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1. Self-knowledge: what is it good for?

Marvin is a delusional dater. He somehow talked the gorgeous Maria into going on a date with him, and today is the day. Maria is way out of Marvin’s league but he lacks self-knowledge. He thinks he is better looking, better dressed, and more interesting than he really is. Yet his illusions about himself serve a purpose. They give him self-belief and as a result the date goes better than it would have done otherwise. Maria is still out of Marvin’s league, but is at least impressed by his nerve and self-confidence, if not by his conversation.

The case of the delusional dater suggests that self-knowledge doesn’t necessarily make you happier or more successful, at least in the short term. According to social psychologists Timothy Wilson and Elizabeth Dunn, there are physical and mental benefits associated with maintaining slight or moderate self-illusions, such as believing one is more generous, intelligent, and attractive than is actually the case. There are some truths about ourselves which, like Marvin, we are better off not knowing.

Real world examples of the benefits of moderate self-illusions are not hard to find. In my experience as a university teacher, average students who believe they are better than that tend to work harder and do better than average students who know their own limitations. Studies of HIV-positive men have shown that they are more likely to practice safe sex if they believe they are unlikely to get AIDS. Sometimes positive self-illusions can be even self-fulfilling. Studies of women at weight loss clinics have shown they are more likely to lose weight if they believe they are going to lose weight.

My favourite example of the power of self-illusions is a famous study of snake-phobic subjects who were played what they believed were the sounds of their own heartbeats as they were shown slides of snakes. In fact, instead of their own racing hearts, they were played the steady heartbeats of someone with no fear of snakes. As a result, the snake-phobic subjects inferred that they weren’t that scared of snakes after all and became less snake-phobic.

Knowledge of how generous, attractive, or frightened you are might not sound like “self-knowledge.” We like to think of self-knowledge as something deeper, as knowledge of the “real you.” But the real you isn’t something apart from your thoughts, motives, emotions, character traits, values and personality. Knowledge of these things is knowledge of the “real you,” and the question remains why knowledge of the real you should matter. Most of us have heard of the ancient command to “Know thyself” but few have dared to ask what good it does.

Abstract Reflections, photo by Francisco Antunes, CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr

Low-end explanations of the value of self-knowledge say that self-knowledge is a good thing because it makes you happier or more successful. High-end explanations say that the real point of self-knowledge is that having it enables us to live more authentic and meaningful lives. From this standpoint it doesn’t matter if self-knowledge doesn’t guarantee happiness or success. That was never the point of “Know thyself.”

High-end explanations of the value of self-knowledge are seductive but don’t really work. To be authentic is to be true to yourself, and you might wonder how you can be true to yourself, to who you really are, if you don’t know yourself. Actually, it’s easy to show that authenticity is possible without self-knowledge. Suppose the opportunity arises to cheat in a card game but you don’t cheat because you aren’t a cheat. In refraining from cheating you are being true to yourself but what makes you refrain from cheating is the fact that you aren’t a cheat. You don’t need to know you aren’t a cheat for you not to cheat. You can be true to yourself regardless of whether you know yourself.

Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. Could this be why self-knowledge matters? The idea that self-knowledge has something to do with finding meaning in your life is promising but controversial. There is plenty of evidence that people find their life choices more meaningful when they are consistent with the kind of person they think they are, but the kind of person you think you are may be quite different from the kind of person you actually are. Being mistaken about the kind of person you are needn’t prevent you from finding your life meaningful on its own terms.

Am I saying that self-knowledge is worthless? Not at all. What I’m saying – and this might be a surprising thing for a philosopher to be saying – is that self-knowledge is overrated in our culture. The truth of the matter is not that you can’t live authentically, meaningfully, or happily without self-knowledge, but that a modicum of self-knowledge might, depending on the circumstances, improve your prospects of living in these ways. While self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, you are unlikely to do well in life if you are grossly self-ignorant. Marvin’s self-illusions might get him through his date with Maria but in the longer term he will save himself the pain of repeated rejection if he stops kidding himself.

“While self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, you are unlikely to do well in life if you are grossly self-ignorant.”

The same applies to talentless contestants of reality TV talent shows. It’s hard not to think that delusional contestants who believe they can sing like Michael Jackson would in the end live happier lives if they learned to handle the truth about themselves. How can you plan your life if you are completely clueless about what you are good at? At some point, you need to come to terms with the real you, and the challenge is to figure out how to do that.

Writing in the 17th century, René Descartes saw self-knowledge as strictly first-personal, as the product of a special kind of mental self-examination. Descartes was wrong. We aren’t unbiased observers of our own inner selves, and the studies suggest that the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves aren’t to be trusted. We all like to think well of ourselves.

A better bet is to try to see yourself through the eyes of others. When it comes to the real you, your friends, colleagues, and nearest and dearest probably have deeper insights than you do. The self-knowledge you get by social interaction is indirect and third-personal but that’s okay. For example, you might not think that you are generous but if everyone you are close to thinks that you are tight with money then that trumps your self-conception. In this case, other people know the real you better than you know the real you.

Of course, seeing ourselves through the eyes of others can be hard to do, especially when their opinion is unflattering. That’s one of many factors which make worthwhile self-knowledge so hard to get. So if self-knowledge is something which matters to you then here is some practical advice: try to accept that reliable self-knowledge is not something you can get by self-examination. Instead, try to see yourself as others see you, and give up any idea that you are always the best judge of the real you. Even with the help of others, a degree of self-ignorance is unavoidable. But if self-ignorance is part of the human condition, so is the ability to get by without really knowing ourselves.

This article originally appeared in LUX Magazine.

