Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's a bitch convincing people to like you

1. Maybe I can make a laptop bag out of my husband's old ties. Might force him to retire some.

2. Kelly Link's new book of short stories, Pretty Monsters, is offhand and horrific at the same time. Is that good? Well, if you've ever been scared out of your wits and yet laughing at the same time - and you liked it - you'll like this. It's like drinking pure vinegar.

3. What the hell is it with crows? They fly like the dryer broke and they're lugging their wet laundry to Mom's house on the bus.

4. There's a new beautiful gift book out, The Incredible Mr. Don Knotts, by Stephen Cox and Kevin Marhanka. Don Knotts. If Don Knotts can have a coffee table book, sure I can get my lavishly illustrated gift book about the Olsen twins greenlighted. (Whoops! Too late! Bitches beat me to it! (And OH MY GOD it's boring.))

Oh, now I should not be mean. Everyone deserves a fan base at some point in their life. For example, I used to know this woman who moved to New York to break into comedy. She did a lot of stand-up, some writing, some improv. But what she really wanted to do was sketch comedy. She had memorized the oeuvre of Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence. She once spotted Tim Conway across a room and made a gigantic ass of herself gushing all over him.

And that girl grew up to be Tina Fey. No, no, I'm just kidding. I don't know what Brook's up to.

5. My boys just got their school pictures. This one, the second grader, insisted on wearing his navy blue blazer and a TIE on picture day. His picture looks, I swear to god, like Ron Burgundy, except with dimples instead of a mustache. And smiling.

6. Tonight is my 25-year High School reunion. Am I going? I'm going. I'm a part-time librarian in Baltimore. I have two small boys and pink hair. I have nothing to prove, and if it sucks we'll leave.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Found a bug

I wrote some porn one time, when I was in high school. Why? Oh, that's kind of a dumb story. Wait, but... I have a blog. What the hell else is this thing for?

Goes like this: one of my best friends in high school was a boy named [Jim]. One morning, as we walked to school, Jim confessed to me that he thought he might be gay. So I bought him four pornographic novels.

Wait, you did what? No, shut up, let me tell it. I bought these novels, or, got someone older to - keep in mind we lived in the suburbs and this was 1982 - because... I thought Jimmy needed more information on the subject, and I wanted to help. It took a fair bit of conniving on my part.

And, well, of course, Jimmy didn't need more information: I didn't realize, then, that when a boy says "I think I might be gay," that doesn't mean he has had a disturbing dream about Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. No, "I think I might be gay," usually means "I have recently had some of that-there homosexual sex, and I really really liked it."

Well, what did I know? My understanding of homosexuality was limited to Victor/Victoria, and while Jim could do an excellent Julie Andrews imitation, I was rational enough not to equate that... with... wait. I may have been wrong about that. Too. What is more, the only porn I'd ever seen was the occasional Playboy in my dad's briefcase when he came home from a business trip.

But most importantly, I was utterly, utterly without experience myself. A purer eleventh-grade virgin there never has been. I'd never even been on a date, and while I was concerned about what that said about me, Social Pariah-wise, I wasn't otherwise all that interested.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I believe I mail-ordered these books (which would explain why my parents got the International Male catalog for so many years). And when they came, I read them, and I was appalled. Outraged; betrayed. THE WRITING WAS JUST SO AWFUL!

Yep, THAT's what bothered me about my first exposure to material that was intentionally sexual in nature. The fact that there was no editorial hand in evidence.

And of course Jimmy thought they were boring, and I didn't understand anything, so I was like, "I KNOW! They're terrible!" So, as night follows day - and this is a common, common phenomenon in my life, and an impulse almost never to be trusted - my next sentence was, "Hell, I could write better than this!"

