Tuesday, April 21, 2009

LIS 722: Down to the end

I just turned in my final reflection paper. For my last class. Ever. I'm almost free again...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

LIS 722: Week 14

Awwww, yeah...I can see the end from here. Nice.

Week 14: How-to Guides
Books: The Social Climber's Guide to High School by Robyn Schneider & Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life by Linda Sivertsen & Tosh Sivertsen

The best thing I can say about these books is that I'm done with them. Really. I seriously dare you to read The Social Climber's Guide to High School and come out the other side with 1) all your IQ points intact, and 2) without hurling it across the room. Can't be done, I'm telling you.

The Social Climber's Guide to High School is billed as "Tongue in Chic" on the cover. Unfortunately, it's shelved in the 646's, alongside real how-to books. It's all about how to become an "A-lister" in high school. Well, isn't that special? I think if it must be in a library, it should be over in the 828's (humor/satire)...it's much like the 1980's The Preppy Handbook. I'm more alarmed with the thought that someone might take the book seriously. A better target audience would be people who are already done with high school, and who might better recognize the humor. I know when I was picking it up at the library, my kid was carrying my pile of books, and when I tossed this on the top, she refused to carry it, "Someone might think I'm reading it." So, if you really really really just must read The Social Climber's Guide to High School, knock yourself out. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

As for Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life, I was hoping for more of a practical how-to guide than this was; it wasn't really a beginner guide, but more of a 'here's how to take it further'. It was kind of depressing, actually...kind of, "Dude, we're all so screwed anyway, but here's some things you should be doing anyway." We have to start somewhere, doing something, this is true. There's a Generation Green companion website, but it pretty much rehashes the book from what I can tell.

I'm just not convinced these are good "How-to" books, unless they're more of a "how-to-make-your-head-asplode-while-reading" how-to books, in which case, Mission Accomplished.

LIS 722: Week 13

Week 13: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Books: A Step from Heaven by An Na & Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

These were two of the better books this term, I have to say. The topics covered were definitely not happy ones, but I appreciated the way each of the books unflinchingly presented them.

A Step from Heaven is about a Korean girl (Young Ju Park) and her family, and their immigration to the United States when she was a young girl, and subsequent struggle to make a go of it in their new world. Well, it's about more than that, yes, but that's the starting point.

While still in Korea, Young Ju thought that the United States was like Heaven, but was told it was more like a "Step from Heaven", hence the title. Young Ju is the narrator of this story, and while An Na's writing is deliberately spare, what is said gives the reader a good sense of the difficulties experienced by the Park family.

The family struggles to maintain a delicate balance between holding on to their Korean culture and attempting to assimilate into their new culture. Young Ju's father, unable to cope, descends into alcoholism, and becomes increasingly violent towards his wife. Young Ju has figured out that doing well in school will help her get to college and out of reach of her father. Ashamed and afraid, she hides her home and family from even her closest friends, preferring to keep the different parts of her life separate. The book ends with Young Ju calling the police to report her father as he's severely beating her mother; he gets arrested, and the mother is angry at Young Ju. The father returns to Korea, but Young Ju, her mother, and her brother stay in the United States. The reader is left with a sense that the remaining family members will be OK, and will eventually piece their lives back together.

I think these issues transcend culture and place. There are many families who present an "all is well" front to the rest of the world, while hiding alcoholism and domestic violence behind closed doors. Also, the book uses Korean words from the very beginning, but doesn't have a glossary or any explanations of what the words mean. In some ways, it was frustrating...much like what Young Ju experiences when she encounters English. Gradually, it sorts itself out for both the reader and Young Ju, leaving the reader with a sense of understanding.

Dreamland is a story about a girl (Caitlin) whose sister, Cass, basically walks away from their family on Caitlin's birthday...and the resulting family trauma, which ends in Caitlin being abused by her boyfriend. That's the long story shortened.

When Cass leaves (telling her family via a note), the remaining family goes into a tailspin. Well, the mom, anyhow. She's a real piece of work...my guess is that much of her own identity was somehow linked with Cass's, and how Cass did reflected on the mom as well. Caitlin, unaccustomed to being the focus of attention, reacts by trying to do something that Cass (the perfect daughter) hadn't--she tries out for and makes the cheerleading squad. (Of course her mom is ecstatic, but is still missing Cass)

As a cheerleader, Caitlin (of course) starts going to parties and hanging out with a different crowd. It's at one of these parties that she hooks up with Rogerson Biscoe, who is a Bad Boy (of course he is, and of course she does). He deals drugs on the side, and on the night she meets him, she goes along for some of his deliveries.

