Archive for July, 2011

Zombie Boxcar Children

July 28th, 2011

I understand it’s a trend right now, but seriously?

And it’s book #128 in the series? I could understand that many books when the Hardy Boys were the only game around. 128 books is approaching The Land Before Time scale.

More info on the Uglies movie

July 27th, 2011

We’ve been waiting since, like, 2007 to hear solid details about an Uglies movie. Scott Westerfeld mentioned during Comic-Con that the Lola special effects group (the people who put Captain America’s head on a scrawny body in the new film) are doing work on the film. The surges should be pretty cool looking.

Westerfeld also mentioned a manga to be published by Del Rey that takes Shay’s side of the story and expands on it.

Spies of Mississippi by Rick Bowers

July 23rd, 2011

I’m always on the lookout for nonfiction for my junior high students. Examples like Lost Boy, Lost Girl are fantastic and make me order multiple copies, which is a good problem to have.

Spies of Mississippi by Rick Bowers is another great nonfiction history for my students. It’s an overview of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The commission was a semi-secret agency created by the state of Mississippi with the sole purpose of keeping the state segregated (the races separate). That’s the whole “Sovereignty” part. Just like in the Civil War, the state was saying that its rights were being infringed by the Federal government.

The commission’s files are finally online. You can look through them here. It’s crazy that a government group was spying on citizens. Agents would show up to civil rights meetings, pretend to be supporters, and start writing down plans, addresses, and license plates. The government tracked movements of activists in a giant database. It’s like they were fighting the Soviet Union, but it was against United States citizens – people the government should be protecting.

The book walks through the history of the commission and puts a personal face to the issues through interviews and photos. It’s a very quick read, less than 100 pages, and is more than just a listing of facts and dates. It’s well worth your read. As the author points out, most of this stuff is a historical footnote, but the minute we forget, that’s when it happens all over again.

An argument for bookstores.

July 22nd, 2011

Richard Nash, independent publisher at Red Lemonade, has an interesting article here about the need for bookstore workers, people who will help you sift through the massive amounts of entertainment being put out each year. He cites the success of Oprah’s book club not for her knowledge of books, but in the relationship her viewers have with her.

Now, librarians, I don’t think we can immediately summon the hordes of minions that Oprah has.

“Ladies and gentlemen, check under your chairs. You’ve all won A FREE BOOK (that is due in two weeks).” Everyone starts crying.

We can, though, create libraries that are more than just warehouses for paper. (Every time I hear that description of libraries, I get mad. If I wanted to hawk paper, I’d work for Dunder Mifflin.) We can establish welcoming learning communities where we are, as Nash words it, “matchmakers of the book ecosystem”.

The nice freedom versus bookstores that we have is that we’re not trying to push a certain title. A new release will catch a reader’s attention, but if we hook them up with an old one, that’s good, too. Our focus gets to rest primarily on people, not profit.

Atlantis has landed

July 21st, 2011

Image from NASA

Now what?

Spotify, Figment, and PenCamp

July 19th, 2011

This weekend was big for finding technology, especially for school. All of these are free, which is great!

The first one, Spotify, is more for at home since it requires an installation, but I’m trying to figure out what the catch is. Spotify lets you listen to music like Pandora does. The big difference is that you can choose any music track to jump to AND create a playlist to play the music in the order you want to. My complaint with Pandora is that when I create a station for an artist, many times it takes five or six songs until I get to that actual artist. I’m one of the early adopters for the US version of the service. Once it’s open to the public, check it out.

Figment is a writing community where you can post your own works-in-progress and get updates from authors that you follow. They have disabled anonymous comments in an effort to build a place free from spamming and flamewars.

The last thing I found really got me excited because I know exactly which project I can have students use it for. PenCamp allows students to create a simple webpage with a password but does not require a username. The students title their page, choose a password that prevents others from erasing their work, and then share their URL with teachers to grade. Since there are no comments at all, it should avoid some of the hangups with posting online – as long as student names are not used in the title of the page. The URLs are super easy: No slashes, no random numbers, no craziness (unless you put it there).

The Invention of Hugo Cabret Movie Trailer

July 15th, 2011

Every time I booktalk Hugo Cabret, I always say each page is like a movie storyboard. The pacing of the 540+ page picture book is amazing.

Well, now it’s going to be a movie for real:

It stars Jude Law, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee (Saruman/Count Dooku), and is directed by Martin Scorsese. Those are some big names. It looks exciting.

No Harry Potter Spoilers here

July 13th, 2011

I’ve had some friends go to advanced screenings of Deathly Hallows Part 2 and I’ve heard very positive reviews. If you’re a fan, odds are you’ll be happy.

I’m more excited about the amount of beards in this most recent photo from The Hobbit:

Haiku: Gourmet is Relative

July 11th, 2011

One of my haikus just got put up on Yahoo. I like it, but the formatting for poems on their site is nasty.

Check it out here.

The last shuttle flight

July 8th, 2011

Today marks the last shuttle flight for NASA. 135 missions is a lot, but nowhere near the 50 a year promise NASA made at the start of the program.

What’s really intriguing is NASA’s reliance on outside parties. If Atlantis‘ crew runs into trouble, the Russian space agency is on call to send a rescue mission. The climate of the Space Race has definitely changed since the 1960s.

Also, the International Space Station will now be resupplied by private contractors. Could we see a space monopoly coming in the future?