28.12.07

Things I hate about books

I just finished The Art of Political Murder, about the 1998 assassination of Guatemala's Bishop Gerardi. This could have been a fascinating read, but instead it dragged in places.

What? A murder book that drags? Particularly a "true life" murder? Yes. You see, the idea of good editing seems to have been lost somewhere in the past few decades. This book contained a dramatis personae, but the author felt compelled to reintroduce or explain who the "characters" were at least once per chapter. Had this been edited, the flow would have been smoother and it would have been a better book (as a matter of fact, I started to look for the reintroduction each new chapter!). I know that the author has been a writer for magazines like Harpers and New Yorker, and it occurred to me that this was a reporting technique, as readers need that when a story is chopped up over a period of days, or weeks. But in a book? And Goldman is also a novelist, so someone should have pointed out this flaw before now.

I read this as an ARC, so I can't comment about the final look of the book, but I can bet that the cover will have blurbs. I've mentioned that Thing Two's sister has written a book. She asked me for opinion on some things and I pleaded that there not be blurbs; the readers I've surveyed (ranging in age from 10 - 70+) don't use them and actively dislike them. Her response? It's the booksellers (eg, Amazon, B&N, your local mom&pop) that want them. Readers would much rather have a good synopsis than a blurb.

Even worse than a back jacket filled with meaningless blurbs is a jacket that blurbs previously written works. WHO CARES??? I want to know about this book, even if it's part of a series. I don't care about the earlier books (I would like a listing for the series, in chronological order, to guide my purchasing). Sadly, this is rarely the case. If you can't do this, dear publisher, perhaps the covers could clearly indicate where in the series the book is - the ninth, the seventy-fifth, etc.. I know not every series needs this (Miss Marple springs to mind) but I do know many that don't want to read series out of order (although how one handles series not written in chronological order, like the Narnia or Darkover books, I don't quite know).

I'm on to a clear final book - Exit Music. I know that this one will only explain who people are once, if at all. I know where it fits in the series (I think; the most recent Dalziel/Pascoe wasn't the end despite predictions). Sadly, the blurb is on the front flap, not the back cover. Ah well, two out of three ain't bad.

27.12.07

Sweeeeeeeeennnnyyyyyyyy

Thing One and I saw the movie, and, well... I've seen three Broadway versions, so I'm pretty well versed on the musical. I could have sworn I'd posted a review of the most recent version (which I saw with Thing Two, a Broadway-phobe) but apparently I hadn't. I'd decided at that time that the best combination, for me, would be Michael Cerveris and Angela Lansbury (Patti LuPone had the requisite weirdness, but her voice bothers me at times). Knowing the symbiotic relationship between Depp/Burton/Bonham Carter, I was looking forward to at least a good time, if not a credible version (and let's not start on my Alan Rickman obsession).

So, what did I think? Sondheim's opinion to the contrary, losing "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" was a mistake. So was keeping "Green Finch and Linnet Bird". Those were minor niggles - the bigger ones were editing "A Little Priest" (c'mon! let Sweeney crack a smile and at least one joke) and cutting the Quartet (at least the Judge's part in it should have been retained). Beyond that, the winnowing down of the music was done quite well and most of it was hardly noticed (that boring song the Beadle and Mrs. Lovett sing? who cared????) One other cut that shouldn't have happened: the Beggar Woman approaching Sweeney at the opening, because that sets up the horror of the ending. IMVHO, of course.

Acting/singing-wise, I was thrilled, for the most part. The fact that it's film, not theatre, allows for more subtlety in facial and vocal expression, which worked very well in the this case. 95% of Depp's work was wonderful, but there was a small percentage of time when I noticed his thin voice and the over-reliance on accent (he could out-EastEnd real EastEnders!). Bonham Carter's voice was, I thought, more problematic and thin, particularly when she needed a Big Voice (during "A Little Priest", "Worst Pies in London" or "Not While I'm Around"). Rickman? Very credible singing. And Sasha Baron Cohen was, for the first time since I became aware that he existed, not annoying.

After the film, we tried to figure out where we'd seen Anthony (aka Jamie Campbell Bower) before. Nowhere, apparently. We'll see if this is really a rising star or just a lucky role. And Toby (Ed Sanders) was wonderful. Anyone doing a revival of Oliver? He's your lead. Really.

One last comment/query: Thing One swears that Anthony Stewart Head appears in the crowd scene for Pirelli. IMBD doesn't list him, but perhaps an uncredited cameo? Or was he seeing things?

Don't worry about the blood. It's so cartoonish you won't have nightmares, although you might want to stay away from hamburger and other mystery meats for a while.

26.12.07

Cultural literacy

"Need another Timmy"

"Not the Mamma"

"My cousin's more of a Fester, but [Thing Two] is sort-of like the Xerox guy"


Cam was wondering about shared cultural references (mostly vis-a-vis her students).

Yesterday, Thing One and I watched Dinosaurs - the source of the first two quotes. The second came during a conversation with one of my colleagues (during a discussion about male hair). How many people know all of those references? How many know where Thing One and Thing Two come from (recent parents excluded)?

The thing is, as one of Cam's commenters stated, culture shifts - our points of reference change based on time and experience. For example, I've never been to a Piggly-Wiggly (isn't that a game, not a supermarket?) because of where I grew up. Thing Two didn't grow up in America, so many commercial and tv references are lost on him. Thing One is nine years older than I, so his references are different based on age and the Vietnam era. My mother taught me the Wildroot Creme Oil jingle - am I a throwback (I also can recognize when it's "too late for Herpicide!").

Don't know quite where this post is going, but I do know that I'm not really worrying if my friends, family, colleagues or students can't always follow my allusions. I'm sure we'll find our own Darmok, somehow.

16.12.07

Have yourself a Merry blah blah blah

This seems to have been the Year of Women in Concert - first Marianne Faithful, then Camille and now Aimee Mann. Of the three, Camille was definitely the best.

Why not Ms. Mann? It wasn't because she was sick and croaking - I have infinite respect for her desire to Go On With The Show, and to do her best to recast the songs into keys and vocal ranges she could handle. I repeat: that wasn't the problem.

The problem was that this was her Christmas Show, which was more of a variety thing and less of an actual concert. The "guest list" looked interesting, yet sadly we saw no one that really was up to her level. For example, Ben Lee, a Jew from Oz (we know this because he mentioned it several times), sang some of his songs. Far from the interesting stuff Aimee does, his seemed derivative and bland. Even his call-and-response song was boring. The Channukkah (to add in all the possibilities for that word) Fairy was... horrific? Pointless? And the comedic bits dragged on.

Part of me wants to say that this was all because of the rejiggering of the show to accommodate the illness, and part of me wants to say that it was simply ill-conceived.

I guess if I want to hear her stuff, I'll have to get CDs or wait until she does a real concert. Because when she was on stage, singing (however badly), she was quite good.

ETA: Laryngitis? Poor Aimee!

