Category Archives: contemporary

Director’s Brief on

My final project for my Hyperlinked Libraries course.

I’ve been delighted with since I learned about it last semester., a digital curation tool, not only is useful in school libraries, but I argue should be used in public libraries as it capitalizes on librarian’s skill and aligns well with a public library’s mission. I chose to imagine I was working at my hometown’s library.

To see the Issuu version, click here.

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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in contemporary, Library and Information Science


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The High Window

high window


[Chandler] wrote as if pain hurt and life mattered.
The New Yorker.

I just love Raymond Chandler and can’t believe I didn’t read his novels till this year. The High Window has Philip Marlowe working for a nasty, rich, cold-hearted widow whose ex-husband’s rare gold coin has been stolen. The story starts simply enough, but soon the body count piles up. First a rookie detective who was following Marlowe is killed. Next an expert Marlowe spoke with, then a third body appears. All are connected to Marlowe, though not closely.

The best thing about Chandler’s writing is the prose. His style is one of a kind. Here are some examples:

“I have a damn fool of a son,” she said. “But I’m very fond of him. About a year ago he made an idiotic marriage, without my consent. This was foolish of him because he is quite incapable of earning a living and he has no money except what I give him, and I am not generous with money. The lady he chose, or who chose him, was a night club singer. Her name, appropriately enough, was Linda Conquest. They have lived her in this house. We didn’t quarrel because I don’t allow people to quarrel with me in my house, but there has not been good feeling between us. I have paid their expenses, given each of them a car, made the lady a sufficient but not gaudy allowance for clothes and so on. No doubt she found life rather dull. No doubt she found my son dull. I find him dull myself. At any rate she moved out, very abruptly, a week or so ago, without leaving a forwarding address or saying goodbye.” (p.12)

He held an empty smeared glass in his hand. It looked as if somebody had been keeping goldfish in it. He was a lanky man with carroty short hair growing down to a point on his forehead. He had a long narrow head packed with shabby cunning. Greenish eyes stared under orange eyebrows. His ears were large and might have flapped in a high wind. He had a long nose that would be into things. The whole face was a trained face, a face that would know how to keep a secret, a face that held the effortlessness of composure of a corpse in the morgue. (p. 76)

Each sentence is flawless.

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in American Lit, contemporary



Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

some girlsJillian Lauren‘s memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem takes readers from the world of starving artists/escorts in New York to the palace and yachts of Brunei. A fascinating, witty read, Some Girls chronicles Lauren’s life through the before, during and after of her time as a party girl/concubine for Prince Robin (that’s his English name).

Lauren candidly shares her feelings and background with objectivity admitting when she’s conned herself vis-a-vis her family, birth mother, drinking, neuroses, boyfriends, jobs and time in the surreal world of royals in Brunei. Smart and funny, the book is more than a tell all though it doesn’t shy away from relating the seamy side of the machinations and competition between the girls from America, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore as they vie for a handsome Prince, who’s married (with 2 wives), cold, manipulative and far from charming.

FYI – It all starts with an offer of $20,000 for two weeks of partying, smiling and pleasing.

Thanks to whoever left this book in the teachers’ book collection.

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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in contemporary, memoir


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Shakespeare Saved my Life


I’m reading the absorbing Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by English professor and Shakespeare expert, Laura Bates. Bates grew up in a poor neighborhood with plenty of crime and troubles. After getting her doctorate, she begins teaching in an Indiana prison a few days a week. Her employer, University of Indiana offered courses to prisoners. After awhile she convinces the prison to allow her to teach in prisoners in solitary confinement. Her school’s not on board so she does this for free.

Bates describes the details of the high security section of the prison, all the thick double doors she has to go through and all the perils she must avoid. The heart of the book is her engagement with the convicted murders she works with. Their insights and engagement with the plays are a far cry from what you’d expect from men imprisoned for life. Bates’s book also relates the men’s narratives – how they got where they are. It’s an absorbing read. I’d love to see Steppenwolf or the Chicago Shakespeare Theater dramatize it.

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Posted by on July 26, 2013 in American Lit, contemporary, non-fiction


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Librarian Interview

Remember Monty Python? For my summer Library Science course. Evidently, there will be some fun along with the staggering workload.

