Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


On Newsstands Now

Year in Review issues are de rigeur for magazines & newspapers right now. They are a wonderful way to remind oneself of what was hot, cool, interesting, embarrassing, or just generally fascinating in the last twelve months. They are also a wonderful way to catch up on trends one may have missed.

Currently in circulation at my house:
  • Entertainment Weekly's bonanza of a double-issue (of course) covering everything from music to TV to books to movies to DVDs;
  • Magnet, covering the year in indie rock;
  • SPIN, with its magpie-like coverage of everything shiny and frisky in rock, pop, hip-hop and R&B;
  • The Lives They Lived issue and The Year in Ideas issue of The New York Times Magazine.

Get thee to a newsstand now, gentle readers, and partake of the pop cultural bounty before you!

, , , , , , .


Liz B's Golden Globe Review, Part 2

More on GG nominated movies and shows.

Medium. Patricia Arquette's been nominated for best performance by an actress in a TV series, drama. On the surface, this seems to be a show about a medium who uses her talents to help the DA's office solve crimes and convict criminals. But it's really about a extremely normal family as they juggle kids, careers, laundry and love. Patricia (yep, still pretending to be on a first name basis) brings a sense of believability to the unbelievable; and she also puts the role before her ego, with a wardrobe that is just like any other worn by a working mother of three, rather than the wardrobe that a working mother of three only knows about from fashion magazines. More info from my raves at my blog that is more about TV, movies and books.

24. Who doesn't love Kiefer Sutherland? Jack Bauer is always right and always willing to go that extra mile. Probably not a good boyfriend, but hey, who is perfect? The end scene of last years 24 does leave me wondering which other show is being referenced: David Banner and the Incredible Hulk, with "don't make me angry ... you won't like me when I'm angry" being a perfect tag line for hiding Jack? Or, is Jack more like Kwai Chang Caine from Kung Fu, exiled from his home, wandering the country, helping widows and orphans? Either way, I'm imagining a first episode that involves Jack, stupid townspeople, and violence. And then a voice saying "we've found him."

Desperate Housewives All four actresses have been nominated for best actress in a TV series, musical or comedy: Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, and Eva Longoria. What's great about each of these actresses is that they start with a stereotype: the perfect person, the klutz, the overwhelmed mom, the sexy mama; and go beyond the stereotype. We laugh with them, and at them, and yet even as they each go overboard -- they remain sympathetic. But, to be honest, I wonder at voting strategy. You wouldn't want to limit nominations from shows, but isn't there a risk that DH votes will be split leaving none of them a winner?

Two and a Half Men. Yes, I've been known to watch sitcoms, especially when they star the charming, funny Charlie Sheen. Especially when its Charlie making fun of his own playboy image. What part is Charlie? What part is acting? Does it matter? Nope, I just enjoy it. It would make it a great year for Charlie, first (apparently) getting back together with his wife (maybe that's why he stopped returning my phone calls? KIDDING, I still don't know any of these people for real) and second, winning the GG for best actor in a TV series, musical or comedy.

Elvis. Being Elvis is, you know, ELVIS, and other shows have done his story and done it well (Hi, Kurt Russell! Follow Me, Boys is one of my favorite movies!), its a brave actor who takes on this role. Casting someone born in Dublin? Wow. But "wow" is the only response to Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' portrayal of the King, and the nomination for Best Performance is well deserved. Ditto for the nominations for Randy Quaid as Col. Tom Parker and Camryn Manheim as Elvis's mother.

The Girl in the Cafe. Kelly Macdonald and Bill Nighy were both nominated for their performances in this quiet film that seems to be about love, but is also about courage. And hope. And poverty. Bill Nighy plays a role different from the other ones I've seen him in (Love, Actually; I Capture the Castle); a lonely man who takes a chance with love after a seemingly random encounter with a girl in a cafe. Kelly Macdonald plays the soft spoken girl, who cannot stop from speaking up.

Liz B's Golden Globes Review, Part 1

In which I discover that I do not watch as many movies or watch as much TV as I thought.

