Impulse Power!

During a trip to Target, I joined the 21st century by impulse-buying a wireless mouse. The beautiful rodent is one of the few instances where Chairman Bill and MS gang has gotten money from me. I don’t know why I was so attracted to it, but it’s mine now.

The good:

  • It’s a sexy design, comes in red
  • The flip feature saves battery
  • Works w/ Ubuntu!

The bad:

  • No charger
  • Not bluetooth
  • Comes in black/red (no blue?)
  • No matching keyboard

I’m currently using it w/ my desktop, but it might be nice not to sacrifice my wrists when using my lappie. Although Microsoft has won me over with it’s sexy hardware, I don’t know if I’m ready to use it’s lesser-known software division…

I’ll never tire!

March 2004 118 300x224It’s been 16 days since I’ve driven my car. It’s been nice, in spite of the early arrival of winter. For the most part, I’ve walked to work (excepting a single rainy day) or ridden my motorcycle (brrrrrr).

I hope I don’t disappoint anyone, but this wasn’t a wholly conscious effort. My car key went missing on the 1st of November, and I’ve not had the time to replace until today. In the midst of my auto-abstinence, some force of nature decided to remove my driver’s side window, leaving behind a glittering pile of glass cubes. Let’s hope the next window lasts longer than the former…

Fortunately, the irony of the whole situation isn’t lost on me- at a time when gas is approaching 2003-2004 price levels, I’m driving less than ever. Like others, some masochistic part of me actually wants to waste gas just to have the satisfaction of filling it up again for under $2 a gallon.

It also happens to be a time when the company which manufactured my car is begging for it’s existence. On NPR, a commentator I was listening to put it best “The big three have sailed against the winds of change for too long, and it’s finally showing”. Succinct and spot-on in this case, with only a minor extension it could be applied to a number of legacy librarians who see the world in exactly the same way they saw it 20 or 30 years ago, and who flatly refuse to acknowledge that what they learned in library school is often no longer applicable. I understand that change is seldom easy, but American automakers are a gleaming example of sticking to a outdated enterprise. Will librarians who fail to change be on the brink someday? I think part of our complacency is the deep-rooted reverence for the library as a social institution. People who don’t ever set foot in the library will continue to support it because of it’s perceived benefit to the community. But will this idea endure?

Review: My Name is Will

Cover 0708 260x300A novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare! by Jess Winfield

Patrons of the arts will recognize the authors name– none other than Jess Winfield of the Reduced Shakespeare Company.

The fictional story accounts the lives of two Will Shakespeares: the vanguard of verse (or pontif of prose), and that of a mondern-day graduate student who not only bears the Bard’s name, but is a Shakespeare scholar to boot.

Their struggles, weaknesses, and successes are paralleled in a weave that entertains & edifies, at the cost of some historical accuracy.  For instance, the two Wills are motivated by having contraband thrust upon them, which each must deliver to its rightful owner.  In the first case, the contraband is a Catholic Reliquary in a vigorously Protestant England; in the latter case, a psychodelic mushroom in the age of Reagan’s war on drugs.  Great care is taken to incorporate every last detail in comparing the two lives; that the modern should mirror the ancient.  This is one of those ideas which sounds good in theory, and then turns out to be terrible in print.

It becomes so predictable and stretched that one is tempted to skip the chapters about the modern Will.

That said, I really did enjoy reading it.  It offers easily digestible bits about Shakespeare, Elizabethan England, and mushrooms, all rolled into one.

Hoist yourself by your neighbour’s bootstraps

After a weekend of back-breaking labor (I think moving a washing machine up a narrow staircase is akin to moving the last giant stone to the top of the pyramid), it was time to relax and watch a movie. Like any movie-loving patriot, I have some DVD’s on the shelf that remain unopened and unwatched for many years, and on that particular night, my hand found its way to Memoirs of a Geisha, which Ape also hadn’t seen.

It’s a well-presented movie, with visual appeal, lascivious geishas and even a (world) war! The only problem: you often can’t tell whether the characters are speaking in English or Japanese (Godzilla is the only Japanese word I know). What does one call English heavily inflected with Asian speech? It isn’t a drawl, nor a lilt, nor a brogue; is there some other nonsense-word that deals with these sounds?

Aural discomfort aside, Memoirs rekindled my thoughts on social mobility.

–The story (if you’re not already familiar with it) recounts the life of a country girl, sold to a quasi-boarding school for girls (not the same concept, but similarly executed). If the girls are deemed worthy, they are sent to geisha school. If not, they pretty much end up a servants to the geisha. The protagonist is accepted into geisha school, and has a pretty miserable life for awhile. Then she grabs the bull by the horns (so to speak) and becomes the most sought after women in the country. Shortly thereafter she realizes that geisha were never meant to pursue their own goals; rather they live to entertain other (presumably more successful) persons. Plus, all of the other geisha, especially the ones she trusts, end up trying to deceive/screw/kill each other.

Are geisha on a shorter leash than we are? Would our own memoirs be any different? Probably only insofar as we don’t wear crazy make-up and dresses (generally). People are still yoked to their careers, still trying to screw each other over, still relying on the few whose motivations are selfless to make their lives worthwhile. The geisha are a peculiar lot, but I don’t think these concepts belong to any single time or place; they’re rather endemic to humanity, arising in every society, sub-culture, and group, right down to the very last soul. It’s the outward manifestation of our inner struggle against the most primitive urges: eat, poop, and dominate.

