Reader's Exchange

December 2012 - Posts

...and a beastly New Year

Hi there.  What's your sign?

Sounds just as creepy online as it does in person, but it relates so well to a New Year observation.

According to Chinese astrology, February 10, 2013 opens the Year of the Snake.  Given the popularity of library mascot Rocksssanne, every year at Round Rock Public Library is the year of the snake.  Still, who doesn't appreciate guidance for one's annual expectations, particularly when it's signified in terms of an easily relatable animal persona?

Though I'm impatient with glib political rhetoric that glosses over sticky realities or the immense diversity of situations, I'll cheerfully sample astrological predictions directed toward huge segments of the population.  History does not record my ever altering travel plans or schedule or delaying an important purchase based on the day's predictions.  I have, though, reconsidered my approach to anticipated conversations or adjusted the tone or frequency of certain phone calls or emails.  You know the reason why: despite discountable prognostications, horoscopes frequently lend wisdom by advocating patience, understanding, forgiveness...

I just checked my (vastly oversimplified) Chinese zodiac personality and outlook for 2013.  Am I allowing myself to be shallow while not affording politicians the same privilege?  Probably.   But you might enjoy peeking at your sign.

You'll be reminded that that understanding of animals and their unique characteristics transcends cultures and demographics.  Further, there's evidence that all animals have potential to reveal unexpected dimensions of their characters and capabilities.  In a global culture/economy, the folly of underestimating others merits caution wherever we can experience it.

Finally--and self-servingly--one's fortune may prove to be a day-brightener.  Did you know that my (Sheep/Goat) personality is considered highly creative, charming, tactful, sensitive, elegant, altruistic, intelligent, artistic, and refined?  As for the elements of insecurity, disorganization, lack of ambition, and capriciousness: I elected to gloss over those.  That's where the tact comes in.

Happy New Year! At any rate, it seems appropriate that Round Rock New Neighbors book group chose Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger (a personal favorite) as their first discussion pick of 2013 (Jan 21; more details here).  In The Life of Pi, Elsa Watson's romance Dog Days (named a Publishers Weekly "Best of 2012" pick), Spencer Quinn's Chet & Bernie mysteries, Betty Webb's Gunn Zoo mysteries, multitudes of fantasy tales invoking the power and mystery of dragons--the beastly element, treated whimsically, metaphorically, or otherwise, provides authors scope for expressing what brings out the best and worst in humans.

Naturally, these forthcoming titles, all due out in January 2013, caught my eye. You, too, may be intrigued by them:  Tiger Rag by Christopher Nicholas; Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg; White Dog Fell from the Sky by Eleanor Morse.

What this world needs

...is another version of "The Night Before Christmas".  What if Santa paid a visit to downtown Round Rock the week before his annual delivery?

The Night Before Christmas at Round Rock Public Library

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the shelves
Resounds pitter-patter of holiday elves,
It has to be elves, right?  The library's closed.
With no one in evidence, this question's posed:

Who's scuttling around, making noises of diligence?
Tiny associates of that red-suited imminence?
Who else would be busily shifting, arranging,
Accounting for things from our patrons' exchanging?

Well, the answer's apparent, for those who aren't daft.
It couldn't be otherwise:   library staff!
The drop box, you know, functions all ‘round the clock,
Someone must come in and duly take stock,

To find workers here after hours won't be scary.
What if it's Carolyn, Candy, or Mary?
Elaine, David, Chip, and Regina endeavor
To update and leave no loose ends whatsoever.
Before our doors open, Eric, Susan and Joe
Make order of chaos, but--hold on, now--Whoa!

Good grief!  I was wrong and at fault--a contrarian,
Or so I am told by the reference librarians.
They assure me that your first impression was right,
It is elves we're hearing; they missed Santa's flight.

One morning last week, before opening hour
As Erikka filled the upstairs display tower,
An iconic image her focus did snag--
An jolly old man with a SHOP THE ROCK bag.

"It's OK," Chris told her.  "He did ask us first.                   
It's perfectly fine; we're not being coerced.
Yes, we're not open yet, but this guy's on a mission:
You might say, a global one-night expedition.Santa's mission

"And he needed to check without further delay
On a shipment of iPads gone sadly astray.
He misplaced his smartphone at a high elevation--
He just needs to use a library workstation."

As Geeta and Linda joined in on the huddle,
The episode no longer seemed such a muddle.
Since the reference desk helped with this seasonal service,
The kindly large patron seemed no longer nervous.

He bestowed on the dazzled librarians a bow,
Requesting his presence they would disavow,
Until he had time to return to the north,
Complete preparations, load up and set forth.

But, now it's near midnight, he's well underway
And details of what really transpired we'll replay:

Two elves had decided in Round Rock to stroll,
Since rarely they chance to depart the North Pole.
As they lingered in StarCo enjoying their treat,
Santa exited town with his crew incomplete.

So, when library staff noted sandwiches taken,
Or granola bars absent or yogurt forsaken,
They chose to say nothing, suspecting perhaps
The hunger of small ones best kept under wraps.

Fear not, Santa's tweeted: he plans to recover
The elves from their refuge; on Christmas he'll hover
Above downtown Round Rock in hours before light
To scoop up the homesick ones fully contrite.

There's really no harm done: the elves are well nourished
Their collaboration with staff clearly flourished.

