Saturday, September 25, 2004

Banned Books Week

September 25th through October 1st is Banned Books Week. So this is me, walking the line with my comrades, saying “read a banned book.” Sure, you could do it just to snub people who want to take books out of circulation. That would be fine. For myself, I’m going to read Tom Sawyer, mostly because my mother inscribed it “no man is a failure who has friends” many years ago and it’s kind of what I’m in the mood for.

But think, also, about that message for a moment. It shouldn’t just be about tweaking the censors. Reading occasionally, ought to be about exposing yourself to something you don’t like, something you’re not sure of. Sometimes, it ought to be about an open question. It even ought to be, as the nuns and brothers taught me, about temporarily opening your closed questions. If nothing else, it makes your arguments against your opponents stronger.

So, if you’re up for it, read something you don’t expect to agree with. In an election year, it ought to be easy to find a book by some blowhard pundit you can’t stand on the other side. And if you read some work of literature and decide you don’t like it, talk about it.

Banned Books Week also, for me, symbolizes one of the great failures of librarianship. Sometimes, we assume everyone shares our professional values, so we don’t bother to explain them. Then, when we meet people who don’t share our viewpoint, we dig our heels in and call them censors.

And yet, we spend hours talking about “collection development” and “building the collection” and deciding what should be on the shelf and what should be stored elsewhere or interlibrary loaned. These are necessary discussions. Nobody has infinite space or money, and in point of fact, the United States lacks a national library with a mandate to collect all published materials. (While the Library of Congress does an admirable job, it belongs to 535 specific users, their name is in the title, and buddy, don’t you forget it.)

So there is, and should be, choice involved. In fact, a good librarian makes choices about not only which books to buy, but which to recommend. You don’t push the intro psych students to the same articles as the faculty. Lots of kids may have the language skills to read Old Yeller or Sounder, but you don't give them to the ones who aren't emotionally ready. You don’t give anybody Catcher in the Rye, because Holden Caulfield is a whiny little git and there’s not a damn thing wrong with him that a swift kick in the ass and a job flipping burgers couldn’t fix, and where the hell are this brat’s parents anyway?

Oops. So it’s not that far to the book-banning side, is it?

But it is. Because I know, even though I think there’s a million better things to do with your time than read Catcher in the Rye, that you have the right to make your own decision on the matter. I can even respect that it must be pretty well written to make Holden so real that I despise him so viscerally.

That’s the tension. On the one hand, we have to make sure that the wide variety of human experience is available. On the other hand, we have to make sure that it’s reflected in the “best” way for our constituents. And on the third hand (and that’s always where it gets tricky), we have to make sure that all our constituents are treated respectfully, even when they don’t treat us or each other that way. Because while some of them want to stick their heads in the sand and hope something goes away, some of them have legitimate questions about how libraries and schools work.

So here’s your real challenge: pick a book that you don’t think everybody should read. And then go down to your public library, catch a librarian’s eye, and ask them what they think.

I should warn you… that conversation may end with you running for whatever Board works with the library in your town.

There would be worse things.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Tiger Tiger Woods, y'all

According to ESPN, Tiger Woods is pulling out of a tournament this weekend because of "fatigue". After all, he did play golf just last weekend, and overseas no less. So he's just too plumb tuckered out to play this weekend.

Now I, myself, am not a golf player. But of my friends and family who are, I've never heard "I played last weekend" offered as an excuse not to play this weekend. Of course, these folks are not professional golfers, either, so maybe that's not fair.

It's probably also not fair to point out that most of the people I know work 5 or 6 day weeks, 40+ hours a week, for bosses who don't particularly want to hear that we're too tired to come to work. But it's true.

On the other hand, I do think it's pretty fair to say that there are major league baseball players out there who play 4 hours of baseball 5 or 6 days a week. And there are professional football players whose very job is to smash into other 300-pound professional athletes at a high rate of speed, and they manage to get to work once a week.

So, Tiger? On behalf of people who play real sports and just working people everywhere...

TiVo the damn Gilligan's Island marathon and pick up a club, huh?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

A nice big slice of Key Lime Pie

So I'm down at the bar a few nights back. (And if you just happened across this blog, it's worth pointing out that I live in a very small town, and while I really love my local, it is also the only one operating at the moment.)

