Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mapleton #49, 2/27/07

Wow, I guess the stock market just plummeted or something. Well, I'm sure everything will be fine. For everyone. Forever. Today's trip was sort of a minor one, as I haven't yet finished reading Rip It Up and Start Again, though I am completely addicted to it. I imagine I'll finish it soon, I just had kind of an off weekend in terms of reading. I wanted to get back out there, though, so I figured I could return the weird Klezmer CD and get a movie. I looked up Grey Gardens again, and finally, a copy had been returned, so I prepared to head over to the Washington Irving Branch.

I'm not sure why, but after getting all ready to leave the house, I did one more last minute check on the library catalog website, and where there should have been a "CHECK SHELVES" staring back at me, I instead found a "MISSING". I'm not sure what happened to change the status in those few minutes, but it turned out to be lucky, because the Washington Irving Branch is literally on the edge of Queens, and not near much (as far as I know). Although, as a side note, lately I seem to be enjoying the northern part of Brooklyn better, possibly because it's more run down feel fits my mood. It also feels more open, somehow, and definitely less crowded. Although if I don't like crowds, why do I live in this city to begin with? A hopeless muddle, to be sure.

So I looked up some comics or something, and headed down to the Mapleton Branch, which is a ways southeast from here on the N train.

Branch: Mapleton
Location: 1702 60th Street
Transport: R train to 36th St., N train to 18th Avenue
Book: Powers Volume 1: Who Killed Retro Girl? by Brian Michael Bendis
Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I wasn't going to go just for this one comic, which I'm pretty sure is nothing overly special anyway (though I do like most of what I've read by this author) but the catalog also claimed they had a Harvey Pekar (of American Splendor fame) joint that I hadn't read, and they didn't. This library system seems to have a high instance of cataloging problems, but since it's the only system I've been intimately acquainted with, I have no idea whether it's higher or lower than normal. I'm also somewhat irritated that a different book that I would like to read, of which there is only one copy in the whole Brooklyn library system, has been listed as "DUE 02-20-07" for quite some time now.

Be that as it may, the library was pretty nice. Located across the street from ANOTHER Yeshiva, its patrons were probably about 50% Orthodox Jew. The neighborhood is nice enough, but a bit boring; nothing special in the houses, no business, a generally low traffic area. I wouldn't mind going back in the Spring or Summer, and it is close to a small park (Gravesend) as well. I think I'm just more interested in the outskirts of the borough for some reason.

The library itself is very spacious, although it does seem like much of the space isn't utilized. The entire second floor is children's books, but most of the shelves are half empty. The movie selection was pretty dismal, but there is a collection of Russian language books that must be fairly extensive. I mean, I'm just assuming. But hey, at least the building is built right on the corner in a weird polygonal shape. There's definitely something to be said for that.

From this angle the building looks terrifying and industrial!

But it's not really. Not from across the intersection anyway.

And here we have hope for the future. May all the flagpoles one day be empty!


Friday, February 23, 2007

Midwood #48, 2/22/07

Well, you can't win 'em all. And when you (in this case me) take out a 500 page 18th century novel that is centered entirely around how funny it is to have long, pointless narrative digressions instead of a coherent storyline, you may find yourself returning that book at about the 30 page mark. Just saying.

In all actuality, I did enjoy Tristram Shandy, I just couldn't go without a library visit for as long as I knew it would take me to read it. Plus, I wasn't really in the mood for that kind of thing. But what I was in the mood for was another well written book about music, in this case post-punk, and the Midwood Branch had it.

Branch: Midwood
Location: 975 East 16th St. at Avenue J
Transport: R train to Atlantic, Q train to Avenue J
Items: Pastoralia by George Saunders; Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds; Pincus and the Pig: A Klezmer Tale (CD)
Date: Thursday, February 22, 2007

This was a pretty fun trip. It was raining slightly when I got there, but the walk from the train was very short. The neighborhood was very nice, lots of little shops on the avenue and homey looking apartments on E. 16th. It seemed to be largely a Jewish area, partially due to the fact that there was a Yeshiva next door to the library. In any case, the library itself had a large section of Judaism related materials, including the CD I took out. I basically got it because I was curious about Klezmer music, and the pig on the cover looked cool. Turns out it's just a Yiddish retelling of Peter and the Wolf, so I guess I'll have to get a real Klezmer CD next time. Not to say it's bad, just not what I thought it would be.

