The Review, As Promised

I finally got around to writing the review about last week’s concert with the Utah Symphony and Hilary Hahn.

The post is live over at The Glass. While you’re there, take a nice, long look at Chris McGovern’s site. He has gotten to interview some serious names in the classical/ contemporary classical/just plain awesome music circuit.

Enjoy!

And she proclaimed with abandon, from the depths of her soul, “I….am a librarian!”.

by Jenny, Guest Blogger

(Note: I have heard that May, one of my oldest and dearest friends, often refers to me as her friend Jenny the Librarian, so when May asked me to be a Guest Blogger, I had to start from there…..)

Years ago, as I was nearing the end of my undergrad degree in English, I began to consider what I was going to do with my life.

Great time to start thinking about it. But I come from a family that never thought too much about careers, and I could never clearly see myself doing anything in particular….I wanted to do something, sure….something that let me think a lot, because I like doing that….something that was pleasant…..and that allowed me to be in places I liked to be….and that used whatever talents I had….but what that something was, I didn’t know, and I didn’t give it that much consideration.

It feels good to admit this, because aIthough I am not dumb, I’ve always worried that this characteristic is not one that “smart” people should have. My friends are valedictorians and salutatorians and doctors and PhD candidates and writers and musicians and teachers of all persuasions. And many of them knew exactly what they wanted to do. They laid the groundwork for their future careers, they applied to the best colleges, they mapped out their course loads, and they built resumes with all due seriousness. While I feel fairly confident that my brain works well, I always felt as if I lacked whatever intellect it took for them to launch so confidently down those chosen roads. Why didn’t I know what I wanted to do? Why wasn’t it more important to me? Was it possible that I was a carefree hippie disguised in a black cardigan and that I was more suited to meander through the world in the passenger seat of a VW bug?

Um…..no.

So I looked around me in the Fall semester of my senior year and thought about the English degree I was so close to receiving and I realized, “I don’t know what to do with this.”

Undeterred at age 21 by a realization that would paralyze me at age 32, I began mulling over graduate school. Graduate school, that blessed place of respite allowing young adults with Big Thoughts to deter a big, scary decision just a little bit longer.

And once graduate school was decided upon, the path was clear: I would go to library school.

Yes, chuckle if you will. But deep down, doesn’t a part of you want to go to library school, too?

And, surprising as it was to me, I had stumbled into my perfect career.

Now, it wasn’t easy to allow myself to come to peace with librarianship, because being a librarian in this world is an exercise in developing a thick skin. Is there a profession that carries with it more stereotypes? Or one that is the butt of more jokes? It doesn’t help matters that I still haven’t married, making me not only a librarian, but, dare I say it, a spinster librarian?? Just typing the phrase makes me cringe.

And yet, all told, I love being a librarian. I get to wake up every morning and go to the LIBRARY. Every bit of knowledge, no matter how random, is useful in my career. I rock at Jeopardy. I can check out more books at a time than ANYONE. Heck, I don’t even have to check them out! If I want a book that the library doesn’t have, I can just buy it with library money! I can delete my own fines!! At one job, I could go back to the Archives anytime I wanted and freely peruse a 3-volume copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs from the 1600s, complete with a dedication in the front to Elizabeth I. At another, I got to eat lunch in a room housing the largest collection of Tiffany glass anywhere in the world. And at my current job, teenagers come up to me and ask me what book they should read….I love that. And not only do I know more about technology than my school’s technology specialist, I also know how to explain it to people so that they can actually use it!

And the possiblities for the future are endless….librarians are everywhere! In hospitals, schools, museums, working for newspapers and network TV stations, in tiny, rural public libraries and huge urban ones…..I love that my career could take me to any of those places.

So I write this blog post not to recruit new librarians, but rather to proclaim that I really do like what I’m doing and that somehow, even with no clear direction in mind, I ended up in the right place.

And don’t we always?

And doesn’t realizing that make it much easier to enjoy this crazy ride?

Guest Blog the Blogarian

People, Jenny doesn’t need much of an introduction, either. I know I talk about high school a lot, and Jenny’s definitely one of the key figures who’s strided with me since the 10th grade.

Also, I think her post is fitting, valedictory, somewhat. I admire this woman who made high school one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I admire what she’s done with her life. I appreciate her friendship, and her offering up anything of hers to encourage me to become a better person. She’s pretty amazing. I hope everyone gets a chance to meet her sometime.

