Down Time

The sky has been heavily overcast for days, although there has been surprisingly little rain.  It's been a little cooler, then, but very humid.  I'm grateful for the dehumidifying ability of our new central air system.  The house is comfortable at 75°.

After working all weekend, I am off on Monday and Tuesday this week.  On a hunch, I decided not to try to blog my work day on Saturday, and I was right.  It was far too busy to even try.

I even wonder, now, whether I have anything new to say about being a reference librarian.  But I tell myself that I am just tired.

I rose at 9:45 Monday morning after a delicious sleep.  I made my morning offering, and had two cups of coffee and two cigarettes on the front porch.  I showered, shaved, and ate two fried eggs with a slice of buttered whole wheat toast and a glass of grapefruit juice.

I took Claudius the cat out, keeping an eye on him while reading the Sunday New York Times.  It seems to help, if you are a writer hoping to be noticed in the NYT, to be named Jonathan, (Franzen, Lethem, Safran Foer).  Jonathan Franzen is now on the cover of Time Magazine, and he garnered a three page adulatory review by Sam Tannenbaum of his new novel, Freedom,  in the NYT Book Review.  NPR's All Things Considered today ran a story featuring chick-lit author Jennifer Weiner complaining about unbalanced coverage.

There was an interesting opinion piece about calling women "Ma'am".  For young women, being "ma'amed" is apparently the kiss of death, making them feel old and unattractive, matronly.  But here in the South, I still feel obliged to address older women that way.  I guess I agree with Judith Martin:
“Everyone is in denial about age,” she said. “Why would you want to do away with showing respect for age? What do you gain by saying don’t treat me with respect just because I’m older? What sort of devil’s bargain is that?”

I finished Cameron:  Ordinary Seaman, a grim tale about a convoy escort destroyer in 1941, dead in the water, drifting in the cold North Atlantic.

And then, weary of words, I put the book down and closed my eyes, slumped in my green leather chair, letting the tide of dreams take me.  So tired.

I washed some towels and underwear, took Claudius out again.

R. arrived home, and we went out to Ted's Montana Grill.  She had a steak, and I had a cheeseburger & fries.  Home to watch The Journey Home on EWTN.  A bright young man with the makings of a theology professor had converted from the Church of the Nazarene.  I had not known that they had their roots in Wesleyanism.


While the band is playing Dixie, I'm humming Home Sweet Home

(Wednesday night)  Living in an older subdivision, Woodland Drives, close to the heart of town, I can hear the sounds of that heart beating.  I hear the bells of the First Baptist Church, tolling the hour, and I hear the Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University band, the "Marching 100", at practice in the weeks leading up to football season.  Starting in July, they practice most weeknights, it seems, for several hours.  Tonight, in this first week of classes, they are sounding pretty tight.

FAMU is an HBCU, (one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and the Marching 100 is famous.  They marched in the Bastille Day Bicentennial parade in Paris in 1989, and in the inaugural parades of Presidents Clinton and Obama.  They are well-known for their "moves".

Those moves are not unfamiliar to me.  I know them from having watched the high-stepping Jones High School band, from the top black high school in Orange County, in the Orlando Christmas Parade, years ago.  I think they even had the same colors as FAMU, orange and green.

I was a trumpet player in marching bands from the eighth grade to the eleventh grade, at the Sanford Naval Academy and at Winter Park High School.  Marching is actually pretty demanding, and even more so if you are playing an instrument.  There you are, putting one foot in front of the other in time with the drums, dressing yourself by line and column, watching where you are going, watching for the Drum Major's orders by baton and whistle.  At the same time you are trying to play in concert, flipping to the right tune on the little instrument-mounted music book.

Winter Park High had a very traditional marching band.  Other school bands played the "Hawaii 5-0" theme song, or formed a spinning wheel on the field while playing the Blood Sweat & Tears hit of the same name.  We stuck to the classic marches, American Patrol, On Wisconsin, Stars and Stripes Forever.   We sweated in uniforms of heavy drill cloth, with spats and shakos and high collars, patterned after the military dress uniforms of the 19th century.  We played at football games, marching at half-time, and in Christmas parades.  Nerd that I was, I had no idea how the game was going.  I knew when our team had scored a touchdown because we would play Dixie.

