Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tetris: 25 years and counting

Way before all the new sophisticated computer games like Dungeons and Dragons Online or Age of Empires III, there was Tetris. This simple but addictive game has been considered one of the “greatest games of all times” by Electronic Game Monthly, and has been in the list of the 50 most popular games for the last two decades.

Twenty five years ago Tetris was programmed by Alexey Pajitnov, a Russian computer engineer who worked at the Computer Center of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Along the way, a Gameboy version of Tetris was produced. It was this version that made Tetris internationally popular, so much so, that 35 million copies of the game have been sold worldwide. Also for those of us who don’t already know, the music used in this version of the game is a Russian folk tune called “Korobeiniki”, and a lot of bands all over the world have recorded covers of it.

This game has being played in more than 50 countries and therefore, translated into more than 50 languages. Even though it was programmed 25 years ago, it still current. Recently, Tetris was nominated for Best WiiWare Game 2008 and Best Puzzle Game 2008 by IGN.

Even though the Library doesn’t have books particularly about Tetris, we do have books about computer game programming that might interest you. Who knows, you might be the creator of a new computer game as interesting and lasting as Tetris.

Learning XNA 3.0

Zune game development using XNA 3.0

Racing the beam : the Atari Video computer system

Game boys : professional videogaming's rise from the basement to the big time

Picture yourself creating video games

Monday, September 28, 2009

Our National Parks

Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park, California.
Image from the Library of Congress American Memory

Last night PBS premiered Ken Burns' latest creation "The National Parks: America's Best Idea". If you missed it, you missed a beautiful beginning to the history of the how and why of our national treasures. However, you can catch it again, just check the schedule. You can also watch it on your computer.

The parks owned by everyone in this country cover 84 million acres, contains the tallest mountains, dense forests, hottest deserts, greatest collection of geysers, breathtaking waterfalls, deep lakes, cool dark caves, wandering rivers, grand canyons, idyllic islands, live volcanoes, and are peaceful refuges for animals and humans alike. Wallace Stegner was right when he said "National Parks are the best idea we ever had."

Watch the videos, tune into PBS, read the books, remember again what it's like to be in a park here in our great country.

A Passion for Nature: the Life of John Muir by Donald Worster

To Yosemite and Beyond: Writings from the Years 1863 to 1875
by John Muir

The National Parks: America's Best Idea: an Illustrated History by Dayton Duncan

Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature by Tom Turner

Wallace Stegner and the American West by Philip Fradkin

Ken Burns' other films available at the Library

Friday, September 25, 2009

Green Day's American Idiot

The Berkeley Repertory Theater recently premiered American Idiot, a rock opera drawn from Green Day's album of the same name and featuring 21 songs from the band's canon.

Back in 2004, American Idiot reintroduced the concept album back into music. The album sold 12 million copies and has been compared to The Who’s Tommy, which become a Broadway hit in 1993, and critics are saying that's where the rock opera American Idiot is headed.

One reviewer said that the poetic twists and angry puns of the band's words come through with greater clarity in the musical than on the album, even with all the thrashing choreography, flying bodies. and pulsating video.

American Idiot, the musical, is being directed by the same team who won a Tony in 2004 for Spring Awakening, another musical about reckless youth.

The Library has many other musicals on cd. Search for musicals as a subject (drop-down menu) and then select "music on cd" under material format.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall is here. Time to hike.

Fall is here and the temperature will soon break for the season…hopefully. While the summer is considered the active season by many, the fall is the bee’s knees to me. The cooler temperatures and softer ground are perfecting for hiking. Austin and Central Texas offer vast and diverse hikes. We have numerous state parks close by as well as great municipal hiking areas. The Austin Public Library offers numerous Texas hiking and travel guides.

