Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ted vs. the headlines

Not the news stories, the actual headlines.

Specifically, a headline in the metro section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, from Thursday, December 16, 2010:

Dayton, GOP leaders begin with goodwill
The two sides said they seek common ground amid an ideological gulf.

The story itself, I assume, is about our new governor (finally!) beginning to work with the GOP in the state senate and house. But I didn't read the actual story, because I stopped at that sub-headline. Take a moment to parse its meaning.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Isaac & Ida, episode 5: The Clone Saga, Part 3

Time for the senses-shattering finale! Complete with astonishing twist that will blow your mind! Or at least it would if I hadn't given the twist away long ago in the title I gave to this sequence.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teens Read book club, summer '10, session 3: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Yeah, that's right, The Hunger Games. As in the teen dystopian romance-adventure novel that everyone and their dead grandmother has read. Normally I don't like to go for the big-name, super-popular mega-hits, assuming that the kids are more likely to read those on their own and that I should be finding more interesting/obscure/awesome works for them to experience.

But this time I put it to a vote, and the Games won, so: mega-hit it was. And honestly, it wasn't a completely terrible experience.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pretty sure gay blood works the same as straight

Every time you donate blood, you have to go through a lengthy questioning process, in which they make sure you haven't had a tattoo lately, or had an organ transplant, or that you haven't contracted any horrible diseases, or haven't been exposed to any horrible diseases, or may have been within sneezing distance of someone who may have once been within shouting distance of a horrible disease. And, if you're male, they also make sure you haven't had sex with another man. Ever.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ted reviews Tsutomu Nihei's Biomega

Tsutomu Nihei's cyberpunk action manga Biomega is a big ol' slice of pointless explosion pie.

This is not necessarily a strike against it. If you want things like a plot, or characters with even a degree of empathy—well, you just keep on drivin', stranger. But if you want a gorgeously drawn comic in which a super-soldier with an axe on a motorcycle and a bear with a hook for a hand fight zombies for the fate of the world but don't want to have to turn on your brain, look no further.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reminder: Ted has more than one blog

Remember how, a while back, I started a second blog about a video game mod I'm working on? Well, I put up another post, talking about how I plan to use an aspect of the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset to model various parenting styles. Go take a look, if you're bored.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ted has been bled

Intellectually, spiritually, and literally.

The last few weeks—since before my trip to New York City, basically—have been kind of a grueling experience, like how I imagine a marathon to be. (You'll never catch me in one of those 22-mile death-marches.) It's not that there haven't been periods of rest and relaxation in-between my various assignments, duties, responsibilities, and so forth; it's just that, taken as a whole, this time has felt pretty damn demanding.

(Which is my roundabout way of saying: if you're waiting on an email or something from me, just be patient, I'll be a little longer.)

But now, today, having given blood, I feel as though my cares and woes have been drained away along with my red blood cells. (Platelet donation took place last Saturday, the day before Halloween, during which I watched the first hour of Heat and, disappointingly, only a single nurse was dressed up as Dracula.) Longtime readers of this blog will know that blood donation is a pretty big deal for me, and this session was no exception, especially as I got my three-gallon pin. Which I imagine is somewhat like getting a chip from AA, though come to think of it, a three-gallon chip from AA would probably mean something entirely different.

Anyway. Normal broadcast schedule will now resume. This has only been a test. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact your parole officer.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Isaac & Ida, episode 4: The Clone Saga, Part 2

I realize too late that I kind of gave away the Shocking Twist Ending of this series in the title of the first post. I debated going back and changing it, but then realized I'd rather just get it over with and that I'm also very lazy. Anyway!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Back to the Future, Shame, and Abu Ghraib

Yes, you read that title right.