The post Self-knowledge: what is it good for? appeared first on OUPblog.


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2. Throwback Thursday (book review): Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, ill. by Maira Kalman

Little Brown, 2011
Min is mad, but more than that, her heart is broken...

Min doesn't have a lot of friends, but the ones she does have are loyal and close, with Al being her closest friend.  Between him and the avant-garde movies she loves, her life is really good.  Until Ed Slaterton showed up....

She was "arty;" he was an athlete.  She had a free-spirit; his was defined by his friends.  Min was under the radar; Ed was the one girls wanted to be with and guys wanted to hang with.  Her lifestyle was nostalgic; his was trendy.  Both of them showed each other a new world.

It was a complete accident, their meeting.  She searched for him, he handed her a beer (which Min poured out discreetly).  They talked that night and soon, this led to another meeting, then another...and then they became a couple. 

And everyone wondered why they were together.  But Ed knew, with all of his heart, that Min was different and he loved the fact that she wasn't just another pretty face.  Min was secretly, than openly, thrilled about being Ed Slaterton's girlfriend, even if it meant she had to sacrifice some things, including her favorite coffee shop.

But today, she wants no part of Ed.  Nothing about him in her life is the cleansing she needs.  So she takes everything they ever shared, including a:
pinhole camera
toy truck
plant pod

oily kitchen towel....and so much, so many more.

They go in a box, along with her story of why they broke up. 

The premise of this book is simple.  Each chapter contains an item and the story that goes along with it in chronological order.  Told from Min's point of view, the reader becomes entangled in her story and the curiosity quotient is raised of how, not especially why, Min broke up with him.  But this book is unique in another very different way.  Daniel Handler writes with dangling participles galore.  It will take a reader to fine tune the voice in their head to follow the pattern his writing takes on, including the ever important comma pauses he uses.  It is also because of his stylized writing that Min's character truly comes out, filled with emotion and packed with meaning.  Handler also creates the town Min lives in and the world of film she loves, not with the branded names of coffee houses, Hollywood, and music, but with care, choosing imaginative names to convey the feeling each name evokes. 

Simple book, intricate writing....two very different styles that compliment and run alongside the two main characters in this book that reflect Handler's writing.  Interspersed throughout are deft, well-spaced illustrations of each item Min discards.  Recommended for high school (9-12).

Sidenote: it has been a long time since I've read a book that was actually sewn.  Also, this is a heavy book (literally, not figuratively) with glossy thick pages.  Not your typical YA book, and one that definitely stands out. 

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3. Comic: Too Much Backstory


Originally posted in Writer Unboxed. See my other comics in Writer Unboxed.

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4. Interview with Lisa Becker, Author of Click

Lisa Becker is the author of Click: An Online Love Story.  She dropped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and discuss her book. 

Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Lisa Becker] About me: Mom, wife, writer, college professor, PR professional, Girl Scout troop leader, chauffeur, referee, cook, house cleaner…and exhausted!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Click?

[Lisa Becker] Click: An Online Love Story follows the dating (mis)adventures of Renee Greene, who is fast approaching her 30th birthday and finding herself not married, not dating, without even a prospect or a house full of cats. She reluctantly joins her best guy pal on a journey to find love online in Los Angeles. The story unfolds through a series of emails between Renee and her best friends (anal retentive Mark, the overly-judgmental Ashley and the overly-sexed Shelley), as well as the gentlemen suitors she meets online. From the guy who starts every story with "My buddies and I were out drinking one night," to the egotistical “B-list” celebrity looking for someone to stroke his ego, Renee endures her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates. Fraught with BCC’s, FWD’s and inadvertent Reply to All’s, readers will root for Renee to "click" with the right man.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Lisa Becker] My husband and I met online on a popular dating website. After we married, I was recalling some of the hilarious experiences that I had with both traditional and online dating.  I decided to capture some of them in writing and from there, a novel emerged.  Click is loosely based on my real-life dating experiences, as well as stories friends have shared with me.  In some cases, things are written as they actually occurred. Other scenarios are exaggerated for entertainment value or comedic affect. And some scenarios are completely fictionalized. I really did go out on a date with someone I met online who started every story (no joke!) with “My buddies and I were out drinking last night.” But, the happy ending is real.  Steve and I have been happily married for nine years and have two amazing daughters.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Renee?

[Lisa Becker] Romantic, loyal and modest

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Renee had a theme song, what would it be?

[Lisa Becker] Renee’s theme song would be “Live is All-Around” by Paul Williams. Most people know it as the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Renee is a spirited, independent, capable young woman who is “Gonna make it after all” in both her professional and personal life.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Lisa Becker] · Ms. Griffith, my high school English teacher, who encouraged me to write and share my work – for better or worse.

· Charles Rosen, one of the producers of the original Beverly Hills 90210 and the subject of an interview I conducted for an alumni magazine article. He gave me some of the BEST advice I’ve ever received: "Don’t fall in love with your words, because somebody above will probably change them."

· Matthew Beaumont, author of e, who inspired me with his narrative style, which I thought would work really well for the story I wanted to tell about the online dating world.

· Herb & Sheila Willet, my amazing parents, who offered endless love and support in all of the choices I’ve made in my life. I only hope I can show my children the same level of respect as they mature and decide their courses in life.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Lisa Becker] 1. Chocolate! No joke, I eat chocolate. If I’m stuck on a certain section or not feeling motivated to write, I give myself little chocolate incentives to get past the blockage. Judging by my thighs, I had some serious problems writing this book. ;)

2. The television on in the background. When I first started writing, I was obsessed with Law & Order reruns. Now, I can’t seem to get enough of NCIS. I guess there’s a part of me that likes to see justice served.

