Monthly Archives: January 2007

Scrabble rousing

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Much as I hate to confirm all the unkind things you’ve been thinking about me, I’ll go ahead and agree with you: I’m the world’s biggest loser. Why? Because I read five books this weekend, and I didn’t even read any on Friday.

Friday night I drank margaritas with Dionysus. (Was a bit too tipsy to read afterward, doncha know.) That sort of behavior isn’t indicative of being the world’s biggest loser. But for the rest of the weekend all I did was read books, which is bad, and write reviews of them, which is worse.

To be fair, not all of the books were lengthy. Graphic novels are comparatively quick reads, which goes some way toward explaining the humiliating number of books I’ve swallowed this year—seventeen as of yesterday. But some of this year’s books have been bug-crushers. I’m thinking Lisey’s Story, which was disappointing, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which was about four times too long. Kinda like The Grapes of Wrath: nice idea, but tell the damn story, already. It wasn’t till page 160 that I started getting into it Kavalier and Clay. I only endured that long because it was for a book club. Everyone else in the book club, naturally, has loved it.

I read too much, all there is to it.

Perhaps the glitz of stardom will begin to distract me from my dull lifestyle. Today we filmed my television debut. The nice folks at Program Services were thoughtful enough to divert my groupies so that I wouldn’t be distracted. (“She’s on the second floor!” said the Program Services people, and the diversion worked! I didn’t see a single groupie!… Groupum? What’s the singular for groupie?)

I spent my weekend preparing for the debut, by which I mean I spent my weekend doing laundry, by which I mean I spent my weekend trying to do laundry. There are only two washing machines and two dryers in my apartment building, and some rat bastard tied them up all day Sunday. The rat bastard didn’t tie them up actively, which would have been annoying but permissible. The rat bastard did two lousy loads of wash and then let it sit there all afternoon. I know. I trudged up and down two flights of steps every hour to confirm.

Finally I managed to wash a load of darks, and today, after a frantic morning on the desk, I trotted over to a corner of the library that will surely one day be famous as the birthplace of my celebrity.

The filming itself was sort of dull. Pink Starfish asked me questions about NoveList. I answered them. It was nice and all, but I don’t think they managed to get footage of my shiny sparkly tights, and if that’s not a loss for humanity I don’t know what is.

It was the behind-the-scenes action that was really fun. The camera guy and the nice lady whose role I didn’t quite understand, but that’s okay—those two were hilarious. And Pink Starfish? Here’s an example:

“I’d like to tell the tv audience what phone number to call if they need help,” I said, “but bugger if I can remember the Reference Desk number.”

“Hmm,” said Pink Starfish. “I think I know it.” He took his cell out to check. (Nevermind that we could have looked it up on the laptop, or trotted twenty feet away to ask.)

“Wilhelmsplatz Regional Library reference,” said the voice on the other end. I couldn’t tell for sure who it was, since I was only overhearing a cell conversation, but I narrowed it down to either Assert-y or Sunnybrook Farm.

“I’d like an order of egg drop soup,” said Pink Starfish in a whiny nasal.

“Egg drop soup?”

“Yes, an order of egg drop soup.”

“Um… this is a library.”

“Oh. I’ll try someplace else then.” –Click- “Yeah, that’s the number.”

The unfortunate side effect here is that I’ve been craving egg drop soup ever since. God knows I can’t cook it, so the only way for me to get any would be to hit up one of the Chinese joints, and I wouldn’t be able to do that without ordering something completely unhealthy. See, I’m trying to get all svelte, right? Goes along with stardom. The pressure on stars to have perfect bodies is insane. Ordinary folks like you wouldn’t even understand.

So I’m trying to ensvelten myself, and that is not a word, but it should be. Eating salads every day for lunch is helping. (Drinking margaritas for dinner isn’t, but nevermind that right now.) Yoga will be helping, maybe. I attended my second yoga class this evening, and I really like it, because you have to be flexible to do the positions.

In elementary school I was always at the top of my class (World’s Biggest Loser, remember?) with one horrible, wretched exception: I was terrible at gym. Each year we had a four-part test, and each year I failed three of those parts. I couldn’t do a pullup then, and still can’t; I couldn’t do a mile in whatever insane amount of time it was (four minutes, most likely); and I couldn’t do X number of situps in Y amount of time.

I strongly suspect that I could not do one situp right now, but I am not going to embarrass myself by finding out.

The fourth part of the test, though, that was a breeze. You had to be able to touch your toes.

I’ve always been flexible. This has proven to be very useful in many contexts, absolutely none of which I can remember right now, but I’m sure they exist. They must. They must.

And now I am going to go work on book #18, because my alternative is Scrabble, and the cats are terrible at Scrabble. Which is not to say that I haven’t played Scrabble alone. You should try it. It’s fun. Though, okay, not as much fun as playing with other human beings, or at least kitties smarter than mine. And if you do happen to start a game of Scrabble, you should make it a game of Strip Scrabble, unless the people you’re playing with are your parents.

The Strip Scrabble rules, because now that I’ve mentioned it you’re dying to know, are:

  • 4 letters or less and you lose a garment
  • 5 letters is neutral
  • 6 letters or more and you can restore a garment, or else make someone else remove one

Alas, there is not, to my knowledge, a competitive-clothing version of book reading or book reviewing—but God willing, I’ll forge new territory in that direction, someday. Once I figure it out, I’ll go on the public access channel and let you know.

