Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday's List: March Madness #1

In anticipation of National Library Week (April 12-April 18), the Library will be "hosting" its own March Madness contest, based on the college men's basketball tournament that begins March 19. We have selected 64 authors, in eight different areas or genres, to face off against one another, with the winner being "crowned" on Monday, April 13-- a kind of kickoff to National Library Week. The contest will last for five weeks, with the early round match-ups occurring March 9-14, March 16-March 21, March23-28 and March 30-April 4, and the final eight showdown occurring April 6-April 11. Here's what the Week One bracket will look like:
The winners will be picked by the library staff, but everyone who wants to participate can fill out there own bracket, one per week, and join the fun. The person with the most points each week will win a prize, and the person with the most points overall, will win the grand prize.

So, here are the list of 16 participants for Week One, along with a little "bio" to illustrate their merits for inclusion in the contest. The contestants are not ranked, and all have earned their way into the tournament on the basis of their writing ability, popularity and influence on the genre.

  • Agatha Christie: The grand dame of mystery writers, and still one of the biggest selling authors of all time.
  • P.D. James: One of the many writers that followed Christie's lead in the mid-20th century, James' work are often set against the backdrop of British bureaucracies.
  • Mickey Spillane: Introduced the world to Mike Hammer, a hard-boiled detective living in a dangerous and gritty world.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The creator of Sherlock Holmes, still the best-known detective in the world. He was also prolific in other literary fields.
  • Sue Grafton: A prolific mystery writer, best known for her "alphabet novels" (A is For Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc.) which featured private detective Kinsey Millhone.
  • Elmore Leonard: Leonard's works are best known for their grittiness and realism, and unlike the others on this list, he does not have one or two detectives that are featured in most of his works.
  • Dorothy Sayers: A contemporary of Christie, Sayers' works most often featured Lord Peter Whimsey as the detective.
  • Janet Evanovich: The creator of Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter and sleuth, Evanovich's work are often overlayed with elements of romance novels and thrillers.
Fantasy & Science Fiction:
  • Isaac Asimov: He didn't invent science fiction, but he did bring the science portion of it to the forefront. And he was ridiculously prolific, with several hundred fiction and non-fiction books to his credit.
  • Terry Pratchett: His works are funny, satirical, inventive and thought-provoking. He has a flair for language that few can rival.
  • Ray Bradbury: Bradbury's works cross many genre-lines, science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, but they are universally well-written and reflective of the human soul. Good stuff, in short.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: He brought fantasy into the mainstream, made it legitimate. Along the way, he influenced hundreds of writers and thousands of readers for generations.
  • Robert Heinlein: As with Asimov, Heinlein brought a lot of science to his science fiction, but he was also an incredibly imaginative and prolific author.
  • Kurt Vonnegut: Vonnegut's works are satirical, filled with black humor, and brilliant. And Kilgore Trout may be the best name for a protagonist ever.
  • Orson Scott Card: His novel, Ender's Game, is considered one of the finest novels for young adults ever, and deservedly so. The rest of his writing is awfully fine, as well.
  • H.G. Wells: The granddaddy of them all, he invented many of the themes we now take for granted in science fiction-- time travel, alien lifeforms and alien invasions, and the altering of mankind through science and medicine.
The week one contest brackets will be available on Monday, March 9.
Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Library Collections: What Should We Have?

A comment recently came through, asking if it was a good idea that the library had DVDs, and now video games, in an era of childhood obesity. I responded to it, briefly, in the library's column in the Mukwonago Chief, but I post the comment in full here because I think it raises some interesting points and it requires a full and thoughtful response that I just don't have the room for in the newspaper column. Here is the full-text of the suggestion:

With today's children spending so much time in front of the television, is it necessary to promote this by offering hundreds of movie DVDs and now video games at the library? Studies have proven that our children are less imaginative than ever before, and cases of obesity in children is [sic] overwhelming. On my past trips to the library, I notice that children and their parents are not checking out books, but instead are checking out stacks of DVDs and now video games. Is this the quality time that parents spend with their children now, mindlessly parking them in front of the television set? What about sharing a good book and talking, or venturing outside for some fresh air and exercise. A little sun won't hurt any of these kids. Maybe it should be suggested that we spend more money on books, magazines, papers, etc. and less on mindless visual entertainment.

