Friday, December 12, 2008

New Fiction Titles In The CFL

The Carlyle Fraser Library is always buying new fiction titles for the collection to suit the needs of a wide cross section of readers here on campus. New titles are added weekly to a cumulative list that includes both book covers and a short synopsis. The New book page also features an RSS feed for those who use an aggregator to keep up with sites of interest. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nystic 2, The Web 2.0 Blogging Source

Super3boy, the online pen name of a Westminster school student, constantly amazes me with his technology prowess when discussing and exampling Web 2.0 applications. One of his new ventures is the Nystic 2.0 blog wherein he, along with collaborators, shares news and tutorials including everything from Blender to digitizing vinyl records. The Nystic 2 blog is definitely a valuable resource for those interested in finding fresh young voices for staying informed in the Web 2.0 world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Release The Comic Strip Creator

I have a severe lack of skill when it comes to drawing despite a life long love of art and comic books. As a child I checked out the instructional drawing books such as the Marvel comics book to the left from my library hoping to recreate the superheroes, animals and crazy cars created through guided steps. My results usually lacked the finished touches of the book examples but I kept on trying into my teenage years. Now, the internet and a host of comic creating websites have alleviated my lack of drawing prowess with ready made drawings, panels, word bubbles, fonts, and other assorted features that allow the most artistically disadvantaged among us to create our own comic strip creations. Below I have alphabetically listed six of the most dependable sites along with some personal observations regarding their pros and cons. The fifth and sixth sites listed below are my favorites.

Comic Life features an easy to use interface with tons of really cool page templates featuring every possible page configuration you can imagine. Once the page templates are chosen, images from your computer or an image sharing site such as Flickr can be uploaded along with varying modifications including word balloons, fonts and colors. The program does not come with ready made cartoon drawings so any artwork would have to be uploaded from your computer. Your final creation can be saved, printed and shared with an online community. The program also requires a sign up fee ($24.95) but does allow for a 30 day free trial period. Final verdict - I love the templates but the lack of ready made art to manipulate limits what you can do. This would be my third or fourth choice from the list.

Comiqs has a very simple interface and features limited editing in comparison to the other comic creators. Images from your computer or sites such as Flickr are uploaded and added to a choice of ten different templates with varying comic strip panel layouts. Word balloons and graphics can then be added to the comic panels from a limited selection. Comiqs is free and only requires a login to share your creations. Comics you create can be shared with an online community, printed, or saved to your computer. Final verdict - Comiqs is fine for adding captions to an image but the lack of editing tools in comparison to other online comic creators really disappoints.

MakeBeliefsComix is great for anyone who wants a selection of already created drawings to manipulate. The drawings include fifteen different characters rendered from the shoulders up. Multiple characters can be added to a panel and adjusted to change their expressions, position and scale. Users also have the ability to change background colors, add various word balloons, change panel prompts and panel layouts. MakeBeliefsComic is free and features a wonderful repository of ideas. Completed comic strips can be printed or emailed. Final verdict - This is a fun and very simple program that would benefit from a little more versatility in the scope and range of already created character drawings.

Pixton includes a "quickie" and an "advanced" version with already created drawings of characters, settings and props. In the quickie version you choose a comic strip with completed art that only lacks text for the word balloons. In the next step you can add dialogue and leave everything the same or manipulate elements such as characters, background, scale, color, et cetera. The advanced version requires users to build a comic panel by panel with the same editing tools available in the quickie version. The site requires a fee but does have a free trial. Completed comics can be saved to an online forum, printed, or saved. Final verdict - The stock drawings have a somewhat generic stick figure like appearance that makes everything seem somewhat one dimensional. The site is good for creating a story with ready made drawings.

ToonDoo is probably my favorite online comic strip creator because of the range of choices presented. After creating a free account users are presented with a wide range of already created and easy to edit characters, backgrounds, props, texts, captions, et cetera to manipulate in a myriad of ways. The site also allows users to upload their own images, making this the only application wherein site generated artwork and personal images can be combined. ToonDo also features a rich collection of user content, forums, groups, and how tos. Final verdict - I wish the site had more layout templates to choose from, however, the range of editable artwork and ability to combine photos from your computer with site generated art makes this the most versatile comic creator site I have encountered.

Toonlet has the look of an Edward Gorey comic strip filled with weird site generated characters rendered in black and white. Users "build" characters from the waste up using a set of options including clothes, hair, facial expressions, et cetera, in a manner similar to a paper doll. After constructing characters users can add text and background color to their comic strips but have limited ability to change anything else. Only one character can be added per panel. Toonlet requires a free sign up to create a comic for online sharing, printing, or saving. Final verdict - I love the look of the comic strips given their Edward Gorey, Robert Crumb feel, but the limitations on editing the drawings can be annoying.


How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way is a Marvel comics product and copyright

-Christopher Bishop

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Google Maps and Google Earth

Google Maps and Google Earth are amazing resources and tools used by many people for a variety of reasons including everything from finding directions, to locating cheaper gas, or looking up their home address for the fun of it. Transforming users of new tools such as Google Maps and Google Earth into producers of their own content is key to harnessing these tools for truly enriching educational purposes. I am always looking for ways to introduce technology into the classroom as a way to reinforce classroom lessons through the use of what will hopefully be exciting and engaging new tools for displaying student learning. This semester I had a chance to collaborate with history and Spanish teachers as we introduced Google Maps and Google Earth to students as a platform for class projects.

Students in two history classes were assigned to groups with specific questions concerning geographic terms. Both online and print atlases were used by students to locate specific geographic areas that matched the questions. Each group then used Google Maps to illustrate the geography terms and locations through the use of text, pictures and external links. Students then presented their finished Google Map in Google Earth. The research guide and student work are available online.