For some reason, multiple channels on TV have recently been showing the Back to the Future movie trilogy, over and over again. I have no idea why, though if I had to guess, I'd say it might have something to do with the announcement that Telltale Games, one of the few remaining adventure games publishers, is making a series of games based on the franchise. (Hi, Dave!) Like most members of my generation, I watched these movies in my youth and remember them fondly, but only after watching them again, now, as a (nominal) adult, do I begin to see nuances and interesting themes in the films.

The Future movies are, in part, about the immigrant experience—that's one of the reasons my father, a film professor and former film reviewer, loves them. They also make an interesting comparison between the teenager and the immigrant—both strangers in a strange land, with new customs, beliefs, and languages. They're films about history, obviously, and choice, and change, and tradition. But the theme that I want to focus on here is a subtler one: they're about shame.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Busy busy busy, can't you see, sometimes your words etc.

I know I haven't been around lately, folks, and I know you're all broken up about that. Things are just a bit crazy-go-nuts around here: I've got the New York Comic-Con this coming weekend, my semesterly trip down to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois next weekend, classes, job searching, and my various creative projects. In fact, I've just started up a brand-new project: Paracosm, a story mod for the computer game Neverwinter Nights 2. Details about the project, which is far too ambitious for me, especially considering I've only played the game for about two minutes total, can be found on my dedicated blog for the project.

I was inspired to do this project after meeting one of my heroes at San Diego Comic-Con: Chris Avellone, writer of some of the very best computer games of the last fifteen years, including Fallout 2, Knights of the Old Republic 2, and the legendary Planescape: Torment. I only got to speak to him in person for a few minutes, but he was very friendly and forthcoming. I decided then and there to make a computer game mod, despite the fact that I know absolutely zilch about writing for games—in fact, maybe because I know nothing about writing for games. I like to challenge myself creatively, after all, and nothing's more challenging than jumping head-first into writing for a completely alien medium.

In any case, I'll try and keep up this blog during this period of tribulation. Send me good vibes, people.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guys Read book club: summer '10, session 2, Hatchet

Remember when I used to do these on a regular basis? I do.

For the second of the Guys Read book clubs, I went, as so many of my generation do, to Facebook, where I asked for suggestions on what book might be a good choice. I can't remember who it was—if it was you, say so in the comments, please—but some obviously intelligent person suggested Gary Paulsen's classic adventure Hatchet.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Because apparently I have too much time on my hands

I'm on a radio show/podcast! It's called The Geek Report, and it's me and three other geeks, talking geekily about geeky things, like a bunch of geeks. We're only on the Internet right now, but are in talks about getting ourselves on the actual radio waves, which, despite having only a fraction of the audience of your average podcast, will somehow confer respectability upon us.

The site is here, and the feed (for you to subscribe to in your podcast-listening program of choice) is here. To paraphrase the immortal Scott Pilgrim: We're terrible. Please listen to us.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Novelists and empathy

So I just recently finished reading Pierre Loti's Madame Chrysanthème.

For those of you not up on your 19th-century French semi-autobiographical literature, Chrysanthème is the story of a French sailor, Pierre, who goes on shore leave in Nagasaki, where he marries a young Japanese girl, samples the delights of Japan, and eventually leaves the country (and his wife), presumably forever. It was the inspiration for an opera of the same title, as well as the more well-known Madama Butterfly (which was, itself, the inspiration for Miss Saigon. It also caused a significant degree of cognitive dissonance in me for quite a while.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Satoshi Kon dead at 47

Legendary, award-winning anime screenwriter and director Satoshi Kon has died.

This is seriously depressing, folks. If you asked me who my favorite anime creator of all time is, I'd be hard-pressed to choose between Kon and Hayao Miyazaki, and anyone who's ever seen a Miyazaki film will know that's high praise for Kon. For both of them, really.

