Wednesday, April 28, 2004

My dad made me learn how to type. If I have any chance of becoming a writer, it will be all his fault.

I thought of this today when teaching an internet class. So many older men and women have no typing skills at all. Mind you, I'm quick but probably not all that accurate. But what skill I have certainly helps. I even had one older woman tell me she never learned to type, when I tried to get her to use the internet, and managed to sound affronted.

Ruby suggested that was because many older women see it as menial, secretarial work, and would never have learned as a matter of class consciousness. I imagine that would be a given for most men.

Along came PCs, and it turns out that it's the simplest and most effective way to transfer information. I nearly missed out on that one... one typing class, with a D. But the skill stayed with me and grew over time. Papers in college. Novels as an adult. Chat rooms, whatever. All from QWERTY. More fool all of us.

I guess there are plenty of people who never learn to type, even still, hunting and pecking, or texting,and even getting quite speedy at it.

I suppose when voice recognition software is perfected, typing will go away forever. Eventually.

But in the meantime, thanks Dad.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. No, I'm not going to make any inappropriate suggestions: your affections are your own. But it is really lovely out. So why am I blogging from my gloomy office that used to be a holding cell, and not drinking my coffee on the stoop, breathing the silky air and watching the people traffic in the West Village?

Because of this: Calliope's own laugh is beautiful. When we are rough housing it bubbles up out of her in tinkley little squeals. But she is trying to laugh like mummy and daddy, so when we are laughing she sometimes join in with a mock laugh, a calculated Ahhh-HA! It sounds a little bit like Mr. Hanky-Poo from South Park.

Ahhh-HA!

Also, when she takes a bubble bath, she puts on a little goatee that makes her look like Evil Kirk, from Star Trek. Whenever I see this, I hear the Star Trek fight music, though I'm pretty sure that's from a different episode.

She's such a lovely little fuzztroll, even deep in the throes of two-ness. And I had to share it, even if it's with nobody.

Monday, April 26, 2004

We went to the New York Aquarium yesterday. Poppy blew kisses at the walrus and made jelly-fish faces, puckering up and blowing her cheeks out. It was so cute, I think she burned my retinas. She also mauled every stuffed toy in the gift shop, leaving with an otter that makes shrieking noises.

She has settled into her terrible twos with aplomb, weeping mercurially. Her tantrums are mercifully short (though I'm not there for most of them. I imagine they seem longer and longer as the day does on). What surprises me is that, as crabby as she can be, she always seems to want to please.

Reading: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling. The new movie is almost out, so of course I must make myself ready. I'm getting a little tired of the formula at the front of the book, where Harry needs to have a reason for a dramatic exit from his grotesque, horse faced, fatty muggle relatives' home. I'm a muggle, after all, and I'm finding all that muggle stereotyping mildly offensive. Otherwise, it's a fine read, although I think the first two built suspense better.

The Bat Poet, by Randall Jarell and illustrated my Maurice Sendak. This is a tender little tragedy about a bat who learns to be a poet and then forgets again. Sort of like Flowers for Algernon, which I apparently always thought was a tragedy for the wrong reason. Really, it's about the struggle we all go through as writers to balance the need for an audience against the need for a place to be. It isn't a book I would give to a child, not because it's awful (I always liked awful books), but because it's maudlin, and I don't remember really enjoying maudlin fiction until junior high, at which point the fuzzy animals might have turned me off.

Friday, April 23, 2004

I normally don't like superhero satire much. Making fun of superheros is like shooting fish in a barrel, and there's already a sort of general humor in the genre that lends it its sweetness.

My review committee, Best of Reference, suggested superheros as a theme this year. We do presentations to our co-workers, which often resemble boy scout skits gone amok, and are generally pretty entertaining. I took advantage of my vast store of geek idioms to create a superhero satire, the Mighty Index, who explored the value of various reference books and websites. He even guested in another skit. A cross-over, if you will.

It was an act of supreme laziness, to take advantage of my acculturation that way. I wore long underwear and a towel as a cape. Hanging out with your co-workers in your underwear is feels queerly suave (though I don't suspect it looks so from the outside).

Reading: Roadmarks, by Roger Zelazny, a time travel novel about a highway that runs up and down through time, and the motley robots, assassins, truckers, villains, and dragons that travel it. It kitchen sinks, borrowing willy nilly from every genre. My favorite bit was the crusader washing windshields at a rest stop. I picked it out of Ruby's pile of books because it had a picture of a pickup truck driving past a green and white highway sign that said "last exit to Babylon." I get a kick out of a well turned-out anachronism. It is a fun read, and I hope it wraps up as neatly as it is promising.

