Friday, October 30, 2009

Flash Back Friday #29

Television rarely gets any better than this. Alice Cooper, dressed as Dracula, singing Welcome to My Nightmare...on the Muppets.

Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Creepy Italian trees"

That is my favorite line from the movie Under The Tuscan Sun. It's also my favorite grown up watch-when-I'm-alone, getting-ready-for-a-trip or sick-in-bed movie. The Kid has been sick and home from school the last 3 days so it's been a week of sleepless nights (he's been up coughing and can't sleep) and quiet days (when he seems to sleep better). We've also watched a bit of really bad tv. There is not much on at 3:00 am except infomercials and bad Disney movies like the original Escape to Witch Mountain (1974). The Kid and I watched it anyway and we laughed at the very bad special effects (upside down helicopter, flying bag of flour) and the ridiculous story. It reminded me of all the Disney movies we used to watch when he was a little boy (and occasionally still do, although he won't admit it!)

When my son was born in 1993 it was the height of the new Disney movie era. Disney was churning out a film every year so my kid grew up with the "new" Disney classics. Aladdin was released in 1992 and The Lion King in 1994, by the time they came out on video my son was a huge fan (thanks to Disney and McDonald's Happy Meals marketing) and we watched both films repeatedly. Those movies were followed by Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), Mulan (1998) and Tarzan (1999). Disney was also re-releasing their classics Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan so my kid grew up thinking anytime we put the little box (cassette tape) into the bigger box (VCR) everyone on tv was a cartoon.

As my son grew up Disney got replaced by Harry Potter. The first Harry Potter movie was released in 2001, followed by movies in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and soon to be released 2010 and 2011. Now my kid was growing up with live action movies based on books (Yay!) and with characters who were almost the same age as himself. I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan and I'll be the first to admit it's been really cool enjoying the books and the films through the years with my kid. The book release anticipation, our yearly Harry Potter movie parties, it's just been really neat experiencing it all with a child who hasn't been too young or too old to appreciate it.

So now that my son is feeling better and back to school we probably won't watch any late night Disney movies for awhile. I'll pop in Under the Tuscan Sun and watch it on a rainy morning and start planning my next trip, maybe to Italy where I can look at "creepy Italian trees". I'll probably get stuck watching a Disney movie on the airplane.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Salon's Literary Guide to the World

This website is just downright cool. Described as a "literary journal" this site allows you to navigate the world and find the best literature about a destination or travel virtually. My favorite literary destination right now, Gypsy Europe, totally fascinating look at a misunderstood culture. You can check out the Literary Guide to the World here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Book I Want to Live In

Right now I am reading Her Fearful Symmetry by the Chicago based writer of The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger. If you've read either book you know that Audrey places her characters in the City of Chicago, the Chicago suburbs and other Midwest areas like the shores of Southwest Michigan. I love this about her books. It's so personal to me to read of her fictional characters in real life places I've been before. Henry in The Time Traveler's Wife is a librarian at Chicago's Newberry Library and visits clubs and locations I've frequented myself. His wife Clare's family home on the shores of Michigan is near the Scanlan beach house where I spend many summer weekends and holidays. In Audrey's newest books, Her Fearful Symmetry she takes 2 of her characters out of the suburbs of Chicago and moves them to London. I've only started this book and already I'm in heaven with the locations.

Back in 2001 I visited London with my Mom and sister for a girls week in our favorite city. On one of our last days in London, Mom and Stacy wanted to see Shakespeare's Globe Theater and I was more interested in finding the famous Highgate Cemetery. I set off with a map of the Tube, a small picnic, an umbrella and a camera. Highgate Cemetery is a heavily wooded, Victorian-in-style cemetery in Highgate London and is divided into east and west sections. Many cemetery junkies and/or history bugs know Highgate Cemetery as the final resting place of a few famous people such as the philosopher Karl Marx, the parents of writer Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Siddal, the wife and muse of painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. This thickly overgrown and darkly lush cemetery is also famous for the so called "Highgate Vampire". (If you are interested in more information about Highgate Cemetery, there is a page on Facebook and numerous websites).