Oh, the valedictory part. A month from tomorrow, well.

A month from tomorrow.

I’ll be taking a trip down memory lane over the next month. Listing a few things I’ll miss as well as some things I definitely won’t miss.

The Grass Is Greenest

by Amy Middleton, Guest Blogger

Two weeks ago I traded my 3rd floor Manhattan walk-up apartment for a temporary yet rent-free arrangement with my parents. I thought leaving NYC after seven years would be grief-filled, epic, tragic; but it has been none of that. I’ve yet to miss the East Coast.

The most welcome change has been the weather. In June, NYC had rain every day but four. Since coming west I’ve only had sunshine. The irony of this upgrade is that while skyscrapers do not require irrigation, the landscape of Orange County largely does. There is a surface out here called grass and it takes up land and resources, and homeowners are not happy if it is a color other than green.

Though I grew up with a lawn, the concept seems outdated and superfluous to me now. In my Harlem walkup, potted fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs competed for limited space near the only window that brought in sunlight.  Though I lacked roof access, I attended workshops on rooftop gardening.  The “Food Not Lawns” approach soon seemed the only sensible use of soil; the dream of having my own little space in which to grow food was a primary catalyst for the cross-country return.

The impact of the Southern California on yard-owners is thus: the city is mandating when they may and may not run their sprinklers. I don’t mean to be complaining about people who are frustrated at the adjustment, but this for me has been the biggest shock of swapping coasts and cultures:

If you have limited access to life’s most essential liquid, why are you upset that the government is monitoring completely unproductive water usage?

Another appropriate question is, who am I, and why am I lamenting this on May’s blog? I am May’s anagram, and while she’s leading young women in spirituality and scriptures, I am thinking about lawns.

This Week’s Guest Blog

I met Amy Middleton for the first time about five years ago. It was at a singles’ ice skating activity, and Becky introduced her to me has her cousin. Then three Labor Days ago Amy, with a few other friends, accompanied us to Portland, Maine, which is not a vegetarian’s dream. Still, it was great spending roadtrip time getting to know her. She’s extremely intelligent and thoughtful and creative. Our first names are anagrams of each other. She’s ultra cool.

Except, she up and left the city. Almost three weeks ago. She switched coasts. We miss her around these parts. Fortunately the distance didn’t keep me from asking her to write for me, which she was more than willing to do.

Enjoy.

The Positives of Negative

by Ray, Guest Blogger

The premise of this piece is an oversimplification, but if the scientists will leave the room, I promise not to tell. 

So many aspects of our world, our lives, our minds are neatly divided into yins and yangs. Morning and evening. Youth and age. May and tall.  Happy and sad. And for our purposes, positive and negative. 

Those minusy particles take a beating in popular culture. “Don’t be so negative!” is the cry of the performance evaluation. “Don’t use no double negatives,” says the ironic grammarian. You can make a calculator cranky, or an abstract mathematician all mind-blown, by trying to find the square root of a negative number. (i have no idea what that means.)  Even their positive places in technology are fading, as photographic negatives are quickly joining the Sepia and Daguerreotype families in the George Eastman Graveyard. 

Still, there’s a positive side to those negative particles- and that’s when they flow through wires, seeking their protonic partners, and causing, for those of us attuned enough to be in tune with them, some very positive results.

—-

The pedigree of these particles goes back far before the, um, current series of tubes we now use. From Thales of Miletos, to Franklin, to Morse and Bell and Tesla, but ultimately through Edison, this power of God and these forces of nature began to be harnessed, and largely to enhance communication.  I have special connection to that line: Thomas Edison’s first wife was a sister of one of my grandparents. She died not long after their marriage, and I assure you that none of the family’s fame or fortune ever wound up in our hands (apparently his second wife’s sons Met and Con got everything under the will), but I’ve always had a little extra fascination with things of a technical nature, and maybe that’s a part of why.

Even so, until the 1980s, things hadn’t changed all that much from the 1890s.  Mr. Bell’s descendants still owned that phone on your desk; it was black, it had a dial, and you paid obscene amounts of money to use it. Mr. Morse’s family would still send the occasional telegram until this century, when other forms of technology finally made them STOP

Mr. Gates, meanwhile, had only just begun to make his mark with the power coming out of the wall. He may have been among the most clueless of all about how to take that power, which he’d previously concentrated on disks and desktops, and network it among other users, in other places, who would eventually become not just fellow users but friends in all senses of the word.

