Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Blue Is Happy

Young, Jessica.  My Blue Is Happy. Illustrated by Catia Chien.

            Literature is magical because it is open to interpretation.  Stories that reach readers in small ways such as a strategically placed familiar name, setting, or symbol, often come across as the most profound, and open doorways to new understandings within the mind.  It is a special joy when a reader happens across a literary work that fits perfectly with one's life and symbolic interpretation of the world.  Reflective readers may find deeper self-understanding by considering their own beliefs regarding the symbolic meaning of color.  
            My Blue Is Happy presents a key piece of the power inherent within literature to a young audience in an accessible, yet not over simplified, picture book.  A young girl narrates first person her opinions on the symbolic meaning of colors.  She compares her thoughts with those of her most beloved family members in a way that is completely accepting of differences in opinions and past life experiences.  Not only does this book take a unique angle on discussing diversity from a child's point of view, it does it from the perspective of my own cultural background, one I am sometimes embarrassed to admit to international people is white, middle class American.  I feel this book has made an important step for allowing us to accept simple, yet often pervasive, differences in opinion.
            The book reads slightly like a list, as the narrator goes through each color, explains her thoughts on the color, and discusses a difference of opinion she has happened across regarding the emotional evocation of the color.  It begins and ends with some very good reasons why the color blue brings happiness to her mind rather than the cliché sadness her sister thinks of as she strums a lonely song on her guitar.  The dialogue feels entirely natural and accepting, and the illustrations depict wisely selected examples that bring natural color meanings to mind for each character.
            Chien chose versatile acrylic paints and varied perspectives to express texture and depth in the illustrations.  She used dry techniques used to express spraying water, and splattering intended to subtly suggest rain.  The general softness of the lines and dry blending brings the colorful emotions forward with sincerity and skill.  Tastefully sparse outlining slightly stylized the characters and reminds readers the book is intended for a young audience.  Perhaps differences between people on simple matters ought not to be taken with overly vivid responses.  The maintained respect for perspective and depth assure readers that while interpretations of symbolic meaning may be pervasive for an individual, it is entirely essential to take time to reflect and remember that these are only interpretations.  On a literal level we are only seeing light reflected back to us as colors.  Thus the book effectively and quietly breaks down the fourth wall for literary reviewers while perfectly holding a consistent narrative for children, reaching them with deeply with profound truth.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Info Mania

It's weird for me when a major breakthrough occurs.  Very diverse ideas seem to come together suddenly and I quickly transition from what in retrospect seems like almost nothing, to the new owner of something far larger than me.  When ideas come together like this I am in the throws of what I think of as info mania.  This has been happening a lot lately. It's difficult to keep up.  

Road to Oz. Baum, Shanower, & Young.
Since we moved to this apartment complex, my patterns of information consumption have changed.  I no longer have Internet access in my home.  I cannot remember the time before this that I did not have open access to the Internet.  It must have been in the mid-1990s, though my mother probably had a Prodigy subscription she did not share with me. In high school we enjoyed 14 or 32k, and at St. Lawrence University the dorms enjoyed a nice, fast, T2 connection.  When I dropped out and moved in with my dear sweet, progressive Germer, we had Road Runner high speed.  She loved to look for recipes and email far away friends. In my first apartment I paid for my own Internet subscription with loan money as I worked on my BA from Empire State College.  After I finished my degree, I never had a living situation in which I did not find a way to include the Internet in my monthly bills.  That is until we moved here this past June.  

Sailor Twain
It really started at our last place when the iMac hard drive went for the second time.  As I had suddenly found myself without income, we decided to leave the computer broken.  I began using my Kindle to surf Facebook.  Often.  Like all day long I had it open.  And my kids started watching TV and DVDs too much as our rent also included cable.  If I could go back and change the way we spent time at home during this time I would certainly do it, though I also somehow feel that this choice was justifiable for a few reasons (mostly just the fix I get from info manic Internet breakthroughs via Facebook).  A lot happens on Facebook.

The Kindle was not well suited to the Internet, as it was designed as an eReader. I never much enjoyed reading books on it.  For me it best served as an emergency Facebook mobile app machine.  This is how I coped with the loss of my job.  I watched the activities of my colleagues from a far and pretended in my own mind that I was still a part of the professional circle.  I suppose I was to some extent, but rather in a disconnected, constantly connected, somewhat desperate sort of way.  It was pretty pathetic. 

