Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Spectacular Din of Tymbals

I stepped out of the car this morning in River Forest and was greeted by this awesome sound. Cicadas were everywhere. First I noted the thousands of former slumbering holes next to the bushes where I parked. Then I saw them on the bushes, curled and clinging. Some torpidly flew through the warm air while others, less fortunate, lay squashed on the sidewalk.

At lunch I sat outside to enjoy their collective sound which is like a police siren without any edges, one sustained note ripe with urgency. According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (where the above sound sample was found):

The sound is made with structures known as tymbals which are located on the sides of the first abdominal segment, near the top just behind where the hindwings attach. Large muscles contract, causing the tymbal surface to bend inwards which produces a vibrating click. These vibrating clicking noises are enhanced by a large air chamber that extends well into the abdomen. Repeated contractions by thousands of cicadas can create a spectacular din.

After lunch I returned to the library where I sat to a curiously hearty crunch. One of the critters journeyed in on my posterior and had met its demise.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Audiovisual and Public Libraries

While I wasn't expecting to find books with encouraging titles like Audiovisual Bonanza: A History of the Public Library's Alternative Media Niche or, even better, Audiovisual Departments, Public Libraries and the 21st Century (though I certainly would love to find books like that, especially if they included a comprehensive annotated bibliography), I am a little surprised by the utter paucity of titles available expressively concentrated on audiovisual materials in public libraries. Of course, it's now dawning on me that my search criteria has been entirely wrong...and that what I really need to be searching under is "Nonprint Media Services" or something similar.

In any case, I created my own independent study course through the GSLIS program I'm currently wading through at Dominican University in hopes of immersing myself in the history of and possible futures for audiovisual materials/departments in public libraries. While Dominican offers a healthy smattering of courses covering librarian fundamentals, its course catalog ventures little further. No course I've taken, no book or article assigned, has discussed or even mentioned, however fleetingly, matters pertaining to the audiovisual. Nor, for that matter, do many GSLIS schools. I spent a few hours roughly a month ago hungrily browsing through the ALA's list of Accredited Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies in hopes of finding a professor I could contact or a syllabus I could use as a template. In the end, I came across only one course that bluntly offered what I was looking for. The GSLIS program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offered a class titled, simply enough, Audio Visual Services In Libraries which was, I'm sad to say, discovered in their Historical Course Catalog, which "includes courses no longer taught as well as all courses numbered under the system used through summer 2004." That dog don't hunt. The description for this now defunct class read:

Designed to acquaint students with the nonprint media responsibilities of libraries; includes the evaluation, selection, and acquisition of software and hardware, the utilization of media in various types of libraries (by individuals and groups, in formal and informal programs), and the administration of integrated media collections (films, recorded sound, video, and exhibits).

Nothing too sexy, but what I wouldn't give to have seen the reading list!

My own initial questions regarding audiovisual services in public libraries, as flimsy as they may be, are asked in hopes of finding a more promising path and ultimately gleaning something far more substantial:

-What's the history of audiovisual materials in public libraries?

-What public libraries are known for having great audiovisual departments/collections? What makes them great? How did they that way?

There are other questions, equally inadequate, but it's a start nonetheless.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Overcooked Suburban Malaise

Roughly the first 45 minutes of Little Children, Todd Field's film adaptation of Tom Perrotta's novel of the same name, is wonderful. Field has a real flair for capturing and depicting the languidly enchanted quality of suburbs in the summertime. His sound design work is also finely crafted, frequently taking diegetic sources and subtly manipulating them to reinforce the narrative. And one of Little Children's strokes of genius is having Will Lyman of PBS's Frontline provide voice over narration, his rich authoritative voice giving a surreal gravity to the characters inner lives. What starts with so much promise, however, ends in a heap of overwrought, hackneyed silliness.

One of the films conceits is that Kate Winslet's character,
Sarah, is a plain Jane type, maybe even a little homely. The filmmakers do their best to make her look frumpy by putting her in overalls and without makeup. But by trying to disguise Winslet's beauty they end up making it even more apparent.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Carousel Organ

Jan. 26, 1897

Dear Sir:--

The season for outdoor amusements is approaching. Business in this country is greatly improved. How are you fixed to harvest your share of the good things coming?

Your success depends on the music at your disposal. Your organ cannot produce good music unless it is in good repair, and to attract the crowd you need the latest popular tunes. Give the people the music they want and they will give you the nickles.

An excerpt from an 1897 letter written by Eugene deKleist, owner of the North Tonawanda Barrel Organ Factory from Ron Bopp's The American Carousel Organ: An Illustrated Encyclopedia.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Greater Darkness

I'm lifting this quote wholesale from a recent Economist obitiuary because I've never read the book, though I imagine if I ever get around to reading anything David Halberstam wrote it'll likely be The Best and the Brightest. This timely quote comes from the end of that book.

Time was on the side of the enemy, and we were in a position of not being able to win, not being able to get out...only being able to lash out...And so the war went on, tearing at this country; a sense of numbness seemed to replace an earlier anger. There was, Americans were finding out, no light at the end of the tunnel, only greater darkness.

I'm not entirely hopeful, but that sense of numbness Americans are experiencing anew over Iraq and the breathtaking military, political and diplomatic disaster it represents seemed, this past week especially, to be plucking the White House out of the dark recesses of its own asshole and sending it, however fleetingly, quivering into the light. That contentious, supposedly confidential and ultimately widely reported meeting between Bush and Republican moderates concerned about the war even managed a dismissive snarl from Cheney on his stomping grounds over at Fox:

"We didn't get elected to be popular. We didn't get elected to worry just about the fate of the Republican Party. Our mission is to do everything we can to prevail on what is now, we believe, a global conflict, a fundamental test of the character of the American people, whether or not we're going to be able to prevail against one of the most evil opponents we've ever faced."

But the thing is, there are a lot of folks who are worried about the fate of the Republican Party and precisely how, under its leadership, the character of the American people has been precariously debased. It may be basely political for moderates in the Republican party to be clambering for change just as the '08 election cycle establishes itself but if that's what it takes to nudge the White House, so be it. In the end, I fear, Bush will be handing things off to the next administration and happily sauntering to Crawford to cut brush and crack fart jokes with Karl Rove. And even if the White House and Congress actually manage to work out some agreed upon system of benchmarks with consequences (namely, troop withdraws), the problem and consequences of Iraq will be dangerously reverberating on any number of levels, each more depressing then the next, for quite some time.

Who We Are At 5:30 In the Morning

The last couple mornings as I've been carrying the munchkin up the stairs, both of us still solemn with sleep, she's looked at me very determinedly, placed her hands on her chest and declared, "Abby." Having established that, she then places her hands on my own chest and assures me that I am, "Dada."

Little does Abby know that I've gone and replaced her Dad with an exact duplicate for several nights running now.