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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Quit!

New Year's Day is only two days away. Have you made your resolution yet? If you haven't, not only has the top resolutions usually attempted, but also has resources listed as an added help. One of my coworkers is going to learn how to knit and another is going to try to be nicer to people. I've decided to quit smoking (again). In addition to the myriad of health benefits quitting provides, I'll also be rid of the disgusting nature of smoking itself. The smell, the taste, the feel of a light coating of nicotine on the skin... Need further illustration? In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell wrote, "He put a cigarette in his mouth. Half the tobacco promptly fell out on to his tongue, a bitter dust which was difficult to spit out again." Granted, in the dystopian world of Oceania cigarettes aren't the only things guaranteed to turn your stomach, but the idea of a wad of tobacco lying on my tongue makes me shudder!

There's a grand description of smoking in another one of my favorite books, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. In this grueling realm of gulags, cigarettes are just as scarce as in Orwell's vision. Solzhenitsyn writes
He took from it a pinch of factory-cut tobacco, put it on Shukhov's palm, sized it up, and added a few wisps. Just enough for rolling one cigarette, not a scrap more.
Shukhov had newspaper of his own. He tore a bit off, rolled his cigarette, picked up a hot ember that had landed between the foreman's feet, took a long drag, another long drag, and felt a sort of dizziness all over his body, as though drink had gone to his head and his legs.
I am so looking forward to the absence of a sense of desperation that smoking brings! I'm relieved that I've never been so badly off that I've rolled a cigarette in newspaper, but I think that I might have tried it if I had needed to do so. (I told you they were disgusting, didn't I?)
Wish me luck with my nicotine patch, and good luck with your own resolutions! The Reference Staff of the Mississippi Library Commission hopes that you have a beautiful and prosperous 2010 filled with many, many, many trips to the library of your choice!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Me, I Want A Hula Hoop

Unlike my more organized co-workers, friends, and family, I haven't yet finished my Christmas shopping. In fact, I've barely started. I'd much rather be doing something else, anything else!, as opposed to shopping. In an attempt to forestall some anticipated anguish, I googled "Top Ten Christmas Gifts" to get some ideas. I ran across this list from squidoo, which seems to consist of 4 gaming systems, 2 video games, 2 fancy cameras, and 2 fake pets: a hamster named Mr. Squiggles and a dinosaur from Pleo. I must confess, the dinosaur, which uses AI among other technologies in order to "develop," gives me a small case of the heebie-jeebies! According to Amazon, "this amazing robotic marvel not only moves organically, explores its environment on its own, and interacts with you, but it also expresses emotions based on its life experiences." For some reason, I have a vision of little Dino walking in on me in the bathroom and being scarred for life. Be sure to check him out and let me know what you think!

Techy presents not being in my budget, I usually let my librarian roots come to the forefront when I give presents. Many a family member has received a shiny new book over the years. Amazon has a veritable slew of top book lists from which to choose: teens, people's choice, mysteries, etc... One of these is bound to have a book I can gift! History's top pick is The Lost City of Z, which details a failed expedition for El Dorado. Actually, I might have to read that one first myself. Mom? Dad? Are you reading this?

Really, for me, a lot of silliness is the only way to get through the pre-Christmas rush. If you'd like to join in on the glee, why not take a gander at some of these humorous holiday sites? There's one devoted to ugly Christmas sweaters, one to those who go overboard decorating, and this one is a compilation of bad gift ideas. My favorite gag gift? Why, the gift of nothing, of course!

And look! I still have six more shopping days! Plenty of time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

This Week and MLC and MMA

This week two of my favorite Mississippi artists are being featured at two of my favorite places in Jackson. What luck! First, the Mississippi Library Commission has “Faulkner’s World” on display in the downstairs gallery. These pictures are beautifully displayed and offer a glimpse into the world that shaped Faulkner’s writing. Also, the Mississippi Library Commission has countless books on Faulkner, including the hard to find Faulkner’s County: Yoknapatawpha.

At the Mississippi Museum of Art, “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” opens this Saturday. This exhibition displays original Henson puppets, drawings, and excerpts from an early film. The Mississippi Library Commission also has Jim Henson: The Art, The Magic, The Imagination. This book provides an excellent introduction into Mr. Henson’s work and has plenty of photos and stories for you Muppet fans. I grew up watching the Muppets. My three favorites are Ms. Piggy , Animal, and Fozzie Bear. Who’s yours?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From the New Book Shelf.

As I was passing our New Book shelf a moment ago, a couple of books caught my eye. Then another. And another! And thus, a blog post was born. Check out these fancy new titles recently acquired by MLC:

Bet You Didn't Know: Hundreds of Intriguing Facts about Living in the USA by Cheryl Russell

This book of percentages is arranged by subject, so in case you're wondering what percentage of Americans are expecting an inheritance, you'd first look under Money to find out that the number is 14% and under Family to learn that 65% of adults live within a one-hour drive from their parents.

Food is Culture by Massimo Montanari

This essay-in-book-form explores such themes as the invention of cooking/cuisine, how taste is a product of society, and eating together. It's also an adorable size, and if any of you made reading goals this year (such as 52 books in 52 weeks), this is a good one to sneak in since it's only 140 pages.

The Late Plays of Tennessee Williams by William Prosser

Ever wondered about Williams' play In a Bar of a Tokyo Hotel? This book explains it, along with tons of other plays.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb

This charming book gives us a tidy history lesson for each day of the year. Did you know that today in 1781, the Bill of Rights was ratified? It was also the day in 1939 that Gone with the Wind premiered.

Annus Horribilis: Latin for Everyday Life by Mark Walker

Finally, tons of great information on the language I should've taken in high school. Did you know the following words are Latin? Agenda, circus, data, doctor, trivia, video. Gratia, Mark Walker!

The Shoelace Book: A Mathematical Guide to the Best (and Worst) Ways to Lace Your Shoes by Burkard Polster

The title says it all, doesn't it?

Come on in to check out these titles, or get your ILL on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

That's Not Exactly What We Meant...

We've all heard the story about Chevrolet having trouble selling the Nova in South America. Nova, to the uninitiated, means "It doesn't go" in Spanish (165). Brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time illustrates countless incidents of company PR work gone wrong, but my absolute favorites are the language gaffes. Here are a few to start your day off with a chuckle:
  • Toyota was misinformed when they tried to sell their Fiera in Puerto Rico. Fiera actually means "ugly old woman" (165). Not exactly appealing to the 30 and under crowd. Que, no?
  • In Germany, Rolls-Royce attempted to entice buyers with their luxury auto Silver Mist. Unfortunately, Mist means "animal droppings" in German (165).
  • Think other products are immune? Take a look at Pepsi trying to break open the Taiwanese market. Their slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" became "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead" (163). I think I understand their misgivings.
  • Coors had a slightly different problem when they moved into Spain. It seems that their slogan "Turn it Loose" was transliterated into the remarkable warning "You will suffer from diarrhoea" (168).
  • Spain also had some mishaps with Frank Perdue's Chicken. Their original slogan "It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken" was misinterpreted to read "It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate" (169). Perhaps it was popular around Valentine's Day?
  • Last but not least, Parker Pens wanted to announce to Mexico that "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." Excellent! This is what they actually said, "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant" (171). I suppose that is also good news.
Need more? Check out these mistranslations and article from

Haig, Matt. Brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time. Kogan Page, 2003.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Meebo Blinded Me With Science!

Earlier today we had a question about DNA. Do you remember high school biology? If not, pay close attention! DNA is an abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is found in all cells and is shaped in the easily recognizable double-helix. The genetic information it contains controls "how the body and all its different parts grow, develop, function, and maintain themselves" (The Human Body Book). Each molecule of DNA is contained in a single chromosome and yet is thought to carry 100,000 genes.

Here's something I don't remember learning from Mrs. Balding: a single stretched-out strand of DNA measures about two inches. Put all of that together and just one of my cells holds 13 feet of DNA. That one cell contains all the information, or programming data, if you will, needed to make me human. Amazing, right?!

Need more? Go here or Also, be sure to check out what the people from the Human Genome Project are doing.

chromosome. (2005). In The American Heritage Science Dictionary. Retrieved from
DNA. (2005). In The American Heritage Science Dictionary. Retrieved from
DNA. (2009). In The Human Body Book: An Illustrated Guide to Its Structure, Function and Disorders. Retrieved from
DNA. (2008). In Philip's Encyclopedia 2008. Retrieved from

Really, Really Ugly.

In the New York Times Book Review this week, Joe Queenan's back page essay, "When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books," is about ugly book covers -- not necessarily that you can judge a book by its cover, but that an ugly cover can dissuade a reader from ever wanting to read a great book.

As Queenan examines his shelves -- which he organizes by read and unread -- he notices a trend: the books that are read are pretty; the unread books are hideous. He writes, "It all added up. Until now, I’d thought that I had set these books aside for so many years because they were too daunting or, in the case of Thomas Mann, too dull. Now I realized that what these books had in common was that they were ugly. Really, really ugly."

