30 June 2010

Day 95: Marybeth Cieplinski (guest blogger)

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. ISBN: 9780380789023.

Making my way through Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors I came across the prose poem called "Virus."*  In it, the protagonist gets hooked on a video game.  He spends more and more time playing, neglecting everything else in his life.  I actually chuckled.  It reminded me of my sons and their single-minded focus on beating the next level or the "big boss," postponing meals until they can pause whatever game they're playing.  The poem was a familiar, yet extreme, interpretation of the gamer's mindset.  I laughed and put it out of my head.  Until I was walking home from campus one day and watched as a driver talking on a cell phone made a left-hand turn from the middle lane while the light was red.  That's when I realized the gaming obsession in the poem only gives us a tiny glimpse at a much bigger problem--our escalating obsession with technology.

I expect this is going to end up sounding like a rant against technology.  It's not that I hate technology.  I don't.  I own a computer.  I love my computer.  I built it myself from tenderly chosen components that were then delicately installed to create the perfect system, catering to my own wants.  In fact, I like my computer so much I won't share it.  So we have three desktop systems, one apiece for my sons, and one for me.  And four laptops.  That seems a bit excessive, but really it's no worse than the desktops.  One laptop has died but is lovingly preserved by the previous owner.  One works as long as it's sitting on a cooling pad--until its old bones get tired and it trundles off to sleep with its figurative thumb in its mouth.  The third laptop has been wiped of the last owner's files and now lives inside a cupboard.  Why?  It's not mine anymore so I don't know.  The last laptop IS mine (it's shiny! and red!) and it goes with me anywhere that I might need it for taking notes or writing or sharing lurid videos with fellow students.  Carpal tunnel syndrome has disabled my hands to the point where I can no longer hold a pen for more than a few minutes, so the laptop has become like an extension of my arm.  I know that's no excuse for my co-dependency but it's certainly a reason. 

I keep thinking about surgery to help my hands, but that just reminds me how doctor offices contribute to (and count on) our obsession with technology.  When was the last time you talked on the phone to someone in a doctor's office, other than to make an appointment?  I'm betting you can't remember because these days, you have to "leave your name, number and a detailed message, and we'll get back to you as soon as possible."  That's nice.  I appreciate the sentiment.  I'm glad you'll get back to me.  But why can't I talk to someone now?  What if I'm not home when you call?  Then you'll have to leave a message, and I'll have to call back and leave another message, and then maybe I won't be home when you answer that message --  Wait.  What?  You want me to leave my cell phone number?  Umm, sorry.  Only my family has my cell number.  That way, if the phone rings or I get a text message, I know it's either one of my children with a question more vital than "What's for dinner?" or it's my cell phone provider.  (TracPhone is terrified I'm going to miss out on a deal that will give me more minutes than I'll ever use before the Earth falls into the sun so I get two emails along with the text message.  But that's another rant.) 

Since when did we need to be accessible by phone at every moment of the day or night?  When did cell phones go from being something people carried in case of emergency to a physical implant (think Bluetooth)?  Back in the day, if someone wasn't home when you called, you kept calling until they were home.  After a few decades of missed calls, answering machines made it possible to leave a message if the matter was urgent.  If you weren't home when they called back, THEY left a message.  You could end up playing Phone Tag for a while if both people led busy lives, but you eventually connected up and got your business done.  Today there's an expectation that everyone has a cell phone, they will provide the number to anyone they brush against in life, and when it rings, they'll answer it no matter where they are or what they're doing.  I no longer can be sure whether the woman in the bathroom stall next to me is talking to me, talking to herself, or on the  phone.  WHY would anyone talk to someone else on the phone while they pee?  Would it be considered more rude to refrain from answering until the job is done?  Not in my zip code, it wouldn't!

This is our own fault, you know.  We (the societal "we") keep demanding technology that does more than what it was originally designed to do.  I want my phone to make calls.  That's it!  I want my computer to surf the web.  That's it!  I don't want to surf the net on my phone, or make calls on my computer.  I like knowing that when I pick up my phone, I won't have to wonder what I was planning to do with it.  (Yeah, my memory is getting that bad, so shut up.)  Granted, cell phones are extremely portable, but they're also very small and thus also extremely hard for some people with bad eyesight (raises hand) to see the images, not to mention much easier to lose or damage.  If the camera in your phone breaks, what do you do?  You don't get it fixed: you buy another phone.  The phone company loves this, which is why these days, phones take pictures and videos, send email, surf the internet, allow you to read books on the screen, and are probably in development to cook, clean and wipe your ass.  This used to be known as "putting all your eggs in one basket."  Planned obsolescence is all about more money for the technology companies and less for us.  Which is why I still use TracPhone.  If my phone breaks or I lose it, all I've lost is a phone.  And I can always make calls with my computer if I have to.

Marybeth Cieplinski is what colleges euphemistically call a "non-traditional student," meaning she's next to older than dirt and still hasn't finished her BA.  That will hopefully happen in either December or next May, depending on what she can do about the one lit class they just cancelled for fall.  Her plans include writing a scholarly investigation of Zorro and actually getting her grad school portfolio together before the deadline.  She loves to write about almost anything but doesn't know when to stop.

*If this sounds familiar, it's because it is.  I wrote my own blog post about "Virus."

29 June 2010

Day 94: Kyle B. (guest blogger)

I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin. ISBN: 9781439102855.

Let’s talk about labels for a little bit. One of the themes of Matlin’s life is her constant struggle to deal with the Deaf/deaf community. She routinely gets praised for her work furthering Deaf causes and helping deaf kids to avoid being victimized by the hearing world around them, but then is shunned because she does acting work as a hearing woman. Even being profoundly deaf, the fact that she doesn’t follow the same “guidelines” as other Deaf people gets her a lot of punishment.

I can sympathize with Matlin on a couple levels. I was born half deaf, which is about as natural an introduction as you can get into deaf culture. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time researching being deaf, reading articles and interacting anywhere I could. I took sign language courses through college and even got involved with a couple Deaf groups around campus and regionally.

The problem was that I was never “Deaf” enough to fit in with the rest of the group. When I was at gatherings, people would sign too quickly, or use signs I didn’t know, and they didn’t want to bother with explaining it because I didn’t need it, I could hear. I know it seems bizarre, but Deaf culture is a very proud thing in a lot of ways. Some Deaf people feel that they are the only handicapped that can still interact with the world in every way anyone else can, with the exception of hearing; even so, you can replace that with sight and feel the same in a lot of cases. It’s restricting a bit, but being able to support yourself in a world not built for you is a source of pride, for some. Thus, Deaf as a group, and not just a word.

I could never fit in with these groups. I was half hearing, but I was still deaf, just not capitalized. I wasn’t involved when there were jokes to be told, but when a Deaf issue was brought up, people expected me to march along with them. I had different social ideas, I guess, and that kept me from being as much a part of that group as I might’ve liked.

I have similar problems with being gay. Even though I’m definitely gay, I just don’t fit in with a lot of gay people I’ve known, almost to the point that I’ve nearly gotten into fights over things. I’m not “straight-acting” or “flaming,” because neither of those things should even exist. I am a regular guy who hangs out at his apartment in a t-shirt and shorts. There is unfolded laundry on my bedroom floor and I eat some frozen food. I am not a snappy dresser and I dislike that musical TV show (you know the one). There’s some gay stuff that I do get into, but for the most part I am just a man who loves his boyfriend. Heck, I’ve even made a couple political decisions with some weight on gay rights policies here in Ohio, where we’ve managed to make it a big issue annually for what seems like at least two administrations. I may not be all the way out all the time, but I walk close enough to my boyfriend to get us called “fags” pretty regularly.

