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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Vanity Plate 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comE was bored today.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween 

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Syphilis and Genius 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI remember reading about the genius-syphilis connection in my most beloved book of all time, Rats, Lice and History. The book, ostensibly a history of typhus, also includes any interesting digressions the writer, a microbiologist, damn well pleases. It's like sitting in on the most fascinating college lecture you ever had, one in which the teacher wanders off on these electrifying tangents until some killjoy nimrod breaks in and asks, "Is this going to be on the test?" Here Zinsser rather wistfully speculates upon the unexpected cost to mankind the easy antibiotic cure to syphilis brought.

"This might be a loss to civilisation: it has often been claimed that since so many brilliant men have had syphilis, much of the world's greatest achievement was evidently formulated in brains stimulated by the cerebral irritation of an early general paresis. We omit reference to specific instances of this among our contemporaries only to avoid, for our publishers, the vulgar embarrassment of libel suits".

Now I'm reading the illuminating and riveting POX: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis. The author explores the controversial history (New World or Old World or some horrible super combination of those strains?) of syphilis, the misery and the devastation it wrought, but also the link between genius and syphilis' tertiary stage.

“Right before madness, the syphilitic was often rewarded, in a kind of Faustian bargain for enduring the pain and despair, by episodes of creative euphoria, electrified, joyous energy when grandiosity led to new vision. The heightened perception, dazzling insights and almost mystical knowledge experienced during this time were expressed while precision of form of expression was still possible. At the end of the nineteenth century, it was believed that, in rare instances, syphilis could produce a genius.”

Some of our greatest thinkers who are suspected of having the disease: Charles Baudelaire, Guy de Maupassant, Abraham Lincoln, Vincent van Gogh and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Before any aspiring geniuses run off and infect themselves with syphilis for their art, please read up about the unimaginably agonizing ways the disease ravages and destroys the infected's brain, body and bones, as in the case of Isak Dineson, who reported being struck "with sudden bouts of vomiting and abdominal pain so severe that at times she sat on the floor howling like an animal." Syphilis can eat away at bones, leaving these horrifically painful lesions that look like the bones have been eaten away by acid. Forensic anthropologists looooove syphilis because of the telltale symptoms it leaves on teeth and bones. Most evidence of other disease is lost when the flesh is gone, but a syphillitic's bones tells tales.

Buy a cute plushy syphilis microbe to snuggle up with in bed instead.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Why I Blog 

A bunch of us bloggers were asked to write an essay about blogging for a forthcoming issue of Reconstruction, so here goes...

Library Noire

I have never been a faithful diary or journal keeper, so I have surprised myself by regularly maintaining my blog for almost three years now. When I was a child, I received a new diary each Christmas, and would always begin each year with the best of intentions to fill each page. I inevitably lost interest, however, and my entries would peter out. Even those incomplete records did not survive my childhood because every time I would revisit my old diaries I destroyed them in mortification. Let’s just say, Anne Frank I was not, and my slightly older self was extremely judgmental of the immaturity and quality of my younger self’s writing and I would obliterate them in these Stalinistic purges. (Not enough Time + Distance to = Funny). Although I hated my diaries I always loved to write letters and treasured the ones that I would receive in return. I think I have kept every single one. I have a giant archive, shoeboxes full of them, and they are delightful to read.

I guess I have kept up my blog because it is more like a letter to friends and family than a journal. I blog to amuse my friends and family – my experiences on the job at a large urban library are just too rich and bizarre to keep to myself. Keeping a blog improves my attitude and outlook. Now if anything scary or bizarre or disgusting happens I roll my eyes heavenward and whisper a thank you for the material instead of despairing about the situation. If I slip in a puddle of vomit or I interrupt a man jacking off in the stacks or having a seizure overdose at the internet computers I know I can make a funny or at least interesting story out of it. Blogging regularly is a good mental health and professional exercise, because often on this job if you didn’t laugh, as the saying goes, you would cry.

