Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A dog for many things

I think I need a hearing ear dog. According to Dogs for the Deaf, they are trained to alert you to sounds such as the telephone, a door knock, oven timer, even a baby's cry. Just think, I could have a dog to keep me company at work. He could nudge my knee whenever the phone rings, or tug my sleeve whenever someone comes over to talk to me...

Not that my own animals are inept. Pope always perks up whenever someone comes to the door, or when the phone rings. My old dog would bark and pace in front of the door. I didn't even have to train them for this.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I won't grow up

One of the unexpected results of my hair-cut, and the flashy (or old-man comb-over style, whichever way you think of it) part has been the discovery of grey hairs. They seem to be clustered in one spot, buried somewhere on the left side of my head, only recently exposed by the extreme part that my hairstylist artfully insists on giving me, and which I can never maintain.

My cousin discovered the first one. "My goodness, Laura! You've got a grey hair!!"

I had a curious sense of mingled confusion and pride. On the one hand, I've never felt like I really grew up, like I'm still stuck in some vague young adult land, and I've only just recently left behind my teenage/undergrad years. I think part of this stems from the fact that I've only just gotten a "real" job and can seriously consider looking for a house, accept the dawning possibility of kids, and notice how my folks are getting older. So here was proof that I'm really nearly a third of a century old, that I'm actually an adult.

I just wish my grey hairs were up front, so I could grow them out like Rogue from X-Men.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thinking on the beast

One of the dangerous things about blogs is the sometimes uneven quality of thinking that goes into posts. The emphasis on being current sometimes suppresses the need for carefully thinking out what you want to say before you write.

Case in point: my musings on Beauty and the Beast below. Someone mentioned to me how they read the poem differently than I did, and when I went back to re-read my thoughts, I realized how I didn't make myself clear (or maybe I didn't need to, since there isn't a right or wrong way to read a poem?)

Much of this blog is inspired by random moments in my life, sparks of ideas, grains of feelings that nag my brain until they emerge, either as splinters I've finally forced out, or pearls of inspiration. It's usually more like splinters, since I tend to write as I go and rarely revise...just wanting to get the idea out before I forget about it.

I think I was pursuing two different ideas with the poem La Belle et la Bete. One was the question of why the Beast needed to shed his ugliness. This question would make more sense if one has seen the movie this poem is based on. The movie ends with the Prince enveloping Beauty in his arms and saying, with a patronizing tone, "Oh, my silly Belle!" as they soar upwards towards wherever the kingdom in the clouds is.

The other idea was simply how powerfully the poem captures the sense of that moment of transformation. For me, it evoked the memory of falling in love--not that romantic "head over heels" feeling, but that moment when I realized that Jon had become part of my life, as deeply woven in as my family. It was an odd moment of joy and pain, for I realized that I couldn't go home again even as I realized that I was beginning to form a new home.

I end my post here with my thoughts mostly out, but still needing to be expanded. Such is the dilemma.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Beautiful ugly

The muses work in labyrinthine ways, and creativity spirals in and yet out of itself like a nautilus.

I found a poem by Mark Doty that was inspired by Jean Cocteau's film La Belle et la Bete, which was in turn inspired by who knows what version of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast.

He captures that nagging sense of unease over the Beast's transformation into the prince, even as we are all awaiting that pivot point, anxiously waiting to hear Beauty proclaim her love and thus enable the Beast to shed his so-called ugliness and prove himself worthy of her love (...but didn't he already do that?) No one remembers the prince, but the

"...heady onrush
of the transformation...

...the moments
disruptive and lush, before the breaking through

...not to the kingdom itself, where nothing happens,
but the approach to the kingdom:
everything, the coming to love."
(from La Belle et la Bete - read it here)

What do you think?

Kings and chaperones

Jon has been appointed to the prom committee at the school where he teaches. He had no say in the matter.

I couldn't help but laugh.

Then he said, "If I have to be a chaperone at this prom, you're keeping me company!"

And here I thought I had gotten out of going to the prom when I was in school.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fourscore and seven years ago

Most of the time when you help someone with their research, you have no idea how much you've helped them. Sure, there's the smiles and "thank yous", bobs of the head and hand-shaking, but then the person you've helped (or so you hope) turns and walks away, and you never see them again.

But sometimes you gain a glimpse of your contribution to someone's research, however small or monumental (I'll never forget how I helped a visibly distraught person dealing with their cancer diagnosis--the mere act of showing this person where concrete information could be found soothed their trembling limbs and wiped the tears from their eyes).

I got this brilliant glimpse the other day when I saw this New York Times book review of Charles Bracelyn Flood's new book 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History. I actually helped do a miniscule bit of research for this man, the library's resident historian, a year or two ago. It was something to do with searching for primary sources from Lincoln's times. I didn't think much of it at the time, just thought it was so cool to read articles written while Lincoln was alive. I make no claims here other than the astonishment of my proximity, however negligible, to this book.

