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.


Friday Fun: Think before you post!

It's a modern conundrum. The web never forgets, especially when you post drunk. Or email drunk. Or leave unfortunate comments drunk, or tired, or on youtube. The fire-and-remember habit of information posted to the web or emailed to colleagues can make for some embarrassing mornings after one clicks that send or submit button when one really shouldn't have. But no matter what the problem, software is the solution! Right? Obviously, especially this week, which saw the release of two new tools to help combat the menace of post-posting regret.

First, the geniuses at Google Labs have unleashed Mail Goggles. Why they didn't call this breakthrough new service 'Mail Googles' or 'Google Goggles' is unclear at this time. By default, when you try to send gmail late at night on the weekends, Mail Goggles will require you to answer 6 math questions before you can actually send the message. The hope is that when you see how slowly you subtract, you'll realize that it's really not the right moment to tell your coworkers, relatives, or supervisors exactly what you think of them. If you are also frequently intoxicated on weeknights, Google's got you covered; you can adjust your Mail Goggles settings to best reflect when you're most likely to send email you later regret. While there's no doubt that this new service ushers in a entirely new era of judgmental software, it does make sense, given their history, that Google released this service just about as far away from April 1st as they possibly could.

But it doesn't end there. Recently, webcomic genius Randall Munroe, creator of the simple but sublime and ultranerdy XKCD posted this comic suggesting a virus that would force youtube commenters to hear their comments read back to them aloud before they could be successfully posted. Youtube comment threads can be repulsive pits of unintended hilarity at best, and horrifying indictments of the direction of our society at their worst, and obviously someone at Youtube thinks so too, as the feature that XKCD proposed last week was rolled out this week. While this breakthrough new feature falls clearly short of Randall's vision of compulsory readability, the addition of the Audio Preview button to the Youtube comment form not only establishes Webcomics as the primary driving force in web application development, but also quietly advocates for heightened readability of youtube comments, which can only make the world a better place. Or, in the immortal words of Canadia420's comment on the infamous Leave Britney Alone video:

"Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahah ahahahahahahahahhahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahhahahahahahahahahah ahahahahahahahah!!!!! You lack intelligence."

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The Wonderful World of Webcomic Tshirts that are least Tangentially related to Libraries

Giving away the content and making a living on schwag and cons is the economic engine of webcomics, and in the pursuit of a decent living, webcomic creators are spitting out some really cool products. I have a real weakness for webcomic tshirts, and ever since the smash hit success of Jeph Jacques' "She Blinded Me With Library Science" tshirt, throwing library people a bone has become a sure-fire way to move some merch. My latest delight is the-not-to-be-underestimated Kate Beaton's "Reading: This Shit is Crazy!" tshirt, which I'm proud to say I managed to wear to the office. Beaton's focus is on history webcomics, and there's a lot to love there (like Napoleon eating cookies) without even checking out the "This Shit is Crazy" section. Tellingly, her store features not only the Reading shirt, but also a 'Glasses make you sexy' shirt that is obviously somewhat librarian-oriented (plus a totally kickass print of a Tesla comic).

Fellow wedge of the Topatoco empire and librarian favorite Cat and Girl features The Map of Compromise from a recent story arc, but her real gem is the $8 sticker collection, which includes some very appealing stickers such as "If you can read this, you're Literate", "My other car is a pynchon novel", and the sublime work of genius that is "If television's a babysitter, then the Internet's a Drunk Librarian that won't shut up". While it's no longer available, Cat and Girl's "Technically you would only need one Time Traveler Convention" shirt that Heidi Dolomore was wearing back at Midwinter is quite possibly the best convention shirt of all time; it even spawned a (somewhat) real time traveler convention at MIT.

While British Superstar John Allison's Scary Go Round shop no longer sells their 'Google is ruining everything' tshirt, his passionate hamster yelling 'Books Rule' is still available. Most of Scary Go Round's best shirts don't really have anything to do with the comic, and while it's not remotely library-specific, don't miss the Major Teacup shirt while you're there.

Finally, while a library connection is even more tenuous, what pop culture librarian's wardrobe would be complete without one of Scott Kurtz's "Joss Whedon is my Master Now" tshirts?

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Webcomics in Print?

Hello, I'm Eli. Sophie has kindly asked me to become a contributor to Pop Goes the Library, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity! I think she got the idea when I wouldn't shut up about webcomics at the Midwinter Blog Salon, and I think I got on the topic because I was so excited to see The Trial of Colonel Sweeto at the Dark Horse booth. Sweeto is the work of Nicholas Gurewitch, whose comic the Perry Bible Fellowship (which has nothing to do with Perry, Bibles, or Fellowship) is an irresistable syrupy-sweet base with brilliantly hilarious and frequently offensive splashes of darkness, violence, or obscenity. PBF runs in some altweeklies and has a staggering web archive that covers a wide spectrum of style and content.

This is Dark Horse's first webcomic edition, and when I totally geeked out at the booth, the vendors asked me what other webcomics I might like to see in print (the venerable goats came first to mind), so with the awesome package of this edition, which includes red ribbon bookmark, beautifully bound, with some new content not found in the archives, I'm hoping we see a lot more great webcomics getting this Dark Horse treatment, especially since The Trial of Colonel Sweeto did $300,000 worth of preorders and has already gone to a third printing after only 4 months on the market.

Of course, if you want to start buying webcomics in print to add some cool depth to your graphic novel collection, there are a ton of great webcomics with self-published or small press paperbound stuff out there. A wide swath of webcomics are unabashedly geekly, and one of my absolute favorites (and no exception) is the daily comic space opera Schlock Mercenary, by Howard Tayler, who quit his job as the product manager for Novell Groupwise, and now supports his family of five with revenue from his webcomic. Tayler's art is not the star attraction, although he has come a very, very long way and the style grows on the dedicated reader; it's his storylines that are irresistable: tightly plotted, audacious and gripping, yet plodding as only a daily strip can get away with, but a punchline in every one. 1000 strips in, he relaunched the comic, organizing it into large story arcs optimized for print, with tidy volume endings and just enough exposition at the beginning of the next book. Start with Under New Management.

Another webcomic that's great in print ended a year ago this week. Bruno, by Chris Baldwin, started in 1996 as an offshoot from a college paper, and follows the life of a young woman, one panel at a time, for 10 garfield-sized volumes. ( I'm sure no author wants to have their work described that way, but if you're of a certain range of ages, and you see a paperback book of certain dimensions, that's what it is!) Again, while most people read Bruno online, the author was always aware of how the strips would fit together when printed resulting in some wonderful books that supplement the web archive with bonus material.

Now, treat these links with caution; webcomic archives are addictive, and PBF and Bruno are not for everyone and may not even be worksafe in your community. Then there's the issue of how the heck you can let those webheads know that you've got hard copies of their favorite webcomics in the collection... and if I figure that out, I'll be sure to let you know. Stay tuned!

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