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.

2008-03-29

Single In Library Land

Cynthia of Library Garden asks an interesting question: Library Jobs: Single People Need Not Apply?

Cynthia looks at it from the point of view of a part-time worker being asked, "can't you get insurance from your husband's job?"

From the point of view of a full-time worker (and, like Cynthia, a refuge from the corporate world) my answer is that being single in libraryland requires financial sacrifices. And I wonder at a profession that either requires these sacrifices, or (more likely) assumes that they will have a "traditional employee" where the library salary is a second income going into the household.

I think it is fairly safe to say that, due to finances, I will never afford to own a home in NJ again* or to adopt a child, unless I either win the lottery or get married or become the next JK Rowling. In other words, get more money. For the first five years as an MLS librarian with a full time job, I lived at my parent's home because rents in Ocean County were so high, I did not have a boyfriend or husband to share rent, and I wasn't prepared to do the ramen noodle/laundromat lifestyle again. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

But I do wonder, based on the report about the working poor in NJ, how families that are not two income do it. And why should people take a job, such as librarianship, knowing that if the worst thing happens -- death, divorce, unemployed spouse -- they have chosen a career where it will become a problem to pay a mortgage and put food on the table? Knowing that they can never say to a spouse, stay home full time with the children, pursue your dream of being an artist, homeschool the kids? Basically, that with an education (something which the report recommends to escape being the working poor), you will forever be working poor? Or, at least, for a hella long time.

* I used to be a home owner; sold it when I went back to library school. Sometimes I wish I hadn't because my mortgage with taxes was less than $800. I know! Back before the real estate market exploded.

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2008-03-28

Friday Fun: Guess The Show

What television show is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running science-fiction television show in the world?

What show has villains who cry "Delete!" or "Exterminate!"?

Who travels through time and space in a blue box?

If you said Star Trek or Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica, guess again. It's Doctor Who.

A British institution, the original version of the show, featuring a 900-year-old alien named the Doctor, ran from 1963-1989. Except for a TV movie in 1996, the show was off the air until 2005, when it returned bigger and better than ever before.

During the writer's strike, I could take comfort in the fact that since Doctor Who was a British show, it meant it wasn't affected by the strike. Series (or season) 4 will be starting on April 5 in the UK; thanks to the Sci-Fi Channel, you'll be able to watch the newest series of Doctor Who only a few weeks after episodes premiere in Britain.

So, in honor of the upcoming return of my favorite show, interesting facts and trivia!

--To allow the show to keep running, the Doctor is able to be recast with a new actor whenever necessary. On the show, the process is called "regeneration". Currently, we're on the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant.

--The Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker, is probably most familiar to American audiences, thanks to Baker's long tenure: seven years as the Doctor.

--Although the show is called Doctor Who, the character is called the Doctor.

Want to check it out for yourself? Doctor Who, both the classic and new versions, is readily available through Netflix; there's also Amazon or your library (my library system carries both Classic and New Who, as fans have nicknamed them).

I would recommend starting with series 1 and series 2 of New Who; the stories are better designed for modern audiences, and with those two series, you get a full introduction to what makes this show so fantastic. And although for a British show they have a long season, compared to American shows they're on the short side; series 1 is 13 forty-five minute episodes, while series 2 has the same number of episodes plus an hour-long special. Easy for a weekend marathon!

The most interesting thing about Doctor Who? It's a family show; in Britain, it airs at 7pm on Saturday nights, and it's very much designed to appeal to people of all ages. From farting aliens to omnisexual conmen to an unstated love story, Doctor Who is a show that brings everyone together. So perhaps the next time someone asks you at the reference desk for something to do with their kids, you could recommend watching Doctor Who.

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2008-03-27

Can fun guess lyrics these Thursday: you

We do love our song lyrics guessing games here at Pop, and since I was bad and missed posting on my Fun Friday last week, you get Fun Thursday With Song Lyrics.

Earlier this week, I saw the greatest song lyrics quiz ever invented: And Great Lyrics Quiz Rock Roll The. It's just your standard quiz: Guess the song these lyrics are from. Only all the lyrics are in alphabetical order. So far, I've solved 28 and there are three that I know I know but I can't put the words together just yet.

So I bring you Pop Goes the Library's "Guess Lyrics Song These," using songs that are not on the other quiz. If you guess these lyrics you get nothing but our eternal admiration and the pride of being able to unscramble song lyrics. Ours are easier than theirs, I promise. (Beware: repeated words only show once on the list, and not all of them are rock songs.)

