Tag Archives: Scott

Reading Room At Market Square Offers Library Sans Walls

Market_Square Librarians love outreach.  We love taking our show on the road and hawking our wares where you might not expect to find us.  Case in point, the Reading Room At Market Square.  This annual and ongoing CLP program runs every Tuesday from 11:00 – 2:00, covering dates from late May all the way through September 24.

So what can you do there?  Learn about services like eCLP, find out what’s new and happening at the Downtown & Business library, partake in our awesome book sale (softcovers are $1.00 and hardcovers are $2.00–what a steal!), and much more!  We love being at Market Square because we get to share in the good feelings engendered by its renewed vibrancy.  Market Square’s revitalization makes it the place to be at lunchtime in Downtown Pittsburgh, and we at CLP love being a part of it!

–Scott

P.S. Not that you needed any further inducements, but make sure you stop by the Reading Room and find out if you may eligible for an iPad Mini!

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Gadgets A-Go-Go

eclp Librarians here at CLP enjoy opportunities to do some pretty amazing work.  We educate, inform, and often end up learning right along side the customers and patrons we so happily serve.  One of my great pleasures in my work remains my role on CLP’s Technology Training Team.  This relatively small sub-group of CLP staffers principally goes about the business of teaching customers and fellow employees how to use CLP’s eResources.

We most often help the public in this capacity through our regularly scheduled Gadget Labs.  You can also find listings for imminent Gadget Labs on our Upcoming Events page here.  So exactly what can you learn about at one of these Gadget Labs?  Not surprisingly, gadgets of course!  When we speak of gadgets at CLP we generally mean any handheld device that allows a person access to our eResources.  This most often includes eBooks, audiobooks, music, and magazines from the eNewsstand.  Gadget Labs offer you the chance to test and handle a number of sample devices from some of the most popular manufacturers, but more often we find ourselves helping customers with their own gadgets that they have brought along, and therein lies the real beauty of these ongoing programs.  You get hands-on, in person help with sorting out any issues you’re having accessing our content.

So if you want to figure out how to download three totally free songs per week from Freegal, we’ve got you covered.  If you want to learn how to sign up for Zinio and subscribe to hundreds of popular magazines and read them on your computer, iPad, or tablet device, we can make that happen.  If you’re into audiobooks and you want to learn how to get them on your smart phone, we’ve got two great options we can show you.  Or if you want to sort out how to get some eBooks on your new eReader, we’ve got well over 20,000 titles we’re very excited about showing you how to access!

While just about everyone at CLP recognizes that print books and other physical resources will not be going away anytime soon, we have also made a commitment to staying on the cutting edge of these new and emerging technologies.  We demonstrate this commitment and excitement at every Gadget Lab, and we invite you to come and join us in the process!

–Scott

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ANZAC Day: Remembering The Fallen

Gallipoli_cover April 25th marks ANZAC Day, a widely observed holiday in Australia and New Zealand which began as a way to remember the soldiers who fell in the famous WWI battle of Gallipoli. The ANZAC acronym stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and the troops who fought within their ranks earned the name Anzacs. They wore it proudly and served with distinction even in the most desperate of times.

No battle typifies the horrible waste of life that was WWI better than Gallipoli. With thousands of young soldiers being mowed down by Ottoman Turkish fire, the Allied commanders continued to order these brave men into certain, pointless death. You can read more about it in Peter Hart’s superb book, Gallipoli.

Gallipoli_movie_cover  For a stunning, Hollywood-style visual interpretation of the battle check out the 1981 feature film starring a young Mel Gibson.  The film also stars talented character actor Peter Weir.
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Shattering_cover  Folks interested in the Turkish (re: Ottoman) perspective on the battle should check out Michael Reynolds’ book, Shattering Empires : The Clash And Collapse Of The Ottoman And Russian Empires, 1908-1918.
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Since being officially named in 1916, ANZAC Day has come to signify a time of reflection on and thanks to all those soldiers who have served and given their lives defending the interests of Australia and New Zealand.

–Scott

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Fools Rule

9715808-masks-with-the-theatre-concept No character comes better equipped to speak truth to power than a fool.  It’s been a hallmark of great literature for hundreds of years.  In honor of April Fool’s Day, I humbly submit a short, somewhat unfocused list of literature and film’s notable fools.

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?”  Hamlet, after taking up the exhumed skull of the court jester, Yorick, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act V, Scene 1.

“I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”  Daisy Buchanan (speaking about her young daughter, Pammy) in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

“Fool’s blood, king’s blood, blood on the maiden’s thigh, but chains for the guests and chains for the bridegroom, aye aye aye.” Patchface, in A Clash Of Kings, one of three notable fools from George R. R. Martin’s Song Of Ice And Fire series. This quote seems to predict the events of the infamous Red Wedding.