Also, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 2 by Alan Moore. This is definitely a kill-your-darlings kind of story. It was a fun read, but morbid. I think the first was a better story, but this was more beautiful, especially the first chapter, which is almost entirely set on Mars.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I walked into work today and was told that all the computers had been upgraded. The most stunningly petty bureaucratic decision in the library's history was to freeze our desktops so that we can't put pictures on them. Uniformity is more professional, apparently. I guess we'll have to go back to the office personalization beta software: pinups and picture frames.

They did, however, put the games back in the programs menu, which I think was a weird sort of trade concerning professionalism.

A co-worker asked if Google could be added to the task bar, but was dismissed by the technician upgrading our computers. "You guys may be technologically savvy." He said, "But other librarians don't even know what Google is. They'll just look at the link, and ask 'What's that for?'"

It's good to know your service population.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Physical Comedy

I am very grateful for the glorious weather today. To whom? Whomever. Walking through midtown was a joy.

I saw Freddy Vs. Jason the night before last. I have aged in and out of slasher flicks. I finally decided that I like the funny ones.

I have a very dry sense of humor. Extremely mechanical in nature. When you come right down to it, the body is just another machine. This means that, to me, slasher movies are a kind of cartooning.

Charles Addams was inarguably the smoothest perpetrator of dark little cartoons. But slasher movies, especially the really crass extensions of the Freddy and Jason franchises, are the same genre. They work cheap little moral equations to desensitize you to the fate of their characters, and then kill them in over the top ways.

I don't really empathize with the characters in action movies, much, anyway. I work hard to not suspend my disbelief. They are actors, after all. They are paid to take pratfalls. And no live animals were hurt during filming.

So I think it's okay when absurd things happen to effigies. Like getting eaten by a house-sized lizard, or having a flaming machete tossed through your ribcage.

Yes, awful things happen to good people. But slasher movies aren't even about the kind of accidents celebrated in the Darwin Awards... shameful tragedies that either could have been avoided with three seconds of thought, or couldn't have been avoided for all the luck in Ireland. They exhibit a kind of surplus death. Like televisions being thrown off buildings, the paper dolls in slasher flicks aren't just killed, they're really killed. I mean a flaming machete? How dead does the guy have to be for the purposes of story?

But in slasher movies, they must get really dead. There is no room for subtlety in the genre. None at all.

Actually, in regards to this, Freddy Vs. Jason was kind of a disappointment. The paper doll deaths were largely lackluster. Seeing the titular characters carve each other up was pretty doofy... they are, even in the half logic of the genre, already dead... and as the ending alludes, they can't die as long as Hollywood cares to resurrect them.

The best example of the genre that I've seen, I think, is Final Destination 2 with its Rube Goldberg deaths. Other notables include Dead Alive, Jurassic Park 3, and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.

At the end of the day, I think it is very civilized that we throw our Christians to CGI lions.

Monday, April 19, 2004

I went to the park with Calliope and Ruby yesterday. We chased balls, went on the slide. Well, Calliope did, anyways. I'm too big for the slides anymore.

The first time we put her on a slide in the park, lo these many months ago, we had to tempt her to scooch off the edge at the top, and then she'd hang on, dangling and twitching, until we convinced her to let go and plummet, smiling like a jack o lantern, into our arms.

Now she pushes off as soon as we put her up. She was so quick yesterday she pushed off before I could catch her and ended up on her butt on the rubber mat at the foot of the slide. Which she loved.

She fell and smashed her lip on her ball three times in thirty seconds, protesting "Down, Down" each time we picked her up to blot the blood. The third time she was wiggling to go back and play, but we decided that our nerves couldn't take it anymore and headed home. She is tough. We are fragile.

Still and all, I had a great time. The weather was wonderful. Calliope radiates energy like a little sun when she's having a good time.

What was really soothing was being around a lot of people. There is a point at which a crowd becomes a landscape. The noise and look of different people, both physically and sartorially, surrounds you and begins to blend until you are unaware of them as separate entities. They become a natural body of movement and rhythm, like waves or clouds or the sound of rain on the roof. The spent silly string on the asphalt added a dash of color. It was very pleasant. I worry less about the composition of the crowd, anymore, and just appreciate them for being there.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Coming up with ideas for something to write about everyday is a little bit difficult for me. Ideas, as everybody knows, come from thoughts. And I only have thoughts every week or so.