3. Inspiration. I need to have a story that I not only want to tell, but feel as though I can tell in a compelling and entertaining way.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Lisa Becker] Several months ago, I read Michael Pollan’s nonfiction book, In Defense of Food, which examines the western diet and its effect on our health. His advice is simple: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That, coupled with a viewing of a documentary called Forks Over Knives, which examines how many degenerative diseases can be controlled or reversed with a whole food, plant based diet, changed my life. I’m now six months into being a vegetarian and have never felt better.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Lisa Becker] I remember always reading and having books around in my house. And, one of my favorite books as a child was Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie (Andrews) Edwards. I bought a copy several years ago for my nephew and he recently gave it back to me so I could give it to my daughters when they get older. It’s a wonderful, fanciful story and I still smile when I imagine the Whangdoodle who has a daisy on his sweet tooth.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Lisa Becker] When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. As mentioned, I’ve recently become a vegetarian, so I’m always on the hunt for new and interesting recipes. And I’ve recently taken up painting. Needless to say, there’s never a dull moment around here.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Lisa Becker] I have a Facebook page here set up for Click: An Online Love Story. And I’ve been asked numerous times when the sequel is coming out. I’m thrilled people are feeling invested in the characters and want to know more. With each positive review and reader comment, I get more and more motivated to continue writing. I’m wrapping up the sequel, Double Click that picks up six months later. I hope people will be excited to see where Renee and her friends are in their lives.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Click from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.  Available in both print and digital.

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5. Want to talk to kids about dating violence? Better start young

I read this startling story in the New York Times about how young dating - and dating violence - begins. It talked about one study that found “that three-quarters of students had already had a boyfriend or girlfriend. One in three said they had been victims of psychological dating violence; nearly one in six said they had experienced physical dating violence. Almost half said they had been touched in an unwanted sexual way or had been the target of sexual slurs.

The article talks about efforts to educate kids before it happens to them.

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6. Pressing the “Hot Buttons” By Guest Blogger, Nicole O’Dell

So glad to have Nicole O’Dell with us as she shares a special ministry devoted to connecting teens, their parents and God. Here’s what she has to say about “Hot Buttons:”

What are Hot Buttons?

Well, in the broader sense, the phrase Hot Buttons means a lot of different things, anything really, that can get a rise out people. Something that charges them up and receives an intense reaction. For the purposes of Choose NOW Ministries, I’ve defined hot buttons as those tough issues that teenagers face–the things parents are often more afraid of and most hesitant to talk about.

Some examples include:

  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Sex
  • Friendships
  • Racism
  • Internet Activity
  • Faith Matters
  • Divorce
  • Dating
  • Bullying
  • Occult
  • and more

Why press the Hot Buttons?

Why not just leave it alone and let the kids figure it out? We can pray for them and trust it all to work out in the end. In some ways it does work itself out, true. Circumstances happen, pressure hits, relationships change. . .and your teens gets to figure it all out. In the heat of the moment. On their own. Hopefully they’ll make the right choice, but it’s really hard to know what will happen when the prep work isn’t done.

Hot Buttons, Dating, Nicole O'DellTake an issue like dating–we talk about the boundaries. We set rules for curfew and other things. We even make sure we apprrove of the date and talk about saying no to sexual advances. Right?

And that’s great. It really is. But there’s something missing. Our teens need to know what to do and what not to do, and what we expect of them, but they also need to understand why that’s going to be difficult for them. How does the body respond in ways that make it tough to say no? What will the feelings be like that make it difficult to leave the room or douse the proverbial flames?

You see, if we don’t hit those truth head on before they become an issue, our teens will think it’s a secret, it’s specific to them, and we really don’t know what we’re asking them to say no to. But, if we press those hot buttons in advance, if we have the difficult conversations, then our teens will enter those pressure-filled situations armed with understanding and equipped with the words to say to stay true to their commitments.

With every hot button issue, someone is feeding your tweens and teens information–do you really want that someone to be anyone other than you?


How do I press the Hot Buttons?

Now that you’ve made the decision to be proactive about helping your tweens and teens battle peer pressure, I love to share the principles behind the Hot Buttons book series and the method of communicating with your teens it prescribes.

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7. I Like You Because ….

I was in the beauty shop last week getting a haircut. It was on a Friday and the business was booming; every one of the half dozen chairs was occupied with customers and operators working as fast as they could to process as many clients as possible. I often enjoy looking at the costumes of beauty shop operators because I think that they think they must be in punker garb to be successful. Purple and orange hair. Rings in noses, earlobes, belly buttons. You get the picture.

My beautician is dressed normal. She is fifty years old and perhaps that makes a difference. I don’t know. During a lull in my conversation with her, I overheard a customer at the other end of the row of chairs speak to her beautician. I couldn’t see either one of them since my head was tilted down so that we could cut around my neckline, but I heard, “I met this guy and he’s great. He owns his own business and he’s a Republican.”

It made me laugh and I said to my own beautician, “Never mind that he’s divorced because he beat his wife and cheats on his taxes, but he’s a Republican!

Of course, I know many people who have different formulas for whom they like. For example, mothers who don’t want their daughters to go out with anyone other than Jewish men, Mormon men, Catholic men, Armenian men, Germans, Swedes, Poles, and, of course, Democrats or Republicans. Need I go on?

What has happened to the time when we decided to like someone who was kind to others, ambitious for their families, charitable, intelligent, hard-working, lovimg, open to new ideas, or just simply nice.?