I want to thank whoever made the suggestion. And I mean that very sincerely-- it clearly comes from someone who truly cares about his or her community and the community's library. Similarly, thanks to everyone else who has made a suggestion or left a comment—please, keep them coming. We appreciate any and all feedback from the community we serve.

It is also important to provide a little historical context-- this is a question that has been around, in one form or another, for centuries. In America, it has arisen in the form of "good" books vs. "bad" books, newspapers and magazines vs. books, movies and videotapes vs. books and newspapers, and even genre books (SF, fantasy, mystery) vs. other fiction.

Essentially, it boils down to: Is the public library an educational institution, an entertainment destination, or some blending and combination of the two? The general consensus has been for option #3, a blending and combination of the two. Certainly that has been the approach of the Mukwonago Community Library. Our vision statement identifies us as both a Lifelong Learning Place and an Entertainment Place. Most significantly, perhaps, we see ourselves as A Place For Everyone.

Now, in regards to particulars of the patron's comments, let's start with the final point. It is important to realize that the library spends more on books than on DVDs, CDs and video games combined—more than twice as much, when you include our newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Books, newspapers and magazines are staple of library holdings, and despite speculation like this, I don't see that changing any time in the near future.

I also think calling movies and video games, “mindless visual entertainment” is too harsh. Certainly, some movies and games are pure escapism, but movies are often as thought provoking as books and many video games can be shared by a family in the same manner as a board game. My kids and I had a blast last week playing SuperMario Kart together, and with the motion-sensing capabilities of the new generation of games, even the "couch potato" image of a typical video game player may be going by the boards. Having recently purchased Wii Fit, I can testify that "playing" that "game" will provide you with a workout. Plus, recent studies are showing that video games can be beneficial to the brain in many ways.

And, then again, what's wrong with a little pure escapism from time to time? Certainly some books are primarily, perhaps entirely, escapist fiction. Not every book can be The Grapes of Wrath, Wuthering Heights, or War and Peace. Nor would we want them to be.

Additionally, the library is also an entertainment place and both DVDs and video games are part of the entertainment landscape. Certainly we hope that families check out books as well as videos and games, but the library's vision is for it to be a "place for everyone". One group that is a challenge to "be a place for" is the young adult population-- video games are a way for us to reach out to them.

In regards to getting outside for some sun, the library is exploring options for making better use of the park to our west this summer, including outdoor reading spots and possibly checking out some sports equipment (basketballs, kickballs, etc.). Overall, however, I would say that video gaming is no more inactive than reading a book, and that today's games are sometimes quite active, indeed.

The challenge to today's library is to be that "place for everyone". Old, young, readers, writers, viewers, gamers. Computer savvy or not, religious, agnostic, retired, unemployed, students, parents, children, artists, professionals, factory workers, athletes and intellectuals. To meet that challenge, we attempt to keep a balance of educational and entertainment materials, in as many formats as possible, to reach as broad a portion of the community as we can.

And we are always open to suggestions and new approaches. Please, help us be the best community library we can possibly be-- add your comments just below, if you'd like, or stop in and let us know what's on your mind.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

When Life is Better than a Story

This story has nothing to do with libraries, books, information or technology. It has a lot to do with what is best about people, about sportsmanship and about the human spirit. As an added bonus, it happened in Wisconsin and its getting national attention (I saw it on Yahoo).

I pass it along because it is worth reading and as my own small props to everyone involved, because what they did was good and right and (sadly) refreshing in a world that far too often seems more interested in fame, greed and winning at all costs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Library Slogans

One of my hopes for expanding the library is to find a good catch-phrase or slogan for our fund raising efforts. In pursuit of that goal, I stumbled upon the Advertising Slogan Generator. Simply plug in a keyword, click "sloganize" and voila, instant catch-phrase.

Here are a view possibilities that came from the Advertising Slogan Generator, with the word Library plugged into it:
  • Top Breeders Recommend Library
  • It's a New Library Every Day
  • Library is Job 1
  • Gee, Your Library Smells Terrific
  • Why Can't Everything Orange Be Library?
You get the idea. Fairly silly, but fun-- and in all honesty, number two on that list isn't half-bad. One of the neat things about a library is that it IS a new place every day, with new materials, new opportunities and new events all the time.

Try it out with different slogan terms-- some of the "slogans" are awfully funny.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Friday's List: Belated

I actually had this ready to go Friday, but then wanted to just tweak it a little... and naturally forgot all about actually posting it. Until today, when I finally looked and it wasn't there. Doh! Sorry about that.

