Category Archives: Party Banter Friday

PBF: August – The Zone of Death or How to get away with murder.

Sounds SCARY doesn’t it? Well… it is.

Not to be confused with the Death Zone – a section of Mt. Everest 8,000 feet above sea level where breathing becomes nearly impossible and many climbers succumb to the elements – the Zone of Death is right here in America.  Specifically, it’s a fifty square mile section of Yellowstone National Park.

The interesting legal conundrum was explained in 2004 by Michigan State University law professor Brian Kalt’s article titled, “The Perfect Crime.” Kalt explains that in 1872 Congress created Yellowstone National Park – the world’s first national park – as a federal enclave which would not be subject to state law. Technically, there weren’t any states in the area at the time anyhow.  In 1889 and 1890 Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho became states but Yellowstone was put exclusively into the State of Wyoming’s federal district. Even today it is the only federal district in the country to cross state lines.



This is a problem.

Why? How well do you know your constitution? Article III of the Constitution says that federal criminal trials need to be held in the state where the crime was committed. On top of that, the Sixth Amendment states that a defendant has a right to a trial by jurors who live in the same state and district as said crime.

Follow all that?

In the Wyoming federal district residing inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park there is a population of zero. It’s actually one of the most remote areas of the park, lacking even a road leading to or through that area. With no ability to create a federal jury and no state jurisdiction, there would be no way of actually prosecuting a crime, if one were to occur in this lawless no-man’s land. Minor offenses that do not require the formation of jury could still be prosecuted, but anything big enough to require the judgement of peers is off the table.

And no one seems interested in fixing the problem.

I’m shocked that Congress won’t act, SHOCKED. Well, not that shocked.”

The attitude seems to be that the area is so remote and inhospitable- bears, wolves, and biting insects, oh my! – that it probably won’t ever be an issue.


We’ll see.

Frankly,  the ‘we’ll deal with it when we have to’ mentality is pretty prevalent on this issue. I originally debated posting on this topic as I am not too keen on helping people commit serious crimes, but you have to admit, it sounds like a total pain in the butt to pull off and I’m definitely not the first author to bring this to readers attention. You can read a fictionalized account of a murder being committed in the Zone of Death in C.J. Box’s award winning mystery Free Fire.  Brian Kalt was even a consultant on the book so it’s as accurate as it can be while also being fiction!


July PBF: Emily’s Island or the Dickinson-Gilligan Connection

Emily Dickinson, the name is synonymous for intellectualism and poetry. Dickinson most often employs the ballad stanza, a traditional form of poetry that is divided into quatrains, using tetrameter for the first and third lines and trimeter for the second and fourth, while rhyming the second and fourth lines (ABCB). Dickinson played with punctuation from time to time as her nearly 2,000 poems are all similar in stanza structure.

In short this predictable use of meter and rhyme means that almost all of Emily Dickinson’s poems can be sung to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.

gilliganwtfPictured: Not a synonym for intellectualism and poetry. 

Go on, try it yourself! here is the Gilligan’s Island Theme Song….

Now, sing one of  Dickinson’s most famous poems to the tune. Let’s pick ‘There is no Frigate like a book.’

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

Here it is sung by a high school student on youtube:

Weird, right? Apparently there are other songs that her poetry melds well with, Amazing Grace for instance, but that’s no fun. Gilligan’s Island is so beautifully irreverent. Now you’ll never be able to read one of her poems without singing it again. Try it out at a bar and watch all your literary friends freak out at how the queen of misanthropic poetry ended up mashing with a 1960’s screw ball sitcom theme song.


PBF: June 2016

Party Banter Friday:   In Which A Librarian Provides You With An Interesting Fact to Make You More Popular During Weekend Socializing

War. Huh. What is it good for?

Well, actually quite a lot it turns out if you look at it as a catalyst for scientific advancement.

Mary Roach’s latest book, Grunt: the Curious Science of Humans at War, just hit our shelves and I had to be the first person to read it. I love Mary Roach’s books. Well researched, quirky, and often darkly hilarious, her books simmer in the science of the human experience. Her books about death (Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers), sex (Boink: the Curious Coupling of Sex and Science), food (Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal), and spirituality (Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife) along with her latest about war could be gathered into one compendium called Life: the Human Experience.

Roach always focuses on the science behind these mundane elements of life on Earth.  There is surprising science all around us and she drives that point home in the first chapter by examining something so seemingly mundane it probably never crossed your mind: the science of fabrics. Nantick Labs in Massachusetts tests and develops everything the army eats, sleeps in, carries, and wears. They think of everything. A cloth is fire resistant but is it toxic? Will it wick away moisture? Can it be easily printed on or dyed? How many washes will it stand up to? Does it itch or retain body odor?