Filed under: Culture, Identity, Personalities Tagged: Acceptance, Charisma, Dating, Judgement, Personalities, relationships

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8. Missed Connections Or, Bottom Billion Brings Love

Some mornings, you just have to admit that the internet is a strange and wonderful place. The kind of place where people post shout-outs to “missed connections” on Craig’s List about hot women reading good books. In case you were wondering “5′9″ medium to slight build” there are lots of beautiful women reading good books at 35th and Madison (the OUP offices.) Keep reading for a guaranteed morning laugh.

You were reading “The Bottom Billion” on the 2 train on Tuesday - m4w (Midtown West) (more…)

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9. Coolhunting: The Next Generation

I found that video we viewed about Coolhunting was really interesting, and it got me thinking about new and different ways that we as librarians could market to teens. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to get away from that stereotype of being uncool and boring, without compromising our librarian integrity? I think one of our best assets is to keep informed, whether it be with the news, with literature, with library issues, and for youth work especially, with new and upcoming TRENDS!

Granted, it could be difficult and expensive to insert new trends into the library atmosphere (ie. It may be practically impossible to replace furniture constantly or computer technology) but online environments could be enhanced by keeping up-to-date, as well as programming, and art displays, etc. I found a trendhunting site from a journalist in Toronto named Bianca Bartz. I will post the link on the blog for future reference.


Bianca posts constantly about the newest, hottest things, both for teens and in general. I thought I would use this blog space to point out some new things that have been identified as “up and coming”, as well as illustrate the importance of using this kind of tool to stay current.

These crazes may be short lasting or long lasting, no real way to tell. However, I do think that trendhunting sites would be a fresh new way for librarians to keep on top of the ever changing world of teens! Even if we can’t possibly do everything, we can at least keep up to date on what’s going on and be able to talk about it. Here are a few of the things I found most intriguing, and that I think could be incorporated into libraries in some way, shape or form:

Manga: Business Scenarios (for a slightly older audience)Business Manga - The Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Daniel H. Pink (GALLERY)

“Manga is becoming hugely popular in North America, but we’re missing a whole genre,” Pink says. “In Japan, there’s manga for adults on business topics. We don’t have that here.  So I decided to create the first business book in manga for a western audience.”


Pimp My Flats: Shoe Decorating Making a Comeback (Cool Programming Idea?)

A plain, white pair of tennis shoes provides way too much creative potential to leave them as they come. Case in point, the Pimp My Flats exhibit has some stellar designs, showcasing ordinary plimsol shoes that have been taken to the next level of hip. Each pair of Lazy Oaf shoes has been decorated differently, from designs that are wearable, even seriously desirable, to others which are just plain hideous.

Net Video Buzz Site (Under ‘Links’ on the Teen Web site?)

Net Video Buzz Site - Viral Video Charts (VIDEO)A really great site for finding out what videos are creating buzz on the net is ViralVideoCharts.com. Before you think it’s just another time waster, consider that, if you’re already into watching clips on the internet, this site could actually make it faster and more efficient. Surfing YouTube for videos can fun, but it can also be difficult when you don’t know where to start, which is where a site like this comes in handy. It’s also a great source for people searching for current events or wanting to be in the know when it comes to internet culture.

Electric Origami - LED Foldie (Might work as a program, especially in Toronto!)

Electric Origami - LED Foldie (GALLERY) Electric Origami - LED Foldie (GALLERY)

Placing LED lights inside origami creations can be an interesting way to bring origami into the modern ages! Makes great ornaments!

Cyber Makeovers: A Big Hit With Teen Girls?

http://www.taaz.com Upload a good facial photo of yourself and you will be able to try on makeup and hairstyles and no one has to see you until it’s just perfect.

Comic Book Furniture: To Keep in Mind for Teen SpacesComic Book Furniture - Crepax Art Furniture (GALLERY)

Comic books have become more and more influential for the 20th century art. 

Italian designer Giuseppe Canevese brings to light the most important works of Guido Crepax in the form of furniture which can be brought into our homes.

Virtual Boyfriends & Girlfriends - V-Boy & V-Girl (Websites and Dating Trends)

Ladies, are you tired of searching for that perfect man? Instead of just settling for someone to ease the sting of loneliness, protect your heart and preserve your dignity and scoop up a sexy V-Boy instead. (Oh yeah, and guys, there’s V-Girl.com for you.)

Game Inspired Furniture: For Spaces Game Inspired Furniture - Tetris Mirror (GALLERY)

What a fun addition to your walls. Tetris is one of my favorite games, so the prospect of having an adjustable tetris mirror is definitely exciting for me. The Tetris Mirror by UK designer Soner Ozenc is constructed out of thirteen interlocking mirrored acrylic panels. The mirror can be arranged to form a traditional rectangle, or broken apart into their individual puzzle blocks which give you a multitude of designs to come up with. The mirror comes in both A3 (11.7″ — 16.5″) and A4 (8.3″ — 11.7″) sizes, in either silver or gold reflective surfaces.

Super Web Mobiles - LG Touch Web: The New Must Have Communication Device for Teens! Super Web Mobiles - LG Touch WebWeb mobiles have a strong new competitor in the shape of the just announced LG Touch Web phone ‘LG-LH2300’ that sports a new “Hello UI”.The advanced beauty features a 3-inch wide full touchscreen LCD with 800 x 480 (Wide VGA) resolution and delivers full optimized Internet browsing experience. The Touch Web phone adopts Quick Search Icon providing direct access to main portals, Internet hot key and jog wheel.The mobile also features a 3M camera with auto focus, face recognition and anti-shake tech, T-DMB, Bluetooth 2.0, and Micro SD memory slot.The Touch Web is expected to be available early April in Korea for between 600,000 and 700,000 (KRW) ($600 to $700).