Of course, the GG ignored the best TV show currently on: Veronica Mars.

But enough of sour grapes.

The first part of my GG round up:

Walk the Line: Nominated for best movie (musical or comedy) and best actor & actress (musical or comedy). As you can see from Pop's review, all three of us enjoyed this picture and all three agree that Reese and Joaquin deserve the nominations for best actor & actress in a motion picture (musical or comedy). (No, no I'm not on a first name basis with either of them. But its nice to pretend).

Cinderella Man: Russell Crowe got a nomination for best actor in a motion picture, and Paul Giamatti for best supporting actor. While its always nice to see a new person acknowledged in these categories, its almost better when its someone like Russell or Paul. (Still not really on a first name basis. In case you were wondering.) I like looking at their whole body of work to determine whether the actor is really a versatile actor or whether the actor got lucky. Here, both are wonderfully gifted actors. The scene were James J Braddock humbles himself to get public aid and charity, because feeding his children is more important than his pride, is wonderfully done by Crowe. And Paul so becomes this character, that it wasn't until I read the credits that I remembered him in Sideways.

Crash. I've been a fan of Matt Dillon since his performance in Over the Edge. He's nominated for best supporting actor for his depiction of a police officer who .... well, anything more would be giving away too much. Let's just say, that this is an onion of a character, with different layers shown at different times, and Matt does a great job. (Still not really on a first name basis. But I do know someone who knows someone who met Matt once.) Also nominated for best screenplay. This is a complex movie, with overlapping plots, and characters that have many layers.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Nominated for best original score and best original song. The music during the battle scenes were perfect. My personal review is at my other blog; full Pop review will be coming soon.

Rome. I rambled about my love of HBO's Rome on my other blog, here and here. From the first episode, to the bloody, disorganized, messy, brutal murder of -- well, you know who. Note perfect. Polly Walker got a best performance nod for her portrayal of the scheming Atia. How many actresses can portray a woman who has her son-in-law murdered, pimps out her daughter for political reasons, is delighted at the possibility of her son engaging in an affair with his uncle, and who is always thinking of the right political step to take -- yet at the same time, loves her children? Fascinating.

Not the Elf Again

Mary Minow at LibraryLaw Blog has found a weakness in Library Elf's RSS delivery method. Apparently, if you use RSS instead of email delivery, you may be making your private information public.

Mary did a search for Library Elf in Bloglines and found people's personal Library Elf reminder notices. Based on Mary's experiment and the comments, the exposure seems to arise from three things: the use of RSS, using a public aggregator for that RSS feed, and the type of information Library Elf includes in its RSS.

For what its worth, it doesn't look like this experiment has been tried with other public aggregators so I don't know if this is unique to Bloglines or any public aggregator. And, at least with Bloglines, it doesn't matter whether or not you marked the feed/ account public or private.

I'm stubborn; so I'll be keeping my Library Elf account. But it's an email account, and it will stay that way.

It will be interesting to see how Library Elf responds to this; I'm sure I cannot be the only one who sent them an email after reading Mary's post. It will also be interesting to see what this means for RSS feeds that contain personal information.

I, for one, am glad of this "heads up" to stay away from using RSS for anything that is remotely personal or private. And I hope that someone who has more technical knowledge than I do lets us know about the real risks here, and what can be done about it.

Updated to add: Meredith at Information Wants To Be Free points out that Library Elf has added a notice in its FAQ about possible exposure of your private information via Bloglines.

Updated Again: Library Elf's notices about the risks of RSS & Bloglines also appears in its What's New section and its information about RSS in general under "Delivery Method". It appears to be responding pretty promptly to consumer concerns.

Update the Third: My love for Library Elf continues because of co-developer Jeff Chow's quick response to this matter, as shown in the changes on Library Elf's website and his own comments on Mary's original post on this at LibraryLaw Blog. As I said above, this is more an issue of confidentiality/ privacy of any RSS feed than an issue of Library Elf itself; Library Elf is serving to highlight something we should be aware of. I still have my account, using email notification.

