We're not as picky as we might appear.

No, really.

We try to get out and experience all types of events and goings-on.

A couple of Halloweens ago, we traveled north to the Faulkner Farm pumpkin patch in Santa Paula. Hayrides, farm animals, face painting, live music - all of it happening on an actual pumpkin patch. [left] We walked up and down the rows of crops until we found just the right pumpkins.

Free admission, with extra charges for the pumpkins and various activities. Cute and charming and very memorable, we still talk about it

From my perspective, the Festival of Books has gone corporate - with The Los Angeles Times, Target, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Ticketmaster and Starbucks all staking a claim. But with that type of big name sponsorship, they've sort of sucked all the charm out of it too.

We arrived on Sunday, at around 1:00. The festival was once again, situated on the UCLA campus. Admission is free, although parking is $7.00.

From the parking structure, there were no signs to get visitors to the actual event site, and on a campus the size of UCLA, it's not just 'right over there.' So we all just followed one another. And once onto the perimeter of the campus, things started to look familiar. We walked through a sculpture garden and then into the main meat of the event space.

How to paint the picture here. The UCLA Campus. Sounds open and airy and wonderful. Not so. The festival planners have crammed too much into too little space.

Imagine yourself in a large plaza the size of a football field. Back to back, side to side, and facing outward, are 25 individual 12' x 12' booths. The type you see at any carnival or company picnic. Each booth has a large sign [ACME Book Sellers], and in each booth are books. Books which you want to be able to browse through and ponder and contemplate their purchase. Add this same configuration to four different areas of the campus, plus a food court. Now add an insane number of people crowding around each booth, and throughout the walkways, and you sort of get the idea. [see below]

Because attendance has increased over the past 8 years, their 'celebration of the written word' has been all but lost. For the most part, visitors have trouble getting to the books to buy them. Vendors can't sell the books. And authors don't get to interact with their fans. Some booths are larger and open on both sides, which, in theory allow visitors to move through, but it becomes so claustrophobic and cramped, that it's nearly impossible to look at books.

The list of writers was certainly diverse. While walking around we saw...

....Motivational Speaker Deepak Chopra, [above] [run mouse over this image to see closer]
...Actress and writer Jane Seymour...

...and even singer/songwriter Lou Reed talking to a gathered audience about his new book.

Is this a diverse group of writers, er what?

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