I can’t draw.

I can’t draw.

I’m hoping my next blog entry will be about the Inetbib 2013, but last time it took me four months to get my blog about the Inetbib 2010 in Zurich finished, and right now I’m fairly overwhelmed from the impressions of the Inetbib 2013. The short version is that this again was the best Inetbib ever, but I have to collect my thoughts better.

In the meantime, reflecting on my deep, dark secret (due to advanced age, I hardly have any secrets any more – if something needs to be kept secret, I just don’t do it or don’t say it), it’s quite simple: I can’t draw. Really. My fine motor skills are such that my fingers are not capable of reproducing on paper the beautiful pictures I see in my mind’s eye.

Said skills have been able to operate a manual typewriter (yes, I am that old!), an electric typewriter and a computer keyboard with mouse, but that’s it. I can’t draw a straight line; I can’t draw a smooth, curved line. My fingers simply don’t ever create a copy of what my brain sees. Oh, and not surprisingly, I also have atrocious handwriting as my fingers won’t write smooth, rounded letters.

I’m not complaining. There are worse inadequacies. But I do get seriously annoyed at the illogical and thoughtless ideologies of people who can draw. A frequent such idiocy goes something like this: “Everyone can draw and/or kids love to draw.” No, this is patently and obviously untrue. I can’t be that unique. If I can’t draw, then there have to be others like me. And what I can’t do, I sure as hell won’t enjoy being forced to do.

Even as a very young child, I could see the difference between my jerky, uneven, desperate scribblings and the beautifully realistic creations of my classmates. Children aren’t fools and don’t appreciate being lied to or having their intelligence insulted (when well-meaning adults assure them that their misshapen grotesqueries are pretty or nice). That’s truly just adding insult to injury. Bad enough we can’t draw; it’s even worse to be automatically considered stupid.

I remember when I was creating some exercises for a 8th to 9th grade level workbook for English instruction in Germany and my editors suggested that I write a story in English and the assignment for the students would be for them to draw a picture that fit the story. I exploded and asked how the hell drawing a pretty picture would improve any kid’s command of written or spoken English. The answer was that they wanted to motivate students, and that “all kids love to draw”.

At this point I realized that the pernicious ideology of all kids loving to draw wasn’t restricted to elementary school teachers in the U.S., but was in fact a truly unfortunate planet-wide phenomenon.

So, beating the drum for those of us with poor fine motor skills again: We can’t draw and never will be able to draw and therefore hate to be forced to draw. Although we are a minority, we are everywhere. So, take us at our word (even if we are of pre-school age), and leave us (insert your favorite obscene expletive) alone!

You see, this rant does have a happy ending – all due to technology. If you can operate a computer keyboard and mouse, today you can create beautiful artwork – thanks to the hard work of thousands of programmers who have produced the magical programs for manipulating pictures and photos. Your computer can help you do what your fingers can’t You start out with pictures available for public use and make them into what you see in your mind’s eye. The universe is the limit.

What a wonderful time to be alive! Pass the word on to any kid still struggling to draw something that just won’t let itself be drawn.

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Anticipation

It might be an age thing. “Anticipation” first reminds me of the Carole King song and then of the ketchup commercial. But I think anticipation is one of the greatest feelings human beings are privileged to enjoy. You don’t want to confuse anticipation with expectation. Expectation is the worst thing you can do to yourself. Expectation almost always involves demanding that other people behave in a certain way, but of course you have no control over how other people will ever react, with which speed, with which vehemence, etc.

Anticipation on the other hand is the feeling of butterflies zooming around in your stomach when you’re really looking forward to something, and you’re scared, and you can’t wait, and you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into, and you have serious doubts about whether you are qualified, and you wonder whether you have any right to take up the time of this advanced group, and then your ambition gets the better of you, and you want to show what you can do, and you’re back to really, really looking forward to the chance.

In this sense I am really, really looking forward to both the Inetbib Conference in Berlin this March and to the Print On Demand Workshop in Lincoln City, Oregon this May. In each case, based on previous experiences, I know I will be surrounded by energetic yet kindly people who know so much more than I do. With any luck they will be able to teach me some of what they know. I can’t wait.

There are more and more abstracts available online for the talks at the Inetbib, but of course I haven’t been able to squirrel away the time to read them. There’s been too much to do at my library, and I keep making time-consuming promises that I later regret. But it’s a long train ride to Berlin, and I’ll be able to read them then. I hope I show up at the conference not entirely ignorant.

There is less I can do to prepare for the POD workshop in Oregon. I know pretty much nothing about producing a book for print, and have one major handicap – that I will blog about later.

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Archbishop Weakland’s Autobiography

Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop by Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B., http://www.amazon.com/Pilgrim-Church-Memoirs-Catholic-Archbishop/dp/0802863825/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

I don’t do a lot of book reviews, but I decided to make an exception for Archbishop Weakland’s excellent autobiography. Intrigued by a recommendation (which is longer story and one that I may relate in about nine years or so), I read the whole thing, sentence by sentence, word for word.

Archbishop Weakland is an excellent writer with a clear and engaging writing style, making even the most detailed minutiae of life in a Benedictine monastery or in the Vatican accessible and interesting. His reflections are a no-holds-barred recollection of the significant events in his life. He spares himself no criticism while trying to explain just how everything fell into place in his life. Anyone would enjoy reading this book, but I want to recommend it to three specific groups:

If you consider yourself any kind of Catholic or if you are fascinated by the inner workings of the Vatican, perhaps after reading the Da Vinci Code, then you need to read this book, if only for the wealth of information contained in it. Buy it. It’s expensive, but worth every cent.