The area where I get in trouble is where the group disconnects with the thoughts of an individual. I’ve had gay guys tell me that I’m not proud of who I am because I wouldn’t just sign a petition simply after reading the phrase “gay rights” at the top. I’m totally for gay rights – can’t I also be for rationally considering what I support? Also, people will take you a lot less seriously as a real force for change when you’re wearing a harness, shorts, and nothing else, friend.

I get the idea of what labels are supposed to do sociologically, and it can be an important part of a society. It’s just that, even though I am so many things, I can be none of them – and so much more.

Kyle B. is some guy you've never heard of, but he's okay with that. He's a writer and journalist (also both a lover and fighter) that graduated from Kent State University a few years ago, with some slight gainful employment since. He loves to read but pretty much puts a new book back on the shelf if a couple of the first words on the jacket are "murder mystery" or "romance."

28 June 2010

Day 93: Kyle B. (guest blogger)

I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin. ISBN: 9781439102855.

Being half-deaf, coming to terms with deaf/Deaf people in media has always been kind of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I understand a little bit of what they have to go through from day to day; on the other, I have no idea what it’s like to be totally deaf. Any hearing person can cover his ears and see how much of a difference that makes and, even with muted sound, that is not what being deaf is really like anyway.

Matlin was not born deaf, but actually lost her hearing. In itself, that is a staggering blow. Everyone struggles with things they’re born with, but she has that plus a handicap that has actually happened to her. In that way, she is a bit of heroine to me.

The thing I love about her is not that she managed to do some crazy things despite the fact that she’s deaf. It’s more about what she decided she’s unable to do. Want to know what the only occupation a profoundly deaf young girl decided was too dangerous? Being a beat police officer.

Reading her story was kind of a constant reminder of “Why the heck haven’t I done that?” While the theatrical, outspoken deaf woman decided (on a whim, to impress her kids,) that she was going to be on a TV show about professional dancing, I still sometimes struggle to come up with a good reason to keep doing things I actually love doing.

I’ve heard that most great creators complete their work by the age of 30, and creativity dies off quickly after the 20s. I fight against this idea every day, but I am constantly thinking about it. I know it’s stereotypical, but I want to leave behind something that I can be proud of in some respect, and not just a lvl 100 Charizard.

I’ve been coming around to a slightly different kind of thinking. It had been on my mind pretty heavily a while ago when a good friend of mine through high school suddenly passed away. He was a writer, and to my knowledge never ended up publishing anything at all. He traveled around and tried to find a place, worked a job, built a life, and his death came right at a time that I was struggling with the idea of what I’m doing with my life.

At the funeral, though, I started to see how he had accomplished something by affecting the people he came in contact with every day. I think I've started to realize that doing great work doesn't have to be about a great work. I've always felt that people and actions are more important than much everything else, but that's a tough viewpoint to hold in a project-based, accomplishment world.

I’m pretty sure, even though Matlin is not really the best moral role model, (seriously, the girl got into some trouble, even for being deaf), that she gets this. I’m hoping eventually, I might get it too.

Kyle B. is some guy you've never heard of, but he's okay with that. He's a writer and journalist (also both a lover and fighter) that graduated from Kent State University a few years ago, with some slight gainful employment since. He loves to read but pretty much puts a new book back on the shelf if a couple of the first words on the jacket are "murder mystery" or "romance."

27 June 2010

Day 92: Dan Walker (guest blogger)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  ISBN: 9780446310789.

Someone I knew once told me about a Monty Python sketch he'd seen live.  One man came on stage, sat in a chair, and began a rambling monologue about how he "coulda been a judge" but ended up instead as a coal miner.  My friend said it was hilarious.  I've had the phrase "I coulda been a judge" rattling around in my head ever since.

Although in my case, it's more "I want to be a judge".  I've always had an appreciation for the law, and for judges in particular.  I love courtroom dramas, like the one that plays out in this book.  Secretly, I have always wanted to be a judge, a Supreme Court justice especially, although my reasons for wanting that position are definitely less than stellar.

I watch shows like Judge Judy for that one moment where the plaintiff is being a jerk, his prattling driving home the pointless nature of his claim, the defendant standing there stifling laughter as he lets his opponent make an idiot out of himself.  Then, the moment comes: Judge Judy or Judge Joe Brown or whoever is presiding says, "That's enough, get out of my courtroom."  The schadenfreude!  It's delicious to fantasize about having that kind of power over people, not just to decide who was in the right and help people along in their disputes, but to be able to say, "You're both idiots and I have nothing but contempt for you," and getting away with it.

It's childish, I'll admit. The Supreme Court even gets control over who comes into their courtroom in the first place, which has always appealed to me.  But it isn't like I don't have any appreciation for the law; on the contrary, I consider myself very law-abiding, moreso than I think other people who think of themselves as law-abiding do.  I watch Atticus Finch weaving a logic thread, or Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men using courtroom procedures to his advantage, and I wonder if I might not have had a future as a lawyer.  I'm not very good at thinking on my feet, but I think I could have done pretty well in law school, had I given it a shot.  I honestly never even considered lawyering, but... well, Atticus is pretty awesome, I have to admit.  It goes double for the fact that, despite being fictional and all, he's inspired a lot of people to become lawyers, and he even has a monument dedicated to him in Alabama (source).

I guess I was inspired, too.

Dan Walker (pseudonym) is a writer from Northeast Ohio, who would be teaching ESL if he wasn't unemployed. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Wright State University in 2004 and a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language from Kent State University in 2009. He will make some lucky librarian a wonderful husband someday.

*Post was originally written June 6, 2010 and was saved so the original author could watch some Judge Judy.

26 June 2010

Day 91: Dan Walker (guest blogger)

To Kill an Armchair Husband: A Dark Comedy by Teri Weeding. ISBN: 9781451525830.

Despite the fact that I gave this book a two-star rating on Goodreads and I was really pushing myself to get through it, it sure has given me a lot to talk about. One of the driving plot elements in this book is a distinct lack of communication between any of the characters.

Communication, I have learned, is really key to a solid relationship. Amy's taught me a lot about being completely open with someone, and while it's not something I'm good at, I think I'm definitely improving. It's tough being so honest, and it helps that I'm a terrible liar.

The problem that I think a lot of couples have is, even when they try to communicate with one another, they don't really go far enough. What's holding them back? An easy scapegoat is movies. Think about the last movie you saw, dramatic or comedic, where a couple was having some kind of issue. How long would that movie have been if they had just been open with honest each other? Didn't hold back the truth? Didn't make assumptions? I'm willing to bet that a lot of our examples of how to act in a relationship come from movies and television, and those people are dysfunctional as hell, because that's what brings in the viewers. So we think that we're supposed to hold things back, keep emotions and thoughts to ourselves, and we go right on making ourselves miserable because of it.

The fact is, we shouldn't be acting like this. We don't have to. But I've even got trouble shaking that hangup; there are just some things that I assume people don't talk about, because I've never really heard anyone talk about them. And perhaps more so than lying or holding back the truth, making assumptions is the worst mistake that we can make. Almost all the misunderstandings and arguments that my fiancee and I
have had, big or small, have been because one of us made an assumption (and yes, it's usually me). Assumptions just plain don't work; making an ass out of you and umption and all that. It's difficult to get out
of that habit when you've spent your life making assumptions about things.

Can we really blame Hollywood for all of this? I don't know. Like I said, they're an easy scapegoat. They sure aren't doing anything to show people how to communicate, that's for sure. Regardless, we can't all have awesome partners like my snoogie booboo sugar dumpling, who know how to communicate and who are willing to be patient and teach us their ways. :)

Dan Walker (pseudonym) is a writer from Northeast Ohio, who would be teaching ESL if he wasn't unemployed. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Wright State University in 2004 and a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language from Kent State University in 2009. He will make some lucky librarian a wonderful husband someday.

