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Meet the octogenarian bookseller still working 6 days a week

Sitting down and actually reading a book is “hard work” for a lot of people these days, antique book dealer Dave Shoots acknowledges. But as Shoots prepares to mark his 80th birthday this Saturday, he isn’t particularly concerned about the long-forecast death of the printed word.

“People who are easily distracted depend on the noise and excitement of TV or the computer,” he said, but “people who are able to picture things in their mind and appreciate the value of being alive, and being able to respond to ideas, are still reading.

Meet The Octogenarian Bookseller Still Working 6 Days A Week

Shoots examines a 19th-century pulpit Bible, one of the the many rare books in the store. (Roger Cosman / CBC)

“It requires concentration, and a regular schedule. Slowly and carefully that’s the only way I know how to do things.”

“There have been times in my life when I had to move quickly at somebody else’s demand, or command. Now, I find an easygoing plod is the only way.”

Labourer, flea-marketer, minister

True to his word, Shoots has taken a long and unhurried path to his current job as a dealer in antique books. He studied journalism in the United States, then did a master of divinity before ministering at a number of Methodist churches. In the ensuing decades, he worked variously in advertising, as a photocopier technician, security guard, pub maintenance worker and farm worker, from Ohio to Ontario.

On the side, he acquired “small collectible items, things made of brass, old licence plates, a few books” to sell at flea markets. He settled in Saint John in 1998 to be closer to his daughter.

“I like the old buildings and the fact that it is on the water,” he said, “and the easygoing nature of the people. The uptown is small. Everybody knows everybody.”

In 2000, Shoots struck a partnership with the late bookseller Terry Keleher, who offered to let Dave run his Coburg Street storefront and keep half the profit. A few years later, Shoots and his daughter expanded their floor space in the early 19th-century building.

Off the beaten track

The unhurried pace has worked well. Dave Shoots, Bookseller at 40 Coburg St. will mark 17 years in business this summer.

“We are very fortunate here, with this very old building that we appreciate,” Shoots said. “We’re off the beaten track, so our rent is probably half of what it would be in King Street.”

Meet The Octogenarian Bookseller Still Working 6 Days A Week

The early 19th-century storefront at 40 Coburg has housed Dave Shoots’s bookshop for 17 years this summer. (Roger Cosman /CBC)

On May 27, the bookshop will host an open house from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to celebrate Shoots’s 80th birthday. Books published in 1937 will be 20 per cent off. In lieu of gifts, his daughter Wendy has requested guests bring donations of non-perishables for the local food bank.

“I am looking forward to Saturday with some trepidation,” Shoots said. “Wendy has told everyone in New Brunswick, and I start to worry what will happen if everyone shows up.”

No desire to retire

Shoots isn’t doing as much heavy lifting these days. His daughter, he said, is responsible for running the business and sourcing old and out-of-print hardcovers with a special focus on Saint John and local history titles. But he has no desire to stop coming in to work six days a week. Cancer surgery in 2014, followed by months of complications, was “the longest I’ve been away from the shop,” he said.

“I was in the hospital from July to November but I came in right after that within a few days. I enjoy it. I was brought up to enjoy reading.”

Meet The Octogenarian Bookseller Still Working 6 Days A Week

Shoots examines one of the oldest books in the store, an 18th-century copy of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. (Roger Cosman/ CBC)

Shoots feels it’s appropriate to mark his milestone birthday in the bookshop.

“As long as Wendy can put up with me, and as long as I can manage, both in my balance and my mental abilities, I will keep coming in,” he said.

“There are always more titles, always more books, that you never dreamed existed.”

Kenny Green sues NL government over chapel riot, wants ‘decrepit and filthy’ HMP shut down

An inmate who was beaten and stabbed in a targeted jailhouse riot three years ago is suing the Newfoundland and Labrador government over the attack, and will ask the court to shut down Her Majesty’s Penitentiary. A statement of claim filed last February alleges the province was negligent in the attack at the prison’s chapel in St. John’s.

“We’ve also alleged the government has been negligent to allow prisoners to remain in HMP because it’s old and decrepit and filthy, and the heat is 40 degrees in the summertime,” Lynn Moore, Green’s lawyer, said in an interview with CBC News.

“It’s really not fit for human habitation and probably not fit for animals, either.”

Green was attacked by other inmates on Feb. 9, 2014. He was stabbed with homemade knives, beaten and speared in the head with a church pew. But the province says it wasn’t negligent because Green was notified of the threat in advance, and attended the Sunday service anyway.