Perhaps it's just a matter of building up big, fat writing muscles, like I did that summer in college that I wrote gaming supplements for a crappy, fly by night gaming company.

Luckily, tomorrow is Sunday: I am never at work on Sunday, and do not need for scrape the insides of my skull like a dry inkwell because I've only promised myself to blog the days I am at work.

One of the great things about age is that I can really flap my jowls now that the skin has loosened up. This amuses Poppy. It also makes for a pretty good imitation of Lewis Black.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Reading

I believe in less and less as I get older. I have gotten comfortable with liking things, and not liking things. I find that refreshing.

Reading: The Wild Ass's Skin, by Balzac. He writes like Anne Rice. Some people may think that I am refuting it's quality, but I don't have the authority to do that. I know what I don't like, though.

Yes, I know that in fact Anne Rice writes like Balzac, using florid, endless descriptions and monologues. I stopped reading Anne Rice when she used a thirty page chapter to describe one character. Balzac's characters often say "In short," but never really mean it. Every page I turn, I feel as if a French midget is shouting "Declaim, declaim."

He was a good writer. It's obvious he thought a lot, and had a great number of opinions. But this novel strikes me as overwritten and directionless, like everything Ms. Rice has written post Vampire Lestat, and as pompous and picayune as any given political commentator. Which will be the pleasure of it for some people.

I am finishing it so that I can truthfully say I read Balzac.

Also the April 2004 American Libraries, which has a lot of pictures of expensive, beautiful new libraries. I recently visited one of the libraries shown, in Southfield, Michigan, and it really is a playground. A beautiful place to be.

As a reference librarian, I often wonder what library service is going to be like in ten years. Reference service is down. People think they can get everything they want from search engines, and it's a powerful perception. Probably, in fact, they don't want much. An uncomfortable amount of public library reference has been Consumer Reports and tax forms.

In any case, there's certainly a lot of money being sunk into library infrastructure, so something will be done with it.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Pop Culture

I believe there is a conspiracy to make television unwatchable.

Let me back up and say that I don't watch television much. I haven't watched a show regularly since Buffy went off the air.

I watch the news in the morning. I channel surf sometimes when I really need to let my brain lie fallow, often ending up on comedy central or VH1.

When CNN started running the ticker tape, I was mildly annoyed. It was like seeing something out of the corner of your eye. I would just catch the tail end of something interesting on the ticker as a segment I wanted to see started to run, or the beginning as the station was going to a commercial break.

But at least they were offering you a choice. Ticker or the TV: Pick your poison. That's sane, right? I mean, it's sort of odd to run competing information on the same channel. But, you know. Their call.

So, it really surprised me when VH1's Top 20 Video Countdown started running clips of commentary over their videos. I had started looking forward to catching up on my cultural literacy Sunday mornings, with the countdown. Only to find one dismal morning that VH1 had decided to deliberately obscure the subject of their show by having people talk over them.

The superimposed commentary is the hipper than thou variety modeled by I Love the 80's, which was the only thing playing on VH1 between approximately June of 2003 and January of 2004. Some small time comedian, media commentator, or whomever tells us what they think about a given topic. For I love the 80's, it was such topics as Dungeons and Dragons (which disappeared sometime after 1989, I guess. I mean, if you don't pay attention to the world around you much) and "Funky Cold Medina," a song which disappeared so completely after it was on the charts that I, who was listening to alternative rock at the time, was never even aware of it until I saw I Love the '80s. Sometimes the commentary is just a soundbite about how the non-star doesn't think about the subject much, after all. Which is actually anti-relevant.

I am so totally disinterested in what people I have never met, never seen perform, and have no reason to admire think about pop cultural ephemera, or anything else, that I Love the 80's often made me feel like my brain was being reformatted. I guess that's the point of channel surfing, right? But how many times can you watch I love the 80's? Apparently, some people can do it all the time, because that's how often VH1 ran it for a while.

And it's really the anything else that's the real problem. 'Cause I did watch I love the 80's. I grew up in the '80's. Sue me. I'm sort of interested. But now the format is spreading everywhere. To every subject.

Nothing can make celebrities less interesting than Starlicious Makeovers. It's almost anti-informative to do five minute spots on a famous person, and throw in random commentary from the peanut gallery.