This blog post was originally written May 23, 2010 in order to give the regular author time to do anything, but blog.

25 June 2010

Day 90: Dan Walker (guest blogger, with commentary)

To Kill an Armchair Husband: A Dark Comedy by Teri Weeding. ISBN: 9781451525830.

So this is a pretty average book about a woman trying to kill her husband because he's no longer the man she married. Lucky guy. My fiancee has wanted to kill me since before we got engaged.*

"I'm gonna kill you in your sleep" has been a long-running joke between us. She told me, very early on, that after we're married, she'll take out an insurance policy on me and then, one day, maybe a after a few decades** of marital bliss, she'll kill me and collect the money. And she keeps talking about it. I'm not sure how much of a joke it is anymore.

Like the aforementioned armchair husband, I've got a heart condition. Mine keeps me away from caffeine; if I get even a drop of a caffeinated beverage nowadays, I get killer headaches and heart palpitations. So of course she keeps telling me that she's going to slip me caffeine. She thinks that will let her get off easily. Funnily enough, the woman in the book tried the slipped mickey approach as well; didn't work out so well for her.

But isn't it odd how we never think about this? We trust our significant others not to kill us or do anything crazy. We share with them our beds, our homes, our lives, and I don't think "Honey, you're not gonna kill me tonight, are ya?" ever comes up as a legitimate question. Sleeping with someone, with or without the sexual
connotation, is an incredible act of trust. We place our well being in each other's hands when we're at our most vulnerable. And yet, spousal homicide is such an everyday occurrence. It might be shocking to read
that a husband or wife killed one another, but only insofar as a person took someone's life. We never think about the dangers we place ourselves in; we never ask ourselves, "How well do I really know this person?"

Trust is an amazing thing. Also, this blog post can totally be used as evidence against her now.***

(Note: It was actually at Amy's suggestion that I write this article. She's not actually going to kill me. I don't think...)

Dan Walker (pseudonym) is a writer from Northeast Ohio, who would be teaching ESL if he wasn't unemployed. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Wright State University in 2004 and a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language from Kent State University in 2009. He will make some lucky librarian a wonderful armchair husband someday.

*Before we started dating, actually.
**Decades?!  Someone is a little optimistic.
***Evidence has a funny way of disappearing and all that.  [insert evil laugh.]

This blog post was originally written May 23, 2010 because the author is currently busy plotting her future husband's demise...most likely with the aid of her mother-in-law.  PS: if you actually believe any of this, you have no sense of humor, Dan.

24 June 2010

Day 89: Dayna Ingram (guest blogger)

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.  ISBN 9781421527727.

I loves me some dystopian future novels (favorites include such classics as Lord of the Flies, The Hand Maid's Tale, 1984, Brave New World, and a slew of short stories). I’m sure if I researched enough I could find out where it all started…was it only after the real-life horrors of the World Wars? Or is that only when it began in earnest in the United States? Because of course, given the imperialist nature of all ruling countries, such real-life human atrocities (genocides, slavery, eugenics, labor camps, public executions, wars, etc.) have been going on for hundreds of years all over the world. People read these novels today and they’re like, “oh, it’s sci-fi,” but it’s only written that way because otherwise you wouldn’t read it. Why would you want to read about awful things that really happened? That would complicate your life. By "your," I mean mine.

Right now I’m writing a novel that has a lot of the same themes I’m finding in Battle Royale, themes that I’m sure are wholly unsurprising for the genre. When chipped away, it all comes down to the sharp counterpoint of humanity’s depths of depravity versus its saving graces. What are these and how do they balance each other? What are the things we’re willing to sacrifice our lives, or our souls for? What is integrity, what is humanity, what makes us good or bad or cruel or kind? And who are we, really? That’s the essential question, one seemingly only answerable by tossing someone into an extreme situation (I.e. forced to kill your friends on an island as part of a government-sanctioned game that has no discernible purpose) and observing their reaction. How can we judge these people? It’s tough stuff, best saved for fiction, so keep your history books and television news screens out of my face!

I don’t really know what I’m talking about. What day is today? Why am I only wearing one sock? Did I take too much cough medicine? I need to lie down. I think I’m allergic to my dog.

What was I saying? Yes, so something that interests me about this book is how absolutely certain death is for this group of 42 students; yet each of them, in their own way, takes that death into their own hands, or at least tries to. I mean, they only have 24 hours and then they know, one way or another, they’re gonna bite it. It’s so profound to me that they press on. It’s so much like life, because we all have expiration dates; theirs are simply condensed. We all find ways to escape thinking about death, burying our heads in the sand of religion or some faith in something outside ourselves and our world, or in material distractions or hedonistic luxuries, or in humanitarian or activist efforts. I’m not saying these things aren’t worthwhile, but they’re all essentially the same thing because life is all essentially the same thing: trying to keep living. One o’ them big timey philosophers talked about Being-toward-Death and living an authentic life, and how you had to acknowledge death before you could be authentic.* (Maybe, I don’t know, I only took one class.) There’s a fine line between acknowledging something and dwelling on it, and somewhere in between there, we have to keep on kickin’.

That’s why we have fiction. That’s why we have fantasy, superheroes, immortality, Heaven, Hell, toothpaste and spaghetti. Oh crap I got mucus on the keyboard. I’m sorry let me just get that uhetroihweotioqe;totnewe;g there we go, all wiped off.  

Dayna Ingram is a writer and student living in the Bay Area. She received her BA in Creative Writing from Antioch College in 2008, and is currently working on her MFA in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. She works at Half Price Books, where she buys more books than she can reasonably hope to read in a lifetime.  She occasionally writes blog posts while deathly ill and kind of loopy.

*It's Heidegger, for those of you who are interested.
**This is a reserve blog so that the author can do other things, like have a life.  It originally written May 19, 2010

23 June 2010

Day 88: a general update

So...by now I am on the road to Washington, DC where librarians will be descending like locusts in the hopes of obtaining free swag, new contacts, and perhaps a nerdy love connection or two.  I've heard that mating rituals between librarians are strange and adorable.  I am excited and already overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that will be going on.  There are a lot of events that are double and triple booked that I really, really, really want to go to, and I'm only 100 pages in to the nearly 400 page program.

I'll be meeting up with some good friends of mine in DC, namely Matthew's parents and also someone who was a bit of a father figure to me in high school.  Both will probably be somewhat awkward, but good overall.

Anyway, since this conference plus my travel will take so long, you get a whole week of guest posts!  You should be excited about these, because there are some rather good ones.  Hopefully I will be able to keep up with my reading, so there will be a lot of catch up for me to write about when I get back.  I may also have a couple dozen brand-spankin'-new ARCs, stuff that you might not even see on the shelves for months.

22 June 2010

Day 87: I Know I Am, But What Are You?

I Know I Am, But What Are You?* by Samantha Bee.  ISBN: 9781439142738.

Father's Day 2010 came and went last Sunday and it passed without me acknowledging it...at least to any fathers that I know.  I've known some men who are great fathers: my cousins seem to fit into this category and so does their father.  I know my grandfather was a fabulous grandfather; I think he had some constricting rules to his fatherhood when he was raising my dad that prevented him from being as wonderful.

It sounds cold, but I don't really feel the need to recognize a father who hasn't really been in my life in the last ten years now, more than that if you include the emotional distance that started before my parents divorced.  I can't tell you exactly when my father stopped being my dad.  I know I started calling him by his first name somewhere around the 4th grade and the time of his first hospitalization for mental illness. I could have forgiven him that, I understand that he really couldn't and can't help his depression, he is severely diseased, but I'm not sure that gives him an excuse to absent himself from my life as completely as he has.

