Week of Geek: Let’s get Digital!

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Hi again Geeklings?  Everyone make it through the ice storm OK?  That was exciting, wasn’t it?

Now, this week I thought I’d shift gears and focus on the technological side of being a geek or a nerd or whatevs, and to do that I thought today we’d talk about VPL’s digital resources.  I always think it’s a good idea to remind everyone that the 21st century library is NOT just about books.  You guys already know that if you’ve signed out a movie or a video game, but by ‘not just about books’ I mean traditional books, the kind printed on paper and bound in an easy-to-read package.  Those still exist and are great and every single one of our locations is FILLED with them.  But it’s not the only option for the modern reader (which is you).

With your humble library card and pin number, you have access to so many digital services, often in handy-to-download app form.  Our two big ones are Hoopla and Overdrive, but not too long ago we added Libby, another Overdrive app which is super easy to use.  She walks you right through signing up and then you can read or listen to the books (or comics) right on the app.  We also have RBDigital and AudioBookCloud for more options.

I’m a big fan of Hoopla.  Easy to use and has a ton of options.  The only thing is that you’re limited to 5 check outs per month, but you have so many options.  eBooks, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, music and comics.  Yes, comics!  So many comics!  You can get Marvel comics on there now!  You can stream the videos or you can download them to your devices.  If you have a streaming box like Apple TV you can watch stuff on there with Hoopla!

Going back to digital books, one big reason I’m a fan of such is purely practical.  Sometimes you just can’t carry a whole book with you, either ’cause the occasion doesn’t call for it, or your bag is too small or you don’t even have a bag or whatever.  BUT, digital books can fit… wait for it… on your phone!  You know, the device that’s basically an extra appendage to the average person.  You’re more than likely going to have your phone on you at any given time, so if you find you’ve got a minute or you’re bored or you’re just dying to finish that page turner, all you have to do is find a comfy spot, pull out your phone and open the app.  Easy.  Bonus: those kinds of books take up no space in your house.

Now I know there are purists out there who enjoy a paper book.  I get it, I’m right there with you, and don’t worry; print books aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  The digital ones are just a bonus, a 2nd option.  And as far as I’m concerned, they’re both good options.

So if you guys are looking for a certain book but can’t find it readily available in print on our shelves, give the apps a try.  What do you think Geeklings?  Are you cheering for the new age of reading options or do you prefer nice solid book?  Post away in the comments or write it up on WriteIt.

Have a good week guys, let’s hope spring comes sooner rather than later and until next time, End of Line.

Week of Geek: Will they or won’t they? WHO CARES?!

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Hello once again Geeklings!  How’s everything going during this rainy April?  You know what they say about April Showers?  Just hold onto that during this rough weather.

Anyhoo, today I’d like to talk about a common trope in fiction.  It’s in books, movies, TV shows, comics, pretty much everywhere.  It’s typically known as ‘Will they or won’t they?‘.  You may be familiar.  And, spoiler alert, I’m not a huge fan.

I’ve been thinking about this recently because I just started a new show called Instinct.  It’s a crime drama based on the book Murder Games by James Patterson (yep, that James Patterson).  It’s main character is Dr. Dylan Reinhart, a professor of abnormal behavior, an author and a former CIA agent who’s drawn into the world of the NYPD by detective Lizzie Needham as a consultant on certain criminal cases.

I started watching because I love a good mystery and because it stars Alan Cumming, who I’ve been a fan of for years (since back in high school), and so far I’m really enjoying it.  But one of the biggest things I’m digging about this show is that it seems like there will absolutely, positively be no ‘will they or won’t they?’ drama between the male and female leads, and that is so ridiculously refreshing to me that I can barely stand it.  Why?  Because Dylan is gay.  And married.  In fact, this is the first American network TV drama to feature a gay character in the lead, so it’s groundbreaking.  He and Lizzie can just headline the show without any ‘unresolved romantic tension’.  Yes please!

Yeah, I’ve never been a fan of that trope, putting a male and female lead in a show and then spending several seasons trying to decide if they should be romantically attached or not.  It shows up over and over and over again in TV and other places.  I think for me, the distaste started with The X-Files (once again, yes, I’m old).  I was 11 or 12 when that show debuted, and I watched agents Mulder and Scully go from colleagues to friends and, inevitably, to romantic interests.  I didn’t like that plot then and I’m not a fan of it now.

The reason?  I think I just find it lazy.  It’s like ‘Oh, a man and a woman?  Clearly, based on that dynamic alone, they MUST be secretly in love with each other.  I mean, what else can we expect?’  Even as a teen in the 90s, watching Mulder and Scully the main thing I kept thinking was ‘Can’t a man and a woman just be friends?  Why the heck are they being written to be with each other, and why is everyone around me expecting and rooting for it, just because one’s a man and one’s a woman?  All that’s going to do is cause drama and plot points that don’t need to be there.  Just give me my freaky aliens, monsters and government conspiracies, dang it!’  I feel that the trope is manipulative, tedious, unrealistic, kind of hurtful and done solely as an easy plot point.