For me, it wasn’t until the mid-90s that it began to happen. We’d just moved to Buffalo, and networks were rusty things connected through scary looking “file server” computers. Moving data outside your immediate vicinity was possible, but involved the use of microwave oven-sized modems that cranked along at a radical 1200 bps (2400 if you were really advanced). Then, sometime in 1995 before the advent of the Windows of that name, I heard about a UB-based effort to get the community connected to this new thing called the Internet. It was called the Buffalo Free-Net, and while it was nothing pretty to look at, it brought hundreds of geeky people together in this new, electron-driven sort of way.  Some of them gravitated to a Star Trek discussion group. Soon, some of those folks were talking about some other goofy show called seaQuest, and they were writing something about it called “fan fiction.” First I watched, then I commented, ultimately I edited, and on at least a few frightening occasions, I wrote.  I’ve kept only a few Freenet Friends who’ve followed me over the circuits and through the loops in the almost 15 years since then, but one is enough. We’re in parallel; only one bulb needs to be in the string in order for it to light.

—-

Soon, some of those electrons were beginning to light up inside a new and even stranger “walled garden” called America Online. They’d just changed their marketing to allow unlimited usage for a fixed monthly price, and sometime around ’96 or ’97, I joined that bunch, several of the Freenet people finding me there. The general message boards and chat rooms were pretty damn scary, but something led me to trivia as a safe space within the International House of Porn that late-90s AOL otherwise was. First I watched (only they called it lurking), then I commented (only they called it playing), ultimately I edited (only they called it writing games), and on more than a few frightening occasions after a thorough vetting and orientation process, I ran games, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal members. I was HOST [Insert This Year’s Model] Ray, and could gag disruptive members, get their antics reported and their privileges pulled, and bend electrons with my bare fingers.  Along the way, I met dozens of kindred souls, most of whom also had HOST status, until AOL, faced with dot-bomb financial pressures and a class-action lawsuit which said we should’ve been paid for all this work, fired the lot of us in 2003.  One of the last hosts to be trained before the purge was a crazy-ass medical school graduate named Karissa, who was my delightful co-host for some of the last official trivia games I ever ran for them.<<this will be important later

My electrons still needed- what else?- an outlet, after many hosts stopped running games because they lost privileges and/or free dialup access to AOL (soon thereafter, it became free to anyone accessing the service through broadband, as we did by then), and others huddled into insular little clique communities of players. I found my niche on yet another new service, that some of the old Freenetters, and one or two of the trivia players, had landed on to do That Thar New Blogging Thang.

Once again, I progressed from the lurk to the wetting-of-feet to the all-in effort that’s lasted there for 2,500-plus posts on my main blog, several hundred more on a specialty journal, and literally thousands of comments to and from hundreds of other fellow readers and even fellower writers. 

One of them was Karissa- khuckie to the LiveJournal world. And she brought some not-quite-as-kooky friends with her. One was a one-time clarinetist from Middleburg, now living and working at the other end of this crazy state of mine. Would I like to read her stuff?

::moments after reading her stuff:: Do fish have lips? They do. And she, it turns out, has yet another level of friendships, which have concentricized with circles of my own and become as dear to me as May became, and Karissa before that, and Mel before that, and so on, and so on, and so on.

 

More recently, my own beloved bride, and my own amazing daughter, have begun blogs of their own. Their photos, their artwork, their words and their dreams, are now part of the signal. Which, as all Serenity fans know, can’t be stopped.

To plagiarize (and slightly bowlderize) an old hymn:
Will the circuit be unbroken?
By and by lord, by and by,
Theres a better home a-waitin
In the sky lord, in the sky

Not that there’s anything wrong with the one we’re in right here. As long as we’re all connected through what we say, and how we feel, and who we are.

More than a Formality

Today’s guest blogger is my friend, Ray.

I feel inadequate introducing him. I’ve read his post. His piece provides a strong impression. A great impression.

I met him virtually before we met for the first time in real life, one 70-degree Thanksgiving day in New York City. 2004. His daughter was with him. We stopped in a Starbucks for a cookie and hot chocolate.

Thanks, Karissa, for introducing us. Crazy triviots.

Thanks, Ray, for following my life and checking in and making time to meet up whenever you’re in town. You’re kind and generous and a devoted friend, father, and husband. Your writing dazzles, your stories touch. You always have more to give. Keep on keeping on.