The Adventures of Laser Girl

Please indulge me a little with this nepotistic post about how awesome my sister is. Having passed her PhD in Physics (with a specialisation in Free Electron Lasers) last summer, Doctor Morgan has now got a job working on a FEL in California and has just moved out there this week. I’m super super proud of her, and to mark the occasion I want to share with you the comic I made for her last Christmas. As you can probably tell from the comic, I actually have very little idea what she does, to the point where I even misspell laser a couple of times. But she’s worked really hard and it’s such a fantastic achievement that I wanted to brag about it anyway. Well done, Jenny (and sorry for exposing your double life as a super hero)!

  • The Adventures of Laser Girl
  • Laser Girl! Laser Girl!
  • Travels all across the world
  • Goes for runs! Tortures Bond!
  • (This is a free electron!)
  • Published!
  • She's Doctor Laser Girl!
  • A series of crossing lasers, each with the onomatopoeic "PEW!" label.

Back to School reflection: What I did on my holiday

After a good amount of time off work over the summer holidays, I am happy (if a bit nervous!) to be returning to the school library tomorrow. I had a lot of plans for when I was off, and some of them I completed, some of them I at least started, and many of them I didn’t get around to. Either way, I thought it would be nice to reflect on the summer before the new school year washes all of it into oblivion.

School’s out for the students

The students finished their school year on Friday 9th of July, but I still had a lot to complete so I spent the following two weeks in the library most days working on four main tasks.

Firstly, I shelved almost all of the books and music that had been building on the Covid quarantine shelves. That was quite a lot of work, seeing as so much music was returned last-minute, and I’m still getting used to the layout of the chamber music library (where we have shelves and shelves of parts in brown envelopes). Full disclosure, there are a couple of items that have been left so that I can ask my ever-helpful evening staff where the music should go!

I catalogued and processed a huge pile of music. We had received a fantastic donation of beautifully bound full and miniature scores from a member of the public. They are in such good condition that I have decided to add all of them to the library stock (replacing tatty copies where possible), but with probably over a hundred items in total, getting through it all is quite a task. I made a dent, but never fear, there’s still plenty of cataloguing waiting for my return tomorrow!

I also did my best to spend the remaining library budget, having been advised if I don’t spend it I lose it. The students can look forward to a few more books, some replacement music for lost copies, and eight lovely new pairs of headphones – enough for every library computer. I don’t know where the previous pairs kept disappearing to, but I think it might be worth creating a headphone sign-out sheet, to make sure these new ones are always returned.

My biggest challenge in the weeks leading up to the end of term, and the two following weeks where I was in the library on my own, was creating lists of all of the music that was still out to school leavers and would need to be tracked down. This task was particularly difficult because, despite being a music school where ensemble music is in high demand, the library system software we use cannot track multiple borrowers. This means that every set of music is only ever out on one borrower’s account (regardless of how many parts there are). Although we try to keep a manual record of who has which part, with over a thousand outstanding items at the end of term, going through every single envelope to notify students of their unreturned music was a huge job – and certainly not one I want to have to do every single summer. I only just managed to get it all completed in time to send out final warning emails to all the students before I left for Scotland, but I’m going to have to work out a better system for future years, or I might have a nervous breakdown!

Four crates full of brown envelopes
All of the empty envelopes still waiting for parts to be returned to them!

Visiting my parents!

After all that stress, I was super excited to travel back to Scotland to visit my parents for a few weeks. It was so nice to see them again, and my sister, Jenny, was there too for part of my trip. On my first night, Jenny introduced me to the anime Assassination Classroom, which is about a group of school students trying to assassinate their evil yet adorable teacher: a betentacled alien that plans to destroy the world if his students don’t kill him first. It’s surprisingly good.

The weather was gorgeous every single day of my visit, so we did a lot of outdoor activities. One day we walked along the beach for a forest/water walk in Greenock and ate ice-cream and another day we went to a market in Helensburgh where we listened to Glaswegian busker Maryjane singing ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen (in the middle of a heatwave). My dad and I went for a 50km cycle along the River Clyde, which was super fun but also extremely tiring, and at one point I fell off my bike. Although I’m pretty sure I hated everything and everyone by the end of it, it was great to cycle with my dad again and we both really enjoyed it.