19.11.07

Notable Quotes

Consumption is political, and politics is a form of consumption.

Judith Levine, Not Buying It

9.11.07

Overheard at MPOW

"Do you have the original text? The rabbit ate your college essay" (teacher to student)

5.11.07

Notable Quotes

I'm learning the art of being content. Doing very little. Slowly.
As Time Goes By, Season Six Episode Two

4.11.07

Remind me again why they're still on?

Contrary to my usual ignoring of SNL, I decided to tape this week's show (the one with Brian Williams and Feist). Why? Because Brian Williams can be funny - I've seen him on "Daily Show" and he's got a sense of humor. Problem? SNL is not funny, and hasn't been for a very, very long time.

The opening skit was fun, giving rise to a chuckle or two. Beyond that? I fast-forwarded through to Feist, pausing occasionally to see the Guest Host in Good Skits. Sigh. No such thing existed. Now, that might be just my opinion (Thing Two is on a multi-year campaign to convince me that fart jokes are always funny and that South Park is the best thing on tv, so what do I know?). But I'm sticking with that, and I won't be watching (or speeding through) again.

I don't know anyone my age, who really remembers the first cast and the days when the show was funny, who watches any more. What puzzles me is why they don't just pull the plug.

2.11.07

Overheard at MPOW

Over the past few months, the following statements have been made by colleagues. Just thought I'd share some Friday Fun:
  • We are professionally obligated to like him
  • Soggy is the new crisp
  • Wouldn't Copraedic Grin be a great name for a blog?
Who says working in a school can't be fun?

27.10.07

Reading Blitz

Those of you that know me know that a few years ago my health started to take a downturn. It's much better now, but still a little shakey - and Reno hasn't helped. Although I thought I was doing ok, the wine and champagne and coffee I had on Thursday led to massive dehydration on Friday. So, instead of killing myself at the conference, I tucked myself into bed and started to read the ARCs I'd picked up on the convention floor.

Wow. I have to say, this was one great group of reads. Usually, it's a crapshoot, but for some reason, these four books really worked for me. Ok, one was weaker than the rest, but still!

What did I read?

Big Fat Manifesto, by Susan Vaught. A HS senior, 300+ lbs, has to deal with not just the Senior Deadlines, but acting in a play and creating a column "Fat Girl" for the school newspaper. Then her Big Beautiful Boyfriend decides to get bariatric surgery, and her world starts to change. I'm not 300+, but I could definitely relate to the whole Fat Girl dilemma.

Pandora Gets Jealous, by Carolyn Hennesy. We all know how much I enjoy the Percy Jackson series. This is definitely in that category, and I predict will be a huge hit with my students. Yours, too.

Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy, by Diane Stanley. A goodish mix of The Mysterious Benedict Society meets The Wright 3, with some Stepford Stuff thrown in. Middle Schoolers will love it.

Life on the Refrigerator Door, by Alice Kuipers. This was the weakest of the four, probably because it seems contrived. The entire book is a series of notes left on the refrigerator door, notes between Claire and her mother. There's a lot going on "off stage" and some of it is pretty heavy, while some (the boyfriend issues) is just alluded to but never really resolved. I'm never sure how I feel about device-driven books (like TTYL), so I'm on the fence about this. I also wasn't happy with the cover design, which looked too much like Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but then, I wasn't happy when five of the MS-level books we got in over the summer clearly had the same girl model on them. I know certain designs and motifs are popular, but it doesn't help a book stand out in the punters minds!

So, there you have it. Current reading in a nutshell. And now, back to the conference!

22.10.07

Notable Quotes

Sometimes I try my own thought experiment, which goes as follows: what if everyone is actually right? Aristotle and Plato; David and Goliath; Hobbes and Locke; Hitler and Gandhi; Tom and Jerry. Could that ever make sense? And then I think about my mother and I think that no, not everyone is right. To paraphrase the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, she wasn't even wrong. Maybe that's where human society is right now, at the beginning of the twenty-first-century: not even wrong.

The End of Mr. Y, Scarlett Thomas

18.10.07

Post-Harry Potter

Ok, I confess I'm not the biggest HP fan. And I'm not a huge fan of fantasy (or "speculative fiction", which is apparently the new, in term). But even I knew better than the three speakers I heard Tuesday.

One claimed that the genre had only exploded with the publication of HP4. That prior to this, the only way fantasy books got published was to have orcs or troll-like creatures on the cover. That everything published was a bad copy of a bad copy of Tolkein, who created the genre. That almost no one was buying/reading Dianne Wynne Jones. That HP put paid to school stories, and that the stuff that's being published now is really good and experimental. That alternative history was coming into its own. That most of the stuff was being written by D&D players/lovers and is now being written by real authors.

WHAT UTTER ROT.

I don't even know where to begin with this... H.G. Wells? Poe? Jules Verne? The Darkover series, sans trolls or orcs? Ditto Discworld (well, trolls, but no orcs)? Guy Gavriel Kay?

No school stories? Charlie Bone, anyone? It's not all good - and it's not all new. Paolini's Inheritance series is so clearly a rehash of both Tolkein and Donaldson. And what about the role of Fatherland in the development of alternative histories?

All this, off the top of my remarkably uninformed, usually uninterested head.

I left feeling depressed about the future of fantasy, post-Harry Potter.

15.10.07

Notable Quotes

I can't remember a time when I didn't know I was adopted. There was never a dramatic "we have something to tell you" talk. My adoption was simply another fact, like having dark hair or no siblings. I knew I was adopted even before I knew what that truly meant. Understanding adoption requires a basic understanding of sex, something I would not have until third grade when Gina Papadakis brought her grandparents' disturbingly dog-eared copy of The Joy of Sex to school.

14.10.07

Well, Duh

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Non-Reader
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz


(รพ: Little Professor)

10.10.07

Forgetting

A while ago I read a book whose premise excited me: a boy, hockey player, gets a concussion and has to quit the team. Being a hockey player was his life, so there was a lot in the book about coming to grips with the change in "who am I" as well as the medical stuff. The problem was, the book wasn't quite right for school. There was "language", but more important, the use of the word Wop. As in, "The wop called me down to dinner." Who was this? The hero's father. Sorry, just couldn't put it on my shelves. (Besides, who uses this language nowadays? No one - particularly no child - I've ever met.)

The idea of a lead with amnesia intrigued me, though. I mean, I work at a school with a pretty heavy emphasis on sports - one of my summer workers can't play basketball because of repeated concussions. So it's an issue to be dealt with.

Then along came Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac. None of my worries about the previous book here. It's relatively well written, with teenage characters that ring pretty true to my ear. So it's going on my Big Book Order, and I can honestly recommend it to my 7-12 students. There was only one problem, and it's something I've noticed in several books I've read recently: the editing isn't what it should be. North Tarrytown became Sleepy Hollow in 1996. This book was written (and set in) 2006. Oops.