In the Spanish classes we decided to do something along the lines of Google Lit Trips, a repository for Google Earth "tours" based on locations, characters and themes in varying literary works. Students were divided into groups of two with specific terms to illustrate from LadrĂ³n de la mente, a novel they read in class. Each group used pictures, text, and embedded links to illustrate their assigned terms. Additionally, each student created a VoiceThread using images and their own audio spoken in Spanish for embedding in one of their Google Map posts. The research guide, student examples and VoiceThread directions are available online.

The learning curve with Google Maps and Google Earth is fairly small given the number of resources available to assist with both creating and finding inspiration for your own projects. I find Google Maps to be the easiest resource for creating personalized maps due to the very user friendly interface, however, some people prefer to create maps in Google Earth. Google Maps are viewable in Google Earth. Below I have listed websites containing everything a new user would need to create their own Google Map or Google Earth project.

Google intros Maps mashups for dummies
This site has a very concise and highly informative video explaining how to create a map in Google Maps using the "My Maps" feature.

Google Maps User Guide
Very easy to follow directions and a good place to start.

Google Earth User Guide
Again, easy to follow directions with lots of images for clarification.

Educational Uses
A wonderful repository of class projects and ideas spanning the curriculum.

Google Earth Education Community
Educational ideas divided by discipline.

Ireland in 1898
A fascinating historical project using photography from the turn of the century to recount Irish history.

Google Maps and the exploration of Canada
An ongoing project to map the settlement and exploration of Canada.

- Christopher Bishop

Monday, November 24, 2008

Would you like facts with that?

One of The Economist's pizza boxes, with a pie chart showing
information on arable and permanent crop land by country.

The British news magazine, "The Economist", recently struck a deal with some Philadelphia pizza restaurants wherein pizzas were delivered in Economist branded pizza boxes-- each of which featured one of several pie charts with information related to world food distribution. This under-the radar advertising is part of the Economist's "Get a World View" campaign, meant to educate the public about various issues and of course about "The Economist" itself.

I call it darn clever guerrilla marketing!

Kimberley Barker

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A screenshot of Viewzi

Fans of visual search engines, take note: Viewzi is here, and it is fabulous!

With Viewzi, a searcher enters her keyword (s) into a plain search box and then decides in which "view" to receive the results. The different views are lined up across the top of the page and one need only click on one to see the results for that view. The different views options are:

1) Album View (searches Amazon Music Search, Last FM Album, and Last FM Related)

2) Song View (searches Amazon Mp3, Mooza Mp3, Mp3 Realm, and SeeqPod)

3) Wide Screen Shot View and 4) Power Grid View (both search Yahoo)

5) Simple Text View (searches Yahoo and Google)

6) Google Timeline View (searches Google Timeline)

7)Photo Tag Cloud View (searches Flickr)

8) 4 Sources View (Ask, Google, MSN, Yahoo)

9)Video x3 View (searches BlinkX, Veoh, and YouTube)

10) Photo View (searches Flickr and Smugmug)

11) Weather View (searches various weather sites)

12) Amazon Book View (searches Amazon)

13) Everyday Shopping View (searches Amazon, E-bay, Target, and Wal-Mart)

14) Recipe View (101 Cookbooks Recipes, 101 Cookbooks Search, Epicurious)

15) Celebrity Photo Buzz (searches CelebBuzz and Just Jared)

16) TechCrunch View (searches CrunchBase, TechCrunch, TC by date, TC Posts Info, Yahoo)

17) Celebrity Gossip (searches Just Jared, Perez Hilton Search, Pop Sugar, and TMZ Search)

18) News View ("newspaper-style layout from major news sources")

A search for the keywords "Beethoven biography" returned a YouTube clip from the
BBC's "The Genius of Beethoven"; the book Diagnosing Genius: The Life and Death of Beethoven; the Wikipedia entry on Beethoven; a clip of a performance by the Nicholls Trio; and biographical information from The Classical Archives.

Though library resources such as books and online databases are always the best option for academic research, there's no doubt that search engines are great for answering quick questions, getting an overview of a topic, etc. What I like about Viewzi is that it very definitely separates the various returns on one's search, thereby making one's returns faster and (hopefully) more what one needs.

Give it a try and see (get it, "see") what you think.
Kimberley Barker

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Books For Everyone

I have slowly come around to the idea of reading books online, especially when something I'm interested in is not easily available in print or I do not have a copy of the book I am reading with me. Other than convenience, I also like the idea of reading books online when a community is available to share interests, ideas and book recommendations. One of the coolest resources for reading books online, joining communities based around interest, joining discussions and discovering new titles is BookGlutton. Users can sign up with BookGlutton to create a personal account tracking favorites, books read and group memberships. Visitors do not have to create an account to search and read full-text titles or to look at possible discussion groups. Available titles include everything from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes to the obscure such as Frank Norris' McTeague. Titles can be searched alphabetically or by specific title.

There are a number of other Web 2.0 sites featuring networking and discussion forums for finding new books and reader suggestions that work similarly to BookGlutton, but without the full-text.

An attractive and easy to use site for both personal and community interaction that includes a price comparison for online retailers when viewing a title.

The granddaddy of social networking book sites. Great for book recommendations and cataloging your personal print collection, should the librarian in you find a need.

The visually appealing interface and ability to see covers for all of the books you have read is the coolest feature of this site.

The site requires a login for searching but features helpful readalikes and suggestions.

What Should I Read Next
A simple interface allow users to input a title and author to receive recommendations based on users suggestions. I found the returns to be quite accurate.
A very interesting site that uses mood questions to compile a list of recommended titles. I think this may be the most interesting recommendation site out there.

Image courtesy of The Guardian UK

- Christopher Bishop

Monday, November 17, 2008

Retro photo fun

"rotten world" by peatle, on the Poladroid Flickr group

So I can't seem to get away from cool apps lately, lucky me. And lucky you since I feel the need to share-- I'm just nice that way!

This latest one, Poladroid, will provide you with hours of fun and add a kitchy, retro look to your Facebook photos. For those too young to remember, Polaroid cameras spat out photos instantly and you could watch the picture develop-- you can watch a video about the invention of the Polaroid here. These photos were characterized in later years by high color saturation and a white border.

Currently only available for Macs, Poladroid works like this: 1) download and launch Poladroid (it's free!), 2) drag & drop your photos, 3) look at or print your Poladroids. You can see what people have done with this app by viewing examples in the Poladroid Flickr group.
Happy editing!
Kimberley Barker

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Tools For Searching The Internet

During a recent visit to the Internet Librarian Conference in Monterey I attended an excellent presentation by Mary Ellen Bates called "Super Searcher Shares." Below are the sites mentioned I thought were most interesting and possibly useful to researchers.

Google Translate allows the user to look for translated content from websites in multiple languages using a keyword search. The search interface is great for finding "invisible" content within sites that are not available in a language spoken by the searcher. Google Translate is still in beta so advanced search options such as limiting types of content are not available.

Google News Archive allows a searcher to input a keyword that returns results from online news sources according to a time line. The time line can then be used to isolate trends, look at selected content for specific time periods and to create historical overviews. The site is a nice addition to subscription databases such as Access World News and Proquest Historical Newspapers that lack this degree of date searchability, however, some content requires a fee. Many of the articles requiring a fee are available through library databases for free to patrons.

Google Trends charts the frequency of online searches and use of terms in the news. Regional location and source of language information over time is available. This is a great tool for isolating regional trends and key moments.

Yahoo Glue is a product of IT in India who have created a blended search engine that returns results including news, blogs, images and general sites on one page. is a visual search engine with a beautiful interface that reminds me of an ipod shuffle. Returns can be isolated according to web, image, video and music results with category suggestions given to the right of the search box. This is a great search engine for those who prefer a visual approach. allows a user to add keywords and then weight the term for importance in the search results according to the size of the cloud you choose. Instead of adding terms in a search box and allowing the search engine to determine the importance of each word, your decision regarding the relevance of each term decides the results. searches online discussion forums and communities for content often buried during regular search queries. This is a great tool for locating obscure experts not readily findable on the web. lists additional sites discussed at the conference.

Image courtesy of Modern Life

- Christopher Bishop

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Measuring Your Impact On The Environment

Awareness concerning human impact on the earth's environment has become a topic of serious discussion as the results of global warming become a reality much sooner than predicted. To help measure an individual's contribution to global climate change National Geographic and GlobeScan have created an instrument called Greendex that includes study results and a personal quiz to measure your environmental impact. The index is based on a study of 14 countries wherein consumer habits and attitudes toward making changes in their daily lives have been recorded and turned into usable data.

The data includes a study of 14,000 consumers worldwide, including findings such as choice of transportation, purchasing of food, environmental attitudes, energy use, recycling and so on. Each country then receives a rating and a ranking based on the results of the data. Measurement is tallied according to the responses of individuals as opposed to national findings based on industry, government, et cetera. I believe this is the first global environmental study to be conducted by looking at the results of individual people's responses.

As expected, the United States leaves the largest environmental footprint due to the level of consumption, while developing countries leave the smallest imprint due to lower levels of consumption. The index will continue to monitor and adjust to changes as environmental awareness is expected to increase in the richest parts of the world. The effects of climate change are expected to hit hardest in the poorest areas of the world.

Personally, I rated a 48 on the quiz section which is similar to that of a Canadian (second worst rating on the global scale) so I guess I'm not on the worst offenders list but I can certainly improve.

A tremendous resource for shopping with increased awareness concerning your environmental impact is The Better World Handbook (303.4 Jones) owned by the CFL. The publishers also maintain a website with a wealth of information.

Related CFL Titles:

Embracing The Earth: Choices For Environmentally Sound Living
363.7 HARRIS

The Global Ecology Handbook: What You Can Do About The Environmental Crisis
363.7 GLOBAL

The Green Lifestyle Handbook
363.7 GREEN

Saving The Earth: A Citizen's Guide To Environmental Action
363.7 STEGER

This Moment On Earth: Today's New Environmentalists and Their Vision For The Future
333.72 KERRY

- Christopher Bishop

"A souvenir with social feedback."

The designer at the exhibit.

Designer Sebastian Campion describes himself as, "a creative concept designer with a passion for making experiential, artistic and conceptually strong design that generate new and alternative perspectives on everyday routines and situations." (

In my opinion he's certainly done that with his latest project, called "Social Souvenir", an installation piece at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark. Campion conceptualized the exhibit of 300 black t-shirts, each printed with a quote by an artist whose work is featured in the museum, all of which are for sale. Here's the interesting part: when purchasing a t-shirt, you must agree to give your name and address. This information is then entered automatically in Google Maps, allowing the t-shirts to be traced to their new home. As the Social Souvenir website describes it: "During the course of the exhibition, the 300 T-shirts will gradually disappear from the physical museum space only to re-appear on the web."

Ok, so since I'm convinced that stalkers are lurking around every corner I could never do this... but I love the idea of it! Check out the map here.

The paranoid Kimberley Barker

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cool apps for mobile phones

I've recently come across a couple of fun apps for mobile phones and thought that I'd share ;) I know, I know: I'm somewhat behind the times on these, but perhaps there are some old fogies like myself out there who haven't heard about these!