On another beautiful day we visited my aunt and uncle in Stirling where we walked around the King’s Knot and learned the story of the Stirling Wolf. Apparently, during a Viking raid, one of the raiders accidentally stepped on a wolf causing it to howl out and wake the sleeping Anglo-Saxon garrison. This gave the garrison time to prepare for the invasion and force the Vikings to retreat. And now the howling wolf emblem can be seen all over Stirling. How bizarre is that?!

What is property? Property is stress!

After my visit to my parents, I still had three weeks left of summer holiday, and in this time Calum and I wanted to make some headway into buying our first home. Calum took a week off work, so we set up a meeting with a mortgage broker and started looking at properties. In total, I was able to arrange eleven viewings although five of them cancelled on me before the viewing could take place. Calum and I attended three of the remaining viewings together, and I attended three on my own because Calum had to go back to work. Although it was quite frustrating and extremely stressful, there were still some good parts. On one extremely wet day, after a viewing, Calum and I visited Worsely Village, where we walked around the Tudor-style streets and along the canal in the rain. There were even some cute metal ducks!

Even with the support of my parents (who were great at sending me suitable houses that I might have missed), and Calum (who did everything he could while also working full time) and the mortgage broker (who’s invaluable advice was fantastic help), I found the entire process really grim. I looked at house websites for hours ever morning, calling up estate agents to try to arrange viewings only to be told the houses were already under offer, or they were no longer accepting viewings. Not to mention the palaver navigating the disgustingly stupid system of Freehold vs Leasehold housing (don’t even get me started).

But eventually, less than a week ago, we got an offer accepted. Hooray! It’s a nice house, in a pretty area, and well within our budget, which is fantastic. We will probably need to do some work on the bathroom, because for some reason quite a few houses in Manchester (including this one) have a toilet with no sink next door to the bathroom with the sink in it. This feels very disgusting to us, and we’ll need to get that changed, but otherwise the house is great. It has a lovely shed for our bikes, and a nice big living room, a pretty kitchen and a utility room where we can put our washer/dryer and install our first dishwasher (such luxury!). There are also two relatively big bedrooms. Calum’s has a wee cubby area where he will be able to set up his workspace, since he is planning to work from home more often, and mine has a huge built-in wardrobe and a cosy alcove where I think I’ll be able to fit my bed.

So that’s pretty exciting, and all we need to do now is meet with our mortgage broker again, set up our solicitor, get a survey from our mortgage provider and a homebuyer’s report, exchange contracts and keys, get a new bathroom, move all our stuff across to the new house, and move in. Easy-peasy.

SLA ‘New To School Libraries’ Webinar

Earlier this month, I attended an online webinar for new school librarians, hosted by the School Libraries Association (SLA). On the whole, I think it was pretty useful: it gave me cool ideas for how to use social media to promote the library; info on the different kinds of documents (policies, reports and plans) that a school library should have; suggestions for clubs and events the school library could run (I quite liked the sound of a graphic novels club); information on arranging the library layout (display spinners are your friend!); and advice on eBook providers, unions, stock weeding, and using book and publisher fairs to pick up library goodies like bookmarks and posters. But the flashiest idea I’ve worked into my library so far was inspired by a demonstration of how to make short showcase videos to let students and staff know what items the library has in its collection.

As a specialist music school, Chetham’s has a lot of international boarders and so the school celebrates Chinese New Year. About a month ago we were asked to see if we could do anything to contribute to the celebration, so I picked out a few China-themed books, with the intention of making a library display. However, since most of the students are studying from home at the moment, and haven’t seen the Burns display yet, I decided to instead make a video showcase that they could watch on Twitter. The webinar presenter suggested using the free software Animoto, but I used Movavi pro, which I already owned and which up to now I had mostly been using to make fan music videos for the Cats (1998) musical. Click on that link at your own risk(!).

