Move. Shake. Repeat.

by Allan Cleaver via Flickr Creative Commons

I have one rule about jokes.  Don’t be mean.  It’s simple really.   And in my little world, after you clear the Don’t Be Mean hurdle, all else goes.  In all my touchy feely posts about kindness and happiness and being nice, I have rarely talked about humor.  Humor is our elixir.   It is our panacea.  Imagine your life without it.  Ugh.

Better writers and philosophers have mused on the necessity, the beauty, the subtlety, the noise, the dizzying, ice cracking, euphoric, quaking nature of humor.  Humor has saved and transformed people.

I want to talk about this guy:  JP Porcaro.  The library world has gone a little bit wacky over this guy.  I wouldn’t call the reaction to this Mover & Shaker to be monumental…but, there is a low buzz of both disapproval and support.

In some ways, the library community is just a big, sometimes dysfunctional family.  JP is the fun Uncle.  There’s usually a creepy Uncle and the relatives who are always sticking their heads into the den and yelling, “C’mon kids, quit rough housing.”  No one wants to go to family functions when the fun Uncle isn’t going to be there.  The family needs the fun Uncle.  Sometimes the fun Uncle is seen as not very mature; but, that is not always the case.  In my experience the fun Uncle can be counted on not to judge you too harshly, encourages good clean fun, knows when to rein it in and is the good hugger.  The fun Uncle thinks outside the box and is always there to help unload the moving van as long as there is pizza involved.  The fun Uncle is generous with his time, his money and would never let anything bad happen to you.

JP is our fun Uncle.  We need him.  Don’t rain on the fun parade.  And don’t be foolish enough to believe that he is not seriously passionate about libraries.

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Unplug. Live a little.

It’s that time again:  The National Day of Unplugging is almost upon us.   Reboot, a Jewish creative community of “thought-leaders created The Sabbath Manifesto which includes 10 core principles and is modeled after the Slow Movement.  In 2010 they started the National Day asked people to take the pledge:  to unplug from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.  This year it takes place March 23-24.

I love this project.  It is a great reminder to slow down, stop texting and checking e-mail a million times.  I’ve talked  before about unplugging and how when I gave up my television my house was miraculously cleaner.  Now, television has seeped back into my life through my laptop and between Hulu and streaming Netflix I spend way too much time engaged with a thing instead of another person or my own thoughts.

A lot has changed for me since last year’s post on this topic.  I moved into the city and don’t live alone anymore.  I actually think this has altered my engagement with technology a bit.  I spend way less time on Facebook and actually hardly ever check it.  I also spend less time texting in the evening because the person I texted the most is now a few feet away.

One thing I worry about is that we’ll become one of those couples that sits next to each other on the couch, each engaged in our own laptop.  This rarely happens; but, I really want to make sure it never starts.

One of the things I noticed right away about Anya, on our first date, was that I never saw her phone.  I had gone on several dates where my date would check texts or lie their phone on the table, just in case.  I love the graphic at the top of this post.  If you click on it, it will take you to Uncommon Goods, where you can purchase the “phonekerchief” a handkerchief that actually blocks cell signals.  I think the charming thing about that sentiment is that while to some it may seem old fashioned, it comes down to just being focused and present when you are with others and there is nothing old fashioned about that.

I’m getting married this Summer (thanks Governor Cuomo!) and I had actually already decided that I would not be engaged with a phone on that day.  I’m also trying to find a little lake house near the orchard where we are getting married that we can rent for a week and just relax.  I’m a little bit amazed by the places that boast of high speed internet and satellite television.  I want peace and quiet and fun with Anya and our family and friends.  There will be no tweeting from the reception or the altar!

Give the National Day of Unplugging a shot.  It’s 24 hours.  Here’s my plan based on the ten principles.

  1. Avoid my laptop.  Only answer my phone if its my parents calling.  No email. No surfing. No TV or movie watching. Old school radio is fine.
  2. Hangout with Anya and a friend.  Snuggle and walk with Henry.
  3. Walk with Henry and finally get to the Y for some swimming.  Cook great meals.
  4. Besides Henry’s walks, hanging on the coffee shop patio and reading sounds great.
  5. I have no plans for commerce other than perhaps that coffee on the patio!
  6. Candles are a fine idea.  I’m not a candle person; but, Anya was definitely gotten me on track with candles.
  7. Not much of a drinker.  Perhaps some tea on the front stoop.
  8. I have pretty much refused to get into any habit that involves me eating while watching movies/tv; so, a nice home cooked meal with Anya happens pretty frequently and will happen again this Friday.
  9. Finding silence can sometimes be hard in Bed-Stuy.  We tossed around the idea of getting up early on Saturday and heading to the beach.  I’m sure to find some silence there.
  10. I’ll think on this one:  give back.  I’m sure I can figure out a creative way to meet this challenge.

