rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Allow me to be frank—I know I'm on the internet, which means *gasp* anyone can see me being frank—but I'm going to have to get a little ugly-personal. Don't freak out.

It's been a rough week. It's hard to say how much you, my reader, already know me, when some know me in real life but just in passing, some know me in real life quite well, some have never met me but are closer to me than all but a few of the people I have met in real life, some know me in passing on the internet, and some just stumbled here randomly hi I don't know what you're doing here but you're perfectly welcome. So I don't know if you know that I'm an utter mess, both figuratively and literally. I am NOT a together person.

But one thing I have always felt confident about? I'm a dang fine librarian. Being at work is for me is a BREAK from feeling lost and incompetent. It keeps me steady, and smart, and productive.

Until last Saturday. See, my literal mess caught up with me, and I guess it hit on my coworkers' last nerves? This is hard to explain, because I'm honestly so confused and I guess not quite so shaken as I was last Saturday, but still just...broken. Like I can't piece it together in my brain. I didn't get completely cleaned up after my program Tuesday night-- to be fair, we were pulp painting, it's quite complex, and I DID clean up MOST of it-- but, maybe it was my lackadaisical attitude toward finishing up that they didn't appreciate? Maybe, but the thing that got me lost was that this somehow earned me a week suspension. A week and a day, actually, as I didn't end up working last Saturday and here I am still off today. Now, Jason points out that I really should have been given a written warning or something instead, that the punishment far outweighs the crime and he is SO TEMPTED to march down to the library and give everyone a piece of his mind but he won't because that's totally something his mother would do and he doesn't want to do something she'd do; and there's a rational part of me that definitely agrees it's all out of proportion.

But the problem is it triggered something, shattered me further. Work was the one place I felt competent, the one thing my literal-and-figurative mess wasn't tainting. For the first time since I've been in this particular job, the thought of going back to work on Monday gives me a jolt of anxiety. I have lost that little piece of confidence. And, talk about an out-of-proportion reaction, I'm just BROKEN.

I don't want you to think I'm being melodramatic. I very nearly checked myself into the hospital that day. Because obviously I'm not good at ANYTHING anymore so there's no point trying until I can get myself FIXED. I didn't, because I figured it would be cheaper to just go home and go to bed, while telling everyone to leave me alone. That didn't work so great either, because except for Maddie, who came in and just hugged me and said "I love you" for awhile, nobody else could manage to talk to me without increasing my stress. In the middle of the night I wrote this poem-- cleaned it up and put it on Tumblr in the morning just because Tumblr seemed like the best format for it. It pretty well describes "how I'm doing," kind of perfectly, if you're asking and want to know the truth.

Well wait, copying and pasting so you don't have to click:
"EFFORT"
I’m not okay
though if you ask
I’ll say
I am
because I pull myself together
I smile, I laugh, I sing
I cook, I eat
I hug and say I love you
I go through the backpacks and take-home folders and
usually
remember to sign things
I pay the bills
eventually
I get where I need to go
eventually
But then you notice the cracks and say
Why don’t you pick up after yourself?
Why have you let yourself go?
If you would
Just
Try to
lose some weight
exercise a little more
make the kids behave
(no, MAKE them)
get her hair brushed
get YOUR hair brushed
make them make their beds
make YOUR bed
watch what you’re wearing
watch what they’re wearing
do the dishes from the start
organize your time better
leave a little earlier
make those phone calls
communicate better
pay attention to your surroundings
don’t leave things lying around
go to bed on time
tell us what you need
If you would
JUST
put in a
LITTLE EFFORT.
Good to know
that’s all I need to do
Just
put in
a LITTLE
EFFORT
If only I hadn’t used up all my Effort
pretending
i’m
okay


The thing is I usually AM okay because I'm holding together and getting through contently enough, it's just I can't take any MORE than that. Technically I SHOULD be capable of more, because more is required of me, and, like, maybe life should be more than just hanging together?

So at counseling on Wednesday I got some interesting news: I now, officially, on my medical records, have indeed been diagnosed with ADHD-light-on-the-H. See back in the day they just called that ADD but now no matter how nonexistent the H they call it ADHD-Inattentive Type instead. I slipped through all these years because of the complete lack of H, because I was well-behaved and smart enough to ace tests even if I couldn't stay on top of my homework and was only half paying attention in class. My brain was good at school. It's not so good at practical life. But practical life is what adulthood is about. You know I've said this before, lots of times, it's just now I've got an official label saying it's real, my brain really DOES work differently than normal. "You've been struggling with this all your life without even knowing why," my therapist said, having just read the above poem. 

So, somewhat tangentally (it's my ADHD! It all becomes clear!), last week we upgraded our cable to take advantage of their Triple Play, which includes phone service, since the main reason we never had before was our home and cell phone accounts were tied together, but now we get cell through J's work, so we were like, hey, and WE NOW HAVE CALLER ID AND AN ANTI-ROBO-CALL SERVICE AND I AM NEVER GOING BACK. But, also, we now get more TV channels, including FX. I'd bought access to FX's Fargo because it was awesome before, but look! Now we have FX just in time for Fargo-showrunner Noah Hawley's new show, Legion, which is a friggin' X-Men spinoff! I love Noah Hawley's storytelling (at least if Fargo is any indication) and I love X-Men, so can it get any better? The answer is, yes, it can, because Legion is also FRIGGIN' PSYCHEDELIC. 

Now I've been thinking of writing a whole post about me and psychedelia-- I've had a draft in the GeekMom Wordpress for about a month now, because I started writing it and then it turned into something else, and it might be really two posts, or it might not, but anyrate. Started when I finally got a chance to listen to the United States of America album I got for Christmas and it totally out me back in touch with a part of myself I'd been neglecting. I've been giving my psych rock collection a workout lately. Anyway, the short story about why I love psychedelia is that it reminds me of my own mind, but ever so slightly more orderly. 

So the main character of Legion has been diagnosed schizophrenic, although it turns out his hallucinatons are really telepathy. So you see the show from inside his head, which is tripped out...but strangely familiar. Me and psychedelia. I've never had to deal with hallucinations (or telepathy as far as I know), but my brain is always RUNNING and tumbling and jumping from track to track and it IS a lot to keep up with, and my dreams-- my dreamworld is nuts, y'all, and I love it--Legion really reminded me of my dreams (also the soundtrack is awesome) (maybe because there's a lot of psychedelia) (also it's made the Stones' "She's a Rainbow" stuck in my head since Thursday and I don't mind a bit).

Anyway, but the point I'm really getting to is that part of the reason he struggles so much with his mental illness is he's been fighting the wrong thing-- he thinks he needs to stop the hallucinations when really he needs to learn to control the input from his psychic powers. I keep thinking of it in relation to myself, how my brain works differently, but I've been expending so much energy trying to compensate for it instead of trying to work WITH it. It's funny, I used to know I was pretty smart as a kid, but most of the time as an adult my self-talk immediately goes to "you're an idiot." Since Wednesday it's occured to me, wow, if so much of my brainpower has gone to trying to compensate for my attention issues... maybe I actually am a genius. If I wasn't constantly trying to fight my own brain, what else could I be putting that power to? If I wasn't using up all my effort on being okay?

There was more on the end here, but somehow it got erased....

rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
It’s time for the yearly roundup, and while 2016 is pretty universally known to have been a pretty crappy year, it’s had its bright spots too. As I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve rounded up events and reviews into Top Five lists for your perusal. It makes for a long post, but I’d love for you to read it, and chime in with comments on anything you see that you agree with, disagree with, or feel enlightened by, because I do these things to talk to people, you know.

Cut for length and pictures )
So yay! I hope you've stuck with me through this long, long post! Drop me a comment!
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
My dad is a big genealogist, and when I say big, I mean he was into it WAY before Ancestry.com, when you had to do serious legwork, travelling all around the country and even world to pour over decades of paper church registries and the like. By chance I eventually settled in the town that one of his favorite ancestors had lived in, my great-great-great* grandfather on my dad's mom's side, a blacksmith, guardsman, and Civil War hero. My dad wrote a (self-pubbed and extremely limited in distribution) book on the guy and his squadron's history, which supposedly once was in the Local History collection of the library I now work for, though I can't find it there now. I have to smile every time I drive past the corner where this several-greats grandfather's blacksmith shop had been, just because I can hear the enthusiasm in my dad's voice as he once pointed it out to me, every single time.

Ancestry.com has certainly added new ways to track genealogy, though. And recently, through DNA testing, it unearthed an unpleasant truth: the man he so admired, who'd done so many great things, wasn't his great-great-grandfather after all.

My great-great-great (or however many) grandmother had been 15 when she married this man. And five months pregnant. And according to the DNA trail, the father of that boy she carried (my g-g-grandfather) was one of three brothers, one of whom was a teacher, another of whom was eventually locked up in an insane asylum, and all of whom were at least twice her age. Was it the teacher, taking advantage of one of his students? Was it his younger brother, and they locked him up for being a serial rapist or something? Does it matter? Whatever happened, it was at LEAST a STATUTORY rape, if not full-blown. The blacksmith/war-hero was a family friend, who married the girl to save her from what in that era would surely have been scandal and ruin. "It makes me admire him even more," my dad said sadly, "to have raised this boy as his own even though he knew he wasn't actually his."

I wondered a little at my dad's disappointment when he said that. So this hero's blood didn't run in our veins after all. But he still RAISED our however-many-greats grandfather. Did it matter that our DNA came from a rapist, or did it matter more that the boy ended up calling a good man Dad?

(It's a bit like the part of the Gospel of Matthew they read on Christmas Eve, which always makes me roll my eyes. Ol' St. Matt goes off on this long, long genealogical report, tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham all the way up to Joseph. To JOSEPH. Who, in the very next verse, he explains is NOT ACTUALLY JESUS'S BIOLOGICAL FATHER, ANYWAY. Like SERIOUSLY, Matt, what was your point?! UNLESS it's more important that this man, who happens to have serious Jewish blood going way back, RAISED the boy Jesus as his own. Because maybe that's more important than the bloodline after all? I don't know, don't lecture me on theology, I'm just observing. Anyway, this is only tangentally related, because this post is about bad stuff in the past, which makes this story very different depending on whether you believe Mary had been raped like my g-g-g grandmother or she had indeed conceived the child via the Holy Spirit. Or you believe the whole story was made up period which makes it moot. But in that case, the Holy Spirit answer's the one in the story so it is still good).

I got onto this subject today because I started puzzling over something I'd seen on social media (ah, social media). The other night the First Lady spoke at the Democratic National Convention, a lovely speech full of hope and integrity, and she noted that now two little black girls lived in a mansion that had been built by slaves-- look how far we've come! Think how much farther we can go! And for some reason a bunch of people, instead of hearing the message of progress, got stuck on "wait, did she just say the White House was built by slaves? How DARE she say the White House was built by slaves!" and I'm like, "uh, because it WAS? It's not like you can't learn this information through a picture book. Or even just, you know, ASSUME, based on the history of the region." But these folks were really riled up about this. If they couldn't deny that there were a lot of dang slaves "employed" in the building of our nation's capital, they had to start insisting that well, they were slaves, but they really weren't treated that badly.

I'm like what is your ISSUE? She wasn't trying to slander the holy edifice that is the White House by referring to a negative-but-well-documented fact about its history, she was trying to say Isn't it GREAT, that once people that looked like my family were enslaved and would they ever have imagined a family that looked like them would be living here as the Family in Chief but here we are? Hooray! Our country is getting better all the time! Is it really that important that the history of our country is far from perfect?

It got me pondering the ways history is told, and how a lot of these people are the same ones who complain about "revisionist history," and how they want to stick with the TRUE history, which is the history they learned growing up. You know, like how George Washington chopped down a cherry tree as a boy? So what these people are looking for, I guess, is Golden, Gleaming History, History that is a role model for us to look up to.

I finally got my ears on the Hamilton musical a couple months ago. 1) gosh it is SO GOOD; 2) one thing that struck me is how much it put the lie to the idea that the founding of America was some stately, well-organized thing like the back of a two-dollar bill. That's another thing people who like Golden Gleaming History like to talk about: "The Founding Fathers thought THIS" and "The Founding Fathers did THAT" and "WHAT would the Founding Fathers say?!" And yet, listening to this, it reminds me that the last thing the Founding Fathers were was a unanimous monolyth on the issues we would face as a nation. SOME Founding Fathers wanted stronger state governments, weaker federal; SOME wanted a stronger federal and weaker states. SOME Founding Fathers did indeed keep slaves; but SOME Founding Fathers were outspoken abolitionists. The notion that the Founding Fathers were the last word on every issue is based on this Gleaming concept of History, a History that has no room for Cabinet Battles and dirty deals and blackmail, because that would mean we COULDN'T use it as the final word in an argument.

It's literally part of the conservative mindset-- not just politically conservative, but the whole idea of conservative-- to want to hold the past up as ideal. That's what conservatism is about: change is bad, the good old days were good. If you hold this mindset, it's a little earthshattering to face up to the not-so-good parts of the past. If your ancestors came out of history on top, it can feel like a personal affront to hear that they weren't perfect. But it's not just political: we all have a little conservative side of us, a part that holds tight to stories of how things ought to have been and believes in them. My dad's a pretty progressive guy, but it did upset him to learn of the smudge in his family tree that seemed to take away his claim to good blood. And me-- as a kid I had a really hard time with this concept. To find out anyone great had a not-so-great side? To uncover the dirty laundry of history? Heck, to find out how many of my favorite musicians were "druggies"? Frustrated me, man. I couldn't reconcile it. If these things were BAD, why were we learning about how GREAT they were?

But I was younger then. I've learned about shades of gray. Which is why it's surprising when so many people my age and older are still stuck in this black-and-white mindset.

A thing I've always hated since I discovered it is the Your Fave Is Problematic thing. It's almost like the opposite of the History Was Great and Never Dare Say Otherwise mindset, but is the exact same thing, really. You think something's or someone's so great? I'm going to POKE AS MANY HOLES IN THEM AS I CAN. SEE, NOT GREAT. So a fan says YOU ARE SO WRONG, THEY ARE GREAT, YOU SUCK, and the "problematic" folks are like "NO, THEY SUCK, AND IF YOU LIKE THEM STILL THEN YOU SUCK." WHAT, people. Why does everything have to be perfect or terrible? Why can't things just BE with all their nuances?

Back to the topic of dark spots in ones ancestry. I've always felt uncomfortable with the use of the word "we" to describe anything that I, personally, was not involved with-- "we won" or "we lost" or "we did this historical thing because...." I don't like my sports teams referred to as "we" unless I'm on them (ha). I don't like my country referred to as "we" if it's something out of my control-- like, back to sports teams, Olympians-- "we" do not get so many gold medals, those people who are way better athletes than most of us could ever imagine being got them; and I especially don't like it when referring to events that happened before I was even born. We settled in America. We drove off most of the native people. We defeated the British. We nuked Japan. Our ancestors, maybe. And maybe we've even benefitted from horrible things our ancestors did.

But we don't have to take it personally. It happened. And who cares whether it was your ancestors or not. What are YOU going to do? Who are YOU going to follow? I've got a great-great-great grandfather who was a rapist, but my great-great grandfather was raised to be a good man by a good man, instead. You're not bound by the past, so you don't have to fear it.