If you're curious to see these articles, just go to the New York Times archives, which go all the way back to 1851.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Something wicked this way comes

Jon and I had the pleasure of watching Coraline in 3D, complete with goofy glasses and a theater full of squirmy kids. It's based on the book by the same name, written by Neil Gaiman, a famous fantasy author. I was never interested in his work until I picked up this book several years ago. Sinister and sometimes creepy, this modern day fairy tale (I mean here a fairy tale like the original fairy tales, not the Disneyfied ones) demonstrates the deep reserves of courage and determination we all have within us.

Reading Coraline, I began to understand for the first time what a fairy tale is. Life rarely goes the way you would like it to, and it's up to you to overcome the obstacles that come your way--sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don't. Fairy tales demonstrate this basic truth in a very dark, but ultimately inspiring way.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Why clone your pet?

This is an example of anthropormorphic taxidermy.

Yes, those are real felines.

I came across this at work while dealing with the journal "Victorian Literature and Culture" and noticing an article included in volume 35:2 (2007) titled "Anthropomorphic taxidermy and the death of nature: the curious case of Hermann Plocquet, Walter Potter, and Charles Waterton," by Michelle Henning. It's illustrated, too.

Working in a library is never boring.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

No wonder kids are afraid of the dentist

I have very vague memories of my own experiences being drugged at the dentist. I remember the strange experience of coming to and still feeling as though I were dreaming and trying to communicate with my limbs through a fog thicker than cotton candy. All I remember of my surroundings are legs and arms supporting me and a voice at my ear, and a distant awe at a doorway flooded with light.
Looking at that description, it almost seems as if I had visited the tunnel of light.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Marring the books

I frequent used bookstores. A lot. I have a set of authors (Charles De Lint, Samantha Hunt, Brian McLaren, Frederick Buechner, R.S. Thomas, etc.) and subjects (theology, faery, goats, Regency England, Romania, etc.) that I'm always on the lookout for, and I just like looking at books.

One of the unique pleasures of acquiring used books is observing the occasional mark of the previous owner. Besides the typical name or birthday wish scribbled in the front of the book, sometimes you get to be privy to the inner recesses of that previous owner's mind as you read through the book and encounter his/her notes scrawled in the margins, usually accompanying the abstract art of lines and stars highlighting certain parts of the book that s/he found especially arresting. It's even more interesting when the notes and highlighted sections make no sense.

I just got a cheap paperback titled "Faery!" Whoever owned this book was a happy highlighter. On page 115, under the story The Seekers of Dreams, by Felix Marti-Ibanez, the words "vice versa" are underlined. On the page opposite, the sentence "I was afraid to quit the security of my prison" is underlined, with a careful circle around "I," with a tiny note to the left "& me?"

In other stories, phrases like these are underlined: "the faint glow of magic, like infant dragon fire," "one who had lived as long as the rivers and mountains, and possessed the knowledge of death for every day of it," "he loved her in desperation and silence," and "Chinese unicorn."

Our happy highlighter was also only too happy to add commas and dashes and semicolons, and even insert words here and there, as though the authors of the stories had been careless in their writing. In the first sentence of the story "Touk's house," by Robin McKinley: "There was a witch who had a garden," our self-made editor inserted "once" between 'was' and 'a' so that the sentence would read "There was once a witch who had a garden."

While this person did not indulge in too much marginalia, it was still amusing to see such liberal use of underlining, particularly in a collection of fantasy stories published in a cheap paperback.

Public libraries

Economic woes are affecting libraries, especially public libraries that rely on taxes and other sources of revenue to serve their regions.

Here's a sobering read: Country's oldest public library could close this year.

Obviously, I'm biased, being a librarian, but I find news of libraries being shuttered disheartening, especially as these are times when people utilize the library even more--not just for free entertainment in the form of books and DVDs--but for assistance in their job-hunting. Where else can you go for free access to computers where you can search for jobs, type up a resume, and learn new computer skills in an attempt to stay current with technology?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The problems of being the weaker sex

Last weekend I watched The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, two of my favorite thespians.

I think a lot of girls will love the movie for its fashion and crazy hairdos--it's certainly interesting to see how the rich threw their money away. But it reminded me again of why I would never want to travel back in time (besides the knowledge that I would be considered quite dumb because of my hearing loss): women had very little say over their circumstances. They married, and tried to marry well, because that was often the only way to avoid poverty, even if they were born into well-to-do families. Love was usually not a consideration for the matchmakers, only strategic alliances and keeping the family name pure.

The more I learn about the history of marriage, the more I understand the prevalence of affairs among the aristocracy. If you marry a man who is only interested in producing a male heir, and continues his dalliances with his maids, and eventually takes up with your own best friend, in your own house (The Duchesss is based on the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire), is it any wonder that you would fall in love with a man (Charles Grey) who actually appears to fancy you too?

What I found touching in the movie: Georgiana gives up Charles Grey to stay with her children (the Duke of Devonshire may have had no problems being a philanderer, but did not want it known that his wife was stepping out on him and told her she would never see her children again if she continued her dalliance with Mr. Grey).