March 26, 2007

Book Review: Sex God Book by Rob Bell

I really enjoyed the book Sex God by Rob Bell. I can't say enough good things about this book. It is completely unique. It compares sex to spirituality. Specifically, it compares sex to having an intimate relationship with God. Bell says you can't talk about one without talking about the other. He makes a strong case, although it is not written in a linear style. He meanders from stories to conversations to scenes from the Bible to secular quotes. His writing style is very meandering.

This is what I got out of this book: Our extreme desire for sex is really a desire for a relationship with God.

March 20, 2007

Movie Review: Soylent Green

The 1973 movie Soylent Green is often mocked for its campy look, for its overzealous actors (Charlton Heston), and its script. However, it is still a must-see for the American movie buff.

Soylent Green is set in Manhattan, New York, in 2022. The city is overcrowded. People are literally lying in the stairs, waiting for someone to die so they can have an apartment. At the beginning of the movie, we see a rather straggly young man make his way down the stairs past all the bodies. We then see this man having a private meeting with another man inside a car! This is how crowded it is. You have to meet inside a car (with open windows even) to have some privacy. The man is given a meat hook.
Next, we see one very rich man's apartment. He is obviously loaded because he has a humongous condo all to himself. No one is lying on the stairs. Rich man's mistress, named Shirl, is playing what appears to be an ancient video game. Shirl is furniture; she comes with the apartment.

March 19, 2007

Book Review: London Calling by Edward Bloor

Edward Bloor is one wacky guy. He comes up with original plots, and he knows how to execute them with skillful writing. In London Calling, our protagonist is Martin Conway, a bright, unhappy 12-year old with little drive. He is a self-proclaimed hermit. He lives in the basement, which has housed both his crazy uncle and his dad before he set the place on fire. Martin's nuclear family consists of an alcoholic dad that works for an airport steakhouse chain, an unhappy mother who works as a secretary at the private school Martin attends, and a sister who is a genius and works at an encyclopedia company as a fact checker.
Martin has only two friends at his private Catholic school, which is controlled by the Lowery family. The Lowery family claims that their ancestor, Hollerin' Hank Lowery, was a World War II hero. They have some money, and so the school kowtows to that family.

March 15, 2007

Second Life, Get a Life?

My head is spinning with the events of the day. Today was the day that I showed my co-workers the world of Second Life.  Basically, it's a virtual world where people can communicate, discuss, attend events, and buy and sell. If you want to know more than that, I will refer you to this most excellent wikipedia article. Incidentally, Dean Koontz had an author visit in Second Life today.

The plus of Second Life over other cyberspace programs is that everything is so visual. You can see other beings and thus, interaction becomes possible on a deeper level than it is in just a text-based program.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg library has partnered with Sirsi Dynix to bring this to their teens by providing Teen Second Life, free of charge, to their teen patrons. Our technology ingenieur asked me if I thought our library system should consider the same thing. In result, I ended up doing a presentation and demo to some co-workers.

March 14, 2007

Books Teens Will Love as Prizes

Recently, I was asked by my colleagues to come up with a list of books that we could give teens as cool prizes for summer reading club this summer. Rather than do just regular books, I was trying to come up with books with doodads or whatzits in them: Books that would fall apart easily if circulated at a library. This would be easier with books for younger children. But here is what I came up with so far:

Cathy's Book: If Found Call . . . by Sean Stewart
I still haven't read it, but it has multiple layers of text to appreciate, apparently. And there is a packet with lots of doodads to read (napkin, etc.) Here is a great review of it from Mother Reader.

My Secret: a PostSecret Book by Frank Warren
Originally I was going to suggest the first Post Secret book, but I think this one would be better for teens since it is exclusively teen secrets. If you haven't heard of Post Secret, it's the baby of a Frank Warren. People send in their deepest secrets on a postcard. They collage on it, write on it, draw on it, etc. Frank just asks that somewhere on the card is written something they have never told anyone before. Of course, the secrets are anonymous, but they are agreeing to let him publish the secret. It started out as a website (the 3rd most popular blog anywhere, woah, that's tight), and now he has released books! These are fascinating to look at. I would not give them to anyone under middle school for sure, since some of the secrets are graphic (cutting, rape, and molestation are discussed multiple times). Many creators of card have said that telling their secret is a huge step toward healing for them.

Pop Up Book of Phobias by Gary Greenberg

This is a trip to look at. It has a two page spread which portrays a living example of someone's worst nightmare. I haven't seen this book in awhile, but there is a spread on clowns (one of my fears!), using public bathrooms, being in a dentist's chair, being on a too tall building, and being on a plan as it is about to crash. This is a great coffee table book, and teens would enjoy looking at it in groups
With all the hoopla over Eragon (despite the most unyummy movie), I figured this might catch some interest. I haven't seen it yet, but it contains the mythical context for the books, tips for writing your own story, and dragon lore.
The Pop-Up Book of Celebrity Meltdowns by Melcher Media
Do I really need to explain why this would be appreciated by teens? Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise are lovingly portrayed on the cover . . .

So, does anyone else have some greet ideas for teen gift books? Please leave your comments. Please, please, please!

March 13, 2007

Movie Review: The Prestige, Directed by Christopher Nolan

The Prestige is an enjoyable ride, which I was more than willing to take. This movie was directed by Christopher Nolan, who also directed Memento, one of my favorite movies of all time.
In The Prestige, we find out a murder has allegedly taken place. A magician on stage falls through a trapdoor into a water tank and then drowns. His supposed killer is on trial for this, even though the court has many doubts. The man who drowned willingly went into that water tank as part of a magic act. For all they know, the death was just a magic trick gone bad.
We are put into this story with no background, so we need more information.

