Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Reason to Hate the Public Library System

It happened yet again. An item that I planned on checking out from a distant library branch was snatched by another patron before I could get to it.

The first time it happened, I was intending to borrow a book that I needed for class. By the time I trekked across town to a library branch that had a copy, the book was gone.

This time was even more frustrating. Last night, I requested online a hold on the item -- the movie Contact, a favorite of mine, which I've had a desire to see again since Tuesday's shuttle launch. I specifically requested that the item be held at the Chatham Square library branch because the catalog showed the branch had a copy of the movie and also because it's open late on Thursdays.

I checked the system throughout the day today and saw that Contact was still available at Chatham Square. So when I went to the library after work, I checked the shelves. No copy. OK, I thought, maybe they've already pulled it and are holding it for me. I asked the front desk and apparently the item wasn't available yet; it was in transit from the Mid-Manhattan library branch and would arrive in a few days.

What baffles me is why the copy of the video that the branch already had wasn't held for me. If someone requests a hold on an item to be picked up at a certain branch, the system should first check that branch to see if it has the item, thus saving time and labor. (After I realized what had happened, I remembered that I'd seen "transit hold" noted next to one of the copies of the video at Mid-Manhattan Library, when the copy at Chatham Square was still listed as being available.) Yes, the Mid-Manhattan library is one of the major branches, but it does not have significantly more copies of the video than other branches.

Incidents like this really burn me up, especially when it takes place in a public institution that I'm helping to fund.

On a completely unrelated note, I've been checking my visitor statistics and apparently some people, whom I believe were looking for porn, found my site. According to the searches report, one person who'd visited my site had searched for "thin girls with big breasts" on a search engine and another had searched for "actresses with small breasts." Don't know why my blog would show up in those search results but yikes.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sony Fined--Radio Still Needs Saving

When I heard the news that Sony had been fined $10 million for bribing radio stations, I thought, and how is that news? Sony settled with the office of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. In a statement released by his office on Tuesday, Spitzer said, "Our investigation shows that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees."

I'm glad Sony was fined, no matter how useless the act. But Spitzer's suggestion that listeners expect that "songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity" strikes me as a little preposterous.

A few years ago, I held a menial summer job that allowed me to listen to the radio while I worked. Now, I like Britney Spears as much as the next person who won't admit to occasionally singing "Baby One More Time" in the shower, but the hourly repetition of what seemed like a single playlist (and the constant commercial interruptions) over eight consecutive hours quickly became dull.

In his statement, Spitzer refers to payoffs -- gifts and free trips -- that Sony offered radio stations. I view bribes, however, as just one more tactic record companies take to aggressively market music chosen for its salability. The radio stations, also out to make money, willingly play the same songs by the same artists over and over again, claiming all the while that that's what the people want.

Spitzer can try to eradicate "pay-for-play" but the online sharing of songs, the defection of increasing numbers of people to satellite radio and the popularity of iPods all point to deeper problems with the music and commercial radio industry.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

One's Many Faces

"A debate is raging over a microsurgeon's plan to transplant a face," read the caption on the New York Times homepage. The tease worked -- transplant a face? the horror! -- and I immediately clicked on the article. "A New Face: A Bold Surgeon, an Untried Surgery" discusses the difficulty of the surgery and the ethics involved in performing such a procedure.

Most people who have read Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy, or Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty, about her friendship with Grealy, can probably understand the importance of the face in society. The chopping off of noses is a punishment in some parts of the world. The Smile Train, a nonprofit, performs cleft lip and palate surgery on children whose families could not otherwise afford it. Extreme Makeover.

Some people might even know of the fantastic French movie, Les Yeux Sans Visage, or Eyes Without a Face, about a woman whose face is disfigured in a car accident. Her father subsequently kidnaps girls and cuts off their faces to transplant them onto his daughter's face. I saw the film in a college class on horror movies, and it really was terrifying, the idea of something so intimate as one's face being removed from oneself. The film isn't that graphic. The violence is, save for a few seconds, suggested. Still, one of my classmates fainted during the viewing.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Stoop Sales and Feral Cats

I'm posting two reports that I did for my radio reporting class. The files are fairly big but unless you're on a modem, you should have no trouble listening to them. Brooklyn stoop sales (1:42) I'd wanted to note that I always see flyers for stoop sales taped to streetlamps or advertised on the sidewalk in chalk, but there wasn't enough time. A minute and a half really is no time at all! Feral cats (3:34) The inspiration for this report came about because I fostered a feral cat that Elyse (one of the women whom I interviewed) had trapped.

After writing about my desire to walk across the country, I read about a man who's doing just that right now. He left California in April and expects to reach New York in September. His story appeared in the New York Times magazine a week ago, meaning you'd have to pay for access, but here's his Web site: The Fat Man Walking.

Just for fun, here's a cute article about the release of the latest Harry Potter book, about a husband and wife who have to buy two copies of The Half-Blood Prince because both want to read it at the same time. I totally understand their rationale. On another note, I noticed around 1:30 Saturday morning that the New York Times online had a review of the latest Harry Potter book. I wonder if the reviewer wrote a draft beforehand, based on what she thought would be in the book, and then skimmed the book for plot points. As far as I know, no advanced copies of the book were (intentionally) released.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Walking: The New Trend

Between May 2002 and December 2004, Caleb Smith walked every street in Manhattan. The press, including a journalism school classmate, wrote about his exploits.

Today, All Things Considered aired an interview with a woman who walked all the streets of Minneapolis. Is this a new trend?

If I did something like that now, it would seem kind of derivative to me. (On his Web site, Smith mentions hearing from people who have tackled walks in Minneapolis as well as San Francisco, Christ Church, New Zealand, and Amsterdam.) I've always thought walking across the country might be fun, setting off like Forrest Gump, perhaps, and not stopping until, well, I guess Forrest Gump stopped when he felt like stopping. But I'd love to do a coast-to-coast tour, if not on foot then by car. I think in some ways, that impulse appeals to the side of me that prizes lists and organization. I'm fascinated by the thought of being able to catalog -- through words and pictures -- all the places I would visit.

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