Libraries, am I right?

Okay, so I know that I said I was off my book kick, but well, to put it bluntly, I lied. Although to my credit, this is more about libraries than books. Yeah, yeah, fine, I know. It’s about books.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the local library. Shocking, I know. The same can be said for when my kids were young readers. Quite honestly, nothing has changed. Walking into a library is heaven for me. It brings a sense of tranquility and excitement, if that makes sense. I do it as often as possible.

I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who don’t even own a library card. I mean, WTF? It’s free for goodness sake … free knowledge, free entertainment, free escapism. The question shouldn’t be, why do you need a library card, but rather, why don’t you have a library card?

They call the internet the information superhighway … well, the libraries had this down pat long before the internet was thought into existence. I’ve always thought that the idea that you could walk into an information storehouse and take as many books as you want home – for free – was just too good to be true. From self-betterment to the opportunity to explore new and exciting worlds, libraries are valuable.

In what might seem like an unrelated statement (but trust me, it’s not), if you’ve never seen 1994’s, The Pagemaster, I highly recommend it. Yes, I know you’re all adults. So what? It’s an awesome movie. I first watched it with my son and it soon became a favorite for us both, and then my daughter as well, when she came along. It brought to life, literally, the books we already loved so much.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve been known to watch it just a *cough cough* time or two in recent years.

The Pagemaster is focused around a ten-year old boy named Richard. Young Richard bases his perception of life on statistics and figures and risk assessment, resulting in a fear of… well, just about everything. Upon getting caught in a storm, Richard takes shelter in a library to wait out the nasty weather. A fantastical adventure ensues as Richard encounters the Pagemaster, three books – horror, adventure, and fantasy – who seemingly come to life (horror, bless his heart, is my favorite … I know, typical, right?), and various fictional characters from beloved classics. To avoid spoiling the entire movie (I will reiterate that I highly recommend you watch it yourself), Richard gains a new sense of confidence and fearlessness by the end of his adventures.

It would be easy to say that The Pagemaster is a metaphor for the way books offer excitement, adventure, and a new perspective on life that we can carry with us forever, because it’s true. But it’s more than that. Books let us explore worlds that we never knew existed while helping us to be more present in our own. They quite literally feed our imagination to keep our sense of wonder alive, and this movie captures it all. An homage to libraries everywhere, The Pagemaster captures the importance of books and the impact they can have on young minds (though old minds could benefit from a book or two as well!).

So, while it might seem a little odd to recommend a movie in order to encourage reading… that’s exactly what I’m doing. I mean, let’s face it, today, now more than ever, we need books (and the libraries that safeguard them) and all they have to offer.

Would You Like a Side of Hypocrisy with That?

Every now and then, I come across a story that absolutely blows my mind. While I shouldn’t be surprised by some people’s tendency to do things that make no sense, some things just get to me in an extra special “are you freakin’ kidding me” kind of way. I recently heard about one of those very things.

When I think of animal welfare groups and farm animal sanctuaries, a very specific image forms in my mind. I picture groups of people with an unrivaled passion for the protection of animals ranging from the casual to the devoutly committed to the downright radical.  Fanatics aside, I can’t help but admire the conviction one must have to make an issue such a large part of their lives. Unfortunately, however, there seems to be hypocrites everywhere these days.

What do I mean?  So glad you asked!  And remember, you asked. This rant is on you.

Well, a certain farm animal sanctuary (which will remain unnamed) decided to hold a fundraising event with some very interesting food options on the menu – meat. All kinds of meat. I’m going to repeat that for the people in the back.  This farm animal sanctuary served meat at a fundraising event for the protection of farm animals. Meat. To fundraise for farm animals. You know, the animals who usually end up as… MEAT. This is a true story. I’m not kidding.

This makes literally no sense to me and, frankly, pisses me off. You could probably tell by my excessive use of bold lettering in the previous paragraph. But seriously – how can you, in good conscious, serve steak, let’s say, at an event raising funds towards the protection of cows… the very same animals now sitting, medium-rare, on the potential donors’ plates? Well, not the very same animals, different cows, but still cows. One would think that this choice directly contradicts the non-profit’s so-called mission. I mean, of course it does.

To make things even worse, this farm animal sanctuary had the audacity to get combative and defensive when questioned about their choices! And not by me, either. Apparently, there were quite a few others raising their eyebrows before I ever got into the conversation. Their reasons behind this bold dining choice made no sense either. They claimed that to NOT serve meat would be confrontational and antagonistic to the meat eaters who might attend, and they felt that they should show them by example that animals matter… that they would take the opportunity to educate, rather than argue. Presumably this example-showing and education would occur on the tour of their animal residents who are, you know, farm animals… cows, pigs, goats, chickens, and the like. I’m sorry, but I have to call bullshit here.

I will agree with them on one thing; fundraising events are a great way to educate the general public. It’s an opportunity to showcase the organization’s mission and encourage support from donors by offering them new perspectives on the issues at hand. However, what this particular farm animal sanctuary (I cringe to even call them a “farm animal sanctuary”) failed to do was offer such an opportunity. What exactly did they do to educate the attendees? “Oh, this animal here was worthy of our protection. The one on your plate, well, not so much.” How is that showing by example?

I mean, I’m not one to say, hey, you can’t eat meat because I don’t. You do you and I’ll do me (food, people, I’m talking food here). But at the same time, I don’t think that serving vegetarian or vegan dishes at a FARM ANIMAL SANCTUARY fundraiser would be thumbing my nose at the meat-eating attendees. On the contrary, wouldn’t you think it would be a given? Wouldn’t you expect it? Not to mention, if their objective is to educate people on why farm animals such as cows and pigs shouldn’t be in the food chain, they blew a prime opportunity to showcase just how delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes can be. I’m genuinely confused by their choices.

Let me climb up on my soap box a little higher to say that non-profit organizations should be held to higher expectations than members of the general public… ethically, morally, and through their financial stewardship.  One should expect transparency and moreover, one should expect consistency and an adherence to the mission statement of the organization in question.  Especially the latter and especially when it comes to fundraising. Honestly, they should have anticipated the backlash and to double down by getting argumentative when questioned makes it all the worse.

I can’t even begin to understand what this group was thinking. Their entire program hinges on the concept that ALL animal lives matter and they all deserve to live a full and happy life. How do they fundraise to support this mission?  By serving the very animals they’re fundraising to save. Tell me how that makes any kind of sense at all?  I guess some animal lives just don’t matter after all.

This Way to Crazytown

I am nothing if not directionally challenged.  Back in the day, I used MapQuest to get me to my destination… remember MapQuest?  You’d put in your starting point and your destination, and out popped directions that you could print and take with you on the road. For me, MapQuest was a godsend as I never could re-fold those origami maps to fit back into the glovebox.  My backseat would look as though a cartographer had thrown-up after a 4-day bender. And reading a sheet of directions just seems easier – not to mention safer – than spreading a 6-foot map out across the windshield as you’re going 65 mph down an unfamiliar stretch of highway.

Then came the GPS tech that attached to your dashboard… or in most cases, sat on the passenger seat next to you because you were too lazy to figure out the dashboard attachment feature.  Better than MapQuest, if not more obnoxious. You see, this tech would talk to you. Often in a woman’s voice … which always invoked the feeling that either your wife or your mother was right there in the car with you and not always happy with your performance. Knowing a trend when they see one, car manufacturers started adding this nifty navigation device to their arsenal of new car features. The idea of having an onboard navigation officer – sans the red shirt – was so popular, it became a standard bell on the list of bells and whistles for vehicles coming off the factory floor.

Right about this time, news started drifting in about drivers ending up in lakes or the middle of cornfields … the GPS to blame. Oh sure, we can laugh and say the driver should’ve paid more attention, or at least, not listened to a disembodied voice when it directed them to take that right turn into the ocean. But did we ever think that perhaps that disembodied voice was just having a laugh at our expense? That in fact, it knew the Pacific Ocean was a right-turn away and just thought, “what the hell, let’s see if this idiot is stupid enough to listen to me…”

Not to be outdone, smarter-than-me geeks software engineers everywhere worked themselves silly coming up with the best navigational apps for our phones. On today’s highways, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for getting lost, because your phone can lead the way. Oh sure, people still end up in lakes, but for those folks… well, let’s just say that no app in the world can help them.

As for me, I use Waze. I know I’ve mentioned it before. I love it. It not only tells me how to get somewhere, but also when I’ll be there and exactly how much traffic will annoy me on the way. It even warns you of potholes and roadkill along your route. I’m not sure why, but this app, like so many, still has a woman’s voice. Maybe people feel calmed by a woman’s voice, rather than a man’s voice. Calm is definitely a feeling you want to nurture while hurtling down the road – or while stuck in traffic – so it makes sense. I mean, listening to Lewis Black’s curmudgeonly demeanor call the shots on my morning commute, while amusing, likely wouldn’t end well.

I’ve come to depend on Waze and find myself using it even when I know exactly where I’m going.  She helps me avoid traffic on these routine trips by sending me down backroads I never knew existed. I’ll probably be one of those people in a lake one of these days, having listened too intently to the soothing, yet authoritative, Voice of Waze. Reminds me of the Face of Boe … but that’s another story for another time.

What I do find though, is my self-esteem taking a hit. Not unlike having my ex-MIL in the car. Oh, not from anything the Voice of Waze is outwardly saying or doing, it’s more the silent disapproval and quiet judgement.  You see, when leaving my neighborhood, Waze always, but always, wants to send me down this one road that ends in an intersection with nothing more than a stop sign to direct traffic. Well, we all know how that goes, don’t we? Yeah, people suck. And nowhere do they suck more than on a busy road during the morning commute to work. I guess on paper, it looks like the faster route, but in reality, it’s not… because you have to wait forever to cross the busy main thoroughfare without the benefit of a traffic signal. So, instead, I drive past that road and go on to the next one, where there is a traffic signal because I don’t really like spending my morning waiting at a stop sign for so long that I forget where I’m going in the first place.

Before I got Waze, my GPS program would say “recalculating” whenever I missed a turn. Sometimes, it would say recalculating a lot and I would swear its tone got a little more frustrated every time. But I digress. With Waze, she doesn’t say “recalculating.” In fact, she doesn’t say anything at all. She just pauses for a minute, trying to recalibrate herself, and then gives new instructions.

Well. I’ve noticed a change over the last few times I’ve driven past this road I mentioned … the pauses have grown longer and seemingly more, well, exasperated, if that makes sense. I can almost hear an audible sigh. It’s as if she’s got her head in her hands, saying to herself: “Your turn. You just missed your turn. Again. Did you not hear me tell you to turn?  What the hell, Wendy? Why do you even have me on if you’re not going to listen to me? God. Damn. It.  Fine.” And then she pulls herself together just in time to tell me the next turn even though she probably doesn’t want to.

Waze’s frustration with me is palpable

Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s possible I could use a carpool buddy. You know. For some human company. Just don’t tell Waze. She’s kinda touchy.

My Spirit Animal

So. I went to the movies the other day. What did I see, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you. No laughing though. It was Detective Pikachu, with none other than Deadpool himself as the titular character. I will just say… GREAT movie. In fact, I saw it twice. I’ll probably go see it again. I know, I know, it’s not exactly Oscar-worthy and the snootier among us won’t even give it a chance. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic movie and I highly recommend it.

Pokemon holds a very special place in my heart. My kids grew up with it and I enjoyed it alongside them. I eventually became very familiar with all things Pokemon – from the television show and popular games to the trading cards and movies. Yes, there were movies prior to the live-action one starring Ryan Reynolds Deadpool. They were of the animated variety, but still.

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there are about a gazillion Pokemon, Pokemon being “pocket monsters.”  For those into the Pokemon craze, we all have our favorite. If you asked most fans, they’d probably tell you they prefer the “cooler” ones like Charizard or Mewtwo. There’s also a wide fan base for the most recognizable Pokemon of all, Pikachu.

If you asked me what my favorite Pokemon was, however, you’d probably be a bit underwhelmed. Who’s that Pokemon? (Ha! See what I did there? Oh, well, you’d have to follow the show to get that joke. Nevermind.)

Without a doubt, Psyduck. Seeing the most recent incarnation of this amazingly awesome pocket monster on the big screen just solidified my connection.

click the pic for the Detective Pikachu movie trailer … you can catch a glimpse of Psyduck in his glory at the 2:13 mark.

I relate to Psyduck on a deep, personal level. You might even say that Psyduck is my spirit animal. This little, yellow duck-like Pokemon is widely considered to be one of the more useless Pokemon. Still, I can’t help feeling drawn to him. Personally, I think Psyduck gets a bad rap.

See, Psyduck is absolutely riddled with anxiety. About what?  Well, about everything. Boy, can I relate to that. He’s also plagued with constant migraines and I feel his pain on a spiritual level. The thing is though, Psyduck’s anxiety and migraines can get to a breaking point and when that happens, he loses his shit. Which in this case, means he explodes with a wave of psychic energy the force of which is not unlike a nuclear bomb. Like I said, awesome, right??

Unfortunately, fortunately, of course, I mean, fortunately, my especially bad migraines don’t lead to an outburst of awe-inspiring psychic energy. Psyduck has me beat there. My migraines do occasionally make me lose my shit but I’m still waiting on those psychic powers.

Much like me, Psyduck is also shy and easily overwhelmed by the world around him. These qualities tend to make Psyduck reluctant to engage in battles like most Pokemon and it makes him endlessly frustrating to his trainer. I, too, tend to shut down in overwhelming situations and it can be frustrating to those around me. In fact, frustrations abound. Maybe Psyduck and I are just misunderstood.

And hey, at least we’re not a Magikarp.

Would You Like a Migraine With That?

Going out to a fine restaurant should be a relaxing experience. You get all dressed up and make the necessary reservations and… end up seated next to a group of rowdy restaurant goers who couldn’t care less that you’re out for the first time in two months, trying to have a quiet conversation with your significant other.

This has happened to all of us and though I should probably be used to it by now, I’m not. In fact, I can’t stand it. As many of you know, I hate people noise. Even in places where people noises are a given, I hate… umm… noise. You expect this kind of migraine-inducing behavior in a family-oriented establishment (I mean, kids, am I right?) but it’s not exactly the kind of ambiance you expect at a five-star restaurant.  Can kids make a hell of a lot of noise? Yes. Can adults have a few drinks and start blabbering at a volume comparable to a classroom of 3rd graders going on a field trip? Oh hell yes.

Just this past month (yeah, yeah, okay, so I don’t get out much), I visited a local restaurant with a reputation for its elegant atmosphere and delicious cuisine. Unfortunately, the layout of the tables meant that restaurant patrons had to sit incredibly close together – uncomfortably close. As in, I’m sorry my elbow hit you in the head as I tried to twirl my spaghetti with my fork close.

I was lucky enough to be seated directly next to a group of businessmen in flashy suits who had clearly had more than their fair share of drinks. It was difficult to tell if they were celebrating a job well done for one of their own or a general, we need to drink this week away kind of thing. Oh, and I don’t know who the hell George is, but whew! He sure seems bad at his job, and here he makes all that money too. What was upper management thinking!?

This domino effect of people struggling to hear over one another began with this table of drunken men and spread through the place like an obnoxious plague. My head was spinning, and I felt like I was a part of twelve different conversations that I had absolutely no desire to be included in. From the top picks for this year’s NFL draft to a heated argument between a young couple over their dog’s bathroom habits, my attention was being pulled from table to table no matter how hard I tried to center myself.

You know what doesn’t help matters? Unnecessarily loud music. I know, right? It seems like common sense, but there you go. Even the most elegant of establishments these days feels the need to recreate the joys of an outdoor concert… with the requisite bad sound equipment. If I wanted to go to a rave, I’d call up one of those friends I had in college who liked to get drunk and “vibe” to trance music.

Loud music only amplifies an already present problem (ha! See what I did there?). It’s one thing for a crowded bar to blast the latest hits at earth-shatteringly high levels, you expect that; but you shouldn’t really have to suffer through an ever-growing cacophony of noise in a place where you’re paying $30 for a damn side salad. Sorry, it just doesn’t scream “fine dining” to me. I can’t be the only one, right? Right!?

Books, Books, and More Books

I know, I know, enough with the books already, right? Oh, who am I kidding. I love books. Will always love books. And speaking of books, I need more bookshelves because my personal library is ever-growing. Yes, I buy books. I own books. I will also readily admit that I rarely clean out my collection, preferring to keep what I have forever. I. Love. Books.

I’ve talked before about the readers in my book clubs who seem to think that reading is a competition. In this week’s meeting, one woman announced she had read 30 books during the month of April. That’s one a day. Who has that kind of time?? I know, I know, I keep harping on the whole “how many books did you read” thing, having regaled you with other such stories recently… but come on!

These are the members who joined for the sole purpose of showing off their Evelyn Wood Speed Reading ability! No matter what book you bring up, they’ve read it. I mean, of course they have. They’ve seen the movie, and trust us, the book was better. Okay, well, they have a point there.

But you know what these voracious readers won’t do?  Re-read. “There are too many new books out there to read, why would I waste my time on re-reading?”  Ummm… I don’t know Karen, for starters, maybe you’ll catch little details you may have missed the first time during your speed-reading session. I’m no speed reader, but I, and many like me, reread books just for the purpose of enjoying a beloved story all over again, delighting in the subtle plot points we may not have noticed before, or for whatever reason, didn’t “click” in our heads during the first read. It’s like watching a movie more than once and catching the joke or the witty dialogue or the especially meaningful glance that you missed during the first viewing.

Not to mention that some books just get better with age. Maybe upon a second or third read, the story will hold greater meaning – or be interpreted completely differently – because as we age, so does our insight. Re-reading allows us to tap into that maturing mindset to see things differently than we did before.

For me, my most dog-eared books are what I call my “comfort reads.” They are books I’ve read too many times to count just because they bring me joy (as much as Stephen King can bring joy), I love the characters more than a person should ever love fictional characters (I’m looking at you Poirot and Mr. Darcy), or because the story means something to me. And you know what? I’m not ashamed. Re-reading is cool.

So, as I close out my book rants for a while, what are my words to you? Read the book you’ve already read. And then read it again. Drink it in, enjoy it. You won’t regret it. Trust me on this.