Grassroots Gaming? Sunday, Feb 24 2008 

There’s been a lot of focus in the techie world over the last few years on user-created content.  We all know that sites like YouTube have taken the internet world by storm, and similar sites crop up every day.  New Media Musings provides a great breakdown of the different ways grassroots videos, like those found on YouTube, reach their audience and break the framework of how we use the internet.

 But videos, blogs, mash-ups and others forms of expression that make the internet fun again are only a few of the ways grassroots expression are taking over.  With the recent announcement of XBox Live’s addition of “Community Created Games” at this year’s GDC, Microsoft has opened the door for consoles to join the budding community of grassroots gaming.

  JellyCar

 According to the press release on the topic, “By the end of 2008, Xbox 360 owners will have access to more than 1,000 games, making it the largest, most creatively diverse library across all next-generation platforms.”  As cool as this is, it’s only one aspect of the movement.

Like YouTube revolutionized the way we both use the internet and view videos, this addition to XBox live is set to take user created gaming to a level where every gamer, even cusual players, have access to user created content.  Gamers can learn to interact with their games in ways they never considered.

As most players of large scale PC games, like Total War , will tell you, user created content abounds in this world.  Players are creating mod’s of every kind, from Arthurian to George R. R. Martin, and gamers are actually playing them!  The difference, besides platform, between this type of content and the stuff we’ll be seeing (and are already seeing) on XBox live lies in the accessibility of the creation, and the ability of creators to get their games out there.  Not to mention the amazing opportunities for creativity.

According to microsoft, the four “key steps” to their user created content are “Create, Submit, Peer Review, Play.”  And, based on my kowledge of gamers and their love to go on and on about what they think of a game, these steps will be happening.

Sure, some games will probably suck.  But in general, I think we should give gamers some credit for creativity.  If Jelly Car is any indication, there’s going to be some kick-ass stuff coming out through this community.

Flower Game

Grassroots gaming could very well be the wave of the future.  How to include it in libraries? Programming options abound.  On top of that, librarians should be aware of these developments, so when a thirteen year old gamer comes in looking for information on how to make his (or her!) own games, we’re there to help.

 

How punk rock is that? Saturday, Feb 23 2008 

Have you ever read a book that you enjoy so much it takes you over?  You’re sad when you turn the last page.  So you pick up the next book on your list, or shelf or pile, and it should be excellent.  You’ve been looking forward to reading it.  But you’re sitting on the couch while your boyfriend plays Jelly Car on his XBox 360, reading An Abundance of Katherines and all you can think is “I should be reading Fat Kid Rules the World.”

Because I should.  Because I would have been perfectly content to fall into that book and never resurface.  It is my heroin of choice.  And now everything else just feels like Methadone.

fat-kid.jpg

I’ll spare plot details, and just share a few thoughts on the story.

 First of all, I am in love with Ollie, the drummer from the Smash Metal Puppets.  He’s so cool and steady.  He doesn’t get caught up in the BS.  He just takes the world as it comes and provides a steady beat.  And even when the red spray paint coloring his mohawk is dripping down his face, he has a serenity about him.  He’s a genuine character.

Secondly, can I just say “That moment when you see past the bullshit.  That’s punk rock.”  not to mention the erruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the twinkie and ravioli explosion that rocked the Dump.   That’s truly punk rock. 

And finally, the ending, while it’s hanging nature is probably one of the main reasons for my inability to move on with my life, is so quiet.  You don’t know how the show goes.  You don’t know if Curt gets better.  You don’t know if Troy gets cool.  You just know that something has changed.  It has to have changed.  But no one died or overcame hardship through the love of family and friends.  There was no miracle moment.  Just conversation.  And a change of perspective.

 In one way or another I felt an affinity with every character, no matter how small.  A beautifully written portrait of teenage life, that avoids sentamentality despite the main characters and their varied problems.  It is a portrait, not a message.  And the reader can decide for his or herself how to take eveything it offers.

And once more, Hollywood shows us they know what will rake in the bucks… Friday, Feb 22 2008 

So, surprise, surprise, they’re making a movie of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. Color me shocked. Am I looking forward to it? No. Will I watch it? Yes. Because, as much as Bella annoyed me and I found the entire mythos of the vampires contrived and trying too hard to make up explanations for common vampire legends, I still got completely caught up in the story.

As far as casting choices, Kristen Stewart is playing Bella. How perfect is that? She looks whiny enough, and she annoys me just as much. But Robert Pattinson? Not exactly the too-perfect pretty-boy I pictured Edward as. (He wasn’t pretty enough for Cedric Diggory either.)  I’ve also been told to expect Peter Facinelli (Remember him from Can’t Hardly Wait??)

Regardless of cast, though, I have to say I’m not thrilled that this is the YA book that gets to be a movie this time around. Not that the vampire thing is tired (bloodsuckers never get old), but just that I find far too much of the premise inherently unrealistic. Not the vampire part (of course that’s unrealistic). I mean Bella, and the fact that’s she’s hardly an accurate portrayal of a teenage girl. Sure, Meyer touches on this, in saying Bella thinks on a different wavelength from her peers, and has always had to be the “adult” in her family, and blah blah blah. It still hits me a little wrong the way she treats her friends—how fake is that? And the ease with which she and Edward fall in love?  Without questioning anything.

