Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banned Books and Things

So, I started off banned book week by going to the National Book Festival.  I saw quite a few authors, and if you to want to feel like you were there, keep an eye out here, they upload videos and podcasts.  It's always fascinating to me to hear different authors talk about their process especially since they are always so different.  Also, some of them are very funny in person, and some would rather read and turn it over to Q&A really quickly.  (Although Dave Eggers wanted to crawl under the podium when he read a line about masturbation.) 
But, to bring us back to banned books, there were several authors there who have books or stories that have been banned or challenged, including Sherman Alexie (who made the ALA's top ten last year), Eric Jerome Dickey, Katherine Paterson, Sarah Dessen and Laura Lippman. 
And I see that Hunger Games made the list because it gave a child nightmares.  As I say all the time, I'm not diminishing nightmares (they suck) or any parent's right to decide their child is not ready for a certain book.  However, that does not mean that no child who uses that library should have access to that book. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Henson

Jim Henson would have been 75 this weekend.  My sister and I had really strict bedtimes up through high school.  But we were allowed to watch "The Muppet Show".  We watched it, usually as a family, in the family room on a black and white TV.  (No, I am not that old, we had a color TV, it just lived in my parents room.  I thought Big Bird was grey when I was a kid. My mother thinks this is hilarious.)  One of the first things we did when we got a VCR (okay, I am that old) was tape episodes of "The Muppet Show").  My sister and I watched them over and over. 
We went to see "The Muppet Movie" and "The Dark Crystal" both of which I loved.  (I did not run across "Labyrinth" until some kids I was babysitting discovered I had never seen it and made me watch.  Thanks, guys!) When my sister and I began taping other shows of interest to us, many of "The Muppet Show" episodes got taped over.  (We had permission, but my mother immediately regretted granting it.  Yes, she has the DVD now.)
We also watched "Fraggle Rock" and "Muppet Babies".
I remember reading an article once, where he said that kids were like garbage disposals, they take whatever you give them.  But he didn't mean that as an insult, more, I think he meant that kids take time to develop taste, and using "the kids seem to like it" as an excuse to give them mediocre shows is silly.
My mother was particularly heartbroken when he died, and watched the celebration of his life that was televised, but confessed if they had Big Bird read anything sad, she might not be able to take it.  (I don't believe Big Bird did.  Although Brian reading the letter was pretty affecting.) 
Legacies come in all shapes and sizes, but I think by any measure we can agree that Mr. Henson gave us a good bit of entertainment.

"The most sophisticated people I know - inside they are all children." - Jim Henson

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

They are a Feature

Rather hilariously, about two weekends ago I ended up explaining to a group of people what a double D cup really means.  (Double D is really an E, each letter further into the alphabet represents an additional inch in depth, or two inches in total circumference when compared to the band size.  Unless your at a specialty shop that uses funky rules where they do things like add five inches to your measurements.)
This turned out to be a lesson that needed further spreading, or so it seems, when the so-called "real women" challenge came up last week on "Project Runway".  This is an episode that can be hit or miss, since some the designers come from different backgrounds and some are clearly more used to working directly with the public and some, well, are not. 
Now a lot of people have talked about this, so I certainly don't want to belabor the point too much, but as it turns out Olivier, to put it kindly falls into the not category.  And while I accept that he has this very internal process, so doesn't much seem to like people asking him what he is doing especially when they are suggesting that maybe it isn't successful, I understand the need to vent.  But, I bring to you my number one rule for participating in competitive reality: watch the previous seasons.  That way when they send you to the party store, you accept that this is what happens.  (Bert.)  Or when they ask you where your client is going.  (Josh M.)  Or they make you work with kids.  (Viktor.)  And, Olivier, oh, Olivier, when they make you dress an actual person (which by they way has been happening for seasons, I think perhaps the first season did not do this, but they let the models be the client, so they talked back) who has breasts and hips and opinions, you don't have to love it.  But it is, in fact, not just part of "Project Runway" but part of being a clothing designer to see that people who have such things want clothes.  You may be planning a line for only skinny, straight folks, but let me tell you, they have opinions too.  Your model is being nice.  She doesn't have to buy your clothes, you are sewing it onto her for free. 
I suspect, now that this has aired, it has been an intriguing experience for Olivier, and hopefully he will learn and grow, not just learn to not say such things in front of cameras.  Because, as Linda Holmes pointed out, the "breasts are a feature, not a bug".

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Like When Your Friend was Dating That Person

My friend and I had a conversation once upon a time about the nature of relationships (just once, we never, ever did that again).  She said that one of the challenges is that often the part you most need to discuss with your other friends is when something hurtful happens.  But then, after you've vented and processed you go back to the person and talk or address it in some fashion and move through it.  But your friends are still stuck on that thing, not because they are bitter, but because they love you and they didn't hear that conversation you all had or see that nice thing that happened, they missed the resolution. 
Reality TV is kind of like that.  I watch competitive reality and there seem to be a really high amount of team challenges this season.  I get it, team challenges bring the drama, both in personality successes and clashes and in results which tend to have grander extremes.  (Let's face it sometimes you can't tell who is in the bottom, not because the judges are weird, but because it's all really good.)  And the nature of having a show, that is supposed to be entertaining, not just show results (because I could go to the local cook-off or fashion show or what have you if end results were all I wanted), they tend to focus on the drama.  They show the times that someone said something snarky or made someone cry, or muttered under their breath about something.  They show less of the apologies.  And even, sometimes there is no direct apology.  Sometimes, things that seem really, very important at eleven at night when you skipped dinner, seems very silly the next morning.  So now you just joke and chat with that person that had you clenching your teeth last night.  But the viewer at home is still saying, can you believe they did that?  That was terrible! 
And then you'll read an interview and someone will ask them, wasn't so-and-so horrible, and they'll often say, oh, no, I call them every day, they're great.  (Or something.) 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Milestones of Dubious Meaning