1. a ago and be can chance could dance for had happy how I if knew long make maybe me my music people remember smile still that they'd those time to used while

2. enter exit eye hand gripping land light my never-never night off one open pillow sleep take tight to with your

3. always and away beg boy boys but can can't cash cause cold credit don't give hard hug I if is just kiss light me mister okay plead proper right see some that's the they they're think walk with

4. again and blow break can chain damn don't hear I if in lies listen love me never now rise run saying shadows still sun the to watch will wind would you your

5. ain't and another Bobby blues buddy but easy enough
feelin' free freedom's for good it's just left lose me nothin' sang that the to was when word worth

6. a and baffled but care chord composing David do don't fall fifth for fourth goes heard
it I've king lift like Lord major minor music now played pleased really sacred that the there this you was


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2008-03-26

Wednesday Night Lights: Business Cards

This might be a bitter subject. I know it has been at places I've worked. Some people get business cards, some people don't. Sometimes the people who get cards don't even need them, or get so many more than they'd ever need. I know I've worked at places where I've made my own cards since I knew I was going to be out meeting with customers/clients. Now, I constantly forget to bring cards with me when I go to places (when it would be very worthwhile for me to bring cards since I'm going to conferences and meeting people for the first time).

Business cards are a funny thing. In some ways I almost feel they are a relic of the past. Handing someone a piece of paper with contact information on it seems old-fashioned when some days it feels that everything we do is online. Shouldn't I be able to send my information from my phone to yours? Or give you a URL (that's easy to remember) that you could connect to later on? Or maybe hand you a little patch you could stick to your skin and get all my info? OK, that last one was a little far-fetched. In some ways though, handing someone that piece of paper is the ideal way to give them information about you.

Business cards are a funny thing. You want to get enough information on them to be memorable, but not so much to be stifling. Someone should be able to glance at your card and read everything on it in that glance. So you can't get too crazy. These days, a name, place of work, and e-mail address might be enough. A phone number and address are good, too, as there are still people out there who do not use the Internet (and therefore will not see this post). I've had a well-known author politely rake me over the coals twice through my lack of providing non e-mail contact information. My work card is almost a little busy and my publishing card is almost a little bare.

The great thing about business cards is that there are countless examples out there to look at. You could easily build a program around creating a business card and have people bring in ten business cards each. I know that there are people who discourage using perforated business card sheets to create cards, but in a pinch I think they work well. And there are a lot of software programs that work with these sheets so people can design their own.

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2008-03-24

All Kids Back in the Pool

Last time, I couldn't shut up about Adult Swim's awesome adult-oriented cartoons, but Cartoon Network has also done some really great stuff that is actually intended for kids over the years, creating some truly wonderful series that appeal to kids and adults alike, almost single-handedly pulling children's animation up out of the bottom the barrel where it had languished for the 80's and the early 90's. Shirt Tales, I'm looking at you.

Once Turner had established Cartoon Network with existing content, they began seeking out new animators to produce pilots for potential new series to be full funded and owned by Turner and Cartoon Network. Most of these pilots were shown under the What A Cartoon show, and the life these new talents brought back to the rotting husk of Hanna-Barbera became the driving force of a new generation of properties. A seminal episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast featured short clips from several of the first new Cartoon Network Projects and had villains from Space Ghost's past vote on which show would be picked up for production. The three shows were Genndy Tartakofsky's Dexter's Laboratory, Van Partible's Johnny Bravo, and cartoon supergenius Craig McCracken's The Powerpuff Girls. All of these shows were eventually put into production and became staples of CN's lineup, but Wunderkind Craig McCracken's Powerpuff Girls became the breakout hit, combining hip newness and formulaic familiarity with truly outstanding writing, in-jokes worthy of the muppet show, outstanding voice acting and some brilliant new characters.

Powerpuff girls peaked in the early noughts with a pretty good theatrical film, but their iconic characters and relatively positive female leads still carry a strong following, especially among the adults who were won over by Jim Venable's (who has a new CD) shockingly modern breakbeat-laden score and Nemesis Mojo Jojo's utterly hilarious and spot-on sendups of the worst expositional speeches of the Superfriend's worst enemies. One of the best episodes of Powerpuff Girls is Meet the Beat-Alls, a Beatles tribute epsiode that likely flew right over the head of anyone born after 1990 but includes some simply brilliant gags, including a girlfriend for Mojo Jojo named Moko Jono, who is a 'performance criminal'. Yes, there is a joke about the number 9.