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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in contemporary, humor


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An Abundance of Katherines

abundance katherinesColin Singleton, the hero of John Green‘s An Abundance of Katherines, is a dumpee. Time and again, 19 times in fact, he’s been dumped. Every time this prodigy, who’s just graduated high school, has been dumped by a girl named Katherine. He developed his penchant for Katherine’s when he was 8. Some “relationships” lasted minutes, some months. Losing Katherine XIX devastated him. Thus to shake off this bad feeling whiz kid Colin and his friend Hassan take to the road in Colin’s jalopy, which he calls Hearse

The story is clever and I enjoyed Colin, Hassan and Lindsay. Yet I was so keenly aware of Green’s cleverness that I never got lost in the book. I was always aware that Green was telling a story. It’s quite clever, though far from realistic. The boys drive to a small town in Tennessee where they meet Lindsay, who’s a beautiful woman, their age, who is a tour guide for the Archduke Ferdinand’s burial site. Before you know it, Colin and Hassan are working for Lindsay’s mother and living in their pink mansion. The boys must interview old folks for an oral history of Gunshot, Tennessee. While they’re in Gunshot, hanging out and working, Colin has time to figure out an equation that can predict how long a relationship will last and which party will dump the other.

There’s a lot of banter and interesting esoteric remarks. It’s a fast read, and I liked that the cover shown above was designed by a reader. In fact, it’s a lot better than the professionally designed earlier covers, if you ask me. The novel’s end is rather pat and predictable. Still it’s a decent book.

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Posted by on April 28, 2013 in American Lit, contemporary, YA


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Lost on Planet China

lost china

After reading J. Maarten Troost’s Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation Or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid, I’m putting his earlier books at the top of my “to read list.”

When Troost and his wife outgrow their home in California, they consider moving to China. But first Troost feels the need to investigate. Would China be the place to bring up his two boys? Thus he sets off on what must have been months of travel all around the Middle Kingdom.

Soon after arriving in polluted Beijing, it’s clear that Troost isn’t exposing his sons to the PM 2.5 laced smog that passes for air in China. No. He’s a good father.

Yet he’s also a traveler and he wants to see what makes this empire tick. So he travels through China stopping in Tai an, Qingdao, Nanjing, Shanghai, Tibet, Chengdu and many other exotic, perplexing, fascinating, crowded, polluted (and less so in a few, a very few instances) cities. All the while Troost delights with his wit, perception and insight. Here’s a sample of his prose describing a trip to a traditional market;

And then, as if we were lost in some grim Humane Society nightmare, we began to wander past stalls selling frogs, chickens, eels, turtles, cats, scorpions –big and small- – dogs in cages, ducks in bags, and snakes in bowls. There were 2,000 stalls in this market, and this, apparently, was where Noah’s Ark unloaded its cargo. If you were planning a dinner party and looking to tickle your guests’ palate with a delicately prepared Cobra heart, perhaps followed by some bunny soup and sauteéd puppy, the Qingping Market is for you.

Now there is some wit and exaggeration, so if you’re looking for a literary journey with a stodgy, politically correct anthropologist, this book isn’t for you, but I’d rather travel with Troost than a disciple of Margaret Mead.

Troost experiences the full China – the majesty of the Forbidden City, come ons from the prostitutes, the cute pandas, the karaoke on the Yangste River Cruise, the constant haggling, the bandit taxi drivers, the expat pot heads in Yunnan, the cheerful Tibetans, and the hordes who’ll knock down their great grandmother to get to their assigned train seat.

He weaves in history and politics with a light touch that makes it memorable and interesting. You’ll learn a lot about bargaining and patience on the road from Troost.


Posted by on March 14, 2013 in contemporary, memoir, Travel Writing


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The Tao of Twitter

tao-of-twitterI’m not a big Twitter user, but since a few friends signed up, I did too. I didn’t use it much until I saw a TED talk extolling the unintended virtues of this service. When I realized I could follow politicians and tweet about their performance, policies and speeches as I heard about them, I figured that someone’s tallying up the yeas and nays and this seems a more convenient way to voice my concerns.

Still I don’t tweet daily and I can go a month without checking my account, but that’s fine. Infrequent use doesn’t mean a service or product isn’t useful. I don’t wear hiking boots every day, but I wouldn’t throw mine out since they fill a gap. Also, I think information professionals need to understand and use all popular social media to reach all patrons.

I am curious about Twitter and how organizations can use it effectively. Thus Mark Schaefer’s The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time caught my eye.

After just a few chapters, Schaefer’s book has been helpful. He begins by describing how one of his twitter exchanges led to a networking relationship which resulted in career advice and new video equipment for his mentee, new business for a a former colleague and lots of valuable knowledge for himself. He’s used Twitter to invite people into his web brainstorming sessions, which have resulted in eliciting effective ideas quickly and inexpensively. His tweets have led people to his blog, where he shares his thinking on marketing, his field. In turn the blog has led clients to him. They like his thinking and establish a rapport and when they have work he can do, they’ve called him.