Beer Can Butterflies: Making an Environmental Statement with Art (Craft Programming Idea)Beer Can Butterflies - More Garbage as Art (GALLERY)

At Trend Hunter, we’re obsessed with eco innovation.  In particular, we get our smile on whenever we see garbage recycled into art.  It seems that every week there’s a new addition to this category.  As a result, we’ve compiled 50 of our favorite uses for garbage in this super gallery.  Top 50 Pieces of Garbage Recycled Into Art (SUPER GALLERY)Top 50 Pieces of Garbage Recycled Into Art (SUPER GALLERY)I hope you have enjoyed this trend hunting experience! Perhaps we’ll see some of these in the library very soon! References:Bartz, Bianca. (2008). Trend Hunting. Retrieved March 25th, 2008 from http://www.trendhunter.com/bianca/

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10. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

*Sigh* How long have I been waiting for this?

The Penderwicks are back! It's a couple of months since their summer vacation upstate, and the girls and their dad are back on Gardam Street. We flash back to the time that Mrs. Penderwick was still alive, and gave her sister a blue envelope. Rosalind was the only one to hear what was in that envelope, and she conveniently forgot all about it. Everything comes flooding back after Aunt Claire presents said envelope to Mr. Penderwick on a visit. The girls knew that something was up because Aunt Claire comes with gifts...and a plan for a blind date for her brother.

Who is ready for Mr. Penderwick to start dating again, even if it is the late Mrs. Penderwick's idea? Certainly not Rosalind. And certainly not Mr. Penderwick. Enter an emergency MOPS meeting, resulting in the save Daddy plan.

Ensuing are disasterous dates, swapped homework, Aztec plays, the demise of Mick Hart, and a little Tommy love!

I am an unabashed fan of The Penderwicks, and I am delighted with the second installment. The relative innocence of the plot is refreshing, and the storytelling is such a pleasure to experience. Each girl is a personality, and the additions of the characters of Iantha and Ben are welcome. I simply cannot wait to read these books to my daughters.

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11. Comic Con and Amelia Rules!

Okay. So every year I make fun of it, yet every year I go. I think that going un-costumed says something for a person. And going on professional day makes it totally worth it! No crowds, some interesting panels, and only a few Princess Leias to contend with.

First off I went to a panel conducted by Lana Adlawan and Alison Hendon from the Brooklyn Public Library, who presented a very nice core collection covering kids of all ages and young adults. The panel was well attended, and offered up some great advice to libraries collecting gns and a couple gentle nudges to the comic makers about things that would be great to see content wise (like how 'bout some diversity?).

Then off to the floor, I went. As I said, professional day made life so much easier. Compared to BookExpo and ALA it was as close to heaven as a body could get in the Javits Center.

One of my first stops was :01 (First Second), where a lovely special of $10 books and a buy 2 get 1 free special was on. So I got a personal copy of Life Sucks, some Little Vampire, and some Sardine.

Then off touring all kinds of indie stuff, which I love. And I finally ended up right in front of Jimmy Gownley. He is always so lovely. He signed my new Amelia Rules When the Past is Present, gave me some posters for my Amelia lovin' kids at school, and had a little bit of a chat. Now I'm kicking myself for not buying an Amelia t-shirt! But back to the books...

Amelia at 10 is at a bit of a cross roads. Not only is her mother going on a date, but Ninja Kyle has managed to invite Amelia to a sports banquet. Amelia's mom is not so sure about this, but Amelia assures her that this is not a date, since Kyle and the other Ninjas go to catholic school, and there will be a jillion nuns present! Amelia figures they have a lot to celebrate since Joan has just announced that she's not moving after all.

But when they are at the banquet, Amelia learns why Joan isn't going anywhere. Joan's dad is going instead, and since he's a military man, where he is going is no place good.

Told partly in the present, and with some flashbacks of Amelia's life in NYC with her friend Sunday, and also including a fantastic family history at the end, this latest installment of Amelia Rules is a winner. Super smart jokes (my favourite is the epi pen one!), witty banter, and spot on family circumstances make this graphic novel ring so true for readers. These are books that kids return to over and over, and for the first time in a long time, I shed a few tears over a gn. And as usual, I am hungry for more!

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12. Something to Blog About

Libby's life seems to be in the dumps. Not only did she set her own hair on fire during chemistry class, but her crush Seth seems to be flirting with her nemesis Angel Rodriguez. Add to this mix the fact that Libby has just discovered that her mom has had a secret boyfriend for the past 7 months now. His name just happens to be Manny Rodriguez. Angel's dad! Can you imagine?

So what's a girl to do? Blog about it, of course. But in a private password protected blog that nobody would have access to, right? Well, nobody would have had access if her mom hadn't invited Angel and her dad over for dinner.

What will happen when Libby's private blog is suddenly very public? All those thoughts about Seth? Her moaning about her best friend Keisha? Will Libby ever be able to get over the humiliation?

Shana Norris has written a breezy read incorporating blog posts and regular text. The ultimate fear in high school is humiliation, and poor Libby gets more than her fair share. High school, crushes, family structure, and friendship are overarching themes in this title. Perfect for fans of Myracle's earlier work(ttyl etc) and those girls looking for a clean teen read

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13. Breaking Up is hard to do!

I don't like to talk about my kids too much, because even though I'm in the public eye my kids didn't sign up to be in the public eye. But this story was too good to pass up...