So, here is Friday's belated: Top Ten Underrated Actors

Undeniably subjective, but open to discussion-- just add your thoughts after clicking the little "0 comments" link at the bottom of this post. I saw Tombstone last week (yes, I know its over 10 years old, but I hadn't seen it before) and was fairly impressed with it-- quite a bit better than I expected. Part of the reason was Val Kilmer's portrayal of Doc Holliday. He was excellent-- stealing the show from Kurt Russell's more reserved, pragmatic Wyatt Earp.

It occured to me that Mr. Kilmer has been excellent in everything I've seen him in-- though checking this filmography, I haven't seen the majority of his work. Still, I think he is under-appreciated as an actor. Started me thinking about other actors that are under-appreciated, and voila:

Top 10 Underrated Actors/Actresses

10. Cate Blanchett. Doesn't seem to get the same recognition of the Gwyneth Paltrow's of the world, but she is sublime in everything she does. She has a chameleon like nature and an ability to go from cold to warm to sexy in just a heartbeat.
9. Lee Marvin. Old school, bay-bee. Never got the same recognition as some of his contemporaries, but his work in The Dirty Dozen, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Paint Your Wagon is just fine, thank you (yes, even the singing). And he does comedy pretty well, too.
8. Clint Eastwood. Gets a lot of recognition for his directing, and deservedly so, but the man can act, too. Dirty Harry and the spaghetti westerns, sure, but his work in The Outlaw Jesse Wales, Honkytonk Man, Play Misty for Me and Two Mules for Sister Sarah is very very good. Far more wide ranging than most people know.
7. Harrison Ford. Certainly a known, A-List name, but doesn't really get enough credit for his actual acting. His work in Blade Runner is generally overlooked, as are his roles in Working Girl, Witness and Regarding Henry. And with Han Solo and Indiana Jones, Ford virtually defined the action hero for an entire generation. I personally believe part of the reason that the original Star Wars movies were so much better than the recent ones was because the cast was SO good they managed to not only overcome the mediocre to horrible writing, but to transcend it-- and Ford was linchpin of that talented bunch of actors.
6. Kevin Spacey. Gets quite a bit of press, but he's still underrated in my mind-- I would put him up there with the Deniros and Pacinos of his generation. His work in American Beauty, L.A. Confidential and The Usual Suspects was just superb. He's not quite as good in A Time To Kill and The Negotiator, but he does a great bad guy voice in A Bug's Life.
5. Vincent D'Onfrio. A bit annoying, at times, as the uber-genius cop in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, but he's got serious acting chops across a wide range of genres and much of his work on L&O: CI is riveting. Awesome performance as the "bug" in Men In Black.
4. Bill Murray. A comic genius, of course-- Ghostbusters, Caddy Shack, Stripes, Meatballs-- but also skilled with less over-the-top comic material and more serious fare. Scrooged, Groundhog Day, and Lost in Translation, for example.
3. Sigourney Weaver. Comic gold in Ghostbusters and Galaxy Quest and not your typical damsel in distress in Alien and Aliens. Also plays the bad guy well, ala the mean, merciless "warden" in Holes and everybody's favorite boss to hate in Working Girl.
2. Val Kilmer. Has done a bit of everything, and done it well. Comedy? Johnny Dangerously and Real Genius. Drama? The Doors and Tombstone. Action? Batman Forever and Tombstone.
1. Michael Keaton. Kinda got stereotyped with Mr. Mom, I think, but he ranged from Beetle Juice to Bruce Wayne with ease. Has a Tom Hanks like every man quality, but plays the bad guy as well as he does the good guy.

Now it is entirely possible that some, or all, of these actors have sucked out loud in the films I haven't seen, but in the ones I have seen they have been excellent, yet don't get critical acclaim for their acting. And I'm sure I've forgotten lots of folks, so feel free to add nominees in the comments.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TTDNTMiLS #3: HVAC Systems

I am 99.8342% positive the term HVAC, short for Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning, was never mentioned to me in any of my library sciences courses. Not once.

Yet I find myself spending an awful lot of time dealing with things HVAC related these days. Our HVAC system is about 12 years old now (same as our building) and so its starting to show a little wear and tear. Consequently, the library is exploring a preventative maintenance (read tune up) agreement for the 18_vav_vox_JPGHVAC system for this year.

