Might as well comment...

Usually Terry Teachout is right on the money about modern life in America. Then I read his recent post about obsolete items - I'm still shaking my head at this one. Despite coming from Smalltown USA, Terry seems to have moved past what most Americans are doing and headed into a life that only the rich, indolent and technohungry can enjoy. My advice? Slow down.

Here are some of the things he wrote:
Toothpaste in tubes. I bought my last tube three years ago. Now my toothpaste comes out of a squeeze bottle.

The brand I use doesn't come in a squeeze bottle, and I see a lot of tubes on the shelves, perhaps he shops at a different store than I?

Newspapers and magazines on paper. I can’t remember the last time I read one (except for a couple of the magazines for which I write). If I can’t read it on line, I don’t read it.

Don't get me wrong, I like the ease of finding things on-line but reading a newspaper or magazine? No thanks. Even long blog posts get printed out (and Terry, see your optometrist - the damage you're doing to your eyes staring at the screen reading will buy him a nice vacation house or two).

Going to the post office to mail packages. I use FedEx and UPS almost exclusively.

I guess published authors don't have to worry about expenses. I do, and USPS is as fast, and cheaper then either of the above!

Stationery. …but since I rarely write personal letters on paper, it follows that I rarely address envelopes. Nor do I have fancy stationery with an elegant-looking letterhead. I used to, but that was three addresses ago. When I feel the occasional need to write a letter by hand, I use cards decorated with reproductions of paintings I like (I favor the Morandi notecards sold by the Phillips Collection).

I have several pen-pals. Yep, pen-pals. I have a beautiful Cross fountain pen and stationary, as well as notecards from all over. The joy I feel when I open my mailbox to find more than just junk mail and bills, but an actual letter from someone that took the time to write is unbelievable. As I try to unbustle my life, I find that sitting down and actually writing about things, sharing my life one-on-one with people I care about helps. E-mail's great, but the anticipation and the process are not.

Going to the library. I don’t even have a library card anymore. If I really need a book I don’t own, I order a cheap used copy through amazon.com.

Without going into all the reasons why you shouldn't use Amazon (Powells is a much better choice - but if you must get it immediately, use B&N), let me just say that libraries are so much more than just places with books on the shelves. NYPL, for example, has digital collections and a host of wonderful databases that might be good for Terry's research. Not to mention, not every book is available for purchase because it's out of print - but I'll bet you can find it in a library.

Dinner parties. I didn’t go to more than two or three last year.

Well, I think that's a lack in friends, not because it's becoming obsolete. No, people don't entertain the way they used to, but dining in still has a special quality that dining out doesn't. Again, it's part of that unbustling thing: taking the time to cook, talking with friends as you're cooking and serving, the care that goes into the whole process and the satisfaction of knowing that you've given your friends something they can't get at their favorite restaurant is, as the commercial says, priceless.

Some of the things Terry hasn't used have ridden off into that great sunset, and that's ok. But it seems a little hasty to write off everything on his list. I haven't, and I hope you haven't either.

Notable Quotes

A propos of the Oscars:

I'm gonna be a celebrity,
that means somebody everyone knows.
"Roxie", John Kander


Links Galore


Coco's meme

According to Coco, you should copy the list of 15 authors below. Remove the authors that are not on your bookshelves and replace each of them with an author that can be found within your stacks. Bold any REPLACED author. Pass it on and enjoy :-)

1. Iain Pears
2. John Irving
3. A.S. Byatt
4. L. Frank Baum
5. Elizabeth George
6. Nick Bantock
7. Ruth Rendell
8. Anne Tyler
9. Margaret Atwood
10. James Como
11. Agatha Christie
12. Marion Zimmer Bradley
13. Ann Patchett
14. Azar Nafisi
15. Donna Tartt

Books that *won't* be on my To Buy list

Cookie Sutra, Edward Jaye (Workman, April) Kama Sutra positions as demonstrated by a 'freshly baked gingerbread couple.' I'll never be able to look at a gingerbread cookie again.

Comma Sutra: Position Yourself for Success with Good Grammar, Laurie Rozakis (Adams Media, May)

(þ: So Many Books)


Curly's dead

While many in the blogosphere are mourning the suicide of Hunter S. Thompson, some of us are mourning the death of John Raitt. My father saw him in several shows and never ceased reminding us of his voice and personality on the stage.

Notable Quotes

There are no *ordinary* people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisation - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory


The Gates

As I head off to quieter realms, let me leave you with some views of the New York City art installation, The Gates. It it art? You decide. (þ: Alice)


Taking Time

Today starts our February Break. It's one of the nice things about working in a school -- having the time to get reacquainted with the sun (something I missed a lot of growing up in upstate New York), the time to enjoy life now that the Holiday Hangover and midterms have passed.

One of the things I need to do during this time is think about my future. After twenty-one years in New York City, I'm looking for a way out. Don't get me wrong: I love the City, it's the city I hate. The lack of grass under my feet as I get the mail, the lack of stars over my head at night, the lack of fresh air, the lack of crickets as my lullaby have all gotten to me. I want to be a country girl again. I want to be "unbustled". It's hard to do that in the city, where the very fact that it's a city makes one bustle through the day.

I'm also thinking about more ways to unplug. Library Web Chic wrote about the dangers of being Skyped and IM'd by strangers, and I've been thinking more and more about taking the time to just turn all those electronic gadgets that connect us to everyone off. Just because I have a cell phone doesn't mean that I have to have it on all day, does it? If that's true, then I also don't need to check my e-mail every day... or the various websites and blogs I enjoy. It will all be there when I feel the need to check back in.

So I'm going to try to spend this week unbustled and unplugged in. I don't plan to go cold turkey, though. Small steps, right?

Links Galore


It made me think

Thursday I went to see Sniper (it's closed now, so you won't be able to experience this play yourself). The focus of the play is on "an honors student in a small New York town took a deer rifle to his school and killed neighbors and friends. Very loosely based upon this 1975 rampage, Sniper explores what has become an American phenomenon." Now, I grew up in upstate NY and I vaguely remember the incident.

What struck me about this play is that the question "why" kept being asked, and the answer wasn't easy. There was no Aryan Nation website that he went to, no "Twinkie defense" attempted - this was just a kid who snapped. He didn't want to place blame on his parents, his church, his friends - he just snapped and didn't necessarily know why he'd done this horrific act. It was much like the woman in Texas who "didn't like Mondays."

It was a confusing time. He was at a confusing age. I can understand the not knowing fully "why" because I've had those urges at times, without knowing why. I'm glad that the play didn't seek to present it as a tidy "here's why and how and don't you feel better about it all" package, because life isn't like that.

Next up on my theater going schedule: Gorilla Man. I'll be it makes me think, too.

UPDATE: Talk about wanting easy answers - apparently the sniper in the Hudson Valley Mall incident was "inspired" by Columbine. I'll bet a whole lot more was going on than just that but no one will care because now we "know".

Google Hype

I have a gmail account (ok, I have several) and I use Blogger. But, unlike the majority of my peers and colleagues and friends and acquaintences and - let's face it - the rest of the world, I don't use Google's search engine. I prefer Mamma and A9. Vivisimo is fun, too. I get better results with them and I'm not wasting my time. Just because you're well known doesn't mean you work well (if you want to take that as a reference to MS, go right ahead).

Then, last month, Google decided to up the ante by digitizing books. Lots of hype, lots of excitement: why would anyone need a library again? It'll all be on-line, right? Wrong. Copyright will limit the books to those published pre-1923 and some published after that date. It will be even more necessary to learn to weed the wheat from the chaff in terms of research: newer may not be better, but then, it very well might be. And what about Project Gutenberg?

As this month's Library Journal asks in Google Out of Print: "Will [Google] be satisfied with context-sensitive ad placements next to displayed books, with ads for antidepression medication shown next to Hamlet's soliloquy?" I doubt it. You shouldn't be, either, but for different reasons.

You should want a search engine that brings you relevant results. Like Amazon's "search inside the book" feature, you're going to lose with this one - context will be lost, reliability will be lost. And, most important, time - your time - will be lost.


Maybe I should switch jobs

Sadly, working in a school library means that I don't ever hear these! Dispatches from a Public Librarian


TMI, perhaps?

Shoemakes divide feet into three broad categories, Hlavacek said: Egyptian feet, in which the big toe is the longest; Greek feet, which have a long second toe; and cubic feet, with toes of equal length.
"Sole Survivor", Burkhard Bilger (The New Yorker, Feb 14/21 2005)
A very close friend of mine thinks I've got odd feet and mentions this fairly often. How nice to know that mine are "Greek" and are not that unusual. Perhaps he just needs to travel more.

Notable Quotes

If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how will anyone know they're remarkable?

Jon McGregor

If life were only moments,
Even now and then a bad one,
But if life were only moments,
Then you'd never know you'd had one.

Stephen Sondheim


Links Galore

  • While you wait for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince why not find out which mix of the houses you are? I'm Slytherclaw!: By nature you are rational and a realist. Some people may call you cynical and elitist but this doesn't matter to you. You don't depend on other people's opinions to determine how you live your life. You are generally cautious and prefer to weigh the consequences before you act. In conflicts you prefer to remain neutral and aloof. You value intelligence and you are a natural diplomat, you can convince people to do what you want them to do. Your weakness is that you sometimes think more with your head than with your heart and it leads to isolation. With the intelligence of a Ravenclaw and the subtlety of a Slytherin you will be sure to achieve all your goals!"
    (þ: Alice)
  • Check out the The Surrealist Compliment Generator. (p: Karmon)
  • Are you confused by "phishing"? Don't know what KISS is? You need the Information Security Glossary (þ: Neat New)
  • And, for this week's musical time waster, I recommend BandToBand.com. How does it take to get from the Allman Brothers to P-Funk? (10 steps)
  • Finally, see how much you know about the First Amendment. (þ: Doug)


What to do?

Aravis wrote recently about being given books to read by well-meaning friends. I, too, am reading a book that a friend recommended (taking a break from the new YA foothill).