So for a day or two in College Algebra (sorry, Mr. uhh... the guy who said he didn't believe in South Dakota, oh by the way I am here to tell you South Dakota exists, and it's fuckin COLD) I did nothing but write porn. In pencil, on lined spiral-bound notebook paper. I may even have it somewhere still. There was a stable boy, and a "Washington Monument of passion," and testicles the size (and texture! where on god's earth did I get that?) of overripe plums.

My art teacher, who was patiently waiting for me to graduate so that I would leave town and not get him fired for giving me rides home from school on his motorcycle, got ahold of this thing at one point. Not my fault, believe me - that thing got Xeroxed and sent all over the county. I saw a copy in the boys' locker room of Hereford High School, which is practically Pennsylvania. I was kind of famous for a while there.

Anyway, surveying my parodic penile prose, his comment was, "You know those things don't... get that big..." and when I assured him the whole thing was a joke, he said, "Good. Yeah. Because otherwise... you're going to be pretty disappointed."

Last week I read the last entry in the ten-part graphic novel series Y: The Last Man. It's nominated for a Cybils Award as a Teen Graphic Novel. And it's a good series: funny, well-drawn, with an interesting premise: all the males on Earth have been wiped out (I think there was a virus, I can't recall exactly), except for our hero, Yorick, and his pet monkey. Anyway, the ten books cover five years in which Yorick rambles all over the planet, running from, er, Israelis (among others) and looking for his girlfriend, Beth.

In this last book, Yorick and Beth are finally reunited. Naturally, they immediately get a room and have a whole batch of rowdy sex, which is implied by the disheveled nature of the apartment when we see them next: having sex standing up in the middle of the room. Yorick is entirely supporting Beth - no table, no wall.

They finish their shenanigans, and he puts her down. They stand together talking. She moves a few feet away, and they talk some more. Then they argue. Then he gets his clothes on and storms out. ALL STANDING UP.

I am not being entirely flip when I say that this sequence kind of messed up my ability to read the book. It's not like Yorick is some bodybuilder: he's an emo-looking, slight guy. His knees, his calves... look, nobody has sex standing up and doesn't sit down right afterwards.

Luckily, I cannot draw to save my life, so I'm not going to all of a sudden throw up my hands and go, "THAT'S IT. I can write a better graphic novel than this." Because... seriously, no. Brian K. Vaughn is a terrific graphic novelist.

It's just, if it's being marketed to teens... I don't want them to end up disappointed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I'm coming up so you better get this party started

Ok, I'm reading about a million children's and teen graphic novels for this literary award, and I'm really very pleased about it. I get books in the mail every day. Books that I am, by and large, interested in reading, or at the very least interested in passing along to our school library as soon as they can process new acquisitions.

Have I mentioned that? The City school system - which is not staffed ENTIRELY by gold-bricking careless jerkoffs, I know this only because I've met a whole lot of people who work there - switched library software this summer, and effed it up so completely that here it is November and some libraries in the system STILL cannot access their own data.

None of it - they can't tell you whether they own a certain book, they cannot take inventory, they cannot even check out a book to a student.

This makes me so mad. For YEARS I worked for a software company that provided database software to museums. The WHOLE DEAL about getting a new client was that we had to get their data into our database, install it, and get it up and running over like A WEEKEND. At the very least they wouldn't let the subscription to the old database expire until we could flip the switch on ours.

And the school system let the subscription to the old software expire mid-summer. No software. No database. And by the beginning of the school year, new software? Not in place. Beginning of October? Not in place. Every public school librarian in Baltimore had to either give up loaning children books, or come up with some kludgey spreadsheet for keeping track of who had what. In our school we gave each kid a bookmark, and the kid was responsible for keeping track of the bookmark, and transferring it when they returned one book and took out another.

That is an unfair barrier. It is a hindrance to pleasure reading, to research, to doing homework. AND it was completely AVOIDABLE.


In addition, no library in the system has added any new books this school year. Our school scraped up four grand for me to pick out new books for the library, but we shouldn't place the order until the software's up. Plus, the donated books just keep pouring in - brand-new copies of books these kids want to read; books we got through a grant; and my books. I counted last night, and I have almost 80 new review copies of terrific books to pass along to the school. They're gonna have the best graphic novel collection in town - if the software starts working before the pages yellow.

