Mmm, good morning. I am writing to you in my bathrobe, delighting in my spring break week off! I heard a guest on a podcast talk about how she took “two years of rest” before her 30th birthday, and it got me thinking about rest. I’ve been taking so many naps this week, making me think I had a serious sleep deficit to catch up on. Taking time to rest doesn’t come naturally to me (it’s often the last thing I think of), but dang it feels good.
- Fighting the Scourge of the ‘30 Under 30’ List, Vulture. I hope for the young creative folks who read my blog, this quote will help you focus on doing the work you love and ignoring the comparison temptation: “The success of other people doesn’t mean anything for your own. There isn’t a finite amount of success in the world, and if they’re in a glossy magazine, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost any achievement points. Sit down and physically map out your measures of success: a career that inspires and enriches you? Financial stability within that career? A support network of fun, trustworthy friends? An enduring romance? Whatever combination you’re going for, it’s a myth that they will be achieved by some faraway editor deciding that you’re worthy of press coverage.” Also, wisdom for all ages: “There is a reason most Nobel Prizes in medicine are awarded to people in their 60s, because that’s usually how long it takes to change the world.”
- ‘Shrill’ Is the Mona Lisa of Body Positive Television, Vice. This piece is written by Sophia Carter-Kahn, who runs She’s All Fat and who I pretend is my friend in real life. She sums up the thrust of body positivity: “At its core, body positivity is a feminist political movement that centers some of the most marginalized—fat people, very fat people, people of color, people marginalized by gender, disabled people—and works for social and political change to make the world a safer place for bodies of all kinds to live in.” There’s also some great behind the scenes detail about the life-affirming pool party sequence in the 4th episode. (Here’s a short clip of that scene!)
- The Costumes On ‘Shrill’ Show What’s Possible In Plus-Size Fashion, Nylon. I’ve been hearing that most of the costumes Aidy Bryant wore (which are adorable) are custom-made, and this is an interview from the costume designer on that process. “It took me a second to sort of reorient myself and say, ‘Okay, wow, I cannot believe that this door is being shut so hard and in so many ways for somebody who is pretty average sized for America now,'” she recalls. “I think there was a part of me that felt kind of responsible for the fashion industry. Like, why isn’t there anything happening and why is it such a strange concept that somebody who’s over a size 8 would actually want to be stylish? Why is that so foreign?” YES.
- What Makes #2 Pencils So Special? Mental Floss. I love these yellow guys! And in this article I learned that Henry David Thoreau is a part of American pencil history. Also, apparently it used to be illegal to own a pencil sharpener!
- Instagram-friendly Bibles Are Here to Court Millennials, Vox. This is interesting from both a faith perspective and a design standpoint. A comment from the creators: “Christian art and design can come off as really cheesy,” says Brian Chung. “But faith, like everything, needs to meet the culture where they are. So we’re creating materials that are approachable, and also represent the intersection of art and faith.” And from a religious studies professor: “I do find it interesting that this company says it aims to give readers ‘a fresh visual experience and heightened level of contemplation’ by adding photos,” she says. “I wonder, in that statement, is it implied that textual sources without images — or even their specially chosen images — are then, by extension, somehow less conducive to higher contemplation?” I’m not sure how I feel about this version, but I appreciate the interest in making the Bible more accessible (although, not for everyone, since the price of these books $38 per paperback…).
- Broadly: The Gender Spectrum Collection – “The Gender Spectrum Collection is a stock photo library featuring images of trans and non-binary models that go beyond the clichés.” Love it! I love finding inclusive stock photo collections! (this page might load slowly for you because of all the images)
- I watched a billion How It’s Made videos online with friends over the weekend, and here are some favorites: Smarties, Ice Cream Sandwiches, Rainbow Sprinkles.