One of my colleagues in the History Department who knows about my love for all things Geek recently told me about the Lightsaber Unleashed app for the iPhone. This app would be cool enough in that it allows you to create your own Jedi character-- complete with photo, bio, and a custom lightsaber-- but the truly fun part is that your iPhone makes lightsaber noises when you swing it. No, I am not kidding! I spent 15 minutes last evening jumping out from behind doors and "fighting" my husband and dogs, and thinking about how cool it will be when the baby is old enough to have battles with me :) The original incarnation of this app was called Phonesaber and was a blatant copyright infringement; not suprisingly, it was removed from the iPhone's app store. It was recently re-released, though, as Lightsaber Unleashed by THQ Mobile, which owns the exclusive rights to all Star Wars mobile games. Read more about the Lightsaber app and its history here.

ShopSavvy is a new app available for the Android mobile phone platform. According to the site Big in Japan "Users can scan the bar code of any product using their phone’s built-in camera. ShopSavvy will then search for the best prices online and through the inventories of nearby, local stores using the phone’s built-in GPS." What I love about this is that it's such a timesaver. Instead of running around comparing prices, or calling the stores, or even looking the prices up online, ShopSavvy quickly does it all for you. Of course the accuracy of this app will depend on how often stores update their inventories... Shopping and saving time are two of my favourite things, so I'm definitely intrigued by this idea ;)

What's your favourite mobile phone app?

Kimberley Barker

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our First Library Video - The Day of the Relevant Library: You Are What You Consume

The Carlyle Fraser Library is proud to announce our first video production entitled, The Day of the Relevant Library: You Are What You Consume, a fun filled adventure featuring Westminster's mascot, The Wildcat, encountering and overcoming a perilous zombie horde with the help of the library.

Zombie themed books in the CFL:

Gil's All Fright Diner / A. Lee Martinez

Monster Island: A Zombie Novel / David Wellington

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War / Max Brooks

818.602 BROOKS
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead

The above image is from The Night of the Living Dead.

- Christopher Bishop

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Art Reception In The CFL

Maggie Davis' art class is currently displaying their imaginative and striking work in the CFL. Westminster students, parents, faculty and staff are invited to visit on Friday (11/7/08) to participate in a reception for the artists. Pictures of the work on display are available here.

Maggie wrote the following on here new art blog concerning the project. "The 2D Design students spent the better part of October developing these larger than life imaginary characters. The idea to make such big figures evolved from the face project that Jen-Marie did with her junior high kids. I really admired the freshness of their drawings. She had them start with making a large black charcoal mark in the center of 18 x 24 paper, then she told them it was a nose and they had to create the face based on that mark. A very imaginative way to start a drawing (way to go Jen Marie). So I tried it with the 9th and 10th grade students and it was pretty amazing what they were doing. It was then I realized the drawings need to be attached to bodies and so the project evolved into something much bigger and more complicated than I imagined. To make these figures I had to get large sheets of foam core. The kids spray glued them to the foam core, then I cut the figures out and made stands for them so they would be free-standing. We put them in the high school library last week and will be having a reception for the kids on Friday (11/7/08). They are over-the-moon about their work and have been bringing their friends into the library to see their accomplishments."

- Christopher Bishop

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Imaging The Library

When I was four or five my mother took me to the head branch of my local library to register for a library card. The seemingly enormous confines of the library with all of its wondrous materials opened up a new world for me, a world I would have not experienced otherwise given my family's rather meager means. Visiting the library each week was a high point in my young life as I wandered the shelves finding new and fascinating books on so many things which interested me. I equally loved my school library and the wonderfully patient librarian who assisted me during class visits despite my constant need for materials beyond the scope of my reading abilities. My love affair with libraries grew into my present career as a librarian in a library truly beyond the scope of any high school library I have visited.

Today I took a number of pictures capturing the beauty and breadth of the Carlyle Fraser Library to complement a number of links and books celebrating libraries and their aesthetic beauty. This post is for all the library fiends like myself who grew up in libraries and still find something amazing in both the mission and the beauty of a library.

- Christopher Bishop

A wonderful site collecting library images and links to additional resources

A wonderful geography and architecture blog with a tremendous post on library images
An in-progress repository of images with some overlooked libraries in America

A library image slide show

Books Owned by The CFL:

The Most Beautiful Libraries In The World

027 Laub
Laubier, Guillaume de
An inspirational collection of images featuring some of the most stately libraries from around the world. This is the source for beautiful library images.

Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress: For Congress, The Nation & The World
Ref. 027.57 Ency
Anything and everything you ever wanted to know concerning the largest library in the world.

The library In America: A Celebration In Words and Pictures
027.073 Dickson
Dickson, Paul
A wonderful history of American libraries filled with pictures and broken into time periods to highlight the need and place of libraries in American culture.

Burning Books and Leveling Libraries
025.8 Knuth
Knuth, Rebecca

Examples of libraries and literature destroyed by intolerance and war.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Restructuring Words: Wordle and Concrete Poetry

I recently discovered a very fun, free and quite easy to use program called Wordle for creating word clouds. After typing in or uploading text Wordle creates a word cloud giving prominence to words that appear most in the entry. Each word is represented once in the finished product. The fun part is changing colors, font, and layout to individualize your creation. Users can upload there finished creations for others to view, print, or save to their own sites. The uses for both personal enjoyment and class lessons are limitless. I really like this classroom lesson using Wordle to dissect meaning in current event articles.