In Her Fearful Symmetry the author moves her characters (creepy identical twins) from Chicago to an apartment next to the cemetery in London. As she was researching her book, the author acted as a tour guide amongst the tombs (tours are organized by The Friends of Highgate Cemetery). Supposedly the cemetery was also the inspiration for Neil Gaiman's wonderful story The Graveyard Book. The more I read Her Fearful Symmetry the more I want to live inside the book. I want to live in a spacious apartment steps away from Highgate Cemetery where I could spend my free time making grave rubbings, spotting foxes and waiting for the ghosts and vampires to rustle in the trees.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Too Scary for Children?

I've recently read that there has been some controversy concerning Spike Jonze's adaption of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book, Where the Wild Things Are. Apparently some parents are disturbed that the film is "too dark", "too scary" and "not suitable for children". Hmmmmmmm.

As a parent, I read Where the Wild Things Are over and over to my son when he was a small child. We loved the monsters, Max in his wolf costume and following Max's journey to the land of the Wild Things and back home again. It was and remains a favorite book. I haven't seen the Spike Jonze film yet but am anxious too, I want to see for myself how "dark" he made a book that wasn't very light to begin with.

I've been wondering what I would do if my son was still small enough to be scared by a film based after all on monsters and a little boy taking a journey by himself. Would I see the film first? Would I ask other parents or friends who have seen it what they thought? Would I reread the book with my son first and then explain the movie is someone taking the book and making it into something you can watch, like a dream? I would definitely ask my son if he was even interested in seeing the film. He was never a child who scared easily, might have been all those Grimm's fairy tales I read him.

Maybe it is the scariness of certain books that appeals to children and adults alike. Fairy tales like those collected and/or written by the Grimm's are certainly not fluffy Disney tampered tales. There is as much death, wickedness and sadness in fairy tales as any Greek legend but fairy tales somehow retain that child friendly feel about them. Orphans, step mothers who want you dead, malicious forest animals, broken hearts and monsters are all common and sometimes there is no happy ending. (Have you read the original Hans Christian Anderson book The Little Mermaid?) But still children and parents alike return to these stories generation after generation.

As a child my favorite books besides my cherished and dogeared collection of Grimm's Fairy Tales were books by rather "gothic" children's authors like Roald Dahl, or by cartoonist Charles Addams. I loved the conflict between good and evil, the triumph of bravery over cowardice and the reality that sometimes there just isn't a happy ending. To this day I can still recite from memory a dark children's poem I found in a book of nursery rhymes about 2 siblings who get lost in the forest and guess what...they die. The nursery rhyme book, yes a NURSERY rhyme book had a drawing of the children dead in the forest too. Dark, hell ya. Do I still have the book, hell ya.

So who is more disturbed by the "darkness", parents or children? And what does the author of Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Rendak have to say to those disturbed parents? Well you can read his response here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grace the Librarian

Haven't seen Grace, the librarian? Check her out below.
It's not every day a librarian uses a religious icon as her book stamp and can turn an overturned car into a desk. Ingenious, polite and stamps books with gusto! Grace, you are my hero!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Living Life Backwards?

If you've either read the short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald or seen the movie starring Brad Pitt(which is loosely based on the story) you will know that the character ages in reverse. Over the weekend while visiting my younger sister I felt a little like Benjamin Button and it's not the first time I've felt that sometimes I'm living my life backwards.

I visited my younger sister and her family in Denver for an extended weekend to celebrate her daughter's 1st birthday. My niece Lily is a charming and happy baby whose parents surround her with love and comfort. Being born and raised in the Chicago area my sister moved to Denver around the same time that her closest friends from high school also relocated there. My sister and her friends are now in their early 30's, married and raising young families. At Lily's birthday party this weekend she happily played with her little friends, the daughters and sons of my sister's life long friends. It was quite lovely to see this extended group of women who have known each other since they were children now raising their own children together. It's during events like these that I have my "Benjamin Button" moments.

