Archive for the ‘reviue’ Category

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public libraries = the new homeless shelter

April 12, 2007

I stumbled across a fascinating article on the Hulkster’s blog (fiance of MLE).  It is written by Chip Ward, recently retired Assistant Director of the Salt Lake City Library and deals with the well know (in library circles) issue of homeless people using public libraries as day centers.  I found this a very interesting topic both because of my own interest in entering library work and my semester spent interning at a day center for the homeless in Indianapolis, IN.  At my current job two of the librarians also work a few shifts at our local public library and I have heard both of them talk about dealing with patrons who have offensive body odor, patrons offended by those with offensive body odor, patrons who try to smoke in the library, but most of all patrons who are obviously mentally ill and falling through the cracks of our current social welfare system. 

In his article Ward talks about the strain this places on librarians, who are obviously not trained to deal with seizures, schizophrenia, public drunkenness, etc, but must try to deal with these issues with compassion and wisdom.  Ward also makes strong statements about the stigma associated with mental illness and asks,

“If we accept that schizophrenia, for instance, is not the result of a character flaw or a personal failing but of some chemical imbalance in the brain — an imbalance that can strike regardless of a person’s values, beliefs, upbringing, social standing, or intent, just like any other disease — then why do we apply a kind of moral judgment we wouldn’t use in other medical situations?”

That is indeed a hard question to answer, especially if I allow myself to own up to my own responses to the homeless people I encounter on the streets.  I know when I see the elderly man, who always sits outside of our local coffee-shop, selling his Streetwise, part of me wants to ignore him or at least silently begs not to feel guilty for not buying a paper.  The severely mentally ill can often elicit a similar response.  I mean who really wants to acknowledge that the only difference between your life and the life of a street person could be the level of a particular chemical in your brain.  In some ways we tend to treat mental illness as if it were contagious, we don’t want to catch that severe depression or bi-polar disorder that has been going around these days. 

So in order to protect ourselves we try to isolate ourselves and for the most part we are successful.  With a good pair of ear buds, an aversion to homeless shelters and re-use it stores, one can turn a blind eye or at least ignore most of the homeless people in our cities, except apparently when you go to the library.  And maybe that is a good thing, or at least until society finds a way to truly treat and accept its mentally ill and homeless members, those of us who go to libraries will need to live with having our eyes opened.

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finding interesting things

February 21, 2007

While I haven’t ever dealt with clinical depression, I do think I have experienced mild forms of it. So I have always been fascinated by the idea of it and tried to wrap my head around the idea that your brains chemicals can trick you into believing false things about your life. For a long time, I really disliked the idea of taking medication to “fix” your brain, I didn’t understand how doctors could really diagnois which chemical was imbalanced and how the guess work of getting to a good place could be healthy for a person. But through seeing some of my friends deal with depression and taking medication, plus in all honesty reading the blogs of people who have suffered and survived depression, I have changed my mind about medication. While I will never understand it (obviously I am not a doctor), I can’t help but see the huge difference it can make in people’s lives.

What sparked this little post (seriously I promise last one of the night) was reading an entry by RLP (Real Live Preacher) in which he reflects on his struggle with depressiong and two year recovery through medication.

Jung said it this way: If you do not come to terms with your shadow side, the opposite of your strengths, you will be ruled by that shadow side. I believe that now. In my case, all of my unexplored feelings were sucked into a vortex of anger. Of course, I was too sophisticated to let my anger out in healthy ways. So I ate my anger. I ate it dry. It was like swallowing unshelled peanuts. It did not sit well in my gut.

Go read the rest of his really well written post.

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writer’s almanac

February 21, 2007

 For over 2 months now I have been receiving daily copies of the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor; a five minute segment that begins with a poem and concludes with various literary and historical tidbits revolving around birthdays and anniversaries that happen on each particular day.  While it would be better to hear each day’s verse read in Keillors deep baritone, the pieces are always well crafted enough to be interesting even when heard only on the page.  Today’s poem was by W. H. Auden and is called “Funeral Blues” and I really loved the rhythm of this piece.  Despite being about the death of someone dearly loved the genius of each lines meter is wonderful.  My favorite stanza is:

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Other favorite days of mine include Valentine’s day in which Keillor talks about the various ways famous writers were effected by love.  He tells a great nugget about Sylvia Plath who describes her first meeting with her future husband:

In 1956 Sylvia Plath was studying in Europe on a Fulbright Scholarship when she went to a publication party for a literary magazine. It was there that she met the poet Ted Hughes, whose poetry she admired. When he introduced himself, Plath quoted one of his poems to him, and he guided her to a side room of the bar. She later wrote in her journal, “He kissed me bang smash on the mouth and ripped my hairband off … and my favorite silver earrings … I bit him long and hard on the cheek and when we came out of the room, blood was running down his face.” They got married four months later.

