Tag Archives: perfectionism

This Thank-You is Overdue…

A funny thing happened on the way to today’s regularly-scheduled post: Eleventh Stack was chosen as the winner in the Public Institution category of the Salem Press Library Blog Awards. This was about as shocking as–albeit much more pleasant than–coming back to your desk to find a goose head in your in-box.

Goose head

Strange things happen around here sometimes. Photo courtesy Amy E.

In fact, even after mulling it over, I’m still not sure what, exactly, constitutes an appropriate thank you.  It should be short and sweet, but not dismissive, and it should acknolwedge that a lot of people, who have no reason to do anything I ask them to (I’m not their manager, after all), carve out time in their workdays to write thoughtful, informative, and often hilarious essays about books, library programs and services, and other items of community interest. It should express gratitude to upper management for supporting our creative risks, the contest judges for grokking what our blog tries to do, and the other library bloggers nationwide who share our collective struggle to make libraries–which are, alas, still bogged down in horrible stereotypes–visible on social media. (Solidarity, brothers and sisters!)  And, of course, it should give a shout-out to our Constant Readers, both those who have read along with us from the get-go, and those who have come to know as we’ve grown and (hopefully) matured as writers.

Hm.  I think I’m on to something here.

Seriously, though:  thank you. Whether you’re here in Pittsburgh or on the other side of the world, we hope that our blog remains a bright and cheerful five minutes in your regularly-scheduled daily pandemonium. We have a few ideas up our sleeves about how this blog could get even better, and we’ll gradually roll those out over the course of the next year.  But because this blog is both for and about you as readers and thinkers, we want to remind you that suggestions and feedback can be sent to eleventhstack@carnegielibrary.org. Without your input, we’re just a bunch of people who know things and are inclined to be helpful, but have nobody to share them with.  And that would be very, very sad.

When I logged in this morning to finally put the finishing touches on this essay–the perfect is, indeed, the enemy of the good–I discovered that Eleventh Stack had been Freshly Pressed again for the third time in two years. Words now seem horribly inadequte. I’ve got to up the ante on this thank you. It should involve cakeLoads of cake. And champagne. And a group serenade of our adoring fans, culminating in a rousing rendition of Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls.” And…

…and there I go, getting carried away again. Thank you, internet. We owe you one.

Leigh Anne

who loved Salem Press digital reference books before the award, and is still one of their biggest fans.


Filed under Uncategorized

Ethical Dilemmas and the Saturday Morning Breakfast Serial: A 1,001 Movies Update

Since the last hectic round of film-watching, I’ve slowed down the pace of my 1,001 movies project a bit.  I crunched the numbers and figured out that I didn’t have to watch a film every single night to meet my goal, as long as I committed to watching multiple movies on weekends and during vacations.  Thank goodness, too, because the whole point of the project is to have fun and learn about film, not stress myself out to the point where it wasn’t fun anymore.  As a friend pointed out, “The title of the book clearly states ‘BEFORE you die.’ Don’t kill yourself watching them.”

Fine.  So I still have some work to do taming my inner overachiever. At least there are no moral or ethical dilemmas inherent in my project.  Alas, the same cannot be said for the subjects of the films I’m watching. This particular crop of films plunges its protagonists head-on into uncomfortable, unjust situations against their will, and records their responses (or lack thereof).

Tono Brtko, the nominal “hero” of The Shop on Main Street, decidedly falls into the category of “lack thereof.”  Paralyzed by fear and doubt, Tono–whose brother-in-law becomes the local fuehrer in their tiny Czech town–doesn’t know what to do in the face of increasing anti-Semitism.  It doesn’t help that said brother-in-law gives the hapless carpenter a job as the overseer of a button shop, run by an elderly Jewish widow.  Confused and frightened, Tono pretends he’s helping the widow, Mrs. Lautman, run the store out of the goodness of his heart.

