'Don't worry...

by tosca on Friday, April 30, 2010

...it only seems kinky the first time.'
~ Author unknown

And then, after that, it's downright infuriating! Friday is my Cranky McRanty Pants post and today my question is: 'Censorship or Kink'?

To the person who is ripping sex scenes out of romance novels: please stop. Now. I have a mad on for you. Grr >:-<

A lot of the books that I request are romance novels - I edit our monthly romance/romance e-interview newsletters. While I poke fun of romance novel plots, covers, characters and titles I genuinely do enjoy reading them and talking them up to customers. I have a huge request list and, at any time, will have up to 15 in reserve waiting for me to get through them. So they sit on the holds shelf for a few days. That's normal.

Read more »

'She had an unequalled gift...

by tosca on Thursday, April 29, 2010

...of squeezing big mistakes into small opportunities.'
~ from 'The Real Thing: and Other Tales' (1893) by Henry James, 1843-1916

Well shoot, here's a lesson our staff can learn from - and I have no objection to 1) copping to it and 2) letting them view it. It also teaches them 2 things: 1) what the downside is of too much availability/web 2.0 mixed with a healthy dose of dumbness and 2) how pervy I truly, truly am, geez :)

Read more »

'Without losers...

by tosca

...where would the winners be?'
~ Casey Stengal, 1890 - 1975, major league baseball player

Oohh I missed a post last night because it was my regular quiz night (we got our butts kicked for the first time in ages grr) and was too lazy afterward. Well, that and I was heads down in another Doctor Who episode *shamefaced look* Hence the quote. So this will be a two-fer-one. I know - how lucky are you? *snorts*

Title: Promoted: to Wife and Mother
Author: Jessica Hart
Synopsis: Perdita James is thrilled with her new job, until a personality quiz reveals she's an attention-seeking peacock! Her boss, Edward Merrick, is a panther--forceful, decisive and more than a little ruthless. Perdita's head tells her to ignore her attraction and work hard for a promotion. But somehow, whenever she's with single-dad Ed, she feels anything but professional. She's becoming crazy about her boss!

Bizarre book title for yesterday/today is this gem (points left). I dunno about anybody else but, working where I do, if I was told that I wasn't going to get a pay raise, that I was going to get a husband and a kid instead, I swear I would sit down and cry. Give me the money, anyday, please and thank you. What the heck was she doing before the wife/mother thing that those would be a bonus? SCARY.

Please note: the fact that I find the book titles/covers silly is not an indication of the story or writing skill. It is only an indication of my daft sense of humour. Also, this is on my request list to read :)

My video clip of the week is 'Facebook Manners and You' - an hilarious 4 mins of the dos and don'ts of relationship etiquette on Facebook. Why? Our library staff are currently taking part in our revamped Learning 2.0 tutorial. In an effort to find links/clips of interest I came across this gem.

'Families are like fudge...

by tosca on Tuesday, April 27, 2010

... - mostly sweet with a few nuts.'
~ Author unknown

Today is Tuesday which means the post is 'My family & other animals.' Why is this the name of my Tuesday Topic? I'm a diehard Gerald Durrell fan. Gran read his books (and met him when he was in NZ back in the 1960s to film 'Two in the bush' for the BBC) and passed her love of them on to my mother who, in turn, passed that on to moi. This only works sometimes. Gran is a Trekkie and, while I like Star Trek, I'm not a total fan.

'My family & other animals' is probably my favouritest Durrell book and there's many a time I've thought my family are as nutty/kinky/fruity as his was. That's for damn sure hah. Each Tuesday I will post a funny, silly, stupid, maddening, horrifying, heartwrenching, gutbusting story of something my family does/says that just begs to be shared :) I'm 1 of 9 kids - believe me, I've got LOTS to share.

The following is a true conversation that took place between one of my many siblings and myself.

Frangipani: What are you watching?
Tosca: The Nativity Story.
Frangipani: What's it about?
Tosca: You know - Mary, Joseph, Jesus.
Frangipani: Like the bible?
Tosca: Yep.
Frangipani: Oh...how does it end?
Tosca: *blank look* What?
Frangipani: How does it end?
Tosca: Are you serious?
Frangipani: Umm...yes?
Tosca: You went to Sunday school for years.