And that's what I meant to write about. There are some things I want to say about some of these books - some mean things, some inappropriate things, and that, after all, is what Your Neighborhood Librarian is all about... but I got sidetracked by being really pissed, so the next post is going to be about why the hell someone would try to make The Merchant of Venice a graphic novel and whether a man can have sex standing up in the middle of a room and then stand around talking for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

America: Not as dumb as she looks, for once

(Not these people, of course - their choice of apparel makes them look very smart indeed!)

We watched the returns with a big crowd from our neighborhood at our friends' house up the street last night. Oh, I was so happy to be among friends. We were nervous, tense, jubilant, teary, and, in the end, many of us were REALLY drunk.

Just like at the polls, it was a historically huge turnout. Dozens of adults, and dozens of kids bombing around like pinballs. As I looked at the pictures later, I noticed just how heterogeneous a group it was: vegetarians and meat-eaters, home-schoolers, teetotalers, musicians, bureaucrats, educators, our mailman, and French people. We were diverse in terms of religion, race, age, country of origin, ancestry, height, gender, orientation, hair color, education, taste in music, and opinion on vaccinations. There were jocks and there were geeks, and at least two or three people who identify as both.

But we had a couple things in common: we had all voted, and we'd all voted for Obama - even those of us who, because this is Maryland and the Democrats will always safely win here, often throw our vote to the Independent or the Green candidate. Couldn't do it this time. And when John McCain made his concession speech, we all agreed that it was the classiest speech he's made this entire campaign. THAT's the guy I've always respected, no matter what side of the aisle he was on.

And when the long-awaited, almost unbelievable moment came, and Barack Obama stepped out on the stage with his family, through our tears of joy, we all shared our host's appalled incredulity when he blurted, "WHAT is that DRESS?"

Happy new day, America! You, like Michelle Obama, are beautiful - don't let your stylist push you around.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

One 'man, one vote -- step into the future

I just logged onto Flickr, and this is what I saw:

Just about everyone has posted their version of voter pride.

Mb shows off her free cup of coffee from Starbucks.

Dan Goodsell's popular character Mr. Toast voted.

The whole thing is making Manisha nervous and hungry. God, I know how she's feeling. I have found my way to the Halloween candy I don't know how many times today, and usually I have no interest in that crap.

Heidi out in Ohio is hopefully beating her neighbors until they all promise to vote Democrat.

Leslie rocked the vote - she votes at the church two doors down from me and I could have sworn I heard power chords from down there at one point this morning.

Jessamyn, well-known sexy librarian (also smart) made her allegiance known.

The craftiest woman in Baltimore voted.

And Julie from work, also a sexy librarian, praises democracy.

Lauren from Hampden showed off her sticker.

Inspired me:

I voted

The kids all wanted Sharpie tattoos today. After I gave Friend the Girl a spider and drew Yoda on Juicy Boy's stomach, put a huge Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt on Mao's arm and a rather nice witch on Zhou's, I treated myself to my own Sharpie tattoo.

I am counting the hours until Barack o'clock on pins and needles. I cried coming out of the polling place, and I know I'm going to be a wreck later - either way. Deep breath.

Soundtrack: Johnny Clegg and Savuka, One (hu)man, one vote

Both sides were against me since the day I was born


Will my adoration for Sherman Alexie never end? I love him "tantalizing" Colbert with "skins."

Monday, November 03, 2008

I've seen how you sparkle / when fall nips the air

football, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Geahh! What a weekend! Halloween is a battlefield, ask anyone.

Among other things:

Big Man Mao lost a tooth (a baby tooth) due to string-related complications arising from participation in The Gummy Relay at school on Friday.

