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Wednesday, January 29, 2003

By popular request: more bathroom stories!

Today a guy came in and asked to use the men's room, which was in use at the time. We also have a unisex bathroom but lately we've been requiring patrons give us a library card or ID to hold on to (what with the poo-smearing and tom-peeping). The clean-cut, friendly man unzipped his jacket partway and informed me that he was from the Sheriff's department and they were in the neighborhood performing surveillance on "a bad guy across the street." Yep: a bad guy. Anyway, the unzipping confused me to no end. He must've had some kind of insignia under his jacket that I wasn't seeing, or maybe a shoulder holster for his gat. Whatever. I let him in the bathroom. The moral of the story is: cut your hair short and pretend to be a police officer and you can get into any damn bathroom you want to.

REWARD: "$5" to the person who can give me the best Foucaultian reading of this encounter.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

A bright little 12 year old was requesting some books and movies from other branches and commented "the way you type is scary" (scary fast, that is). What frightened me, though, was the giant wad of cash in his library card wallet. I saw a $50 and a $20 and they were both wrapped around pretty thick stacks. I don't know where he got the money or why he was carrying it all around in a neighborhood like this. I kind of wanted to ask but I also didn't want to draw attention to it.

Meanwhile, a frustrating little bunch of unattended children have recently re-surfaced. The last time I saw them was after an incident in which the four of them were pounding violently on our windows. I chased them down and they all denied responsibility, though I had security video footage of the four of them participating in said shenanigans. They'd been hanging around here a lot (one of them was the bloody-mouthed child) and getting in our collective hair, but nearly disappeared after that day. It looks like the guilt has worn off because now they're back. Apparently they came in the other day and were caught panhandling in the lobby. Again, no member of the group claimed responsibility for their deeds.

Breaking news: someone came in with a picture of the bloody-mouthed child and asked if we'd seen him today ("he's mentally challenged and has been missing for three hours"), followed fifteen minutes later by an Amazonian police officer searching for the same poor kid.

I was standing at the circulation desk when a man came up to the counter, slammed down his satchel and announced: "I'm a painter and I had this intense dream last night about Princess Diana." He didn't say "hello" or "excuse me," mind you, just made that ridiculous statement. Plus, I'm thinking, "oh God, what kind of dream are we talking about, and why are you telling me this?" Fortunately he didn't provide any lurid details, and I helped him find some good photographs for his artistic needs.

I bet I could be an Information Systems Specialist someday and make sackloads of money. It's all in how you sell yourself, son.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Violence may murder the murderer, but it doesn't murder murder. Violence may murder the liar, but it doesn't murder lie; it doesn't establish truth. Violence may even murder the dishonest man, but it doesn't murder dishonesty. Violence may go to the point of murdering the hater, but it doesn't murder hate. It may increase hate. It is always a descending spiral leading nowhere. This is the ultimate weakness of violence: It multiplies evil and violence in the universe. It doesn't solve any problems.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 17, 2003

I've got a long weekend to look forward to and I noticed the air smelled nice this morning. It's cold but with an unusually clean, sweet scent. Maybe I'm just delusional. How does your neighborhood smell today?

Last night I saw the Beatifics rockin' a church basement while I enjoyed some Bushmills and Paulaner Salvator (double bock). In a deeply satisfying trilogy of rock ecstasy, they covered the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love," The Clique's "Superman" (later made famous by REM), and the Bacharach/David masterpiece "My Little Red Book." I saw the latter performed by Arthur Lee (with Baby Lemonade) last year, who had a minor hit when his band Love released it as their first single in 1966. "My Little Red Book" was originally performed by Manfred Mann on the 1965 soundtrack to "What's New, Pussycat": great score, torpid film. "Superman" was fittingly awesome, and it turns out the Beatifics recorded it for a 2002 compilation of bubblegum covers called "Right to Chews." The Bee Gees tune was a reminder that no matter how overloaded with disco bombast the band became, they were still great pop songwriters. I can't say I miss Maurice Gibb, but they were a good band that got an unfairly negative reputation- unless you're judging them on their post 1979 output, in which case yeah, they were playing adult contemporary dreck.

Speaking of sucky music, there's a guy in here who looks a heck of a lot like Eric Clapton. Weird.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Nothing spectacular or really funny has happened around here lately, so I have to dig into the files again. There's a man who's been coming here for several years who seriously creeps me out. He's a lumbering white guy with a vacant expression and an empty, wheezing voice (imagine the sound it makes when you punch a big inflatible toy, amplified).

