Weekly rundown 2/12

I taught a library instruction course this week on scholarly vs. popular article sources and it went well. Also, I got to text Mallory Ortberg and she was kind; the experience left me with a lot of residual adrenaline.

What I’ve been reading

  • Who killed the Sheridans? on NYT. The ending to this is poignant because they’re right—it’s interesting to read about all the clues in a conveniently summarized, dramatic little digest, but having it happen in real life and be something you can’t just shut off, that I can’t even comprehend.
  • This 155-year-old mouse trap in a museum collection that’s still doing its job is an excellent story. I do love when libraries and special collections go viral, but mostly it’s just tempting to accession one of these bad boys into one’s own collection for… reasons.
  • I neglected to mention that I spent last Friday utterly enthralled by this Buzzfeed article about a suburban mom who blogs as a low-key prepper. Like, sociological obsession. I was so consumed with reading about this whole subculture that I checked out her book from the library. It’s like Hints from Heloise got mashed together with The Road. There’s a section on how to invest in gold, complete with slick cartoon illustrations of a savvy mom happily stocking up on food and water. It is good to be prepared, yes; it is weird to believe that society is going to collapse from an EMP attack. By the way, the one tip I have managed to glean from all this research is that airplane-size bottles of liquor are good for bartering.
  • Did you know that the Parents Television Council still exists? Or that they have thousands of VHS tapes taking up space on this planet so that they can catalog every bad thing that has happened on TV? Or that one of the analysts, a grown man, stuttered over having to say the word “shit” in front of a reporter?
  • I am making progress with The Raven Boys for book club. Maggie Stiefvater’s obsession with cars has never been more apparent, and I am including The Scorpio Races, because that takes place in the past and doesn’t seem quite as much like a very subtle series of car product placements.
  • I have neither written nor edited a single damn thing lately, for hilarious and yet mysterious and yet tragic reasons I will detail below.

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Weekly Rundown 2/6

The weather here is beautiful and fitting my mood and need for calm and not-snow these days, so I am pretty pleased with that right now.

What I’ve been reading

  • Why a top food poisoning expert won’t eat these foods over at WashPo. I can swear to you I’m not obsessed with food safety, but I do get a big kick out of Bill Marler and his extra-specific brand of legal work, so I am always up for another article featuring him. There is a great story about the army deciding that Odwalla apple juice wasn’t fit for human consumption at the end. AUUUUGGGHHH
  • I’m starting a writing-focused, self-paced tarot course in an effort to learn card meanings once and for all. Your beliefs about the tarot may be different; I see them as an option in psychological reflection.
  • I spent the week bound tightly with tension and anger that I was being forced to wait to get a new cell phone, so I pretty much did no reading apart from 6-month-old articles about said phone, and I will not force you to read them here.

Have this video of cats in a library wearing glasses:

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Weekly rundown 1/23

Inspired by friend Lindsay’s new posting style, I’m shooting for a weekly update schedule to account for what I’ve been doing lately.

What I’ve been reading:

  • A Bug in the System, from last year’s New Yorker. Food safety is so gross and fascinating, and this actually grabbed the part of me that’s interested in legal nuances, which is touuuugh to do. Bill Marler is one of those rare stories of someone who’s seized a legal specialty and has wound up doing sincere and needed heavy lifting in regulation reform.
  • The Last Days of Target Canada, amazing for its epic slow collapse as well as the multitude of things that went wrong, one right after another. How did they not know? It boggles the mind.
  • Again, on Lindsay’s advice in another post, I picked up the ebook Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Better, Faster Writing by Rachel Aaron.  I am slowly preparing myself to tackle edits and (most definitely) rewrites on the Nanowrimo 2015 project, and I have realized that I need a tight set of strictures going into this. Good advice, and my thoughts on outlining (namely that it leads to books feeling like original 1960s episodes of Scooby-Doo) started to feel ready for a change.

    CALM THYSELF, FOUL BEAST OF CRAVENHOOD
    WAIT WHAT YOU MEAN YOU AREN’T JUST GONNA PUT PEOPLE IN INTERESTING CONTRIVED SITUATIONS WITH PRETTY CLOTHES AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS???
  • This led me to find a copy of John Truby’s book The Anatomy of Story (it’s turtles all the way down when it comes to me and books, and do you see what I did there with the WorldCat record? LIBRARIANING!), which is like the Aaron book, but far more in-depth and with a greater variety of examples and things to consider.
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NaNoWriMo 2015

Complete with left-handed writer up there on the featured image.

It’s the first year in a long time—ever, in fact—that I haven’t had classes or homework to contend with, so this is me, announcing that I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo starting next week.

I’ve had a funny relationship with NaNo in the past (it’s another thing that falls on my birthday and manages to cause hangovers and loss of sleep in people I want to party with). The handful of times I tried in high school, I never went in with anything more than a vague idea of what to write, which doesn’t work for me, I’ve learned. My biggest struggle tends to be creating conflict, and there is so little advice on the topic apart from outlining!! and “What does your character want? Deny them that and there’s your struggle.”

As much as I hate plot outlining (both because most outlines tend to assume all stories follow the Campbell Hero’s Journey structure and because outlining tends to feel formulaic and overcooked, like a Scooby-Doo episode), I’ve given in and have started filling in a 30 point list—although I still have reservations about what “next leg of the journey” means.

 

 

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows is one of those classics that I’d never gotten around to reading until recently, even though it has all these attributes of the kinds of books I studied for my undergraduate major. I didn’t even really know that much about it, except for the fact that Disney made a cartoon of it, and that there’s an associated ride at Disneyland where you can go to and then escape from Hell in a cute motorcar buggy.

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Filter them for yourself

Stop this day and night with me, and you shall possess the origin of all poems;
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—(there are millions of suns left;)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books:
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me:
You shall listen to all sides, and filter them for yourself.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Danger 5

“Swiss blood—it’s made of money. I think it counteracts Hitler’s magic, undoes the Nazi virus.”

Danger 5 is the TV show I want to make new acquaintances watch as a litmus test for how well we’re going to get along.

It’s not hard to explain or describe, but it’s the type of absurdism that will divide people into distinct groups very quickly. You will perhaps look at the Nazi-mind-controlled dinosaurs, or the Aryan Master Race magic hookers, or the two-star colonel with a gigantic eagle’s head and say, with a slightly confused sneer, What the hell is this crap? and maybe sometimes I will send you a polite Christmas card.

If, however, your response to it is a mixture of disbelief and sheer overwhelming glee at the fact that someone did this, and did it well, then we are blood family bound for eternity and that can never be undone. This show understands me at a level I can’t quite articulate, except that it makes me happy because it deliberately works to fulfill everything I’ve ever wanted in a TV show.

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