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  • June 2018
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Daft Punk, “Get Lucky,” and the One Book, Every Decade Challenge

swing-dance-vintageAnyone who’s spent any time around me knows that I have an affinity for dance music.

In fact, one of the best parts of my job is getting to go to CAPA and other schools where, as part of our CLP – BAM! (Books and More!) outreach initiative, I get to rock dance parties in school lunch rooms, while at the same time partnering with other librarians to check out books and other materials, provide crafts, play games, and offer all sorts of fun stuff.

One of the cool things about dance music is that it’s not a recent phenomenon (yes, really). As soon as ancient people were able to carve out hollows in wood and gourds, they were working out rhythms and moving along to them. And that old-timey music your grandparents listen to on the radio might not compare in volume to the synth bass lines of Deadmau5, but they were able to get huge dance halls moving.

Enter Daft Punk and their stripped-down neo disco song “Get Lucky,” which you can download–and keep–from the Library through our new Freegal service or, of course, check out. Part of this song’s purpose, as they outlined in a rare radio interview, is to try to strip dance music to its roots and get back to a timeless feeling of groove:

“Like every song on this record, it was something really organic,” Thomas Bangalter said. “They really represent bridging the generations together and what Nile Rodgers represents for dance music and R&B in America in the Seventies and the Eighties and what Pharrell represents from somehow the same genre of music in the Nineties and 2000s, it felt really interesting to connect all these eras together to create the music of the present and possibly the music of the future as well.”

Picking up on that feeling, one very perky Frenchman decided that he’d remake “Get Lucky” into a mix of what the song would sound like through the years, featuring musical styles from every decade from 1920 to… 2020.

After listening to these ditties, I posed a challenge to myself: could I come up with a list featuring books that take place in each decade of the video? The answer, of course, was yes. So now I pose a challenge to you: this summer, can you read a book that takes place in every decade of the century covered?

If you’re looking for suggestions, here’s my one book for every decade list:

1920s

silhouetteofasparrowSilhouette of a Sparrow
Molly Beth Griffin

During the summer of 1926 in the lake resort town of Excelsior, Minnesota, sixteen-year-old Garnet, who dreams of indulging her passion for ornithology, is resigned to marrying a nice boy and settling into middle-class homemaking until she takes a liberating job in a hat shop and begins an intense, secret relationship with a daring and beautiful flapper.

1930s

watcherintheshadowsThe Watcher in the Shadows
Carlos Ruiz Zafón

When a fourteen-year-old moves with her family to the coast of Normandy, she’s immediately taken by the beauty of the place–its expansive cliffs, coasts, and harbors. But a dark mystery is about to unfold involving a reclusive toymaker who lives in a gigantic mansion filled with mechanical beings and shadows of the past.

1940s

momentcomesA Moment Comes
Jennifer Bradbury

As the partition of India nears in 1947 bringing violence even to Jalandhar, Tariq, a Muslim, finds himself caught between his forbidden interest in Anupreet, a Sikh girl, and Margaret, a British girl whose affection for him might help with his dream of studying at Oxford.

1950s

outoftheeasyOut of the Easy
Ruta Sepetys

Josie, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a French Quarter prostitute, is striving to escape 1950 New Orleans and enroll at prestigious Smith College when she becomes entangled in a murder investigation.

1960s

fireinthestreetsFire in the Streets
Kekla Magoon

In the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, Chicago fourteen-year-old Maxie longs to join the Black Panthers, whether or not her brother, ex-boyfriend, or her friends like it. Soon, she finds herself caught up in the violence of anti-war and civil rights demonstrations.

1970s

takewhatyoucancarryWhat You Can Carry
Kevin C. Pyle

In 1977 suburban Chicago, Kyle runs wild with his friends and learns to shoplift from the local convenience store. In 1941 Berkeley, the Himitsu family is forced to leave their home for a Japanese-American internment camp, and their teenage son must decide how to deal with his new life. But though these boys are growing up in wildly different places and times, their lives intersect in more ways than one, as they discover compassion, learn loyalty, and find renewal in the most surprising of places.

1980s

eleanorparkEleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits–smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

1990s

whenlovecomestotownWhen Love Comes to Town
Tom Lennon

The year is 1990, and in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, Neil Byrne plays rugby, keeps up with the in-crowd at his school, and is just a regular guy. A guy who’s gay. It’s a secret he keeps from the wider world as he explores the city at night and struggles to figure out how to reveal his real self–and to whom.