And because of that, I have recently learned about: variable air volume devices, air mixers, supply fans, air handling units, condensers, boilers, pumps, static reset switches, filters, duct work and more! For extra kicks, nearly everything related to HVAC systems is an acronym or abbreviation: AHU, ZN-T, SupFlow, OccCMax, P5-S, BOXHTG-C, and on and on.

Fortunately, I like learning new things and getting a basic understanding of air, steam and water flow in a building is kinda fun. It's like a puzzle and a maze all sorta mashed up, with some big, mechanical bits thrown in for extra fun.

But really, would it have hurt the library school folks to mention some of this in class? I remeber discussing the importance of maintaining humidity and temperature levels (paper and electronics are impacted adversely by large swings in humidity and temperature), but never the HOW of maintaining those levels. Nothing at all along the lines of, "Every few years it is probably a good idea tVariSpeedAHUo have all your zone VAV settings and controls tested, and there will probably only be a handful of companies in your area that can do that. Oh, and it will be pretty expensive, but it will likely be worth it in the long run."

Finally, for the terminally curious, AHU=Air Handling Unit, ZN-T=Zone Temperature, SupFlow=Supply Airflow, OccCMax=Occupied Cooling Max Airflow, P5-S=Pump 5 Status, and BOXHTG-C=Heating Valve. There's a lot of V words in the HVAC world.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday's List: Best PG Movie Quotes

Wow, this was HARD. Trying to narrow it down to 10 was incredibly restrictive. I could come up with 10 great lines just from Ghostbusters. So, I bumped it out to 20, which was still hard. So, I eliminated any that have R-rating level profanity in them, which knocked out some really good ones, unfortunately. But it seems appropriate for a library blog. For a great movie line site, go here.

Top 20 Movie Quotes of All Time:

20) Ball 4... Ball 8... Ball 12. How can they be laying off pitches that close? Major League, 1989. So many great lines in this movie. Uecker was awesome.
19) Strange women lying about in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975. Another movie that could get you 25 great lines easy.
18) Dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy. The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1976. Classic Clint.
17) Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! Ghostbusters, 1984. Only one of many, but perhaps my favorite of them all.
16) May the force be with you. Star Wars, 1977. Not a top 10, like AFI has it, but deserving nonetheless.
15) Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son. Animal House, 1978. The AFI list didn't even have the best Animal House quotes on their list.
14) Cinderella story here at Augusta, former groundskeeper comes from behind to lead the pack. Caddyshack, 1980. Another movie that could fill up 25 quotes easy.
13) What we have here is a failure to communicate. Cool Hand Luke, 1967. So simple, yet so chilling.
12) It's 106 miles to Chicago. We've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.
Hit it. The Blues Brothers, 1980. Ah, Johnny boy, we hardly knew ye.
11) Here's looking at you kid. Casablanca, 1942. Gotta have a Bogart quote in here. It's like a rule.
10) Indiana Jones: There's a big snake in the plane, Jock!
Jock: Oh, that's just my pet snake, Reggie.
Indiana Jones: I hate snakes, Jock! I hate 'em!
Jock: C'mon, show a little backbone, will ya? Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981. Just my personal favorite Indi quote.
9) I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die. Blade Runner, 1982. Rutger Hauer is an underrated actor, and everything about this movie was fantastic.
8) YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! Son we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Wienburg? I have more responsilbility here than you could possibly fathom. In places you don't want to talk about at parties, you want me on that need me on that wall. We use words like honour, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline! I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to! A Few Good Men, 1992. There is so much more to this line than just the first sentence. And you gotta have at least one Jack Nicholson line in a top 25 list. It's like a rule.
7) Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. Gone With the Wind, 1939. Nearly 70 years later, this one still resonates.
6) So i get a job loopin' for none other than the Dhali Lama himself, the bald head, the flowing robes...striking! So we get up on the first tee and he whacks off about a 10,000 foot crevice down into this glacier, a big hitter the llama....Long. So he turns to me and says oonga-lagoonga..oonga-goonga-lagrunga. So we finish 18 and he starts to walk know tries to stiff me and I say 'Hey Dhali! Hey Lama! How about somethin' for the effort you know? ....a little moola' and he says 'Oh there will be no money but on your deathbed you will receive total consciousness' I got dat goin for me....which is nice. Caddyshack, 1980. Simply outstanding. Maybe should be higher?
5) We're on a mission from God. The Blues Brothers, 1980. Pretty well sums it up, huh?
4) I love the smell of Napalm in the morning. Apocalypse Now, 1979. Who doesn't?
3) Are you suggesting coconuts migrate? Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975. Set the stage for all the inspired lunacy that was to follow, in this movie, in their other movies and in tons of other peoples' movies.
2) I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking, did he fire six shots or only five? Well to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk? Dirty Harry, 1971. Hard to beat Clint at his best.
1) I'll make him an offer he can't refuse. The Godfather, 1972. Brando at the top of his game takes home the prize. There are tons of lines in this movie that are unforgettable, but this is the one that sums it all up.