What happens NOW, is the question. That's what Mrs. Obama was saying the other night, not "feel ashamed of your history" but "look back on history and how we have improved and how we can keep on improving!" Look back to look forward.

I think I've made sense here, it's hard to tell because I've been super distracted by our library Harry Potter party happening on Saturday and I've been making chocolate frogs all day, which involves a lot of back and forth while waiting for things to set. But anyway.


*I THINK I have the right number of greats
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
This format worked really nicely last year, so I'll stick to something of the same:
Long and Full of Pictures )

When I was talking about the GeekMom thing with some relatives on Christmas Eve, I said kind of bashfully that I shouldn't let my writing confidence be affected so much by how many people read and respond, because writers write even if only for themselves, but a couple of them said, No, it makes sense, because while that might be so, a written work technically isn't complete until it has an audience, because it TAKES A READER. So please, indulge me, and chime in in the comments with your opinions on any or all of the things discussed here, because I like being heard!
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Back in the day I could write an entire post JUST ABOUT THE BOOKS of the year. Not happening anymore. But I can write about the WHOLE year in small Top FIVE lists, so I'll do that instead:

Top 5 Real Life Things That Happened. In My Life. Not The Outside World. You Can Go Read About the Outside World Anywhere Else

1. A tree fell on our house. This isn't exactly a TOP thing that happened, as in "Best," but it was certainly the BIGGEST thing that happened, and we did end up with all new roof and siding, which insurance covered MOST of, though paying the difference did knock out our budget for the rest of the year. But now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's move onto the actual GOOD stuff:
2. Seeing FREAKIN' SIR PAUL FREAKIN' MCCARTNEY IN FREAKIN' CONCERT, FINALLY! Just read the post if you don't understand.
3. I actually managed to complete an entire draft of an early-chapter-book. Granted, I haven't managed to get around to REVISING it yet. At all. But it's better than I've done in a long time.
4. I successfully Outreached to loads of small children, who excitedly pointed me out to their parents in public while squealing about the "library lady" and lots of their favorite stories. This is the best kind of famous, you know. If I'm going to be accosted by fans every time I go out in public, I much prefer to be hugged around the knees by a three-year-old than shoved about by paparazzi.
5. My son brought home a couple of guppies from the class fish tank on his last day of first grade. I never expected them to last as long as they did, but now they are officially our first family pets. Actually, one of them died a couple months in, but the other one turned out to be pregnant, and gave birth to eleven more. She ate all but one of these. The survivor got by on her (we think it's another her) speed, so earned the name Zippy. Her mother never actually got a name, so is now Mama Fish. We also have two snails now. One is growing. We think it might turn into a monster and take over the tank.

Top 5 Presents I Got For Christmas

1. A New Dishwasher. Our old dishwasher sprung a major leak that we weren't able to fix, and it never cleaned very well anyway, so our two sets of parents went in together to get us a new one. It's AMAZING. It makes things not only CLEAN, but SHINY! And it does so QUIETLY, and WHILE KEEPING ALL THE WATER INSIDE IT!
2. A Good Set of Kitchen Knives. While we were camping this summer, I went to chop up a potato only to realize I hadn't brought a knife, so J whipped out his hunting knife, and WOW could that thing slice. "It's not because it's a hunting knife," he said, "it's just because you're used to using those crappy knives that won't hold an edge." "Oh," I said. But this exchange inspired him, and he bought a set of GOOD kitchen knives actually made by the same company that made his hunting knife. THEY CUT WITHOUT YOU HAVING TO PUT PRESSURE ON THEM. Which means I really have to watch my aim.
3. A bunch of other kitchen supplies I never would have suspected, back in the day, would one day make me so excited to get. I got a big tub of storage containers, a couple of chopping boards, and a new spoon spatula. Granted, I bought that spoon spatula for myself and just stuck it in my stocking, but it was still exciting.
4. This scarf. Appropriate, no? Also a much cheaper leopard-print scarf from Old Navy that EVERYONE got-- okay, at least four people in my extended family-- so now we might start a cult.
5. My sister saved the day and got me Desolation of Smaug, because for some reason Jason didn't. Actually he didn't get a single thing off of my wish list. For me. I've had the complete set of Animaniacs on there for years, so he did get that, but he gave it to Maddie, our own Dot Warner. That was actually a very appropriate move on his part, though.

Top 5 Presents I Gave Other People For Christmas

1. My daughter wanted an Ariel costume. I looked it up: all the Officially Licensed costumes kind of sucked, so I decided to make one myself (note: sometime in October I also got a new sewing machine on account of my old one kind of breaking beyond repair. I thought of considering THIS a Christmas present, but Jason said, no, you just need a new sewing machine, you can have OTHER presents!) I found THE most PERFECT fabric at Jo-Ann's, so LOOK:
SAM_0538 I did not make the wig, though.
2. Also for Maddie: her artistic expression CANNOT be hemmed in by silly things like Personal Property. Not only does she draw in my journals, she's also always absconding with my camera to take pictures and video. Well, among Amazon's Cyber-Monday deals I spotted it: a kids' camera/camcorder. With Hello Kitty on it. For thirty bucks. It was MEANT TO BE.
3. The boy needed pajamas, and I found a pattern for boys' pajamas in his size among my grandmother-in-law's sewing stuffs, so I bought some appropriate fabric along with the mermaid fabric. Well, almost appropriate. It's a train print, and trains are still Sam's Favorite Thing Ever, but I didn't know if it was SLIGHTLY babyish for an almost-8-yo? But it was the most insanely soft material, so I figured, eh, he's just wearing it to bed, anyway. Then, the last day of school before break, they had Pajama Day. "Okay, Sam, I'm going to give you a present early, just in case you might want to use it tomorrow. But I won't be offended if you don't." Well, he did. He's pretty much been living in those pajamas ever since. He's only put on clothes when we've had to go someplace.
SAM_0536
4. In other things I sewed, I also found some insanely soft fleece, so made some cute sweatshirts. I'd tried making a sweatshirt for my brother last year but made it too small, so this year I tried again: SAM_0511
I was so paranoid about making the KIDS' too small that I actually made them too big, SAM_0542 but they'll grow.
5. I got J an Agents of SHIELD (see below for more) wallet as a sort of joke, because we started playing a SHIELD RPG campaign and I said this way he has proper identification. He loved it way more than I expected him to.

One Present Other People Gave Other People That Is Notable
A funny thing happened to presents people bought for Jason this year: they kept getting lost in the mail. Actually, ONE of those incidents turned out to be a misunderstanding: his sister, who lives in Spain, had bought him something and shipped it here under my name, but this happened to be one of the things I'd strongly considered getting him myself, to the point that I FORGOT I hadn't actually purchased it even though I bought something ELSE to go along WITH it, so when the thing from his sister arrived I thought I'D ordered it even though it came way before everything else in the order, so I wrapped it up for Santa, and... anyway, that's where that confusion came from. My sister ordered him a few things that never showed up, as well, and printed him a copy of the order which she stuck on a pack of beer. He would have been happy with the beer. My brother had bought each of us these little figure thingies to go with our Wii U which we don't actually understand yet, but for some reason only Jason's, again, didn't show up. So my brother called and asked if I thought it would be all right if he gave Jason something he'd originally bought for himself, only to decide he didn't really want it after all. "Does he like Back to the Future?" he asked me. "Uh, yeah, but... okay, whatever you want to do, Dan." So he ended up giving J this model DeLorean. Of the time-machine variety. And it's really detailed and awesome and kind of insane of my brother to buy only to decide he didn't want it and yet NOT send it back for a refund. BUT it came with a card with information about the real DeLorean Motor Company, which Jason looked up, and contrary to popular belief it actually IS still in existence, and now he won't stop talking about how he wants a real DeLorean. So the substituted gift was actually WAY more appreciated than the intended gift, in the end.

Top 5 Programs I Did At The Library
Because it's my calling and junk.
1.The Beatles Family Night!
2. Marble run!
3.The Spontaneous Time-Travel Program
4. Magic-- as detailed a bit toward the end of this post, because it impressed people, had a good turnout, and everyone learned something, so yay.
5. Rory's Story Cubes-- that wasn't the name of the program. It was just one of the Grimm brothers' birthdays, so I decided to do a storytelling theme for Library Explorers. And we'd been kicked out of our usual room for a special event, so we didn't have much space, so I grabbed these cubes I had never before actually tried, to see what we could make of them, making up stories in a circle. And they were such a huge hit I needed to write down what they were called for all the grownups there, who wanted to buy their own sets.
Bonus: Chocolate Covered Anything Day. There wasn't really anything all that creative about it as a program, and I didn't have any great tie-in books or stories, but WE GOT TO DIP THINGS IN CHOCOLATE, so surely this belongs among the top programs of the year, no?

Top 5 New Picture Books
My new regret in life is that I'm not a decent illustrator. Picture books are my new favorite kind of book and now I want to make them. I suppose I can still WRITE them, but my heart wants to be able to do it all! Anyway, here's my favorites of the stuff we got in at the library this year:

1. Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan. I WANT TO LIVE IN SHAUN TAN'S BRAIN. Have I mentioned that? I probably have, because it doesn't stop being true. Here's a nice interview about the making of this book, too.
2. Battle Bunny, by Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and Matt Myers. Technically this came out last year but we only got it at the library THIS year. And it's just notable, because you would think it'd be a one-joke book and get old after awhile, but somehow it only got BETTER as it went, and it's ready-made for creative spin-off activities that really work with kids. That might have made my Best Library Programs list if MY kids hadn't been there that day to drive me nuts. ("I AM NOT YOUR MOMMY RIGHT NOW I AM THE LIBRARIAN PLEASE SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET.")
3. Quest, by Aaron Becker. I actually bought Journey for myself at my kids' book fair this year. Sure, kids, I'll buy you each a book, too, but this one's Mommy's. Anyway, I smuggled this out of the tech room as soon as it came in. I don't love it QUITE as much as Journey but it's still dreamy-perfect and we had fun exploring it together. I think my "Too bad I'm not an illustrator" problem is that WORDLESS picture books are REALLY my favorite thing.
4. Flashlight, by Lizi Boyd, speaking of which. Like on the surface this is so much simpler than, for example, Quest, but there's still so much going on, so much to see, so many little surprises. I JUST LOVE WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS SO MUCH GUYS I CAN'T DEAL WITH IT.
5. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett (again) and Jon Klassen. Barnett and Klassen came to speak at the Carnegie the other month, and I'm almost embarrassed to admit how long I fretted about having no one to come with me to see them, only to realize at the last minute that I HAVE KIDS IN THEIR TARGET AGE GROUP. It was great for all of us! And it was much more fun listening to the KIDS talk to them than it would have been for me to think of something halfway interesting to say. Mac Barnett enjoyed meeting someone with the same name as one of his heroes (both the BOOK'S "hero" Sam, AND the original Sam-and-Dave-the-blues-duo!)SAM_0329 And Maddie told Jon Klassen all about our cannibal fish! It didn't occur to me until later that this was fitting, as she WAS talking to the man who wrote This Is Not My HatSAM_0331 They were awesome. I've always had a crush on Mac Barnett, but in person I liked Jon Klassen best-- he totally seemed like a guy I could hang out with. If I was in the habit of hanging out with Caldecott Medalists.

Top 5 Older (than this year) Picture Books I Only Just Discovered Are Awesome for Reading Aloud This Year

1. Chloe and the Lion, by Mac Barnett DARNIT MAC BARNETT STOP BEING SO ENTERTAINING YOU'RE HOGGING THE LISTS and Adam Rex. I just really like Meta. And Mac Barnett likes meta too, which is why he keeps writing books I like. But please let's not ignore Adam Rex in this discussion because the illustrations really make the book. And that's also kind of the point of this book. They're two great tastes that taste way greater together.
2. What Floats in a Moat? by Lynne Berry. Some very handy blog post about Books You Might Want For a Fizz Boom Read Summer Program Storytime alerted me to this fine title, which INDEED fit with a Things That Float program I had planned. Funny and clever AND educational! Thank you, fine blog post!
3. My Lucky Day, by Keiko Kasza. A different blog post somewhere named this a sure-winner for read-alouds, and it happened to be in one of my outreach bags, so I said, Hey, I'll read THAT one to this group! And guess what. It IS a sure-winner.
4. The Really Really Really Big Dinosaur, by Richard Byrne. I mentioned this one in the above-linked all-the-programs-I-did-in-October post. I just enjoyed me and the mom and the little sister cracking up while the older sister rolled her eyes and tried not to laugh while complaining that she wanted a SERIOUS dinosaur book instead.
5. The Buzz Beaker series by Cari Meister. It looks like there's also some older titles by a Scott Nickel but I haven't read those ones so as to guarantee their quality. These are, as possibly evidenced by their having multiple authors over time, leveled readers out of one of them there book packagers in Mankato Minnesota. Which means I wasn't expecting them to be nearly as entertaining as they are. Again I stumbled upon them for summer reading programs, because they're a treasure trove for actually-fun-stuff-to-read-aloud on STEM topics!

Top 5 Longer-Than-Picture-Books Books I Read This Year, aka The Only 5 Longer-Than-Picture-Books Books I Finished Reading This Year

1. Dangerous, by Shannon Hale. As indicated by my movie list (see below), I love a good superhero story, but I can't get into comic books. Shannon Hale, who is truly one of my very favorite people on the Internet btw, decided to address this-- people who read better in paragraphs than in panels-- by actually writing a great superhero story entirely in prose. It is EVERYTHING I love about, say, watching a Marvel movie-- and even better, solid female representation!-- but in novel form!
OH I FORGOT TO MENTION-- we'll make this 1.5, though it's not much longer than a Buzz Beaker book-- Hale's The Princess in Black, an easy-chapter book about a princess who sneaks out to battle monsters in her spare time, because this is SO MADE for my daughter, and that's why I bought it for her for Christmas:
SAM_0535
2. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. It's the Young People's National Book Award winner, which me being on top of things actually read before then! Mostly because Woodson's editor kept tweeting the most beautiful lines from it, so when it showed up with our Junior Library Guild subscription I said, "I've got to give this a try." It's a verse memoir, and it's LYRICAL. It IS dreaming!
3. A Corner of White, AND
4. The Cracks in the Kingdom, by Jaclyn Moriarty. Apparently pronouncing your first name like that gave you a better than average chance of getting your book read by me this year. But Jaclyn Moriarty gets special attention for being just so dang unique. She's done some crazy worldbuilding for this series (which in a dear-to-my-heart way is called The Colors of Madeleine, AWWWW) about a couple of kids who start to communicate through a crack between their two parallel worlds, and I have to say there have been several twists that I absolutely did not see coming, only to look back and find the evidence had been there all along, and I quite appreciate that. I think the next author would have appreciated that, also:
5. Dogsbody, Diana Wynne Jones. Only last because it's not new like the others. I did buy The Islands of Chaldea for the library, but I haven't gotten around to reading it, yet. It may be HER last, but I still have lots of DWJ to track down still, so that isn't what's keeping me away. More like my usual reading problems.

