Sunday, December 30, 2007

"Running fast needs my crying breath."

and everyone always dies

I don’t know whether it was the title or the name Ursula Hegi that reminded me there was some book she wrote that i always thought i should read (tho i couldn’t remember which one) that made me want to read The Worst Thing I’ve Done but something did. And i’m glad i did. It is a story of childhood best friends who become lovers, spouses, adulterers, and betrayers. Daughters who are also sisters and mothers. It is the story of the enmeshed families we create (but aren’t all true families entangled and enmeshed?) I found myself inhabiting this book in a way that i live so few, i found my mind wandering sometimes and that i would have to go back to read pages again, flip back to the beginning; not for lack of interest but because the novel would recall so many things in my own life (or at least make me think of them~because i’ve never lived a life like this).

  • Things like:when my best friend attempted suicide in high school and i was so angry at her

  • didn't remind me of, but made me think of, again, how and why, i don't seem to keep any of my friends from childhood, or highschool, only my best friend from college, and only a few from previous jobs. Do we just drift apart? Am i so unlikable? So unimportant? Or are friendships not that important to me?

  • the two times in my life when men have stood in front of me and forced me to choose, then and there, between them and someone else. Both times it seemed so surreal (one time i was on ecstasy, one time i was on mushrooms~that might have made a difference…) The first time i was twenty-one and i choose my boyfriend over my friends simply because i knew they would forgive me and he never would (which was proven to be true.) The second time was out in the desert where a bunch of bands were playing and my some guy from my past (the guy who had given me the mushrooms which i had decided to take when i was to drunk to make such a decision) had a brother from out of state who had a grudge with the first-date i was with (how they knew each other~i have no idea). GuyFromPast made me decide between him and FirstDate to drive me home and it all reminded me of the first time.

  • It reminded me of digging for clams on the beaches of Alaska (and having~and eat~clam chowder later)

  • of the pain, the realness, the seriousness, the trauma, and the life of childhood. People always talk about the carefreeness and innocence of childhood but those people must forget what childhood really is.

  • of the Take Back the Night rallies i would go to in Ann Arbor when i would feel such a feeling of power and solidarity

  • or peace rallies i would attend at the beginning of the war when we all felt so alone in our cause

  • or of the times i say (usually in my head~but sometimes not, when i’m drunk~”hey listen, chickie”

  • and all the warring voices i hear in my head (just kidding on that one~sort of…)

Not that any of that matters or makes any sense to you but this is for me, right (and no, as semi-anonymous as this may be, i'm not yet ready to share the worst thing i've done~or even figure out what that is)? I want to remember what i thought of the book when I write about it here. But isn’t that what books are supposed to do~draw you in so completely you forget where they end and you begin. At least certain books?

Annie listens to two talk radio psychologists with conflicting views on life and relationships even when the radio is off (and talks back to them, saying “hey listen, chickie…”) She and her husband Mason constantly bet on everything as well as one up each other on the worst thing they’ve done for the day, or the week. They are raising Opal, the daughter of Annie’s parents who were killed on their wedding day in a car accident in which Opal was born by caesarian section, as their own. The novel is told in the different voices of Annie; Mason; Opal; Jake, their best friend from childhood; and Stormy, a friend Annie’s mother called sister when they immigrated from Germany (the narrative switches often between first person and omniscient.) The book is also interwoven with what amounts to what would be a long suicide note from Mason who has hung himself shortly before the novel begins (though the action switches back and forth between past and present.)

All the voices of this novel ring so true. I love when an author is able to write the feel child’s thoughts feelings and without falling prey to writing in a childish voice. I think Hegi is able to get into the mind of each character without being overly sensitive or cold to any (except maybe Mason but perhaps that is appropriate with his death…) I felt a great understanding of relationships here.

Perhaps somewhat depressing to some, but well worth it. Maybe i'll have to go check out some more Hegi novels now. Just ever increasing my pile...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"From a distance it would have looked like violence."

eskimo poetry

Here I stand,

Humble, with outstretched arms.

For the spirit of the air

Lets glorious food sink down to me.

Here I stand

Surrounded with great joy.

And this time it was an old dog seal

Starting to blow through his blowing hole.

I, little man,

Stood upright above it,

And with excitement became

Quite long of body,

Until I drove my harpoon in the beast

And tethered it to

My harpoon line!

Recorded and translated from the Inuktitut by the Danish ethnographer and explorer Knud Rasmussen in Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition, 1921-24.

Here i go again, trudging through more arctic tundra cold...what can i say? It's a bit of an addiction. I'm not sure what it is about these books that draws me in so thoroughly, other than an evocation of my childhood, and a connection with my lost eskimo foster sister. There is also something about the epic nature of cold, and for that matter many kinds of endurance books (but cold especially~and have i ever told you with my obsessive reading of mountain climbing account books?) This time it's Consumption by Kevin Patterson (his first novel, or so i'm told.) This is really not cheery stuff, but i still found it a good read. The action itself covers about a generation of life in the Canadian Yukon starting when industrial western world truly began its encroachment on that land and its peoples in the early sixties and ending a little after the turn of the century.

The focus constantly shifts between a number of main characters, mainly centering around Native American Victoria and her family: her white husband Robertson; their children, Emo, Marie, and Justine; her parents; the village doctor Keith Balthazar; two village teachers; as well as the rest of the eskimo village in Rankin Inlet. Amanda, Balthazar's niece in New Jersey is included, although i often had to wonder why~maybe to show his connection (or lost connections to the white world). Maybe to show the disconnectedness in families? She did allow a shoutout for one of my favorite bands (and one that is quite nostalgic for me) The Monks and their album Bad Habits so that's always a plus. I did like her story i just sometimes wondered what it was doing there.

Victoria is sent away as a child to a Montreal sanatorium for because she is consumptive. When the pills don’t work she must have surgery then she is sent to a foster family. When she finally returns to her village she is almost a stranger to her family and has nearly lost her language. She feels more comfortable with the white men than with her own people.

eskimo poetry

I will walk with leg muscles

Which are strong

As the sinews of the shins of the little caribou calf.

I will walk with leg muscles

Which are strong

As the sinews of the shins of the little hare.

I will take care not to go towards the dark.

I will go towards the day.

Recorded and translated from the Inuktitut by the Danish ethnographer and explorer Knud Rasmussen in Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition, 1921-24.