Dexter's Lab also had an awesome run; not as marketable or cuddly as the Powerpuff Girls, it resonated perfectly with geeks and dorks and nailed the odd-couple dynamics with dweeby honor-student scientist dexter and his ebullient pony-loving sister DeeDee. Tributes to Mecha Anime, Pete's Dragon, Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, and countless other relics of 80's culture instantly endeared the show to Gen Xers until a shark-jumping production staff shakeup brought the show to a swift end. One of Dexter's Lab's hidden treasures is found only in some episodes: The Justice Friends, a set of shorts, directed by Craig McCracken, that bring together three of our nation's greatest superheroes (Major Glory, Rock God Valhallen, and the Infraggable Crunk) into a small apartment to face the challenges of everyday life. It's pure genius and also saw the best appearances of recurring McCracken in-joke characters Puppet Pal Mitch and Puppet Pal Clem. Dexter is available on DVD, and the early seasons would be an awesome addition to any DVD collection. One of my favorite episodes is 'Omelette Du Fromage', where Dexter uses a hypnotic learning device and a french language record to study for a test. The record skips, and Dexter wakes up with 'Omelette Du Fromage' as the only thing he is able to say, which of course (SPOILER) leads him to international stardom.

Another pilot from What A Cartoon! that didn't exactly get picked up is Larry and Steve, an early project from Seth MacFarlane that features a dumb guy who sounds almost exactly like Peter Griffin and a cultured talking dog who is just a brown, skinny Brian Griffin. Even though Turner passed on Larry and Steve, MacFarlane was later contacted by Fox and asked to develop Larry and Steve into a pilot that would follow the Simpsons, ultimately becoming Family Guy.

One of the other pilots from What A Cartoon that got picked up years later and is still a bit of an odd surviving standout in Cartoon Network's lineup is John R. Dilworth's Courage the Cowardly Dog, a creepy, edgy, and very unsettling show about an excitable dog, his loving owner Muriel, and her crabby husband Eustace, who live in Nowhere, where lots of weird stuff happens, usually putting Muriel in danger and requiring much yelling and dancing around from Courage. One of the very best things about Courage the Cowardly Dog is a short video with a new theme song by Nerd Rock Supergroup They Might Be Giants. It's stuck in my head; now it's your turn!

After the first wave of new shows were gaining popularity and establishing Cartoon Network as a source of awesome new cartoons for kids, a second wave of shows came down the pipe, the most popular and enduring of which was Ed, Edd and Eddy, a simple show about the interactions of a group of weird kids on a cul-de-sac. With an amazing and in many cases unheard-of voice cast, every archetype of neighborhood kids represented, and a somewhat nostalgic view of what kids do for fun that still resonates with today's elementary schoolers, the Eds pursue scam after scam in hopes of obtaining enough quarters to buy each of them a cheek-stretching jawbreaker. Danny Antonucci is one kick-ass guy (skip to :40), and his rat-finky, rubbery, wiggly ensemble of characters generated a boatload of awesome episodes, ending without really getting stale. Also of note is the show's unique scoring, using a small band of trumpet, trombone, sax, clarinet, bass, drums, and a guy whistling to give the episodes a cohesive, immediately recognizable sound that's definitely outside the musical vocabulary of most elementary school viewers.

In addition to these shows that are no longer being produced, Cartoon Network has three current shows that are very popular with both kids and cartoon geeks of all ages and have introduced characters that will be beloved for decades to come.

First, after Craig McCracken finished PowerPuff Girls, he and his wife and Powerpuff Girls Producer Lauren Faust created Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, one of my very favorite shows that again combines laugh-a-minute comedy for elementary schoolers liberally peppered with shout-outs and in-jokes for the over-20 crowd. With more outstanding voice acting and one of TV's most convincing and coolest female characters in Frankie Foster, the show tackles some relatively meaty themes about friendship, growing up, marketing, rules and authority without the kids even really knowing what's going on. It's a joy to watch and each new episode is eagerly anticipated by millions of kids. Two seasons are on DVD and there is some really WANT-worthy merch out there... if you're willing to set foot into Hot Topic.