Frangipani: And...?
Tosca: You don't get it?
Frangipani: Nope. Is it famous?
Tosca: No effing way. No. Effing. Way. Come on! The bible?
Frangipani: Yeah so? Wait! Is this that story? Is that how it ended?

Oy vey :D

'Truth is stranger than fiction,...

by tosca on Monday, April 26, 2010

but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.'
~ Samuel Langhorne Clemens, more commonly known as Mark Twain, (1835 – 1910), author

What I'm reading right at this moment:

There are a couple of other books I'm in the middle of but have chosen my 2 favs for the week.

Title: The black book of colours by Menena Cottin & Rosana Faria
Synopsis: This title invites readers to imagine living without sight through remarkable illustrations done with raised lines and descriptions of colors based on imagery. Braille letters accompany the illustrations and a full Braille alphabet offers sighted readers help reading along with their fingers. -- Publisher description.

One sentence review: Quite simply this is a brilliant book - the story has braille, written text (evocative - who would think to describe the colour brown as smelling like chocolate?) and raised images (don't be surprised if you find yourself closing your eyes and running your fingers across the images to 'see' if it feels how it's described) thereby reaching tactile, sighted and blind readers.

Title: Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann
Synopsis: "1926. New York. The Roaring Twenties. Jazz. Flappers. Prohibition. Coal-powered cars. A cold war with a British Empire that still covers half of the globe. Yet things have developed differently to established history. America is in the midst of a cold war with a British Empire that has only just buried Queen Victoria, her life artificially preserved to the age of 107. Coal-powered cars roar along roads thick with pedestrians, biplanes take off from standing with primitive rocket boosters and monsters lurk behind closed doors and around every corner. This is a time in need of heroes. It is a time for The Ghost. A series of targeted murders are occurring all over the city, the victims found with ancient Roman coins placed on their eyelids after death. The trail appears to lead to a group of Italian-American gangsters and their boss, who the mobsters have dubbed 'The Roman'. As The Ghost draws nearer to The Roman and the centre of his dangerous web, he must battle with foes both physical and supernatural and call on help from the most unexpected of quarters if he is to halt the imminent destruction of the city." --Publisher description.

One sentence - my thoughts so far: Enjoying it so far and whether that's because I hear it in my head as a graphic novel I'm not sure, but it has a dark, vigilante superhero feel to it that reminds me of film noir (very edgy, shadowy and in your face).

More next week. Peace, love & mungbeans baby.

'All change is not growth...

by tosca on Saturday, April 24, 2010

...as all movement is not forward.'

~ Ellen Glasgow (April 22, 1873-November 21, 1945), Pulitzer Prize winning novelist

My blog format will be changing. Whether it's for better or worse remains to be seen - hence the blog post title. I've been so far off track for months that it makes more sense to scrap the old routine and try this one instead:

Monday: What I'm currently reading/watching
Tuesday: My family & other animals (things my family do that beg to be shared)
Wednesday: On the shelf - library-related
Thursday: Video clip pick of the week
Friday: Ms. Ranty McRanty Pants (my 1 chance a week to be even more opinionated)
Saturday: Book cover pick of the week (so many book covers to have fun with, so little time)

I'm not blogging on Sunday - seriously, even God got to have a rest. So it's Saturday - which means 'Book cover pick of the week.' Some weeks I may not even have any commentary/story to add to the image - I'm pretty sure most of them will speak for themselves. They'll be good, funny, bad, irreverent and all points in between. Comments, as always, welcome. Here's the first:
Author: Lucy Ashford
Synopsis: "Tassie bit her lip. Why hadn't he turned her over to the constables? She certainly wasn't going to try to run past him, even if he did have a limp. She was tall, but this man towered over her - six foot of hardened muscle, shoulders forbiddingly broad beneath his riding coat, strong booted legs set firmly apart. Major Marcus Forrester. All ready for action. And Tassie couldn't help but remember his kiss..."--Publisher description.