Sam Bee's parents were part of a long string of parents to divorce, even when it wasn't the norm.  My parents were actually the first, and you would be surprised at the grief my family gave them, even now when divorce is fairly common.  They did finally come to accept it when they saw how much happier my mother was without my father.  I was actually very prepared for the divorce, I somehow knew it was coming a year before there were any real signs of trouble.  As bad as I took it with the knowledge of it happening, I'm not sure what it would have been like if I hadn't known.  Maybe I would have gone the same route as my brother, becoming violent and using drugs and alcohol constantly.

I was very confused by my extended family's reaction to my parents' divorce.  They had all met my father, they knew he wasn't contributing anything good to my mom's life or his children's upbringing.  If anything he was just making things worse.  Honestly, after our 5th birthday, we might have been better off in a single parent household.

So to the fathers who are also dads, I hope you had a great father's day, but you'll have to excuse me if it's not a day I especially look forward to.

*My fiance (an English Major) and I actually debated about how this should be capitalized and neither of us could remember.  I'm pretty sure it should be "I Know I am, but What are You?" however, that looks really weird, so any grammar police are just gonna have to suck it up and go get your own blogs.

21 June 2010

Day 86: Afternoons with Emily

Afternoons with Emily by Rose MacMurray.  ISBN: 9780316017602.

"I have found the marriage of a friend to be the death of a friendship." Page 117.

Oh fictionalized Emily Dickinson, how droll you are.  But in some ways you're right.  I know there are a couple of friend of mine who are concerned about my some-day-marriage to Danny.  They know that I'm already a pretty big part of his life, and they're concerned I will be the only part of his life when we get married.  There's also the issue where we will probably have to move away from his friends from high school when I (hopefully and) finally get a job.  They're valid concerns.

As close as Danny is to his friends, they can't compete with the relationship he has with me, and there are going to be times when that means less contact with them.  I'm not forcing him to spend time with me over them, but if he wants to be with me it naturally means spending less time with his friends, and at some point possibly moving away from them.  This is something that happens with almost every relationship.   I encourage Danny to spend time with his friends whenever possible, and I will continue to do so.  However, I will also encourage Danny to become a part of my circle of friends. 

Most of my friends and contacts know me as an individual, but they also recognized my partnership with Danny.  This means that we often socialize as a couple, which has been a new experience for both of us.  True, I had some opportunities with my ex-boyfriend, but because Danny and I are closer in age and I'm no longer of the "just barely" age, we are seen as a more acceptable couple.  This makes our transition into the social realm much easier.  We're also both of an academic mindset, and since most of my friends are of the same subset it's easier for us to adapt from individual to couple socializing.

Danny has yet to learn how to incorporate me into his social circle.  He is often greeted in public by former students, colleagues, and other acquaintances.  During these impromptu meetings he constantly forgets or neglects to introduce me.  Part of this is probably because he doesn't remember the names of all the people he's met and we are usually somewhere like a restaurant where we're about to be seated/order our food and they're just leaving, but it's still a potential opportunity to get to know my future husband in a different light.  

I know so few of his friends (most of the friends we have are mutual friends, people he knew before I did, but who I got to know while we were getting to know each other), and it is and would be interesting for me to see him from someone else's perspective.  Maybe I'm the only one who thinks this, but I believe you can tell a lot about a person by the way that they A) interact with someone else and B) how the other person treats them during that interaction.  For instance, I'm sure that from the outside my relationship with Danny seems very one-sided and maybe slightly abusive.  But this is the same relationship I have with most of my friends (except my friends don't get to have sex with me, obviously).  

My relationship with Danny works because, despite how we may behave in public, we have a good time together and there is a great deal of respect and caring between us.  We also complement each other: I'm a little more outgoing and socially adept; he's the one who makes me think about why and how I am able to function as well as I do.  It's nice to be able to take a step back to discuss and analyze the idiosyncrasies of human communication and society.  In many ways it's actually helped me socialize better than before because I can calculate the proper responses.  This may sound like a somewhat distant and detached way of forming relationships with people, but I've only recently become "good" at this.  

Part of it is probably that I've finally caught up in age to the people I actually want to be friends with, so we now have things in common.  For the longest time I was practically unable to make friends with people my age because I was too "weird."  If you had asked me who my friends were in school, I might have stared at you blankly and then responded with "Mrs. Smith, my geometry teacher...I think."  I just got along better with adults, I understood their behaviors and there was no danger when I made mistakes and social gaffes around them because they had to be nice/polite to me.  Kids my own age were just too scary to deal with, so I had one or two friends my age, and the rest were teachers, librarians, neighbors, or books.

So yes, Danny is mine now, and I'm going to take him away from his friends.  But he won't be completely gone, and there will certainly be opportunities for us to make our own friends, both as a couple and as individuals.  I hope that we both like most of the people we will socialize with.  I know that it's hard on a relationship when you're not in agreement with your friends about the acceptability of your partner and vice versa.  Relationships change though, and if a friendship of 10 years can't stand up to the introduction of something that has been as beneficial to Danny as our relationship is (and I'm not making that up), then maybe it's time to let go of it. 

20 June 2010

Day 85: Afternoons with Emily

Afternoons with Emily by Rose MacMurray.  ISBN: 9780316017602.

MacMurray writes about a close friendship between fictional Miranda Chase and Emily Dickinson.  She paints Dickinson as a morose and self-absorbed shut-in.  The self-absorbed writer is a pretty amazing phenomenon.  Dickinson at least had the excuse of living in a time where it was difficult for women to become anything besides mothers or teachers, but I knew a guy, let me tell you, from Antioch who was a piece of work.

This guy managed to weasel his way into our poetry class, which was difficult to get into.  In fact, I believe seven people were kicked out of the class because the professor wanted to have a small group so there would be time to workshop everyone's stuff more than once.  This asshat shows up and finagles his way into the class about a week after it starts, which is a pretty big deal during summer session since the classes last about a month and a half.  Then during writing he insisted on using a laptop when the rest of us all used regular notebooks, and he just had to go out in the hallway so someone else had to go fetch him when it was time to do other things.  These all might have been forgivable, but like Emily Dickinson (as imagined by McMurray) he was full of false feelings and pretensions.

In the novel, Dickinson wrote a letter to some relatives that she allowed Miranda Chase to read.  Chase was disgusted because it was about the first man from Amherst to die in the Civil War.  Dickinson apparently didn't know him at all.  Asshat did something very, very, very similar.  About six years ago three people from Antioch went on a road trip to New Orleans during one of our breaks.  They were driving back through Mississippi in the middle of the night when the driver fell asleep and hit a tree.  Only two came back and they were both injured.  There was a memorial service on campus in front of Main Hall.  I went to it, even though I didn't know him personally, but he was an Antioch kid and the school is so small that it easily could have been someone I knew.

A few days later we're work-shopping a poem from Asshat about the memorial service.  I don't remember very much from it except something involving him bringing tea in a metal thermos and the line, "it was all for the love of you, [Asshat]."  He completely turned a moment that was meant to be, if not about the young man (DL) who died in the car accident, at least about his grief.  Instead he gloried in what he perceived as his Amazing and Miraculous Presence suddenly lifting the veil from death and pouring sunshine and unicorns to fill the loss of those who were mourning.  

Actually, I just read through my journal from that time, which I have conveniently transcribed on my computer.  The only mention that Asshat gave about DL was to horrifically describe what he imagined DL's death was like.  This included pretty graphic details involving pieces of brain and other unseemly things to a room of people who did know DL much better than I did.  This was literally days after the community found out about the accident.  I don't remember what the others told him.  I think I said something along the lines of, "There's some stuff in here that is valid and well worded, but much more that is inappropriate and distracting."  I think the only reason I made a comment at all was because, if no one said anything, people were going to reach over and choke the Asshat.