We had plenty of relevant non-fiction books, but I was a little surprised by how few fiction books I could find set in or about China, or even just featuring Chinese characters. I think my difficulty can partly be attributed to my still being pretty unfamiliar with the library stock and partly to the shallow descriptions in our library catalogue entries (which I am slowly working to improve), so I am sure that I missed some potentially suitable items. But I still found it odd that the collection was so sparce, especially seeing as the school does have quite a lot of Chinese students.

I was doing a fiction shop anyway, because Scholastic had a sale of 10 My Story books for £6.99 (what a bargain, amirite?), so I purchased a few books to boost the China collection, including a very nice picture book about the Chinese Zodiac story. I added them to the Chinese-themed books, music and DVD that I had already set aside, and took photos of them dotted around the stacks. I then edited the photos into a slideshow with public domain music. I downloaded a Chinese New Year resource pack to make the video fancier and more coherent. I even edited the music a little because I only realised after I’d already created the jump-cut section with the non-fiction books that there should probably be some kind of introduction.

Overall, I’d say for my first library video the showcase worked out okay, and I had fun making it. It took roughly the same amount of time to create as a physical library display would, and it was more likely to be seen and enjoyed – particularly during the current lockdown. It received a fair amount of engagement, including some likes from teachers and students, which made me very happy. Although I probably won’t be creating videos a lot, they are a good tool to have in my kit to make everyone aware of the stock we carry. And I’m pretty excited to see what else I can do with them!

A Man[chester]’s a Man[chester] for a’ that

Earlier this week it was Burns Night – the first one Calum and I didn’t celebrate in Scotland. Manchester is only a 4-hour drive from my parents’ house in Glasgow but, I think like a lot of distances during the current pandemic, it sometimes feels a lot further. Don’t get me wrong, I am super grateful and happy to have my current head librarian role at Chetham’s School of Music – the kids are great, the staff is lovely, the work is fun and I’m in the very enviable position of having a permanent position in my dream job before I hit thirty.

But I miss Edinburgh. I miss my family and friends. I miss the comfort provided by first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s open explanations and conscientious decision-making. I miss uncrowded streets and parks, and generally better Covid compliance. I miss prevalent recycling bins and a proper pelican crossing system and standard bus fares that you can just contactless tap without needing to tell the driver where you’re going. I miss the security of knowing that most people around me will be anti-Brexit and have left-wing politics. I miss proper cycle lanes and conscientious drivers and being half an hour walk from the beach.

Nonetheless, Manchester has its good points. People are generally more friendly and helpful. We deliberately chose to live in Prestwich, which has a whole network of parks. And I did find what might be a cycle path the other day. The trams are fantastic and punctual. It has all sorts of Communist history (Calum and I went to see a statue of Engels’ Beard over the Christmas break, and the public library next door to my school has ties to Karl Marx). I’ve met lots of people in Manchester who are pretty left wing and anti-Brexit (and Manchester does have a Labour mayor) so I’m probably being a bit over-cautious about Mancunian politics. And, most importantly, it’s where Chetham’s School of Music is situated, and I’m super loving working there!

Although there were no Ceilidhs or parties with friends or public events, Calum and I decided to celebrate Burns Night anyway. I was working that day, so I wore my tartan pinafore, and I’d made a library display celebrating Burns Night. I lined the bookshelves with tartan fabric, and I used some of the remaining fabric along with some pipe cleaners and coloured tissue paper to make a highland dancer and thistles. I was surprised that the school library didn’t have any Burns poetry, so my mum donated one of her copies to the school, and in the same package she sent me her haggis piggybank that I put on the display as well. The lockdown has meant there aren’t many kids in the school right now, but I have still received three compliments on the display so far – which made me very happy.

When I got home from work Calum was wearing a suit and his tartan bowtie. We had haggis, neeps & tatties ready meals for dinner, and listened to Celidh music on Spotify while we waited for the microwave. We also danced a little – although neither of us could remember many of the steps. For dessert we made cranachan by layering Muesli, double cream, raspberries, and honey – Calum’s was prettier than mine, but they both tasted good.