He's probably best known in the states for either Perfect Blue, a psychological horror film about the perils of fame and the loss of identity it brings, or Paprika, a wildly imaginative romp about dreams and storytelling in the unconscious that makes Inception look like a pop-up book by comparison. He's also the creator of the weird and disturbing 13-episode anime series Paranoia Agent and the surprisingly straightforward (but no less hilarious) comedy Tokyo Godfathers. For my money, though, his masterpiece was his 2001 film Millennium Actress: two documentary makers interview an old, long-retired actress about her many roles, but as they explore her past, they're slowly drawn into it, exploring her life and her films, and where the two intersected. It's a lovely film, with much of the same themes as Paprika and Perfect Blue but without the extravagance of the former or the horror of the latter. It's a beautiful, affecting work, and I can think of no better tribute to the man than checking it out for yourself.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Isaac & Ida, episode 2: Squirrels

That's right, folks, it's time for the next installment of Isaac & Ida, my short-lived comic strip in the newspaper of the University of Chicago, the Chicago Maroon, from way back in October of 2004. This week's strip discusses evolutionary theory in an extremely high-minded and intellectual way and also features a squirrel smoking a cigarette.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Teens Read book club: summer '10, session 2, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Because I am an absolute comic nerd, the second book I selected for my group of teens was Gene Luen Yang's marvelous book American Born Chinese. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is one of my all-time favorite books—comic or otherwise—and so I was hoping for a similarly enthused response from my teens. Unfortunately, although nobody hated it, they were mostly...lukewarm, let's say.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Keep On Keepin' On

Yes! I live! San Diego Comic-Con kicked my ass all up and down the street, but I survived the brutal assault of the USA's largest pop-culture convention. Every night, coming back from the con, I felt like I'd been beaten with a length of steel pipe, but in a good way.

I met a whole bunch of very cool people while I was there, and came back with a handful of business cards in my pocket. (Possibly the coolest moment was meeting Cullen Bunn, writer of the excellent Oni series The Damned and The Sixth Gun, not five minutes after stepping out of the airport into the San Diego sun.) I sat through several panels, some of which were more useful than others, and others of which served as impromptu naptimes. I received no fewer than four Scott Pilgrim shirts, none of which I had to pay for (at least, not in money). I shook probably a dozen peoples' hands, and am thus now probably carrying several new diseases. And I also spent something like $180 on comics, and thus my suitcase on the return flight probably caused the plane to tilt to one side on the tarmac.

But I'm alive, and it was a hell of a lot of fun, and I don't regret going at all. As an 'aspiring comics writer' (whatever that's worth), networking is key, and if you're going to network anywhere, Comic-Con is probably the place to do it. I certainly can't afford to go every year, and in terms of what I want to do, I should probably start going to smaller conventions instead, where the focus is less on movies and video games about comics and more on, you know, comics. But that's a bridge I'll cross eventually. Right now I'm just happy to be home and not surrounded by sweaty nerds.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Guys Read book club: summer '10, session 1, Sceptre of the Ancients (Skulduggery Pleasant series, book 1)

Well, it's the day before my next session of the Guys Read book club, which means it's the perfect time to discuss the previous session of the Guys Read book club, from way back in June! Remember, kids: it's not procrastination if you can make up a good excuse for why it's late.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I write this with a tube in one arm

Yes! The time has come, the walrus said, for blood to be donated from Ted. I'm sitting in a faux-leather chair, smothered in blankets and with a needle in my right arm, sucking out my precious bodily fluid. This is a platelet donation, which takes around two hours, and so they give you a computer with internet access and—new since my last donation—streaming Netflix access, which makes me a very happy camper indeed. Heck, I'm getting such nice treatment here, I may never leave!

