Renewing your library card is an act of hope

All the time people come to the info desk asking how they can renew their library card.

Maybe they got a reminder call or noticed the expiration sticker on the card or were blocked from checking out an ebook. Either way, I point them to the circulation department and off they go. They show their card to the clerk, confirm their contact info, maybe pay some fines, and then go on their way.

It’s routine. An afterthought. Most people aren’t thinking about how such a simple act has the potential to transform their life.

Because renewing your library card is an act of hope.

It’s a demonstration of faith in the future.

It’s a declaration of principles, of the value of civic pride.

It’s a personal affirmation of the freedom to read and take classes and learn a language and join a discussion group and discover ideas you never could have imagined.

It’s a chance to start fresh, even if you regularly use it. Just imagine what it will allow you to read, watch, hear, do, and learn about.

If your library card has gone dormant or missing, renew it and begin again.

A list of movies

A friend tagged me in one of those Facebook chain-letter things, which I usually ignore but this one was about movies so why not. (Posting here to avoid giving Facebook free content to exploit.)

Movie I hate: Slumdog Millionaire

Movie I love: October Sky

Movie I think is overrated: The Shape of Water

Movie I think is underrated: Return to Me

Movie I could watch on repeat: Hell or High Water

Movie that made me fall in love with movies: Back to the Future

Movie that changed my life: High Fidelity

Guilty pleasure*: National Treasure

Movie I should have seen by now but haven’t: The Shining (but really, most acclaimed horror films)

* I don’t believe in this term, but whatever.

Black hole stun from backwater bipeds

In case you haven’t been following the news (and who can blame you?), that’s the first-ever image of a black hole:

There’s plenty of writing out there on what it means, much of it going over my head, but here’s some grounding perspective from Scientific American:

It is also worth noting that in the two hours after the press conference, at least six scientific papers on the observation have appeared online. They almost certainly contain clues and new questions that will take more time to process than a 24/7 news cycle can tolerate. For now, though, it is worth pausing for a moment to consider the strangeness of nature, and the remarkable fact that these sentient, tool-using bipeds on a small world in a backwater solar system somehow managed to turn their planet into a telescope and take a picture of an exit chute from the universe.

Babies are wizards

Here’s a recent text exchange with a friend of mine that I started:

I keep thinking about the part in How to Change Your Mind about how babies are basically tripping all the time because of their undeveloped brains. Even mundane stuff can blow [my infant’s] mind.

Right?! He’s probably still seeing the cosmic consciousness!

But keeping its secrets to himself of course. All this pooping and spitting up is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that babies are actually wizards.

And language is the protective barrier. He probably even knows what stars his atoms came from once upon a time. He’s got them all mapped out.

And the squeaks and babbles are him actually telling me about it straight up, but I’m just not evolved enough to understand.

Are you sleep deprived enough? Maybe if you pushed yourself a little farther…

I’ve been all proud of myself for being able to get 4-5 hours of sleep each night, but maybe that has shown him I’m not ready.

I have great friends and a great baby.

This was my couch

Part of the This Is My series, documenting meaningful objects in my life.

huhta-couch.jpg

This pullout couch was in my grandparents’ lakeshore cabin for decades before I was born. Then it was in my parents’ basement for another two decades or so. Then it was in my apartment for a few years. And now it’s gone to couch heaven, after we finally bade it farewell to make better use of the space in our two-bedroom apartment.

It was scratchy, kinda ugly, and an absolute beast to move up three flights of stairs. The mattress was thin, requiring us to add several layers of sleeping bags and mattress pads to make it hospitable enough to the human back.

But it was a free and sturdy couch, with family history, in surprisingly good condition for its age. The cushions are still plump and the pullout bed mechanism as reliable as ever. Having a pullout allowed us to host many guests over the years, which saved them the expense of a hotel room and provided us with lots of invaluable memories.

Odds are likely we’ll get another pullout couch one day, though I doubt whatever we get will last as long as this one. My dad said it best: “Goodbye iconic, hospitable, historic and faithful couch. (Notice I didn’t say comfortable.)”

Media of the moment

An ongoing series on books, movies, and music I’ve encountered recently.

A Clockwork Orange. Had been putting this off based on what I’d heard of its disturbing content, but finally bit the bullet for the sake of the AFI 100. Typically impressive Kubrickian cinematography and dark satire.

An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz. Kaleidoscopic narrative of a violent Chicago summer. Kotlowitz embeds with people and families affected by gang violence, illuminating the humanity within tragedy.

Captain Marvel. Brie Larson was a great choice.

Minding the Gap. Stunning.

A Star Is Born. Admire Bradley Cooper’s dedication and Lady Gaga’s talent.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. Paired with Sapiens and Homo Deus, this book made me at once immensely proud of humanity and profoundly disturbed by it.

Three Identical Strangers. Wild, stranger-than-fiction story.

Pretty Woman. My first time, despite having seen the “jewelry box laugh” scene and shopping montage as parodied in Dumb and Dumber. This wasn’t ’90s Julia Roberts at her peak, but she was on the way up.

When we make our art

“When we make our art, we are also making our lives. And I’m sure that the reverse is equally true.”

— Wendell Berry, in the beautiful documentary Look & See (currently streaming on Netflix). Might have found my new life motto.

Only dopes use drugs

I love everything about this book cover, which I encountered at the Frances Willard House Museum & Archives:

See more from Frances Willard.

Recent Views, not-recent edition

More photography here.

With a photogenic infant at home, I need to make sure my photo backup situation is solid. I decided to start using iCloud since my Dropbox is maxed out and because it so seamlessly integrates with my iPhone. Digging through my photo archive has brought back some nice memories, including photos from a photography class I took junior year of college, 10 years ago now. They might be the last photos I took on an SLR film camera:

My son, the audiobook

Just set a picture of the Boy as the wallpaper on my phone lock screen. The idea was to see him when I use my phone, but I chuckled when I realized what that looks like in practice: