Friday, October 26, 2007

The Joy of RSS

So. I've used RSS vicariously, via my college-age kids and their MacBooks. Today I became an active participant and it couldn't have happened at a better time. I'm having an awful lot of fun reading some blogs and I don't want to miss anything!

It was quite a challenge to pick only two out of that long list of terrific staff blogs, but I finally did it. The first blog I subscribed to is Am Engaged Trying Not To Be Endangered. Are you seeking inspiration, krl2.0'ers? Could you use a smile? This may be the blog for you.

Next up is Shirlee's Weblog. Shirlee is one of the main members of the krl2.0 team and she's awesome at explaining things!

** update alert. I must add Bell Book and Blogzilla to this RSS list. The writing is wonderful and the lastest book review has sent me off to place a hold. Wow!

If you are a grammar fiend, you might enjoy The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. Have you ever encountered a sign that seems to be saying something other than what was intended? This blog is updated regularly with photos of grammatically-challenged signs. The comments are priceless. One photo is of a For Sale sign - every 0 and O has a slash through it as if all were numeric. One of the comments had me rolling: A mØØse Ønce bit my sister. I love cultural references! (In case that's not familiar, it's from the opening subtitles in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. No, realli.)

My final blog subscription is for Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century. Um, see, my family collects beards. Not beards per se, just notable beards that we happen upon. Sometimes they're in old magazines or on postcards. Sometimes one actually walks by. One of our favorite beards belongs to a member of the Seattle Symphony. How does he avoid entangling his amazing beard in the violin strings?? Anyway, Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century posts old photos of mustached people and provides tongue-in-cheek 'academic' commentary, naming each mustache style. This blog was a happy discovery! It just goes to show there is something for everyone on the the Internet.

Coming up: Play/Catch Up week, so who knows? Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tell me a joke.

What has four legs and an arm?

Let's explore humor in its most basic form, The Joke. We love 'em, we groan at 'em. I'm talking riddles, light bulbs, knock-knocks...those jokes that were passed around the playground, handed from generation to generation. There are classic jokes and jokes that ought to have died a quiet death at the first telling. (Answer: A Rottweiler. Har.)

I belong to a group of musicians who jam every other Tuesday. We take turns choosing a tune to play. Anyone who can't think of a tune has to tell a joke. Oh my. I've heard some tremendous jokes from this group. I have a few jokes in my arsenal but they usually go right out the window when it's my turn, and the ones I do remember? I've told them all. And it's an unwritten rule: you can't tell the same joke again, not even weeks later. Repeating it in dialect doesn't make it a new joke. (This is usually in faux Irish, because we play mostly Celtic stuff.)

How many folk musicians does it take to change a light bulb?

A Prairie Home Companion, on public radio, has an annual Joke Show. Two hours, nothing but jokes and very fine music. There's a great deal of humor on this program already, some of it unintended and spontaneous, but the Joke'll probably hear jokes you haven't heard in years. (Answer - Four. One to change the bulb and three to complain that it's electric.) The great thing about the Joke show is they've put all those jokes on a website and you can surf through them for hours, assuming you'd want to. You can add a joke to their collection, too. You can even hear the Joke Shows from years past, courtesy of RealPlayer: Nothing Like A Good Joke

Why was "The Adventures of Robin Hood" banned at the library?

The big thing about telling a joke is how it is told. Some people are good at it. Some are not. Who among us has not suffered through a really bad joke-teller? Someone who meanders, bogged down in the details that don't matter; someone who gets a part wrong and starts over; someone who reaches the end and provides several versions of the punchline before getting it right. Mea culpa. There's a joke I messed up every time until I realized I had to stop telling it. It's a wonderful joke but you won't hear it from me. (Answer: Too much Saxon violence. Don't get it? Say it aloud.)

Do you have a favorite joke? Feel free to leave it in Comments for others to enjoy. Ahem, keep it polite, please...

Next time: tonsorial delights. Stay tuned.

So, all you krl2.0'ers, have you set up your account yet? If you haven't, don't fret. There is time enough for all things.

I'm having some fun with my account. Folksonomies have had my attention for nearly two years but this is the first time I've participated in them. My biggest challenge is thinking of tag words. It's helpful to have those "suggested tags" and I really appreciate seeing the tags other folk have used.