Now, granted, I’m not saying we should do away with romance entirely, and there are some programs where we should absolutely expect it.  Nobody goes into a show like Shadowhunters and hopes that Clary doesn’t have a love triangle.  I just think it shouldn’t be the default, and I think if it is done it should be much more organic and respectful.  But it looks like things are changing, along with more representation in our favorite media, so that’s something to root for.

What do you guys think?  Am I way off the mark?  Do some of you LIVE for ‘Will they or won’t they?’  Or are some of you sick of it as well?  Post in the comments or spill your thoughts on WriteIt.

Stay dry Geeklings, and until next time, End of Line.

Week of Geek: Ready Player 1 and when Fandom goes too far…

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Hiya Geeklings!  How was the long weekend?  Relaxing and delicious, I hope.

So this last Friday the film version of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One was released in theaters, to good reviews and a number one spot at the box office.  Check out the trailer…

It’s got that heavy dose of nostalgia that seems to be so in vogue nowadays, but mostly it just looks like a ton of fun.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m halfway through the book and I’m liking what I’m reading so far.

But I read something recently that kind of put the whole thing in an interesting new light.  I’m not going to link to the article here because a) spoilers and b) swears, but the gist is that the release of RP1 is a really good time to talk about what they referred to as ‘Toxic Fandom’.  The article pointed out that a lot of sites that praised the book back in 2011 are not so keen on the movie now, and that may be because we’ve now had a few years to see how extreme and unhealthy some fans can get with their chosen fandoms.

Without giving too much away, RP1 centers around Wade, who is living in a very difficult and unhappy future and who, like everyone else, escapes into the online virtual reality system that’s basically replaced the internet.  The OASIS sounds AMAZING, if you ask me.  There are whole planets dedicated to fandoms and themes (there’s a Firefly planet!  A FIREFLY PLANET!), and just about anything is possible in it.  But things ramp up for Wade when he participates in an online competition for control of the OASIS.  The system’s founder was BIG into 1980s culture, so Wade and other ‘gunters’ (egg hunters) become experts in 80s pop culture in order to give themselves a leg up to win, hence all the 80s nostalgia you’ve been seeing in the trailers and commercials (the 80s were a… special decade; I can’t blame the interest).

So why the backlash online?  Well, in the last few years after being a geek became cool (it is cook, dang it!), things like Gamergate, Fake Geek Girls and riots over condiments have shown us that some people take their hobbies and fandoms too far.  While for most of us geeks and nerds, things like video games, movies, TV shows, comics and all the trivia around them are delightful, fulfilling hobbies, for some it becomes their entire lives.  It becomes the only thing with which they identify themselves with and they become obsessed and aggressive over it.  They become gatekeepers and lash out at anyone who even looks at their favorite game or TV show the wrong way (or what the obsessed fan perceives as the wrong way), saying absolutely shocking and horrible things online.  Rather then let these things just be fun for everyone, these toxic fans declare you’re not a ‘true’ fan unless you can do something like name every single iteration of Batman’s batsuit, in chronological order (the tests vary from fandom to fandom).

Now, it’s not quite the same thing to declare Wade a toxic fan.  His situation is quite different from ours, and he does not lash out at people for not knowing Duran Duran‘s entire discography.  But the article I read merely pointed out that people who love a fandom can, like anything else, tip over into unhealthy and destructive tendencies, and we’re starting to really see that these last few years.

Now you all know I’m a geek and proud of it.  It is one of my distinguishing characteristics.  But in my most humble of opinions, fandom love should be something that enhances your life.  It should never be your WHOLE life.  And it most certainly should never be the cause of other people’s unhappiness.  Because, as much as we may love something, it really is just a game.  Or just a movie.  Or just a book series or a TV show.  It’s not as important as people and it’s not more important than all the other joys that come with living.  It should just be something that we can bond over, we can squeal over and we can enjoy.  And if you can’t name every single Avengers film in order, that’s OK.  You can still be an Avengers fan in my book and we can still hang.  Fandoms should unite people, never divide them.

So there’s my thoughts.  What do we think Geeklings?  Post away or write it up on WriteIt.  Enjoy RP1 and any other fandoms you love, and until next time, End of Line.

Week of Geek: 2 Iconic Ghost-Hunting Shows, Together at Last!

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What up Geeklings?  How’s the last week been?  I just got back from Philadelphia, so I’m ready to keep regaling you all on what we should be excited for in the world of pop culture.

Anyhoo, we’ve got a crossover to end all crossovers this week.  Supernatural, the reigning show about good looking people fighting scary stuff, is in it’s lucky 13th season, and the Winchesters and company have been through all kinds of adventures over the years.  Well, in this week’s episode, things get animated for a classic cartoon crossover, and not just any cartoon; we’re talking the original monster hunters and their talking, snack loving dog.  Yup, Supernatural is crossing over with Scooby-Doo!, and they’re calling it “Scoobynatural“.

