Saturday, May 27, 2017

What the F

What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and OurselvesWhat the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves by Benjamin K. Bergen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What the F?! ...aka, what a perfect title for a book. Catchy and fun.

First thoughts: This book is super fun, especially to a sometimes sailor mouth (though most don't expect it). I always love having some background on my words, and knowing where the 4-letter ones came from (and why we call them that) only makes them more interesting. There were a few technical parts that I skimmed, but for the most part I was super into reading about how language itself forms and changes.

Profane thoughts: One of the best parts of reading a book about swearing is getting to swear a lot (at least in your head, though I also took extra liberty with reading passages out loud to Jesus). Another good part - finding out how profanity follows specific patterns, even across languages, yet also does its own thing. Did you know your brain reacts differently when it hears swears versus non-swears? We process cursing differently than we do non-profane language. So cool.

Censored thoughts: While I'm keeping this review profanity-free, I also don't condone censorship. Of course, you have to know where you're at and who your audience is, but on the whole, eliminating words doesn't help anything. Listening to others, trying not to offend, and using words that others prefer (specifically in the case of slurs - arguable the most offensive profane words) - these things help us connect with others in ways that censorship doesn't.

Recommended for: Parents and teachers. Wordies, linguists, bibliophiles. Potty mouths and prudes.

Final thoughts: Profanity isn't good or bad. It is what we make it...swear if you wanna, don't if you don't. :)

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ciao WOW!

Tonight was my final WOW! event with Citizen Schools. (For the record, WOW! doesn't stand for anything, it's just the reaction we want our audience to have when they see all the cool stuff our kids have learned and made over the course of 10 weekly classes...although my students did suggest Watch Our Work, and I think that's a worthy option.) In two years, I helped plan four WOW!s, which showcased a total of 36 Apprenticeships (7 of which I personally led). I also managed a group of 30+ volunteers each semester as the Citizen Teacher Lead. Most importantly, 100+ students had the opportunity to learn 21st-century skills from the volunteers - bankers, lawyers, engineers, accountants, computer programmers, motivational speakers, pilots, consultants, data analysts - and share what they learned to friends, teachers, and their families.

As stressful as planning an event like tonight can be, I'm always so excited to see how the kids light up when they have an audience to teach or perform for. In two years I've seen kids publish their own 'zine, build solar cars, raise over 800 dollars for an animal shelter, perform spoken word poetry, investigate a crime scene, present their personal vision boards, invent new ice cream flavors, teach juggling, and share SO MANY lessons learned about aviation, entrepreneurship, coding, networking...the list goes on.

Tonight was truly the cherry on top of a wonderful sundae, and thankfully I have a few more weeks for goodbyes and end of year celebrations!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Day 50

Woooooaaaah we're halfway there, wooaaah....that's all I've got to share. :)

I've written a page a day for 50 straight days, mostly. Once I completely forgot (around day 41) and made up for it with two pages the next day. Once I didn't forget, but I willfully didn't write (around day 43 - last week was rough, guys) and again, made up for it with two pages the next day.

All around, I'd say a pretty successful challenge. If I can do 50 days, I can do 50 more - and now that I've added grad school to my life juggle and things have settled down from the first few weeks of class, writing is finding its space in my daily routine again (instead of me wondering how I'm going to fit it in between practicing cataloging standards and writing discussion posts about library marketing).

What will I do when I reach 100 days? Unsure. I won't force myself to write full pages, but I do find that if I let my mind wander for a few lines I get out all the random schtuff in my brain and I can get on to the real schtuff. And there's something to be said about having a consistent routine. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Underground Railroad

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was hard to do anything library or book related without seeing/hearing about this Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner this past fall/winter/spring. Co-workers recommended it, celebrities praised it on social media, and I was intrigued by a story of a real Underground Railroad - historical fiction with the emphasis on fiction? Sign me up.

First thoughts: Taking the above into account, I was not as excited with The Underground Railroad as I expected to be. It didn't grab me like I wanted it to, and I kept waiting to read more about the railroad itself.

Favorite quote: "A plantation was a plantation; one might think one's misfortunes distinct, but the true horror lay in their universality."

Recommended for: adventurous readers, casual readers, anyone who likes to stay current on reading trends.

Final thoughts: While I eventually got more into the story, the story itself stayed mostly on the surface. By the end of the book we still don't know Cora, and definitely don't know Mabel, Royal, or Cesar. And there's definitely not enough detail about the railroad - Who made it? How does it work? What's the schedule? That's all I wanted to read about. Sadly, I think The Underground Railroad suffers from not setting itself apart enough from other slave narratives - and it had a real chance to do so with the "real" railroad angle. If I knew more about the story before reading I might have enjoyed it more, but I went in expecting both a great literary tale and an exciting, new, different story.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Thoughts on blogging & privacy

This blogger's post on introversion and connection is resonating with me today, but my online silence has less to do with being introverted and more with needing time to figure out what privacy means to me in a period of intense life change. Even coming here to share that fact feels exposing.