One of my tagged URLs is a website offering Jean Shepherd mp3 downloads. Who is Jean Shepherd? A delightful author who wrote about his Depression-era midwest childhood. I'll bet you've heard him without knowing it. Have you ever seen A Christmas Story? The narrator is Jean Shepherd, and the film is based on several chapters of In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. He writes just the way he sounds in that film. I frequently gift this book. You may especially enjoy reading it if you're familiar with the middle-American culture of the 1930s and 1940s.

I also added a site that is nothing but Mark Twain quotes. Again, a beloved author although I'm not that fond of his 'classics'. Once through Tom Sawyer was sufficient for me. However, The Innocents Abroad is one of my must-read-again books. I can't do justice to it, so I'm going to crib shamelessly from a website, The Innocents Abroad:

"The Innocents Abroad; or, The New Pilgrim's Progress (1869). The second book by Mark Twain, this was a great popular success. Within its first year it sold over 70,000 copies, and it remained the best-selling of his books throughout his lifetime. The book began as a series of travel letters written mainly for the Alta California, a San Francisco paper that sponsored MT's participation in the Quaker City trip to Europe and the Holy Land in 1867. Revising the letters into a book was suggested by Elisha Bliss, who published Innocents as a subscription book on July 20th, 1869."

His acerbic (sometimes affectionate) observations regarding his fellow travelers and his encounters with foreign cultures never grow stale.

Hmm. I have wandered from the point of this post.! May you enjoy your experience with it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Great Paperback Project

And now for something completely different.

Rex Parker has begun the Great Paperback Project, scanning the fronts-and-backs of his mid-century paperbacks and posting them in his blog. He lists "The Best Things About This Cover" and that's why I'm mentioning his blog here. Rex is a an entertaining wordsmith (he also has a NYT Crossword blog). Each Best Things list is well-written and laugh-out-loud funny.

I remember paperbacks like the ones that Rex has posted. Our after-school babysitter was a middle-aged neighbor who must have read at least one of these books a day. She always had a different one with her when she arrived at our home. Some of the covers were... intriguing. Women in filmy sleepwear, men with intense expressions, strange abstract backgrounds, and guns held by hands that were (apparently) acting on their own. I cannot begin to describe the science fiction covers. Nightmarish? Perplexing? Naked aliens? My brother and I stole sneaky glances at them whenever we could.

So, there it is. For a fun and enlightening visual history of the American paperback book, just click on this post's title and visit The Great Paperback Project.

Next up: Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

To the point in krl2.0

So. I've been nattering on about humor over the last week or so. It's been good practice for messing about in a blog about a subject that matters a lot to me. Now I'd like to veer off-course for a moment.

I've been moseying around the blogs. You know what the coolest part of the whole KRL blog scene is for me? I've always believed that there is a huge pool of unsuspected talent in the people who work here. The blogs are proving it to be true. I've seen creativity - writing, art, photography, blog names (how did you come up with those?!) - and I've read honest responses about the whole Web 2.0 thing. Even though you may be feeling reluctant, concerned, or uncertain, you are embracing krl2.0 and giving it a chance. Mmm, well, perhaps you're not embracing it but still. You're here.

To the point? Many of the emerging technologies are all about sharing, whether it's a book review, a favorite site, or an online tutorial that was useful. At the end of the road, I hope we find ourselves more connected with one another because of the conversations we've had.

KRL as community. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What's all this then...

Anglophile - one who greatly admires or favors England and things English.

Yup, that's me, especially regarding the written word. I've recently realized that the majority of the books I've read repeatedly are by British authors, among them J.R.R. Tolkien, Elizabeth Goudge, George MacDonald, and Dorothy Sayers.

The Brits know how to write humor. An excellent collection of essays is Laughter In A Damp Climate. It includes a broad list of essayists from Chesterton to Wilde to Jerome K. Jerome. Chaucer is in there and so is Jane Austen, Dylan Thomas, and A. A. Milne. It's a great book, providing a healthy dose of wit after a wearying day.

P.G. Wodehouse stands alone. The BBC did an excellent job of bringing his Jeeves books to television. Stephen Fry defined the role of Jeeves, and nobody can play Bertie Wooster the way Hugh Laurie played him. He became the character. Laurie is a tremendous comic actor, a fact unknown by many Americans because he's such a good dramatic actor in House. When I saw the original previews for that show and learned who was playing the main character...well, I wasn't sure I could watch it. Hugh Laurie?? He's supposed to be empty-headed-but-good-hearted Bertie, not controversial-and-devoid-of-bedside-manner Gregory House. Behold! He is both. That's a great actor for you.

