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June 11th, 2021


04:52 pm - Anonymous commenting turned off
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June 26th, 2015


08:54 pm
Nothing will make you feel like an Old like working at a library.

"Can I get the Karate Kid DVD?"

"The new one or the old one?"

"There's an old one?"

"Can I get the Tron DVD?"

"The new one or the old one?"

"There's an old one?"

The Sound of Music is big among Orthodox folks at my library even though the main character starts out as a nun. Well, it's a family-friendly World War II movie that ends happily; I guess that's enough to recommend it. So normally I wouldn't even ask "the new one or the old one?", passing the remake over without comment like the Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho. But one embarrassing time I was forced to say, "We don't have the original The Sound of Music checked in, but do you remember last year Carrie Underwood starred in a remake on TV? Well -- it's not supposed to be very good. But we have it checked in."

Last week I got "Do you have any old-fashioned DVDs?" and I was about to suggest some classics, but it was my colleague who guessed what the patron was looking for: VHS tapes.

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June 22nd, 2015


10:53 am - LAPL reclassifies its LGBT materials... several decades after the fact.
The Los Angeles Public Library, which previously had its LGBT nonfiction shelved under a 1940s-era call number under "sexual deviancy," has gotten with the program and is putting them under the a more modern call number under sexual orientation (with the gender studies books and the theory-about-family-relationships books, under the general heading of "culture and institutions.")

You know how you have that one relative whose software is about ten years out of date, and you don't find out until they upgrade, and then you're like "But how were you managing for that long??? Do you have any idea how many viruses you probably got??? Did nobody think this was a bad idea???" --That's a little how I feel right now.

Library cataloging and classification necessarily reifies the current social order in a certain way. (Look at how Dewey Decimal still classifies religion into a big chunk of "Christianity" and a little chunk of "Everything that isn't Christianity.") That means that it's always in flux, and is always going to go on changing, as people look at the current classification and say "Hey, that's hella biased." And libraries can't necessarily afford to recatalog all their materials when a new edition of the Dewey Decimal System comes out -- especially a system as big as LAPL. But still, it seems weird to me that this decision was made in the 1970s and it's just now being reflected in the LAPL collections.

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June 6th, 2015


06:54 pm - Captain America Murder Walk
Today I read this tumblr post (cn: does contain animated gif) advising that if you want people to get out of your way as you're walking, you should "wear comfortable shoes, square your shoulders, and walk like you’ve been sent to murder Captain America."

Later this same day, I went to Times Square to see Mad Mad: Fury Road.

Which I liked SO MUCH, wow. I thought it was doing some very smart things thematically, plus the visual imagination, plus the compellingness of the performances, plus FURIOSA OMG.

But, you know, LITTLE BIT of a migraine trigger there.

Now, I couldn't tell you why I went to Times Square. It was a combination of the show times and not being in 3D and wanting to stop in at Kinokuniya beforehand, I guess. Because New Yorkers do not go to Times Square if they can avoid it. Times Square is stuffed full of tourists walking in very slow packs, and people who want to tell you about Jesus or their free comedy show, and people in cartoon character costumes trying to get tips for photo ops (as you may recall from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).

So, feeling migrainey and claustrophobic and a teensy bit panicky, out on the hot street with enormous crowds milling about, I squared my shoulders, I put myself in the correct frame of mind, and I started walking like I'd been sent to murder Captain America.

I may need more practice, but this doesn't seem to work on the people walking very slowly in front of me.

But I kept it up as best I could, thinking murder walk, murder walk, Captain America murder walk, until -- directly in front of me on the sidewalk -- my eyes locked with Captain America's.

Okay, a guy dressed as Captain America to get tips for photo ops.

My "walk like I'd been sent to murder THAT GUY" strategy suddenly failed.

I'm not sure if he noticed my "MURDERGLARE - wait never mind better not murder you after all" face.

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May 27th, 2015


03:27 pm - Space Weird Thing
Space Weird Thing is a translation of "Space Oddity" into Up Goer Five (that is, using only the 1000 most common words in the English words -- thus, Major Tom becomes Top Space Man).

It's really astonishingly well done in terms of the production values, but also, I suspect that I will never get "Home space ball is blue, and there's nothing I can do..." out of my head.

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May 22nd, 2015


01:30 pm
I can never decide whether I'm better off for having learned about things like AI risk and Roko's Basilisk.

At least it's a more entertaining thing to worry about when my brain hits the Let's Worry About The Nearest Available Thing track.

