Saturday, June 30, 2007

Must I paint you a picture?

Mom sends this along.

Someone has loaded a batch of canonical images of women from art history (i.e. Botticelli's Birth of Venus, Ingres's Princesse de Broglie, Rubens's wife) into an animation program and done morphing transitions between each. It's pretty neat.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

This is later

Agnes Martin
. Alexander Liberman (American, 1912–1999)
Gelatin silver print, 1973
22.5 x 33cm (8 7/8 x 13 in.)

My boyfriend in college (Lance) and his two best friends (Mike and The Mayor's Daughter) were writers. Well, they wrote things. I'm not actually sure you can call a college student a writer - in fact, I'm never really comfortable calling anyone a "writer": there are questions of quality and professionalism, focus, output... I just don't know.

This deconstructivist tendency of mine is in fact a relic of that time. Lance and his friends had used drugs and a Lou Reed live album to re-teach themselves how to talk, and they talked about writing - and occasionally music - without cease. I loved it, but after a few years in their orbit, I distrusted words so thoroughly that it once took me nine excruciating pages of tiny handwriting to tell a guy that I was mailing his wallet back to him after it had fallen out of his pocket while we were making out on my couch. That was my first letter to Bob, and, amazingly, not my last.

So... writer? I don't know. Assembler of sentences. User of written language for the purpose of self-expression. Whatever it was, Lance, Mike and The Mayor's Daughter did it. Even then more of an editor and critic than writer myself, I read what they wrote, and I liked it. Lance once wrote a story so thwarted and incoherent, I think it might be the truest imprint of suburban white college boy I've ever held in my hands. I still have it around here somewhere.

Unfortunately, into their groping, doubt-full intellectual lives came a visiting professor, a published author there to teach creative writing. And if they (and I) didn't know what a writer was, by god Lee K. Abbott did.

Boy I hated that guy. He would use the word "evil" about stories that didn't adhere to his made-up guidelines. He denounced any writing that wasn't shaped like his. My friends would come back from class so fired up - suburban kids from Ohio, nobody had ever really judged their writing before and they were inclined to swallow his commandments whole. They were apostate from the culture of their youth and looking for a guide.

I probably shouldn't be so hard on Abbott. He wasn't a teacher after all: maybe all he knew how to do was to teach people to write like he did. And it's not like I was any less malleable. As they took him as their guide, I took them. Probably why I was so incensed when he tried to change them.

But no, I take it back. I sat in on a few of their classes, and that guy brooked no disagreement, he was his own cult. He used his charisma and his cachet as a published writer to bluster and to bully them and to stunt their trip.

So, how did (does) Lee Abbott write? Let's put it this way. Yesterday I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Dark. Amazing. Like an Agnes Martin painting, it's a landscape almost completely blank and yet it is so textured and deep you could fall in. As cadenced as a requiem, repetitive as a fugue, heartbreaking, thought-provoking. Gorgeous.

Lee Abbott doesn't write like that. His stories are like Southwestern Tom Waits songs minus the empathy. And I don't think any of my old friends writes fiction any more, though The Mayor's Daughter did a stint writing for TV and I wouldn't put it past Mike to have a blog.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Let your juvenile impulses sway

00028, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Gratuitous awesome picture of Stretch and Big Man on the beach at sunset by Dee Pipik.

Here's my Bitch of the Day:

Wow, how much can one person despise The Berenstain Bears? Joyless moralizing bullshit - today the episode was, coincidentally enough, the bears going to their rented beach house.

Went like this: as they packed the car, it was obvious that Mama and Papa had done all the preparation: the cubs pestered their parents with "Did you pack my goggles? Did you pack my jump rope?" etc. Then, when the family arrived at the beach house, Mama surveyed the joint and proclaimed that the place needed "a good tidying" before they unpacked the car. The kids complained that they would rather go straight to the beach.