Around 1970, school bands were forbidden to play Dixie. School racial integration was proceeding apace, though we had no black musicians in the band yet.  (Why would they have wanted to join the likes of us, when they would have had a much better time at Jones, as they do now, ironically, at FAMU rather than at FSU?)    As the boundaries of our insular white world began to crumble, we began dimly to grasp that black folks might not share our nostalgia for the "land of cotton".  Best to forget those "old times", after all.  And forty years later, I think we largely have.


Back to the Frying Pan

Any hopes that the beginning of the new school year would bring a quiet Monday morning were quickly dashed.  The Internet computers were full within 10-15 minutes of opening, and the average wait for a PC stayed at 30-35 minutes all day.  Our PC reservation software wilted several times under such a hammering, and at times we were unable to issue reservations at all for some minutes.

"Don't you have anything sooner?  I only want to print something out.", was the constant refrain.  Meaning class schedules, course syllabi, and other college-related ephemera.  Even the wireless laptop crowd must sooner or later need to print something, and waiting for a public-access computer to do it is the price they pay for relying on free Wi-Fi.

Web congestion was noticeable.  Yahoo Mail and the Florida Department of Children & Families' ACCESS Florida public assistance site were at times so unresponsive that they were unusable.

It was one of those days when you buckle down and do what you're paid to do, with a smile, until the clock runs out.

Nice Language Demographic Tool
I took a call from an office at the Florida Department of Education.  They were looking at translating some documents into several of the non-Hispanic languages most-spoken in Florida.  Could I tell her what they were?  I tried the Florida and U.S. Statistical Abstracts, but they lumped numbers for languages other than English and Spanish together in a single, "non-Hispanic" category.  I said I'd look further and call her back.

A look at the U.S. Census site revealed the same thing.  A topical overview lumped them together as well.  It linked to more granular breakdowns by region, but not by state.

I didn't have the time to dive into the sea of raw census data, so I tried some advanced Google searches, limiting by non-.com domains.  And I found the Modern Language Association Language Map, in a footnote to the language section of the Wikipedia entry on Miami, Florida. Problem solved.  Using the MLA Language Map Data Center, I was able to get her the information.  Surprisingly, after Spanish the top five non-English languages spoken in Florida are all European:  French Creole, (Haitians), French, German, Portuguese and Italian.  Next are the ones you might have guessed  were more numerous, Tagalog and Vietnamese, which account together for .55% of Florida's population.


Summer's Gone

(Friday)  And that's it.  Glassy-eyed and slightly numb, we closed the doors on summer break at 6 p.m. today.  School starts on Monday, as do classes at FAMU and FSU.  The Tallahassee Democrat published it's "Welcome Back" issue today, full of ads by local businesses hoping to attract college student dollars.  This is not the weekend to visit Target or Bed Bath & Beyond.

I might have a different impression were I the Sheriff's Deputy or a children's librarian, but this summer was not as stressful as others I have known.  Given that so great a portion of our attention in this new century is devoted to public-access computing, I can say that overall, demand has fallen steadily since 2006.  Wireless laptops and smartphones have made the public-access library desktop computer less necessary for many.

The summer of 2006 remains a high-water mark, because 2006 was the year of MySpace.  The library was mobbed, that summer, with teens making MySpace pages and sharing their skills with friends.  The MySpace mobs are gone, though I still see lots of boys on Meez, which I wrote about last summer.  There must be countless MySpace ghost pages, abandoned in cyberspace.


Love in the Ruins

 I've had it in my mind to post passages from my favorite books that have stayed with me over the years.  This one, from Love in the Ruins:  The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World, by Walker Percy, (1971), is my first choice.