This gem I found at Botany Library. Was looking for books for my romance newsletter and spotted this and started hooting with laughter. It's just too delicious not to share! Gail, a librarian at Botany, tried to take it off me and hide it back amongst the shelves but I wasn't having any of it LOL Points to her for trying, though :) And does she realise it's not his pocket she's picking...? Have a good weekend, people, see you Monday.

'It's not so far off your world...

by tosca on Thursday, April 22, 2010

...this place is only parallel.'
~ Doctor Who, Series 2, Season 2, Episode 5 'Rise of the cybermen'

I finally admit that perhaps my obsession for Doctor Who has gotten a little out of hand. But it took this moment in today's Digital Services meeting to make me realise that little fact:

Natalie: Imagine if people had a chip in their head and when you went to the library they greeted you by name and knew what you wanted.
Tosca: No no no no no. That wouldn't be good. Didn't you see that episode of Doctor Who? They tried that. It ended badly.
Corin: Because Doctor Who is real...
Tosca: *puzzled look*

What? What do you mean it's not real?! Does Doctor Who know this?!?

Note: post title is a quote from Doctor Who, Series 2, Season 2, Episode 5 'Rise of the cybermermen.'. Image is from Doctor Who, Series 2, Season 1, Episode 7 'The long game.'

'We've got a fully functional forcefield...

by tosca on Tuesday, April 20, 2010

...Try saying that drunk.'
~ Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who, Series 2, Volume 1, Episode 6

Somewhere between my teen years and adulthood I cast aside my love of all things Doctor Who. I can't even remember why, and I do regret that. My mother introduced me to science fiction/movies (my gran is a Trekkie and so is my 2nd oldest sister) and my father introduced me to fantasy fiction/movies so it's not a huge surprise that I enjoyed it so much. The last few days have seen me rediscovering the Doctor. Markhiem (Mr. 12) and Kalani (Mr. 6) have started watching it with me and have lots of questions (that I cannot answer). Even better than that, the comments that come about as a result of their trying to understand the show are hilarious and, sometimes, aggravating (because they interrupt my dvd-fest). Yes, this is another one of those kiddie/family posts. Feel free to stop reading.

Me: When I was your age I wanted a TARDIS.
Markhiem: You wanted to be retarded?
Me: No - the TARDIS. That *points*
Markhiem: You want a phone box?
Me: It's not just a phone box - it's what it can do. What it represents! It..They...He...Forget it. Now sshh.
Markhiem: I don't get it.
Me: I know. Now sshh.

Image is of Kalani and Markhiem, taken at Okahu Bay on Waitangi Day 2010. Kalani is now a Doctor Who fanatic - Markhiem watches it with one eye on the door looking for escape.

The scene where Captain Jack kisses Doctor Who on the mouth? *fans self* Wow. As a fan of m/m romance novels - nice :-)

Downside to a Doctor Who fest? Quotes that are now stuck in my head, example:
- 'Do you know what they call me in the ancient legends of the Dalek home world? The Oncoming Storm.'
- 'This is Rose Tyler, she's my plus one.'
- '...I got a first in jiggery pokery. What about you?'
- 'This is the sort of mummery I strive to unmask. Séances? Nothing but luminous tambourines and a squeeze box concealed between the knees.'

Dear customer who has the next season out: bring it back. Quick! I refuse to watch Torchwood until you do.

'Do you realise if it weren't for Edison...

by tosca on Monday, April 19, 2010

...we'd be watching TV by candlelight?'
~ Al Boliska

Technologically speaking, I started torturing our staff today. We've started our revamped web 2.0 tutorial and, in light of the 2008 version that was unveiled (that I, for the most part, actually enjoyed) I figure it is just a case of waiting for the hate mail to arrive. Keeping in mind all of my various ways of being avaialable to our staff, I expect to receive them by: email, text, Facebook, Twitter, Bebo and blog comments :)

6 activities over 10 weeks (to take into account branches that are temporarily closing for refurbishments etc.) and as an incentive, there will be a weekly prize draw to encourage staff to continue. We've had 5 ppl register their blogs so far - mine doesn't count. Week 1 task is setting up their blog, which is where they'll be posting any and all thoughts in relation to the posted exercises.

Newbies have to: In approximately 50 words consider: How could you use this in your role? What worked for you? What didn't? What surprised you? what amazed you? How could a library use a blog? What would customers get out of a library blog? Would you promote this to customers?

