May 26, 2008

Animazement 2008 Recap: A Librarian's Experience

*Only some of the pictures I took at this event are in this post. For the complete set of pictures, click here.

Well, the Animazement Con went above and beyond my wildest expectations. Many times, I have this vision in my head of what something will be like. My Myers Briggs type is idealist. So often I am let down by the reality. In this case, though, it went even better than I imagined. The enthusiasm people demonstrated about the library setting up a booth was very touching. They seemed excited that we had come onto their turf.

Michelle and I went to set up our table at around 4 pm. The convention officially starts at 1 pm, so there were many folks there when we arrived. There were no places to park so I dropped Michelle and all our junk at the door while I found a place to park. This was my first time ever being at this convention, so I had no idea what to expect or where to go.

I found a parking spot at a building across the street from the hotel and walked over. Registration was in a white tent, and the lines were small. We picked up our cards while one of the teens from Michelle's library watched our stuff. We had a LOT of stuff. After checking in, we loaded up both our tow dolly carts, but there still weren't enough hands. I was very pleased that a stranger chose to help us carry stuff in. I was already feeling warm fuzzies for the convention folk.

Book Review: Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

Jeremy Fink is in a terrible spot. He has just received a wooden box that his deceased father left him to open on his thirteenth birthday. He didn't know about this box until just a few days ago. The box is labeled "The Meaning of Life." Jeremy's 13th birthday is right around the corner. He can't wait to open the box. There's only one problem: the lawyer who was keeping it until the right moment has lost the keys that are the only way to open it.

The search for the keys begins Jeremy on a search within himself for what he believes about friendship, loss, the meaning of life, and why we are here on this Earth.

The plot moves at a great pace. Jeremy and his best friend, Lizzie, are a hoot to be around. Jeremy, an observer and scientist at heart, is full of curiosity about everything around him. He has random facts jammed in his head like a Jeopardy expert. Lizzie, on the other hand, is the practical one, full of vinegar. Both feel a definite affection for each other. They have been childhood friends since birth.

There is a lot of plot packed into this story, but the impressive thing is that it isn't too long. Many things that seem meaningless at the time become meaningful later, such as the talent show that Jeremy and Lizzie enter.

May 15, 2008

Just Tidbits

I have been getting through several books and movies. For expediency's sake, I am putting these into one entry.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Finally got through this treasure since my library bought it on audiobook. The Book Thief was a Printz Honor award winner and tells the story of a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany. This has been done before, of course, but what gives this book its unique flavor is that it is narrated by Death. Death is fascinated by Liesel, this book thief, and claims he gets distracted by her. After blowing the end of the story for everyone, Death goes back to the beginning and tells Liesel's tale. Death is a great character here, and exhibits the perfect combination of sly humor, a solemn tone, and a miraculous awe at the humans he watches from afar until the fateful moment. Full of heartbreaking characters and miraculous moments, this book will leave you hungry for MORE ZUSAK.

Iron Man
Must . . . go . . . see . . . Iron Man. I'm not sure what makes Iron Man so good. Could it be Robert Downey's performance? He is amiable enough. Could it be all the cool techie gadgets? Yes, they are neat. Could it be that it involves the Middle East, and Americans can't seem to get enough of that right now? Yes, it has cultural relevancy. Could it be that the spring line of movies has sucked so bad that it doesn't take much to impress me at this point? Yes, that's quite on the money.

For me, I love any movie where a power hungry person changes their tune and makes a mental shift. Downey gives a solid performance as someone who has seen the light of day and wants to change his ways. It was fairly clean, too.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
This movie has certainly pushed some buttons. Went to see it at the theaters and was fairly sure I was going to be joined by people that already agreed with Ben Stein's initial premise like myself. I was right about that. The audience was clapping and audibly showing their approval. But, I can't truly call this a documentary. If it was a documentary, Stein would have let the facts speak for themselves more than he did. He took the facts and then tried to hammer the nail into the coffin. The result was that he ended up looking like he was trying to hard to make his point. A true documentary is when the director is an objective viewer. Stein is hardly objective. He has his beliefs and only speaks the things that support his side.

Don't get me wrong, I think Stein has some good things to say but I don't think this movie is going to sway anyone's mind. The people that already agreed will agree. The people that disagree will continue to disagree. And I really wish he had not brought up the Holocaust. I think this just served to alienate a whole portion of the audience.

More to Come!

May 06, 2008

Book Review: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The thing I really like about graphic novels is that you can usually read them in less than an hour. There are notable exceptions, of course, such as Alan Moore's The Watchmen. But most of the time, they read fast. I finally gave The Arrival a viewing, and it's quite an intriguing read.

The problem with describing it is that it's wordless. Much of the content is up to the viewer. You can make a guess as to what is happening or what is represented. Then, in about a year, you could look at it again and have a new take.

From what I can tell, this is the story of an immigrant that comes to a new land. We don't know why, only that he decides to pack up his bags and travel to a new home. He leaves a spouse and a daughter behind with great sadness. You can tell this parting brings them all pain. You can tell because of the drawings Shaun Tan made. Each one is packed with emotional punch.

Teen Program: Art Contest

This past April, I held an art contest for students in grades 6-12. This is a great program to try. First of all, it is pretty easy to put together. The work you have to do is minimal. It takes a little longer if you want to make those extras that will make it special for the teens, which of course you do. Once you have your materials made, you can continue to use them again every year. Another thing that's good about an art contest is that it gives teens a real feeling of accomplishment. They can put something like this on their resume. So parents will really dig it. Also, this is a great way to advocate for teens. You can have the exhibit at your library, and library patrons will get a chance to look at the artwork and be impressed. This is a way we can show all ages how talented teens can be. This is a way to counter attack those negative stereotypes of teens that adults sometimes hold. The last thing is that your community will get into it. Local businesses will likely be willing to donate prizes. You can find judges at local schools or local art studios.