Wee Write! 2014 – Friday

First day of volunteering for Wee Write! 2014 – a day of awesomeness!

Wee Write! essentially spawns from Glasgow’s Book Festival, Aye Write!, and has a bunch of events dedicated to schools, where children get to meet authors and have a wee talk on their latest books and their profession.

Being one of the lucky volunteers, today I got to sneak in into one of the sessions, and I got to see two things that really made my day (and also made me eager to delve into the next volunteering day I have scheduled for next week): the first one is, of course, the author. I got to listen to Theresa Breslin‘s talk on some of her books and her writing methods – which was quite interesting, especially for the bit on how she researched for her novels set during WWI. You could really see why some people have that spark of talent that enables them to create whole worlds out of seemingly random details or accidents; the way she described her characters evolving almost independently also struck me as something only a writer, or an artist for that matter, would say.

The bits  from Remembrance and Divided City where brilliantly read and got all of us catching our breath and eager to read the rest!

I will definitely go to the library tomorrow and exchange my half-read Pattinson with her Remembrance. Also, I was about to get in line with all the children to buy the book and get it signed, when I remembered I’m broke and that I would be spending a week worth of cheap and carefully rationed groceries on that T___T.

Apart from my personal miseries, the second really amazing thing of the talk were the kids: I thought it was amazing to see how they were enthralled during the reading and how they asked questions on what inspired TB, what were her favorite books (also, kudos for promoting Dickens to children!) and if she did her own translations (an adorable question, I think).

I was truly tempted to do something like that today

After the talk some (most) of them queued to buy a copy of her books and get them signed – but the other positive thing was seeing children taking out their own copies, battered and read, which kinda makes me hope in the future generations again.

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#uklibchat: Digital Libraries

Oh, the power of social media! I distinctly remember reading an article on the new role of social media in learning, especially for young people – calling them (us?) Google Generation, Digital Natives or Net Generation doesn’t make much sense anymore I guess. This kind of learning has multiple advantages, not only a degree of mutual trust between peers, but also tearing down walls that can (and will) be created in a learning environment where the power between pupil and teacher is not balanced.

I’m not saying that there should be no teachers and that discipline is a completely unjustifiable concept in education – I myself have experienced the benefits of discipline on an unorganized mind. However, I relate with all the hesitations of approaching teachers, of expressing thoughts and opinions when you know what’s at stake (namely, your curriculum, if you give a damn about it anyways). So, unstructured learning through social media can be quite interesting – and it also reminds me of the whole “noble savage” theory and how being uncorrupted by moral/social customs can have an impact on human beings.

But back to tonight’s chat!

First and foremost, what’s this all about? #uklibchat is a monthly gathering of LIS professionals ad student, who twit on a chosen topic. An agenda is made available, with questions to be answered and discussed – and which usually spawn even more questions and discussions. In short, two hours of pure LIS bliss.

The topic tonight was Digital Libraries, and I must say I could have definitely used this chat a couple of weeks ago for an assignment – if only for some very interesting ideas to slam among my random blabbering about.  The topic of crowd cataloging came up and most people seem to agree on the complete lack of control that is typical of the Internet – well, I am contributing to the collective hoarding of data even right now! I’d really like to see the day when a system to catalog web content properly will come up, more than properly I should probably say “universally” or “uniformly”, in a way that will be intelligible also for people who do not reside in our minds. Which might be quite uncomfortable in my case.

This overwhelming and undiscriminated creation of information brought the discussion on the problem of quality, and how to guide users to good quality resources. I can’t say I am that much of an enemy of Wikipedia, though, yes I am aware of its heinous lack of double-triple-quadruple checking on everything, and yes, I know that I should be happy that updating encyclopedias is that painstakingly slow, because we all know that haste makes waste. But seriously, can there be anything more powerful than reading or watching the news and seeing entries being updates literally before your eyes? I’ll never quote Wikipedia in an academic assignment, of course, just like I’ll probably go to a proper doctor instead of googlosing (or diagnoogling?) myself obscure tropical diseases and then seeking help on WebMD. As always, the happy medium is the key – I’ll use the Encyclopedia Britannica for essays and school work, but nothing will ever make me stop looking up stuff on Wikipedia and that following links to infinity and beyond!

After two or three hours it becomes more like this though.

I can’t see how I got from Percy Shelley’s biography to the Japanese national anthem

Also, Wikipedia has been mentioned in relation to promoting digital collections, but I must do some additional research on the topic – not really clear what was meant there, I can’t begin to express how I much hate Twitter’s 140 characters limit!! Even the most articulate, intelligent thought is turned into a dumb SMS thanks to that.

RDA was another point brought up in relation to cataloging – can’t say I contributed much, since my experience with RDA sums up to not two hours in the Uni lab.

Anyhoo, next month is going to be superinteresting – but I must remember to do some reading (on reading) before that, I did have something still rattling about in my head from the LTS assignment after all.

“You like me! Right now, you like me!!!”

Whoever criticized Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech has clearly decided that Sally Fields never delivered those gushing lines some 20 years ago, which totally makes sense to me, but I still think that if that particular speech came to be, there’s a redeeming quality in all the others past, present and future.

Personally I didn’t find it particularly cringeworthy (also, cringeworthy. A word that does exist, according to OED), and I wasn’t all scandalized by the fact the he didn’t mention AIDS in the speech, he starred in a whole friggin’ movie on it, for Christ’s sake! Isn’t that enough for talking about long forgotten diseases that apparently are not considered fashionable enough for the movie industry since the 1990s?

However, moving away from my belated Oscar rant, not six months have passed since I came to Glasgow, and grad school is already almost over. These are really the very last assignments, the very last lectures and seminars I’m going to have to deal with for a really long time, possibly the rest of my life.

Now comes the scary part, read: actually having to find my way in the big, scary world. All the jobs -the few left, actually- seem to be too much for me, but hopefully I’ll get lucky for once and maybe find a place in the world, finally.

What I’ve been reading:

I’m still halfway through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I’d like to say that I’m savoring it, but I’m finding it easier to unwind by watching movie trailers, top tens and old Oscar speeches on YouTube lately. A powerful novel, no wonder it’s a classic; I can disturbingly relate to the Creature at this stage – when he’s still the outcast par excellence and can’t seem to fit anywhere in society.

 ‘Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony. ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.’

“These were the reflections of my hours of despondency and solitude; but when I contemplated the virtues of the cottagers, their amiable and benevolent dispositions, I persuaded myself that when they should become acquainted with my admiration of their virtues, they would compassionate me, and overlook my personal deformity. Could they turn from their door one, however monstrous, who solicited their compassion and friendship? I resolved, at least not to despair, but in every way to fit myself for an interview with them which would decide my fate. I postponed this attempt for some months longer; for the importance attached to its success inspired me with a dread lest I should fail.

[…]

Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was. I cherished hope, it is true; but it vanished when I beheld my person reflected in water, or my shadow in the moonshine, even as that frail image and that inconstant shade.

“I endeavoured to crush these fears, and to fortify myself for the trial which in a few months I resolved to undergo; and sometimes I allowed my thoughts, unchecked by reason, to ramble in the fields of Paradise, and dared to fancy amiable and lovely creatures sympathising with my feelings, and cheering my gloom; their angelic countenances breathed smiles of consolation. But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my sorrows, nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam’s supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me: and, in the bitterness of my heart, I cursed him.

Because he’s different, you know? He doesn’t fit anywhere, he still doesn’t have a full grasp on where he’s supposed to be or what he’s supposed to do or why he’s supposed to do anything. I can picture the eighteen-year-old Mary Godwin feeling both Frankenstein and Creature, an outcast from her family and sometimes even from her lover, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and a failed parent who gave birth to a baby doomed to die soon.

Which, once again, brings me back to feeling old and useless at 25, when I think of these 18th and 19th century literary circles, full of poet/rockstars who defied all laws and lived and wrote and composed like there was no tomorrow.

I have trouble finishing 2000 words essays and it takes me approximately three days to write a meaningless, confused blog entry. Which no one will ever read, unless I get inspired and talented all of a sudden and future scholars will start digging up all my shite and psychoanalise my writing style. I’ll have themes in literature textbooks and archivists will pay a small fortune to get hold of my university notes and all that doodling. All that doodling.