Friday, February 22, 2008

A Sad and Happy Story of Multimedia and Web 2.0 Serendipity

It all started a year ago, when John Green won the Printz Honor Award for Young Adult Fiction for his incredibly wonderful book An Abundance of Katherines, and someone writing about it linked to the daily vlog John was doing with his brother; his entry for the day was a clip of him getting the call telling him he had won. It was pretty funny, and then I kept going back to the vlog, Brotherhood 2.0, and, like many other people (many of them teenagers, but another big clump of them grownup librarians and book people like me) became completely hooked.

Last June, John's wife got a job in Indiana, and they got ready to move. The post in which he said goodbye to New York and to his favorite walk in the city was one of the most poignant pieces of film or video I have ever seen, and it kept staying in my mind, and I watched it over and over (I'm sure it's not entirely un-germane that I was also leaving my longtime home around that time), which means that I also listened over and over to the song to which he'd set the video, which he identified later in comments as "Love Love Love" by a band I'd never heard of, The Mountain Goats.

I liked the song so much that I went looking for the song online, and put the album on which it appears, "The Sunset Tree," on my Amazon favorites list, which I do have but rarely update because really at heart I am an independent-bookstore girl and anyway I try not to buy books as we already have too many, besides which we have access to four or five different library systems among the three of us. So mostly my Amazon list consists of CDs and DVDs that I wanted two or three years ago and never got around to deleting, along with a standing wistful request for Godiva chocolates. But every year around late November the Renaissance Woman reminds me that I might want to put some things on it that I actually want, as someone might be trying to buy me something for the Holidays. So this year I put up The Sunset Tree and not much else. And RW bought it for me.

And as often happens with new CDs, because I am about twenty years past the age at which the average person's brain can easily accommodate new music, I opened it, listened to the one song I already knew, tried to listen to the rest but had a hard time getting into it, and forgot about the whole thing.

Which brings us to two weeks ago. When, who knows why, maybe a case of early spring fever, I picked up the CD from the pile in which it had been moldering since late December, blew off the metaphorical dust, and put it back in the CD player to listen to while I did the dishes.

And at that point the album (can we still call them albums? Is that allowed?) hooked its little aural hooks into me and would not let me go, and we became inseparable. I took it out to the car to listen to during my commute, and I memorized the songs and sang them to myself, and
I analyzed them and spent quiet interstitial moments thinking about John Darnielle's life and the story he's telling (it's a concept album, mostly about him being miserable during his adolescence--which was a while ago; I think he's about my age--and the abuse he endured from his stepfather. But it is much, much better and less self-pitying than that brief description implies). Just in the past couple of weeks, I have had a half-dozen different favorite songs from the CD, which play on an endless loop in my head.

And, of course, this being 2008, I Googled the band. For song lyrics, for reviews, for interviews and biographical information. I found out that the confessional nature of this CD is actually atypical of the band; that they've had a cult following for the past fifteen years or so; that Darnielle's mom was actually okay with the album, though it made her cry, but his sister had a harder time with it. All very interesting.

But the one thing I didn't check up on was the tour schedule. Until just a half hour ago, randomly, when I was having trouble falling asleep.

Guess where they played tonight?


I mean, what are the odds?

I wouldn't think they come out here that often, either.

My only consoling thought is that I've actually been sick for the past couple of days and have struggled just to get through my basic obligations, and that if I'd known in time to consider going, it would only have been a source of torment to me, because really I'm in no state to be going anywhere, not even the children's literature conference that I'm scheduled to attend tomorrow and for which we have called in major favors so that the Mermaid Girl can be looked after, as RW is working tomorrow as well. Also, it is true that I hardly ever go anywhere anyway, even to see bands I already know and love.

Perhaps it simply was not meant to be.

But, still!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Goth Girl

In the last couple months, the Mermaid Girl has come into her own as a reader and a writer. These days we have to make a follow-up visit to her room after her bedtime song, so as to confiscate the flashlight she uses to read "Junie B. Jones" under the covers. Many afternoons she can be found plomped on the floor, reading picture books aloud to her dolls. She writes notes to her friends, journal entries, and labeled maps ("spy maps").

And she writes poems, inspired by Harry Potter (she's heard the first book read aloud, and seen the first three movies) and her newfound interest in "scary stories." Yesterday I found the following inscribed on both sides of a sticky note. According to her, it's not finished yet, but she gave permission for me to reproduce it here anyway.

[All spelling and line breaks duplicated from the original; she doesn't break lines on the rhyme, but a 3"x3" sticky note imposes its own structure. I translated creatively spelled words only when they might be hard to understand otherwise.]
Were Wolf

When full moon light
tuchis [touches] Were Wolf's
eye, graitfel frieinds
be prperd too diy.
He no longer remebers
who he is. He only
responds too his den call,
his scerry houl ecose [echoes]
down the hall. He
chacese man and best [beast].
Apparently all is not rainbows and fairies in MG's inner world. We await further developments.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

lolspeak app

The candy and flowers and cards have all been mutually distributed, and we all told each other we love each other, and now RW's doing dishes and MG's cleaning her valentine detritus off the couch before the Roomba comes to get it.

And me? I'm working on the cover letter for the job application that's due tomorrow, since my wonderful job ends by fiat of grant expiration in a month and a half and I've, you know, gotten into the habit of eating regular meals.

Here's my rough, writer's-block-beating draft:

Hai Librarry Peepulz!

Pleez axcept mah applicashun for branch libraryn. I likez bookz. I r a wiz with the internetz. I haz experyunce with story tyms. Lykewiz, schul visets.