Gotta go—the masseuse is here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Teens Read book club: summer '10, session 1, Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen

Long-time readers of this blog may remember this post from way back when, where I talked about the wonderful experience I had doing the Guys Read book club for boys in grades 4 through 6. This summer, I'm not only running another three Guys Read sessions, I'm also running three Teens Read clubs for guys and girls in grades 7 through 9. I just did the first session last Tuesday, and I consider it to be another grand success.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Isaac & Ida, episode 1: Parasites

Since I never get tired of humiliating myself, I thought today I'd give my lovely readers a glimpse of my attempts at cartooning, from way back in my second year of college. For fifteen weeks, I put together a comic for the University of Chicago campus newspaper, the Maroon, called "Isaac & Ida," under the pen name of "Brian McEnergy." (It's a long story.) Here's the very first strip, from October 1, 2004.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Maybe the comics page isn't a decaying mausoleum after all

On my comics page, three strips up and one strip over from Beetle Bailey (whose punchline today was not only unfunny, it required deciphering, like a Nazi U-boat transmission) is the strip Cul-de-Sac, which is one of the few strips left on the funny pages that occasionally makes me laugh. In fact, it's better than 'occasionally'; I find myself chuckling at the antics of Alice and Petey and the various other denizens of the titular traffic feature more often than not. But today, I got a particularly pleasant surprise.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In which I insult an entire region of the United States

Fifteen-year-old gay blogger complains about the lack of LGBTQ lit in libraries.

I've got two reactions to this, one selfish, one not. My first reaction was, "I hope my library isn't like this." I don't actually know, because I've never made an effort to seek out and read LGBTQ lit, which I suppose I ought to. I know that my library system has an excellent reputation and is, apparently, known nationwide, but I have no clue if that reputation includes a decent list of LGBTQ stuff.

My second reaction was, "I hope he realizes that not every library is like this." I don't mean to be—regional-ist? latitude-ist?—but this kid lives in Kentucky, and I don't know how popular LGBTQ lit is going to be in that state. It sounds to me that the best possible thing this kid could do for himself is, once he's got a driver's license and some disposable income, to leave.

Friday, June 11, 2010

On memory

One of the many (many) webcomics I read on a regular basis, Sodium Eyes, had a particularly apt way of putting something that I've been aware of for a long time. In this strip, the character Miya states that "our brains have such a staggering capacity for knowledge, but the indexing method is way off"—or, to put it in a way that's more in line with the subject of this blog, our brains are like enormous libraries with terrible librarians. The sight of a particular object—a tricycle, say—might trigger a memory from years or even decades ago of another tricycle, or a tricycle that you saw a child riding, or a movie with a tricycle in it. Sometimes, these sense memories can be pleasant reminders of things gone past: a particular brand of hand soap (Dial, I think?) always takes me back to my paternal grandmother's home.

But sometimes it's unbelievably frustrating to be reminded of something, some random image or object from your past, without knowing what exactly it is you're reminded of. Just recently, for kicks, I rewatched one of the songs from The Princess and the Frog on YouTube, and in it there's a bit where one character holds up an oyster shell with a pearl inside. This reminded me of, I think, a video game where your character has to grab a pearl from an oyster down on the ocean floor—but I don't know which game. So for the past few days, I've been wracking my brains trying to piece together this memory-reference—was it a 2-D sidescroller? was it adventure, or action? did I play it, or did I see someone else play it? was it on a computer or a console?—but to no avail. It's slowly driving me insane.

Okay, insane-er.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ted Reviews Mohiro Kitoh's Bokurano: Ours

Mohiro Kitoh's manga series Bokurano: Ours fits into a few different genres. It's young adult, shonen (literally 'young boy'), mecha (as in 'giant robots'), and one more that seems to be more well-represented in manga than you might expect: the ontological mystery genre. I'll get to what I mean by that in a second; first, let's do a quick plot summary.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

They've also got this really big canyon there, I don't know if you've heard of it

So I am just now back at home after a nearly week-long family vacation to Arizona, also known affectionately as "God's oven." There were seven of us treading the sands and gravel: myself, my parents, my sister, her husband, and his parents. We spent several nights in Flagstaff, two nights at the rim of the Grand Canyon, and one night in Phoenix, all the while uttering prayers of thanks to the man who invented air conditioning. (Willis Haviland Carrier, for those of you keeping score at home.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

OH COME ON NOW

A few weeks ago, the Huffington Post reported that the University of Chicago was one of the nation's top ten anti-party schools, as I noted here.

