It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

“Look at the tyranny of party — at what is called party allegiance, party loyalty — a snare invented by designing men for selfish purposes — and which turns voters into chattles, slaves, rabbits, and all the while their masters, and they themselves are shouting rubbish about liberty, independence, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, honestly unconscious of the fantastic contradiction; and forgetting or ignoring that their fathers and the churches shouted the same blasphemies a generation earlier when they were closing their doors against the hunted slave, beating his handful of humane defenders with Bible texts and billies, and pocketing the insults and licking the shoes of his Southern master.” -Mark Twain, Mark Twain’s Autobiography

My state is a political battleground state for the upcoming mid-term elections.  The levels of vitriol and character assassination have exceeded previous elections.  For weeks, I have received letters denouncing one candidate.  I hate answering the phone anyway since it’s usually bad news or a boring survey question.  Now, agents for both Democratic and Republican candidates are calling almost everyday.  I need November 4th to come most expeditiously!  I want the theatrics and hyperbole to stop.  It’s bad enough Internet and Cable news have become so polarized that there’s no such thing as objective news anymore, but the addition of a decisive election (sigh… and ebola) has thrown everything out of proportion.

I did accept one telephone survey recently.  I know those survey workers work for peanuts and getting someone to answer them helps them out.  Why not?  I rarely do surveys on the telephone anyway.  I didn’t expect to be answering for 15 minutes, though!  Still, it was actually nice to tell someone my political opinions without fear of retribution.  I think I surprised the worker given that I come from a Southern (i.e. stereotypical red, conservative Republican) state.

My new problem is the myriad of local and state candidates no one knows or cares about at all.  Some political ads for these candidates are just now coming on television, but they tell me nothing (just like for the major candidates).  “Judge X is endorsed by law enforcement and district attorneys!”  Well, isn’t that true for most judges?  “Judge Y is tough on crime.”  What on earth does that mean?  Does that mean life sentences and death penalties for people convicted of littering?  It doesn’t help most of these candidates have paltry websites, usually Facebook or Google+ pages that tell me nothing other than “I exist! Vote for me!”

There really isn’t a party that reflects me or my values 100%.  Choosing a party is like choosing a car.  You choose the car with what you consider the best features, even if there are flaws or the other car has specific features you like as well.  It’s possible I’ll change my mind, but, for now, it’s set.  Now, I just want this election to be over so I can prepare for two years of incessant and annoying presidential campaigning.

Happy Halloween and may the Great Pumpkin visit your pumpkin patch!


Basset Hound Christianity (Part 1): This is not Christianity

Basset Hound Christianity is a series of sometimes random, sometimes coherent personal views of mine on Christianity.

“No one is without Christianity, if we agree on what we mean by that word. It is every individual’s individual code of behavior by means of which he makes himself a better human being than his nature wants to be, if he followed his nature only. Whatever its symbol – cross or crescent or whatever – that symbol is man’s reminder of his duty inside the human race.”  -William Faulkner, Paris Review (1956).

I dreamed I went to a Bible study.  We met in one of the out-buildings where banquets were held and the Boy Scouts gathered (until the church kicked them out for financial reasons).  We sat in a circle on metal chairs waiting for the study to begin.  There were no idle conversations or friendly chit-chat as there simply was nothing to say.

The Independent Southern Baptist preacher burst into the building flailing his arms frantically and angrily yelling, “I CAN’T STAND IT! I CAN’T STAND IT! I CAN’T STAND IT!”  He was your stereotypical white Southern Baptist with naught but a white undershirt and white underpants on.  The man was overweight with a rotund stomach and looked to be in his late-60s or early-70s.  In all likely-hood, he was in his late-40s or early-50s and his years of hard-living plus the austere life of an Independent Southern Baptist preacher had taken a toll on his body and, quite possibly, his mind.  He ran screaming to a large back bedroom, closing the door violently behind him.  We all took a minor note of the spectacle, yet we said nothing as there simply was nothing to say.

The preacher’s wife was a simple, plain, yet kind woman in her late-40s and early 50s.  She was mildly weathered in appearance, but she had not succumbed to whatever had harangued her husband.  She paid her husband no mind as he ran past her and slammed the bedroom door.  We had expected the preacher to lead the study, but now his wife began the study with an open Bible in her hands.  “Now,” she said, “I want you to turn your Bibles to 1st Corinthians.”  We did this and looked at the chapter before us.  This, however, was where Bible study deviated from its traditional form.

