Dr. Drew's Infrequent Blog

26 October 2005

Autumn Leaves

Champaign-Urbana is still buried under the bright red, orange, and brown leaves. I started to forgot how much I my favorite season. Fall makes me feel so alive. Despite that I spent most of the day inside.

Today, I was almost not allowed into the stacks of the Univ of Illinois research library book collection. This was the first time. I've always had some connection that allowed me to get in (and sometimes even to check out books as a Madison or Indiana grad student, and in between as an Illinois taxpayer), even though I never studied at UIUC. This time I was only allowed in because I smiled, and explained that I am an ALA member. The supervisor started smiling too, explaining how proud she was that ALA would still meet in New Orleans this summer. I did not get a pass, but was allowed in. I was happy. Anyone who has done research in the stacks of the UIUC graduate library would remember the experience. The ceiling is low (fine for me), poorly lit, and a bit foul, but oh, it is worth it. The library furniture alone tells you that you are walking in history. The collection though... ah... It is a historian's dream. It must be the finest research collection on the history of libraries in the US (if not one of the best in the world). It is worth thinking about that for a while, but I also noticed new distractions -- piles of books on the floor, and many books marked with Xs on the spine. I assume these are being readied for exile to remote storage. I should be pleased for the collection's long-term preservation, but I realize that this will be the last time I can walk the stacks and appreciate this amazing collection, which encompasses the long history of librarianship.

I thought about that... and then went to a nice dinner at the Baking Company. The very thin pizza was good, but the salad with raspberry vinaigrette, walnuts, and different types of lettuce... was a real treat.

The conference starts on Thursday. I am excited to see so many colleagues. There will be over 100 library historians there. I imagine security will be tight :)


25 October 2005

Bergman and Champaign/Urbana Used Bookstore Review

The jetlag is not so bad, although I slept in later than planned this morning. Today and last night I completed my inspection of used bookstores in Champaign and Urbana. I found one book each at Old Main Book Shoppe and Priceless Books (and approved of their feline assistants), and several more at Jane Addams Book Shop (the best shop by far). I was saddened to learn that Babbitt’s Books is no longer here. It was a great big, rambling store near campus with something like three stories of obscure and affordable treasures. It was also one of the few stores to have several racks of library studies literature. Is that why it closed? Seriously though, it seems to be a victim of the development of Green Street (a mixed blessing, like most developments). My honest evaluation of a college is correlated with the quality of good new and used bookstores close to campus, so UIUC dropped a few positions in Drew’s Guide to Colleges rankings. UIUC officials should not worry too much though, as UH is not faring well on that bookstore proximity issue. Noriko e-mailed me about not getting too many books, but it is too late, as you can tell. Marlo Welshons also kindly gave and sold some Library Trends journal issues and books published by the school. UIUC GSLIS Dean John Unsworth apparently wrote UH offering to donate copies of their works that were destroyed in the flood, but I don’t remember receiving that news. We received many kind words from people, but were probably too overwhelmed at that point. I was very happy to also receive a copy of the centennial volume of the UIUC GLIS history as I am working on the history of the UH LIS Program for our own 40th anniversary – and UH Manoa’s Centennial. I found some interesting details regarding that in the archives today. I also replaced some items that I had used in my dissertation, which were destroyed in the flood. The UIUC Archives is perhaps my favorite repository. Bill Maher and his staff have created a space that is a researcher’s heaven, such as the self-service copier.

Changing topics, I feel somewhat bad to be away from campus during the first anniversary of the Manoa flood. I was nominated to be on a UH Committee to commemorate the flood, but never heard again about this. I am happy that the library will have its own small event, which will include an LIS student. Things are perhaps too raw yet – and still too much “in progress” to have any distance to be able to honor the event. I was almost tempted to have an LIS 650 class reunion, but did not feel like organizing this. On some days the flood does not seem real. I now see how it drained me last semester. Last week in class we saw the same management video on meetings that I screened right before the flood. That brought back memories, but I could not dwell on them as we were fiddling with the audio. I am happy to report that John Cleese still makes me laugh. I strongly believe that laughter and a sense of perspective helped me to get through this past year. I am not sure how everyone else made it. My colleagues and students were a big help as we went through it all together. It was good to see Eileen a few weeks ago too as she was the only student who left the program. She seems very happy in her new job.