Also I will eventually write my postapocalyptic-ish novel about the half-wild girl gang up against the weird/capricious AI that lives in the postorbital satellites and has weird plans for humanity, so there's that.

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May 20th, 2015


11:49 am
I am at a meeting for Summer Reading. At the break they passed a pipe cleaner out to everybody, and then we listened to Jackson Bird from the Harry Potter Alliance, and then the person who heads the library division for children with special needs, and by the time she came on I was starting to get fidgety. I moved through yelling at myself to not fidget with the pipe cleaner, to get distracted and being horrified to look down and find my folded and twisted pipe cleaner, to rushing to untwist it... and finally, it was time to explain what the pipe cleaner was for.

It was for explaining what fidget toys are and how you can give out pipe cleaners to use as fidget toys.

Apparently they are now called chenille sticks.

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May 11th, 2015


11:47 am
Since almost everything I've read advises against getting an MFA in fiction writing, I was pretty surprised to read The Real World vs. the MFA:

No, I do not advise waiting as long as I did to get an MFA, if you are sure that what you want to do, what you are cut out to do, is to write. What I do advise is gaining some awareness of the world, and of the people in it who are not like you, before you go into a program. And I recommend practicing your craft until your fingers bleed (metaphorically of course). And being your own toughest critic, because people—especially people who love you, and those who don’t want you to get better—will lie to you.


Sometimes I desperately want the degree and sometimes I desperately do not want to be competing for a very small number of jobs teaching creative writing and sometimes I think I do not need an MFA program to give me either writing instruction or time and space to write and sometimes I think that I could be a lot better with a little help. Even if I wanted to get an MFA it would have to be the right program, that would let me write genre stuff but push it to be really strong in terms of literary value.

Why do I have to make life decisions.

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May 3rd, 2015


10:04 pm - Moods for writing
Even though I am a great believer in the power of just showing up and doing the work even when you feel meh or uninspired, I think I certainly couldn't get through a novel without those moments when I feel entirely passionate and determined about what I'm writing.

But there are a lot of different moods for that. And one of those moods is "I WILL FIGHT YOU."

I suspect that I would not write at all -- not enough to even try to make a career of it, anyway -- if I did not occasionally have these moments of wanting to take on every glib sentiment in the world, every bit of lowest-common-denominator entertainment, everything that was not bad so much as lazy and bored.

And it feels arrogant, often, to feel like I can do better than that -- it feels like if I could, I'd have gotten further in my writing career by now -- but so much of what's good in the world is just the product of people being arrogant enough to believe, even just in scattered moments, that they could do something great.

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April 30th, 2015


08:37 am
After months of occasional floundering, I think I have hit upon the last big piece I need for the plot of The Rust Apothecary!

I know it's not the last big piece, because whenever I'm writing a book, I think that there's just one more big piece I need, but once I get that I realize the other big piece that I need... but it makes me want to finish the current rewrite in a hurry!

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April 12th, 2015


12:10 am - Everyone has a dream that they're working at in their bedroom
Just got back from seeing the Stars concert!

I have no idea if they're always that good or if there was something particularly electric in the air tonight -- it was definitely one of the best concerts I've been to, and an entirely emotionally cathartic experience.

Torquil is a guy who I don't happen to find attractive at all but he has just a RIDICULOUS amount of personal charisma? He's theatrical when he sings, in the sense of really being expressive and being good at projecting emotion, but not in the sense that it ever felt fake -- it felt like there was joy in the air and he was reflecting that and everyone in the ballroom was catching it. It wasn't necessarily just about the music; "From the Night," the first song that they played, is not really one of my favorites, although it has much more of a raw punch live; it was a sense of just being there for honest emotional sharing.

A couple of songs in, Torquil was talking about being grateful for everyone's support, and said something like "Everyone has a dream that they're working at in their bedroom," and I just kind of lost it. Because those words are so often used to dismiss those dreams. You have a dream? Who cares, so does everybody. That and $2 will get you a cup of coffee. But when he said it, it was about solidarity, for all of those dreams. It was about respect for the work everyone does without regard to whether it's good or bad, successful or unsuccessful. I had no idea how much I needed to hear that, but I did.

