November 1, 2019

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I’ve been thinking about community a lot lately. It’s hard out there for a lot of reasons, and a lot of us want to curl up under a blanket and numb out to the Office for the 100th time. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that; there’s a special place in my heart for the feeling of collapsing on the couch for the night. But I’ve been trying to see folks during the week more, and it’s made me feel more connected to a world beyond work, walk the dog, dither about dinner plans, sleep. I’ve come to the conclusion that I love my friends a lot!

  1. The best $1.75 I ever spent: Hand sanitizer that allows me to exist in public, Vox. “The sense I rely on most is touch. I grip handrails and metal bars. I hold on to moving escalators and push elevator buttons. I glide my fingers along walls and push off from the sides of cars. In rare cases, I clutch tree branches stretched over curbs. When a loved one or a kind stranger isn’t beside me to intertwine my arm in theirs, touch is how I get around.” This is a lovely piece about disability and public space.
  2. Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless, Laurie Penny. This is a critique of both our definition of self-care and the corporatization of self-care rituals and wellness. I don’t know if I buy everything that she’s saying here, but the overall message that we need to demonstrate better love to ourselves, not by consuming products, but by mutual aid and community. There’s a lot I want to quote here but I’ll just share two passages: “The lonely work of taking basic care of yourself as you wait for the world to change is a poor substitute. When you’re washed up and burned out from putting your body on the line to fight the state, it’s especially galling to be told to share a smile and eat more whole grains.” Dang! And her thoughts on love for others and the self are really interesting to me (although I think they might be incomplete): “The problem with self-love as we currently understand it is in our view of love itself, defined, too simply and too often, as an extraordinary feeling that we respond to with hearts and flowers and fantasy, ritual consumption and affectless passion. Modernity would have us mooning after ourselves like heartsick, slightly creepy teenagers, taking selfies and telling ourselves how special and perfect we are. This is not real self-love, no more than a catcaller loves the woman whose backside he’s loudly admiring in the street. The harder, duller work of self-care is about the everyday, impossible effort of getting up and getting through your life in a world that would prefer you cowed and compliant. A world whose abusive logic wants you to see no structural problems, but only problems with yourself, or with those more marginalized and vulnerable than you are. Real love, the kind that soothes and lasts, is not a feeling, but a verb, an action. It’s about what you do for another person over the course of days and weeks and years, the work put in to care and cathexis.”
  3. Fat People Deserve to Glorify Our Bodies, Wear Your Voice. This essay is gorgeous. In particular the final paragraphs are an almost meditative invitation to care for your body, in its soft shapes and needs. “A fat body deserves good things, all the things the world told you it never did. Yes, even promotion and glory. Magnify it. Exalt it. Uplift it. Extol it a tribute. Dedicate it a song. Compose it a sonnet. Honor it. Adore it. Thank it. Thank it for keeping you, for how it’s given you breath and held your organs close and carried your blood through its veins. For how it’s digested your food and received your refreshments. […] Even if you don’t love it, now or ever, affirm it and the spirit of the one who lives in it. Remember that loving this body of yours is not a prerequisite for attending to its needs. Care for it. Water it. Nourish it. Satisfy it. Reward it. Give it sunshine. Let it grow. Feed it when you are hungry and partake without guilt. Eating is not shameful. Do not add to the starvation. Do not add to the starvation. Fill your belly. You are allowed to satiate every bit of your hunger, no matter how much space your body occupies. You deserve sustenance, as all living things do, and you deserve to live.”
  4. After Uproar About Accessibility, Hunters Point Library Will Relocate Fiction Section, Gothamist. I’ve been following this ridiculous story, and while it’s good news that they’ve moved the fiction section somewhere actually accessible, this whole thing is classic architects vs. the people who actually have to live with the building. In this case, librarians, but also people with disabilities or mobility issues. (They’d tried to say that the design passed ADA laws because someone — library staff — could go get any book that was inaccessible to a patron. Both insensitive and a huge waste of everyone’s time.) The inaccessibility of this design can be seen from a mile away, I truly can’t understand who let this idea happen. This joke Twitter from the building’s perspective has TEETH and I love it. “Fiction is great. Our section is not accessible to the stair-challenged public, but our librarians will totally grab a book for you. You just gotta know what you want in advance. Browsing for books is not an option for the disabled at this state of the art, brand new, library.”
  5. “The Thing in Us We Fear Just Wants Our Love,” Julian K. Jarboe. Happy Halloween everyone, please enjoy this werewolf poem!