This book is interspersed throughout with Dr. Balthazar’s medical notes which provide a fascinating picture of epidemiology among other medical topics if you’re into that sort of thing, with i am (by the by, consumption~so called because of the way it seems to consume its victims from the inside, is what we now call tuberculosis~just in case you didn't know.)

Although Robertson is at first somewhat tolerated for his attempt at learning the people’s ways when he is part of the South African conglomerate wishing to (and eventually succeeding in) bring a diamond mine to town things come to a head. Most of the characters in this book are quite tragic and most come to a tragic end (not to give it away or anything) The reading can get a little dense at times (and i wish some of the Inuit terms had received a little more gloss than they did~though a bit of contextual intuition can go a long way) but i found it well worth the time i put into it.

eskimo poetry

Hard times, dearth times

Plague us every one,

Stomachs are shrunken,

Dishes are empty . . .

Mark you there yonder?

There come the men

Dragging beautiful seals

To our homes.

Now is the abundance

With us once more

Days of feasting

To hold us together.

Know you the smell

Of pots on the boil?

And lumps of blubber

Slapped down by the side bench?


Greet we those

Who brought us plenty!

Recorded and translated from the Inuktitut by the Danish ethnographer and explorer Knud Rasmussen in Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition, 1921-24.

Friday, December 28, 2007

really makes me wonder what my kitties are up to while i'm toiling away...

although i’ve often wondered some of what they’re up to when i am at home like:

  • when i hear big crashes coming from some other room and when i go to investigate can find no evidence of what has happened (nor any cats in sight)

  • or the time i found a dollar hidden under one of the rugs they often sleep under in the back bedroom (a place i never carry money to); as if they were saving up for some grand escape

  • or the time i was doing dishes and i kept hearing a cat zooming by behind me to head down into the basement~times about seven~i ventured down the stairs a couple of times and didn’t see where they had gotten themselves off to (and i had never heard the corresponding bells on their collars indicating they had come back upstairs). It was if they were having a little feline bash in some secret corner of the basement and had invited all their pals (just run by real fast and she’ll never know the difference…)

  • when i went into the back room and stumbled on the rug where i found a couple of dollars hidden underneath it, as if they were plotting their escape.

  • the time Katushka managed to sneak out of the house and i didn’t notice until a cat that “looked exactly like her” came up to the window

  • similar to the time i came home and the two stray cats who “looked exactly like” Katushka and Dixie were loitering on my porch with the door wide open

  • or when i ignored Katushka when she was begging for her supper and so she decided to open the front door and go out and find her own

  • the times they hide my car keys from me just to make me think i’m losing my mind (is it possible i’m giving them to much credit?)

  • and the eternal question: do cats purr if there is no one around to hear them?

and if they can do all this why can’t I train them to do housework???

Anyway, back to the book…

most of these are taken from the website of the same name and include all sorts of pets

for the animal lover (perhaps even animal hater) in all of us… Always good for a laugh, or two…

Monday, December 17, 2007

where have all the redshirts gone?

It used to be you could tell who was going to die on any one episode (or continuing episode, or crossover, or whatever) if indeed anyone were to die by their guest-starring status (or, as observed by oh-so-many in the original Star Trek, by the wearing of the red shirt.)
It seems things are no longer so predictable.
It seems to me that Joss Whedon was one of the pioneers of this phenomena (tho, admittedly, i wasn't exactly tracking it), ultimately with the death of Buffy (tho he had started it much earlier~notably with the first episode and Jesse). Now it seems no show is immune.
I kinda like it.
It definitely makes things more interesting.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Some families, I have learned, are stranger than others."

Gina B. Nahai finally seems to be finding an American audience for her work; perhaps our esteemed president's war on terrorism (or his seeming declaration of war on most of the rest of the world which doesn't appreciate his cowboy politics) has awakened us to what was a number of years ago "of little interest." Caspian Rain provides us with a portrait of Yaas's parents' rather unhappy marriage and her own upbringing within it.

Yaas's mother, Bahar, grew up with her seamstress-wannabe-mother; cantor-wannabe-father; opera-singer-wannabe; Islamic convert brother; younger brother (who happens to be a ghost); unmarried older sister; and her other older sister who is married to an abusive psychoanalyst in the poor Jewish section of Tehran. Bahar knows she is always destined for something greater than her circumstance and she finds it when she literally stumbles into the path of Omid Arbab's limousine, recently broken up with his fiance and looking for someone a little more mailable.

Although it is told in the third person, Caspian Rain, often switches points of view between her parents' to Yaas's. Although never quite reaching the level of melancholy or high tragedy, it is not very light or entirely uplifting reading (though it is highly readable and very beautiful. Somewhat bittersweet.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

"A stranger might have mistaken him for a dedicated Information Sciences professional getting an early start on some important research,

but Ruth knew that he was actually scouring eBay for vintage Hasbro action figures, a task he preformed several times a day."

(wilely creatures, those (or should i say, we?) Information Sciences professionals.)
The Abstinence Teacher is the first Tom Perrotta novel i have read (though i loved the movie Election) and i quite enjoyed the experience (but then, i am a sucker for a well-done satire)~one of those books i read (almost) straight through. Ruth Ramsey teaches high school Health & Family Life in the lovely suburb of Stonewood Heights, and during the Human Sexuality unit she makes the rather fatal error of observing that she has heard that some people actually enjoy oral sex (oh, my). When one student reports this to her parents it sets off a maelstrom resulting in a pilot Abstinence only program taught at her school, she being required to attend "remedial" sexuality teachers' training, and having a companion "teacher" (a blonde and sexy virgin who is an expert in abstinence, natch).
Stonewood Heights has recently seen the addition of The Tabernacle of the Gospel Truth a "diverse" evangelic church rapidly gaining in popularity and influence. Tim Mason is a recovering drug addict who has found his recovery in God and and The Tabernacle. His pastor has talked him into a second marriage with a sweet girl who he is not sure he is happy with. Ruth, divorced, unwillingly practicing an abstinence of her own feels a certain attraction to this unlikely man who insists on closing prayer at her daughter's soccer games. Will these these attracted opposites connect? Can Ruth's tolerance extend to her daughters' desire to attend to church? Will Tim relapse? These and many more exciting questions May be answered in the first installment of The Abstinence Teacher...
Sometimes i have to ask myself if i am a shallow reader (person) for not getting (much) more than sheer pleasure out of certain reading experiences (or is it that i am just SO deep and SO clever that i have already thought out all those thoughts? hmmm...)
(and i absolutely loved the ending...)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"No longer did they take each day for granted."