Top 5 Movies I Saw

1. The LEGO Movie: Officially my son's favorite movie, when the rest of us finally caught up (he'd gone to see it at the theater with his grandparents) we were utterly charmed, too. It really holds up to rewatching and quote-reciting. I don't know why the catchphrase this household has most adopted is "Honey, where are my paaaaaaants?" though.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: We don't get out to the movies much, J and I-- when we do it's usually for a special occasion, like our anniversary (see below). But after seeing a certain episode of Agents of SHIELD (see further below) last March, we decided we needed to go see this AS SOON AS POSSIBLE just to find out what had happened. It was worth it-- I think this is my favorite of the Marvel movies now, and I do like Marvel movies (I think it was watching this that I realized I get a thrill of excitement when the comic-book opener comes on screen, like the opening notes of the Star Wars theme). I particularly like the themes of friendship throughout this movie, I love the friend-chemistry between all the characters-- particularly the platonic friendship between the Cap and Black Widow-- SEE? Platonic CAN BE DONE!
3. Frozen: I know this movie is technically from LAST year but we only just got it for Christmas. We figured we'd watch it as a family sometime this week, and I had a lot of other stuff to do Christmas morning, but my daughter insisted on putting it on, and I found myself sucked onto the couch beside her. I thought the characters were particularly great, and the themes hit on a lot of near-to-my-heart issues, so I was teary-eyed a lot.
4. The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies: We went this weekend for our anniversary, natch, and I feel like I ought to do a longer review than most of the ones in these lists. :P Far from the best of the movies, but hardly a disaster, either. Having seen all three now, I DO think it would have worked better as two movies, just with really really long Extended Editions (with basically, you know, ALL the same footage of the current Extended Editions, just two proper movies for theater viewing). This movie felt a little bit arc-less in a way that I don't think it would have if it had merely been the long climax of a movie that started when they'd first arrived at Laketown. This movie is also made up of the chapters in the book that I always manage to completely forget about, which might be saying something. Still, like any Middle-Earth movie, it's gorgeous-- though this movie seemed to involve a LOT of high and precarious walkways that were making me QUITE nervous thank you-- and, like any Hobbit movie in particular, it features my very favorite actor/Imaginary Husband in the title role, and do I even need to mention anymore that he was brilliant? He was brilliant. As usual. The scene when he was saying goodbye to the dwarves was my very favorite. And I was really glad he spent a lot less of this movie unconscious than he does these chapters in the book. Not that the movie couldn't have still done with more of him.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy: we did slip out to see this one this summer while the kids were at their grandparents' for the week. I didn't think it was as great as a lot of people seemed to think, hailing it the New Star Wars or whatever, but it was a lot of fun, and I appreciate a storyline that weaves a great classic rock mix tape into the plot.

Top 5 Things I Watched On TV, Or At Least Things That Were Aired On TV That I Watched On The Computer

1. Fargo, The Series! GAH I LOVE THIS SHOW. WHY AREN'T MORE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THIS SHOW? Every time I think about it, I miss it. I suppose I could watch it again, considering I bought it on iTunes. I had the DVD set on my wishlist but I guess everyone knew I bought it on iTunes and doesn't believe in the power of Bonus Features.
2. Agents of SHIELD, which is formally called MARVEL'S Agents of SHIELD, but half the time we just call it SHIELD anyway so nyah. Jason and I started watching this when it first came on, and even though it wasn't brilliant at first we kept watching because we both enjoyed it enough and it made for a nice little weekly Date Night, to cuddle on the couch watching "our show" each week. Then suddenly, this past spring, it got GOOD. WHOA PLOT TWISTS and WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT WEEK?!?! and sublimely unhinged birth-fathers and heartwrenching brain-damaged Scottish nerds level-good. This fall I've finished each Tuesday evening with the loveliest sense of satisfaction, and a bit of pity for everyone who gave up on the show before it got to be SO MUCH DANG FUN.
3. "Crumby Pictures" on Sesame Street. It's "Monsterpiece Theater" for a new generation, and it's brilliant, and I really wish I worked in children's television yet again.
4. I almost forgot that Community season 5 happened this year, but it did, way back early on. I also always forget how much I love that show until I get reminded. And there were some brilliantly funny bits this season and some perfectly touching bits too. You're a monster if you didn't cry during a certain goodbye scene with a certain absolutely perfect celebrity cameo. Oh, that got me.
5. Okay, okay, Sherlock season 3, even though the fandom drives me crazy. I can't REALLY skip mentioning it out of spite, when "The Sign of Three" was probably my favorite episode of the show ever. And still, Martin. Because he's brilliant. As usual. Which reminds me:
BONUS #5.5. When Martin Freeman hosted Saturday Night Live. Was he awesome? Of course he was awesome. The "Office: Middle Earth" sketch was brilliant, and did seeing him play his two most lovably adorable roles somehow wrapped up in one character make me sappy? Yes maybe. But he was brilliant even in that dumb talk show sketch where he BARELY HAD ANY LINES EVEN, his expressions just made the whole thing. To be honest, though, he wasn't even in one of my favorite sketches of the night, the commercial for going-back-to-your-home-church-for-Christmas, which was so dead-on St. James that I had to love it. Perversely, another of my favorite things about that show was that they DID NOT MAKE A SINGLE REFERENCE TO SHERLOCK OR BUMBLEPANTS CUCUMBERSAUCE. I'm just a little sensitive. Hey, while we're at it:

Top Five Pics of Martin Freeman That The Internet Kindly Gave Me
1. Okay, this isn't the greatest picture of Martin specifically, but it's such an insanely mindblowing circumstance that it has to be #1:

WHO PUT THOSE TWO MEN ON THE SAME COUCH? HOW IS THAT METAPHYSICALLY POSSIBLE? HOW DID THE AWESOME NOT EXPLODE THE WORLD?
2. From that same talk show, here's Martin doing a Paul McCartney impression.

But he can't fool me. I've long suspected he's been doing an extended Paul McCartney impression for most of his life. I'M ONTO YOU, FELLOW MACCA GEEK.
3. Try not to swoon:

4. I love Martin being Martin, but there were lots of lovely in-character pics this year as well. I'm torn between the "Bilbo does Not Approve" shot:

5. ...and the "Lester is a Conniving Weasel" shot:

PLUS! One moving .gif to make your life happy:


Okay, what's left.
Top 5... Music? Um, maybe not a Top 5?

1. I SAW PAUL MCCARTNEY... I may have already mentioned that.
2. Honestly, I have no clue.
3. OH, this year DOES mark the discovery of the [Sarah's] Husband's Stupid Record Collection blog, which has continued to be fun. Also, Sarah-of-said-blog followed me back on Tumblr and sometimes she even Favorites stuff I reblog there, which makes me feel marginally famous.
4. I wish I was still a music geek who actually was on top of musical discoveries.
5. Well, I do find myself exposed to Hit Pop Songs nonetheless, and actually there were several Hit Pop Songs this year that I ACTUALLY LIKE. I'm quite fond of "All About the Bass" and "Shake it Off." There were many more Hit Pop Songs that I DIDN'T care for (and why the heck do Maroon 5 suck so much now? They were so GOOD ten years ago!), but this isn't really news. I think I spend more time listening to PBS Kids songs than I do the radio, anyway.

Top 5 Songs From PBS Kids Shows I Sing Along To Incessantly

1. The Dinosaur Train Theme Song
2. The "Splashing In the Bathtub" song on Peg+Cat
3. The Peg+Cat Theme Song
4. The "Problem Solved" song from Peg+Cat. I really like Peg+Cat songs
5. Anything from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which is sort of cheating because they were mostly all originally from Mister Rogers, anyway.

Anyway.

Let's wrap things up with a little bloggy retrospective.
Finally, Top 5 Blog Posts I Didn't Already Link To In This Post, Which Mostly Leaves The Philosophical Ones
1. In which I finally understand what it means to examine ones privilege
2. A tribute to an influential teacher
3. In which I examine the darkest depths of my soul
4. Humanity's only hope is to stop trying to change the subject
5. EVERYTHING IS REAL!
And bonus: I wrote a poem once.

So... have a lovely new year! We have no plans because we're boring. How about you? What were your Top Whatevers of the year?
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I meant to do this last year and didn't get around to it. I TALK about this album every year, and traditionally I always leave you, a day or two before Christmas, with "The Christmas Wish," a song FROM this album. But I want everyone to know the joy of the entire thing, so here's a full-on play-by-play review.

I know, my friends in college thought I was joking at first when I started gushing about A Christmas Together. The Muppets and John Denver? Sounds gimmicky at best. The weird thing is, I'm not sure it's possible to make a less-gimmicky album, at least if you're going to have puppet characters involved. Right, there's (gasp) no such actual PERSON as Kermit the Frog, these are just a bunch of puppeteers singing in the voices of their characters. And yet they're so AUTHENTIC. They're not putting on a show. These characters, and most likely the people doing the singing through them, really believe the sentiments they're singing about, and you can feel it. The same can't be said for most of the pop artists who seem to be contractually obliged to record at least one holiday tune for incessant airplay and SALES. When I listen to the Muppets (and John Denver, who I haven't exactly been a fan of, but whose singing and playing is so lovely here that I often wonder why I DON'T seek out more of his non-Christmas music. I can get over the "country" taint by focusing on the "folk" instead, right?) on this album, I feel like I'm listening to people who really love what they're singing about and are just doing it because it makes them happy, not because some corporate bigwig decided to make money off of it. I don't know if the Muppets can ever capture quite that same spirit with Disney hovering over them, and especially not without Jim. It's magical.

It's also different, in a way I don't think any licensed characters could ever get away with again. Sure there are some standards on this track list, and if you EVER hear a song from this album played on the radio, likely it's one of the standards, because the station program managers are like "Hey I know that song!" But this is how they miss out on playing the actual BEST songs on this album. It's the unknown and little-known songs that I truly adore. The album also has a spirituality to it that I can't see most studio heads approving of. Either you're overtly religious, or you stay the bleep away from ANY God-talk. But the Muppets here aren't afraid of referring to, not only the Babe in Bethlehem, but all sorts of metaphysical ideas of faith and hope and love and peace and rebirth-- BUT AT THE SAME TIME, they're welcoming about it. They don't want to beat you over the head with IT'S-JESUS'-BIRTHDAY-AND-EVERYTHING-ELSE-IS-WRONG. Instead the message is, I quote, "But if you believe in love, that will be more than enough for you to come and celebrate with me." My sentiments exactly.

So here it is for you, completely with links to YouTube where YOU TOO can listen to the songs in question. ALL the songs in question if you wish. You really ought to wish.

1.Twelve Days of Christmas
This is a song that gets occasional airplay on the Christmas stations, and I always think really? "Twelve Days of Christmas" is a BORING carol for listening. It's only a good carol when you're actively participating in the singing of it. The Muppets, at least, are aware of the cardinal rule of singing this song, which is that each day MUST be taken by a different person or group of persons, so everyone has to remember to come in on their day and there's usually a great deal of showing-up and general silliness. THAT is how you make "Twelve Days of Christmas" moderately interesting to listen to for all twelve verses. If anyone can make this work, the Muppets can, particularly Piggy, who eventually starts adding "Ba-dum dum dum" to the end of her verse (the 5 gold rings, natch), which of course I am also unable to keep from adding when I sing it (or happen to hear a more-boring recording of it).

2.Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
I love that I was about to type, "A duet between Rowlf and John Denver, Rowlf on piano." Okay I KNOW MENTALLY Rowlf is not on piano, this isn't on video, it's just some actual human piano player, BUT THE MAGIC IS STRONG, and I KNOW in my HEART that that's Rowlf playing the piano. He concludes his piano arrangement with the first line of "Jingle Bells," which I have noticed is a COMMON way for pop renditions of Christmas carols to end. Have you noticed this too? Count them sometime, when you're being subjected to listening to an all-Christmas-music radio station. Take note every time a Christmas pop song ends with "Jingle Bells." Who started it, and did everyone just copy them? Or did everyone come up with it independently and think they were being clever?

3.The Peace Carol
Something in my head insists that this is a moderately traditional carol that's been around forever but just isn't as well-known as most, something like "Coventry Carol" or "Brightest and Best" or one of those others you're like, "oh yeah I've heard this" when you hear it but you'd never think of it on your own? But when I did a search for it, all I found were references to this album, or at the very least John Denver on his own. It's sung by a variety of characters and is quite nice, definitely one of the ones I WISH would get airplay.

4.Christmas is Coming
This one is pure silly fun. Miss Piggy has rounded up a few of the others to sing this as a round. I found the song-- at least the lyrics-- in a piano book once and was disappointed because that version wasn't NEARLY so fun as what's happening here.

5.A Baby Just Like You
This is an original John Denver composition, directed toward a baby named Zachary. Perhaps there's a John Denver fan among you who could tell me if Zachary is in fact his son? Because I don't feel like looking it up. Anyway, when I was a kid I imagined Baby Zachary was a character in the actual storyline of the Muppets and John Denver's TV special, and they were up and singing this to him around his crib. I finally SAW the actual TV special on YouTube last year, and actually found it disappointing as a whole-- they do a lot of songs that AREN'T on the album that are much weaker, and leave out some of the BEST songs, and I just don't think the songs that ARE on both were as good on the special but then I am biased. Anyway, and there was also no Baby Zachary, and no storyline, either, for that matter, so DARN IT JOHN!

But in all seriousness, it's a lovely song, and it's become extra meaningful for me in the past seven years, having babies of my own.

6.Deck the Halls
There's nothing notable about this track. It's very nice though. It of course is also one of the ones that gets occasional radio play, because it's a song people know already, but there's just nothing special about it.

7.When the River Meets the Sea
LISTEN UP: If you're still around for my funeral, and have any say over the playlist: you WILL play this track at my funeral or I WILL torment you from beyond the grave. Don't hold me to that, though. Just play it for me so I DON'T have to come back and torment anybody, because I really don't want to.

When I was old enough to stop and really listen to the lyrics I did wonder what a song that is, essentially, a funeral song was doing on a Christmas album. It's actually really deep and meta I realized: Christmas celebrates the coming of Christ into the world in ALL ways, not just as a human child, so this just happens to be a SECOND-coming Christmas song ("In that sweet and final hour truth and justice will be done").

I didn't see Emmett Otter's Jug-Band Christmas until I was in college, so THEN I finally realized Henson and crew were most likely merely throwing back to their earlier Christmas project by including this song. But no matter. This song is gorgeous and I can listen to it over and over, and MAYBE it's just I haven't got any personal nostalgia for Emmett Otter, but I much prefer Robin and John Denver's peaceful duet to the twangy granny singing in the movie. SORRY, EMMETT OTTER LOVERS.

But anyway, if you only click one of these links to listen to today, make it this one. Or "The Christmas Wish" as usual. Or better yet, both.

8.Little Saint Nick
The Electric Mayhem OWNS this song. The original feels so CANNED in comparison, like (and this probably is what happened) the record company just went up to Brian Wilson and said, "Okay, write a song for you guys to release for our Christmas sales, so, you know, do something Christmas-related but BEACH-BOYS-Y, like make it about surfing or cars or something," and so he did and they dutifully recorded it and it was a sufficiently Beach-Boys-y Christmas song for the record company to release. But the Electric Mayhem plays it* like they WANT to play it! And they definitely make it rock harder. And I just feel like the original is missing something by not having a half-feral drummer screaming "RUN! RUN! REINDEER!" most of the way through.

*Again, *ahem*, YES THEY ARE playing it.