 

Anagram ‘Owns,’ and What Do You Get?

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It snowed today.

Exclamation points fail to do justice to my ecstasy. Punctuation is usually my secret weapon. (Every superhero has one. Me, I can do amazing things with a well-placed semicolon. Villains and arch-enemies and Republicans tremble before my M-dashes. Look on my Oxford commas, ye mighty, and despair!)

But really, this is lame:

It snowed today!

Just doesn’t get my point across. Maybe I could go ee cummings on its ass:

it snowed today
it snowed today
it
snowed today
it snowed
today today today

You do not understand how happy snow makes me. That is a specific, not general, use of the second person. I mean you, reader, I mean you. That’s right—the person staring at the monitor instead of doing trace reports/checking a book out to a patron/spending quality time with the kids. You.

(Not that I really think people read my blog instead of doing work, though of course that’s my ultimate goal.)

The snow didn’t stick around long enough for me to really get my glee on, but I did get to play in it a little bit. I took a five minute break to go frolic around the perimeter of the building. Managed to catch quite a few snow flakes on my tongue, and I built a snowperson to keep me company. She or he (not sure which—they’re like goldfish, you just have to take your best guess until such time as they reproduce) was only about half a centimeter tall, but that’s bigger than, say, a human embryo.

The snow couldn’t have come at a better moment. I’d just endured one hour of a two-hour database class. (Teaching a database class, I mean, though now that you mention it, I only lasted about an hour the time I tried to take a database class in library school. “Intro to databases,” my ass. I am not a stupid woman, and though I don’t have the technological know-how of Information Science students, I didn’t arrive on this here innanet bandwagon yesterday. You’d think I could handle an entry-level database class, wouldn’t you? I dropped it and took History of Libraries instead.)

Very observant readers will recall that I taught four different classes of fifth graders about databases last week. I have very little patience for people younger than, say, thirty, but I’ll say this much for the munchkins: they’re comfortable with computers. They were born in 1997, for Christ’s sake. They’ve never heard the siren call of a modem trying to get online.

My grown-up students today, now, that’s a different story. The scroll wheel on the mouse overwhelms them. Hard to realize they defeated the Nazis in ’45. These folks are the reason we’re not living in the United States of the Reich, but they can’t use a mouse.

(Minor quibble with myself: Yes, Jessica, America played a crucial role in winning WWII, but Russia is the real reason we’re not speaking fluent German on this side of the pond. France, America, and Great Britain had 2 million casualties in the war; the USSR had 30 million.)

(This is not to say that I wouldn’t like to learn German. I know how to order a beer in German but I suspect there is more to the language than that. It would be nifty to read Goethe in his native tongue. Did you know that he is considered to be the smartest person who ever lived, IQ-wise? I’m not clear on who’s doing the considering, or how one goes about reconstructing the IQ of a dead guy, but money says he’d be great to chat with in a bar. If you knew German, that is. And if he weren’t dead.)

(I want to learn Russian before I learn German. Goethe is the only German author I am jonesing to read in the original language, whereas the Russians have too many of my favorite authors to list here, and I only know one word of Russian, albeit a supremely important one: Vodka!)

Enough parenthesizing, and on to the crux of this post: I need groupies, stat.

My television debut is this Monday, or at least the filming is. It will air repeatedly in March. My 5-7 minutes of fame will be broadcast again, and again, and again—and again and again, if my suspicions about my popularity proves true. I bet the public access channel will be overwhelmed with viewer requests to rebroadcast my show. My fans will not be able to get enough of me.

I’ll be talking about databases, but since 5-7 minutes is not enough time to talk about all 60-some DBs we have at the library, I’ll just focus on one.

Anyone care to guess which?

“NoveList,” you say, wearily.

Dang, you’re good! (Am I really that predictable?)

Honestly, though, I didn’t pick NoveList because I write for them. (Have I ever mentioned that before? That I write for NoveList?) Some small part of me (read: 98%) would like to spend the entire session telling people how to get to my articles.

But actually I picked NoveList because I think it will have the broadest appeal. Most folks come to the library because they want something good to read, not because they want to ask a research question. (I’m sure you already know that Polk was the 11th American president, but if that had escaped you, you would have done exactly the same as I would: you would have gone to google. This is what $28k of grad school debt for an MLS gets you. Google. Tra la la.)

We do still get reference questions at the desk, either from people who don’t know how to google, or from people who couldn’t find the answers on google. The databases come in mighty handy then, let me tell ya.

But for the most part, people come to the library for books to read, and that’s where NoveList can be such a great help. Currently it only covers fiction, but NF is coming later this year, don’t fret.

I would tell you more about how to use NoveList, but instead, I will make you wait to watch the show. (Lookit me, advocating television. Who knew this day would ever come?)

So I need the following, and pronto:

  • A makeup artist
  • A wardrobe consultant
  • Unbiased members of the press
  • A personal assistant
  • Lots of groupies—I’m thinking screaming preteen girls, the kind you saw when the Beatles came to America

Also, I need to figure out what the hell I’m going to say. I’ll work on that part if you’ll work on the rest of the list. Deal?