Bonus features:

October 25, 2019

Woodpecker in the snow in Montreal, Quebec

The cool thing about writing a blog about cool things you find on the internet is that other people send you cool things they find on the internet. I could have written that sentence in a more graceful way but I REFUSE. Anyway, shout out to my parents for providing two of this week’s reads. It’s been a dark season for me, which is a shame because I love the fall. But I’m thinkin’ about this woodpecker, who to my ignorant imagination represents independence and persistence, and I will reach for the same.

  1. Useful and Obscure Words for Autumn, Merriam Webster. Hibernaculum is my main takeaway from this one: “a shelter occupied during the winter by a dormant animal (such as an insect, snake, bat, or marmot).” Okay!! Time to pull out the candles and fuzzy blankets for my hibernaculum!
  2. 50 Fictional Librarians, Ranked, LitHub. There’s some a few librarians I didn’t recognize on here! Mr. Ambrose (Bob’s Burgers) is one of my favorites. Bunny Watson (Desk Set) is also an ICON.
  3. 9 Colors Named After People, MentalFloss. Out of these nine, Hooker’s green is my favorite. If there was a color named after me, I like to think it would be Emily green.
  4. The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce, Angie Manfredi. This anthology of essays, illustrations, and poems by fat authors and other creators was good for the soul. One of the poems I liked best was by David Bowles, called “Seven Things I would Tell Eleven-Year-Old Me.” Here are some lines I loved: From section six: “You are a human being, / unique and wonderful, / unlike anything that has existed / or ever will. Fat? Yes. In body / and in soul, brimming… // You overflow with stardust.” And then later, in section seven: “I make you a solemn promise: / It gets easier…You will be fat again // Fat. And older. And wiser. / With a loving wife / and brilliant children. // They will throw / their arms around / your belly / and whisper / I love you.”
  5. Monsters Are Real, Biodiversity Heritage Library. Here’s the description of this Flickr collection: “Many of history’s most fearsome legendary monsters are based on real animals. The BHL Monsters Are Real campaign explores the stories, people, books, and animals that inspired such infamous beasts as Sea Serpents, the Kraken, Hydra, Mermaids, and Leviathans. This album contains centuries’ worth of monster images from books in the BHL collection.” Happy Halloween everyone. This toothy lion man is one of my favorites of the decidedly unsettling collection.

October 18, 2019

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We had this mug forever growing up. This Etsy shop was selling it and took a good photo of it.

I’m writing this intro at the reference desk on the night of my late shift. I still have about an hour and a half to go and I can no longer feel my butt, so we’re doing some standing desk/lunge writing! No one told me I’d sit this much as a librarian (although I don’t think the knowledge would have turned me away from the career). The wind is howling through the weird atrium in the center of the library and it’s all Very Atmospheric. I really like every one of the 5 things I’m sharing with you this week, and I hope you do too:

  1. Gardening Games Are Blossoming in Turbulent Times, The Verge. This is my type of game! “What the Animal Crossing games, Stardew Valley, and Ooblets all do is mix free-form play with a relaxed atmosphere, elements which seem to have resonated with players keen for a change of pace from the barrage of stimuli and hyper-kineticism video games are best known for. They’re chill in the same way real gardening is.” Another reason I like these games is that they’re noncompetitive and no one can see me struggle with keyboard controls or blow myself up with my own grenade. Gentle games for this gentle girl!
  2. Emotional Expression Through Baking, Bon Appetit. “Life is not easy. It’s hard to say, “I care about you.” But it is not hard at all to make boxed brownies.” I think you will really enjoy reading this one. This section reminds me of my mom’s thorough scraping of pots and bowls: “Then, one day, near the end of the year, a faculty member, Erik, taught me to bake sourdough bread. Erik had two children. I still remember him carefully scraping each bit of dough off his hands and collecting it in the bowl: “Each scrap is another bite for them,” he said.” My mom would say, “That’s a bite!” if my spatula didn’t catch that bit of chili on the side of the pot. I would have just left it there when I was a kid, but now I see that last chunk of pot roast or lonely potato and think, “That’s a bite!” Boys, learn how to make tender things for the sole pleasure of sharing them with friends! A beautiful little piece.
  3. Why the Library of Congress is Archiving Government-Made Memes, Rolling Stone. As anyone who’s done social media for a company or institution knows, corporate memeing can be super corny and fall flat. So here’s a cool success story about the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Twitter. “The CPSC memes will reside within the “Government Publications — United States” collection, which boasts items distributed by the government (mostly federal, but also some state and local) as far back as the country’s founding. In this way, while the CPSC memes capture a new shift in government communication, there is a vast historical precedent for them. The Great Baby, for instance, exists on the same continuum as Smokey the Bear, while Walker cites the LoC’s collection of comic books that government agencies once issued as a way to reach younger readers.” Archives collect the records that represent a culture, a community, or a project, and you might think that memes are a less serious mode of communication but they are actually a super influential medium, and I think it’s good that the Library of Congress is archiving them.
  4. Sandra Boynton’s Captivating Universe, The Atlantic. (CW: There is a brief mention of loss of people and pets in this.) Sandra Boynton kind of rules. I love this part: “Like Fred Rogers, Boynton treats children, even very young ones, with deep respect. Like Sendak (whom she calls an “unfailingly and affectionately supportive” mentor), she accepts that kids already encounter the distress of adulthood. But Boynton also makes a space for children and adults to occupy together. Take this line about a throng of Halloween chickens: “One heard a robot intone: Trick or treat.” Suzanne Rafer, Boynton’s editor of 38 years at Workman Publishing—one of two publishers that print Boynton’s books—passed on sales agents’ objections to the verb intone: “We’re reading this to a zero-year-old.” Boynton’s reply: “All language is new to a kid. Why not invite them into a vocabulary that’s special from the beginning?” And apparently there’s only one board-book printer left in the United States?!
  5. Congratulations to Holly, America’s Fattest Bear, The Cut. “Fat Bear Week, for those of you who have not yet been blessed with the knowledge, is a March Madness–style bracket competition held every year by Katmai National Park in Alaska, which allows the public to vote and decide which of the park’s brown bears has beefed itself up the most for their upcoming winter hibernation.” They’ve picked their winner and she’s precious and I love this fall tradition so much!