What is fable? Legend? Must it have a moral?

Do we complain because we have the time to do so?

I'm not sure that the women of this title don't learn as much from themselves and each other as they have to teach to their own people. This book was recommended to me by someone i work with, and you know i had to read it as soon as i read the cover as it is a tale of my homeland and the people of the foster-sister i spent much of my childhood with.

It is a nice little tale that can be read of an evening, and it does have the nice, somewhat moralistic tone to it that many fables/legends do, but it isn't really spoonfed to one.

When i go in and read all the reviews on amazon i feel like i maybe i missed something though. Perhaps it just goes to show that different people find different things in what they read (and see, and hear). I know that i have gotten different things from books i read at different times. I think i also believe that some of those reviewers might have missed out on something as well. My answers weren't quite as pat, or even as heart-warming.

Obviously old-people, learned people, wise people do have something to offer, this legend is about how they came to be revered in some Eskimo cultures (though, of necessity, for most of the history of that culture they needed to be abandoned~also a part of the story). But the more intrinsic part of the tale for me was that people need to discover their own worth before they can share it with others. I wrote i poem once, when i was in ninth grade, about some old people who had never really learned how to live, and why they were afraid to die in such a case. I don't know that i could possibly have known at so young, and maybe i didnt, maybe really, but i think maybe really can't be afraid to die until you know how to live (or shouldn't be, at least.)

This is indeed a story that needs to be shared with others~for so many reasons~so that everyone can come up with their own interpretation, and so that we may keep the old stories and traditions alive.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

you may think you know how it ends...

Ophelia never was one of my favorite Shakespearean heroines (perhaps because my acting teachers were often suggesting i play her~and i was always a little partial to Juliet~ever since we first read the play in ninth grade English). I always saw Ophelia as a bit weak and victim-like~i suppose i'm not the only one~and named a cat i got after my other "tough" cat Tiny disappeared when a roommate let her out into a strange neighborhood (i saw the cat as somewhat weak~that cat later became my baby who no other cat~at first~would ever match and i never knew if i came to see the character of Ophelia differently because of the cat or because of a re-reading of Hamlet...)

Of course any re-writing of the master (and Hamlet always has been one of my favorite plays~i actually always wanted to play Hamlet) is going to leave a few detractors and there were definitely aspects of Lisa Fiedler's Dating Hamlet: Ophelia's Story that left me none too happy (i.e. certain changes to Polonius and the gravedigger~but what can you do really?) Ophelia isn't quite the strong, feminist character you might hope for (she was still quite head over heels for Hamlet~but she is a teenager after all~also living in eleventh century Denmark) but she can definitely hold her own (and even has some career aspirations~maybe she is a bit of a feminist after all...~i mean she does act for herself, what more is there?). She does manage quite a few of the behind-the-scenes plot machinations for herself and you can also see why there might be a bit of a real romance for her and the Danish prince (he's not quite as wishy-washy as some have played him, either.) Some stuff that i was thinking sounded a bit like another Shakespeare plot was explained slightly (if a bit too cutely, pertly, patly, etc) at the end.

All in all, a quick (and isn't that what most of us want from a young adult novel, anyway?) breezy, enjoyable read (especially if you're a fan of the bard).

Monday, November 19, 2007

maybe you can catch some zzs from reading this

okay, ever obsessed with sleep (or rather the lack thereof) i found the following New York Times article to be of more than a little interest) I tried to cut a bit of its rather extreme length but i just found it ever so intriguing:

November 18, 2007The Sleep-Industrial Complex

> > > > >

For years, doctors have been discouraged by Americans’ disregard for and mismanagement of their sleep. (“I might as well have been running a chain of beauty parlors for the last four decades” is how one described his advocacy.) But bragging about how little you sleep, a hallmark of the ’80s power broker, is starting in certain circles to come off as masochistic buffoonery. The sleep docs we once ignored appear on morning shows to offer tips. Health professionals and marketers are hopeful that a new seriousness about sleep will continue moving out of a luxury-minded vanguard and into the mainstream. Sleep may finally be claiming its place beside diet and exercise as both a critical health issue and a niche for profitable consumer products.
A sleep boom, or as Forbes put it last year, “a sleep racket,” is under way. Business 2.0 estimates American “sleeponomics” to be worth $20 billion a year, which includes everything from the more than 1,000 accredited sleep clinics (some of them at spas) conducting overnight tests for disorders like apnea, to countless over-the-counter and herbal sleep aids, to how-to books and sleep-encouraging gadgets and talismans. Zia Sleep Sanctuary, a first of its kind luxury sleep store that I visited in Eden Prairie, Minn., carries “light-therapy” visors, the Zen Alarm Clock, the Mombasa Majesty mosquito net and a $600 pair of noise-canceling earplugs as well as 16 varieties of mattresses and 30 different pillows.
Prescription sleeping pills have been the most obvious beneficiary. Forty-nine million prescriptions were written last year, up 53 percent from five years ago, according to IMS Health, a health-care information company. It is now a $3.7 billion business, more than doubling since 2003. At $3 or $4 per pill, their success indicates not only that we have an increasingly urgent craving for sleep but also that many of us have apparently forgotten how to do it altogether — quite a feat for any mammal.