And after reading a lot of what I wrote when I was 19, I will admit to being pretty self-absorbed and wrongheaded.  But bringing that poem to class as it was, is a completely different and special level of self-I'm-so-awesome-and-no-one-can-be-as-amazing-as-me-ness.  I have never met anyone else like that and I am entirely so thankful and relieved that there only seems to be one of Asshat around.  I think if I ever saw that kid walking down the street at night I would be severely tempted to run him over with my car.  I don't hate very many people, but this guy managed to earn my complete and utter contempt.

19 June 2010

Day 84: Night

Night by Elie Wiesel.  ISBN: 9781883332501 (audiobook).

I apologize, this one will probably be a little on the reviewy side.  There are certain things I expect from audiobooks.  I expect a well-rounded even tone from the narrator and not screeching in my ear.  This particular audiobook does not live up to expectations.  He seems to think that dramatic parts of the book should translate into a dramatic yelling of "Fire! Fire! Fire!"  Thank you, Beavis, for telling us the heart wrenching story of the Holocaust.

I appreciate that it's a tense moment in a very tense story, but screaming like a howler monkey only annoys your listeners and I was damn close to giving up on this.  As it was, I was just waiting for my ear piercing yapping rather than listening to the story.  Listening to a story should be relaxing, regardless of the content.  There are ways to use inflection to add a sense of the dramatic flair or sorrow or excitement.

So, dear audiobook companies, please stop hiring people who squawk like parrots or at they very least train and direct them better.  I love audiobooks, but that shit is annoying.

18 June 2010

Day 83: Night

Night by Elie Wiesel.  ISBN: 9781883332501 (audiobook).

I used to pray to a God when I was younger.  I used to pray desperately and with a bleeding heart and the belief that it might actually change something.  I'm not sure exactly when I stopped praying, it was probably some time after I stopped believing in a being as a God.

I stopped believing because it no longer helped me with my problems.  I could not believe in a God when my life seemed to be falling apart around me.  I felt like I had been completely abandoned and that there was no way that there was anyone looking out for me.  Giving up God helped me to move past the hurt of abandonment and focus on trying to get past my current situation.  Some people find strength and comfort in God, I found it in giving God up.

In college I did take up praying again for awhile.  But it wasn't to God.  I prayed for direction and for Good Things to happen for the people I loved.  And rather than weeping and opening my heart at night to let the pain flow out and over me, I set up an altar to focus my thoughts and direct my intentions.  I found comfort in the ritual and maintenance of a space meant to express what I wanted to happen.

I don't think god will be upset that I no longer pray.  I'm sure god gives us what we need when we need it, but if he/she/it/they were a being or beings, there is no way they would be able not to give in to the suffering of humanity and relieve everyone's pain.  If that's the case I would just as soon not think of god as a being, and I would just as soon prefer not to pray when there's no empathetic ear on the other side.

17 June 2010

Day 82: Girl in Translation

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok.  ISBN: 9781594487569 (advanced reader copy).

 Kim (the main character) is one of those kids who's just naturally good at school.  They have brains that are geared towards the learning/teaching style employed by most academic institutions.  My brain is also geared like this.

I never really had to study much during school.  The most I had to do before taking a test was to review my notes.  I did fairly well on fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice.  I was particularly good at natural sciences, English and literature, and history.  Pretty much any class where I could form an argument or use logic to remember a fact or solve a problem was a good class for me.  I was pretty good at math up until Algebra, and I think the reason I had so many problems there is because I hated the school I was at so I missed a lot of instruction.  This is also where I began to suspect I had some dyslexia, although I somehow doubt it's enough to qualify as a learning disability.

It was pretty startling for me to get to a point where things didn't come naturally for me.  It made me realize how difficult school is for people who don't or aren't able to learn the way I do.  I had to transition from just sitting in class and absorbing materials to getting tutoring and spending more time on my homework than I did reading.

The thing is, it doesn't feel like it was real learning now that I have something to compare it to.  Sure, my head was filled with facts and figures, some of which I can still remember, but for the most part it did not lead to anything deeper.  There was no desire to learn more or incorporate the knowledge into my daily life.  It's unfortunate that I had to wait until college to really get this kind of learning experience, but at least it taught me how to continue the learning process.

16 June 2010

Day 81: Girl in Translation

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok.  ISBN: 9781594487569 (advanced reader copy).

I sort of didn't want to talk about abortion, but I think I have to at some point.  It's covered by too many works and, even though this is giving away some of the plot, it's a pretty big deal in this book.  I feel like I have to talk about it at some point.  I think it's important for women to talk about in the same way that it's important for homosexuals to come out of the closet: the more exposure there is, the less stigma.  At least I hope that's the way it works.  It seems to me like humanizing and personalizing the issue should make people more empathetic.

Having said that, I've never had an abortion.  But there have been some pregnancy scares in my life, and I probably would have gone that route.  I've taken the Plan B twice in my life, and I've had three pregnancy scares. All three times I used condoms; twice the condoms failed.  All three times I used condoms, twice the condoms failed.  Both times I took the Plan B pill were very difficult times for me.  I know that the pill is not an abortifacient (it won't work if the fertilized egg has implanted in the uterine lining, the definition of pregnancy), but I did wonder if I was doing the right thing.  Each time I wondered what that potential child would have been like, assuming it would have come to being at all.

I'm glad that I didn't have to get to the fetal stage to make such a terrible decision.  It's a decision that no one should have to make.  Especially alone.  I was glad to have my partners involved in the decision, and willing to come with me to the clinic to get the pill.  These are men I would have been proud to have be the father of my child.  But I was in no way ready for it.  I've only just begun to live an independent life where I can make my own decisions based on what I need.  If I had a child right now, my options would be severely limited and the life I could provide for him or her would also be limited.  As conflicted as I felt making the decision to take the Plan B pill, I know that I don't want to bring a child into the world the way it is now.  It would not be fair to ask someone to live in a world that does not provide basic health insurance and a world where a living wage is nearly impossible to obtain.  It's not a world I care to live in, but I'm here and so I must, but I don't have to bring anyone else into it.

15 June 2010

Day 80: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  ISBN: 97814159161963 (audiobook).

 If ignorance is bliss, why are people trying to find out why they're so unhappy in the first place?  Wouldn't it be better to stay in the dark?  Reading isn't there to make you happy, life isn't there to make you happy.  Removing knowledge from the world and retreating to a state of ignorance, *gasp* will also not make you happy.  All it will do is hide your problems until they have time to sneak up on you from behind and bite your head off.

Ignoring your problems, or even the fact that you have problems, and trust me you do, is a bad, bad thing.  If you're one to scoff at and scorn people who use drugs, alcohol, video games, etc. as a means of constant escape from the badness of their lives, but are also one to brush off your problems and not recognize them for what they are, you are just as bad as the alcoholics/potheads/video game junkies.

Believe me, one day someone will come up to you and ask you if you are happy, and then you will have to think about it.  I'm asking you now, are you happy?  If you aren't, do you know what needs to change to make you happy?  Is it something you're avoiding because it's just too much damned work?  If you are happy, why?  Is it something you've done that makes you content with yourself, or is just you current circumstance which might be ripped away from you at any moment?

People seem to think that happiness just appears like rainbows and shooting stars.  It doesn't.  You have to work at being happy, there is no effortless happiness.  Yes, the root word means "luck," and there is a lot of luck in happiness, but there's so much more to it as well.  Happiness is kind of like a house.  If you build a good strong foundation and put a lot of care into it, you'll be able to withstand some bad luck hailstorms and your garden will flourish with the rain.  If you build a crappy house it's likely to be blown over by some asshole with a leaf blower. 