9.10.07

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Children's/Young Adult
  • After The Leaves Fall, Nicole Baart A coming-of-age story that in some ways reminded me of Up a Road Slowlyand Plainsong.
  • Flight: A Novel, Sherman Alexie If you haven't discovered Alexie as an author, what are you waiting for?
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling The series ends. None too soon
  • In the Serpent's Coils, Tiffany Trent Eh. Again, nothing so new that I'm going to follow this series
  • Nightmare Academy, Dean Lorey Not a series I'd want to continue - seems to familiar, with little new to recommend it.
  • Oh No, Noah!, Johanna Hurwitz Noah's moved into a new neighborhood: can he make friends? will he survive in a new place (particularly since he's a real klutz and prone to trouble)?
  • Parade of Shadows, Gloria Whelan Interesting historical fiction set in the Levant. Only problem is that there's not enough depth for students that have an interest in the history behind the story
  • The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous, Suzanne Crowley Merilee has Asperger's symptoms and lives a Very Ordered Existence; somehow she learns to let go just a little and live.
  • Where's My Cow?, Terry Pratchett Discworld for the teething set
  • Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr Another formulaic trip down Faerie Lane

Fiction/Literature
  • Not the End of the World, Kate Atkinson An oddly interwoven series of short stories - what's real? what's not? how do the stories relate?
  • The Maytrees: A Novel, Annie Dillard I didn't think it was as great as the reviews did, but it's a nice, quiet read that won't disappoint
  • Winnie and Wolf, A.N. Wilson Historical fiction about the relationship between Winifred Wagner and Adolph Hitler -- not quite a Wagner apology, but close
  • Whit, Iain Banks Banks is one of those great "undiscovered" writers and this book, about life in a religious cult, just screams out for more readers

Sci-fi/Fantasy
  • The Alton Gift, Marion Zimmer Bradley Another Darkover novel, finished after MZB's death, and not a bad one.
  • Childe Morgan, Katherine Kurtz If you like the Deryni series, go for it. But if you're not familiar with the series, this isn't a good place to start.
  • Dragons Of The Highlord Skies: The Lost Chronicles, Margaret Weis Ugh. Ok, so I came in during the series, but the backstory/exposition was just too confusing.

Mystery
  • The Book of Air and Shadows, Michael Gruber Yet another "who was WS" mystery/thriller set in the modern era and in Shakespearan times.
  • The Darkness and the Deep, Aline Templeton The mystery part wasn't easily solved, and the characters were well drawn and interesting. A new series to explore!
  • Saturday's Child, Ray Banks Not anything resembling a cozy, more like Lovejoy meets Rebus
  • Sweet Revenge, Diane Mott Davison My first Goldy Shultz. I like the characters enough to consider reading more, but I'll let them come to me.

Non-Fiction


Total removed from Mt. Bookpile this quarter: 26
New books added to Mt. Bookpile this quarter: 32
Net gain: 6
(not off to a good start on my "read don't add" project!)

8.10.07

Whew!

As I was driving along Friday, listening to a radio station (WFAS, for those that care) I heard a story that made me think "Oh.My.God. - we're so doomed". What was this story? That there was a group, the Happy Endings Foundation, that wanted to ban/burn books with unhappy endings. You know: the majority of books kids have to read in school by authors as diverse as Shakespeare, Lowrey, Frank and Bronte.

I didn't spend too much time on this, sure it was some nutter Out There and that the idea would have few implications for my job and my life.

How right I was: according to Kelly (who got it from others), it was a hoax by the marketing firm charged with promoting A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Can't believe everything you hear on the radio, can you?

7.10.07

Plans for my day off

After an incredibly difficult week, I was thrilled to come home this morning to find Making Money and The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld on my doorstep. Perfect escape reading!

30.9.07

What's in a genre?

Still open for discussion: I like fact-tion... but "creative nonfiction" and "autofiction" work ("autobiographical novels" just sounds pretentious).

19.9.07

Where's the uproar?

A few months ago, LM_NET was all a-flutter over the separation of children's books from the main NYTimes bestseller list. I argued that it was (to quote Martha Stewart) a good thing.

So where's the furor over the new mass-market and trade paperback lists?

Lists are essentially meaningless to anyone except booksellers and authors. Unless you're looking for ideas for "what to read next" (or to give as part of BAFAB niceness), why does it matter how many lists there are?

17.9.07

Notable Quotes

"The page of the book is blank. Why is that?"

"To remind us that our lives are made up of blank sheets waiting to be filled," Lillith replied. "The book of life is open whenever we are born and it closes with our death. We write in it continually, but no matter how much we write, what joy or sorrow we experience or what mistakes we have made, we will always turn the page, and tomorrow's page is always blank."

"Some people might find that prospect daunting," said Brian somberly, looking down at the page, so starkly white and empty.

"I find it filled with hope."
Dragons of the Highlord Skies,
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

10.9.07

Book Buying

Thing Two's sister is writing a book and is now in the "thinking about marketing" phase. By "thinking about", I mean deciding about website presentation and blog linkage and MySpace and Facebook and all that.

One thought was that people like me could talk about and link to the book's site. Here's my query: among all my many readers, how many of you would actually do that? And then stick around that site to comment and link to it from your blogs? My guess is that the younger readers out there might, but that we old fogies won't. I'd also not go to the social networking sites to find out about books, but then that's because I don't go to those sites for anything.

And then there's blurbs. I hate 'em, and my students think they're bad because they're not an abstract (they want to know what the book is about, not read other people's quick take).

Any thoughts?

3.9.07

Notable Quotes

But how do you do that when the whole God thing is in question? If you're Christian, you've got it made. Being Christian, like being white, seems to be the default in this country - it's something you only have to identify if you are other than. Also, you've got the whole holiday thing working in your favor - pretty lights and presents at Christmas, pretty eggs and chocolate at Easter, and any mention of God just complicates things. (How does that go again - Jesus died for my sins and now a bunny brings me candy?)

2.9.07

Meeting Musings

Since the fire, I've had many people send condolences, as if there'd been a death in the family. In a way, there has been. Some of those notes/calls come with the statement that the person is "so glad that you're there to help us rebuild the library so that it's better than ever."

Part of me accepts this on face value, part of me wonders what they'd have said to my predecessor (I suspect the same thing). So there's a little lessening of the ego, rather than a boost.

And then there are those that go through both statements, and (during the course of the conversation) then learn that I'm not - as I apparently appear - in my early 30s, but in my mid 40s. There's a shocked "you're not that old" (or some such comment). And I start to wonder if the "pleasure" of my being the one to lead the rebuilding, the confidence in my has lessened. Perhaps they were so encouraging because I was a Young Turk, and now that it's clear that I'm not...

So, how does this tie into Meeting? As I'm sitting there, in the silence, I realize that it's not about me or them or the school. It's about somehow doing what's right and knowing that it's ok to make mistakes (mistakes anyone, any age could make) and that there is a Friend I can lean on when times get tough and friends I can call on for advice and ideas. To not be so arrogant as to think that I alone have the answers. To know that strength comes from being able to listen to the Silence and hear - or pick out - the best path.

