27.07.10

Australian Library and Information Association Electoral Campaign Kit

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:54 pm

 

The Australian Library and Information Association has realised a campaign kit for its members outlining advocacy opportunities for the upcoming federal election.  It’s aimed at achieving some admirable goals, both in terms of support of the profession and work of librarians, and in ensuring Australians’ rights to free access to information are upheld.   ALIA has previously come out swinging on the issue of internet censorship, partnering with the likes of Google and Yahoo! to release a very sensible statement on the issues surrounding the proposed filter.

That said, it is a little disappointing to see that internet filtering is listed as the eighth of ten lobbying priorities, given that the issue has the potential to be not only broad reaching, but destructive of what we as librarians try to do, and given that it’s been a major promise (or as I prefer to think of it, threat) of the Labor government, with the Liberal unsurprisingly offering no opposition or alternative, and Steven Conroy’s facile comments about not supporting child pornography being given a lot of airtime.  Although Labor has wisely shooed the filter to the back of its media blitz for the time being, given its lack of popularity with the public, it will not be forgotten about or rejected any time soon.  Now is a great time for librarians, and our industry body, to really take part in discussions about the future of free access to information in Australian society.

The campaign kit is comprehensive and well put together, and I urge library types to take a look at it.  ALIA may not always get it right, but the issues they raise are important, and now is the perfect time to raise them.

18.07.10

You Are So Undead to Me by Stacey Jay

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:17 pm

Q: HOW MANY ZOMBIES DOES IT TAKE TO RUIN A SOCIAL LIFE?
A: NOT MANY.

Megan Berry is a Zombie Settler by birth, which means she’s part-time shrink to a whole bunch of semi-dead people with killer issues. All Megan really wants is to go to homecoming, but when you’re trailed by a bunch of slobbering corpses whenever you leave the house, it’s kinda hard to score a date. Let’s just say Megan’s love life could use some major resuscitation.

Megan’s convinced her life can’t get any worse – until someone in school starts using black magic to turn average, angsty Undead into scary, hardcore flesh-eating Zombies. Now it’s up to Megan to stop the Zombie apocalypse. Her life – and more importantly, the homecoming dance – depends on it.

In a lot of ways, You Are So Undead to Me is Buffy with zombies instead of vampires.  Whether or not that’s a good thing will, of course, depend on your perspective.  And while Buffy has spawned a slew of outright imitators and just generally a lot of interested in the kick-arse-girl-fights-monsters genre (yay!), this is one of the better kinda-homages I’ve come across for a while.

Megan Berry is a high school student, aspiring cheerleader, and Zombie Settler – not that she remembers that last part, until an undead turns up on her doorstep right before a hot date and needs to be settled.  Megan has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of being attacked by Reanimated Corpses as a child, which are the evil beings more often associated with zombism.  She doesn’t remember her powers or anything about the Settler world, until her powers begin to re-emerge and it becomes apparent that someone is out to get her.  That’s when gore starts to hit the fan and Megan is assigned a bodyguard/teacher in the form of Ethan, a dishy older guy who used to be her best friend before the Reanimated Corpse attack.

One of the things I really enjoyed about You Are So Undead to Me is the book’s zombie lore – while Reanimated Corpses are the relentless, brain-hungering monsters we’ve come to know and love from movies, actual zombies, the kind Megan settles, are more like traditional ghosts – folks with something to get off their chests before they can finally rest.  The fact that zombies are drawn to Settlers around their own age adds a tint of pathos to what is otherwise a frequently frothy book, particularly when Megan remembers her powers manifesting as a young child, and visitations from pre-school zombies.

Jay’s writing makes the story bounce along, with just the right amount of genuine horror and reality mixed into an otherwise humourous, bubbly story.  Megan isn’t given to a great deal of introspection, but she’s smart in her own way and likeable regardless; she reminded me a little of both Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson and Legally Blonde‘s Elle Woods.  Her “realness” is frequently what gives the story both its pull and its humour – like her anxiety about getting rid of an inconvenient undead not because he’s a dead guy in her loungeroom, but because she’s about to go on a high school popularity-defining date with a hot guy from the football team.

You Are So Undead to Me is the first book in a series; Undead Much? has recently been released, and My So-Called Death will be released in Australia later this year.  I’ll be looking forward to both.  I suspect that “high school zombie novel” is a trickier genre to get right than it appears to be, and Stacey Jay does it very well.

06.07.10

Looking at Various Stages of Syphilis, or, What I Did on My Holiday

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:40 pm

It feels kind of pointless to write about travels having not having uploaded any photos, but this gives some indication of how behind I am in simple tasks.  It’s also why I’m not posting about the libraries I visited just yet – illustrations are good!

It was my first time on the east coast of America – my husband Stuart and I travelled to Washington DC (him for a conference) and New York.

It is a small point of pride for me that we spent our first wedding anniversary in New York, eating amazing Mexican food in Chelsea before going to see the Dwarves at Bowery Electric.  That show was one of the best I’ve been to in a long time – I’m only a casual Dwarves fan, but they were fantastic live, and the energy in the crowd (and the pit) was electric.  I would’ve danced the night away with the rest of the crowd had I not been feeling less than brilliant; however, I got almost as much beer spilt on me as I would’ve dancing anyway, so it’s a wash, really.  As for the wedding anniversary aspect, I like to think that we’ve started as we plan to continue – and when you run away to Vegas to get married by Elvis, you kind of set yourself a precedent anyway.

My favourite way to structure a holiday is to do touristy stuff that interests me during the day (and since I love museums and galleries, there was a lot to keep me entertained), and try to sample the local nightlife of an evening.  This trip I was also able to catch up with some old friends, which was absolutely fabulous and I’m so pleased we were able to arrange it!  We also managed to view karaoke performed with a live band in the East Village, Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley’s gig in DC (I would say the Evelyn Evelyn gig, but we actually managed to miss that part of it), and a taping of the Letterman Show that proved the man is even more smugly loathsome in the flesh.

America, I have to say, does museums really well.  It also does diversity in museums really well.  Shamefully, I did not get to nearly as many of the Smithsonians as I’d planned, but I adored the Natural History museum; Stuart suggested that I should seek work as a museum guide.  If anyone from the Smithsonian Institution is reading this, and you want to liven up your guided or audio tours with a guide who declares things like “Fuck yeah, MASTODONS!” and “Hey look, it’s the Starbucks logo chick!” (admittedly that was about a siren statue at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), contact me!

It was two slightly unusual museums that really stood out for me, though.  We took a day trip to Philadelphia to visit our friend Steph, who very kindly took us to the Mutter Museum, the College of Physicians’ medical museum.  Dead things in jars are my favourite type of museum exhibit, but many of the exhibits were still…challenging, to say the least.  Challenging and fascinating, of note for many reasons but partly, I think, because so many of the items on exhibit would have been collected in ways that would be considered unethical today.  The wall of skulls (exactly what it sounds like), for example, had a number of Eastern European and gypsy skulls that I suspect may not have been attained in the most wonderful of ways.  Another big challenge were the books bound in human skin; interestingly, this was done as a sign of respect for the deceased, rather than with the horrible intentions later evidenced by the Nazis.  That said, the one that still had a tattoo visible completely creeped me out.

As to the title of this post…given that I’ve read that syphilis is making a comeback, I think it would be very educational to send people with a laissez faire attitude towards sexual health for a visit, where they could see casts of faces affected by sores, and skulls damaged by late-stage syphillis infections.  Having also seen pictures of what syphilis microbes look like, I feel like I’ve followed the damn disease from its conception, as it were, to its bitter end.  And recalling some of those casts and skulls kind of makes me want a shower.