Repeat 2.0 offenders have to: Tell us: what are your 2.0 expectations this time around? What are your 2.0 fears? How might a public library use a blog? What could our customers expect to see on such a blog?

I'll be tracking their progress and generally taking note of their ideas and thoughts in regards to web 2.0 - the good, the bad and the downright fugly. I'm not naive enough to expect that they'll all see it, fall in love with it, want to marry it and have its babies - but I do hope that, like the post quote shows (in a tongue-in-cheek kinda way), we won't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Or at least, not yet anyway.

Manukau Libraries - web 2.0
About the programme
Blog register - a listing of participating staff and their blogs
What is web 2.0?

I think that when libraries talk about web 2.0, they mostly mean looking at how web based tools, application and tools can facilitate information sharing and collaboration not just amongst themselves but with their customers as well.

'Curiosity is insubordination...

by tosca on Wednesday, April 14, 2010

...in its purest form.'
~ Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (1899-1977), Russian-American author

If curiosity truly is insubordination in its purest form, then I am quite happy for our library staff to be as defiant and disobedient as they can be when it comes to exploring web 2.0 tools and applications. I want them to be open-minded. I want them to query the relevancy of the exercises in relation to their daily jobs. I want them to constantly question how this improves the overall customer experience. I want them to test everything they are going to come across seven ways from Sunday. I want them to critically assess how other library systems are implementing web 2.0 tools and identify what could work for us. I want them to question how I currently operate our work tweetstream and work Facebook page and tell me how it can be made more relevant. I want them to help us decide what sort of social web presence our libraries will have. More than anything, I want them to have fun.

Over the next ten weeks, I am quite sure I will become the most hated person in Manukau Libraries for the simple (yet complicated) reason that I am resurrecting an amended version of our original Learning 2.0 tutorial. Our web 2.0 tutorial is based on the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenburg County's own PLCMC Learning 2.0 journey. The point of the tutorial was to encourage staff to experiment with various technologies that are 'reshaping the context of information on the internet today.' Our initial attempt, back in 2008, elicited two responses. Staff either loved or hated it. There were no half-measures. I am hoping that it will be met with more positivity this time around. I am, however, realistic. I will be content if I do not receive hate mail LOL In short, I will be getting paid to torture our staff. Good times!

I have Nancy Friday's statement running through my head as I write this: 'Mothers, let your daughters masturbate.' I won't go that far.

How about this: So, Manukau Libraries staff...let's get curious. Let's break the rules.

'You can learn many things from children...

by tosca on Tuesday, April 13, 2010

... How much patience you have, for instance.'
~ Franklin P. Jones (1908-1980), reporter, public relations executive and humourist

Anyone who reads my tweetstream or Facebook page will know that my nephews and niece feature quite largely in my life. We are a very close-knit family and 3 of my siblings live within 5 mins of walk each other. I am one of 9 children (the oldest 2 are from dad's first marriage and mum's former relationship). My mum grew up an only child and always wanted a big family, dad was one of 11 and was used to big families - et voilà it was probably a sure thing that I would belong to a big family.

So where am I going with this? Nowhere in particular, except that when the nephews say weird, strange, funny, sad, hilarious, thoughtful things they, too, will get a quick post of their own. Probably the only short posts I will ever, in my life, write :-) Today's post is courtesy of Kalani (or Mr. 6, as I call him ).

Kalani: Pa says I got a coconuts in me, and they keep me warm.
Me: *blinks* I don't get it. What does that mean?
Kalani: I got a coconuts.
Me: *thinks* Nah, I still don't get it.
Kalani: I said I. Got. A. Coconuts.
Me: Are you...What do...Eh?
Kalani: You know - a coconuts!
Me: Are you speaking English or Tongan?
Kalani: English! (by now very frustrated).
Me: Nah, I still don't get it.
Kalani: 'cause you're dumb.

*takes a bow* Thank you, Kalani O_o

Kalani is Maori/Tongan and he spends a lot of time with his Tongan grandfather - which makes for very interesting (and somewhat 'fresh') conversations afterward. Kids at school were, at one point, teasing Kalani and calling him 'coconut' and he was upset about it so he asked his Tongan gramps - his Pa - what that meant. Pa told him that being a coconut is a good thing because he will never get cold.