Another Almanac story that fascinated me was December 6th, 2006 in which Keillor talked about two disasters that had their anniversary’s on the same day.  One, the Halifax Explosion took place during WWI and ended up with a half a city blown apart.  Caused by the collision of the Mont Blanc with a Norwegian freighter,

It was the single most powerful man-made explosion at that point in human history, and there wouldn’t be another more powerful explosion until the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

And I found myself wondering why I had never heard of this event.  Granted it happened in Canada, but still an event of that magnitude should probably have made its way into at least one of my history textbooks, don’t you think?

For my final Almanac tidbit, I loved this piece on Richard Nixon, in which Keillor gives a great summary of Nixon’s drive and ambitions. 

Nixon’s luck only began to change when he decided to join the military during World War II. He’d been raised a Quaker, but he was interested in politics, and he knew that military service would look good on his résumé. One of the things he learned in the military was that he was a fantastic poker player. By the end of the war, he had earned almost $10,000. When he got back to civilian life, he used that money to fund his first political campaign. 

Obviously if one really wanted an in depth look into the mind of Nixon, one should probably try reading a full biography of the man (for example try President Nixon: Alone in the White House)

So consider subscribing to Writer’s Almanac and let me know which are your favorite ones.

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brokeback mountain

February 4, 2006

I just went to see this movie up in South Bend with Crystal, Jess and Becca, and it was a really powerful movie. Heartbreaking and beautiful, very minimalist and yet it had a real feel and grace to each scene. I can’t hardly express how amazing Heath Ledger’s performance was. But there are probably much better reviews of this movie, else where so I will leave it to them.

“Yet “Brokeback Mountain” is ultimately not about sex, … but about love: love stumbled into, love thwarted, love held sorrowfully in the heart.”
Stephen Holden, The New York Times

The movie was great, but it left me in one of those more melancholy moods, the grey sky today was actually quite perfect for the emotions I’ve been having recently. I think I am heading into somewhat of a down mood, which is of course weird, because yesterday was a really great day. I think it doesn’t help that I am beginning to realize how much work I need to be getting done these days, and how much just isn’t happening. Especially the history seminar paper, ugh it will be a very wonderful day when I put that one behind me.

I think I am wearing out of college, it doesn’t fit me as well as it used to. Although I would have to say my house is one of those exceptions, that still fits well, maybe with some minor adjustments here and there.

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China post

September 1, 2005

Well it looks like I can at least post to my blog, but just not view it. So this may be one of the few posts I make this semester.

Where to start, well I am here at Chengdu, at the Sichuan Normal University. Feeling good, except for a nagging sore throat that I have had for a few days. Life here in China is great, tiring, and busy. The other day our group was reflecting on the ways we are being stretched here and our delights, so I will share one of both.

First of all something that stretches me is the air, pollution is at higher levels here than I am used to in the states (although Chengdu seems much better than both Beijing and Xi’an). And along with that smoking is everywhere, through into that the cacophony of smells ranging from cooking, to sewer and everything in between gives one a brief idea of the streets of China. Then through these streets pop up stands bearing everything from pomograntes, to fish, turtles, mao watches and silk scarves. The streets at night in Beijing were definitly one of my delights. Another delight has been the unexpected greeness of the Sichuan campus, grass, and trees are everywhere, which help ones eyes adjust after the harshness of the cites.

As someone in our group said, this past week has been crazy, seeing something spectacular every single day. One definitly spectacular site was the Terracotta warriers in Xi’an, brilliant preservations of an emperor’s desire to rule even into death. The figuries are lifesize and each is different from the next in facial expression. Yet despite the spectacular nature of these figures, I think my favorite site was the Summer Palace in Beijing, full of small ponds, flower gardens and paths wondering around the side of the lake. We even got a small ferry ride accross the lake.

For more pictures go to http://www.goshen.edu/sst/china05/

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Lasik countdown: 3 days

July 18, 2005

I realized I haven’t posted anything in depth for a while, probably because I have been doing a fair amount of housesitting and well I just haven’t been in the mood. This summer has been good, although it hasn’t been living up to my expectations. Which probably indicates my expectations were too high :). But it has quickly become something in between two points, the first being may term with learning mandarin Chinese and the second being actually going to china. I am really excited about going to china, I can’t wait to go and live in another country for 3 months, to see lots of exciting landmarks, such as the great wall, the terra cotta soldiers, the forbidden city, the Yangzhe river, and many others.

But at the same time I also have this thin little undercurrent of nerves/fear/anxiety. So much of one’s experience is shaped by one’s attitude and sometimes I struggle with maintaining a good attitude even in the best of settings. One example of this would be when I probably 8 or so and our family traveled to New York. We went to see the statue of liberty and I thought of course that my 8 year old legs would have no problem climbing the hundreds of stairs up to the crown of the statue, my parents wisely thought better of this and so I ended up staying at the base with Jonathan and my Mom. I of course was so mad, I pouted for the rest of the day. In fact when my Mom tried to take a picture of Jonathan and I looking out over the wall, I refused to turn around. Which resulted in a picture of my 8 year old back and Jonathan next to me with his buzz cut, little 6 year old belly and a somewhat solemn expression on his face.

However this pattern of allowing my attitude to shape my experience continued into high school where on a amazing 3 week family vacation extravaganza (we drove north into Canada, stopped at Niagara Falls, traveled east to Prince Edward Island, turned south down into Maine, drove through new England to Pennsylvania for a family reunion, continued south down into South Carolina where we volunteered for a few days at a African American church that was being rebuilt after the series of racist arson attacks that occurred in the South during the 1990s) I couldn’t stop complaining. Now part of this could be blamed on my huge sinus infection, that resulted in me spending countless hours drugged out in the tent, but part of this was also my own decision to make myself miserable. Although is should also be noted that this was the vacation in which my Dad read the entire Lord of the Rings series outloud to our family, which was and still is in the top 20 events of my life. However listening to Frodo and Samwise struggle through Mordor, while lying half drugged out in the back seat as we drove into PA would also be in the top worst moments of my life.

As I have grown older, I have worked at getting over this way of allowing my attitude to dictate my experience, but it remains a challenge. I think in some ways another main reason that this summer has not been as amazing as originally thought is because of how my attitude shapes my perceptions. Because obviously this also effects my social life, it gets really hard for me to interact with people I don’t know as well, when I can’t seem to get into a positive attitude. And then of course when I don’t hang out with people as much it can quickly slip into the vicious cycle of “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna go eat worms”

It is kinda interesting, because this isn’t at all what I was gonna post, but then hey blogging as therapy, not exactly the newest idea in the book.

In other news I received and devoured Harry Potter 6, it was amazing. I laughed, I cried, I loved it. Special Note to Katie: I would love to analyze it/chat about it with you. Last night Tara finally called me (she had finished it too) and we talked about it for probably close to 2 hours!
As for my own review of it, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but it really was great. Rowling does such a great job of giving the reader both the expected and the unexpected, also it is so much fun to guess how she is going to pull off the rest of the plot that is going to be shoved into the final book. I think a finer analysis of the book will have to wait until I give it a second more relaxed read through. But currently, cheerios to JK Rowling!

Oh and about the Lasik, I am going under the knife (actually the laser in this case) on Thursday morning. My dad gets to drive me up to South Bend for my 8:45 surgery time! So I would really appreciate your thoughts and prayers then, because as much as I am not worried about the surgery, I still really don’t like how I will be awake the whole time. But I also can’t wait to be rid of glasses and contacts forever (or at least until my late 50s when I will probably need reading glasses)

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maple scholars and other tidbits

June 13, 2005

Music: Another One Bites the Dust by Queen

Yesterday I packed up my items and with the help of my parents moved into Kulp 111. For the next 2 months this will be my home while I participate in Maple Scholars. I realized how much fun it can be to move in and rearrange your own little dorm room. I have never lived by myself on GC campus before and it is fun to have complete control over how my room looks. Plus I had never realized how much a nice rug and some plants can make your whole room look so nicely decorated. Plus I have a south facing window that is edged in vines and a comfy red leather chair and reading lamp. So overall I am quite happy with the arrangement.

Today I met with my advisor Jan for the first time and I am really beginning to get excited about my research this summer and getting to really flex my mental muscle per say. I also have really been enjoying being able to use my own computer with a T1 internet connection. Yah for being online again! It really is amazing, once I get a good internet, my spider solitaire addiction seems to just fix itself. 🙂

As for the rest of my life, I am reaching a ever wavering but growing sense of contentment. I think a large part of that is due to my increasing tendency to see God as a larger part of my thought process and also by allowing myself to have greater levels of hope in things to come in my life.

