Monthly Archives: March 2007

On the cover of the Rolling Stone

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Rolling Stone has not actually called me yet, but that’s only because I’m unlisted. Surely by now they are slavering to contact me, as they have undoubtedly chanced across my television show. It is showing on all the major media outlets, which is to say, it is showing on the Wilhelmsplatz cable access show.

If you do not live in Wilhelmsplatz, you are paying less rent than I am. That’s just not fair.

If you do not live in Wilhelmsplatz, you are not able to watch my teevee show. Ain’t it a shame? Almost makes you wish you were paying through the nose for your 900-sq. foot apartment with too few closets and paper-thin walls.

Don’t worry. I’m lying. I hope you haven’t torn your clothes and pulled your hair out in despair. It’s freely available online. Just google for the local public access channel. I’d post the link, but that would utterly shatter any last pretense of anonymity. If you already know me, I’ll send you the link; if you stumbled on this site accidentally, kindly imagine a stunning specimen of the female species crooning sultry bar songs. Further imagine all of the people in the audience, men and women alike, drooling over her. That’s exactly what happened in the teevee show, I swear.

Now then. Let’s clear up something once and for all.

I don’t watch teevee.

Nor do I watch movies.

This is difficult for most of you to grasp. Advanced calculus is easier to wrap your mind around.

I took calc in high school. It was pretty fun. My favorite part was where we took a macaroni and twirled it around and figured out how much space it had displaced on its courageous journey. Fun times.

When I was in second grade I made the conscious decision to stop watching cartoons. I was insulted by them. They pandered to me. They gave me stock characters and predictable plots and pat endings.

Don’t think I managed to articulate it like that when I was eight, but the point here is that I decided I had better things to do with my time.

You begin to understand why I didn’t have friends.

I didn’t stop watching when I was eight, though. Cartoons, yeah, those went out the door, but I was all about some Peter Jennings. (We didn’t have cable, so I didn’t have much choice: it was Peter or the cartoons.)

I wasn’t totally abnormal. Once the Simpsons came on the air, I watched it religiously. I was also suckered into the X-Files.

I quit teevee for good in college. Haven’t watched it in five years. I do own a telly, but only to play my PS2, and besides, I have it hooked up wrong. Can’t figure out which cable’s plugged in the wrong place, but it’s not a major concern. Just means I haven’t saved Middle Earth from Sauron recently. Sucks for the hobbits. Poor little guys.

Also means I can’t show a movie when guests visit, but that’s not a frequent problem. When you’re a famous celebrity like me, common folks are too intimidated to request audience. It’s a shame, really. I’m humble enough to condescend to their level, but something—my sheer beauty, I’m guessing—scares them away.

So why don’t I watch teevee? I know there are good shows. I know I would enjoy the stories and the characters and the gorgeous actors. I don’t think that television is a less worthy form of entertainment than, say, reading, or saving Middle Earth.

The reason I don’t watch teevee is because I don’t like to be passive. Television viewing is passive.

“Oh, sure,” you snort. The derision is palpable. “Like turning pages is a workout. Shut up, Jessica.”

Let me make my point before you jump all over me, kay?

When I read a book, I control the pace. I have to actively engage with the text to make it happen. I have to apply my brain to the medium, or absolutely nothing happens. With television, you sit there and receive what the telly chooses to send out. You’re a receptacle. You’re not in control.

I don’t like not being in control. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD types don’t like relinquishing control, to the same degree that Irish Protestants don’t like Irish Catholics.

It’s not teevee I dislike. It’s the act of watching it. See?

Daniel Clowes wrote Ghost World, a fabulous graphic novel that is much better than the movie, though I’ll agree right now that Thora Birch makes for a hot Enid. Daniel Clowes also wrote Ice Haven, which I didn’t much care for. There’s an excellent passage, however, that discusses entertainment in terms of reading and visual stimulus. Comics combine them both: you get to receive the images set forth, and you get to read the words.

I do so love graphic novels, and maybe that’s why. I still get to read, but I get a dose of visual pleasure that I can choose to take at my own pace

Now then. There are exceptions. If I’m at somebody’s house, I’ll watch teevee, because that’s what people do. And very, very rarely, I will watch a movie. I do not enjoy the process, but sometimes it’s worth it to me to be discomfited for two hours, especially if it meant that I got to stare at Johnny Depp for the duration.

I don’t regret giving up teevee. It means I have more time for blogging and reading and rescuing hobbits. The only drawback is that I’m lousy for conversation. Take away television, and it’s hard to find shared common ground with other people. “Say, did you ever calculate the area displaced by a swiveling piece of pasta?” Try that line at a party sometime. Once they realize it’s not a sexual innuendo, it takes about three seconds for the room to clear out. Not even drunk people want a piece of that conversation.