I guess I figured I could just disown the "I Love The" format by tuning off VH1. Only to turn on Comedy Central last night and find The 100 Greatest Stand Ups proceeding very handily to make stand up comedy excruciatingly dull. Which, for me, is just the ashy butt of a slow burning but all consuming trend. I now cannot comfortably watch television at all, waiting anxiously for the other shoe to drop. I think to myself: "I want to watch Dave Attell... but... what if they replace South Park with 100 best yadda yaddas?"

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

My Life

We read to Poppy. One of the first things that we bought her when we brought her home was a board book. At some point she began reading back to us. When she sees something she recognizes as words, she chants "Ya, ya, ya, ya, ya, ya, ya." It's an unmistakable droning imitation of a read aloud voice.

So heading up to the agency today for our six month check up, I was surprised to hear her start to read to me as I swung into the back seat of the cab. "Ya, ya, ya." I began to look around, and sure enough, somebody had graffitied on the back of the passenger seat, scrawling "fuck you" in big, square letters. I had to laugh. Good thing she can't read just yet.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

My Life

Poppy now has a tricycle. Her feet can't quite reach the peddles, yet. Ruby gets excited, sometimes.

Poppy loves her tricycle. She likes to sit on it. Even if it's not moving. Yesterday, she watched TV on it.

Monday, April 12, 2004

My Life

Well. Saturday, I won the stress lottery.

In the last two hours of the day, I had four angry patrons. I've had worse patron interactions. Heck, I've caused worse patron interactions. Much to my own distress. We are our own worst enemies.

It's rare that I'll get two in a day. But four... the odds just seem stacked wrong. Boy, was it exhausting. I'm having a hard time writing more, for fear of overstating the obvious.

So I guess I'm sticking with understatement. I suppose this will become a theme.

Upon arriving home, Ruby told me that she said a lot of uncivil things to a man who nearly drove his car over our daughter. Instead of apologizing, he called her other uncivil things. This is what often what passes for manners in Bay Ridge.

Reading: Door into Summer, by Heinlein. It has a piquant, kind of hard-boiled flavor to it. Sort of short, and sharp, and gritty, and witty. It reminds me of a early short story he wrote that was assigned to me in college, something about moving sidewalks, but more personable. It feels nothing like his later, phantasmagorical-allegorical stuff, like Number of the Beast, or Job.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Walking to work was a pleasure today. The sky is a crisp blue. It's just cool enough to be pleasant if you have a good jacket. The streets and sidewalks in Manhattan are mostly quiet this early on a Saturday. Netflix is setting up an Easter egg hunt in the garden out back of my library, and another street fair is setting up. This is the second Saturday in a row that a street fair has set up outside my place of work.

Being at work on a Saturday? That's another issue.

I'm still mulling over the flavor of my blog. I am, by nature, a mean person. So I often wish to say mean things. I am also not rock stupid, and know how such things can interfere with the smooth functioning of life.

So I probably will not.

So, what will I allow myself to write about? I'll probably rotate amongst the following:

Game culture. I am a role playing gamer. I am interested in the various reasons why such a wide variety of people play such cerebral, niche-ey games. I am interested in what makes it a fulfilling hobby.

My life. My wife's excellent web-page, dealing with probably the most exciting event in my life up to date, is here. She hasn't been updating it regularly, and I may post some of her baby-stories. She has all the good ones, being home with her. And, of course, things just happen in New York.

Also, I am tempted to use this space as something of an auto-biography. I forget things, you see. Memory is sort of a pleasantly illuminated fog that I would like to excavate further.

Pop Culture. It's one of the few things I have definite opinions about. I think writing about pop culture is like dream interpretation. It has no direct bearing on how the world works, but seems to indicate a general spirit or mood. It is a barometer of what our culture is feeling.

Pop culture is a fount of creativity that people who believe in "quality entertainment" ignore until it spits something inarguably worthwhile in their face. But if you pay attention, you pretty much see all the precursors as they unfold. You know what's coming.

I hope mostly to say nice things, but: It is so easy, and safe, to take pot-shots at celebrities instead of the things going wrong in your own life, that I may make use of my mean-ness on them.

Books. I love to talk about books. I can do two kinds of writing spontaneously: off the wall fantasy, and reviewing. I never get tired of reviewing.

Maybe politics of some crap like that. Probably not, though. There are smarter people in the world who are more interested than me.