2000s

staywithmeStay With Me
Garret Freymann-Weyr

Sixteen-year-old Leila Abranel was born some twenty years after her sisters. Her elegant sisters from her father’s first marriage have lives full of work, love affairs, and travel. Leila doesn’t know either of them very well, but she loves hearing about them–details of Rebecca’s ruined marriage, Clare’s first job, and the strings of unsuitable boyfriends. When Rebecca kills herself, Leila wants to know why. She starts by spending time with Clare and finally comes to know her as a person instead of a story. With Clare’s reluctant help, Leila tracks down Rebecca’s favorite places and tries to find her sister’s friends. Along the way, Leila meets Eamon. Eamon is thirty-one and writes for television. He thinks Leila is beautiful and smart, but he does not, he tells her, date teenagers. And yet, the months go by and Leila turns seventeen and learns that you can love someone you are not dating. Maybe letting Eamon love her back is a mistake. Maybe she’ll never know why Rebecca did what she did. Maybe, Leila, decides, most people have a hard time figuring out which way is left or knowing when to let go and when to stay.

2010s

wingerWinger
Andrew Smith

Two years younger than his classmates at a prestigious boarding school, fourteen-year-old Ryan Dean West grapples with living in the dorm for troublemakers, falling for his female best friend who thinks of him as just a kid, and playing wing on the Varsity rugby team with some of his frightening new dorm-mates.

2020s

whenwewakeWhen We Wake
Karen Healey

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027–she’s happiest when playing the guitar, she’s falling in love for the first time, and she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice. But on what should have been the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies–and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened. Tegan is the first government guinea pig to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity–even though all she wants to do is try to rebuild some semblance of a normal life. But the future isn’t all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?

Dance, read, and have a good summer!

~Joseph
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main

“Oblique Strategies” for Reviving Creativity

Oblique Strategy
Lately, in the midst of promoting our Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest, I’ve been thinking about all of the aspects in a teen’s life that can impede creativity. Is the impulse just not there? Perhaps its there but is just being diverted? I wonder if any of these seem familiar:

Enter Brian Eno…

Brian Eno glam

(b Woodbridge, 15 May 1948). English composer and producer. While attending art school in Ipswich and then Winchester he developed an interest in ‘systems’ music, and much of his work can be seen as continuing the work of composers such as John Cage. He first worked professionally from 1970 to 1973 with the seminal art-rock band Roxy Music, lending their first two albums, Roxy Music (Island, 1972) and For Your Pleasure (Island, 1973), a quirky surrealist edge. By treating the group’s live sound electronically with a tape recorder and VC5 3 synthesizer, he defined a role for himself as an ‘aural collagist’. After leaving Roxy Music in 1973, Eno developed this interest in the timbral quality of music further with the albums No Pussy Footing (Island, 1973; with King Crimson’s Robert Fripp) and the seminal Another Green World (Island, 1975), the latter a brilliant combination of quirky songs and pastoral instrumentals. In 1975 his interest in aleatory music led him to produce with Peter Schmidt ‘Oblique Strategies’ cards, a collection of ‘over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas’, which formed a sort of musical tarot, each card containing a directive on how to proceed to the next creative stage. He then collaborated on three of David Bowie’s most innovatory albums (Low, ‘Heroes’ and Lodger), produced new-wave bands such as Talking Heads and Devo, and released two important ambient instrumental albums, Music for Films (EG, 1978) and Music for Airports (EG, 1979).

Info from our Grove Music Online database of music.

Basically, Brian Eno is a creative genius who is one of the most important musical artists of the seventies. And he’s a critically important part of making the following scene happen (you might remember it).


What I want to focus on today are the “Oblique Strategies” cards, which are a great legacy to leave to people of any creative persuasion.

Brian Eno and his artist friend Peter Schmidt had discovered that they both developed a set of working principles for whenever they were getting creatively stuck under pressure. They mixed, matched, meditated, and ultimately developed a deck of cards with ideas designed to move the creative process forward.

Whenever you’re stuck within a creative activity, draw a card, read it, and trust it.

oblique box

While the original cards are long out of print, and while recent reincarnations are fairly expensive, some Eno historians have made electronic copies available to any creative adventurers. Check out this colorful web recreation. And, of course, there’s an app for that (and for Android, too).

Happy creating!

~Joseph
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main

Ladies First!

Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Ke$ha all belong in the top 10 of most-downloaded iTunes songs of all time, but not too long ago women did not reign the music charts. Since March is Women’s History Month, let’s look back at the women who helped pave the way for today’s top ranking ladies.

Disclaimer: There are far too many important women in the history of music to even scratch the surface here. The following women are just some of my personal favorites who all had a positive message for females.

Aretha Franklin

Motown may have had so many amazing girl groups, but Atlantic Records had the Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin. Not many vocalists could take an Ottis Reading song, then turn around and make people forget it was a cover. “Respect” gave African-American women an unprecedented voice and visibility in 1967, a time when our country was still battling both sexism and racism.

Joan Jett

Rock, particularly punk rock, was a predominantly male-dominated genre from its beginning. A member of one of the first successful all female bands, The Runaways, Joan Jett broke down barriers with attitude, heavy guitar riffs and a “Bad Reputation.” She is currently still rocking out & the founder of Blackheart Records, which has signed a whole new generation of female rockers.

Cyndi Lauper

Her debut solo album was titled She’s So Unusual and at the time that certainly described her. She wore funky thrift store fashions, had more vibrant hair color than Katy Perry and a squeaky Queens accent with an adorkable laugh. In 1983, she became the first female artist ever to achieve four top five hits off of one album on the Billboard Hot 100. Cyndi is still recording and now spends much of her time championing for LGBT rights. Her signature song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” has gained recognition as a feminist anthem and the video was the first to win Best Female Video at the MTV Music Video Awards.

Queen Latifah

You may know her as an actress, television show host, and Cover Girl, but back in the day Queen Latifah was the reigning monarch of female rap. Her 1989 debut album, All Hail The Queen is still one of the greatest rap records of all time, regardless of gender. And the album’s signature track, “Ladies First,” was not only a call to arms in terms of feminine positivity, but also lyrically tight, while remaining smooth. *Some of the images in the following video deal with the battle to end the apartheid in South Africa. They may not be suitable for sensitive viewers.

Kathleen Hanna

Kathleen Hanna is widely considered as the founder of the feminist riot grrrl movement. She overturned gender norms with her D.I.Y. punk zines and as the singer and songwriter for the band Bikini Kill. She basically made it her personal mission to increase feminist activity and female involvement in the 90’s punk rock scene.

In an article celebrating Hanna’s accomplishments in the music, The New York Times explains the riot grrrl movement:

“When it took hold in the early and mid 1990s, driven by bands from Olympia, Wash., like Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy, it represented a new kind of youthful, D.I.Y. feminism, a grass-roots uprising aimed less at liberating women from the institutions that oppressed them than inviting women to create new ones.”

Kathleen Hanna went on to front Le Tigre, an electropunk band, in the late 90’s through the early 2000’s. Their song “Hot Topic” is a musical history lesson filled with feminist icons!

She's a rebel : the history of women in rock & roll by Gillian G. Gaar We gotta get out of this place : the true, tough story of women in rock by Gerri Hirshey. She bop : the definitive history of women in rock, pop, and soul by Lucy O'Brien She bop II : the definitive history of women in rock, pop and soul by Lucy O'Brien Girl power : the nineties revolution in music by Marisa Meltzer Check it while I wreck it : black womanhood, hip-hop culture, and the public sphere by Gwendolyn D. Pough Hip Hop Divas by Vibe Books Girls to the front : the true story of the Riot grrrl revolution by Sara Marcus Don't Need You (DVD) Women singer-songwriters in rock [electronic resource] : a populist rebellion in the 1990s by Ronald D. Lankford Jr

Now it is your turn to reply and share what female musicians rock your world!

lauren @ CLP – Woods Run

Wallflowers Wanted… Again

Do any of you remember that SUPER AMAZINGLY POPULAR event the Library hosted with the Museum last November?  Well, my friends, prepare yourself for yet another SUPER AMAZINGLY POPULAR event coming your way.  On Saturday, February 23rd at 2 pm fans of the book and film that served as the theme for our Alternative Homecoming are invited to another epic event at CLP Main- Teen.  We’ll be crafting, snacking, sharing our favorite quotes, competing in trivia, and enjoying the music that is featured so prominently in the book and film.  And then at 3 pm, we’ll screen the movie that was filmed and takes place here in Pittsburgh!