9.Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913
This is a gentle, beautiful John Denver solo. It's a poem by Robert Bridges, but it's been set to music at least two separate times. A few years back my dad's community choir performed a completely different setting of the poem, but I recognized it immediately, and went up to him afterwards all excited like "YOU DID THAT SONG FROM A CHRISTMAS TOGETHER BUT WITH DIFFERENT MUSIC!" and he couldn't figure out what I was talking about. Come on, he's listened to this album NEARLY as often as me, hasn't he?

10.The Christmas Wish
Here's where my traditional Christmas Blog Greeting falls on the track list! If you haven't listened to it for me before, please do so now! It's everything I want to say.

11.Medley: Alfie, the Christmas tree/It's In Every One of Us
The first half of this "medley" is John Denver reciting a poem over a kind of annoyingly repetitive organ part. It always kind of grates on me, and makes me wish this was two separate tracks so I could skip to the second part. But it grows on me a little as it goes on. I'm not really sure what the point of it is. First it's about a Christmas tree who doesn't want to be a Christmas tree because he wants to keep living in the woods, then the tree says it isn't that he doesn't LIKE Christmas because in fact he LOVES it and lives it every day, but what about everyone who doesn't believe in Christmas, does that mean they can't live the Christmas spirit every day NO OF COURSE NOT because life belongs to every living thing, so remember to keep nature in your prayers? It's all lovely stuff, but it seems to jump from idea to idea without really exploring it thoroughly, and it's not beautiful music like all the rest of it, so it's not my favorite part of the album. But then "It's In Every One of Us" starts and all is forgiven, because it's just a simple hippie anthem and I feel it in my soul as I sing along with all the Muppets.

12.Silent Night, Holy Night
This was very educational for me as a child. Everyone sings the first verse in the original German, which is cool for baby Amy, ooo look, the world doesn't revolve around you, this song was originally in A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE, YOU KNOW. Then John Denver starts talking again, which is initially jarring, after having so recently sat through "Alfie," but this time he's telling the story of how "Silent Night" came to be written, which is interesting. Then everyone joins back in singing, this time in English.

There's a bit I sort of love here, demonstrating what I said about the authenticity of it all. Fozzie I think-- somebody played by Frank Oz, most likely Fozzie-- hits a note slightly off. But it feels right. It doesn't feel like it's done for laughs, or that it's a glaring mistake that pulls you out of the moment-- it just feels like Fozzie is genuinely singing his heart out, and he isn't a perfect singer, but THAT'S OKAY. I LOVE that note.

13.We Wish You a Merry Christmas
When I was a kid I was genuinely confused by why everyone else in the world sang the "good tidings to you" verse, which they skip on this album, and obviously this album should be definitive right? And even when people DO remember to sing the verse about figgy pudding, well, that loses something if not interrupted by an irate pig who thinks you're proposing to cook her and/or her kin. Honestly, the Muppets should be the last word, and I'm still confused how they're not.

SO, lovely followers, I wish you a merry christmas and a happy new year once again. If you're not feeling peace in your heart yet, I do recommend you listen to this album pronto. At least "The Christmas Wish." Okay, here are the lyrics again if you can't get sound right now:

I don’t know if you believe in Christmas,
or if you have presents underneath the Christmas tree.
But if you believe in love, that will be more than enough
for you to come and celebrate with me.

For I have held the precious gift that love brings
even though I never saw a Christmas star.
I know there is a light, I have felt it burn inside,
and I can see it shining from afar.

Christmas is a time to come together, a time to put all differences aside.
And I reach out my hand to the family of man
to share the joy I feel at Christmas time.

For the truth that binds us all together, I would like to say a simple prayer.
That at this special time, you will have true peace of mind
and love to last throughout the coming year.

And if you believe in love, that will be more than enough
for peace to last throughout the coming year.
And peace on earth will last throughout the year.

by Danny Wheetman, as sung by Kermit the Frog
rockinlibrarian: (love)
This is what I woke up pondering in the middle of the night. I might blame Cat for creating a whole blog for such Lycoris-type questions for us to ponder (and this one I answered is sort of similar). Or I might blame this great post from Cheryl Klein and a series of tweets from Rae Carson I read yesterday, both of which discussed how helpful it is to take an objective look at stuff YOU don't like but other people LOVE just to figure out what it is that it must be somehow doing right. I might blame a chance run-in with one of those Martin-Freeman-haters, who allow the fact that my Imaginary Husband can't stop running his mouth and has said a few stupid things in his day completely sour them and blind them to the far greater amount of AWESOME he has done and said, and I get cranky when people irrationally hate people I love. I might blame violent football players, because we keep hearing about THEM a lot lately, too. Most likely it was all these things swirling together, keeping me up, making me wonder if I should just GET up to write this but then worrying that I'd fall back asleep just when I was SUPPOSED to wake up, instead.*

There's something in online culture I might call the "Your-Fave-Is-Problematic" syndrome. At least, it's most obvious in online culture, but in light of Cat's question about forgiveness, I guess it exists everywhere, in any situation. It's this idea some people have that, if they can see there's something wrong with something that other people like, suddenly it's all "THAT THING IS WRONG! HOW CAN YOU LIKE A WRONG THING! YOU OBVIOUSLY DON'T KNOW THAT THING IS WRONG IF YOU STILL LIKE THAT THING! STOP IT!" That's what Klein** and Carson were talking about in the things I linked above-- instead of immediately tearing down what other people love, you might want to focus on why they love it and you might learn something from it?

But how much wrong IS too wrong? Don't people kind of have a responsibility to point out problems that need to be changed? How much problem negates all the good? Where's the line between forgiveness and letting injustice get away with it?

Let's take our violent football players. These are people who have done things both immoral and criminal, and yet so many people are willing to overlook reprehensible behavior by their favorite players because the game is that important to them. The game's not that important to me, though. I don't feel like football really offers the world anything it can't get elsewhere, and certainly it's not like there aren't other players to take the place of reprehensible players, if necessary, either.

But what happens when you get into ART? Art, where everyone has a unique voice, and one silenced voice can't simply be replaced by another? I know fans-- and or former fans-- of people like Woody Allen and Marion Zimmer Bradley have had to wrestle with these feelings when their artists turned out to have horrible dark sides. And you have artists who've harbored horrible opinions-- like H.P. Lovecraft might be a LEETLE more excused by his time period than Orson Scott Card is today. But I haven't had to wrestle with those things, never having held strong opinions about the art of any of those people.

But shall we discuss John Lennon? John Lennon with his history of domestic violence? John Lennon with his art that IS very important to me? I admit I can sometimes feel conflicted about John, particularly in the face of his many more blind-worshipping fans. Dudes, he was NOT the sole or even main creative force in the Beatles. Dudes, he REALLY wasn't a paragon of peace. But if I'm not playing devil's advocate against his idolizers, I forgive him his faults. For one thing, he DID change his ways, in the end. Surely we can't still hold him bound for sins that he himself came to regret as well? And for another thing-- well, "Across the Universe" will never not make me blissfully happy, and nothing about its author can ever change that. --Could it? WOULD it have been different if he'd remained an unrepentant wifebeater? Maybe people would see him differently. And yet not a note of "Across the Universe" would have changed.***

This wasn't what kept me tossing and turning. Kevin Clash was. This is the one instance where the sins of the artist, uh, clashed so dramatically with my admiration for him that I still can't work it out. It still makes me angry, still feels like a betrayal. WHY, Kevin? Sure, other fallen types have done worse, but you're NOT SUPPOSED to fall. You've done SO MUCH, SO MUCH GOOD for children around the world. You've done so much for early literacy and you've brought so much joy. You should be a hero! You WERE a hero! But heroes are allowed SMALL, PERSONAL vices, like addiction or bad tempers or careless negligence. Statutory rape? Even if technically "consensual"? Can you still be a hero with that taint on you, or not? It DOESN'T erase the millions of people whose lives he's improved through his work with the Sesame Workshop. How can that be erased? And yet, anymore when I see Elmo, I just get sad.

I suppose part of the solution is to stop dealing in absolutes. Stop having heroes or villains. I just wish it was easier for people to accept that in-between place where reality lies.

*So I've also been working on another finding-myself book, Wishcraft, by Barbara Sher, as recced by my dear friend Angie, and the other day the exercise was figuring out the perfect environment for me to thrive in. The most important detail I came up with was NOT HAVING TO DO ANYTHING AT A PARTICULAR TIME in the morning, so I could wake up when I woke up and immediately grab my journal and just write until whenever, without HAVING to get up so as to feed children or get them to school or, on weekends, entertain a husband. I JUST WANT A MORNING JOURNALING TIME THAT WON'T REQUIRE ME TO WAKE UP BEFORE I'M READY.

**TECHNICALLY, she was quoting someone else in her post, but she posted it in the first place so as to talk about this, and she's the one whose name I know, so I'm giving her credit here ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY I KNOW THAT'S NOT PERFECTLY ACCURATE, shut up you Amy's-Posts-are-Problematic folks.

***OR WOULD IT????? WHO REALLY KNOWS THE INTRICACIES OF CHAOS THEORY?!?!
rockinlibrarian: (love)
Twenty-one years ago approximately exactly (it was sometime in the first half of the summer) I had a life-changing experience. It was one of those things where all the evidence had been slowly gathering over the course of your life, and you enjoyed the bits and pieces as they came without thinking too hard about it, but suddenly one day one final piece makes all the others snap together and NOTHING IS EVER THE SAME AFTERWARD, like watching the UK Office and finding yourself suddenly Imaginarily Married, for example. It's part of your very identity taking shape, never to be cast aside, never to be just a passing fad, but a permanent HI-I'M-AMY-AND-THIS-IS-WHAT-I-LOVE, and it becomes half your Internet alias, once the Internet becomes common enough that you need an alias for it.

So my Bucket List gained an item: someday I MUST experience that When-Everything-Gelled-Moment again, but Live In Person. But it seemed like it might never happen, because the guy was getting OLD, you know? And he kept not coming to Pittsburgh. But it turned out, reportedly, that this was only because Pittsburgh's venues could no longer support his stage set-up, so when we built a new arena a few years ago that could, he was the FIRST artist to play there. And a few years later, putting together his current tour, Pittsburgh was one of the first two US cities booked. I think he missed us.

Then a month or so ago he got sick and cancelled the rest of his gigs in June. WE WOULD BE ONLY HIS SECOND SHOW AFTER THIS HIATUS. What if he was still sick? (I'd tried to see his old bandmate Ringo in concert once, but HE'D gotten laryngitis the day of the show and cancelled a few hours before. Can you blame me being a little nervous, here?) As the day got closer, and reports from the front assured us he was doing well, cancellation seemed less likely. But what if we were setting ourselves up for disappointment, here? What if he was well enough to perform, but not quite well enough to give it his all? I'd seen him do an appearance on a talk show last year where he must have been under the weather, because his voice didn't sound quite right, and the ENERGY wasn't quite there, and it made me sad, like maybe he WAS getting too old. But apparently he WAS just sick, because the next performance I saw on TV was right back up to standard.

IT'S THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING, I decided. I have his music and I've seen him on TV so many times, if at THIS concert he's not quite up to snuff, that's fine, because the point is I'm IN THE SAME ROOM as my Musical Hero, watching him make music in person for once. Just to say I was there.

cut for pictures and length )

EDIT: Here's a nice interview he did the day before this concert, which is extra-interesting to read in light thereof. Now we know what goes on in his mind... that's kind of a cheap Beatles song reference when it's neither a) one of his songs, nor b) a good song at all, but never mind.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
I wanted to catch up on READING this blog I found before I posted about it, but it's taking me longer than I'd like (I'm looking at it as reading a book, and we all know how persistent I've been about THAT process lately), and anyway at the moment I feel a bit annoyed, which is a good way to get me to post something (that actually relates to ANOTHER potential post that's been tumbling around my head lately-- anger=drive-- but I guess I'll get to that one some other time, too), so darnit, here you are anyway, now. I must share! We shall NOW all finish catching up TOGETHER!

Anyhoo, a couple of weeks ago I found a link to this article, about a woman-- a CHILDREN'S LIBRARIAN in fact-- who's started a Tumblr blog called My Husband's Stupid Record Collection, in which she listens to her husband's stupid-only-in-that-it-is-stupidly-LARGE vinyl collection in order and writes about it.

OH-EM-GEE. THIS WOMAN NEEDS TO BE MY NEW BEST FRIEND. That is so totally what I want to DO with my life! Systematically go through a whole stupid record collection and write about it! (It's probably the true ulterior motive behind my imaginary marriage to Martin Freeman! I'm totally imaginarily using him for his record collection!) It only really WORKS with a massive vinyl collection, I'm afraid. Sure, I could write about new-to-me music I find online. I could go through MY husband's CD collection if I thought it contained any hidden treasures (it doesn't). But it's not the same. It's not that I'm a vinyl purist, sound-wise-- it's that there's something ritualistic about listening to a record. The putting-it-on-the-turntable, setting-the-needle-in-place process, and then SITTING, LISTENING.

The annoyance that nudges me to post comes from, apparently, some outsiders' attitudes toward the project. Did you know there's apparently a gender divide to music geekery? And so this blog is either a musically-clueless girl bringing her fresh perspective to the male world of music collection, or it is reinforcing stereotypes ABOUT how girls are clueless about record collecting? (Reading SOME of the comments to this post she wrote in response to the detractors, basically comments in which detractors said "You're still wrong," which is super-annoying but seems sadly to be the fate of Internet discourse, anyway, that was what made me annoyed this time). Where do these ideas COME from? In my house growing up, sure, the music-collection geek of the binary-gendered couple was my dad. In this house right here? The music geek is me. Absolutely not the guy. I certainly never thought of it along gendered lines. Just, you know, individual people and their hobbies lines.*

My dad passed on his music geekery to me from long before conscious memory: playing the piano for me as an infant, offering me music lessons as a given (the way I remember it was he brought some fliers home from some lesson-offering friends and said "Would you like to learn the piano or the violin?" Which, MAYBE he was asking if I'd like to learn either at all, but I definitely HEARD as "You will learn one of these, which will it be?" Luckily I already WANTED to play the piano), quizzing me on singers and songs, getting so involved in the Band Parents that I'm pretty sure HE had more friends at my school than I did, and, yes, digging out his totally massive vinyl collection for my perusal and eventual use on my college radio show. Now, HIS record collection I could definitely write about. The special thing about his collection is that it's mostly 45s instead of LPs-- as a teenager he'd worked for a deejay who paid him in records. LOADS of Promotional-issued 45s. He's got this famous misprint of "Penny Lane" with a few extra trumpet notes at the end, that deejays were SUPPOSED to destroy once they got the official release instead, but hey. Technically, I'VE got it. He officially gave me all his Beatles 45s, but they must be somewhere still at his house... which is funny because now I also have his RECORD player.

