Thursday, December 28, 2006

Saturday Night Live

I was raised on Saturday Night Live. SNL and I were born the same year - 1975. I remember being a youth trying to stay awake at night just hoping and praying that it would be the night that they would feature Mr. Bill. I remember Eddie Murphy as Gumby. These childlike-looking skits flew right over my head. I thought Chevy Chase looked a bit like my dad - I got a kick out of watching these adults act so silly.

SNL was with me during my high school years when it became cool again with the Church Lady, Sprockets, Hans and Franz and Wayne's World. Everyone watched it. You weren't cool if you didn't. Catch phrases like "Isn't that special?" and "asphinctersayswhat?" were everywhere.

I have always been proud to admit that my childhood home is located one block south of the famous car spindle that was featured in the Wayne's World movie. (Sorry folks, that spindle is not located in Aurora, IL. It is in beautiful downtown Berwyn, IL!) Oddly, it was only this past October that I took the opportunity to take a picture by it.

I was with it during the rise of Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey and I am still with it today. There is a great book Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests that goes in depth behind the scenes.

Somehow, I don't think it's cool that I watch it anymore but that doesn't stop me. Although Andy Samberg seems to making a name for himself with his digital shorts and helping keep SNL in the news, it seems hardly anyone that I know watches it anymore. I don't know if it's hip for the young kids to be watching it these days.
Lorne Michaels left the show for several years in the early days and it just wasn't the same. I don't know what will happen when he is ready to retire but I just can't imagine a time when it's not on my Tivo. It seems like it would be the end of an era.

Vicki S.
Adult Services Dept.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ode to Ron

Ron Chesko of Tech Pro Logic is our beloved IT guru. He visits us every few weeks, uses "the force" and makes our computer problems go away. We ply him with Chinese food, purified water, and candy to stay in his good graces.

I asked Ron if he'd mind posing for a little picture to demonstrate the true adoration that we have for him. And it went a little something like this....

and this...

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services Dept.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Have You Tried My Jesus? He's Alright!

This Christmas I have found myself constantly checking my political correctness regarding the celebration of Jesus' birth. "Don't say Jesus." "Let's read a story about a magic star." "Happy Holidays." "Season's Greetings." "Merry X-Mas." I know it's because I work for a municipal institution and have to be mindful of that whole "separation of church and state" thing. But this year I think non-Christians are going overboard. Hello people! Christmas is exactly that. CHRIST-MAS! Factually and historically, there would be no Christmas without Christ. Let's give Him his props. Celebrating Christmas without acknowledging Christ is like coming to someone's birthday party, eating all the food, opening all the gifts and playing with all the toys while the birthday boy is locked in a closet. What's so bad about celebrating the birth of someone who teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? We celebrate Columbus Day and the only thing he taught us was how not to ask for directions. Why is it better to put emphasis on fairy tales like Rudolph, Frosty and Santa than to tell about a man who really existed and Christmas is named for? Nobody gets uptight about Kwanzaa, or Festivus or Hanukkah. Why so much hoopla and disdain for a Christian holiday? I am certainly a fan of holiday cheer, decorations and the whole bit. But when I am frowned upon for celebrating this holiday in the way that it was created to be celebrated, I start to wonder who is more narrow-minded Christians or non-Christians? Why is anything Christ related so heavily censored and considered non-inclusive? What's so bad about "Peace on earth and good will toward men?" Contrary to popular assumption Christ did not come to condemn the world, he came that we would have life and that more abundantly. So with that I say, don't be so uptight. Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas without fear of being considered right-wing or politically incorrect. Love, peace, joy and charity are always correct, no matter the season or the reason.

Tish Richardson
Youth Services Dept.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Transcendence: Or How the Emo Generation Finally Grew Up

It's about time that I wrote about happiness. Yeah, that's right, happiness. Even the art-school snobs like me run into it from time to time. I have a story, and it goes something like this:

It must have been 9 or 10AM. I'm somewhere on route 57, with a stomach full of Pad Thai and a heart that's relatively content. The stereo is playing the last album by the Promise Ring, and it fills me with a hope and joy that few things can surpass. In fact, I can think of very few artistic statements that make me as sincerely happy as this little gem. Why? You may ask... Because, simply, those silly little songs spoke volumes to someone like me. This is our affirmation: the angsty underground of Generation Y grew up, it says to me. All those pained pseudo-intellectuals finally made the step past a long-overextended adolescence. Happiness had finally found them - and us.

We grew up part of a miserable generation. In the hot lights of the mainstream, the rockers lived in a perpetual cloud of angst and gloom. Drug addiction, suicide, alienation were the subjects of the day. The big rap acts were embroiled in that deathly East Coast/West Coast rivalry. As far as art was concerned, life was war, life was pain. The economy of the time may have been better, sure, but that still didn't make the world seem like a friendlier place.

Underground, in the snobbier parts of the record shop, things weren't much better. Pedro the Lion was recounting the sins of our meaningless lives in every album he could spit out. Dashboard Confessional (yes, they were once an independent entity) was writing out a laundry list of every breakup in recent American history, and American Football wasn't far behind with their poppy teenage sobs. Sunny Day Real Estate and all their descendants were mourning their spiritual loss and loneliness. Boys Life was sobbing about something, but we weren't sure what.

And we were just lapping it up. An entire generation believing that art, music and intellectual endeavors should be misery to the roots. The heated yelp of one brief musical statement suddenly became the stance of an entire community. Artistry didn't concern itself with happiness, at least not in the independent world. Anything happier than, say, Tolstoy was pure heresy.

But that, dear reader, is where the Promise Ring comes in. Or...wait. No, let's back up about six months.

It must have been middle 2001. I remember seeing the Pedro the Lion vinyl for Progress packaged with something called "A Guitar for Janey." Dereck, our residential hipness guru, filled in the blank for us: it was a storybook. Alongside what could be the most depressing 7" in history was a children's storybook. Why was it there? "All the hipsters grew up and had families," he said with a shrug. "They got tired of being sad." And sure enough, it became even truer with time.

The Promise Ring gave us their final record that year, a magical little piece called Wood/Water, and the indie community went up in arms. No more frantic guitars or impassioned cries - it was a straight, calm pop record. And it was about finding happiness. This wasn't the sound of "the statement" of the last several years, but that was okay. We're tired of this eternally miserable stance, cried the music. We're ready to move on to something...more.

They were urging us to put down our misery for a bit - Just as the punk rockers of the 1970's finally set down their sociopolitical angst to explore other areas of the human experience (as well as explore the bounds of electronic, reggae and pop music), so was the emo generation doing, a good 25 years later. Braid, those lovestruck mopers, cried out on their last record: "Let's not settle for satisfaction /We are women and men of action/let's stop clapping/let's start doing/ a dream for the teens/ and inbetweens /and twenties yet unseen..." They spoke of being more; they spoke of reaching out to the stars and beyond to fulfill themselves.

Maybe not everyone grew happy, certainly, but it seems that growing up was in order all across the board. Death Cab for Cutie moved on from the throes of relationship death to explore aging, solitude and mortality on Plans. Joan of Arc and numerous others threw down on the political front and tried to make a difference in the stilted bipartisan battlefield. The Appleseed Cast explored the abstract fringes of music and the human existence. Rainer Maria's jagged and impassioned howls became sharp, angular explorations into intellectualism and existence.

And from there, the indie scene exploded outward into an era of post-emo exploration...In the same right, however, please do not read this as a rebuttal against misery in art. Certainly, we do need it as an element - J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, The Smashing Pumpkins' Adore, Beethoven's 7th Symphony, Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea. Misery is there as a matter of being the obstacle for our transcendence: The 7th Symphony leads to the glorious and joyful affirmation of the 9th, Adore's turbulent center leads to calm understanding at the end of the record.

Certainly, Wood/Water or Frame and Canvas will most likely not take the historical importance that emotionally-charged precursors like 30ยบ Everywhere or The Age of Octeen, the same way that Husker Du's Candy Apple Grey will never take the same historical spotlight their Zen Arcade has. More often than not, the heated moment is the one that stands out in history, but look deeper: sometimes the most understated moments are the most complex, the most genius.

For those of you who are interested in reading more about some of the independent music I've mentioned today, try Andy Greenwald's Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and Emo, published by St. Martin Griffin or Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991.
If you'd like a faster introduction to the independent world of the last few years, try Wikipedia's articles on indie and emo, or try this hilarious parody of the genre's latter-day followers. Any of the records should be available at your local record shop or online at If you want a sample before you buy, try or any of these bands' record labels. If you feel that any of these records or books should be part of your local library, put in a request to the librarian - they'll be more than happy to consider the addition to the collection.

Until next time,

Nick Garcia
Adult Services Dept.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Comics and Ketchup

I've said it before and I will say it again...what a fun job I have! Something interesting happens on a regular basis here, this job is far from boring. You might think that since I work at a library that it's always quiet here and I spend the day shushing people. Nope. Interesting characters come in on a regular basis, sometimes we get visits from the local police, sometimes we get exciting news about the library and we close the office door and scream and jump up and down with delight, and other times we have way too good of a time behind the desk conversing with coworkers...

Notably, it's exciting to be able to have the chance to meet public figures and to be able to interact with them. Most recently, local comic book artist, Don Kramer, came here to give a presentation. Myself, along with two other staff members took Don and his son out to eat before his presentation was to begin. It's great when speakers come and give us the opportunity to meet them in a more real setting while they are at ease. This isn't always the case when we have speakers. It's kind of a let down when someone comes in and gives a great presentation but acts aloof with the staff and the patrons who come to meet them.