Amazingly, the army employees fashion designers to come up with solutions to other problems like snipers lying on their stomachs for hours at a time or the tear of Velcro giving away a solider’s position.


Mary Roach’s books are great for amazing facts that broaden your understanding of the world. For instance in WWII, the British Army were so beleaguered by disease spreading flies that each man had a quota that everyone was to kill 50 flies a day! The Allies and the Axis powers all waged war on pests on the battlefields and the home front. During the Spanish-American War of 1898, the illustrious  Walter Reed was called in to investigate a typhoid outbreak. He noticed flies transferring lime from latrines and graves onto food and the war on flies began for the American Army. This discovery created an occupation called military entomologist, which still exists today.


Flies, however, come with a positive side. The use of maggots to clean away necrotic flesh has be recorded as far back as the Maya and Aboriginal Tribes of Australia.  Baron Dominique Larrey, Napoleon’s personal surgeon, recognized that solider’s whose wounds were colonized by maggots had lower morbidity ratres as did Joseph Jones during the American Civil War. Maggots were officially approved to treat wounds in 2007 by the FDA.

Medically, the army has always been on the cutting edge of wound care and trauma. World War I saw the invention of reconstructive plastic surgery credited to New Zealand surgeon Harold Gillies. Walter Yeo, a sailor who lost his eyelids in the battle of Jutland, is often described as the first to benefit from advanced plastic surgery.

[Photo of Petty Officer Yeo redacted due to high probability of squeamishness bordering on nightmarish terror. If you would like to see how the first recipient of plastic surgery fared, photos are available on Google images, good luck!] 

More soldiers ever are surviving dramatic wounds from the most powerful explosives in human history. Living after having your leg or arm blown off takes a lot of adjustment, but what if a more sensitive part of the body is lost forever? Roach’s focus on human relationships and intimacy leads to a heart breaking chapter about the army’s attempts to reconstruct and, if need be, replace genitals. Though the first penis transplant happened only a month ago at Massachusetts General Hospital and was done for a cancer survivor, John Hopkins has been working on transplants for veterans for years.

With war a seemingly constant topic of discussion among humans in every country on the planet, it is nice to look at it from an objective and largely unemotional place. These interesting facts can take any war conversation from the political to the material in just a few seconds. Roach really explores the humanity behind war and the scientist trying to keep soldiers alive and as happy as possible as they try to kill one another.

PBF | August

Party Banter Friday: 

In Which A Librarian Provides You With An Interesting Fact to Make You More Popular During Weekend Socializing

Have you ever wondered where the picture we use for our PBF posts is from? You probably have, because I often forget to mention it as a photo credit at the bottom of the post. I am one of a rare breed of librarians who is not super into details. We do exist. You can spot us by our typos, mis-buttoned cardigans, and “eh” shrugs.

A post written by my type of librarian goes something like:  I type “mis-buttoned cardigan” and remember the scene in the movie Mixed Nuts, where Steve Martin confesses his love to Rita Wilson and tells her the first day he met her, her sweater was poking into her chin. And then I start writing a different post about Steve Martin-related library material. And then in that post I mostly just talk about that one King Tut skit.

If you’re thinking, “Hey sometimes I like to read actual complete thoughts, maybe even backed up by facts“, I will try to keep my thoughts from straying long enough to recommend to you Grand Traverse Journal:

GTJ is our library’s locally produced digital magazine and it features articles about local and natural history. Here you can read about mysterious Chinese laundrymen of the 1800s, fairy ring mushrooms (say whaaaaa?), electrotheraphy baths (sounds like a really bad idea, was it? You have to read to see!), roller skating as sport, and other kicky posts with “Ring a Ding Ding” in the title that catch my perpetually darting eyes. The articles are submitted by our patrons and edited by local author Richard Fidler and our library’s very own Amy Barritt, AKA Local History Whiz Kid.

Here they are!!!

Does this qualify as a party fact? Darn skippy it does. Grand Traverse Journal can provide you with all the facts you need to banter away at your weekend shindigs.

Walking in downtown Traverse City with friends? You can casually mention that Front Street was first paved in 1905.

Nothing to do? Suggest moseying over to Lake Leelanau to seek out the extremely large meteor that’s been hanging out at the bottom since 1879. 

Marveling at some club mosses on a weekend evening? You know, those are not actually mosses (it’s a spore thing).

So go now! Check out Grand Traverse Journal! Whew! That was a lot of focus for me. Wait, what else am I supposed to say here?

Oh yeah:

Photo Credit: Our featured image for PBF is a picture from our digital history collection. You can view the original image and browse our collection here.

PBF | July

Party Banter Friday: 

In Which A Librarian Provides You With An Interesting Fact to Make You More Popular During Weekend Socializing

If you haven’t sat in an old car with lava-hot vinyl seats, suckin’ on a Slurpee with a bag of Doritos on the dashboard, then you didn’t spend any of your summers with me. I probably spent about 80% of my summer begging people to give me a ride to the party store to buy Jolly Ranchers and Doritos and rent Problem Child.

Ok, so when I saw the new book, The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker, I thought maybe I had found the golden ticket of library books. Maybe this book held a coupon for a tour of a Doritos factory? Or possibly the Dorito effect somehow explained how Jay Leno managed to take over The Tonight Show?

It wasn’t either of those things. I almost choked on my Doritos. The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth about Food and Flavor by Mark Schatzker is actually an engaging look into when food stopped tasting like food and why it’s important that we re-train our tastebuds to eat real came- from-a-farm-not-a -factory-food. Schatzker even provides an appendix for how to eat flavorful and not flavored food.

Turns out, Doritos is one of the first foods that was made to taste like something other than it was: a corn chip flavored to taste like a taco. And it came about at the same time that real food was beginning to taste bland because farms were beginning to mass produce their potatoes and corn and what-not on the same amount of acreage. And thus a perfect storm gathered and then Gogurt. This is the snack size version of The Dorito Effect. Ba dum bum.

I also gleaned this bit of trivia that you can regurgitate by the snack table this weekend if you like:

During the 1962 vacation that Dorito inventor, Arch West, came up with the idea for his famous snack chip, he was staying at a house that the Lawry’s seasoned salt guy owned and while he was eating at a restaurant that weekend the up-and-coming McDonald’s franchise king Ray Kroc came up to them and complimented West’s daughter on her golden-colored hair. Like golden arches. Which I thought was creepy. 

Your party discussion topics should be:

1) Do all the people that made junk food hang out in the same town all the time? (Then I looked up Ray Kroc and he went to “ambulance driver school” with Walt Disney. Currently forming a conspiracy theory about all of this information)

2.) Next time you take a summer cruise, should you skip the 7/11 and try for a farmer’s market?

PBF | June

Party Banter Friday: 

In Which A Librarian Provides You With An Interesting Fact to Make You More Popular During Weekend Socializing

By the time you read this, I’ll be huddled in a tent in black bear country singing old 4H songs like “One Tin Soldier” to myself in order to stay calm. Or, I could be eating ice cream outside a Dairy Queen or in a car trying to convince my family we should go to Dairy Queen, depending on when you get around to reading this.

The point is, I’m going camping and I’m scared of bears. So this Friday, we’re all going to learn some bear facts. Ready? This is the information I gleaned from Survivor Kid: A Practical Guide to Wilderness Survival by Denise Long.

Don’t keep any food on you! NONE! This may seem like common sense, but Long also mentioned that campers and hikers should steer clear of scented lotions and lip balms. “You don’t want to make yourself smell yummy to a bear,” she writes. Yikes bikes. I cannot believe I almost left for camping without that information. Smell ya later Dr. Pepper chapstick.

The most common reason bears attack is because you’ve startled them. Don’t startle them! Make noise when you’re hiking with a bear bell or good old fashioned clapping and yelling.  Be extra noisy around rivers or creeks that are loud (OMG, we’re going to see waterfalls! What if bears are there?) and food sources like berry patches and dead animals and picanic baskets.

No eye contact! Don’t bend over! Back away slowly while talking soothingly, unless that seems to upset the bear. Don’t upset the bear!

Have fun at your bear-less parties this weekend, you guys. If you need me, I’ll be curled into a ball protecting my vital organs.

Photo credit: Bear photo is from Wikimedia; our featured image for PBF is a picture from our digital history collection. You can view the original image and browse our collection here.


PBF | May

Party Banter Friday: 

In Which A Librarian Provides You With An Interesting Fact to Make You More Popular During Weekend Socializing

I love to get my street cred in the Sight & Sound department. I usually accomplish this by waving around the hip new/rare old album that my husband asked if I would pick up for him and then waiting until staff gets distracted by another patron and sneaking off to get Trisha Yearwood’s Greatest Hits for myself.

So when my husband asked me if I wanted to watch a documentary about a pioneer of Nigerian synth-funk,  I sensed an opportunity to look cool in front of S&S once again. Actually, I haughtily replied, “No, leave me alone. I’m reading my book.” But once I heard those beats and peered up from my book to see the cowboy-hat clad William Onyeabor, I knew that the false respect I’d been gaining from my co-workers downstairs was going to hit an all-time high. And if you’re going to a party this weekend, you can gain false respect too!:

Admired by some of the biggest names in American and British pop, but a mystery man since the 1980s, when he became an evangelical Christian and began refusing to discuss his music, the story of William Onyeabor is the perfect subject for party banter. Also, this should have been the first thing I wrote, the music is sweeeeet.