My best friend Angie had a record player in college, and her roommate Jen and I would dig up obscure records from our parents' collections just to bring to school and sit around their room, listening. (Okay not JUST-- I DID have my radio show for which I was constantly lugging a bag-and-a-box of vinyl around). My only really great contribution to this was Donovan's "There Is a Mountain," which I made everyone I met listen to at some point, and okay, you can debate if this was a GREAT contribution or not (but if you choose to debate with me on the topic, you ARE wrong). Jen dug up the marvels. She found the "Da Da Da" song that was on a Volkswagen commercial at the time-- not just the song, a whole ALBUM. She introduced us to "Hocus Pocus" by Focus, which is awesome but to be honest we mostly just made excuses to say it aloud. I'm sure there were more, but those are the only specifics I can think of at the moment, beyond that they sampled the Doors' "The Soft Parade" for all the system sounds on their computer, so the computer would announce "THE MONK BOUGHT LUNCH" every time you turned it off, but they had that on CD, not vinyl, so like I said. Not the Same.

I'm really not so off in wanting Sarah-of-her-husband's-stupid-record-collection as a best friend, because she reminds me an AWFUL lot of Jen. Even in looks, they're built alike, with similar smiles, and have the same super-straight banged hair, and glasses when blog-Sarah is wearing glasses. Jen ended up marrying a musician-- a drummer of nearly every possible genre, a true music geek if ever there was one. No one can deny that Jen's husband is a BIGGER music geek than she is, but that doesn't make Jen NOT a music geek, just because she (like Sarah, like me) chose to devote her career to books instead (Jen's a writer/English professor, not a librarian, but basic gist holds).

This is an example of a broader issue of Geekdom. The "what makes a TRUE Geek of Such-and-Such?" question. And there IS a gender thing that comes up in that question, most famously in the "Fake Geek Girl" concept. This title usually refers to girls who like comics and conventions, where a few of the guys who like comics and conventions just can't seem to believe that is possible. But of course GEEKINESS is much more than comics and conventions. The word "geek," used in a neutral-to-positive sense, seems to mean "a person who takes joy in their favorite things to the point of studying, collecting, debating, and otherwise going on and on about them, unselfconsciously and irregardless of those things being seen as 'cool' by the mainstream," most inclusively. But you can't deny that some of those favorite things are considered more "geeky" than others, and "Geek Culture" just generally assumes a love of speculative fiction, comic books and/or superheroes, games of all sorts (but especially NON-MAINSTREAM games), and anything BRAINY or NERDY (I still think "nerd" is a subset of "geek"-- a more academic and outright-uncool geek). I'm an utter nerd, and therefore (subset, you know) a geek. I use big words, not to impress people, but just because they come out that way. I love learning new and weird things, I like to THINK about things, I absorb useless trivia, I'm passionate about my favorite things, and I love "Geek Culture" because it's full of people LIKE that; and I DO love speculative fiction, though mostly as written for younger people, and I love games but video games make me dizzy, and I like superheroes but comics make me dizzy, too... so when people say "Fake Geek Girl" they're usually not talking about ME.

Rock music, in and of itself, is not considered "geeky" that way, but a) it's nonetheless MY biggest Geekdom, and b) the culture surrounding it ALSO tends to assume that This Isn't a Girl Thing. So I relate.
I even did a whole salute to "Fake" Rock Girls last year for our Video Blog. I'm not going to repeat everything I said there here, partially because I want to get us away from the gender issue now. WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A GEEK FOR SOMETHING, male or female? CAN you draw a line, saying Because you are not as Extreme In Your Geekitude as me, you're not a Geek of this topic? Because you direct your passion on this topic in a different WAY than I do, you are not a Geek?

I always think of Star Wars for that last question. Star Wars is very important to me, emotionally. Did a Vlog about that one, too. But I still remember when my aforementioned friend Jen-- I DEDICATE THIS WHOLE POST TO JEN-- first gave me her email address, which incorporated the name "Wedge Antilles," and I was like "What's that mean?" and she was like, "WEDGE WAS THE ONE REBEL BESIDES THE MAIN CHARACTERS WHO MADE IT THROUGH ALL THREE STAR WARS MOVIES!" and I was like, "Oh, really? I don't remember him." Because, unlike most "Star Wars Geeks," I really didn't have every ancillary detail memorized. I was too busy marvelling about life and death and sacrifice and mercy. I'm a BIG PICTURE Star Wars geek-- a forest type instead of a trees type. But there's a certain contingent of Geekery devoted to mapping the bark of every tree in the forest, and a certain contingent of THAT contingent that believes you're not a true Geek unless you, too, are a bark-mapper.

I'm a bark-mapper of the Beatles forest, though, which may be part of why I feel most comfortable claiming that as my biggest Geekdom. But it gets a little scary when your Geekitude is judged on quantity, because there's a LOT of bark in a forest, and even if you SHOULD get through mapping it all, by that time some trees have died and new ones have grown. And sometimes I feel like a sorry excuse for a music geek because I've gotten so BEHIND in the past seven years (as I have with everything. KIDS KILL BRAIN CELLS, in case you were unaware). Plus, I'm on the Internet, surrounded by other bark mappers, who are familiar with so MUCH obscure music and trivia-- my specialized knowledge pales! I mean, come on, "There Is a Mountain" is on Donovan's GREATEST HITS album, for cryin' out loud!

Bringing us back to Sarah-of-her-husband's-stupid-record-collection. If you actually read her blog, it's clear she is NOT a clueless outsider. She LOVES music! She LOVES to listen and to dance and to go to concerts and to discover MORE of it! But a) she loves it in a different WAY than her husband and the other bark-mappers-- a more emotional way, feeling it physically, is how she describes it. And sure, there's lots of DETAILS she doesn't know-- a lot of stuff I knew that she only just learned. But she also knows stuff I don't know (starts off her Blonde Redhead review by saying she listened to them a lot in college-- I've never so much as HEARD of them), and stuff I DO know but I'm fairly sure is really NOT common knowledge (does the average person REALLY have any idea who Syd Barrett is? Also by the way, am I stupidly pleased that she loves Barrett? It's so weird but so wonderful).

The point IS loving it. Or hating it as the case may be. The ENTHUSIASM. Geeking out over records is not a contest to see how much you already know. It's sitting around the turntable making discoveries for the first time, or sharing your underappreciated favorites with your friends, or even gawking over truly horrible things you've dug up, but learning and feeling new things is all PART of it. You lose that vitality if you make it dependent on what you ALREADY know.

Now I really miss Jen and Angie and their record player. Oh well.

--
* In a flip to this, a few weeks ago the 5yo, listening to the radio, out of nowhere said "This is a BOY singing! Boys don't sing!" "SURE they do. Whatever gave you that idea?" I replied, genuinely bewildered. "Well, DADDY doesn't sing..." she said. "Well yeah, but that's DADDY. Not BOYS. The Beatles are boys. And haven't you ever heard Pappap sing?" and I vowed in my head to make sure to get the kids to more of my dad's choral society concerts. He also sang in the church choir at Easter, and I made a point of MAKING SURE THEY KEPT NOTICING THAT the whole time we were there.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
It's not like I haven't written before about false dichotomies, more than once, but there are times I just get reminded that, too often, false dichotomies exist because the middle ground just doesn't speak up. Easter is one of those times. It's the same people doing it as usual, to be honest-- on one side are those who wield the name of Jesus like a sledgehammer into everything they say, as if every #Jesus hashtag is another entry in the Free-Ticket-to-Heaven giveaway and they are a WAYYYY bigger Heaven fan than all the other contestants so they're NOT GOING TO LOSE; on the other side are the ironically-holier-than-thou atheists who make jokes about belief in general as if only truly STUPID people would ever, say, ACTUALLY CELEBRATE Easter, who honestly aren't trying to offend anyone because they BELIEVE that all the sensible people they're talking to must agree with them about religion. I mean, that's just the random sample of the Internet I saw that gets me THINKING on the topic-- the issues and extremes aren't necessarily embodied by these PARTICULAR people, especially on Easter, and I don't want anyone to think that everyone who posted "Hallelujah!" or a slightly irreverent joke yesterday is necessarily one of these extremes, because, you know, it's Easter and you do those things. But I started thinking about it either way, and sitting in church I knew it was time for me to speak up on the religion topic, at least, again.

For some people, faith, or at least religion, IS an either/or thing. But that doesn't mean everyone's either and or is the SAME. And every time someone equates religion with Creationism I especially cringe. Gosh, I'm truly sorry if you think faith and science can't dwell in peace in one person's personal worldview, because they're both a part of MY worldview, and I can't imagine feeling forced to choose between them. Really, Creationists, when you see the wonders of the universe that science has uncovered, is it really necessary to reject those miracles because they don't fit the very narrow definition of "miracle" humans settled on centuries ago? Really, atheists, when someone believes in a Higher Power, is it really a mark of a Freethinker to assume this means they're superstitious, backwards, and anti-science? The biggest fallacy in this forced dichotomy is the idea that there's only one kind of Faith-- or one kind of religion-- or something. When people make it all Secularism vs. Fundamentalist Christianity, I wonder, what about the Hindus and Buddhists? Jews and Muslims? Pagans and Pantheists of various persuasions? What about the wide varieties of personal belief within single denominations? If someone says "I'm an atheist because I don't believe the world was created by an old man in the sky," I'm like, "Hi, I don't believe the world was created by an old man in the sky, either. I'm a Catholic Christian."

So let me tell you about me and faith. I've already told you I'm a Bad Catholic. But I AM Catholic. I AM Christian. And I DO BELIEVE. But for me it's not about believing anything to the letter, word for word. It's not a prescription, it's a relationship. It's a LIVING Faith. It's being open to revelation, to self-discovery and other-discovery, to understanding and to accepting-without-understanding.

I do believe in questioning ideas and dogmas and just-what-everyone's-always-thoughts. Questioning is how you incorporate what you learn, understand it, make it your own. I do believe in learning about many different ways of thinking and believing. Sometimes another person's faith will help you understand your own faith better. But this is what I MEAN by a Living Faith. It's fluid. You allow it to grow, to change you, to speak to you where you are in your life and personal development. It's not a stagnant set of rules or strict literal adherence to certain stories. There are rules, and there are stories, but they are guides, not Faith itself.

I mean, if religion was all Thou Shalt Nots, it wouldn't do me any good. I'm GREAT at Not Doing. It's easy for me to avoid violence and theft and betrayal and cruelty. Threatening me with hellfire if I step a toe out of line will not make ME a better person, though it might be just what some people need. But I'm the sort of person much more prone to Sins of Omission-- a person whose primary Deadly Sin is Sloth-- so I need to be inspired toward DOING GOOD rather than simply Not-Doing Bad. So I use my Faith to help ME, PERSONALLY, grow in the ways I, PERSONALLY, need to.

So my point is, there are many ways to do religion, and what is right for one person may not be right for someone else (and I'm aware that that statement itself may be WRONG to some people, but that's THEIR Right Way, and them telling me so won't change what I know in MY heart). I think we need to be more open about our own ways, to show that there isn't just one extreme or the other, to help those who haven't found THEIR way to see that it's not a hopeless decision, and to help those who DO tend toward an extreme to understand others' ways of believing.

So this is what I was thinking about this Easter.

Okay, admittedly I was also thinking a great deal about chocolate. And the birthdays of my children and sister which all happened this week so as to make a rather gift-filled day with cake and stuff yesterday too. Also, my sister gave me bongos for MY birthday, since she hadn't seen me closer to my birthday to do it then. I love my bongos. But my kids keep wandering off with them and using them in inappropriate ways (I mean inappropriate for BONGOS, not inappropriate for children and elderly family members!), and my husband complains if I play them around him. So now I need my own personal bongo-playing room. But anyway.

ALSO SPEAKING ABOUT MUSIC AND MY SISTER DID I TELL YOU PAUL MCCARTNEY'S COMING BACK TO PITTSBURGH THIS SUMMER AND I FINALLY, FINALLY, SCORED TICKETS?!?!? FOR MY SISTER AND I? I have now replaced "See Paul McCartney Live In Concert" on my Bucket List with "Hug Martin Freeman." Because that's how likely "See Paul McCartney Live In Concert" was looking there for a long time. BUT NOW IT'S JUST SHORT OF CHECKED OFF. Still have to wait for July to be sure. I mean, we tried to go see Ringo in concert once and he got laryngitis and cancelled. BUT I HAVE TICKETS AND THAT'S AS CLOSE AS I'VE EVER GOTTEN.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
Last week, a tree fell on our house. I was in the upstairs bathroom, the room directly under the point of impact. My initial reaction was to burst out laughing at how this had been immediately preceded by one of the guys cutting it down saying "Uh-oh." A few yards and an attic crawl space from being beaned to death by a falling tree,* and all I could do was appreciate the comic timing of that loud "uh-oh," followed by the smack of a huge bunch of branches right outside the window.

A bit later I was able to expand that reaction to laughing at the irony of the entire situation. We have a series of very old, very tall, very rickety pines right on the property line-- on one side or the other, but all a threat to either our house or the neighbors'. So when said neighbor came over to ask permission to work in our yard so as to remove one of those trees that was on their side of the line, I said, "Oh yes, we're concerned about those trees falling on our house, too." So when the first tree being removed instead falls DIRECTLY ON OUR HOUSE IN THE PROCESS... seriously, you have to admit that's funny!

"How are you laughing?" people would ask me later as I tried to tell them what had happened. "How are you TAKING this so well?" Well, no one got hurt. Insurance is handling all the repairs. Sure, we're going to have to pay a lot more, to take this opportunity to replace the entire roof that needed it anyway; and to replace ALL the siding because they don't make the kind we have anymore to match; and to take this opportunity to get the house properly insulated because it turns out it ISN'T (and that will save money in the long run). And that's kind of exciting. Sure, we probably WON'T get to fixing the retaining wall or painting the shed as per the original plans for this summer of having-more-money-than-we-used-to, but hey.

And you know what? We've never been as friendly with those neighbors before as we have since they dropped a tree on our house. The guys at first cowered in terror from my husband, and took some time to get their heads around that he HADN'T come out screaming-- or shooting, everybody knows about his hobbies-- at them, but instead just expressed concern about no one getting hurt. "What good does getting mad do?" he said. And, as it turned out this had been our neighbor and his buddies themselves trying to do this tree removal instead of a professional company-- and they were definitely not going to try again WITHOUT a professional company, J said, "When you do, let me know, we can go in together on it and get the other trees done, too. Talk to you later, we'll have some beers and barbecue!"

All the personality type descriptions of me that come up feel the need to point out that, as an optimist, I need to be careful not to ignore problems or refuse to acknowledge that there's Bad Stuff about even the things and people I love. That was even TODAY'S Type 9 "Enneathought for the Day" in my inbox: "As average Nines accommodate themselves, they idealize the other person, who can do no wrong. Values and beliefs are seldom questioned. Watch for this tendency in yourself today." I snorted. Well, it's true I'll tend to go with whatever anybody else says rather than stand up for what I want, and that IS something that's been on my mind since yesterday evening, when the hubs and I had an argument about what colors to go with for the new siding and trim. He wants grayscale for easier repairing. I want the exact opposite-- even our current blue-with-white-trim is too bland for me. I want COLOR. Sensible color. I'm definitely leaning toward this particular shade of green, which looks lovely with some browns and a touch of red. Last night I spent a great deal of time dreaming I was studying green houses, and how to compromise with roof color. I also dreamed I was trying to unlock these pictures I couldn't access of the Time I Swear I Really Did Meet Julie Andrews and She Said She Liked My Gardening (note: I have never actually met Julie Andrews), and this lady kept wanting to give me acupuncture in the shape of India. But anyway, my point is I'm sticking to my guns on this, and we ARE going to have SOME color in our new house covering.