And since I never did get around to blogging about my road trip to Laurel. I will tell the brief story of our Arby’s Quest. Around noon on our first day (Goshen to Hesston, Kansas) we decided that we should probably stop in the near future for some kind of meal and narrowed our choices down to Subways, Arby’s and a possible Wendy’s. We continued our drive, but eventually decided around 2, just as we were passing west of St. Louis that Arby’s was where we really wanted to stop. About this same time, Arby’s disappeared off the face of the earth! As we drove past exit after exit with only lowly McDonald’s, Burger Kings and Subways, we grew more adamant in our desire for Arby’s. We would not give in to the wily ways of Kansas, we were determined. The afternoon slowly slipped by and soon we saw 6pm drawing near and still no Arby’s! Finally at a exit, there it was! The beloved large red hat that bears the noble name of Arby’s. Ecstatic we pulled off and followed the arrow, delighted to finally fulfill our quest. But alas, we were too eager, for the sign lied to us. Raised our hopes then crushed them to the lowest, low. The promised Arby’s was not there! We searched so hard that we actually ended up at the next on-ramp for I-70. Sighing, we decided that Arby’s was not in our destiny for that day, so we consoled ourselves with a third place Wendy’s, but not before vowing that we would continue our search on the third leg of trip.*

*dear reader, you will be glad to know that on the third day of our road trip we did indeed find and dine at a lovely Arby’s just outside of Flagstaff Arizona.

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my review of John McCutcheon

May 1, 2005

A regular performer at GC, John McCutcheon returned this past Saturday night to Sauder Concert Hall. An accomplished folk musician, McCutcheon has received numerous awards, including five Grammy nominations and has produced over twenty albums. But more importantly, McCutcheon thrives on performing live at venues ranging from 5th grade Peer-Mediator graduations in Alaska to folk festivals around the world. McCutcheon’s love for children’s music comes out clearly and during his children’s concert Saturday afternoon, over 100 children took to the stage with him.

Playing to a rapt audience of adults, students and families, McCutcheon opened with “John Henry”, the folk hero who successfully worked faster than a steam drill in order to save the jobs of his fellow minors in the late 1800s. Combining story and song with his own brand of self-deprecating humor, McCutcheon told how the song had impacted him as a 9 year old and reflected on his initial inability to see John Henry’s death as a victory and his own interpretation of the song as praise for the average people who do great things. This interweaving of songs with antidotes set the theme for the evening with McCutcheon providing background information and stories for many of his songs.

Along with the classic folk songs, McCutcheon played many of his original songs inspired by childhood memories, newspaper clippings and even current events. McCutcheon makes no attempts to hide his political leanings and sang a song he wrote after watching the 9/11 hearings in which he vented his frustrations with political figures who refuse to take the blame for their actions. Born a catholic but a practicing Quaker for most of his adult life, McCutcheon also sang Guthrie’s “This Land is my land, This Land is your Land,” with the extra verses that have been left out of many more popularized versions of the song.

Each of McCutcheon’s songs blended his rich storytelling ability with his mastery in five different traditional folk instruments. Switching fluidly between banjo, guitar, autoharp, piano, and hammered dulcimer demonstrated his mastery throughout the evening. Proving especially memorable were several of McCutcheon’s hammered dulcimer pieces and his impeccable fingering on the banjo.

A practiced and engaging performer, McCutcheon also encouraged audience sing-a-longs during several of his pieces including, “The storm is over” and other well known favorites. During the second half of the concert, McCutcheon took several requests including the crowd favorite of “Christmas in the Trenches.” Throughout the evening McCutcheon proved once again his ability to entertain a range of ages and perform in a variety of genres.

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Camping

March 5, 2005

Monday Day #1:
We get a pretty early start out of Indy, stopping briefly in Louisville for breakfast before heading south. Anna and I split the day fairly evenly driving wise, being two out of the three drivers available in the group. We finally arrived at Fountainbleu state park just as the sun as setting, which is perfect because there is nothing more fun than setting up a tent you haven’t seen before in the dark. Thanks to Samuka’s determination and the long lasting batteries in the van we are successful with the tent. We all pretty much crashed, the boys in the smaller two person, Anna and I in the big ole orange pub tent and Ebony and Miriam in the van. As the night wore on, we all discovered the fact that just because we are in Louisiana and just because we are on spring break and just because the days are fairly warm, does not mean that the nights are not incredibly cold.