Percy is one of my personal "saints", along with Graham Greene and Malcolm Muggeridge, whom I credit with my conversion.  The world that was ending for Percy included the segregated South and the pre-Vatican II Church.

I have butchered this quotation for the sake of brevity.  You should read the whole of "July First", chapter 13, to really understand it.  Percy is struggling with the Mystery of Evil, particularly as it relates to the Jim Crow South.  I'll just add that Victor Charles is black, and Leroy Ledbetter is white.

    I look at the mirror. Behind the bar towers a mahogany piece, a miniature cathedral, an altarpiece, an intricate business of shelves for bottles, cupboards, stained-glass windows, and a huge mirror whose silvering is blighted with an advancing pox, clusters of vacuoles, expanding naughts. Most of the customers of the Little Napoleon have long since removed to the lounges of the suburbs, the nifty refrigerated windowless sealed-up Muzaked hideaways, leaving stranded here a small band of regulars and old-timers, some of whom have sat here in the same peaceable gloom open to the same twilight over the same swinging doors that swung their way straight through Prohibition and saw King-fish Huey P. Long promise to make every man a king on the courthouse lawn across the street. Next door Gone with the Wind had its final run at the old Majestic Theater.
    The vines are sprouting here in earnest. A huge wistaria with a tree size trunk holds the Little Napoleon like a rock in a root The building strains and creaks in its grip.
    The storm is closer, the sun gone, and it is darker than dusk The martins are skimming in from the swamp, sliding down the dark glassy sky like flecks of soot. Soon the bullbats will be thrumming.
    Leroy Ledbetter stands by companionably. Like me he is seventh-generation Anglo-Saxon American, but unlike me he is Protestant, countrified, sweet-natured. He's the sort of fellow, don't you know, who if you run in a ditch or have a flat tire   shows up to help you...

    "Looks like it's going to freshen up," says Leroy. We drink toddies, eat eggs, and watch the martins come skimming home, sliding down the glassy sky.
    In the dark mirror there is a dim hollow-eyed Spanish Christ. The pox is spreading on his face. Vacuoles are opening in his chest. It is the new Christ, the spotted Christ, the maculate Christ, the sinful Christ. The old Christ died for our sins and it didn't work, we were not reconciled. The new Christ shall reconcile man with his sins. The new Christ lies drunk in a ditch. Victor Charles and Leroy Ledbetter pass by and see him. "Victor, do you love me?" "Sho, Doc." "Leroy, do you love me?" "Cut it out, Tom, you know better than to ask that." "Then y'all help me." "O.K., Doc." They laugh and pick up the new Christ, making a fireman's carry, joining four hands. They love the new Christ and so they love each other.
    "You all right now?" Leroy asks, watching me eat eggs and drink my toddy.
    "I'm fine."


The Big Stone

 I finished weeding the 300's in July.  At the end were the 398's, Folklore.  Folklore doesn't become dated, so I didn't discard much, apart from some yellowed paperbacks.  In The Guizer, by Alan Garner, "a collection of stories about fools."  I found this story, which Garner took from the manuscript,  Guernsey Folk Lore, by Edgar MacCulloch, (1903).  I love it because it sounds like the kind of leg-pull you might encounter in a text-adventure game such as Zork:

Old people say there was once a great stone to St. Andrew's parish.
And on top, under the lichen, there were words, but nobody could read them for they were all that weathered away, till a boy came and felt them clear with his fingers. And the words told:

"Hoik me over and
You'll not waste your time."

Well, of course, that meant treasure, and they were levering and lifting to turn the stone, and a great stone it was, high as a horse and longer.
Well they got it up at last, end over and down. And they found more lettering, plain as when it was cut:

"I was tired of lying
On that side."


A Tarot Story by Alec Guinness

One thing I have learned by blogging is that publishing one's thoughts can give them a kind of magical power.  Call it synchronicity, if you like.  I'm not sure what it is.