And, okay, I do tend to ignore problems, either hoping they'll go away or waiting until I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DEAL with them, which could be dangerous especially in medical situations (but you know what happens every time I go to the doctor, after trying to rassle up babysitting or some other rearrangement of schedule? "Oh, you just have a pretty bad virus. Get some rest and drink plenty of fluids." AAAGGHHH!)

But refusing to acknowledge the bad or thinking loved ones can do NO WRONG? I kindly disagree. I am all too aware of The Dark Side. I'm probably MORE aware of the Dark Side than the average person.** That's why disasters and tragedies and horrors seem to SHOCK other people more than they shock me. Not saying bad things don't make me sad, or angry, or slightly sick. It's just that they're so common. If I was expected to cry in outrage EVERY time I encountered a tragedy, I would never stop. So I choose to focus on the beauty or the humor or both.

A common refrain of those who take a pessimistic view is, "We're just being realistic about it!" Dude, let me tell you about being unrealistic. Do you know what goes on inside the head of a person with chronic depression? It's utter negativity. And it's utter BS. Choosing to focus on the positive allows me to actually TAKE ACTION in the world. Focusing on the negative makes me give it all up to hopelessness. Now, I can see where acknowledging as opposed to ignoring problems comes into this. Ignoring problems is not taking action, either. But there's a difference between "HERE'S A PROBLEM. LOOK AT THIS PROBLEM. GASP IN SHOCK AT THIS PROBLEM. OH NO, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!" and "Well, THAT'S something we need to fix. How are we going to do that? I'm sure we'll find a way."

As for idealizing people... I AM very good at seeing the good in other people. I AM inclined to Not-Hate people everyone else can't stand-- and often I DON'T see what their problem is until it's pointed out to me. But usually, I do. I just don't care unless it's actively causing a problem. Like there's a book vendor who has a history of coming to our library. I do not want to work with him. I wish they'd stop letting him come in. He's a horribly pushy salesman. Last time he showed up, unable to find anyone who actually orders books to talk to, he just asked some of the others to look and see what they might be INTERESTED in, and then went and ordered them all for us anyway. I don't like him. But only as a book vendor. I'm sure his family is very proud of what a good salesman he is, how he supports them and all. Just because I don't want to work with him doesn't negate his worth as a human being. It doesn't give me the right to insult his fashion choices or make assumptions about his politics. It doesn't mean I'm going to start a campaign to have all my followers find his Twitter handle and bully him online-- "well HE'S a bully, serves him right!" No, not really. I just don't want to deal with him trying to sell me books.

In one of my childhood books-I-wrote, there's a line at the end where I said (I'm the narrator of that book) something like, "The others have been treating so-and-so better after I told them that she makes a very good book character." Maybe the whole empathy-from-reading-fiction thing is what's kept me realistically-optimistic about people, instead of idealizing them or hating on them. I've always liked looking at people as potential book characters. Imperfect characters are way more interesting than perfect ones. I like quirks. I like wondering about the pain and/or hopes beneath the surface of people. I like comparing the different ways people react to the same situation.

And so I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt.

And what's wrong with that? Is it really better to say "This person is a jerk because they have this terrible fault," than "This person is wonderful in these ways! Oh yes, they're not perfect, but I wasn't talking about that right now"? I mean, sure, if someone has done something reprehensible, they ought to be punished for it if at all possible, and it's wrong to let them get away with it (for example, on one end, Justin Beiber's DUI issues, or Woody Allen's sex abuse thing on the other). And I admit when someone gets a lot of praise whom you know has been, to put it mildly, Imperfect, there's that urge to say "...but!" It's my John Lennon problem. It bugs me when people talk about him like he WAS the Beatles, like he was the genius behind it all, because he wasn't. He was only a so-so musician, particularly compared to Paul. And that whole Icon of Peace thing... excuse me, John? Who mistreated his wives and girlfriends? Rude, crass John? GEORGE would make a much better Icon of Peace-- or Ringo. From a personal day-to-day standpoint, Ringo embodies living a life of Peace better than any of them. DARN IT, PEOPLE, STOP IDOLIZING JOHN. And yet... John. Funny, clever John, who would have made my life by writing either "Across the Universe" or "Julia" alone, and he wrote BOTH of them. I can't not love John, warts and all.

I just don't see the point on dwelling on problems that can't be undone. There comes a point where you realize what a crapball the world can be, what idiots humans are, what atrocities and injustices happen at every moment, and you give up on it-- or you notice the good things that keep on happening, even among all the bad. You notice the wildflowers that have overgrown the tracks at Auschwitz, the strangers sharing supplies with each other in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the smile on the person you pass on the street, just acknowledging you, just saying, "Hi, I see you're there, and you're a person who could use a smile today."

Focusing on the good is not the same as refusing to acknowledge the bad. It's just not letting the bad win.

----
*one of my grandfathers was killed by a falling tree, this is serious business!
**seriously, "The Imperial March" is playing on my computer right now. I'm not even kidding.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
For as infrequently as I actually post, my brain is often churning over blog-posting possibilities. Apparently-- I've come to accept-- blogging is my writing genre of choice lately, and even IT I can't always make myself sit and do. But I have that thing you get when you're writing fiction, where the story won't leave you alone, and you keep writing it in your head even though you're not writing it on paper... it's just lately I've been doing it with blog posts instead of fiction. Maybe it's because lately I've been READING more blog posts than I've read fiction. INTERNET, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH MY BRAIN?

Anyway, all these little posts get backlogged and I find myself stuck, when I actually have TIME to write, just trying to decide which I ACTUALLY want to write about most. Then it occurred to me that that never stopped me in the past, and I could just post them ALL AT ONCE, and nobody would read it because it would be So Friggin' Long, but it would all BE there as opposed to just theoretical. So HERE, with bolded subject headings, so you can skip to the parts you like:

On the Anniversary of US Beatlemania

...a topic I addressed slightly by describing my library program on the Beatles in January. And it's technically a topic I've addressed many times over. You all KNEW already by now I'm a serious Beatles fan, right? I've told you about the Paul McCartney tv concert that changed my life (and how badly I want to go to one in person). I've discussed all my favorite Beatles songs. I've written odes to Paul and George, who, if pressed, I will probably claim as my two favorites. And I've made so many off-hand references that I can't possibly go back and find them all.

But have I ever devoted a post to what being a Beatlemaniac MEANS to me?

It sounds like such a cop-out answer to say the Beatles are your favorite band. It sounds uncreative, like you couldn't be bothered to listen any deeper in the history of music so as to even FIND somebody else. I see the "Beatles are overrated" haters and they always try to argue the superiority of some other band (usually, for some reason, the Kinks. Which I have no argument with. I like the Kinks), but it DOESN'T MATTER. I can't help where my heart goes, and nothing makes me happier than Beatles music. Maybe not "nothing." But very little.

It also seems funny to claim that your biggest Geekdom is the most popular rock band in the history of the world. Aren't people supposed to Geek Out over NON-mainstream things? But no, my love for the Beatles is true Geekishness. I collect books about them. I absorb trivia about them. I am the resident Expert on the subject among all the people I know personally.

The comments section of The A.V. Club is widely regarded as one of the few places on the Wide-Open Internet (as opposed to nice personal blogs like mine) where reading the comments is not only an okay idea, but actually takes the article to a whole new level of awesome and/or fun. And I have to tell you how awesome I felt in the comments section of their review of the Beatles-on-Ed-Sullivan retrospective concert the other week. It was a found my tribe moment, for me to contribute comments and get into discussions where I CLEARLY was on-par in the conversation, to have SO many of my comments upvoted. To be able to converse so geekily and appreciate and be appreciated! Eight strangers upvoted my desire to play drums in an all-girl Beatles tribute band, aka Lovely Rita and the Meter Maids nobody else is allowed that band name I claim it! I felt so accepted. :D

I really don't know if it would have been different in the '60s, if the Screaming Fangirl aspect would have put me off to the extent that I wouldn't have CLAIMED them so completely. So I'm glad I came in after the fact, when it could be just me exploring a band I (and my dad) loved, and worrying about how many other people loved them later.

But they're magic with a melody. With harmonies and countermelodies and chord progressions. With their sheer variety of STYLES. With the WAY THEY MAKE IT ALL COME TOGETHER. (RIGHT NOW. OVER... sorry).

Which brings me to my next little topic:

Sensitive Hard Rockers

Last time I mentioned my Highly Sensitive son, so I want you to start with that image of a timid, high-strung, quiet, shrimpy little kid... which is why it amuses me that he's becoming a Metalhead. His DAD IS a metalhead, but he doesn't really play his music much (or at all) at home (he's even the sort of person who can --*GASP*-- DRIVE LONG DISTANCES WITH THE RADIO OFF), so the kids' musical exposure has been my more eclectic tastes. And of my tastes, he's developed a clear preference for hard driving rock.

THIS IS FUNNY BECAUSE HE'S EXTREMELY SENSITIVE TO LOUD NOISE. But IS it? Funny, I mean. Maybe it makes perfect sense. Music-- yes, even hard rock, old man-- brings order out of chaos. Maybe it's not the VOLUME of noise we're so sensitive to, but the RANDOMNESS of it. When that noise resolves into clear pitches and rhythms, it's like "OH GOOD, you made it all better." Part of my own fascination with/love for psychedelic rock is the way it outright acknowledges chaos-- harnesses it. It takes all the dizzying sensations of the world and thoughts of the universe and... SORTS it. And yet it's still all there, it's just organized! It's like a library versus a pile of books!

I did another video where I eventually started musing about how maybe my sheer lack of Being Rock and Roll was possibly WHY I love rock so much. It's an outlet for the wild side of myself. Which is funny when I just finished saying it's ORDERLY. Maybe that's what makes it a SAFE wild side!

... yeah, I know I started out talking about my SON and hard rock. But it all applies.

Anyway, now that I'm here, maybe I'll just stick to the music subject for today. The rest may work better tomorrow, after all.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
In celebration of the long-awaited U.S. return of THE JOHN WATSON SHOW I mean Sherlock, you knew I meant Sherlock-- I need to confess something to you. I, kind of... HATE?...Sherlock Fandom...?

*phew* okay, got that out there. You see, whenever you want to get something like that off your chest, you're inevitably aware that every one of your reasons is hypocritical or selfish or hypocritical or irrational or also maybe hypocritical. And yet SOMEHOW you need to get it out. To WORK it out. To work THROUGH the irrationality to figure out what your problem REALLY is.

Maybe my problem is my uneasy relationship with the entire idea of fandom. I grew up before the Internet. I grew up keeping my various obsessions, with Les Miz or Ducktales or Madeleine L'Engle or Gadget on Rescue Rangers or my crush on Fred Savage (who ME? Get a CRUSH? On a TV STAR? NO WAY) or whatever, a kind of shameful secret. I didn't KNOW anyone who loved these things the way I did (or even at all). Therefore IT WAS WEIRD OF ME. It was weird of me to FEEL so much about imaginary things (or real people I didn't know: because frankly I thought it was weird of the OTHER girls to be hanging up pages from Tiger Beat and sighing over any of the New Kids on the Block or the other Teen Supposed-Heartthrobs in there-- Fred Savage WAS in there, too, but that was part of why my own feelings freaked me out). I'd see a reference to one of my Favorite Things out in the world and I'd BLUSH. I was a closeted obsessive, hiding my intense feelings just because they DIDN'T MAKE SENSE to me.

So I see these kids online and realize they ARE just like me, but they've found an outlet that I never had. So maybe I'm... jealous?

I AM jealous of SOME Sherlock fans-- or some People In General-- of ANY age, I can say. Maybe the adults even more so. Because it's such a THING to love the show SO much that you CAN'T WAIT FOR IT TO AIR IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY and so you find a way to hack the BBC to watch it, or download it illegally ("while preordering the DVD, I PROMISE!" and I don't doubt it but...). I just can't imagine that watching it immediately is THAT IMPORTANT. It's coming. In fact, for U.S. fans, it's been less than THREE WEEKS this time. WAY better than last time's four months. Meanwhile, I've got so many other things on my plate that I just can't justify going though all that effort for a TV show that IS COMING EVENTUALLY. So while all the impatient fans of the world make me want to shout, "Oh come on, why can't you just WAIT?!? Don't you have ANYTHING ELSE to occupy your time?!?" what I'm really saying is "Gee, I wish I didn't have kids to work around all the time when it comes to free time. I miss those days of viewing-marathons and opening-night movie-goings and otherwise-seeking-out-things-I-like-as-soon-as-possible-on-whatever-schedule-I-like." Sour grapes. But then what most gets me is the assumption, after that (or even beforehand-- "Oh come on, PBS," go the comments, "You KNOW we're all going to see it before you show it"), that ALL TRUE FANS would have done everything in their power to see it immediately. Even the PRODUCERS made that assumption at the New York "premiere" of Season 2! And I feel insulted. Who are YOU to decide who a true fan is?

Although okay, maybe I'm NOT a True Fan. I love the show, but I'm an obsessive fan of, not the show, but one of the costars. And I'm a little weirdly protective of My Martin. And it bugs me how many people insist on seeing him only as John Watson. It bugs me how many people can't MENTION him in an unrelated setting (Hobbit discussions, mostly) without also throwing in something about Benedict-- not even just the Bilbo-and-Smaug thing, I mean discussions that aren't about Ben at ALL, and they're like "Ah, Martin's great, so is Ben," and I'm like WHO'S TALKING ABOUT BEN?! Though I thought the Bilbo-and-Smaug questions were getting old, too. (His answer at the DoS Premiere, starting at 45:08 here, about "Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney in the 'Ebony and Ivory' video," just filled me with joy, though. MUSIC GEEKS FOREVER. Which speaking of which? THIS is the greatest thing Martin has done this year, dangit. DOES NO ONE ELSE APPRECIATE MARTIN'S UTTER MUSIC-GEEKINESS BUT ME? Is it just that I so rarely encounter anyone who IS a bigger music geek than me? See what I mean? This is extremely important and it has NOTHING TO DO WITH SHERLOCK!) But this is, of course, my most hypocritical argument of all. I get frustrated because some people are all, "That's a guy in my favorite show!" while meanwhile I'm all, "That's a show my favorite guy's in!"

Maybe this all comes down to that FineLineBetweenLoveAndHate. PASSION is irrational. Maybe if I hadn't gotten so used to holding my passions in, I'd feel less conflicted about them existing in the first place-- for me or for other people. Maybe this is all part of me still needing to make peace with my hypersensitivity, as I discussed last week. I feel things LOUDLY. I not only cry easily, I fall in love easily. I'm Emotionally Pansexual (which is kind of an oxymoron. I'm ...panPHILIAL?). And part of me is still trying frantically to CONTAIN these emotions somehow, and ends up trying to contain the emotions of the rest of the world, too.