Calum’s was way fancier than mine…

After dinner we browsed the internet for video games set in Scotland. I was excited (if a little bemused) to discover that there were three different video games based on Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of the Worlds (one set in Glasgow). Like, not merely the H. G. Wells book, but the 1978, synth-heavy, prog-rock opera concept album of the book. There’s a ZX Spectrum survival game, a real-time strategy game for PCs, and a vehicular combat third-person shooter for Playstation! Isn’t that utterly delightful? Don’t you feel the world is a little bit awesomer just knowing that these three separate, entirely different games exist?!

For some ungodly reason, none of these games were available to buy on Steam, so we watched the Disney Pixar Movie Brave instead. We’d both seen it before a few times, but it holds up to repeat viewing – I particularly enjoyed the mischievous baby princes, the cute will-o’-wisps, the crazy bear carpenter lady, and Patrick Doyle’s atmospheric score (although I do have to wonder why none of the characters sing – isn’t this supposed to be a princess movie, Disney?).

Overall, I enjoyed our Mancunian, indoors Burn’s Night (and day). It was quiet and a bit haphazard, but it was fun and reminded me of home. I am looking forward to being able to attend Ceilidhs again, though.

…Wait. Does Manchester even have Ceilidhs?!

[*Quick Google Search*.]

Turns out: yep!

You can’t really see it very well, but we’re both wearing dark tartan.

A is for Aïda (or how NOT to go about creating an online presence)

Back in 2013, when I was first getting used to this website creation malarkey, I had ambitious plans to create a bunch of websites, each dedicated to a different topic. This was complete madness – I didn’t understand how much work maintaining a single website could be and I wasn’t even prepared to really put in the work to do that. This was how we got: Kirsty Morgan Music, Kirsty Morgan Music Blog, Snark [music] Notes, Ethnomusicology: St Mary’s Singing Group, 50 Book Challenge, and my greatest non-starter, the website we’re going to talk about today, A-Z of Giuseppe Verdi (which I have just deleted).

2013 was the bi-centenary of Verdi’s birth, so having just started a music degree and seeing some of my classmates had their own music websites, I wanted to get involved. I decided to create an A-Z of Verdi operas, posted fortnightly (26 letters, 52 weeks of the year). Not a bad idea in theory (if I do say so myself), but I should have decided which operas to write about for each letter right from the start – or at the very least checked that there was an opera for each letter (spoilers: there isn’t).

On top of this, I was busy with university courses, and hanging out with friends, and I started having health problems. And the weeks slipped by. I might have been able to play catch-up but then I’d have to write 2, 3, 10 posts a week just to break even. It was a disaster. In the end, I wrote 1 post: A is for Aïda.

And…. it’s not the best post in the world. There’s no conclusion. I found out some stuff about the opera and wrote it down. Most of it contains a plot synopsis that can be found in better forms elsewhere. But I also kinda like it, in a weird nostalgic sort of way. So, in the interest of centralising everything onto the ONE blog (which, yes, I ought to have been doing from the start), here is my single blog post, that I’m posting today to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Verdi’s death.


A is for Aïda, Verdi’s twenty-fourth opera. It was composed very quickly, at the request of the Khedive Ismail Pacha of Egypt. When Verdi was offered the job, he was working as a farmer and had no desire to compose anything, especially not for an Egyptian (the horror!).

Fortunately for music lovers, Verdi’s nationalism was won over by the substantial payment offered – over 15,000 francs for the Egyptian performances alone (at a time when 10 francs were considered a large salary). After several delays caused by the 130-day siege on Paris by the Prussians, Aïda premièred in Cairo on Christmas Eve, 1871.

The première was hugely successful. Aïda’s Egyptian influences appealed to the native audience, as Italian critic, Filippi, explained, with all the tact befitting a nineteenth-century white guy:

“The Arabians, even the rich, do not love our shows… it is a true miracle to see a turban in a theatre in Cairo. [Yet] Sunday evening the opera house was crowded before the curtain rose.” 

Story
Set against the backdrop of a bloody war between Egypt and Ethiopia, Aïda is a tragic story of the love between the Egyptian Pharaoh’s favourite soldier (Radamès) and a young Ethiopian slave-girl in the Pharaoh’s court (Aïda). The conflict between true love and patriotic loyalty (for both Aïda and Radamès) drives the plot.