On the bright side, there is (and probably always was) a huge gray/black market to exploit, for those who don’t fancy a traditional 9-5 yoking. I could probably make serious coin smuggling arms/hooch/maple syrup out of Canada, but would it be any more satisfying than the liberry?

It is tempting to think that, with time, we gain more freedom as individuals. There are lots of examples (both true and made-up) of people in this country climbing the ladder of success, starting from their low-born beginnings as a cockney boot-black and then becoming 16th president of the United States. Indeed, the protagonist geisha was once sentenced to become a slave, and against all odds, became not just any geisha, but the geisha.

Quotable Axiom: The only barriers we can’t overcome are those we set for ourselves.

Review: 2008

I know what you’re thinking, and my rebuttal is no, it is not too early to review 2008, a relative newborn as years go. The verdict: cold, dark, and full of surprises (not unlike Space). It honestly hasn’t been so terribly cold yet; in fact, I don’t think it’s even dropped below zero.

The problem lies rather with the weather indoors at the Liberry. My beloved berry is a Carnegie Library. It’s been added on to, renovated, nearly burned to the ground, rebuilt, and re-renovated. The culmination of this 111 year history is a fantastic liberry with sub-prime heating and cooling. While the catalogers are fanning themselves upstairs and sipping iced tea, I shiver in the storage/server room cum meat locker. The upshot: I now drink more green tea than the 8th, 9th, and 11th Dalai Lama.

No news is more surprising than the upsets in the Iowa caucus, with democrat Barack H. Obama (the H stands for Hussein! Like Saddam!) and republican Mike Huckabee (another guv from Arkansas) triumphing over their respective party brethren. What does this mean for you and me? Not too damn much. Some people feel that winning the Iowa caucus will give nomination-ensuring impetus to the victors. These people are idiots.

Iowa is nothing remarkable; it has a lot of land, about as many people as metro St. Louis, and a misplaced sense of pride. Its only distinction is being the first state to hold a caucus. This small get for Iowa hardly seems deserving of all the folderol surrounding the Iowa Caucus.

Of course, there’s always hope that people will come to their senses. My boy Kucinich (who had no chance from the start) endorsed Obama, which prompted speculation about him being Obama’s running partner.

The real winner yesterday was an NPR interviewee who confessed that although she was a faithful christian and republican, voted for (mormon) Mitt Romney instead of the the (christian) Mike Huckabee. Why? Because she felt Huckabee’s religious zeal was inappropriate in a world of dangerous religious fanatics, and that faith is a personal tenant, not a public spectacle.

Maybe there’s hope for 2008 after all…

Review: Wicked [the musical]

The day finally came on Friday to get in the horseless carriage and head to the theatre. I was pretty excited in the days leading up to the show, since it’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen a musical. Plus, my folks and Ape & me were enthralled with Wicked the book, which made this particular show a novel (larf) experience. We even had great seats- 13th row from the stage, the closest I’m ever likely to get without having to join the orchestra. First impressions: the first act didn’t live up to my expectations. It veered wildly from the book, rather than the more common approach of omitting non-essential details. The music was not very memorable either- the words were rather difficult to understand sometimes, and this beast bore the mark of soulless contemporary music.

The second act was much better, in nearly every aspect. The action was swifter, the emotion more tangible, and there were a few songs that left me humming after the show. It’s possible that I enjoyed the second more because it became more evident that the musical was conceived for an audience that had never read Gregory Maguire’s story, or even the original Frank L. Baum’s story. The musical is aimed squarely at a family audience who knew the movie inside and out. I have to include ‘family audience’ because nearly every violent aspect of the story was removed or quickly reversed* (read footnote for a spoiler)

Final Assessment: At the end of the night, I decided that I enjoyed the musical quite a bit, in spite of the many inconsistencies with the book I so thoroughly enjoyed.

*The musical depicts Elphaba’s death by water as a trick, which deceives her contemporaries. She is then secretly reunited with Fiyero and they live happily ever after. Contrast this with Maguire’s novel, in which nearly everyone dies.

Review: Bookhunter, by Shiga

Bookhunter was an excellent read, if it can be said that one merely ‘reads’ comic books. It engages you on a number of levels, and changed my mind about modern comics. It’s the story of Bay, library Marshall, who uses his keen intellect to solve the mystery of a stolen tome. Not just any old tome mind you; an incunabulum. The thief is caught in the end, using a combination of 1970’s library technology and clever punditry. The story seen as a whole is nothing unique; the appeal is couched in the unraveling of the mystery (as is so often the case with mysteries). The brown-hued illustration is sparse, and the humor is drier than a Southern California forest.

Aside from these qualities, it’s a fulfillment of a long-time librarian fantasy: dispensing justice to malfeasant patrons using crime labs and attack teams, instead fines and shushing. It’s also a rather interesting look into the public library past: the story is set in 1973, when records were slowly migrating from dusty stacks of cards into digital abodes.

Final assessment: you should read it online, right now:

Book Hunter – Full online text