I consider the public in all of its glorious and degraded forms grist for the mill for my blog, and perhaps I’m violating some unwritten librarian ethic. I hope that I am respectful of the characters because they are awesome, and there are great stories about them to tell. I’ve always adored Studs Terkel’s chronicles of ordinary people and I hope to contribute something in that ilk. To protect the innocent and the guilty I write anonymously, keep the location of my library secret and heavily disguise or even create compilations out of the patrons. I’m no social crusader, but I do hope that I raise awareness about some of the disastrous social policy decisions such as deinstitutionalization, and the fact cities across the nation inappropriately and expediently use libraries as cheap day shelters. We librarians are on the front lines here.

What your users are saying about you - Library Best Practices 

Recently I attended a lecture at a conference where the speaker exhorted us to monitor all of the various review websites and insider pages like Yelp, Yahoo Travel and City Search to see what our users are saying about our institution.

Here's an enlightening one (well, not to anyone working here):

This is like a nightclub/dive bar for crazy people.

Case in point:

-a friend of mine walked into the men's room to find a filthy homeless guy bent over the sink, taking it from a guy in a business suit. True story.

-another friend who worked here said he met a normal-seeming girl who ended up STALKING him via threatening phone calls and he had to have her banned from the library. He also said they were contantly kicking people out for jacking in the stacks.

They should make a video game based on this place. Nerdy, normal bibliophiles have to dodge flying jizz, urine, and sodomy attempts just to get to their books.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Awesome Dialogue from My Name is Earl 

Earl's friend Ralph (played by Giovanni Ribisi) explaining why he has to shoot Earl for getting drunk and sleeping with Ralph's mother: "That's my mom, Earl! I lived in her for nine months when I was just an itty bitty baby! That was my first home! You broke into my home, man!"

Cornering Earl and cocking the trigger of his pistol:
"Tell it to Jesus, Earl. You disgraced his favorite angel."

Catalina, the Mexican maid, explains to Earl,
"Men don't like it when other men sleep with their mothers. It is why my brother killed our father."

Charming Sounds of the City 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe other day I was having this very serious conversation on a cell phone with my aunt who lives in Texas while I sat outside at a taqueria a few blocks from the library. Every few minutes a fire truck or ambulance would screech by with deafening sirens, or a gangbanger would creep by with bass so loud it would reverberate in my gut, or some asshole motorcyclist with an altered pipe would blat by and conversation would be impossible. We continued being interrupted by various types of city noise pollution, including a cackling bum who asked me for money, but the piece de resistance was a screeching, emaciated prostitute having an altercation with another woman about half a block up from me. I couldn’t tell if it was a territorial dispute but I doubt it because the target of the crack whore’s rage was an earnest young woman girl who looked like a social worker, not a street walker. The crack whore pursued this woman down the street toward me, hurling threats and insults like, “I’m going to kill you, you bitch!” but since the crack whore was missing all of her front teeth it sounded more like, "I'm going to kill you, you bith!" Then this car screeched up and the social worker looking woman jumped in and sped away. I was laughing and trying to describe the scene to my aunt but my aunt, who is very conservative and used to volunteer side by side with our First Lady Laura Bush folding clothes at the Junior League thrift shop in Midland, Texas somehow didn't think the situation was as funny as I did.

I find all of that kind of seedy urban entertainment completely awesome, but I have to wonder what the hell kind of blighted ghetto hell hole my aunt must think I work in.

Friday, October 20, 2006

You'll rue the day you crossed me, Trebek. 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIt’s often hard for me to distinguish between a crank phone call and a member of the genuinely confused, possibly insane public.

An elderly woman called with a strong Scottish brogue. I could barely hear her over her blaring television set.

“I was watching that millionaire show, you know the one with Trebek… and Regis Philbin and… I can’t remember the name of the other two hosts. Anyway, one of the questions was, 'Which host is dead and a clone.'”

“What was the question?”

“Which host is dead and a clone?”

"Well, I know that one of the recent Jeopardy contestants jokingly called Alex Trebek a cyborg."

"A what?"

"A human with mechanical or computer parts."

"What? Well, the answer was Alex Trebek."

"Alex Trebek is not dead, and he's not a clone. I think they were making a bad joke."

"Why would they say that? I don't think that's right. I don't think that's right at all. Are ye sure?"

"Yes, they were trying to be funny, but you're right, that joke was in poor taste."