Information about each Texas state park.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Juanes in Cuba

Hundreds of thousands, possibly as many as over one million Cubans attended a concert in support of peace in Havana’s historic Plaza de la Revolución this past Saturday. The event was organized by the Colombian Pop star Juanes and featured 14 other artists representing six different countries. Juanes is quoted as having said, "This concert is one little grain of sand more in the process of improving relations through art." This follows the current administration’s decision to allow family members currently living in the United States to return to the island to visit relatives, some of whom they haven’t seen since 1959, and to send remittances to help support them financially.

The Austin Public Library has several recordings by some of the artists that participated in this historic event in support of bringing people together through music.

Fijate bien [sound recording]
Un día normal [sound recording]
Mi sangre [sound recording]
La vida-- es un ratico [sound recording]

Olga Tañon:
Nuevos senderos [sound recording]
Llévame contigo [sound recording]
Te acordarás de mí [sound recording]
Una nueva mujer [sound recording]
Yo por ti [sound recording]
Sobrevivir [sound recording]
A puro fuego [sound recording]

Miguel Bose:
Salamandra [sound recording]
Los chicos no lloran [sound recording]
Bajo el signo de Caín [sound recording]
11 maneras de ponerse un sombero [sound recording]
Lo mejor de Bosé [sound recording]
Por vos muero [sound recording]
Papito Bosé [sound recording]

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Guiding Light has been Turned Off

A lot of you may not even watch TV during the day, but did you know that the final episode of Guiding Light was aired today? The soap opera had a 72 year run, first on the radio and then television. That is a long running story. I, myself, am not familiar with the storylines of Guiding Light, as my Mom and Grandma watched Days of Our Lives, Bold and the Beautiful and Young and the Restless and I watched with them occasionally. However, I do find it simply amazing that a television show can have that long of a run.

A few Guiding Light facts:
  • longest-running soap opera in production and the longest running drama in television and radio history by the Guinness Book of World Records
  • started on radio in 1937, moved to television in 1952
  • won 69 daytime Emmy Awards
  • the main characters were from the Spaulding and Bauer families
  • over 15,700 episodes were aired
The Austin Public Library has a few of those early episodes on vinyl record. Check it out!

Browse through the TV y novelas U.S.A. periodical in Spanish.

And if you're interested in Jonathan Randall's character, we've got the book: Guiding Light: Jonathan's Story.

Check out Guiding Light online too:
CBS' link to watching the show and other GL features
a neat interactive website dedicated to all things Guiding Light

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It’s all about fashion!

You cannot escape it, it’s everywhere, it’s going to be with you no matter your age, social status or country in the world. Yes, we are talking about fashion. When you hear this word you might feel completely connected to it because you might like to stay on top of the new fashion seasons and its colors and trends or you might feel that this is a word that doesn’t have anything to do with you because you don’t care much about it.

The truth is that everything we wear, whether we like it or not, was designed by somebody in the fashion industry that wanted to start a new trend and make you look in a certain way. Colors, textures, fabrics, everything is used with you in mind. The good thing is that you can choose and take what you like and create your own style.

Nowadays, singers and actors are mostly the ones that dictate a new fashion to follow. In the past, kings and queens stated what was “in” what was “out.” Like in the case of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire known for her extravagant style and Marie Antoinette who used her clothes to rebel against strict court etiquette and became a fashion icon of her time. This also shows that fashion is not only about looks but it is also linked to social revolution and struggle, like Lubna Hussein, Sudanese journalist, who will have to pay a fine of $200 or go to jail for wearing pants in public.

Fashion is also a vast area that covers photography, dressmaking, design, and art. These are some of the books related to this topic available at your library:

Basic Pattern skills for fashion design

200 projects to get you into fashion design

Producing fashion: commerce, culture, and consumers

Wagashi : handcrafted fashion art from Japan

Avedon fashion

Style clinic : how to look fabulous all the time, at any age, for any occasion

Queen of fashion : what Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution

Fashion sketchbook

Colors for modern fashion : drawing fashion with colored markers

Fashion inside out : Daniel V's guide to how style happens from inspiration to runway & beyond

Fashion designers

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dogtown to the Rescue

This year, Dogtown, the largest no-kill homeless animal facility in the country celebrates its 25th year of pioneering animal rescue efforts and innovative and humane solutions to problems of pet over-population and animal abuse. Acquiring a former "movie ranch" in Angel Canyon and 33,000 adjacent acres in 1980, the sanctuary moved operations from its original location in Arizona to the beautiful canyon in Utah. The Library has the National Geographic DVD and a book about the sanctuary.