...And then a couple songs later, when I had just about recovered from that, they did "Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It." And then it was "Dead Hearts," which would not have affected me so badly except that Torquil asked everyone to raise a fist for their ghost, and that brushed up against some stuff that was on my mind because of therapy. And then it was "No One Is Lost," with "Put your hands up if you ever feel afraid," and ... all the hands in the air, I don't know. You know that everyone's doing it because the song says so, but you also know that it's true, that all the time I walk around feeling like nobody else is as anxious as I am but that's mainly because the only person whose weird anxious thoughts I have regular access to is me.

Soooo what I'm saying is, Meaghan, be glad you were in France and not getting cried on???

And that I need to be reminded, sometimes, that it's possible to open your heart and make stuff that's worth making. And that if there's creative work that you want to do, the right way to do it is with your heart open, even if you spend so much time feeling sad and scared that you think you can't anymore.

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April 11th, 2015


11:23 am - Welcome to Night Vale Library
"Hello, Brooklyn Public Library."

"Hello, I have a question. Are you open today?"

"Yes, we're open today."

"Then why are you closed?"

"What do you mean?"

"The doors are locked. It's dark inside."

"What's the address where you are?"

"What's the address where you are?"

"[Address.]"

"That's exactly where I am."

"Okay, well, I don't know what to tell you, I'm here right now and the doors are open. I think you may be at another location, but I couldn't say unless you give me more details on where you are."

Anyway, we kept talking until the patron figured out she was at another location, but that was a rather surreal moment.

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April 7th, 2015


03:53 pm
Captain America is my fave because he is rather kind and righteous and honorable and also, deep down, has the heart of a troll.

I have the heart of a troll, too, and the best thing about GMing is the opportunity to be KIND OF TERRIBLE to your friends in a completely good-hearted way.

I mightily resisted the temptation to rickroll the people I was gaming with, but their postapocalyptic bunch (driver, doctor, gunlugger, and psychic weirdo) DID run into a cult led by a teenage girl who's pretty sure that early Bruce Springsteen songs off a scavenged iPod are the key to salvation. (She's looking for the Road of Thunder.)

I'm glad that I didn't have to plan anything or bring much plot to the first session, but I have some ideas of what's coming for them next...

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April 5th, 2015


02:26 pm
I am about to leave to GM a game I've never played before and I've been trying to put this together for months and I'm so worried that everything's going to go wrong but I also have cake at least?

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April 4th, 2015


06:50 pm
I've read exactly one of this year's Tiptrees and honor list, which surprises me just slightly -- there was nothing I read that I thought definitely belonged there and didn't make the list. (I gave The Girl in the Road to my sister for her birthday; I've been meaning to borrow it from her, and now I'll definitely do so.)

I will go back and read "In Her Eyes"; I bought the magazine it appeared in originally. I actually found it neither particularly well-written nor progressive in terms of gender issues. But, eh, it may well be a better story than I gave it credit for.

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April 3rd, 2015


10:52 pm - Writing rant #89
Every time some book that is not particularly well-crafted, objectively, has a huge amount of financial success, there are writers who will say "It's all random! It's all marketing!"

I think it's really not.

When I read Twilight (and I HATE to use that as an example because so much of the criticism about it is wrapped up in "Is it feminist to hate a book that normalizes abusive relationships, or is it misogynistic to hate a book that's widely loved by teenage girls without regard to their own agency and ability to read books critically?" but I don't often read megabestsellers so that's what I've got) I had that sense, of "You know, there are a lot of levels on which this doesn't work for me, but it IS sort of unputdownable." I'm not sure if this was before the second book came out, but it was certainly long before Twilight had become a THING, and I didn't come at it as a megabestseller; I came at it like any other book.

I have to say, that compelling quality isn't all that common. There are lots of very good books I read that don't have it. I think part of it is a smooth, transparent prose style, and part of it is exciting or wish-fulfillmenty things happening, and part of it is just some deep kind of magic.

It's okay to admit that beautiful writing is not a high priority for lots of readers. That doesn't mean that people aren't quite skilled at picking out books that are going to make them happy. A great book is not always a book that everybody wants to read, and that's okay too.

(Writing rant #90 is against people who say "Well, if X is so great, why doesn't she have a SOLID GOLD HOUSE, she must write pretentious crap." The key in these discussions, by the way, is that one should assume that any writing less populist than one's own is pretentious crap, and any writing more populist than one's own is commercial trash.)

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06:06 pm
The stressful part of RPG day: choosing what sort of baked dessert to bring!

The other stressful part of RPG day: thinking about large-scale electric grid failures causing widespread nuclear meltdowns!

Hm. I brought undercooked brownies, and then before that I brought undercooked bread, so probably I should just make sure to actually COOK whatever I bake...