Another great show that just wrapped up but is still in heavy rotation is Joe Murray's Camp Lazlo, about a group of relentlessly positive campers (and their relentlessly negative spoils) at a summer camp that never seems to end (they even had a halloween episode once). Murray was previously responsible for the underappreciated work of genius Rocko's Modern Life (which featured a theme song by the B-52's), about a Wallaby that worked at a Comic Book shop, and many of the character tropes from Rocko make an appearance at Camp Kidney (home of the Bean Scouts of Jelly Cabin) on the shores of Leaky Lake, again nostalgically hearkening back to childhoods that don't really exist anymore, complete with the girl's camp across the lake (Acorn Flats, home of the Squirrel Scouts) and the constant threat of a Bean Scout earning enough badges to graduate to Tomato Scout, which requires an immediate trip off to boot camp. Camp Lazlo isn't on DVD yet, but it's expected soon and is actually a good thing to show kids who will be going to camp because A. it includes the basics like swimming, counselors, off-limits marshmallow shacks and the infirmary, B. it exposes them to personality types they'll be likely to meet at camp, and C. because any real camp will shine in comparison to Camp Kidney.

Finally, there's a new show on Cartoon Network that kicks so much ass it's just amazing it was ever greenlighted. It's called Chowder, and it's about an apprentice to a chef in a weird world where everything revolves around and is named after food. The brainchild of C.H. Greenblatt, who previously storyboarded for Spongebob and Billy and Mandy (and was the voice of Fred Fredburger!), Chowder brings an awesome, schoolhouse-rock reminiscent look and a completely alien set of social norms together and just riffs on the results. Again filled with plenty of in-jokes for grownups (the chef, Mung, adds a huge clock necklace to a soup, explaining that it adds Flava), a real highlight of the show are the voices for Chowder, Gorgonzola, and Panini, done by some truly talented kids that inject so much life and authenticity into the show it's impossible not to smile just listening to them deliver their lines and screams and bellows. Chowder is still in its first season, so no DVD yet, but new episodes air thursday nights, and if you've got cable at your library, a Chowder-watching party with some weird snacks would be a pretty cool event for a school night.

Most of the creators of these show have blogs (although the Foster's blog is apparently abandoned), and if you look at the comments, you'll find scads of Gen X and older cartoon geeks just gushing about what these talented folks are doing. Just because it's on Cartoon Network doesn't mean it's only for kids!

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2008-03-19

Wednesday Night Lights: March Madness

Yeah, there's that one, but there's another March Madness we're at the cusp of. The lovely ladies of Go Fug Yourself have decided to combine their love of the roundball and fashion into the first ever Go Fug Yourself: Fug Madness tournament.

At this point, you've missed the play-in match between Courtney Peldon and Brown Peldon. The winner of which is now facing off against Lindsay Lohan. Seriously, if it sounds like I'm speaking gibberish, just click on the links. It boils down to voting on who you think is the worse fashion disaster in the match ups: Posh Spice or Kate Bosworth? Tara Reid or Ashley Olsen?

The great thing the Go Fug Yourself version opens up to me, is the possibility of makig brackets of anything. Want to make a bracket of best bands of the 70s? The 1870s? Go for it. Best books? Best authors? Best local restaurants? All doable. And you can use a service like Twiigs to create your polls and have people vote online. Or you could run a program with people making selections. Fun!

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Carlie Webber for Printz 2010!

We are delighted to endorse Carlie Webber, fellow Pop Goes the Library-an, friend, esteemed colleague, and genius of the supremely catchy catchphrase, for the Michael L. Printz Committee for 2010.

Carlie is a smart, sharp reader who can not only articulate her vision of literary quality; she can sniff out a lack of it at twenty pages.

Carlie is passionate about the need for the Printz Award winners and honor books to be more than mere vehicles for shiny labels.

Carlie is a seasoned book reviewer and Mock Printz contest moderator. She cuts through BS with her Ginsu knife-like wit, leaps tall ARCs in a single bound, and has read and reviewed more books than you've had hot dinners. The woman knows her stuff and doesn't mince words.

Carlie Webber! Passion. Vision. Experience. Savvy. Abundant Charm.

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2008-03-17

Interview with Carlie Webber

Carlie Webber is running for the Printz; if you're a YALSA member, you either have (or soon will have) your ballot. Eight people are running for four slots on the committee; the YALSA blog has a Q and Q with all candidates.