 

Eggs-asperation

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A few moments ago, I started thinking seriously about going to bed. Several persuasive conditions were leading me to the sleepytime arena:

  • It’s past midnight. Normal people are asleep now.
  • I’m at a boring part in the book I’m reading. (Actually, all of Lisey’s Story is boring so far. It’s Stephen King’s attempt at writing proper lit’rature. I like him a lot better when he’s siccing nasty ghoulies on affable everyday people.)
  • I’ve resigned myself to the bitter truth: we won’t be getting any snow tonight. May as well go to bed.
  • Someone (AND I’D BLOODY WELL LIKE TO KNOW WHO) drank all my Diet Coke. There’s more in the fridge but I can’t get to it without disturbing the kitty on my feet. (This is one of those times when I miss having a roommate/live-in/house slave. How can I be expected to tend to my own beverage needs when I have cats snuggling on me?)
  • I don’t feel like writing my Great American Masterpiece just now. Bookish Jet isn’t the only one with low writer self esteem. (Though really, BJ—may I call you BJ? On second thought, maybe not… Though really, Bookish Jet: C’mon, it wasn’t that bad. I liked your character and tone.)
  • And I definitely don’t feel like writing my NoveList slag about Omar Tyree.

He’s a bad writer—and hey, lots of people are bad writers. That’s cool. If it gets people to read, bully for them.

But most bad writers don’t have this ego thang going on. Tyree feels like he’s being overlooked for the big awards because he writes about sex and drugs.

Got news for ya, honey. You’re not getting any awards because your writing sucks. You may think you’re being sophisticated by substituting “she mused” or “she contemplated” for plain ol’ “she thought,” but it takes more than a few synonyms to achieve good writing.

Where was I? … Right, right. I’d just concluded that my life is frightfully dull and that I may as well go to sleep because consciousness is boring beyond words, and also because I want some more Diet Coke, when I got a text message.

Only two people ever text me. One of them is Won’t, who never has anything interesting to say. This isn’t really his fault. There’s only so much you can write before you get frustrated with typing a message on a cellphone. “How R U?” is about the most I ever care to type, m’self. Besides, Won’t is lucky enough to live in the same town as I do. He can ask me variations of “How R U?” in person. He is very fortunate like that.

The other person who texts me is Marian the Librarian, who is not lucky enough to live in the same town as me. She lives in Kansas or Missouri or one them, I never can remember. Right at this moment she is even further distant from me, which must be causing her unbearable suffering. Only those of you who don’t live near me will be able to sympathize.

Marian is in Seattle at a liberry conference. This is the message she just sent me:

“Just got U reviewing gig @ Booklist 4 graphic novels. OK?”

I’d say that trumps “How R U?,” whaddaya think?

Teehee! Booklist is a big review journal thingy. Awesome.

I love graphic novels. I love writing about books. And more than anything, I love having people read what I wrote.

Cool!

That makes for a fabulous end to a day that started out pretty sucky. It started as usual: I was on my couch reading the morning news, and I was not a pretty sight. (Jessica Kennedy-Rockefeller does not want you to know this, but I have the whole Medusa thing going on in the morning. You’d think my hair was sentient, the way it moves on its own. It’s only with a combination of water, gel, wax, and heavy cursing that I get it to look reasonable.)

So there I was on the couch, groggy and morning-breathy and hideous to behold, when someone knocked on the door. Scared Gobin right off my feet.

In my truly ugly purple bathrobe, I stood up and answered the door. It was my neighbor from downstairs letting me know my car had been egged last night.

I’m no stranger to vandalism. When I lived in Greensboro I had my tires slashed, my window broken, and my kitchen flooded. (Upstairs neighbors left the water running, deliberately, causing the entire kitchen ceiling to collapse.)

Eggs are really nothing compared to what I’ve put up with before, and for a lovely change, I don’t think this was aimed directly at me. Two other cars were egged, as well.

Doesn’t mean I understand it, though. Really, what are vandals thinking? I can understand spraypainting graffiti. Graffiti can be art, or it can be political, or it can tell Brandi Lee that you Luv her 4-EvR.

But what’s the logic of throwing an egg at somebody’s car? “Oh goody, I will cause suffering, inconvenience, and possible paint damage to someone I don’t know! This makes me feel better about myself!”

Eh. It was pretty easy to clean up, actually, what with all the sleetey rain. And that makes for the second time in two days that I’ve attended to the maintenance of my car.

Yesterday, all by myself (WITH NO HELP FROM YOU LOT, THANKS FOR YOUR CONCERN) I went to a 7-11. Turns out you have to push the little lever thingy down when you have the nozzle hooked up to your tire.

(Okay, I wasn’t entirely by myself. Had to call Dad, aka A Man, to help me out. He’s the one who clued me in to the lever trick.)

And now I really must go to bed. I have a lot of things to do tomorrow (pleasure reading, pleasure writing, and work writing, in that order) before I embark on my New Scary Enterprise.

I will be attending a yoga class. I am absolutely petrified. I’m not scared of much, really. (This is a lie. To be truthful, I am afraid of everything, except maybe for reading and bunny rabbits.) But I am especially scared of physical things with groups of people.

Yoga seems neat to me though, and near as I can tell, it doesn’t involve jogging or running around a field or trying to convince a ball to go into a goal. Plus, it has come to my attention that leading a completely inert lifestyle is, possibly, less than perfectly healthy.