Mmm...I still don't get it.

'The only queer people...

by tosca on Monday, April 12, 2010

...are those who don't love anybody.'
~ Rita Mae Brown

Title: Butterfly tattoo
Deidre Knight
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Year: 2009

Quote: 'When someone dies, you're left with mountains of memories. At first, you rush headling at all of them, fists opening greedily, desperate to hold onto your loved one, no matter the cost, but over time, particular snapshots come into focus. They're the ones that surface continually in your dreams and mental drifting, popping up on radar when you least expect them.'

Synopsis: BUTTERFLY TATTOO — the story of a man, grief-stricken from the death of his male lover of 12 years, who finds himself falling in love with a woman also scarred by life—is a groundbreaking novel made timely by the headlines currently surrounding love and sexual orientation. Beautiful, lyrical, tender, it does what every great book is supposed to do: it transports the reader into other people’s lives, hearts and minds. In the process, BUTTERFLY TATTOO teaches us of the universality, and boundary-free nature, of love. -- Publisher description.

What I'm reading: This isn't a review so much as it is a heads up of a title I'm reading at the moment that caught my eye (and possibly my heart - although my siblings constantly tell me I have a hard rock where said organ should live. Po-tay-to/po-tah-to. Or, as Kalani likes to tell me: Toe-may-to/po-tah-to. He's 6 - what can I say?).

Rebecca O'Neill, heroine, was a famous actress who had her own tv series. Three years earlier an obsessive fan tried to kill her and, in the effort, left her scarred. These days she works in the development/production end of television and is incredibly wary of men. Michael Warner is still grieving for his longtime partner, Alexander, after almost a year. He has become an outsider to their 12 year old daughter's life - she barely talks about Alex. She barely talks, and when she does it's usually to push Michael's buttons. His friends are convinced it's time he started living again - not necessarily dating, but certainly getting out. Rebecca and Andrea's first meeting, on set when the power goes out and Michael (hot handyman as Rebecca's friend calls him) is awkward. Andie isn't the most friendly of people. But Rebecca's facial scars are something Andie identifies with because she, herself, has a scar on her leg that from the same car accident that killed Daddy Alex. When Michael and Rebecca start to fall for each other, it has Michael questioning his sexuality and loyalty to his first love, and has Rebecca questioning her own thoughts and feelings about the depth of Michael's emotions.

Deidre Knight is sneaky! And I like it. The dynamics between Rebecca and Michael on their first meeting made me think, 'Oohh, I see where this is going.' Then Michael starts thinking about 'Allie' and I'm still going, 'Oohh, widower. Got it!' And then Andie starts talking about 'Daddy Alex' and I'm thinking, 'Huh? Oohh divorce! Two daddies.' Which is totally turned on its arse when I find out 'Allie' is a nic for 'Alex' who is really 'Alexander.' *blinks* Didn't see that coming!

Michael's chapters make me cry. Seriously. I can't help it. What the hell else am I supposed to do? His grief is so palpable: 'Sure, I still dream, but I couldn't tell Rebecca O'Neill that, because then I'd have to admit that I dream endlessly of Alex. That he's still alive, that he's come home to me at last.' Or even: 'I clutch the steering wheel tensely, the familiar silence smothering us as we edge along the 101 toward home. Long damn way there, too, at least in this kind of traffic. Really need to sell the house and move somewhere closer to the studio but I can't bring myself to do it. Can't bring myself to let go of Alex that way, not when all of our memories are tied up in that place.' *le sigh* and *le sob*

Is Michael gay? Is he bi? Is he just sexual? Does sexual orientation matter at all? If there's one thing this book is teaching me, and it's totally trite, it's that perhaps love isn't about gender. It's got nothing to do with sexual orientation. Maybe...maybe it's just about love. That's it. Whatever, wherever, whenever.

Keep a box of tissues handy if you read this - it's a major tearjerker. I've been crying on and off since chapter 2 and so far am up to chapter 10. Michael's emotions are raw and so appallingly honest (and yes, I mean appalling not appealing) but you can't help reading more. The only books I'd read of Ms. Knight's before this were paranormal romances in the 'Midnight Warriors' series and this is nothing like those. I haven't finished it yet but I'm thinking it's easily going to be a 5/5.