The library was nice, apparently the building is from the 1950s, and I really enjoyed how spacious it felt. It was well lit, packed with people, and just felt like a real gathering place and not just an internet hub like some others. In fact I sat there and read nearly an entire book, Pastoralia, which I didn't actually check out but thought I would mention anyway. I liked it, the usual themes of alienation from and disgust with the consumer society are there, and the characters deal with adversity but still manage to be fairly unsympathetic. Some disagree with me here and say that it's too formulaic, but I prefer his more recent work that at least has an element of hope and/or redemption for the characters. Pastoralia was well written enough, but all the short stories seemed somewhat similar (five words, I rule) in that the characters were struggling against shitty circumstances and were ultimately no better off than before. Maybe it's reality, but he could've mixed it up a bit, which in later stories, he does.

So far Rip It Up and Start Again is excellent, just the kind of book I've been looking for. I don't know all that much about the stories of the bands he discusses such as Public Image Ltd. and the Pop Group, so it should be informative if I like that sort of thing. And I do. Picture time!


See the raindrops!?

Pleasant entrance.

And, rectangular.

When I left it was sunny, but colder, and I decided to walk up to Avenue I and then go west the 16 or so blocks to the F train at Avenue I. My map told me I could do this, but reality had other ideas. It seems so obvious now, in retrospect, but as you all know, hindsight is 20/20. I lost a lot of good men that day...

Anyway, have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pacific #69, 2/20/07

Hm eh huh what? AH! Oh, sorry about that, I've got a little bit of a cold and it's severely limiting the oxygen to my brain. Today MAY be the day I go out and buy some decongestant, we shall see. But enough about that, I apologize for my overly personal post last time, and if you're expecting that again this time, you can just forget it. I mean...don't worry.

I know I didn't really say anything about the neighborhood last entry's library was in, but it's Crown Heights, which is self explanatory. It's that place Dave used to live, 'nuff said. Also, I believe there was some sort of racial issue between the hasidic jews and the african americans during the 1990s. Moving on. The Astro City books were great, I always love seeing a superhero book that isn't just pointless beatings or an exercise in how fucked up once beloved characters can become. It sounds pretentious, but Kurt Busiek actually made a comic about superheroes that makes you think. So that's neat.

I wanted to go to my next library on Monday, but there was some fake holiday and all the libraries were closed. The past week saw me catsitting for my sister, and yesterday I also had an open house for a masters degree in library and information science program (that's right, someday I may actually BE a librarian), so I knew I if I was going to see a library, it would need to be somewhere between that other stuff (physically, that is. God, I'm incoherent today). The solution was the Pacific Branch. I rolled in there with very little idea of what I would get, and ended up getting something different.

Branch: Pacific
Location: 25 Fourth Ave. at Pacific St.
Transport: I walked...part of the way
Book: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne
Date: Tuesday, February 20, 2007

After a lunch special in a delightful Italian restaurant (where the older gentlemen also dining there couldn't remember the names of any of the actors or movies they were describing, loudly) I headed over to Fourth Avenue. This library is in one of the busier parts of Brooklyn, so it makes sense that it was the first Carnegie branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system. As such, it has all the trademarks; one large open room, smaller meeting rooms off to the sides, and a mezzanine level with the books they figure people are less likely to want. Well, maybe more people would take out the graphic novels if you had a better selection!