Wordle reminded me of a form of poetry I have loved since discovering the children's picture book A Poke In The I, concrete poetry. Concrete poetry, also known as pattern, shape, and visual poetry, places emphasis on the typographical structure of the written text to relate meaning even more so than the words contained in the poem. For example, a concrete poem relating the design and emotion of a sailboat will allow the words in the poem to outline and create the look of a boat. Anything and everything we see, feel, or imagine can be transformed into a shape constructed from words. The words we use to describe something become a picture in concrete poetry. For a formal definition visit

Concrete poetry has roots in Greek lettering and the works of authors such as Ezra Pounds, E. E. Cummings, and Lewis Carroll's description of a mouse's tale in Alice In Wonderland. The medium's modern popularization and structure comes from Europe and South America, especially Brazil where a manifesto was written to encapsulate the meaning and direction of the art form. Many of the ideas and resulting images have found their way into graphic design, advertising, and art over the years resulting in a broader understanding of concrete poetry by adherents. If concrete poetry interests you follow some of the links below and look for books online and in larger library collections.

Minimalist Concrete Poetry - A wonderful collection of images from various artists

Wikipedia entry - The article gives a brief but encompassing overview of concrete poetry

August de Campos - A leader in the Brazilian movement of the 1950s and 1960s

Concrete Poetry Creator - Site for making a concrete poem directed at children

Concrete Poems - A site with simple but fun examples

***The image above is from The Optimism of Modernity.

- Christopher Bishop

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book

The arrival of a new Neil Gaiman book is always a welcome treat for me since I love his writing so much. Gaiman consistently finds a perfect combination between the supernatural and the personal in his writings as he creates characters and settings identifiable to the reader despite situations we may never encounter ourselves. I am always in awe as I read his words, wondering how someone can be so eloquent and witty, so consistently. Thankfully, Gaiman just released a new book.

In a nutshell, Neil Gaiman's new book, The Graveyard Book, tells the story of Nobody Owens, a boy who lives in a graveyard filled with ghosts who guide him and a mentor stuck somewhere between worlds. Nobody, nicknamed Bod, has numerous encounters with supernatural forces in the graveyard while trying to steer clear of the being responsible for him family's death. Gaiman's new book is intended for middle school readers, but anyone who loves both his adult literature and his young adult titles will love the magic and beauty of his writing.

His official young adult website features a video of him reading The Graveyard Book in its entirety. The video is a collection of individual readings he performed on his recent book tour to promote the new title. The man is just as gifted a speaker as a writer so take a look if you can.

- Christopher Bishop

Neil Gaiman Titles Owned by the CFL Include:

American Gods
An amazing study of new culture versus old culture in the guise of Gods living among us.

Anansi Boys
A real page turner examining the contradictions between who we are and who we want to be.

An amazing graphic novel adaptation of the classic Joe Kubert comic book dealing with Gods on Earth.

A wonderful and imaginative exploration of alternate worlds and realities.

My favorite Neil Gaiman book! A man is sucked into a shadow world and must fight to save both himself and his new guide.

Magical perfection.

Collections of Short Stories Including One Neil Gaiman Entry:

Mojo: Conjure Stories
A Quest Lover's Treasury of the Fantastic
Shadows Over Baker Street

Monday, October 6, 2008

Presidential Campaign Misinformation: The Facts and Only the Facts Please

With the presidential election in the United States quickly nearing an end I'm receiving more and more unsolicited emails from friends and family originating from dubious sources, if sourced at all. The emails started months ago with accusations calling Barack Obama a radical Muslim who was sworn in with a Koran after gaining a seat in the Senate. I've also received the obviously photoshopped photo of Sarah Palin in a bikini with a gun. Whenever I receive one of these unsourced and uninformed emails I politley send a rebuttal using one of two websites that reference credible sources to prove or disprove the accuracy of rumors - and Both sites have no party affiliation and cover a gamut of political material. Snopes also includes quite a few urban legends that should entertain for the sheer gulibility of some people concerning what they are willing to believe.

So, the next time someone sends you a ridiculous email claiming their cell phone grew legs or Sarah Palin is secretly a modified pitbull created by Cheney, take a look at the sites above to see where the rumour originated and how to discredit the false information.

Photo (

- Christopher Bishop

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brian Henson Presenting at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta

I love Jim Henson Company films and television shows such as Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and Farscape for both their wonderful stories and their amazing puppetry. Couple my love of these films with a childhood spent watching The Muppets and you have a puppetry fan lucky to live in Atlanta where we have The Center for Puppetry Arts, a fantastic resource for puppetry shows spanning varying audiences, both in age and interest, and a standing collection of puppets often augmented with touring exhibitions and classes.

In keeping with their excellent programming The Center will host "Brian Henson: The Future of Digital Puppetry" on Sunday, September 28, 2008. Henson is co-CEO of the Jim Henson Company and Executive Director of "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars." He will present an overview and history of the Jim Henson Company's puppetry legacy while also exploring new advances in voice and puppeteering using computers. Tickets are still available and cost $10 for non-members, while members are free. If you haven't visited The Center yet now is a great time since they are also hosting the exhibit "Jim Henson: Wonders From His Workshop" through September of next year. More than anything, The Center for Puppetry Arts is a multi-generational resource for anyone who enjoys creativity, art, and the general need to see imagination brought to life.

- Christopher Bishop


Monday, September 8, 2008

East Atlanta Strut - Sept. 20th

I live in the greatest little community imaginable, East Atlanta, an area with lots of eclectic happenings year round. Saturday, September 20th, is the annual East Atlanta Strut, a now eleven year old celebration of all the wonderful things represented by this diverse community. The day starts with a 5k run before transitioning into a fun parade with lots of colorful participants, music, arts and crafts, a giant book sale, and lots of food. I highly recommend the Strut for anyone interested in a historic Atlanta community's take on civic expression.