Now they've posted another ranking, this time of the top ten grueling colleges in the nation—and U of C makes the list again. (The only other college to make both lists? MIT.)

It's not that they're really wrong in putting us on both these lists; it's just insulting, somehow. As if it were shameful to be an institution which encourages students not to drink themselves stupid and to study rigorously and dutifully.

You know what else the U of C is notable for? Producing our current president.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I LIVE!!!

Yes! Somehow I have survived this last semester of library school without any major brain damage or organ failure. This surprises even me.

It's not that my classes were terribly difficult, per se; it's more of a combination of A) them taking more time than I expected them to, B) various other side projects and concerns (this blog among them), and C) me being a slacker and procrastinator. I did enjoy my classes, for the most part, but it's sometimes hard to translate that enjoyment into enthusiasm for doing homework and writing papers.

In any case, I'm only taking two classes next semester, which should give me more time for, you know, non-school things. Things like making a proper website for myself, pitching more comics projects, looking for a library job, punching giraffes, reading, writing, watching television, and so forth.

(The giraffes deserve it.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

This is both amusing and shameful

According to the Huffington Post, my alma mater is one of the nation's top ten anti-party schools. Also on the list: West Point and Brigham Young University.

Personally, I think they miss the crucial distinction between not having parties and not having fun. Just because professors expect you to read, say, 300 pages a week (for a single class) doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself in between those moments of brain-bludgeoning.

Exhibit A.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Because I love the taste of innocence as it dies, that's why

Hey, there's a lady in a nearby school district who wants to ban every volume of Jeff Smith's comic series Bone because it features smoking, drinking, violence, and fixing horse-races! (Well, okay, cow-races, technically.) You know what, lady? Not only did I have a group of 4th, 5th, and 6th-grade boys read and talk about the first volume of that series as part of a library reading group, I'm going to be a librarian myself!

That's right! I will be the one corrupting your children with the ten-time-Eisner-winning, eleven-time-Harvey-winning, one-of-Time-magazine's-Top-Ten-Graphic-Novels-of-All-Time series Bone! Listen to me cackle as they witness characters drinking beer! Watch my eyes glimmer with evil as I distribute copies of this evil book, in which the layabout Smiley Bone smokes a cigar! You send your children to the library, thinking they are safe—but you are wrong!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ted Reviews Yuki Urushibara's Mushishi

Yuki Urushibara's series Mushishi might be not just one of my favorite manga ever, not just one of my favorite comics ever, but possibly one of my favorite things ever. It's beautiful, fascinating, thoughtful, elegant, and endlessly original; it's thoroughly and firmly rooted in Japanese culture without being inaccessible to non-Japanese readers; it's difficult to define but easy to pick up.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Curious and Coincidental Confluence of Classroom Concepts

(For those of you who dislike that title: tough noogies.)

This semester of library school, I'm taking three courses: Reference and Information Services, Administration and Management of Libraries and Information Centers, and Storytelling. I chose to take the first course because answering reference questions is a pretty central part of many librarians' duties, I chose the second because it was recommended to me by my advisor as a good thing to have under my belt, and I chose the third because I needed something fun to do.

But it's interesting how those last two classes have started to overlap. One of the big ideas in the Administration class that keeps coming up is "telling the library story," convincing people—users, administrators, directors—of the importance of the library. This doesn't necessarily mean telling an actual narrative-style story ("Once upon a time there was an underfunded librarian who had to make do with really old books"), but it does mean considering the situation, the audience, the salient facts and how to present them in the best possible light.