Shortly before leaving for war, Radamès accidentally reveals his love for Aïda, slave-girl to the Pharaoh’s daughter (Amneris). Amneris, insanely jealous, tricks Aïda into admitting that she returns Radamès’s affections. The princess vows to make the slave-girl even more miserable than she already is.

Radamès returns from war victorious with a slew of Ethiopian prisoners, one of whom is Aïda’s father and king of Ethiopia (Amonasro). Amonasro is dragged to the Pharaoh’s dungeon in chains and Aïda’s grief at her father’s fate is exacerbated further when the Pharaoh announces that, as a reward for his valour in battle, Radamès is to marry Amneris, the princess.

On the eve of the wedding, Amneris prays at the temple of Isis that Radamès will love her. Taking advantage of the princess’s absence, Aïda meets her father outside the temple. Amonasro explains that the Ethiopians are ready to fight once more and suggests that Aïda convince Radamès to abandon Egypt and join her in Ethiopia. Radamès, however, has other plans. He knows that he will be sent to battle once more and, if he defeats the Ethiopians a second time, the Pharaoh will be hard pressed to refuse his requests to marry Aïda instead of the princess.

Aïda manages to persuade Radamès to run away with her but, when he realises that she is the daughter of the Ethiopian king, Radamès despairs, calling himself a traitor and a coward. The lovers are discovered and, as Aïda escapes with her father, Radamès gives himself up to the custody of the Pharaoh’s priests.

Refusing Amneris’s offer to help him, Radamès is brought to trial for his treachery and sentenced to be buried alive. Aïda hides in Radamès’s crypt, choosing to die at her lover’s side rather than live alone. She dies in Radamès’s arms and the opera ends: “Peace, peace, peace.”

Musical Analysis – Triumphal March
The Triumphal March, also known as the Grand March, has been described as “the most celebrated tune in the opera.” Its popularity out of context can overshadow the fact that Aïda, for all its showiness and glamour, is truly an intimate opera. Almost all of the music for the three principal characters – Aïda, Radamès and Amneris – is accompanied by minimal orchestration in order to focus the audience’s attention on the magnificent vocals. However, the spectacular march of Act II Scene 2 – celebrating Egypt’s victory over the Ethiopians – is a vivacious and highly enjoyable affair.

After twenty-four bars of lively (yet majestic) orchestral introduction, the chorus explodes into a splendid tune “Gloria all’ Egitto” which impressed the Khedive of Egypt so much he decided to make it the Egyptian National Anthem.

While writing Aïda, Verdi initially intended to use authentic Egyptian instruments. However, after examining an ancient Egyptian flute in a Florentine museum, he changed his mind, dismissing the flute (with all the tact befitting a nineteenth-century white guy) as “a reed with four holes in it like the ones our shepherds have.”

Instead, Verdi requested that six trumpets – three in A flat and three in B – be made to his specifications. These long, straight instruments were designed to emulate Verdi’s vision of Egyptian trumpets and were crafted in Milan then shipped to Egypt.

The trumpets in A flat play the march tune in unison before immediately being taken over by the remaining three trumpets which repeat the march in their key of B. This sudden key change is one of the most exciting and effective moments in the entire opera.

After a lively balletic movement, the chorus returns and builds to the climax – the triumphant entry of Radamès. “Gloria!”


Bibliography
Bacon, Mary Schell Hoke. Operas Every Child Should Know (New York, 1911)
Osborne, Charles. The Complete Operas of Verdi (New York, 1969)
Steen, Michael. Great Operas: A Guide to Twenty-Five of the World’s Finest Musical Experience (London, 2012)

Kirsty Morgan Music in sunny Manchester, outside Chetham's School of Music

Guess who’s the new librarian at Chetham’s School of Music?