“He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath.”  The Fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear, from Act III, Scene 6.  Perhaps the greatest archetype of the madman who speaks truth to power, Lear’s Fool mysteriously disappears after Act III, but the stinging truth of his seemingly crazed yammering lives on throughout the rest of tragedy.

“I am ignorant, but I read books. You won’t believe it, everything is useful… this pebble for instance.”  Il Matto from La Strada. Journeyman actor Richard Basehart delivers a deeply affecting performance in Federico Fellini’s 1954 classic film about a traveling circus troop. Basehart plays the circus clown Il Matto, whose jibes and wit both enchant and enrage, ultimately driving the action toward its tragic conclusion.

So that’s my very incomplete list. As with many of my posts, I encourage you to pile on dear readers. Send in the fools!

–Scott (hat tip to Dandy Don and Dan the Man)

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A Steampunk Diversion

Retribution_Falls_Cover I am a fairly regular consumer of science fiction and fantasy stuff, but I have not spent a lot of time reading within the Steampunk sub-genre.  This changed recently when the writer of a gaming blog I follow recommended Chris Wooding’s Retribution Falls.  When someone tries to sell me on a book, I have often found myself most easily swayed when the “seller” employs a handy comparison to something I already know. So when this blogger casually compared Retribution Falls to a Steampunk version of Firefly, I immediately opened a new window in the catalog and placed a hold on it!  I consider Firefly and the universe Joss Whedon built around it to be some of the best sci-fi I’ve ever encountered.

The action in Retribution Falls takes place on the planet of Atalon, a world not unlike our own in the late 19th century. Technology and warfare benefit greatly from steam-powered engines, crude electricity, and a lighter-than-air gas called Aerium, a substance so precious two wars have been fought over it. Trade relies upon airships to move goods between the rugged lands that separate the various major cities of Vardia, the home country of our intrepid heroes rogues.

Mr. Wooding’s characters in Retribution Falls all share one critical element with the crew of Whedon’s  Firefly–they’re all broken in one way or another.  Like Captain Mal Reynolds in Firefly, Captain Darian Frey in Retribution Falls will do whatever it takes to keep his ship flying, but in the latter case the environment is terrestrial versus the deep space of the Whedon’s ‘Verse. If Wooding falls down anywhere in this book the lapses occur in making some of his characters too flawed. The crew of Wooding’s Ketty Jay wind up a lot less likable than the gallant rogues of Whedon’s Serenity. This does not spoil the book however, which expertly combines steampunk, military sci-fi, and a dash of political intrigue into a pleasing brew that makes me eager to finish the final few pages and move on to its sequel, The Black Lung Captain.

Beyond that the steampunk genre remains a bit of mystery to me. I will most certainly dive into the NoveList database for some recommendations, but I would also be curious what folks reading this blog might recommend. Got any great steampunk suggestions? Is William Gibson’s The Difference Engine worth a checkout?  What else?

Thanks for any feedback!

–Scott

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Hot X-Titles From The 1980s!

No, not those sort of X titles!  I am talking X-Men here, the Eagle award winning comic book series from Marvel. Since its inception in the 1960s, X-Men has featured various teams of mutant superheroes recruited by Charles Xavier (aka, Professor X) to hone their abilities and battle the predations of evil mutants, super-villains, and various alien menaces.

While the series experienced its rebirth in 1975′s immortal Giant Size X-Men #1 (re-printed here), and enjoyed a host of epic tales all the way through the late 1970s, my most vivid memories of these salad days of Marvel’s merry mutants come from the 1980s.  Days Of Future Past (circa 1981) posits a dark future where many of the world’s mutants have been hunted and killed, and those remaining imprisoned in concentration camps to await uncertain fates.

John Byrne, perhaps my favorite X-artist, actually completed the bulk of his impressive run in 1981, paving the way for the return of artist Dave Cockrum.  Cockrum’s return did not last all that long, and he left to work on more personal projects in 1982. From 1983 – 1984 X-fans enjoyed the good favor of the exciting work of then new artist Paul Smith. You can find Mr. Smith’s amazing run on the book in Essential X-Men Vol. 4. Smith’s first run on the title lasted only a scant nine issues, but his clean lines and expressive style made him forever a fan favorite. Artist John Romita, Jr. took up the art chores on X-Men for pretty much the remainder of the 1980s. His work during that period is best represented by the contents of Essential X-Men Vol. 6.

Throughout all of these many changes writer Chris Claremont held down the fort. While many fans will agree that Mr. Claremont likely overstayed his welcome on the title, his run from 1975 to the late 1980s remains a singular feat of endurance rarely matched in the history of the industry. After departing the book in the early 1990s, his star dimmed a bit, but his legacy, built largely by his work in the 1980s, lives on through numerous trades and reprints.

–Scott

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Classic Sci-Fi In A Cutting Edge Format

While prepping to conduct an introductory class on eBooks and eReaders, I was perusing the eCLP site and was reminded of the link to the awesome free content on the Baen Free Library web site.

baen logotransSmall I can still remember that classic logo from my childhood trips to the library and the dearly departed Waldenbooks.