> > > > >

All good nights of sleep are alike. Each miserable night of sleep is miserable in its own way. You either close your eyes and, many hours later, open them, or you endure an idiosyncratic epic of waiting, trying, failing, irritation, self-sabotage and despair, then stand up at sunrise racked with war stories you don’t have the energy to tell.
Sleep research is a young field and still doesn’t have a definitive picture of what “normal” sleep is, making discussions of abnormal sleep imprecise. The National Institutes of Health can define insomnia only very broadly, as “complaints of disturbed sleep in the presence of adequate opportunity and circumstance for sleep.” Insomnia can be transient — a few off nights — or horrifically chronic. Complaints may be about difficulty falling asleep or about waking up during the night. But it’s hard to know exactly what those complaints should be judged against. Nor has research determined which objective measures — total time slept, percentage of time spent in the various stages of sleep, etc. — correlate to a person’s subjective feeling of having slept well or poorly. Some people whose sleep looks normal in the lab complain bitterly; some whose sleep looks terrible never do.
Even something as empirical-seeming as how long we sleep becomes problematic. In studies, insomniacs almost invariably overestimate how long it took them to fall asleep and underestimate how long they slept; in one, more than a third of the participants consistently thought they’d slept at least an hour less than their brain-wave activity indicated. Yet in a way, this hardly matters. Wallace Mendelson, past president of the Sleep Research Society, explained to me, “When a patient comes to a doctor, he doesn’t say, ‘I’m here to see you because my EEG shows an insufficient number of minutes of sleep.’ He comes to you saying: ‘I don’t feel like I’m getting enough. I’m tired.’ ” Thus, while insomnia is frequently linked to another, distinct physiological disease or disorder, its diagnosis and treatment often remain, much like pain, locked in the realm of our own inscrutable reports.
Fewer than half of Americans say they get a good night’s sleep every night or almost every night, according to a 2005 poll by the National Sleep Foundation. The N.S.F. is a nonprofit largely financed by the pharmaceutical industry and one of many groups — including the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Better Sleep Council, a nonprofit supported by the mattress industry — that have pushed the value of sleep, and the perils of sleep deprivation and disorders, into public view. (You can mark the change in seasons with their press releases. End of summer: “From Zzzs to A’s: Healthy Sleep Is Key for Back-to-School Success.” Daylight Savings Time: “Fall Back Into Bed and Catch Up on Your Sleep.”)
Some of America’s dissatisfaction likely boils down to poor “sleep hygiene” — basic bad habits like not keeping a regular bedtime; overconsumption of alcohol or coffee; or winding ourselves up with work or television before bed. There is a sometimes-stunning failure to see sleep’s cause-and-effect relationship to what we do while awake. One therapist told me he cured a man’s insomnia by suggesting he stop eating spicy Indian curry late at night. Bils says, “Most sleep problems are self-inflicted by sleepers not knowing how to sleep.” Moreover, doctors have long warned that Americans are suffering from self-caused sleep deprivation without even realizing it. The most damaging and persistent delusion we’ve acquired about sleep is that the vital human function is optional. As one psychologist puts it, “You don’t have people walking around figuring out how to get by on less air.”

> > > > >

$4.6 billion spent on mattresses. Their staying power and overt sciencey-ness had colossal ripple effects on the entire industry. Jim Gabbert, the second-generation mattress retailer behind Zia Sleep Sanctuary, explains: “At first everyone saw air and visco as a fad, like water beds. ‘It won’t amount to much.’ Now all the mainstream innerspring manufacturers are scrambling to compete with those guys.
Those specialty manufacturers taught the mainline brand names that you can price things higher, add more features, have a better story.” The big question became, what else might Americans sleep on — and what combinations of things? The S-brands rolled out their own memory foam beds. Latex foams, modestly successful for decades, also came into vogue — as did various gels. Meanwhile, the industry was finally breaking down the wives’ tale that firm mattresses are always better. “Comfort” became the new buzzword, freeing manufacturers to combine all their new, high-tech materials in infinite iterations on a single bed. Pillowtops, distinct slabs of cushy material stitched on the tops of mattresses, gradually thickened, and beds ascended skyward, layer by layer, in towers of trademarked babble. Serta offers KoolComfort foam. Simmons makes Natural Care Latex and, via its brand ComforPedic, NxG Advanced Memory Foam. Having muscled their way into a virtual stalemate of technology inside the mattress, manufacturers seem to have merely started their arms race all over again on top of it. The end result may not be much better; rather than seeing beds as all the same, consumers are often totally incapable of understanding their countless differences. “It does get confusing,” says Brandon Jackson, bedding director at Houston’s Gallery Furniture store. “After a while, those layers are really only there to add to the cost.” When Jackson started six and a half years ago, selling a $1,000 mattress was “a home run.” Now his average ticket is $3,300.

> > > > >

The message, I suppose, behind so many of the mattress industry’s claims is that all of a bed’s high-tech features should combine to create nothing at all — a space free of any impediments to sleep whatsoever. Even the message of the Sleep Number Bed itself, with its two independently inflatable halves, was that your sleep should not be compromised by the adversarial preferences for firmness of the person you love. Now the mattress would shield you from your own body heat, free you from rolling over and end the Sisyphean cycle of flipping and reflipping your sizzling pillow. The industry was clearing the decks for that big, long nothingness to take hold.
Even the most comfortable mattress can only create a place for sleep, not manufacture it directly. But a sleeping pill puts us down — and under circumstances when we’re unable to do it ourselves. Bils told me: “The sleeping pill is an easy path. It promotes sleep over all the rules you break.” In trying to deride his competition, he spelled out its greatest advantage.
Pharmaceutical companies realize they are selling a reassuring guarantee. “Does your restless mind keep you from sleeping?” asks one Lunesta commercial, while the green moth floats in front of a tossing man. Suddenly, like a hypnotist’s watch, it dispatches him into a deep slumber and flies on to lull even the stern, stone visages of Mount Rushmore to sleep. A couple in a commercial for Ambien CR, meanwhile, lie absolutely motionless all night until the darkness around them fades to daylight.
Last year the industry spent more than $600 million on advertising, helping the newest generation of pills, the so-called “Z drugs,” destigmatize sleeping-pill use. The nation’s most popular, Ambien and its extended-release counterpart Ambien CR, accounted for 60 percent of all sleep-aid prescriptions last year according to IMS Health, for $2.8 billion in sales. Surely great numbers of Americans are experiencing the kind of satisfying knockouts depicted in the commercials.
Yet, as a very infrequent but contented user of both Lunesta and Ambien myself, I was startled to read efficacy trials for those drugs submitted to the F.D.A. In one six-week trial, for example, people taking Ambien every night fell asleep, on average, only 23 minutes faster than those taking the placebo. They spent 88 percent of their time in bed asleep, as opposed to 82 percent. Given that their objectively measured improvements are frequently this meager, why do sleeping pills create incommensurate feelings of having slept so well? A popular theory is that one of the pill’s side-effects is actually contributing to their success. Most sleeping pills are known to block the formation of memories during their use, creating amnesia. This is why people who endure freaky side-effects — so-called “complex sleep-related behaviors” like getting into a car and driving or ravenously eating, all while asleep — don’t remember those events. Yet this amnesia could be quite beneficial, suggests Michael Bonnet, a professor of neurology at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. “How do you know you slept last night?” Bonnet asked me. A night of lousy, interrupted sleep, he points out, is easy to remember. “It’s full of memories, noise and pain, and heat and rolling around and obtrusive thoughts and worries — all of these various stimuli.” And we may continue to register such things even while asleep, making sleep vaguely unrefreshing. But a good night of sleep, Bonnet went on to say, “is always the antithesis to all those things, which is oblivion.” A sleeping pill, Bonnet speculates, in addition to encouraging sleep chemically in the brain, also “erases all of these thoughts that we use to define ourselves as being awake. The pill knocks them all out, and the patient says, ‘Hey, I must have been asleep because I don’t remember anything.’ ”