Carlie is a contributor here at Pop; and also began contributing to Tea Cozy several months ago. Here's a chance to get to know her a little bit better, with a few questions about Printz type matters.

Liz B: How do you define "Young Adult" literature, as opposed to "children's" or "adult"?

Carlie: YA literature should capture the coming-of-age experience and the independence and identity that a teen character gains through it. To me, what separates a YA novel from an adult novel with a teen main character is the lack of perspective on the part of the main character. A YA novel describes coming-of-age events as they happen, with no sense of looking back and thinking about what could've been.

Regarding the separation of children's literature from YA, I have a few points. The age of the main character is the obvious one. The not-so-obvious one is looking at the coming-of-age events I mentioned before. In a YA novel, the main character has a definite separation from his or her parents, establishing independence. Events will happen that will make the main character reconsider the world he or she knows and s/he'll take the first steps towards establishing a place of his/her own within it. There are some novels that there's an argument for either way, children's versus YA, but the establishment of independence separate from parents is a big litmus test for me.

Liz B: This is cheating a bit, but I liked this question when YALSA Blog asked it last year. Give us one YA title, published in 1998 or before, that you think would have made an excellent Printz Award Winner if the award had been in existence then?

Carlie: I know the popular answers to this question are The Golden Compass and Weetzie Bat, but I'm going to be the maverick here and say Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas.

Half of what makes a book literary is how the author chooses to use language in the context of his or her setting. Thomas used language and first person perspective to emphasize how Steve York's view of himself changed as he wrote the essay. As a result of these language choices the reader saw Steve as raw, simultaneously bewildered and jaded by his relationships with his father and Dub, and Thomas created someone unforgettable. The sort of bitter humor Thomas used is something we've seen in a number of lauded books lately, like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

Liz B: What is your pop-culture area of expertise?

Carlie: I have a few of those!

First, classic and hard rock. As I explain to fellow fans of Supernatural, I have Dean Winchester's taste in music. Some of my favorite bands include Led Zeppelin, Rush, Shinedown, AC/DC, Seether, Audioslave, Nirvana, and Velvet Revolver. I even filled out the 92.3 K-Rock March Bracket Brawl...but I lost because I picked Tom Petty to win over Pink Floyd in today's afternoon round.

Second, crime shows. Much of the father-daughter bonding in my parents' home was done over episodes of Law & Order and I've never lost my love of crimesolver shows, both fictional and documentary. My current favorites are Numb3rs and NCIS, and I thought Cynthia Nixon was completely brilliant on Law & Order: SVU earlier this season.

Third, bad reality television. As I've explained to people: I spend the majority of my time reading books, giving the best advice I can to my fellow professionals, looking critically at developments in literature and technology, and generally doing the best I can to make the YA library world a good place. When I come home and watch TV, I want to shut off my brain and I believe in doing things right. So yes, I love House and Numb3rs and all those shows that require cerebral involvement, but I am also completely addicted to America's Next Top Model. I'm hooked on Flavor of Love, Rock of Love (I actually listened to Poison when I was a kid! I know who Bret Michaels is!), Hell's Kitchen, Celebrity Fit Club, The Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious, and even the not-so-bad reality shows like Top Chef and Project Runway.

Liz B: Thanks, Carlie! And hmmm... I haven't been watching NCIS... I guess I better go to Netflix and add it to my queue!

Cross posted at Tea Cozy.

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2008-03-13

Donna Martin Needs Work

Well, it worked for Degrassi: 90210 Spin Off. And considering one of the 90210/Original!Degrassi rumors is that Spelling created 90210 after watching/ being unable to buy Degrassi, it just makes sense that there may now be a 90210:TNG.

Of course, my knee jerk reaction is "Rob! You had to have gotten some good Hollywood mileage out of Veronica Mars. Why waste it on this?"

So I then started thinking about...spin offs that are superior to and/or vastly different from the original movie/TV show. So it is possible that Rob could create something awesome. (Me, I want it to star Brenda's lovechild, who was born in England, and the question is -- who is the Daddy? Dylan? Brandon? that guy she was married to for six seconds?)

There is the Korean War trifecta: serious/funny movie MASH, to half hour comedy yet not quite so dark even when they killed the baby MASH, to Trapper John MD.

Mary Tyler Moore (half hour sitcom) begat Lou Grant (one hour drama).