Papa decides to teach the kids a lesson and invites his wife to take a load off in a deck chair instead of spending her vacation doing housework. After a couple of minutes, though, she sighs and says she just can't relax knowing there's work to be done. I'd say Ms. Mama needs a cocktail and a consciousness-raising session, but she seems to be satisfied with a smug reassurance from Papa that the cubs will come to the same conclusion on their own. I really hate that guy sometimes.

The kids then realize that their bathing suits are in the car, but Mama and Papa won't unload the car til the damn tidying is done. Bla bla, 2 + 2 = 4, everyone runs inside and cheerfully grabs the cleaning supplies. And what tidying! Mama sweeps, Papa shakes out the rugs, Brother and Sister WASH WINDOWS! Sweet crap, they're only going to be there for a week.

I am happy to report that while laundry may have been done and dishes washed, and although I even caught a couple aunties sweeping from time to time, nobody washed a single window on our vacation.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Road work ahead

05 16 07 026, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

View slideshow


Stretch, Four, and Big Man, superheroes.

Magic Beach House

00014, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian. Photo by Dee Pipik.

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.
The Somebodies by N.E. Bode.
Drita My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard.
Victory by Susan Cooper.
Brainboy and the Deathmaster by Tor Seidel.
Varjak Paw by SF Said.
Mixed Magics by Diana Wynne Jones.
Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.
Secrets of Dripping Fang by Dan Greenburg.
Nicholas by Goscinny and Sempe.
Melvin Beederman, Superhero by Greg Trine.

Seriously, that's what I did on my summer vacation, and I couldn't be more thrilled about it. Cousin Stretch read Magic Tree House books and I read everything else. See the pictures here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

There are 23 things

Improvisation No. 23 by Wassily Kandinsky

But not more.

My library system is participating in the Maryland 23 Things Librarians Should Know About Web 2.0. I signed up for it, hey, you bet! You're supposed to start a blog, get a Flickr account, etc. etc. And you can win a prize! I want the prize, I totally should get it, I do all the 23 things all the time, sometimes at the same time, sometimes without even meaning to, and sometimes in public (that can be embarrassing). But I was informed it is a random drawing.

I read through the 23 Things last year when it was first published, by those smart librarians at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library System. I saw a mention of it in American Libraries, and thought, oh crap, I have no idea what they're talking about with this 2.0 stuff. Lucky for me I was doing it already and just didn't know that's what it was called.

So one of the things we're supposed to do is write a blog post about some aspect of technology. I never use this blog to write about work. I don't want to get fired and I don't really need total strangers knowing where I work. But I think I can do this on the QT.

Here's a technology thing I would like to see:

I would like my system's ILS to work correctly with Aquabrowser, the web interface they have chosed to lay on top of the catalog. When you do a search, you cannot capture a persistent URL for the item you have found, so you can't link to it. Also, you cannot sort your search results by call number. I have seen the demos of Aquabrowser that are available online, and these features do work in the software. It's just apparently a clumsy fit with the ILS we have.

And you know, it's a good thing I'm doing the MD 23 Things. I have learned something new - nowadays you can change your template colors in Blogger! Dude! I'm blue!

My only regret about going to the BEEEEACH! tomorrow for a week is that I'll miss the red-carpet premiere of my friend Kate's sister's movie, The Hollywood Librarian. Kate had even asked me to walk the red carpet as her date! Here's a behind the scenes look, to make myself feel better.

How am I feeling?

I'm about a quart low.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

By the sea

PICT1885, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

I think I have Senioritis. School for the Big Man ends tomorrow at 1pm, and first thing Saturday morning we are going TO THE BEEEEEEEACH!

Oh my god I am looking forward to this. Vacations have changed quite a bit now that there are kids. Used to be, Bob and I would jaunt off to a place where English is not the primary language, run ourselves ragged, soak up new experiences, and come home loaded with wacky knicknacks and intestinal parasites, exhilarated.