In its statement of defence, the province said it also added extra staff that day albeit on a different floor than where the riot occurred.

Asking for HMP to close

In the past, the attack has been linked to retribution for the death of Joey Whalen. Green was convicted of manslaughter in relation to Whalen’s death after an incident on Tessier Place in St. John’s in March 2013. Video surveillance from the day of the 2014 riot showed dozens of inmates filling into the prison’s chapel, where a lone correctional officer was stationed along with members of the Salvation Army clergy.

“It’s really not fit for human habitation and probably not fit for animals, either.” – Lawyer Lynn Moore

Within minutes, an inmate covered the surveillance camera. When the cover slipped off the camera, it revealed a bloody melee.[1]

This fall, Moore will attempt to amend the original lawsuit against the government. She’ll ask “that the court order that the prison close because the prison violates the Charter rights of my client because it failed to provide him with security of the person.”

Kenny Green Sues NL Government Over Chapel Riot, Wants 'decrepit And Filthy' HMP Shut Down

Lynn Moore is representing Kenny Green in his lawsuit against the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

“We’re alleging the conditions of the penitentiary are so bad that the rates of assaults in there are higher[2] and the whole system was negligent by allowing the prison to stay as it is,” she said.

Prior to the attack, Green had been kept in solitary confinement also called the special handling unit for months, over concerns for his safety. When visitors came, the entire room had to be cleared to avoid an attack, Moore said. She added it “defies logic” that prison officials would allow him to attend a service where a specific threat had been made.

“The fact that they knew and allowed him to make this choice I think is a very difficult one to understand,” Moore said.

“They didn’t tell the clergy that were there in the chapel, they didn’t tell the frontline staff, and a lot of people were hurt.”

Kenny Green Sues NL Government Over Chapel Riot, Wants 'decrepit And Filthy' HMP Shut Down

Convicted killer Kenny Green was beaten and stabbed by a handful of inmates during a riot in February 2014. (CBC)

Parts of the penitentiary date back to the mid-19th century. As of early May, HMP was at capacity, with 173 inmates. Inmates at HMP are serving provincial terms up to two years less a day. The facility also holds those awaiting court proceedings. Some women are also housed there, because the Correctional Centre for Women in Clarenville is also at capacity.

Green knew attack was coming

In a statement of defence filed in March 2016, the province pointed out that prison officials did warn Green a threat had been made against him. Two days before the attack, a captain at HMP received intel that “it would be in everyone’s best interest if KG did not attend church this Sunday. Inmates on Living Unit 3 would not like this.”

Officials passed the threat along to Green, but he seemed “unconcerned by this information and proceeded to attend the chapel service,” the statement of defence said.

HMP riot video WARNING: VIOLENT CONTENT1:49

“By attending the service the plaintiff encouraged and indeed invited the attack to happen,” it reads.

“In doing so he was voluntarily assuming and accepting the risk of the injuries he allegedly suffered by ignoring the warning clearly communicated to him by staff.”

‘Between a rock and a hard place’

However, Moore said her client was stuck “between a rock and a hard place.”

His only options, she said, were to return to the special handling unit, or stay away from the chapel.

“He spent several months in solitary for his own protection and he was having trouble with that,” Moore said. If Green stayed away from chapel that day, Moore said that would have shown the attackers he was afraid.

Moore said it was better for Green to know when and where the attack would happen rather than being jumped when he least expected it.

“He knew that the attackers weren’t going to say, ‘Oh he didn’t show up today we are going to give up and walk away.’ He knew he would then face an attack where he was not forewarned. So he decided to go and deal with the threat he knew about, and more importantly the threat the government knew about.”

Kenny Green Sues NL Government Over Chapel Riot, Wants 'decrepit And Filthy' HMP Shut Down

Parts of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary date back to the mid-1800s and are in desperate need of repair. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

The province, meanwhile, denied claims it didn’t provide supervision and protection to Green, noting that extra staff were stationed on a floor below.

“While not physically located in the chapel, extra staff were on guard just below the chapel and attended the scene within seconds of the attack occuring,” the government’s statement of defence said.

Past allegations from guards over riot

This is not the first time a finger has been pointed at the province over its handling of the potentially deadly riot. Three correctional officers alleged in documents to the Office of the Citizen’s Representative that the riot was allowed to happen by management as a way to relieve pressure cooking inside the jail. CBC News obtained a copy of the resulting report from November 2016. The citizens’ representative was unable to conclude it was an intentional act by management, but raised issues with how the matter was dealt with in the days leading up to the assault.