Drug-company representatives and consultants I spoke to confirm that their pills can create this mild form of amnesia but disagree that it contributes any significant benefit. “That is not my understanding of how Ambien works,” Dario Mirski, a psychiatrist and spokesman for Ambien’s manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, told me. It is difficult to find a clinical trial in which Z-drug takers drastically overestimated how long they slept. Andrew Krystal, a Duke University psychiatrist and consultant to pharmaceutical companies like Sepracor, Lunesta’s manufacturer, acknowledges an apparent discrepancy in studies between small, objectively recorded improvements and the large percentage of subjects who end up feeling that a pill alleviated their insomnia. But because insomnia is complaint-based, he explained to me, an insomniac is cured when he stops complaining. Who’s to say how many more minutes of sleep or fewer awakenings during the night it should take to relieve each individual’s highly subjective dissatisfaction? Many insomniacs don’t show impaired sleep by any objective measure to begin with — but presumably they benefit from sleeping pills, too. So, Krystal asked, what would you expect to see improve? (A 1990 study presents a jarring example: it focused on a group of insomniacs who, when woken up, swore they hadn’t been sleeping. But if given a sleeping pill first, then woken up, they knew they’d been asleep.) He added, “I’m not a person who shares the view that the reason the drugs work is because they’re amnestic.”
Another prevalent theory is that sleeping pills produce a beneficial physiological effect that clinicians don’t realize they should be measuring. The standard battery of brain-wave and other measurements used in sleep labs provide only a “limited picture,” Krystal said. Nevertheless, several researchers suggested why the amnesia factor isn’t likely to be explained to patients, even as a theory. We tend to see sleep problems as physiological. A treatment that works, even in part, by altering our perception of that problem would seem like “more of a fake,” says Charles Morin, director of the Sleep Research Center at Laval University in Quebec City. Imagine, Morin said, if doctors told their patients: “You keep waking up at night but you just don’t remember it.”
Sleep doctors have criticized sleeping-pill ads for setting up an unattainable expectation of how blissful and easy sleep should be. But the mattress industry operates under that expectation, too, trying vigorously to build a state-of-the-art, NASA-engineered arena on which that idealized, paralytic oblivion can occur. But how did we come to need so much help sleeping in the first place, and how did we come to want, much less expect, the sleep these people are selling?
The story of our ruined sleep, in virtually every telling I’ve heard, begins with Thomas Edison: electric light destroyed the sanctity of night. Given more to do and more opportunity to do it, we gave sleep shorter and shorter shrift. But the sleep that we’re now trying to reclaim may never have been ours to begin with. “It’s a myth,” A. Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech, told me. “And it’s a myth that even some sleep experts today have bought into.”
Ekirch’s 2005 book, At Day’s Close, described just how frenetic night in preindustrial times was. People slept, or tried to, in poorly insulated buildings that let in the weather and noise. Livestock huffed and mewled and stank just outside — if not inside. Generally, you slept beside a chamber pot of your own excrement, staggering across the room every few hours to keep your fire alive. With physical health comparatively poor, night was when people simmered most acutely in their discomfort. In 1750, one writer described London between the hours of 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. as a ghastly encampment of “sick and lame people meditating and languishing on their several disorders, and praying for daylight.” Because there was inadequate bedding, if there were beds at all, three family members and the odd houseguest might sleep on a single mattress — sharing in all the usual annoyances of tossing, blanket-hogging and snoring. Beds were not always, or even often, seen as having much impact on sleep. Another book, Warm and Snug: The History of the Bed, by a scholar named Lawrence Wright, suggests that they were valued primarily as furniture, settings for public rituals around birth, death and courtship. Beds did raise you up off the floor, away from the bugs and vermin, and kept you warm. But warmer bedding also created a new vector for mites. And when comfort was a consideration, preferences were just as idiosyncratic as today. Mattresses were stuffed with hair, moss, feathers, wood shavings, seaweed or straw. Louis XI had an uncannily Sleep Number-esque mattress, filled with air and inflated to his liking with a royal bellows. More surprising still, Ekirch reports that for many centuries, and perhaps back to Homer, Western society slept in two shifts. People went to sleep, got up in the middle of the night for an hour or so, and then went to sleep again. Thus night — divided into a “first sleep” and “second sleep” — also included a curious intermission. “There was an extraordinary level of activity,” Ekirch
told me. People got up and tended to their animals or did housekeeping. Others had sex or just lay in bed thinking, smoking a pipe, or gossiping with bedfellows. Benjamin Franklin took “cold-air baths,” reading naked in a chair.
Our conception of sleep as an unbroken block is so innate that it can seem inconceivable that people only two centuries ago should have experienced it so differently. Yet in an experiment at the National Institutes of Health a decade ago, men kept on a schedule of 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness — mimicking the duration of day and night during winter — fell into the same, segmented pattern. They began sleeping in two distinct, roughly four-hour stretches, with one to three hours of somnolence — just calmly lying there — in between. Some sleep disorders, namely waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall asleep again, “may simply be this traditional pattern, this normal pattern, reasserting itself,” Ekirch told me. “It’s the seamless sleep that we aspire to that’s the anomaly, the creation of the modern world.” In fact, many contemporary, nonindustrialized cultures contentedly pass portions of the night in the same state of somnolence, says Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University who is one of the first to look at how other societies sleep. Sleep and wakefulness are rarely seen as an either/or, but rather as two ends of a wide spectrum, and people are far more at peace with the fluidity in between. Among the Efe in Zaire, and the !Kung in Botswana, for example, someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and cannot sleep “may begin to hum, or go out and play the thumb piano,” Worthman and a colleague have written. Others might wake up and join in. “Music or even a dance may get going.”
Worthman says, “In our culture, quality sleep is going into a dark room that is totally quiet, lying down, falling asleep, doing that for eight hours, and then getting up again.” She calls it the “lie down and die” model. “But that is not how much of the world has slept in the past or even sleeps today.” In some cultures sleep is more social, with crowds crammed together on little or no bedding, limbs entangled, while a steady traffic comes and goes. And while it all sounds unbearable, Worthman notes that science has never looked empirically at whether our more sophisticated arrangements actually benefit us. For children, learning to sleep amid all that stimulation may actually have developmental advantages.