His usual M.O. is to approach the desk and ask for the e-mail address of some prominent figure or organization: the President, the Israeli Embassy (which one?), the United Nations, etc. From there he needs help getting into his e-mail and composing a message. Every. Single. Time. I don't know if he's got some kind of brain damage, memory loss, learning disorder, or need to fuck with us, but I swear I've helped him do the same simple operations a couple dozen times. After awhile he'd ask me my name, and every time he'd comment "hey, that's my name, too." Yes, crazy white guy and I share the same first name, which he did eventually commit to memory and enjoyed shouting across the room at me whenever he came in from then on.

What freaked me out about the guy came one day as the result of his unwillingness to abdicate the computer after his time limit expired. People were waiting and he wasn't listening to my co-worker, so I went in to strong-arm him. What I couldn't help but notice on his Hotmail account were things like NUCLEAR WAR and GOD and ARMAGEDDON and a variety of other hostile, threatening words. Connecting that to the kinds of e-mail addresses he had us look up made me deeply concerned. He doesn't come in too often any more but I always find an excuse to run away when I see him approach.

The end.

No, wait! Earlier this week I was in a meeting when the door to the meeting room opened behind me. I assumed it was a co-worker joining us late but a horrible gasping sound suggested otherwise, so I turned around. What I saw was a nearly-spherical older woman bundled from head to toe, red faced and breathing so heavily it felt like she was trying to suck us all in. I don't know why she felt the need to walk in on a meeting she obviously had no place joining, but after confronting us with her blank gaze and horrific respiratory dysfunction, she turned and left. Bizarre, yes, but that's pretty standard behavior around this place. Welcome to the liberry.

Monday, January 13, 2003


1. Y Tu Mama Tambien
2. Punch-Drunk Love
3. Adaptation
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
5. Bowling For Columbine
6. Full Frontal
7. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi)
8. Frida
9. Panic Room
10. Death To Smoochy
11. The Good Girl
12. If I Should Fall From Grace
13. Smoke Fire
14. the films of Shirin Neshat

1. Secretary
2. 24 Hour Party People
3. Solaris
4. Donnie Darko

1. About A Boy
2. Lovely And Amazing
3. The Miles Davis Story
4. Metropolis (Metoroporisu)
5. Italian For Beginners (Italiensk for begyndere)
6. Auto Focus
7. Star Trek: Nemesis

1. Storytelling
2. About Schmidt
3. Insomnia

1. Spider Man
2. Signs
3. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
4. The Piano Teacher (La Pianiste)
5. Minority Report

1. Talk To Her (Hable con ella)
2. Gangs Of New York
3. The Pianist
4. Lost In La Mancha
5. Spider
6. Naqoyqatsi
7. 25th Hour
8. In Praise Of Love
9. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
10. Morvern Callar

1. Standing In The Shadows Of Motown
2. Far From Heaven
3. Igby Goes Down
4. 8 Women (8 femmes)
5. Sex And Lucia (LucĂ­a y el sexo)
6. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
7. Heaven
8. Derrida
9. The Kid Stays In The Picture

1. Red Dragon
2. One Hour Photo
3. Femme Fatale
4. The Rules of Attraction

The two films that I loved almost unconditionally were "Punch-Drunk Love" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien." I'd put "Spirited Away" up there, too, but I have a hard time getting excited about animated films.

"Secretary" was flawed because the characters were too quirky for the sake of being quirky, without being especially believeable (James Spader in particular was guilty of this). The quirky problem ran rampant in the early 90s when filmmakers and studios alike mistook inexplicable oddities for indie or "art" films (e.g. "Arizona Dream," "Rubin and Ed") .

"24 Hour Party People" focused too much on the second half of the film which wasn't nearly as interesting as the beginning for me (but then I never paid attention to the Happy Mondays and I think the rave-culture-as-revolution ideology is too ridiculous to merit attention).

"Solaris" was a wonderful example of how to tell a science-fiction story without choking on imaginary technology (see "Minority Report") but it left me a little empty with the pseudo-religious denouement and the too-obvious odes to Kubrick.

"Donnie Darko" just never quite made sense (which even the writer/director admits), but it was a lovely film in many respects.

I'm tempted to put "LOTR: TTT" in the "ambitious but flawed" category but I figure the extended release DVD next Fall will make up for the faults I found in the theatrical release. Basically I'm being blindly optimistic.

Let me know if I missed something great. Even though "Catch Me If You Can" and "Chicago" were on a lot of best-of lists, I have no desire to see either of them. It's also going to take a lot of convincing to get me to watch "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner," but then I'm struggling to convince myself to go see "Gangs of New York" despite my love of Scorsese and years of anticipation. What about "Personal Velocity?" "The Hours?" Anyone?