- Christopher Bishop

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Japan Fest 2008 in Atlanta

The annual Japan Fest celebrating all things Japanese will be held on September 27th and 28th in the Gwinnett Center Convention Center. The festival has really grown over the years and offers everything from authentic Japanese food, music, and dance, to martial arts and workshops for children.

The Carlyle Fraser library owns a large number of books related to Japanese culture and history. Here are a few.

Fodor's Japan

Ref. 915.2 FODOR

Culture and Customs of Japan
952 KAMA
Kamachi, Noriko

Haiku-Vision In Poetry and Photography

895.6 ATWOOD
Atwood, Ann

Hiroshige's Woodblock Prints: A Guide
769.92 STRANGE
Strange, Edward Fairbrother

Japanese Mythology

Piggott, Juliet

Modern Japanese Writers

Ref. 895.6 MODERN

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Blogging The Universe: A Weekly Look At Blogs of Interest, Installment 6, The Science of Battlestar Galactica

I will impartially but emphatically state that Battlestar Galactica (the new series) is the best show on television currently, and perhaps ever. I can say this without bias because so many critics, fans, and people who rarely watch science fiction agree with me and everyone knows the masses cannot be wrong. As the series comes to a conclusion later this year I'm already having withdraw pains. Questions to still be answered include: will the motley assortment of humans find Earth to be a barren wasteland or a refuge, what will happen to the newly exposed Cylons on Galactica, will Adama and the President find true love, is their really going to be a spin off show? I want to know!

In the interum I stumbled upon Patrick Di Justo's fascinating blog The Science of Battlestar Galactica, a blog dedicated to answering questions such as, how can cylons and humans breed, or, what is the mass of Battlestar? The blog is a smorgasbord for those with an interest in science fiction speculation or just a love of Battlestar. Even a science novice like myself can follow along with the explanations so don't let the science in the blog's title dissuade you unless you hate science fiction and Battlestar Galactica, which you hopefully do not.
Nicely summarized history of the show from the original series to now

- Christopher Bishop

Experience the Battle of Atlanta July 18th - 20th

One of my favorite events is the yearly commemoration of the American Civil War's Battle of Atlanta in the neighborhoods of East Atlanta, East Lake, Kirkwood and Cabbagetown. The variety of historical activities, food, and shopping mix well with the great neighborhoods on display. I highly suggest making a day of it if possible.

"July 22nd will mark the 144th Anniversary of the historic Civil War Battle of Atlanta. To commemorate the important event, the neighborhoods in Atlanta’s 5th Council District have teamed up to organize B*ATL on the weekend of July 18th-20th. The battlefield is actually in these neighborhoods where people live and work and play today. This will not only be an event of remembrance but also one with fun for everyone including: a Gala Dinner and House Tour, a 5K run, Van and Walking Tours, a re-creation of the Frontlines with Re-enactment Soldiers and artillery, a Civil War Village with civilian re-enactors, historic music concerts and dramatic performances, shopping and dining in East Atlanta and Kirkwood and more!! Please see the schedule of events below."

- Christopher Bishop

Sunday, June 29, 2008

WALL-E: Reviewed and Linked

Last night I saw the new animated film WALL-E at Atlanta's Starlite Drive-In, my favorite place to see films in Atlanta. I actually went to see Iron Man but thought WALL-E might be a cute distraction before Robert Downey Jr. turned in his surprisingly great interpretation of Tony Stark. Out of nowhere WALL-E floored me with its beautiful, sometimes almost life-like, animation while touching on questions involving the environment and the role of artificial intelligence as seen through the eyes of two robots looking for love. The love story between the film's star WALL-E, a trash receptor, and Eve, an information retrieval unit sent to earth in search of life after humans left the planet 700 years earlier due to an environmental catastrophe, is touching and surprisingly moving. However, the very overt environmental message took me by surprise. Earth is portrayed as a garbage strewn wasteland wherein only WALL-E the trash collector still exists, building skyscrapers out of condensed trash and hanging on to trinkets of the now departed human race. The emphasis on human laziness and dependency on technology to create luxury free of personal responsibility is also very overt and raises a number of questions for those who see technology as an escape from thinking and doing for oneself and those around you. The film's environmental awareness is especially timely given the current questions facing America and the world concerning use of energy sources.

The new and overt environmental awareness exhibited by mainstream Disney films such as WALL-E and conservative politicians such as John McCain seemed unlikely a few years ago, but now seems common with the advent of high gas prices and the questions raised by increasing energy costs and the realities of global warming. A film such as WALL-E serves as a fun but eye opening example of just how much America has changed in regards to environmental awareness. We are truly seeing a paradigm shift in America as the mainstream embraces the realities of environmental degradation. Hopefully the heart tugging love story shown in WALL-E will serve as a model for those who want to further reach out to skeptics through mainstream outlets.

The following books are owned by the CFL and deal in some way with issues raised by WALL-E.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
394.12 POLLAN
Pollan, Michael
An excellent examination of the food we eat, where it comes from, what it does to us, and how it effects the world we live in.

Artificial Intelligence: A Beginner's Guide
006.3 WHIT
Whitby, Blay

Earth Under Fire: How Global Warming is Changing the World
363.738 BRAAS
Braasch, Gary

-Christopher Bishop

Monday, June 9, 2008

An Old Timer's Lit Picks, Installment 2

The CFL's Jane Vickers reviews the spy thriller novel Secret Servant by Danieal Silva. Click here to access the podcast from

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bishop's Book Speak (Rob Sheffield's Love Is A Mixtape reviewed), Installment 4

Click here for Mr. Bishop's podcast review of Rob Sheffield's Love Is A Mixtape, a truly moving exploration of love set to mixtapes capturing the quickly changing soundscape of the early nineties. I also suggest visiting the following websites...