Dogtown: Second Chances
DVD 636.70832 Do
Three programs profiling life at Dogtown. Each episode of "DogTown" takes viewers on a journey inside the bustling grounds to meet the dogs and the skilled professionals dedicated to ensuring that even the toughest cases survive.

Dogtown : a Sanctuary for Rescued Dogs
636.70832 SO

Friday, September 11, 2009

One & Other

A co-worker introduced me a few months ago to an art project going on at Trafalgar Square in London called One & Other. The project, the brainchild of renowned sculpture artist Antony Gormley, involves everyday people picked at random to stand upon one of four plinths for one hour. Different people will take turns standing on the plinth (the fourth plinth, which does not have a statue on it) for 24 hours a day/7 days a week over a period of 100 days. A website is dedicated to the project where you can watch a live feed of the various randomly selected “plinthers” and their activities atop the fourth plinth. Admittedly, I’ve become addicted to tuning into this website and checking up on the plinthers every now and then to see what they’re up to. Some people just sit there and enjoy the view or surf the Internet on their laptops, while others rally for various causes or things they’re passionate about, but there is no limit to what a person can do while up there. One of my favorites was an hour late evening on a Friday night where the plinther, a girl in a silver-sequined dress with a small CD player, danced the whole time to her favorite tunes. Critics of the project say that it is not art and the plinthers are uninteresting, but, personally, I really like it. It’s difficult for me to put into words why exactly – maybe it’s that it is so distinctly human and it allows so many people (2400 total once the project is completed) to take part.

Gormley is a fantastic artist known for installations in natural environments and public spaces. For example, “Another Place” is a very effecting installation of 100 body form sculptures on Crosby Beach near Liverpool (see it here). He’s also used some interesting materials to construct his pieces, such as white bread slices for his work “Bed” (see it here). Here are some excellent websites and articles about Gormley’s works and artistry:

About One & Other
More about the project including a video of Gormley explaining the project

Flickr: One & Other
Pictures of the plinthers during their hour on the plinth

One & Other
This is the website to the One & Other project where you can watch the current plinther live from the plinth, view profiles of the plinters, and much more.

One & Other: Highlights
See each week's plinther highlights

SlowTV: Antony Gormley
Video in which Gormley discusses his work

Tate: Antony Gormley
This is one of the most well done websites I’ve ever seen complete with images from every angle and audio and video commentary on four of Gormley’s major works.

Too Human to Put on a Pedestal
*Requires an Austin Public Library card
Article from the London Times criticizing the project’s result. Use FindIt Plus to search several of our most popular databases at once including FindIt, the library catalog. This is a great way to find newspaper, magazine, and journal articles on people, such as Antony Gormley, current events and much more.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Lawyers and Wannabe Lawyers

For those trying to get into law school, the Library has various LSAT exam guides, and online LSAT practice tests as part of the LearningExpress database. The Library also has a good selection of legal materials for the lay person, including many self help books on divorce and wills, legal research guides, and a Texas legal forms database. For lawyers. we have books ranging from technology in the law office to the legal aspects of bicycle accidents. Lawyers can also look up news reports on legal topics and cases in Factiva, a database with full text articles from thousands of newspapers, newswires, magazines.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mexico City Megalopolis

Mexican culture fascinates me. There is something that resulted from the mashing together of European culture with that of the many cultures of the native people of Central America that I find irresistible. The food is delicious, the people are so gracious, and the artifacts they produce tap into something deeply human. Of course, my perspective is that of a foreigner, a tourist, someone who watches comfortably from a distance. The real Mexico is vastly more complex, dynamic, and perplexing. The real Mexico is infinitely more interesting. Let David Lida be your guide as he leads you into one of the world’s great megalopolises, Mexico City. In his book, First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, the Capital of the 21st. Century, the reader is treated to an intimate portrait of a place that is equal parts crushing reality and surreal dreamscape. Perhaps best of all, this is a work of non-fiction and Mexico City is an actual destination that can be experienced first hand. Fair warning however, this is a world as potentially addictive as coffee or chocolate. Be prepared to be transformed.