In early 2009, I described in detail in one of my Saturday "Blogging Reference" posts, a funeral procession to the Old City Cemetery that I witnessed during my lunchtime.  Not long after, my mother and my cat Cleo died.  I saw it more as a premonition.

Ever since my post, The Time I Didn't Die in July, in which I described how my Tarot card deck was scattered along the highway in a collision in 1977, the Tarot has been coming around my door.

I borrowed the library's copy of Alec Guinness's memoir, Blessings in Disguise, because I had dipped into it once and seen that he was a convert to the Catholic Church, (as I am).  I found an interesting story about his spiritual journey involving the Tarot.

Next, my engagement with the computer game, Baldur's Gate, moved me to post about the Grail Myth, and the book, From Ritual to Romance, which ties the Tarot into the Holy Grail.

Then there was Tarot Woman, whom I mentioned in the previous post, laying out her spreads at the library.

Finally, on Sunday, R. And I went to see the film, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky .  In it, Coco Chanel lays out a Tarot spread at a dinner party.

Ok, enough already.  Go away.  The Tarot has a haunting quality, as Alec Guinness relates:

For six months I was absorbed in the Tarot. Wherever I went Tarot cards or Tarot symbols caught my eye. Peter Bull and I took a short holiday together to Tangiers having intended to go to Fez, but the road was washed away by torrential rain, and more rain, driven by a bitter wind, lashed Tangiers. On our first evening, splashing through a dark, narrow street, in search of food and entertainment, I spotted a single dim light in a shop window; when we reached it we found nothing behind the glass except a pack of Tarot cards, illuminated by a flickering bulb. The next day I bought the cards and sat in my damp bedroom trying to learn something from them. Peter was mildly embarrassed by my obsession and, a few days later, admitting boredom, we agreed to part company - or, rather, we said we would go to Gibraltar and when we arrived there Peter, Freud coming to his aid, found he had left his passport behind in Tangiers. So he returned there to have a jolly time with some new friends, and I set off, walking much of the way, for Malaga. My Tarot cards were safe in my pocket.
Back home I found out all I could about them: I was told (erroneously, for sure) that they were part of the ancient Book of Wisdom, scattered when the Library of Alexandria was sacked at the end of the fourth century, and re-assembled as playing cards not long after in Southern Europe. James Laver, a very well-informed friend at the Victoria and Albert Museum, pointed out that the basic Tarot symbols - chalice, spear, tree and spiky crown - corresponded to hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds and represented the Crucifixion. The Tarot symbols can be found, I believe, carved on a pillar of Chartres Cathedral. I was hooked until an evening when I got the horrors about them and impetuously threw cards and books on a blazing log fire. When Merula saw what I had done she expressed gratitude that I had returned to my senses. The Tarot card depicting a wolf barking at a crab at the edge of a moonlit pool no longer haunted my dreams; nor the Hanged Man; nor the Drowned Phoenician Sailor. They all went up in smoke, leaving only ash.


Blogging Reference: Saturday, August 7

Another Saturday at the reference desk.

Cool enough this morning to remind me why I love 2 wheels.  I remember my first long cruise, gliding through the trees on West Highway 50 when it was two-lane and little-traveled, eating a roadside burger in Homosassa, bound for Houston.

10:00  Open.

Today's paper.

Saw an old copy of Male and Female:  A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World, by Margaret Mead, in the book recycling bin.

Where can she sit for tutoring that won't disturb others?

Today's paper?  Sorry, it's out.

Trouble starting her session.

Where is cooking?  She wants to see the "parts of a cow".

A pencil.

We had a copy of Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa in the house when I was growing up.

It must have belonged to my mother, who had a very modern outlook when she was young.

PC for Annamarie.

10:31  Lengthy search on both floors to locate travel guides to Italy.  Turned out she was already carrying the main one she wanted without realizing it. (sigh).

Teens here for Youth Services Poetry Workshop in Henderson Room.  He's dark moptop w untucked red shirt, black tie, sleeves pushed up.  She has blond hair in pony tail, black halter top, one fingerless black glove, short skirt in big black & white plaid, black leggings.