Golden Globe Awards

First, the bad news about the Golden Globe Awards: I work Monday nights.

And the Golden Globe Award Show -- yep, January 16. A Monday night.

So the TV at my library will be tuned in to the GG. And I'll have my DVR set to record it, with warnings to all not to give me spoilers -- who won what, naturally. And who wore what. And who gave an embarrisng speech.

What else will we have at the library?

When I talked about the GG and a possible display with the student pages, they really got into the spirit of things. So thanks to them, we have the obvious: the movies and TV shows nominated that are already on DVD, like Cinderella Man. And the perhaps not so obvious: other related materials, like the book In Cold Blood, because the film Capote is about Truman Capote writing that book. We also have prepared a list to keep by the circulation & reference desk, with DVD release dates for nominated films. (The Constant Gardener? Release date January 10)

We have a booklet that lists all the nominations, and are asking our customers to vote for who they think should win. I've also joked that I'll come in dressed, prompting one page to ask me, "how do you dress for the Golden Globes?"

"In evening dresses, like they do."

"So will we need a red carpet?"

I have no idea where I would find a red carpet. And since I don't dress up for things -- I'm not a Halloween person -- I'm not sure if I'll actually go through with it. But given that my usual work dress is cords and a cardigan, simply putting on a real skirt and nice top would be dressing up.


Walk The Line

Walk the Line: A Pop Goes the Library Review

Liz B: What a great movie! I loved the romance between Johnny Cash and June Carter. If I'd read it in a novel, I would have thought it was made up -- couldn't be real.

Melissa: I love getting reminded that truth is stranger than fiction. Especially when you can take that truth and make a really good movie about it.

Liz B: Joaquin Phoenix was amazing. I would never have thought of him for the role of Johnny Cash. But he was Johnny Cash. The way he stood, walked, smiled -- all those things that people do without thinking -- he did as if he was Johnny. And never with a sense that he was mimicking or pretending or acting; he just was Johnny Cash.

Melissa: Equally amazing to me was Reese Witherspoon. I never would have guessed she could portray the strength she showed as June Carter Cash. At first, she's all bouncy and giddy, just like you'd expect Reese Witherspoon to be. But you start seeing more from her, and you realize that the people who make you laugh are often the saddest people you'd ever know.

Liz B: Reese is one of my favorite actresses, because she can convey so much in just a look or an expression. Two high points in this movie: when June is confronted in the store by the woman who is angry that June Carter divorced her first husband; and the Thanksgiving Dinner with the Carters and the Cashs when June realizes the extent of Johnny Cash's demons.

Melissa: Oh, those are both great moments. The scene where June is confronted about her divorce was a very powerful one for me, because it shows how different things are now in this country. In particular, how about June accepting the woman's criticism? In this day and age of Jerry Springer and confrontation when you're criticized, how often do you see people turn the other cheek?

Sophie: I was amazed at how gracious and sincere June was in that moment, too. I think my favorite parts of the movie were the almost-throwaway touches, like Johnny's fandom of Bob Dylan-- Cash was one of the first real establishment musicians to embrace Dylan, and played on his album Nashville Skyline-- and references to Roy (Orbison), Buddy (Holly), and Elvis (no surname necessary, I think). At one point during the movie, my husband turned to me and asked, "Can you imagine seeing all those guys on one bill? For $2?" Which is what we guessed it must have cost kids in Texarkana to see all those soon-to-be legends at once in the mid-1950s. I think the best thing about the movie overall was that it made me want to know more about Johnny & June Carter Cash: more about their lives and about their music. It made me glad to hear interviews with both of them, and with Johnny's producer Rick Rubin on Fresh Air a few weeks ago, and I am now drooling over the new Johnny Cash box set.