To bed with me, now. Need to be coherent for work—big projects going on this week. I haven’t a prayer for getting any of them done on time but I should at least have the decency to be awake when the deadlines fly by. And then after work I need to edit some CD liner notes for my friend Adam the euphonium player, and I need to write my Cormac McCarthy piece.

And yes, that’s my idea of a fun evening. Keep your snide remarks to yourself. Leave a noodle-displacement-calculatin’ girl in peace.


Library 2 point Overtures

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Libraryland is a magical place. It is Oz and Narnia and The Shire rolled into one. The streets are lined with diamonds, the houses are made of gingerbread, and the rain is non-sticky milk.

I should note here that the diamonds were mined under environmentally responsible conditions and that the miners were paid fair wages for the work. Furthermore, the animals who supply the milk entered their contracts willingly, with no coercion. They get paid fair wages, too. The milk they produce is non-sticky; otherwise people would get all manky and their homes would dissolve.

Just indulge the fantasy, mmkay?

We in Libraryland love to give each other awards. Possibly this is because we all work for low pay. (The animals and the miners joined a union, but the librarians missed the boat.) Our salaries our too low for our educations and work descriptions, so we’ve learned to content ourselves with awards. They’re not very satisfying if you’re hungry, and landlords don’t accept them in lieu of rent, but they look nice on the resume, and besides, we can always nibble on our gingerbread ceilings if we can’t afford to buy food.

One of these honors is the Movers and Shakers recognition from Library Journal. I think it’s fifty or so folks who get it each year. Hardly sounds exclusive, does it? Any old bookslinger can get an M&S designation. I myself haven’t been named a Mover and Shaker, but I figure it’s just a clerical oversight.

It is far, far more prestigious to be considered one of the Coolest Librarians Ever. I am the one who does the considering, and until yesterday, only three people were on that list. Those three people are Joyce S., my editor, who practically reinvented readers’ advisory; Kaite M.-S., who finished reinventing readers’ advisory, and who is good for bar-hopping at conferences; and Patrick J., who does phenomenal things with teens and looks like a cool motorcycle dude.

Why only three people on my Coolest Librarians Ever list? Possibly because I haven’t met enough librarians yet. It’s hard to get sent to conferences when you’re the low woman on the totem pole. I can’t demand the library send me to ALA rather than, say, my boss, because my boss has to boogie up to DC this year to collect his two bigass awards, the Allie Beth Martin and the Margaret E. Monroe. Getting just one of these is astounding. Getting two of them in the same freakin’ year is mind-numbing. It is almost as exclusive as getting on my Coolest Librarian Ever list.

But I have a new contender for Coolest Librarian Ever. I’ve been reading the guy’s blog for a while and I keep stumbling over his articles in my research, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I got to hear Michael Stephens talk on 2.0 stuff.

He was talking to a bunch of directors and their minions. The talk was designed to introduce us to 2.0 concepts and to motivate us into doing something with them.

I already know a fair bit about 2.0. Very astute readers will recall that I traveled to another library last week to talk about the same damn thing. But the talk yesterday taught me a lot of new things. If my eyes were opened, then—forgive the extended metaphor—then the directors in the room had radical laser surgery.

Since I got my job here in Wilhemlsplatz I’ve been begging for a website redesign. “We need to incorporate 2.0 technologies!” I’ve been saying. “We need a blog! We need to reach out to teens! We need RSS feeds!” I’ve been doomsaying the consequences of ignoring 2.0, generally with words such as “Armageddon” and “wholesale slaughter.”

But I’m no good at starting revolutions. If the Bolsheviks had depended on me to liberate them from tyranny, the Romanovs would still be running the show.

Don’t get me wrong. The administration agrees with me that we need to move forward, though I think I lost them when I mentioned the likelihood of nuclear holocaust. It’s just a matter of degree. I want to drop everything and overhaul the website, preferably yesterday. They’re trying to be sensible about it and do things in reasonable chunks. They’ve happily agreed to let Adult Services start a book review blog. That baby’s gonna launch a week from Monday*.

*Cross your fingers, please

It’s one thing for me agitate for 2.0 things. It’s easy to discount my sense of urgency when I’m wearing my robe and chanting and carrying around my scythe.

It’s something else entirely when Big Famous Librarian comes in and talks about 2.0 stuff. Suddenly I don’t seem like such a quack.