October 11, 2019

This was one of those weeks that makes me wanna say “wow, this was one of those weeks.” A real rollercoaster, but I hung in there and managed not to barf. Nothing too heavy in my offerings this week, but I hope you have a great weekend!

  1. How VH1’s I Love the… Created a Generation of Culture Students, The Ringer. I loved this series and ate up as much of it as I could catch on other people’s TVs until we got cable! “Hidalgo and Tinelli emphasize that they were trying to craft conversations about the collective experience, particularly when it came to the pre-internet, pre–social media eras when such experiences existed on a mass scale but without the social media component that enabled people to connect over them.” Also a bunch of the full episodes are (as of publication) available on YouTube so you know what your girl will be catching up on this weekend.
  2. Don’t Make These Dumb Jokes About People’s Jobs, Lifehacker. This was a kinda funny roundup of jokes professionals are tired of hearing on the job. You think you’re making the joke for the first time, but that person has heard the joke a bunch of times already and it’s gotten old. And in general, just good advice: “Next time you’re about to deliver a witticism to someone who’s doing their job—or make a joke about their name, or about their physical appearance or something else they can’t control—ask yourself two things: 1. Is it conceivable that someone has made this joke before? 2. If this person doesn’t like your joke, are they at all socially obligated to pretend they did? If the answer to either is yes, do not make that joke!”
  3. The Orange, Wendy Cope. This poem has been going around online and I think we all need to read it. “I love you. I’m glad I exist.”
  4. I Don’t Know Who Needs to Hear This But You Shouldn’t Get Your Nutrition Info From Influencers, Self. “I’ve urged influencers to do the research and be more responsible with the information they’re promoting throughout their platform. I’ve said that it’s important to know the difference between anecdotal evidence and randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials that are published in peer-reviewed journals (the gold standard when making health claims—and even these have their limitations and can’t necessarily be generalized to everyone). But of course it’s more than knowing which data to use. You also have to have the training to be able to sift through the science and draw meaningful conclusions from it. Not just anyone has the foundation required to interpret a study’s findings.” The critical-thinking questions in this article are good, and I wanna share them with my students. I think second to political misinformation, health and wellness misinfo is the most dangerous stuff out there for the average internet user. And it’s so pervasive and hits right at a vulnerability for a lot of people. Gets me HEATED.
  5. “The Seven Friendships,” from Pursuit by Erica Funkhouser. Two poems this week. If this link doesn’t bring you to the beginning of the poem, it’s on pages 62-65. This one is just fun and makes me wanna talk about friendship. I don’t particularly relate to any of these friendships, except for “friendship / based on the exchange of gifts, / preferably ridiculous.”

October 4, 2019

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These amazing bronze Basset Hounds are snuggling on the sidewalk in Loveland, CO

My dearest cousin is getting married tomorrow! According to the fantastic Fall Foliage Prediction Map, we’ll be in the partial-peak of the leaves changing color, and I’m excited to celebrate with her in this, the finest time of the year. I love going to weddings, but it’s best when it’s someone you love so much and know so well. Looking forward to my heart metaphorically bursting.