Tuesday Day #2:
After the sun is given an appropriate amount of time to warm our tents and sleeping bags we all crawl out and realize that although cold and somewhat suspiciously damp the camping site is really gorgeous. Then Anna, David, Samuka and I all attempt the task of getting the camp stove to work. Once again Samuka fixes the thing and I am able to produce some slightly undercooked but much appreciated pancakes. Then we head off to explore the beach at the campground. Situated on the north shore of Lake Pontichain, we could see the skyline of New Orleans in the distance and we all waded around enjoying the warm 60’s weather.
But this beach was not enough for us, we wanted the real thing, so we packed up and drove east to Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico beach for the afternoon, after some failed attempts at tanning by Anna, a somewhat successful sand building by Samuka and much reading, wading and walking by all we had a good time. However we did manage to lock ourselves out of the van, requiring a call to the locksmith and a fee of $30 out of our already limited budget for the week. After the beach we stopped by a Lil’ Rays to try some real southern food and seafood. I had the smoked sausage po’boy which was quite good, although not revolutionary.

Wednesday Day #3:
This morning we finally reached our true destination and explored New Orleans. Well mainly the French Quarter, but it was a good time. We gawked at sexually explicit necklaces, ate French Beignets at Cafe D’Monde, had a muffelatta sandwich from Central Grocery and bought a great scarf and hat combo at a small shop. All in all a good day. After returning to our campsite we started a fire and had a blowout cook-out, roasting our brats, making mountain pies and of course smores. Around 10pm we crawled into our sleeping bags to get some much needed rest. Around an hour or two later it started raining and continued to do so throughout the night.

Thursday Day #4:
I awoke to discover that I was a wee bit damp or maybe soaked would be a better term. The blanket underneath my sleeping bag was soaking, half my sleeping bag was wet and the corresponding half of my body was wet as well. This also happened to be that my growing sniffles during the previous day decided to bloom into a full blown cold. However I was not the only miserable person, Anna, David and Samuka were all equally soaked. Ebony and Miriam however were nice and dry from their night spent in the van. This was the point where I decided enough was enough and I was ready to go home. After a phone call to my dad I got the telephone number of my cousins who live north of Birmingham, Alabama not far from our intended route. I called and asked for the use of their floor, to which they willingly agreed. After one last day in New Orleans and a somewhat disappointing meal in a higher priced restaurant, we headed north taking our wet tents and bags with us. We arrived at Bob and Lisa’s house about half-past midnight and crashed.

Friday Day #5:
I awoke slightly disoriented but quickly recovered and enjoyed a catch-up conversation with Bob and Lisa after which they decided to make us all pancakes. Showing marvelous hospitality they cooked for us, gave us the leftovers, some food for the road, and directions back to the interstate. This is just one more reason why I love family and especially my own family 🙂 The rest of friday was spent without incident with me spending most of the time in the middle seat reading and using up over half the tissue box. However it should be noted that Anna drove the entire 7 hours herself, for which I was very grateful. We arrived home and proceeded to clean out the van and hang up the many wet items, before finally crashing and enjoying the fresh shrimp dinner that Samuka cooked for us.

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Hotel Rwanda

February 11, 2005

I just finished watching the movie Hotel Rwanda and it was quite an emotional punch. Although I knew a lot of the details about the Rwandian genocide, there is so much power in seeing the stories of real individuals effected by the worst acts of violence in the 20th century.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the background of the genocide. In 1994 Tutsi rebels were attempting to broker a peace treaty with the Hutu government of Rwanda when the Hutu President’s plane was shot down. This action provided the spark that sent the Interahamwe (Hutu Power Militia) into all out massacres of Tutsi citizens. Instead of intervening Western powers and the UN watched and did nothing. The foreign press, ex-patriates and internationals all withdrew allowing almost 1 million Rwandians to die.

The movie centers around the story of Paul Rusesabagina, the manager of of the luxury hotel in Kilgala, Rwanda. Although a Hutu, Paul’s wife and relatives are Tutsis. Played by Don Cheadle (who does an amazing job), Paul refuses to give the refuges who flock to his hotel up, bribing Rwandian generals and foreigners alike in order to save his family.

The movie had a similar note as Schindler’s List, serving to both raise awareness of the atrocities concerned and the enormous ability of humans to turn a blind eye to evil and cruelty. Yet it also brings moments of hope and the ability of one individual to stem the tide and bring life instead of death.

One aspect that I was particularly struck by was the complete lack of differences between Hutus and Tutsis. Physically no different and sharing much of the same culture, the “tribes” of Hutu and Tutsi did not exist until the Belgians colonized Rwanda and attempted to find differences between those that they chose to rule and those they chose to deny opportunity too.

Essentially I would say that Hotel Rwanda is required viewing by anyone and everyone. While the movie does contain violence, I feel that it contains a much more important factor and that is a story of truth which is rarely told about the Rwandian genocide.