A site for creating and sharing mixtapes on the internet

Love Is A Mix Tape Official Site

Art Of The Mix
A site for submitting and sharing mixtapes

Mix Tape - Wikipedia entry
This is a great entry detailing the history, culture, and enthusiasm surrounding mixtapes

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lost In The Library, Installment 6, Howard Finster: Stranger From Another World

I first became acquainted with Georgian Howard Finster, Baptist preacher turned artist, during my teen years while watching a PBS special dealing with folk artists in Georgia. I loved the undisciplined sincerity of his paintings and sculptures often created with objects from his surroundings, works so opposed to the rules often associated with formal art practices and the confines we are taught regarding artistic merit. Here was a man who captured all the wonderful, but quickly changing, aspects of rural life in Georgia including religion, family, and community life in his own unique way. A trip to the High Museum cemented my love of Howard Finster's art after viewing pieces of his work kept on permanent display. I'm always on the lookout for more Howard Finster sources so the discovery of Howard Finster: Stranger From Another World in the CFL was a welcome find.

The book contains a wealth of photos displaying various paintings and sculptures from Howard Finster's entire life. The accompanying text includes Howard Finster's observations concerning his art, religion, and the world as he saw it. Oftentimes art collections are accompanied by a critic's voice describing an artist's intentions and influences, this collection allows the reader to hear Howard Finster describe his work in a way only someone this unique could. An inscription from Howard Finster's painting number "1000 and 48" is appropriately placed before the title page of this collection. The inscription reads, "I am Howard Finster a stranger from another world. My father and my mother, my sisters and brothers, my wife, my children, my grandchildren have really never figured me out for my kingdom is not of this world. Only my father in heaven knows me on this planet and that's why I have been strong and happy. When my work is finished I will go back to my other world." Howard Finster truly was from a world all his own, a world presented fully by Howard Finster: Stranger From Another World.

In addition to a number of well researched and representative sites listed below, the CFL contains an excellent collection of books detailing outsider and folk art.

- Christopher Bishop

Books of Interest in the CFL Collection:
Flying Free: Twentieth-Century Self-Taught Art From The Collection of Ellin and Baron Gordon
Ellin Gordon
709.73 GORDON

Passionate Visions of the American South: Self-Taught Artists From 1940 To The Present
Alice Rae Yelen
709.75 YELEN

Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond
John Maizels
709.04 MAIZELS

Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the South.
Paul Arnett
Ref. 709.73 SOULS v.1

Websites of Interest:

The Official Homepage of Howard Finster

Howard Finster's Paradise Gardens Park and Museum
"The mission of Paradise Gardens is to restore and preserve the work of folk artist Howard Finster; perpetuating his legacy - promoting education in the arts and providing expansive communityinvolvement, and enrichment through its unique spirit, setting, and message."

The David Leonardis Gallery
"The DLG houses one of the finest collections of Howard Finster pieces in the world, including concrete, shelf pieces, wood cutouts, paintings and prints."

The Outsider Art Pages
A collection of works by various outsider artists

Youtube: Howard Finster's Vision House

Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting To Know Atlanta

Every Thursday I look forward to a new issue of Creative Loafing, Atlanta's free weekly with coverage of everything local including film, music, food, et cetera. The extensive coverage of all things Atlanta (and surroundings) gives me a feeling of connectedness I can't go without. I found this week's issue to be especially useful due to the inclusion of the urban explorer section highlighting parts of town and their respective shops, restaurants, galleries, et cetera. I discovered some new places to visit along with reminders for some locations I have overlooked recently.

- Christopher Bishop

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Blogging the Universe: A Weekly Look At Blogs of Interest, Installment 5, Ugly Sheet Cakes and TackyChristmasYards

The odd and absurd emit an odd attraction for many who cannot help but notice the bizarre creations people seem to come up with as they create for others. This week I would like to highlight two blogs for those who love the tacky side of creativity. The first is Ugly Sheet Cakes, a blog dependent on cakes both disgustingly fantastic and universally revolting. I especially like the Groundhog Day cake on the left. The recent spattering of St. Patrick's Day entries are especially unappealing to my pallet for some reason. Edit: I just found a blog with similar coverage called Cake Wrecks. Take a look.

I know Christmas has passed so the blog TackyChristmasYards may be somewhat unseasonal but it still fits within the odd and absurd tag I'm using for this post. I think we have all passed a humongous Christmas display in someone's yard and felt both wonder and a sense of overkill on the decorator's part. I'll refrain from espousing my own opinion on these displays since a picture is worth a thousand words.

-Christopher Bishop

Lost In The Library, Installment 5, Kites: Sculpting The Sky by Tsutomu Hiroi

Spring is a time for enjoying beautiful weather while spending time outdoors. Since I was young I've always enjoyed flying kites but never really thought about where they originate from or how I might build one. The CFL's copy of Tsutomu Hiroi's Kites: Sculpting The Sky is an excellent resource for kite enthusiasts, especially those interested in Asian and Japanese kite history and construction. The book begins with a concise history dating the first kites to China around two thousand years ago. The first kites were made of wood and cloth until the invention of paper in China around 105 A.D. Many of the early kites were used for military or scientific purposes due to the knowledge needed to build and fly the contraptions. Around 1000 A.D. the kite became a popular recreational pastime among the Chinese. The popularity of the kite in China caused it to spread to the rest of Asia as a scientific and military tool, and as a leisure outlet. In Europe the first instance of a kite is noted by Hiroi as being 230 B.C. The kite followed a similar path to popularity in Europe as it did in China and Asia.