E-Books and Growing Pains

If you have been following the e-book saga at all, you know that is chock full of good vs evil, doomsday proclamations and if you sift through the traffic, insightful and educated analyses.

I tend to be in the camp that thinks we should be educating the public about these issues.  I don’t really want to damper people’s joy over their e-reader by educating them about the jockeying for position that is going on right now and what it might mean for the future of publishing and our ability to have access to the reading materials we enjoy.  I actually don’t have the energy for all of that; but, I think whenever you spend money it’s important to take a second and understand where it’s going.

Every reader, whether you read print or digital books,  should read this blog post from IPG (Independent Publishers Group).  When my Kindle loving friend said e-books should be cheaper because they don’t have to print them, I tried to explain the situation.  Now I can send her this link.  When my friend asked me if I was going to quit my job if I get my YA novel published, I tried to explain to her the situation.  Now I can send her this link.

The book industry is in the middle of a period of growing pains.  Remember when we were in school and we learned about the Industrial Revolution and all the change it brought.  We are in the middle of an Information Revolution.  It would be interesting to know what people say about this time 100 or 200 years from now.  Unfortunately, we don’t have a time machine.

What we need is a voice of reason.  A voice that is not motivated by greed.  A voice that is not motivated by fear.  A voice that represents the greatest good and not narrow self interests.  A voice that represents the readers.  If we had a leader with such reason, the authors would be happy.  The publishers would be happy.  The booksellers would be happy.  The librarians would be happy.

I think that voice of reason should come from libraries.  We are readers and we represent readers; we always have.  I applaud all the librarians doing good work on this issue because we need a seat at the table.

I don’t own an e-reader because it’s not a good fit for me.  I prefer not to engage with any more screens.  And to be honest, I’m not a voracious reader of books right now.  I’m lucky if I read one every 6 weeks.  Plus, I mostly read library books.  When I do purchase books, I have made a commitment to give my money to independent bookstores because I have easy access to them now.  I literally live down the street from Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn.  When I lived in NJ and did not live near any small booksellers, I tended to order online from Powells (my ex-employer who I feel loyal to) or go to the nearby  Borders (also my ex-employer) because I spent so many hours there browsing and reading without purchasing that I felt it necessary to support them.

If I did consider purchasing an e-reader, I’d take pause before buying a Kindle.  There are tons of benefits to buying a Kindle; but, Amazon is being a bully right now.  I understand business competition and the bottom line and all of that; but, Amazon has been playing dirty (in the book wars) in a way that I’m not really willing to support at the moment.  Their “lending library” for Prime members caused a few raised eyebrows as did their Christmas shopping app that would give you a discount if you scanned a book’s barcode (say…at a brick and mortar bookstore) and then bought it online at Amazon.  Really?  I wonder if the business generated by that outweighed the disgust because I, as an Amazon customer, felt some hate on hearing about that one.  I made sure to buy all my Christmas gift books at Greenlight, excepting one I bought at McNally Jackson.  (Did you know that you can support independent bookstores by purchasing e-books from their websites?)

And what about the publishers who refuse to work with libraries for e-book lending?  See, it’s getting murkier.  Do you boycott them?  Do you wait all of this mess out before purchasing an e-reader?  I don’t really know.  I do know, that as readers and librarians, we should be aware of where our money goes and what it goes to support.

Last night I told my partner about an experience I had this week:  I was reading a magazine or a blog (can’t remember where I saw it) and came across an article about small farms.  The photo at the top of the article was a close up of a pig’s face.  The photo was taken in a way that seemed to capture the character of the pig in a way that gave me great pause.  I thought, if met this pig would I be able to then eat bacon?  There was just something about this pig’s face that touched me.  Anya said, “But bacon is so good.”  I know.  Bacon is yummy; but, to eat the bacon without acknowledging that a creature died in order for me to have bacon, seems wrong.  It’s not that I haven’t thought of  this before or that I am vegetarian.  But, as an eater of pig on occasion, it’s important for me to be present, completely, in the decision to eat meat.  It’s something I struggle with.

Obviously the decision to eat meat or not is different than navigating the book business; but, I think that there should be more thoughtfulness in our decision making, even if it means we are inconvenienced.

For further reading on the subject:

Readers Bill of Rights for Digital Books

Kindle Reading Experience….(Jessamyn West)

Kansas Leading the Fight

Librarian in Black:  Here, here, here and here

And this from an author, self publishing on Amazon