This isn’t entirely untrue, but Tono doesn’t have the courage to tell Mrs. Lautman why he’s really there, or that her rights are slipping away from her day by day as the Nazi regime inches closer to its final solution. This tense, horrifying film vividly illustrates the worst fears of good people: we’d all like to believe that, in the face of great evil, we would behave nobly and bravely.  But what if we didn’t? What if we retreated into drink and denial, hid our heads in the sand like ostriches? As the film lurched towards its inevitable, unhappy conclusion, I found myself agreeing with Edmund Burke, who wrote that “[w]hen bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”*

By contrast, the heroine of The Official Story challenges her government’s injustice at great personal cost to herself. Alicia Marmet, a history teacher, was unable to have biological children. Her adopted daughter, Gaby, is the light of her life and the treasure of her heart.  However, when Alicia learns that Gaby may very well have been stolen, and not adopted, from her biological mother, she sets out to find the truth…even if it means ultimately losing Gaby. Alicia’s story, which mirrors the all too true tales of children stolen during the Dirty War, broke my heart even as it raised my consciousness, and drove me back to the catalog to learn more about a grave injustice that is only now beginning to be corrected.

While grappling with heavy themes and weighty thoughts, I was also pondering a time-management dilemma.  One of the movies on the list, Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires, turned out to be a 440-minute-long serial; when on earth was I going to be able to make time for that? And then, with a blinding flash of the obvious, I realized: I could watch the film the same way Parisian audiences would’ve watched it in the theaters, one episode at time.

original movie poster

Wikipedia makes a good case for fair use of this image. If you're the copyright holder, let's talk.

With the help of Wikipedia and YouTube I was able to identify and watch each episode.  It took me ten weeks to finish, and I’m happy to report that while I didn’t have popcorn and a big screen, the experience was just as enjoyable while noshing on breakfast cereal, wearing comfy pajamas, and sitting in front of my computer.

The film relates the adventures of Philippe Guèrande, a journalist who’s been reporting on the mysterious Vampires gang.  I was a little disappointed to learn that  Guèrande and his sidekick, Mazamette, were hunting ordinary thieves instead of bloodthirsty undead hoardes, but my disappointment passed with each diabolical robbery, kidnapping, or other crime the villains managed to pull off.  Satanas, the head of the gang, is so resolutely evil that he keeps a cannon in his apartment and fires it at people who cross him (!), while Venomous specializes in poisons, and nearly brings about the death of an entire wedding party with tainted champagne.  It was fun having something to look foward to on Saturday mornings, and I found myself wondering all week just what kind of terror, excitement, and strange costumes would be in the next episode.  It was nice to take a break from more ponderous fare and immerse myself in a world where the good guys lived with their mothers (it’s true!), the bad guys always got punished (eventually), and shooting a cannon at your enemies was always wrong, regardless of the circumstances.

Here’s the list of this round’s movies:

  1. Intolerance
  2. The Official Story
  3. Queen Christina
  4. Way Down East**
  5. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover
  6. The Shop on Main Street
  7. Within Our Gates
  8. Earth
  9. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  10. Les Vampires***

This brings my project tally to 230 movies. Hm.  Perhaps it’s time to schedule a nice, long vacation..?

–Leigh Anne

who is also treating herself to some light reading with I Want My MTV

*Burke is commonly given credit for the phrase, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” and if you care about proper quotation attribution as much as I do, you just might enjoy reading this essay on the matter.

**Available on YouTube, but, for some reason, not linking properly.  Hm.

***All ten episodes are available on YouTube.  Wikipedia helpfully lists the chapters by French and English title in the correct viewing order.


Filed under Uncategorized

Winter Retreat

I set the professional achievement bar way too high for myself most of the time, and then I get extra-wacky during the holiday season trying to create the perfect Christmas while simultaneously trying to be the perfect librarian.  This is why I save a chunk of my vacation time for December and spend the greater portion of a week in my pajamas, selfishly ignoring everybody’s needs but my own.  At some point I’m considering experimenting with this “moderation” concept I’ve heard about, but today will not be that day.  Tomorrow’s not looking good either.

On the bright side, I took the suggestion many commenters offered on a previous post and ordered myself a copy of Shantaram. Reading this novel has been like falling into the deep blue sea; I find myself swimming around Lin’s world, agog with wonder at the sights and smells of India, rejoicing and sorrowing with the hero as he walks the fine line between sunshine and shadow. A man with a past, trying to forgive himself and build a future, is the perfect kind of hero for the darkest nights of the year; experiencing Lin’s journey makes my own seem easier, even though my own is decidedly plebeian, by comparison.

So I hope you’ll pardon me if, just this one time, I don’t answer your comments in a timely fashion.  I’m going to spend some time alone, absorbed in a good book, lowering my holiday expectations, and soaking up the lessons long nights of darkness can teach. May your own journey back to balance and wholeness be as quiet and calm.

–Leigh Anne

who wishes you the happiest of whatever holidays you celebrate


Filed under Uncategorized