Liz B: Sophie, I totally agree -- I want to know more, and I'm amazed at the people he knew and who started when he did. I get chills imagining being in the audience back then. The Johnny Cash box set is on my list of post-holiday indulgences. To be honest, I hadn't been aware of all the details of his life; I think my first memory is of watching him on Little House on the Prairie. And there was a great article in Vanity Fair about a year ago about the Rick Rubin/ Johnny Cash relationship.

Melissa: Like Sophie, I'm equally envious of those kids in Texarkana, who got to see so many legendary performers, on one bill, for 2 bucks. That's what I love so much about movies, how they can make the past seem so real that it makes you wish you were there. Walk the Line is certainly a great bio-pic, and even if you have next to no interest in Johnny Cash, like I
did before I saw the movie, you're bound to enjoy it. So try and catch it in a theater before it's gone, or put it on your list to see as soon as it's available on cable or DVD.

Additional reason to see it: Walk the Line received 3 Golden Globe nominations.


Jewish Pop Culture

Liz's recent post on Chanukkah got me thinking about Jewish popular culture. Long, long gone are the days when an entertainer would change his name from Issur Danielovitch to Kirk Douglas. Gone, too, are the days when parents like mine would sit shiva for their gentile-marrying daughter.

I was one of exactly three Jewish kids in my high school graduating class. I wound up explaining a lot about Judaism and Jewish holidays to my classmates. My youngest sister, who is 10 years my junior, didn't really have to do so much explaining, and I think it's because the last 10 years or so has seen a sea change in Judaism in pop culture at large. People can't help being more Jewish culturally literate, because Jewish culture is everywhere you look.

It seems like I can't turn on the TV or radio or go to the bookstore without seeing, hearing, or reading about Seth Cohen's Chrismukkah exploits on The O.C., magazines like Heeb (for snarky hipsters -- potentially a non-worksafe link, folks), Guilt and Pleasure (for far more earnest & thoughtful hipsters), and J-Vibe (for teens), books like Bar Mitzvah Disco and music like explicitly Jewish hip hop from artists like M.O.T. (Member of the Tribe), featuring my Bat Mitzvah instructor, Hillel Tigay (now known as Ice Berg -- hee!) and indie rock band The LeeVees, who now have a well-received Chanukkah album out.

Also of interest is The Reboot Network (members of whom wrote Bar Mitzvah Disco and which publishes Guilt and Pleasure), a non-profit which is "committed to creating opportunities for our peers to gather, to engage, to question and to self-organize with their own networks, in their own way, in their own time -- via local Salons, Guilt & Pleasure: the Reboot Journal, and other products like Reboot Records, Reboot Films and Reboot Books."

Reboot's recent poll, OMG!: How Generation Y is Redefining Faith in the iPod Era, looks like a must read for all GenY-serving librarians.

Revisiting the Elf

As posted earlier, I love Library Elf, and it's emails to me reminding me what I've checked out, what's on my hold list, and other information about my library card.

Mary Minow recently posted at the LibraryLaw blog concerns about Library Elf and privacy and security.

Personally, I don't think Library Elf presents any greater privacy or security risk than existing library catalogs and security systems: if someone can create a Library Elf account using another person's library card number and PIN, they can also access that information via a library's catalog without the Elf. Library Elf may raise the issue, but its not about the Elf.

I decided to do an experiment. I added my mother's library card to my existing account (getting her permission first.) No problem, and I can see why a parent with children would like having all this information coming in one email -- no more wondering what their 6 year old checked out that hasn't been returned and is lost under the bed.

After a week later, I set up a new Library Elf account as my mother -- different name for the account, different email, but the same library card number and PIN. No problem. And no "oops, someone already has that card" notices from the Elf. Interesting, I thought, that this could be done and you wouldn't know about it. But, I realized, if someone was going in with my card number and PIN on the library catalog, I wouldn't know about that either.

A few weeks later I needed to check something on my Library Elf account. After signing in, there's a brief account summary and an option: View My Account Settings. I clicked on View My Account Settings.

And that's when I saw it -- an asterisk next to my mom's account information, and the notation "This card is viewed by other accounts." I clicked on the hypertext of "other accounts" and came to a page: "Cards Viewed By Other Accounts."