Hey, guess who’s moving to England! Spoiler alert: it’s me! I’m going to be the new librarian (well, “Head of Learning Resources”) at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. And I’m super looking forward to it. Okay, sure, I’m a bit nervous, but I’m mostly excited. It will be a chance to combine my enjoyment of music librarianship with a person-facing role, which I think will be great.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve very much enjoyed working at the National Library on their Music Retroconversion Project. I’ve learned so much about music librarianship and cataloguing and libraries. And it’s been fun to work on a project that has a definite endpoint and final product. I was also given the opportunity to write three blog posts about the project for the National Library’s Blog – which was really cool. However, I did miss getting to interact with library patrons – they make every day different and I like helping people find what they’re looking for.

Moreover, working in a music school library has kinda been a background totally-never-gonna-happen-fantasy dream for me since university.

Tag Cloud Schema

When I was studying my ILS Masters at the University of Strathclyde, we were assigned to create “schema” (i.e. different models of organising knowledge) for a set of 10 items. I chose a collection of showtunes for solo voice with piano accompaniment, and arranged them in ways that would best suit a hypothetical Musical Theatre School Library. It was one of my favourite assignments because, aside from the obvious perk of working with showtunes for uni credits, I found it really interesting to think about what information would be needed by the school pupils if they were looking for audition pieces. I enjoyed the problem solving aspect of arranging my schemas to suit that. Things like key, range, time-signature, tempo, voice type, number of bars, etc. didn’t obviously fit into the standard bibliographic categories, so I chose models that gave me the freedom to customise.

This was the first spark that made me think it would be really cool to work in a music school library, but I didn’t seriously think that could happen, since there are very few such jobs in the country. Therefore, imagine my delight when JUST as my National Library contract was coming to an end, the position at Chetham’s School of Music was advertised!

Chetham’s Library

So, obviously I applied and was pleased when I progressed to the interview stage. I travelled to Manchester by train for the interview, and it was my first visit to Manchester ever. I was so excited. I went down the day before and stayed at a nearby Travelodge. That evening I had a sausage supper from the local chip shop, and the staff there were super friendly and wished me luck for my interview. I completed the interview while wearing a mask (which was definitely an experience). And the people at Chetham’s were all very lovely and the school was this really pretty castle-like building in the centre of Manchester. What’s more, the school shares a site with Chetham’s Library, the oldest free public reference library in the English-speaking world. I didn’t get the opportunity to visit it because it’s currently closed, but I will at some point because it looks just like something out of a fantasy story. I’m sure there’s all kinds of magical tomes and cursed writings and probably a ghost or ten hiding among the stacks!

Anyway, shortish story shorter, the people at Chetham’s School liked me and offered me the position and I start in November! How utterly, awesomely, amazingly super is that?!! Yay!

I was Anti-Rickrolled!

I was Anti-Rickrolled by a catalogue card today! In case you don’t know, Rickrolling was a trend few years ago, where a person’s expectations of seeing a funny, cute, interesting, exciting, etc. video were subverted by the video instead turning out to be a clip of Rick Astley singing the song Never Gonna Give You Up. The internet is weird.

Working as the Music Retroconversion Project Junior Editor (pre-COVID)

So, anyway, in my job as Junior Editor on the National Library of Scotland’s Music Retroconversion Project, I review hundreds of music records each day, against scanned images of the original catalogue cards, to check they are correct to go into the online catalogue.

The batch I am working on right now initially shows the front of the card with the title, performer and shelfmark of the music record, then you click to see the back of the card, which displays a list of song titles.

Imagine my excitement when one of the cards I was reviewing was a Rick Astley album! I even said out loud to no-one, “Oh my gosh, am I actually going to get Rickrolled by a catalogue card?!”

My somewhat-unjustified elation was cut short when I clicked to see the back of the card – and the song wasn’t there. There was a whole bunch of different Rick Astley songs that I’d never heard of, but not the famous one! Not the one that was used to subvert, annoy and prank expectations. And thus, by not having the song on the record as I’d been anticipating, I was if anything MORE Rickrolled that I’d have been otherwise.

Well played, catalogue card … Well played.

“For Sale: Cauldron, Broomstick. Both Charred.”

In what is now looking to be a series, I decided to create a second piece of fan-art for my friend, Calum’s, Six-Word Advertisements in the style of Ernest Hemingway’s Baby Shoes. This one depicts a witch selling her broom and cauldron, that have been burned up by her unrepentant dragon familiar.