Look at this!  LOOK AT IT!  It’s adorable!   The Winchesters, Castiel and the honest-to-goodness Scooby Gang!  In an official crossover!  I am officially dying!

One of the most famous properties to come out of the Hanna-Barbera Production company, Scooby-Doo! first premiered all the way back in 1969, and has been a steady presence on TV ever since, both in reruns and in a variety of newer series.  You’ve got the stylish (for the 1960s) and earnest Fred and Daphne, the brainy Velma, the slacker and voracious eater Shaggy and the talking Great Dane Scooby Doo, and they drive around in their brightly colored Mystery Machine solving mysteries.  If you watched TV as a kid, chances are you watched Scooby-Doo! at some point (I know I did).

And now you’ve got the somewhat way more serious Team Free Will showing up in this universe?  With their black Ford Impala, rock salt and penchant for low-level swearing?  This is gonna get real interesting real fast.

Here’s the real question though.  As much as the Scooby Gang solve mysteries featuring ghosts and other creatures that go bump in the night, ghosts and monsters don’t actually exist in the Scooby universe.  It’s always a perfectly human criminal trying to make themselves look like something scary in order to keep people away or find a treasure or whatever, and they would’ve totally have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids.  In the world of Supernatural though… ghosts be real.  Monsters be real.  All manner of dangerous and mythical creatures be real.  How will the Mystery Machine teens deal with something like that?  Heck, they meet Castiel, and he’s an honest-to-goodness angel.  It’s going to blow their minds and I almost literally cannot wait.  Mostly I just want to see everyone do the funny chase scene that inevitably shows up in a Scooby episode.

So where to watch?  Well, if you have cable, you can check it out this Thursday night on Space.  If you have access to American channels it’ll be on the CW.  We will eventually get the full season here in the library when it’s released on DVD/Blu ray, though it might take a while for that to happen.  In the meantime, catch up on Sam and Dean’s trials and tribulations, and also give Scooby a try.  May I recommend Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, which has gorgeous animation and a great, creepy retro vibe.  Or Be Cool Scooby-Doo!, which has a new take on the style of the characters and is just flat-out hilarious (plus, I love what they did with Daphne in that one).

Happy hunting Geeklings, whether dramatic or cartoony, and until next time, End of Line.

I Found One!!

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If you have been following my posts then you know that I am on a mission – to find a book that (for lack of a better description) takes Romeo and Juliet and plants it in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To me it’s a no-brainer. I mean picture it with me:

“Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair [Jerusalem] where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny.

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”

It practically writes itself… no? Maybe not.

Last year I read Ronit and Jamil, which was very intentionally R&J in the middle east. But it fell extremely short for me. You can read all about my disappointment here. Out of my disappointment came my quest. But despite my research I have yet to find anything current. But I did find something.

[Aside: Whenever I see someone one the subway/bus/at the cash register/whatever reading a book, I will always try to see what that book is. If it’s a book I know and love I feel an instant kinship with this stranger (“I don’t know you but I know this book and it’s great so you’re great”). If it’s one I don’t know but it looks interesting, I may at times ask them about it. It may be a librarian thing. It’s definitely a me thing.]

I met a woman at a subway station a few months ago. She was working at the station bodega thing and I was buying a Presto Card. Anyway, she was reading a book which immediately caught my attention. It’s called Habibi, which is the Arabic word for “my darling”. Growing up in Israel you hear this word everywhere. I’ve even been called the female form of the word (habibti) by a couple of my friends.

Habibi, by Naomi Shihab Nye, is a 1997 novel (somewhere between junior and YA) about a Liyana Aboud, a teenage Palestinian-American girl, who moves to Israel/Palestine and (you guessed it) falls in love with Omer, a Jewish boy. That’s what the back cover will tell you. But, as the subject matter requires, there is so much more to the story. It’s about the definition of home, culture shock and clashes, it provides a very important perspective of the situation in Israel/Palestine.

I’ve read a lot of not so enthusiastic reviews of this book since I read it, but for me it was really good. I grew up there and I experienced that time through my narrow lens. And to see another side of a story you know well, to be challenged in your beliefs, is one of the best gifts a book can give you. In my humble opinion, it is a book worth reading.

That said, you will not find it in our catalogue. I tried to purchase it, but was unsuccessful. But this is a good opportunity to discuss a wonderful service we provide – Inter Library Loans. In a nutshell, ILLOs allow you to request a book from another library system as if it were in ours. It’s really easy to do any anyone and everyone is welcome to do so. All you have to do is register here and you will have access to almost any book from any library in Ontario (including Habibi, I checked).

Read away, hibaybi [plural form]!