1.9.07

Psychic kicking

The fire at MPOW got me thinking about my life here at home: what if this happened to me? How would I feel if The Collection, Mt. Bookpile and all the other stuff went *poof*?

Clearly, I'd be devastated. I mean, without all those books, who am I? But the rest? There's not so much I'd be that upset about (The Boys, it goes without saying, would just have to be rescued - without them I'm absolutely lost). So then I started to think, what do I really, really need here?

For the past few months, I've done a lot of poking around at various organizing and decluttering websites. In part, it's because I've just bought the townhouse and have an opportunity to Do It Right because I'm not planning to leave for quite some time. In part, it's because of something Terry once said about "living lightly", something he'd been feeling about his life (prior to his psychic kick).

Here's where I've been looking:
So now I'm embarking on a decluttering phase in my life: looking at my clothes, my Stuff, my life. Thinking about what I need, what I can get rid of, and how best to do that. Thing Two would reflexively say "Yard Sale", but that doesn't work when you're considering tossing your calendar from 1975 (yes, I still have that - I was in 7th/8th grade and it's a record/diary of my life then; valuable to me and any biographers, but other than that it's just paper junk of value to any paper-loving insects). Goodwill? Sure, for some things.

Clutter, though, isn't just limited to things. It's also about people. What relationships do I have that are "clutter"? How can (or how should) I manage them? Right now, e-mail works best for me because I'm so drained at work that talking at home seems like too much of an effort. I feel almost as I did when I was going through my MLS program - if you can't understand that right now I'm either "on" at work or I'm turning off at home, and it's not about you it's about preserving me, then it's been real... and it's been fun... etc.. And that's harsh, but it's reality right now. During the 15 months I was in grad school I lost a number of friends. I suspect I'll lose more as the work thing gets more and more difficult. That's ok. Because those people are clutter, and the ones that remain are the true gold in my life.

27.8.07

Notable Quotes

There's a thin line between genius and bottom-barrel stupidness. I hover delicately on a tightrope between the two, wondering where I'll land if I ever fall.

20.8.07

Notable Quotes

And do you know what I think? I think it's all a load of crap. I don't doubt that there is a God, although maybe even that's more habit than true faith, God knows, but I don't think that anybody in any religion has said one damn useful thing about Him or Her or It. You never noticed religions seem to get invented by men? When you ever hear of a cult or sect started by a woman? Hardly ever. Woman have the power of creation in them; men have to fantasise about it, create Creation itself, just to compensate; ovary envy. That's all it is.
Whit, Iain Banks

19.8.07

Lost in Texas

At the Tattoo, they had this tribute to Great War Songs ("Over There" would have qualified if this had been an American Tribute). The Great War Song from the current Gulf War? Is This the Way to Amarillo by Tony Christie.

Never heard of it. Or him.

I do Know the Way to San Jose, though, and I can Point [You] in the Direction of Albuquerque.

Festival City

The main reason I decided that Edinburgh would be a great vacation spot was because of the Festival (and, of course, the Fringe). The first thing to do was choose who to see when. Thing One was given carte blanche, but many of the things he wanted to see were playing after we were there (which doesn't mean we wouldn't have wanted to return, but it would have been very expensive to pop over for an evening's performance - not to mention disruptive of the sleep and work cycles). We settled on one event/evening, and that worked out nicely. The biggest problem for me was that I'm an "early to bedder" and getting back to the hotel room after 11pm was a little difficult on my system. Still, I survived.

Without further ado, the reviews:
  • X-Files Improv. Absolutely the best thing to have started this trip off with. For those not up on their X-Files trivia, Dean Haglund played one of the Lone Gunmen and help "solve" many of the cases. Lucky for Dean, many people aren't that up on the X-Files, and lucky for us he's decided to share what an episode was like. To do this, however, he needed audience participation - the first act (aka "a Mysterious Event occurs") required help with sound effects, the second (aka "the Government Cover-Up") required someone to be the Official Arms, the third (aka "The Battle") required a human puppeteer, and the fourth (aka "Lone Gunman to the Rescue") required a Mulder-stand-in. Throughout all of this, there was interaction with the audience, mostly in the form (when I saw it) of picking on Rupert Murdoch's empire. The end result? Pee-in-your-pants, laugh-till-it-hurts funny. And, given what the previous few days at work had been like, so very, very perfect. Official review (scroll down)

  • The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre. Weirder than it sounds, trust me. We got tickets to the SFSP because a colleague recommended it to me. Had the room not felt like a cross between Dante's tenth level and Union Square Station on a 100o day in August, it might have been a lot funnier. As it was, the Shakespeare bit was very funny and the rest was mildly humorous, but not enough to take my mind off the Extreme Heat and Humidity. Official Review

  • The Edinburgh Military Tattoo We had to queue for this one, in the just-starting-to-drizzle morning hours, but we got tickets to the 10:30pm Saturday show (which includes fireworks). I'd seen the Tattoo before, but Thing One hadn't and I thought it was the sort of experience everyone should have at least once. Just be aware: the seats are tiny and you do need to rent the cushion! After queuing for a while before the performance, we got into the Castle Esplanade and sat down. Mr. Announcer did a good job of greeting the audience, and then the fun began. Highlights: the Russians, the Taiwanese, "Hey Jude" on Steel Drums, and the finale. Best of all? It didn't start raining again until we were on our way out!

  • Camille. Who knew that there'd be two acts with similar names and albums out there? I thought we were seeing this Camille, but in reality it was this one. Not that I regretted it, mind you. Always nice to get exposed to a new performer, and this Camille is certainly a great performer. I can't see her heading to the Big Venues (although I know she's played the Sydney Opera House), but places like Roseland or Irving Plaza would be wonderful for her. She didn't do any new material, but her covers of Brel, Cave and others were done in new ways, so you didn't feel like this was yet another cover artist. After, I got her three CDs and have been thoroughly enjoying them as I drive along. And isn't that really the whole point? To enjoy the music? Official Preview.

  • The Bacchae. The Big Event - Alan Cumming returns to the Scottish Stage. Was it worth it? For the most part, yes. I was struck by the similarities between this story and that of Jesus (both born of God-Father/Human-Mother, both doubted as Gods - or demiGods - by their people initially, both questioned by The Authorities). Thing One thinks I took that a little too far, but hey, it's my interpretation. And the fact that Cumming makes his entrance in an upside-down cross stance, lowered from the ceiling didn't lessen my impressions. According to the program notes, I was supposed to be thinking about issues of gender identity, politics and questions of personal identity - sue me if I didn't. Pentheus and Agave were very well acted, a difficult task given the high powered nature of Cumming's performance. They were more nuanced, while he was more pouty/petulant/angry/fey (all at the same time, usually). There were times when I thought it was a bit too campy, and the singing of his followers started a game of "what pop song would better fit than what they're singing" in my head, but overall the performance was really solid and enjoyable. Except the bit where he's wrecking vengeance by destroying the palace of Thebes and there's a special effect where fire shoots up along the walls of the set. Not the best thing to see at that moment, you know? I know this is going on tour, and perhaps it'll come to the US. If so, I suspect it'd do well at BAM, not at a main Broadway stage. Official Reviews.
There you have it: what we did at night in Edinburgh. Next up - the daytime sights.

15.8.07

Meeting Musings

As is my wont when I'm in a new place, I decided to go to Meeting in Edinburgh. The building is right near the Royal Mile/Castle Mound, and during Festival time it's pretty noisy there. But in Meeting itself, there's the usual calm and quiet.

I was sitting there, centering and trying to hear whatever I was supposed to hear, but my mind kept wandering back to MPOW. Just before I left for vacation, one of our art teachers told me that he thought my attitude of "hey, this is a great opportunity" was brave. I don't quite see it that way, it's more a question of getting on with things because, really, what else could I do?

So the first message was about Amnesty International's booth at the Book Festival, and how the people wandering the Fringe in packs, shoving flyers in our hands to advertise them or their friends, seem to gather bravery because they're part of a group. Yet AI's booth was hosting writers who spoke of true bravery: those that stood apart from the pack, voicing a dangerous opinion or suggesting a dangerous course of action.

There were two other messages in this vein, and finally a woman spoke about a Ukranian psychiatrist she'd known who was imprisoned for refusing to declare someone mentally damaged. Just before his jail term started, he wrote "Free at last, free at last - thank God almighty, I'm free at last". She wondered how horrible things had been that he felt freer going to jail, and how brave he'd been to finally stand up to Them.

It seemed to me that Someone was trying to tell me something - that I was right in suspecting that I wasn't being brave but practical. And it made me think about how brave I've been in the past... and how truly brave I could be in the future.

8.8.07

Time Out

Today I leave for my Big Summer Trip. Yes, given recent events, it couldn't possibly come at a worse time but, there you are.

The impetus for the trip came from Thing One, who decided that I had not taken any real vacation (or done any non-family, non-library travel) in ten years. Yep, ten years. So the gift of a trip was one of my Christmas presents. I thought... I pondered... and I suggested Edinburgh, home of the International Festival and Festival Fringe. I haven't been there in 25 years, and Thing One has never been.

(Completely coincidentally, and I do mean this, the biennial Book Festival is also the weekend we're there)

So, we've lined up tickets to: The Bacchae (with Alan Cumming), X-Files Improv and Camille. If we can get Tattoo tix, we will, and there's other stuff we'll see as the mood takes us.

I suspect a fair bit of sightseeing is also on order, and we're planning to lunch with the Head of Modern Languages at MPOW on Sunday.

No blogging, no checking e-mail, no nothing but travel and fun and forgetting for the next six days. See you when I return!

30.7.07

Notable Quotes

A personal library is the physical version of a bibliography or ‘for further reading’ section in something you’ve published; some books are there because you actually used them, some are there because everyone else thinks they should be there, and some are there because your friends wrote them.
Off the Shelf, Scott McLemee

28.7.07

Late Night Reading

Those that know me know that I'm very much "early to bed, early to rise" (like, 8pm and 4:30am). Last night, though... I was reading a book and didn't want to sleep before I finished it. Now, there was a lonnnng phone call from Thing Two as I was racing to finish, so you'd think I'd have just put it aside for the night and gone to sleep. Nope. I stayed up until 10 finishing it.

What book? Sick Girl by Amy Silverstein. It's an autobiography of what it was like to have a "bad" heart and then a heart transplant at age 25, as well as surviving 17 years with the transplant. According to the blurb, they're comparing this to Girl, Interrupted but... I think it's not quite in the same class. For one thing, there won't be a movie out of it. For another, her fight is so difficult (and she's not afraid to make herself appear unlikable) that it'll hurt seeing it. My biggest problem was when my heart raced and I had to talk myself down from "I have what she had"-itis.

Definitely a pre-order for all ya'll.

26.7.07

Heretical thinking

Today, on LM_NET, a message linked to this post. Suddenly, any numbers of knickers are in a serious twist.

What utter nonsense.

So there's a list of Bestselling Children's Books (since 2000 - so why the outcry just now?). Big deal. There are also lists for:
Hardcover Fiction
Hardcover Nonfiction
Hardcover Advice
Paperback Fiction
Paperback Nonfiction
Paperback Advice

Some see this as ghettoization. Some see it as somehow lessening the importance of children's books - adults won't get to hear about them.

I think the more lists, the merrier. Really: what about a list for mysteries, or sci fi? Think about it: the top seller in one or the other category might never be heard of if everything's subsumed into one list. Just look at what was tops last week (pre-HP):

The Wandmaker's Guidebook, by Ed Masessa.
Fancy Nancy, by Jane O’Connor.
Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy, by Jane O’Connor.
Flotsam, by David Wiesner.
Bad Dog, Marley!, by John Grogan.
Dog, by Matthew Van Fleet.
Pirates Don't Change Diapers, by Melinda Long.
The Lost Files of Nancy Drew, by Carolyn Keene.
Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen.
The Wizard, by Jack Prelutsky.

CHAPTER BOOKS
New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney.
Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr.
Alchemyst, by Michael Scott.
Marley, by John Grogan.
Specials, by Scott Westerfeld.
Warriors Field Guide, by Erin Hunter.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, written and illustrated by Brian Selznick.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.
Summer Ball, by Mike Lupica.

PAPERBACK BOOKS
Sealed with a Diss, by Lisi Harrison.
Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer.
Mugglenet.com's What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7, by Ben Schoen et al.
Eldest, by Christopher Paolini.
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale.
Transformers: The Junior Novel, by S. G. Wilkens.
It's Not Easy Being Mean, by Lisi Harrison.
Unforgettable, by Cecily von Ziegesar.
Disney-Pixar's Ratatouille, by Kitty Richards.
Nancy Drew, by Daniela Burr.

SERIES BOOKS
Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians, by Rick Riordan.
Junie B., First Grader, by Barbara Park.
Ranger's Apprentice, by John Flanagan.
Maximum Ride, by James Patterson.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares
Magic Tree House, by Mary Pope Osborne
Charlie Bone, by Jenny Nimmo
Pendragon
, by D. J. MacHale
Confessions of Georgia Nicholson, by Louise Rennison

So, how many would you have heard of otherwise?



Thought so.

25.7.07

Imponderables

We're checking in all the summer books - over 2,000 of them, on four different purchase orders. That's a lot of books. They need to be checked off on the original order and then the packing slip.

So, one shipment from one PO is 18 boxes. Where, in that 18 boxes, do you think you'd find the packing slip? If you guessed Box 1 or Box 18, you'd be wrong. Box 11. No kidding.

23.7.07

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful

Hate me because I read HP7 in five hours. I'll not comment publicly on what I thought but... let's just say I'm glad I'm moving on to other reads.