There are a lot of things you can do to build your happiness, and even my house is somewhat of a fixer-upper.  But for the most part I would say I'm fairly happy.  I have pretty good relationships with friends, family, and fiance.  I am comfortable, clean, and safe.  I am prepared for most future disasters.  I am also happy.  There are things that I am not happy about, but I like who I am at the moment, and I think I'm on my way to going good places.  There are days when it's hard to remember that, but most of the time my life is good.

14 June 2010

Day 79: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  ISBN: 97814159161963 (audiobook).

Holy butts!  Why haven't I read this before?!  This is possibly the most important book that was ever written.  This needs to be required reading in every civics class in America and several other countries.

It also made me realize something.  I would be willing to die for a book.  Maybe not just any book, maybe not any copy, but I would be willing to die for the last copy of the Bible, the Koran, the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, even Mein Kampf.

I don't have to support the words in every single book to want to save it.  These are all important works, and there are many other works that are important regardless of their content.  They need to exist so that people can read them, analyze them, and form their own opinions.  It is necessary for these historical texts to exist, regardless of whether or not we want them to.  The truth is that they existed in the past and formed and shaped current events.  It may be a dark part of our past, but we should own that and accept it for what it is: A mistake, a terrible mistake, and one we'll hopefully learn from.  But we can't learn from it if we don't know how and why it happened.  If we don't have the resources, we can't possibly understand the ideas and concepts that led to later attitudes and events.

Our lives are so paltry and fleeting compared to the ideas captured in stories, philosophy, non-fiction, etc.  Why wouldn't I consider giving up my life to save something so much more significant than I am?  I might prefer to give up a year of life for a chapter, and I would like to choose the work, but if I had to dedicate my life to saving one book I would do it.  Whether it meant memorizing it and carrying it around until it could be written again, or if it meant sacrificing my actual life, the words and the ideas are more important than one individual, because they can affect a larger number of lives than my life can.

I hope that we don't, and will never, live in a society where I have to carry out this sentiment.  I hope we are past book burning of any variety (that includes banning).  I know that books are challenged everyday, particularly in schools, but that is all the more reason to provide access to them in other ways.  Allowing our children to experience the world through someone else's eyes can only be good for them.  Otherwise, how do we expect them to be well-rounded and understanding people?  Books give us an opportunity to see life from someone else's perspective.  Yes, it's dangerous.  They may not take the things we want them to take from literature, but it's a freedom that must be kept for everyone, regardless of its consequences.

13 June 2010

Day 78: Bud, Not Buddy

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.  ISBN: 9780385323062.

Kids don't have the benefit of carrying around pocketknives wherever they go anymore.  In fact, people don't really understand that there is a benefit.  We think of knives only in their weapon capacity these days.  I don't think people realize how absolutely useful it is to have a knife.  I'm a big fan of the pocket knife.

I actually carried a knife for several years between high school and my first year of grad school.  I bought it for about $5 from a knife vendor at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi.  There were quite a few times where I was afraid I would have to part with it.  One time I was headed to New York from the Washington, D.C. area on the good ol' Greyhound.  I noticed they were actually doing a wand check of people boarding another bus, which is quite unusual for Greyhound.  Luckily they didn't do a check of my bus and I got to keep my knife.

I used the knife for almost everything: opening tricky packages, tightening screws, and not necessarily protection, but at the very least it offered an added feeling of security.  Carrying a knife is extremely empowering, especially for women.  It gives you access to an extra edge if you're attacked that you wouldn't have otherwise in case you are attacked.  I felt that even that extra boost of confidence prevents attacks.  Someone looking for a victim isn't as likely to pick on someone who walks like they aren't going to take anyone's bullshit.  At the very least, it's always good to have a multipurpose tool on hand.

The only reason I stopped carrying a knife is because it was stolen.  My mother was in town delivering some furniture.  She used my knife to cut some straps or packing tape and left it outside on the truck.  By the time I realized she "still had it," it had been stolen and was gone forever.  This was a piece of equipment that was with me longer than most of my friends.  This is was a piece of equipment that was with me longer than most of my friends.  It was an important part of who I was.  I still feel its loss, but I've also grown past needing it.  Still, I could use another pocket knife.

12 June 2010

Day 77: Bud, Not Buddy

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.  ISBN: 9780385323062.

Ugh, I managed to catch this awful cold/allergy-induced type of misery from my fiance.  Thanks baby, nothing says love like a head full of mucus alternately escaping from my face in buckets and solidifying into brick form.  Noo, can't have constant moderate dripping where at least I would feel better from the draining, it's either all or nothing.  Stupid bodies.  I can't wait till I can trade this one in for a perfect simulated skin, etc. robot body.

Oh hi, kids' book, um yeah.  After Bud runs away from his foster home he goes to the library to figure out what to do next.  He's looking for a specific librarian, Miss Hill.  He searches for her several times, but eventually goes to ask another librarian where she's gone.  The way that Bud reacts to the other librarian and the relationship he had with Miss Hill tells me a lot about what kind of a librarian she was.

She was a librarian who was willing to give just the right amount of information based on what the patron needed.  The other librarian Bud approached was certainly trying to be helpful and did expose Bud to a resource he would later use again, but she didn't really help him with his problem.  I can't assume you've read the book, so let me tell you what happened.

Bud approached the librarian asking where Miss Hill was.  The librarian responded in a chatty manner, rather than addressing the question directly.  The librarian tells Bud that Miss Hill had been married and moved to Chicago.  Bud asked her how far away that was.  Rather than giving him a fairly direct answer or asking how much information he wanted, the librarian launches into "teaching moment" battle mode.  In library school we are beaten over the head to look for "teaching moments" and use them to teach our patrons to fish for their own damned selves.  They make it sound like a science, but it's not.  It's truly an art form of knowing when someone is receptive to instruction versus when they're just too busy and want to get on with their lives.

ud just wanted to get on with his life.  He didn't really have time to be told, not only how many miles away Chicago was from Flint, Michigan, but the average gait of an adult male and then the figuring of how long it would take to walk to Chicago.  Today it's easier to provide those answers so there's not reason not to provide that answer, you can pull up Google Maps and switch into Walking Mode. But for instance, if I had been asked Bud's question and had the resources they had in the Depression (the period the book was written about), I would have limited myself to finding the mileage.  If Bud continued to ask the additional question of how long it would take to walk, that's when I would pull out the additional sources if he wouldn't accept an estimate.  I've found in library work that some people just want a second opinion to judge their own against.  I'm okay providing that if it's what they need and they're not planning to use it for research or in lieu of legal/health/financial advice.

I loved being able to teach in my reference position at Kent State University Library.  Don't get me wrong, but there was a very fine line about what people will let us teach them.  Yes, there were times when students prevented us from teaching them how to do research.  This means that they came back to us over and over again.  This behavior reduces their research hours and the resources they're able to use because they usually wait until the last minute, and I know their research suffers for it.  There's a webcomic* that covered the topic recently (May 24th and 26th) that I think sums it up better than I can with words:

We get this kind of thing far more often than I am comfortable with.  This kid got in-class instruction on how to do research, and yeah, sometimes it doesn't sink in the first time.  I don't mind people getting extra help if they need it.  I may not like that this guy didn't pay attention in class, but I would still attempt to show him how to do research (again), as much as I would love to brush him off like Dewey does here.  But you cannot teach someone who isn't willing to give you their full attention.  That means you need to ignore your cell phone, stop tapping your damn nails, and don't roll your eyes when my first search doesn't work.  Looking for information is an art form, and sometimes you need to do a couple of different search strings (they call it research for a reason).

People who treat me like that last comic are the ones who get the worst possible articles.  Yeah, I'll give you some research, but if you're being abrupt with me, I'll be abrupt with you and polite about it all the time.  I will politely give you a list of resources that are all checked out, or in the library that's 15 minutes away and closes in 5 minutes, or articles that are only in print.  Yes, I will make your ass use the photocopier or the microfilm reader (which I'm sure you'll need instruction on), and I will do it with glee.