Sailor Twain

Sometimes I thought I was losing my mind.  I saw seemingly generic posts or comments contain hidden symbolic messages that offered inside information as to what was happening in library land.  Library land became this magical place in my head where I was able to communicate with the colleagues I imagined were my real best-est friends through telepathy.  The book choices they shared offered secret details as to their loves, dreams, and future plans.  My husband never hesitated to tell me I was bat shit insane.  I felt insane.  So much effort, sacrifice, and money invested in what I was (and still am) certain to be my true calling in life tossed away at some petty whim of who?  Why?  What really happened?

I read everything.  I imagined what my mother might have said about it all.  I followed every path I could think of to get back to where I needed to be.  I caught the zombie virus, endlessly shuffling after brains through numerous libraries.  It took me at least six months to come to terms with what really happened and wrap my mind around the reasons given for my dreams to be smashed against the earth. The Girl Who Fell From The Sky became a favorite book.

I think I know now what happened, but it can be difficult to hold it all in my mind in the present. I know myself well enough to understand that meditation is essential.  After over a year of unemployment, I have peace with what happened.  I understand fully why my path was barred.  In my heart I have forgiven the responsible parties because of the ultimate lessons I learned about my own relationship with the Internet and also my children.  I have endured through challenging personal experiences in my life, and at this point I can't imagine a tighter belt.  Might I be told once again that my strengths are weaknesses and my weaknesses strengths? Only time will tell.

If you treat Facebook like a full time job, my friend told me one poetry night, you become very good at it. 
I find memes interesting.  They offer a meaningful visual image combined with words succinct enough to be quickly digested while scrolling down.  What power these simple, small ideas contain.  They are like self subscribed subliminal messages added like freshly ground black pepper on the information salad of our Facebook feeds.  I subscribe to these as a way to frequently remind myself of who I would like to be.  They do help me feel real and grounded in an otherwise ethereal world.  So they are probably collecting data on me for the FBI.  Hopefully I am not labeled as a terrorist.  I wonder if the FBI has specific agents that investigate the Facebook activities of Homeschoolers, Buddhists, Socialists, librarians, vegans, awake people, etc.? They probably don't follow Cop Humor or Shut Up I'm Still Talking.  They ought to follow Food WithFaces and Duncan the Tonkinese.  So I subscribe to a ton of these and they somehow make my life more complete. The perfect memes appear in my feed like magic when I need them most.

Food WithFaces

In my favorite libraries, the perfect books call out to me like magic in much the same way.  I much prefer the book version of this sort magic.  Books allow me to hold on to a single idea for longer.  I relish the depth with which my mind processes an idea fleshed out over one to three hundred pages.  Memes simply touch the surface, like water walking insects.  They let me see the skin created by surface tension on the water.  They have their own language.  Spending too much time scrolling through messages like this makes life feel different.  Spending the same amount of time with a book that delves into the depths of a longer story, more fleshed out theme, or a string of concepts that come together in a coherent larger idea feels far more satisfying to me.  My mind feels solid.  My presence in the world feels genuine.  My interactions with other people contain more depth when I feed my mind with structurally sound arguments, or creatively presented, profound stories. Technologically presented information all too often feels shallow. I simply process printed paper better. Is this a strength or a weakness? I'm not sure.

On Facebook I am subscribed to a group of pages that publish memes about reading books.  I really love these.  There are those about books and reading in general, and there are pages I have liked that offer memes about specific genres I enjoy.  The weird breakthrough that I experienced was that I think I know some of the people who are creating these memes and publishing them.  Link. I always thought of them as strangers. Rather they are book characters. Strangers. Book characters I have fallen in love with.  I have seen them respond to my posts before, but I am fairly certain there is an open line of communication that occurs through these posts, and I am very much interested in some of the work that is happening here. 

My time that I have invested in Facebook has taught me many things.  It is a powerful psychological tool, akin to television commercials but perhaps even more powerful.  The underlying assumptions in the posts one elects to subscribe to offers specific information about the types of information with which one prefers to feed one's mind.  Television commercials are passive, yet they have much power in our buying habits.  We have a bit more control over Facebook.  If we find a post unpleasant, we can just click block, or remove from my feed.  

We can unfriend or unlike people that often post things we find unpleasant.  We create our own alternate or virtual reality on Facebook.  We enjoy the illusion of infinitely many friends constantly available to help us feel complete.

 What will become of my children....