Bookish Jet nudged me into it, so I figure I can at least try one class. If it’s really terrible I will change my name and move to a different state. If I like it, I’ll try to find the money to pay for the classes.

“Your problem,” Bookish Jet told me, when I whined about the price as an excuse to not try it, “is that you need a second income. You need a man.”

Ha, ha. See if she gets good edits from me ever again.

 

Children of the Corn

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My friend Ian and I were emailing each other last night. That really is his real name. He lives far enough away that I don’t feel the need to give him a pseudonym. Ian has many remarkable qualities, some of which are fabulous and some of which make you want to hide in your cellar with a gun. One of the coolest things about Ian is that he’s a writer. He’s published two novels and a bevy of short stories. (To prevent confusion, I should add that his last name is not Rankin or McEwan. I’m not as tight with those two as I am with Ian McDowell.)

In last night’s email, we were discussing blogs, and how lame it is to see a blog that recounts the events in a person’s day. No one really gives a shit, you know? Your life is just not that interesting. Get over yourself.

Now I am going to recount the events of my day.

It started with fifth graders, lots and lots of fifth graders. Droves of them. Hordes. Multitudes. Armies.

For reasons I can no longer recall, I had agreed to talk to four separate classes of fifth graders about using the library’s databases. I can’t for the life of me piece together what, exactly, I was thinking. The best I can figure is that I was very, very drunk, but that doesn’t make any sense, because I was at work when I agreed to it. My only other theories involve extraterrestrials and NKVD spies.

Promptly at 11:00, I found myself facing twenty fifth graders, and dear lord, I had to talk to them.

Public speaking is not typically a problem for me. I absolutely wilt if called upon to chitchat in small social groups, but I’ve never hesitated to make an ass of myself in front of crowds. (Recall that I was a tuba soloist.)

(Okay, technically, I never soloed in front of what could properly be called a crowd. A few dozen does not a throng make. But it is very difficult to assemble a large group to listen to a tuba player. This is because most people have absolutely no aesthetic sense, and not at all because the tuba is not a pleasurable solo instrument. Kindly refrain from disagreeing with me, please and thank you.)

So yeah, public speaking is not a problem, unless the audience is younguns. I do not know how to talk with people below the age of, say, 20. Twentysomethings are bad enough. Under almost no circumstance do I deliberately choose to speak to people in my age group. With few exceptions, we are intolerable human beings. If necessary, however, I am able to communicate with adults, using a simple system of grunting and exaggerated gesturing.

Children, though… Children are a different breed. They look like adult humans in miniature, more or less, but it is just a ruse to beguile me into believing they think and act like grownups.

Don’t believe the subterfuge. They’re a different creature entirely, and they are scary.

I did not know how to speak to fifth graders when I was myself in fifth grade. I certainly don’t know how to speak to them now.

So I faked it. I pretended they were in their forties, and I pretended they were desperately interested in my topic, Databases At The Library.

They didn’t throw stones. I count this as a victory. I spoke to two groups today without provoking violence, and tomorrow I am going to speak to two more groups.

And then I am never going to bore anyone with Databases At The Library ever, ever again.

Except that I am.

The poor darling Youth Services staff is going to hear my Databases At The Library spiel next month. I feel for them, I really do. Fortunately, some of them really are in their forties. I will be able to use my grunt-n-gesture method to great effect. (“Grunt!” –point at Ebscohost. “Grunt!” –point at NoveList.)

And then I am never going to bore anyone with Databases At The Library ever, ever again.

Except.

Um.

This is where things start getting absurd.

I am going to bore everyone in Wilhelmsplatz with Databases At The Library, or at least those folks who tune in to the local public access channel.

Let’s make this perfectly clear: I am going to go on television and talk about databases.

Shall we be honest for a moment? Library databases are not sexy. I like them, I use them every day, I spend a lot of the library’s money on them, but no one stays up late at night with a library database and a jar of vaseline. You can’t talk databases at a cocktail party. You can’t impress your girlfriend with your mad database searching skilz. You can’t impress anyone, not even fellow librarians, by teasing out the nuanced differences in subject searches in Gale v. ProQuest. (I know this from repeated personal experience.)

I can’t imagine that anyone would deliberately watch the telly to learn about databases, but I am excited about it nonetheless. Finally someone has realized my star potential. I was picked because I’m a hot young talent. It is only a happy coincidence that database instruction is in my job description.

It would be nice to assure you that, after I win the public’s adoration with my acting debut, I will retire gracefully and never again bore anyone with Databases At The Library. But I will be giving the same talk for a whole day in March. The unsuspecting staff of another library in Virginia have invited me to talk about technology at their staff training day. At least I will be able to talk about lots of things other than databases, such as the iPhone and Wii, which really don’t have much bearing on libraries, but that’s okay because they’re cool.

In the same vein, I learned this morning that my friend Marian the Librarian has been invited to talk about readers’ advisory in Singapore. I am thrilled for her, and I am thrilled for me, because there is an omen in this. Today, a daytrip to give a talk at a library in the same state; tomorrow, the world!

So that was my morning. I walked away with no bloodshed from two classes of fifth graders; I discovered that I’m the next American Idol; I found out that Marian will have the opportunity to buy me souvenirs from Singapore.

Then came the afternoon.

I love working the desk at Wilhelmsplatz. There’s always something happening. It prevents atrophy of the brain.