Now, we go to the beach. And at the beach, we let the kids watch TV, eat snacks, stay up late (although they don't), and Bob and I allow ourselves to eat snacks, sit while they play, shop, read, etc. We also make sure the beer doesn't run out. This kind of indulgence - that's not what vacations used to be about. We didn't used to have so many rules in our lives.

As an added bonus, Cousin Stretch and her parents are joining us. In addition, Aunties Jane, Mary, Patsy, Theresa, Uncle Joe, and Cousin Althea are joining us. That is a LOT of my husband's family, let me tell you. Auntie Nancy might show up too. We will have TEN adults for the THREE children, and I am LOVING the sound of that ratio!

Before we go, I have an unmanageable stack of errands to perform. A gauntlet of prescriptions, shopping, laundry, and housework I have to run. But once I am done those things, look for me on a beach chair with a stack of Juvenile fiction by my side. And a margarita - oh, send me your margarita recipe if you have a good one.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Isn't there an antihistamine for this?

The combination of the end of Big Man's first year of school and Mr. Four's birthday, plus a favorite blogger's new baby, has made me all nostalgicated.

This is the year the smaller boy was born.

Not so nostalgic I'd get pregnant again. Let's not get carried away.

Mr. Three is Mr. Four

... but he wasn't always.

Mr Three, back when he was Mr. 6 Weeks, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Same smile though.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Who is Melvin Bubble?

It's that time again - New Favorite Children's Book time!

There have been several good candidates since my last favorite, The Runaway Dinner. Dumpster Diver still right up there for its lessons about teamwork, adaptive re-use, and community (plus that sweet Missoni zigzag jumpsuit on the one girl); and Not A Box is genius. The Piggie and Elephant first readers by Mo Willems are instant eternal go-to books for early readers.

I've been going through A LOT of these things recently, spending Big Man's school library's limited funds for next year. I also recently needed to buy about a dozen picture books as gifts for adults, and how satisfying matching up my friends and relations to their perfect books, and owning these beautiful, innovative things even just for a little while!

One book I haven't mentioned here yet is A Seed is Sleepy, the follow-up to An Egg Is Quiet. Both books are stunning and well-formatted, but the seed book I think is even better than the egg. There's more variation among seeds, and the author gets to describe methods of seed locomotion, contrast seed appearance with plant appearance, etc. Really nice.

But on to the New Favorite: Nick Bruel's Who Is Melvin Bubble? I knew this was gonna be a winner when I spotted its bright red cover and huge, cartoony title font, and I was not disappointed.

Premise: Melvin Bubble's best friend Jimmy writes a letter to Nick Bruel asking him to write a book about his best friend Melvin. Ooh, meta! Then, in a series of two-page spreads, the author asks Melvin's mom & dad, his dog, his teddy bear, his closet monster, the tooth fairy, a magic rock, a talking zebra, a princess, and others to describe Melvin Bubble. Naturally, each describes a different facet of the kid (monster thinks Melvin is delicious, mom says he's messy, tooth fairy says he has a big head, while the talking zebra uses up all his space worrying about lions), and the author finally resorts to asking Melvin himself.

Why do I think this book is genius? Besides being legitimately funny and sly, and offering the reader a perfect opportunity to roll out some great funny voices, this book opens up a terrific conversation about how others see us and how we see ourselves.

Last Friday, Big Man's kindergarten presented the books they've been writing and illustrating all spring. It was great stuff: we had descriptions of vacations, of injuries, counting, and meals out. Each kid also wrote an "About the Author" bit on the inside back cover. Big Man wrote "[Big Man] is a good learner" (actually "[Big Man] Z A GOD LRNR") which I would like to embroider as a sampler for that teacher - he thinks he's a good learner because she has made him one.

Nick Bruel did a cute About the Author for Melvin Bubble, illustrated with a cartoon self-portrait with arrows pointing out details such as "right-handed" and "sometimes wears a beard". We get a lot of interest in the authors by the kids - I've made sure to place the autobiographies of Beverly Cleary, Lois Lowry, and Jack Gantos in the school library. One of the reference questions the fourth graders came up with was, "Where does Walter Dean Myers get his ideas?"

