Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I love a city that's not afraid of a couple stairs

The librarians have probably returned home and left Seattle in peace. ALA Midwinter was an interesting experience for me as a new librarian. I met a ton of vendors, a variety of other types of librarians from all over the country and I got to explore a new and wonderful city. I heard experts talk about the future of libraries (yes "digital" is a key word, no books aren't dead), the prevalence of new technologies (like how can we push content to iPods?), and the societal changes in how we consume, distribute and repurpose information (anyone for a presidental election?). Someone mentioned today that because Nancy Pearl (of Librarian Action Figure fame) is from Seattle that the city is a sort of Mecca for librarians and it isn't too far from the truth. The city has a multitude of coffeeshops filled with laptop-toting hipsters and with all that coffee even I could probably plow through Ulysses. Mixed in with the snazzy and stupifying Seattle Public Library architecture there are skyscrapers and an artfully developed waterfront. It wasn't uncommon to hear whispers about Microsoft if you sat around to eavesdrop long enough. I liked the Public Market and the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Elliott Bay Bookstore best. I didn't make it to the International Market but I did find an awesome Thai place and had doughnuts at the Top Pot. They even have a Patagonia store and will be debuting the new Nau clothing line in the next few months for those of us who love the outdoors! I'll definitely be back to Seattle, but until then June isn't too far away... I'll see all you librarians at Annual in DC!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Why radio is better than the iPod

1927 Radio
Originally uploaded by YlvaS.
I think satellite radio is the neatest thing since sliced bread. I already have cable, and Netflix, and a cell phone, and a iPod. What do you need to pay another monthly fee for?

Well I like radio better than my iPod. In fact, I never even wanted an iPod. I had an iRiver Mp3 player first and I would have stuck with that except it was no longer being supported. Even now that I've been seduced by my lovely 30 Gig sleek little iPod (Best Buy exchange for the outdated iRiver), I can' get into the whole iTunes thing, and the massive cult-like assault of iPod accesories. Maybe the problem is that there is just too much "I" in all of the Mp3 player crap.

A while back I read an article in the Utne Magazine entitled, "Hell is Other iPods: the aural loneliness of the long-distance shuffler". It is a great article about how the iPod culture isolates us from each other and I have to say I totally agree.

"In an age of atomization and social fragmentation it reinforces solipsism and places the individual and that dreaded value "choice" at the heart of experience; it suggests connection -- always the implicit promise of the digital age -- while enforcing separation; it encourages people to "tune out" while they're occupying social space with others, as if the others were mere irritations; and it reduces the experience of music, which in my view is an inherently social and collaborative art and medium, to a preselected relationship with the self."

I love radio and I love tuning into local stations as I drive long miles across the country. I love to hear oldies, farm reports, local weather, and regional accents. I even love the seredipity of coming across a song that you would never download onto your iPod for the shame of it...the guilty pleasure song! You can't really embrace the guilty pleasure when you are confined to your ultra-cool and masterfully selected iPod collection.

True, satellite radio is a sadder substitute to what the ideal would be for real radio. But I defend it. I actually get turned onto new artists. I actually listen to things outside my normal comfort zone. And I can get NPR anywhere, anytime. I can even eavesdrop on the trucker's channel. It rocks. And it rocks because it makes me feel less alone.

So maybe I'm not sharing mix tapes as much as I used to. Maybe I like being able to download one track at a time from an online retailer. And I am addicted to the Shuffle button- I admit it! But it doesn't substitute for that first joyous glimmer of recognition, that feeling of "what is this and where can I get a copy?" It's discovery; closely followed by the need to share with everyone you know. So I am going to keep my radio subscription and keep listening to Jack Ingram's American Music hour on XM radio religiously. I will also keep listening to Prairie Home Companion. And I do check in to when I get a chance. Because music should really be doing more than filling the time. it should be bringing people together.

In the words of Nanci Griffith, "When you can't find a friend, you've still got the radio..."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sunshine is a Winner

I must admit that I am naturally inclined towards quirky movies that are character-driven, sometimes boring and usually featuring well written dialogue on depressing subjects. My Netflix queue is full of movies that I thought looked weird or interesting, or those that have been recommended somewhere along the way. I usually feel there are a certain number of films that I just need to see to keep up with pop culture. Every once in a while one comes along that takes me off guard because I never saw it coming. Little Miss Sunchine is brilliant in a way that changed my life, per se, but I can honestly say that I haven’t laughed as hard in a long, long time.

This story of a dysfunctional family (one’s bankrupt, one’s a junkie, one doesn’t talk, and one’s suicidal)more accurately reflects our culture than even the “top 10 Google Searches of the year” (Paris Hilton? Myspace?). The movie has elements of a road trip film, a family vacation comedy, and that Blind Melon video with the bee girl. But the ending is spectacularly funny. Are you a winner or a loser? Well, in Little Miss Sunshine the message seems to be that sometimes the best choice of all is deciding not to even play the game. If only we all could have family bonding to “Superfreak” every once in a while! Despite all the strangeness, as the broken-down bus heads for home we somehow know that this family is going to be just fine.