The only problem with helping a steady stream of people is the steady stream of people. During a busy afternoon, it is statistically impossible to avoid encountering a jerk.

Today I got two of them. Well—the first guy might not have been a jerk. Maybe he was just the friendly sort. After I found the book he needed, he patted me four times on the shoulder and told me I was the greatest librarian ever.

I do love to have my ego stroked. Can’t complain about the greatest librarian ever comment.

But I do not love to have my back stroked, not by strangers. I suppose I would make an exception if a stranger wanted to give me a backrub, but only if the stranger were physically stunning and the setting were appropriate, i.e., a beauty spa or a beach on the Mediterranean. (Or, okay, the Outer Banks. Think local, Jessica, think local.)

The second guy was definitely a jerk. (In the interests of anonymity, identifying details have been censored.)

I became aware that a patron was being obnoxious. I stepped from behind the desk and walked over to him.

“Hi, could you turn you please stop _______ ?” I asked, sweet as pie.

Mr. Obnoxious didn’t do anything. Mr. Obnoxious’s friend, two chairs over, guffa
wed.

I leaned in closer. “Could you _________ the ________?” I asked.

Mr. Obnoxious avoided eye contact, assumed a smartass grin, and snickered.

I marched back to the desk. Death happened to be standing there. (He bears no resemblance to Death, at all, but when you translate his name to German that’s what you’re stuck with.)

“How do I call security?” I asked Death.

“THEY’RE NOT HERE TODAY,” said Death. (A cookie to the first person who correctly explains why he’s speaking in caps lock.)

“Fuck,” I said.

“ASK YOUR BOSS FOR HELP,” suggested Death.

So I went to the workroom and asked Melvil to intervene.

Melvil walked over to the guy and he stopped being obnoxious, just like that.

I’m insulted. Mr. Obnoxious openly defied me. He flaunted his attitude because he figured I couldn’t do anything about it. But the second a man approached him he decided to obey the rules.

Misogynist dick.

How come I can’t be an authority figure, huh? Listen, I think Melvil’s a great guy. I love having him for a boss and he’s a kind, compassionate person. But if I were attacked by thugs in a dark alley, Melvil’s not the first person I’d choose for a sidekick. He’s too nice.

I have never suffered from being too nice. Believe me, if you had to pick between incurring the wrath of Melvil or incurring the wrath of me, you’d want to go with Curtain # 1. If we were in a detective novel, Melvil would be Good Cop and I’d be Bad Cop.

Mr. Too Loud didn’t have our psychological profiles handy, fair enough, but I’m still irritated that he kowtowed to the male and dismissed the female.

Henceforth I will be carrying a whip at work. I will pull it out of the bedroom (Ack! Delete delete delete! Didn’t mean to type that in the blog!) and use it for non-sexual discipline in the library.

On second thought, maybe not. If we can’t have guns, we probably can’t have whips. Maybe I will settle for an intimidating cape. Does anyone know how to sew?

Signs of the End Times

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I have a shocking announcement.

“Have you won a million dollars?” you ask. You always were greedy. No, I haven’t won any money.

“Are you going to run for president in 08?” you ask. No. I’m not old enough.

“Are you pregnant?” you ask.

Stop it. This is exasperating. Remember that talk we had? About eggs and sperm? And what has to happen between them for an embryo to form? I’m not preggers, I’m not rich, I’m not campaigning for the presidency.

“What then?” You’re nearly tearing your hair out by this point. The anticipation is killing you. I will not keep you in suspense anymore. That would be cruel.

Here is my shocking announcement: I am sick of reading.

To say that I am unsettled by this realization would be an understatement of severe proportion. Reading is my favorite activity, bar none. I like it better than eating ice cream. I like it better than tuba playing. I like it better than having glorious kinky sex with a harem full of gorgeous people with chains and whipped cream, or at least I assume so.

I’ve just been reading too much lately, I think. For the 16 months I lived in Franklin, where there was absolutely nothing to do, I read like there was no tomorrow. This was easy, because most days it felt like there was no tomorrow.

Then I moved to Wilhelmsplatz and I had plenty to distract me, like a new job and a new apartment and new bills to pay.

After three months, though, I’ve sort of settled in. Kind of sucks. I can’t play the New Girl card anymore. “I am a New Girl! I demand that you take me to dinner!”

So I’m back to my old tricks, which is to say, I’m reading all the damn time. And I’ve finally gotten sick of it.

This had better be a phase.

Seriously. It had better be a phase. If I’m not back to my normal bookworm status next week I don’t know what I’ll do.

I’ve already tried distracting myself with my full repertoire of non-reading pastimes. I repainted my toenails. I cleaned the house. I went to the grocery store. I beat my previous best Minesweeper score of 116; now I’m at a cool 113, and life is no longer worth living. How am I ever supposed to top 113?

Would you like to hear the most drastic measure I’ve taken? You probably wouldn’t. It is too radical, too violent, too profoundly disturbing for most people. Please, if you are pregnant, or if you have a heart condition, or if you are a small child, skip the next paragraph. (If you are a small child, you shouldn’t be reading this at all. Go lecture your parent or guardian about the responsibilities of child care.)

I was so desperate the other night that I picked up the phone and called people. That’s how bad it was.

Unfortunately, the world seemed to have suffered a nuclear holocaust that evening, though I am relieved to report that it was only temporary. Everyone on the whole planet had vanished, ‘cept for me. No one answered my calls. No one returned my emails. No one was online. For reasons I don’t understand, I was the only human left on Earth.