These are all necessary tools for the conventional storyteller as well. One must always be aware of these elements while telling the story in order to be successful. Now, 'success' means two different things in these two situations: in one, it's to convince someone that your work is worthwhile (and, potentially, to give you more money), while in the other, it's to entertain. But in both situations, someone is listening to you, which gives you the opportunity to put something in their head that wasn't there before—and in both cases, the best way to do that is through a story.

I think it's kind of neat, myself.

Monday, March 29, 2010

This is why I'm not (around)

Just got back from a week-long internship at a library system in Chicago. Thus, little time for posting, etc, etc.

"But Ted," you ask, "you only had the internship for a week, but you haven't posted for two weeks! What gives?"

My answer: laziness. Laziness and Homicide: Life on the Street episodes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

File me under 'S', for 'Super-cool dude'

Ontario's Guelph University creates a library of people.

This is a seriously awesome idea. You find people in the community with interesting life stories, philosophies, careers, and so forth, then let people 'check them out' for a half-hour chat session. I really wish there was something like this in my community—I personally would volunteer my time as "Ted Anderson, complete nerd."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ted and his smaller fluid volume

Regular readers of this blog may remember my failed attempt to donate blood a couple months ago. Well, enough time has passed that I can give again, and give I did.

This time I gave platelets, which are what makes your blood clot and promotes healing of cuts and so forth. You can give platelets every three days because they regenerate so fast, but the actual donation process takes about two hours. My blood donation center has special setups for platelet donors with a computer and a DVD library—I was hoping to actually post while giving blood, but the internet wasn't working on my computer. However, I did get to watch the entirety of Tod Browning's 1932 classic Freaks and two episodes of Arrested Development season three, so it wasn't all bad.

Best of all, since you can donate platelets so often, I can go in again on Monday and donate my usual double-red-blood-cells. And triple best of all, Monday is also my birthday, so I will be showered with gifts and well-wishes from all of my gifters and well-wishers in addition to getting life-sustaining fluid sucked out through my arm. Fun fun fun!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ted hates all adaptations of Lewis Carroll's 'Alice' books

Let me start off by being clear, here: I'm not saying that I hate Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Rather, I have a severe, unyielding, constantly burning hatred for any and all adaptations of those works.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ted Reviews Miwa Ueda's Peach Girl

For my first manga review, I’m going to do Miwa Ueda’s series Peach Girl. I chose this series for a number of reasons:
1) I finished it recently, so it’s fresh in my mind.
2) It’s a fairly standard example of a major genre—a lot of the characters, situations, ideas, and so forth are hallmarks of shojo (young girl) romance, and it’s thus a good introduction.
3) It was a decent series—not great, but certainly not the worst I’ve read—so it’s a good introduction in that sense as well.
4) It illustrates some of the difficulties of translation—not just in the sense of complicated words, but also concepts and cultural ideas that Americans won’t know about.

You'll see what I mean by that last one in just a moment. Momo Adachi is a happy, normal high-school student who's misunderstood. She's got few friends, most of the boys tend to assume she's easy, and she can't confess to the guy she loves. The reason for her troubles? She's tan.

Monday, February 8, 2010

On telling stories

One of the most frustrating aspects of the life that I've chosen, where I make up stories and then try to get people to give me money for them, is coming up with what might be a totally brilliant story and then having no idea how to write it.

Right now I've got four characters, a couple situations, and some vague idea of a theme, but no actual plot to bring it all together. Moreover, I don't even know what medium to write it for. I've got a great deal of familiarity with the comics medium (okay, okay, "sequential art"), and I can do prose if I need to, though I don't like to. But this might work better as a play, or even a short film or something, and that's totally outside my realm of experience.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The library without books has lots of empty shelves

Kind of an old article, but: prep school near Boston is swapping their library full of books for a 'learning center' with Kindles, laptop spaces, and a coffee bar.

