Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Horror

It's to be expected that creepy things tend to show up around the last week of October, and I've had a few creep-outs this week.   In order --

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War  by Max Brooks.   Truth is, I'm enjoying this book so much more than I thought I would.  I have never gotten the zombie craze -- they're just so gross, and I went off horror in about 1990.  It might actually have been Night of the Living Dead that did me in. Ugh.  But -- as an "oral history," in World War Z, I can be assured that at least none of the people I'm reading about will be eaten by zombies (because they're being interviewed, I already know they've survived! I am bracing myself for something horrible to come, though). Plus, I enjoy the puzzle-quality of creating a continuous narrative out of the separate experiences of many many individuals.  I'm looking forward to the reading club discussion in a couple of weeks.

Next, while looking around for a short scary film to show for Halloween, I came across Alice Jacobs is Dead: A Love Story,  a 21-minute film about Ben Jacobs, the celebrated scientist who created a cure for the Z-virus, and how he manages to use his life-saving serum to destroy all he'd worked to save.  I watched it yesterday -- I confess to covering my eyes at the "extra zombie gore!" part, but I heard every bit -- and am haunted by it.    How far should science pursue an answer? What exactly is living death?  At what point does love move from selfless to selfish? Watch the trailer on YouTube. You can borrow the DVD from the library (if you dare . . .)

No Halloween is complete without a heaping helping of Edgar Allan Poe, and today was the day I came across this video rap version of Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum.  It's catchy, creepy, and the visuals prod the imagination just enough.

Another slowly creepy short film is The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow, an exploration of a single photograph hiding a terrible deed. As the camera begins to investigate the photo, it reveals a tapestry of secrets hidden in the details, and a tale of murder, kidnapping and sacrifice captured in a haunting moment.  Eeek!

Shiver. I think I'll go watch something charming and happy to take the creep off.  Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thumbs Up for Mr. Penumbra:
October Reading Club Meeting

The High School reading club met in the library last Friday to discuss Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookshop, the 2013 Alex Award novel from Twitter "media inventor" Robin Sloan, which all attendees really enjoyed.  This post originally went up as a way to display info about the book during the meeting -- I've added commentary about the reading club discussion and what the various bits and pieces mean.

Some background on the author

Author Robin Sloan writes about himself on his website:
I grew up near Detroit and went to school at Michigan State, where I studied economics and co-founded a literary magazine called Oats. Between 2002 and 2012, I worked at Poynter, Current TV, and Twitter, and at all those places, my job had something to do with figuring out the future of media.

I’m the author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which started as a short story right here and is now a full-length novel from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

I believe that stories told primarily (but not exclusively) with words are among the most durable things a person can produce, and I’m trying my best to write a few that might make it through to the year 2112. If you read one and pass it along to someone else, you’re participating in that project—so, thank you!


We watched part of this talk (embedded below) by Robin Sloan, starting at about 4 mins 24 secs, and going to about 10:05.  In this part he talks about how he gathers ideas, his approach to writing, and the philosophies of "lightness:" of inspiration, of motion, of digital, and the lightness of AND.

After the clip, we looked for expressions of these lightnesses in the book --
  • the initial inspiration for the short story, which later became a novel, sprang from a Tweet -- "thanks to Rachel Leow for a tweet on November 15, 2008: “just misread ‘24hr bookdrop’ as ‘24hr bookshop’. the disappointment is beyond words.”
  • Sloan's Latin motto, Solvitur Ambulando, "it is solved by walking" connects to the Unbroken Spine's motto Festina Lente, "make haste slowly"
  • digital is everywhere in the book, from Google to Skype, to FaceTime to digital scanners and on and on.  In addition to the online short story, Sloan has also penned a Kindle Single short novella, Ajax Penumbra 1969.  This backstory of a seller of ancient books is only available as a digital download, but the cover of the physical book glows in the dark!  It's just not the same on an electronic reader . . .
  • and of course, the whole book is about the "Lightness of And."  Digital and paper, the past and the future, people and machines, art and engineering. And . . .

