Book browsing

I had an interesting experience this afternoon.  While browsing at a local bookstore, I lingered for a while in the current-events section.  It’s always fun to see the latest polemic du jour, and I was not disappointed with the selection of throw-away titles that promised to tell the “real truth” about the Iraq war or the Bush administration or the decline of Western civilization or the fallibility of journalists or … well, you get the point.

The current-events titles are housed opposite the store’s modest selection of gay-themed books.  I do not generally pay much attention to the “gay and lesbian interests” section, since there is a certain disappointing predicatability to the subject-matter, but I did happen to observe the store’s other patrons as they browsed those shelves.

The ten minutes or so I spent with one eye on the current-events books and the other on the gay-and-lesbian-section patrons certainly provided fodder for reflection.  Most people tended to pass through the section on their way to some other part of the store.  However, those who explored the gay-themed books seemed skittish, as if they didn’t want to be seen as looking too intently at those books.  They seemed to be watching out for those who might be watching them, much more so than those browsing, e.g., the religious fiction section.

Maybe it’s a function of living in socially conservative West Michigan; there are defined and unambiguous limits to what this community finds acceptable in terms of the expression of one’s sexuality — although signs abound that perhaps a more libertarian streak is starting to infuse the otherwise stolidly conservative facade of pious Grand Rapids.

But it was interesting, nevertheless, that those inclined to look for gay-themed books appeared sensitive to be seen as looking for gay-themed books. 

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it; my interest was originally caught by an alterna-teen walking slowly up and down the aisle, so maybe I am just applying a social template that has no firm basis in reality.  Perhaps.

Whatever the case, I’ve now got something else to think about.


I’ve lately grown into the habit of working on my writing-related work from a local coffee shop.  It’s refreshing to get away from the distractions of home; at the coffee shop, I can simply plug in and type.  With mocha and free wireless Internet.  Heavenly. Occasionally, this new venue provides ample fodder for the people-watcher […]

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Lent has arrived

Part of the wisdom of Catholicism is the opportunity the Church extends to the People of God to deepen their faith through the mechanism of the liturgical year.  Lent has returned, and at Ash Wednesday, we are challenged to resist Lent’s derogation into the merely routine, and to grow in faith and in wisdom despite […]

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Simulated lessons

Off and on over the last four years, I have participated in online political simulations — either based on some sort of Web forum, or through Yahoo! Groups.  I was originally attracted to the idea because I thought the sims would provide an interesting counterpoint to the conventional wisdom of political scientists, about the structure […]

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Buyer, beware

I admit it: I do a lot of Internet-related transactions.  I purchase and sell things on eBay; I buy products from Web-based merchants; I purchase subscriptions for online services.  And I usually don’t have too much trouble. But last week was different.  In the space of two days, I was hit with three unexpected transactions […]

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Oh where, o where, are the Olympics held?

Ahh, the Olympics. A symbol of human solidarity in a world rent by bloody factionalism. A chance to see athleticism at its most pure and noble and inspiring. A forum for non-violent and friendly competition among nation-states. An opportunity for the talking-head glitterati to inadvertently demonstrate that the emperor of cultural correctness wears no clothes. […]

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Customer service … ?

This afternoon, I stopped at the local outlet of a major national retailer.  My purpose: To return a book I had purchased a few days ago, that I forgot that I already owned. I assumed that this would be a relatively painless operation.  The book was unopened and in perfect condition, I had a receipt […]

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Site reset

Today I switched my Web/e-mail host from ValueWeb to Site5.  I have no problems with ValueWeb — I was hosted by them since 1999 — but I wanted more e-mail flexibility, and Site5 provides it at a cheaper cost.  So here I am.  Consequently, there is a complete reset of all data at, although […]

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