Still, we can’t afford the same equanimity about not sleeping through the night as the Efe and !Kung; the flipside is that men and women in those cultures are content to pull a cloth over their faces and doze off during the day if necessary. Our peculiar preference for one well-organized hunk of sleep likely evolved as a corollary to our expectation of uninterrupted wakefulness during the day — as our lives came to be governed by a single, stringent clock. Eluned Summers-Bremner, author of the forthcoming
Insomnia: A Cultural History, explains that in the 18th century, “we start overvaluing our waking time, and come to see our sleeping time only as a way to support our waking time.” Consequently, we begin trying to streamline sleep, to get it done more economically: “We should lie down and go out right away so we can get up and get to the day right away.” She describes insomniacs as having a ruthless ambition to do just this, wanting to administer sleep as an efficiency expert normalizes the action in a factory. Certainly all of us, after a protracted failure to fall asleep for whatever reason, have turned solemnly to our alarm clocks and performed that desperate arithmetic: If I fall asleep right now, I can still get four hours. Nevertheless, while it may be at odds with our history and even our biology, lie-down-and-die is the only practical model for our lifestyle. Unless we overhaul society to tolerate all schedules and degrees of sleepiness and attentiveness, we are stuck with that ideal. Perhaps the real problem is that we still haven’t come to terms with the unavoidable imperfection of this state of affairs.
Electric light didn’t obliterate nighttime so much as reinvent it. Our power to toggle between light and dark encouraged us to see night as an empty antithesis to day — an unbroken nothing-time that begins the instant we flip off the switch. And this significantly reshaped and rigidified our expectations of how we ought to be spending it. All of this leaves us — regardless of the circumstances or how poor our sleep hygiene is — insisting that we go out, and stay out, like a light. Our expectation of perfect sleep may not always be biologically feasible. But it is indisputably reasonable, and thus a failure to fulfill it can be maddening. Difficulty sleeping, it turns out, is often inseparable from and heightened by anxiety about sleep itself.
Charles Morin, the Laval University psychologist, told me that it’s not uncommon to discover that a particularly implacable case of insomnia snowballed out of a single stretch of poor sleep — even one with a clear, unavoidable cause, like stress over a new job. While most people eventually shrug off their trouble, the insomniac “forgets what brought about the sleeping problem in the first place,” Morin said. “They worry about not sleeping and how it will impact their daytime functioning, and they start to do things that make sleep more difficult.” They take naps, throwing their schedule out of whack. Or they become too determined — Morin described patients taking a bath or getting into their pajamas at 7 o’clock, “just to get ready” — and that anticipation turns into performance anxiety. Lying there, they may monitor their progress too vigilantly or worry about the ramifications the next day of not falling asleep right away. This can produce a physiological reaction. Body temperature and blood pressure rise. Metabolism speeds up. Heart rate and brain waves quicken. In other words, the body can respond to the threat of not getting a good night’s sleep the same way it does to most threats: by becoming hyperaroused. “It’s a vicious cycle,” Morin said. Those who get snared in it may share an unknown, physiological predisposition to insomnia. But whatever its cause, this feedback loop of agony, effort and failure plays out like an escalation of the kind of self-sabotage we’ve all probably experienced when we felt pressure to sleep well and be sharp the next day. “Most of the beliefs these people develop and strategies they employ are very logical and sensible,” Jack Edinger, a psychologist at Duke University and the V.A. Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, told me. But “unlike most things in life where, the harder you try, the better you do, with sleep the harder you try the worse you do.”
Edinger and Morin have been influential in the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, or C.B.T., to treat chronic insomnia. Studies have arguably shown it to be the most successful treatment for the problem and an astonishingly effective method of weaning insomniacs from sleeping pills — even those who have taken them every night for decades. C.B.T. Therapists work to establish good sleep habits but also to rewrite an insomniac’s unhelpful beliefs about sleep. One of the most typical and debilitating ones, Morin explained, is “that eight hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep is a must every night — and otherwise, without it, you can’t function during the day.” Fixating on that as a requirement only undoes a person. Besides, Morin added, a universal need for eight hours is simply “untrue.” This is exactly the kind of admission other sleep experts I spoke with seemed not to want to make. They may worry that they’ll cause people to take sleep even less seriously than they already do. But C.B.T. seems to succeed by stripping away a crippling sense of urgency with respect to sleep. How powerless one feels over the quality of his sleep; how realistic his expectations; and whether he exaggerates the consequences of sleeping poorly — these have all been shown to correlate with the severity of an insomniac’s complaints. Morin has developed a scale to measure these beliefs. In a study utilizing this scale and led by Edinger, a person’s score emerged, with other measures of anxiety and mood, as a better predictor of his satisfaction with a night’s sleep than objective measures made in the lab — including how long he slept and how quickly he fell asleep. In fact, these objective measures didn’t seem to correlate to people’s sense of how well they slept at all. Because sleep deprivation may exact a host of severe tolls on the body over time — which is to say nothing of exhaustion-related car accidents and other dangers — Edinger warns that there are people with appallingly disturbed sleep who “roll with the punches a little better and don’t seem to mind or complain — but maybe they should.” Still, C.B.T. suggests that, in certain cases, creating a purely subjective satisfaction with your sleep can have actual value, even if the sleep itself hasn’t yet objectively improved. While undermining the appeal of sleeping pills by positing the self-evident seeming role of amnesia, Morin noted that C.B.T. tries to foster a kind of amnesia, too. “After a poor night of sleep we’re asking people to forget about it and go about their business as usual,” he says. “Because if you wake up and think, Wow, what a terrible night of sleep, I’m going to have a lousy day, you’re setting yourself up for failure.” This is not to say that a person who is more tolerant and less threatened by sleep’s inherent imperfections will suddenly get eight uninterrupted hours. But he might be less likely to start down that long, miserable road of perfectly sensible but damaging efforts to control sleep. And that could trigger a quantifiable improvement. If he establishes good habits and puts sufficient faith in his body to get the job done, he might stop trying, stop scrutinizing his progress and thereby stop perpetuating his own hyperarousal. He’d just lie there and wait. “The placebo effect may actually not just be a placebo,” Morin said. “It may produce a physiological predisposition to better sleeping.”