At a break during the 2.0 talk, the director asked me to prepare a criticism of our website and to suggest ways to improve it. He’s willing to ask for my input, despite my having spilled coffee all over him at the beginning of the day. That’s a prince among men, that is.

So exciting! It’s a long-running gripe of mine that libraries have been sluggish to adopt new technologies. (New FREE technologies, mind you.) Institutional inertia, over-caution, and overworked staff have prevented libraries from seizing the new opportunities. But with speakers like Michael Stephens to show us that we can and should jump on the 2.0 bandwagon, things are looking up.

Pride Goeth Before a Falwell

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Last week I went up to Rapeville to give a talk. (That’s obviously not the real name of the place, but trust me: in real life, the name is every bit as violent.)

I was nervous about traveling to Rapeville because it’s the home of Jerry Falwell. If Falwell and I were in the same room together, something bad would happen. There would be a duel, with “Get behind me, Satan!” being generously yelled by both sides; or we would both spontaneously explode; or, at the very least, we would both sense a disturbance in the Force.

I grew up in evangelical territory. Billy Graham has a big retreat not far from my childhood home. But Billy Graham is a nice old man. I even used to read his column in the local paper, which was hilariously located right above the astrology column. Teehee.

Billy Graham left me alone, and I left him alone, and everyone got along fine. That’s the great thing about western North Carolina. It attracts all sorts. There are bible-thumping conservatives and pagan peaceniks and everything in between. Somehow they all manage to coexist.

But Rapeville doesn’t have airy-fairies to balance out the fundamentalists. All it has is Jerry Falwell, and Jerry Falwell is not a nice old man. He doesn’t like free speech, for one thing.

Larry Flynt taught him a sound lesson about free speech, though it cost him a trial in the Supreme Court and a bullet that left him wheelchair bound. Parody is protected by the First Amendment, Jerry, like it or not.

Do I like Hustler? Goddess, no. It is misogynistic. We’re not just talking run-of-the-mill porn: it features women in horrible, degrading situations. The photos show women being abused, raped, mutilated, you name it. Hustler offends me to my feminist core.

At the same time, publisher Larry Flynt is one of my heroes. I hate what he puts in Hustler, but I am grateful for everything he’s done to protect free speech in America.

A few years ago, he ran for governor in California. He came in second or third, can’t remember, touting himself as “a smut peddler who cares.” Hell, I would have voted for him, with motto like that.

So there I was in Rapeville. I myself look a bit nontraditional—I have short spiky hair of a color not found in nature—but what really worried me was my car, Charlotte. She is plastered with bumper stickers of a liberal bent.

So when I got out of my talk and saw a piece of paper under my windshield wiper, my heart jumped in my throat.

“Please don’t be a death threat,” I prayed. “Please. I am not meeting ANYONE at sunset for a fight to the death. No. No. And no.”

But I was pleasantly surprised. Here’s what the note said (with the name changed):

“My name is Joe Schmoe and your bumper stickers are really cool, you have lightened by day and brought a smile to my face. Thanx!”

Aw, shucks. I guess Joe Schmoe doesn’t get to see liberal sentiments like that too often, not in Falwell-land. I am delighted to have brought some liberal goodness to his day, at great personal risk to my car and my person.

Not that I was, um, ever worried. Not for a second.

Library two point oh my!

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Lots of bloggers pepper their posts with links to external sites. I’m not keen on the practice. Time spent talking about other people is time spent not talking about me. Life’s too short for that kind of thing.

Can’t help myself, though. I have to share this with everyone. It’s the most amazing flash drive ever.

I found it whilst preparing for my talk next week. I’ll be doing a staff training day at a library about four hours’ drive from here.

“Oh, that’s kind of cool,” you think. “You get to talk for an hour or two. Neat.”

Well. Yes. Neat. Except it will be for more than an hour or two. It will be for the whole damn day.

The employees at this library will shut down operations to listen to me, and no one but me, for the whole stinkin’ day.

Listen, I myself wouldn’t want to listen to anybody for a day. If Christ Jesus descended from heaven and wanted to talk for a day I’d get bored. (Probably very quickly, as my Aramaic is rusty as all hell.)

So this week at work I’m putting together the presentation on Library 2.0. I’m trying like mad to think of ways to cut down on my own speaking. This is strange for me. Normally I’m plotting to find ways to hear my own voice. But even I will concede that six hours of lecture is too much, even from me.

Plus I don’t want to ruin the staff training day. I don’t want to be the focus of their resentment for the year to come.