I’ve been thinking about children’s books and especially children’s book illustrations this week. E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web has this great quote: “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth.” Love that! Here’s what I read this week:
- The Case of the Perfect Girl Detective, LA Review of Books blog. “No, there will be none of that career-girl nonsense for Nancy; her internationally famous attorney father, Carson Drew, is all for her sleuthing, but it’s understood that it’s a way for her to pass the time until she marries and moves from his stately brick home to one she will share with her archaeologist-engineer-chemist husband and their lovely children, a fate she staves off by cleverly remaining 18.” This was amusing, and reminded me that when I was a kid I was all about those mystery chapter books — especially the ones with girl detectives. (Nate the Great! Cam Jansen! Encyclopedia Brown, those A to Z mysteries with the girl who wore outfits in only one color at a time!) Nancy Drew is an icon but I don’t think her perfection would hold my interest as an adult. Anyone have any extremely flawed female sleuths I should read about?
- “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” Sherman Alexie (New Yorker). This short story by Sherman Alexie is one that’s assigned to students I’ll be teaching after spring break. Like the best short stories, it stuck with me and was a little sad. It ends in triumph though! Reading short stories is a great way to step into the world of fiction and literature even if you only have a little bit of time. The authors work hard to write lines that will strike you in only a few pages. Like this line from “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”: “I didn’t break hearts into pieces overnight. I broke them slowly and carefully. And I didn’t set any land-speed records running out the door. Piece by piece, I disappeared. I’ve been disappearing ever since.”
- Stop the Snobbery! Why You’re Wrong About Community Colleges and Don’t Even Know It, In the Library With the Lead Pipe. “After a year of teaching information literacy in the community college environment, I now feel a little sorry for my university colleagues who are still stuck wrestling students off Facebook. Where before I felt burdened by so many lower-division instruction sessions and looked forward to the upper-level courses, my viewpoint has rotated one hundred and eighty degrees. When I can count on my class presentation turning into a real conversation about information with curious students, teaching basic information literacy becomes great fun.” I’m new to the community college workplace but I can feel a difference in the classrooms I’ve taught so far; as I described it to a library friend, these students cling to my words and take quick notes because they feel the immediate usefulness of what I’m telling them. I’m not sure what else makes community college students different than 4-year residential students but I’m enjoying discovering the familiar and the new here.
- Confessions of a Sensitivity Reader, Tablet magazine. “Sensitivity readers (other, better terms include “expert readers” and “authenticity readers”) are representatives of an oft-marginalized group who try to ensure that the portrayal of the group—be it Jews, people of color, LGBTQ people, or people with physical disabilities and mental-health issues—is not dimwitted…[much later]…There’s no weakness or cowardice in acknowledging that you don’t know what you don’t know,” Berry affirmed. “We all know how aggravating it is to see ourselves depicted in a way that’s just a little bit off—gender, race, religion. As an artist I’d like to cause that experience to others as little as possible. Why wouldn’t you want to be as accurate as you can and as reverent as you can be about the real, lived humanity of the people you’re depicting?” I’d never heard of this type of peer review and I found this interesting.
- The Secret Service Uses This Massive Ink Library to Catch Forged Documents, Popular Mechanics. “This library was created in the late 1960s at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms until it grew and moved to the Secret Service and its Washington, D.C. forensic services lab in 1988. It contains inks dating to the 1920s, pens Secret Service agents collected on worldwide travels, and annually updated samples solicited from ink manufacturers.” I would watch a perfectly brief miniseries about the ink library analysts. INK LIBRARY.
Hey friends! This week I got to talk about Hamlet with a bunch of students and I had so much fun. Remember having strong opinions Shakespeare plays in a classroom for the first time? I know, what memories! Here’s what I got for you this week:
- Shame: The Emotional Basis of Library Anxiety, College and Research Libraries. I came across this article while doing research for an upcoming blog post at ACRLog, and it’s fascinating! McAfee talks about how shame is an underlying emotion that feeds on itself and makes us more reluctant to ask for help or make healthy connections with other people. There’s also a few strategies for “neutralizing unacknowledged shame” in service interactions. She’s talking about this concept in the context of library service, but her advice extends to anyone in a helping or educational profession. McAfee explains that shame pops up in our vocabulary in “everyday occurrences,” disguised as other emotions like shyness, insecurity, and feeling stupid or intimidated. In fact, someone speaking to me with scorn about our website changes might be coming from a place of shame as “perceived rejection,” feeling like he’s been left behind. She says that shame scholars consider this blend of shame and anger to be one of the most destructive types of anger. Dang!