“For sale: cauldron, broomstick. Both charred.” — Calum P. Cameron

May the Fourth be with You!

It’s the fourth of May – do you all know what that means? It’s Star Wars day! I first got into Star Wars when I started university ten years ago and, although I’ll never be as keen as most of my friends are, I enjoy it quite a lot. I’ve seen eight of the films, some of the Ewok TV show and about 15 minutes of the Star Wars Holiday special. I also own a teddy Ewok – because I found the idea of a teddy of a teddy alien delightful! And now that Calum and I have purchased a Disney+ subscription together, I think we are in store for several Mandalorian evenings! (Ooh, Star Wars themed Mandalorian evening… that is an idea I can get behind!)

Actual Facebook comment when I received the teddy ewok for Christmas: “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!!! I actually now own a teddy ewok!!! This-makes-me-happier-than-it-has-any-right-to!!!!!”

Anyway, I want to share with you a display I created while I was still working at Milngavie Library. Here’s a bit of background: Milngavie Library has a LOT of Star Wars books. Fiction, non-fiction, adult, junior – from the hard in-depth The Military Science of Star Wars to a Lego Star Wars boardbook for tiny children Stories from the Galaxy. We have trashy paperback novel spin-offs, fancy hardback novel spin-offs, graphic novels for all ages, huge art books filled with beautiful screenshots or intricate spaceship designs… I counted fifty-seven Star Wars books for adults and a quick search of the catalogue just now returned 107 titles about or relating to Star Wars. You get the idea. The point is, we had a lot of Star Wars books, and I wanted to make the readers aware of this. So I created a display. This was around Christmas time, so it lined up perfectly with the release of Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker.

And I went full out! (Well, as full out as you can get on a zero-money, limited-timescale budget.) I papered the display in black and covered it with a string of Christmas lights to look like stars. I printed and laminated a bunch of stills from the films (with maybe a slight partiality to baby Yoda memes). I also printed, cut out and laminated a few pictures of the space ships used in the show, including a Death Star, the Millennium Falcon and “some kind of Jedi Starfighter” (Calum P. Cameron, 2020) that at the time I had thought was an X-wing. I hung these from an awning that I’d created to shield the Christmas tree lights from the bright surroundings and make them show up more.

Left to right: Death Star, “Some kind of Jedi Starfighter”, Millennium Falcon, 2nd Death Star

One of my library colleague lent me his toy lightsaber (that actually lights up if you press it) for the display – which was a huge success, particularly among the children. I wrote a very corny piece of text to act as the library themed opening scroll text and one of my other colleagues showed me how to prop it up on a pair of Christmas wrapper tubes, that I’d marker-penned black, so that the text appeared to be getting further away:

A long time ago in a library far, far away…
Episode 4 May 2020
THE LIBRARY JEDI
The new Star Wars movie is about to be released in cinemas and our REBEL LIBRARIANS have compiled a display of some of the Star Wars books carried by MILNGAVIE LIBRARY.
It is up to you, the MILNGAVIE ALLIANCE, to circulate the books and bring the enjoyment of Star Wars to people across the galaxy.
But bring the books back on time, or Vader will get you…..

I also cadged some black paint from the children’s afterschool club that meets in the same community centre. With permission, I painted one of the children’s librarian’s papier-mâché golden eggs black, and once it had dried, I used her gold sharpie to make Death Star markings. (I utterly destroyed the pen, but purchased a replacement from the local Tesco before anyone noticed!) This papier-mâché Death Star was too heavy for the wool that I used to hang the laminations with, but one of my colleagues found a black pipe-cleaner that I was able to use instead – and it worked perfectly! The display now had two Death Stars, but so did the Empire, so I felt it was appropriate.

It was a really fun display to make, and plenty of my colleagues and other people who worked in the community centre got involved. Although the display had to exclusively feature the adult Star Wars books, since it was set up in the adult library, it was right across from the door, so everyone could see it when they entered. Lots of children really enjoyed it, as did parents – and even some childless adults were into it. I don’t know what it did for the Star Wars book circulation numbers, but it contributed to the library being a fun place to be in for a few months. So I’d say it worked well!