Watch Fantastic Man to learn more about Onyeabor (it’s about half an hour long), then stop by and get the album, Who Is William Onyeabor?  We have an excellent international music section, so you’ll probably have an armload by the time you check out. Just don’t tell the Sight & Sound guys you caught me jammin’ to “Like We Never Had a Broken Heart” or I’ll stop giving you party facts.

Photo credit: Our featured image for PBF is a picture from our digital history collection. You can view the original image and browse our collection here.

PBF | April

Party Banter Friday: 

In Which A Librarian Provides You With An Interesting Fact to Make You More Popular During Weekend Socializing

In honor of this week’s Earth Day and so you know who to thank when you want to refer to someone who litters with a word that is not an expletive, we give you this month’s Party Banter Fact:

The term “litter-bug”, which became a national slogan, was coined by Traverse City native, environmentalist, and internationally-known painter, Maud Miller Hoffmaster.

This is she:


Mrs. Hoffmaster was born in 1883 and passed away at 85 in 1969, having earned the titles of painter, author, teacher, and activist. She sold her scenic paintings at galleries across the world, especially in France. She wrote two novels and also lectured for 35 years about the relationship between painting and music.

While she wasn’t doing those little old things, she was engaging in her Up North community as a member of the Friendly Garden Club here in Traverse City as well as advocating for the Great Lakes. In 1920 she started a local anti-litter campaign, using the word “litterbug” and it quickly caught on across the country.

So, when you’re out and about this weekend, you may spot a litterbug. You may not, the campaign was pretty successful. But if you happen to spot a roving  bachelorette party and its remnants: dollar store plastic sashes, stray high heels, Taco Bell wrappers: think of Maud. And maybe the voice of Maud might whisper to you to spend your Sunday walk to brunch picking up trash. Wear gloves.

Photo credit: Our featured image for PBF is a picture from our digital history collection. You can view the original image and browse our collection here.

PBF | March

Party Banter Friday: 

In Which A Librarian Provides You With An Interesting Fact to Make You More Popular During Weekend Socializing

If there’s anything we Midwesterners like more than fancy snacks (hot dips, tiny meats, deviled eggs), it’s fellow Midwesterners. This month’s party fact has to do with both:

On March 8, 1941, novelist Sherwood Anderson died of peritonitis after accidentally swallowing an hors d’oeuvre toothpick.

Unveil the above at this weekend’s gathering. It’s a bold I-am-well-read statement wrapped in  a gentle reminder for guests to stop hoovering all the meatballs. In that way, this fact is like an hors d’oeuvre itself.


The Ohio-born Anderson, though he doesn’t pop up in your everyday list of famous classic authors, influenced many of the names that are on those lists, like Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Hemingway. Stuart Dybek, who we interviewed with 3to5, was also inspired by him.

Anderson was a self-educated writer, who one day walked out of his job in the roofing business to pursue his creative dream. By far, Anderson’s most successful work is the novel Winesburg, Ohio. He was also a much-lauded short story writer.

For your own enjoyment and enlightenment, you should read some Sherwood Anderson. A Midwestern fella we can be proud of. Also for more on fancy snacks, click here.


PBF | February

Party Banter Friday: 

In Which A Librarian Provides You With An Interesting Fact to Make You More Popular During Weekend Socializing

Among all the woeful tales of engines not turning over, roads strewn with ditch-swallowed vehicles, and snow-blindness so bad your cousin just pulled over where he was and started a new life, February parties could use some uplifting auto talk around the hot dip table.

Brighten things up with this kickin’ conversation starter:

Removing a snow-booger from the wheel well of your car with a heel kick instead of the more conventional toe kick can not only add to the force of your kick, but prevent injury to your “little piggies”*.

*: The Lake Hubert Conservation Association in Minnesota recommends not kicking off “chunkers” unless the temperature is at least 15 degrees. Be careful out there!

Snow-boogers, also referred to as tire snot, slush puppies, or wheel barf, based on an extensive 30-second Google search, may turn out to be the key to curing seasonal blues. Although you may have thought you were alone in the joy you feel at kicking those suckers off, turns out you’re among friends. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to it.

If you need more facts (or, er, actual facts) about cars and the things hanging off of them, the library has them. In addition to or large collection of printed repair manuals for cars new and old, we have digital resources for engine repair as well.

For a general guide, check out Essential Car Care for Women (it’s not written in a special language, men can check it out as well).

For a guide on how to handle the teen in your life driving, read Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving.

For a gearhead kind of memoir, looky loo at Auto Biography by Earl Swift.

For a good road trip story, try Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America.

If you want to get over you broke-down car blues or just have good laugh, listen to some of our Car Talk audio from the Magliozzi brothers (Rest in peace, Tom, you sweet hilarious man). You can listen to more Click and Clack here.

Photo Credit: Our featured image for PBF is a picture from our digital history collection. You can view the original image and browse our collection here.