I often wonder what I would have thought of the Beatles if I'd been around in the '60s. Would I have stubbornly brushed them off as stupid pop stars all those stupid screaming girls were being stupid about? Or would I have fallen in love anyway, and tried to downplay it BECAUSE I didn't want to think of myself as one of those Stupid Screaming Girls Being Stupid? Or would I have been screaming? -- nah, THAT I can't see. I actually hope it's the middle option. Because that's what I'm doing right now, isn't it? Trying desperately to claim my fannishness and yet make clear that I'm not one of "THOSE" fans? And in that case, maybe I'd be hypocritical and irrational and stuck-up... but at least I'd still have the Beatles to love.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
So back when I was trying to come up with themes for this semester's library programs, it occurred to me that this winter is the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania hitting the United States. So thrilled was I that I immediately scheduled a Beatlemania Family Night story time for our very first week back after winter break,* tonight, even though after the fact I realized that while January 9 sounded perfect in my head, I'd actually been thinking of FEBRUARY 9 as an actual significant date, but oh well, we're still close enough, and this way all of YOU still have a whole month to plan your proper 50th Anniversary programs, yourselves!

Here's our calendar description: "It's the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first tour of America. How does this old rock band that broke up over 40 years ago keep gaining more rabid fans in every new generation? We'll learn about the most influential rock band of all time tonight, make our own psychedelic album covers, and YES, there will DEFINITELY be music!"

I mention the "rabid fans in every new generation" part as justification against those people-- you know they're out there-- who say "I'm not from that generation/kids don't know who these old bands are/it's nice to see you remembering these bands from My Day/yadda yadda yadda." Because yes, it's been 50 years. My dad was one of the original U.S. Beatles fanatics (I can't quite call him a Beatlemaniac. That would imply he used to scream and throw himself at police barricades to get through and stuff, wouldn't it). I wasn't BORN until 8 years after they broke up, but I'm an utter Beatles GEEK-- and so are more than a few of my same-generation friends. My kids' 17-year-old babysitter and bunches of HER friends are Beatles nuts. And my kids-- NATURALLY my kids-- they were identifying Beatles songs on the radio not long after they could TALK.

It may be the Yellow Submarine cartoon that gets kids first. My kids still prefer songs-that-were-in-the-movie to other Beatles songs, with the exception maybe of "Here Comes the Sun," because they know that's my favorite and love to point it out to me whenever it's on. I got them a Yellow Submarine Lego set-- no, K'Nex, not Lego, so you don't get confused futilely searching the Lego site-- for Christmas, even. I did not bring it to the library tonight though because it's in pieces again. Some of the Beatles themselves are missing entire limbs.

So what DID I do at the library? I'm glad you asked.

First order of business was a soundtrack. Rather than using any particular album, I made a mix CD of the most Kid-Friendly Beatles songs, with my own kids' picks. Since what they picked only totalled about 15 minutes (they DO get stuck on the Yellow Submarine songs), I added my own ideas of what counted as Kid-Friendly-- everything from "She Loves You" to "Octopus's Garden," and then narrowed it down to what would fit on an 80 minute CD. This step excited me, so I did it as soon as I finally finished all the stuff I had to do around here for Christmas.

Now, what SOME people would CONSIDER the first order of business when it comes to a library program, the second step was rounding up a book selection. I borrowed some books from other libraries in our county system to get a little more variety in my display-of-related-books-you-can-check-out. They were mostly chapter books and longer. For story time PROPER, I was pretty much limited to The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny), by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer.** It's a little long for a Story Time read, but the only other semi-related picture book we had in our entire system was John's Secret Dreams, which is just too John-centric, obviously. Somewhere out there in the world there are apparently picture books of Yellow Submarine, and it looks like there's a picture book of "Octopus's Garden" due out next month. Also this, due in March, which looks like it COULD possibly manage to be short enough for a story time, as well, maybe?***

It worked, even though it was long. The group I got was pretty enrapt. They laughed a lot, too.

So next up, activities. Had a hard time coming up with them at first. Found a Yellow Submarine coloring sheet. Then I stumbled upon this: it turns out Mr. Harrison of Dan Gutman's Weirder School's Mr. Harrison is Embarrassin'! is actually named GEORGE, and the whole book is FULL of Beatles jokes. Whodathunk. So that was a pretty good kid-appropriate activity, too.

THEN I hit on the winner: Make Your Own Sgt. Pepper-esque Album Covers. This was so fun and took up so much time (it's technically a one-hour program. Most of the group stayed longer) that we didn't need anything else, after all.
cut for large images )
As we were finishing up, a worn-looking grandmother on a ventilator who'd been sitting disinterestedly in the corner suddenly perked up and said, "I saw the Beatles in concert, in Cleveland."

Suddenly everyone took notice. "Did you hear any of the music over the screaming?" I asked.

She smiled, then said, "I was screaming." Everyone laughed. It was a perfect capper.

___
*we're a public library, not an academic library. We just run programs on a rather semester-like schedule.
**when looking up this link, Google autosuggested "the Beatles were overrated." Seriously, who SEARCHES something like that? And WHY, Google, would you ever suppose I would be searching that?! It's like you don't know me AT ALL!!!
***This is also coming out next month, and while it is definitely too long and complex for story time, we're getting it from Junior Library Guild and I am KIND OF EXCITED ABOUT IT, thank you.
****I'm pretty sure One Direction has been on the cover of J-14 for the ENTIRE PAST YEAR.
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
Well, time is tight, and I have so much to write about, but I don't want to let today (my favorite day of the year! Yes, Christmas Eve is actually more my favorite than Christmas Day, that's just the way it works) pass without wishing you, my Internet friends, my friends and family I WON'T be seeing this week, and my lovely random strangers who happen to be reading this, a very Merry Christmas. I'm going to get back to that by the end of this post, by way of a lot of other stuff that's been on my mind the past few days, so... be patient? Or get your internal scanners ready?

About this past weekend

So, eleven years ago tonight I got the only piece of jewelry I ever (let alone always) wear, from my then-boyfriend, who was actually stunned when I accepted it. Ten years ago this coming Friday we got married. It seems like a good opportunity to do MORE than JUST dinner-and-a-movie, although we did do the dinner-and-a-movie (though in two parts) too, but this actual anniversary weekend is a little busy, so this PAST weekend my parents took the kids and booked us a night at a fancy little bed-and-breakfast in Ligonier. We DID have Friday evening and Saturday morning at home, where we finished up Christmas Stuff; but then off we headed, to a fancy and probably-most-expensive-we-ever-actually-paid-for-and-WE-DID-IT-ON-PURPOSE dinner at my cousin's restaurant. That's where we took my new Facebook profile picture: 018
...which stunned at least 29 people with its beauty. "HOW are those two complete dorks looking so CUTE?!" everyone on Facebook thought. I don't know. Expensive food. That must be it.

Then we RELAXED in our fancy little B&B, run by a woman who ordered us to Be Romantic or Else. She seemed to think we ought to be listening to quiet instrumental music over breakfast instead of watching Marvel Universe movies on FX. But this is what she served us for breakfast: baked pears in rum sauce with pecans; a sort-of-stuffed-French-toast-thing-made-with-cinnamon-and-stuffed-with-mascarpone-and-apricot-jam-I-think-I-got-that-right; very good seasoned homefried potatoes; sausage and maple syrup. There were also snacks in the room, and we had hot chocolate in the morning too. So we were very well-fed this weekend.

Then we ran off to see Desolation of Smaug, because it wouldn't be a proper anniversary without me dragging my Real Husband to watch my Imaginary Husband on the big screen. So here's where I do a quick movie review!:

A Quick Response to The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug:

Desolation of Smaug is very much the middle movie of a trilogy: it drops you right into the middle of the action and ends so suddenly that, in our theater, the silence was broken by the guy beside us exclaiming, "You have GOT to be KIDDING me!"

Beyond that, I cannot possibly give you an objective, mainstream review. I will admit it: I'm an utter Pete-Jackson's-Middle-Earth fangirl. I fail as a book purist-- I honestly didn't care WHAT happened-- even Jason, who has only read the book once, questioned aloud at one point "The ring didn't AFFECT him this much in the book, did it?" (and I refrained from responding "ShutupmyOtherHusbandisACTING!")-- although towards the very end I did wonder how long the action at Erebor would drag out-- but otherwise I let it go (also I figure if people would just refer to the movies by their subtitles only-- ie Desolation of Smaug-- the need to feel at all book-pure decreases significantly). I fail as a critic of fine cinema-- I don't even KNOW this time around what the faults and strengths of this movie as a visual storytelling device are. I was just THERE, immersed, and smiling constantly. Dear lord it's possible I'm even more of a Middle-Earth fanatic than I am a Martin Freeman fanatic! ANYTHING else he's in I get totally antsy when he's off-screen, no matter how good the overall production is (DARN YOU LAST-JOHN-WATSONLESS-THIRD-OF-SCANDAL-IN-BELGRAVIA!)-- THIS time, even though there was a disproportionate LACK of titular Hobbit in this Hobbit movie, I BARELY noticed: I was like "MIDDLE-EARTH!-happy-happy-happy-smiling-happy-ohlookmyfavoriteactorBONUS!-happy-happy-happy...." A LEETLE bored by wizards and necromancers, but that was my only "but why can't we get back to the OTHER scene?!" moment. So yeah, I loved it, but I can't speak for anyone else. My geekitude, which even I wasn't entirely sure about before, has become fully exposed.

About Kindness

Now to get serious for a moment. Last week YA author Ned Vizzini killed himself. Considering that I've never actually READ any of his books, and considering how little I tend to react to most other deaths and atrocities in the world, it's surprising exactly how much this shook me up. Or not. I've already written about how sensitive I am to suicide. There's something about being destroyed from the inside out, it's scarier than external enemies. Demons are absolutely the most frightening of monsters, because they attack from the inside, too. Dementors are by far the scariest monsters in Harry Potter, because they're basically a metaphor for this whole thing-- MENTAL ILLNESS, eating you up from the inside.

Anyway, somebody wrote a perfect comment on the obituary at The A.V. Club-- so perfect I printed it out! It summed up my own feelings, though perhaps more crassly than I would. So if you don't feel like clicking through, I just want to highlight his* last paragraph for you: "So let this be my New Year's resolution, my goal. For every artist like Ned Vizzini who loses their battle in the end, I vow to work twice as hard at making my craft better, out of respect for what they've managed to do despite their challenges and to in some small way keep them alive, by working on their behalf to create something new that otherwise might not be."

That is EXACTLY the way I felt when Diana Wynne Jones died, though she wasn't a suicide, just a sucky lifestyle choice (HAVE I EVER MENTIONED HOW MUCH I HATE CIGARETTES, TOO?!). But this time, maybe because I hadn't read his books, it wasn't the carrying-on-the-ART vow I wanted to make. I vowed, with all my heart, to work THAT MUCH HARDER to counter negativity in the world. To counter negativity-- and this is the important part-- not with MORE negativity, but with KINDNESS. To devote my life to spreading Kindness (as opposed to my usual, ineffective Niceness). To embrace everyone, with all their faults, and hold them up, out of the darkness.

So Now for my Christmas Wish

Which brings me back to my Christmas Wish for you, and for the world. Every year I post this song. Many of you have it memorized. Many of you have listened to it once before. Many of you weren't following me last Christmas, or you just never bothered to listen. But this time I'm serious. I want each and every one of you to spare three and a half minutes to let this Christmas Wish seep into your consciousness:

Wishing you the most genuine of Peace and Love from me to you. Merry Christmas

*(the commenter struck me as male, but I could be wrong. He's a he in my head. If she's not, and she/you are offended, you can set me straight.)
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
When I was growing up, there was a man at my church who'd had a stroke, some time before we'd moved there. It had left him, most noticeably, with no vocal control-- his timing was off, tonality unexpected, sometimes the words would even come out wrong (once he said "I shall not be healed" instead of "I shall be healed," which was so appallingly wrong I couldn't keep a straight face about it), and his volume was ALL OVER the place, especially if that place was "loud." Yet he insisted on raising that voice forcefully into every song, every chant, and every prayer. It was more than a little distracting for any tactless kids in the congregation, like my sister and I. One day on the way home we were giggling about it-- not making FUN of HIM so much as just laughing at the weirdness (I can at LEAST claim that we had no cruel intentions), and our dad gave a sympathetic but sort of sad smile and said gently, "I've heard he used to be a wonderful singer, with the most beautiful voice." You could hear that, when you thought about it-- the richness behind the technical flubs. The PASSION. The man LOVED to sing, loved to raise his voice in prayer, and he wasn't about to stop just because he couldn't get it to WORK as well as he used to.

This morning at church we sang a song that we'd sung frequently at my childhood church-- it's "Like a Shepherd," if you know it-- you know that random sustained high note in the third verse? That sudden six-step leap that your average untrained singer is NEVER going to hit right no matter how often it's on the program? I've been battling laryngitis all week and could barely sing as it was, so I looked ahead to that note a LITTLE warily. And then I heard, in my head, the way that man had always sung that note when I was a kid-- the sudden huge slide to a blaring off-key finish. It made me smile and get teary at the same time, and I got over the nervousness and dove right onward-- and actually managed to hit it okay. Inspired by a now-dead man whose name I don't even know, whom I heard sing this song, poorly, decades ago. The music continues.

It reminded me-- and rather proved the point-- of something I read just last night. I've been MEANING (but too busy) to tell you about this book ever since I started reading it (if you're my Facebook friend you might have noticed a cryptic reference to an exercise I was doing from it a few weeks back, when I needed your opinions on me and swore I wasn't fishing for compliments but actually doing a writing exercise, and I SAID I'd explain eventually but in all honesty I don't think I'm going to get to explaining that part today, either). The book is The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright, which I read about at Kristi Holl's Writers' First Aid blog. She'd (Kristi Holl) pulled a list of questions from the book for this post, and I thought, "Whoa. These questions are WEIRDLY HARD." So I knew I'd have to track the full book down, because it surely had something to teach me (and in my journal I actually DO tend to call it "The Hard Questions Book").

The subtitle is "Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life," and it's published by a Christian press, which I suppose is the only reason the book is not more well-known in the mainstream writing community (although Walking on Water is, and that's got possibly even a MORE spiritual bent, but then Madeleine L'Engle is a bit more well-known a name. And Bird by Bird and If You Want to Write are, like, THE writers' inspirational titles, and neither of them exactly shy away from spirituality, either. Which is basically the whole point of THIS book, so let me get out of this parenthesis). The premise is that creativity (not just writing, not even just art-- CREATIVITY in general) and spirituality are intrinsically linked, and developing one will help to develop the other and vice versa.

This book is GORGEOUS and WISE. I keep wanting to post quotes from it, but then it gets to the point that there is TOO MUCH I WANT TO QUOTE, and I'd basically be quoting the ENTIRE BOOK. Basically, it's LOVELY. It's got ALL these quotable moments, when something wise and deep that you didn't realize before is said in a way that you know instantly is Truth and it's also beautiful. But I haven't got time today to tell you about all of it; I just want to focus on this bit I read last night:
I like to think of creativity as a celestial drama in which each of us walks on and off stage at various points. It's a huge show with trillions of acts, big and small, scaling the centuries and the cultures, informing humanity constantly and at multiple levels. You and I dip into the action as we respond to the smaller dramas in our own soul. We answer single soft voices, never knowing where our individual efforts fall within the overarching story line.

When we delve into our creativity, we are responding to something that's bigger than us.... When you respond to your creative calling, you are doing something that is necessary for the world. It may be necessary in a big way-- say a series of newspaper articles that can help shape the consciousness of a generation. Or it may be necessary in small ways-- perhaps a charcoal sketch that brings you, the artist, healing.... Creative works are called out by cultural and personal needs that are too deep and intuitive to be obvious every time....