My son is in elementary school. He's adorable and smart and hilarously funny (yes, I'm biased). As his mom, I want to guide him in values and teach him things that are important to me. (I admit wholeheartedly that my ways of thinking may be DRASTICALLY different than yours)

This is what I told my son when the subject came up (I think he asked who pays when you go out on a date): "When you're out with a girl on a date, you pay. If you can't afford to take her to a restaurant, pack up a picnic and take her to the park or make her something at home." I'm sorry if you don't agree. My father and grandfather taught me that and you may not think it's important but I do. (my friends and I argue about this). I went out with my friend Mike (Hi, Mikey!!!) for lunch a few weeks ago and even though we're not dating (I'm married) he paid for me even though I offered. I hope my son is the same way.

I dated this guy David who pumped my gas when I was the one driving (he was from out of town and didn't have a car). I was shocked that he would immediately and instinctively jump out of the car to pump my gas for me. I guess I haven't been around too many guys who thought, "Gee, I don't want her to accidentally get gas on herself." I loved that, and never forgot it. Thanks, David!

Last night my son said he loves me so much asked me to marry him. Besides warming my heart that he loves me so much (I think most little boys do this at some point in their lives) I told him I couldn't marry him for two reasons: 1) It's against the law to marry your mom (and if it's not, it should be) and 2) I'm already married

I guess my rejection didn't bother him too much, because then he asked if, when he's a teenager, when he is dating a girl but likes someone else, what does he do?

I told him to tell the girl he's dating that he either:

1) Wants to see other people and you can date more than one person at a time
2) You "break up" with her and tell her that it's not working out. You say that she's a great person and you had fun with her, but you want to break up. Then tell her that you can still be friends.

This was how our conversation went after that:

ME: "Either way, the girl you break up with just might: Cry about it, and tell you how much she loves you and she wants to stay together."
HIM: "If I tell her I want to date other people, then I decide I like the other person better, do I tell her that I don't like her anymore and I like the other person better?"
ME: "That would hurt her feelings."
HIM: "Oh."
ME: (duh, what a guy) "Tell her that it's not working out and you want to break up. Don't tell her you like someone else better."
HIM: "Okay."
ME: "Just know that a girl will probably break up with YOU one day, and you'll cry and be so upset and tell her you want to stay together and you love her so much."
HIM: "No, that's not going to happen, Mom."

What's funny is that I said after the breakup he says to the girl, "We can still be friends." I said this because I think it lessens the blow, but can you really be platonic friends with someone you dated? Did I give him the wrong advice? Maybe not right after the breakup, but maybe when the hurt dies down...or not. What do you think?

I have been the dumper, and the guy cried and was devastated and sent me love letters years after I broke up with him. I have also been the dumpee, and cried and did things I'm ashamed to say (example: knowing how to erase his answering machine messages remotely)

Have you been devastated by a breakup?
Have you broken up with someone who was devastated?
Are you friends with an ex-boyfriend?

Simone Elkeles

author of:
Leaving Paradise 2008 RITA® finalist
How to Ruin a Summer Vacation #3 on Top Ten Teen Books
How to Ruin my Teenage Life 2008 AJL Notable Book for Teens
2008 Author of the Year by the IL Assoc. of Teachers of English

4 Comments on Breaking Up is hard to do!, last added: 9/21/2008
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14. Books as a social pursuit

It came to my attention that I have been neglecting those of you who who have absolutely no desire to learn about ereaders so today I promise this is the last you will hear about them from me.  Today instead I thought I would share two articles about reading and how it can effect your social life. 

If you belong to a book club you may be happy to learn that and an an increasing number of authors are jobbing their way around various book clubs to discuss, with their readers, what they thought of the novel.  I think it might take away from the whole book club process if you bring the author in right away but after a discussion about the book, getting to actually ask the author questions about the text could be a really neat experience, and a good reason to read and coming authors. 

From The Daily Beast:

There is a thing authors do, nervously, when they think no one is looking. They check out their numbers—online sales figures, ratings, rankings, reader reviews. Not long ago, Joshua Henkin, a professor of creative writing at Sarah Lawrence and Brooklyn College, was doing just such a thing in his home office. He was scrolling through Goodreads.com, monitoring the reception of his new novel, Matrimony. A user named Shelley had given him a mixed review—three stars out of five. Henkin clicked on her name and decided to email her, offering to attend her book club, if she had one. She did—that very evening—and, after several exchanges, Henkin was set to call into it.

And then moving from from friends recommending a good book, to books recommending a good friend.  LibraryThing.com and the aforementioned Goodreads.com have shown that this works pretty well but The Guardian thinks that relationships based on books should stay at the friend level.  The British paper takes a pot shot, in a fairly amusing article, at Boarders launching its dating service for bibliophiles suggesting that looking for love based on reading tastes can only lead to heartache. 

Oh, the first couple of dates would go fine: you'd huddle over coffees or beers, discussing with animated, shining eyes your love of, say, Haruki Murakami. Then, as things progress, you might go for a weekend away, perhaps walking hand-in-hand down the narrow streets of Hay-on-Wye. Reclining by a roaring fire in a country pub, something like pride would flutter in your breast as you watch the way your new love's lips move slightly as they read. Then the rot would set in. "You thought Wind-Up Bird Chronicle meant what?" "Actually, I did discover Murakami three years before you." "Yes, but I read Norwegian Wood in the original Japanese …"

And before things started to go publicly, horribly, harrowingly wrong, imagine how dull a couple who were both into the same books would be. You might just about put up with your friend's constant evangelising about Patricia Cornwell, but what if she turned up with a new beau who spouted the same hero-worship? And what if our couple were to take the plunge and move in together? Does any home really need two copies of everything on their bookshelf? Whose editions get sent to the charity shop?

