Tuesday, August 30, 2011

George R. R. Martin's A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

          First of all, I'd like to mention that when I first typed the name of the series, I accidentally typed, "A Dong of Ice and Fire" instead of "A SONG of..."
          So I'm pretty distracted, giggling about that. But I will pull myself together.
          Okay.
Dude, it's 959 pages long. And that's NOT counting the guide to characters at the back.

          (By the way, I did my best to avoid any spoilers.)
          I just finished reading A Dance With Dragons, book 5 in Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. For those who don't know, it's an epic heroic medieval fantasy, sort of Tolkienesque. But Martin's characters aren't hairy-footed little pussies, and there aren't any lovely lovely elves, and the magical elements are very few and far between, which I think makes the whole thing more believable.
          It's set in a very harsh kingdom, where no one is clearly good or evil, they're just messily human. And bad things happen to most of them. What makes Martin's writing unique, I think, is that the chapters alternate viewpoint from character to character, like in a big cycle. For instance, one chapter may be about poor little Arya, a fierce princess on the run from assassins. But the chapter will end on a cliffhanger, and the next chapter is from someone else's viewpoint, in another part of the kingdom. So you have to wait until Arya comes up again, and meanwhile OTHER characters are in dire situations. I can't put these books down!
          Now there's a miniseries on HBO, called "Game of Thrones," based on the series, and I can't see it because we don't get HBO! It's not out on DVD yet, either. I tried streaming it online and the picture quality sucked. I'm gnashing my teeth.
          Anyway, just thought I'd post the review I put on Goodreads and Shelfari, my two favorite keeping-track-of-what-I-read sites. (By the way, I prefer Shelfari because it's prettier and looks like actual wood shelves, and I can navigate it more easily. But most people seem to like Goodreads better. Not sure why) Here's my little review:

(3 out of 5 stars)
         Sigh. I love "A Song of Ice and Fire," and I will definitely read the next book in the series, no matter how long it takes him to finally grunt it out.
          I love Tyrion, I love Jon Snow, I love Arya, I love many of the characters, especially the moral grey area most of them are smack in the middle of. Just when I think Tyrion is disgusting and irredeemable, he shows true kindness to that poor little dwarf girl, and becomes her protector in his gruff, crude way.
          And I do love Daenerys, BUT I am pretty sick of her wasting so much time in Meereen when we're all waiting for her to just f*cking return to Westeros with her dragons. This particular installment in Martin's big fat unwieldy series didn't move the many plots and subplots far enough to satisfy me. It's over 900 pages long, and I wanted things to come to a head more. I still found it very readable. But at this point there are so many characters that I was confused and floundering at the start of many chapters, trying to remember who the current character was, and their relevance to things.
          Not to mention it's been years since the last book and I can't remember where many of the subplots left off.
          The epilogue was the most exciting chapter in the whole book, despite the fact that it hinges on a revelation about a certain character I did not remember at ALL, and had to immediately search for in the extensive dramatis personae at the back. It pissed me off even further to find that there were at least TWO characters with the SAME FIRST NAME, but I ended up figuring out which one was mentioned in the epilogue.
          So what.
          Character is the most important thing in any story, and if I STILL can't wait to find out what happens to these characters even when I have to go through a guide to figure out who they are, then Martin must be a pretty good writer. I remain a loyal fan of "A Song of Ice and Fire." And they better release that damn miniseries on DVD soon, so I can see it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