"It most certainly was. Thank you."

I like to watch Jeopardy because it helps keep me sharp for work. Spoon loathes the host, Alex Trebek, however. Whenever she hears his voice she growls and charges the television, screeching and snarling. She then will pace around the room, gnash her teeth and shake and shred her stuffed toys. I call it the Thirty Minutes of Hate. Border Terrier’s are bred to be heard under 10 feet of earth, so her piercing barks really detract the whole Jeopardy viewing experience.

At first we couldn’t figure out what it is about Alex Trebek that aroused such strong passions in Spoon. Although he can be a little smug and affected with his foreign pronunciations, he seems like a mostly inoffensive Canadian to me, which is why I always thought Sean Connery’s irrational, belligerent hatred of Alex Trebek on the Celebrity Jeopardy skits on SNL was so funny. Eventually we figured out that it’s the Double Jeopardy graphics that set her off. For some reason, the way the graphics rush and spin out antagonize her, and now she associates Trebek’s voice with them, so as soon as she hears his voice she starts her fit.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Krazee Eyez Killah 

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It's a hard world for little things.

On a hike yesterday, Spoon pounced upon, viciously shook and snapped the neck of a small woodland creature. I suspect the little animal, some sort of mouse, was a little sluggish from the cold and had been busily putting the finishing touches on its winter stores. For whatever reason, it didn’t realize that Spoon was coming up on it. The only ameliorating factor was that she did such a thorough job I didn’t have to euthanize it with the heel of my hiking boot. While I was brooding and distracted Billy rolled in something especially rank - elk urine, perhaps? - and I had to drive home with the windows down, gagging and trying not to pass out behind the wheel.

This is the first scalp (pelt?) in Spoon’s belt. She has participated in some earthdog trials, an event whose goal is for the dog to find a caged rat at the end of an underground maze. Dogs are judged for their timing and the ferocity at which they bark at the rat. (No rats are ever harmed during these events). These trials really whipped up her bloodlust and ever since she participated we have had to spell the word “rat” around her. If she hears the word, even on the television, it sends her into a frenzy of screaming and pacing and whining. She could certainly never sit quietly through The Departed.

The situation really bummed me out. But, Border Terriers are ratters, after all, so I certainly can’t blame her for doing what she’s bred to do. Although I’ve made half hearted attempts, I’m no vegetarian. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m descended from greasy meat eaters and am genetically programmed to crave meat. When I do eat meat, however, I try to be respectful of the animal and mindful of the effects my diet has on the ecosystem. I never delude myself about the suffering that it causes.

I guess that’s why I’m still enraged that Jessica Simpson, confounded by the “Chicken of the Sea” slogan on the can of tuna she opened, questioned her incredulous husband if she were eating chicken or fish. At least honor the animal that died for you by knowing what it is, you stupid, fucking whore.

By the way, I began this post with a quote from one of my favorite all time movies, Night of the Hunter. Rachel Cooper, the gentle but steely widow who takes in children during the Great Depression, says, "It's a hard world for little things" when a hawk swoops down on a rabbit. The Coen Brothers, who let's just say were heavily influenced by this movie, have H.I. McDonough say it in Raising Arizona.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Awww, I wasn't going to kill her... 

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A big thank you to E for downloading this picture of the lawn dart scene from Reno 911! that features Reno resident dirtball and “Captain of Suspicious Behavior” Big Mike who, despite having a lawn dart protruding from his skull, still valiantly clutches his beer.

Big Mike is one of the many fabulous recurring characters on Reno 911!. Reno's police officers frequently respond to complaints of domestic violence or disturbances of the peace at Big Mike's residence. In my favorite episode featuring Big Mike, Lt. Dangle holds a scavenger hunt, the prize being two tickets to an execution later that evening. As Deputy Travis Junior explains, this is a particularly desirable prize because “getting two tickets to an execution is like getting two tickets to NASCAR on the front row, except you *know* Jeff Gordon's gonna die.”