“I want you all to look up at the ceiling, place the Bible on your face at 1st Corinthians, and stand on your chairs,” said the preacher’s wife.  Everyone, but myself, did so.  Many began trying to out-do the others by standing on their tip-toes and yelling, “I feel You, Lord! I feel You!”  Of course, some on their tip-toes hit the ceiling’s fluorescent lights, causing large electric shocks to course through them as glass slivers rained down.  These devout parishioners felt something, but it was not the Lord.  I marveled at how the Bibles could stay on their faces since one would think the combined weight of the Old Testament and the New Testament before 1st Corinthians would have caused the Bibles to fall off.

No one publicly questioned this practice.  I simply sat there looking at my Bible turned to 1st Corinthians in silent thought and puzzlement.  I briefly considered joining in.  However, I looked around at my cohorts standing on their chairs yelling and some being mildly electrocuted.  The preacher’s wife was not standing on a chair, but she did have a Bible on her face and was actively taking part in the exercise.  A thought came to me.  I thought it in a matter-of-fact and logical way, but the implications were huge as it meant that the practices and ways of thinking of my church, perhaps even my entire religion, were wrong.

That thought was this:  This is not Christianity.

The Race to the Bottom

“Thou hast said enough.
Beshrew thee, cousin, which didst lead me forth
Of that sweet way I was in to despair!
What say you now?
What comfort have we now?
By heaven, I’ll hate him everlastingly
That bids me be of comfort any more.”
-Richard II, William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Richard the Second. Act 3, Scene II

If you want to understand my and other unemployed librarian’s frustrations, read this man’s posts and read them well!  Then, you will finally understand why my heart is flagging in finding a library job and looking elsewhere.

I blame myself for not researching the librarian field more effectively.  I would have found out that shelling out for a Master of Library Science degree was not a wise idea.  I’ve always gone with what I love or what I thought I would love.  I do not regret my education, in case one may be thinking that.

The only way to get a full-time librarian job is to have experience.  How do you get experience?  Volunteering and entry-level part-time jobs.  Well, if you have the MLS, some libraries may not accept you in those positions as it “dilutes” the profession.   In defense of the non-snooty librarians, a hiring library manager has to worry if you’ll leave immediately once that hard-to-find full-time librarian position opens elsewhere and you get it.  The Great Recession starting in 2007 meant a lot of libraries closed branches, cut hours, and let go much of their staff.  Things have improved since then (and statistically, the Great Recession is, I think, over but good luck explaining that to ordinary people in the U.S.) and yet libraries are still struggling.  When they do determine a need for a position, they may prefer non-benefited, part-time workers as opposed to full-time librarians.  Cheap, but a real bummer.  The library science schools are also cash-cows for colleges, so there’s a flooded market of MLS graduates in addition to laid-off professionals fighting for limited positions.  It’s an employer’s market. Also, don’t get me started on “applicant tracking systems” with shifty software and reducing you and your employment history into data points.

I have a dark theory about public libraries, too, and why funding (which provides job positions) can be hard.  I don’t think public libraries have much respect by upper middle class Americans and politicians as they can buy the books or information they want.  So when public libraries ask for more money, politicians do not see much benefit for them and their middle class financial backers.  That’s mean, but politics and money are involved with libraries just as with anything else.  Just go to your library board meetings and eventually you’ll see something wonky, even if board members try their mightiness to stay above the fray.

My focus has primarily been on the job woes with public libraries.  State-funded and private colleges and museums that hire librarians were hit hard during the Great Recession as well.  They particularly prefer specialists with graduate degrees, so just a bachelor’s and an MLS will likely not be enough.  Oh, and the experience!  You need it first!

I suppose the best advice I have for aspiring librarians is you have to love libraries to death and not just “like” them.  Computer science, computer engineering, database management, etc… anything in those areas will undoubtedly get you a library job as a systems librarian, automation librarian, or digital archivist.  So, love (not just “like”) technology.  I failed my Visual Basic class, so you have no fear of competition from me at least.  Libraries seem to love “customer service” experience and, believe me, you’ll deal with the best and worst of customers/patrons.  It helps to like people or at least pretend to like them.

Good luck to all those searching.  We’re going to need it in this race to the bottom.