...If you've ever participated in [a creative ensemble, like a band or a theater troupe, where everyone's individual efforts combine into a whole bigger than its parts], remember them as you begin a project on your own. Just assume that there are other voices, images and phrases joining your own work, somewhere and somehow. ASsume that whatever you do will rhyme with what others are doing and will do, or with what others have already done. In someone's life your turn of phrase will make a difference, simply because it follows another turn of phrase by another writer at another key point in this person's life.


See, I could just keep going. It was HARD sticking to the right-here-relevant bits and not typing out the entire section of chapter. But here's the point:

A quarter-century ago there was a man who loved to sing, even though he couldn't do it technically well. A little girl heard him giving it his all anyway, and a quarter-century later, that now-woman remembered, and she sang a little louder herself. The music grew. Who knows what effect each bit of song has on the whole? Who can say that even the most off-key note can't help the eternal music of the universe keep playing?
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I knew there was something significant about today's date, and now I remember: it's the 95th anniversary of the birth of the woman who wrote my favorite book and the 12th anniversary of the death of the man who wrote my favorite song. That's a lot of significance for one day. (Just listened to the latter sing the words "All the world is birthday cake" which could be for the former. IT ALL TIES TOGETHER).

Nowhere I have to be for a few hours at least, nothing I have to do except get the kids in the shower once they're done with breakfast (they got into my cousin's cologne yesterday. This will require a serious soaking), and I have a horrible cold, so don't really WANT to do much. Don't really want to SIT here, even, except mentally I'm in a place where I just feel like talking to you today. It's been two months. (Have you missed me? If you missed me, tell me so, it will make me feel useful. Then again if nobody missed me then I'll be more depressed than if I hadn't bothered to ask, so maybe not. But now I won't know whether you didn't miss me or DID miss me and are just trying not to enable my neediness).

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, so of course it's proper to start out by being thankful for Madeleine L'Engle and George Harrison. And for once I feel like telling about personal events, as if this was a journal again more than a blog. My aunt had hosted Thanksgiving, and, well, pretty much everything, for many years because she had a house for it, but this spring she moved to a place more suitable for Just Her and a Cat or Two. But her son manages/lives above a restaurant/bar/thing, so he offered the run of the place for all of us for Thanksgiving this year, instead (I'm sure he didn't intend to offer the run of his cologne in this package, but what's a holiday with small children without the makings of a holiday with small children?). It was a maze of rooms, so quite easy to lose yourself/ small children in (they had themselves a surprisingly difficult game of hide and seek. Don't think they'd ever played in a place with so many good hiding spots before). But everywhere you went, you ran into someone else, so you never were COMPLETELY lost. And they certainly had the facilities for feast-preparation, although in our family no one is ever in charge of ALL the cooking. I brought bar cookies that I overboiled the ingredients for, making them ROCK HARD (I actually broke one of my best knives trying to cut them!), but luckily there were enough other desserts. We had pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, a REALLY DELICIOUS pumpkin trifle made by a woman we just found out is the fiancee of one of my cousins so YES MA'AM WELCOME TO OUR FAMILY YOU MAY ALWAYS BRING DESSERT, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin dip, and pumpkin ice cream. Also a few other things that weren't pumpkin.

I simultaneously love holidays and get infinitely frustrated by the way other people react to holidays, too. Every so often this week there's been someone on the "Thanksgiving is offensive because that whole Pilgrims-and-Indians-happy-feast-myth is so PROBLEMATIC" train. Which is not a fault of Thanksgiving at all. It's the fault of people who insist on having preschoolers make feathered headdresses for a Thanksgiving craft. CANADIANS have Thanksgiving-- in October-- and it has NOTHING TO DO with Puritans at Plymouth. It's what it IS-- a harvest feast to give thanks for being able to eat and all. And I'm pretty sure that's how most people celebrate Thanksgiving, anyway.

Then there's the "Thanksgiving is early Christmas" thing, which was even more tricky this year since Thanksgiving WAS also Hanukkah, and "Hanukkah is Jewish Christmas." Look, I love Christmas more than ANYBODY.* ANYBODY I KNOW, at any rate. But I'm not ready to get in the mood for the holiday season until NOW. People always laugh about how early Christmas stuff comes out in STORES, but this year I saw SO many Christmas lights out on PRIVATE HOMES TWO WEEKS AGO. Of course, maybe they celebrate Hanukkah and were only prepping for THIS week. I guess we don't really know. I just hope they KEEP those lights up until at LEAST January 7th. Come on.

But on the complete opposite hand, a couple weeks ago my coworker who "shares" social media duties with me (okay, anymore SHE does most of it, and I just pop on whenever I have an idea) posted a picture of the decorated tree we have up in the library with the message "Our holiday tree is up and decorated in Dr. Seuss characters thanks to our local girl scout troop." And on our Facebook page, someone commented, "Don't you mean Christmas tree?" Since our Facebook page is linked to my personal Facebook account, I got a notification as soon as this comment was posted, so I responded, "Well, it's a little early for Christmas-- Thanksgiving and Hanukkah aren't even for another two weeks! We have a lot of other holidays to celebrate before Christmas!" This turned out to be the Exact Right Answer, earning both an in-person thumbs-up from my coworker for handling the comment so well, and a Facebook thumbs-up from the commenter for an explanation she could live with: her response was "I was really just hoping you guys weren't going the way of (what seems to be) everyone else, by not acknowledging Christmas at all...glad to hear you're just trying to extend the joy. ;)" And I'm like, really? That's the whole POINT of using the term "holiday season," not to cut OUT Christmas, but to extend the joy to ALL the OTHER holidays and traditions of this darkest-time-of-year. Christmas is December 25! But Dewey Decimal Day is December 10, and that's an important holiday, too! Okay, maybe not important, but worth celebrating (the last thing I did at work before leaving on Wednesday-- we were closed yesterday and today-- was making a "December" sign for our monthly holiday books display. There's a LOT of holidays this time of year! And it so happens Dewey Decimal Day is one of them). Worrying that there's a War on Christmas because it's acknowledged not to be the only holiday in December is like worrying making gay marriage legal will destroy straight marriage. Wait, that's usually the same people doing the worrying.

Then there's people who get stressed out about holidays. I just want to say "WE DON'T CARE! Let us people who DON'T get stressed out about holidays handle everything! We'll ALL be happy!" I was angry with my husband yesterday because HE'S one of the grinchy types, and he said, "Are you okay? Is this just your usual holiday depression?" "MY holiday depression? I wouldn't be depressed a bit if YOU weren't so grumpy." Luckily he mellowed out by the time we reached my family's party and he had a couple superb German dark beers. But anyhoo, I really think that. Holidays would be so much more pleasant for everyone if the people who got stressed out over holidays would just sit back and let the holiday-lovers take care of stuff.

So, I hope tomorrow we can do the Thorough Once-a-Year (or close to that) Housecleaning that must take place before the Christmas decorations (and Advent, and New Years, and St. Nicholas' Day, and Dewey Decimal Day, and Jane Austen's Birthday... you know, the HOLIDAY decorations) can come out, but I do have this awful crappy cold and want to go to sleep. And now it is much later at night than when I started this, so going to sleep would be a pretty good idea.

I'll get back to you again SOMETIME before Christmas (I refer here to December 25): I've been meaning to tell you about the book I'm reading/working through. For one thing. Also, who wants to go see Catching Fire with me? Jason says he'll go to the theaters with me for Desolation of Smaug (even if that IS the one with my Imaginary Husband in it), but he doesn't care to see Catching Fire in the theaters... which is just a shame that he didn't care for the first movie, because I KNOW if he read all the books he'd REALLY appreciate the worldbuilding of Panem. But ah well. Girl date! Or boy date! I don't know of any boys who read this who actually live near me though, so never mind them. Whatever-gender-you-identify-with non-spousal date!

---
*That links to a post that links to almost every OTHER post I've ever written about Christmas, so it seems most convenient. Except for the post I wrote last year, since it hadn't happened yet.
rockinlibrarian: (tesseract)
In case you haven't seen it, the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly is devoted to "All-Time Greatest" lists. Sure, everyone's got all-time greatest lists, and such lists are always open to passionate debate and sometimes straight-up ire. But what I like about these particular lists-- I bought the hard copy, for reasons that may soon become clear-- is that these aren't, necessarily, the SAME OLD titles, lists made up of Mark Twain's definition of classics: "books everyone praises but nobody reads." For one example, Sgt. Pepper isn't ANYWHERE on the Albums list-- SHOCK!-- instead the number one album is Revolver-- which I could have told you is REALLY the Beatles' definitive album, though Sgt. Pepper gets all the attention. (For the record, the albums list also includes Abbey Road, the White Album, and Rubber Soul-- I WOULD have been super annoyed if they'd left Abbey Road off the list. MASTERPIECE, I SAY). The people who made these lists didn't CONSULT OTHER LISTS, in other words.

They're also one of the LEAST SNOBBISH lists I've ever seen (as compiled by critics, not fan votes). There's no separation between what is considered "ART" and what's considered low-brow. Genre gets its say-- not just token nods, not just the ARTSIEST expressions of genre. There's way too much rap on the best albums list for my taste, but that's about TASTE, and I've no doubt those albums deserve to be there. But most importantly, and the thing that first drew my attention to these lists:

A Wrinkle in Time is number 27 on the Novels list.

Not the "Children's Novels" list. The "Novels" list. 27.

To put this in perspective, War and Peace is number 28.

There's actually quite a few Children's or Young Adult novels on the list, and they're never brushed off as "great for a children's book." They stand firm right along with the books people get made to read in school. Harry Potter actually comes in at #7. I'm going to say that's mostly due to influence-- which is still a worthy reason. #10 is Charlotte's Web. His Dark Materials, #44. Ender's Game, author-related controversy notwithstanding, #49. And #98 is Are You There God? It's me, Margaret. (I've only just noticed that Alice's Adventures in Wonderland did not make this list, which is surely a gross oversight on their part. That one isn't a matter of opinion). (Kind of surprised The Giver isn't on there-- I've seen that one make Mostly-Grown-Up lists before).

And why ever wouldn't they be? Sure, I'm biased. But the books people read as children-- or young adults (and heck, most of those "classics" were read as teenagers in school)-- are the ones that have a profound influence on our adult tastes, ideas, dreams... whatnot. Here's a recent Buzzfeed list that sums it up. Honestly, anyone who would make a Best of list that DOESN'T include these early influences must be outright lying. They're afraid what people would think. Because children's books aren't "supposed" to be Great. They're supposed to be left behind. But this is silly. " A tree grows because it adds rings: a train doesn’t grow by leaving one station behind and puffing on to the next," as C.S. Lewis described it. (C.S. Lewis was always so SENSIBLE about "children's vs. adults'"). They're the FOUNDATION that everything else builds upon.

Well, if I wasn't sick and incredibly-busy-anyway, I'd probably dig into the lists further, comment on all the things I've seen and not seen and hated and whatnot. But I AM sick, and I DO have a lot to do even if I wasn't sick, so I'm not sitting here any longer.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
For the past month or so the default song in my head-- the one that's still there after the songs-because-I-just-heard-them and the songs-because-something-reminded-me-of-the-lyrics and the general noise and chatter in my head quiets down a bit-- has been U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday." Every morning when I wake up (if I wasn't just dreaming about another song). Every quiet moment. I notice it-- still there. I think my subconscious is taunting me.

Because a couple months ago I was driving along, blasting that song on the radio, when I thought, "Isn't this something? They were trying to get a message out, and instead of just SAYING it, they did it through a great song, and so we're STILL hearing their message 30 years on." And I got smacked with the Revelation Stick: "THIS is WHY ART."

Which really shouldn't have been a revelation. I wrote a whole thesis paper on the subject-- that Art teaches great truths to the heart whereas the mind might reject them if received straight-- my first semester of college. I KNEW THAT ALREADY. But I'd forgotten.

I'd forgotten because I'm bombarded by Non-Art. So much of my reading nowadays is online-- blogs and tweets and status updates. Articles. Journalism. Telling rather than showing. Every day there's another Important Social Cause somebody wants me to know about-- it gets tiresome. I can't CARE about every social cause you tell me about. I tune them out. But on the radio is a decades-old song and immediately I AM caring, I AM asking "How long must we sing this song?" about violence in a small country on the other side of the ocean.

I'd forgotten because my husband doesn't believe in Art. Well, he doesn't understand it at any rate. He doesn't get the point. And so it's easy for me to let it go myself, just getting by day to day trying to manage a household with two small children in it. It's easy to get wrapped up in the mundane without someone else appreciating the extraordinary with me. That's my fault. I am too susceptible to other people's moods and opinions and wants and needs and too likely to let them block out my own-- except the "leave me alone" need. I'm pretty good at at least attempting to enforce that one. But I'd allowed the "what's the point of Art?" to seep in, to trample down my own beliefs in it-- the beliefs I'd lived by my whole life before kids and even written a thesis paper about. But when I hear music-- REALLY GOOD MUSIC-- I get transported somewhere else entirely.

And how many times-- the answer is "daily at least"-- do I complain about stupid songs when they come on the radio? The ones that just sound like they weren't trying? Sometimes I think I should be an editor for songwriters. "See what you're doing here? That's bland. Punch it up a little. On the other hand this flourish here is ridiculous. You're trying to sound cool but it's not doing anything for you. And your LYRICS, oh my. Do you know about poetry? Real poetry? Have you ever heard of "Show, not Tell"? Sure, tell me how terrible your life is, la dee dah, but when I listen to Pink Floyd's "Hey You" I FEEL what it's like for a depressed and hopeless person, and he never once SAYS exactly what's going on." Actually I'd be a pretty rude and nasty music editor. Maybe if I was actually doing it I could be nicer and more constructive, but since I'm just listening I'm more inclined toward "OH MY GAD THAT'S THE STUPIDEST WHINIEST CRAP I'VE EVER HEARD." But then when a GREAT song comes on, one that's been crafted from the soul, you can FEEL THE DIFFERENCE. ART, man. That's what it is.

Lately I've given up on art. I've given up believing that there's any reason for me to want to make it. I can SAY things, sometimes, in blog posts. But why should I write a story? Why should I play the piano or draw a picture? Why should I try to capture something numinous on paper-- what is there to capture?

But that song keeps swimming through my head when I'm not paying attention, but now it's not reminding me about the people of Northern Ireland. It's reminding me about Art. That Art DOES have a point. And that maybe I should try making it again.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
This morning I've been singing "This Little Light of Mine" over and over in my head like a mantra... I say "like" a mantra, but whatever, it IS a mantra.

It's like I've said before about children's books: just because they're written "for children" doesn't mean-- the good ones, anyway-- people OLDER than the target age group can't get anything out of it. Harold and the Purple Crayon is profound. Period.

Who could think a simple little Sunday School song could be what a 35 year old most needs in her life? Who could think the message of this repetitive little tune of about four notes would be so easily forgotten by the grown-ups of the world who think they're so wise and disillusioned and world-weary? Who could think the very people who've been hearing the song all their lives now spend so much of their time hiding and even snuffing out lights, other people's lights or their own?

It's basic. A basic message. A basic truth. And the most basic of truths shine so well in the art supposedly intended for children. And inside every adult is a child who still needs to hear it. Even adults can grow.

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