What else?

Cross posted at Tea Cozy.

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March Madness Bracket for iGoogle

iGoogle and March Madness fans rejoice! The iGoogle Basketball Bracket is here! Have fun, and if you're feeling nostalgic or just don't know what the big deal is with March Madness, re-acquaint yourself with these Pop posts of yore: Eliav Decter's great guest entry on the tournament's history & significance to American pop culture, and Susan's ode to the unique nature of the tournament where anything can happen.

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2008-03-12

You Don't Know Jack

I bet you think I am going to talk about Jack Bauer of "24" which is one of my favorite TV shows and has me sitting on the edge of my couch week after week? Nope. Since "24" has been on a long hiatus due to the recent WGA strike I am referring to another Jack. This Jack writes some of my favorite commentary on TV shows and the state of the television and media business. It is one of those websites where I say to myself, "MUST stop reading...oooh new and shiny thing...MUST stop reading...oooh [repeat cycle]." If you have not discovered it yet may I recommend JackMyers.com for your reading pleasure on all things television. Enjoy!

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Wednesday Night Lights: Typefaces

I know. You're reading that headline and saying, "Oh yeah! Typfaces baby!" (you gotta say it like Joe from Family Guy) Mm hm. Good stuff. You know, kerning, weights, styles, character sets, ligatures, serifs, etc.

OK, I'll admit that at this point I imagine your eyes glazing over (except Aaron Leis if he's out there). But trust me, this will be interesting. Today I purchased a typeface for the first time. Normally, when looking for new fonts and typefaces, I go to Da Font and download stuff. But today I found a typeface that's pretty amazing, and will only be available for purchase. So I bought it.

The typeface is called Restraint and it was designed through the collaboration of an artist and a type designer. When you go the font's page, you'll see a lot of ornamental, scroll work. That's part of the font. You can see a detailed explanation of the font and how to use it here. So not only do you get a cool font that connects its letters together with "squiggles and curly bits," you also get a whole set of those squiggles to do design work.

I've been interested in branching out design concepts for my publishing life, so I went out and found some typography blogs. I've also been reading Chip Kidd, who is an extremely book cover designer (i.e., JURASSIC PARK and THE ROAD) who has written a few novels. Typographica provides detailed write-ups of fonts and gives reviews of them. This is where I first saw Restraint. I Love Typography is a cool blog that also talks about type and design. Recently there was a post about the process of designing a typeface.

So what's interesting about this? We all use typefaces and fonts every day, and most of the time I'm sure you don't give much thought to the face that someone designed it for a particular purpose. For me, this is the most fascinating thing about Kidd's novels (THE CHEESE MONKEYS and THE LEARNERS, both extraordinary examples of book design). Kidd breathes life into the world of graphic design through his protagonist Happy. Through Happy, Kidd puts his statement out into the world about how much thought goes into, for example, the design of the doublemint gum package. Or the Fed Ex logo (you know there's an arrow hidden in the logo, right?).

So, here's what you do. You're going to have a book discussion. Get a bunch of books with cool cover design. You're not allowed to know anything about the books. Judge the book BY ITS COVER. Then play the game of everyone creating imaginary stories (just quick, like 20 words) to go with the cover image. After everyone's done, vote for the favorite, then read the jacket flap so that people know what the book is actually about. Alternately, you can fly me to your library to give a talk on book design and how the cover image is at least as important as the contents.

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2008-03-11

Update Your Will

Today's legal pop culture note:

Make a will. After important life events, update it. Brought to you courtesy of Heath Ledger's Will: written before his daughter was born, so it leaves everything to his parents and his siblings and nothing to his child.

Now, of course, there are ways to contest wills in this type of situation; look at the Anna Nicole Smith will, not revised after the birth of her daughter or the death of her son.

Please, don't make any assumptions about what will happen after you die. It's a terrible time period for those who are left behind, and arguing about this, and decoding your local state law to decide who the state thinks should get stuff, is no fun for anyone.

Given the number of handlers and managers and the like celebrities have, I'm always surprised at wills that aren't updated; but Ledger may have had trusts for his child, so, in that instance, took care of her financially outside of the will.

Look, for example, at New Jersey law: If you die leaving a spouse or domestic partner and no children, but are survived by parents, the spouse or domestic partner will inherit the first 25% of the estate, but not less than $50,000.00 nor more than $200,000.00 plus three-fourths of any balance of the estate. Your parents take the balance equally.