(I would like to take this opportunity to thank our new alien overlords for sparing me. They are welcome to the veggie burgers and Diet Coke in the fridge. It’s not much in the way of a sacrificial offering, but if they wanted tasty food, they should have chosen a gourmand to be the only surviving human being.)

After my beloved books failed me, I became delusional. I started hallucinating. For proof, I offer this example of my dementia: I contemplated what it would be like to throw a party.

No, no, sit back down, you don’t need to call 911. I’m better now. It was a temporary mental condition, that’s all. I believe I was influenced by one of the 9 books I’ve already read this year. (Nine! Books! Arggh!). This dangerous, incendiary volume is by Amy Sedaris, and I highly recommend it. It is about the art of entertaining and it is called I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence.

You may already know and love Amy Sedaris from reading about her in her brother’s books. Her brother is David Sedaris, who I am going to marry if he ever goes straight. Now you can know and love Amy for her own book. Here are two quotes:

"Even though the word ‘entertainment’ is commonly used today, to me it sounds charmingly old-fashioned, like courtship or back-alley abortion."

and

"The first step in creating a plan is to know what kind of party you will be having. This is often determined by various factors: What time of year is it? What time of day? Is my dealer in town? Do I have a backup dealer?"

Since I do not have a dealer, much less a backup dealer, I guess I will not be able to throw a party, unless maybe I can wrangle the New Girl card one last time: “I am a New Girl! I demand that you take me to your dealer!”

After the alien overlords wiped out everybody but me, and after Amy Sedaris explained to me why I couldn’t have a party, I decided to take extreme action.

“Fuck it,” I said. “I will write fiction.”

Except for a ho-hum story I submitted to the ho-hum campus literary magazine in college, I have not written any fiction since 5th grade or so. This goes a long way toward explaining why I haven’t published a novel yet. This would not be a problem, except that I want to write novels for a living.

Bookish Jet wants to write novels, too. The bulk of our conversations with each other consist of us talking about how we want to be writers, and how we ought to be writers, and how we deserve to be writers, and how we know we’d be very good at it if we bothered to write anything.

So she and I started a writing club. (I swear, amazing things happen when you’re bored.) It is a very exclusive club. Bookish Jet and I are the only members.

The rules are very simple. We each have to write 1,000 words per week and critique what the other person wrote. It is not the type of club where people stand around with cocktails and discuss modern art. There is no dress code. There are no dues. There are no hors d’oevres, though I suppose I wouldn’t object to fruit on toothpicks, provided they were the kind with the pretty colored bits at the end.

I wrote my 1000 words. Bookish Jet wrote her 1000 words. Now we’re each waiting for the other person to respond with criticisms.

Eek.

Now, gentle reader, I know I’ve traumatized you today. We’re discussed some truly uncomfortable topics, to wit:

  • I am tired of reading
  • I picked up the phone and called people
  • I briefly considered what it would be like to throw a party
  • Aliens came and stole all human life for an evening
  • I stopped bitching about not being a writer and actually tried to do something about it

If you want to stop reading now, I don’t blame you in the slightest. I’m sure you won’t be sleeping well tonight as it is.

But if you are very, very brave, I invite you to listen to one final shocking announcement:

I am no longer a feminist.

See, Charlotte’s tire is low. (Charlotte my car, no Charlotte my coworker. I have no idea about Charlotte my coworker’s tires.) So I drove her (the car, not the person) to a gas station and tried to put air in the tire.

I put my three quarters in the machine. I put the nozzly bit to the tire gizmo. I tried valiantly to put air in.

The tire still looked flat. I put three more quarters in the machine. I tried again.

Nothing.

Am I incompetent? How hard can it be?

There I was, single female in a short skirt (it was really warm, and I look terrible in shorts, so I was wearing a skirt), failing miserably at the most basic of car maintenance tasks.

I feel like an idiot. My tire is still low. I’m going to wait till Friday, when I have the whole day off, and then I am going to take a roll of quarters to an air machine until I get the damn tire to inflate.

You see the real issue, though, don’t you? If a man had been there, my tire would have filled up, no problem. This is terribly, terribly sexist, but fuck it. It’s true.

I admit it. Sometimes I just want a man around to do stupid car shit for me.

Every feminist and/or lesbian in the world is going to renounce me now. I accept the rejection. They’re right, they’re absolutely right. Instead of blaming my sex, I should learn how to put air in my tire and discover the enlightenment of independence.

Fuck it, I just want someone to do it for me. Or hold my hand while I try, at the very least.

[This is my very, very passive way of saying that I would gladly accept help from anyone, female or male, who’s reading this.]

Now that I have embarrassed, degraded, and disgraced myself, I’m going to stop writing and go… go…

Oh shit. Guess I’m going to go read.

Great American Blog

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Somebody needs to give me $600 so I can get an iPhone.

And when did Steve Jobs get hot?

Must be the beard. I have a thing for facial hair, leastaways on men.