One evening after the library had closed, the Community Centre caretaker turned off all the lights so I could photograph the display with all the cool lights.

[SnarkNotes] FRANZ SCHUBERT: Der Zwerg

[First published on Snark [music] Notes on 30/01/2016]


FRANZ SCHUBERT: Der Zwerg

The lyrics to Schubert’s lied, Der Zwerg (1822), are taken from a Romantic ballad written by Matthäus von Collin. Although the music is undoubtedly powerful, the story of the failed romance between a lady and a dwarf is somewhat more suspect…

Opening rhythm, which also appears in his ‘Unfinished’ symphony, was often used by Schubert to symbolise erotic undertones.

Huh, it’s like the nineteenth-century equivalent of a trigger warning. How considerate.

‘In the grey light the mountains already fade away; the ship drifts on the sea’s smooth swell.’

Ahem… “swell”? I take your ‘erotic undertones’ and expose them to the world!

‘On board, the queen sails with her dwarf.’

What, like, her pet dwarf? That’s disturbing.

‘She gazes up at the high curving vault, at the far blue distance, woven with strands of light, crossed by the pale band of the milky way.’

That’s poetic. I mean, obviously it’s poetic – it’s a poem. But still, I appreciate the colourful word-painting.

‘She cries out: “Never yet have you lied to me, stars. Soon I shall depart. You tell me so. In truth, I’ll gladly die.”‘

ASTROLOGY™, leading gullible young lovers to their deaths since the tragedies of Ancient Greece.

‘The dwarf steps towards the queen, to tie the red silk cord about her neck; and weeps, as though he meant to blind himself with grief.’

A red silk cord, huh? And I thought the nineteenth century was meant to be all sexually repressed and stuff…

‘He speaks: “You yourself are to blame for this wrong, because you have forsaken me for the king. Now only your death can kindle joy in me…’

Hey, mister unnamed dwarf, quit victim-blaming and go see a psychiatrist. These feelings are not normal.

‘… I grant that I shall hate myself for ever, because I have brought about your death with this my own hand; still must you pale before your early grave.”‘

Well, if you’ll hate yourself forever, don’t frickin’ murder the woman you lust after. Jeez, it’s not that difficult to just, y’know, NOT kill a person.

‘She lays her hand on her young heart, and the heavy tears run down from her eyes, which she would raise to heaven in prayer.’

See what you’re doing, unnamed dwarf dude? Is there nothing in your head telling you this might be a bad idea?
You don’t HAVE to kill her, you know. Ignore the stars! Change your destiny! Live a little!

‘”May you reap no anguish from my death,” she says.’

…What are you doing, lady?! You should be fighting back!
You don’t HAVE to die, you know. Ignore the stars! Change your destiny! Live a little!

‘Then the dwarf kisses her pale cheeks, and forthwith her senses fail.’

You are both terrible, terrible people. The dwarf because he murders his lover; the lady because she is literally too dumb to live.

‘Bemused by death the dwarf gazes upon the lady, and with his own hands commits her to the deep.’

I’m not sure bemusement is the appropriate emotion right now, unnamed dwarf dude. Don’t tell me you didn’t realise what would happen if you strangled a girl to death? ‘Cause that’s super unprepared even for a Byronic villain like yourself.

‘His heart burns with longing for her.’

Well, then he shouldn’t have murdered her, should he?

‘He will never more set foot on any shore.’

So wait, he kills the girl he fancies so that he’ll finally be happy but then kills himself anyway? What’s the point in that?! Dude, you could have just killed yourself in the first place – without murdering your ex-lover – and you’d be no worse off (and the kid you’re attracted to would be considerably better off). What the heck is wrong with you?!

End of lied.

Seriously, WHY does Romantic poetry so seldom contain any characters with basic common sense?! It is unbelievably infuriating!

Moral of the story: obsession with another human being will turn you into a crazy murderer?

BETTER MORAL OF THE STORY: If ever find yourself in the role of a lover in a Romantic tragedy, avoid looking at the sky. Astrology can kill.