Questions about her place in reserve queues, can't get into her account.  Change her PIN to match her new phone number.  Explain how being number 11 for Allende's Island Beneath the Sea isn't really so bad since we have 7 copies.

MK has been checking to see who's responsible for the poetry workshop.  Apparently, she's not here, and five kids are waiting.  She tries DT at home, gets voice mail.  Hmmm...

There's been a lot of talk in the NYT about the TV series, Mad Men.  The thirty-somethings are envious of the swinging 60's.  Mead's studies of sexuality in Samoa and New Guinea were the intellectuals' call to Bali Hai, a South Pacific of the mind, and contributed to the spirit of the age.

Paper comes back, goes out.

PC for Donel.

Where are urban fiction books?  He might well ask.  They are always checked out, and often overdue.  Give him a couple of lists.  The best way to get them is to reserve them.

Large print biography of Eleanor Roosevelt?  No.  Take interlibrary loan request for Eleanor Roosevelt:  a Personal and Public Life, by J William T Youngs and Oscar Handlin.

Help w printer.

Phone:  Help w item holds for DVD's 2 and 3 of Schama's History of Britain.  Pull, place, trap, take to reserve shelves.  Puff puff down stairs, up, down, up.  The reference librarian workout!

Phone:  R. coming w sandwich.  Do I need Pepsi?

I didn't know that Mead was an Episcopalian, and that she helped draft the revised 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Cow Parts Woman has sent her bedraggled son to fetch her a King James Bible.

Check DK Italy out to mending, put on mending shelf.

12:43  Back from lunch.  About to go through the Battle of Jutland again in Hennessy's The Lion at Sea.  Tally Ho!

PC for Tim.

Girl fussing with her card, putting tape on.  Wants Sharpie to write over signature.  Why doesn't she get a replacement?  "Don't got no money."

PC for Omar.
PC for Wiley.

Indian couple ask about private study rooms.  No, sorry, we have meeting rooms for groups of 3 or more, but not study rooms for 1 or 2.

She wants book of famous publisher rejection letters.  L. helps her  Reminds me of funny rejection letter.

Five People You Meet in Heaven.  Many copies now lost.  Was Leon High assigned reading several summers ago.  Finally find a copy on shelving cart.

Dave Barry.  Humor or fiction?  Both.  Take to shelf.

He can't find Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan.  Is on shelving cart.  2nd time in a couple of days I've fetched a Jordan title from that cart, where several recently returned are.  I shelve the remaining ones.

1:25  MK back from lunch.  I leave the main desk to MK and L., and move to the satellite floor station until 3:00.

Woman shuffles deck of Tarot cards at nearby table, lays out a spread.  I gave her a cigarette once.  She told me she used to be a legal secretary.  Lives at the shelter now.

Phone:  J. from Fort Braden Branch needs a book on cassette pulled for someone who's coming to pick it up.  Transfer call to Media.

Woman shuffling again.  Another spread.

Old guy kids me about my Vespa.  Says he's ready for his ride.

Phone:  Mr. L.  Any church sign makers in Valdosta?  Is selling church in Quincy a sign.  South Georgia Sign Company makes 'em.

When I hang up, Tarot woman is gone.

Straighten New Books shelves, make face-outs, shore up with bookends.

Straightening New Non-Fiction, I find J. I. Packer's Knowing God, which I searched high and low for on Monday to fill a hold.  Status was set to missing after two more staff searched Tues. and Wed.

It has a '93 pub date but was red-dotted for the "New" shelf because it was new in the catalog.  And I had noticed that and checked there.  Better I think to remove the dot and shelve it in the permanent 200's.  Less confusion.

Christian section of 200's is a shambles, and I spend about 15 min. putting it in order.

2:20  Check the Answer Squad mailbox.  There's a question about e-books.  Do we have e-books that work with the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader?  Yes, I reply, we do.  OverDrive's e-books come in the Adobe ePub and PDF formats, and are supposed to be compatible with the Nook.

