Saturday, October 22, 2011

Patron Review: Cubism and Rashomon

warning: contains spoilers and some slightly salty language

Real World by Natsuo Kirino
"Deregulation of the Japanese capital asset markets set off what was, and would remain until the NASDAQ, the largest speculative bubble in human history, combining speculation in stocks and speculation in real estate to an astonishing degree. Valuations in both became wholly unhinged."

"MacKaye's lyrical approach had changed dramatically in the two years since Minor Threat. He wasn't railing against teenage hypocrites, bullies, and poseurs anymore - the subject of his songs was often himself."

"As the postmodernists would remind us, we have stuff, we have signs for stuff, and we have symbols of signs."

"With no armor, and no shielding of any kind, we were totally exposed. Our vehicle was like an elephant wandering past the lions' den, holding the tail of the Bradley in front of it. An IED would kill us all."

"Having reached this conclusion, the limbic system sends an all-clear signal to the reptilian brain, and you find yourself walking toward the intruder with open arms."

What do all of these quotes have in common? Together they make an intriguing aleatory cut-up abstraction of the PBR Book Club's October pick? No, it's that they are all NONFICTION. Then along came a lady in a banana suit and forced some fiction my way for a change. I must have needed it because I tentatively began piecemeal reading it and suddenly I'm at the end. While she isn't quite a Picasso or a Kurosawa by any means, the more I read Natsuo Kirino's "Real World" the more I felt like I was wandering through a Cubist painting with "Rashomon" playing on a black and white TV in the cultural background.

At the center are four teenage friends. Surrounding them are their families, their prehistories, an outsider, a few peripheral connections, and an abrupt circumstance. What begins as a relatively straight-forward narrative with flashbacks to the past casually slips into n-dimensional space when the first persona shift sneaks up pleasantly from behind.

I got into an argument with a friend at Mirth Cafe recently in which I claimed that every human being was capable of great evil and great good but that most of us spent most of our time in the comfortable middle of the bell curve (the opposing viewpoint was that some people just don't "have it in them" to commit murder, for example). This novel examines those places and times where people find themselves suddenly and gradually near the extremes of that distribution. Or rather, it uses those situations as a seer would a crystal ball to glimpse how our minds and relationships work out at the edges of everyday experience.

At the root of this Cubism - this differential in perspective that emerges from a flatter tapestry of assumptions about other people's views and motives when viewed from the differing viewpoints of the various persona - is a pervasive space. I didn't actually interpret this space as emotional distance but rather as indicative of the personal space that so epitomizes the Japanese cultural answer to high population density across a small territory - when there is no physical space, people and ultimately society create a mental and behavioral space to compensate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Librarians on the Big Screen: Party Girl

When I told my friend Valerie five years ago that I was going back to grad school to become a librarian, the first thing out of her mouth was "You've seen the movie Party Girl, right? You've got to see Party Girl."

Although I didn't know it then, now I know that Party Girl is a rite of passage for librarians of a certain ilk.  "Lipstick Librarians," we're sometimes called, and we go by online monikers such as "ScrewyDecimal," "LibraryLadyJane," and "Poesygalore."  The New York Times once ran a feature spread on us called "A Hipper Crowd of Shushers."   We take our jobs as information activists pretty seriously, but with a fun-loving retro twist.  And our icon isn't Marian the Librarian, but rather the reinvented "Mary," à la Parker Posey in Party Girl.

In Party Girl, the librarian hero has metamorphosed from a meek damsel in distress to a high fashion 90s club kid who gets arrested when she throws an illegal party to help pay the rent.  The film has that same mid-90s counter-culture vibe as Empire Records and Clerks, but here we've moved away from the record store and video rental shop, and into the sphere of the public library.  Grudgingly, Mary takes a job in a public library to pay off her debt -- and discovers an erstwhile hidden passion for subject headings and card catalogs.  In one of my favorite scenes, she helps her best friend get his DJing act together by cataloging his record collection via Dewey Decimal number.  And gone is the smarmy traveling salesman of The Music Man, replaced by a dreamy falafel vendor that Mary seduces in highwaisted velour skirts with striped knee socks.

Yes, Party Girl's free-spirited fashion is as delectable as Mr. Dewey himself.  Vintage Chanel blazers; red bustiers over sequined shorts; hooded leopard jackets worn with fitted jewel-toned pencil skirts; blue satin gloves; red leather gloves; high-heeled black oxford wedges; zany patterned tights; feminine epaulets with black leather pants.  It's all faux fur and creeping hemlines when Mary goes after her man at the falafel stand, but in the library she switches it up to more demure 3/4-length checked wool skirts, silk front-tie blouses, oversized brooches, and bookish specs.

It's been almost five years since I was first initiated to Party Girl and an entire clan of lipstick librarians.  This Friday I'm going to round up some of my girlfriends for a happy hour Champagne and Chambord at the Eldridge, and then we'll head over to the Library to relive this 90s librarian classic.  Extra points whenever Parker Posey's wearing striped tights or leopard spots.

Rachel - Program

Librarians on the Big Screen Film Series:  Party Girl.
Friday, October 21, 7:00 pm
Library Auditorium
For More Details:  Click here

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Librarian meets Libertarian

This past Saturday, I spent a fantastic afternoon wandering around Baldwin City, enjoying the sights and sounds of the Maple Leaf Festival.  I was surprised by how attractive the town is – a true Baldwin, in the 1990’s sense of the term.  And while I don’t recall seeing many changing maple trees, there were plenty of other attractions to draw my attention.  I patronized food trucks, a petting zoo (where the animals were clearly on diuretics - which I won't go into), and any number of collapsible tables peddling holiday-themed yard adornments.   My only complaint about the afternoon was that the weather was too summery (more cherry limeade than warm apple cider), but all-in-all, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer place to dawdle about for a couple of hours.

In the course of my dawdling, I found myself in a tent that had been put up by a local Libertarian organization.  They were there having festival-goers take a short survey (the World’s Shortest Political Survey) to determine where on the political spectrum they fall – presumably, to make people aware of their unrealized libertarian leanings.   Each person who took the test had their results posted as a dot on a big board that mapped-out the crowd’s political proclivities, most tending toward the libertarian quadrant.  My dot, along with a few other Big Government Liberals and Conservatives,  was one of the far-flung exceptions (our dots looked like the first outlying wild guesses in a game of Battleship).  The gentleman administering the survey was a little flummoxed in how to relay my results, but to his credit he tried to give it a positive spin, “You see, it’s just that you like for the government to make all of your decisions for you – and that’s OK!”

With that vote of confidence, I left the festival with a piqued interest in libertarianism - and in my preliminary poking around on the internet, I found that October is International Libertarian Month.  So to help celebrate, I have compiled a short list of libertarian titles that can be checked out here at the Lawrence Public Library (if it doesn’t conflict with your core political beliefs):