Scavenger Hunt Items
Crackhead with a wig- 5pts.
Perp over 6'5"- 10pts.
Man with teats (B cup or larger) - 5pts.
Best looking hooker- 15pts.
Red foreign car- 5pts.
Perp with animal tattoo- 5pts.
Double Points if perp is Jewish

As the officers canvass Reno in search of items on the scavenger hunt, Dangle and Travis visit Big Mike because they heard rumors that either his sister or his common law wife recently gave him a tattoo. They drive up and find Big Mike sitting in a chair watering his weed and trash choked lawn with a hose. They hassle and provoke Big Mike, who sprays them with his water hose. They use that as excuse to tackle him so they can check out his tattoo. After they lift his shirt up they are disappointed to discover that Big Mike’s tattoo is that of a dragon, and while they have Big Mike’s face shoved in the dirt they debate whether the dragon will count since it’s a mythical beast. Big Mike insists that the tattoo, which is on his trunk, is that of a panther. He twists his neck to look at it and realizes for the first time that the tatoo is a dragon. In a rage, he escapes the officers and charges the house, threatening to kill his sister for not giving him the correct panther tatto. The officers subdue him and handcuff him. “Awwww, I wasn’t going to kill her, I was just going to f*ck her up,” Big Mike confesses sheepishly as they lead him away to the squad car.

Come to think of it, Reno's finest should have started at the library; if they had, they would have completed the hunt in about 5 minutes.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Heart the War Nerd 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI have two televisions set up next to each other so I can watch movies while I do a taped workout, and although it helps make the workouts go faster, I end up giving them both only my half assed attention. The other day I finally watched Shaving Ryan’s Saving Private Ryan, a movie I have been avoiding for years. I had so much adrenalin coursing through me during the Omaha Beach scene that I didn’t realize I was seriously overdoing it with the weights, so much so that I could barely walk the next day.

This might surprise you, but even though I enjoy browsing through crime scene photos and studying the life cycles of parasites and vampire bats, I really can't bear the subject of war. Even though I have what some people may think are morbid and depraved tastes, the cruelty, the carnage and the waste of war are too much, even for me, to stand. I am certainly no Iris Chang, who apparently would pester and beg her grandparents for stories of the Rape of Nanking, an event of which they were the unfortunate eyewitnesses. As a child, she would sit at their knee and listen raptly to their sickening descriptions like they were treasured bedtime stories. Personally, I don’t like such knowledge rattling around in my head. That kind of information tends to be like some sort of opportunistic infection, lying in wait to attack and fill me with despair when I’m depressed, sick or weak. Perhaps this is what happened with Iris Chang, who committed suicide after she drove herself to exhaustion interviewing survivors of the Bataan Death March for her last project.

Despite my aversion to war reading, lately I've been really into the columns of Gary Brecher, The War Nerd. He probably doesn’t exist – people suspect he is a literary collaboration, a nom de guerre of the Exile's Mark Ames and John Dolan – but the column is brilliantly informative and, despite the grim subject matter, hilarious. He has scathing opinions about the situation we’ve gotten ourselves into in Iraq, writes stuff about North Korea that will keep you awake at night, and is highly politically incorrect. This is an excerpt from one of my favorite columns, Colombia: One Hundred Years of Slaughtertude.

There are some countries that turn into psycho killers once they put on a uniform, but wouldn't even run a yellow light once they're in civvies again. Two classic examples: the Japanese and Germans. The Japanese did things in China that just don't bear thinkin' about...beheading contests, sword practice on pregnant Chinese prisoners, baby-bayoneting volleyball -- but those same soldiers went home and turned into shy little salary-men who wouldn't jaywalk, never mind hurt anybody. Same with the Germans: let'em loose in a gray helmet and they think up stuff that'd make Saddam ashamed -- but back home in Dusseldorf they'd die before they'd drop a popsicle stick on the sidewalk.


I thought about this column the other day when I was commuting to work on my bicycle. I had inched into the crosswalk to let a car pass by me and take a right turn. A German man walked by and said, “Ja! You’re over the line.” I was no more than 5 inches into the crosswalk, but this was enough to warrant a public scolding from a German. I’m glad that I don’t live in such a terribly rigid and repressed society like Japan or Germany. All that human nature tapped down leaks out in other ways, like rape manga, war atrocities and scheisse porn.

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