So, even if you've been married for 30 years, your spouse does not get it all. And, if your house was bought before you married and is not in both your names, that may be included in the estate, so, well, you can see what I mean. Given the value of New Jersey homes, $200,000 suddenly isn't a lot of money anymore.

Not to mention that girlfriends and boyfriends and fiancees aren't recognized by statute when dividing up an estate. Really, if Brad or Angelina dies, I'm sure the survivor has enough income earning ability that it isn't going to matter that they get nothing. But the real life couples who, like Brad and Angelina, don't marry? To them, it does matter. You may not have a lot...but do you want that little bit to be eaten up with legal costs? (Plus, again for those of you not gazillionaires... Social Security death benefits? You need to be married to get them. I'm not saying to get married if you don't want to; I'm just saying that when it comes to some of this stuff, it is more than just a piece of paper. It may not be a lot of money, but if you're a two income family down to one-income, something is better than nothing.)

Now, um, I'm off to take my own advice and write my will.

Disclaimer: This is a blog post. Not legal advice. Talk to an attorney. Go to your library and read the many great books they have about wills and the like.

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2008-03-07

Fun Friday: Your Library Colleagues and Their Inner Teenagers or A Rose By Any Other Name

Did you know that you could have fun with the Social Security Administration website? Yes, indeed. The SSA has a cool little application called popular names by birth year.

I decided to take this information and combine it with census information (fun with the census!) and other sources to get a picture of what the teenage years might have been like for library colleagues with a particular name. Some names, like Michael and Elizabeth, are timeless classics. Others are not. What started me on this little project? Well, I was recently informed by a teenager that my name was “old.” Moi! C’est incroyable! But whether one has a classic name or an obsolete name, remember they were all the names of teenagers “once upon a time…in a galaxy far, far away…”

…Mary & Michael

Mary watches “I Love Lucy” on TV and is secretly reading the racy new best-seller “Peyton Place.” Michael is reading J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" and likes to watch “Dragnet” and listen to Elvis [Presely’s] new album “Heartbreak Hotel.” They both think hula hoops are “cool.” In school today they practiced “duck and cover.” They write their book reports by hand or use a typewriter. After their homework is done they are going to the movies to see the Rat Pack. Mary like to wear her blue jeans rolled up at the ankle with ballet flats with the heel crushed down, while James wears his blue jeans with a plain white T-shirt just like James Dean. Mary and Michael are two of the most popular names for people from the World War II generation born between 1928 – 1945.

…Linda & James

Linda “borrowed” her older sister’s book “The Valley of the Dolls” and just got the Iron Butterfly album “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” James is reading “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe and thinks the Beatles and The Doors are “far-out.” They write their book reports by hand or use a typewriter. James keeps getting hassled by his Dad and teachers because his hair is “too long.” Linda and James’s favorite TV shows are “Get Smart” and “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” especially when the Smothers’ Brothers are on. Later they are going to see the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” when Linda’s sister gets back from the anti-war rally to drive them downtown in her VW Van. Linda can’t decide whether to wear her low slung hip huggers with the wide belt or her bell bottoms with the beads and peace signs—both are “groovy.” Linda and James are two of the most popular names for Baby Boomers born between 1946 – 1954.

…Susan & David

Susan and David are apathetic and aren’t impressed with their history teacher’s attempt to get them interested in politics. They think, “What is the point? After Watergate it’s all ‘bogus’ anyway.” Susan’s favorite TV show is “Mash” and David thinks Belushi and Ackroyd on “Saturday Night Live” are hilarious [“Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger. No Coke. Pepsi”]. Susan is reading “Watership Down” and David is reading Stephen King’s horror novel “Carrie.” Susan and David type their book reports on an electric typewriter or on the school’s Kaypro computer using the CPM system. David’s favorite album is Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” [“Hey, teacher. Leave those kids alone”] but Susan prefers Elvis [Costello]. They love playing the new TV video game “Pong” as well as going to the arcade to play PacMan. Their clothing is unisex and plain and they both wear Levi’s corduroys, pull-over sweaters and docksiders. Susan and David were annoyed that they had to wait in line for over an hour to get gas for the car to go to the movies. But it was totally worth it to see “Star Wars.” See, they can be impressed. Sometimes. Susan and David are two of the most popular names for Baby Boomers born between 1955 – 1964. This group is sometimes referred to as “Generation Jones.”