'Anyone who says they have only one life to live...

by tosca on Saturday, April 10, 2010

...must not know how to read a book.'
~ Author unknown

Bookmarks make me squee!

At least, these particular bookmarks do. They're the brainchild of Paul Brown (our readers' advisor extraordinaire who, I have to say, has been overseas to Aus twice to deliver his bestseller presentation to libraries there and is headed to Adelaide this May to present again, the lucky sod). Back to bookmarks, right. Paul's idea: he scoped the pics, floated it past his manager who approved it, asked the fabulous Sunita and myself for book ideas and then sent them off to the magical elves (I dunno who he sent them to, really) who put his idea into some physical form - which you see here before you today.

The beauty of the bookmark is that the pics are beautifully visual (or I think so, anyway, and it's me who matters). On the back is a quick listing of authors relevant to that particular genre and, even better, space for our staff to write personal recommendations. This part of the bookmark is for those tricky moments when you're out and about in the collections and customers stop by to ask for author recommendations. I LIVE for those moments - this is going to seem like a shit analogy but it's like every night is date night. And a blind date night, at that. Seriously, that's how I see it, my job is to match people up with books and I'm not satisfied until the borrower is satisfied (in a book sense). And I always invite them to back to ask for me when they want more (or different, or worse, or better or whatever). In most instances we've tried not to list too many of the more popular bestselling authors - we want to promote across all of our genre as much as possible :)

I've added images of the bookmarks - mostly the fronts although I've posted the back of the Best for Blokes one just to give you an idea of how it looks. They're kinda small but that's 'cause they'll look like crud if I make the image too large - IRL (in real life) they are proper bookmark size. Doh.

'Never underestimate the effectiveness...

by tosca on Thursday, April 8, 2010

...of a straight cash bribe.'
- Claud Cockburn (1904-1981), British journalist

Paul Brown is a readers' advisory genius and I am his disciple. But let's not tell him that! That's just between you, me, the blogosphere and the twitterverse. So mum's the word. Seriously, though, here he is world famous in Manukau. His latest idea, to promote the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival 2010 is a killer. So what are we doing??

Reading. Yah. That's it - we're going to read :-) It's so simple it's genius. Hell, it's so simple it just HAS to work. Right? Right! How's it gonna work? Like this...


A Festival.

About 'Books'.

And 'Authors'.

And 'Reading'.

Hhhhmmm, smells like Literary Spirit! And something we know something about. Plus, it's all happening just up SH1 tantalisingly close to us.

We would like to demonstrate Manukau Libraries support for this local and iconic Festival by posting a selection of short-ish book reviews on our website, covering the full range of authors, writing forms and genres being showcased during the Festival.

So... this is a call for staff to read and submit reviews before the Festival starts on May 12.

It is reviewing with a purpose.

It is reviewing with a deadline.

It is reviewing with prizes!"

Oops - that's right, we're going to bribe our staff to read :) A small prize draw for staff who submit book reviews for any and all authors who will be speaking at the festival. There will be 3 categories (staff who submit a review, staff who submit 2 or more, the overall 'Best' review).

Our rules are simple:

1) Use the standard book review template on our website.
2) Review only books that are held by Manukau Libraries.[As there is no law limiting us to just one review per book we will post multiple reviews on the same book... if the reviews are good enough. In fact, how much more engaging will it be for our readers to be informed and entertained by a repository of thoughtfully constructed, articluate, yet diametrically opposed, statements of opinionated fact?!?!?!]
3) Enter the words "Festival Review" at the beginning of your review so that Danielle & Tosca know that you are submitting a review specifically for this project.
4) Keep your reviews to one paragraph (or about 150 - 200 words). These should be short, sharp and "punchy" pieces. Convey your personal / emotional experience of - and response to - the book you read. "Sell" the book's oustanding qualities... or shoot it down in flames... but leave the person reading your review going "WOW! Now that's reviewing entertainment!"
5) You can begin submitting reviews anytime but the deadline for reviews is Monday, May 10. The Festival reviews will begin appearing on our website in the week beginning Monday, May 3.
6) Winners in both categories will be announced after the Festival, in late May.