The gummy worm relay

(Not Mao - our pal WonderGirl)

Let me recommend it - if kid has a loose tooth, get kid to chew a gummy worm off a string as fast as he can. Tooth will come out quickly thereafter, and with no trauma at all.

But DON'T get all drinky that night, not if your kids sleep in bunk beds. Yes, I remembered to put the Tooth Fairy's reward - a cool t-shirt - under the pillow, but the next morning, Bob looked up to see Zhou - not Mao - coming into the kitchen wearing the new shirt. "Look what I found under my pillow!" he crows, beaming. Sensing that I somehow blew the Tooth Fairy transaction, Bob scurried upstairs, only to overhear Mao whimpering that the Fairy forgot him as he crawled into bed with me for another half-hour of shut-eye. "Huhh?!" I slur, "No, no honey, sure she came, she... snurrrr"

So Bob surreptitiously retrieved a novelty football from our stash of once and future birthday presents and put it under the boy's pillow, so when he woke up for the second time and went back to his room to get dressed - Avast! there was Tooth Fairy booty in its rightful place: under HIS pillow, on HIS bed.

The trick-or-treating this year was the best so far. Beautiful warm weather, and children who are finally old enough to run up and down the street without me panicking every time I lose sight of one (or both) of them.

Zhou's Frankenstein costume was both recognizable, due to the green face paint,

Frankenstein makeup and hair

and functional - unlike, for example, the year he went as a dump truck.

Mr. Three and Bob the Builder, Halloween 2005

Hard to climb porch stairs in that thing.

Mao's alien outfit was a little harder to puzzle. He wore his cousin Stretch's old spider top, and Neighbor Girl's starry stretch pants, and Nature Girl's silver boots, but his snazzy silver Captain Smekday cape

An alien with a third eye

went AWOL somewhere between the Gummy Relay and home, so we had to punt a little. How did we do that, you may ask? Well... I drew a red lightning bolt on his face and he was Ziggy Stardust.

Did it make him look more like an alien? Yeah ok no. But he was happy, and it was gorgeous and unbelievably cool, and you'd think so too if my battery hadn't run out and I could have taken a picture.

In addition, there were parties - that's right, parties plural! With GAMES! "Sneak into the graveyard" was a good game: picture about a dozen women in their, ummm... thirties (let's say), most dressed as some variety of witch, crawling up and over and through a chain-link fence, trying to keep their tights, wigs, capes, frizzy hair, hats, and/or lit cigarettes from getting stuck in the chain-link. That was pretty fun. I only got a little hole in my tights and two funny lines of bruises all up and down my right leg. Back when I used to climb buildings routinely, I used to kind of love Mondays, surveying my body's minor dings and dents and correlating them with the weekend's activity.

(At the other party there was Charades. Let us not speak of it.)

But speaking of dings and dents, you should see the ones on the minivan! Here you go:

Bambi fucked up our car

Woo hoo, right?! Deer season started on Saturday, and sure enough, long about 1am Sunday, we bagged us a big one! Stupid damn deer I swear accelerated INTO us as we were driving on Route 231 in rural Virginia. Probably broke its neck, and I know there's a couple thousand dollars worth of damage to the van. Poor dumb deer.

And why were we in Virginia? Because, in a spectacular alignment of stars and schedules, we found it possible to bust out of Baltimore after I worked on Saturday, barrel down the highway for a few hours, and get to, yes, a THIRD Halloween party, this one with music,


and John and Yoko:

The Ballad of John and Yoko

Not to mention the Tooth Fairy,

Joe the Tooth Fairy

jeez, where was that guy when we needed him?!

The next day there was a little nature appreciation,

boy in fall

a little football,

get him!

and back to Baltimore by bedtime.


Dear teachers,
Please excuse my kids from still having a little Halloween makeup around their ears. We have been having too much fun to bathe them thoroughly.
oh and PS if I am late picking them up it is because the car is all jacked up, 'cause of the damn deer.

Your Neighborhood Librarian