Why We Should Leave Our Fingerprints For the Future 
-- Robin Sloan (DoLectures, January 2013)


Even though Clay Jannon is the narrator and presumably the central character of the novel, he took up very little of our conversation.  Mr. Penumbra is the star of the story, and Mat, Kat, Neel and a few other characters are more vibrant and attention-catching than Clay.  Penumbra means "almost a shadow,"  and we talked about how Mr. Penumbra is a bridge between the old ways and the new. Clay is also a bridge, between Mat's art and Ashley's perfection,  between not-exactly-a-feminist Neel and women's art, between Mr. Penumbra and the digital future. Most importantly, he's an ordinary everyday guy who's the  catalyst for amazing events and discoveries.


A couple of renditions of the symbol of the Unbroken Spine.


There is no pub in New York called the Dolphin and Anchor (though there ought to be), but the real Aldus Manutius used an emblem of a dolphin wrapped around an anchor, and the motto Festina Lente, as his printer's mark.  Aha! someone in the group said -- dolphins are speedy and anchors slow you down.


What's the relationship between a modern day CV (a scholar's Curriculum Vitae) and the codex vitae written by Unbroken Spine scholars?  What's a codex?


The one thing I'm kicking myself for is not realizing soon enough the possibility that Robin Sloan might do a Skype visit with the club.  He says right on his website that he loves that opportunity.  Drat and double drat!  Perhaps we can have a special "encore" meeting with the author???


Stay tuned for the next reading club selection.  We're choosing among Beautiful Ruins, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, World War Z, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Chick(en) Lit in the Library

Last weekend's Library Donation Sale was set up in the Art Lobby, and one of our walls was a show of tissue paper collage hens by an elementary art class.  Being a chicken-lover myself, I enjoyed being in 'hen hall' for a couple of days.

Of course, this made me think of our Urban Farm program at school, and the many resources we have in the library to support that learning program.  We have pretty much everything you need to know to start a farmette, including several books (and a video) on raising chickens.  

Titles include:

Foreman, Patricia L. City Chicks: Keeping Microflocks of Laying Hens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-Recyclers and Local Food Suppliers (how's that for an enthusiastic title??)

Kilarski, Barbara. Keep Chickens: Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs and other Small Spaces.

Weaver, Sue.  Chickens: Tending a Small Scale Flock for Pleasure and Profit.

and a DVD:

Fred's Fine Fowl.  Regarding Chickens (171 mins.)

Do you have chickens, or wish you did?  Recommend any other great resources in the comments!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Creating Powerful PSAs

For Magnus' Biology 2 class

A PSA ("Public Service Announcement") is a "message in the public interest disseminated by the media without charge."  In other words, it's an advertisement with information for the general public, run for free on TV, radio, billboards or magazines.

What the definition doesn't say is that a PSA has to be:
  • short
  • powerful
  • important

Do you recognize any of these images?

They're some of the most famous PSAs of the last century.

How about this recent radio PSA from the CDC -

Tips for creating a great Public Service Announcement ---
  • Know your GOAL - to get people to take a specific action (stop littering, wash hands, stop texting while driving)
  • Talk about RESULTS - a beautiful countryside, not getting bird flu, not causing a car crash)
  • Use informal EVERYDAY LANGUAGE (not lit writing or police speak)
  • Make it PERSONAL
  • Stick to ONE MESSAGE
  • Remember that SOUNDS CREATE PICTURES.  If you use sound effects or music, it must make the right picture in the listener or viewer's mind.
  • Keep it SHORT.  30 seconds is very common. 
  • IDENTIFY the sponsoring organization. 


How to Create the Perfect Public Service Announcement (Center for Digital Education)

How to Write a Public Service Announcement (pdf, from Kansas Association of Broadcasters)

Public Service Announcements (Wikipedia article)

Distracted Driving video PSAs (The Hill)

Sound Effects clips

Sound Bible (wav & mp3 files)
FreeSound (wav files)
Big Sound Bank (wav, aiff, mp3s; a French site)
FreeSFX (mp3s)