  1. Learning is Supposed to Feel Uncomfortable, HBR. “While the act of learning is primarily intellectual, behavioral, or methodological, the experience of learning is primarily emotional. And it’s the emotional experience of learning — of being a beginner and making mistakes, often publicly — that often keeps people from even trying to learn.” Lately I have been thinking about the affective element of teaching. I love this! As we get older, it feels like there’s fewer things you absolutely have to learn — you finish your schooling, you start your work or your daily routines and things become straightforward. Librarians and educators talk about wanting to encourage “life-long learners,” because it’s so good for your brain to be learning new things. This summer David and I have started learning how to play baseball. We’ve been watching YouTube videos (created for little kids learning to hold their very first bat), throwing a lot of terrible pitches, and sweating in the park. But the feeling of finding progress, slow and clumsy as it is, has been one of my favorite memories of this summer. I’m still an absolute beginner, but I have started to notice when things feel right, like when I know the pitch I’m throwing is going to go right across the plate where I intended. Learn new things! Don’t be afraid to be embarrassed by being a beginner, it’s a doorway to some of the best things in life. I also like the part of this article that talks about “emotional courage,” to feel all your feelings honestly.
  2. Nancy Pelosi: An Extremely Stable Genius, New Yorker. “When I asked Pelosi if she thought Trump knows, in this instance or any other, the difference between right and wrong, she replied, “He knows the difference between right and wrong, but I don’t know that he really cares. I do think his categorical imperative is what’s good is what is right for him. In the campaign, he told us who he was. He said that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and nobody would care, that his supporters wouldn’t care. Well, he could violate our Constitution, the integrity of our elections, and dishonor his oath of office, as he did in this call, and think that nobody cares.” I think that’s a helpful perspective as someone who cannot relate to or understand any of this president’s motives. For a while after the Mueller report I was thinking like “Pelosi, just give this the greenlight, it’s cut and dry in my eyes,” but I find I do admire her for the gravity and care she has taken on this. She isn’t relishing this process, and I am not rejoicing about it either. It’s going to be a hard road for this country and I hope we can muddle our way through toward our better angels.
  3. Tuna Noodle Casserole: It Only Sounds Disgusting, Heated. I love Samantha Irby’s writing. “(if you shell a single pea for this recipe, you’re a fed)” I would read a cookbook of recipe/memoir essays if she wrote it. I would read Xerox machine instructions if she wrote them!
  4. The “Cancel Culture Con,” The New Republic. I’ve been seeing this article make the rounds on social media but also some education conversations at work. So much of what we talk about with new college students is critical thinking and nuance, and this distinction is important in my mind: we may have freedom of speech from the government, but not freedom from consequences from our peers. This piece also suggests that some winging about political correctness/free speech has more to do with aging or classing into irrelevance for some of these comedians. “As far as comedy is concerned, “cancel culture” seems to be the name mediocrities and legends on their way to mediocrity have given their own waning relevance. They’ve set about scolding us about scolds, whining about whiners, and complaining about complaints because they would rather cling to material that was never going to stay fresh and funny forever than adapt to changing audiences, a new set of critical concerns, and a culture that might soon leave them behind. In desperation, they’ve become the tiresome cowards they accuse their critics of being.”
  5. September 2019 Short Questions (Part 1), Captain Awkward. “Hi Affluent Fellow White People, YOU are the one who bought a house next to [a college that’s been here since the 18th century][a string of rowdy bars called “The Manhole,” etc.][A Whole Bunch Of Not-White People Living Their Lives]. Learn to go with the flow of the neighborhood you just showed up in and STOP calling the police on your neighbors for living, it’s racist, obnoxious, and it gets people killed. The police aren’t ‘the manager’ you get to use to make a place conform to your baby’s sleep schedule, and your neighbors are good enough not to call the cops on you when the little angel shrieks through the night and your jealous, neglected beagle joins the chorus. Being alive makes noise. If you can’t adapt to the vibe of the ‘hood or building you chose, it’s probably time to move somewhere you’ll be “more comfortable” and scout your next dwelling-place for sound at multiple times of day to make sure it’s something you can actually live with without becoming a nuisance.” Captain Awkward does these short Q&As every so often, and while a lot of her advice is good, this passage in particular is golden. Especially thinking about zoning in Frederick and other places, as well as the rude and racist grousing I keep seeing in my neighborhood’s NextDoor (“teenage shenanigans!” I see you, Tabitha). LOVE YOUR DANG NEIGHBOR people.

Bonus features: