Category Archives: why not?

Frothcoming – Cee-lo Green

And what better way to prepare for his new album‘s release than with Bill Shatner?

A must-have for both free speech enthusiasts and library collections worldwide. As if the two are mutually exclusive.

 

strategic planning

If we could only get more weasels to do it.

libraries, stadiums, & high performance governance

Presser!

In order to bring its operating budget in line with reduced property tax revenues, the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library has announced a 26 percent reduction in public service hours systemwide to take effect as of Sunday, October 3, 2010.

Based on recommendations of the bi-partisan High Performance Government Team, the reduction in hours will result in a savings of approximately $1.5 million and will allow IMCPL to achieve the goal of keeping all library branches open in 2011. The savings, however, represent only a portion of what is needed to reconcile a projected $4 million revenue shortfall as a result of property tax caps and lower-than-anticipated property tax collections. Other savings will come from various areas, including a $1 million reduction in the Library’s books and materials budget, along with reductions in such activities as printing, postage, utilities and data communications. In addition, modest revenue enhancements will result from higher fees for such items as failure to pick up holds and replacing library cards.

Now that’s High Performance governance in action! At least my restaurant money goes to building that high performance stadium that not everybody worships or uses. Prices which will increase due to higher food and beverage taxes yet again. But no sir, Indiana doesn’t have a brain drain.

review but not a review – kraken

It is with both heavy heart and eyelid that I confess that I cannot finish China Mieville’s latest offering Kraken.  Whereas I have been wildly amazed and fascinated with his imaginative offerings like Perdido Street Station, The Scar and his short story collection Looking For Jake, Kraken has cemented within my fragile psyche a valuable rule for my slow reading habits, namely: don’t read shit (and I use that term non-insultingly) that’s too long and underdeveloped.

If  it were simply just long I may have actually finished it by now, but because of his underdeveloped-ness in nearly all aspects of the work, the combination of long-windedness and courageous circumnavigation in terms of character development, setting and pace, not only do I feel “disappointed” in that uneasy parental way (and mind you, I’m probably younger than Mieville), I am simply too upset about it to let it go.

You see, Mieville is a fantastic writer.  I am anxiously looking forward to reading his recent award nominated City and the City, but despite the five hundred plus pages of Kraken, I can’t help but feel he went through the motions with this one.  Or rather, he simply overextended himself and spread his chunky, steampunky imagination too thin on this particularly under-toasted canvas.

The story is about London, its competing cults and the guardian forces surrounding those cults in an age where the archaic meets the digital.  Mieville creates the atmosphere by mentioning all the different groups and entities, but never really describes them in depth, even in passing.  Much of what we gather is through dialogue, particularly of the naive and bewildered main character, Billy Harrow.  Other characters, like The Tattoo, Dane, Wati, Collingswood, and Grisamentum, while all very interesting and mysterious initially, simply fade away into their own colorful dialogue without any real descriptive depth into their character. Quite simply, too many characters, too little detail. Furthermore, in his appreciation beaming technology and stun settings, Mieville attempts to bridge fantasy with science fiction in the work, and almost succeeds; however, an undertaking like this cannot compete with so many other variables in an already overreaching work.  Lastly, the feel and mystique of London is really lost in the comings and goings of these events and people; perhaps this a book specifically written for Londoners, but the description however, simply didn’t emanate.

The more I think about it, the more I feel Kraken is simply a thought experiment, a literary dry-erase board full of image dropping and references to pop/sub culture than it is a tightly coherent work of fiction. It’s simply too busy, a overly-written mash of fancy that never really coalesces.

consider kali

Often times it is somewhat embarrassing to encounter the mindless conception of ourselves and our profession among the uninitiated masses. Most people I encounter do not have an accurate representation of what libraries are or more importantly, what librarians do.

Part of that is our fault. Libraries serve as a refuge, and it has been out of our compassion to accept more social responsibility than to specifically limit our professional responsibilities that we do a great many things to a great many people. Typically, we are left picking up the pieces of our shattered reality before we can attempt to promote our significance.

Rather than outright say what we are for others, for that would be a really boring post, I’ve been concentrating on others’ misconceptions. Normally the first thing associated with us is some form of nostalgia commonly associated with a rural family farmhouse. A little outdated, we are represented by the elderly, matronly, meek and respected guardians of the nourishing, sacred tomes and the all-around country quiet; though not quite altogether upstairs, we however are quaint and eccentric all the same, deserving of some form of respect as well as a new coat of paint before we meet our abrupt and untimely foreclosure, mostly figuratively speaking. Sadly, our image, our stereotype is rapidly in flux and we must redefine it.

If people were to see our work more through our eyes, more would understand why we are a little off, why our conventions are typically booze filled and generally outrageous. But again, without spelling it out, I humbly present an analogy.

At the risk of sounding a bit too high and almighty or righteous I propose that in order to reclaim and expand upon our identity, we should think big and identify ourselves with the more recognizable figures, for example religious and philosophic deities. I nominate the Hindu deity Kali. The connections are simply too logical. Continuing the stately female-centric image, which as a male librarian I fully endorse, I can think of no more fitting stereotype…ahem, representation.

A symbol of death, destruction, even time, Kali first and foremost signifies the death of library patrons’ ignorance and the change that will slowly blossom from the ashes of our jarring instruction on the nature of information. We are an urgent force and need to get peoples’ attention. Kali demands attention: she’s naked, crispy, wears a necklace of bloody heads and carries swords, among other trophies.

Secondly, her image endures due mainly to her batshit rage emanating from her presence, inciting instantaneous fear in enemies. This is appropriate especially with those in the public service side of the profession, who incessantly deal with patrons trying to take our pens and staplers, deceive us out of their printing and late fees, as well as expect us to babysit their children while they’re off scoring their next fix. With a bit more of our tough instruction, people will learn to respect our professional boundaries and our wrathful knowledge.

Thirdly, she is a multitasker, as evidenced by her numerous limbs. I think nearly everyone in libraryland relates to this, though I couldn’t think of any deity possessing many emanations wearing an assortment of hats. In any case, we do a lot of different stuff, things not normally expected of us and often times without extra compensation or simple gratitude. I cite the wrath mentioned above, all things being feeding off each other and stuff.

So as a passing warning to library-goers, if you’re ever wondering why that circulation or reference librarian is looking especially pissed off, consider the Kalis among us. We are only invoking our disdain upon the complacency of the masses for their (your) benefit. We will happily destroy your ignorance with violent force by: simultaneously instructing you on OPAC searching techniques with one pointed, scarred hand, accepting your overdue fines with another clawed and outstretched palm, shushing you with a third as we hold a bloody finger to our charcoal lips before a dangling and frothy tongue, and grasping a mobile device in a final hand, tweeting your idiocy to the world as we dance upon your expired library card which we can make happen anytime we want.

So in our grand quest for identity, it may better for you dear patrons, as well as fellow librarians, to think of ourselves as such.

an author in need…

Via Neil Himself (@neilhimself), an author can use some assistance. You could get a free book out of it too.

weird twitter projects and vuvuzelas

Of the numerous weird yet useful yet interesting things I’ve been exploring on Twitter is the potential for collaborative projects/thinking.  Especially in the realm of libraries/books, there seems to be ample innovation for imaginative brainstorming.  Here are two projects that I’ve come across.

Jeff VanderMeer (@jeffvandermeer), extraordinary author of le nouveau weird, has come up with an interesting project based on the World Cup.  His World Cup of Fiction is a chance to display your hysteria for the tournament by reviewing works from those countries that are participating.  So far I’ve chosen Brasil’s Rubem Fonseca and his work The Taker and Other Stories, which certainly made an impression.  Hopefully I’ll make another submission soon enough.  At any rate, it’s a good way to generate more interest in what we consider ‘the foreign’ and reading in general.

Another interesting project is Lee Barnett’s Fast Fiction Challenge.  Budgie (@budgie) asks his troupe of followers for a title, consisting of a maximum of four words, and if he’s keen on your idea he’ll compose a 200 word virtual scribble of literary frenzy. Anything to keep the creative juices flowing.  See, it’s not just a virtual vuvuzela, though there are sites for that.

ghostwriting is transparent

Came across a disconcerting tweet about the rise and acceptance of ghostwriting.  Makes me wonder whether it’s a product of sheer laziness and the digital age we live in:

It is possible to argue with that sentiment, but there’s no denying its broad appeal and growing acceptance.  In such a fluid climate – and in a culture that’s pie-eyed drunk on celebrity in its glitziest and tawdriest forms – it’s not surprising that ghostwriting has won acceptance as just one of many legitimate ways to produce books.  Including novels.  Brand-name author James Patterson has a stable of writers helping him churn out his best-selling thrillers.  The rapper 50 Cent, who must be a very busy man, pays someone to ghostwrite his 140-character tweets for Twitter.  A reading public inured to fabricated journalism, fake memoirs and bald acts of plagiarism barely shrugged when word got out that Ted Kennedy had quietly worked with a ghostwriter whose name did not appear on the cover of his posthumous memoir, True Compass.  The publisher insisted that the late senator was deeply involved in the writing.  Such is not always the case.  Some subjects’ brazen lack of involvement in their own books has become the source of loopy publishing lore.  When Ronald Reagan’s memoir, An American Life, appeared, the Gipper gave high praise to his ghostwriter, Robert Lindsey.  “I hear it’s a terrific book,” Reagan said.  “One of these days I’m going to read it myself.”  Long gone are the days when the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, Charles de Gaulle and John F. Kennedy shouted down any suggestion that they’d relied on ghostwriters to help them produce their memoirs.  Such authorial integrity now seems so 19th- and 20th-century, so quaintly pre-digital.

(emphasis from article)

I understand that there are those among us who are both wildly popular and need assistance in all areas of their selof-important lives, but I’m not sure what makes me want to virtually vomit more, the cult of celebrity morons in this country or the publishing industry that caters to them and with a shit-eating grin markets to equally moronic readers, likely to spend money on books they’ll never read.

skimmers and scanners

Sayeth David Carr:

What changes our brains is, on the one hand, repetition and, on the other hand, neglect. That’s why I believe the Net is having such far-reaching intellectual consequences. When we’re online, we tend to perform the same physical and mental actions over and over again, at a high rate of speed and in a state of perpetual distractedness. The more we go through those motions, the more we train ourselves to be skimmers and scanners and surfers. But the Net provides no opportunity or encouragement for more placid, attentive thought. What we’re losing, through neglect, is our capacity for contemplation, introspection, reflection — all those ways of thinking that require attentiveness and deep concentration.

Granted, graduate students of all types are often forced into being “skimmers and scanners” but they are graduate students…research is central their raison d’etre, whereas for undergrads…not so much. And while certain sites do encourage attentive thought, I suspect that the groupthink will outweigh the introspection and contemplation for  which Carr longs.  Hence people will be seeking out their suppositions, rather than actually slog through the process of learning. The Internet magnifies the potential for dumb aggregation of information, not the coherent synthesis of it.