It gave the name of the card holder, the library, the library card number -- and the email address of the other account. I quickly logged out as me, logged on as my mom, and got the same notice with the same information. I'm not sure if its the Library Elf or how I did the accounts, but both times the name that came up was the name of the cardholder per the library system. Both times it was the email of the "other" person who had set up the "other" account.

Bottom Line: To know if someone else is checking your record via Library Elf, all you have to do is periodically log in and view your Account Settings. You won't get the name, but you will get the email of the person; and you'll know for sure, rather than just suspecting, that someone is being a snoop; and you'll be able to act accordingly.

Meanwhile, Mom has asked that I keep her account on the Elf so she doesn't have to worry about remembering what's due when.


Favorite Out of Print Book?

Do you have a favorite out of print children's book? Maybe it's the first book you read on your own. Maybe it's a classic that you know would be beloved if only it were in print again. Or maybe you have a lot of customers looking for favorites and you have to sadly tell them...we don't have it.

Whatever the reason, Children's Book Council wants to know! "From November to February the Children's Book Council is asking librarians, teachers, parents, and kids to name a book they would love to see reissued. The poll is a project of the ALA-CBC Joint Committee, and the top ten books will be announced in the spring. Please provide some comments or evidence for the demand for the book—e.g. booksellers or librarians could cite the number of requests they receive; educators could talk about the book's use in the curriculum; etc. "

Share the information! Tell your customers, your teachers, your staff, your Teen Advisory Board.

Chanukkah: Not the Only Jewish Holiday

It's December, so the signs say "Happy Holidays," and those Holidays, in stores, schools, libraries, etc., are the December holidays: Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Winter Solstice.

In libraries, diversity is celebrated, because we live in a diverse world. A neighborhood or town may not be diverse; but diversity is found within a state, within a country, within the world. So we make Christmas ornaments, have a Chanukkah craft, a Kwanzaa celebration, a Winter Solstice display. And that is good.

But sometimes, that diversity gets rolled up and put away until next December.

"Happy holidays" can be, and should be, year round. Chanukkah is not the only Jewish holiday. It's not even a major Jewish holiday; it's just become so well known because of its proximity to Christmas. Here are some holidays that can have some fun crafts, displays, and storytimes:

Tu b'Shvat, the "New Year of the Trees." Celebrate by planting a tree or eating fruit. Falls on Shevat 15, 5766, which in 2006 is February 13.

Purim: a fun holiday that celebrates proto-feminist icon Queen Esther. A chance to dress up and give gifts and food to others. 14 Adar 5766, which falls on March 14, 2006. Not appropriate for libraries, but interesting all the same is the fact that Purim is one of just two holidays on which Jews are instructed to drink to excess. The idea is to get so plastered that you become ad lo yada, or unable to tell the difference between Mordechai (the hero) and Haman (the villain).

Sukkot, the Festival of Booths: Make a flag or mobile. Like Chanukkah, Sukkot is an eight-day festival, beginning on Tishrei 15, 5767; in 2006, it starts on October 7. Sukkot, a harvest holiday, is also the holiday on which the Pilgrims modelled the first Thanksgiving.

Some helpful hints: the Jewish calendar is not the Gregorian calendar with Hebrew words. Always double check dates. It's not that the date "changes" year to year; the date remains consistent in the Jewish calendar. It just happens to fall on a different day in the Gregorian calendar because the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar. And why so many spellings of Chanukkah? Actually, there is only one correct spelling: the Hebrew spelling. It's the English transliterations of Chanukkah, and other Hebrew words, that have many variations.

As with anything, do your research; be respectful.


Pimping My Column

Good gravy! I can't believe I forgot to brag, even a little teeny, tiny bit, about my column on Adventures in Pop Culture Librarianship in the September issue of Library Journal. Oh, wait, I can believe it -- the day before the column appeared, I gave birth. Priorities, priorities. Anyway, here's the column, in all its Nexgen glory. Happy reading.