So there it is. It was tempting at times to just pick a movie (Ghostbusters, The Godfather, The Holy Grail, etc.) instead of just one or two quotes from those movies, but that seemed cheesy. I had almost 50 lines that could've made the list, and obviously over half of them didn't. Here are my honorable mentions in no particular order:

  • Did we give up when the German's bombed Pearl Harbor? No!
  • You don't understand! I could've had class. I could've been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.
  • They can take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!
  • I think he broke his freakin' neck.
  • You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?!
  • Where's your other hand? In between two pillows. Those aren't PILLOWS!
  • Run away! Run away!
  • I hate Illinois Nazis.
  • I'll be back.
  • Wax on, wax off.
  • So it's sort of social-- demented and sad, but social.
  • Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more.
  • Ya shouldn't hang me on a hook, Johnny. My mudder hung me on a hook, once. Once.
  • Ask him about the twinkie.
  • It's good to be the king.
  • Bond, James Bond.
  • Don't drive angry.
  • Get your hands off me you dirty damned ape.
  • Whoa, this is the ugliest hat I've ever seen! Do you get a free bowl of soup with that hat? Oh, it looks good on you though. Whew!
  • Say hello to my little friend.
  • In Vegas, everybody's gotta watch everybody else. Since the players are looking to beat the casino, the dealers are watching the players. The box men are watching the dealers. The floor men are watching the box men. The pit-bosses are watching the floor men. The shift-bosses are watching the pit-bosses. The casino manager is watching the shift-bosses. I'm watching the casino manager. And the eye-in-the-sky is watching us all.

  • So, can you name all the films those quotes go with?

    Have a great weekend!

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    Donkeyball Post Game Assessment

    We was robbed! You thought the officiating was poor to criminal in the Super Bowl? That was nothing on the Donkeyball tournament on Friday. The community team took the court against the school administrators, and it was quickly clear that the cards were stacked against us. Jeff Spang, of the YMCA Phantom Lake camp, had bravely volunteered to ride the sweetly named Honeypot, a misnomer if ever there was one.

    Honeypot (shown above, with me trying to stop him so I can attempt to ride him for 5-10 seconds until he bucks or ducks me off) is one ornery, unsweet little equine. So, right from the get go one of our four players was hamstrung trying to get on the donkey, much less actually ride and direct it. Two of our other donkeys steadfastly refused to move. Yet despite playing roughly 1 on 3 (the adminstrators did have one donkey that did not move as well), we were ahead at half-time and tied 12-12 with only seconds left in regulation.

    As a side note, 12-12 is huge scorefest in donkey ball. The first game, 7th grade teachers vs. 8th grade teachers, ended 8-6.

    But I digress. After a controversial ruling on an adminstration technical foul, the game ended in a tie, with the adminstrators winning in "overtime". OT consisted of an arm wrestling match and a Rock, Paper, Scissors throw down, both of which the community lost. All of which should've been irrelevant, since we had the game cinched in regulation-- despite our donkey disadvantage!-- until the ref weighed in and virtually handed the game to the admin team. But I'm not bitter.

    Seriously, it was fun, the crowd was great, and the school raised a lot of money for their technology drive. As for your intrepid correspondent and erstwhile donkey rider-- I was not in much, as the community team had 12 people to rotate into four slots. But I did get to know Honeypot up close and personal. He actually seems like a nice enough donkey-- he just doesn't like large people riding on him.

    Which is understandable. So, I spent a good part of my time sliding alongside him as he pulled me wherever he happened to want to go. I did manage to mount up a few times. I think I even lasted longer than seven seconds once-- which is pretty good! Oh wait, that's in bull riding.

    Well, either way, it was fun and I applaud my team, the opponents, everyone who came to watch the show, and the donkeys themselves-- they were very patient.

    Here's a few more pics from the show (sorry they are a little dark-- the lighting in the gym wasn't so good for pictures):