> > > > >

If ramping up messages about sleep science and technology while bombarding us with medical incentives helps sell more beds, it will be because it speaks to our view that better sleep is primarily a requirement for better wakefulness — that we “sleep to succeed,” as a recent industry-financed release puts it. (This same report notes that “sleep deprivation currently costs U.S. businesses nearly $150 billion annually in absenteeism and lost productivity.”) And yet it’s this very view — that sleep is a bothersome means to an end, like eating enough Omega-3’s — that problematized sleep in the first place. It encouraged us to power through sleep as efficiently as possible or look for shortcuts.

We all might be better off if the industry sold sleep as something to be savored for its own sake, if it just sold sanctuaries and not sanctuaries that are also clinically proven “sleep systems.” That might help us shed an anxiety about sleeping correctly for a more tolerant love of sleeping well, in whatever form sleeping well might take. Oddly, in some cases, that may be the most efficient way of getting empirical results anyway. That is, the industry may only be able to truly offer the kind of life-changing mattresses it sometimes claims to if it fixes the people sleeping in them first.

So Thomas Edison isn't to blame after all, and the best sleep medications may just make us think we had a good night's sleep (not that they ever worked for me, anyhow...)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Diversity is going to come down on your head. So you better get ready for it!"

So yelled the man i was ever so gently asking to please remove himself from our library after he had called my circ clerk an asshole because my (very well mannered) circ clerk had requested that he pay at least part of his fine before he check out any books (as per our policy). Mr. NameCaller then followed WellMannered over to my desk. Mr. NameCaller started talking to me at the same time as WellMannered (to tell me WM was talking about him). WM asked me to please call the sheriff and Mr. NC started calling me Joe and asking why we had to do him like that.
Feeling more than a bit lost i asked him to please leave and that's when he started saying that we only treated people of a certain ethnicity and a certain religion well (interestingly, i don't think he was referring to my agnosticism or WM's atheism, and none of the other various ethnicities in the library seemed to be objecting to anything we were doing, but that's another matter).
after a few more pleas
a few more Joes
he finally stomped out the door with the threat of the impending diversity about to come down on our heads...
as you can see by the above pillow crash helmet, i'm ready...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Just another example of adults transforming your magic--into static."

Perhaps this is a new trend, the graphic novel (or, in Craig Thompson’s case, the illustrated novel) which is really just a seeming semi-autobiographic tale of a difficult childhood (perhaps with over- or under-tones of sexual abuse). Perhaps it is easier to tell in this form? I suspect that this is actually not the case. I suspect that in both Bechdel’s and Thompson’s case they are expressing in the art form that comes naturally to them. Perhaps what is truly noteworthy here (and not at all new or trendy) is that the artist comes from a difficult background. This is something i’ve always wondered at. Is it that it takes that certain twist of perspective in order to offer the artistic expression of our world?

Whatever, Blankets is worth a look as a story of first love, first heartbreak, being on the outside looking in, and leaving your childhood behind (as we all must do at some point.) Thompson managed to keep his point of view tightly focused throughout this novel without ever seeming to slip, something that i noticed perhaps (i am sure using that word quite often in this post aren't i?) more here than i might have otherwise because so much of what i have been reading lately has had shifting perspectives. Maybe his autobiographical telling lent him the ability to do this, maybe i'm assuming too much, no matter, kudos to him. The character of Raina seemed a little ethereal, a little unfleshed, a little too angelic and hard to "get a hold of" (or find her motivation~to go back to my theatre roots) but i think that comes from the fact that she WAS his first love and she was his first broken heart. (And your heart breaks not just because someone you love leave you but because you leave them, and because you leave who you were when you were with them behind.)

All in all this is a beautiful, believable 600 page novel that i sat down and read in an evening.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

"Testoterone. Such a boring hormone. Estrogen, now: You can never tell what that will trigger."

~Athenaide D. Preston in Jennifer Lee Carrell’s Interred with their Bones.

Have i ever mentioned that i’m a huge fan of Shakespeare? Perhaps i have. One of my fondest dreams has always been to take up residence somewhere as a librarian at a Shakespeare library. Shakespeare combines my love of theatre with my love of writing and then there’s all the intrigue of “who really wrote Shakespeare?” (though i’m a fairly strict Stratfordian, it’s still a little fun to speculate) Interred with their Bones is a rather Shakespearean (but perhaps faster-moving) Historian (which I loved, by the by) or, if you must, Da Vinci Code (which I never read, never will read). Written by a Shakespearean scholar it is spot on with its facts (though i do seem to remember a "found" or "restored" or some such version of the Shakespeare/Fletcher History of Cardenio coming out about thirteen years ago or so (i remember shelving it in the drama books, but what do i know?)
Katharine Stanley has left Shakespearean scholarship for Shakespearean theatre and has never looked back (and her former mentor Rosalind Howard has never forgiven her for it). Whilst Kate is directing Hamlet at the Globe in London said mentor appears tempting Kate with an offer she tells her she darst not refuse giving her a gift and telling her, "If you open it, you must follow where it leads." Then Roz promptly dies, upping the suspense quota. So Kate begins her journey and everywhere she goes she leaves bodies, destruction, and further questions in her wake.
Carrell seems to do a very good job of explaining the relevant Shakespearean and Elizabethan facts for the neophyte without talking down to those of us who might know what she's talking about. It's a difficult task to neither over or under explain. A fast-paced, enjoyable, intriguing ride. Maybe i should start reading more escapist literature. It does serve its purpose.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Dry-clean my soul and hang it out to dry"

Ray Bradbury is an excellent story-teller in my, ever not-so-humble, opinion, this is a man who knows how to use language (though i do have to wonder why a soul~or anything for that matter would need to be hung out to dry if it had been dry-cleaned~but maybe Bradbury didn't originate that particular gem~and there were oh-so-many quotes i loved from this book). On a fellow librarian’s recommendation (i forget who~isn’t that just like me?) i picked up his juvenile fiction novel The Halloween Tree which i thought might make a nice read for the season, and it did. I started it earlier this evening (or last evening~i never have figured out what to call the night that started on the previous date but feels like the same night) but, anyway... The Halloween Tree is about a group of nine boys (or eight depending upon how you count) who gather on Halloween eve for a night of trick-or-treating (what else) and a few scares end up finding out the real meaning of Samhain (pronounced SOW-in, as i just recently discovered~something an agnostic pagan such as myself really should have known before now~dontcha think?) from one Mr. Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud (sense any meaning THERE?).