Here’s a strategy that resonated with me. It’s called “attunement,” which is the effort of shaping your response to the other person’s perspective. If you sense someone is feeling ashamed about asking for help, saying something like “I know this is a stupid question…,” McAfee says that “One way to respond is to say, “You came to the right place and you are asking all the right questions.” If a student’s shame causes him to apologize for wasting a librarian’s time, as in, “I am so sorry to bother you…,” an attuned response might be, “I am so glad you came to me with your question, because helping library users like you is the best part of my day.” Instead of saying, “No you’re not stupid,” it’s better to just affirm that they’re on the right track. Still mulling over this article.
- The People Who Eat the Same Lunch Every Day, The Atlantic. This is not a surprising concept to me at all — people in my family definitely lean on a favorite or a reliable lunch for weeks or a season at a time. My brother ate a ham sandwich on wheat for lunch almost every day in high school. After graduation, I don’t think he’d reach for a ham sandwich again though. I think it absolutely “reduces cognitive overload” to know exactly what groceries you need in your pantry to make the exact and simple foods that keep you fueled through the day. Sometimes thinking about food is just the most exhausting thing, almost irritating. On those days I return to my lunch staple: apple/orange, yogurt, PB&J. God bless America.
- Dozens Indicted in Alleged Massive Case of Admissions Fraud, Inside Higher Ed. This story broke Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and this Inside Higher Ed piece has a lot of the facts in a narrative format which is helpful. Quotes from the wiretapping are pretty damning, about getting your kid to be able to take the SAT over TWO DAYS (by registering your child as having learning disabilities they don’t have)…being added to a list of star athletes when the kid has never played the sport (photoshopping the kid’s head onto another athlete’s body!!)…It’s a mess. I think of my college entrance experience, I think of the high school seniors I know right now, working so hard and stressing about their performance…and the injustice of this has so many levels. I think it’s also getting people talking about inequality, advantages, and education in a way that is ultimately productive, I hope. Ahhh, I want to talk about it with literally everyone. It’s infuriating but in terms of pure juicy gossip, it’s as Roxane Gay said on Twitter, “sublime.” Here’s McMansion Hell’s take on photos from the celebrities’ houses. Delicious.
- There’s Something About Barbie, Glamour. I’m feeling vindicated that the most popular Barbie doll in 2016-2017 was the curvy one. This is a nice history of Barbie, upon her 60th anniversary. Barbies were never my favorite doll (American Girl 4ever) but as something you could dress, project your identity onto, and use as shovels in both sand and snow, I was into them. Also, miniature versions of things I se or use in real life will never cease to be delightful. Hence: Barbie accessories are my favorite part.
- Meet 5 of the Women Racing in This Year’s Iditarod, Vogue. So, so cool. If I was in middle school these women would be my heroes. They probably are, even now. “Mushing for me is relaxing. The air rushing by, the whooshing sound of the runners as they track through the snow, the gentle huff of the dogs breath as they trot silently down the trail—it allows life to slow down. My focus narrows down to what my dogs and I need for the next hour—or the next 36 hours, depending on the type of trip we’re running.” Every quote in here is amazing, and the images of the women beside one or two of their dogs is POWERFUL. “I don’t run dogs to finish. I run dogs for the joy of the moment, the peace of the trail.”
My dad recently shared that “Lent” comes from the Old English “lencten,” because the days are beginning to lengthen in spring. I’ve been meditating on the simple pleasure of light through a window. After a long dark winter it is a relief to have more sun on my face…
- What Reader Species Are You?, Laura E. Kelly. I love this infographic! Which species matches your reading style? I’m definitely the comfort reader, mixed with the library lover (no surprise there).
- How to integrate HIIT exercise into your daily routine, Quartzy. This is an interesting report on incorporating more “incidental movement” into your daily routine. “Even brief sessions of 20 seconds of stair-climbing (60 steps) repeated three times a day on three days per week over six weeks can lead to measurable improvements in cardio-respiratory fitness. This type of fitness indicates how well the lungs, heart, and circulatory systems are working, and the higher it is the lower the risk for future heart disease is.” My new workplace is full of stairs, so I’m taking note of that finding! There are some other good practical tips in this article too, so click through if you’re curious.