Personally, I can't wait to see the reviews. I intend to submit but my reviews will be invalid because I get to be one of the bossy tarts what judges 'em

So...how are you celebrating the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival 2010...?

'Popular culture is the new Babylon...

by tosca on Saturday, April 3, 2010

...into which so much art and intellect now flow. It is our imperial sex theater, supreme temple of the western eye. We live in the age of idols.'
~ Camilla Paglia

Title: Inventory : 16 films featuring manic pixie dream girls, 10 great songs nearly ruined by saxophone, and 100 more obsessively specific pop-culture lists
Author: By the writers of the A.V. Club (foreword by Chuck 'Chuck Klosterman' Klosterman)
ISBN: 9781416594734
Publisher: Scribner
Year: 2009
Summary: This book treats pop culture with a healthy mix of reverence and cheek, exploring the best and worst of film, television, music, books and games. -- From back cover.

Read this book on your own. That's about the only advice I can give, really. You will scream chortle, giggle until you choke, guffaw, wheeze until you expire, sigh, spray coke out of your nose, snicker, belly laugh until you cry, gasp, pee your pants, wince, hoot and holler. Not necessarily in that order. And you certainly won't want people around to see your reactions.

The very talented writers of the A.V. Club have compiled pop-culture lists that are so specific in some instances you'll wonder why the heck you never thought of them yourself, or perhaps wonder why some sicko would think of them in the first place. The oddball part of it is, I found myself agreeing with quite a bit of the content, and wow are there some obscure books/films I'd forgotten I'd ever read/seen and am sure I never want to read/see again. How can I resist a list such as 'Keanu Reeves movies somehow not ruined by Keanu Reeves'? Hey may look hot but whenever I watch his movies I feel like I'm watching a wooden puppet who delivers everything in the same deadpan monotone and I'm always looking for the strings. That's not to take away from his movies, hell no, some of them are pure effing genius (look at The Matrix) but whether that's about the writing or the fact that he looks hawt in leather I can't tell.

If I had to name a favourite list it would be, without a doubt, 'Play it again, only better: 14 cover songs that outdo the originals':
1. Stevie Wonder - We can work it out (originally by The Beatles)
2. Bryan Ferry - It's my party (originally by Lesley Gore)
3. The Blind Boys of Alabama - Way down in the hole (Tom Waits' gospel song)
4. Ike & Tina Turner - Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
5. The Who - Summertime blues (originally by Eddie Cochran)
6. Elvis Costello - (What's so funny 'bout) Peace, love and understanding (originally by Nick Lowe)
7. The Mountain Goats - The Sign (originally by Ace of Base) - certainly more funny!
8. Self - What a fool believes (originally by Kenny Loggins, covered by The Doobie Brothers)
9. Elvis Presley - Hey Jude (originally by The Beatles)
10. Naked Eyes - (There's) Always something there to remind me (originally by Lou Johnson, covered by Sandie Shaw)
11. Jimi Hendrix - All along the watchtower (originally by Bob Dylan)
12. Jackie Wilson - Light my fire (originally by The Doors, covered by Jose Feliciano) - I disagree. I think Feliciano's version is nicer than Wilson's
13. Devo - (Can't get no) Satisfaction (originally by The Rolling Stones)
14. Langley Schools Music Project - Desperado (originally by The Eagles) - oh, no way! Definitely like the original better :) If you get the chance, watch the Langley Schools doco (it's on YouTube) because it's effing good. For real.

A few other lists that are my second bests are:
* Doesn't anybody fucking knock anymore?: 16 tragic instances of movie masturbation
* Tell me a tune: 26 songs that work as short stories
* Achtung BJ: 9 lyrics from U2's 'Achtung Baby' that might be about oral sex
* Rare reads: 17 books we wish were still in print
* Oh I get it now: 6 movies that make a lot more sense if you've read the book

I'm not a fan of movies, books, film or tv series that are considered totally 'high brow.' Seriously, classy is wasted on me. I definitely like to mix it all up and, sometimes, the trashier the better as far as I'm concerned. If you're a fan of pop culture mixed with lashings of tongue-in-cheek humour interspersed with tonnes of curse words - then come right ahead. This is your kinda book.