David Lida at BookPeople

Here are some related titles that the Austin Public Library has in its collection:

The Mexico City reader

Mexico City : a cultural and literary companion

Maexico : craonica en espiral

Friday, September 04, 2009

Labor Day Blues

The Library will be closed Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for Labor Day. Also this weekend, Mike Judge’s new film, Extract, opens. Judge returns to the workplace in Extract to once again comment on the stupidity of people. Office Space, the very funny 1999 cult movie directed by Judge, was about the stupidity of bosses, and Extract is from the perspective of the boss, who must deal with his lazy employees. Of course, these days, we who have jobs are just happy to be working, no matter what the environment is. If you are looking for a job, please use the Library’s Job Searching Research Guide where you will find both the traditional and newer ways to land a job.

If you would like to read good fiction about the workplace, try one of the novels below.

Because She Can. 2007.
Very funny novel about the NY publishing scene.
Company. 2006.
Satire of corporate America.
Company Man. 2005.
Corporate intrigue.
Exception 2006.
Spins office intrigue into a deeper examination of evil
The Finder 2008.
Edgy thriller about billionaire investors.
Intuition 2006.
Competition in cancer research
JPod. 2006.
Techongeeks working in an amoral video design company.
Kings of Infinite Space. 2004.
Temp worker slaves away at the Texas Department of General Services where incompetence is rewarded and talent ignored.
Little Pink Slips. 2007.
Delightful insider's view of the elite in magazine publishing.
Mergers and Acquisitions. 2007.
The world of finance.
Personal Days 2008
Comic and creepy satire about a downsized staff.
Then We Came to the End. 2007.
Ad agency employees are all recognizable office personalities.
Transmission. 2004.
High-tech thriller with insights into immigration and globalization.
Who Moved My BlackBerry? 2006.
Light-hearted dig at the corporate world.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Traveling Librarian Goes to Vancouver Public Library

In late June of this year, I took a train from Seattle to Vancouver, in southwest Canada. As a traveling librarian, I like to visit a library or two when I first visit a place. With the help of a friendly bus driver, I found the Central Library of Vancouver Public Library on the first day I was there. I spotted the distinctive curving façade from several blocks away. Visitors to the Central Library are first greeted by a lively, sunlit space, officially known as “The Promenade.”

Along the left side of The Promenade, there were retail shops and a daycare for children and to the right, the entrance to the Library proper. The variety of programming throughout the Vancouver library system was advertised on flyers that covered a cube, which was about six feet on each side, as one approached the entrance.

I went to the Lower Level to see the Children’s Story Room, which felt the way I imagine a Pueblo Indian kiva might feel, with its circular shape and light from a polygon of glass above the center of the ceiling. The acoustics seemed perfect for storytelling. On my way to the Special Collections room on Level 7, I saw a little of the other floors which held an abundance of books and many places to sit and read. It was late on a Monday afternoon and the place was packed with people, but was not noisy. I found more information about the Central Library in the Special Collections room and saw a display of some of the images from the collection of historical photographs of the region. Just over the rail beside the table where I sat at was an open space that reached down to the ground floor. A multi-storied Reading Arcade, with tables and chairs and readers, curved along the exterior wall.

The Central Library, located in downtown Vancouver, was built in 1995 and it currently holds 1.3 million items. I found this library to be an example of an amazing building that seemed to work well for people, while also being an inspiring space.