Awards Nominations

It's the most wonderful time of the year: awards season is upon us. The Golden Globes nominees were announced yesterday. (Parenthetical time-out for a personal beef: okay, I sort of get the failure to nominate Ian McShane last year for his role in Deadwood, but this year? The man is a thespianic god, and the lack of nomination love is both wrong and sad. At least the toothsome & talented Wentworth Miller got a nod for his riveting work in Prison Break.) The Grammy Awards nominees were also recently announced.

I love awards shows for their glamour, their often unintentional hilarity, and their pageantry, but I am starting to wonder about what they actually mean. Are they about films and music we do enjoy? Are they about films and music we should enjoy? Are they just ego-strokefests for the artists, their studios and labels?

For example, Brokeback Mountain (commonly and reductively referred to as "the gay cowboy movie") received the most Golden Globe nominations. Now, I am very much looking forward to this movie, as it has a killer pedigree -- directed by Ang Lee, with a script by Larry McMurtry based on a short story by E. Annie Proulx -- and promises to be both swoony and teary, a combination I find irresistible. But how many people are like me? How many people are going to go see a movie about the tragic, doomed love between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal? Is the Hollywood Foreign Press telling us all to be less uptight about love? Or are they just honoring what is, by all accounts, a very well made movie? Or maybe a bit of both?

As another example, we have Mariah Carey and her gajillion nomination-receiving comeback album, The Emancipation of Mimi. I know her album has sold millions upon millions of copies this year, and that the Grammys have never really been about what's best in popular music, but are they even about what's most popular in popular music? Now that we can download nearly any song we want, from any genre, sub-genre, and sub-sub-genre we want, from iTunes and other similar services, is there such a thing as The Most Popular Album or Song anymore? Or rather, does releasing The Most Popular Album have the same meaning as it used to have?

I'm thinking out loud here, clearly, and in my baby-wrangling, sleep-deprived state, I'm having a hard time seeing a link to library service. I know it's there. Let me sleep on it & get back to you all.


"Great. I just beat up Santa Claus."

By this time of year, I'm sure there's a lot of you who are ready to strangle someone with those sleigh bells. So, why don't you take a night off from holiday preparations, settle down with a big doctored glass of eggnog, and watch The Ref?

Starring Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey (back when he could be funny and dark and twisted) and Judy Davis, The Ref is about a very special Christmas for the Chasseur family. ("Chas-seur! It's 18th century French Hugenot!") Lloyd and Caroline are very unhappily married; therapy doesn't seem to be working, and they can't connect, even to decide on how to raise their teenage son, Jesse. On Christmas Eve, they're carjacked by a cat burgler named Gus, fleeing from the police after a robbery gone bad. Gus makes Lloyd and Caroline take him back to their house, where he ties them up and intends to lay low until he can leave town. But there's a few complications, like Jesse coming home from military school, the family coming over for Christmas dinner, a police chief who's struggling to find Gus, the inept deputies who are making the police chief's job all the harder, and a drunk Santa Claus.

The Ref is a great movie for those of us who like our Christmas movies realistic, not syrupy sweet. The family interactions in this movie are some of the most spot-on I've ever seen. ("You know what this family needs? A mute.") Of particular note is the work of Glynis Johns, who plays Lloyd's mother. She's played lots of nice mothers and grandmother characters, such as in While You Were Sleeping and Mary Poppins. But in The Ref, she creates a portrait of acid-tongued, shrewish motherhood that you're not likely to see in any movie, much less a 'Christmas movie'. ("What is the matter with you? I thought mothers were sweet and nice a-a-and patient. Your husband ain't dead, lady. He's hiding.")

The Ref is a funny, profane, eye-opening look at family during the holiday season. I highly recommend it, and I hope you'll check it out. Because how can you not love a movie that has a line like this in it: "You know what I'm going to get you next Christmas, Mom? A big wooden cross, so that every time you feel unappreciated for your sacrifices, you can climb on up and nail yourself to it."