Research is a kind of art form and I know things you don't.  You might just learn of a new very useful website or features in a website you didn't know were there (how often have you used Advanced Search on Google?).  So sit your ass down and let me answer your question, no distractions, and I will give you what you want and maybe a little more.

*Used with Permission, (c) Bill Barnes & Gene Ambaum.  Unshelved.com.  Seriously, I'm saving the email and everything.

11 June 2010

Day 76: something else

How Penguin Classics Ruined Classics By Trying to be Trendy, and other horrors of the publishing world.

I've mentioned horrible book covers before, namely Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World, but there was at least an excuse for that one.  That was the first edition of that particularly horrendously covered book.  Sadly, I saw new-old atrocities staring at me from the shelves of a recent and all-to-rare excursion to Borders.

Readers, I give you the new renditions of:
A Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne as ruined by Penguin Classics

They've had the same author do Pride and Prejudice as well as Wuthering Heights.  For some reason, the latter two covers do not bother me nearly as badly as The Scarlet Letter's redo.  It seems that more muted colors were used, for one thing.  I guess since Hester Prynne was a seamstress maybe Mr. Ruben Toledo (or perhaps I should say Mr. Mrs. Isabel Toledo) decided that this cover should just be fabulous to capture Prynne's creative spark.

Somehow I doubt he realized how uptight the Puritans were.  I mean, just look at those slutty bare arms and that wild loose hair; if that's not just begging to be burned at the stake, I don't know what is.  I think maybe I'm angry because I actually really love this book.  I would gladly chop up and burn every single piece and part of the Custom's House chapter, but I remember devouring the rest of this book upstairs in my maternal grandparents' computer room between 8th and 9th grade.  There is such beautiful and complex imagery in this novel, but this cover just doesn't fit.  It is a bad suit of clothes on an otherwise insightful, if somewhat morose, person.  Somewhat surprising given Toledo's career a fashion illustrator.  The redone Scarlet Letter gets an F in my grade book.  Hell, if you're going to give it a cover like this, at least provide illustrations to go along with the text.  Kids are going to pick this up thinking there's updated text or something extra and will be angry as hell that's it's the same stupid copy everyone else is reading, but with a fruitier cover.

I guess I shouldn't complain too much.  At least they didn't give them Twilight-inspired covers like they apparently did with Wuthering Heights.  Yeah, I didn't hear about that either until just now.  My room mate pointed it out to me.  Kinda makes you want to vomit a little, doesn't it?  Oh Heathcliff, your skin is so pale that it sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight!  Oh Catherine, your clumsiness and stalkerish qualities are so endearing!  Doesn't sound too bad, you say?  Here, have a little vomit-inducing literary graphic-ature:

HarperCollins apparently did two of these barf-books, but since I can't find the other one on their site I'll just post the one.  You people are clever and can do your own image searches and all.  Sadly, this particular campaign seems to have actually worked, and although you can't see it in this particular image there are medals on the books that say "Edward and Bella's favorite book."  Wow.  Oh, and you Austen-ites will be happy to know that they gave the same treatment to Pride and Prejudice.  "Beautifully presented for a modern teen audience" indeed.

I'm all for modern covers on classics, but this is just ridiculous.  I mean, honestly, the Twilight-themed covers are only pathetic because they're riding on another trend and have very little to do with Meyer's "writing."  If fucking Pride and Prejudice can't stand on it's own and needs a new cover to move some copies, then maybe it shouldn't be considered a classic anymore.

Readers, what do you think?  Other-book-themed covers a good idea?  What about inappropriately cheerful and/or non-content related covers (geometric designs excluded of course)?  Are you totally pissed that I wrote an entire blog post about nothing but covers?  Because I'm not.  I think this shit is both hilarious and infuriating at the same time.  It certainly doesn't say anything positive about our buying habits if they assume that this ploy will actually work (it definitely doesn't say much when it already has worked.  For the love of god you can get used copies of classics for 50 cents).

10 June 2010

Day 75: Holes

Holes by Louis Sachar.  ISBN: 9780374332655.

A big thing they teach you about in library school is something called "information literacy."  Or as I like to call it, "evaluate your damn sources before you use, abuse, or otherwise refer to them."  One aspect of this is to question how information or advice (especially "free" advice) benefits the provider.  For instance, my blog is free, but I'm sure as hell hoping to one day have some t-shirts with some awesome quotes from my blog that will bring in some money.  And I hate to tell you this readers, but I might put up some advertising once I get enough followers to really justify it.  I hope you'll all be good lemmings and do some clicking in order to help me out.  No purchase necessary.

Anyway, what the hell am I talking about?  In this book there is a short side story (Holes uses a method known as a frame tale) involving Sam the Onion Man and the doctor of Green Lakes, Texas.  Sam prescribes onions for all ailments and problems, from baldness to boils to yellow-spotted lizard repellent.  Apparently the good God-fearin' folk of back-in-the-day-pretend Texas go to both the doctor and Mr. Put-an-onion-on-that.  Except for one woman whose child eats a bad piece of meat and only uses the onion treatment, rather than the ever popular leech method.  Luckily for her, the onions work.  And I'm sure Sam was an awfully nice fella and I certainly felt bad about his lot,

but he was sellin' you something.

I'm not saying you can't trust information just because someone is selling you something.  I'm just saying you might want to dig a little deeper and figure out why they're giving you the information they are.  I think this is particularly important regarding credit cards, loans of any kind, education, medication, surgery, politicians, and sadly, news.  There aren't many people, organizations, companies, or entities out there that have your best interest in mind when they give you information.  Most people are trying to sell you something, even if it's just, "My idea is the best, now eat it and vomit it back to someone else so they can eat it."  (Mmm, warm information-vomitty goodness.)  If you're going to eat someone else's dinner, just be damned sure there's nothing in it you object to.  You just might find a cockroach in that delicious veggie burger* you're trying to chow down on.

*I'm not specifically picking on vegetarians or vegetarian causes here.  As a former vegetarian I think I would be especially upset by finding a cockroach in something that's supposedly animal free.

09 June 2010

Day 74: Holes

Holes by Louis Sachar.  ISBN: 9780374332655.

There's a lot that's wrong with this book, but there's also a lot that's right about it.  I don't necessarily like the denigrating of the Girl Scouts in the form of, "This ain't no Girl Scout camp."  Really?  Why does it have to be a Girl Scout camp?  Can't it be a Boy Scout Camp?  I mean, that would still be a lot funner than digging holes in a desert all day and you wouldn't be a huge jackass, but maybe that's the point.  I also have a huge issue with the principal of "making a bad boy dig holes will turn him into a good boy."

I just don't think that's true.  I think people have to realize on their own why their behavior was bad or hurtful.  I definitely think you can prod people into making that realization sooner, but most people who get punished with corporal punishment or work punishments are just going to figure they were somehow justified.  Taking things away from people doesn't equal punishment to most people, it equals, "Well they took my eye, so I'm going to take their other eye to go along with the one I already took."  I know this mostly through observation and a little through my own feelings.

While this isn't necessarily a crime, I think the following story will sort of explain my reasoning.  My fiance had his birthday yesterday and his parents brought home a cake and we all got together to sing happy birthday.  Everyone except for his brother, who was in the living room and "too busy" playing games online ... which is pretty much what he does everyday, more or less all day.  I see something like that and I feel totally justified not inviting him to my wedding, or refusing to seat him at a grown-ups table (which means he would be sitting all by himself as few of my friends have children), or making sure he didn't like any of the food and had to leave after the ceremony to skulk off to find food elsewhere.  I have problems with that level of rudeness.  I do.  And I wish I could say that this is the first and only time that something like this has happened, but it's not.  Unfortunately, any "punishment" that I mete out will only be met with whining, which will make me suffer even more and may lead to passive aggressive behavior on his part.