I now have over 1000 books logged in LibraryThing.  Now, I log books as I receive them, in an attempt to prevent re-buying something I already own.  (It has helped.  When I remember to look.)  So, some of these books I have not yet read.  I log books that I borrowed from friends or later gave away too.  (Tags are a beautiful thing.) So, I did not buy all of these books.  I have been a member for almost five years, and while I briefly thought about trying to go back in time to somehow capture every book I ever read, the volume of that project quickly had me stop.  I can tell you that only 17 are tagged as my having completely given up on them. There are 22 that I have started and put aside.  19 duplicates (either due to my own folly, or due to being gifted a book I already had.) There are, ahem, 195 waiting to be read (this includes the 22 started).  And the rest, I have read. (Some more than once.) 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

...but it may not be the ones you want. 
So, different people find different things funny.  And certainly, some people choose to push the envelope and shock people into funny.  Or shock them into remembering their name.  It's a plan.  And some people believe the adage about all publicity.  But sometimes you can do something that people find overwhelming in it's poor taste.  And you might still be hung up on your original vision.  It still seems funny or edgy to you. And now let me rip off the Kubler-Ross stages of grief to demonstrate. 
Setup:  You have an ad series for your hair salon.  The tag line is "Look good in all you do."  In one, someone appears to be disposing of a body.  One is serving tea.  One is working in a rail yard.  (With bra exposed which would seem to violate some employment and safety regulations, but that is not really the point here.)
And then there's the one that has everyone talking. There are two people who let's all agree have styled hair.  One, a female is seated on a couch.  One a male, is behind the couch offering jewelry.  Oh, and the woman has a black eye.
1. Denial  - What?  It's funny.  We're not actually advocating for domestic violence.
2. Anger - It's art!  I don't know why people are so sensitive.
3. Bargaining - Come on - real people are being harmed every day, shouldn't these people channel their worry into real issues?
4. Depression - Nobody understands satire anymore.  The media is full of hypocrites.
5. Acceptance - I guess people have the right to their opinions.  (Yes, this is not the greatest example of acceptance. It's a process.)

h/t to the NPR Monkey See Blog for the link.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

And the Award for Best Couponing Goes To...

I confess I am terrible with coupons of all kinds.  I am amazed that people manage to get carts full of groceries for little to no money and yet, while I am happy to stockpile yarn and books enough for the next five years, having enough deodorant for the rest of my life seems silly. (I realize that this is a different strokes sort of scenario here.  Feel free to stockpile deodorant, just don't try to get me to join in.) 
For me, putting aside the storage issue is the brand loyalty involved.  After all, I tend to demonstrate brand loyalty but not forever.  I think I could count on one hand the products I have stuck with for more than five years.  (In fairness, some of these changes were due to said product no longer being available.) But certainly, I can see that some things you can figure you will be happy to use for some time.  Of course, the deal also has to work out as far as the time for collection too. 
So, what if, for example, you could get yourself some airline miles.  Say, 1.2 million of them for example.  Yeah, this guy found a batch of pudding cups, each with it's own UPC code and traded them in for airline miles during a promotion.  You might be thinking that's a lot of pudding cups.  It was, so he made a deal with the Salvation Army, they helped him get all the UPC codes removed and he donated all the pudding cups - thereby taking care of the storage issue and getting him a taxable donation too.  Pretty good strategy.  (I also suspect future deals might have some new fine print in them.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Cow Heroine

It's always sort of fascinating the stories that capture the attention of people.  Certainly, if I told you that there were stories and internet buzz about a cow, that tourists were visiting the hometown of a cow, well it sounds strange.  But, as this article kindly points out, this is not just any cow story.  Yvonne (it somehow seems very forward to just start calling her Yvonne, but, well, she is a cow) was on a farm in Bavaria.  She was due to be sent to the slaughterhouse.  Yvonne jumped the electric fence and made her way into the woods.  And then...well, Yvonne became a bit like Elvis or the Abominable Snowman in that there were sightings, but nothing further.  Hunters and dogs searched to no avail.  Companion cows were sent out to lure her out.  (Perhaps instead they mooed to stay away.  Who knows? Also, how did they know the companion cows wouldn't also decide they like gallivanting through the woods?)  Then they sent out a handsome ox.  (My familiarity with cows is not such that I can explain why a handsome ox would lure a cow, but apparently that's the thought.) Animal psychics were called in. 
In the wake of the international attention Yvonne's escape received a sanctuary paid the farm for Yvonne, promising to save her from slaughter. Rewards were offered.  This went on for months.  (Seriously, the cow escaped in May.)
Well, last week, life as a forest cow appeared to pale a bit for Yvonne, and she was found hovering near the edge of the pasture. She will now live out her days with her son and sister. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Girl Power

I have been re-reading Madelaine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.  (Yes, it's a hard life.  And proof that sometimes they assign awesome books in school.)  And first, this is one of those books that holds up to the many re-readings and while I'm certain my adult eyes spot things I didn't before, it's still great.  I am reminded that one of the things I love about Meg is that she's stubborn and protective. Meg has a bruise from when she tackled a boy in her class who made fun of her brother.  Meg got sent to the principal for talking in class. Later in the book, when they are being granted gifts for their journey, they grant Meg her faults.  (In many ways the most awesome and horrid thing anyone could grant someone.) 
So, it was with interest, particularly given all the talk about how boys don't read because they aren't stories about boys (please excuse me while I guffaw), read this post by a father of two girls, talking about some pervasive assumptions he sees in a lot of children's literature.