You can purchase The Ref on DVD, if your library doesn't have it available.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Join Melissa and Liz B. as they chat about what they liked about the latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

Liz B: That was the best Harry Potter movie.

Melissa: I come out of every Harry Potter movie enjoying the ride I've been taken on, but still going, "The book was better." But for this one, the gap between the book and the movie was closed up considerably, which is funny when you think about it.

Liz B: I try hard to view the movie on its own, without comparing it to the book. Because only a well done miniseries would be very faithful. I think this captured the essence of the book, and was also visually satisfying, had jokes, but also made me cry.

Melissa: It's hard to compare the books and the movies, I agree, and usually you're bound for disappointment. But I enjoyed the fact that some of my favorite moments from the book (the ones that stuck with me since the last time I read the book, which was ages ago) made it into the film. Those comedy moments are what really make this movie for me. Perhaps because I know that this is the turning point, when things start to get REALLY serious, but seeing the twins' antics, the confusion of hitting puberty . . . it all worked for me.

Liz B: It's also impressive that no actor has been dropped. For example, Bonnie Wright has played Ginny in all 4 films. They are casting not just for the immediate movie, but also knowing that -- or fearing that -- the character who is just background may become more significant.

Melissa: I love the fact that we are watching these teens grow up on film. One of the early trailers for Goblet of Fire really underlined this point, by showing four images of each member of the Trio, one from each of the movies. Harry Potter is about growing up, and getting to actually see it makes it so powerful.

Coming soon: Pop reviews Walk the Line.


Make 'Em Laugh

How funny is your library? Stand-up comedy is making quite the big, splashy comeback lately. Is it well represented in your library's collections? And what can libraries & librarians learn from stand-up comedians?

A few years ago, Margaret Cho started releasing concert films of her tours for I'm The One That I Want, The Notorious C.H.O., Revolution, and most recently, Assassins. Then David Cross, formerly of HBO's cult favorite Mr. Show With Bob & David (all seasons of which are available on DVD) and presently of the all-but-cancelled Arrested Development, released his scathing, profanity-laced, and certifiably hilarious double-CD, Shut Up, You *&^%$ Baby! on venerable indie-rock label Sub Pop Records. This Summer, Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame released a gut-bustingly funny documentary about the most disgusting and offensive joke ever told, The Aristocrats. Now, Sarah Silverman (who stole the show in the aforementioned film) has a concert film out, called Jesus is Magic, and she's been interviewed on the ordinarily excruciatingly tasteful Fresh Air. The films usually get modest distribution at art-house theatres and sell well on DVD. The accompanying concert albums tend to do pretty well, also.
(Classic comedy albums by the likes of Richard Pryor, Stan Freberg, Phyllis Diller, Bill Cosby, and Steve Martin are either still in print or are coming back into print, too.)

What's interesting about all of this? The comedians are doing it themselves -- financing their tours with the concert albums & films, getting independent distribution for their work, cross-marketing their shows with their merchandise. They're also using the Internet like nobody's business, both to market their work and to connect with fans and potential fans.

Now, as much as I personally love the comedians mentioned above, the comedian I'm most interested in is one I'd never heard of until I started seeing his name in every magazine I picked up this July and August. This enterprising fellow is Dane Cook. Dane Cook tours relentlessly. Dane Cook is hosting Saturday Night Live tomorrow (note to self: set TiVo to record!). Dane Cook has released two concert albums in the last two years. Dane Cook has a blog. Dane Cook podcasts. Dane Cook answers all of his [incredibly copious] fan e-mail personally. Yes, really. Dane Cook will IM with you if you use AOL IM. Dane Cook has a MySpace account. Dane Cook knows how to work it.

How can we learn from Dane Cook? Let's think about how we're marketing ourselves, about our online and real-world presences. Are we there for our fans/patrons? Are we using their technology to connect with them the way they want to be connected with? What would be the libraryland analogue of a really funny, guerrilla-marketed stand-up comedy concert film? What would be the libraryland analogue of getting interviewed on Fresh Air?