I have a few fun things I want to share in the coming weeks and months (so many thoughts on wedding planning and going back to school), but right now I'd rather spend my energies writing offline until I'm sure of what I want to say.

And I haven't forgotten about Photography Month:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bad Feminist

Bad FeministBad Feminist by Roxane Gay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to these essays by Roxane Gay over the course of a week, during my walk to and from work. I think that had I been reading a printed copy, I might have skimmed/skipped a few essays that didn't resonate as much with my personal story, but I enjoyed listening to them.

First thoughts: Roxane Gay is so smart. It's intimidating at times, but also refreshing. I'm glad she doesn't dumb things down, but instead makes her reader/listener get on her level. In the same way she's also unapologetically honest, and I had to get on her level to hear her truths.

Essay thoughts: As I mentioned, some essays were more relatable (to me) than others. I've read The Hunger Games, I'm familiar with various pop culture references, and I too am usually the quiet studious one in school. In others, while I didn't always connect with the content (I haven't read 50 Shades of Grey), I still found her commentary interesting.

Recommended for: students, young adults who are figuring out their place in the world, good feminists, hesitant feminists, and people who still cringe at the word feminist.

Final thoughts: There was no universe in which I wasn't going to eventually read or discuss this book - while referencing a lot of current pop culture, Bad Feminist itself has become an item of pop culture. It was only a matter of time, and I'm glad that time was sooner rather than later.

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Bedwetter, Please: Two Books By & About Comedians

Besides being former SNL cast members from New England and becoming popular by leading comedic television shows, Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman don't have a lot in common. Their types of humor are vastly different, and their audiences vary wildly as well. Their memoirs reflect their personal styles, and their respective audiobooks, read by themselves, show how important those styles are to how their audiences interact with and relate to them. If you're thinking about reading either Yes Please or The Bedwetter, I'd recommend the audiobook, as both of these women know how to perform, even when they can't see their audiences.

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First thoughts: I LOVE Poehler reading her own book and bringing in other performers (Seth Meyers, her parents) to read various chapters. It really gives credibility to each individual voice. Poehler's audiobook asides are great extra bits that play out through the entire book.

Favorite quotes:

"You do it because the doing of it is the thing."

"Great people do things before they are ready."

"I tried to tell the truth and be funny."

"Good for her. Not for me." (I've found myself repeating this ever since hearing it, anytime I start to get jealous of what another person(woman) has or is doing.)

"Figure out what you want. Say it out loud. Then shut up."

"Ambivalence is key to success."

"If you can surf your life rather than plant your feet, you will be happier."

Content thoughts: Poehler's memoir does talk about her journey to where she is today, and she has chapters on all the important events in her comedic formation, but this is also a self-help/motivation book (as the above quotes demonstrate). Poehler has plenty to say about her own upbringing and coming of age as a woman writer/actor/director/etc, but she also has a few choice words applicable to any person in the process of figuring out who they are and what they want. I appreciated this relatability, and I think this is what makes the memoir work (for me). Memoirs aren't my favorite genre, mostly because I don't care enough about one person's life to read an entire book on it. When the memoir is elevated to empowerment manual, then I'm on board.

Audiobook thoughts: I'm so glad I chose to listen to Yes Please. Poehler is a performer through and through. Her last chapter is a recording of a live reading in a theater, audience laughter and all.

Recommended for: women, aspiring writers and performers, funny people, fans of SNL and Parks and Recreation, those who need a little pep and pick up.

Final thoughts: Yes, please to Yes Please.

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and PeeThe Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First thoughts: Silverman sure does make a career out of being gross/crude. I'm part jealous, part meh. While it was interesting to hear about her childhood and "backstory," I couldn't always relate to how she got to where she is today (which made it harder to care).

Favorite quote: "Make it a treat." - how to approach life's luxuries so you don't burn yourself out on them.

Recommended for: Anyone who is already a fan would probably enjoy hearing Silverman's origin story, and I think certain young women would benefit from hearing about a public figure's struggles with self esteem, especially around the topic of wetting the bed.

Final thoughts: The Bedwetter doesn't age particularly well - Silverman talks about her role in the Obama campaign and the state of America in 2009, and some passages got a little cringe-y. While there was no way she could foresee the mess we'd be in eight years later, there were parts that were hard to listen to. Also, I don't think I'll ever totally be on board with her voice, which doesn't help an audiobook's case. As a commute companion, though, I could've done worse.

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