…Jennifer & Michael

Jennifer has a huge crush on Johnny Depp from “21 Jump Street” and Michael thinks the Wayan brothers, Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx are hilarious on “in Living Color.” Both Jennifer and Micahel love the new animated primetime show “The Simpsons.” All these shows are on the new Fox network. Jennifer is reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” for school and Michael is reading “Ender’s Game.” He is going to compare it to the movie “War Games” and type his report on his PC that uses the MS-DOS system. He and Jennifer are going to the movies to see the Brat Pack but he has time—it takes Jen forever to do her hair. Jennifer likes to wear her hair big and she got a perm to help keep it that way but it is still a process. First the blowdryer, then the curling iron, then the superhold hairspray. Both Michael and Jennifer wear stonewashed tapered jeans. Jennifer is surprising Michael with a Walkman for his birthday with a mixed tape of his favorite songs by Bon Jovi, Duran Duran and The Cure. Their friends Christopher and Jessica are into grunge and Nirvana. The teachers at school think Chris and Jess are slackers because of how they look, but Jen and Mike know that Chris and Jess are entrepreneurs and are running a T-shirt printing business out of their parents’ basement. Excellent! Dude, did you know that Jennifer, Michael, Christopher and Jessica are popular names for Generation X born between 1965 – 1979?

…Ashley & Matthew

Ashley and Matthew are designing a webpage for a school project. Ashley studies hard and plans to go to a good college but for now she takes a break to watch the new episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” She calls her friend Brittany on her cell to talk about the show. They will blog about it L8R. Ashley is interrupted by a text from Matt. He reminds her that they are having a party at Tyler’s to watch the “X Files.” Ashley texts Matt back TTYL. Matt is reading “Holes” and Ashley is reading a book called “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by a new British author called J.K. Rowling. Ashley and Matt will write their reports on their laptops and email it to the teacher who is an “old school dude.” Ashley decides to pick up some snacks at the grocery store and grabs her reusable canvas bag. She listens to Justin [Timberlake] on her mp3 as she walks to the store. Her favorite movie is “The Titanic” and she adores Leonardo DiCaprio. Matt spends his free time skateboarding and wants a career either saving the environment or designing computer games. He would like to be able to take his dog to work and to work flexible hours so he can fit his boarding in. If Matt can’t find a job he likes and that works with his schedule he will create his own business--he is confident that he will be successful. Ashley, Matt and Tyler are some of the most popular names for Generation Y born between 1980 – 2001.

Now take a deep breath and check out the Social Security Administration's popular names by birth year and see where your name stands.

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2008-03-05

Wednesday Night Lights: Band Names

So on my Twitter feeds today, Merlin Mann linked to Google Trends and made the comment that it could be a "One-stop shop for band names."

Google Trends, if you didn't know already, is a constantly updated list of search terms that were used on a given day. Or as Google puts it:"Google Trends aims to provide insights into broad search patterns. Several approximations are used when computing your results. Please keep this in mind when using it." You can even click into the terms to see its search volume.

Going back to Merlin's idea, if I look at the current list, I see search phrases that could be emo band names like "mock turtle soup," "aunt jemima recall," "identical triplets," and "posh puppy." This made me think of an off-the-cuff remark I made at Midwinter that the great and mighty Linda Braun tweeted about. For the click adverse, I muttered the phrase 'guilt by proxy' and Linda thought that was a great Rock Band band name.

The more I look at the Google Trends page, the more applications I can see. You could use it to write quizes for what was on people's minds on certain days. It could be an informal research tool in the same manner. You could use the search terms as writing prompts. The Trends only go back to May of last year, so you couldn't use it to make a display of "things on people's minds one year ago today." But, as long as May represents when they started tracking Trends, in a few months you should be able to make such a display.

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2008-03-03

Resource Alert: Media Heat from Shelf Awareness

I was introduced to Shelf Awareness by my e-mail subscription to Unshelved, and I'm so glad! Not only is it full of interesting news about the world of independent booksellers, but it includes a great feature called Media Heat, which tells you all about the authors appearing on TV and radio programs during the coming week to flog their latest books. This is handy for collection development, displays, and reader's advisory, and takes about 5 minutes to read and put to use. Easy & free -- I love it! You can subscribe to Shelf Awareness here.

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