In conclusion, all wish you a Joyeux Noel:
Santa, elves, and your staff here at RRPL!

A glass of wine, a Triscuit, and thou

Have you seen this: T-shirt with wineglass graphic and text "More book club, please"?

Of all the pairing strategies for this beverage category--course-by-course restaurant scenarios, cheese tastings, digital guidance on what to serve with various things-- wine's trendiest association may be with literary discussions.   A good book and a choice bottle don't just enhance one another, they compensate for deficiencies.  Didn't care for the book?  Well, chances are you'll approve the vintage.

None of my book groups follow the sip-and-share template, but one has evolved from snacks to entire meals, occasionally with wine accompaniment.  What does it say about me that I vividly recall several lovely dinners and almost nothing about the texts that inspired them?

Wineglass ringsBut however other reader meet-ups evolve, count on this directive:  Do not, under any circumstances, distract or befuddle yourself with a glass of wine before the Great Conversations book group at the Baca Center.  You will need to keep your wits about you.  It isn't just that these people take the readings seriously; they prepare.  Did you pursue additional background about this month's author, Google some of the historical facets, and review additional selections by the writer?  Congratulations, you'll be in the lowest third ranked by degree of readiness. 

This week's selection, excerpts from Thorstein Veblen's (1899)  The Theory of the Leisure Class, typical of GC assignments, has stood the test of time.  What's unusual is that the same book was chosen by a member of that dinner group a few months back.  (He emailed the group prior to the meeting, apologizing for the selection; we still like him.)  I could describe our progress through the entire text of ornate prose, but "slog" is an ugly word.  I maintain that most employed what I call the Fruitcake Approach that month--picking through, identifying elements of interest, and consuming those.

That's a perfect segue into the recently reviewed 30-page segment of Theory... in Great Conversations 1.  That nicely sized slice of the book addresses (of all things, at this time of year) conspicuous consumption.  Discussion included these questions:  What is the definition of conspicuous consumption?  Why do tasks relegated to women historically rank low in esteem despite their vital nature? 

Group convener Helen, asker of incisive questions, is certain to render the very inquiry one feels least secure in addressing.  So when she queried, "Are we a leisure class?"  I decided to go for it, asserting that everyone in the group qualified:  we have discretionary time, can purchase multiple non-essential items, and (most importantly, since it speaks to Veblen's emphasis on force and predation) may utilize social networking opportunities like Yelp to assert power over production of goods and services.  Several agreed that Veblen's evolutionary approach to consumerism could adapt to include the blurring of classes now prevalent.

At which point Helen delivered the question nobody wants to answer:  How many pairs of shoes are in your closet?

Fortunately, closets have also evolved.

Up on the rooftop--but not reindeer

Volunteering to work the 3-11:00 PM shift for Christmas Family Night (tonight) didn't seem like an awful idea weeks ago.  Today, it proved to be a brilliant move.  Imagine: an entire weekday morning to catch up on tasks at home while you're fresh enough to enjoy doing them.

Squirrel on roofScouting for boxes in an infrequently used room upstairs, I harkened to a surprising amount of squirrel traffic thumping and careening around atop the shingles but fortunately not in the attic (yet).  Note to self: check on that more often.  A more reassuring discovery was this:  the better-than-I-remembered stash of gifts purchased last year during post-season sales.  It's easy now to survey all the items and recall whom I had in mind when selecting them.

But that other memory issue--newer impressions and data elbowing out older but highly significant stuff--is one we try to mitigate every day in the library.

The best information provision blends the best of cutting-edge and tried-and-true.  Even as we audition new digital resources (and we have a nifty one in mind right now--details later!) to offer our patrons, we want to keep proven ones on the radar screen.

 Yesterday, for example, as we examined an advance copy of The Virgin Diet (author, J.J. Virgin), I checked whether the library has it on order (yes).  Many patrons will be interested in this new volume dealing with food intolerance.  "Or," as co-worker Chris suggested, "maybe they should just try using turmeric more often."  That readily obtainable spice has been known for centuries.

Yesterday, as a delighted patron discovered that RRPL has six different music CDs by his favorite artist, I mentioned that, in good old allmusic.com you can input a song title and view all the artists who've recorded it, album information, listen to samples, etc. Curious about those hundreds of music genres and subgenres you hear about?  Click the "Explore" tab to understand how the different styles relate to one another (example, 18 different varieties of soul:  Chicago, pop-soul, uptown, country beach, brown-eyed, deep funk...)

In a world offering trendy tips like The 5 Best Digital Yule Logs and Bloomberg's Technology Gift Guide, it would be a shame to neglect classic web resources like Internet Movie DatabaseIt's been around for years and is still fabulous.  After you're read reviews and traced actors' work, try the common search to see who's appeared with whom.  Who knew that Liz and Dick made that many films together?  No wonder....

Want to be more than current?  Try Film Journal International's Blue Sheets and discover movies that forthcoming soon or even in 2014 and 2015.  How about Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Bacon in Universal's R.I.P.D. (Rest In Peace Department) as undead police officers?  Or Robopocalypse in April 2014?  Or MGM's Where's Waldo, 90 minutes with a three-second glimpse of Waldo?

Finally, this timely site delightfully marries the past and the trendy:  Santa Mail's array of vintage Christmas toy commercials from the 1950s onward.