I wholeheartedly agree. I blame the fact that I have never gotten through Nabokov's Lolita on the fact that the copy I keep trying to read is a crusty one from the 70s. I actually own a cute paperback version, but the crusty one is annotated, and I feel I'm too dumb to make it through Lolita on my own. (I did manage to watch the movie, though.)

After I read the essay this morning, I went downstairs to the Mississippi collection to see what I could scare up. My friend Ann always raves about Walker Percy's Love In the Ruins, but after examining this copy, I feel certain Percy and I would part ways just a few pages in:

Is it just me, or does that lettering remind you of this?

Remember: three is a magic number.

I also found this particularly frightening copy of The Portable Faulkner. Listen, I'm not taking this thing anywhere:

First, let us discuss the scary faux-paint effect of the "FAULKNER," which, in a certain light, resembles blood, not paint (I'm thinking of the old cover of Helter Skelter, I think). Then there is the equally scary charcoal rendering of Faulkner's haunted, craggy face, looming out and judging you for not being able to understand The Sound and the Fury without Cliffs Notes. (Aside: there are four main sections to The Sound and the Fury; if you're really stuck, try reading the sections in reverse order. I promise you'll follow the story better.)

However, this volume has been well-loved and much checked out over the years, so maybe it's my 2009 eye judging this 1964 paperback. Perhaps in 1964 the lettering was edgy, the charcoal drawing artsy. Who knows? All I know is, the words within deserve better.

Queenan, Joe. "When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books." New York Times Book Review, 3 December 2009.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's That?

Recently I discovered that some people actually listen during conversation. These crazies pay attention to the words you use to make sentences, and, what’s really frightening, they use the ideas that come from these sentences to determine your “character.” Boy, was I ever floored! I was always under the impression that conversation was mostly a game. Smile, nod, and say “that’s interesting” or “I’ve never really thought of it that way” and, if your friend plays nicely, they return the favor and follow suit. Well, now that I’ve discovered that conversation is more than just a chance to touch people in public, I’m going straight to the stacks to learn how to listen!
Luckily for me, I found everything I needed in John Selby’s Listening With Empathy: Creating Genuine Connections with Customers and Colleagues. I figure, if someone is going to teach me how to listen, they might as well teach me to be empathic at the same time, right?
After quickly scanning the index, I jumped straight to Chapter 10:“Listening with Calm Compassion.” Here Mr. Shelby offers this keen insight: “I’ve observed that most of us don’t seem to listen very well… because our attention is one step in the future, imagining our clever reply.”(161) OK, now that we know the problem, what’s the solution, Mr. Shelby? He suggests, “Just remember to hold half of your attention on your own breathing experience and present-moment physical presence in the room. Hold the other half of your attention on the words that the person is speaking and on taking in the person’s visual presence as well.” (33)Let me see if I’ve got this right: divide your attention, focus on your breath, focus on how you’re standing, and scrutinize the speaker’s looks. That’s it? I do that already. Now, let’s empathize!
Mr. Shelby explains that empathy is not a thought, but an action. He says, “rather than staying overly fixated on your own feelings and thoughts when you meet someone, to feel empathy you need to shift your focus of attention strongly toward the physical presence and experience of the other person.” I read this sentence twelve times and it still makes no sense. How can anyone draw focus away from themselves by imagining how another person feels when the very act of imagination forces them to think internally? And to think you can understand how a person feels by imagining their feelings is called projection, not empathy.
I guess what I discovered today is that I’m already a pretty good listener. I always smile when people are trying to tell me something. And, although I may not actually hear what they are saying, I’m always paying attention to how they look. For example, if someone looks unhappy because they can tell I’m not listening, I just offer them a bigger smile. See, now that’s paying attention!
Selby, John. Listening With Empathy: Creating Genuine Connections with Customers and Colleagues. Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 2007

Thursday, December 3, 2009

American Rhetoric

If you're a film lover, you'll probably want to take a look at this site I found while researching an information request a while ago.  American Rhetoric is the name of the site.  It's a large database containing historical and contemporary speeches on a variety of topics.  The question I worked on was of a political nature, and I spent most of my time searching speeches given by contemporary political figures. 

Once I was done with the question and had more time to really explore the site, I found another gem of a feature.  In addition to political speeches, American Rhetoric houses an impressive collection of speeches from films!  I'm not talking about only a few films.  The movie speech database contains over 200 speeches.  If it was an American film with a prominent speech, it's probably on this site.  The really cool part is that many of these speeches are presented with text, photos, and audio/video.  Go get caught up in the rhetoric!
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