Monday, February 23, 2015

On This Day In...1821

Romantic poet and urn enthusiast John Keats died from tuberculosis on this day in 1821 at the age of 25.  Keats had just begun to be published only four years prior and left behind a relatively small body of work for a major poet.  Before his death, Keats requested that his name not be on his tombstone, but rather the inscription "Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water."

Key Library Checkouts:

Bright Star (Book and movie) - Top hats abound in this 2009 biopic focusing on Keats's relationship with Fanny Brawne in the final years of his life.

Complete Poems - Ode to awesomeness, Keats's complete political works collected and arranged in chronological order.

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Are Video Games Art? Part 2: The Best Narratives in Video Games


Video games have come a long way from Pong and Pac-Man and with the ever evolving technological innovations in the medium comes the power to craft steadily more robust and inventive narratives. Gaming may not primarily be a storytelling art but its unique capability to put players directly into the story and the role of the protagonist is itself groundbreaking in the history of spinning yarns. Roger Ebert has said that there is no game that can stand alongside Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” but gaming is still a very young form of expression and is blossoming at rapid rates. In fifty years, when the kids who played the games are the old, grey denizens of Earth who establish cultural norms, who is to say that they won’t remember Final Fantasy 7 or Metal Gear Solid 2 as formative cultural artifacts in their upbringing?

Grand Theft Auto IV
Despite the bad rap the Grand Theft Auto series gets in headlines and on the news for its mature and open-ended gameplay, the franchise has always leveraged its enhanced stature in the mainstream to thread surprisingly solid and contemplative stories. The series has a penchant for poking at relevant cultural and social topics and examines the big questions of life - like fate, death, and destiny - as thoroughly as any other work in the field. Grand Theft Auto IV is a masterfully presented tale of revenge, redemption, and the American dream.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time may not boast a revolutionary or incredibly complex plot but for what it lacks in depth it makes up for with timeless and imaginative fantasy charm. The game’s broad and epic quest of good against evil is ordained with magical locations and memorable characters. The series’ protagonist, the iconic “hero of time” Link, has never uttered a single syllable (other characters in the game talk plenty), yet is championed as one of the most beloved and popular characters in the history of games. This itself is a testament to the creative ways that, through their special capacity for immersion, video games can produce inventive methods of storytelling unique to their strengths as a medium.

The Last of Us
The Last of Us has become the de facto champion of the narrative power of video games and with good reason: it is one of the most original, emotional, and fantastic yet realistic fiction works in any field. The plot is high grade science fiction/horror and the presentation is professionally artistic, like a Hitchcock film. The Last of Us may in fact lend credence to an “auteur theory” in gaming, as its presentation - from the writing, to voice acting, to visuals - is verifiably a work of inspired artistry.

Mass Effect
The Mass Effect Trilogy is to video games what the Star Wars Trilogy is to film. The sweeping, bombastic space saga courts elements of action, drama, romance, and light-hearted fun as ably as its big screen big brother. In addition to featuring an entire universe of alien races, cultures, and strifes, Mass Effect delivers a powerful and sometimes heart wrenching story of little decisions and big consequences. The Trilogy is also notable for allowing nearly unprecedented continuity between installments, as players can transfer their specific character from one game to the next. This again is demonstrative of the special narrative powers inherent to games.

Super Mario (series)
Okay, so Mario may not be literary gold in the way of Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway. Mario may not feature complex characters, deep themes, or contemplative stories about the intricacies of life. Mario may not feature much to speak of in the way of a plot at all, and may be guilty of repeating the same basic story for decades now. However, like the greatest children novels or classic fairy tales, the Super Mario series has impressed its fantastic and imaginative world and characters on generations of gamers and non-gamers alike. These simple and idyllic expressions of wonder and fun are among the most known and loved in modern pop culture. Mario is gaming’s Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, and through a nearly flawless record of titles that nearly always raise the bar for the franchise while breaking ground for the entire industry, Mario has proven to be a worthy frontispiece for the medium and champion for the power of expression in gaming.

Check back next week for Part 3: The Best Productions in Video Games.

Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Top 10 Reasons to Love the Library

It's Valentine's day, so we've decided to make a list of the top ten reasons to love the Collinsville Memorial Library Center.

10) Our circuits are the squishiest.
09) Now serving cereal.
08) We made a makerspace, you make the rest.
07) Three words - March Book Madness!
06) When babies boogie, everybody wins.
05) Tautological tautologies taught daily everyday.
04) A library is only as good as its Acoustic Jam, and ours is awesome!
03) We will even help you train your dog.
02) Poetry nights.
01) Obviously, the ladies.

(Editor's note: In fairness, the men aren't too shabby either.)

Are your reasons for loving the library different from ours? Stop by the front desk and let us know why you love the library and you'll be entered into our drawing for a great prize basket! A winner will be drawn/notified at the end of February.

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk
Edited by Kyla Waltermire, Adult Services Librarian

Monday, February 09, 2015

Let the Library Check You Out This Valentine's Day

It’s Valentine time and nothing gets one’s heart yearning like a sappy movie. Whether you’re curling up with that special someone or sobbing alone in to a bottle of tequila these are the best movies to pull your heartstrings this Valentine’s Day. 