I r good with the publik. Crazy peepulz? I cn deal with dem. Little kidz? No prob. Teenagurs? I LUVZ teenagurs. Esp. for lunch. (burp!)

I can has job?



Do I have a shot at an interview, you think?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I never Wanted to Be A Star: Part 2, and Not a Moment Too Soon

[Have been reading Mitford sister letters & it makes me want to make up obscure in-jokey nicknames for everyone. and to write in telegraphic breathless shorthand, e.g. "must dash!"

Somewhere in the 800-odd pages-- I've been looking for it but can't find it--Jessica writes to her sister, Deborah, something like "SO sorry haven't written you for years but I didn't know your address or in fact your NAME."

So: SO sorry to have dropped off the face of the earth mid-television saga; of course I wanted so much to make a complete record of it that I scared myself away and procrastinated and in the meantime avoided writing about other things. It's the book report problem: the book you have to report on immediately becomes uninteresting, but you can't read anything else because you feel obligated to read the Report Book first.

In any case, here is the rest of it:]

No one said anything to me after my faux pas with the water cooler; maybe it wasn’t such a big deal after all, or maybe they’re just used to that kind of thing—I mean, they do run their morning news show IN THE LOBBY, so it’s bound to happen. I don’t even know whether anyone glared at me, because I resolutely did not look at anyone for a few minutes. But in any case I was soon saved from my embarrassment by a chirpy young person who came to escort me to the Green Room.

Now, I have been in many a theatrical Green Room, and they have never, ever been green. So I wasn’t actually surprised that this one wasn’t green either. One day I hope to see a truly green Green Room, but this was not the day. However, in other aspects it fully lived up to expectations: There was an assemblage of chairs and a sofa and a coffee table. There was a big TV screen broadcasting the morning show going on just outside the door. There was a makeup alcove in the back, with a long mirror and bright lights. There was a plate of dubious-looking pastries which no one touched or even glanced at for the whole two hours I was there. There was coffee and tea and water.

But mainly, the Green Room was full of people. It wasn’t that big, so there seemed to be a lot of us, and it took me a while to figure out who everyone was. First, there was the chirpy young person who’d brought me in, who offered me coffee and made chirpy conversation and whipped out a clipboard to confirm all my information: name, title, main points, organizational website. Then the hosts rushed in during the commercial break, got their makeup touched up, and rushed out again. Then there was another station employee, not so young as the first one, who breezed by periodically and made friendly conversation with the rest of us.

Then there were some more random people sitting around, who I slowly figured out were the other guests. There were a man and woman sitting on the couch looking about as tense as I felt, about to go on and talk about the wildlife paintings he'd done. The two women who were getting made up when I was hustled in turned out to be documentary filmmakers whose film was being aired on CBC that night. They asked what I was there to talk about and I obligingly pulled out all the books I'd brought and talked them up, and they started writing down titles and telling me about how they go to the library I work at all the time, and it was all very friendly and I started to relax, sort of.

So, first the filmmakers went on, and they came back in and we all told them what a good job they'd done, and then the painter went on and came back and was reassured, and then just as I was wondering whether I should ask about makeup or if that would make me seem embarrassingly conceited, I was whisked into the back and one of the chirpy young people did a brisk and thorough job putting on more makeup than I've ever worn in my entire life, including when I was 14 and used to wear mascara every day. At the end I looked in the mirror, and lo and behold there was someone with the vague outlines of my face but looking strangely more polished and sort of plastic.

Then it was the commercial break and out I went to the lobby/studio, and got wired up for sound right there in the hallway next to the bathroom; the sound guy gave me the mike cord to thread up my own shirt as it didn't have a collar. I spread out the box o' books on the table, and perched up on a high stool, and the host made deliberate eye contact and conversation and got my name right and chatted about the books her daughter likes, and then the commercial was over and we were on.

It's not just because it's now weeks later that I can't remember anything about what I said for the next five minutes-- I couldn't remember anything right afterwards, either. Part of the problem is that I'd been practicing on my fellow guests in the green room, trying to work up something vaguely articulate on the topic, so now I can't remember what I said to them and what I said on the air. But I think there's a strange amnesia that comes with being on television or radio or in a big public-speaking situation in any way. I've had versions of it before.

In any case, all I remember is that I was looking at the host, not the camera, because that's what they'd told me to do, and that she was incredibly good at keeping the conversation moving briskly along, based on the few notes that she'd been given by the chirpy people. So the whole time while I was blathering on about books and teens, I was thinking, "Wow, she's really good at this. But I guess that makes sense: this is her job, to make interesting conversation on live television every morning. With people who mostly have never been on TV and are terrified. And about things she's probably never heard of before that day. Gosh. Wow."

And then, zip! We were out. And I gathered my books and unthreaded my mike and went back into the green room to collect the rest of my stuff and get reassured in my turn. And then I was back out on the street, lugging my books back to the car, thinking about how I was going to navigate my way to work from downtown.

Halfway to work I remembered all that makeup, now sitting greasy on my face and feeling like it was about to all slide off. So the first thing I did at work was to run to the bathroom and scrub. And then it was time to get ready for the baby story time, and an hour later I was singing "The Wheels on the Bus" to a passel of 1-year-olds and their parents, and resisting the urge to tell all of them how FAMOUS I am now.

Rachel kindly and valiantly taped the show, so I have it for posterity. I haven't yet had the courage to actually watch it, though. Because what if I actually had something hanging from my nose but no one wanted to tell me?