This is a real conundrum for readers: what do you do when a friend "insists" that you read their latest fave (or a book that they think you'll really respond to)? I've been lucky, in that most of my friends that recommend are those that share my tastes. Sometimes, as in the case of Justine (Durrell, not de Sade!), I've had to struggle for a little, but then the beauty of the work has started to work it's magic and I've gulped the book down. But most of the time there's been no struggle - it's been pure pleasure from page one to the unfortunate ending page.

The books that people say I'll respond to, that I'll see myself (or family/friends in) are more problematic. A close family member told me that they saw our family in The Prince of Tides. To this day I don't see it, and I'm a little scared to find out exactly what was meant by that comment!

Choosing books wisely is important. Equally important is choosing your book buddies.



Confirmation courtesy of TMFTML, we're doomed. Just doomed.

Notable Quotes

I'm giving up for Lent.
colleague at work



Girl Scouts, beware.

Isn't the point to encourage reading?

The Reading Experience mentions yet another group that thinks it can come up with a "better" list of classics our students should read (which they're calling "higher quality literature assignments"). The Little Professor responds, asking some of the questions I asked:
  • Has anyone associated with this group ever tried to teach pre-twentieth century literature to pre-college students--or, for that matter, to college students?
  • Has anyone associated with this group actually paid attention to the contents of the books on their list?
Looking at the 6th grade and up list is just as interesting. I doubt very many of the 6th graders I know would respond well to Gulliver’s Travels, Westward Ho! or Kon Tiki. The language/style and length alone will keep them away (yes, Harry Potter's long, but it's written in "modern" language - there's no struggle for them to understand it).

Of course, the list that they're trying to replace is interesting. Any district that thinks that Princess Diaries is appropriate for 10th grade just isn't thinking!



Both Tom Watson and A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago try to liveblog the halftime show. ALOTFMA writes 8:31: No surprise that the big closer is "Hey Jude," but can someone explain what genius decided that it would be a good idea to have cards held up that made the stands spell out "Na Na Na?

Exactly how stupid did the producers think the audience was?!

What can I say?

It's good to be a Bostonian these days.


Quiet, but hectic weekend

I haven't written much this past week except about the whole Hamilton mess... instead I've been reading and working on other things. Sad, but true. I have another life that occasionally requires upkeep.

This weekend is being spent doing birthday-related activities, including playing what my friend describes as "silly games" at tonight's party. Then I return home to watch the Stupid Bowl (ok, I'll be watching the ads and semi-paying attention to the Pats stomping Philly).

Don't expect much until Monday/Tuesday. Have a good weekend, ya'll.

Links Galore

  • It's winter, it's gloomy out and you're rarin' to put new stuff on your iPod. Schoolhouse Rock offers playlists with a theme ("New England v. Michigan" and "Disability Awareness Week" are two examples) and the djs give links to further information! Then there's the 2004 PoOPlist, where pompous and opinionated people list what they thought worth listening to last year. It's never too late to catch up.
  • Banterist is doing his best to help language evolve with The Starbucks Glossary.
  • The weather outside is frightful and you're thinking it's time to get away to somewhere warm and fun. Disneyland: 50 Years of Souvenirs shows you what you've missed if you haven't been to the original. (þ: Neat New)
  • Are you an Anglophile when it comes to telly and cinema? If so, screenonline is the place for you. (þ: Neat New)
  • When you get stuck in an airport due to delays, you need to know how to sleep in an airport. What a great resource!


The price of free speech

Unrest on Campus Over Speaker Who Sees U.S. Role in 9/11

Hamilton College has been courting controversy recently, inviting Ward Churchill to speak at a panel. Yes, his views are problematic and disturbing - similar to those of Amiri Baraka. But does that mean we should ignore these views?


In a free society, people have the right to their misguided opinions. Hamilton is taking the responsible steps of widening the conversation, allowing conflicting opinions to be heard and not cancelling Churchill's appearance. They've even moved it to a larger venue to allow protest and commentary to take place safely. All this despite the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page call for boycotting the $175MM capital campaign Hamilton has just kicked off.

Update: Hamilton caved. So much for standing on principle when $$ is at stake.

Update: The above was written before I learned that Hamilton received several threats, including one from that mentioned bringing a gun to the event. As President Stewart said, "We have done our best to protect what we hold most dear, the right to speak, think and study freely. But there is a higher responsibility that this institution carries, and that is the safety and security of our students, faculty, staff, and the community in which we live. Credible threats of violence have been directed at the College and members of the panel. These threats have been turned over to the police. Based on the information available, I have made the decision to cancel this event in the interest of protecting those at risk."

Churchill's statements aren't doing much to calm the waters, either. His points are good, but very poorly expressed. Still, threatening to not support the College is one thing (although it smacks of censorship) - threatening violence is intolerable. We should all be ashamed that the intolerance these remarks engendered led someone to believe that killing was an appropriate response. Pundits and journalists need to act ethically and stress that violence of any sort is not the way to combat ideas.

Update: Henry, from Crooked Timber mentions The Dragons of Expectation, which sounds similar to Churchill's remarks.


"Free" speech

The copyright wars are heating up again: Bookforum has a nice article about fair use, and Free Range Librarian has links to the latest on the legal front, the Orphan Works project.