Saturday, February 23, 2013
2:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Location:
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Contact:
412.622.5526
teensmain@carnegielibrary.org
Looking for more wallflower worthy reads?  Check out these books:
Catcher in the Rye          Debbie Harry      Fat Kid Rules the World     Girl            Into the Wild Nerd Yonder    It's Kind of a Funny Story      Piper's Son          Please Ignore Vera Dietz        Th1rteen R3asons Why

Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying: Upbeat Songs with Sad Meanings

I will admit, right here and now, that I listen to pop radio in my car.  I was once the kind of person who, in high school and college, couldn’t be bothered to listen to anything on the radio unless it was NPR or WYEP because it was too “mainstream” and totally fake and lame.  But I find myself not having the energy to care so much these days and turning on the radio gives me a line into pop culture that I don’t have otherwise.  It’s a lot easier to hit a button that will always play music than to keep track of whether or not my ipod nano is charged.  Yes, I am on the cutting edge, here.

Also, let’s face it, the songs can be pretty catchy.  “Call Me Maybe,” anyone?

I’m posting about this because lately I’ve been hearing the fabulous Passion Pit song “Take A Walk,” on my radio.  Not only does this song have a great beat and a super catchy refrain but the lyrics are SUPER depressing.  Here’s just a few lines:

But then my partner called to say the pension funds were gone.

He made some bad investments, now the accounts are overdrawn.

I took a walk.

And:

You see I am no criminal, I’m down on both bad knees.

I’m just too much a coward to admit when I’m in need.

I took a walk.

Depressing right?  For those of you who might not have heard the song, here it is:

I have to say, upbeat songs with depressing lyrics are one of my favorite things in the entire world.  There’s something awesome about feeling the urge to dance while contemplating the injustices and tragedies of life, both big and small.  I’m just saying.

Some other examples are Foster the People’s Pumped Up Kicks (lyrics, video), Robyn’s Dancing on My Own (lyrics, video), Lady Gaga’s Dance in the Dark (lyrics, video), and for a random taste of the classics, Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark (lyrics, video).

We’ve got a lot of dark dancing going on here.  I guess that comes with the territory.

One of my favorite songs that are sad with an upbeat tempo is from a band I was first introduced to as a teen and have continued to love forever after and always.  It’s Belle and Sebastian’s Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying:

What are your favorite sad, upbeat songs?

While you’re thinking, here are some awesome books to both help you in your selection and offer characters who might share your taste in music:

   

Make the Most of Your Music-Making with The Labs @ CLP with These Cool Tutorial Sites

ImageThe great poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” This is definitely the case at The Labs @ CLP, where jumping headfirst into new digital terrain, experimenting as you go, is the way that many of our wonderful artistic creations got their inception.

However, it’s possible you’re like me, someone who is more comfortable knowing the foundations of what I’m getting into first–who likes knowing what a dial is and what it’s purpose is before twisting it around. Someone who wants to know how soft the floor is before you DROP THE BASS.

In that case, you’re lucky, because there are a lot of really cool free resources for people looking to learn about music-making software and principles they can use no matter what free or paid synth they’re using to wrangle out dope tracks.

DubSpot

A US-based electronic deejaying and production school that offers tons of free content that can get you making any kind of music, from dubstep to house.

Point Blank Online

A really great series of free online tutorials and walkthroughs with people who make electronic dance music from this UK-based production school.

LoopTV

Tips and tricks curated by the juggernauts responsible for some of the most widely-used commercial loop and sample packs in the industry.

Sonic Academy (registration req’d)

A paid web portal for people interested in learning about production and digital deejay techniques.  Free content for anyone who registers.

So yeah, check out some videos, get your brain churning, and come on down to The Labs @ CLP and let your musical imagination BEAST OUT.

~Joseph
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main

Indie Games – lovingly crafted video games for the discerning gamer

Recently, while scanning through Netflix Instant’s “New Releases,” I found a documentary that piqued my interest called “Indie Game: The Movie.” Indie Game is about the burgeoning independent video game biz and it follows the development of two games: Super Meat Boy and Fez.

These aren’t your typical multi-million-dollar-budgeted blockbuster games like Halo or Call of Duty, they’re personal projects painstakingly designed and coded (often by just a couple of people), where ingenuity in gameplay takes precedent over flashy graphics. The budgets for these games are small, too, and most of them don’t have big publishers like SquareSoft or Bethesda to promote them after the game is finally complete.