This kindergarten year has been breathtaking. I was so worried at the outset that Big Man would be the tantrum kid at school, that he would have a lot of social catching up because he'd never been to preschool or daycare. There have been so many new protocols for Bob and I to learn and follow. We were all freaked out that someone other than us was going to be judging and evaluating our kid (and by implication, us). We knew how to deal with his imperfections, just as Melvin Bubble's mom loves him even though he is the "messiest kid in the world", but we worried about how they would be perceived in the context of 21 other kids.

But in fact, we really lucked out. His teacher has been brilliant, patient, and thoughtful. She led him and the other kids through a year of learning about respect and cooperation, took Big Man from an all-Ego baby to a kid who understands empathy.

Yesterday most of the kids on the block got together for an impromptu bug fest. They found a whole mess of pill bugs (roly polies) and put them in the bug cage that Mr. Four got for his birthday. At dinner last night, Big Man explained that Up The Street Boy had told him that the roly polies were an army and the worms were their king and queen. When Bob and I questioned that, Big Man thoughtfully replied, "You can't trust [Up The Street] about everything, but you pretty much can trust him on bugs."

I guess what I'm trying to express is that we're watching Big Man learn to think, to evaluate, to examine himself and his surroundings, and I swear, it's like reading Descartes.

But I'd rather read Who is Melvin Bubble? again.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

WWVWD? (What would Vera Wang do?)

The Critic, by Weegee. ICP.

I read the Sunday Style section every week. It's trivial and pointless, yes, with articles so upper-crusty that they are actually offensive... but I miss New York. One week I spotted a mention of my old friend Jenny's mom eating dinner with her nephew, Liev "Hagen Dasz" Schreiber. Another week I found out that the preserved-in-amber 1960's bowling alley in our old Brooklyn neighborhood has become a hotspot for record producers and media types. We used to have to bribe our friends to go there with us.

Nowadays, it may be that I read the Style section just to be up on the ridicule. It is a broad, inanimate, and obscenely rich target for derision. The Gawker hits it hard and often, and recently introduced a scoring system for the wedding announcements that is pure genius. Bride and groom both Ivy grads? +3 points. Bride obviously quitting her job? +1 And my favorite: Groom wearing gingham in the picture nabs the couple a sometimes-crucial 1 point.

Our friend Peter Up The Street this morning introduced me to Veiled Conceits, a blog that absolutely rips the living shit out of the NYTimes wedding announcements. Savage.

But sometimes the Style section comes through for me. This week, alongside the shocking news that young people use cocaine without worrying about its ill effects (Who will save THE CHILDREN?!), there was a little feature on the only decent re-use of wedding dresses I've ever heard of: a new practice called the Trash the Dress photo shoot. The idea is that you do one last photo session in your wedding gown, and you wear it swimming, or light it on fire or roll around in the surf. Wow. That to me sounds gaspingly appealing.

I had a big white gown for my first wedding, which didn't amount to much of a marriage, and now I've had my kids and they're both boys, and therfore unlikely to want to wear my old dress if they get married. All it will ever do is sit in a box the size of a child's coffin in my mother's closet. It would be so great to get a picture taken climbing a building in that stupid, gorgeous dress.

If I could still fit into the fucking thing, of course.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

What are the odds?

"Up to the time I first met Leo Guild I thought that figures went into sweaters and not books."
-- Bob Hope, from the foreword to What Are The Odds by Leo Guild.

Originally published under the title "You Bet Your Life" in 1946. Until, I bet, Groucho sued the crap out of Leo Guild and made him change the title. And I hope he bankrupted him.

I know it was a different time, but jesus, this book misses no opportunity to objectify or belittle women. In fact, it manufactures quite a few.