Weird tangent: I am a sucker for hairy men. I dig long ponytails and furry chins. Conversely, I am sucker for short-haired ladies. Spikey dyke cuts are so hot. Why is that, I wonder? Maybe it’s because of the subtle gender defiance, or maybe it’s because I like androgyny. But it’s not a hard and fast rule. I was watching Madonna’s Vogue video last night. (Shit. Did I just admit to that? Shit. But I won’t admit that I drew the blinds and danced to it, twice. Pulled out my fedora and everything. Am. NOT. Admitting that. Stupid time-wasting YouTube.) I was thinking about how much I want to have fluffy bouncy Jayne Mansfield hair.

I love my purple spikes, but I am constitutionally incapable of maintaining the same hair cut and/or color for more than a few months. Hairstylist Jeff [heart – heart – heart] says he wants to buzz my hair this summer and bleach it out. I think that’s a great idea—I am already excited, just thinking about the punky dark roots I’ll have—but, since that’s not the kind of thing a girl wants to keep forever, maybe I’ll grow it out into Jayne Mansfield locks.

Back to the iPhone.

I was never a Mac fan. Never did get the hang of the interface, and never did feel like shelling out all that extra money. My computer security has been just fine, thanks, and my Dell Inspiron laptop satisfies my mad graphic arts skillz. (By “mad graphic arts skillz,” I mean I know how to photoshop away a zit, and I can whip up a logo if I need to. I’m better at document design than a lot of folks, but that’s not saying much, when you consider that a lot of folks think Comic Sans is an appropriate font for resumes, bar mitzvah invitations, and divorce papers.)

I do own an iPod, but not because I’m a wild Apple fan. I wanted an industry standard portable music device, and Windows just doesn’t have one. 

But this iPhone… wow. My knees are trembling. I won’t bother nbbnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

(Goblin! Geroff the keyboard!)

gushing about it here. Just go to Wired and read… well, read just about any article you want.

Gonna cut this short, by which I mean this post will only be around 500, 600 words, instead of my usual 2000+. If I would bother to spend my time writing The Great American Novel instead of this lameass blog, I would already have the National Book Award that I so clearly and richly deserve. What’s his name in The End of the Affair wrote 750 words per day. I could do that if, you know, if I wanted to.

Speaking of The End of the Affair—you should read it. Graham Greene rocks. The British Modernists turn me into silly putty. You think Beverly Lewis writers Christian fiction? PAH! She is a hack, and so is Karen Kingsbury, and so is Janette Oke. (I have not read any of these ladies, but you know I get irritated when you fuss over details. Stop whining and pay attention.) You want real Christian fiction? Read Graham Greene. He does marvelous things for Catholicism. (So does Flannery O’Connor, another Modernist. It’s not her fault she wasn’t British.) You should also see the movie.

[Cue lightning bolts and timpani.]

I have SEEN movies in my life, all right? Just because I don’t watch them anymore doesn’t mean I can’t recommend one now and again. You should watch The End of the Affair because you get to see Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore prancing around in the buff. Doesn’t matter which way you swing. You’ll be happy.

So yeah, I’ve got important things to do. The pile of books on the floor is giving me puppy dog eyes. I had it whittled to four just a few days ago, but some holds came in yesterday, and some more came in today. Wasn’t my fault! I suppose checking out three Caroline Cooney young adult books on impulse today was, technically, my doing. (But they’ll be quick reads. They hardly count.) And, okay, I checked out two Omar Tyree books yesterday, but trust me on this, it wasn’t because I wanted to. They’re for the next NoveList article. Just finished LaHaye, and now look what I’m dealing with.

At least I’m not as bad as Nebucheddnezzar. He has 64 items on hold. Kudos to him on his new book, by the way, which will be published in May if he ever bothers to finish indexing it. (“But I don’t have page numbers yet!” he offered as a feeble excuse. Please.)

Okay. Going to go read now. Just have to decide if it’s going to be for pleasure (Hello, Thomas Perry! Hello, Amy “Yes I’m David’s Sister” Sedaris!) or for self flagellation. Could pull a Reverend Dimmesdale on myself with the Omar Tyree, I could.

Haven’t read Tyree yet, but remember what I said about nitpicking details? Don’t badger me.

Argh. That’s 905 words that didn’t go into The Great American Novel. It’s a sin. It’s like sperm lost to masturbation, sperm that could have become little babies. I wonder what Graham Greene would say to that?

A roll in LaHaye

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Mes amis, it is January 6 and it is 73 degrees Fahrenheit.

I live in the South—not the Deep South (thank you, Lord God) but the South nonetheless. I have lived in the South my whole life. I know it’s unrealistic to expect a blizzard (though, if you hunt through boxes in my closet back in Western NC, you may find an old purple t-shirt that says “I survived the blizzard of ’92.” We got out of school for two weeks with that one, we did.)

I know what it’s like down here. I know we drink our tea sweet (yay!) and I know how to form a plural you in English. I know I probably won’t get a snowstorm this year.

But the 70s? In January?

I’m trying to look at the positive side. This is just fabulous for homeless people. Granted, we don’t have much in the way of homeless here in Wilhelmsplatz—or if we do, they’re invisible. This place is rich, white, and touristy. I’m not even sure black people are legal here, much less the homeless. (We do have one black person in Adult Services, but she is married to a white man and she listens to country music. Her bumpersticker says “Redneck Black Chick.” Dionysus is whiter than I am, for crying out loud.)