Some of my favorite authors grace Baen’s free offerings: David Drake, Andre Norton, and David Weber all know their way around future wars on far-flung worlds.  So once I finish the eBook version of Larry Niven’s Flatlander, I plan on diving into some of these awesome free offerings.

Let us know if anything from Baen, or just from the authors mentioned, jogs your Sci-Fi memory!

–Scott

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The Game’s The Thing: Five Books About The Business Of Games And Toys

When I ordered the latest edition of  Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America for the library a while back, I knew it would enjoy some attention when it finally hit our shelves.  Author Jeff Ryan goes into exacting detail on the history, iconography, and cultural impact of the Super Mario game, and how its popularity catapulted Nintendo and its video game system to the top of the nascent video game industry.

Seeing Ryan’s book also got me to thinking about some of the other great books on games and toys we’ve acquired over the last few years.  Here’s a short list:

These books confirm that the world of games and toys is really serious business.

–Scott

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Happy Birthday To The Bad!

Van_Cleef_Bad  Today marks the 88th birthday of actor Lee Van Cleef, who sadly passed away in 1989.  Mr. Van Cleef is probably best known for his many roles in various Spaghetti Westerns in the 1960′s and 1970s’.  Perhaps most notable among these was his titular role as “The Bad” opposite Clint Eastwood’s “Good” in the 1966 western, The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.   Italian director Sergio Leone’s A Fistful Of Dollars launched the Spaghetti Western in 1964. This particular brand of cowboy movie produced by Italian studios and mainly shot on location in certain desert regions of Spain earned its name for its mainly Italian directors, producers, and supporting casts.  While Leone’s 1968 film Once Upon A Time In The West (find the Blu-ray here, and the DVD here) might have more poetry packed into its scenes, The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly sealed the Spaghetti Western’s place in cinema history as a powerful and visually distinctive sub-genre of the Western.

You can read more about Mr. Van Cleef’s amazing career in show business in Mike Malloy’s Lee Van Cleef : A Biographical, Film, And Television Reference. While the latter stages of his career included some dodgy roles, including the title role in the short-lived martial arts series, The Master, Mr. Van Cleef was a working man’s actor, a pro’s pro loved by his co-stars and appreciated by his directors. While perhaps best known for his role as “The Bad,” his career in film was pretty darn good.

–Scott

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Three For Tolkien

With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey now in theaters, many folks, including myself, are enjoying a renewed interest in J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal works of fantasy fiction, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  While these two stories, normally covering four total books and something like 1400 pages, provide a lot to chew on, Tolkien’s world and its rich tapestry of language, magic, and song will likely leave you wanting more.

Dozens of authors have written extensively on Middle-Earth and its denizens, but today I offer three of my personal favorites, in order of descending importance–by my own reckoning, at least!

Unfin_Tales_cov  Unfinished Tales Of Númenor and Middle-Earth  by J. R. R. Tolkien — Who better to deliver the scoop on the behind the scenes events of Middle-Earth than the man himself?  This stuff comes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s copious notes, edited and arranged by his son, Christopher, and includes fascinating essays and tidbits that further illuminate Middle-Earth and its inhabitants.  For example, did you know that Cirdan the Shipwright gave Gandalf Narya, one of the three Elven Rings of power because he felt it would help ease his many trials? Did you know that Grima Wormtongue was waylaid by the Nine Ringwraiths on his way from Edoras to Orthanc, and forced by torture and threat to disclose all he knew of Saruman’s schemes and the location of the Shire?  Learn this and more in Unfinished Tales–it’s like watching the deleted scenes from Tolkien’s best work!

Comp_Tolk_Comp_covThe Complete Tolkien Companion by J.E.A. Tyler — This encyclopedic dictionary of all things Tolkien will prove an invaluable resource to anyone interested in a deeper understanding of the complex workings of Middle-Earth.  Do you always confuse Minas Morgul (Sauron’s house) with Minas Tirith (Denethor’s house)?  Can’t explain the difference between the Mouth of Sauron (a really evil diplomat) and the Mouths of Anduin (one of Middle-Earth’s mightiest rivers)?  Can’t remember that Khazad (Dwarves) speak Khuzdul (the secret Dwarven tongue)?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, Mr. Tyler’s book is the resource for you!

Realms_of_Tolkien_cover Realms of Tolkien: Images Of Middle-Earth — This amazing book showcases artwork from the widely acknowledged visual masters of Tolkien’s world: John Howe, Allen Lee, and Ted Naismith.  While this book also features the art of a number of other amazing talents, the “big three” of Tolkien calendar artists provides the main course in this feast for the eyes.

Plenty more has been written about Mr. Tolkien and his fantasy world. It’s influenced generations of sci-fi and fantasy fans, and likely will go on doing so into the far future.  Frodo lives!

–Scott

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