On the cover, a stupid statistic on nail-biting is illustrated by a man easing his sexual tension by gnawing off macaroni-sized hunks of fingernail. Also, "heat prostration" is illustrated by a bald, middle-aged man getting all het up watching an exotic dancer.

Inside, there are gratuitous insertions of ... oh, just read this:

I suppose with most of the women's faces veiled there isn't much else they can do, i.e. necking, but in Constantinople each man, woman, and child smokes 2 cigarettes a day. This consumption is larger per capita than any other city of the world.

Probably more children necking there too.

Much of it is framed as questions submitted by readers of the guy's newspaper column.

Mrs. Winifred Pierce Gonzales of Brooklyn, N.Y., writes: What are the odds that I will find a pearl in an oyster during my lifetime?
Now, Mrs. Gonzales, isn't it easier to get your husband to buy you a string of pearls? You'll think so when you hear the odds. A famed Eastern oyster opener says it's a million to one against you.


What are the odds of a secretary marrying her boss?
About 70 to 1 against it, but George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling, David Lloyd George and Jules Romain all fell victim to their secretary's charm.

A book not to be cast aside lightly, as Mrs. Parker said.

Something I didn't know, though - that kangaroo mascot has a name. She's "Gertrude," and she is "your guarantee of the best in reading."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Fair warning

garden snips, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

When we got back from the urgent care Monday night, I found my snips lying next to the kitchen sink, where I'd left them after I cut my finger. They look like they're laughing at me.

And upon closer inspection, that dot that looks like a nostril?

ouch, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Yes, gross.

He's four

he's four, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Just beginning to stomp his foot and give me the mad face and say "No!" sometimes.
Has known all his letters for two years.
Colors inside the lines.
Sings and tells stories incessantly.
Wants to have 5 babies when he grows up: named Taco, Shargay, Zake, Maury, and John Hawklen.
Good hugger.

Until this past Sunday, he was three.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Remain calm! All is well!

The old corpus is sustaining a bit of abuse these days. "Old" being the key word. 41 years I've been polluting and marking up this body, and stuff is crapping out on it.

Couple of weeks ago I spent an afternoon sprucing up the library at the Big Man's school, including spray-painting the book carts. They were the color of dried putty when I started, a shade I call "soul-crushing beige," and I painted em black. All I had. And just doing that wrecked my knees for a week. I was forced to admit that a) I have bursitis and b) it was acting up. Plus, pushing the button on 4 cans of paint seems to have injured the nerves in the tips of both my index fingers. They still feel tingly and numb.

Next, I booked appointments at the good eye doctors and the audiologist. Can't fucking hear. Too much time spent directly in front of the stage. I always stand stage left, and when they finally check my hearing I won't be surprised if it's worse on that side. The eye doctor needed to check my nascent cataract (cataract?! fuck!), but while I was there agreed that I need bifocals. Dilated me all to hell. (Dilated my eyes. It's been 4 years since I was last in labor, but that coulda sounded funny - what was your eye doctor doing down THERE?!)

My eyes are supposed to be blue, not black.

Speaking of labor, Big Man's delivery was very hard. After he was born, my left leg didn't work at all for a few days. I didn't have a whole lot of follow-up with the neurologist because ten days after Big Man was born, travel within NYC became difficult and doctors got kind of inaccessible. It got back to normal on its own, but just lately I've been noticing my left leg tripping me up. That foot just doesn't follow through on a step as fast as the other one.

Last spring, I was using a mandoline to slice potatoes. Sliced the side of the tip of my pinkie off to boot. Went to the urgent care and they gave me a tetanus shot and got the bleeding stopped. That finger is all slanty now.

And yesterday, I was using garden snips to deadhead spent flowers. Big Man was picking peas for dinner and asked me a question. I turned my head to answer him and snipped off the side of the tip of my ring finger. Took three different clotting attempts this time to get the bleeding stopped.