FAN SERVICE: not just for manga anymore

          The first time I noticed the term "fan service," it was on the back of a manga volume in the junior high library, in context like, "rated T for teen because of violence and mild fan service," or something to that effect. I had to ask a Japanese teacher friend to explain it to me. Not just because she's Japanese, she really was the biggest manga fan I knew at the time.
          She explained it in terms of Japanese boy bands, saying that it's when the boys pretend to be "romantic" with each other on stage, even though they're not really gay, or not really involved with each other. They just do it because their fans are mostly teenage girls who WANT to see them kissing or whatever. They just do it for show, to please the fans.
          It also applies to comics, like when they show female characters flashing their panties for no apparent reason. It certainly doesn't further the plot. It's just "fan service."
          Just now I was leafing through the new August 2011 VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates), and noticed a review that stated of a certain book, "gratuitous sexual crudity, female objectification, and fanservice may make this book a hard sell to parents and librarians." There was that damn phrase again! This time boldly smushed into one single word. And it was not even a comic book, it was a teen novel.
          I don't know how long they've been trotting this catchy term out in book reviews intended to help us library folk with collection development. Seems a little pretentious, doesn't it? They drop that term like we're all supposed to know what it means. Drop it like it's hot. Even though I DO happen to know what it means, I can guarantee you that plenty of other library people do NOT.
          In case you're wondering, the book tagged with "fanservice" in the new VOYA is The Robot by Paul E. Watson. It's about teenage boys who encounter a "super-realistic, sex-bomb of a robot, with no underpants..." I'm not even kidding.
Can you believe they did NOT put the robot chic with no panties on the cover? 
         

Friday, August 19, 2011

BULLETIN BOARDS & DISPLAY : Back To School; Genre

          Couldn't figure out what to put in the glass display case at first. Then my mom was volunteering in the library one day (adorable, right?) and she suggested back to school stuff and next thing you know the idea of the traditional "little red school house" popped up, which seemed perfect. If you try to get too "modern," and figure out what back to school really means for today's teen, you'll just end up looking like an old person trying to be cool. I don't know what the hell kind of supplies and electronics and doo-dads they need or want now. (Yeah, I work in a school, but I don't pay attention to anything other than books.)
          Going vintage/iconic seems safer, and ultimately cooler.
I grabbed a bunch of very obviously school-themed books to display.
Close-up of my handiwork.
          I even cut out the windows of the little schoolhouse and cut the door so it opens! I used red construction paper, some blue paper (it matches the bulletin boards), yellow for the bell, and white-out for the trim and the clock. I felt very clever with the letters, sticking them in the ends of the books and using erasers to make the "YOU" stand up. But every time I see that phrase, "are you ready," in my head I hear Jonathan Davis from Korn screaming/growling it at the beginning of "Blind."
          Don't know if you noticed in the first picture, but one of the books on the very bottom shelf is "School of Fear" by Gitty Daneshvari. I think that's funny.
          For the rest of the library I chose a pleasing blue and purple color scheme that I am quite fond of.


GENRE: a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content.

Can't decide what to read? Pick a genre!
          We got all the genre posters free from Random House Teens. We've been slowly collecting them. There are even a few more than this, like horror and "beach reads," but they wouldn't all fit. Sometimes the Librarian asks me if we have enough of the books on each of these posters to display them, but I tell her if kids start asking for some of the books we DON'T have, that just gives us a good excuse to ask for money.
          I keep a clipboard labeled "STUDENT REQUESTS," and write down any titles we're asked for that we don't have. We use that, plus our own recommended lists, whenever we get some funding. I also take the student request list to the used book store when I have credit there from our donations program.
          As soon as the kids get settled after the first couple weeks of school, I'm going to plaster everything in here with "BANNED BOOKS WEEK" (September 24th - October 1st) stuff. I thought it might be a little too alarming for the parents and new 7th graders during registration and orientation. But look out in a few weeks.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

VINTAGE BOOK : I Want To Be a Librarian (second installment)

Welcome back to the second & final installment of this thrilling tale of a young girl's tragic descent into library delirium at the hands of a manipulative and bookish madwoman...

I want to be a LIBRARIAN
by Carla Greene
illustrations by Frances Eckart

Copyright 1960 by Childrens Press USA

     Miss Brown found two books about dogs. They were books that Jane could read.
     "And I would like this book, too," said Jane. It was called,
          HOW TO SAIL A BOAT.
     "That book is hard to read," said Miss Brown.
                "You're much too stupid for that one."
     "My brother, Joe, will like this," said Jane.
     Miss Brown put a date on a card in each book.
     "Bring the books back on this date," she said.
     "Don't be late. You must pay a fine for late books."
               "Are you ready to pay that price, Jane? Do you know what true pain is?" asked Miss Brown.
     "I will take good care of the books and bring them back on time," said Jane.