13.7.07

Partially misunderstood

In My Biases I say:
Evil does exist. Hitler and Stalin may have been the most recent examples of evil leadership; comparing current politicians to either dilutes the meaning of the word and anesthetizes us to the true thing.
Today, I received a comment that says
Most recent examples? You discount Pol Pot, Mao, Kim (pere et fils), Saddam, Milosevic, etc., etc.? How very forgiving and liberal of you!
BrianFH is correct: these are more recent examples of evil leaders. However, I'm not "forgiving" them in the slightest. I'm talking about our habit of referring to US leaders as "Hitler" or "Nazis" or using it for a quick laugh in popular movies/tv (the Soup Nazi - a character I've never seen but have heard about because of the popular ubiquity of Seinfeld - is an example, here and here are political examples). It cheapens the actual horror of what evil they did (I've never heard anyone in politics or popular culture referred to as "another Pol Pot/Milosevic/Mao" - have you?).

Yes, those men were evil, akin to Hitler and Stalin. And yes, they are/were more current examples. But my statement was about diluting the brand (if you will), not about forgiving their crimes. There is evil in this world still: in Darfur is one egregious example. But let's not call something "the next Darfur" unless we really mean it.

9.7.07

Phone rings... door chimes...

We've got Company. The show, that is. Several weeks ago, I went to see the "new, updated" Company with some friends. I love Sondheim, and I enjoyed John Doyle's recreation of Sweeney Todd (so did Thing Two, which is a major miracle since he's completely, totally, unabashedly anti-Broadway). So... what's not to love?

This production.

First, the book is horrible. Always has been. It's bad lounge patter in between some great songs. The lead-up to "Ladies Who Lunch"? Please. Completely unbelievable. If you've seen the show before (I saw the 1995 Roundabout revival), you don't need to see it again unless it's got a great star or great director: you can live with just hearing the sound recording.

Second, the direction. I totally bought the cast-as-orchestra during Sweeney. It added something to the show, made it very different from the two productions I'd seen before. But here? Nope. Didn't work. It detracted from the songs (particularly when someone is trying to play and sing at the same time), and just was... messy. Unlike with Sweeney, where it was more in the background.

I found it interesting that two of my Big Broadway friends fell on opposite sides of the like/dislike discussion. One totally bought into the concept and loved the production, the other didn't. Like me, the book was too problematic and the staging to chaotic for her. The show has closed now (it was open when I started this review, but then I put it into DRAFT and then forgot about it), but the cast album lives on.

Get that. Raul Esparza is wonderful, and Barbara Walsh does a good job making you forget Elaine Stritch's performance (I liked her waaay back when, in Big, and still remember her "Stop, Time" number).

Notable Quotes

He said that there are three kinds of history. The first is what really happened, and that is forever lost. The second is what most people thought happened, and we can recover that with assiduous effort. The third is what the people in power wanted the future to think happened, and that is 90 percent of the history in books

5.7.07

Good advice

Terry, in responding to a meme, says this about criticism:
Always treat artists with respect. Most of them know how to do something you can't do.

Don't be afraid to be wrong.

Don't be afraid to be enthusiastic!
I think that can stand for authors, too. While I may not like a book, I have no where near the imagination required to create one, either. At least, not fiction.

1.7.07

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Only 14 books! Can't even use the move as an excuse...

Children's/Young Adult
  • Lady Friday, Garth Nix Five keys down, two to go: will Arthur get to remain a human or not?
  • Puddlejumpers, Jean, Mark Jean So new, there's not even a mention of it on Amazon! Not a bad mix between Dave at Night and the changling-child who saves a world genre. Look for it in 2008.
Fiction/Literature
  • A Spot of Bother, Mark Haddon Good follow-up to Curious Incident. Haddon knows how to make you feel that you're inside that person's head - first with autism, now with depression
  • Changing Places, David Lodge Definite period piece and somewhat distasteful to today's ears. Possibly better read during the Swinging Sixties
Mystery
  • The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear, Jasper Fforde 'Nuff said.
  • Dust, Martha Grimes I've said it before: she's pulled the series out of a slump (mostly by avoiding the Long Pud characters)
  • Ghostwalk, Rebecca Stott Good blend of today/yesterday, with some interesting science thrown in. Plus, it's set in Cambridge. How wrong can you go?
  • Kept, D. J. Taylor A bit long and drawn out. More Jane Eyre meets Harlequin meets Dickens than anything else.
  • Past Perfect, Susan Isaacs My first Isaacs and probably my last.
  • The Various Haunts of Men, Susan Hill A series to keep a look out for; not for the cozy lover!
Non-Fiction

25.6.07

Getting to know me (a meme)

Saw this on Cam's blog and decided to give myself a little break from ALA and Important Stuff...

1. My username is _____ because ____.
2. My journal is titled ____ because ____.
3. My subtitle is ____ because ____.
4. My friends page is called ____ because ____.
5. My default userpic is ____ because ____.

Answer:
1. Lazygal. Why? Because, believe it or not, I'm actually a very lazy person. Being busy goes against every fiber in my nature. I'd much rather be curled up in bed, with The Boys, reading than doing anything else.

2. Killin' Time Being Lazy - has anyone seen Holiday Inn? 'Nuff said.

3. "A miscellany of thoughts, newsclips and ephemera." That's what it is. I don't pretend to blog about Great Ideas or solve important problems. It's me, working things through or ranting or just sharing that which I find interesting.

4. Friends. And I just saw (you'd think someone would have told me by now) that I've replicated all those links in "Daily Reads"! OOPS! Guess I'll have to edit this all now. Which is ok, because it's time for a little (very belated) spring cleaning.

5. Don't have a user pic. Although recently I've been told by friends (here at ALA) that I look just like my picture in the recent KQ issue.

Public admission

Walt Crawford wrote about being wrong - and publicly acknowledging it. This has been resonating with me as I sit in Meeting, as I interact with my friends/colleagues, and as I go about my professional life.

Some time ago, I wrote off Will Richardson as being a one-note pony, always blah blah blahing about blogs (and blogvangelism). When I hear bleating, I turn off. So I stopped reading his blog and moved on. This year, at the Mohonk conference, he was a presenter. It truly wasn't his fault that the presentation stunk (although I had a blast getting to know - and heckle with - Nancy White and Dave Cormier). We (Nancy, Dave, Will and I) sat at the same dinner table and I told him then that I'd begun to change my mind. I started peeking at his blog again, and I can say that he really has changed. It's more thoughtful, less pushy. More meat, if you will.

Some visionary blogs I read don't take the time to reflect how their vision might be misinterpreted, or dismissed, by us plebes. He did. Don't mistake me, he's still thinking about how this read/write/review/revisit/respond thing we call blogging can be used best, but he's better at it now.

So, publicly, I was wrong.

(someone pick Thing One's jaw up off the floor)

16.6.07

I come not to praise Caesar

Usually I blog because I want to, not because there's some hidden "Hey YOU" message. I don't really anticipate other's reactions, or even dare to hope that a particular post will strike a nerve or resonate. It's more for me to work out those mental kinks.