I'm just going to point out a couple things:
1) Digital copies don't degrade and can be used by an infinite number of users at once, yes, but they're more often rented than bought, so the school had better keep their subscriptions up-to-date.
2) They'd better keep their technology up-to-date, too. I'd hate to be the guy who authorized the buying of a hundred Kindles and then saw Apple announcing the iPad.
3) To Mr. William Powers, who has written the forthcoming book Hamlet’s Blackberry: Why Paper is Eternal, and who notes "Without books, students are more likely to do the grazing or quick reading that screens enable, rather than be by themselves with the author’s ideas," I would say: yes, but with a laptop/iPad/brain implant, you can immediately browse outwards to check the author's facts, follow arguments into other texts, and generally expand the intellectual environment one currently resides in.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Actually, San Francisco is supposed to be a pretty good place if you're homeless

San Francisco library system hires a full-time social worker to help with its homeless problem.

In one of my classes last semester, I read an article about how libraries are often hangouts for the homeless during the day: they're open to the public, have free bathrooms, and of course they're a source of information if you're trying to find out about other shelters in the area, or jobs, or what have you. I'm torn on the subject. Obviously libraries are a public good, and when I say public I mean the entire public, not just the homeowning part of the population. But, well, there's sometimes hygiene problems, and there's patrons complaining, and some of the homeless are going to have mental health problems, and so on and so forth.

Really, the problem is that it's not the library's problem. But until there's enough money for shelters to stay open 24/7 and enough social workers to take care of all the homeless—which should happen as soon as it starts raining solid gold—I applaud the SF library system for treating the problem as best they can.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You

I just recently finished, and was quite heartened by, Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You, a piece of cultural analysis that came out a few years ago. The book is essentially one long, well-formed, cogent argument on one single issue: that popular culture—video games and television primarily—is not, as the common opinion has it, making us into a nation of dullards and easily distracted simpletons, but is in fact making us smarter.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ted reviews Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong

Back in the day, me and most of my friends were what you’d call nerds. We preferred the company of our computers over other human beings, we took advanced math classes and liked them, and the only books we read were genre fiction: sci-fi and fantasy.

Clearly—clearly—I’m much cooler now than I was then, but my memories of those genre authors remain. I read them by the handful: David Eddings, J.R.R. Tolkien, Timothy Zahn, Patricia C. Wrede, and all the rest. But one of the big names, one of the truly big-time fantasy authors, I never got into, and that was Anne McCaffrey, author of the long-running (18 novels and counting!) ‘Dragonriders of Pern’ series. Thanks to my class on fantasy last semester, I finally had the chance to read one of Mrs. McCaffrey’s novels, Dragonsong, and I have to say: this is what all the fuss was about?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Many Levels On Which Ted Was Disappointed by James Cameron's Avatar

AS A MOVIEGOER

I’ll start with this one, because it’s the most obvious. All along I’ve been hearing about how this movie is supposed to be some great paradigm shift, an incredible spectacle that will change the face of moviemaking forever—but to me, it’s just the newest toy. Cameron didn’t do anything new with his special effects; he just spent more than anyone else did.

Jurassic Park, in 1993, was a game-changing movie because it used computer-generated special effects—still a burgeoning field—and did something amazing with them. Filmmakers have been doing creature films since King Kong (and probably before, but I wasn’t a film major), and technology has followed: from stop-motion to blue-screen to experiments like Lucasfilm’s hybrid ‘go-motion.’ Spielberg took the latest and best technology, and made a dang good creature film with it.

But here’s the rub: CGI isn’t new any more. I saw Jurassic Park in the theater when I was—wait for it—eight years old. I grew up with this technology. Avatar is using the latest, the best, the sharpest computer graphics, but it’s still just computer graphics. It’s not a paradigm shift; it’s just the latest coat of paint. All the jungle scenes looked pretty, and those blue cat-people looked moderately realistic, sure, but to me, Cameron was just showing off how much money he could spend. And as a guy who likes movies, I want something a little more than that.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Google leaves China

So I am far from the first person you should go to for trenchant insights on the geopolitical ramifications of information providers, but still, the fact that Google is no longer going to cooperate with government censors in China and will thus probably pull out of the country entirely is probably going to have some far-reaching repercussions.