Say Anything
Say Anything is a defining movie for its generation and is generally considered one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time. The scene in which John Cusack lifts the boom box over his head and lets his feelings blare has been parodied and referenced countless times and is one of the most iconic moments in the entire genre. 

The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride is unique in that it is equal parts fantasy adventure and romantic comedy. Based on the 1973 novel of the same name, The Princess Bride has established a cult following and become one of the genre’s most championed movies. 

When Harry Met Sally
When Harry Met Sally looks at love in the adult world where things are not always neat and precise. The film has become a staple of the genre and helped solidify director Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride, Sleepless in Seattle) as a star of the genre. 

Love Actually
Love Actually is generally considered a Christmas movie but its strong heart, big laughs, and unforgettable characters make it the perfect rom-com for any time of year. 

Sixteen Candles
A cult hit with an enduring legacy, Sixteen Candles is the proverbial coming-of-age film that features all the turbulence one would expect on the rollercoaster of young love. 

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a story of love lost and heartbreak but provides non-stop laughs on our protagonist’s journey back to the light. If nothing else the movie deserves credit for featuring a musical rendition of Dracula. 

Clueless is the definitive film from the “teen movie” genre that was booming at the time of its release in the mid-nineties. The movie is loosely based on Jan Austen’s novel Emma and relays the classic message of loving being found where we least expect it: right under our nose.  

Silver Linings Playbook
In 2012 Silver Linings Playbook surprised critics and audiences to become one of the year’s most acclaimed and awarded films. The movie tells the tale of two dysfunctional, nearly broken individuals who overcome their insecurities and past to become better people together. 

All of these and many more romantic movies are available through the library! 

Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

*Repost from Valentine's Day 2014 

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Are Video Games Art? Part 1: Introduction

There has long been tremendous debate about the artistic merit of video games. Video games are indisputably composed of many individual art forms - visuals, music, storytelling - but does the “game” aspect of the piece automatically disqualify a work from being considered art? Or do video games represent the advent of an expanding dimension of creative content?

Roger Ebert infamously made a foray in to the controversy and was burned by a tidal wave of push back. The greatest film critic of all time had to recant his assertions against video games and stand down after his essay “Video games can never be art” was confronted with an endless sea of protests from enraged gamers and discerning mediaphiles. Ebert’s follow-up “Okay, kids, play on my lawn” didn’t redefine his notion of games or art but conceded that it was enough of a gray area for him to back out of the arena. (Both articles come highly recommended to anybody interested enough to get this far in to this writing).

Much of the debate around video games as art centers around the endless struggle to define art. Art can be different things to different people and often opinions are not only passionate but contradictory. There continues to be arguments over whether abstraction is the most pure and evolved style of visual art or if it is even art at all. Films, television, comics, and even novels have faced charges of being somehow beneath the designation of art.

Ebert himself cited the dictionary definition of Art as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as a painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”. Video games are certainly an “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”. However, Ebert notes that by this definition games could be counted out on a technicality - that they are appreciated for reasons other than just their beauty or emotional power. I believe (as Ebert apparently did as well) that such a technicality is far from sufficient to settle the argument and represents an archaic and small minded perspective to what is naturally an open ended concept.

There can never be a definitive answer in what amounts to a court of opinion but there are demonstrably strong arguments and weak arguments. Through a series of articles examining the champions of the technical and artistic elements of video games, I intend to make a strong argument for the case that video games are art and should be treated and viewed as such. This is no arbitrary matter, as the influence, integrity, future perception, and historical designation of an entire medium hangs in the balance.

Check back next week for Part 2: The Best Narratives in Video Games.

Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Goodies & Giveaways

This past weekend I was honored to attend the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Chicago on behalf of our library.  I learned so much from the meetings, workshops, and panel discussions that my head is spinning and it will likely take several weeks to organize my thoughts into something productive.

I'm going to bet, though, that you, Dear Reader, might not be interested in hearing about those things.  Instead, let's talk about books!  A lot of book publishers were at the conference and were more than happy to give away advance reader copies (ARCs) of their new books to be released in 2015.  So, I present to you...*drum roll*...


Wait, that didn't sound enthusiastic enough.  Let's try that again:


Better, but I think we can top it:


There we go.

These ARCs and the others that were brought back from the conference will be given away as prizes during National Library Week (April 12-18, 2015) and the "Read to the Rhythm" summer reading program (June 1 - July 26, 2015).  Make sure you participate in these great library events to earn a chance at winning these great and wonderful stories!

AND, as if that isn't exciting enough, I also picked up this baby:

That is the first-ever Reading Rainbow-published children's book, written by Mr. Reading Rainbow himself!  See that black squiggle?  It's LeVar's signature, which he put there while we were standing TWO FEET APART!  HOLY COW!

Ahem.  Sorry about that.  I just get really excited about Reading Rainbow and Geordi LaForge.

Anyway, we'll be adding a copy of this book to our children's collection, so keep an eye out for it in the near future!

Posted by Kyla Waltermire, Adult Services Librarian