Now, Samhain, being the start of the New Year for us pagans is also one of our most important nights so its real meaning is important. It was also important to many cultures throughout history as a harvest festival celebration, appeasing the gods (or god) for good productivity in the new season, as well as a recognition of the importance of death in life (and the continuing cycle of life and death). Dia de los Muertos is still celebrated and recognized as such today, and retains much of its original meaning. Bradbury missed a few points (how could he not, given the format?), and, even though he tried to move chronologically through history, there were a few unexplained missteps.

I am sure there were probably a few frightening moments in The Halloween Tree, though, as it was written for a younger audience, they might have slid by me. It is an excellent seasonal teaching story that is very well told (and features boys as main characters, with male appeal, always a plus) though if you get a chance go for the beautifully illustrated hardcover which has Bradbury's original text restored. Highly recommended...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

"each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world.

That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below."
Sometimes a book just sucks you in, so much so that when you pick it up at 9:30 p.m on a Friday night to start reading it because you are so very behind on the huge pile of bigs you have to read and this particular one is due on Tuesday and you doubt that you will be able to renew it because there are so many holds on it and you find that you just keep reading it and reading it without stopping because you can't find a decent place to take a break and suddenly (or perhaps not so suddenly...) it's 5:30 in the morning and you have finished the book. Such was A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini's latest novel, which i think i enjoyed even more than The Kite Runner (and i loved The Kite Runner).
This is more than "a female version of The Kite Runner" (not to in any way belittle whatever that would be). This is a tale of many women's lives (mainly that of Mariam's and Laila's, two women of different generations raised in very diffferent worlds who must learn to make a family of each other) from the soviet invasion through the Taliban and the jihads that followed up until 2003.
This is a beutiful, brutal tale. Tears would flow, then they would dry, then they would flow again. This is the type of novel that makes you feel as if you are being let in on someone else's life. It begins with the enchantment of youth and, just as in youth, too quickly disillusions, in ways both expected and unexpected. It is told with Hosseini extreme pogiency and sensitivity. He has the voice of a poet, and i at no time sensed this was a man telling a woman's story (which was a good thing) nor did he ever sink into sentimentality, which his matter could have easily let him do. Wonderfully descriptive and full of awe.
"One could not count the moons that shimmer on the roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind the walls."

Friday, October 26, 2007

free is just another word for...

oh so many things.
In April Henry's thriller Learning to Fly, Free just happens to be the name of the main character (well at least some of the time). When she is involved in a multi-car pile-up (52 cars to be exact~not exactly 52 card pick-up, but . . . almost) and is listed among the dead, she sees it as a chance at freedom (sorry, just had to do it) from the name saddled on her by her hippy parents, ditch her old life, and pick up the life of her now-dead hitchhiker (seemed like a good idea at the time . . .) Oh, did i neglect to mention that she also "found" (actually retrieved at the frenzied begging of a bleeding, dying man) $750,000 worth of drug money? Well, she did, so that helps out quite a bit when trying to fund a brand new life for you and your unborn child (which you have not yet discovered a way to tell your less-than-grounded parents and no-good-cheating boyfriend about.)
Brand new lives rarely come problem free and this particular one comes with the hitchhiker's murderous, sadistic husband who is none too happy to be left behind and the higher up on the drug-chain looking for his cash (who knew the life of crime was not one of ease?) I am not usually a thriller reader and Henry's use of adjectives and adverbs seemed a tad wild and loose at first though i stopped noticing after a while. Not all of the characters seemed true to form (though if you were looking for what it might have been like to be the child of "flower children" this might give you a better idea than Flower Children oddly enough. All in all, a nice diversion for an evening...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Do English...Why waste your life learning clever ways to redescribe what everybody already knows? Art's much more complicated."

okay, so i finally finished reading this one: The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley, after i-don't-know-how-long, it seems i might have given up reading (for a nonce, anyway)~every time i pick up a book i can only read a page or two, which really sucks, because i have all of this idle time on my hands~not sleeping, and all~and with a semi-constant headache/migraine that cannot bear movement, or much light, or much sound~so household maintenance is definitely out of the question (oh so very sad, isn't it?), so i listen to NPR podcasts or watch movies endlessly~it also really sucks because i have an ever-growing pile of books in my need-to-read pile, but i guess it's all an "oh well" what can be done, really?.

My new empathy for all those kids who say "Reading is boring." is no reflection on this particular book. It is wonderfully written and Hadley definitely does no spoon feeding or hand holding for the reader, which is quite refreshing. The Master Bedroom is not quite as salacious as the title and/or cover may lead you to believe (isn't it how covers seldom match the content?) It's also a bit interesting how sometimes the Welsh-English seems to slide just slightly over my head (and, apparently, that of my Oxford Dictionary of Current American English).

The novel centers around the characters of Kate Flynn, who has returned to her hometown in Wales to take care of her aging mother (whose overall health seems to be fine but her mind seems to be drifting~not that that particular problem is limited to age); and David Roberts, the brother of Kate's best and oldest friend. Kate and David had a mild flirtation (perhaps one-sided) back in school and there's a chance they might want to continue it but things like his wife and nearly-adult son are murking things up a mite. Actually the whole novel is a mite murky. Kate's character is more than a little unapproachable and perhaps a tad unlikeable (although i could find a few similarities with myself so i didn't mind her). I did have more trouble with David though and didn't find him appealing in the least. Motivations for all the characters were hard to come by. However i really enjoyed the writing style and found the book well worth the read and also rather entertaining. Make any kind of sense?

Monday, October 22, 2007

where "the cocktail waitresses dress like librarians"*

Here’s a little place to visit for all those librarians who constantly bemoan our “image problem” (or maybe not, considering the whole kerfuffle that occurred a few months ago when a New York Times article came out about how a brand new breed of librarians are making it "hip" to be a librarian) and i'm sure it's all offensive, sexual objectifying, enforcing a whole other stereo-type, and all sorts of other stuff i find the whole thing to be a bunch of stuff and nonsense; and as one of my library school professors pointed out once "exactly how many librarian jokes do you hear? It's not as if we are a hated, maligned profession like say, lawyers or doctors.") I always wanted a little more infamy than fame myself; you know what they say "as long as they're talking about you {though i always want to know exactly what they're saying.})

Anyway, if you're ever in Las Vegas, and are feeling the urge for a certain kind of entertainment you might want to stop by a little place called "The Library" where "Military, police, and firefighters are always free" (don't know about librarians) and they have nice little touches such as bookcases near the entry, and, of course, gorgeous librarians. Check it out. And power to the information professionals!

*but, of course, we all want to know how *those* librarians dress don't we?