Correctional officials vehemently denied it was an intentional act, and noted changes had been made in the wake of the attack. While the lawsuit is against the province, Moore said the federal government has a part to play. HMP also houses some federal inmates.

“We need federal money for a new penitentiary,” she said.

“It’s just not fit and it’s just not fair. Not just for the prisoners but for the correctional officers because they have to work there every day.”

The matter will be back in court in September. Green is seeking unspecified damages.

The Department of Justice and Public Safety declined comment, noting that the matter is before the courts.

Kenny Green Sues NL Government Over Chapel Riot, Wants 'decrepit And Filthy' HMP Shut Down

References

  1. ^ revealed a bloody melee. (www.cbc.ca)
  2. ^ rates of assaults in there are higher (www.cbc.ca)

That Time the TSA Found a Scientist’s 3-D-Printed Mouse Penis

When Martin Cohn passed through airport security at Ronald Reagan Airport, he figured that he d probably get some questions about the 3-D-printed model of a mouse penis in his bag. The model is 15 centimeters long, made of clear translucent plastic, and indisputably phallic like the dismembered member of some monstrous, transparent, 11-foot rodent. One of Cohn s colleagues had already been questioned about it when she carried it on an outward flight from Gainesville to Washington D.C. She put it through the security scanner, and the bag got pulled. A TSA official looked inside, winked at her, and let her go. She was amused but embarrassed, so Cohn offered to take the model home on the return flight. Once again, the bag was pulled[1]. A TSA officer asked if Cohn had anything sharp or fragile inside. Yes, he said, some 3-D-printed anatomical models. They re pretty fragile. The officer pulled out two models of mouse embryos, nodded to herself, and moved on. And then, Cohn recalls, she pulled out this mouse penis by its base, like it was Excalibur.

What is this?

Do you need to know or do you want to know? said Cohn. I m curious, she replied.

It s a 3-D print-out of an adult mouse penis. A what?

A 3-D print-out of an adult mouse penis.

Oh no it isn t.

It is. The officer called over three of her colleagues and asked them to guess what it is. No one said anything, so Cohn told them. They fell apart laughing. Cohn, who s based at the University of Florida, studies genitals and urinary tracts, and how they develop in embryos. Around 1 in 250 people are born with birth defects affecting these organs, and although such changes are becoming more common, their causes are largely unclear. By studying how genitals normally develop, Cohn s hoping to understand what happens when they take a different path. And like many scientists, he is working with mice. He recently analysed a mouse s genitals with a high-resolution medical scanner. To show his colleagues how incredibly detailed the scans can be, he used them to print a scaled-up model, which he took with him to the conference in DC. And because the conference was just a two-day affair, Cohn didn t bring any checked luggage. Hence: the penis in his carry-on.

Scientists, as it happens, are full of tales like this[2] because as a group, they re likely to (a) travel frequently, and (b) carry really weird shit in their bags. In previous years, Cohn has flown with the shin bone of a giant ground sloth and a cooler full of turtle embryos. Just last month, Diane Kelly from the University of Massachusetts, who studies the evolution of animal genitals, was stopped by the TSA because she was carrying what is roughly the opposite of Cohn s item: a 3-D-printed mold of a dolphin vagina[3]. Technically it s not even my dolphin vagina mold, she says. I was carrying it for someone. Other scientists who responded to a call for stories[4] on Twitter have flown with bottles of monkey pee[5], chameleon and skate embryos[6], 5,000 year old human bones[7], remotely operated vehicles, and, well, a bunch of rocks[8]. ( I’m a geologist. I study rocks.”) Astrophysicist Brian Schimdt was once stopped by airport officials on his way to North Dakota because he was carrying his Nobel Prize[9] a half-pound gold disk that showed up as completely black on the security scanners. Uhhhh. Who gave this to you? they said. The King of Sweden, he replied. Why did he give this to you?, they probed. Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.