Her life begins to take a downward turn; she starts taking drugs herself, and skipping classes & cheerleading practices, while lying to her parents about where she is and what she's doing (or not doing, as the case may be). It gets worse one night when she doesn't meet Rogerson as planned, and he ends up hitting her in the face. The violence escalates, and soon Caitlin is withdrawing from her friends, family, and normal life, while starting to wear long sleeves (even though the weather is warmer) and increasing her drug use. Caitlin rationalizes his behavior by saying that she loves him, and he loves her. In the end, her mother witnesses Rogerson beating on Caitlin and calls the Police...Caitlin goes to rehab, and when she comes home, the reader is left hopeful that all will be well in Caitlin's world.

The book is one that may or may not make sense to the teens who read it. They may think, "Well, for God's sake, Caitlin should've known better, and should have left him the very first time he hit her." Well, 'should have' is really easy to say when you aren't the one in the position, I think. I know. I was, when I was in my early 20's. This could've been my story, except I didn't take the drugs, and I didn't live at home. Before it happened, I totally subscribed to the "If a guy hits me, I'm gone" school of thought. While it was happening, I remember being very confused and not quite understanding what in the heck was going on. Luckily for me, I didn't end up dead...but it was literally 2 seconds away one night, when he was hopped up on who-knows-what. That was 20 years ago this year, and sometimes I still wonder if I'll ever be fully healed from it all. It all comes down to this: in the book, Caitlin's family and friends say they should've seen the signs, should've intervened sooner, should've done something to save her; in truth, she had to want to be helped, saved, whatever. The end is hopeful, yes, but it's only the beginning of a really long haul back to herself.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

101 Things in 1001 Days: April 2009

So, after much thought on the items on this list, some have been taken off, and some retooled, while others have been expanded, others contracted, and some left blank until I decide what else I want to accomplish. Mostly it's pretty much what my original list was, though--just with more white space (for now). I still have 449 Days to get as much done as I can...

New Color Key: In Progress and Completed

So, what is all this? Well, follow this link to the Day Zero site, and you can read more about it.

Creating your own 1001 Day Project

The Mission:Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days? Many people have created lists in the past - frequently simple goals such as New Year's resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

Lisa's Master 101 Things in 1001 Days List

1. Fly first class as a family
2. Graduate with MLIS degree (target date: May 2009)
3. Watch all the seasons of '24'
4. Build new house (Done 10/11/2008)
6. Get mutual funds transferred (Done 4/1/08)
7. Read all books on saved page a day calendar pages (through 2007)
8. Watch Season 2 of 'Digging for the Truth' (Done 7/19/2008)
9. Beat PSX2 game Galaga
10. Read 20 of 100 All Time Classics (Modern Library) that I haven't read already (4/20)
11. Read 5 Biographies
12. Watch 101 movies in theater or at home (27/101)
14. Health 1
15. Health 2
16. Health 3
17. Health 4
18. Write wills
19. Take boxes of books to Half Price (Done 10/19/07)
21. Have new family picture taken
22. Design library webpage & link to system and city
23. Visit 10 other libraries in my system I haven't been to yet
24. Read entire Inspector Rebus series (1/18)
25. Learn the Rosary prayers
26. Frame black & white pictures of the ocean and hang up
27. Donate hair to Locks of Love (Done 1/3/08)
28. Go to a Latin Mass
29. Watch a Cowboys/Vikings game in Dallas
30. Watch Cowboys/Vikings game in Minnesota
34. Send Christmas Cards with family photograph
36. Visit 5 art galleries in Minnesota (3/5)
50. Upload all my CD's to my iTunes
51. Watch 10 documentaries(2/10)
52. Clothing 1
54. Learn how to play Cribbage
55. Donate $1000 to Higher Ground (Done 12/8/07)
56. Listen to Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
(Completely Done 3/20/08)
57. Choose 2 kids from church's Jesse Tree @ Christmas and buy them presents (Done 12/6/08)
59. Replant plant on towel shelf (Done 6/6/08)
63. Edit a Wikipedia article (Done 9/4/2008: did the Winsted, Minnesota article)
65. Make a 20 item anti-procrastination list (done 7/15/08)
66. Do all 20 anti-procrastination list items within the month (done 8/15/2008)
67. Type out Goodwill donation tax slip (Done 3/4/08)
68. Update FLYControl Journal (waiting for life insurance information)
69. Get important documents in fire proof box
73. Go see 5 Minnesota Tourist attractions
74. Get eyes checked (done 8/26/2008)
75. Get new glasses (or contacts)
76. Host big family Christmas
78. Do Advent readings and wreath (Completed: 1/7/09; Advent lasts through Epiphany)
80. Frame tree picture
81. Complete a crossword puzzle book
83. Over Christmas Break 2007 see 5 first run movies in theater (5/5, done 1/7/08)
84. Read all the Josephine Tey books
86. Plant trees in yard
87. Clean up computer document files (Done: 12/30/08)
88. Read "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" (done 8/19/2008)
89. Write 3 letters complimenting good service (2/3)
90. Write 3 letters pointing out bad service (2/3)
92. Catalog 25 books on LibraryThing (done 7/14/08)
94. Summer Break 2008- see 5 first run movies in theater (5/5)(Done 9/1/2008)
95. Walk to work 30 times (30/30: Done 9/12/2008)
96. Link library webpage to librarysites
97. Bike around the lake
98. Walk everyday for 30 minutes for 1 week.
99. Host a Summer Croquet tournament
100. Send my mother in law flowers just because (done 8/5/2008)
101. Finish writing this list--Again

