picked up my book which is over $350 used and $1,115.00 new on our friend amazon. I am hardly economically disadvantaged, but I cannot afford a $1,000 book. From a selfish perspective, without my library, I would be completely bereft. This is where I obtain all my pleasure reading books and some class books. This is the place from which I pick up movies and TV shows. I stream obscure British shows through the Hoopla app. I listen to audiobooks from Overdrive. I even browse through the latest issues of my favorite magazines using the RB Digital app (no Forbes for me, though). I cannot imagine a world without libraries.

This post was originally going to be a brief one about a great extension for Google Chrome called (aptly) Library Extension. I feel obligated to put this information here, even though it is buried way down in the post. As you browse books and e-books, the Library Extension can check your library’s online catalog and display the availability of that item on the same page. When I browse to amazon or goodreads (owned by amazon), a little box informs me whether the book is available at my library as a physical book or an ebook. I have saved so much money this way.

It seems like the author of the Forbes article would wish for amazon’s stock to be “enhanced” over enhancing people’s information literacy and knowledge. What a short-sighted, selfish viewpoint. Try Library Extension and when you go to pick up your book, thank your local librarian for being amazing. He or she will appreciate it.

Thank you for reading this, possibly on a library computer.


The Tradition of Commonplace Books

old-books-436498_960_720A commonplace book is a book where you keep quotations and other intellectual ephemera gleaned from your reading. Many of us already keep a sort of commonplace book through Facebook or Twitter when we type out and share excerpts from favorite books and other pieces that strike us as interesting. This is a practice with a long and distinguished history.

American historian Robert Darnton describes commonplace books as they emerged in England:

Unlike modern readers, who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end, early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book. They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it; and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your personality.

There’s a great article on the benefits of keeping a commonplace book here. Whether you decide to keep one by hand or in digital form, the article will explain to you why you should consider creating your own book.

Oh, and if I could make a recommendation, try Leuchtturm notebooks (German for lighthouse). There are numbered pages, an index, and a small little pouch in the back to store a few loose pages. I don’t make any money from this – it’s just a recommendation.

I’m going back to my own commonplace book now. Enjoy your own journey!

Sorry to Bother You

Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius

Sorry to Bother You is a film out now in the theatre and has been billed as a science fiction/comedy, but neither one of those labels fits. It offers an alternate version of our world where a television show called “I Got the Sh*t Kicked Out of Me” featuring people being beaten up and then dumped in a tank filled with excrement is number one. It also offers satirical critique of race, class, and capitalism which makes it a “comedy,” although the rest of the audience and I did not laugh very much during film.

Boots Riley wrote and directed the movie from his own screenplay. It’s hard to believe that the screenplay was written in 2012 and that it wrapped up filming a little after our current president took office. In fact, in the screenplay version, there is an organization called “Make American Great Again” which may give you an idea about the relevance of this film. Cassius (Cash) Green, played by Lakeith Stanfield is a young African American man who lives in a furnished garage owned by his uncle (played by Terry Crews). He is four months behind on his rent, and he takes a job at RegalView, a telemarketing firm where anyone who can read is hired. Cash struggles with his job and cannot keep anyone on the phone long enough to finish his script. He seems ready to quit when Langston (played by Danny Glover) offers him advice: talk white. He describes “talking white” as not about speaking in a nasal voice or like Will Smith but speaking instead “as if you don’t even need this job.” It’s a carefree sound, he says,” It’s what white people wish they sounded like. What they think they’re supposed to sound like.” Ditching his natural voice and following that advice, Cash has fantastic success and begins to outsell everyone at the firm. He converses with his white customers, decidedly not following the company’s motto of “Stick to the Script,” and tells one person he has to hang up because he is due for a game of squash. I did laugh at that one.

When the RegalView employees go on strike, organized by Squeeze (played by Steven Yeun), we see Cash’s transformation from enthusiastic participant-leader to benchwarmer. Although he led a ten-minute work stoppage at the firm with a fiery chant, his later success causes him to hesitate on more radical moves like union organization. When he is summoned to his boss’s office, he assumes he is fired, but, in fact, he receives a promotion to the “Power Callers” who have a separate lobby, a furnished elevator, and pervasive secrecy. This promotion ultimately leads Cash to cross the picket line, a decision unpopular with his friends and Detroit, his girlfriend (played by Tessa Thompson). Detroit is obviously in love with Cash but cannot tolerate his “emaciated morality,” and she ends the relationship with him, as we knew she must. She is part of the movement fighting against the very forces that have seduced Cash. She continues to create politically-charged art and participate in acts of civil disobedience and vandalism, and Cash continues to want to attend one of her art shows but his new job keeps holding him back. It’s a sign that maybe Cash isn’t a complete convert to his new lifestyle (he drives a Maserati and lives in an apartment with amazing windows and natural light once he closes a huge deal).

While the plot plays out, we have a glimpse of the film’s world. It is both our time and not our time. A company called Worry Free Living has taken over the market share of, well, everything, and it offers its workers a lifetime contract with a comprehensive package of food, scrubs, and shelter. It reminds me of amazon, although they haven’t become that yet. Cash’s uncle is tempted to join Worry Free after receiving word that the bank plans to repossess his house, vehicle, and possessions. Worry Free’s corporate model receives pushback from young people who see the company as exploiting the concerns of everyday people and obtaining a lifetime of slave labor.

I don’t want to spoil the film for you, so I won’t detail any more of the plot because there are some important surprises. Suffice it to say that the film does take off into some even weirder realms with twists and bizarre scenes, yet I was completely along for the ride by that point. I did find an interview with the writer/director Boots Riley (some of you may know of him from his work in The Coup). He was raised in Oakland in a politically active family, and six years ago, he was caught up in the Occupy Oakland movement. In the interview, he talked about the spectacle of protests and how they really don’t accomplish much. He believes his film is in a way part of that spectacle, but the hope is that it could potentially spur someone to action. The tension that we see in Cash’s character between paying the bills and protesting injustice is not accidental. Riley told the LA Times that social justice seems to be something that people can fit in on weekends because weekdays they have to work for a living. He said he feels like many movements have not been successful because “we haven’t been organizing in a way that pays the bills […]. People shouldn’t have to get involved after work; they should be able to get involved at work.” He is on to something here.

I highly recommend this film. See it before it’s out of theatres for good — its critique of capitalism means that it probably won’t be out for much longer.

Sorry to Bother You
Released July 13, 2018
Written/Directed by Boots Riley
Starring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson

Reblog – Charles White: a Retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago — Laura Lee

This is the second time I have visited the Charles White Retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago. This collection of prints, sketches, paintings, and photographs is the first major retrospective of his work in over thirty-five years. The first time, I saw this shortly after the John Singer Sargent exhibit, and there was no contest: Charles White’s pieces speak even though he is no longer with us.

The video at the beginning of the exhibit is available here. One of the most notable parts is hearing White say, “…man is basically good. I have to start with this premise in my work.” Incredible. It is at the AIC through September 3rd. Pictures and additional musings including a link to exhibition materials are available below in the reblog!

(Soldier, Charles White) A Charles White retrospective is at the amazing Art Institute of Chicago right now through September third. The Art Institute, on its web page Charles White at the Art Institute of Chicago, states: Charles White, born and educated in Chicago, was one of the preeminent artists to emerge during the city’s Black […]

via Charles White: a Retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago — Laura Lee