So if you've been keeping score, I'm down to 6 fingers operating at full capacity. I'm typing this one-handed, but not to fret - because I've spent so much time as a software trainer, I am pretty speedy one-handed. Also I can type upside down, but there's not much call for that.

Here is a picture of the wastebasket at the urgent care overflowing with all the bloody crap despoiled by my goddamn ring finger.

Bursitis. Cataract. Hearing loss. Bifocals. Lazy foot. Insensate fingertips. Quite an inventory.

Monday, June 04, 2007

If you said jump in the river I would

sci fi, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

From the midnight sun where the hot springs... blow

Token Boy Librarian surveys the Internet today and sighs, "Nothing interesting. Except they're gonna make a movie of Elric."

Elric! Red-eyed, pointy-eared, white-skinned Elric! He of the REEELY big, er, broadsword! and the huge hair! and he's, like 428th Emperor of BøyswhöreadElric Névergëtląid! And the guy who writes him is apparently honestly named Michael Moorcock.

Elric has inspired MORE fan art than perhaps even Dawnstar (speaking of tokenism) (although not as many people seem to have named their pets after him). Please for me click these few things:

I never read Elric. I had a boyfriend once who read Elric, a C++ programmer from New Jersey who also liked King Crimson and called his goals list (i.e. lose 30 pounds, learn Chinese, get a cat) "Apotheosis".

Good luck with that!

Friday, June 01, 2007

If I'd had the chance, I'd like to think that's what I'd've called him too

Other people's dreams are, with very few exceptions, much superior to my own. My dreams mostly involve my teeth falling out or being late for an exam in a class that I had forgotten to drop. Really. Banal to the point of banality.

Luckily, I can sometimes enjoy the dreams of others, including this totally flattering one that a co-worker had. It was shortly before the first time she was going to be in charge at the library, and in her dream, she was at work and faced with an obstreperous male patron. Happens. But as she (in her dream) wondered aloud what to do, I calmly said, "We have to tie him up!" and handed her the other end of the telephone cord.

And my Cousin S, she has some doozies. She and her grandson recently sent Mr. Three a birthday card loaded with stickers. Immediately after mailing it, she had this dream:
"I went to my doctor's office and he broke the news to me that the stickers had LSD on them. I began screaming, 'My little cousin! My little cousin!' I sat down immediately at the M.D.'s desk and wrote you a note to warn you. The doctor was wearing a bathing suit with shoes, but no socks."

Now that is a dream. Drugs! Surrealism!

I enjoyed it so much she sent me another:

"I won't go into the entire dream because it is of no real interest to anyone except me, BUT... I dreamed I was chasing [her husband] who was going off to church and leaving me in a big pile of shit (housework, kid, etc.) Also, all these people kept arriving at the house telling me that [husband] had told them that I would help them and take care of them. Some of them said that he had told them that it would be fine for them to move in and those people were carrying suitcases.

I ran after him into the church sanctuary (denomination unknown) where he promptly dematerialized. I was practically foaming at the mouth and I bumped into a very waxy looking Jerry Falwell. I said, 'You fat fuck! I thought you were dead!'"

By the way, see those chickens up there? Vanished. Locked-room mystery. They were securely inside their roofed run, which is made of chicken wire that we staple-gunned on all sides to the posts of our deck stairs and buried 4" into the ground at the bottom, weighed down with large stones for good measure. Just a few feathers are left. Somebody dream about this and tell me what happened.

All that honey wants is someone to watch Twin Peaks with

Two bad mad dangerous pustulent nightmare funny things I must point you to:

Anonymous Coworker is totally proud that you can Google "I pleasure myself when kittens are killed" and come up with his blog right off the bat. See other sick search terms here.

Something Awful posts some awful things done to children's book covers. Things I have only done in my head. Link via Fuse #8.

The picture is from our local bakery. I didn't have my camera the day that the quote was Proverbs 4:24 - "Put away perversion from your mouth. Put corrupt lips far from you." I love that one.