Friday, April 3, 2009

LIS 722: Week 12

Week 12: War/Survival/Adventure

Books: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff; Maus I: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman & Barefoot Gen: Volume I by Keiji Nakazawa

Well, these books were certainly not the kind of books that I really ever want to read, as the dystopian/survival subgenre isn't one of my favorites. That said...

How I Live Now was set in modern times (Daisy has a cell phone), but felt more like it could have been during World War II. Daisy is an American girl who goes to spend the summer with her British cousins, on their rural farm. While she's there, war breaks out, and life is not good. Although the war doesn't immediately affect life in the country, it does soon enough. Immediately prior to the start of fighting, Daisy's Aunt has left for Oslo (never to return), leaving Daisy and her 4 cousins basically to fend for themselves. This is a story about their survival, even after they've been split up, and the relationships between them all.

There were so many plot threads running through this book, at times it was confusing, and almost overkill. Daisy's relationship with her cousin, Edmund-yes, I get that it was smacking of taboo, but my reaction ended up being, "And so what?" What offended me more was the lack of quotation marks for the conversations, go figure. There was also the violence and fighting (I get it already...war=not good), but for crying out loud, there was a WAR going on, and like it or not, violence and mean things happen. Then there was the handy 'rescue' at the end, when Daisy answers the ringing phone, and it's her father. Um, the infrastructure has been decimated throughout the region, and I'm supposed to buy a phone randomly ringing? Well, it is fiction, I suppose, so carry on. I realize that I'm glossing over quite a bit with this particular book, and yes, I'm OK with that.

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale is a graphic novel that tells about one man's story of the Jewish people and what happened during World War II. Although I was prepared to not like it, I did (for the most part). The different layers of the story are what makes this book interesting for me, such as trying to figure out the different animals used to symbolize the different nationalities and the way the book's perspective kept shifting between the son interviewing his father and the father's re-telling of the story.

The first book can stand on its own, but I would have liked to see how the second half clarified the first half (which is why I bought the all-in-one version for my library). As a history major (undergrad), I really appreciate the difference between "just" a story/event that happened and has been reduced to words on a page and a story/event told by an eyewitness/participant. Mere facts do not always reveal the entire story; Maus I: A Survivor's Tale at least puts a face on some of the people who lost everything just because of their faith.

As for Barefoot Gen: Volume I, I never did find a copy before class. But from what I gathered, it recounts the story of a boy who was living in Hiroshima when the American troops dropped an Atomic Bomb on the city. There are other volumes to the story as well. Here's a link to the Wikipedia article: Barefoot Gen.

All in all, not a really uplifting selection of books this week. There are others that would work well for these topics that I would've liked to have read instead, such as The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau and Peak by Roland Smith.