When I had my son I was a very young woman and the first of my friends to have a child. My friends were still working on their educations, starting their careers and getting married so by the time they began their own families my child was already a teenager. I never commiserated with my best friends over our baby's sleeping habits or feeding schedules, potty training or preschool. The children who attended my son's birthday parties were not the children of my friends but his little friends from school or the children of older parents like my boss or my neighbors. Now when I attend the birthday parties of my friend's children I am one of the only parents without a small child on my hip and while they talk about their choices for kindergarten I talk about my son getting into college. Now as my friends are home on Saturday nights with their sleeping babies, I'm often enjoying a late night dinner at a trendy new restaurant or planning a vacation that doesn't involve Mickey Mouse or water parks. These are my Benjamin Button moments.

While I may not be aging in reverse (unfortunately) I definitely chose a life that society may seem as backwards...raising a baby before you really had a life. I've enjoyed every minute of my rather unconventional adulthood and have proudly raised an exceptional young man. While I may wistfully view my sister and her friends happily sharing every milestone of their childrens development together, it wasn't the life for me and I'm thrilled to live my life backwards.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Flash Back Friday #28

Here is a classic clip from Sesame Street, Yip Yips Meet the Telephone.
You gotta love aliens that read an "Earth Book" and moo at the phone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Collectable Books

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I am a rare book collector, specifically books from the 19th century including : fiction written by women, European fairy tales, children's literature, school primers, feminist literature and 18th and 19th century British household books. Every so often I stumble upon a fantastic book find and sometimes I'm lucky enough that I can afford it. At a Jane Austen Convention (yes I'm a dork) in the summer of 2008 I picked up a wonderful book from an antique dealer that was published in 1799 titled, The Way to Ruin. This fun little read is in fragile condition but I couldn't pass up a book about the perils of "drink" and the effects of it on the ruination of a young gentleman's life. Oh and the illustrations are hysterical.

Many of my books have beautiful covers made of leather or cloth. If you are a beginner collector or just interested in buying beautifully bound books, here is a nice collection of books to collect for their beautiful covers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do You Podcast and/or Videocast?

While at ILA I attended a program on podcasting which is a technology I have been playing with for a year or so at my own library. Podcasting makes the audio recording of events, programs, book reviews etc easy to stream over the web via simple RSS feeds. Podcasting has been used successfully at many libraries including at my alma matter Ohio University. For a listen check out OU's podcasts through the University's Alden Library here. The selection of podcasts range from short clips highlighting their map collection to a Chinese language tour of the library.

Videocasting (or vodcast)works in a similar style with the combination of audio and video recording. These "on-demand" videos can be distributed via a file or RSS feed and viewed at the viewers convenience. The website of the Orange County Library System in Florida has a virtual library where you can watch online tutorials on topics such as their catalog and technology or take virtual classes. You can check it out here.

Have you visited Ted? Known as "Ted Talks" the website TED: Ideas Worth Spreading is a video site featuring videotaped talks on entertainment, technology and design. Filmed at Ted's annual conferences in Long Beach, CA and Oxford in England these videos will inspire you, move you and hopefully create more ideas worth sharing.

Looking for a quick book review then check out The One Minute Critic here. This "vlog" is a video blog guessed it...1 minute book reviews. Created by the Fort Vancouver Regional Library this is an excellent way to use simple video technology to reach viewers on the web.

Are you interested in taking online courses? In my opinion there is no limit to one's life long learning and at Academicearth, you can take a variety of courses through major universities like Yale, Harvard, MIT and Princeton.

Let me know if you have any podcasts/videocast/vlog or other sites to share.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thoughts on ILA 2009-Peoria

Now that my 3 days at the Illinois Library Association 2009 Conference in Peoria are over I have time to reflect on the experience. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Peoria. The largest city on the Illinois River has a nice but small conference center in the middle of the downtown district that is accessible to larger hotels like the Hotel Pere Marquette and smaller hotels like Days Inn. There is very little to recommend Peoria. Options for dining are either fast food chains like Panera and McDonald's, sit down fast food like Chili's and Hooters or a few "Irish" novelty pubs near the riverfront. There is no charm to Peoria and the downtown district is very depressed. After talking to a few Illinois Library employees I found out the ILA Conference jumps between 3 locations, Springfield, Peoria and Chicago. Last year I attended the conference at Navy Pier in Chicago and the attendance was good, the programs were full and of course the options for what to do when not at an ILA event were endless. I was told this years attendance was half what was expected, somewhere in the range of 600 attendees. With such low participation I don't see how ILA can continue to hold a conference anywhere outside Chicago where numbers were much higher.