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15. Lady in Waiting

Dating while having a young son is a little challenging at times. He hears things (overhears things) and is exposed to conversations that give him a tiny bit of insight about how it all works.

I have a male friend coming in town tonight. My son asked me earlier if I have a crush on him. The question startled me, and I couldn't help but smile, and I know he assumed this meant 'yes.'

When I asked him to explain what it meant to have a crush, he said, "It's when you like someone."

"Then, yes, I suppose I do have a crush on him."

Seconds later he asked if there was going to be more boys or girls tonight. I assume he meant when my friend joins us, so I said, "There's going to be more boys than girls."

I can't even tell you how excited he was when he heard that. In a celebratory tone he stated, "I have a crush on him too, then." See, he's still in that phase of thinking that girls have cooties and he can only be friends with other boys.

I so want him to stay in this stage for a long time, considering how quickly young people grow up these days and get involved in sexual relationships much too early (in my opinion).

But then again, if he's going to learn about dating and what it means to respect, love and treat someone with affection, then I want to be the one to show him that. I want him to continue to ask me questions, because I know that he feels comfortable saying anything, (in front of anyone), no matter how much it embarrasses his mom.

4 Comments on Lady in Waiting, last added: 8/7/2009
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16. Where Do We Go From Here?

Now what? What's next? Where do we go from here? These are the questions I asked myself as I sat crying in the airport after saying goodbye to the man I spent the last five days with. The man I gave my heart to years ago. The conversations and moments that we shared were long overdue but perfect in every way. Except for the sunburn.

I thought about sharing every detail here and relive the exact moment when we made that next step, the words that we spoke, the way he tasted and felt, but I also want to keep the memory of these events in a special place - between the two of us. Because it was a very special occasion, consummating our relationship after being friends (with much sexual tension between us) for fifteen years. Not that I've been keeping track or anything...

He got the approval from my friends and my son but now he's gone. The five days went by so quickly and now it's a big reality check for the both of us and I'm back to the same questions that I do not know the answers to just yet. What's next? Where do we go from here?

2 Comments on Where Do We Go From Here?, last added: 8/10/2009
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17. What Kind of Girl You Should Go For?

If you’re having trouble finding a girlfriend, it might be because you’re going after the wrong sort of girl. You may be aiming too high, or too low. Probably too high. You might be hitting on lesbians. And while I have nothing against lesbians, they’re not the first place I look when I’m in the market for a girlfriend. They’re probably the third place I look, right after prostitutes, and right before robots.

So here are some rough guidelines to help you seek out the right kind of woman. That is, the kind of woman who wouldn’t laugh at the idea of being sought out by a guy like you. 

Find a Woman Who is Used to Disappointment

Because let’s face it, you’re probably going to disappoint the hell out of her—sexually, financially, philosophically. (She won’t understand why you read all that nineteenth-century Continental philosophy, and she never will. At one point she will threaten to kill herself if you don’t put down the Hegel and come to the goddamn dinner table.)  

Try to find a woman who lived during the Great Depression, if you can. These beautiful creatures have seen the absolute bottom, so any meager thing you can offer them will seem attractive. Now they may not have the tightest little bodies anymore—in fact, they may be downright disgusting, physically—but don’t let that stop you. Being superficial is a privilege available only to those capable of getting with a woman whose outsides are attractive.

If you can’t find any single pre-war babes—because they do get snapped up really quickly, let me tell you—then you might want to seek out a girl who was eliminated from one of the early rounds of American Idol. She will have absolutely no self-esteem and a pure, hopeful heart. After being called a “fat slutty talentless train wreck” by Simon Cowell, she will just want someone to tell her she’s pretty. And you can lie just as well as the next guy.   

Find a Woman Who Makes Terrible Decisions

Because she might just think it’s a smart idea to date you. 

It’s easiest to find such women, I think, at places of commerce, where a woman’s decision-making ability is perhaps most prominently displayed. So if you see a woman buying a VCR, for instance, you should follow her out of the store to her car and ask her out immediately. If she opts for the $90 three-year warranty on the $20 toaster she’s buying, tell her you think she’s the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen, at least in a Walmart. If she buys the first season of Skating with Celebrities on DVD, then you should propose to her on the spot. Because that show is just awful. And if she likes that, how could she not like you?

Of course, her poor decisions will probably come back to bite you in the ass at some point down the line. One day, she’ll excitedly tell you she just invested all your retirement savings in prime Florida swampland. “Oh, honey,” she’ll say, holding you tight, “we’re gonna be so rich!” But you can tolerate this. Because after all, she’s tolerating you.

Where To Look

Certain places will be more likely to have the type of down-on-her-luck, ill-deciding woman you’re looking for.

One place is the arcade. If there’s a woman over eighteen hanging out in an arcade who’s not just there with her son or little brother, she might as well be yours. Or dead. So march right into the arcade, tear her away from the first-person shooter she’s playing—on which she undoubtedly has the high score—and plant a kiss on her miserable lips. She’ll probably start to cry, out of joy, but don’t get scared. Take her right to the arcade counter, where she can redeem the thousands of tickets she’s accumulated over the years for an oversized pencil, three marbles, and a whoopee cushion—and to think, it only cost her six-hundred dollars worth of quarters to get all that cool stuff. Lead her out of the arcade, forever, and say hello to your future wife, and eventually ex-wife.