Not this post. This post is for anyone in my family reading this blog. And if anyone else gets something from it, all the better.

Yesterday I went to the funeral of a cousin. This isn't the first member of my family to die, nor is it the first family funeral at which I've felt uncomfortable during the eulogizing. So, for the benefit of all, here are Lazygal's Tips to Proper Eulogy Etiquette:
  1. Do not use your time to bring up unresolved issues . If you were estranged from, had an argument/disagreement with, or generally didn't like the departed: shut up about it. Ditto if they owed you money/garden tools/a cup of sugar. That old adage "if you can't say something nice" applies.
  2. Do not use "coded language" in your eulogy. If you really mean (and everyone will know that you mean) Dearly Beloved was a nosy busybody who couldn't shut up or butt out, do not say that Dearly Beloved "was always there to help out". Do not say that Dearly Beloved was a fount of knowledge when you really mean that they were a Know-it-all.
  3. Do not - ever - bring up sex. No one needs to hear about it at this time. And certainly not in public.
  4. Do not announce that you are uncomfortable being there (see rule #1) This also applies to kohanin "defiling their bodies" by attending a funeral, prodigal sons returning, etc.
  5. Do not give people a "brief" glimpse at Dearly Departed's life that takes them on a journey that mentions year-by-year landmarks. Particularly not in freezing or overly hot weather. A few highlights are all that are needed. Really.
  6. Do give people a sense of what made Dearly Departed special. The phrase YMMV applies here: we all have different relationships with people, so cluing the rest of us in on why you loved/cared for/were besotted with DD is wonderful. But pay attention to Rules 3 and 5.
If you're not eulogizing, but are just one of the mourning crowd, these rules still apply. In fact, even more so. There's a reason you weren't asked to speak.

And mourners - Do not be physically inappropriate with any other mourner. This includes sticking your tongue down someone's throat, caressing, or anything else more appropriate to trying to pick a chick up at a frat party.

Don't try so hard

I've spent a lot of time in the past week with my extended family. There's one cousin who is clearly Ausperger's; one "quirk" is the over-reliance on puns and wordplay, which makes casual conversation difficult. Here's an example: Sunday night I ordered prime rib - I was asked why I wasn't ordering secondary or tertiary rib. My father asked why I was ordering steak (I usually don't) and when I responded that I felt a need for iron, my cousin said that he had a ton of iron - literally - in his workshop. My father finds all this charming. I don't.

Also this week I was e-mailing a librarian friend about the upcoming ALA and AASL conferences and she asked if I'd read anything by Jasper Fforde (she was reading some and loving it). I said that I had read two Tuesday Nexts and two Nursery Crimes and
To be honest, I'm not fond of the Ffordes. He tries too hard with the puns and the literary references, which is great in Book One, but a little tiring in Book Two and by Book Three you're just ready to kill him (*I* think). The Nursery Crimes were better than the Tuesday Next's, but I'm not rushing to read anything new by him.
Fforde reminds me of my cousin: striving hard to be likable and funny, but missing because it's obvious striving and not a natural ("organic") thing.

Thursday I met with the Head of our English Department and with one of our 6th Grade English teachers. We talked about reluctant readers and how to motivate them (using alternative teaching ideas, expanding the range of books we booktalk, etc.). The problem is, this isn't just a problem in 6th Grade, it's a problem in Upper School. One thing I keep hearing from students is "reading is too much work" (as if!).

Why is it work? Because - and this is my theory - in English class you're taught to Read Deeply, to Read for Meaning. What journey is the hero on? Which archetypes does the heroine espouse? What allusions are being made in this passage? et-boring-cetera. Books aren't taught to be read for fun - there's Purpose to it all. No wonder Chick Lit (and Lad Lit and manga) are taking off: people want to read for fun, not constantly on the lookout for Important Stuff. Even a work of genre fiction, like Fforde's mysteries, can be work if you're always on the alert for a new pun, a new allusion (somehow, Terry Pratchett does this much better and seamlessly).

I have to admit, if a work makes me think too hard (and I mean, if that's the author's intent, not something I derive from the reading), I don't enjoy it. I'm not looking for antiheros and symbolism, I'm looking for a book that tastes good*** - and you readers out there know whatof I speak. I don't read Robertson Davies looking for Insights and Truth, I read him because the words sound good, because it's a world I can dive deeply in to and come out refreshed and renewed.

I mentioned this to the Head of English and now we're going to work on some ways in which we can have students read, but not try so hard.

Amen.

(***caveat: this does not represent 100% of my reading!)

10.6.07

Imponderables

I'm heading to Boston today for a family gathering. Last time, I got directions and got a little lost trying to find the hotel. So I thought I'd try both MapQuest and GoogleMaps to see if I could get clearer directions (the ones on the hotel site are actually the best, so we'll try those).

ANYway, I'm a little perplexed. I know YMMV and all but... how does that work, exactly? What I mean is, if -- according to both GM and MQ -- I get on to the highway at the exact same point, and get off at the exact same point, does my mileage vary? According to Google, it's 52.5 miles from I90 to exit 18 and according to MapQuest it's only 49.22 miles.

I'm going with MapQuest.

Can't wait to share

Back in January I read a book that I thought was a fun read. One I wanted to share with my friends and family, not to mention students. Problem was, this was an ARC, so I had to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

By our Book Fair, this book hadn't been published, and wouldn't be for another month. All I could do is tell the students and parents that this was a definite summer purchase/read.

What book? Austenland, by Shannon Hale.

Now, I didn't remember the name Shannon Hale when I picked up the book, and didn't inspect the author copy too closely. That's a good thing because I really didn't like the other Hale book I'd read, Princess Academy (too contrived). So I went into this one with no prejudice against the author, which I know one shouldn't do but really - don't we all? I mean, if it's an author we really didn't like, then it's like eating a food we hate, and if it's an author we really do like, it's a quick, fast delicious read. Right?

Anyway, the book centers on Jane, unlucky in love and unlikely to find anyone as wonderful as Mr. Darcy (specifically, Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy). Her Great-Aunt dies, leaving her the "inheritance" of an all-expenses paid three week vacation at Pembrook Park. This theme-park for grown-up women asks that you show up with only one change of clothes because they'll provide all the rest (right down to era-appropriate undies!). After a few days drill in proper etiquette, you're released into a world populated with dandies and fops, house servants, balls, horses... you remember it from an Austen novel, it's here. Of course, our Jane finds love - or does she?

The ending was a bit much, but then, so are many of Austen's endings. Hale writes good pastiche, and if you're an Austen fan (with or without Mr. Firth's help), this is a Must Read. If you like your romance novels not quite so chick-lit or Harlequin-y, this is a Must Read. And if you're just looking for a fun read...

Oh, I checked: it's on bookshelves now. Finally.

28.5.07

Found on the bookshelves

Three duplicates. Don't know how two of them got there (the other I can easily imagine I just grabbed from a .25/each bin at the New York is Book Country sale).

Found thirteen other books I'm actually - sit down before continuing to read - giving away.

Did not find a book I know I own (it's in the catalog) and I swear Thing One decided I wouldn't miss.

As you can see, I have problems getting rid of books. Not this guy. Although I do think it's a little extreme, don't you? Maybe someone can help him find a better way to get rid of his stock?

21.5.07

Mum no more!

I've started to see posts about Titan's Curse, the third in the Percy Jackson series. YAY!

I read it as an ARC and had students pleading - really! pleading - to borrow my copy. Then... miracle of miracles... we got copies for the Book Fair. Before official release date. It was the first time in Fair history that students were coming in before the opening hoping to reserve a copy! We sold every copy they sent us.

The verdict: the kids love(d) it. As did I. And if you're not reading this series, well... get a copy and start reading now.

14.5.07

Notable Quotes

Every life should have nine cats
(coffee mug from ournameismud.com)

17.4.07

A car-crash world

Seems like the world is getting crazier and crazier (although Doug asks, "How much of this will really matter at this time next year?"). The problem is, it should matter.
  • It should matter that during the tragedy at Virginia Tech we were glued to the television, listening to the inanities the newsreaders spewed. One actually had the insanity to ask a student how it felt to be in a place that had just undergone the worst school shooting in America. How many complained about the crassness of that question? How many of those at the school winced and asked the cameras to leave them to their grief?

  • It should matter what happened to Kathy Sierra. Civility in public discourse is needed Heck, civility in public life is needed. Without it, what do we have?

  • It should matter that hypocrisy is all around and few are crying out against it. Many have blogged about the Imus Incident (personal favorite posts can be found here, here here and here), and what he said was wrong. Did the punishment fit the crime? Only if we also go after the rappers (despite their so-called defense), and Al Sharpton, and all others that engage in this sort of speech.

  • It should matter that my students aren't careful or concerned about their privacy, and that they don't care that what they post may be mean, vengeful or defaming of someone else. This should matter most of all, because if we don't start here, what hope do we have for our future?
Sorry doesn't seem strong enough, yet that's what we're treated to again and again.

Watching a car crash can be addictive. Watching a slow car chase can be mesmerizing. It's time to snap out of our national trance.

16.4.07

Notable Quotes

No -- it isn't as odd as it seems. For this is the way of it:
Either you must be exactly like all the others. Or you must be completely different from them -- as Hugo is.

You musn't ever be nearly like everyone else. As Josephine is.

Something tells Josephine this is how it is. Even if she doesn't understand it
-- Martha Gripe, Hugo and Josephine

8.4.07

Meeting Musings

Today's Meeting was small (five adults, three very young children). And it was cold (52o when I walked in). But still, the warmth of the people made up for the lack of heat and filled the space.

About midway through Meeting, one person stood and mentioned that there's an odd synergy this week: it's the Jewish Passover, and Easter for both Eastern and Western Christians. This was perhaps a sign that we were all, in some sense, following the same path and that peace between faiths was possible. Then, looking outside the Meetinghouse window, they noticed three deer. These deer had hidden themselves in the woods, and had only just - briefly - made themselves known. Sort of like peace itself.

2.4.07

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Not bad, given all the upheaval from the move: 48 books this quarter!

Biography
  • On Hitler's Mountain, Irmgard Hunt; fascinating look at a girl growing up during the Nazi era, literally in Hitler's backyard

Children's/Young Adult


Fiction/Literature


Mystery

Reference
  • Dare To Repair, Julie Sussman and Stephanie Glakas-Tenet, Thing Two's idea of a housewarming present... no tools, though
  • An incomplete education, Judy Jones, absolutely embarrassing, the things I don't know!

1.4.07

Meeting Musings

Today was my first Meeting at Amawalk. Unlike last time, there are many Meetings around to choose from; I think this one and I will be a good fit.

It's an old building, heated by wood stoves (I've been warned that the bathroom is outside and unheated!). This lead to an interesting moment, when about halfway through the Meeting someone had to tend the stoves. I started thinking about how this is very like what happens during worship: the fires need to be built, and tended, and sometimes there's a fiercely hot flame and other times there's a warmth and still other's have more of an afterglow. Elders (or pastors or whatever you call your clergy) help tend the flame, ensuring the sparks don't set a fire or that the warmth doesn't die out.

Very a propos for Holy Week, isn't it?

What draws me to this Meeting was a deliberation we had during Meeting for Business. There had been a vigil during which names of those that have died in Iraq were read out - a process of several hours - and two members were moved to write a letter to Senator Clinton asking why she didn't feel obliged to account for her vote "approving" the war. The Newsletter Editor wondered if this was appropriate for inclusion in the newsletter.

In my previous Meeting, the sentiment would have been "of course". No discussion. The assumption would have been that everyone in the Meeting was opposed to the war, opposed to Senator Clinton's stance, and that this letter spoke to all our conditions. Here, the sentiment was "does it speak for all of us?". Perhaps not all opposed the war. Perhaps not all felt owed an explanation. Perhaps it came close to endorsing another candidate (one person mentioned that we assume we know that Barak Obama would have voted against the resolution, but that he could have just as easily voted for the resolution: it's moot, because he wasn't there).

What a wonderful, reasoned deliberation. And what an introduction to a new Meeting.

11.2.07

Quick, get me rewrite!

I was talking with Thing Two yesterday - his sister is writing a book about her years working with the AIDS epidemic. I've read a couple of chapters and the chapter outline and they'd asked my opinion. I gave it, and he rejected most of it (notice: he rejected it, rather than passing it along to his sister). One reason? The in-house editor would catch these things if they were a problem.

HAH! What in-house editor? It's like asking for a fact checker these days: they just do not exist. Back in the day, yes, you had someone who'd work on your deathless prose, crafting that timeless work of fiction/non-fiction. But today? The art of editing is a dead one. I've read many a book that would benefit from better editing.

Take, for example, the book I just read, The Case of the Missing Books. It was remaindered, which is always a sign. Then there was the endless repetition. A good editor would have cut that in half, if not more. Why? Because it wasn't "charming" in quite the way that the author probably thought it was, it was just annoying. Within the first few chapters I heard way too many times about the main characters pudge, wrinkled suit, Jewishness, and other traits that just didn't really matter. Who cared he was vegetarian? Clearly, given the number of times it was mentioned, I was supposed to deeply care. I didn't.

Another couple of examples? The Lovely Bones and The Da Vinci Code. All other aspects aside, let's talk pacing. Both books proceed at a certain pace, and then in the last chapter or two, they speed up immeasurably. My guess? An editor told them that the book was getting a bit too long. Rather than tightening it up throughout the book, the last couple of chapters got slashed and the pace ruined.

In other words, Thing Two's sister hasn't a hope in hell of having some thoughtful person edit her work. That's too bad, because with good editing, this could be a very nice book. If it's allowed to go the way it is (or with little revision), I can't see reading it.