Schaefer boils the “Tao of Twitter” down to three elements:

  • Targeted contacts
  • Meaningful messages and
  • Authentic helpfulness.

Since I use Facebook more than I tweet, I wasn’t aware of the strengths of Twitter. Schaefer points out that:

  • Twitter users are the most influential online consumers–more than 70 percent publish blog posts at least once a month, 70 comment on blogs, 61 percent write at least one product review monthly and 61 percent comment on news sites.
  • Daily Twitter users are six times more likely to publish articles.
  • Five times more likely to post blogs, seven times more likely to post product reviews at least monthly, compared to non-Twitter users.
  • 11 percent of online consumers read Twitter updates, but do not have a Twitter account themselves!
  • 20 percent of consumers indicate that they have followed a brand on Twitter in order to interact with the company–more that email subscribers or Facebook fans. (p. 32-33)
  • 79 percent of Twitter followers (versus 60 percent of Facebook fans) are more likely to recommend brands since becoming a fan or follower (p.26).
  • Facebook’s share links average only three clicks, while Twitter’s tweets generate nineteen clicks on average (p. 27).

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

I was quite surprised by these facts; I thought I’d seen that Twitter was in a slump. Then I considered that television news does often include tweets in their coverage and that celebrities use Twitter a lot. So it is an influential medium. Also, Twitter users may be in a different demographic than I am thus I might be out of the loop as far as its popularity and use.

Scheafer moves on to not just tell people how to handle the basics of Twitter, but how and where to use it wisely. He recommends using the list feature to create lists of users who relate to certain topics you’ve determined are useful, how to find people who located near a specific location and who share a specific interest. He suggests signing up for Twellow, service like the yellow pages for Twitter that Schaefer recommends for finding accounts according to business, location and/or keywords.

I’ve set up a few lists and will add a few more. I looked at to find out my Twitter grade. I wasn’t surprised that it’s pretty low since I don’t tweet regularly. Maybe that’ll improve after I finish reading The Tao of Twitter and I implement these ideas. To find out what’s been tweeted recently, you can go to Local Chirps and input a location.

Certainly a library, museum or other non-profit could benefit from an effective Twitter account and Schaefer’s ideas can make their tweets effective.


Schaefer, M. W. (2012). The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in contemporary, non-fiction


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Exploring with David Sedaris

A cute video with David Sedaris.

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Posted by on February 10, 2013 in book lovers, contemporary, humor


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Life of Pi


Based on Yann Martel’s imaginative novel, Life of Pi chronicles the amazing life of Pi Patel a boy whose family owns a zoo in India. When the zoo goes under, Pi’s father uproots his family and takes some of the animals to sell in Canada.

On the voyage to Canada, a terrible storm kicks up and only Pi and three wild animals, a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a tiger named Richard Parker survive on the lifeboat. Soon only the tiger and Pi remain on the vast sea under the intense sun. It’s riveting to see Pi figure out how to evade sharks, keep out of the sun, eat and share space with a tiger – and not some docile, domesticated feline, but a tiger who’ll eat a hyena or most likely a teenage boy if nothing else is around.

Since I’d read the book, I didn’t think this book was filmable. It’s just too unique. I’m happy to say this version worked. How amazing! The film is beautiful with incredible CGI for the bulk of the film and lovely local color shots of India and the zoo at the start.

There were some parts I didn’t think worked. The story if framed with a contrivance that a drifting writer met an acquaintance of Pi’s who told the writer he must hear Pi’s story. I just didn’t buy that this guy would actually bother to track down Pi. I wouldn’t – unless it turned out Pi was a neighbor, I’d never met back home. That character was just bland and a device to get Pi to tell his story.

At the end two Japanese employees of the shipping company meet with Pi to find out what happened. That scene seemed flat as the two actors just didn’t have Japanese body language and the way they behaved was just not believable. No Japanese person I’ve met would express skepticism so directly and they wouldn’t challenge someone in the hospital that way. It just came off as flat. Also, the adult Pi promises that the story will persuade the listening writer of God’s existence. I don’t think that’s needed. I wasn’t convinced of God’s existence from the film and think it can be viewed as an exciting story about resourcefulness. Mind you, I do believe in God.

On the whole the film amazed me and the actor who played Pi was outstanding.

Related articles

Life Of Pi – 3d (
Life of Pi (Roger Ebert’s review)
The Lady or The Tiger: Ambiguity and Life of Pi (
“Life of Pi”, does God exists? Book Vs. Movie! (
Life of Pi by Yann Martel – review (
Life of Pi (
Decoding Life of Pi: The Movie (


Posted by on February 6, 2013 in contemporary


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