If you lived anywhere in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee while Archbishop Weakland was in office (1977-2002), then you will also find the many revelations fascinating. Buy this book.

To my writer friends: If you are a writer, even if you have no particular interest in or affection for religion, you should read this book. So many of our characters end up as little, one-dimensional, convenient stick figures. Archbishop Weakland is maddeningly complex, highly intelligent, well-educated, and insightful regarding many things and infuriatingly clueless and boneheaded stupid about others. He means well so often and yet blurts out the occasional tactless insult. He is fearless about standing up for what he believes and yet timidly gives in to a blackmailer’s demands. It is impossible to dislike him even while you are rolling your eyes at some of his obviously wrongheaded decisions. Once you have analyzed the contradictory archbishop, you will have enough material for at least ten new and different characters. Archbishop Weakland’s descriptions and analyses of the Vatican provide the best explanation for the survival of bureaucracies that I have ever read. Anyone who wants to have a bureaucracy as a character or a setting in a story needs to read this, if only to understand how a long-lived bureaucracy is a perpetual motion machine, one that sucks in its energy from the outside.

So, writer friends, go to your closest library (You’re a writer; therefore you are well aware of the help you can get from your local library) and beg them to acquire this book so that you can check it out. It’s too expensive for you to buy, but you would benefit from reading it.

My rating for the book: on a scale of one to ten, it’s an obvious ten. Take the (significant amount of) time to read it.
You won’t regret it!

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Inetbib 2013 – registered

I registered for the Inetbib 2013, and my impatience continues to grow, especially now that I have had time to read some of the abstracts of the talks. As I have mentioned before, the Inetbib is the absolute cutting edge of library work, where you encounter the newest developments first. The program and abstracts promise that this Inetbib will be no exception. I really can’t wait …

I couldn’t stay at any of the suggested hotels because my employer “requests” that we not stay anywhere that costs more than 60€ per night (if we wish to have our costs reimbursed), but I found a cheaper hotel close to one of the recommended ones and hope that I will be able to walk to the Humboldt University. Berlin of course has excellent public transportation, but it’s generally faster if you can walk to and from your hotel.

Now all I have to do is order my train ticket at work, and I’m ready to go!

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Christmas form letters

I don’t always manage to get my Christmas mail out on time, and I’m generally pretty stressed out (trying to get the last form letters stuffed into the envelopes) until almost Christmas, so I don’t mind when some of the Christmas mail doesn’t arrive until around New Year’s. I don’t have time to read any of it until after Christmas anyway.

Once the stress is over with, I relax and enjoy all the mail stacked up under the tree. I love Christmas form letters, not just because I write them myself. I just love reading what everyone takes the trouble to write. Christmas form letters aren’t that popular in Germany. People here ask me if it is an American thing or especially popular in the U.S., but based on my experience, I would have to say maybe Anglo-Saxon, since we get wonderful Christmas form letters from England (from people we met when Franz used to accompany his school classes to Cornwall). I also hesitate to claim that Christmas form letters are popular in the U.S., because I have the feeling that people either love them or hate them, generally with equal intensity and passion.

I think it’s wonderful to hear from people once a year, no matter what they choose to write. Some write essays about ideas important to them. Some list the achievements of their children and grandchildren. Some write about everything they did the past year; others write about everything that blindsided them over the past 12 months. The only thing that makes Christmas form letters even better is accompanying photos. Although I understand the preference for only showcasing your beautiful children and grandchildren, I prefer pictures of the entire family, including my aging contemporaries. Christmas, as a once-in-a-year opportunity to renew connections, is not the time for self-consciousness about one’s justifiably aging yet beautiful-to-the-observer looks. Hey, at this point in life, we should be grateful to have made it this far and certainly have a right to our wrinkles, loose skin and/or extra pounds.

I start thinking about my Christmas form letter around the end of November and set myself December 10 as the latest possible date for sending them to the U.S. With any luck, this means that the cards with form letters are on their way by December 12-14. Then comes the hard and frustrating work, writing the Christmas form letter again, this time in German. Theoretically that should be easier than translating, but either way it is damned discouraging. Mark Twain was right about the German language. I have people I ask for help in correcting my efforts, but every year I seriously consider just sending everyone the English version. I give up on this idea of course when too many German recipients assure me they would never be able to get through the English-language letter.

Many young(er) friends, relatives, and acquaintances have pointed out that I shouldn’t be so technologically challenged and continue to send out dead-tree messages, that I could post a Christmas video on YouTube or on my blog for more personal greetings. This is of course correct, but such possibilities would have to be an addition, not a replacement for my Christmas form letters, since many recipients are much more technologically challenged than I am.

That reminds me of the very sensible WIBBOW (Would I be better off writing) advice from the kind writers I met in Oregon. So, back to writing.

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Inetbib 2013 program

The program for the next Inetbib conference (March 4-6, 2013 at the Humboldt University in Berlin) is now available at http://www.ub.uni-dortmund.de/inetbib2013/index.html

Wow. There are some familiar names, and I can’t wait for their talks, since they have never disappointed me. There are even more names I don’t recognize, and based on the experience of the Inetbib, I can expect some fantastic surprises. I don’t know enough about most of the topics so I am in for a definite treat, as always.

I am so looking forward to March. When do we get to sign up?

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Ascraeus Press

Now that my first e-book, Blue Sunset, is available at most online stores, I’m starting a blog for my little publishing company, Ascraeus Press, named after Ascraeus Mons, one of the huge volcanoes on the Tharsis Bulge of Mars.

You should be able to find all news about my writing at:

http://ascraeuspress.wordpress.com

starting with my first e-book, Blue Sunset.

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