March 30th, 2010

A New Face for Science Fiction

Have you heard of this little movie called Avatar? Grossing more than 2 billion dollars (the highest total in film history), and gaining worldwide attention, Avatar seems to have set the bar for Science Fiction. More than just its box office receipts, Avatar was also nominated for 9 Oscars, including the category of best picture, which sci-fi rarely sees. Sharing the best picture nod was the lower key, and quite excellent in my opinion, District 9. It seems as though Science Fiction is something that people are beginning to take more seriously. Lost, a sort of survivor-sci-fi hybrid, is one of the highest rated shows on TV. Books like Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife combine the standards of Sci-Fi with that elusive title of “literary fiction”. I think that part of the draw of science fiction is that the books are more than just day dreams about what technology might come to pass (although they are partly that), but also the ability to think about what’s happening today and extend it into the future. The Cecil County Public Library system has a great selection of science fiction, both in print and on film. A few of my favorite titles are:

Children of Men, directed by Alfonso Cuaron – One of my favorite movies of the past few years, and definitely in the top five for my favorite sci-fi flicks. This is a smart, dark, vision of the future where a mysterious illness has stopped mankind from being able to have children. The world has collapsed into a hostile and hopeless place as humanity sees its extinction nearing. Journalist Theo Faron is resigned to this life, until he gets drawn into a complicated plot to protect mankind’s future. Based on a novel by P.D. James.

Neuromancer, by William Gibson – A book about a once elite hacker, Case, who is currently circling the drain in Tokyo’s seedy underbelly. In the future people don’t go online through screens and keyboards, but connect through neurological implants in their brain. After a hack goes bad, Case’s ability to go online is chemically burned from his nervous system. A mysterious man named Armitage offers it back to him, if he can complete one more job. A Neuromancer movie is slated for 2011.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michel Gondry – Not all science fiction is set in the future. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind takes the very ordinary (perhaps a bit too ordinary) life of Joel Barish and turns it on its head. A company called Lacuna has developed a technique that lets people get over painful memories by simply erasing them. Joel meets a woman, Clementine, and despite a promising start, their relationship soon disintegrates. Joel turns to Lacuna to forget her, but Joel and Clementine may know a bit more about each other than they realize.

What are your favorite sci-fi novels and movies? If there’s a particular title that you’re looking for, then feel free to use our online catalog, or come into your local branch today.


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December 7th, 2009

Best of 2009

If you love music, then chances are you’re excited for the inevitable year-end lists that music magazines and websites will soon start to publish.  What is it about the start of a new year that makes us want to create lists?  Lists can be a great way to remember the year gone by, and they can also be the perfect opportunity to learn about music that you may have missed.  My top five albums for 2k9 are…

It’s Blitz by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – The third album by the group manages to maintain a lot of the energy and personality that made their first two albums so great, but also tries out some new styles and directions.

Farm by Dinosaur Jr. – Dinosaur Jr., one of the founding fathers of the alternative sound that swept through mainstream radio in the early nineties, have been making albums for as long as I’ve been alive.  For a 25 year old band they haven’t lost anything – they can still structure a terrific rock song that manages to combine the melodies of pop with the raw energy of punk.

XX by The XX – The XX are my favorite new band of the year.  The XX make use of back and forth lyrics of their male and female singers and stripped down songs with programmed drum beats to sound incredibly modern, and wholly unique.  This is a great album to put on to relax – really great mood music.

BLACKsummers’night by Maxwell – If you’re a fan of classic R&B and soul, then you’ll love this record.  Maxwell writes terrific songs that manage to be both evocative and catchy.  The lyrics and melodies will stay with you long after the CD has stopped playing.

Live at Reading, by Nirvana – If you had told me a year ago that I would ever like listening to Nirvana again, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.  I enjoyed them well enough when they were new, but over the next 15 years they got seriously overplayed (both their own songs, and all of the bands that copied their style).  Live at Reading definitely changed that.  This is a terrific performance, and really reminds you what made the band so great in the first place.

Wondering what artists were popular with other Cecil County Public Library patrons?  These were the most checked-out artists for the past year:

- The Beatles
- Coldplay
- Pink
- The Eagles
- Miley Cyrus
- Sugarland
- The Dave Matthews Band
- Kanye West
- Nickelback
- Kenny Chesney

So now that you know my favorite music from 2009… how about you?  What music did you really love this past year?  Leave a comment and maybe you can help someone find their new favorite CD!


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