In order to get used to writing in this format, I am going to make myself write every day that I'm at work, at least.

I am Reading : Catapult, by Jim Paul, about him building a Catapult in San Francisco with truck parts and boat winches. It reads sort of like a Public Television version of Tool Time. I can see Charlie Kaufman writing a script with Tim Allen. There is interesting history in here.

And I plowed through the March 29th issue of Newsweek yesterday. No, I never read magazines on time. I picked it up for the article on Google. I stayed for the one page summaries on Why Social Security Isn't Doomed and Will's Perils of Protectionism.

I am not generally opposed to Globalism, but have to say I feel oddly at best about this remark by Will: "Higher standards are apt to raise the poorer nations' costs of production, crippling those nations competitiveness. If the standards are not implemented, those nations' exports are punished with sanctions. So for the unions in rich countries, the moralization of trade is win win."

I suspect that without our own unions, the working class wouldn't have been able to retain enough wealth to create a strong, educated middle class, and that without unions free trade is just another pyramid scheme to concentrate wealth.

This is more than I hope to write most days.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Gooniness abounds. I've been told I should start a blog by co-workers, and never have. Until now, obviously. Why? David Brin mentions on his website that he sees how it could sap energy away from other writing pursuits. Neil Gaiman, of course, keeps a charming blog very regularly, and still writes.

There's also the fact that I don't like blogs. Which is to say, there are very few that hold my interest. I am fickle. I find that most people don't write about things that hold my interest. They write about their lives. Some days I am barely interested in mine. Furthermore, I don't have causes or passions. They are exhausting. I have fancies, and they are mostly shallow. All of which means I have little to hold anyone else's interest.

On the other hand, memory is an uphill battle with me. I think it's because I make up so much shit. I have a head full of stories. I think there is a displacement effect: they push real life out of my head. So I would like to preserve what does interest me in my life, and I'm using my vanity to spur that on. A phantom audience may draw me to tell stories about what goes on. I'm thinking a blog might also act as a kind of prosthetic conversation with people I like.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Bibliography: Role Playing Games

Kapture, Lawrence. "100 Wizardly Knick Knacks." Dungeon Magazine. November 2006. p 94-95.

Kapture, Lawrence, and Michael Lucas. Believe It or Else! Detroit: Hot Tub Dragon Press, 1993. 96 Pages.

For the Gatecrasher RPG, later licensed to Crunchy Frog games.

Kapture, Lawrence. "Mammoth Problems." Dungeon Magazine. May/June 1993. p 36-44.

Issue #41. For the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons RPG, Spelljammer setting.

________. Cold as Ice. Detroit: StarChilde Publications, 1989. 84 pp.

For Justifiers, a science fiction RPG in which genetically altered animal-people are created by evil Earth corporations to explore new planets and "Justify" them for human colonization. Cold as Ice was set on an frozen planet, where the ruins of a alien city waited to be explored. But wait, there's more! A rival evil earth corporation has sent it's own team of Justifiers, hoping to beat you to it!

________. The Tower. Detroit: StarChilde Publications, 1989. 72 pp.

Also for Justifiers. The Tower was another alien ruin, an eons old alien zoo. With no plot to speak of, the "adventure" was supposed to double as a bestiary cum monster manual for Justifiers. I had a sinful amount of fun coming up with enough threatening species to populate an entire universe.

Book Lists I've Contributed To

* NYPL's Best of Reference list 2003
* NYPL's Books To Remember list 1999
* NYPL's Books To Remember list 1998
* NYPL's Gay and Lesbian Book List

Reviews for School Library Journal

* All Music Guide to Rock: The Experts' Guide to the Best Rock Recordings in Rock, Pop, Soul, R&B and Rap; Lawrence Kapture; School Library Journal, New York; May 1998; pg. 166.

* The Cold War Reference Guide; Lawrence Kapture; School Library Journal, New York; Aug 1997; pg. 187.

* The Encyclopedia of Fantasy; Lawrence Kapture; School Library Journal, New York; Aug 1997; pg. 182.

* Encyclopedia of Constitutional Amendments, Proposed Amendments, and Amending Issues, 1789-1995; Kapture, Lawrence; School Library Journal, New York; Feb 1997; pg. 133.

* The Peoplepedia: The Ultimate Reference on the American People; Kapture, Lawrence; School Library Journal, New York; Feb 1997; pg. 130.