I’m petrified of global warming. I fret about it every day. I’m not kidding. That’s what marked 2006 for me, by the way. It’s true that I got my awesome new job and I moved to Wilhelmsplatz and I met some fab new people, but decades from now, I will remember 2006 as the year I started seriously worrying about global warming. If I’m alive decades from now, I mean. I may just die from lack of snow.

I love snow. Love it love it love it. I turn into a giddy nutty crazy little kid when I have snow. You know how other people suffer from SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder? I’m the opposite. Hot weather makes me wretched. I get cranky with too much sunlight. Give me gray skies and ice and bitter winds and lots and lots of snow. I’ll even take the nasty black slushy stuff at the corner of the road. I think it’s pretty. Nothing, bar nothing, puts me in a better mood than cold gloomy weather.

I’d drink my tea unsweetened and forget how to pluralize the second person if I could. Boston would be great, or Vermont, or Saskatchewan. But librarians can’t afford to live in those places, not unless they marry rich people. (Hello? Any rich people reading this? …we don’t have to get married, necessarily. You pay the bills and I’ll sit around looking pretty. Deal?)

Speaking of affording to live, and bringing this discourse back on track, at least I can afford to live in an apartment in Wilhelmsplatz. Some people can’t. For that reason, and that reason alone, I am glad that the weather is warm.

The people in France are doing something cool. That’s what French people do as a matter of course. They think of ways to be cool. They talk through their noses and they stomp on grapes and they storm the Bastille when they get bored. They rock.

France has approximately 87,000 homeless, which really isn’t much compared to some places, such as, oh, Los Freakin’ Angeles. Can you believe that? One trifling city in America has as many homeless as an entire European nation. And yet, despite the relatively low numbers of unpropertied people, France is pissed. For the past few weeks, a lot of people who live in homes have been setting up tents along La Seine and living in them. They’re protesting the unacceptably high numbers of homeless people. They want to do something, and they’re acting on it in a very visible way.

God, I want to live in a socialist country. With snow.

So this weather is impairing my weekend plans. I had intended to settle under my blanket and read books and drink hot chocolate. It just doesn’t seem right to do that when the weather is balmy. Already I’ve ditched the blanket and the hot chocolate. I’m wearing shorts. Shorts! I look terrible in shorts!

At the very least, I will have to sit on my porch to read.

Oh, and I should be working on the final edits of my LaHaye/Jenkins read-alike piece for NoveList. I’ve been procrastinating on that. It is possible that you have not heard of the Left Behind series, if you have been living in an underground bunker with no windows, no radio, and no internet, and if said bunker is located under a mountain in my future home, Saskatchewan, and if that mountain had an avalanche that has effectively trapped you for the rest of your natural life. (It occurs to me that this doesn’t apply to anyone actually reading this blog, since you get to it via an internet connection—but let’s not get bogged down in details, mmmkay?)

The Left Behind series is a phenomenally bad set of books, though of course I can’t say that in my article. (“Phenomenally popular” is my secret code.) The writing is terrible. Jessica the Librarian would never say that to someone at the reference desk, but Jessica-Who-Has-a-Degree-in-English would, and does, think that to herself. Furthermore, the Left Behind series is conservative tripe.

(“Tsk!” clucks Jessica-Who-Has-a-Degree-in-English. “Conservative tripe! A redundancy! For shame!”)

Instead of revising my Left Behind piece like a good girl, I have been counteracting the effects of too much evangelical fiction with lots of pleasure reading. At the moment I’m working on Blindsight, by Peter Watts, a science fiction book with lots of technical jargon and hard science.

“That’s odd,” you say to yourself. (I just love putting words in your mouth. Thanks for humoring me.) “I thought you didn’t like hard SF.”

Aw shucks. It’s sweet of you to pay attention to my reading tastes. You’re absolutely right, I don’t normally read hard SF. All the technical science-babble makes me feel dumb. I hate feeling dumb.

I’m reading it on the recommendation of d’Artagnan. This is unusual. I don’t normally read books that people recommend. It’s not because I don’t like the people. It’s because I am so very picky. And if it turns out I don’t like the book the person recommended, there’s a strong risk that I will like the recommender less.

I will read books that my mother recommends. She is my mother. I will read books that my boss recommends. He is my boss. I will possibly – possibly – read books recommended by people I’m sleeping with, but it’s not very likely. If they recommend something I don’t like, the relationship itself becomes imperiled.

(Naturally, I reserve the right to recommend books to other people, and they damn well better like what I suggest.)

So why am I condescending to read a book that d’Artagnan suggested? It is most unlike me. I told him I didn’t want to. My eyebrow went down when I saw the alien space ship on the cover. (NEVER a good sign.) My eyebrow went down further when I saw the cover blurb describing it as hard science fiction. Both eyebrows went way, way down when I saw the cover blurb likening the author to William Gibson. Neuromancer sucked, and I don’t care what anyone says. It is as bad as Dune.

“If I don’t like this, I’m never speaking to you again,” I threatened d’Artagnan.

d’Artagnan shrugged.

But hey, I was feeling in a generous mood, and besides, it was nice to hear d’Artagnan discussing something other than football or bikes. (Am I the only person in this freakin’ library who doesn’t ride a bike?)

So I started it and, cool, it’s way better than I expected. It really is too technical for me, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m missing some of the finer plot points, but the setting and tone are bleak and depressing, just ho
w I like ’em, and the characters are really well done.

And anything is better than blathering about how good the Left Behind series is.