Hiroi's book is translated from Japanese with a heavy emphasis on the kite's cultural history in Japan. Japan even has multiple contemporary and historical kite centers throughout the country. Hiroi uses images and diagrams extensively to give the reader an idea of the artistry and detail present in kite construction and presentation. The photographs are most extensive when exampling the three types of Japanese kites including the northern which migrated directly from the Asian continent and is examples by the Goto Islands baramon, the south pacific derived Nagasaki hata which is triangular, and the indigenous originating solely in Japan and examples by the Managu.

Hiroi's kite construction section is the highlight of the book with detailed step by step directions and easy to follow diagrams. After a brief introduction concerning aerodynamics Hiroi moves into needed materials and equipment for kite construction including kite line, paper and decorating, frames and glue, and sketching patterns with additioanal ideas included. The step by step portion shows the construction of a box kite, gunya-gunya kite, and building a bamboo frame. There is also a section of what I would call crazy kites including extremely large and ornate examples. The last section of the book examines kites from other parts of the world along with some construction ideas.

If you have an interest in kite flying and construction come by the library for a look at Kites: Sculpting the Sky.

- Christopher Bishop

Websites of Interest:

Google kite directory
Kite links galore

Japanese Kite Collection
Tons of links and images covering the gamut of kite interests

The Drachen Foundation
An organization dedicated to promoting kite culture with excellent links and a bibliography of kite resources

Books of Interest in the CFL Collection:
Wings: A History of Aviation From Kites To The Space Age
Tom D. Crouch
629.13 CROUCH

The Art and Craft of Paper
Faith Shannon
745.54 SHANNON

Freely Accessible Online Periodicals Through The CFL

The Carlyle Fraser Library uses a program called Serials Solutions to assist users in finding full-text articles from periodicals a patron only has a citation for and cannot find in the database they are searching. The patron version of serials solutions is journal finder. In addition to 19,499 titles already available full-text in the CFL journal finder, we have added 4053 titles which are freely accessible through the portal. Titles include multiple disciplines such as general interest, science, arts and humanities, business, social sciences, et cetera. After you have entered a title in the search screen the database links and coverage are listed below. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to print a detailed list of all the titles.

- Christopher Bishop

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Citizendium and Authoritative Wikis

Many librarians and classroom teachers have serious reservations when students want to use wikipedia for school assignments given the lack of academic credentials for authors, uncited information, and poor grammar. I find the site to be useful for explaining technical jargon or pop culture topics, but I always advise students who want to use wikipedia to view the site as a possible introductory site for information on a topic, not as a citeable resource. However, the debate over whether students should use wikipedia is nearly a mute point since so many do.

I find the newish citizendium site to be a hopeful tool for those who desire a community generated resource with more rigid oversite regarding authorship and editing of articles. In the about section citizendium states, "The Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), a 'citizens' compendium of everything,' is an open wiki project aimed at creating an enormous, free, and reliable encyclopedia. The project, started by a founder of Wikipedia, feels that we can achieve this crucial improvement over Wikipedia through measures such as adding 'gentle expert oversight' and requiring contributors to use their real names. We already have over 5,800 articles and hundreds of contributors." The site features a registration form for possible contributors and a list list of topics by discipline.

I do have to wonder if citizendium will ever become a universaly known resource in competition with wikipedia since so many people are reliant on convenience and prior knowledge when looking for quick information. Hopefully, additional attention will arise with free yet authoritative resources such as citizendium which counter sites such as wikipedia and offer a resource more educators would be willing to accept from students.

- Christopher Bishop

How To Assistance: From the Mundane to the Mandatory

The other day I found myself needing some assistance with a household project I had no prior experience with and knew absolutely no one who would be knowledgeable enough to help. I did some searching online and found my new favorite one stop help site, eHow. Topics range from the mundane to the practical and extend to the ridiculous. Everything finds a home on the site which features written steps and video tutorials with an easy to use search box and browsing categories.

Another how to site I find helpful is monkeysee featuring thousands of helpful video tutorials on a wealth of topics. Some of the content is humorously done while other segments are more straightforward. Monkeysee has fewer inane topics than eHow and seems to be a little more rigid in what they will accept. For me the break dance basics and beat box introduction were most helpful ;).

- Christopher Bishop

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Svalbard Seed Vault

Ok, so have you heard about this? The Global Crop Diversity Trust is an organization devoted to fighting hunger and it is its mission to "ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide."

To this end, the idea for a sort of ark for seeds was conceptualized back in the 1980's. However, due to various squabbles and disagreements about the best methods for seed preservation, etc, the GCDT was only able to move forward once the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources went into effect.
Here's the idea: when disaster strikes (whether natural in the form of droughts, etc, or manmade in the form of war, civil unrest, or mismanagement) and unique varieties of the world's most important crops may be lost. The purpose of the seed vault is to ensure that specimens of as many seeds as possible are preserved for a day when they might be needed, and it can actually hold 4.5 million specimens.

Why Svalbard?
Svalbard is a group of islands north of Norway. The lack of tectonic activity and extremely cold conditions (think permafrost) make it an idea location for seed storage: if for some reason the electricity fails, the seeds will have little chance of warming up as the vault is sunk deep in the mountainside and surrounded by that permafrost. Clever, yes? Yet another reason is that the Norwegian government paid for the vault, as a service to the world community... and it wasn't cheap!

(This whole thing reminds me of the movie "Titan AE", which I loved. The premise is that the earth has been destroyed by an alien weapon and those humans who managed to escape become refugees, dispersed throughout the universe and considered outcasts because they have no homeworld. One young man sets out on a journey to find the Titan, an earthship which was designed with the ability to create a new Earth. It is also stocked with DNA samples of
Earth species, including animals and plants. )
Librarian Barker