(“Remember that girl they brought in to talk for staff day? That was awful.”
“Uh huh, a total waste of time.”
“Where the hell did they find her? She was, like, fourteen. Tried telling ME how to be a librarian.”
“Let’s find where she lives and throw rocks at her house.”)

Nope, no anxiety here. But for the record, I’m practically twenty-six. Plenty old enough to be the sole speaker at a staff day.


Right. So. Here’s another link to a site that has nothing to do with me. It’s the Belief-O-Matic. Been questioning your faith? Answer the quiz, and find out exactly what religion you should be!

The B-o-M says that I’m 100% neo-pagan. Groovy. I’m a witch. Soon I will be able to turn my enemies into toads.

A close runner-up is UU at 97%, followed by Mahayana Buddhism (86%) and Liberal Quaker (86%). Dead last is Jehovah’s Witness (17%).

Back to talking about me. I have been living with this body for nearly twenty-six years. I’ve never even had an out-of-body experience. I have been residing in this (attractive, remarkable) flesh without interruption for more than a quarter of a century. One would think I’d know it pretty well by now.

But I have recently discovered some new muscles. One new discovery is in my inner thigh. Another is on my outer calf. I know they say yoga leads to self-discovery, but I didn’t realize it was so literal.

Let me sum this up in one word: owie.

My whole body is sore. It’s a good kind of sore. I’m very pleased to be acquainted with heretofore unrealized body parts. The ache feels good in a limber stretchy kind of way.

But I could really go for a full body massage right now. It doesn’t have to be sexual. Wouldn’t complain, but that’s not what I’m shooting for. I want a full-body rub. If I don’t get one soon, expect to see a dramatic increase in the local population of toads.

Hurry! Only 30 shopping days left!

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Goodness, I can’t believe I’m so late in delivering this message. I hope there’s enough time left.

My birthday is in a month. Will you have enough time to buy me presents by April 6?

I always have crappy birthdays. Probably this started out naturally. Now it’s turned into a self-fulfilling prophesy. I may as well resign myself to it.

Mom and Dad will be coming up for a few days. I always love seeing Mom and Dad, though I’m a little irritated that they didn’t ask first. (Sorry, Mom, but really. What if I’d had other plans? And now it’s not like I can *make* other plans.)

“There go my chances of birthday sex,” I told them. Mom had the decency to look sheepish. Dad, I think, didn’t have anything to do with it.

But they’re largely off the hook because, let’s face it, my chances of birthday sex were purely hypothetical, like Bigfoot, or particles smaller than quarks, or someone who’s read Finnegan’s Wake.

Still though, I’m running out of excuses to get people to sleep with me. The charm of being the new girl at the library has worn off by this point, and besides, there’s a newer new girl, whom I won’t mention by name because I can’t think of a good pseudonym for her yet. She recommended a young adult book by Markus Zusak called I Am the Messenger. I read it today, and New Girl is pretty lucky I liked it, because I stop speaking to people who recommend bad books. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but books are important. The style and moderate surrealism reminded me of Jerry Spinelli, and if that’s not a compliment I don’t know what is.

So I can no longer bat my lashes coyly and say “Woe unto me, I’m new and alone and nobody knows me, oh how I wish someone would buy me a margarita.” That trick’s not working anymore, and the old standbys—ravishing good looks, brilliant personality, razor-sharp wit—well, frankly, they’ve never done me much good in the getting laid department. (Which, had I less confidence, might make me wonder if I’m actually ravishing and brilliant and all that. But of course this is not a consideration. At all.)

About the only card left up my sleeve is one I can only use once per year: “Woe unto me, it’s my birthday, oh how I wish someone would buy me a margarita.” Which Mom and Dad will certainly do, but that’s not quite was I was angling for. At least I won’t have to go through the indignity of batting my lashes to get a drink out of them.

But though you won’t be able to sleep with me on my birthday (sorry, folks) you are still welcome to get me presents. To facilitate matters, I have composed a wish list. Any of the following items are acceptable:

  • World peace
  • A flame thrower
  • A pony
  • A dinosaur (smallish, as I live in an apartment; no sauropods, please)
  • The next Harry Potter book
  • Universal popularity
  • A tropical isle
  • An arctic isle
  • Birthday sex
  • A multi-volume popular fiction book deal, cash advance
  • Some ninjas
  • Johnny Depp (***may be combined with birthday sex, if that’s easier for you)
  • The head of John the Baptist on a silver plate

Oooh, that reminds me:

Q: What do Winnie the Pooh and John the Baptist have in common?

A: Same middle name.

All right. You’ve got one month to shop for presents. Get to it!