Ah, and here is Joe, Jane's gay little brother with his sailor hat and shorty-shorts...
     "This is a wonderful book," said Joe. "It tells me what I want to know about sailing. 
               Oh, I think Joe's already done some "sailing."
     I want to be a good sailor.
               Mm-hm...
     What do you want to be, Jane?"
     "I want to be a good librarian, someday," said Jane. "I will help people find good books."
     "Miss Brown does other things, too," said Joe.

               That's my favorite line in the whole book.

Oh, wow, that's totally NOT what I thought he meant...


I wonder if Miss Brown ever just loses her shit and starts crying and screaming at all those demanding teachers? Or maybe that's just me.

     "How do you get to be a librarian, Miss Brown?" asked Jane.
     "You should go through college, Jane," said Miss Brown.
               "Even though you're a girl."
     "Then you should study another year in a Library School. And you should like children and books."
               I'm pretty sure that part is not required anymore.

"Now remember all that I've taught you, ladies, and don't be afraid to KILL should it prove necessary."
     One day Miss Brown let Jane help her.
     They drove out into the country.
               ...with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a loaded gun.
     "Here comes the book bus!" cried the children.
               They all glanced sadly at the little shrine by the side of the road where the last child had been struck and killed by Miss Brown in one of her drunken book bus rages.
     Miss Brown helped the children choose books.
     And Jane helped a little boy find a good book about turtles.

But unfortunately, stupid, STUPID Jane didn't know enough to hold the book right side up.

     On the way home, they saw Joe in his sailboat.
               Another boy's head popped up inside the boat, right next to Joe!
     He waved to them.
               Then the other boy's head bobbed back down.
     "Joe learned a lot from that book about sailing," said Jane.
     "You will make a good librarian someday," said Miss Brown. "I hope that you will come and work with me."
               "...and I will show you the dark one who slumbers in the catacombs beneath the library."

This picture is so idyllic, it reminds me of when I was a little girl...

               Well, that's the end. Your book report is due a week from today. Do not forget to write your name at the top, and mind your margins.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

VINTAGE BOOK : I Want To Be a Librarian (first installment)

          I'm not sure where I picked up this discarded old library book, but I find it charming and amusingly lame. And kind of sad in this day and age when I bet there are fewer and fewer people who want to be librarians, considering all the budget cuts and layoffs happening in our public library systems!
          I will transcribe the text of the book faithfully, and leave my snarky comments in red.

I want to be a LIBRARIAN

by Carla Greene
illustrations by Frances Eckart

copyright 1960, Childrens Press USA

     Jane walked toward the library.
               That is an ACTION-PACKED opening sentence.
     She had never been inside the library.
     "I wish Joe had come with me," she thought.
     Joe was Jane's big brother.
     He would not come to the library.
     He had a fine new boat.
               Wait, what? What does his boat have to do with anything? Oh, I get it- he doesn't want to come to the library because he's too busy "playing with his fine new boat." But doesn't that sound like a non sequitur at first? And then it sounds like a euphemism.
Maybe Jane can help out this angry, stupid little girl who got her dress caught in the door.
     Jane went up to the door of the library.
     She read what it said on the door.

STORY HOUR
9-10

     Then she opened the door and went in.
               Where are her parents? Do they know where she is? What if instead of walking toward the library she had walked toward the old abandoned lumber mill where the crazy homeless men hang out getting drunk? Somebody needs to keep an eye on this girl.
"Miss Brown, if I join your story time will I be able to turn my head 180 degrees around as if I'm possessed by the devil, like that little boy there?"
     "What a nice room," thought Jane.
     There were books and pictures everywhere.
               No shit, Jane, it's a LIBRARY.
     Boys and girls sat in a half-circle.
               In the center was a freshly-slaughtered goat lying upon a pentagram.
     Miss Brown was the librarian.
     She smiled at Jane.
     "Come and sit here," she said.
     Miss Brown told a story that Jane liked.
     It was about a boy who had many animal friends.
               It took place in Mexico, and the boy particularly liked donkeys.
     "I want to read all the animal books in the library," said Jane.
     Miss Brown smiled.
               "That's stupid, dear."
     "That will take you a long time. There are many animal books here."
               "And many people who enjoy doing things with animals, Jane."
     "May I have a library card of my own?" asked Jane.
     "Yes," said Miss Brown.
     "Write your name here and take this card to your mother. Bring it back next week. Then I will give you your card."
               Next WEEK? I think Miss Brown must spend a lot of time sitting around on her bony ass when she should be processing library card applications.
I actually find this picture very pleasing, and just look at how dear and polite little Jane is!