'Life is either a daring adventure...

by tosca on Friday, April 2, 2010

...or nothing.'
~ Helen Keller

My brother is deaf. I think his life has been a daring adventure although I imagine it hasn't been an easy journey growing up Maori and deaf amongst 6 other rowdy siblings who are all hearing. I thought he had been deaf since birth but, many years ago, he told us he could remember a time when he was able to hear noises and people. Others would perhaps not believe him. That's never been an issue for us - his memory is phenomenal and his ability to remember the strangest, smallest details from our childhood has added a richness to our own separate memories of certain events (both big and small).

I have always likened our family to an opera (or a three ring circus act). Everything is done with great passion and drama and at full volume. We choose toilet paper with as much intesity as we love and fight. Making it hard for outsiders to know the difference between an insult and a full-scale war. Life is never boring. Although I do wonder if it was harder for John and goshness knows it was challenging enough in the first place.

When we were kids John would see a speech therapist and it was thanks to them that he learnt to do any number of activities I took for granted. He would bring home big flash cards that had the steps for how to make a cup of tea (from getting a cup to putting the milk back), how to make his bed etc. I can see him now, in my head, carrying those cards around. He would recite them in the most matter of fact tone. Sometimes the cards were prompts for what could and could not be discussed in polite company. One of those activities was cursing. My brother went through a phase where he would use the term 'expletive deleted' in place of swear words (yes, as a child). There was also the unusual habit of using words/terms and then defining them, out loud, in that same tone. Sometimes in front of the people concerned. My mother often recounts a particular event where John walked past some Mongrel Mob or Black Power members when he stopped, looked at them and said, 'Gang - a group of friends,' then nodded and moved on. I think it was his way of reconciling what had been, up to that point, mere theory with the reality.

Any kid who is different at school is an automatic target for bullies. John was always that target. Kids would take one look at the hearing aids and torment him. He got quite quick with the comebacks and, when they resorted to the physical, he was an awesome sprinter. In fact, he used to take out track & field events every year. If the bullies would catch him, our sister Jax (her nickname was Utu for a very good reason) would deal to them. Physically. As a child he was one of the most friendly and engaging people I'd ever met - he would say hello to anybody and anyone and strike up conversations everywhere. Adults always found him charming. He was constantly into everything, convinced that the world was his playground. He feared nothing and nobody. Somewhere, while growing up though, that changed. A large part of it was his feeling that he didn't fit in anywhere - his seesawing contempt for hearing and deaf people made for interesting times. To say the least. We never learnt to sign past the basics - John's diction was spot on and his lipreading was phenomenal. So much so that people meeting him for the first time never realised he was deaf until he told them. I can't speak for everyone else in the family but I'm almost certain that was one reason I never bothered to learn properly. Do I regret it? Most certainly. Did I change it? Yes, but I didn't keep it up. As an adult I took sign classes but, like my reo, what I learned is exceedingly rusty. John found his feet and went on to become fluent in NZ sign, American sign, American fingerspelling (which I can do faster than he can and we'd use to communicate sometimes), NZ fingerspelling, Maori sign and Maori (as in verbal, not sign). All of us play an instrument or sing (some of us do both). That's about the limit of our collective artistic ability. He seems to have been blessed thrice over for he sketches, carves and writes the most incredible lyrics. Something the rest of us cannot do.

Why a long post about my brother? As a teen my brother loved to watch Marlee Matlin when she was on tv. When I asked him why, he said she was the one person on tv he identified with. Since then we've (including my mother) watched everything of hers that's screened here in NZ. Then I saw Marlee on twitter and, like all good cyberstalkers do, followed her :-) A few days back she posted a link to a clip for the pilot show of My Deaf Family (see the clip above) and watching it made me remember my brother as a child and wondering just how much of a disservice we did him. These days we don't talk much. We stopped getting along somewhere along the line and, eventually, didn't have anything to talk about at all. Maybe, I'll change that. Starting tonight. I'll email him the link as a starting point for a conversation and see where it goes from there...