The movie does a great job of communicating the passions and frustrations of these game designers. And though I consider myself a life-long gamer (chronologically from Rogue on my first PC in the 80s, to the NES, Sega Genesis, N64, PlayStation 2, and, now, Playstation 3, with plenty of other PC upgrades and games along the way) I never really knew how games like these were made. Indie Game gives you a peak inside that process through interviews with journalists and such indie game luminaries as Phil Fish (Fez), Jonathan Blow (Braid), and Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes (Super Meat Boy). If the creators of Fez and Super Meat Boy are anything like other indie game designers (and I think they are), the process seems to include a lot of late nights, coding, poor nutrition, legal battles, and stress. But they make really cool games.

Watch the trailer to get a feel for the film:

This documentary is about more than the steps it takes to create a independent video game, it’s about gaming as an art form and a way of life. These guys grew up on classic games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and the Castlevania series; they want to contribute to the artform that captured their attention as kids. As they attempt to, you can see them struggle with creating just as a writer or painter might. They’re fighting to make their dreams tangible, and then, struggling to accept the opinions of the critics and gamers who suddenly have access to a part of them.

If you’re into gaming as a hobby or a possible career choice, or you just want to watch an interesting documentary, I suggest clicking over to Netflix and giving Indie Game a shot.

Beyond the story that Indie Game tells, there are indie video games themselves–they’re really worth checking out. Most are available as downloadable titles through X-Box Live Arcade, the Playstation Network, and the Wii Shop. X-Box currently has the best lineup of indie titles, but the Playstation Network is offering more all the time.

Indie Game picks:

The Unfinished Swan (platform: PS3)The Unfinished Swan is a videogame about exploring the unknown. The player assumes the role of a young boy chasing after a swan who has wandered off into a surreal, unfinished kingdom. The game begins in a completely white space where players can throw paint to splatter their surroundings and reveal the world around them. [Metacritic]


Journey (platform: PS3) Enter the world of Journey, the third game from indie developers thatgamecompany (creators of “flOw” and “Flower”). Journey is an interactive parable, an anonymous online adventure to experience a person’s life passage and their intersections with others’. You wake alone and surrounded by miles of burning, sprawling desert, and soon discover the looming mountaintop which is your goal. Faced with rolling sand dunes, age-old ruins, caves and howling winds, your passage will not be an easy one. The goal is to get to the mountaintop, but the experience is discovering who you are, what this place is, and what is your purpose. Travel and explore this ancient, mysterious world alone, or with a stranger you meet along the way. Soar above ruins and glide across sands as you discover the secrets of a forgotten civilization. [thatgamecompany]


Limbo (platform: PS3, XBox 360, PC) LIMBO, a black and white puzzle-platforming adventure, puts players in the role of a young boy traveling through an eerie and treacherous world in an attempt to discover the fate of his sister.


Braid (platform: PS3, XBox 360, PC) Braid is a puzzle-platformer, drawn in a painterly style, where the player manipulates the flow of time in strange and unusual ways. From a house in the city, journey to a series of worlds and solve puzzles to rescue an abducted princess. In each world, you have a different power to affect the way time behaves, and it is time’s strangeness that creates the puzzles. The time behaviors include: the ability to rewind, objects that are immune to being rewound, time that is tied to space, parallel realities, time dilation, and perhaps more. Braid treats your time and attention as precious; there is no filler in this game. Every puzzle shows you something new and interesting about the game world. Braid is a 2-D platform game where you can never die and never lose. Despite this, Braid is challenging, but the challenge is about solving puzzles, rather than forcing you to replay tricky jumps. Travel through a series of worlds searching for puzzle pieces, then solving puzzles by manipulating time: rewinding, creating parallel universes, setting up pockets of dilated time. The gameplay feels fresh and new; the puzzles are meant to inspire new ways of thinking. [Microsoft]


Super Meat Boy (platform: Wii, XBox 360, PC, iOS) – Super Meat Boy is a tough as nails platformer where you play as an animated cube of meat who’s trying to save his girlfriend (who happens to be made of bandages) from an evil fetus in a jar wearing a tux. [Metacritic]


Fez (platform: XBox 360, PC) This quirky platformer stars a little white creature with a bright red fez. Gomez is a 2D being living in a 2D world. Or is he? When the existence of a mysterious 3rd dimension is unveiled, Gomez embarks on a journey that will usher him to the very end of time and space. Utilize your ability to navigate 3D structures from 4 distinct 2D perspectives. Explore an open-ended world full of secrets, puzzles and hidden treasures. Re-open the mysteries of the past and discover the truth about reality and perception. Alter your perspective and see the world in a different way. [Metacritic]


Happy gaming,

Corey, The Labs @ CLP

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