Back to Wodehouse. He's funny, a master wordsmith. You wouldn't know this if I didn't confess it, but I've just spent twenty minutes trying to explain why he's funny. I've had to use the delete and backspace keys a lot because I can't capture it properly and I have given up. I could crib something from a review of his works, but I won't. You should simply read one of his books. Start with Company For Henry.

And speaking of Hugh Laurie's comic roles, he was a member of the talented ensemble in The Black Adder, a BBC series starring Rowan Atkinson. The series follows various members of the Blackadder family through time, highlighting famous eras in British history. It has hilarious moments, especially if you're a history buff. All of my friends agree that Rowan Atkinson is not the most attractive man on BBC television, except when he plays Lord Edmund Blackadder (Elizabethan era). He should keep the beard. Oh my.

Atkinson is a family favorite. He headed the cast of The Thin Blue Line, after Blackadder and Mr Bean. Although I was sorry to have seen Bean (the feature film), Mr Bean (the original series) is a hoot. If you watch only one episode, watch Merry Christmas Mr Bean.

British humor is unto itself. It has caustic wit and gentle understatement. It has farce and 'wink wink, nudge nudge'. Mention Monty Python in a roomful of people and half the room may respond with 'nee!' Have you ever had the good fortune to catch a session of the British Parliament on C-Span? Those M.P.s are among the wittiest politicians on earth as they pithily respond to one another's proposals and comments.

I seem to be on my way to writing a novelette on this post, so I'll stop. At least for now. I may pick up this thread and continue on with it next time. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Booth Tarkington?

Yes, Booth Tarkington. He's not very well known to modern readers but he was a pretty hot author in his day. At least two of his books became films. Orson Welles wrote the screenplay for "The Magnificent Ambersons", starring Joseph Cotten and Anne Baxter (who is, by the way, the mother of a local actress, Katrina Baxter Hodiak). It received four Oscar nominations. "Alice Adams", starring Katharine Hepburn, received two Oscar nominations. These were big movies.

So, you ask, what does this have to do with humor? Booth Tarkington wrote about people and relationships. I discovered him in the "forlorn paperbacks" section at Powell Books, back in 1973. The book? Seventeen. I'm not sure what caught my eye about it, perhaps the .10 pricetag. I was easily beguiled by low prices at the time. And frankly, the 'reduced' table in a bookstore still claims my attention. I have purchased some wretched books simply because they were cheap. Of course, I didn't know they were wretched when I bought them. It was a sorry discovery when I began to read them. Some, however, were wonderful. So you never know.

I have digressed.

Seventeen is the story of a young man's seventeenth summer in a small Midwestern town in the 1890s. William Sylvanus Baxter is spending time in his usual dull pursuits, but his life takes a major turn at a chance encounter with a beautiful stranger. Tarkington explores all the angst (and resulting humor) of unrequited teenage love - William daydreams that he saves her dog from certain death but his vision of her grateful kiss is interrupted by his little sister Jane, his friends insist on calling him by his childhood nickname Silly Bill in front of the One And Only, his parents simply do not understand why he must have a dress suit to attend a party given in honor of the visitor. Alas for William. It's a gentle story full of feelings and situations that readers today will identify with. (Apologies for poor grammar.)

Once I finished reading Seventeen, I hunted down every Tarkington book in Portland. I loved nearly all of them. One, a real snore, was so unremarkable that I can't even recall the title. (You know, an author doesn't necessarily hit the heights with every volume. I simply moved on.) Many of his books are on my bookshelf as I write. One that I revisit often is The Gentleman From Indiana.

Penrod is another favorite, concerning an 11-year-old boy in (surprise!) a turn-of-the-century Midwestern town. Booth Tarkington was from the Midwest and he certainly wrote what he knew about small-town relationships and societal expectations. Penrod, poor child, is The Worst Boy In Town. It isn't deliberate. He is simply a boy doing what imaginative boys do. Again, this is a gentle read, full of warmth and humor.

If you're inclined to expand your reading horizons, try Booth Tarkington. Let me know what you think.