Google's been trying to promote their search engine in China for four years now, despite the heavy government censorship that was applied to their search results. I have to say, I can understand their desire to provide as much free information as possible to the people of China—although I'm sure that the potential money to be made from being the primary search engine for a country of one-point-three billion people was a pretty big draw, too. But to cooperate with censorship, even if you're providing a necessary and commendable service to a repressed people, is still cooperation with censorship. Which I am, generally, not cool with. So I have to applaud Google for finally leaving China.

We now return to your regularly scheduled program of rambling about anime and dumb crap.

Monday, January 11, 2010

For those of you who care about this sort of thing

I'm currently working on a five-issue comic with the supremely talented Aaron Quist, called Peculiar Jones, which we're trying to pitch to publishers--and we may have something about that to announce shortly. In the meantime, though, we've updated our DeviantArt page with another image of our work-in-progress. Share and Enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Japan-o-rama: What is anime and manga?

One of the classes I took during my first semester of library school was Fantasy Literature and Media for Youth, and during this class I found out two things:
1) Anime and manga are rapidly becoming some of the most popular items for young people to check out of libraries.
2) A lot of librarians are totally clueless about anime and manga.
So, in my position as Young and Moderately Cool Librarian-To-Be, I figured that I'd be doing the older generation of librarians a service by writing about these pop culture products from Japan.

See, I grew up in between two Japanese fads: I was slightly too young to be watching Sailor Moon or Dragonball Z in the early 1990s, and I was a little too old by the time Pokemon came around. I didn't really start watching anime and reading manga until late high school and early college. I like to think this gives me a more mature, sophisticated perspective on Japan and all its wacky products, although using the words 'mature' and 'sophisticated' to describe me in any context is pretty laughable.

My occasional forays into the pop culture of the inscrutable Orient will (hopefully) be a semi-regular feature on this blog, and I'd like to start off by answering a question that I've heard more than one librarian ask: what, exactly, is anime and manga?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

By My Own Circulatory System--Betrayed!!

Anyone who knows even a little bit about me—which is about 90% of the readers of this blog at this point, I’m guessing—knows that I’ve got a lot of weird interests. The one that I’m going to focus on in this post is my strange fascination with donating blood.

I honestly have no idea where this interest came from. My parents don’t donate blood, or at least haven’t lately; I don’t have any relatives or friends with anemia or blood diseases; I was never a particularly big fan of vampire movies. I think I saw an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy where he mentioned donating blood once, but that’s about it.

Yet there I was, in my first year of college, with a tube in my arm during a Red Cross blood drive held at the Hillel house on campus. I had trouble understanding the accent of the admitting nurse, and I very nearly blacked out after losing that pint of me, but the experience was not unendurable. Plus the juice and cookies afterward weren’t bad.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Guys Read Book Club: Winter '09

So even though I'm only a library student and not yet an actual, for-real librarian (i.e. I don't yet have my official badge and decoder ring), I can still work every now and then at my local library, for money. Last summer, I did three sessions of a Guys Read book club, which is for boys in grades four through six. Boys tend not to read as much as girls, particularly at young ages, and peer pressure (“reading is dumb and punching is awesome”) only exacerbates this trend.

(Interesting tangent: girls score much higher on reading tests than boys, while boys tend to score higher in math tests. This trend is true in pretty much every industrialized country in the world, but here's the interesting part: in countries with greater gender equality, the gap in math scores changes, i.e. girls score as good as or better than boys, while the gap in reading scores grows. Peep this paper, people.)

My three books over the summer were:

The Seer of Shadows, by Avi
The White Mountains, by John Christopher
Bone: Out From Boneville, by Jeff Smith

And just last week I did a ‘winter break’ book, which was The Snow Spider, by Jenny Nimmo.