Where are Bibles?  Take to shelf.

2:45  Storm is brewing.

PC for Michael.
PC for Sonya.

3:00  Commotion.  People are finishing their business and leaving ahead of the storm.  The are a few PC's open.

Where is sheet music?  Take to shelf.

She wants a Wet One®.

Very dark outside, booming thunder and flashing lightning, and rain, but strangely calm.

3:21  Wind, now, and heavy rain.

PC for Wayne.

Phone:  Number for Ability Towing Service.

3:30  Quiet.  Rain is letting up.  The thunder is to the south.

MK and I get to talking about paper wastage and whether printing should be free.  A little girl tells us that a printer is out of paper.

(At 3:45 the the lights blinked, the barcode scanners beeped, and all the computers cut off.  The network had crashed.  The phones were dead too.  It soon became clear that there would likely be no more Internet for some time.  Telephone service returned, but techs were still working in the server room when the library closed at 5:00.

The library cleared out quickly with no Internet PC's and no wireless.  Only the magazine and newspaper readers in the reading area and a few book browsers remained.  It was a little flashback to what the library used to be like a mere 15 years ago.)

Thunder continued in the south.  After dark, at home, it returned over us, and we had more rain.


Good Review of "Hitch-22"

 From the Fall 2010 issue of Democracy:  A Journal of Ideas.

The History Boy
Is that history, or his story? With Christopher Hitchens, one can't always tell.
by Martin Kettle

Yet if there is one thing about which Hitchens (and not he alone) has been absolutely consistent through the decades, it has been a disengagement from, frequently verging on disdain toward, reformist politics. Social democrats (in a western European context) or Democrats (in an American one) occupy a particularly shabby part of the Hitchens pandemonium. Center-left vote-grubbers have always been the objects of his special contempt, from John Kennedy and Harold Wilson to the Clintons and (had it not been for his interventionist policies in the Balkans and Iraq) surely Blair and New Labour, too. For a thoroughly politicized person, Hitchens is strikingly unengaged about everyday politics, whether in its minor British version or its major American one.


The Wasteland

I've been playing the legendary computer "role-playing" game, (RPG), Baldur's Gate. This game and it's successors are all set in lands suffering under some form of blight or curse. In Baldur's Gate, iron ore from the mines is producing iron that is brittle and unusable. The player must find the cause and restore the land.

It's a classic Grail theme, as is the additional story line of the Vengeance Quest.  The player's character in Baldur's Gate is orphaned at the start, and must find his father's killer.

It put me in mind of Jessie Weston's famous work, From Ritual to Romance, which influenced T.S. Eliot's poem, The Wasteland, and which is Colonel Kurtz's bedside reading in Apocalypse Now.

I recall the old Doubleday Anchor paperback  you used to see in campus bookstores.
I think I still have a copy of this edition at home.  I wondered if the library owned a copy.  I was a little surprised to see that we did:  Princeton UP's 1993 edition under the Mythos imprint, with a foreward by Robert S. Segal.

I found it at 809.915 WES.  I turned to the cataloging label, and saw that I had put it in the Bookmobile collection in 1996.  I used to send enduring works like this up to the main collection when I took them off the truck.  It has gone out 31 times since then, most recently in December 2009.

Strange to think that elements of the Grail myth are key to the appeal of so many "quest" RPG's played by millions today. 


More Spin-off Title Bombast

I reaped a rich harvest of pretentious titles in today's NYT Book Review. Remember that, as with covers, you can't judge a book by its title, which may not even be what the author wanted.

The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg. Oh no! There won't be any more wild food, ever. Reminds me of Bill McKibben's 1989 ecocide classic, The End of Nature.

Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger. Really? The marriage of the century? The reviewer distances herself, "what tabloids called 'the marriage of the century'."

Cocaine Nation: How the White Trade Took Over the World by Tom Feiling. Oh, come on. Pizza maybe, or jeans.