from my perfect home to your permanently inferior one

20 01 2009

83320000Since nothing says Martin Luther King, Jr Day quite like Martha Stewart, today is the perfect day to reflect on her wisdom.   Each and every month I devour her magazine’s sage advice and realize that yes, I can go even further down the spiral towards perfection and yes, I can spend even more money on household and kitchen stuff because without it, clearly, I am not a good person.

One new-ish feature in the Magazine, entitled From My Home to Yours, is penned by Martha herself.  I often read it out loud to my husband so that we can mutually proclaim, “Well, at least we’re not that intense.”  This column is by far the best glimpse of just how fine the line between perfection and instability really is.  Especially recently, as she seems to be on quite the roller coaster of emotions and domesticity.

December 2008: Cookies Wrapped in the Spirit of the Season

One can never, ever say that a cookie is as good as it can be, because the addition of one little thing, such as a sprinkling of Maladon salt crystals or a teaspoon of Madagascar vanilla extract or a grating of fresh ginger instead of the store-bought powdered spice, can pretty much blow the taste buds away.

I have become somewhat of a faux-bois freak during the past few years, so the wood-grain design became central to this year’s cookie theme. (emphasis mine)

Commentary: Perhaps it’s only noteworthy to someone like me, an almost thirty-something professional who talks like an enthusiastic and dramatic teenager, but to read Martha use the phrase “pretty much blow away” (a la Napoleon Dynamite) and “freak” within two sentences made me laugh out loud.  It had me convinced that she was lightening her voice and approach to her obsessions a bit, until the 2009 issues started arriving in my mailbox.

January 2009: My Matter-of-Fact, 10-Step Plan for Healthy Living

My day starts at 5:30 A.M…I shower, wash my hair, dress, and am out the door to the gym three houses away…

Commentary: Who showers and washes their hair before they work out?  Clearly, she is a time traveler.  I just don’t know what else to say.

February 2009: Taking the Problems Out of Packing (AKA how to make everyone hate you when you travel)

I always watch my luggage like a hawk–I do not let hotel bellmen whisk it away for later delivery to my room.  I stay with it and insist on accompanying it to my room.  In taxis and limos, I watch how it is stored so that nothing is ever crushed or damaged.

Security Measure: Many luggage locks are forbidden under security regulations.  So I tie the zipper pull tags on my suitcase together with a piece of waxed twine.  That way, I can tell if it’s been opened.

Commentary: Meanwhile, my suitcase is an ancient artifact from the thrift store that still has the grease pen price of $5.95 written on it.  I have never seen a bellman.  Nor have I been in a limo.  I’d be so super afraid of dealing with any of Martha’s luggage.  OMG if you worked for the airline that accidentally broke her twine?  The horror.

I still love Martha Stewart though.  She has really helped me to enrich my life and the lives of those around me.  I have four absolutely perfect words to conclude this post: Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies.

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to be less gullible

5 01 2009

83454811That is my New Year’s resolution: to stop believing everything I read, to question authority more often, to consider the source, to check more than one source for verification, etc.

As a librarian, you’d think I’d already do a pretty good job at this, wouldn’t you?  Oh, but no.  Someone once told me that Jimmy Carter was the only U.S. President to not be a Freemason and I believed it (perhaps my love for Mr. Carter clouded my discernment?).  For the record, this is at best impossible to verify due t0 the secrecy of Freemasonry.  At worst, it’s totally wrong.

Yes, I am probably less gullible than your average person.  But I want to stop reading something and automatically assuming it’s the truth.  How can I add an extra step to this process?  How can I get my brain to slow down for a second and mull it over?  Does the immediacy of the interwebs agitate this problem?

Want proof that you have this problem too (because I’m SURE you do)?  It’s simple.  Read an article from a reputable source on a topic about something you really truly know almost everything about.  It could be someone you personally know quite well, a topic that speaks intimately to your profession, an attribute of your lifestyle.  Anything like that.  And then listen to yourself gasp as you read error after error, half-truth after half-truth, incorrect term after incorrect term.  Yes, the author gets the general point across and some do better than others but not without lots of painful errors.

It’s great press and I’m so glad the article was written, but this is exactly what happened to me when I read this article about our department director.  I could barely continue reading past the first line, where Helene is referred to as the Digital Initiatives Librarian.  Unless they’ve changed something around here, this is not her job title.  She is the Director of Digital Strategy.  Contrary to popular belief, working at a library does not make you a librarian.

Sometimes it’s a matter of old habits dying hard.  For example, we’ve called ourselves Columbus Metropolitan Library for almost 20 years.  Yet, the so-called reputable local media still to this day calls us the Columbus Public Library!  I don’t think that’s ever been our official name.  WTF.

So, if every article you read on a topic you’re intimately familiar with is full of mistakes, doesn’t that mean that every article you consider to be accurate and informative about something new to you is actually lying to you?  Beware of what you read!  It could be misleading you.

(Old School Librarians may want to skip this paragraph).  Perhaps this is why I almost always find Wikipedia to be the most accurate source.  Rather than a journalist or commentator on a soapbox getting a little carried away and failing to check the facts, it’s a consortia of lots of people correcting each other’s little errors over time.

Something my husband often says:  “Always trust the historian, never trust the journalist.”   Yes, he’s a biased social studies teacher…but don’t you think he’s on to something here?  You may think this is about bashing journalists.  It’s not.  My point is: the onus is on us, as learners and consumers of information, to pause and consider: Is this really true?  We live in a culture of the short view.  We are too impatient to wait for the long view, the view that often comes with more accuracy.

I hope I can keep my resolution to integrate the long view and the pause button into my information consumption habits.  Wish me luck!  Also, I hope there is an ever-growing pool of good public service librarians out there who are modeling this behavior to their customers and encouraging them to do the same.