2. Programs. I attended 2-3 programs each day as well as an author/awards breakfast (which was the highlight of my conference experience) and the Fashion from the Stacks dinner/cocktail hour and fashion show (which was the lowpoint). Most presenters presented in groups of 2-3. At almost every one of the programs I attended there would be 1 very good, dynamic presenter and 1 presenter who was either not a good public speaker (lots of ummms, pauses, loss of thought etc) or not prepared. At one particular program the first female presenter was terrific, lively, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The woman who presented 2nd was a good public speaker but would go off on tangents and was really just not interesting. After she finally stopped speaking half the room emptied and unfortunately there were very little people left to hear the 3rd presenter. Awkward.

3. Bang for your Buck. Hmmm, that's a tough one. The conference is not really expensive to begin with and considering my extremely nice accommodations (I did NOT stay at a conference hotel and booked the room on my own, see post below)rather a bargain as conferences go. Definitely more affordable than an ALA conference but based on the quality and variety of programs and special events not really worth the money. For example, I attended the Fashion from the Stacks Fashion Hour and dinner on Thursday night. Last year during the ILA Conference at Navy Pier this was one of the most popular events of the week. Great participation, great press, lots of fun and a terrific opportunity for networking. This year, and I'm assuming because of the location of the conference in Peoria, this event was a very nice disaster. Lovely room at the grandest hotel in town, plenty of food served buffet style and what should have been a fun cocktail party with dinner and dancing after with ample opportunity for networking and meeting new librarians. There were 2, count them 2 librarians who walked the runway. Apparently another librarian had been in a fender bender and she would have presented an additional 2 designs for a total of 4. How you can have a fashion show with 4 designs I have no idea. (The fashion show highlights creative costumes/outfits created from items found in the library like a dress made out of DVDs or a jacket made from paperback book covers) Picture is of one of the 2 outfits this year.
However probably to make up for the lack of participation, a library director had her teenage staff model fashion through the decades which was fun although had little to do with anything library related. All in all for the $45 cost it was not worth it.

4. Highlight. One of the best programs I attended was the Youth Services Author Breakfast organized by the Youth Services Forum. My Synergy teammate Patricia was on the Forum and another teammate Elsie receieved one of the 2 awards presented at the breakfast. This event was perfectly organized, well set up, and a great way to network with other Illinois librarians. The featured guest speaker was Jill Thompson the most widely regarded female comic book artist working in the profession today. She is the author and illustrator of the Scary Godmother and Magic Trixie series. She also was an artist on my favorite graphic novel of all time, The Sandman series. Jill did a drawing demonstration and passed around her artwork while explaining the process of creating a comic book. Absolutely fascinating. You can see a video of Jill drawing on my Facebook page.

Overall I do plan on attending next years ILA Conference when they return to Chicago. I can only imagine when held in one of the world's greatest cities the conference will be a larger success not only with participation and quality but with increased opportunities to learn, network and be inspired by those in our excellent profession.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Librarian Shoes

I'm in between events on my 2nd day of the ILA Conference and enjoying a glass of wine while waiting for the cocktail party/dinner/fashion show Style from the Stacks to begin later this evening. In the name of style I thought I would blog about a particular area of the library professional that drives me a wee bit insane. Librarians and their footwear.