Next post: who knows? Stay tuned.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Day of Laughing Staff

Today was Staff Day, our annual gathering of everyone who works at KRL. One of the things I appreciate most about where I work is how much people enjoy one another. Laughter is a common component. Mind you, we take our work seriously as we strive to protect and enhance the library's place in our community. But we don't take things so seriously that we miss the delightful things that happen as we interact with one another. I've worked in a variety of jobs and some of them have been real slogs, where laughter was seen as frivolous and inappropriate in the workplace. I'm grateful for a job where the importance of humor and "play" is recognized.

Today was the Day of Laughing Staff.

One of my favorite quotes from a speaker:
"My wife's idea of exercise is to take a bath, pull the plug, and fight the current."
That is going into my Humor Folder.

This might be a good place to mention one of my favorite online comic strips, Unshelved. There are few things so amusing as human nature, as Unshelved demonstrates.

And speaking of human nature, I was recently reminded of one of my favorite authors. He's not well-known these days but he wrote excellent stories. One of the best concerns the daily life of an 11-year-old. Another explores the difficulties in the love life of a teen. Both are set at the turn of the century. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Moving to Firefox for krl2pt0

This blog, besides being a random monologue about funny stuff, is to demonstrate how blogs can be fun, useful, and collaborative. Did I mention fun?

I belong to a Mac family using Safari, and I've discovered that Safari isn't the greatest browser for some of the activities in krl2pt0. Things work, but they don't necessarily give me all the options found in Internet Explorer.

Behold! Firefox is a terrific alternative to Safari. It works like IE, giving me broader access within all those very cool Web 2.0 technologies.

So, if you're reading this as a krl2pt0 participant and you're on a Mac, consider downloading Firefox. It's free and easy to use.

I'll get back to humor next time. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

It's all about perspective.

Today a short conversation took place about old books, particularly housekeeping books. I am the fortunate owner of "Household Guide and Family Receipts" by Prof. B. G. Jefferis (pub. 1879). In its day, this book made sure that the reader was instructed in all things domestic, including farming/veterinary practices, cooking, decorating the home, and "Figure, Form, and Beauty".

Interestingly, the Health And Disease section addresses issues that are still current, with advice that is useful today: "Sleepless people - and there are many in America - should court the sun.." Some of the advice is amusing because of the life and language of the era. M.L. shared that her turn-of-the-century household book has this antidote for combating, presumably, depression: (...if you're unhappy..)"..bathe weekly and cultivate jolly friends."

Bathe weekly. Whoa.

Cultivate jolly friends. Laughter, especially when shared with friends, is healing. "Jolly' has always been a hoped-for quality in friends. I used to invite fresh acquaintances over for Dinner And The Muppet Show. It was a good test.

"A merry spirit doeth good like a medicine."

By the way, I am a card-carrying member of the Save The Adverb club. If you plan to visit this blog with any regularity, consider yourself warned! I use 'em.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What's up, Doc?

I love Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny was based on Groucho Marx, someone else I love. My favorite joke is irreverent-while-intelligent. Wordplay humor rules.

Do you have a Humor Folder? I do. I dip into it occasionally and rediscover a delightful pun, a that-is-so-true comic strip, some delightful quotes concerning humanity and its many foibles. My Humor Folder includes things I've overheard on buses or in the library, things that were too funny to go unrecorded. It contains limericks, polite ones mostly.

Humor is my lifeline. When I need a break, I turn to the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, Tom Lehrer, Dick and Tommy Smothers. I seek out Mark Russell, Victor Borge, and P.D.Q Bach (courtesy of Peter Schickele). They make my day. While I deplore his 'effing' usage, I think Eddie Izzard is one of the funniest men on the planet. Cake or Death? P.G. Wodehouse is a must-read. And A.J. Jacob's The Know-It-All is one of my most passionate "You've got to read this!" books - you wouldn't find it in the Humor section of the bookstore, but this journal of his quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica has many fine and funny moments.

I'm not impressed by humor for humor's sake. I prefer some brainpower behind it. Slapstick leaves me cold. The Three Stooges? Oh, please. I know some would argue that there was a lot of thought invested in those routines, but I believe most of the thought revolved around choreographing eye pokes. (If you're a fan of the Stooges...well...feel free to leave a comment!)

All that to say, this blog will be minor ramblings about the things that make me chuckle. Things that make me laugh out loud. Even things that make me laugh so unexpectedly that my 7-Up snorts out of my nose. Mind you, that rarely happens. My responses tend to be on the reserved side. Personally, I'm not much of a comedian, although I thoroughly enjoy messing about with words.

Anyway, as I was saying, humor. I love it. Stay tuned.