Abandoned warehouses are also great places to look for the type of girl you should be pursuing. You’ll often find her passed out in a corner, a needle in her arm, a delirious smile on her sallow face. Just yank the syringe from her arm, splash some cold water on her—room-temperature water will do, I guess, though you really should try to use cold—and take her in your arms. Tell her she doesn’t have to do this anymore, she doesn’t have to run anymore, because big boy’s here to save her. (You’re big boy.) She’ll be so out of her mind on drugs she’ll probably just start licking your face and neck, which will feel pretty good. Or if you’ve awakened her from a bad trip, she might start clawing at your eyes and genitals. But either way, she’ll eventually thank you for rescuing her from a sinful life of which she is now oppressively ashamed, at which point you two may begin a subdued, loveless relationship.

Another easy spot is the outpatient wing of a hospital. The women here will be in poor spirits and, more importantly, they will often be light-headed and not thinking clearly. So you can probably score a much better-looking woman in an outpatient area than anywhere else. One time I met this beautiful blonde in a hospital who was very light-headed from giving a ton of blood. I convinced her to go home with me, where we had what was probably the best sex of my life, and the worst sex of hers. The next day, the results of her blood tests came back. She was positive for syphilis and lupus. And as it turns out, she was autistic, as well. So hospitals are a gamble, I’m not denying that. But if you never step up to the plate and swing, you’re never going to hit a home run.

Other obvious hotspots for finding your target woman are liquor stores and the internet. If you see a woman buying a plastic handle of booze in a liquor store, then you know she’s depressed, and if you see her also buying lotto tickets, then you know she’s lost hope in her own ability to find happiness and has passed on that responsibility to the indifferent workings of fate. So swoop in for the kill—she’s ready and waiting. And the internet is positively chock full of sad women who have made terrible decisions in their lives. So tell one of these women, “What more could one bad decision do? Date me!”

You wouldn’t just blindly pick out a shirt from a store—no, you’d think about what size fits your slender build, what colors suit your wan complexion, what price goes well with your depressing salary. So why would you pick out a girl without considering these same things? Focusing your search—saying “I’m looking for a shirt that costs no more than eleven dollars,” or “I’m looking for a girl who weighs no less than two-hundred pounds and has suffered a personal tragedy within the last four months”—will improve your results tenfold, trust me.

So don’t be stupid and go looking for the girl of your dreams. Be sensible, and look for the girl of your carefully calculated and depressingly reasonable hopes.          

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18. Digital Matchmaking on College Campuses

As more dating websites and digital matchmaking tools target college students, more studies come out that teens and twentysomethings are adopting a more casual attitude towards finding a significant other (or not-so-significant as the case may... Read the rest of this post

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19. So what do we think? The Shadow of the Bear

Review: The Shadow of the Bear: A fairy tale retold

 Doman, Regina.  (2008) The Shadow of the Bear: a fairy tale retold.  Front Royal, VA: Chesterton Press. ISBN #978-0-981-93180-7.  Author recommended age 14+. Litland.com recommends age 14+.  See author website for parent guide to aid you in deciding acceptability for younger readers.  http://www.fairytalenovels.com/docs/Picky%20Parent’s%20guide%20to%20Shadow.pdf

 Our thoughts:

 Modeled after the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale Snow White and Red Rose, this isn’t your Disney princess spoof. Anyone familiar with the real fairy tales of old know they spin morals and virtues contrasted with evil throughout the tapestry of the story. Doman’s book includes the best of this feature without some of the hideous and difficult storyline that traditional fairy tales are known for. 

It is a tale of two sisters named…you’ve got it, Blanche and Rose! The teenagers live with their widowed mother in New York City. Not a simple whodunit at all, the reader is led with suspense through the dark streets, halls and buildings; parties and conversations with the popular kids you know are setting them up for a fall; envy, jealousy, almost-despair, uncertainty. Fear. The description and self-dialogue realistically portray true inner emotions of the two sisters as they face ridicule, bathroom bullying, and school authorities. School-age readers can relate entirely; adult readers are glad to not be in high school anymore.

 Far from the typical one-dimensional view of teen angst given to us in entertainment today, this story is enriched by the affinities and intelligence of its characters. In addition to an occasional Chesterton or Tennyson quote, the description wrapped around their interactions is culturally-rich; thought-provoking wisdom is their normal discourse. Rose’s emotional melt-down in the park, playing her violin in the rushing wind with an impending storm at bay is dramatically told. We can feel her lift “her bow from the strings in the silence of the rushing winds…” after playing that “distant, bold note flying high as a bird to the clouds”.

 Not all is as it appears.

 Good and evil subtly mirror one another throughout the tale. It can be a rough exterior compared to a gentle personality. The rumored drug dealer’s virtuous behaviour compared to the popular, good looking guy using and manipulating all around him. Self-discipline and self-denial vs. hedonism and selfishness. White martyrs and red martyr vs. evildoers.

 A 200-page book should be a quick read. I usually slide right through one. Some books, however, just have more to say. And this book is one of those. Without a word wasted, Doman has given sufficiently rich detail in both the physical and emotional settings that we can feel we are there. We see in our mind solitary Rose playing an ominous tune on her violin in the middle of the park with the same fervor as the wind. From the beginning, the girls imagine that the human exterior merely covers up for a magical interior, and we are then swept through a fast-paced story full of emotion and suspense. Litland.com highly recommends this story for teens and adults. While its content is “clean”, parents should decide if a story line with drug dealers, beer parties, and murder are acceptable for their younger gifted reader. Grade for these schoolgirls? A++!

 (Follow the movie at http://theshadowofthebear.blogspot.com/ ! )

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20. Biggest Dating Surprise

Rockin' & Romance

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What was the biggest surprise you ever had on a date?

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21. Checking out more than just books at the library

Some libraries are hosting speed-dating nights to attract more young professionals to the library.

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