Thursday, January 09, 2003

A few nights ago I was digging around for some unobtrusive "classical" music to listen to before bed and picked out Philip Glass' "Solo Piano" CD. Since I don't buy those "Bach at Bedtime" CDs [insert pretentious, disgusted grunt here] very few of my classical albums are fit for sleepytime, due to their enormous dynamic range and rhythmic complexity (other exceptions include Part's "Fur Alina" and John Field's Nocturnes). Unfortunately the wonderful person I was sleeping with became unexpectedly sorrowful because the music was distractingly melancholy. I'd completely forgotten this. The first time I heard this album was in 1997 and it brought me to tears. I was trying to paint with someone after having given up on art several years earlier and the whole experience was just too emotional for me. I felt utterly incapable of creating art, something I believe anyone can do (though many shouldn't), and this was horribly frustrating. It should've been a fun, creative experience and instead turned into a personal crisis which was (I'm sure) a complete mystery to my painting partner. Looking back I see myself as a retarded hack not unlike David Cross' Salieri-esque character from Mr. Show.

All this mushy crying/failed-artist crap makes me think of Rachel's, a collective of indie-rock musicians playing something akin to 19th century chamber music, albeit with a modern bent (i.e. more tuneful and less complicated). A painfully gorgeous album is their "Music for Egon Schiele," written for a ballet piece and consisting entirely of piano, viola, and cello. The packaging is worth the price of the CD (or LP) alone, including several lovely reproductions of Schiele's drawings. I think I cried the first time I heard that record, too. Jesus, what a sap.

Last night I went to my parents house and dug through my old high school and college "art," which turned out to be more entertaining than depressing. I found a painting which is hilariously appropriate considering the current state of world affairs: the centerpiece is a big knife thrust skyward in a clenched fist, surrounded by a hideously deformed face, a burning flag, a burning cross (!), chains, and little blood-red marching stick figures. I can't believe how totally deep I am. The world is lucky that I now fancy myself a hack musician instead of a hack visual artist.

Back to Glass, then. All Music Guide gives "Solo Piano" only three stars (with no explanation) but it's my favorite Philip Glass recording. I haven't delved into his vocal works but after seeing him use the same damn piece of music in a dozen movies and two stage works I'm generally displeased with his career. Minimalism is a legitmate musical style, but repeatedly recycling the same few bars of music and giving it a new name each time is an art crime. "Solo Piano" strips Glass' music to its bare, delicate essence, and has much more emotion and nuance than any of his other recorded works (or live performances that I've seen). "Solo Piano" would be a good album to play for someone who writes-off minimalism as an aesthetic joke, as it's hard to deny the beauty of it. The Kronos Quartet recording of Glass' works is also very good, as is his collaboration with Gambian musician Foday Musa Suso, "Music From The Screens." Though it's kinda silly, I'll always have a soft spot for the "Koyaanisqatsi" soundtrack (and the "Mishima" soundtrack, too).

While we're on the topic, I'm still waiting for "Naqoyqatsi" to screen here, which has been mysteriously delayed for nearly a month now.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Today a guy asked me for a synonym for "female dog." A few leading questions revealed that he was trying to figure out a password for something online (an e-mail account?) and the hint was "female dog." The obvious answer was not the correct one. "I tried bitch, I tried ho, I tried everything" the man told me. Then I found out he was trying to access something of his girlfriend's while she was out of town, at which point the situation came to resemble a hypothetical ethical question from liberry school. I suppose it's still our job to help the guy, but I'm not exactly sure how code-breaking can be accomplished using standard reference skills. Since he was starting to think the answer might be the name of a specific dog, and the Thesaurus only had synonyms for the pejoritive meanings of "bitch," I felt like this was out of my hands. I suggested he dig through our dog books for ideas and scooted away, which wasn't totally unjustified since I was alone at the desk. I was impressed that he came to the library for help, though, even if we did let him down.

Meanwhile, I had another disturbing (though non-work related) dream last night. It began with the IDS tower smoking and quaking like it was going to fall, and some kind of fundamentalist Christian take-over of the Twin Cities. The new Christian regime didn't allow anyone to drive on Sundays, so some friends and I were trying to steal cars to get out of town, but that plan failed. Later we were trying to go about our business normally and see a movie, but when we left out the back of my house my abandoned car was parked right in front of the door and two police officers questioned us. For some reason the picture they had of the vehicle's owner (me) was made out of a tiny mound of brown fuzz, so they couldn't really ID me and they let us go, but then Space Waitress decided to try and ignite a gas can sitting near the car. We ran off before the cops could see us but wanted to get a look at the damage we'd caused, so we circled around the block and went up an alley on the other side of the street, hoping to see through the gaps between the buildings. Unfortunately there were a bunch of masked thieves lurking in the alley who jumped over fences and came out of the shadows to nab us. I don't remember much more, but it was fairly disturbing, especially the IDS part.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Another career highlight.

My co-worker is going through the teen suggestion box and handing me CD requests. She also pulled out the following:

"Porno for dummy"


"masterbating for mens and boys"

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