As I've written before, these turn of the century branches are very nice, but they start to all run together. Lately I like the branches that are in newer buildings, because at least they have their differences. But that is a minor complaint, and despite the fact that 75% of the internet machines in the place were being used to check myspace, the librarian called me "sweetie" and they let me use the bathroom (an elaborate process, I had to be buzzed in to an area and THEN use a key), so they're ok in my book. As for the item I chose, I guess there was a bit of hype around this title when the movie came out, and I figured if I can't enjoy a comedic novel from the 18th century, I probably don't have much of a sense of humour.

As for the becoming a librarian thing, I'll give more details as they arise. Obviously that would give this blog a bit more credibility, which I know all you readers crave. Just think, it could be the OFFICIAL blog of the Brooklyn Public Libraries. Crazy. A note on the pictures: If you know Fourth Avenue, you know that even crossing it is a death defying feat. Therefore, the pictures aren't all that good cause I couldn't get far back enough. And now here they are!

Just a guy.


Ok library, I'm leaving, you can go back to sleep.

And all of you can as well.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Crown Heights #30, 2/13/07

This post won't be very full, because I was a little distracted today, so I didn't have my usual sunny disposition when I went to the library. Why not? Wasn't my trip good? Yes, it was great. L.A., Vegas, even the cold, cold Twin Cities. I had a wonderful time, it was one of my most memorable vacations ever. Oh. Well, maybe you're just kind of bummed out to be home then? Nope. I'd had enough of sleeping on couches and was more than excited to get back to my own bed. Well, I give up, what was your problem today, sourpuss?

Let's see. Got home late Sunday night, chatted with Dave a bit, was very happy to see him, all was well. Then I woke up on Monday freezing. Figured the heat would kick in at some point, but it didn't. ALL DAY. Woke up today, still wasn't on, and this morning I swear I could see my breath. So you see, going to the library today was more than a search for reading materials; it was an act of self preservation. Even so, I couldn't resist scouting out some stuff I actually wanted before leaving the house, and since I'm currently in the middle of two excellent text-based books (Dance Dance Dance and Paper Lion), I figured I'd go for some comics. One series that I've never read any of is Kurt Busiek's Astro City, which is supposed to be quite good, and the Crown Heights Branch had the first 3 installments, so I figured I could go there, hang out, absorb the warmth, get some books, and not have to freeze for a while.

Waitaminute, I almost forgot. The two books I brought on my trip. Well, Heart of Darkness was amazing, not much I can say about it except that if you've never read anything of Conrad's, this is an excellent place to start, because it is more straightforward and definitely shorter than some of his other works. That and the whole it being really really good part. As far as Johnny Got His Gun, I'm definitely glad I read it, and for the most part I agree with the author's anti-war stance. I was completely wrong about the setting, as it took place during World War I; it must have had a resurge in popularity during the Vietnam era, as the most recent introduction was written in that time period. All that said, it was a good book, but I generally feel that if a book is all message and no story, it would have been better served being an essay of some sort. There was a bit of story in this one, but it essentially only existed to serve the message of the book, so it wasn't very organic. Dalton Trumbo, the author, also wrote movies in the middle of last century, and that makes sense to me, as the characters in the book seemed underdeveloped, just as characters in an old movie might be. Now, on to today!

Branch: Crown Heights
Location: 560 New York Ave. at Maple St.
Transport: R train to Atlantic Ave., 2 train to Sterling St.
Books: Astro City: Life in the Big City, Astro City: Confession, and Astro City: Family Album by Kurt Busiek
Date: Tuesday, February 13, 2007

So this library was fine. I wasn't paying much attention, I mostly just sat there and read. It was warm. I guess it opened in 1958. I forgot to look up stuff on Nova Scotia for Dave. They definitely had a decent comic section...two shelves, anyway. I probably looked around this place the least that I have of any library to date. And an update on the heat situation, after being on for the first 10 minutes I was home, the heaters are now back off again, so that's just great. Luckily I borrowed Amy's space heater, so that's going now, though it isn't doing much yet. All landlords suck, and anyone who says different is a fool. Over and out!

Oh, right, pictures.

Entres vous!

La chose entière!

Une autre tour d'horloge!

Allez à la maison!