 Not to mention the fact that, no matter how hormonally challenged teenaged boys can be, they tend to give up on a girl when she has a personality as bland as tapioca pudding, obviously has no idea how to dress herself, and she shows NO INTEREST IN THEM WHATSOEVER.

And what about Edward? Other than the whole “blood sucking fiend” thing, is there anything wrong with him? He’s smart, he knows how to dress, he plays the piano—he’s all perfect, to an irritating extent.

That being said, the plot was well done, even if the characters were somewhat one-dimensional, and the inter-relations between them a bit contrived. It will make a good movie, and, judging from the fact that we can’t keep the book on the shelves, the movie will be a box office success.

I still say I’m looking far more forward to Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.  How much do I love Michael Cera???

michael-cera.jpg

Building libraries on banks of sand Monday, Feb 18 2008 

A recent discussion on a librarian listserve I follow brought the question of ethics in libraries to my attention.  Someone asked whether a general ethics course is a requirement for MLS programs.  So I looked into it, and while I didn’t find an “ethics” course, I did find a lot of courses like the University of Alberta’s course on Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility in Librarianship. 

In fact, a lot of schools offer a similar course, based on the various ethical issues that librarians encounter.  But like Alberta, most of them are electives: they don’t fulfill any general requirements.  If, as they pound into our heads in library school, librarianship is a service oriented profession, why don’t they insist on a little bit more instruction into the whys and wherefores of this aspect of the job? 

We spend our time learning about the advent of gaming programs in public libraries (a totally awesome part of the curriculum, don’t get me wrong) and reading the latest YA titles, while at the same time, if we choose, grueling over cataloguing courses and trying to understand why serials are managed the way they are.  But when it comes to the theory of why we do what we do, and why intellectual freedom matters, most people don’t bother.

So here we are, degreed librians, working happily in our chosen field, with strong convictions about freedom of information and opposition to the USA Patriot Act, but no real idea what the different components of that Act include.  We just know it’s bad. We leave with convictions, but no history to found them on.

 So where’s the problem?  Why should we know the history, as long as we make sure to uphold the ethics in our work?  For the same reason we should know the history behind any conviction: how can we fight for something if we don’t a) know why we’re fighting for it and b) know how previous fights for the same freedoms have turned out?  Wihtout an undestanding of that which we fight against, we lack a solid foundation for our future.  The library becomes like a house built on sand, and all these strong convictions that build our frame will collapse with the first storm. 

If we want to come together as a unified front against those who would try to limit intellectual freedoms, we have to have more than just a strong conviction.  It takes more than beliefs to win on fights like this.  The “right to privacy” and “intellectual freedom” should be more than just buzzwords in the library community.  They need to be real platforms, founded on the strength of a long history of the fight for these liberties.

Whew.  I’m winded.  I’m stepping down from my soapbox. 

Wicked Lovely Thursday, Feb 14 2008 

I’m currently finding myself going through a YA craze.  It’s happened before, it will surely happen again. 

 Right now, I’ve read so many that they’re swimming in my head, but the one that started it this time is Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely.    I hate to admit to things like this, since my whole 1990’s teen angst fueld association with all things dark and supernatural has faded, but I’m still so completely all about fairies.  But few Fairy books really capture me anymore (in fact, few ever did).  Marr’s definitely did!

 Aislinn has always been able to see fairies, a fact she has to hide for her own safety.  But now there’s one following her, and she starts to think that revealing her secret might be the only way to figure out what’s going on.

A story rife with suspense, just enough teen-friendly love/sex to make it enticing for reader’s tired of the PG, but not exactly ready for the “real thing,” and a great ending that everyone can be happy with make this a teen book to look into.

As with all the books I read, I go for total immersion.  From eating food that’s mentioned in the book to talking to characters in my head long after I’ve turned the last page, I need to feel like I’m a part of the novel.  So, as part of the experience of reading this book, here’s a list of multi-media read/listen/watch-alikes.

 Music:

  • I hate this band, but Aislinn loves them, and they seem to crop up in a lot of teenlit lately–Linkin Park
  • To up the dark and kind of scary fairy tale feel, listen to Rasputina
  • Cat Powers seemed like a perfect fit for this story with her blend of etheral vocals and haunting music. 
  • For something a little more soulful and down to Earth, try listeing to Josh Ritter or Iron and Wine.
  • Want to listen to some of the author’s favorites?  Try Hole, Concrete Blonde, and Damien Rice

Movies (This list is pretty Old-School)

  • Obviously The Labyrinth.  Sure, it’s goblins, not fairies, but it’s David Bowie in tights, how can you go wrong?
  • Perhaps a little old for most teen readers, but a beautiful film, Photographing Fairies is a great way to enmesh yourself in this particular sub-fantasy genre.
  • Though the plot has nothing to do with fairies, The Crow captures a lot of the feel of Wicked Lovely, if in a little darker way.

Books

Want some internet Urban Fantasy Action?  Start here: Urban Fantasy Land

And check out Melissa Marr’s blog!