Instaread: The Butcher’s Hook

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I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, but this book was quite different. I found myself a little spooked but more amused by Anne Jacobs, a dichotomous feeling which is always fun to find in a character.

The descriptive diction reminded me a little bit of Pond by Claire Louise-Bennett, as well as, the two female protagonists who are fiercely independent and somewhat isolated. However it is a loose thread that connects those two stories.

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Eye Candy: Christian Robinson

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Nothing brightens my day quite like seeing Christian Robinson’s work. Whether it is one of his picture books or a post from his Instagram account. His energy and optimism shine through his colorful scenes. His stories celebrate diverse characters and help children explore different perspectives -whether a school building’s first day of school, the life of a great jazz singer, or a ghost befriending a human girl.

A constant source of inspiration, one of his Instagram posts helped me create an art-focused station for my tech-heavy summer program, Star Party. Gotta embrace that A in STEAM!

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Christian Robinson’s insta post/space collage station from Star Party

Here’s Your Future

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I packed two books for my vacation last week and they were both quick, engaging reads that I finished (well I lost one book) before my flight back home. I found myself at the airport bookstore not wanting to splurge on a new hardcover title, but wanting a story I wouldn’t regret purchasing. And there it was, The Circle by Dave Eggers. I hadn’t visited Eggers words in years, but knew instantly this was the book to get me through my afternoon of traveling. I almost read this book in 2013 – fresh out of college and probably just as naïve as the main character, Mae. I’m glad I waited until now. Now I can fully comprehend how eerily real this story is – personal data freely available to larger organizations in the name of progress, a false sense of community, and information overload. I appreciate science fiction for its prophetic ability. Many current technological concepts can be found in books written in the 1960s and 1970s.

The following stories are contemporary science fiction books with a focus on the effects of technology on society similar to The Circle.

super sad true love story

Super Sad But True Love Story by Gary Schteyngart: Lenny Abramov is neutoric, unsexy, and trying with everything he has to be hip enough to attract a young love interest. But what is a book-loving guy to do in a post literate society where social rank and appearance is king?

 

goodbye for nowGoodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel: After getting fired from his dating website job for creating an algorithm that is too perfect, Sam has a lot of time on his hands. When his girlfriend’s beloved grandma dies, Sam creates a computer program that allows her to keep communicating with her grandma. It doesn’t take long for a new business to form, but how can Sam justify the ethics of this kind of artificial intelligence?

 

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Touch by Courtney Maum: Sloane Jacobson is invited to forecast new tech trends at a conference. She’s the best at her job and she can only see that there will be an anti-electronic movement in the future. What will her quest for human connection reveal?

Reading is more than text

I have a couple of friends that just don’t like to read. They don’t really see the point of it. It boggles my mind, but they are still my friends. I don’t hold it against them. In fact, they are reading – they listen to podcasts and audiobooks, read articles and the news, and take part in discussions and performances. Many parent patrons let me know that they do not view graphic novels as part of their kids’ reading time claiming that there are too many pictures. But why? Sometimes text can be overwhelming to early readers (and let’s face it, to some experienced readers, too!) and maybe they aren’t developmentally ready for text only chapter books. Some readers need to listen to retain the structure of and themes within a story. Some readers need visual information to really reinforce the context of the printed word. Reading is more than text.

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RuPaul’s Drag Race. The library is open.

Reading is one of many forms of communication. It does not have this narrow definition of processing text printed left to right on horizontal lines on multiple pages of a physical paper bound together. Egyptians had hieroglyphics. Many early Central American and South American cultures recorded and read their history in a visual format. Some drew symbols to share information, while others communicated through quipu, various colored threads knotted in different ways, or other craft-like formats. Many cultures prided themselves on a rich oral storytelling tradition with words and sometimes instruments. This form of telling stories emphasized community and sharing. Then as a tool of colonization, Western explorers decried visual language and storytelling rituals as savage and proclaimed written language as proof of higher status. But they still loved their Shakespeare and political cartoons. Go figure.

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Ye Old Englishman

While many people still view text as king, visual and oral communication are a huge part of our lives. Green tells us to go, award ceremonies for entertainment are huge events, we share stories every chance we can– at the dinner table with family and friends, in storytime, in movies, songs, and plays. Stories are everywhere. They reflect cultures and individuals, truths and deception. The power of stories is an incredible force in connecting people and expanding worldviews. Literacy is important and reading is just a portion of that. There’s a reason that the Public Library Association and Association of Library Services for Children include singing, playing, writing, and talking as early literacy skills. Along with reading, these activities reinforce how to communicate.

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One of my book club reads

Winter Cravings

The wind is starting to nip more. The trees are finally radiating bold red, gold, and orange. Teas are bought and drunk in abundance. My cat is won’t stop cuddling in the morning. There is just something about winter that speaks to my soul.

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Just say YES

“Every few years one needs to shake one’s life through a sieve, like a miner in the Yukon. The gold nuggets remain.” – Amy Poehler

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I did a brave thing a little over a year and a half ago. I signed up for improv class at Dallas Comedy House.  I found myself in a rut after grad school and was struggling to find a  strong community after moving from the little d (Denton) to the Big D (Dallas). I was also TERRIBLE at public speaking and knew that I needed to do something about it to grow professionally. What better way than to practice carrying a scene and eventually a whole show with no script, no plan, and absolutely no idea how it would end. I had only an inkling of how this decision would shape my life.

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The people in my classes were not actors in the traditional sense, except one douchey guy and later on one sweet guy who wrote plays. Most of us didn’t see ourselves as the next Amy Poehler or John Belushi. We were all a hodgepodge of people thrown together by a love of comedy. We were journalists, insurance salespeople, college students, accountants, teachers, lawn mowers, food scientists, literally all walks of life.We all subscribed to the cult of Sarah Wyatt and Amanda Austin, two of the most passionate, inclusive, open-hearted, and talented people I’ve known. We worked hard during the day, but got to come together once a week and created some zany shit.

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As we moved up in the levels, the stakes were bigger, more commitment was expected, and some people left the ranks. I had to leave half-way through the program after getting a less flexible job – but I was finally using my Master’s, so yay! I was lucky and had been asked to join a troupe with some classmates. We tried something that we had never done before and won King of the Mountain as little baby improvisers. It didn’t last, but I’ll always treasure that group. That troupe enabled me to stay in people’s minds, so that I could start two new troupes with different people and keep my improv skills from completely rusting closed. And finally, in June, I was  able to jump back into classes.

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Cut to 2 weeks ago. I graduated from Dallas Comedy House’s improv program. It took hard work and it forced me to let go of my desire to control. But overall, it was just simple fun. While troupes were certainly keeping me in comedic shape, I was missing those foundation lessons and that individual support that only comes from classes.

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Comedy has been such a blessing in my life. It’s gotten me through the hard stuff and given me an outlet to create. The ephemeral nature of an improv show is tough for some folks. Unlike sketch or stand-up, the magic of improv isn’t focused on the refinement of content – the lines, the props, or costumes. It is about the sheer miracle that a group of people, who haven’t planned ahead are able to create comedy together, to discover the funny in a simple one word suggestion. When everyone is checked in with each other and the audience is engaged, there is a buzzing energy that is electrifying. Off stage, I find myself taking a moment to listen and be more open to what could happen. Rather than soothe my social anxiety by planning what I will say and how I will act (this never works, by the way), I relish in the fact that I never know what will happen and that is okay. More often than not, life ends up better than I could ever plan.

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