Anyway, I'm talking to Bob. Bob is an electrical contractor, brought in for a major project at the college. He's a really nice guy, almost from central casting: a great, personable, mostly bald New Yorker in his late 50s or early 60s. And there's a bunch of us at the end of the bar, just shooting the breeze, shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings.

The beautiful Herself comes into the bar. She taps me on the shoulder, says hello, we chat for a while. She goes down the bar to socialize with some other folks, and I turn back toward Bob.

To Bob, I am a hero.

Bob compliments me for a while on my magical abilities to draw women. I let him believe it. We keep chatting, and about half an hour passes. A very pretty young redhead comes up to the bar to order drinks. We're friendly acquaintances, so she says hello, I say hello, "how you been", that's about it. She gets her drinks and goes. I turn back.

To Bob, I am a god.

Leave aside for the moment that Bob has drawn a very wrong conclusion. Leave aside even that I need to become a collegiate womanizer like I need a hole in the head. (In fact, a hole in the head would probably be considered minimal damage if I were to try.)

Every now and then, it feels good to be a god. And every deity starts with one follower. (Bob's theory, by the way, is that my mysical Casanovan powers rest in my full, if greying, head of Irish hair. Maybe he's right - God knows it's not my smooth moves with the ladies.)

Why am I telling you this story?

Like the old joke, I'm telling everybody.

Saturday, September 11, 2004


I was surprised to recently note that iTunes is opening an affiliate program. This puts me in something of a quandry.

On the one hand, I've been thinking about linking to the iTunes Music Store anyway. I'm on record as thinking that iTunes is an awesome application anyway, and the store gives me a place where you can hear 30 legal seconds of the song I'm referring to in my blog. I've only been holding off on that because it only works if you've got iTunes installed, and it's kind of a pisser to fill my blog with links that might or might not work for you.

And if I'm going to do the links, why not get my cut? 5% of all the 99 cent songs that I'm going to sell all my readers is...

not even enough to buy gum.

There's also the issue of becoming a corporate shill. Now, I'm way past my "The Internet Wants To Be Free, Man" days. Try doing some actual tech support for a while, and it'll beat all that pre-bubble idealism right out of you. Anyway, I never really thought of this blog as something I'd even try to make money with. It's just a place to try to make writing back into a habit.

I'm already noticing that I check to see my Google position (first in line if you search "hip deep in pie," thank you very much) and my referrals and even my value on Blogshares for crying out loud. I don't really need to be checking if I've made my very own dime yet, but I know I would.

So, what do you think? You read this thing, you tell me if you even use iTunes, or whether you have an opinion on linking to the store.

(Note: Bloody hell. Did you know that if you draft a post on on Blogger one day, write a different post, and then finish the first one, it's published by date of first draft, not actual publication date? LibraryMan is offended.)

Friday, September 10, 2004

What the blank do I need with 4 email accounts?

Yes, four email accounts. One is my work account, and I've been pretty good about keeping it for people who personally know me and professional business (including professional listservs). My Yahoo! account is my "backup" personal account. When my various web registrations began to choke it with spam, I opened a Hotmail account. That's now my "junk-catcher" address.

And I just opened a GMail account. Just because it's cool.

Now, this gives me something like 1.21 gigabytes of email storage. There's exactly zero chance that I need that much room, but I know full well that I'm going to use it. Just in case I want to know what this week's L.L. Bean specials were this week 3 years from now.

And here begins the process of reorganizing my email, kind of like George Carlin's "Stuff" routine. I really don't read this listserv at work that much, let's put it on Yahoo. Let's transfer this membership from Yahoo to Hotmail. Let's just feed some random stuff t oGoogle and see what kind of ads I get.

Which is a lot of work, considering that there's only about a total of 15 emails in all 4 accounts I'd really miss if I just picked "Select All" and "Delete."

So... I've got 6 GMail invites. Want one?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Walking through the memefield

Tip of the blog to Three Bed Two Bath for the link to Worthwhile Magazine's question: what would your coming to bat song be?

Personally, I've tended to imagine myself a relief pitcher, and the song as I run in to deny the Yankees a Game 7 victory is always Cult of Personality by Living Colour. For coming to bat, maybe Wild Cherry's Play That Funky Music, White Boy.