- Akiko Busch: The Invisibility of Older Women, the Atlantic. “If the gaze of others wanes, Gray suggests, one might choose to “acquire instead a deepened inward gaze, or intensify our observation of others, or evolve alternative means of attention-getting which transcend sexuality and depend, as the mentors of my youth taught me, upon presence, authority, and voice.” This excerpt makes me want to read the book! There’s another point Busch makes further in the article that invisibility might prompt us to be more empathetic and humanitarian. I never thought about it like that before, and I think about being/becoming invisible all the time.
- The Secrets of the World’s Greatest Art Thief, GQ. What a good long read, about temptation and beauty and stolen art. “The pleasure of having,” says Breitwieser, “is stronger than the fear of stealing.” Whoa…what a character. I feel different about the thief by the end of this story than I did at the beginning. Highly recommend reading it!
- Don’t Wash That Coffee Mug!, Naval Historical Foundation blog. Um, have you all heard about this? People (particularly in the military, particularly in the Navy) not washing their coffee mugs and letting them “season”? I think these are all black-coffee drinkers, since no one who drinks milk and sugar in their coffee wants to see that on the counter tomorrow. If any of you reading this have a seasoned coffee mug I would love to see photos of it! Contact me here.
My man is on tour for a few weeks, so I’ve been doing a lot of reading! So far, mostly romance novels and Adobe Illustrator tutorials…have you been learning anything new during our hibernation as winter drags on? Here’s a few things I read on the internet this week:
- When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online, the Atlantic. This is really interesting and I think especially important to consider when talking about fully public types of posts (vs. private or “friends only”). Even within your friend circle, I could see how important it must be as a kid to have a say in your own image, to consent to what is out there about you. This quote I can kind of understand and I’m 27: “Ellen said that anytime someone has a phone out around her now, she’s nervous that her photo could be taken and posted somewhere. “Everyone’s always watching, and nothing is ever forgotten. It’s never gone,” she said.”
- Pinterest has a perfect response to harmful misinformation, the Verge. I’m linking to the first (and main) story in this column. It’s fascinating — Pinterest has responded to some medical misinformation being shared on its platform by creating a “data void,” where basically the search box won’t return any results for the keyword “vaccination.” I especially like how the author of this piece describes this move: “This is an approach that some call “freedom of speech versus freedom of reach.” You can say what you want, but Pinterest has no obligation to share it with the wider world.” Librarians often say that freedom of speech is a constitutional right, but not freedom from consequences (like people being mad at you, or someone not buying your book, or Pinterest not highlighting your posts). I think social media giants are struggling with the intersection of tech and social responsibility, but it’s encouraging to see a model like this as we all grow.
- Romance Author Cristiane Serruya Revealed to be Serial Plagiarist, Pajiba. The fine people at Pajiba (Kayleigh Donaldson again) are recapping internet drama for us again. I am somewhat new to the romance genre but I can tell you the fans and the authors know their stuff — I’m not sure I would have immediately caught a passage lifted from a book I’ve read, unless it was an absolute favorite. Anyway, according to the perpetrator, this is all because of a shady ghostwriter…I’m not totally convinced, but Donaldson also points out that Amazon’s sloppy management of scam authors on their site plays a role. Amazon at it again (“it” being poorly-vetted third party sellers and a crappy algorithm)!
- A History of the American Public Library, Citylab. This is a beautifully told visual history of public libraries in America. Libraries have a history with as much discrimination as the rest of our history. Still, I can get pretty sentimental about how good the best (kindest, thriftiest, fiercest) libraries can be for the world.
- Do We Write Differently on a Screen? The New Yorker. “Or should you step back? Time to leave your computer and phone in one room, perhaps, and go and work silently on paper in another. To turn off the Wi-Fi for eight hours. Just as you once learned not to drink everything in the hotel minibar, not to eat too much at free buffets, now you have to cut down on communication. You have learned how compulsive you are, how fragile your identity, how important it is to cultivate a little distance. And your only hope is that others have learned the same lesson. Otherwise, your profession, as least as you thought of it, is finished.”
- Preschool Pocket Treasures, Melissa Kaseman. This photography series reminds me of my best friend and her adventurous preschool boy.