On the other hand, it is good to “escape Hawaii” from time to time. Champaign is a nice college town with nice old buildings typical of the Midwest. There is a different energy in college towns, although people-watching is not as fun as either coast; people in the Midwest tend to prefer comfort over style.

I managed to sneak in an Indian dinner (my usual-Chicken Tikka Masala, Naan, with Masala Chai) at Bombay Indian Grill. After dinner I saw the “new” Ingmar Bergman film “Saraband.” It is hard to believe that it was his first in about 25 years. This film would probably be seen as too depressing in Honolulu, but I loved it. The acting and script were wonderful literary efforts, so that you can understand characters internal thoughts. Like Ibsen, Greig, Sibelius, Munch or so many Scandinavians, Bergman is not afraid of the dark sides of the Psyche and leaving some questions unanswered. The scenery, cello pieces, and shooting were wonderful too. I loved the organic honesty of the church and summer home settings. As I wrote Noriko: the depressing parts, the slow action, the music, the scenes... were all very refreshing, and felt so real, like the blast of cold air I felt as I left the theater.

Now it is time to read and write.

24 October 2005

In-flight Blog

I wrote this en route from Hawaii to Illinois. I can almost never sleep on a red-eye flight. The flight was an interesting experience as far as air travel goes these days. I've now flown so many miles on Northwest that I received a coupon to upgrade to first class if there is an opening. I don’t think I would pay for this, but the service was excellent – especially compared to life in the hold with the junk food snack-box for sale. It was also wonderful to have some legroom. Seats seem to be getting smaller and smaller. I can only imagine what this feels like for most people, who are much bigger than me. First class also came with free headphones, so I watched the in-flight film, Bewitched. The title alone should have been a strong warning, but I saw Michael Caine on screen, and decided to give it a try. He often plays some real annoying characters (which I like for some reason), but mainly I enjoy his voice and dry humor. Films could use more deep and complex characters that involve the art of acting. Howevet, the film was all that I had feared. I don’t think I’ve ever been impressed by an in-flight film (except by how truly BAD some of them are). Oh well. I do enjoy some light films, but the cast really got on my nerves, and don’t get me started on the plot. Oy vey!!

The TV is now showing a psuedo-documentary “haunted lighthouses.” I look up from time to time. Some lighthouses are beautiful, romantic, outposts. The show keeps zooming in on the iron staircase. It reminds me of the bookstacks at the University of Illinois main library. I will see them very soon.

I actually have a lot that I should have been doing, but I instead read a novel before the lights went out. It has been too long since I read a good one. A friend gave me a copy of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which was quite liberating, but that was quite a while ago. This summer Noriko read a Japanese translation of Kafka’s Trial. She complained about the translation. I remember reading it with such excitement and confusion when I was an undergraduate. I think it was a summer between classes. I found a lovely German edition of some of his works. I think you have to be in a certain mentality though to appreciate his genius. Being a teacher, I don’t allow myself that freedom of being free enough to understand Kafka. When I was a student I could skip a class if I was overwhelmed by a mood or needed to finish a book. Of course, you cannot do that when you run the class.

In any case, this novel is Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. I am only one-third way through, but I am engrossed. As with my nonfiction, I love nice detailed description that places me in the scene. I like interesting characters. Anyone who knows me and the book, though, knows that the reason I am hooked is it is a book lover’s book, centering around a book, booklovers, second-hand bookstore owners, and the like. It also has the enchanting streets of Barcelona, and faint echoes of the Spanish civil war, and the oppression under Franco. I’ve never been to Barcelona, but have Catalonian relatives who have painted a picture that is almost palpable.

I am so desirous of going back to reading it (to escape the bad aftertaste of the cheap film), but everyone else is trying to sleep so it would be too evil of me.

I am now recalling how much I loved air travel when I was young. I was proud of being able to identify types of planes, and to recognize airlines by their tail logos. I still have a collection somewhere of plastic and metal pilot wings they would give children like me who were so excited to see the cockpit. Many of these airlines are now history: Pan Am, Alleghany, etc. I used to be so excited about any kind of travel. My favorite was trains in Europe. I loved to people-watch, read, watch scenery, and talk with people. I was impressed by my traveler’s intelligence. They read, spoke many languages, had good questions. I miss that sense of excitement, and the art of conversation.

I am now thinking about blogs. I enjoy writing from time to time as a break. I write this mainly for myself, but wonder if anyone reads it.