What if… (Jersey Shore installment)

I’ve only seen about 20 minutes of the Jersey Shore. It reminded me of the hours spent getting ready for a night out when I was in college and my roommate was from Long Island. There was a lot of makeup, a lot of drama, and not a lot of intelligent conversation. Those evenings usually ended badly.

It occurs to me that the Jersey Shore actors are so uniformly horrible that they may actually be a troupe of French Existentialist performance artists who wanted to deliver a commentary about the low standards of American television audiences.

They gave themselves strict rules such as:

  • “The Situation” is limited to a vocabulary of less than 400 words.
  • “Snookie” must be incessantly ludicrous, with skirts increasingly short and breasts increasingly large.
  • “JWoww” cannot ever appear in a naturally occurring skin color.

They believed that in less than two weeks , the American public would discover their true identities, yet we never did. And now, the French Existentialist troupe is trapped in their own Sartrian version of “No Exit.” They dream of leaving the waxing, gelling, profanity and tanning behind, but they are artists who willl see this performance through to its conclusion.

This thought has had me amused for over a week.

It now seems more likely to be true than false.

One reason my library rocks

A couple of years ago, we got a some new additions to our library: lots of natural light, and movable study spaces.  The technical services area moved upstairs to the former Management Library (they get a lot of sun now, too), and bricks were peeled off the facade and replaced with glorious, enormous windows.

Within the space, movable furniture, comfy chairs with cup holders, and just about every variety of table and chair.  Plugs for electronics are everywhere. The chairs often have wheels, and the tables are light but sturdy.

The students love it, and use it a lot. The space is open 24 hours a day, and students are there the entire time.  The Chronicle of Higher Education just wrote a follow-up to their original article, and you can find it here: http://chronicle.com/blogPost/In-the-U-of-Rochesters-Li/7499/

Back in the bat-saddle again

It’s been a bit of a blog hiatus. Mostly because being back at work is hard and involves lots of computing and at the end of the day, I don’t want to look at the computer at all.

I have bat-news to share!  We’re going to have librarian trading cards and we got to choose our pulp fiction-esque superhero theme. Mine is, of course, batgirl. When it’s done, I’ll post it – it’s already shockingly cool.

The back is good. Tires out easily, but I’ve been slowly rehabilitating it, and I can’t complain. I never thought I would be so happy to be working.

Audio book suggestions?

Thanks to my housemate and her parents, I have a loaner iPod, and they’re letting me download books from Audible.com.  I feel incredibly lucky that so many people have gone out of their way for me like this.  So far, I’ve listened to “Eat, Pray, Love” (which I liked, even though I’m not sure I would really like the author if we met in person), and Sarah Vowell’s “The Wordy Shipmates” (which I liked a lot, but am very happy Eva bought me a hard-copy of it. I’ve already forgotten all the famous names and who did what), and George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” (which Diana’s mom suggested and was absolutely right – once I got into it, I loved it!).

Do you have a suggestion for an audio book that you liked?  On nights that I can’t sleep due to pain/achiness, it really helps to have a book to listen to.

The only book I tried to listen to and failed was one of the Harry Potter books. The narrator was great, but I must read Harry Potter books really fast, because I was terribly frustrated at how long it took the narrator to get through a paragraph, and ditched the book within a few minutes.

I have been trying to read hard copies of books lately, but that’s harder because I have to worry about posture (reclining and reading is a little tricky sometimes), and also, my concentration isn’t very good some days.  I have read a few good ones lately:

Markus Zusak’s “I am the Messenger” which is a young-adult story about a 19 year old slacker who begins getting messages on playing cards and needs to follow through on certain tasks. It was a quick read, and I really liked it. Although for the first half, I thought it took place in England, and then realized it was actually Australia. And then all the characters’ accents changed in my head. That was odd.

I’m almost finished with Barbara Vine’s “The Minotaur” and I like it – I’m not used to mystery novels, so this is kind of a fun switch.

I read “Gods Behaving Badly” by Marie Philips, which was a quick read, and funny. It reminded me a little of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” or James Morrow’s “Towing Jehovah,” but wasn’t nearly as deep or satirical as either of those. It was fun though – not a meal in itself, but an enjoyable light dessert kind of book.

I also read the sequel to “Medicus” by Ruth Downie – “Terra Incognito” – it was also a fun, quick read and really enjoyable. A mystery that takes place in Britain during the Roman occupation. The main character strikes me as the type that would have fit well into an episode of M*A*S*H.  Thanks to Judi B. for first suggesting “Medicus”!

It seems like a lot of reading, except this is nearly the full list of what I’ve read since October 1. For a librarian, it’s not much.

I’m open to suggestions. Nothing too scary (I do scare easily). Nothing too racy (remember, I’m a girl who won’t be dating again until I’m healthy!).

Impotence, collateral damage and analytic metaphysics

The UR Philosophy department hosted Peter VanInwagen this Friday and his paper was a response to Bas VanFrassen’s criticism of analytic metaphysics. I hadn’t heard the criticism before, but it was critical of analytic philosophers’ methods. According to VanFrassen, the methods are both impotent and wreak collateral damage. Such philosophers introduce technical terms that aren’t at all the same in meaning as the terms of everyday folks – in its most distilled (and perhaps slightly unfair) version. VanInwagen’s response was clear, fair and witty in a particularly VanInwagen-ey way. He has a facility with metaphors and similies that most philosophers lack. I also especially like that VanInwagen’s view of material beings is that, in the philosophy room, there are no such things as chairs and telephones, the only material beings are living entities (and perhaps simples of some sort – although I may be misremembering). While this came up only peripherally in his talk, it’s always a hoot.

As a librarian, I sometimes get bogged down in the minutiae of the day – tasks, immediate problems, and scheduling. Librarianism some days is mostly jumping from one fire to the next without a lot of time for contemplation. It is both refreshing and surprising to find myself back in the philosophy room giggling at jokes only philosophers would laugh at, and finding puzzles in questions such as, “is there a world that exists?” I think it was Bertrand Russell that said philosophy takes a statement everyone takes to be true and hopelessly complicates it until it’s no longer obviously true, and in fact, what the statement means at all is in doubt.

At one point in VanInwagen’s talk he mentioned in passing that one must “think responsibly” and it seems to me that this would be a good slogan for us all. Whether Bas VanFrassen is right and analytic metaphysicians are impotent and wreaking collateral damage, I like being in their company…that is, if such a thing as an analytic metaphysician exists at all.