Don gave a great presentation and there were tons of people there eager to meet him and get his autograph and he obliged every single one. He took time to talk with everyone and in one case a young boy, named Charlie, showed him a sketch of Batman that he wanted to share with Don. (There is a really cute picture that I took of this on our Flickr account).

While we were sitting at dinner I have to admit that I felt a little bad. I am not a comic book fan. I don't have anything against them it's just something I have never gotten into or was ever exposed to. I have heard of DC and Marvel comics and am familiar with Stan Lee, mainly because I've seen Mallrats, but still at least I have heard of him! So, while my coworkers gushed over him about comics I sat and politely listened.

Come to find out that Don and I have something very exciting in common. We share an unnatural love of ketchup. When he found out that I too enjoy the red liquid sent from heaven, he heartily clapped me on the back. We discussed the finer points of eating (or drinking as I have been accused of) ketchup, how one of those small bottles you get at restaurants isn't enough for you and the other people at the table, that when you eat a hamburger you have to dip it in the ketchup. We talked about that the fact that some people dip their potato chips in ketchup, that there are ketchup flavored potato chips in Canada (not available in the US), and how I put pepper on top of the mound of ketchup just to add some extra zing to it.

There are t-shirts that say "I put ketchup on my ketchup" and people frequently ask me if I would like fries to go with my ketchup. I like ketchup - it's like tomato wine.

So, my point is...well, I have no point. I just wanted to blog about how much I like ketchup and how cool Don Kramer was! Be sure to check out his podcast. Sadly, there is no mention of ketchup in his presentation but it's still good. Maybe I can start a program or a support group here at the library for ketchup lovers. My name is Vicki and I am addicted to ketchup...

Vicki S.
Adult Services Dept.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Staff Inservice Day

Last week we had an amazing morale-boosting staff inservice day on cultural diversity guided by Tracie Hall of Dominican University. Every now and then, and especially this time of year, it's nice to be reminded of what an absolutely fantastic and talented staff the Kankakee Public Library has. We are as diverse as the day is long - white, black, Latina, gay, straight, religous, name it and we have someone here represented!

I thought I'd share with you this cute picture of Mike, Joanna and Jake being adorable.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Jane Austen Book Club

My husband doesn't understand why I love Jane Austen. This is not surprising to me given the fact that he considers the film Team America high quality entertainment. What he doesn't understand is that people of Austen's time (nineteenth century) weren't able to emote the way we do today. There is so much going on beneath the surface of her characters that one has to really pay attention to the dialogue and the dynamics of their interactions with one another.

Jane Austen fans and members of the fiction book discussion group here at the Kankakee Public Library got together last week to discuss a book about a Jane Austen book club, appropriately named...The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Fowler. As good book discussions often do, it went beyond the characters in the book or even in Austen herself. We contemplated the lost art of reading the classics, what significance a nineteenth century writer has on today's society and most importantly, why Colin Firth made the most dashing Mr. Darcy in any film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Most of us agreed that we enjoyed Fowler's book, but frankly any excuse to discuss Austen is a treat. My husband still shakes his head in amazement that I (or anyone) would voluntarily discuss an author who has been dead for nearly 200 years. I'm just hoping that people will be discussing her in another 200 years.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Confessions of an Unpopular Reference Librarian

I am not always a popular person among reference librarians. With a Bachelors degree in communications - TV/radio production and marketing, and no MLS, some reference librarians may think that I'm lucky to be running an Adult Services department in a posh public library in an expanding community. Well, the truth is - I did get lucky. I lucked out when my director took a chance on me knowing that the world of Reference is rapidly evolving into a different form of library service altogether. For years Reference consisted of providing information to people who came to the library to enquire. Reference librarians were the gatekeepers to an almost unattainable world of facts, and with that position came a snobbery that still remains in places today.

Well, technology has produced a new savvy information consumer among the masses. These patrons, have become accustomed to having information delivered to them in whatever format they desire - whether that be in an email, an RSS feed, or even delivered to the door. Disappearing are the days when people actually go the library to find out the acidic content of an orange (one of my first reference questions asked in 1996) or what paper money is made of (another old favorite of mine). I am proud to say that this library (and this Reference department) does deliver content in a variety of methods and we're constantly exploring new ways to get that content to the people. However, libraries still need patrons to come to us, and this is one of the ways my director has been a great visionary. Our focus has shifted to programming - hosting authors, politicians, musicians and artists at the library. Not only do we bring this talent here for people to see, but we also are podcasting, and now vodcasting, these performances so that people can access them from their own computers. One might think that this is just another reason for patrons to not come to the library; why go there if they can get it at home? But our statistics show that these new technologies are added incentive for patrons to visit our building. They want to be a part of something that is exciting. And don't we all?

There are reference librarians out there who will say that we've got it all wrong. And there will be reference librarians who say I just got lucky. Let them say what they will...I hope this luck never runs out.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services