Anthropologist Donald Johanson has flown with probably the most precious and the most famous of these cargos: the bones of the Lucy[10] the Australopithecus, who Johanson himself discovered. In a memoir[11], he recalls having to show her bones to a customs official in Paris. The man was an anthropology buff, and when Johanson told him that the fossils were from Ethiopia, he said, You mean Lucy? A large crowd gathered and watched as Lucy s bones were displayed, one by one, on the Customs counter. I got my first inkling of the enormous pull that Lucy would generate from then on, everywhere she went. Several people have stories about more animate luggage. Jonathan Klassen from the University of Connecticut[12] studies leafcutter ants, and the permits that allow him to collect wild colonies stipulate that he must hand-carry them onto planes. Inevitably, some poor security officer gets a duffle bag full of 10,000 ants and gets really confused, he says. Indeed, many animals have to be hand-carried onto planes because they don t fare well in the cold of cargo holds, (and often can t be shipped for similar reasons). That s certainly the case for the amblypygids docile relatives of spiders with utterly nightmarish appearances that Alexander Vaughan once tried to carry onto a domestic flight. My strategy was to pretend that everything I was doing was perfectly normal, he tells me. Others were more upfront about their unorthodox cargo. Ondine Cleaver from UT Southwestern Medical Center once tried carrying tupperware containers full of frogs from New York to Austin. At security, she realized that she couldn t possibly subject the animals to harmful doses of X-rays, so she explained the contents of her bag to a TSA agent. She totally freaked out, but had to peek in the container, says Cleaver. We opened it just a slit, and there were 12-14 eyes staring at her. She screamed. She did this 3 times. A few other agents came by to see, and none could deal with the container being opened more than a bit. But they had to make sure there was nothing nefarious inside, so we went through cycles of opening the container, screaming, closing it laughing, and again. They eventually let her through.

Many scientists have had tougher experiences because their equipment looks suspicious[13]. The bio-logging collars that[14] Luca Borger uses to track cattle in the Alps look a lot like explosive belts. And the Petterson D500x bat detector[15], which Daniella Rabaiotti uses to record bat calls, is a big, black box with blinking lights on the front. She had one in her backpack on a flight going into Houston. The security people said, Take your laptop out, and I did that. But they don t really say, Take your bat detector out, and I forgot about it. When the scanner went off, she had to explain her research to a suspicious and stand-offish TSA official, who wasn t clear how anyone could manage to record bat calls, let alone why anyone would want to do that. So Rabaiotti showed him some sonograms, pulled out her laptop, and played him some calls all while other passengers were going about their more mundane checks. By the end of it, he said: Oh, I never knew bats were so interesting, she says. Many of the stories I heard had similar endings. The TSA once stopped Michael Polito, an Antarctic researcher from Louisiana State University, because his bag contained 50 vials of white powder. When he explained that the powder was freeze-dried Antarctic fur seal milk, he got a mixed reaction. Some officers just wanted to just wave me on, he says. Others wanted me to stay and answer their questions, like: How do you milk a fur seal? I was almost late for my flight.

Airport security lines, it turns out, are a fantastic venue for scientists to try their hand at outreach. Various scientists are said to have claimed that you don t really understand something if you can t explain it to your grandmother, a barmaid, a six-year-old, and other such sexist or ageist variants. But how about this: can you successfully explain it to an TSA official someone who not only might have no background in science, but also strongly suspects that you might be a national security threat? Can you justify your research in the face of questions like What are you doing? or Why are you doing it? or Why are you taking that onto a plane? Cohn did pretty well to the four assembled TSA agents who started quizzing him about his mouse penis. They noticed that the translucent object had a white tube inside it, and asked if it was a bone. It was indeed the baculum. I explained to them that most other mammals have a bone in the penis and humans have lost them, says Cohn. I do outreach at the drop of a hat, and I m ready to teach a bit of evolution to the TSA if they re interested. And they were freaking out. Eventually, Cohn asked if he was free to go.

You are, said the agent who first looked inside his bag. And then: I gotta go on break, my mind is blown.

References

  1. ^ the bag was pulled (twitter.com)
  2. ^ full of tales like this (www.forbes.com)
  3. ^ 3-D-printed mold of a dolphin vagina (gizmodo.com)
  4. ^ a call for stories (twitter.com)
  5. ^ monkey pee (twitter.com)
  6. ^ chameleon and skate embryos (twitter.com)
  7. ^ 5,000 year old human bones (twitter.com)
  8. ^ bunch of rocks (twitter.com)
  9. ^ because he was carrying his Nobel Prize (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
  10. ^ Lucy (www.theatlantic.com)
  11. ^ In a memoir (books.google.com)
  12. ^ University of Connecticut (uconn.edu)
  13. ^ suspicious (twitter.com)
  14. ^ The bio-logging collars that (twitter.com)
  15. ^ D500x bat detector (www.batmanagement.com)