She had heard many good things about a new book called "Go the Fuck To Sleep..."

     "I like dog stories," said Jane.
     Miss Brown showed Jane some drawers full of cards.
     "Let's look at the cards with the word DOG at the top. These cards have the names of books about dogs. See the number on each card. That tells me where to find the book."
               "Whoa, Miss Brown. You lost me at 'drawers full of cards,'" said Jane.
This illustration would make no sense at all to most kids now.


Stay tuned for the next scandalous installment of "I Want To Be a Librarian," in which Jane hears filthy rumors about her beloved Miss Brown. -ed

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

LIBRARY SIGNAGE : comics & manga, and magazines


          "Oh my god, Mr. Kovac, is the manga GONE?! WHERE DID THE COMICS GO?!"
          No, dear panicky child. Take a deep breath. I have simply switched the Reference section with the Comics & Manga. I know this is alarming at first because you're in the habit of charging into the Library and going straight to the Comics & Manga section, and today you are suddenly confronted with dry old atlases & almanacs, Business Leader Profiles, and Facts About the World's Languages. It probably feels like walking into what you think is a donut shop, only to find that it's now a dry cleaners.
          If you were to merely turn around and look over your shoulder, you would see the Comics & Manga section in all its lurid glory, occupying even more shelves than before. We actually ran out of room for all the fun stuff we were adding, so we weeded the worst old crap from the Reference section (which was larger), and moved it to the smaller shelving area where the Comic & Manga used to be crowded tightly together.
          I printed a little sign directing you to the new larger Comics & Manga section, and posted it on the end of the shelves facing out so you couldn't miss it. But the sign was simple and apparently not eye-catching enough.
          Now I have made bigger better signage by hand, more colorful and bold. Big arrows, some graphics... Will this keep the sudden jittery panic out of your eyes?

Calm down, kid, it's right around the corner!

Friday, August 5, 2011

WOULD IT KILL MICKEY MOUSE TO HELP A BROTHER OUT?

          Apparently this message was circulated to Anaheim Public Library staff recently:

Dear Staff,
As you may be aware, the Anaheim Public Library Foundation, sent a letter to their membership sharing concerns regarding the library’s budget and possible outsourcing of operations.  If you are approached by a member of the public inquiring about budget/outsourcing, etc, please use the following script and/or pass on to a supervisor. 

Yes, the library’s budget has been reduced again in FY2011/12 reflecting the economic challenges facing Anaheim. The City is looking at alternatives for library operations, including outsourcing to a for profit company.  As a member of the library staff I cannot comment on city policy, but you are welcome to refer questions or concerns to the Mayor, Council or the Anaheim Public Library Foundation.  If asked, please provide contact information (phone/address/web site) for our elected officials. 

          How can it be that the city with Disneyland raking in the bucks might have to outsource their public library to a for-profit company, possibly laying off many or all of their current library workers?
          I think outsourcing a public library is a terrible solution, and I hope the Mayor and city council (or whoever really makes these decisions) re-thinks that.
          But here's another thing- I think that stupid mouse should put his money where his family-friendly mouth is, and help out the community living in the shadow of the Matterhorn, Sleeping Beauty's Castle, and the Tower of Terror. Shouldn't that be the deal? That in exchange for letting Disney plunk its big fat ass down in the middle of the city, they would have to kick in some monetary assistance in times like these?
          The last time we went to Disneyland, by the end of the day we had spent a LOT of money, probably enough to run the library for at least a year.