March 08, 2007

Great Movie: Apocalypto

I finally got a chance to catch Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto this week. I was completely blown away. I frequently build up a movie in my head and then see it, only to suffer bitter disappointment that it did not live up to my expectations. This was not one of those times. I will tell you up front I am not going to respond to this as some history expert who knows exactly what time and place this story is supposed to be happening during. I don’t think those details matter to the heart of this story.

What made it a great movie, was that I was transported during the 2 ½ hours that I was viewing it. I was completely into the story, even though it was longer than most movies. I read one review of this movie that said they didn’t see what Mel Gibson’s point was in making this movie. Well, first of all, who needs a point when you have an entertaining story, but second of all, I think it’s pretty obvious. At the beginning of the film, it quotes a W. Durant:
“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed
itself from within.”

March 06, 2007

Movie Review: Babel

  1. Babel is a torrent of a movie: slow and meditative one minute and heart-pounding the next. It is a multi-perspective movie, where characters’ stories converge in a space where time and location are irrelevant. We want to scream: stop and think! But we know they won’t do either.
    I can’t help feeling this movie is misnamed. Babel is an allusion to the Biblical story in Genesis 11 where the people came together as one and decided to build a tower to Heaven. In order to confound this effort, God created different languages to confuse them and make cooperation impossible. But, in this movie, most of the characters can understand each other fine. That is, they can all speak some common language when talking to the other characters in their scene. A more accurate title might be Not Thinking or I Can’t Say. Most of the characters either make a series of poor decisions or they are afraid to say what they really need or want from people. If there are any barriers, they are cultural barriers of prejudice.

    The characters are:
  • Moroccan brothers who are trying out their father’s gun for fun
  • A nanny from Mexico who wants to get to her son’s wedding
  • A promiscuous Japanese girl who is deaf and lives with a cold, unresponsive father
  • An American couple on holiday after the death of their newest baby

    Doesn’t sound so interesting, does it? But, it ends up the American couple’s trip is in Morocco where the wife gets shot by an unidentified gunman, which is automatically called a terrorist attack. The nanny can’t go to the wedding because she is watching two children, and she illegally brings them to Mexico without their parents’ permission. The brothers get a little too excited about shooting the gun and start pointing at moving objects. The Japanese girl, crazed with a desire to be loved and touched puts herself in situation after situation where she will be rejected.
    At the end of this movie, I was depressed. But it is still worth seeing. It gives us an ugly but brutal picture of discrimination that puts the characters into increasingly confined spaces, where they are forced to act exactly in the way outsiders assume they will.

    The actors were well chosen, especially the Japanese girl. Her scenes are heartbreaking, and I wanted to cry every time she came onto screen.

March 05, 2007

Celebrate Teen Tech Week with Runescape

This past Saturday, we celebrated Teen Tech Week by having teens come to the library and play Runescape after the library was closed. Runescape is this multi-player game where players create a character and collect items so they can complete quests. There is a good bit of information on You can click here to read. It was a really easy event to pull off. Little or no preparation was needed. I just asked the teens to set up their avatar in advance and complete the training (about 20 minutes for most gamers) before the event. This way the two hours was used to play and not to learn how to play.

One thing to be cautious of is that Runescape is explicitly for players 13 and up. There are a ton of people who play that are not 13, but they are not supposed to play without a parent in the room. Also, parents are asked to create the accounts for players under the age of 13. There is chatting in the game and younger children who aren’t aware of internet security issues could unknowingly put themselves in danger.

We had ten teens show up. They were so quiet and well behaved. They were a little talkative, but nothing especially loud. It made me wish all the people who think teens can’t behave could have seen this group. Some of them hardly made a peep; the others were quietly chatting to each other.

While the teens were playing, I explored Second Life for the first time. It was a lot of fun trying things out for the first time. I can’t play at home since my computer has a Windows ME operating system, but I can do it some at work during off-desk times. I think this will continue to become more prevalent in our society has time goes on. My Second Life avatar is Zee Petrov, by the way, if anyone wants to add me to their friend list.

March 02, 2007

Book Review: Blade Silver : Color Me Scarred by Melody Carlson

After I wrote my piece on National Self-Injury Awareness Month, I decided to read Blade Silver : Color Me Scarred by Melody Carlson. I am so glad Carlson started writing teen literature. She has done miracles through her work. Thanks to her, we are seeing a refreshing vein in young adult Christian literature. There is now an alternative to the bland novels that Christian authors have written in the past for teens. Either we have the Lurlene McDaniel books where everybody dies, the perky Christy Miller series, or the historical fiction like Anne of Green Gables or Christy by Katherine Marshall which has little relevance for today's teen. I know that all of these have their audience, but what was missing was Christian fiction for today's teen. What teens seem to want these days is books about REAL problems they are facing daily in their schools: drugs, sexual pressure, and self-injury.

Carlson's books fill a much needed gap. I think her books could be enjoyed by Christians or non-Christians because it is real teens with real problems told in a non-judgmental way. Each character does use their faith to help them cope with a traumatic incident, but it is not done in a preachy way.

Blade Silver is part of the TrueColors series, with each book in a different color cover.

March 01, 2007

According to ASHIC, today is National Self-Injury Awareness Day. Folks are supposed to wear orange bracelets to support the awareness of this terrible societal practice. This says about 1% of the population practice self-injury. The majority of these are teens or young adults.

My concern for this started back in 2002, when I was dating an ex-cutter. He told of how he used to use a pocketknife to cut his upper arms. I started to research the reasonings behind doing this and what I found was disturbing.