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March 9th, 2015


09:43 am
I'm sad that the youth services position open at Northvale Public Library in New Jersey doesn't pay the kind of money I'm looking for, because I would continuously amuse myself saying "Welcome... to North Vale."

(And I would put up the "Catch the Summer Reading Flesh-Eating Bacterium" posters.)

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March 3rd, 2015


09:49 pm
Hello from San Francisco! From, to be precise, my not actually very comfortable little hostel bunk. I have done many things!

Most recently I have seen "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play," which I very much wanted to see based on Nick Mamatas's review but didn't realize until I saw an ad for it on a bus that I could in fact go see it.

It begins not long after a kind of apocalypse, seemingly started off by a plague that left too few people able to staff nuclear plants, leading to meltdowns. The survivors, in between trying to find news of their families and information about the nuclear danger, start to piece together, from memories, an episode of The Simpsons.

I remember when the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused the nuclear crisis in Fukushima - how the English media was at least 24 hours behind the Japanese media and often altogether wrong, how the Japanese media wasn't doing much better given the PR and ass-covering coming out of the government and TEPCO. And I was scrambling to learn the necessary vocabulary, and dig up every decent news source I could find, not because there was any danger to me personally, not because there was anything useful I could do with this information, but because the question of how bad things could really get wouldn't let me go. So this play hit at those fears for me in a very visceral way. (I am not sure that I am actually against nuclear power even now, just because global warming is a bigger danger, but I think it was pretty smart on the playwright's part to slip just enough information about how things could go wrong into a fun pop-culturey post-apocalyptic play.)

I liked its depiction of the theater world, such as it is after the apocalypse - how technical discussions are inevitably also aesthetic discussions. I liked the "commercials" that provide a window on memories of an easier life. But mostly I think I appreciated it as a play about transformative works. How the society that survives moves from memory and authenticity - things which it will never be able to totally recapture - towards repurposing the raw materials of 20th/21st century pop culture and reprocessing them into a way to tell its own stories and process its traumas. I can't see a play like that without thinking of fanfiction, of vidding, of every meme that mutates endlessly as it spreads across Tumblr. The fan community reprocessed The Winter Soldier into a story that I liked so much that I was disappointed by the actual movie, just like I imagine the real "Cape Feare" would look irrelevant and incomprehensible to one of the hypothetical viewers of the reconstructed mystery-play version. This is the play I'd want to show the courts, when transformative works come up for discussion.

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February 27th, 2015


10:00 am - Classical Japanese Things
Hope springs eternal, and so I have a new Classical Japanese study book. It is, like most of them, intended for high school students doing their required Classical Japanese studies; I have one like this from before, bought in a state of absolute panic in 2001, but that one assumes just a little bit too much about what you're learning from your real textbook, which is a problem if you don't have a real textbook.

It's very friendly. It assures me in the second chapter (the first chapter is "figure out the subject of the sentence!") that it's fine to learn just 250-300 of the most important vocabulary words, because you'll have footnotes for the rest. This is not very relevant unless you're actually taking a high school Classical Japanese class, but still, it feels quite reassuring compared to the "Everyone else has been studying this SINCE HIGH SCHOOL and you are so far behind" that I felt when I got to Japan.

Sei Shonagon is the best.

Adorable Things

The face of a child drawn on a melon.

A baby of two or so is crawling, rapidly along the ground. With his sharp eyes he catches sight of a tiny object and, picking it up with his pretty little fingers, takes it to show to a grown-up person.

A baby sparrow that comes hopping up when one imitates the squeak of a mouse; or again, when one has tied it with a thread round its leg and its parents bring insects or worms and pop them in its mouth: delightful!

One picks up a pretty baby and holds him for a while in one's arms; while one is fondling him, he clings to one's neck and then falls asleep.

Pretty, white chicks who are still not fully fledged and look as if their clothes are too short for them; cheeping loudly, they follow one on their long legs, or walk close to the mother hen.


(Ivan Morris's translation.)

My study book tells me something interesting I didn't know before about The Pillow Book. The famous first line is literally something like "In spring it is the dawn," but translators (translating it into modern Japanese or English) have usually interpolated "...that is most beautiful" or something like that. Ivan Morris has "In spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful." But apparently, the modern scholarship is that we should maybe treat it as part of a conversation already in progress, talking about the different seasons and what times of day are the most wintry in winter, or spring-like in spring, and you can just start off more literally: "In spring it is the dawn."

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