Another example involves the numerous times my mother tried to punish my brother when he was a teenager.  She would take away TV privileges or internet access, so he would stay over at a friend's house and not tell my mom where he was going to be all night.  He usually came home stinking drunk too.  I have no idea how whoever's parents didn't get their kids taken away, but there it is.  My brother would have something taken away as a valid punishment, so he would go out a find a way to procure it and do something worse if possible just to try and rub my mother's face in it.

I'm not saying "digging holes" is altogether a bad idea.  I just think it might be useful to have a directed purpose.  Doing something like cleaning the highway is nice, but not if they don't know why they're cleaning the highway.  Having litterbugs clean up the highway is an excellent way to show them how much work it takes to clean up a space that's dirtied by careless behavior.  That won't really work for an arsonist. 

I don't think there's any good way to really reform or punish criminals or criminal behavior.  I just know that what we're doing now isn't working.  We have too many people in jail for selling or possession of marijuana and resources aren't being used to their best.  I approve of educating prisoners and providing them with libraries, I think that is a step in the right direction, but hard labor and the removal of privileges seems to be reaping resentment rather than reform.

08 June 2010

Day 73: Deepwater

Deepwater by Matthew F. Jones. ISBN: 9781582340593.

Context: there's a huge freakin' Rottweiler with slightly supernatural abilities as part of the plot in this book.

For the longest time, I was terrified of dogs.  Not really terrified, but so apprehensive that it sometimes prevented me from visiting certain friends or taking a particular route on my way to school.  I couldn't even tell you where this apprehension came from.  Maybe because dogs are so much more unpredictable in their movements.  Maybe because we never had a dog growing up (past the age of about 2).  They were familiar and unfamiliar to me all at the same time.  Our neighbors had dogs; we had a dog-sized cat who drank from the toilet, went for walks (leashless), and waited for me to come home from school at the front door.
I didn't like dogs because they're noisy, smelly, and even the small ones can manage to hurt you when they're overly boisterous.  I don't like the idea of an animal jumping on me to show affection when I'm not expecting it, especially an animal that weighs more than 20 pounds.  Dogs are aggressive in both their affection and their anger.  So rather than just being wary of poorly trained dogs, it seems that I just became afraid of all of them and stayed that way up until about 5 years ago when I started to relax a little.
Much like my mysterious apprehension, I'm not sure where my slow acceptance of canines came from.  Part of me must have recognized that it was a potential problem in getting along with people who loved dogs.  Some of it may have been missing my cat at home so badly that I was willing to stop people walking their dogs to ask if I could pet them (I find it terribly rude and potentially dangerous to just go up and pet someone else's dog).  At one point I even thought about taking a co-op job at a wolf sanctuary in New Mexico to help me get over my fear of dogs.
I'm still sometimes nervous around them.  I think they know that.  But I'm not so scared of them that I avoid friends and family anymore.  I still hate it when they jump on me.  I still hate barking dogs.  I really hate dogs in cages and behind fences because that almost makes them seem more dangerous than they probably are.  But I can deal with them now and I would  consider owning a dog under the right circumstances.

Book Blogger Appreciation

Greetings blog readers, I'm posting this as part of my self-nomination for the Book Bloggers Appreciation Week Award.  Don't worry, you'll get your regular daily post.  In the meantime I'm offering five of what I consider to be the quality Grade A posts of this blog.  For the benefit of potential new readers and the judges I will also include a description of the project.

A Librarian's Life in Books is a unique blog that uses plot, characters, subtext, themes, and brief moments or quotes to reflect on and analyze my life, profession, past, future, relationships, and my ideas.  I know this does not fit in with regular book blogs, but I feel that my blog offers something new to readers.  It allows them to look at books and their lives in a different light, and hopefully it will lead to deeper reflection and better reading, regardless of the material.

Without further muddling about, here's what I consider to be some of my best posts:

Day 25: My Freshman Year
Day 46: The Meaning of Wife
Day 51: The Stranger
Day 57: The Atlantis Code
Day 60: The Gone-Away World

07 June 2010

Day 72: Deepwater

Deepwater by Matthew F. Jones.  ISBN: 9781582340593.

There's an awful lot of poker going on in this book, and not a whole lot else of interest.  Unless you want a glimpse into the Manly male psyche as perceived by someone who is probably not very Manly (judging by the slim biographical information and the outdated photo), this is definitely a "last resort" read.  I can't tell if the author was more obsessed with his own penis (in the guise of the main character's) or penises in general.  He certainly mentioned them often enough, and for some reason seems to think that just because a female lusts after a man it means she gets wet at the drop of a hat.  I'm not sure what to think about men who ignore female physiology, but it's probably nothing good.  I was going to talk about poker, so let's stop with the analyzing of overtly masculine imagery and phallic fiddlings and talk cards.

I've never been a big fan of gambling, but my fiance's extended family uses it as an excuse to get together and eat copious amounts of food while ridiculing each other all in the name of fun.  This usually occurs on bank (i.e. federal) holidays, so of course I was present at the last game on Memorial Day.  Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure I met Danny's extended family a year ago on Memorial Day under the same circumstances.

I've occasionally played cards with them.  I don't mind it, although lately it hurts more than I care to admit to even lose the measly $5 we play with.  Poker is just not one of those games I care for.  On the one hand, you have to rely on your luck, on the other you have to rely on your ability to lie better than everyone else and/or be able to tell when they're lying to you.  These do not seem like characteristics that we should be proud of, even under fairly innocent circumstances such as poker games.

Part of the problem might be that I associate poker with my father, even though I don't recall him ever actually hosting poker games at our house.  He just seems like the kind of character who would host a game in order to fleece his friends in a "friendly" game.  I still picture him as he was in the late 90's, when I used to see him on a daily basis: with mostly black hair, going grey at the temples, salt and pepper beard, and a receded hair line with a bald pate at the back.  He had broad shoulders and a mid-sized midsection.  Not what you would qualify as fat, but definitely not fit or even just overweight.  He had substance to him, is the best way to describe it.  His mustache was faintly tinted yellow from his smoking.  To this day I cannot think of my father without thinking of the white pack of Kool mentholated cigarettes and the smell of nicotine.

His current appearance is still somewhat shocking to me, almost like he's become an old man overnight, although in the way of children, I've never considered him young.  He's older yes, but he's also lost something that gave him that substantial feel.  Yes, he's about 30 pounds thinner, but it's not just that.  He seems to have given up on living and is just letting life carry him along.  He's almost completely bald now with a thin strip of white hair running from temple to temple around the back of his head dome.  He lost the beard and mustache (the first time I saw him without them in years, I didn't recognize him and wasn't sure whether or not I should punch him to keep him from hugging me at my maternal grandmother's funeral).  He still smells like cigarettes and still smokes, although I imagine he'll have a little more incentive to stop with his recent bladder cancer. 

He just seems thin, without actually being skinny or skeletal.  It's like all the bitterness that's been inside him all this time has finally turned acidic and started eating him from the inside.  I don't know what my mother ever saw in him.  I don't know what even I ever saw in him that made me think I loved him.  There's so little left of him to love.  It's not that he doesn't have people to love him, or who would be willing to love him if he weren't so acerbic and sarcastic, it's that he focuses more on what he doesn't have and can't see past that.

He's one of those people who will die later than we expected him to, and when he does we'll all stand around and talk about what an asshole he was.  But he was so smart.  And had good taste in music.  And was occasionally a fun guy to be around.  But man was he an asshole.  He's just that kind of a guy, a bare husk of a man with no substance.
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