This afternoon while sitting in a rather boring session about reorganizing your workflow, I started to glance at the ground and thus found it hard to avoid the overwhelming display of bad shoes. Now librarians are not known for their sense of style, the hard to break image of the middle age librarian with her hair in a bun, her oversize sweater, practical skirt and non nonsense shoes is alive and well and most likely helping patrons at your neighborhood library. However many librarians, (like myself, rewatch my librarian fashion show video) are trying to change that image. Unfortunately based on the shoe parade down here in Peoria, we have a long way to go.

Here is a sampling of some of the more awful shoes women are walking around in. Don't even get me started on those with runs in their pantyhose (AKA nylons for those of you who've never had the pleasure of sliding flesh colored stretch material over your entire leg) If you have anything REMOTELY like a pair of the shoes pictured below, give them to Goodwill. Yes I know they are comfortable but there are excellent shoe companies that make attractive AND comfortable shoes. Try Clarks, you'll thank me.

If you haven't seen the hysterical and painfully accurate video March of the Librarians, check it out below. Note their shoes and welcome to my world.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Home is where the...

So where do you lay your head? Where do you eat? Read? Think? Where do you "live"?

I checked into my hotel in Peoria Illinois this evening and unexpectedly walked into a mini condo. I was expecting a typical small hotel room but was thrilled to be staying in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath suite with living room and kitchen. Frankly this suite is larger than some of the apartments I've lived in in Chicago. I closed the doors shutting off one half of the suite and am happily ensconced in the bedroom with the largest bed and attached bath. It's nice to have so much space but I'm happy to be cozy instead of sprawling.

Between my weeks in Oxford and London, my multiple trips to hotels around Illinois for Synergy workshops and library conferences as well as personal vacations I've often been living out of a suitcase this year. I'm an efficient traveler and can pack and go in the blink of an eye. I have certain small bags (bath-toiletries, kitchen-wine opener, candle, music etc) packed at all times that I just grab and throw into my suitcase. As I was unpacking in my suite tonight it made me think, "What makes the place you lay your head your home"?

Since I was 22 years old I've lived in more than 10 apartments, condos and houses. My son and I have been rather gypsy like in our lifestyle and until recently have never lived more than 3 years in any location. I've not really been attached to any particular home although I can make myself "at home" almost anywhere I go. I prefer to surround myself with some of my favorite things like my books and my pictures which conveniently has meant that I have less and less to pack with each move.

As I drove around downtown Peoria this evening to check out the area I found charm and comfort in buying a bottle of wine from the local grocer, by watching the ritual of couples strolling down tree covered streets and seeing families leaving a local church. It reminded me of Oxford where after just a few days, the rooms where I stayed became a comfortable home, the view became familiar and the faces became recognizable. For me, home is where I'm learning, where I'm meeting new people, where I still have a place to connect with those who aren't with me. And these days with the Internet and cell phones "home" isn't so far away.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Got sick about a week ago, was in bed for a couple of days and worked the weekend but am now back at work for a day. Tomorrow I leave for the Illinois Library Association Conference in Peoria for the remainder of the week. I'm looking forward to the conference, it's always nice to attend as an attendee instead of an employee. The years I worked for ALA, the conferences were long hard days so it's nice to be a librarian at a library event instead of a scheduler-planner-walkee-talkee-holding-monitor. While I am there I will be blogging about the conference and if you are going to be there, drop me an email and we will meet up!

Here are a few things I meant to blog about last week and didn't get too.

This unusual but excellently named website offers unique and quirky necklaces. I've seen them on celebrities and in fashion magazines and they are beautiful and "green" being made from reused vintage pieces. Check out Dirty Librarian Chains here.

Those of you who used to follow my Talking Beagle Blog know that I have a fictionally named dog. My beagle Eloise is named after the precocious Eloise from the popular and timeless children's book Eloise at the Plaza by Kay Thompson. A few years ago the famous luxury hotel The Plaza in New York City got bought out and remodeled with residential condos, commercial space and new hotel suites. Well now, thanks to designer Betsey Johnson you can stay in Eloise's suite. For more info go here. Hopefully they didn't remove the wonderful painting of Eloise in the hotel's lobby.

Here is an interesting article via the Telegraph in Britain titled, "50 Things that are being killed by the Internet." An interesting read.