Thursday, June 14, 2012

Playful Repartee

Zeitgeist, badinage, schadenfreude ... salubrious

If you enjoy wordplay, you might like to read this exchange between U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley and the Sunlight Foundation:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hurray for Introverts!

Remember when Peter Finch urged his TV newscast viewers to open their windows and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” in the 1976 movie Network? And viewers did it. They threw open windows and created a cacophonous chorus of the now-famous quote to show they were unhappy with the state of the world.

Finch’s character may have incited some introverts to action. But wait … Isaac Introvert bellowing into the night? Shy Sherry leaning out into her apartment courtyard to yell above dozens of neighbors’ yells? In a defiant stance on the fire escape, Quiet Quentin reverberating roars at escalating decibels? Unlikely. In my opinion, it’s more likely Finch simply gave extroverts a focus. His introverted viewers who were as mad as hell probably ran to an indoor window seat, made sure the window was locked, and curled up in the cushions to journal their feelings.

Apparently, now—36 years after the Network movie—introverts are finally getting mad enough about being overlooked and invisible that they are … yes, writing about it. Susan Cain’s book Quiet was heralded in a February 6, 2012, TIME magazine article, “The Upside of Being an Introvert,” by Bryan Walsh, who began with his own story of taking refuge in a bathroom when an obligatory schmoozing event became too much. After giving basic definitions (Introverts recharge their batteries with time alone, extroverts with social stimulation), Walsh went on to describe 21 famous people in introvert/extrovert terms.

Then Nara Schoenberg’s “Introverts Rising” appeared in the May 20, 2012, Chicago Tribune. She cited Cain’s book, as well as several others, and exposed society’s longtime assumption that introverts are failed extroverts and therefore, antisocial. Introverts she interviewed have stopped asking, “What’s wrong with me?” and have developed confidence in the relational strengths inherent in their more sensitive temperament.

Suddenly, introverts are in. A quick glance at reveals these resources, in no particular order:
Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength
By Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D.
The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World
By Marti Olsen Laney
The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength
By Jennifer B. Kahnweiler
Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto
By Anneli S. Rufus
Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture
By Adam S. McHugh
Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected
By Devora Zack
By Susan Cain
Introverts at Ease: An Insider’s Guide to a Great Life on Your Terms
By Nancy Okerlund
The Introvert’s Guide to Professional Success: How to Let Your Quiet Competence Be Your Career Advantage
By Joyce M. Shelleman, Ph.D.
The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career
By Wendy Gelberg
Confessions of an Introvert: The Shy Girl’s Guide to Career, Networking, and Getting the Most Out of Life
By Meghan Wier

Whew. Who knew? Eleven books here alone. I imagine more have been written, too. I’m feeling stronger already! As an introvert, I usually enjoy an unfrenzied pace and a fair amount of peace; I see this in my introverted friends as well. While the estimated 70 percent of the population parties, we quietly converse over coffee, one on one. On the other hand, we feel the pain of invisibility. Just the other day, I was telling the fish market man how much whitefish I wanted when another customer came up and ordered half a pound of shrimp. I thought, “What’s the matter with you? Words are coming out of our mouths here. Don’t you realize it’s not your turn?” Then I realized it was just the millionth time in my life when someone didn’t see me. And I didn’t take it in stride, like Chandler did in a Friends episode when he was being ignored and joked, “Let’s see, shall I use my invisibility for good or for evil?” Of course, I didn’t say anything to that customer. His rudeness stung. Certainly not as much as when extroverted friends ignore me, but still. Anyway, the other book I bought at Barnes & Noble [See June 6 post] the other day was Quiet, and doggone, I’m going to curl up in the cushions and read it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cleaning Closets

Today is Clean Junk Off Closet Floor Day. 

Receipts before 2008 our accountant says we can pitch. Going through them to save ones we may need for warranties, I note more than half are for stores that have gone out of business. Stacks of papers. A few newspaper columns of a writer I enjoyed. Say, his columns haven’t appeared since …? Googling his name yields nothing but columns from 2008. Did he retire? Do writers retire? Grocery list from 2007. Sermon notes from September 21, 2008, with the name of a book I’d wanted to explore. Did a whole nine-month book group study on that book; probably don’t need the note anymore. Printout the wireless network installation guy gave us with router name and firmware version, among other bits and bytes, none of which I understand, so will file it with computer records. No doubt, someday a Geek Squad agent will come to the house and tell me this paper is from three networks ago. Info about a small publisher I’d hoped to submit writing to; Google search yielded nothing. Gone the way of Border’s, Casual Corner, and Eckerd’s drugstores, apparently.

On the upside, this techno-weenie has been procrastinating installing Sitemeter on her new blog because she doesn’t remember how she did it before. Today she found the instructions! And this week I futilely searched all logical files for my notes from my metaphor class at University of Iowa. Not proud to admit this, but today I discovered the notes in a plastic grocery bag in a pile in my clothes closet. Found handfuls of one-inch yellow, orange, and blue Post-It notes stuck together. Most notes-to-self were complete mysteries, like “shapes of spaces between clouds.” Yes, all notes were my handwriting. But some I understood and was glad to find, like … um … oh, guess not.

Glad for my discoveries of “lost” helpful papers, glad my piles of papers are short stacks. Still, appalled that I tossed them in a closet instead of organizing/pitching in the moment. I know exactly what those moments were, too. They were crunch-times half an hour before company was due to arrive. One obvious question is: Why didn’t I retrieve the stack after company left and deal with it? Since I do not have any stacks from recent years, I apparently have decided I no longer care if visitors see my messes. That’s a relief, as is seeing my closet floor mostly cleared and wastebaskets full of stuff I don’t need.

Next project is deciding what to do with travel journals and vacation memorabilia. Back when I made scrapbooks, that was easy. Stories, photos, postcards, brochures, tour tickets, menus were artsily arranged in a scrapbook. I’ve had a digital camera for a few years now, so with no physical photos, I’ve not made scrapbooks. I’ve made virtual scrapbooks of select photos, but have not scanned other memorabilia to include there. And I haven’t figured out how to combine my travel stories with the visuals, except in this blog. So I don’t know. Seems something is still missing. How do I keep travel memorabilia in meaningful ways and merge stories with visuals? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Advantage: Internet

Yesterday, clutching a small square of graph paper on which I had written titles and authors of seven books I wanted to find, I strode confidently, expectantly into my local Barnes & Noble bookstore. Expectant because I hoped a few books might be enticing enough to read. Confident that I’d find them; after all, I knew whether each was fiction or nonfiction and what the author’s last name was. Because the era of two genres, shelved alphabetically by author, is long gone, my visit was complicated and confidence-reducing, though I did buy two of the books I sought.

I’ve visited bookstores hundreds of times in recent years, so I do realize stores have more categories than just fiction and nonfiction. And big signs on top of shelving units announcing Travel, Domestic and Travel, International have helped me find stuff before. But yesterday I didn’t know which big category signs atop shelves should be my destinations. Are my fiction books where all those authors’ previous books are, or are they in New Releases, Bestsellers, or Top Picks? Are my nonfiction books Current Affairs, Biography, Psychology, Self-Improvement, or something else?

I ended up looking in all those areas. I started top left scanning book spines for Cain or Didion, then bottom right for Schwartz or Schiff. Nothing. Then I noticed teeny subcategories like Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual, Addiction and Recovery, Marriage, on the front edges of shelves. So then I had to figure out where each subcategory began and ended and start over—top left for Cain or Didion, bottom right for Schwartz or Schiff—in each little section. Still nothing. Except confusion.

Finally, I gave up. I spied a salesperson who stopped flying across the store when I said, “Excuse me … Where would I find this Joan Didion book?” I pointed to my list.
She squinted at it and declared, “Cluck, cluck … cluck.”
“Pardon me?” I squinted at her mouth to lip-read. No luck. Did she have false teeth clacking? No. Was my hearing failing? Probably. Was she talking into her chin? Definitely.
“Cluck, cluck … cluck,” she repeated, louder.
My gaping mouth must have communicated dumbfoundedness, or at least dumbness, because she finally raised her chin and enunciated, “Memoir is in Biography.” Then with a birdlike head-nod, she flew off toward Biography with me sprinting behind her and calling, “You don’t need to take me, I can find it,” which of course was vain hope since I’d already searched Biography. As Henny Penny scanned book spines, her whole upper body moved side to side like an old typewriter platen at the mercy of a turbo-fingers typist. At the time, her gyrations seemed furious, but in retrospect, I can guess she probably wore bifocals, which would require movement of the head, not just the eyes. As she searched, I heard a mumbled cluck-cluck here and a cluck-cluck there. (Barnyard & Noble? Sorry, couldn’t resist.) She triumphantly produced the desired Didion from a bottom shelf and flew back to her little computer corral, where I found her again after another futile 20-minute book search. This time, we got through the initial cluck-clucks more quickly, and Henny found two more of the books I wanted. But I have to say, navigating the micromanaged topical shelving system was not all that easy for her either.

I love bookstores. I will always love bookstores. I hope they aren’t shooting themselves in the foot by ├╝ber-organizing to the point of frustrating customers, because I’d be very sad if I couldn’t browse among books. But if I’m short on time and have a decent inkling of what I want, I’ll avoid cluck-clucks and buy books online with click-clicks. [The Internet has plenty of frustrations, too. My Advantage: Bookstores thoughts deserve their own post.]

Postscript: One of the books I bought had been recommended by my book club for a future meeting. When I opened it today to begin reading, I discovered The Paradox of Choice is actually about how having too many choices complicates our lives. I think I’ll be able to identify with this book!